The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia


A fine or forfeiture, in the sense either that a sum of money is to be paid, or that the whole or a part of a man's property is to be turned over to the king or commonwealth by way of punishment for an offense, is unknown to Jewish law as understood by the sages. The general forfeiture of estate, in the case of political offenders put to death by the king's government, was a controverted point among the Rabbis. According to some rabbis the estate went to the king; but it seems that there was no real tradition conerning the matter, as the only precedent cited in connection with this controversy is the case of Naboth in I Kings xxi. 18 (Sanh. 48b; compare Tosef., ib. 4). The payment of a fixed sum is in some cases imposed by the Mosaic law upon a wrong-doer; but the money is paid to the injured party or his representative, not to the sovereign or the community. Four cases are given in the Torah in which a fixed sum (the "mulcta" of Roman law) is to be paid by the wrong-doer to the injured party: (1) where an ox whose owner has been forewarned kills the bondman or bondwoman of another, in which case the mulct is thirty shekels (see Shekel), to be paid to the master (Ex. xxi. 32); (2) where a man ravishes a damsel () who is not betrothed, the mulct being fifty shekels, payable to the damsel's father (Deut. xxii. 29); (3) where a newly married husband untruly accuses his wife of having lost her virginity before marriage, the mulct being a hundred shekels (Deut. xxii. 19); (4) where a girl is seduced, the amount of the mulct, given by inference only (Ex. xxii. 16), being fifty shekels.

Cases 2 and 4 are fully treated in the Mishnah (Ket. iii. 1-4). The ravisher and seducer are on the same footing as to the mulct, though not as to the time and circumstances of payment. Case 3, that of him who "brings out an evil name," is the only one in which an offender gets a twofold punishment, paying a fine and receiving forty stripes.

As mentioned elsewhere, fines or mulcts may only be imposed by a court made up wholly of ordained judges. Maimonides, dealing with law already obsolete in his day, treats the subject in his "Yad" as follows: Case 1 in Hilkot Nizḳe Mamon; 2 and 4 in Na'arah Betulah, 1, 10 et seq. ; 3 in Na'arah, 3.

While neither Bible nor Mishnah knows aught of a fine payable to the community, a jurisdiction grew up in the Diaspora by which the rabbinical courts in an emergency would inflict fines, payable into some communal funds, for some crying publicoffense (Shulḥan 'Aruk, Ḥoshen Mishpaṭ, 2); for instance, on men keeping false scales, weights, or measures, and like (ib. 231, 2).

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