By Karen Thompson
Second in a Two-Part Series


This is the second part in a two-part series on the Bible principle called “measure for measure.” We’ve been examining a Bible principle in the account of Daniel in the lions’ den. Daniel’s jealous enemies wanted him out of the way so they devised a scheme to get rid of him. We saw that God caused Daniel’s enemies to suffer the very fate they had intended for him. They designed a fate for Daniel to be tossed into a den of lions to be torn apart, but they, instead, were thrown into the lions’ den and were torn apart. What happened to Daniel’s enemies is what the Bible calls a “measure for measure” judgment. Whatever evil you have planned for someone, that evil will be done to you. Whatever you do to others, will happen to you. This principle is not exclusive to the Old Testament. It’s in the New Testament as well. Christians know it as “you reap what you sow.”

Bible Descriptions of Measure for Measure

You can see in the following passages, both phraseologies—“measure for measure” and “you reap what you sow”—are found in New Testament scripture.

“For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matt. 7:2).

“Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:38).

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7).

The truth of this principle is embedded into the culture of our present-day psyche. It is evidenced by the many colloquialisms in our everyday language. How many times have you heard one or more of these sayings? “What goes around comes around.” “You reap what you sow.” “Judge not lest ye also be judged.” “That’s bad karma.” “That will come back to bite you.” “The punishment fits the crime.”

Bible Examples Describing Measure for Measure

Now, let’s look at Bible examples that talk about this principle. Here are two of the most well-known and obvious examples:

“And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Exo. 21:23–25).

“And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death. And he that killeth a beast shall make it good; beast for beast. And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him; Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again” (Lev. 24:17–20).

It’s important to note that phrases like “eye for an eye” and “tooth for tooth” were never taken literally. The Jewish people never practiced poking out eyes, cutting off offending hands, or any other body part for that matter. These phrases are simply expressing the principle of handing out punishment that fits the crime—measure for measure.

Bible Examples of Measure for Measure

God plainly said to the Israelites, “I will deal with you as you have done” (Eze. 16:59). An example of how God would deal with them as they have done is in Jeremiah. God warned the Jewish people that if they kept serving strange gods in their land that they would find themselves one day being servants to strange men and living in a country that was not their own. Unfortunately, they did not repent and God allowed King Nebuchadnezzar to take them captive. Jeremiah’s prophecy came to pass:

“And it will be when you say, ‘Why does the Lord our God do all these things to us?’ then you shall answer them, ‘Just as you have forsaken Me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve aliens in a land that is not yours’” (Jer. 5:19 NKJV).

Right before Jerusalem was taken captive by Babylon, prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel warned the Jews of impending disaster if they did not repent of their sins. Israel’s kings didn’t want to hear this message and it made them angry. There were false prophets that pandered to the king by giving false prophesies that contradicted the genuine prophetic words of the true prophets. Here is God’s measure for measure judgment for those false prophets:

“Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the prophets who prophesy in My name, whom I did not send, and who say, ‘Sword and famine shall not be in this land’—‘By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed!” (Jer. 14:15 NKJV).

These next two examples are very applicable today. They state God’s judgment toward the nations that do harm to the nation of Israel. Though these words were given well over two thousand years ago, they are just as valid today as they were the day they were spoken. Speaking through Jeremiah, God said to Israel:

“Therefore all those who devour you shall be devoured; and all your adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; those who plunder you shall become plunder, and all who prey upon you I will make a prey” (Jer. 30:16 NKJV).

There is a lengthy portion of scripture in Ezekiel chapter 35 in which God proclaims judgment to the Edomites for unjustly attacking Israel. Notice how many times the theme of measure for measure is used.

“Because you have had an ancient hatred, and have shed the blood of the children of Israel by the power of the sword at the time of their calamity, when their iniquity came to an end, therefore, as I live,” says the Lord God, “I will prepare you for blood, and blood shall pursue you; since you have not hated blood, therefore blood shall pursue you. … therefore, as I live,” says the Lord God, “I will do according to your anger and according to the envy which you showed in your hatred against them; and I will make Myself known among them when I judge you. … ‘Thus says the Lord God: “The whole earth will rejoice when I make you desolate. As you rejoiced because the inheritance of the house of Israel was desolate, so I will do to you; you shall be desolate, O Mount Seir, as well as all of Edom—all of it! Then they shall know that I am the Lord.”’(Eze. 35:5, 6, 11, 14, 15 NKJV).

The Edomites shed the blood of the Israelites, so God judged them with blood for blood. They shed the blood of others and now others would shed their blood. They rejoiced in the desolation of Israel, so the Lord determined to make Edom desolate as well.

First and Last Examples of Measure for Measure

These next two examples are quite extraordinary. They are the first and last mention in the Bible of measure-for-measure judgment, and they both have to do with the shedding of innocent blood! The first mention of a measure-for-measure judgment is in Genesis, the first book of the Bible:

“Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man” (Gen. 9:6).

And the last mention of measure-for-measure judgment is in Revelation, the last book of the Bible. This is after Antichrist killed many of God’s faithful believers. Because Antichrist and those with him shed so much innocent blood, God pays them back by turning their various sources of waters into blood!

“And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea. And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters say, Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy. And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments” (Rev. 16:3–7).

The first measure-for-measure judgment in the Bible is regarding the shedding of innocent blood and the last measure-for-measure judgment in the Bible is regarding the shedding of innocent blood, completing a full circle. Note how the angels said this judgment was righteous.

Personal Character and Measure for Measure

There are instances in the Bible where you see an individual committing an act against another, only to have the same act done back to him in a measure-for-measure judgment. Jacob is an excellent example of this.


Jacob committed an act of deceit on his father to obtain his father’s blessing which rightfully belonged to his brother, Esau (Gen. 27). He disguised himself so that his father would think he was his brother, Esau. Later on in his life, Jacob reaped what he sowed. His future father-in-law, Laban, committed an act of deceit against him. Laban promised to give Jacob his daughter, Rachel, to marry. But on the wedding night, Laban deceitfully sent his oldest daughter, Leah, into the wedding tent instead of Rachel. He disguised Leah so that Jacob would think she was her sister, Rachel. He sent Leah into the tent with her face covered with a veil. Jacob deceived his father, and later in life, Jacob was deceived by his father-in-law! (Gen. 29) This was a measure-for-measure judgment.

King David

Another example is King David. Most everyone is familiar with King David’s sin of adultery with Bathsheba. Bathsheba was married to one of David’s soldiers, Uriah, who was gone from home fighting a war. While Uriah was at war, David had an affair with Bathsheba and she became pregnant. David tried to secretly cover up his sin but when his initial efforts failed, he took care of the matter by sending Uriah to the front lines of the battle so he would be killed. Below is the prophet Nathan’s pronouncement of judgment on David—a measure-for-measure judgment.

“Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun” (2 Sam. 12:9–12).

David committed adultery with another man’s wife and tried to keep his sin of adultery a secret, so Nathan pronounced God’s measure-for-measure judgment on him that one of his neighbors would sleep with one of his wives—and everyone would know about it!

King Adoni-Bezek

Next, I’ve included this example just because it is so unusual. A king called Adoni-Bezek cut off the thumbs and big toes of 70 kings that he had captured in the past. Adoni-Bezek was in battle with the army of Judah and when they captured him, they cut off his thumbs and big toes. King Adoni-Bezek acknowledged that he was being judged measure for measure.

“And Judah went up; and the Lord delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand: and they slew of them in Bezek ten thousand men. And they found Adoni-bezek in Bezek: and they fought against him, and they slew the Canaanites and the Perizzites. But Adoni-bezek fled; and they pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes. And Adoni-bezek said, Threescore and ten kings, having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table: as I have done, so God hath requited me. And they brought him to Jerusalem, and there he died” (Judges 1:4–7).

God Looks on the Heart

In order to make this study about measure for measure complete, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about one particular aspect found in Deuteronomy chapter 19. This chapter makes an important qualification to the measure-for-measure judgment. It points out that God does not judge you by your actions alone. He takes into consideration your heart attitude. What was the heart motive for committing the wrong? Were you filled with hate and revenge or was it simply an accident?

Deuteronomy chapter 19 provides for the possibility of accidental death. The Lord instructed the children of Israel to designate three cities in their land to use as “safe cities” to which a manslayer could flee in case he accidentally killed someone. While in that city, the manslayer was protected from the slain person’s family members who might want revenge. Here is the qualification for access to a safe city:

“And this is the case of the slayer, which shall flee thither, that he may live: Whoso killeth his neighbour ignorantly, whom he hated not in time past; As when a man goeth into the wood with his neighbour to hew wood, and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the axe to cut down the tree, and the head slippeth from the helve, and lighteth upon his neighbour, that he die; he shall flee unto one of those cities, and live: Lest the avenger of the blood pursue the slayer, while his heart is hot, and overtake him, because the way is long, and slay him; whereas he was not worthy of death, inasmuch as he hated him not in time past” (Deut. 19:4–6).

The person who kills someone accidentally does not deserve death and is allowed to flee to the safe cities because “he had not hated the victim.” But the person who deliberately kills someone does not have access to the safe cities. Here is the condition for which a man may not flee to a safe city:

“But if any man hate his neighbour, and lie in wait for him, and rise up against him, and smite him mortally that he die, and fleeth into one of these cities: Then the elders of his city shall send and fetch him thence, and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die. Thine eye shall not pity him, but thou shalt put away the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, that it may go well with thee” (Deut. 19:11–13).

Measure for measure judgments are throughout the Bible. Once you are aware of them, you’ll begin seeing them all over the place. It’s a fascinating subject.

I’ll leave you with this final thought: Measure for measure is a spiritual law, just like gravity is a natural law. When you are aware of this spiritual law, you’ll begin to notice it in real life situations. That’s a fact.


1 Sam. 30:25, “And it was so from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for recipients to forward emails” (KJV).

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