Exodus 22



                                    THE BOOK OF THE COVENANT (Con’t)




The first section — vs. 1-6 — is upon theft. The general principle laid down is, that

theft shall be punished if possible, by a fine. There is a moral fitness in this, since a

man’s desire to get what was his neighbor’s would lead to the loss of what was his

own. In ordinary cases the thief was to restore to the man robbed double of what he

had stolen (v. 4) but, if he had shewn persistence in wrong doing by selling the

property, or (if it were an animal) killing it, he was to pay more — fourfold in the case

of a sheep, fivefold in that of an ox. If the criminal could not pay the fine, then he was

to be sold as a slave (v. 3). Burglary, or breaking into a house at night, might be

resisted by force, and if the burglar were killed, the man who killed him incurred no

legal guilt (v. 2); but, if the house were entered by day, the proviso did not hold (v. 3).


vs. 1-4 – “If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall

restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.  If a thief be found

breaking up” – rather “breaking in” – that is, making forcible entry into a house –

and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.” – The

principle rests upon the probability that those who break into a house by night bare

a murderous intent, or at least have the design, if occasion arise, to commit murder.

“If the sun be risen upon him, there shall be blood shed for him; for he should

make full restitution” - The punishment of the housebreaker, who enters a house by

day, shall be like that of other thieves — to restore double -  “if he have nothing,

then he shall be sold for his theft.   If the theft be certainly found in his hand

alive, whether it be ox, or ass, or sheep; he shall restore double.”

The Mosaic Law, with greater refinement and greater propriety, graduated the

punishment according to the special character of the offense. The worst form of theft

proper is burglary. Burglary destroys the repose of the household, introduces a feeling

of insecurity, trenches upon the sacredness of the hearth, endangers life, affrights tender

women and children. By permitting the destruction of the burglar, the law pronounced

him worthy of death.  Other forms of thieving were punished in proportion to the

audacity and persistence of the thief. A man who had stolen without converting the

property, was to pay back double. If he had converted it to his own use, or sold it,

the penalty was heavier — fourfold for a sheep or goat, fivefold for an ox. There was

especial audacity in stealing an ox — an animal so large that it could not readily be

converted; so powerful that it could not easily be carried off. The graduation of

punishment for all crimes is desirable;



            VARIOUS DEGREES OF INWARD WICKEDNESS; e.g., homicide

            varies between absolute blamelessness (v. 2) and the highest degree of

            culpability (ch. 21:14). Assault may be the lightest possible matter, or

            approach closely to murder. False witness may arise from imperfect

            memory, or from a deliberate design to effect a man’s ruin. Lies may be

            white,” or the blackest falsehoods which it is possible for the soul of man

            to invent. Punishment is, and ought to be, in the main retributive; and as

            the moral guilt varies, so should the penalty.



            LESS INJURIOUS. By an act of stealing we may rob a man of a trifle, or

            reduce him to beggary. By a blow of a certain force we may inflict on him

            a slight pain, or render him a cripple for life. By a false statement in a court

            of justice we may do him no harm at all, or we may ruin his character. All

            crimes short of homicide vary in the extent to which they injure a man; and

            it is reasonable that the amount of injury received should be taken into

            consideration when punishment is apportioned. Therefore, a rigid

            unbending law, assigning to each head of crime a uniform penalty would be

            unsuitable to the conditions of human life and the varying motives of

            criminals. A wise legislator will leave a wide discretion to those who

            administer justice, trusting them to apportion to each offence the

            punishment which under the circumstances it deserves.



                                                LAW OF TRESPASS


Next to theft, and not much behind it, is the wanton damage of what belongs to another —

as when a person injures his neighbor’s crops, either by turning beasts into his field,

or by causing a conflagration in it. To turn beasts in was the more determinedly

malicious act, and therefore the damage done was to be compensated by making over

to the injured party a like quantity of produce out of the best that a man was possessed

of; whereas simple restitution, was sufficient when fire had spread accidentally from a

man’s own land to his neighbor’s. We may conclude that if the trespass of the cattle

were accidental, simple restitution sufficed; and if the fire were kindled of set

purpose, the heavier rate of penalty was exacted.


vs. 5-6 – “If a man shall cause a field or vineyard to be eaten, and shall put in

his beast, and shall feed in another man’s field; of the best of his own field, and

of the best of his own vineyard, shall he make restitution.”  This means that,

without reference to the quality of the crop damaged, the injurer should forfeit an

equal amount of his own best produce.  If fire break out, and catch in thorns, so

that the stacks of corn, or the standing corn, or the field, be consumed therewith;

he that kindled the fire shall surely make restitution.” - The law punished such

carelessness, by requiring the man who had kindled the fire to make restitution.


The Law of Love forbids all injury to a neighbor. There are many who would scorn

to steal the property of a neighbor, who yet make light of injuring it in other ways, as

by trespass, or by negligence. But if we love our neighbor we shall be anxious not to

injure him in any way. “Love worketh no ill to his neighbor.” (Romans 13:10) –

He that allows his cattle to pasture in a neighbor’s field, or his hares and rabbits to

spoil a neighbor’s crops, or his poultry to break bounds and damage a neighbor’s

garden, cannot feel towards him as a Christian should feel.  Love would hinder any

injuries, nay, even any intrusive or obnoxious act.  Love would also be a strong

check upon neglect and carelessness. Men are careful enough not to damage their own

property; did they really love them, they would be as careful not to damage the

property of their neighbors. And what is true of property is true of other things also.

We are bound:



            direct attacks upon it, or by carelessly suffering it to be maligned by others.




ü      By impertinent intrusion;

ü      By spying and tale-bearing;

ü      By scattering suspicions.




ü      By divulging without necessity what may hurt him;

ü      By pushing our own interests at his expense;

ü      By knowingly advising him ill;

ü      By setting pitfalls that he may fall into them.


            If we offend in any of these respects, it is our duty, so far as possible, to

            make restitution”


ü      By compensating to him any loss he may have sustained;

ü      By disabusing those whose minds we may have poisoned;

ü      By ample and humble apology.


            Too often this last will be all that is in our power; for “the tongue is a fire”

            (James 3:6), which scatters its brands far and wide, and creates

            conflagrations that it is impossible to extinguish. Let each and all seek to

            control that “unruly member” whichsetteth on fire the course of nature,”

            and is itself “set on fire of hell.”



                                                LAW OF DEPOSITS


Deposition of property in the hands of a friend, to keep and guard, was a marked

feature in the life of primitive societies, where investments were difficult, and bankers

unknown. Persons about to travel, especially merchants, were wont to make such a

disposition of the greater part of their movable property, which required some one to

guard it in their absence. Refusals to return such deposits were rare; since ancient morality

regarded such refusal as a crime of deep dye (Herod. 7:86). Sometimes, however, they

took place; and at Athens there was a special form of action which might be brought in such

cases called parakataqh>khv di>kh. The penalty, if a man were east in the suit, was

simple restitution, which is less satisfactory than the Mosaic enactment - “He shall pay

double (v. 9)


vs. 7-13 – “If a man shall deliver unto his neighbor money or stuff to keep, and

it be stolen out of the man’s house; if the thief be found, let him pay double.

If the thief be not found, then the master of the house shall be brought unto the

judges, to see whether he have put his hand unto his neighbor’s goods. For all

manner of trespass, whether it be for ox, for ass, for sheep, for raiment, or for

any manner of lost thing which another challengeth to be his, the cause of both

parties shall come before the judges; and whom the judges shall condemn, he

shall pay double unto his neighbor.  If a man deliver unto his neighbor an ass, or

an ox, or a sheep, or any beast, to keep; and it die, or be hurt, or driven away, no

man seeing it:  Then shall an oath of the LORD be between them both, that he

hath not put his hand unto his neighbor’s goods; and the owner of it shall accept

thereof, and he shall not make it good.  And if it be stolen from him, he shall

make restitution unto the owner thereof.  If it be torn in pieces, then let him bring

it for witness, and he shall not make good that which was torn.”  The main teaching

of this third paragraph of ch 22 is the sacred character of human trusts. Men are taught that

they must carefully guard the property of others when committed to their charge,

and religiously restore it upon demand to its rightful owner. No conversion of such property

to the use of the trustee, under any circumstances whatever, is to be tolerated.

The principle laid down with respect to ancient, will apply equally to modern, trusts:


Ø      If the thing entrusted be stolen, without the trustee being justly chargeable

      with having contributed to the theft by negligence, the loss must fall on the



Ø      If it be lost by. non-preventible accident, as when a lion carries off a

            lamb, or when a ship goes down at sea, the case is the same — the trustee

            is not liable.


Ø      If, on the other hand, the trustee neglect to take sufficient care, and

            damage occurs, he is bound to make good the injury caused by his own



Ø      If he actually embezzle the trust, simple restitution will not meet the

            full claims of justice. He ought to be made to refund, and to be punished



Ø      In doubtful cases the oath, or solemn assurance, of the trustee, that he

            has conveyed no part of the trust to his own use, ought to be accepted.

            Trusts are among the most important of the contracts and obligations,

            whereby human society is carried on. Strict honesty and much thought and

            care are requisite on the one hand, confidence, gratitude and tender

            consideration on the other. Trustees, it is to be remembered, do, for the

            most part, unpaid work. No one can be compelled to be a trustee. And.

            unless a generous confidence is put in them, and their good intentions are

            presumed, alike by the law and by those for whom they act, trusteeship will

            be declined by prudent men, and great inconveniences will follow.



                                                LAW OF BORROWING


The act of borrowing is connected with that of depositing, since in both cases, the property

of one man is committed to the hands of another; only, in the one case, it is

at the instance and for the benefit of the man into whose hands the property passes;

in the other case, it is at the instance and for the benefit of the other party. This

difference causes a difference of obligation. The borrower, having borrowed solely

for his own advantage, must take all the risks, and in any case return the thing

borrowed, or its value, unless the owner was still, in some sort, in charge of his own

property.  Things hired are not, however, to be regarded as borrowed. If harm come to

them, the owner must suffer the loss.


vs. 14-15 – “And if a man borrow ought of his neighbor, and it be hurt, or die,

the owner thereof being not with it, he shall surely make it good.  But if the

owner thereof be with it, he shall not make it good: if it be an hired thing, it

came for his hire.”  The duty of borrowers is very simple. It is to take care that that

which they borrow suffers as little hurt as possible while it remains in their possession,

and to return it unhurt, or else make compensation to the lender. People will not often

be found to question the propriety of these rules; but in action there are not very many

who conform to them. It is a common thing to take but little care of what we have

borrowed; to keep it an unconscionable time; to neglect returning it until the lender

has asked for it repeatedly; to keep it without scruple, if he does not happen to ask for it.

Curiously enough, there are particular things — e.g., umbrellas and books, which it is

supposed not to be necessary to return, and which borrowers are in the habit of

withholding. Many go further, and feel under no obligation to repay even money which

they have borrowed. All such conduct is, however, culpable, since it is tainted with

dishonesty.  Borrowers should remember:




            should prevent them from a line of conduct which assimilates them to

            thieves, and is wanting in the boldness and straightforwardness that

            characterize ordinary thieves.



      LENDER, who has put them under a special obligation to him.



            since they do their best to deter men from ever lending, and so place

            difficulties in the way of borrowers. We all need to borrow at times.


  • THAT THEY FAIL IN THEIR DUTY TO GOD, who has declared in

            His word, that it is “the wicked” who borroweth and payeth not again”

            (Psalm 37:21).



                                    MISCELLANEOUS LAWS (vs. 16-31)


                                                Abominations (vs. 16-21)


vs. 16-20 – “And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her,

he shall surely endow her to be his wife.  If her father utterly refuse to give her

unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.”  It has been

already observed that in the remainder of the Book of the Covenant there is  a want of

method, or logical sequence. Seduction, witchcraft, bestiality, worship of false gods,

oppression, are sins as different from each other as can well be named, and seem to

have no connecting link. Possibly, Moses simply follows the order in which God

actually delivered the laws to him. Possibly, he wrote them down as they occurred

to his memory. It is remarkable in his “law of seduction,” that he makes the penalty

fall with most weight on the man, who must either marry the damsel whom he has

seduced, or provide her with a dowry, or, if she is a betrothed maiden, suffer with her

the penalty of death (Deuteronomy 22:23-24).  Lewdness in every form is sternly

reprobated by the law of Moses (of. <052201>Deuteronomy 22:13-30). The case of

the seducer might have been brought under the laws embodying the principle of restitution.

It forms a transition to the others, in which we pass from the sphere of judicial right

to what is negatively and positively due from Israel as “an holy people” to Jehovah. 

 Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”  Witchcraft. – (The word “witchcraft” in

Galatians 5:20 is from the Greek word farmakei>a, — far-mak-i’-ah; the use of

drugs, whether simple or potent, and was generally accompanied by incantations

and appeals to occult powers)  With equal strictness was forbidden all trafficking,

whether in pretence or in reality, with unholy powers. The crime — a violation of

the first principles of the theocracy — was to be punished with death. There cannot

be perfect love to God, and communion with Him, and trafficking with the devil at the

same time. The witchcraft condemned by the law was evil in itself, and was connected

with foolish and wicked rites (see - Deuteronomy 18:9-15).  Witchcraft was professedly

a league with powers in rebellion against God. How far it was delusion, how far

imposture, how far a real conspiracy with the powers of evil, cannot now be known.

Let the most rationalistic view be taken, and still there was in the practice an absolute

 renunciation of religion, and of the authority of Jehovah. Wizards (Leviticus 19:31)

and witches were, therefore, under the Jewish theocracy, like idolaters and blasphemers,

to be put to death.  “Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death.” –

This is a law against unnatural crime. The abomination here mentioned is said to have

prevailed in Egypt, and even to have formed part of the Egyptian religion (Herod. 2:46;

Strab. 17. p. 802; Clem. A1. Cohort. ad Gentes, p. 9; etc.). Though regarded by the

Greeks and Romans as disgusting and contemptible, it does not seem to have been

made a crime by any of their legislators. It was, however, condemned by the Gentoo laws

and by the laws of Menu (11:17).  Bestiality  was an inversion of the order of nature,

and in itself an act of the grossest abominableness, was “surely” to be punished with death.

“He that sacrificeth unto any God, save unto the LORD only, he shall be utterly

destroyed.” - Sacrifice was the chief act of worship; and to sacrifice to a false god was to

renounce the true God. Under a theocracy this was rebellion, and rightly punished with

temporal death. In ordinary states it would be no civil offence, and would be left to the

final judgment of the Almighty. “Utterly destroyed-  Literally, “devoted;” but with the

meaning of “devoted to destruction.”  Possibly this crime is mentioned here as, in a

sense, the spiritual counterpart of the vices above noted, i.e., as involving:


Ø      Spiritual adultery,

Ø      The worshipping of “devils(Deuteronomy 32:17),

Ø      Filthy and impure rites (Deuteronomy 23. 17-18).





v. 21 - “Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers

in the land of Egypt.”  A law against oppression of foreigners - It may be doubted

whether such a law as this was ever made in any other country. Foreigners

are generally looked upon as “fair game,” whom the natives of a country may ridicule and

annoy at their pleasure. The Mosaic legislation protested strongly against this practice

(ch. 23:9; Leviticus 19:33), and even required the Israelites to “love the

 stranger who dwelt with them as themselves (Leviticus 19:34). for ye were

strangers” - Compare Leviticus 19:34, and Deuteronomy 10:19. In ch. 23:9 the

addition is made — “For ye know the heart of a stranger” — ye know; i.e., the

feelings which strangers have when they are vexed and oppressed — ye know this

by your own sad experience, and should therefore have a tenderness for strangers.





With the stranger are naturally placed the widow and orphan; like him, weak and

defenseless; like him, special objects of God’s care. The negative precept

here given was followed up by numerous positive enactments in favor of

the widow and the orphan, which much ameliorated their sad lot. (See ch.  23. 11;

Leviticus 19:9-10; Deuteronomy 14:29; 16:11,14; 24:19-21; 26:12-13.) On the

whole, these laws appear to have been fairly well observed by the Israelites; but

there were times when, in spite of them, poor widows suffered much oppression.

(See Psalm 94:6; Isaiah 1:23; 10:2; Jeremiah 7:3-6; 22:3; Zechariah 7:10;

Malachi 3:5; Matthew 23. 14.) The prophets denounce this backsliding in the

strongest terms.


vs. 22-24 – “Ye shall not afflict” - The word translated “afflict” is of wide

signification. including ill-usage of all kinds. “Oppress,” and even “vex,” are

stronger terms – “any widow, or fatherless child.  If thou afflict them in any

wise, and they cry at all unto me” Rather, Surely, if they cry unto me.” Compare

Genesis 31:42 -  I will surely hear their cry.  And my wrath shall wax hot, and

I will kill you with the sword” - It was, in large measure, on account of the neglect

of this precept, that the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, and destruction of

its inhabitants, was allowed to take place.   (Jeremiah 22:3-5) -  and your wives

shall be widows, and your children fatherless.  A quasi-retaliation - They shall be

exposed to the same sort of ill-usage as you have dealt out to other widows.





It is peculiar to the Jewish law to forbid the lending of money at interest by citizen to

citizen. In the present passage, and in some others (Leviticus 25:35; Deuteronomy

15:7), it might seem that interest was only forbidden in the case of a loan to one who

was poor; but the general execration of usury (Job 24:9; Proverbs 28:8; Ezekiel 18:13;

22:12), and the description of the righteous man as “he that hath not given his money

upon usury” (Psalm 15:5; Ezekiel 18:8), seem rather to imply that the practice, so far

as Israelites were concerned, was forbidden altogether. On the other hand, it was distinctly

declared (Deuteronomy 23:20) that interest might be taken from strangers. There does not

seem to have been any rate of interest which was regarded as excessive, and “usurious,”

in the modern sense. In Scripture usury means simply interest.


vs. 25-27 – “If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou

shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury.  If thou

at all take thy neighbor’s raiment to pledge, thou shalt deliver it unto him by

that the sun goeth down:  For that is his covering only, it is his raiment for his

skin: wherein shall he sleep? and it shall come to pass, when he crieth unto me,

that I will hear; for I am gracious.”  Compare v. 23. If the law is broken, and the

man cry unto the Lord, He will hear, and avenge him.





v. 28 – “Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people.”

It has been proposed to render Elohim here either


Ø      “God;” or

Ø      “The gods;” or

Ø      “Judges.”


The last of these renderings is impossible, since Elohim in the sense of “judges”

always has the article. The second, which is adopted by the Septuagint and the Authorised

Version, seems precluded by the constant practice of the most religious

Jews, prophets and others, to speak with contempt and contumely of the false gods

of the heathen. The passage must therefore be understood as forbidding men to speak

evil of God.  (Compare Leviticus 24:15-16.) nor curse the ruler of thy people.”

Rather, “one exalted among thy people.” The term is generally used of the

heads of families (Numbers 3:24,30,35) and tribes (Numbers 7:10,18,24) in the

Pentateuch. Later, it is applied to kings (I Kings 11:34; Ezekiel 12:10; 45:7). Our

translators generally render it by “prince.”





  • JEHOVAH’S PROTEGES - These are the stranger, the fatherless, the widow,

      and the poor generally — all of whom the Israelites are forbidden to “afflict.”

      The ground of Jehovah’s interest in them is His own character — “for I am     

      gracious” -  (v. 27). In Him, however little they may sometimes think of it or

      feel it, they have a constant Friend, a great invisible Protector. They are

      (in the sense of Roman law) Jehovah’s “clients.” He is their great Patron; he

      identifies Himself with their interests; He will uphold their cause. Injuries done

      to them He will resent as if done to Himself, and will call the wrong-doer to

      strict account. If earthly law fails, let them cry to Him, and He will put the jus        

      talionis in operation with His own hands (vs. 23, 24, 27). Vs. 25-28 specially         

      forbid exacting treatment of the poor. Liberal help is to be afforded them. A      

      neighbor is not to be harshly dealt with when driven to a strait. His garment, if   

      given as a pledge, is not to be kept beyond nightfall, which is practically            

      equivalent to saying that it is not to be taken from him at all (v. 27). What          

      kindness breathes in these precepts! How justly does the law which embodies  

      them claim to be a law of love!  How far, even yet, is our Christian society

            from having risen to the height of the standard And they set up! Let us seek

            ourselves to translate them more uniformly into practice. Learn also, from

            these precepts, inculcating love to the stranger, how little ground there is

            for accusing the religion of Moses of fanatical hatred of foreign peoples.


  • JEHOVAH’S REPRESENTATIVES (v. 28). Magistrates and rulers

            are to be treated with respect. They are invested with a portion of God’s

            authority (Romans 13:1).



                        THE LAW OF THE FIRST-FRUITS (vs. 29-31)


God required as first-fruits from His people:


Ø      The first-born of their children;

Ø      The firstborn of all their cattle; and

Ø      The first of all the produce of their lands, whether wet or dry; wine, oil,

      grain of all kinds, and fruits.


The first-born of their children were to be redeemed by a money payment (ch. 13:13;

Numbers 3:46-48); but the rest was to be offered in sacrifice.  The phrase, “thou shalt

not delay,” implies that there would be reluctance to comply with this obligation, and

that the offering would be continually put off. In Nehemiah’s time the entire custom

had at one period fallen into disuse. (Nehemiah 10:35-36.)



vs. 29-31 – “Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy

liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me.  Likewise shalt thou

do with thine oxen, and with thy sheep: seven days it shall be with his dam; on

the eighth day thou shalt give it me.” - Some analogy may be traced between this

proviso and the law of circumcision. Birth was viewed as an unclean process, and

nothing was fit for presentation to God excepting after an interval.  “And ye shall be

holy men unto me” - Ye shall not be as other men, but “an holy nation, a peculiar

people;” and therefore your separateness shall be marked by all manner of laws and

regulations with respect to meats and drinks, designed to keep you free from every

uncleanness. One such law then follows:  “neither shall ye eat any flesh that is torn

of beasts in the field; ye shall cast it to the dogs.”



                                    JEHOVAH’S DUES – (vs. 29-31)


These, as part of the law’s righteousness, are to be faithfully rendered. Let us not

forget, when reflecting on what is due from man to man, to reflect also on what is

due from man to God. When inwardly boasting of conscientiousness in rendering to

every man his own, let us ask if we have been equally scrupulous in the discharge

of  our obligations to our Maker.  In all spheres of life God claims of our first and

best (see on  ch.13:2,12). God’s highest due is that we be “holy.” The precept in

v.31 is connected with the prohibition to eat flesh with the blood in it.



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