Exodus 22:2. Breaking up, by forcible entrance into a house, there shall no blood be shed for him, though he be killed by another in his own defence. In that case the thief might be presumed to have a worse design, and the owner of the house could neither expect, nor have the help of others to secure him from the intended violence, nor guide his blows with that discretion and moderation which in the daytime he might wish to do.
Exodus 22:3. There shall be blood shed for him. He that kills him shall be put to death, because he punished him more than his crime deserved, and might have been otherwise either secured or righted; and in that case, it is probable, the thief designed not murder, but theft only.—He shall be sold, for the ordinary term of six years.
Exodus 22:8. To swear whether he have put his hand to his neighbour’s goods. The verb to see is quite a mistake.
Exodus 22:12. If it be stolen from him, he shall make restitution. If he be not able to purge himself by oath, and it appear to be stolen from him with his knowledge and consent. That this must be understood is plain from the foregoing words, where the sense is, that upon his taking an oath to prove his innocence he must be acquitted.
Exodus 22:14. He shall surely make it good. Because in doubtful cases, where it is not evident whether the borrower was faulty or not, as it is here, it ought to be interpreted in favour of the lender, rather than of the borrower.
Exodus 22:15. It came for his hire. The benefit was the lender’s, and not the borrower’s, and therefore the former reason ceaseth.
Exodus 22:16. If a man entice a maid. The patriarchs knew little of bastardy; the brothers of a damsel would not suffer their sister to be treated with dishonour. If the maid was already betrothed, the divine law condemned the seducer to death. Deuteronomy 22:24. Prof. Ostervald states, that in the Swiss cantons when a young woman proves pregnant, they summon both the parties before the elders of the church, and enquire how far the engagement preseded the rash act; and whether the name of God was used in the promise of marriage. In such engagements they are cautious of freeing the offender for money. Our magistrates, on this head, are too relax: by excusing the culprit for paltry pay, innocence is unprotected, and the parishes are burdened. But the loss of morals is the worst of all calamities. A seducer in Saxon times, must unsheath his sword, and prepare for battle.
Exodus 22:17. According to the dowry of virgins. In such proportion as the virgin’s quality requires. Dowries were essential where divorces might occur. In such cases the woman was not robbed: and if the husband proved honest, the dowry belonged to the children.
Exodus 22:18. Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. מכשׁפה mechashaipah, a female juggler, a deceiver, a fabricatris of all mischief. It appears from the VOLUSPA, a northern poem by Vola the prophetess, that all ancient nations believed in witchcraft. Of Heith she speaks thus:—
Stanza 23. To her the god Of battles gave Both costly rings And shining gold; The art of wealth, And witchcraft wise, By which she saw Through every world.
Stanza 24. Heith she was named; Where’er she came, The pythoness Of cunning arts. She knew right well Bad luck to seethe, And mischief was Her only sport. She murder saw, The first that e’er Was in the world, When Gulveigo Was placed o’th’ spear, When in Har’s hall They did her burn, Oft, not seldom, And yet she lives. Dr. Henderson’s Iceland.
In a copy of the Voluspa printed at Stockholm, 1750, with a Swedish version, there is an omission of two lines. Ok i holl Hars, Hana brendo. Thrisvar brendo, Thrisvar borna, Opt, osialdan, Tho hon enn lifir.
When in Har’s hall They did her burn; Thrice she was burnt, Thrice she was born; Oft, not seldom, Though yet she lives.
Certainly Moses did not mean that either witch or wizard, or any culprit, should be put to death till the crime was first proved before the judges. It is feared that during the dark ages many were burned for witchcraft who were innocent.
Exodus 22:25. Any of my people, any Israelite; for it was permitted to take usury of the gentiles. Deuteronomy 23:20.
Exodus 22:26. Thy neighbour’s, one that is poor, as appears by comparing this with the next verse.—By that the sun goeth down. Because he speaks of such raiment or covering, in which he used to sleep.
Exodus 22:28. The gods. Magistrates and governors, whether civil or ecclesiastical, as is evident from the following words, which explain the former according to the common use of scripture, and from the title of gods commonly given to such.
Exodus 22:29. The firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me. Not in kind, but by a price of redemption to be paid to me in their stead. The law of the Lord knows nothing of particular redemption, nothing of reprobation.
Exodus 22:30. On the eighth day. Not sooner, because it was till then tender and imperfect. But it was not tied to that day, for it might be offered afterwards, as appears from Leviticus 22:27, even till it was a year old. Cain and Abel did this. Cyrus always gave the tenth of his spoils to the temples. In English, the firstborn of oxen is inaccurate; the Hebrew signifies bullocks or large cattle.
This chapter affords us various instructions; and the first of these is one that has been oft repeated, that they who have wronged their neighbour in any manner, either by theft, cheating, or even unwittingly and imprudently, are obliged to make restitution; and that things that have been entrusted, or lent to any one, should be faithfully returned.
We see likewise here that an oath may be taken to put an end to disputes, that oaths should be had in reverence, that the sin of uncleanness should as much as possible be remedied by marriage, and that God would have idolaters put to death, as well as witches and enchanters, and other persons who used unlawful arts.
God declares in the most express manner, that it is a great crime to oppress the fatherless, the widows and the strangers, and rigorously to exact the payment of a debt from the poor and needy; that these are sins which cry to God for vengeance, and provoke his wrath.
Here likewise we learn always to speak of magistrates with reverence and respect. The obligation laid upon the Jews to offer their firstfruits to God shows, that religion requires us at all times to devote some part of those good things which God hath given us, to works of piety and charity.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Exodus 22". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany