My Father and my God, I praise You for Your amazing knowledge of me and Your boundless love for me.
Read EXODUS 22
Protection of Property
22 [a]“Whoever steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.
2 “If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; 3 but if it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed.
“Anyone who steals must certainly make restitution, but if they have nothing, they must be sold to pay for their theft. 4 If the stolen animal is found alive in their possession—whether ox or donkey or sheep—they must pay back double.
5 “If anyone grazes their livestock in a field or vineyard and lets them stray and they graze in someone else’s field, the offender must make restitution from the best of their own field or vineyard.
6 “If a fire breaks out and spreads into thornbushes so that it burns shocks of grain or standing grain or the whole field, the one who started the fire must make restitution.
7 “If anyone gives a neighbor silver or goods for safekeeping and they are stolen from the neighbor’s house, the thief, if caught, must pay back double. 8 But if the thief is not found, the owner of the house must appear before the judges, and they must[b] determine whether the owner of the house has laid hands on the other person’s property. 9 In all cases of illegal possession of an ox, a donkey, a sheep, a garment, or any other lost property about which somebody says, ‘This is mine,’ both parties are to bring their cases before the judges.[c] The one whom the judges declare[d] guilty must pay back double to the other.
10 “If anyone gives a donkey, an ox, a sheep or any other animal to their neighbor for safekeeping and it dies or is injured or is taken away while no one is looking, 11 the issue between them will be settled by the taking of an oath before the Lord that the neighbor did not lay hands on the other person’s property. The owner is to accept this, and no restitution is required. 12 But if the animal was stolen from the neighbor, restitution must be made to the owner. 13 If it was torn to pieces by a wild animal, the neighbor shall bring in the remains as evidence and shall not be required to pay for the torn animal.
14 “If anyone borrows an animal from their neighbor and it is injured or dies while the owner is not present, they must make restitution. 15 But if the owner is with the animal, the borrower will not have to pay. If the animal was hired, the money paid for the hire covers the loss.
16 “If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife. 17 If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins.
18 “Do not allow a sorceress to live.
19 “Anyone who has sexual relations with an animal is to be put to death.
20 “Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the Lord must be destroyed.[e]
21 “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.
22 “Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. 23 If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. 24 My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.
25 “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest. 26 If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it by sunset, 27 because that cloak is the only covering your neighbor has. What else can they sleep in? When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.
28 “Do not blaspheme God[f] or curse the ruler of your people.
29 “Do not hold back offerings from your granaries or your vats.[g]
“You must give me the firstborn of your sons. 30 Do the same with your cattle and your sheep. Let them stay with their mothers for seven days, but give them to me on the eighth day.
31 “You are to be my holy people. So do not eat the meat of an animal torn by wild beasts; throw it to the dogs.
- Exodus 22:1 In Hebrew texts 22:1 is numbered 21:37, and 22:2-31 is numbered 22:1-30.
- Exodus 22:8 Or before God, and he will
- Exodus 22:9 Or before God
- Exodus 22:9 Or whom God declares
- Exodus 22:20 The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them.
- Exodus 22:28 Or Do not revile the judges
- Exodus 22:29 The meaning of the Hebrew for this phrase is uncertain.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.’1
The first half of this wide-ranging legislation expands on the command not to steal, then goes beyond it to inculcate a deep sense of care when looking after a neighbor’s possessions (e.g. vs 10–15). Its approach is to consider various cases (hence it is known as casuistic law) and the penalties emphasize the need for restitution. The second half of the chapter (vs 16–31) deals with a number of laws by stating general principles (known as apodictic law), several of which concern capital offenses, because each of them in their own way are acts of treason against their covenant God. Several aspects of these divine laws stand out.
Written in this way there is no distinction between the ordinary affairs of life and sacred duties. Being a holy people (v 31) involves property as well as piety, social obligation as well as religious duty, sexual purity and sacred devotion. Holiness affects the whole of life, touching behavior in the neighborhood, the bedroom, and the market as much as in the tabernacle or Temple. The sacred/secular divide which has dogged Christianity since at least the Enlightenment is totally alien to biblical ideas of holiness. Contrary to our current culture of individualism, repeated stress falls on social relationships in Scripture. These laws are designed to strengthen the social fabric both of the community and the family. People often unthinkingly object to such rules today, but a moment’s thought leads us to see how much healthier society would be if we lived by them. They are not oppressive, but liberating. Finally, note again the care for the vulnerable and the command not to exploit someone’s misfortune, especially from verse 22 onwards. As Leviticus 19:2 puts it, here God is calling his people to ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy’.
What words would you use to explain to a non-Christian friend the value of these laws, both spiritual and moral, for contemporary society?
Victorious Lord, help me to realize that because I am in You, the battle has already been won. I am not struggling in my life for victory, but from victory.
1 Col 3:17
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