Laws of the Goring Ox
The laws of the goring ox in Exodus 21:28-32 find a parallel in
the laws of Eshnunna, a Mesopotamian city-state of the early second
millennium BCE. The Eshnunna
law specifies purely monetary penalties and says nothing
about the fate of the ox.
In the law quoted here from Exodus, the penalty is more severe,
possibly reflecting the agrarian, rather than commercial character
of the people. The imposition of capital punishment could also indicate
that the infraction was considered so deeply moral that no monetary
compensation would be appropriate.
When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be
stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of
the ox shall not be liable. If the ox has been accustomed
to gore in the past, and its owner has been warned but has
not restrained it, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall
be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death. If a
ransom is imposed on the owner, then the owner shall pay whatever
is imposed for the redemption of the victim's life. If it
gores a boy or a girl, the owner shall be dealt with according
to this same rule. If the ox gores a male or female slave,
the owner shall pay to the slave-owner thirty shekels
of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.
If someone's ox hurts the ox of another, so that it dies,
then they shall sell the live ox and divide the price of
it; and the dead animal they shall also divide. But if it
was known that the ox was accustomed to gore in the past,
and its owner has not restrained it, the owner shall restore
ox for ox, but keep the dead animal.