Revenge as Divine Justice

davidlbowmanCulture, PhilosophyLeave a Comment


Photograph by Ander Burdain


Revenge is anger felt so fiercely it desires to be taken into action. It can be acted out by ourselves, an actor of our choosing or by God Himself. The first two are carried out when the subject can no longer contain his anger and desires to take action against the one who caused him suffering. The last, is the concept of divine justice. This type of justice presumes the world is run by some sort of universal morality in which fairness is evenly distributed upon everyone. Those who do good have good done onto them, and those who do bad have bad done onto them. The philosophy here is very deep and interesting. If you will, let me share with you a couple of fascinating stories which demonstrate this concept very well. The first is from the first novel of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet, and the second is from the end of Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo.

In A Study in Scarlet, an American hunter, Jefferson Hope, falls in love with Lucy Ferrier, a newly forced convert to the Mormon Church. Upon the church’s discovery of this forbidden love, they marry her off to Enoch Drebber. Sadly, Lucy dies within a month from a broken heart, and Jefferson seeks revenge against Enoch and his coconspirator Joseph Stangerson. Jefferson chases Enoch and Joseph around the world and ultimately finds them in London.

Now, what’s very interesting is the method in which Jefferson murders both Enoch and Joseph. Jefferson wishes not to kill the two by using his size and strength. He fears this would be too easy and unjust. He’s a strong and successful hunter, and his two victims are older and weak. Instead, Jefferson crafts a box and places within it two pills identical in color, shape and size. There’s only one difference between one pill and the other, and it’s very significant. One contains a poison which immediately kills the one ingesting it and the second is harmless. So, he tracks downs and corners his victims one-by-one and says:

’You dog!’ I said; ‘I have hunted you from Salt Lake City to St. Petersburg, and you have always escaped me. Now, at last your wanderings have come to an end, for either you or I shall never see tomorrow’s sun rise… Let the high God judge between us. Choose and eat. There is death in one and life in the other. I shall take what you leave. Let us see if there is justice upon the earth, or if we are ruled by chance.’

Both Enoch and Joseph choose the wrong pill and die. Or, maybe God chose for them, and they deserved to die.

Now, the perfect example lies within The Count of Monte Cristo. In Alexandre Dumas’ masterpiece, the protagonist, Edmond Dantes is conspired against by a group of cohorts. One conspirator, Fernand, falls into lust with Edmond Dantes’ betrothed, Mercedes. Through this conspiracy, many horrible and difficult events and actions occur to our protagonist. Fernand eventually becomes General Fernand and marries Mercedes. Eventually, with a stroke of luck, Edmond Dantes finds himself extraordinarily wealthy and takes on the name and guise of The Count of Monte Cristo. His full efforts and attentions are towards seeking revenge against his conspirators.

Edmond’s revenge against Fernand is fascinating. After bringing public humiliation to Fernand and alienating him from Mercedes; Fernand seeks out the Count of Monte Cristo and asks for satisfaction through a dual. Enraged, Fernand mentions to the Count that they do not know one another, but the Count responds that they’ve known each other for a long time.

The general, with his head thrown back, hands extended, gaze fixed, looked silently at this dreadful apparition; then seeking the wall to support him, he glided along close to it until he reached the door, through which he went out backwards, uttering this single mournful, lamentable, distressing cry, – “Edmond Dantes!” Then, with sighs which were unlike any human sound, he dragged himself to the door, reeled across the court-yard, and falling into the arms of his valet, he said in a voice scarcely intelligible, – “Home, home.”

And, upon Fernand’s arrival at home; he takes his own life, and the reasoning is crucial. It begins with the significance of the challenge. In this era, a duel was of a special significance. It was not bent upon skill or talent, but instead rested on God’s will. God’s hand will choose which bullet strikes and which bullet falls to the ground. It’s God, Himself, who determines justice. Fernand, upon realizing his challenge was against the person who he heavily conspired against; immediately left and took his own life, because he understood God’s justice would reign down upon him.

This is the essence of revenge. It’s belief that we’re so right, something negative should occur to the one who has wronged us. Now, when we or someone we designate does our revenge for us; it feels less genuine, doesn’t it? Maybe we’re wrong and we were the unjust. Wouldn’t it be nice to know for certain? That’s the concept of revenge as divine justice. It’s God’s agreement with our assessment against someone who’s wronged us.

But, it’s not true! The world is far too complicated and people’s situations are far too complex to understand how God levies down justice. Revenge is nothing more than anger.

So, let’s deal with revenge as we would with any other type of anger. We should attempt to feel compassion towards those who’ve wronged us, and most importantly; have compassion towards ourselves. We should take this opportunity to delve deeper within ourselves and discover new opportunities to grow. And, eliminate these people and their associates from our lives and seek better company.