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LAWS AS REGARDS PROPERTY
While one rightly was control over his own property, yet he is also responsible as to how he uses it. If one were to dig a pit, even on his own property, and leave it uncovered, he would he responsible for an animal falling into it. If the animal died, the owner of the pit must pay the value of the animal, and could therefore keep the dead beast (v.34).
In the case of one man's ox killing one belonging to another person, then half the value of the live ox should belong to each owner, and also they should divide the dead ox. On the other hand, if an owner had been warned that his ox was dangerous and had not kept him in, then he should trade his live ox to the other owner, for the dead ox.
This chapter continues the subject begun in chapter 21:33. Verse 1 is plain, though we are not told why the stealing of an ox would require five oxen in return, while for a sheep only four sheep were required.
If a thief was caught breaking in and was killed, this would not be considered murder if it took place in the darkness of night. If in daylight, the one who killed him was guilty of bloodshed (vs.2-3). If one had stolen an animal and had it in his possession, he must restore double, -- a much lesser penalty than verse 1. Verse 5 shows that an owner's animal was to be kept on his own property or the owner suffered the consequences. If one kindled a fire and it spread to the property of others, then the one who had kindled the fire was responsible to make full restoration.
If one was entrusted with his neighbor's goods and they were stolen from him, he would not be held responsible unless on investigation it was found that he himself had stolen them. Judges would decide such matters. In all such cases, the guilty party would have to pay double (vs.7-9).
Verses 10-13 show a difference in the case of an animal being left in the care of a neighbor. If the animal died or was hurt or had wandered away, there was to be "an oath of the Lord" between the owner and the caretaker that the caretaker had not been guilty of misappropriation. But if the animal was stolen from him, then he would have to pay the owner for the animal (v.12). Yet if the animal was mauled and killed by a beast, the owner would bear the loss. If something was borrowed, then died or was injured in the hands of the borrower, the borrower must reimburse the lender for it (v.15). If however the owner was with the animal or other article, the owner must bear the loss of any damage.
CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY
A man seducing a woman who was not engaged or married, was responsible to marry her. If the father of the girl refused this, the guilty man must pay money to the father (v.17). A witch must be put to death, whether she called herself a black witch or a white witch. Death was the penalty also for one who dared to abuse himself with a beast, and the same for one who sacrificed to idols (vs.18-20).
No precise penalty was prescribed for mistreating or oppressing a stranger or widow of fatherless child, though this was strongly forbidden (vs.21-24); but God warns that if those who were oppressed cried to Him, He would Himself intervene to kill the oppressor through the instrumentality of an enemy with a sword, leaving their wives as widows and their children fatherless.
If one loaned money to another Israelite who was poor, no interest was to be charged (v.25). If there were no question of poverty involved, the situation would be different, of course, for one may borrow money in order to promote a business venture, though he himself is not in need at all.
If a borrower were to give his garment as security, the lender must not keep it even overnight. My righteous demands must in no way take precedence over proper compassion (vs.26-27).
No words of disrespect toward God were to be permitted to pass one's lips, nor any such words against rulers (v.28). In contrast to such words, there was to be no delay in offering to God the firstfruits of their produce, and also their firstborn sons, as well as the firstborn of their oxen and sheep (vs.29-30). The sons would of course be redeemed by the sacrifice of a lamb (Exodus 13:13). But such recognition of God's rights is just as important today as it was under law. The chapter closes with the prohibition of eating meat from animals killed by other animals. For the killing of an animal for food was to be under the holy eye of God.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Exodus 22". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany