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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Exodus 22

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More Laws to Direct Judges

A. Laws regarding personal property and restitution.

1. (Exo 22:1-4) Restitution required in cases of theft.

"If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox and four sheep for a sheep. If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed. If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed. He should make full restitution; if he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. If the theft is certainly found alive in his hand, whether it is an ox or donkey or sheep, he shall restore double.

a. He shall restore: The Mosaic Law did not send a person to jail because of theft. Instead, the thief was simply required to restore what he stole, plus an additional penalty.

i. In this passage, the penalty could be anywhere from 500% (he shall restore five oxen for an ox) to 200% (he shall restore double).

ii. This can be regarded as a positive vision for the punishment of criminals, putting them to productive restitution and compensating the victims of their theft. These principles are often ignored in modern judicial systems.

b. He should make full restitution; if he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft:If the person was unable to pay back what he stole, the thief was sold as an indentured laborer, with the money from the sale going to the victim.

c. If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed. If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed: A property owner had the right to protect his property with force - but only with reasonable force. The assumption was that if it was daylight, the property owner had the ability to defend himself short of lethal force.

2. (Exo 22:5-8) Further application of the principle of restitution.

"If a man causes a field or vineyard to be grazed, and lets loose his animal, and it feeds in another man's field, he shall make restitution from the best of his own field and the best of his own vineyard. If fire breaks out and catches in thorns, so that stacked grain, standing grain, or the field is consumed, he who kindled the fire shall surely make restitution. If a man delivers to his neighbor money or articles to keep, and it is stolen out of the man's house, if the thief is found, he shall pay double. If the thief is not found, then the master of the house shall be brought to the judges to see whether he has put his hand into his neighbor's goods.

a. If a man causes a field or vineyard to be grazed, and lets loose his animal, and it feeds in another man's field, he shall make restitution: The owner of an animal was responsible for the grazing of his animals. He was obliged to respect his neighbor's property (the grazing land).

b. He who kindled the fire shall surely make restitution: Restitution was also required in cases of vandalism or foolish negligence, even if one kept the property of another. In the Mosaic legal system, a great premium was put on personal responsibility, even with the property of others.

i. This translates into a proper concern for the property of others today. A Christian, if he backs into someone else's car, will certainly leave a note and make good the damage. A Christian will have proper insurance, guaranteeing they can compensate for someone else's loss.

ii. If someone gives you something to hold for them you are responsible for it as a faithful steward or manager. This includes what God gives us to manage or steward for Him.

c. Shall surely make restitution … he shall pay double: Restitution was paid according to a pre-determined amount or percentage; it was not left to the whims of the victims or the judges.

3. (Exo 22:9-13) More application of the principle of restitution.

"For any kind of trespass, whether it concerns an ox, a donkey, a sheep, or clothing, or for any kind of lost thing which another claims to be his, the cause of both parties shall come before the judges; and whomever the judges condemn shall pay double to his neighbor. If a man delivers to his neighbor a donkey, an ox, a sheep, or any animal to keep, and it dies, is hurt, or driven away, no one seeing it, "then an oath of the LORD shall be between them both, that he has not put his hand into his neighbor's goods; and the owner of it shall accept that, and he shall not make it good. But if, in fact, it is stolen from him, he shall make restitution to the owner of it. If it is torn to pieces by a beast, then he shall bring it as evidence, and he shall not make good what was torn.

a. The cause of both parties shall come before the judges; and whomever the judges condemn shall pay double: When testimony was given, a man's word was taken as true unless proven otherwise. This is basis of the legal principle of the accused being innocent unless proven guilty.

b. Then an oath of the LORD shall be between them both, that he has not put his hand into his neighbor's goods; and the owner of it shall accept that: The New Testament makes it clear that believers should avoid taking legal disputes among themselves to secular judges. They should allow the matter to be judged by the church (1 Corinthians 6:1-8).

4. (Exo 22:14-15) Restitution principles applied to borrowing and lending.

"And if a man borrows anything from his neighbor, and it becomes injured or dies, the owner of it not being with it, he shall surely make it good. If its owner was with it, he shall not make it good; if it was hired, it came for its hire.

a. If a man borrows anything from his neighbor: The principles of responsibility and restitution also applied to borrowing and lending.

b. He shall surely make it good: This was the simple principle meant to guide the judges. The guilty party had to make it good.

B. Moral and ceremonial laws.

1. (Exo 22:16-17) The remedy for pre-marital sex.

"If a man entices a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money according to the bride-price of virgins.

a. If a man entices a virgin who is not betrothed: Some claim this passage does not prohibit pre-marital sex; but it does in practice, because it requires a man to either marry or provide for a woman he has pre-marital sex with.

b. He shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife: This law emphasizes the principle that there is no such thing as "casual" sex. Both Old and New Testaments state that sexual relations carry lasting consequences (1 Corinthians 6:15-16).

i. "This was an exceedingly wise and humane law, and must have operated powerfully against seduction and fornication; because the person who might feel inclined to take the advantage of a young woman knew that he must marry her, and giver her a dowry." (Clarke).

ii. This law is only effective when virginity is prized among women; here, a woman's virginity is her guarantee that she cannot be treated "cheaply".

iii. Far too many people - especially women - sell themselves cheaply by easily giving away their virginity. A man illustrated this with a true story about a friend who owned an antique store and had a table for sale. The table was worth $600, but was marked down to $300. A man tried to bargain her down to $200, and not only did she refuse, but she realized the true value of the table, and upped the price to its true worth - even when offered $300. The man finally bought the table for $600, and certainly treated it like a $600 table - because it's worth had been fought for. Many women who know men treat them shabbily have contributed to the problem by selling themselves cheaply.

2. (Exo 22:18-20) Three capital crimes.

"You shall not permit a sorceress to live. Whoever lies with an animal shall surely be put to death. He who sacrifices to any god, except to the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed.

a. A sorceress: The practice of sorcery was almost always associated with "medicinal arts" (the taking of drugs) in the ancient world, and was therefore a connection between drug taking and occultist practices.

b. You shall not permit a sorceress to live: This was considered a severe enough threat that sorcery was considered a capital crime. The link between drugs and the occult was rightly seen as deadly.

c. Whoever lies with an animal shall surely be put to death: Bestiality was practiced in the ancient world, and God's Word specifically prohibits it. However, if someone will not allow God's Word to guide his or her sexual morality, there is no rational reason why this should be considered wrong.

i. If we reject God's Word when it comes to other areas of sexual morality, there is no other place to draw the line. We cannot say that sex with animals, children, or the dead is wrong if the ethic is "if it feels good, do it."

ii. Recently, in response to their university's sponsorship of GLAD (Gay/Lesbian Awareness Days), a university group answered with BAD (Bestiality Awareness Days) - but they were not allowed to have their own "celebration." There was no rational reason to reject this apart from a Biblical foundation for morality.

3. (Exo 22:21-27) Compassion for the poor and weak.

"You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry; and My wrath will become hot, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless. If you lend money to any of My people who are poor among you, you shall not be like a moneylender to him; you shall not charge him interest. If you ever take your neighbor's garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down. For that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What will he sleep in? And it will be that when he cries to Me, I will hear, for I am gracious.

a. You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him: A good measure of our moral character is found in how we treat a stranger. People often find it easy to treat their own flesh and blood right, but God commands us to have a concern for others - including the stranger.

i. The hatred and strife between ethnic and national groups shows just how little humanity has progressed.

ii. It is fair to examine how accommodating are we to the strangers among us. If we stay with our own safe group and enjoy all the blessings, and fail to be outreaching and out-looking as a blessing to others, we mistreat a stranger.

b. You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child: The widow and fatherless child were the weakest and most vulnerable members of society. Therefore God commanded a special care and concern for them, and God promised to protect them.

c. If you lend money to any of My people who are poor among you, you shall not be like a moneylender to him: Interest was prohibited on loans made to the poor and the taking of collateral had to be reasonable.

i. This did not prohibit the taking of interest on loans that were not for relief of the poor. "It is evident that what is here said must be understood of accumulated usury, or what we call compound interest only; and accordingly neshech is mentioned with and distinguished from tarbith and marbith, interest or simple interest, Leviticus 25:36,37; Proverbs 28:8; Ezekiel 18:8, 13, 17, and 22:12." (Clarke)

d. And it will be that when he cries to Me, I will hear: God promises to hear the prayer of the poor man when he cries out to the Lord. God's general sympathy for the poor is reflected in the fact that Jesus came from a poor family. When He was dedicated in the temple, shortly after His birth, the sacrifice was that of a poor family: two birds (Luke 2:24).

4. (Exo 22:28-31) Laws regarding holiness and separation unto God.

"You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people. You shall not delay to offer the first of your ripe produce and your juices. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to Me. Likewise you shall do with your oxen and your sheep. It shall be with its mother seven days; on the eighth day you shall give it to Me. And you shall be holy men to Me: you shall not eat meat torn by beasts in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs.

a. You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people: The most basic arena for holiness is always the tongue. God cares how we talk about Him and those He has put us into submission to.

b. You shall not delay to offer the first of your ripe produce and your juices: We also respect God by giving Him His due. If we are commanded to give something to God, it is a sin to not give it.

c. And you shall be holy men to Me: you shall not eat meat torn by beasts in the field: We are commanded to act differently than the animals. We are called to be holy men, not scavengers who tear at carcasses as animals do. This reinforces the basic idea of holiness: that we are set apart, different.

©2004 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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