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1.) This is basically an english translation of a section of a Hittite Law code:

"If someone wounds a man and makes him ill, he shall nurse him. He shall give a man in his place who will work in his house until he is well. When he is well, he shall give him six shekels of silver and he shall pay the doctor's fee"

The bold-italic part is that which I'm having trouble understanding; what does it mean exactly? That the perpetrator should supply some kind of servant/worker for the victim's family until the victim is well?

Apologies if it's a daft question, it's just a case of too many "him" and "he"s!


  • CE, CH and Exodus are ancient legal codes

2.) "The responsibility of the owner of an ox that has caused a person's death by goring is discussed [...] CE and CH set fixed ransoms at the very low rate usually associated with vicarious revenge (CH 251: '..if it gores the son of a man and causes his death, he shall pay half a mina of silver'), whereas Exodus insists that the culprit be killed, or 'if ransom be imposed upon him he shall pay all that is imposed upon him to redeem his life' i.e. ransom is limited only by the plaintiff's discretion, as in aggravated homicide. Furthermore, vicarious revenge is excluded even when the victim is a subordinate member of the family: 'if it gores a son or a daughter, the same rule shall be applied to him.' "

Sorry, English is neither my first nor second language; could anyone possibly break down the meaning of the bold-italic part?

Thanks in advance

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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Andrew Leach has, I think, nailed the first passage.

The second passage, with the intrusive “to” removed, means that the owner of the ox shall pay, as “ransom” or weregild for his life, not a fixed sum like the six mina in the Hammurabi Code, but whatever the person making the claim demands. The “plaintiff” is the person making the claim, the injured party himself or the head of that party's household, and the amount he demands is “at his discretion”, meaning up to his own judgment.

In the third passage the author is harking back to the “very low rate usually associated with vicarious revenge”.

  • “Vicarious revenge” is the ancient notion that an injury is compensated by inflicting a corresponding injury on a member of the guilty party's family. Your author claims that the Hammurabi Code brought this anarchic practice under control by replacing vicarious revenge with relatively small fines.
  • He further claims that, in contrast, the Exodus legislators exclude vicarious revenge: they insist that only the guilty party himself, the owner of the ox, can be held liable, but that he can buy off this liability by paying a very large fine—whatever the injured party (or his family) demands.
  • In the passage you have bolded, the author says that this holds true even if the person slain by the ox is a son or daughter of the plaintiff. Killing such a person would be the most grievous injury that could be inflicted on a family, and the injury most likely to excite the family to take physical vengeance.

I imagine your author goes on to cite the very next verse, Ex 21:32, which treats less serious manslaughters on basically the same basis as the Hammurabi Code: “If the ox gores a slave, male or female, the owner must pay their master thirty shekels, and the ox must be stoned.”

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If someone wounds a man and makes him ill, he shall nurse him. He shall give a man in his place who will work in his house until he is well. When he is well, he shall give him six shekels of silver and he shall pay the doctor's fee.

If A wounds B and makes B ill, A shall nurse B. A shall make C available in B's stead and C will work in B's house until B is well. When B is well, A shall give B six shekels of silver and A shall pay the doctor's fee.

i.e. ransom is limited to only by the plaintiff's discretion

This doesn't make sense. It needs something either before or after only.

Furthermore, vicarious revenge is excluded even when the victim is a subordinate member of the family: 'if it gores a son or a daughter, the same rule shall be applied to him.'

Vicarious revenge is revenge on someone else instead of the original perpetrator. This sentence means that the person who caused the injury (even if it's to a son or daughter) must take the punishment.

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*sorry! the "to" was a typo!! it's meant to be "i.e. ransom is limited only by the plaintiff's discretion" !!! –  janexlane Oct 31 '12 at 0:47
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