THE SHAME OF RETRIBUTION
Whoever sheds human blood, by a human being will his own blood be shed; for God made human beings in his image. (Genesis 9:6)
Never seek revenge, my friends; instead, leave that to God’s anger; for in the Tanakh it is written, “Adonai says, ‘Vengeance is my responsibility; I will repay.’” (Romans 12:19)
I find it interesting to uncover supposedly contradictory statements in Scripture, like these two. The first statement, from Genesis 9, shares with us the right of human beings to exact retribution on the murderer; whereas, in Romans 12, we are warned to avoid taking retributive actions and allow God His duty to exact revenge. Now both of these statements are correct, or they wouldn’t be in Scripture. So how may this apparent contradiction be resolved?
First, if we look deeper in the statement from Genesis 9, we see, on the surface, the right of human beings to exact retribution, for the crime of murder. However, there are other pieces of Scripture which expand this concept further. For example, in both the Book of Numbers and Deuteronomy, we find the condition of a minimum of two witnesses added, required to bring a charge of murder against another. (Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 19:15) And then in John 8, we read the story of the Pharisees and Sadducees bringing to Adonai Yeshua, the Lord Jesus, a woman charged with adultery. Embedded within this narrative is the statement by our Messiah, The one of you who is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her. (John 8:7) This is a telling comment, for in here we find only a person who is ethically clean, without a vested interest, may bring a charge against another. And there are other messages like these, throughout Scripture. But we are drifting further away from the central theme of this discussion – the shame of retribution.
Why would there be shame in retribution, or is this hyperbole to make a point? First, let me clarify the meaning of retribution. In the online Cambridge English Dictionary, we find the definition of retribution as, “deserved and severe punishment.” Notice, there is no stipulation that the punishment be meted by authorities, thus leaving us to speculate that retribution may be carried out by anyone. For whom is retribution beneficial?
Obviously, to the person who is injured, that is not dead, retribution may bring some closure; however, it will not bring about physical healing. Retribution might bring about closure to the relatives of the one injured or killed, but it will not return the loved one to her/his pre-assault condition. Retribution might even be beneficial to the assaulter, if she/he is not killed, as it might be perceived as a miscarriage of justice, resulting in another round of retribution.
So, who really benefits from retribution? Perhaps, that’s why Yahveh tells us, in Deuteronomy 32:35 – Vengeance and payback are mine for the time when their foot slips; for the day of their calamity is coming soon, their doom is rushing upon them. and in Hebrews 10:30 – For the One we know is the One who said, “Vengeance is my responsibility; I will repay,” and then said, “Adonai will judge his people.”
Is it possible there might be shame coming to the one who seeks retribution, rather than leaving it to Yahveh? Time, after time, when people have reported a momentary sense of satisfaction, in revenging a wrong; however, that feeling is soon replaced by other, more negative feelings.
Researchers at la Université de Genève reported, in their landmark study, many of those who took revenge action on others, deemed as being unfair, soon changed their behaviour and began to be ‘fair’ to the unfair persons. This notion of revenge or retribution not helping has been known a long time. Sir Francis Bacon, in his writing, ‘Of Revenge’, pens – Revenge is a kind of wild justice, which the more man’s nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out.
Beloved, when the need for retaliation or revenge comes upon you, how will you respond? Will you carry out the desires of your anger and seek these or will you follow the dictates of Rav Sha’ul, the Apostle Paul, when he writes in Romans 12:19 – Never seek revenge, my friends; instead, leave that to God’s anger; for in the Tanakh it is written, “Adonai says, ‘Vengeance is my responsibility; I will repay.’”
May the God of Avraham, Isaac and Jacob bless you richly.
 Olga M. Klimecki, David Sander, Patrik Vuilleumier. Distinct Brain Areas involved in Anger versus Punishment during Social Interactions. Scientific Reports, 2018; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-28863-3
 Essays (1625) ‘Of Revenge’