Exodus 22


‘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. “If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; 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. If the stolen animal is found alive in their possession—whether ox or donkey or sheep—they must pay back double.’ Exodus 22:1-4

Protection Of Property

Unlike today when thieves are caught and sent to jail, God says if a thief is caught, the thief was had to restore what they stole, plus an additional penalty. If a thief was caught in the act and killed, then the owner of what the thief was trying to steal wasn’t held responsible.

Notice that the owner had the right to use reasonable force to protect what they owned, however, if the owner waited until daylight to kill the thief, then he was guilty of the death of the thief.

‘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. “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.’ Exodus 22:5-6

Although most animals grazed in the open fields, some people owned private land for their animals to graze in. Here God says that no man’s livestock was allowed to graze on another’s private property. This tells us that the owner of an animal was responsible for the grazing of his animals and he was to respect his neighbour’s property.

Restitution was paid according to a predetermined amount or percentage, it wasn’t left to the victims or the judges to decide how much was to be paid.

‘If anyone gives a neighbour silver or goods for safekeeping and they are stolen from the neighbour’s house, the thief, if caught, must pay back double. But if the thief is not found, the owner of the house must appear before the judges, and they must determine whether the owner of the house has laid hands on the other person’s property. 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. The one whom the judges declare guilty must pay back double to the other. “If anyone gives a donkey, an ox, a sheep or any other animal to their neighbour for safekeeping and it dies or is injured or is taken away while no one is looking, the issue between them will be settled by the taking of an oath before the LORD that the neighbour did not lay hands on the other person’s property. The owner is to accept this, and no restitution is required. But if the animal was stolen from the neighbour, restitution must be made to the owner. If it was torn to pieces by a wild animal, the neighbour shall bring in the remains as evidence and shall not be required to pay for the torn animal.’ Exodus 22:7-13

Here we read that a person could entrust his possessions or livestock into the hand of a neighbour. These protective laws were to direct the proper handling of a man’s possessions if they were entrusted to another for safekeeping.

The point here is that if a person entrusted another, with their possessions, then the person they entrusted their possessions with was held responsible for looking after them, Amos 3:12.

There was a time when a man’s word meant everything, and people respected a man’s word until they had a reason not to trust him anymore. Even today in our court system, people are assumed innocent until they are proven guilty, 1 Corinthians 6:1-8.

‘If anyone borrows an animal from their neighbour and it is injured or dies while the owner is not present, they must make restitution. 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.’ Exodus 22:14-15

Here again, we’re reminded that if anyone borrowed another person’s possession, the person bowing took on the full responsibility of keeping the borrowed item safe. If what had been borrowed was lost or damaged without the owner being present, then the one who borrowed was responsible for restoring what was lost.

There were times when animals were not borrowed but hired and the cost of the hired possession would have been automatically included in the hiring price. In this case, the one who hired the possession didn’t have to repay the cost if it was damaged or lost.

Social Responsibility

‘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. If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride price for virgins.’ Exodus 22:16-17

Because a father expected the marriage of his daughter to bring him a dowry, that ‘the bride price’, Deuteronomy 22:28-29. The seduction of a daughter was considered theft, Deuteronomy 22:23-30.

Dummelow, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Among the Hebrews, and among the Arabs today, a woman who has been unchaste has almost no chance of marriage; thus, the seducer, it is here enacted, must marry her, or if the father object, make good the dowry.’

‘Do not allow a sorceress to live. “Anyone who has sexual relations with an animal is to be put to death. “Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the LORD must be destroyed.’ Exodus 22:18-20

A sorceress was a person who sought to captivate the minds of others through the practice of magical tricks, which often included the use of drugs. By doing this, they were distracting the thinking of people away from God and His will. It’s because of this that God wanted them out of Israel.

Anyone having sexual relations, bestiality, with an animal was seen as evil and not be tolerated in Israel. Having sexual relations with animals was punishable by death, Leviticus 20:15-16 / Deuteronomy 27:21.

Sacrificing to any other god was idolatry and punishable by death, Exodus 20:3 / Deuteronomy 5:6 / Deuteronomy 13:1-16 / Jeremiah

‘Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt. “Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.’ Exodus 22:21-24

Here we read that Israel was to remember that they were foreigners when they were in of Egypt, and so they weren’t mistreated or oppressed by any foreigner who was in the land or who was passing through the land.

Notice again how God defends and protects the vulnerable in society, the widows and the fatherless, James 1:27. As time went by God’s people neglected this command which resulted in their widows and orphans as God judged Israel through invading armies.

‘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. If you take your neighbour’s cloak as a pledge, return it by sunset, because that cloak is the only covering your neighbour has. What else can they sleep in? When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.’ Exodus 22:25-27

Here we have a law concerning lending to the needy, those who lend we’re allowed to treat it like a business deal, in other words, they were allowed to charge interest.

Adam Clarke, in his commentary, says the following.

‘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 / Ezekiel 18:13 / Ezekiel 18:17 / Ezekiel 22:12.’

If a coat were taken as a pledge, it was to be returned before sundown, before the coolness of the night set in, Amos 2:6 / Amos 4:1 / Deuteronomy 24:6. God promises to hear the cries of the poor, because He is compassionate.

‘Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people. “Do not hold back offerings from your granaries or your vats. “You must give me the firstborn of your sons. 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. “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 22:28-31

Once a ruler has been assigned, everyone must respect and honour them. The reason for this is simply because it was God who organised leadership and government, Romans 13:1-10.

Although the N.I.V. uses the word, ‘blaspheme’, other translations use the word, ‘revile’, but the principle is the same, God cares how we talk about Him and those He has put us into submission to.

The first cuttings of the harvest belonged to God, as well as the firstborn of the families and animals, Exodus 13:12. The firstborn from the livestock was to remain with the mother so that the mother be reassured. On the eighth day the animal was to be given to the Lord for a sacrifice.

God’s people are commanded to act differently from the animals they are to be holy, that is set apart. We shouldn’t act and eat certain food as the animals do.

Remember they didn’t know back then what we now know today. If an animal was torn, that is ripped apart by a wild beast, the changes are the meat would now be infected with some kind of disease from the animal which killed it. God knew of the health risks way before we thought we discovered them.

Go To Exodus 23


"And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."