The Goring Ox

Bernard S. Jackson

in Wisdom-Laws

Published in print March 2006 | ISBN: 9780198269311
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191683596 | DOI:
The Goring Ox

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The goring ox must count as the most celebrated animal in legal history. According to Exodus 21:28, ‘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 be clear’. What is the significance of the fact that the homicidal ox is to be stoned? On this, opinions have varied greatly. Greenberg, Phillips, Finkelstein, and others have seen this requirement as a punishment, which indicates that the ox was thought to be ‘guilty’ of homicide, if not of murder, and which symbolises the supreme value attached to human life, and the lower value attached to property. This chapter argues that the stoning of the goring ox is a purely utilitarian measure designed to ensure that it will not kill (a person) again. This chapter discusses justiciability with respect to the stoning of the goring ox, bovicidal ox (an ox that kills another ox), and the relationship of the goring ox to the Mishpatim.

Keywords: goring ox; homicide; stoning; punishment; human life; property; Mishpatim; bovicidal ox

Chapter.  21367 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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