(Ex. 21:29-30) Can we pay a ransom for murder or not?

CLAIM: In Numbers, we read, “You shall not take ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death” (Num. 35:31). However, in Exodus, we read, “If a ransom is demanded of him, then he shall give for the redemption of his life whatever is demanded of him” (Ex. 21:30). Could the Jews offer ransom for murder or not?

RESPONSE: These two laws are describing two different types of death. Numbers 35 was a willful or intentional murder. Exodus 21 was a negligent or accidental homicide. In Exodus 21, the guilty person simply didn’t contain his ox. The Jews could pay a fine for accidental deaths, but they couldn’t simply pay a fee for intentional murder. For more information on OT law, see my earlier article.