An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is a proverb that dates to ancient times. We will examine the meaning of the proverb an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, where the expression came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth means to mete out retribution in kind, to make someone suffer as he has made someone else suffer. The expression an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is derived from the Code of Hammurabi, a system of 282 laws organized by the Mesopotamian king, Hammurabi, who reigned until 1750 B.C. One of the punishments prescribed in the code was: “If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out.” The sentiment was later included in the Bible. In Leviticus 24:19: “And whoever causes an injury to a neighbor must receive the same kind of injury in return: Broken bone for broken bone, eye for eye, tooth for tooth.” It must be noted that later, in the New Testament, the passage is quoted and countermanded with the admonition to turn the other cheek. Today, the proverb an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is often shortened to the first part, an eye for an eye, with the expectation that the listener or reader can supply the second half of the proverb, a tooth for a tooth.
Unfortunately, he said, most people “believe in hitting for hitting; they believe in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; they believe in hating for hating; but Jesus comes to us and says, ‘This isn’t the way.’” (Christian Post)
People with power, he suggests, can take a literal revenge on their enemies: an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. (New York Review)
“Tit for tat, an eye for an eye, doesn’t give stability or security.” (Salt Lake Tribune)