This isn't as odd as it sounds. Getting to the "spirit" of a law, for example, rather than simply fulfilling its "letter," is a foundation for the implementation of justice in society - though extremely difficult to implement in practice. Here's an example from the Bible:
The third commandment forbids using the LORD's name in vain, as it would dishonour him:
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain (Exod 20:4).What would it look like to keep the letter of this law but not the spirit, and thus bring disrepute on God's name in a far more subtle manner?
In his last days, King David confirmed a series of oaths by evoking the name of God (1 Kings 1:17; 2:8, 23, 42). It is characteristic of these stories that they are extremely ambiguous. For example, David swore by the LORD that he would not put his enemy Shimei to death by the sword. At his death, however, he commanded his son Solomon to carry out the deed.
Did David break the Third Commandment by bringing disrepute on God? Strictly speaking the oath is not broken. Nevertheless, David resorts to a form of deception in order to execute his vengeance.
I believe that the legal issue represented here represents the crux of genuine theological exegesis. It is not enough to remain at the descriptive level. We need wrestle with the true subject matter of the text, which cannot always be so easily read off the surface. The result of not doing so can have dire consequences.
[These thoughts are taken from Childs' Old Testament Theology in a Canonical Context, 69.]