Sotah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 8

Sotah, Chapter One, Mishnah Eight



This mishnah continues to discuss cases where a person is punished in correspondence to his crime.  This is more than someone receiving his “just desserts”.  Rather it is the idea that the part of the body that sinned is directly punished, or that the precise details of the sin are replayed on the body of the one who committed the crime.

The two examples in our mishnah are Samson and Absalom, David’s rebellious son. 


Mishnah Eight

1)                     Samson went after [the desire of] his eyes; therefore the Philistines put out his eyes, as it is said, “And the Philistines laid hold of him, and put out his eyes” (Judges 16:21). 

2)                     Absalom was proud of his hair, therefore he was hanged by his hair.

3)                     And because he had relations with the ten of his father’s concubines, therefore [they thrust] ten spears in him, as it is said, “And ten of Joab’s young arms-bearers closed in [and struck Absalom until he died]” (II Samuel 18:15). 

4)                     And because he stole three hearts, the heart of his father, the heart of the court, and the heart of Israel, as it is said, “So Absalom stole the hearts of the people of Israel” (II Samuel 15:6), therefore three darts were driven into him, as it is said, “And he took three darts in his hand, and drove them through the heart of Absalom” (II Samuel 18:14). 



Section one:  In Judges 14:3 Samson tells his father concerning the Philistine woman in Timnah, “Get that one for me, for she is fitting in my eyes.”  From here we can see that he sinned by following the lusts of his eyes.  Therefore, his eyes were put out by the Philistines.  Interestingly, this is literally a case of “an eye for an eye.”  While the rabbis believed that the actual “eye for an eye” law was not meant to be taken literally, the aggadic idea that one who sins with his eyes will be punished there as well, is an accepted idea.

Section two:  II Samuel 14:25-26 deals with Absalom’s pride in his hair at some length.  Here it is even stated how much his hair was worth when he cut it once a year.  His pride in his hair led to his being punished, or ensnared, by his hair.  As he was riding on his mule his hair was entangled in a terebinth and he was wrenched off the mule and unable to get free.  [I guess there are some advantages to being bald!]  This is how he was caught and executed.

Section three:  The mishnah continues to discuss Absalom.  As part of his usurping of his father’s power, he had relations with ten of David’s concubines (II Samuel 16:22).  Therefore, he was punished by ten of Joab’s arms-bearers.

Section four:  Absalom managed to get his father, the court and indeed all of Israel to love him, or at least to follow him. This is called “stealing hearts”, for Absalom did not truly deserve the adoration which he received.  Therefore, as a parallel to his stealing other people’s hearts, he was punished by Joab thrusting three darts into his heart and killing him.