Attention!
15 million Ukrainian are displaced by Russia's war.
Millions miss a meal or two each day.
Help us change that! Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Exodus 22

Verse 1

If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.

If a man shall steal. The law respects the theft of cattle, which constituted the chief part of their property. The penalty for the theft of a sheep which was slain or sold was fourfold; for an ox fivefold, because of its greater utility in agricultural labour; but, should the stolen animal have been recovered alive, a double compensation was all that was required, because it was presumable he (the thief) was not a practiced adept in dishonesty; and the necessity of having to make such amends for his crime might operate in deterring him for the future. A robber breaking into a house at midnight might, in self-defense, be slain with impunity; but if he was slain after sunrise it would be considered murder; because it was not thought likely an assault would then be made upon the lives of the inmates. In every case where a thief could not make restitution he was sold -

i.e., judicially given in compensation as a slave-to the party whom he had robbed, for the usual term.

Verses 2-4

If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 5

If a man shall cause a field or vineyard to be eaten, and shall put in his beast, and shall feed in another man's field; of the best of his own field, and of the best of his own vineyard, shall he make restitution.

If a man shall cause a field or vineyard to be eaten ... At certain seasons cattle were placed to graze in fields and even vineyards, where they were tied to some vigorous vine-shoot, in order that they might feed on the herbage or leaves around (cf. Genesis 49:11). But if their owner should be convicted of putting them surreptitiously from greediness, or allowing them through carelessness, to stray into the adjoining field of another man, he was to give restitution of the estimated damage from the best portion of his own field or vineyard. [The Septuagint has apotisei ek tou agrou autou kata to genneema autou-he shall give compensation according to his brood of cattle, and then subjoins this amplifying clause, ean de panta ton agron kataboskeesee, and if they shall consume the whole field, shall give of the best of his own, etc.]

Verse 6

If fire break out, and catch in thorns, so that the stacks of corn, or the standing corn, or the field, be consumed therewith; he that kindled the fire shall surely make restitution.

If fire break out. This refers to the common practice in the East of setting fire to the dry grass before the fall of the autumnal rains, which prevents the ravages of vermin, and is considered a good preparation of the ground for the next crop. The very parched state of the herbage and the long droughts of summer make the kindling of a fire an operation often dangerous, and always requiring caution, from its liability to spread rapidly.

Stacks - or, as it is rendered, "shock," Judges 15:5; Job 5:26, means simply a bundle of loose sheaves.

Verses 7-15

If a man shall deliver unto his neighbour money or stuff to keep, and it be stolen out of the man's house; if the thief be found, let him pay double.

If a man shall deliver unto his neighbour money or stuff to keep ... The laws contained in this section relate to the loss of property by theft or otherwise, and to the ways provided for giving redress to the sufferers. Stuff, [ keeliym (H3627)] - implements, utensils, furniture (see the notes at Exodus 3:22; Exodus 11:2); also dress, ornaments (Deuteronomy 22:5; Isaiah 61:10), musical instruments (2 Chronicles 34:12; Amos 6:5), hunting or military weapons (Genesis 27:3). If a sum of money or any articles of value which had been deposited for security in the custody of a neighbour were stolen out of his house, the thief, on being discovered, should be obliged to restore double of what he purloined, either out of his own possessions or, in the event of his having nothing to give, by a length of servitude equivalent to the value of the thing stolen, to the person whom he had wronged. But if no clue can be obtained to the discovery of the thief, the householder to whom the missing article was entrusted shall, in order to purge himself from suspicion, compare before [ 'el (H413) haa-'ªlohiym (H430)] the gods - i:e., judges (see the note at Exodus 21:6), and make a solemn declaration, probably on oath [the Septuagint has: kai omeitai, and shall swear], that he did not appropriate it to his own use, nor was particeps criminis. [Septuagint, mee auton peponeereusthai ef' holees tees parakatatheekees tou pleesiou-that he has not fraudulently used the deposit of his neighbour.]

Verse 9. For all manner of trespass, [ `al (H5921) kaal (H3605) dªbar (H1697) pesha` (H6588)] - for every case of wrong. The context points to articles of property, either abstracted or lost; and so the Septuagint views it [kata pan reeton adikeema-in respect to every matter of the foresaid specified trespass ( 'ªsher (H834) yo'mar (H559) kiy (H3588) huw' (H1931) zeh (H2088)) concerning which one can say, this is it-namely, the thing stolen from me; or this is he-namely, whom I accuse as the thief-the cause of both parties shall be investigated in a judicial court].

And (he) whom the judges shall condemn - shall, after investigation, convict, whether the person with whom the property had been entrusted, of dishonest appropriation, or the depositor, of a false charge.

Shall pay double - i:e., make double compensation for stolen property in the one issue, or for wounded feelings in the other.

Verse 10-13. If a man deliver unto his neighbour an ass ... to keep. By "neighbour" may be understood either an acquaintance or a servant.

And it die, or be hurt, or driven away, no man seeing. The first casualty might occur to any beast from internal disease, or by the visitation of God. The second is expressed by [ nishbar (H7665)] be broken, broke its own limbs by falling over a precipice, or otherwise (cf. Isaiah 8:15; Isaiah 28:13; Ezekiel 34:4; Ezekiel 34:15; Zechariah 11:16); and the third [by nishbaah (H7617)], used frequently with reference to the abstraction of cattle by marauders (1 Chronicles 5:21; 2 Chronicles 14:14; Job 1:15; Job 1:17). If no one could testify, from personal knowledge, by whom or in what way the loss was occasioned.

Verse 11. Then shall an oath of the Lord - so designated either from being appointed by His authority, or solemnly taken in His name as a witness, as well as avenger of perjury.

Between them both - i:e., between the owner and the keeper, either both swearing-the one, that he delivered the beast to the custody of his neighbour by agreement or for wages, and the other, that he did appropriate it to his own use, or by the latter only protesting that he was not the cause of the beast's death, mutilation, or disappearance. The owner was obliged to accept the oath, and put an end to the dispute.

Verse 12. And if it be stolen from him, [ mee`imow (H5973)] - from with him; i:e., from his power or custody (a very different case from the preceding (Exodus 22:7), and hence, as an ordinary exercise of care and diligence on his part might have prevented the theft (Genesis 31:39), he shall be required to indemnify the owner. Verse 13. If it be torn in pieces - i:e., by ravenous beasts (Deuteronomy 33:20 ,37; 44:28; Psalms 22:13 ; Nahum 2:12 ), then let him bring it for witness - namely, the dismembered carcass, or a portion of it (1 Samuel 17:34-35; Amos 3:12), in proof, not only of the violent onset made upon it, but of the vigorous exertions put forth for its defense or rescue. The Chaldee and Samaritan versions render, 'he shall bring a witness' - i:e., adduce testimony or evidence which, in the absence of the smallest remnant of the beast, may be satisfactory to the judge that the footprints or traces of a wolf, lion, hyaena, etc., were visible in the neighbourhood, or which may attest his diligence and fidelity in watching over his charge.

Verse 14. If a man borrow ought of his neighbour, and it be hurt, or die. Should a beast which was borrowed only for a temporary purpose suffer, while in the hands of the borrower, such serious damage as to deprive the proper owner of its services in all time coming, it is a reasonable enactment that the borrower should be required to repay the loss, both because the knowledge of the existence of such a law would make a borrower more careful and prudent in using it than men are apt to be with things not their own; but because the benefit from the use of it being wholly his, it is right that he should bear the loss of it.

Verse 15. But if the owner thereof be with it, he shall not make it good. In this supposed condition the exemption of the borrower from all liability was evidently founded on the presumption that no one would use a beast ill in presence of its owner, and that proper care was taken of it by the fact of his presence and sanction. The same thing, if it were hired, instead of being borrowed.

Verse 16

And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.

And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed. The insertion of this case in a series of ordinances respecting claims to property arose from its being possessed to some extent of a similar character. A daughter was regarded by her father as property. Her suitor had to pay her father a certain sum for her; and of course antenuptial intercourse depreciated her value as a disposable subject. To seduce a young woman that was betrothed was treated as a capital crime (Deuteronomy 22:23). But though to do so in the case of an unbetrothed girl was in the eye of the law an offence of less magnitude, it was not dealt with lightly. No man, single or married, who by enticements overcame the virtue of a young female was allowed to abandon her, but was obliged to make provision for her as his future wife. And should the girl's father withhold his consent to the matrimonial union, the man was required to furnish her with a dowry suitable to her quality (cf. Genesis 24:53; Genesis 34:12). But in the present case the law determined that the highest demand which could be made was that specified, Deuteronomy 22:29. The circumstance of no punishment being inflicted on the girl; beyond her personal and irreparable degradation, was probably owing to her being still only a minor, and an inmate of her father's house. It would be well if this law were still in force and obligatory.

Verse 17

If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 18

Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live, [ mªkasheepaah (H3784)] - a practitioner in magic and incantations; a juggler, who pretended by skill in occult science to reveal future events. The word is in the feminine gender; and although the profession of a wizard was equally proscribed, the "witch" is mentioned here because, from the female taste being strongly devoted to mystic arts, witches, if unchecked, would rapidly increase in Israel, and their influence prove more seductive than that of male performers.

"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" is a strong expression, adopted apparently to prevent the interposition of any false sympathy or misplaced tenderness toward persons of such a character. They were to be exterminated from Israel as engaged in the service of idols (see further the notes at Deuteronomy 18:10-11). 'All manner of witchcraft, sorceries, divinations, or pretences to any of them, were an open profession and practice of idolatry; because witches pretended to a knowledge and power of doing things above human, by virtue of supernatural powers received from the deities with whom they were supposed to have an immediate and intimate connection. Now, the very profession of having received such supernatural powers from idols was an overt act of idolatry-that is, of high treason to the Hebrew government; and whether such declaration was really true or false in itself, still the treason was the same; because it openly denied Yahweh to be the one true God, as it asserted the power of idols. It was compassing to depose Yahweh as King of Israel by asserting the authority of "other gods before him;" which justifies the wisdom of this law against a practice of idolatry which was so very apt to corrupt weak minds of eagerly fond of knowing things to come; and such the greater part of every nation is composed' (Lowman's 'Civil Government of the Hebrews').

Verse 19

Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death.

Whosoever lieth with a beast ... This revolting crime was practiced by many of the Egyptians in honour of their idols: and it was mentioned thus early in denouncing other abominations of idolatry, perhaps, because of its prevalence also among the Canaanites (Leviticus 18:23-28).

Verse 20

He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed.

He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the Lord only. Yahweh being the sole object of religious adoration, sacrifice, which constituted a prime element in the ritual of the Israelites, was to be rendered exclusively to His Divine Majesty; and whosoever violated this fundamental principle of the true religion, which was established by covenant with that nation, should be "utterly destroyed" [ yaachaaraam (H2763), shall be devoted to God-from chaaram (H2763), to consecrate, to devote a thing, so that it cannot be redeemed: hence, in the Hoph. conj., to be placed under a ban, to be put to death (cf. Leviticus 27:29)].

Verse 21

Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him, [ geer (H1616)]. By "stranger" is meant foreigners generally-all people who were not included in the covenant of Israel. [The sacred history recognizes a distinction between ger, a sojourner or proselyte, and thoshab, an uncircumcised Gentile (see the notes at Exodus 12:19; Exodus 12:45). But in this passage, as well as in Exodus 20:10; Deuteronomy 10:19; Deuteronomy 31:12, ger seems to be used for foreigners indiscriminately. The Septuagint has proseeluton in both clauses of this verse.] Strangers are never mentioned in the Mosaic law without the Israelites being enjoined to cherish kindly feelings toward them (cf. Exodus 23:9; Leviticus 19:33-34; Deuteronomy 10:18-19).

For ye were strangers in the land of Egypt - (cf. Deuteronomy 10:19.) This appeal to their own painful experience of the isolated position of foreigners, before the exodus, was calculated to make a powerful impression on their feelings, and to lead them to do what they could for alleviating the distress of strangers in their land. But the allusion to the position of the Israelites as strangers in Egypt had a further and deeper significance; because it reminded them that as while they were in that oppressed condition, God had visited them with the tokens of His paternal grace and interest, so He might transfer His favour to other strangers, if they proved unfaithful to his laws established amount them. The sympathetic spirit of this law was widely different from the prevailing customs of contemporary or ancient nations, who generally regarded strangers with suspicion, and subjected them to many vexatious restrictions, which are continued in many even of the most civilized countries of Europe.

Verses 22-24

Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.

Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child, [ lo' (H3808) tª`anuwn (H6031)] - ye shall not afflict or humble. The word implies cold neglect as well as bad usage [Septuagint, ou kakoosete] - ye shall not do any ill. The law took particular care of all whom death had deprived of their natural guardians (Deuteronomy 14:28-29; Deuteronomy 26:12; Isaiah 1:17); and God declared that any cruelty exercised towards such helpless objects would be punished in retributive justice by His own hand as the avenger of their cause (Deuteronomy 10:18; Psalms 10:14; Psalms 68:5; Psalms 82:1-3; Zechariah 7:10).

Verse 25

If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury.

If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor. This law, by the terms of it, was confined to Israelites exclusively (see the note at Deuteronomy 23:20). Although the special blessing of God guaranteed riches and honour to the Israelites, on condition of their faithful adherence to the national covenant, so that few comparatively would be indigent among them, yet, even in the best and purest times of their history, there were some poor in the land for the exercise of their faith and charity (Deuteronomy 15:4; Deuteronomy 15:7; Deuteronomy 15:11). [ `aaniy (H6040), distressed from any cause; here, as the context implies, from poverty; Septuagint, too adelfoo too penichroo-poor, needy brother.]

Thou shalt not be to him as an usurer - rather, as a creditor (cf. 2 Kings 4:1; Psalms 109:11; Isaiah 24:2; Isaiah 50:1) [and accordingly the Septuagint renders the words, "thou shalt not be" - auton katepeigoon-urging, harassing, oppressing him].

Neither shalt thou lay upon him usury, [ lo' (H3808) tªsiymuwn (H7760) `aalaayw (H5921) neshek (H5392)] - thou shalt not impose interest upon him, thou shalt not exact it from him (see further the notes at Leviticus 25:35-36). [Septuagint, tokon-not usury (which has a different meaning attached to it since our present version was made), but interest (cf. Matthew 25:27). The verb laawaah (H3867), lend (used in the first clause of the verse), is distinguished from naashaah (H5382) in the concluding part, in that the latter includes the idea of lending on interest, which the former does not (Robinson's 'Gesenius').]

The spirit of this law, which is illustrated by our Lord (Luke 6:34-35), tends obviously to prevent the grinding oppression of the poor; and the reason of the enactment was to prohibit any from whom they might borrow, taking advantage of their necessities. All Israelites were to be regarded and treated as brethren, the Lord's people; and hence, this protective enactment did not extend in its application to foreigners, among whom the taking of interest on money-loans was a common practice.

The prohibition was attended with no inconvenience among the Israelites, who were in very special circumstances-not a trading nation, but a community of agriculturists, whose lands were inalienable, though the produce of those lands might be sold; while the advantages resulting from it in fostering a spirit of brotherly kindness and charity evinced the divine wisdom and goodness of the Lawgiver. This, it must be added, was the first ordinance upon the subject, and the prohibition related only to the taking of interest from the poor Israelites; a supplementary statute, originating from the altered condition of the people, extended the interdict to the whole nation (see the note at Deuteronomy 23:19).

Verses 26-27

If thou at all take thy neighbour's raiment to pledge, thou shalt deliver it unto him by that the sun goeth down:

If thou at all ... From the nature of the case, this is the description of poor man. No Orientals undress; but, merely throwing off their turbans and some of their heavy outer garments, they sleep in the clothes which they wear during the day. The bed of the poor is usually nothing else than a mat; and in winter they cover themselves with a cloak-a practice which forms the ground or reason of the humane and merciful law respecting the pawned coat.

Verse 28

Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people.

Thou shalt not revile the gods. Josephus, who endeavours so often to accommodate his religion to pagan tastes and prejudices, interprets this precept as if it conveyed a command to respect the idols of the pagan ('Antiquities,' b. 4:, ch. 8:, sec. 10; 'Contra Apion.,' 2:, 33). Such a representation is opposed to several express ordinances, no less than to the whole spirit and design of the Mosaic law. [ 'ªlohiym (H430)], gods, is a word which is sometimes rendered in this chapter, as elsewhere, "judges," or magistrates (Exodus 22:8-9: cf. Exodus 21:6). But whenever it is used in this sense it has the prefix of the article, haa-'ªlohiym (H430); and as the word is not so accompanied, the clause should stand thus: 'Thou shalt not blaspheme God neither by reproachful words nor by violating any of his commandments.'

Nor curse the ruler of thy people, [ naasiy' (H5387)] - a prince, an exalted person, a term of general import applicable to kings, phylarchs, chiefs of single tribes, as well as head of the nation. "The ruler of thy people" is here associated with God as the earthly representative or vicegerent of the Divine Sovereign of Israel. This law, not to revile the ruler of thy people, was not infringed by the prophets, who frequently, as Isaiah and Jeremiah, exercised their prophetical power, in that instance esteemed superior to the law, in reproving kings and princes (Jeremiah 1:7-10) (Grotius).

Verse 29

Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me.

Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors. [ mªlee'aatªkaa (H4395) wªdim`ªkaa (H1831) lo' (H3808) tª'acheer (H309)] - literally, Thou shalt not defer thy fulness and thy tear, or collective, tears. The first word, 'fulness,' is conjoined sometimes with grain (Deuteronomy 22:9), and at other times with the vintage (Numbers 18:27). In this passage, where it stands by itself it must be restricted to dry fruits, including every kind, as it is distinguished from what is liquid. The second word, 'tears,' is used metaphorically for the juice of grapes and of olives - i:e., wine and oil. The 'fulness' of both is spoken of, because the law required an offering only of such things as the Israelites possessed in abundance. [The Septuagint renders the clause: aparchas haloonos kai leenou sou ou kathustereeseis-Thou shalt not postpone (be behind-hand in offering) the first-fruits of thy grain-field (Homer's 'Iliad,' line 499; Theocritus, 1:, 46; grain-floor or granary, Matthew 3:12), and thy wine-press; offer them at the appointed times; otherwise the tribute may be neglected altogether].

Davidson ('Introduction') lays stress on the word 'delay,' as a proof that this command could not have been given, as it was totally inapplicable in the Sinaitic desert, and, consequently, that the Pentateuch was not written until after the settlement in Canaan. But the precept seems, from the tenor of the language employed, to have been only the legislative enactment of an old patriarchal usage with which the Israelites were familiar (see further the notes at Exodus 23:19; Numbers 15:19-21; Numbers 18:11-13; Deuteronomy 26:2-11).

The offering of the first-born both of animals and of men was already practiced among them (Exodus 13:2), and there is good reason to believe that the presentation of first-fruits was also well known to them as a thank-offering to the Lord of the harvest, from earlier times, as may be presumed from its general prevalence among the pagan (Spencer, 'De Legg. Heb,' 5: 3:, 9; Winer, 'Realw"rterbuch,' art. Erstlinge; Saalsch˜tz, 'Mosaische Recht,' p. 343).

The first-born of thy sons shalt thou give unto me (see the note at Exodus 13:2). Since the consecration to God of the first of every species of produce was a virtual sanctifying of the whole (Romans 11:16), so Yahweh's adoption of the first-born in every family was a pledge to all the people of their national union with him.

Verse 30

Likewise shalt thou do with thine oxen, and with thy sheep: seven days it shall be with his dam; on the eighth day thou shalt give it me.

Likewise shalt thou do with thine oxen (see the note at Leviticus 22:27).

Verse 31

And ye shall be holy men unto me: neither shall ye eat any flesh that is torn of beasts in the field; ye shall cast it to the dogs.

Ye shall be holy men unto me. Since you are a people separated to my service (see the note at Exodus 19:6), so you must keep yourselves free from all impurity, both moral and spiritual.

Neither shall ye eat any flesh that is torn of beasts in the field. The reasons for this prohibition were partly moral and partly ceremonial-

(1) To create a disgust at everything which bore the marks of cruelty;

(2) To preserve ceremonial distinctions, as the clean beast or fowl was polluted by the contact of the unclean beast of prey; and

(3) To prevent the eating of blood, which could not be wholly drained from the mangled carcass (see further the notes at Leviticus 7:15; also Genesis 9:4).

Ye shall cast it to the dogs - in allusion to the undomesticated dogs that followed the camp of Israel, and hung on its skirts.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Exodus 22". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/exodus-22.html. 1871-8.