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1. If a man shall steal Moses knew full well that prohibition would not prohibit crimes of any sort without a rigid administration . The eighth commandment (Exodus 20:15) required for the good of society such further enactments as here follow .
Five oxen… four sheep These varying penalties are apportioned according to a relative magnitude of the loss . While the crime of theft is in itself essentially the same, whether more or less be stolen, considerations of value and loss naturally enter into all wise legislation touching the measure of penal fines to be prescribed .
Hence it was provided, further, that if the stolen animal were found alive, the fine would only be double instead of fourfold or fivefold. The killing or selling of the stolen animal would also, generally, imply a more determined purpose to do wrong than when the animal was kept alive.
THE BOOK OF THE COVENANT, Exodus 20:22 to Exodus 23:33.
Here follows a collection of sundry laws which were compiled by Moses, and doubtless represent the oldest written legislation of the Pentateuch. This compilation probably constituted “the book of the covenant” which is mentioned in Exodus 24:7. Kalisch classifies the laws under three heads: (1 . ) Those touching the rights of persons, Exodus 21:1-32; (2 . ) Those touching the rights of property, Exodus 21:33 to Exodus 23:14; and (3 . ) General moral laws . Exodus 22:15 to Exodus 23:19. These are followed by sundry exhortations. Exodus 23:20-33. The various precepts, however, are scarcely susceptible of such a classification, or of any systematic arrangement . They take a wide range, and deal with some twenty-eight distinct subjects . Beginning with a prohibition of idolatrous images, (23,) we have laws touching the construction of altars, (24-26,) the relations of servants and masters, (Exodus 21:1-11,) personal assaults and injuries, (12-27,) goring oxen, (28-32,) losses of cattle, (33-36,) cattle-stealing, (Exodus 22:1-4,) cattle feeding in others’ fields, (5,) kindling destructive fires, (6,) stolen or damaged trusts, (7-15,) seduction, (16-17,) witchcraft, (18,) lying with beasts, (19,) idolatrous sacrifices, (20,) treatment of foreigners, (21,) treatment of widows and the fatherless, (22-24,) loaning money, (25,) pledges, (26-27,) reviling God and rulers, (28,) devotion of firstlings, (29, 30,) abstinence from torn flesh, (31,) perversions of honour and justice, (Exodus 23:1-3,) favour toward enemies, (4-5,) judgment of the poor, (6,) maintaining justice, (7, 8,) oppression of strangers, (9,) sabbath laws, (10-12,) other gods, (13,) three annual feasts, (14-17,) sacrifice and offerings, (18, 19 . ) This body of legislation is followed in Exodus 23:20-33, by a number of prophetic promises, designed to encourage and strengthen the hearts of the people . Many of the laws and precepts here collected together were doubtless older than the time of Moses, but as Israel was now becoming a body politic, and about to occupy a prominent place among the nations, such a body of laws as was contained in this book of the covenant required formal codification .
2. No blood… for him The thief who breaks into a house in the nighttime is commonly none too good to commit the foulest deeds . There would be no telling all his purposes; and, if slain in the act of such a crime the slayer was not to be looked upon as guilty of murder .
3. If the sun be risen upon him If he commits his crime in the daylight, his movements and purposes are generally so apparent that an attempt upon his life would be utterly unjustifiable, and punishable as wilful manslaughter .
He should make full restitution This, of course, supposes his apprehension and conviction . The satisfactory restitution might often require more than the mere return of stolen goods . These goods might be damaged by the seizure, and the affright and trouble occasioned by the crime ought not to go unnoticed . So if the thief had not wherewith to make full recompense he was to be sold for his theft, and so, by bondservice, make due compensation .
8. Whether he have put his hand unto his neighbour’s goods The magistrates would carefully examine if there were any evidence of fraudulent appropriation of the goods, and if none were found, such an oath as is mentioned in Exodus 22:11 would be taken as a release for the suspected party . The loss in that case would fall upon the owner .
12. If it be stolen from him Hebrew, from with him, that is, from a place where his immediate oversight would naturally prevent such seizure . In this case the loss would be regarded as due to his carelessness . Comp . Genesis 31:39.
15. If it be a hired thing If the owner let it out for money in advance or to be paid, that payment was to be taken as the sole compensation in the case .
18. Not suffer a witch to live Those who practised the magical arts were regarded as usurping the realm of Deity, and, by some mysterious league with wicked spirits, opposing themselves to the fundamental principles of true religion . Hence they were, in logical accord with the Israelitish faith, to be treated as capital offenders . Comp . Leviticus 19:26; Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:10-11.
24. I will kill you with the sword Observe here that Jehovah is the governor and judge over all, and will, sooner or later, punish all evildoers and them that forget mercy . The magistrate bears not the sword in vain if he maintain justice and defend the weak; but if he fail in these high responsibilities, God’s own hand will interpose and bring deserved retribution .
25. A usurer Or, a creditor, here regarded as a rigid exacter of interest . The tenderness enjoined in regard to loans to the poor was adapted to cultivate compassion and brotherly feeling . But it was not designed to favour the indolent and vicious .
27. Wherein shall he sleep The outer garment was used by the poorer classes of the East as their sole covering by night . Hence the kind consideration of the law .
28. Thou shalt not revile the gods Rather, God . Our version follows the Sept . , Vulg . , and other versions, and conveys the idea that even the gods of the heathen are not to be reviled . Others understand the reference to be to judges, but this seems sufficiently comprehended in the words ruler of thy people, which immediately follow . This verse associated God and the civil ruler in a very noticeable way . The latter is, according to Romans 12:4, God’s minister, and a becoming respect and reverence for the civil magistrate is one way of honouring God himself.
29. First of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors Literally, thy fulness and thy tear thou shalt not delay . The first full or ripe produce, and the droppings of oil and wine as pressed from the fruit, are intended . The offering to God of firstfruits and firstlings was a custom of most remote antiquity, (comp . Genesis 4:3-4,) and a most appropriate exhibition of gratitude and of a sense of dependence .
The firstborn of thy sons See notes on Exodus 13:2.
30. Seven days Comp . also Leviticus 22:27.
31. Torn of beasts Such meat was likely to be left unfit for eating by the violent death of the animal, and the failure to pour out its blood . It exposed to the liability of eating flesh with the blood, which was most imperatively forbidden . See Leviticus 17:10-15.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Exodus 22". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27