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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 22

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verse 1

EXODUS - TWENTY-TWO

Verses 1

Cattle and sheep constituted a major part of Israel’s wealth. Theft of either was punishable by restitution. In most cases, the thief must pay double the value of that which he stole (v. 4). But if he were a persistent felon, implied by either killing or selling the animal, the fine was much heavier. For one ox, five must be repaid; for one sheep four.

Verses 2-4

Verses 2-4:

"Breaking up" from khathar, making forcible entry into a house.

Breaking into a house by night could be forcibly resisted. If the burglar were killed in the process, the "avenger of blood" might not proceed against the slayer. But if the entry were in the daytime, this provision did not apply. The reason: the thief might be apprehended and forced to make restitution. This principle applied in other societies beside Israel: Solon; Roman law; and English law.

If the stolen articles were found with the thief, he must pay double the value.

The text honors the right of personal property. None should steal that which belongs to another, even to supply his basic needs. Reasons for this:

1. God’s ownership. Man owns nothing; he is merely the custodian of what belongs to God, Ps 50:8-12.

2. Man’s stewardship. God reserves the right to distribute to each that share of His own which he can manage. It violates this principle to take for oneself that which God does not give, 1Co 4:2.

3. Compassion. To steal, even in case of need, is to deprive the property-holder of the blessing of giving to supply that need.

A thief, unable to make restitution for what he stole, could be sold into slavery to satisfy this provision.

Verse 5

Verse 5:

The law of the trespass prohibits the wanton use or destruction of another’s field (business). The trespasser must make restitution of equal amount from the very best of his field (business).

Verse 6

Verse 6:

In the Orient, it is customary at certain times of the year to burn out the weeds or thorns from the field. There is a danger in this, of a neighbor’s crops catching fire. In such instance, the one starting the fire must make restitution to the one damaged.

Verses 7-13

Verses 7-13:

"Stuff"’ keil (v. 7), instruments, or vessels; any moveable, inanimate possession.

It was common in Bible times to deposit goods or valuables with a friend, to keep and to guard. Those about to travel, especially merchants, made such deposits of a great part of their moveable property. It was rare that one would refuse to return to the owner that which he had left in trust. In such case, the matter would be placed in the courts, and if it were proven that the keeper had appropriated the "stuff" to his own use, he must restore double.

In the event a deposit was stolen, the keeper could take an oath "of Jehovah" to this fact, and the owner must accept this and not hold him liable. However, the keeper must make restitution to the owner, evidently of the face value of what was stolen. But if the stolen "stuff" were recovered, even though it might be damaged, the keeper was not liable.

Verses 14-15

Verses 14, 15:

This is the law of borrowing. It covered anything borrowed, animate or inanimate. If the item(s) borrowed were damaged, the borrower must make restitution. But if the owner accompanied and used the borrowed item in the borrower’s service, and the item were damaged, the borrower was not liable.

Verses 16-17

Verses 16, 17:

If a man seduced a woman who was not engaged to be married, he must first pay her father a fine of fifty shekels, then marry her, and must never divorce her, see De 22: 28, 29.

If the father of the girl refused to allow the marriage, the man must then pay a suitable dowry for her, and enable her to enter with dignity into marriage with any man who might be selected.

Verse 18

Verse 18:

Witchcraft was (and is today) a league with Satanic, demon powers who are in rebellion against God. Those who practice witchcraft reject the authority of God and renounce Jesus Christ and His Word. Any dabbling with the occult is a capital crime, in God’s law. This includes wizards, astrologers, spirit mediums, clairvoyants, etc., Le 19:31; De 18:9-14.

Verse 19

Verse 19:

Bestiality (sexual relations between humans and animals) was a common practice in Egypt, as a part of their religion, according to Herodotus and other historians. Both the Greek and Roman societies abhorred the practice, but had no laws prohibiting it. Israel’s law demanded the death penalty for this unnatural act.

Verse 20

Verse 20:

Sacrifices were acts of worship. To offer a sacrifice to any god other than Jehovah was to renounce Him. This was a capital offense.

Verse 21

Verse 21:

The Law forbade ridicule or oppression of any who were foreigners. The reason: a reminder that Israel was once a "stranger" or foreigner in Egypt. The oppression they endured in Egypt was a reminder of how it felt to be mistreated. They were to remember this, and not inflict the same treatment upon others. See Ex 23:9; Le 19:33, 34; De 10:19.

Verses 22-24

Verses 22-24:

Those who are weak and defenseless are special objects of God’s care. This is especially true of widows and orphans, who have none to provide for or to protect them. In this event, God becomes their Protector, and He promises sure and swift vengeance upon any who would mistreat them. See De 24:17; 27:19; Ps 84:6; Isa 1:17, 23.

One who "afflicted" a widow or orphan exposed his own children to the same sort of ill-treatment he inflicted upon them.

Verses 25-27

Verses 25-27:

"Usury" nashah, means simply "interest." The present text applies primarily to the poor. However, other passages imply that no interest was to be charged to a fellow-Israelite, Ps 15:5; Pr 28:8; Eze 18:13. There was provision to charge interest to a foreigner, De 23:20; but this could not be an exorbitant rate. v. 21.

The Law did not prohibit the taking of a pledge as collateral for a loan. However, there were certain limitations as to what could be used as a pledge. In this text, the "raiment" or outer garment is designated as such an item. This garment was used as cover by night, to ward off the chill. If taken as collateral, it must be returned to the owner at night.

Verse 28

Verse 28:

"Gods" here appears to refer to those agents whom God appoints to rule over His people. In this case, the "judges." The text affirms the principle of respect for civil authority, see Ro 13:1-8.

Verses 29-30

Verses 29, 30:

The text affirms the "law of the first-fruits." This includes: (1) the first-born of the children; (2) the first-born of all livestock; and (3) the first-fruit of all produce, whether grain, oil, wine, fruit of any kind. There was to be no reluctance to offer the first-fruits.

The significance: offering of the first-fruit was testimony of God’s ownership of the entire crop.

Among the animals: the offspring was to remain with its dam (mother) for seven days. One reason: to give relief to the dam, by suckling.

Verse 31

Verse 31:

The blood of an animal killed by another in the field, would not be drained from the carcass. This would violate the prohibition against eating blood (Ge 9:4).

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Exodus 22". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/exodus-22.html. 1985.
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