Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Exodus 22

Verses 1-6

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Exo . No blood be shed for him.] This is a free translation, which, however, fairly gives the purport of the original words. The Hebrew phrase reads literally: "There is of for him bloods" ('eyn lo dâmim), the last word—in the plural—plainly standing for "blood-gulitiness." "There is, in his case," or, "in reference to him," "no blood-guiltiness" resting on any one. No further blood is to be shed by way of avenging the death of one who had lost his life in the way described. We have here an instance of the underlying admission in the axiom, "Blood for blood" as the rule which calls for the caution of the text, as an exception.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exo

ACTUAL AND VIRTUAL CRIMINALITY

The Mosaic law is a schoolmaster. Not a mere pedagogue to guide mankind to the place or person where education may be obtained, but a veritable schoolmaster to educate mankind—to lead men up out of a low into a high social condition, to develop humanity. We do not deny the fact that the Mosaic law, is a pedagogue, while we strive to bring into prominence the fact that it is itself also an educator. The educational power of the law is seen in this passage, as well as in others. Here men are taught to discriminate between crime and crime. While sin is one in its essence, yet there are degrees in criminality. Crime is variable, all sinners are not equally guilty.

I. Men must suffer for crime. The man who steals an ox or a sheep is not merely to make good the stolen animal, but must be mulcted in a penalty. The stolen ox must be replaced by another. But four oxen, or three sheep, is the price of the crime. And if the thief have nothing, then he is to be sold for his theft. The judges must thus determine. And out of the money thus obtained the loser of the animal must receive compensation. It is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong. The evil-doer must ultimately be a sufferer. The man who suffers evil patiently must ultimately receive compensation. The great moral law of the universe cannot be thwarted. He who hopes to gain by wrongdoing will find that his hope is cut off by the sharp and sure stroke of the hand of retribution. Honest gains may be slow, but they are sure and blessed.

II. Men must suffer, unavenged, the extreme consequences of criminal conduct. If the thief is killed while in the act of pursuing his criminal course, then no one is to be held responsible for the slaughter. "There shall no blood be shed for him." If a man meets with evil while doing evil, then the human consciousness declares that it serves him right. And here truly the voice of all peoples is the voice of God. But danger might arise if men took the law into their own hands, so that they are not permitted to pursue the thief, and slay him in revenge. In the night, and in self-defence, the thief may be unwittingly slain, then he reaps as he has sown. But when the sun has risen, when the time of danger is over, extreme measures can only be regarded, as dictated by revenge. Even evil-doers have rights which must be respected. It is better to suffer evil than to give way to a revengeful spirit. "Avenge not yourselves."

III. Men must learn, by degrees of suffering, that there are degrees of criminality. The thief who kills or sells the stolen ox must restore fivefold; but if the theft be found in his hand alive, then he shall restore double. We may picture the thief arrested in his course by the voice of conscience. He does not proceed to extreme lengths. He seems to be on the verge of confession. The law has regard to moral states. A slight penalty is judged for a first offence. The man who has been repeatedly in prison receives a severe sentence. The great Lawgiver is wise and merciful. "If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins."

IV. Men must learn that property has rights. It seems likely that the case presented in verse five is that of the man who purposely causes his beast to feed in another man's field, or on the herbage growing between the vines; and of the best of his field and of the best of his vineyard shall he make restitution. Though, from our reading of the law, if this should happen as the result of carelessness, we should expect that restitution would have to be made. Communistic theories were not taught in the Old Testament. And the trial of communism was a short-lived and unsuccessful experiment in the early Church. The peculiar theory of some communistic advocates seems to be self-enrichment at the expense of others. The cattle of others must not be allowed to graze on my lands, while my cattle may trespass anywhere. When human selfishness is thoroughly destroyed, when men are as anxious for the welfare of their neighbours as for their own, then boundary lines may be obliterated, and courts of justice may be abolished.

V. Men must learn to consider the welfare of their neighbours. Love thy neighbour as thyself, is a law for all economies. The virtual incendiary must make restitution. The man may simply have been burning the weeds or stubble of his own ground, but he burned too near his neighbour's standing corn. He may be sorry for the destruction; but sorrow of itself will not fill the granary. Sorrow must work repentance, and repentance must show itself in ample restitution. Be careful how you handle fire. There are fires that cause such awful destruction that compensation is impossible. Who can make restitution for the fires of lust, of sensuality, and of criminality, kindled in the souls of men? Evil. doers have much to answer for. What hand can stay their ever-burning fires?

W. Burrows, B.A.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

THE LAW OF ROBBERY.—Exo

God made provision not only for the acquisition of property, but for its security. Hence this law, which respects—

1. Theft.

2. Housebreaking.

I. Theft, Exo . As the wealth of an Israelite consisted mainly in flocks and herds, the depredations of the thief were directed for the most part against them.

1. If the stolen animal were destroyed or sold

(1) in the case of an ox, as the more valuable for food and service, and the owner losing its work as well as its literal value, the penalty was fivefold.

(2) In the case of a sheep, the penalty was fourfold (2Sa ). But—

2. If the animal were not sold or destroyed, the penalty was only double, as the thief would probably be a novice in his art.

II. Housebreaking, Exo . The public sentiment (which ever recognises that a man's house is his castle) against this act, it may be presumed, was so high, that the protection of a robber from sanguinary vengeance was necessary.

1. If his depredations occurred at midnight, and he lost his life in the attempt, the right of self-protection on the part of the householder was recognised.

2. If, however, they occurred during the day when he might be identified or apprehended, and he was slain, even the life of a thief was precious, and taking that life was murder (Exo ).

3. In the case of his success and detection, the penalty was double the value of the stolen property, or slavery.

4. In the case of non-success, he obtained the benefit of the doubt. (See also Lev .)

Learn—

i. That God's providence extends to property as well as persons. Both are His gift. Neither must be interfered with except by the original donor.

ii That those who endeavour to thwart that providence play a losing game. The law of retribution imposes not only the loss of the apparent gain but of more. An act of injustice prevents enjoyment, entails the loss of self-respect, the approbation of conscience, the censure of good men, and the anger of God.

iii. That the recognition of that providence is not inconsistent with, but demands the use of, means. It is an abuse and perversion of it to tamely submit to wrong when the legitimate prevention of wrong is within our reach.

iv. That providence protects even the life of the wrong-doer, and no man must wantonly interfere with that protection. It is a terrible thing to send a man into eternity red-handed in his guilt. Milder measures, as all history testifies, may produce reformation.—J. W. Burn.

THE PENALTY OF CARELESSNESS.—Exo

As in Exo ,—the principle is laid down that a man must "not only look on his own things, but also on the things of others."

1. If a man, negligent of doors or fences, "shall let his beast go loose, and it shall feed" (according to LXX. Vulg. Syr. followed by Luther) in another's field; or

2. If a man, according to the custom of Eastern countries before the autumnal rains, to prevent the ravages of vermin and to prepare the soil for the next crop, shall burn the dry grass and stubble in his field, and neglect to keep the fire within safe and proper bounds; then,

3. Restitution must be made.

Learn—

i. To be careful of your neighbour's material, intellectual, and spiritual interest, and do not damage them by a careless word or action.

ii. In order that those interests may not be invaded, put a strong check on those loose and vagrant so-called interests of your own.

iii. In order to prevent any possibility of the transgression of those interests, see that those passions of avarice, envy, and revenge which cause so much mischief in the word, are quenched.

iv. If those interests are invaded, render a frank, manly, and ample restitution.

1. Confess your fault.

2. In the case of loss make it up.

3. In the case of injury to character, let the acknowledgment be co-extensive with the slander.

4. Let those who have been injured forgive as they hope to be forgiven.

J. W. Burn.

THINGS ENTRUSTED AND LOST

If the social compact is to rest on solid foundations, there must be a widespread feeling as to the sacredness of trusts. In societies one man is dependent upon another, and there will arise occasions when either goods or cattle must be entrusted to the keeping of others. Law must hold them responsible to whom goods have been entrusted. They must faithfully discharge the trust. They must render true accounts. Balance sheets must be submitted for inspection. The trustee occupies a responsible position. Every man, morally considered, is a trustee. Each man ought to consider himself as his brother's keeper. One day accounts will have to be rendered. How solemn is man's position as a moral trustee. Let there be a faithful discharge of duties, and there will be a wonderful display of Divine love and mercy.

I. The course to be pursued when the thief is found. If the goods have been stolen out of the trustee's house, and the thief is discovered, then the case is clear. The trustee is free from all blame, and the thief must pay double for that which he has stolen. The thief might have taken the goods of the trustee as well as the goods entrusted to his keeping, and therefore it is not needful to suppose him guilty. If the trustee has taken the same precaution with that which is another man's as with his own, then he has proved his faithfulness. Law requires no more.

II. The course to be pursued when the thief is unknown. If the goods are stolen, and the thief is not discovered, then there may be a case of embezzlement. The master of the house is responsible. His innocence must be proved. It must be shown that there has been no evil connivance. This is to be done by—

1. An appeal to the judges. It will be their difficult task to decide whether the accused is guilty or innocent. Evidence must be taken. The truth must be elicited by careful cross examination. And whom the judges shall condemn, he shall pay double unto his neighbour.

2. An appeal to the Supreme Judge. The sacredness of a religious oath has been held by nations in rudest states. There is a religious instinct in men, which speaks of his Divine original. Low has that man fallen who can easily violate a religious oath. And yet how many in our day can trifle with this solemn engagement! If the owner accepts the oath, then the trustee is freed from blame. We certainly must take into consideration the character of him who swears. Happy the man whose character is above suspicion, whose simple "yea" is deemed conclusive.

III. The course to be pursued when cattle are stolen from the trustee. There is difficulty in comprehending the purport of Exo when taken in connection with the preceding verses. If they had not been present then we might fairly have supposed that the trustee is more responsible for the safety of cattle than for the safety of goods. Thus we may perceive that it is a more difficult matter to steal cattle than to steal money. Therefore the trustee to whom cattle is entrusted, and from whom they have been stolen, must make restitution unto the owner. But if the cattle be torn in pieces, and he be able to bring it for a witness, then he shall not make good that which was torn. Perhaps the trustee was present at the attack, and endeavoured to drive away the wild animal, and the torn pieces rescued from the jaws of the destroyer are the witnesses of his heroism.

IV. The course to be pursued when injury is done to borrowed things. If the borrower has sole charge, then he is to be held responsible for the damages that may happen. But if the owner be with it, he shall not make it good; if it be an hired thing, it came for his hire. It seems as if the borrower is supposed to be in the hired service of the owner. The piece of the dead beast must be subtracted from the pay. We must be careful of borrowed property. All that we have has been lent unto us by the Lord, and He will call us to account for injuries done to that with which we have been entrusted.

V. The course to be pursued when a maid is enticed to her undoing. Some suppose this to be a case of trust like all the rest. The maid has entrusted herself—her honour and virtue—to the man, and he has betrayed the trust. He has violated her person, he has spoiled her virginity, and he must endow her to be his wife. He has no power of choice in the matter, but the father may for wise reasons utterly refuse to give the maid unto her betrayer, and he must pay money according to the dowry of virgins. The father ought to know what is for the good of his child. He is likely to have a knowledge of the world, and to know that his daughter's happiness would not be safe in the keeping of such a man. It is always wise to take the counsel of parents. Let daughters especially not forsake the guide of their youths. Seducers ought to be compelled to marry the seduced if the parents are willing, or, if not, to make restitution. This would lessen the amount of the prostitution which is one of our national sins.—W. Burrows, B.A.

ILLUSTRATIONS

BY

REV. WILLIAM ADAMSON

Divine Enactments! Exo .

(1) There is a world of difference between a stained glass window and a kaleidoscope. Their relative values are very different, and so is their structure. The pieces of variegated glass are flung anyhow, for the prism to arrange; whereas, those employed in the window are all arranged to give a beautiful, effective, and abiding impression. These separate enactments are not strung together haphazard. On the contrary, they are chords divinely arranged to produce harmony in the world, and give forth strains of Divine adoration in their observance.

(2) If one side of a tree grows, and the other does not, the tree acquires a crooked form. It may be fruitful, but it cannot be beautiful. God would have humanities and nationalities, theocracies and individualities, both rich in the beauties of holiness and the fruits of righteousness. The unequal growth of the Christian graces is undesirable; hence the numerous Divine precautions to make them alike fair, fragrant, and fruitful.

"Stern lawgiving! yet thou dost wear

The Godhead's most benignant grace;

Flowers laugh before thee on their beds;

And fragrance in thy footing treads;

Thou dost preserve the stars from wrong."

Wordsworth.

Dishonesty! Exo .

(1) Matthew Henry says, "That which is won ill will never wear well, for there is a curse attends it, which will waste it." Many a fraudulent speculator on 'Change is none the richer for the gains dishonestly obtained from widows and old maids. Honesty is, after all, the best policy; for very frequently, the same corrupt dispositions which incline men to the sinful ways of getting will incline them to the like sinful ways of spending.

(2) In a recent Court of Queen's Bench trial of some men of note, for dishonest building estate transactions, the judge passed sentence of imprisonment, adding that during the interval pecuniary restitution would have to be made; otherwise at the expiry of the term, they would again be brought up on other counts of the indictment. Restitution and retribution were here combined. "The way of transgressors is hard."

"The sun of justice may withdraw his beams

Awhile from earthly ken; but soon these clouds,

Seeming eclipse, will brighten into day."

—Bally.

Full Restitution! Exo . A youth having, in a moment of peculiar temptation, plundered his employer, was sentenced to several years' penal servitude. His conduct in prison was so exemplary that he was soon released on parole. Filled with a deep sense of his sin before God, and his ingratitude to his employer, he resolved to make the utmost amends. By dint of diligence, energy, and industry, he raised sufficient to refund the monies, including interest in full. He then presented himself before his old master in the spirit of a sincere penitent, expressed his sorrow for the dishonest action, and presented the full amount with interest. Conscience and a desire to live before God combined to achieve this happy result of full restitution. Conscience

"In leaves more durable than leaves of brass

Writes our whole history."

Young.

Trespass-Tribute! Exo . Chandler in his "Asiatic Travels," observes, that the tame cattle are very fond of vine-leaves, and are permitted to eat them in the autumn. He observed about Smyrna that the leaves were decayed, or stripped by the camels and herds of goats, which were permitted to browse after the vintage. If those animals were so fond of vine leaves, it is no wonder that Moses, in anticipation of possessing the vineyards and oliveyards of Canaan, forbade by an express law any selfish, wilful intrusion of one man's cattle into the property of another. The trespass would prove a serious injury, if it took place before the time of the vintage; and if it occurred afterwards, it would still be plundering the food of the neighbour's own cattle. This law has its moral aspect, and applies to the "spiritual vineyards of humanity."

"Man spoils the tender beauty

That blossoms on the sod,

And blasts the loving heaven

Of the great, good world of God."

Household Words.

Law and Love! Exo . Two small farmers—the one a Christian the other a worldling—owned adjoining lands. Frequently the pious farmer found his neighbour's cow enjoying the rich grass of his meadow field, in spite of hedgerow and gateway. After driving back the animal, and closing the gate time after time, the humble Christian sent to the churlish, dishonest neighbour to say, that it grieved him more to witness his neighbour's dishonesty than to lose the fodder for his cattle; and therefore, if his neighbour could not give up breaking the hedge and opening the gate for his cow to trespass, he would cheerfully feed the animal for nothing along with his own stock. This tenderness of heart for his conscience touched the neighbour, and he at once confessed his constant practice of dishonesty, and offered to make restitution in any way.

"Conscience, what art thou? thou tremendous Power!

Who dost inhabit us without our leave;

And art within ourselves another self,

A master-self, that loves to dominate,

And treat the mighty frankly as the slave?"

Honesty! Exo .

(1) Entrusted! A writer in the "Sunday at Home," alluding to the honesty of the Malays in the Dutch Indies, says that his business required frequent absences, during which he left his house in their care. Before setting out, he gave the key of his bureau to the mandoor, and told him to take care of the money it contained. He says he never found a single farthing amissing—that sometimes returning late, the servant would be found sleeping close to the bureau for its greater security—and that during all the time he passed in the island, he had no occasion to complain of the theft of any article.

(2) Lost! Not far from St. Petersburgh lived a poor woman, whose only livelihood arose from the visits of a few shipmasters on their way to the capital. One of these left behind a sealed bag of money; which the woman put away in her cupboard till it should be claimed. Years rolled on; and though often in great want, the bag of gold still remained sacredly intact. Seven years afterwards, some shipmasters were again staying at her house, when one of them remarked that he would never forget the town they were then visiting, for he had years before lost a sealed bag of 700 roubles. The poor woman overhearing the remark, said, "Would you know it by the seal?" The shipmaster pointed to a seal hanging by his watch-chain; and the bag was at once produced and restored to its rightful owner.

"An honest man is still an unmoved rock,

Washed whiter, but not shaken with the shock."

Davenport.

Trust-Restitution! Exo .

(1) Recently & lady went to parison on a visit, entrusting her house and furniture to a friend, on whose honesty she relied. Unfortunately the confidence was misplaced; and during her absence, articles of considerable value were removed. On her return, the discovery was made, and the person guilty of so contemptible a breach of trust arraigned. The judge ordered him to restore all the objects of vertu which he had purloined, and to suffer a term of imprisonment for his breach of trust.

(2) A poor widow entrusted the title-deeds of some properly, left by her husband, to a solicitor, in whom she had confidence. Her trust was, however, grossly abused, as he retained the deeds on the plea of some false debt due by the husband. After long and persistent endeavours to obtain recovery of the documents, but in vain, the defrauded widow was advised to apply to the Lord Chancellor. On inquiry, the judge decided that the dishonest lawyer must either deliver up the title-deeds and make restitution for their retention, or be struck off the roll of solicitors.

"Justice has her laws,

That will not brook infringement; in all time,

All circumstances, all state, in every clime,

She holds aloft the same avenging sword."

Percival.

Conscience-Restitution! Exo . Gray mentions that as a gentleman in London entered his house, he found a well-dressed female sitting on the stairs. She asked pardon for the liberty she had taken, saying that she had taken refuge for a few minutes in his house from a mad dog. On hearing her story, he gave her some refreshment before she left. In the evening, his wife missed her gold watch—it having been purloined by the forenoon visitor. Fifteen years afterwards, the watch was returned, with a note from the. thief. It stated that the Gospel had recently changed her heart, and that in consequence she desired to return the watch to its rightful owner.

"Conscience! It is a dangerous thing.

It made me once

Restore a purse of gold."

Shakespeare.

Verses 7-13

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Exo . Judges.] See Critical Note on Exo 21:6.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

THE SANCTITY OF HUMAN TRUSTS.—Exo

This paragraph recognises the sanctity of trust reposed on the principles—

1. of neighbourliness;

2. of trade.

I. If a man entrusted property, Exo , "money or stuff," which it was impossible or inconvenient to keep himself, to his neighbour, the trustee was responsible for its safety.

1. If it was stolen and the thief discovered, of course the thief was punished.

2. But if the thief escaped, the holder, either as negligent or guilty, was fined double its value. From Exo , however, it would appear that the judges had some discretion in the matter.

II. In the case of any beast, lent presumably for the purposes of trade, being hurt or lost.

1. If upon oath the borrower declared his innocence and proved his carefulness, that was deemed sufficient.

2. But if stolen, as careless, he had to make restitution.

3. Or if slain by wild beasts, and the carcase were produced, then, as his courage and vigilance were not at fault, he was released from responsibility.

III. But the responsibility must be submitted to judicial examination and decision, Exo . Thus guarding on the one hand recklessness, and on the other unreasonable exactions.

Application.—"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil," not only the law of Moses, but "the law of Christ."

i. On the one hand—

(1.) Be neighbourly (Luk , &c.).

(2.) Take the same care of the matters in which you have obliged your neighbours, as you do of your own. If he has entrusted his goods to you, protect them. If his secrets, do not divulge them. If his liberty or character, through previous service of yours, do not threaten them. If the guardianship of his defenceless children, do not neglect them. ii. On the other hand, if your neighbour has obliged you

(1.) Do not impose on his good nature.

(2.) Don't suspect that, if your interests have been damaged because it was his interest to damage them, he has done so.

(3.) In ordinary cases, unless you have good reason for the contrary, take his word.

(4.) Don't make him suffer for circumstances over which he had no control. The whole subject it full of interest to masters and servants, employers and employed.—J. W. Burn.

ILLUSTRATIONS

BY

REV. WILLIAM ADAMSON

Divine Enactments! Exo .

(1) There is a world of difference between a stained glass window and a kaleidoscope. Their relative values are very different, and so is their structure. The pieces of variegated glass are flung anyhow, for the prism to arrange; whereas, those employed in the window are all arranged to give a beautiful, effective, and abiding impression. These separate enactments are not strung together haphazard. On the contrary, they are chords divinely arranged to produce harmony in the world, and give forth strains of Divine adoration in their observance.

(2) If one side of a tree grows, and the other does not, the tree acquires a crooked form. It may be fruitful, but it cannot be beautiful. God would have humanities and nationalities, theocracies and individualities, both rich in the beauties of holiness and the fruits of righteousness. The unequal growth of the Christian graces is undesirable; hence the numerous Divine precautions to make them alike fair, fragrant, and fruitful.

"Stern lawgiving! yet thou dost wear

The Godhead's most benignant grace;

Flowers laugh before thee on their beds;

And fragrance in thy footing treads;

Thou dost preserve the stars from wrong."

Wordsworth.

Honesty! Exo .

(1) Entrusted! A writer in the "Sunday at Home," alluding to the honesty of the Malays in the Dutch Indies, says that his business required frequent absences, during which he left his house in their care. Before setting out, he gave the key of his bureau to the mandoor, and told him to take care of the money it contained. He says he never found a single farthing amissing—that sometimes returning late, the servant would be found sleeping close to the bureau for its greater security—and that during all the time he passed in the island, he had no occasion to complain of the theft of any article.

(2) Lost! Not far from St. Petersburgh lived a poor woman, whose only livelihood arose from the visits of a few shipmasters on their way to the capital. One of these left behind a sealed bag of money; which the woman put away in her cupboard till it should be claimed. Years rolled on; and though often in great want, the bag of gold still remained sacredly intact. Seven years afterwards, some shipmasters were again staying at her house, when one of them remarked that he would never forget the town they were then visiting, for he had years before lost a sealed bag of 700 roubles. The poor woman overhearing the remark, said, "Would you know it by the seal?" The shipmaster pointed to a seal hanging by his watch-chain; and the bag was at once produced and restored to its rightful owner.

"An honest man is still an unmoved rock,

Washed whiter, but not shaken with the shock."

Davenport.

Trust-Restitution! Exo .

(1) Recently & lady went to parison on a visit, entrusting her house and furniture to a friend, on whose honesty she relied. Unfortunately the confidence was misplaced; and during her absence, articles of considerable value were removed. On her return, the discovery was made, and the person guilty of so contemptible a breach of trust arraigned. The judge ordered him to restore all the objects of vertu which he had purloined, and to suffer a term of imprisonment for his breach of trust.

(2) A poor widow entrusted the title-deeds of some properly, left by her husband, to a solicitor, in whom she had confidence. Her trust was, however, grossly abused, as he retained the deeds on the plea of some false debt due by the husband. After long and persistent endeavours to obtain recovery of the documents, but in vain, the defrauded widow was advised to apply to the Lord Chancellor. On inquiry, the judge decided that the dishonest lawyer must either deliver up the title-deeds and make restitution for their retention, or be struck off the roll of solicitors.

"Justice has her laws,

That will not brook infringement; in all time,

All circumstances, all state, in every clime,

She holds aloft the same avenging sword."

Percival.

Conscience-Restitution! Exo . Gray mentions that as a gentleman in London entered his house, he found a well-dressed female sitting on the stairs. She asked pardon for the liberty she had taken, saying that she had taken refuge for a few minutes in his house from a mad dog. On hearing her story, he gave her some refreshment before she left. In the evening, his wife missed her gold watch—it having been purloined by the forenoon visitor. Fifteen years afterwards, the watch was returned, with a note from the. thief. It stated that the Gospel had recently changed her heart, and that in consequence she desired to return the watch to its rightful owner.

"Conscience! It is a dangerous thing.

It made me once

Restore a purse of gold."

Shakespeare.

Verses 14-19

CONCERNING BORROWING.—Exo

This is an extension of the preceding principles. Borrowing might be for the purpose of—1, obligation; or 2, trade.

I. If that which was borrowed received hurt in the absence of its owner, Exo , the owner was to be indemnified.

II. But if, as might be the case when the loan were cattle, and the owner were present, the sum for which it was hired was understood to cover the risk of accident, and the owner bore the loss.

Learn—

i. On the one hand—

(1.) to be obliging. If you can do a needy neighbour a good turn by lending advice or material assistance, do so.

(2.) Don't make your needy but obliged neighbour answerable for any accident that may occur through your own misfortune or fault.

On the other hand—

(1.) Be careful not to abuse that which is in kindness lent you; or

(2.) (grave though minor inability of life) forget to return it, and thus render evil for good. Book-borrowers should note this. But

(3.) rather both in principle (2Ki ) and in action suffer the loss than inflict it.—J. W. Burn.

SOCIAL EVILS.—Exo

1. Are recognised in the Word of God, and recognised as abominable before God and man. But unfortunately they are not so recognised by Christian communities and governments. Hence their prevalence and their enormities.

2. Are dealt with delicately, but firmly, by the Word of God, Old and New Testament alike. But, from mock modesty and a strange stupidity or inhumanity, are not so dealt with, but are rather encouraged by Christian communities and governments. And the result, of course, is ruin and misery now, and to the third and fourth generation.

3. Should urge every man who takes the Bible as his law, and who loves his fellow-creature, to adopt every legitimate means, at all times, and everywhere, to bring back society and government to the spirit, at any rate, of the legislation here enforced.

I. Contrast the Mosaic precept with the Christian practice with regard to the seducer.

1. Then the penalties fell on the real criminal.

(1.) He must marry his victim; or

(2.) in case the parents should interfere, pay a fine of 50 shekels of silver—the amount of her dowry.

2. Now the penalty falls upon the victim.

(1.) It is true a feeble sentiment (anything but universal) is expressed, but nowhere legally as to the obligation of marriage. But when that obligation is not recognised, the poor creature loses all, loses reputation, position, opportunity for retrieving her character, inherits the scorn of her sex, and, driven mad with woe, sinks into a suicide's grave.

(2.) While in the second case, the villain holds his head as high as ever, often escapes all penalty, and when that penalty is incurred it is the amount he spends upon his dog. Shame on our Christian society, which adds burdens to that which by itself is too heavy to be borne. Shame on our inhuman and immoral legislation, which dares to put a premium on vice and to let the oppressors go free. (See also Deu ).

II.

1. The Mosaic precept concerning the beast was death without mercy.

2. The Christian practice is to put a cloak over his crime or to hurry him away.

Learn—

i. The awful sanctions of personal purity and chastity (1Co ; 1Co 6:9-20).

ii. To expend your wrath on the right offender.

iii. Do not shun the society of the offender (Luk ; Joh 4:18; but Gal 6:1; Mar 2:17; cf. Joh 13:15).—J. W. Burn.

DIVINE JUSTICE AND DIVINE COMPASSION

The strictness of the Divine justice is seen in these ancient enactments; but there is also revealed the tenderness of the Divine compassion. The law is severe on evil-doers, in order that well-doers may be encouraged and strengthened. God is just to punish the unjust and the oppressor; but He is compassionate to the weak and helpless. How tenderly He cares for the widow and the orphan. Their mournful cries touch His Divine heart. Here are combined the justice of the ruler and the tenderness of the father. We must be just, but justice must be tempered by mercy, and sweetened by compassion. Let the beautiful humaneness of our religion be always manifested.

I. Irreligion must be checked. The witch is especially mentioned because women are more addicted to these evil practices than men. She is instrumental in the promotion of radical irreligion. She invokes the aid of demoniacal powers. She nurtures all that is evil in man. She is an evil worker for the purpose of getting gain, or securing power, or carrying out her desire for revenge. "Thou shalt not suffer the witch to live." Perhaps if she repents and forsakes her evil ways, pardon may be granted. It is strange that this enactment is carried out in countries where the Bible is not read. Witchcraft is very generally abhorred. We must avoid all causes which tend to the spread of irreligion.

II. Unnatural abominations promote irreligion. The beastly is opposed to the spiritual. Religion exalts humanity, while irreligion degrades it. "Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death."

III. False sacrifices are the outcome of irreligion. We sometimes use the word religion in a loose sense. And in this way we speak of idolaters as religious. But religion is that which binds the heart of man to the service of his Maker. That man is not religious, in the scriptural sense, at least, who offers sacrifice unto a god made by art and man's device. There are those who insist on a religious spirit, and say that forms are no matter. But a right spirit will embody itself in a right creed, and express itself in right forms of religious worship. It is ridiculous to affirm that it is of no consequence to what god we offer sacrifices, in what form we worship, so long as the heart is right. "He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed." Spiritual destruction at least will be the result of erroneous creeds and immoral practices. Erroneous creeds are very often the forced product of spiritual death or decline. The pure in heart shall see God, shall see His truth, and be led into right ways.

IV. Inhumanity is opposed to true religion. "Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt." Knobel says, "The persons meant are the Canaanitish and non-Canaanitish strangers, who stayed as individuals among the Israelites; the Canaanites as a whole are, according to this lawgiver also, to be extirpated." No penalties are laid down now for the non-observance of this command. An appeal is simply made to the former condition of being strangers. The remembrance of our own afflictions ought to make us sympathetic with the afflicted. But in the day of our prosperity we forget the days of adversity, and have not a due consideration for those in adverse circumstances. Vex not the stranger, for thy soul was once vexed in a strange land. Oppress not the foreigner, and he will come to love thee, and to admire that religion which has taught thee compassion.

V. Gentleness towards the weak is highest manhood and noblest religion "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." An exalted humanity abhors the conduct of him who oppresses the widow and the orphan. Their very helplessness should be their strength. If the oppressor makes them cry, their cries, though only the sighing of crushed hearts, will pierce the heavens. The oppressor will be finally crushed by means of the oppressed. It is the great law of nature and of revelation that as a man sows so shall he reap. Retribution will come sooner or later. The oppressor of widows and orphans shall be killed with the sword, and their wives shall be widows, and their children fatherless. Escape is only in seeming. The prosperity of the wicked cannot be for ever. Oppressors must be destroyed. Tyrants must feel the awful recoil of their tyranny. Let us hasten for forgiveness and for power to amend our ways to Him whose gentleness was such that He did not break the bruised reed.—W. Burrows, B.A.

ILLUSTRATIONS

BY

REV. WILLIAM ADAMSON

Divine Enactments! Exo .

(1) There is a world of difference between a stained glass window and a kaleidoscope. Their relative values are very different, and so is their structure. The pieces of variegated glass are flung anyhow, for the prism to arrange; whereas, those employed in the window are all arranged to give a beautiful, effective, and abiding impression. These separate enactments are not strung together haphazard. On the contrary, they are chords divinely arranged to produce harmony in the world, and give forth strains of Divine adoration in their observance.

(2) If one side of a tree grows, and the other does not, the tree acquires a crooked form. It may be fruitful, but it cannot be beautiful. God would have humanities and nationalities, theocracies and individualities, both rich in the beauties of holiness and the fruits of righteousness. The unequal growth of the Christian graces is undesirable; hence the numerous Divine precautions to make them alike fair, fragrant, and fruitful.

"Stern lawgiving! yet thou dost wear

The Godhead's most benignant grace;

Flowers laugh before thee on their beds;

And fragrance in thy footing treads;

Thou dost preserve the stars from wrong."

Wordsworth.

Seduction-Solatium! Exo . Marriage or money are the only earthly compensations which can be made. Unhappily, Wilson's "Tales of the Borders" abound with instances, in which this law—still in force—was utterly disregarded altogether in its compensatory aspects. So far are men from any disposition of heart towards the act of restitution, that English law has to be framed and put in force to compel them to make solatium, either by matrimonial contract or pecuniary indemnity. One of the most painful of the annals of British Law Courts is that which concerns the disclosure of man's heartlessness in regard to the maiden whom he has seduced. Law, however, can only enforce compensation; and it remains for grace to suppress the inclination. St. Benedict relates that when he felt this desir upon him, he rushed from his cave, and flung himself into a thicket of briars and nettles, in which he rolled himself until the blood flowed. This expedient could only be a temporary relief; and the only efficient and permanent method of preventative is "Prayer for divine grace."

"Terrestrial objects, disenchanted there,

Lose all their power to dazzle or easnare;

One only object then seems worth our care—

To win the race."

Elliott.

Witchcraft and Wizardry! Exo .

(1) The Church of Rome subjected persons suspected of witchcraft to the most cruel torments; but itself is the most notorious offender in this respect. Its pretended miracles from the blood of St. Januarius to the trance of La Pucelle are a concentration of superstitious wizardry. In tens of thousands of cases the victims—often innocent—were burned alive; while others were drowned by the test applied. Rome herself, the apocalyptic wizard clothed in scarlet, is to know the retributive penalty of this law: "She shall not be suffered to live."

(2) Sad as are the evidences of superstitious wizardry in modern spiritualism of America and England, there is this sure solace, that all witchcraft is doomed sooner or later. It is Carlyle who says, that the burning of a little straw may hide the stars of the sky; but the stars are there, and will reappear. Truth is Eternal.

"Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again—

The eternal years of God are hers;

But Error, wounded, writhes in pain,

And dies among her worshippers."

Bryant.

Witchcraft! Exo . The river Dart is a bright clear stream, which takes its rise amid the wild beauty of our English Alps—the Dartmoor range. Long years ago, a crowd was gathered. Here were the middle-aged and young farmers and labourers, with mingled fear of all witches, and hatred to witchcraft a part of their very creed. Here also were women with rancorous tongues; little children, with babes in their mothers' arm, gathered as for a holiday. The squire's daughter has been condemned to the test of witchcraft; if she sinks, she is guilty; if she rises and escapes, she is innocent. Arrayed in white garments, she is led towards the river through the crowd, whose cruel jests and coarse words are the first gauntlet her pure mind must run. The tender arms were grasped, and the graceful form hurled into the stream, swollen with the unusually heavy rains. Suddenly a cry was raised; the cruel crowd gave way; and a man rushed breathlessly to the river's brink. It was the maiden's lover, to whom she was shortly to be united; and having heard of the dreadful ordeal designed, he had hastened to rescue her from the "witch's test." Too late! Without a word, he plunged in after her. A gleam of a white robe—a sudden uphang of a man's strong arm—were all that the superstitious onlookers ever saw more of the maiden or her lover.

"But endless is the list of human ills,

And sighs might sooner fail than cause to sigh."

Young.

Verses 18-24

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

WITCHCRAFT.—Exo

The term is here used to represent the whole class of wizards, necromancers, and diviners with which the world has been infested from a very early date, and is in one form or another infested still, who, when not gross impostors, appeal to a power not in subordination to Divine law, and are therefore guilty of, and punished for high treason against the government of God. The Bible regards it—

1. As a stern and diabolical reality (Lev ; Deu 18:9).

2. As unlawful trafficking with the unseen world (Lev ; Isa 8:19, "For the living to the dead," i.e., on behalf of the living to the dead.)

3. As sometimes trickery and imposture (Isa ), "that peep and mutter" (probably ventriloquise. See art. Pythoness, Smith's Dic. Bible).

4. As filthy defilement (Lev ).

5. As deserving death (Lev . cf. text).

6. As one of the crimes for which the Canaanites were destroyed.

7. As inconsistent with a trust in God (Isa ).

8. As frustrated by God (Isa ).

9. As a power from which the godly have nothing to fear, for there is no solitary prayer in the whole Bible to be protected from its enchantments, and no thanksgiving for deliverance from them.

The belief in witchcraft has prevailed in all ages, and been sanctioned by some of the most eminent men. Amongst the heathen, Pythagoras, Plutarch, Pompey, Crassus, Cæsar, were all under its spell. The progress of modern civilsation has not destroyed this upas blight, for it counts its devotees by the thousand to-day. But whether it comes in the form of astrology with its stargazing, palmistry with its hand-reading, or spiritualism with its media and trances and dark seances, it is the same foul abomination reprobated by the Word of God. In this country we only now meet with it in the latter form, and as such—

I. It is dangerous.

1. Because it destroys, all faith in the person and providence of God, and hence imperils the hopes, aspirations, and safety of the soul.

2. Because it tends to debase man's moral standards, and to obliterate the fact of sin.

3. Because its direct aim is to subvert Christianity, and to abolish the Word of God.

4. Because it comes before the imagination and the affections with plausible appeals.

II. It shuns the light.

1. Its performances, like the old witchcraft, take place in the dark, and under circumstances the force of which requires the exertions of the strongest will. On the contrary, the grand facts of both Old and New Testaments were "not done in a corner," but in the light of day.

2. It is chary of the open exhibition of its credentials to the critic and the unbeliever; this privilege is reserved for those who first believe in the magician and in his powers. The miracles and other credentials of the Bible—court scrutiny—were mainly for the convictions of those who disbelieved.

3. And why does it shun the light? For the old reason (Joh ).

III. It is unlawful.

1. Because expressly forbidden in the Word of God. Christ and His apostles meet the spirits not in darkened cabinets but with open exorcism.

2. Because of its avowed mission to pry into and traffic with the unrevealed matters of the spirit-world. God has emphatically set His face against this (Deu ).

3. Because it is "another gospel" (Gal ).

IV. It is partly gross imposture.

1. Spiritual realities are solemn and imposing, and worthy in every way of the high source from which they emanate, When God communicated to the prophets and apostles we do not hear that it was on dancing tables, illegible inscriptions on slates, or through books made luminous by phosphoric oil. We do not hear of angels or spirits, whether in Old Testament or New, pulling men's hair, scattering sweetmeats, rapping on walls, hurling bed pillows, appearing in regimentals, or handling hot coals.

2. Spiritual realities in the Bible were never discovered to be small tricks. They were never found to be men and women ventriloquising, speaking through tubes, using electric batteries, or stuffed gloves; nor were the spirits, when suddenly embraced, found sufficiently substantial to be armed with fists and nails.

3. Spiritual realities in the Bible have never been explained by natural phenomena as have much of the legerdemain of modern magic.

V. It is uniformly useless.

1. For harm (Isa ), when there is a firm trust in God.

2. For good (Luk ), when there is no such trust.

Application.—i. It is at the Church's peril that she ignores what is condemned in the Word of God, and what threatens the well-being of the world. ii. Or fails to expose, check, and destroy what threatens to be the most gigantic superstition of modern times (1Jn ).—J. W. Burn.

GOD'S EXCLUSIVE RIGHT TO MAN'S DEVOTION.—Exo

We remark—

I. That this claim is founded on right. It is not an arbitrary fiat, but a reasonable demand. By creation, providence, and grace, all belongs to God. God, therefore, asks us but to sacrifice His own.

II. That no other power has the right to make this claim. The whole Bible goes upon the fact that "an idol is nothing in the world." Sacrifice to them, therefore, can be but the outcome of superstition, and must end in disappointment.

III. That this claim involves self-denial. God demanded the best of the flocks and herds. He now demands our best faculties in their fullest vigour (Rom ).

IV. That this claim is very widely disregarded. Man "robs" God (Mal ), and still sacrifices to idols. We set up pride, vanity, ambition, selfishness, pleasure, friendship, and desecrate the holiest qualities of our nature by offering them to other than the living God.

V. That the recognition of this claim can alone secure our highest well-being.

1. The literal punishment of death passed away with the theocracy, but the spirit of it lives on through the ages. As God is the only source of spiritual life, and the sacrifice of ourselves to Him through Christ the only means of securing that life, spiritual death is a penalty of neglect. But, 2, by rendering to God that which belongs to Him, body, spirit, soul, possessions, friendships, by contact with Him and separation to Him, they are enriched, elevated, sanctified, and glorified. Observe—

i. That God's claims can never be fulfilled without God's help. ii. That idolatry, the disregard and contempt of those claims (as Jewish history testifies), was uniformly the result of neglecting to procure that help. iii. That that help God is able, willing, and anxious to afford "Little children, keep yourselves from idols."

J. W. Burn.

INTERNATIONAL RIGHTS.—Exo

Strictly interpreted, this passage bears on duties to foreigners dwelling in the country, and supplies a motive for it; they themselves had been foreigners; and is another practical application of the "golden rule." But its principle may be enlarged, so as to compass the rights of nations to justice, humanity, and peace in their relations to one another.

I. The rights of foreigners as individuals. Here is a word, 3000 years old, of special force in many cases (thank God, not in all) to us Englishmen. We are surrounded by men from all nations under heaven. We should not oppress them—

1. By reminding them that they are not at home; but, on the contrary, endeavour by a generous hospitality to make them feel at home.

2. By noticing their peculiarities and criticising or exaggerating them; but, on the contrary, try to conform as far as possible to them, so as to make them less conspicuous.

3. By taking advantage of their imperfect acquaintance with our language and manners in trade, law, debate; but rather assist them with all the means at our disposal.

4. Because

(1.) artificial boundaries should not separate between men of the same blood, the same wants, the same feelings.

(2.) We may be (some of us have been) placed in the same position as regards homelessness, peculiarities, and imperfections.

II. The right of foreigners as nations.

1. If weak to protection, if strong to equal privileges of freedom, courtesy, and laws.

2. To be regarded irrespective of our mere interests, which are not "the measure of right and wrong all over the world."

3. Because we have had to claim, and still do claim, the same for ourselves.

Learn—i. Not to let our insular position generate an insular feeling. ii. To act upon principles of honour and humanity. iii. To follow peace with all men.

GOD'S CARE FOR THE WIDOW AND FATHERLESS.—Exo

The widow and the orphan were God's special care, and their oppression was one of those crimes the punishment of which God reserved to Himself. This is one of those instances which reveal the large and comprehensive and spiritual character of the Mosaic law. God's people were not tied down, as is often supposed, to a fixed and literal obedience to a number of fixed and literal enactments. Much (as in the case before us) was left to their common sense and humanity.

1. No legal provision was made for the widow except

(1.) The duty of her eldest son or nearest relative.

(2.) Her right to a share in the triennial third tithe (Deu ; Deu 26:12).

(3.) Her right to gleanings (Deu ) and religious feasts (Deu 16:11-14).

(4.) Her exemption from the necessity of giving her garments to pledge.

But

2. Her rights were everywhere recognised and

(1) (Deu ; Isa 1:17; Jer 7:6; Jer 22:3; Zec 7:10,) threw her upon that charity which is above rubrics.

(2.) (Psa ; Isa 10:2; Eze 22:7; Mat 3:5; Mat 23:14) Any neglect of or cruelty to them was most severely condemned.

3. The New Testament declares "pure religion and undefiled" to be (Jas ). Our text declares—

I. That widows and orphans have claims upon our regard.

1. They have claims upon our sympathy. Their stay, comfort, defence is gone. What state can be more sorrowful or helpless!

2. They have claims upon our protection and help. Our resources are only held in stewardship for God's purposes, and to what better purpose could they be applied, both as regards its intrinsic merits and the Divine will concerning it.

II. That widows and orphans have special privileges.

1. God has legislated for them. Not in the dry and hard manner in which penal and ceremonial codes are obliged to be enacted, but in a way which throws them on the broad and better principles of humanity and love.

2. God stands in a peculiar relation to them (Psa ). In the absence of their natural guardians He takes them under His wing.

3. God is always ready to help them; to hear their cry (Exo ; Jer 49:11).

III. That any oppression of the widow and fatherless will be rigorously punished, Exo .

1. The oppressor is left to the righteous judgment of God, who will surely avenge His own (Luk .)

2. The oppressor is left to the terrible retribution of a hard and cruel heart, which inflicts as much punishment on the subject as on the object.

3. The oppressor is left to the certain contempt and execration of his fellowmen.

Husbands and fathers, learn—

i. To provide for the wants of those whom you may leave behind to mourn your loss.

1. Make diligent use of your time, and save all you can for them.

2. Your life is uncertain. insure it.

3. We don't know what a day or an hour may bring forth, have all your affairs in order, so as not to add perplexity to trouble already too heavy to be borne. It is "afflicting them," not to do so. (See 1Ti .)

ii. Then, having made a proper use of means, leave them with calm faith in the power and goodness of their "Father in heaven."

iii. Help the widow and the orphan, as your wife may be left a widow and your children fatherless.—J. W. Burn.

ILLUSTRATIONS

BY

REV. WILLIAM ADAMSON

Divine Enactments! Exo .

(1) There is a world of difference between a stained glass window and a kaleidoscope. Their relative values are very different, and so is their structure. The pieces of variegated glass are flung anyhow, for the prism to arrange; whereas, those employed in the window are all arranged to give a beautiful, effective, and abiding impression. These separate enactments are not strung together haphazard. On the contrary, they are chords divinely arranged to produce harmony in the world, and give forth strains of Divine adoration in their observance.

(2) If one side of a tree grows, and the other does not, the tree acquires a crooked form. It may be fruitful, but it cannot be beautiful. God would have humanities and nationalities, theocracies and individualities, both rich in the beauties of holiness and the fruits of righteousness. The unequal growth of the Christian graces is undesirable; hence the numerous Divine precautions to make them alike fair, fragrant, and fruitful.

"Stern lawgiving! yet thou dost wear

The Godhead's most benignant grace;

Flowers laugh before thee on their beds;

And fragrance in thy footing treads;

Thou dost preserve the stars from wrong."

Wordsworth.

Idol-Sacrifices! Exo . Idolaters and their sacrifices, says Dr. Chapin! You cannot find any more gross—any more cruel—on the broad earth, than within a mile's area of the pulpit. Dark minds, from which God is obscured! Deluded souls, whose fetish is the dice box, or the bottle! Apathetic spirits, steeped in sensual abomination—unmoved by a moral ripple—soaking in the swamp of animal vitality! These are your modern Daphne and Delphian idolaters. False gods, more hideous, more awful than Moloch or Baal—worshipped with shrieks—worshipped with curses; with the hearthstone for the blood-stained altar, the drunken husband for the immolating priest, and women and children for the sacrificial victims! These are your modern idol-holocausts. This verse may not be applicable to Christianised England in its literality; but the moral vein lies hidden beneath the literal surface. In its moral aspect it is England's obligation of a truth.

"Turn thee from these, or dare not to inquire

Of Him whose name is jealous, lest in wrath

He hears and answers thine unblest desire;

Far better we should cross His lightning's path,

Than be according to our idols heard,

And God should take us at our own vain word."

Keble.

Idolater's Doom! Exo . A philosopher, states the Hebrew Talmud, once remarked to Gamaliel: "Instead of uttering threats against the worshippers of idols, why does not God rather turn His wrath against the idols themselves?" The wise Rabbi replied by a story. A prince had an insolent and rebellious son, who, among other insults to his father, had the audacity to bestow his father's name upon his dog. His father was full of wrath; but against whom? To this inquiry, the philosopher made reply, "The son, doubtless; but if God were to send all these idols into destruction, there would no longer be any danger of idolatry in the world." The pious Hebrew at once retorted: "The barbarians deify the rivers and waters, the stars and suns. Would you then have God, on account of the folly of some of His creatures, plunge creation in ruin? If any one steals seed, and afterwards sows it in the ground, does it remain fruitless on accouut of its having been stolen?" Hence the doom of death upon the Jewish idolater.

"If I have sought to live

But in one light, and made a mortal eye

The lonely star of my idolatry,

Thou that art LOVE, oh pity and forgive."

Hemans.

Strangers' Rights! Exo . A certain shepherd had a flock which he led daily to pasture, and which he brought home each evening to the fold. It came to pass on a time that a stag voluntarily joined, and became the inseparable companion of the flock. When they went to the pasture it went thither; when they returned to the fold, it returned with them. The shepherd greatly loved the stag, and often charged his servants that nothing should be wanting to its welfare. But the servants, astonished at the injunction, inquired of their master his reason. "This poor animal, accustomed to the wilderness, has left its natural freedom of roaming, and joined itself fearlessly to us! Should not we, therefore, be kind to it, and not vex or oppress it?" God loves the stranger in giving him food and raiment; and He enjoins similar consideration on the part of the Jews. He requires still more of Christians in this respect. There is a premise: "Be careful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."

"And He will leave the ninety-nine that range

In pleasant pastures where the grass grows sweet,

And seek us till He sets our wandering feet

Where tempting herbage springs and cooling waters meet."

—Mason.

Strangers! Exo . Upon the higher Alps, the snow is sometimes piled so high, and so evenly balanced, that a crack of a whip or the shout of a voice may give sufficient vibrations to the air as to bring down the whole mass upon the travellers below. So in our moral world, there are souls just hovering over the abyss of ruin. A word, or even a look, from us, may cause them to plunge down into depths from which there is no return. On the other hand, a helping hand stretched out to them in the moment of peril may lead them into the safe, sure way of peace. To vex the stranger, or afflict the alien, may lead to the overthrow of all the life of hope in him; whereas kindness may induce him to give heed to those truths of Scripture, which have led in your case to the practise of the Christian virtues. Many a stranger has been alienated from the gospel by the cruelties and oppressions of its professors. Better those—

"Who lead the blind old giant by the hand

From out the pathless desert where he gropes,

And set him onward in his darksome way."

Lowell.

Widow Woes! Exo . The Jewish law required a man's brother to marry his widow. In numerous countries, notably India, widows are devoted to great privations from the time their husbands die. At the Isthmus of Darien, when a widow dies, such of her children as cannot from tender age provide for their own subsistence, are buried in the same grave with her. It was one of the most heinous of Pharisaic offences, which drew down the stern malediction of Jesus upon them, that they vexed and afflicted the widows in Israel. One of the most touching of His parables is based upon the wrong-doing of a poor widow's adversary, and the indifference of the judge towards her importunate plea. It is remarkable that the Lord in Exo 22:22 alludes to the "crying of the widow" as ever to be heeded by Him. He may bear long with them. There may be a long, and from our view-point inexplicable delay; but let not the oppressed widow despair. He will avenge her—His widowed and oppressed Church. When the cry rises, broken and stifled, but eager, as uttered by one enduring dread wrong, God in heaven hears it well pleased.

"You take my house, when you do take the Prop

That doth sustain my house; you take my life,

When you do take the means whereby I live."

Shakespeare.

Orphan Oppression! Exo . Other offences are punished by the medium of human justice; but God is His own avenger of this heinous wrong. Years ago, a rural parish clerk was left in charge of an orphan relative of his wife. He appropriated the monies, and abused the boy. Forced by persistent cruelties to flee away from home, he reached Australia, where God raised up friends He prospered in life, and became a landowner. His dishonest and tyrant guardian, none the richer for his fraudulent gains, yielded to evil counsellors—took part in a local crime, and was tried and transported to the Australian convict settlement. Here, he made his escape with a fellow convict, and both took refuge in a cave. They quarrelled over the fire, as to which should have possession of certain stolen articles, and in the dispute their gunpowder flask fell into the flames. It instantly exploded in the face of the convicted tyrant, depriving him of eyesight; while his comrade, seizing the things in dispute, left his blind companion in the cave. AS he was shrieking piteously for help, some horsemen passed by; and overhearing his agonising screams, they alighted from their horses and entered the cavern. The leader was the "defrauded orphan," who, having nobly struggled to position and honour, now knelt by his oppressor, whose system was so shattered by the shock, that he died a few minutes afterwards.

"Though the mills of God grind slowly,

Yet they grind exceeding small;

Though with patience He stands waiting,

With exactness grinds He all."

Longfellow.

Orphan Obligations! Exo . Orphans should be grateful to their benefactors. God Himself will reward them. A poor widow took an orphan left by a next door neighbour, into her own family. For years she struggled on with the humble proceeds of mangling in the court, until illness came. The orphan youth obtained a place in the city, which enabled him to find necessaries for the widow and her children, most of whom were younger than himself. His leisure hours were spent in ministering to the wants of his benefactress, and instructing her children. As he grew up, his honesty and shrewdness won him a post of confidence and competence in his firm; enabling him to advance the temporal welfare of his adopted brothers and sisters. All of them were placed in good situations. In course of time the orphan became the junior, then the head partner of his firm. He purchased a rural estate; and in one of the prettiest of the cottages he placed the poor widow; poor no longer, but enriched with a handsome annuity for life. Here she lived happy and honoured; dying at last in the arms of him whom she had received as a penniless child, and whom she had rescued from the fate of a youthful London Arab.

"Kind hearts are more than coronets,

And simple faith than Norman blood."

Tennyson.

Verses 25-31

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Exo . And ye shall be holy men.] This seemingly abrupt clause is to be taken in a relation of strict sequence with all that has gone before. As much as to say: "And so—namely, by your observance of all these instructions—ye shall be (or become) holy men." It is true that these words are introduced simply by the conjunction vav; the part, however, which this small word plays in Hebrew syntax is beginning to be more rightly appreciated. Its strong sequential force is, no doubt, more commonly noticed when it is construed with a verb, in which case it very frequently requires to be translated "and then," "and so," "so," "so that;" but it "can also denote the sequence of thought before any other word (and was in that case originally spoken with a tone peculiar to itself)" (Ewald, "Intro. Heb. Gram.," sec. 348). And so it may have this force With a noun as here. This very example is a strong proof of such a usage; since thereby alone does the fitness of these words to their place appear. The thought evolved by this legitimate recognition of their fitness is one of which the earnest teacher of God's people may make a most fruitful use. The end of redemption is holiness; the rule and guide of holiness is the revealed will of the Thrice Holy One.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Exo

THE DIVINE NATURE HAS TWO ASPECTS

The Almighty declares Himself gracious unto those who cry unto Him for succour; and in His provision He makes special regulations for the protection of those who might easily become the prey of the ungracious. "With the merciful man thou shalt thyself be merciful, and with the upright man thou shalt shew Thyself upright. With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward Thou wilt shew Thyself unsavoury. And the afflicted people Thou wilt save; but Thine eyes are upon the haughty, that Thou mayest bring them down." The haughty must not presume upon the Divine graciousness; but the afflicted people may reasonably hope in His salvation.

I. We must learn to deal tenderly with the poor. "Blessed is he that considereth the poor; the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble." The cause of the poor is the cause of God. The Bible should be the poor man's Book In no other ethical systems is their case fully considered, or are their claims urgently pressed. The subject of usury is difficult. We must find it hard to settle what is mere proper interest, and what is usury. Certainly the exigency of the poor must not be abused. In that early society, where money was not largely required, we may suppose that money was to be lent without interest. That it must be very small, at least, is evident from the fact that the poor man's raiment, given for a pledge, must be returned to him before the sun has gone down. The mantle marks the extreme of poverty in general. The indigent Oriental covers himself at night in his outer garment. Great cruelty is characteristic of him who keeps in pledge the poor man's protection from the cold of an Eastern night. How many are those who cry because of the advantage taken of their poverty! While God is gracious unto those who call for help, what will He be to the pitiless. Let men be gracious unto the poor that God may be gracious unto those who are indeed poor and needy, though rich in earthly possessions.

II. We must be respectful in our dealings with those in high estate. The word "gods" in Exo is taken by some to mean the Deity. Thus the Israelites are commanded not to revile the deity. A more general way of dishonouring God than that of directly cursing Jehovah. And this view is supposed to be supported by the next sentence, "nor curse the ruler of thy people," as God's vicegerents, as the one next to, and placed in a position of authority by God. Certainly, he who dishonours "the powers that be" dishonours Him by whom the powers are appointed. Even Paul's practical opposition to the powers is accompanied by wonderful Christian courtesy. We must not curse the rulers; and the rulers must not oppress—must not interfere with the authority of conscience. When rulers and consciences are opposed resistance must follow, but resistance may be courteous while it is firm. The highest style of gentleman is the Christian. Let us forbear cursing or reviling, lest we dishonour the Infinite Ruler.

III. We must be prompt in presenting our offerings. He gives twice who gives quickly. Delays are dangerous. Delay not to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors. The fruit of all is to be presented as an offering to Him who is the first great cause of all productiveness. In these New Testament times we reverse the order. The first we give ourselves; and the last, if we can easily spare it, we give to God; and yet surely He has a greater claim. If under the law God could command the first of all, how much more under the Gospel! The God of revelation is the God of nature, we must not do unnecessary violence to nature even for the promotion of religion. Seven days must the sheep be with the dam before it is offered. A truly religious spirit will not interfere with natural productiveness and social prosperity.

IV. The glorious purpose of all Divine legislation. "And ye shall be holy men unto Me." This is the great directing motive for all God's movements with reference to His people. Holy men must have regard to the beauty and welfare of the temple when the spirit of holiness is enshrined. Ye shall not eat any flesh that is torn of beasts in the field; ye shall cast it to the dogs. Defile not the temple of God. The body is the soul's temple. The purity of the temple promotes the purity of the worshipper.—W. Burrows, B.A.

CONCERNING LOANS.—Exo

While every one is liable to those fluctuations of fortune which entail temporary embarrassment or permanent poverty, the legitimacy and necessity of loans is apparent. The same remark applies to loans on security for purposes of trade. Loans are only illegitimate when applied to immoral purposes, or when they encourage indolence. The law before us provides—

I. That in a case of real distress the rules of an ordinary commercial transaction were to be set aside, and the loan decided on the principles of humanity (Lev ; Deu 23:19).

II. That in a matter of business (presumably) when the loan is under some risk, but which is expected to yield the borrower some kind of profit; then, as in the case of mortgages and pawnbroking, a security is required. But this security, if a necessity of life, as, e.g., the loose outer robe used for a coverlet as well as a garment, was to be restored when wanted.

III. That the graciousness of God should be the motive of man's conduct to his fellow in matters of obligation, and even business.

IV. That in this case, and in others which were to be decided on the principles of humanity, God took the consideration of the infraction of His law into His own hand.

Application.—i. Avoid borrowing or lending as far as possible. ii. When needful or in the way of business, let mercy and generosity enter into the transaction, as well as interest and justice. iii. God has been gracious to you, be gracious to your fellow (Mat ). iv. Remember that God "executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed."—J. W. Burn.

THE DIVINE RIGHT OF MAGISTRATES TO RESPECT.—Exo

There has been some controversy about the interpretation of the first clause, Thou shalt not revile Elohim.

1. Some understand it God, conformably with Gen and general usage. (De Wette, Keil, Knobel, Speaker's Com.,&c.)

2. Some (as A.V. LXX. Vulg. Luther, Cranmer, &c.) Gods. Philo and Josephus understand it as expressing liberality to gods of other nations. And

3. (The Targum, Syr, Saadia, Theod. Genevan, &c.) as the marg. judges. The second may be dismissed. The third is untenable, as in that case Elohim would have the article prefixed. The first is the ordinary translation, and as here employed, suggests that magistrates wield the delegated authority of God, rule by Divine right, and are therefore entitled to respect (Jos ; Psa 21:6-7; Pro 24:21-22; Ecc 8:2-3).

I. That the powers that be are ordained of God (Rom ; 1Pe 2:13-15).

II. That magistrates must be treated with respect, both their persons and their decisions (Jos ).

1. Because they administer that which when it is law at all, is based on the will and authority of God (Rom ).

2. Because they administer that which is the bulwark of national stability and personal safety (Rom ).

III. That magistrates must receive respect, irrespective of the effect of their decision (Pro ).

1. Because they are but the servants of the law.

2. Because if through human infirmities, justice should occasionally miscarry, it is better to suffer than to bring the law into disrepute (Pro ).

3. But if their decisions violate conscience, then Act ; Act 5:29.

IV. That magistrates must be secure against all hostile action (Pro ; Job 34:17-18).

1. Fear will warp the judgment.

2. Fear will divert the course of justice.

V. That magistrates are not only entitled to respect, but to our sympathy and prayers (Psa ; Ezr 6:10; 1Ti 2:2).

VI. That disrespect to magistrates is severely condemned (Jude ).

Application.—Let magistrates, all who are in authority and all who administer law whether civil or domestic, whether in law courts, homes or houses of business, remember—i. That they are responsible to God (2Sa ). Let them see

(1) that they accurately know the law, and

(2) that their administration is conscientious and courageous (Psalms 72; Psa ). ii. That they are responsible to man. Upon their decisions depend the well-being of the citizen, and the stability of the realm. iii. That their title to sympathy and veneration is recognised by the people at large.—J. W. Burn.

CONSECRATION.—Exo

These laws are most appropriately interrupted by the revelation of God's claims upon us and ours. This revelation teaches us—

I. That God's law should lead us to consider our relation to the Lawgiver.

1. We are not slaves under the rigorous and iron rule of an inflexible despot (Joh ; Rom 8:15).

2. But sons under the mild, free, and benignant rule of our Father in heaven (Num ; Deu 22:6; Rom 8:15-16; Jas 1:25; Jas 2:12).

3. And should therefore disseminate and obey those laws which are for our Father's glory and our brother's good.

II. That this relation to the Lawgiver should lead to the practical acknowledgment of His claims upon the service of all we have.

1. He has claims upon our property. We are only stewards (1Co ).

(1) Those claims upon part of it are literal and exclusive, and must be acknowledged by benevolence to the poor and the support of his ministers.

(2) Those claims are upon the whole of it, and must be acknowledged by the use of all our property in getting the will of God "done on earth as it is done in heaven."

2. He has claims upon our children.

(1) We must be cautious how we abrogate this literal claim upon one of them. If, under the old dispensation, one was to be specially dedicated to His service, there are stronger reasons for the same under the new. While education for the ministry, as a mere profession, cannot be too strongly reprobated, yet when God comes to call at your house for "labourers for His harvest," let Him find one at least of your children ready for that call. Let all parents, whether rich or poor, take heed to their privileges and duties in this direction.

(2) But as God has claims upon all of your children, see that they are dedicated to Him and "trained up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."

III. That God's claims should be acknowledged first. "The first of thy ripe fruits," &c.

1. Let God's claims be acknowledged first in the order of time. The Jew embraced the first opportunity—as soon as the sheep could leave its dam, and the child its mother, God's claim was recognised. Surely the Christian should not be behind the Jew. In God's cause as well as man's, "he pays twice who pays promptly." Do not wait till the end of the quarter or the year before you pay your subscription. Let it be at the beginning.

2. Let God's claims be acknowledged first in point of quality. "First of ripe fruits." Other laws, based upon these claims, enact that the gifts shall be without blemish. God's sacrifices were of the best of beasts, God's house was the best in the land. How sad the contrast between this and Christian customs. Any scrap of money, or time, or prosperity, is good enough for God's use, and any barn good enough for His worship. And when a noble spirit is awakened, it is met with the old and usual, "To what purpose is this waste?" Not that God is particular, whose is the earth and the fulness thereof! He can value the widow's mite. But let them see to it, who live on the fat of the land and give a reluctant morsel to God's cause; who can give the whole twenty-four hours to their own interest, and not as many minutes to God's, and who sleep in palaces but worship in hovels (Hag ).

3. Let God's claims be recognised first in order of interest. If the rest of the flock died, this must be given to God. But now God's interests are considered last. After having consulted the claims of self, family, business, then if anything is left it may be given to God. On the other hand, if there must be retrenchment then God's interests are considered first—to be invaded and ignored, and the guinea dwindles down to half a sovereign, &c.

IV. That God's claims should be acknowledged systematically. "First," "on the eighth day." God here demanded a definite amount at a definite time. God's claims must not be considered more recklessly or haphazard than those of family and business. The Christian rule must not be repealed till God repeals it (1Co ).

V. That our relation to the Divine Lawgiver should lead to the practical acknowledgment of His claims upon all we are, Exo . God's claim is everywhere on ourselves. No proxies, as such, are permitted. There are many who acknowledge God's claims on what they have that but practically repudiate them which are personal. But (1Co 6:20).

1. God demands personal holiness.

(1.) Separation from sin.

(2.) Separation to Himself. (See on Exo .) God's command is, "Be ye holy, for I am holy," "God's will" is "even your sanctification."

2. God demands a practical exhibition of that holiness in the dignity and nobility of our lives. The flesh that was torn by wild beasts was not forbidden as unclean, but because it was mean and paltry for those members of the "kingdom of priests" to eat their leavings. So the Christian, in his living and general conduct, must not condescend to practices which degrade his profession and dishonour his God.

Learn—

i. That all you have belongs to God.

1. How noble.

2. How safe are our possessions.

ii. That all we are belongs to God.

1. What dignity (Rev ).

2. What promises (Mat ; 2Co 6:16-18; 2Co 7:1; Rom 8:28). 3 What safety (Luk 12:32; Joh 10:28-29; Rom 8:31-39). And what glory (Rom 8:18; 1Jn 3:2), belong to the sons of God.

iii. "What manner of persons ought we to be?"—J. W. Burn.

ILLUSTRATIONS

BY

REV. WILLIAM ADAMSON

Divine Enactments! Exo .

(1) There is a world of difference between a stained glass window and a kaleidoscope. Their relative values are very different, and so is their structure. The pieces of variegated glass are flung anyhow, for the prism to arrange; whereas, those employed in the window are all arranged to give a beautiful, effective, and abiding impression. These separate enactments are not strung together haphazard. On the contrary, they are chords divinely arranged to produce harmony in the world, and give forth strains of Divine adoration in their observance.

(2) If one side of a tree grows, and the other does not, the tree acquires a crooked form. It may be fruitful, but it cannot be beautiful. God would have humanities and nationalities, theocracies and individualities, both rich in the beauties of holiness and the fruits of righteousness. The unequal growth of the Christian graces is undesirable; hence the numerous Divine precautions to make them alike fair, fragrant, and fruitful.

"Stern lawgiving! yet thou dost wear

The Godhead's most benignant grace;

Flowers laugh before thee on their beds;

And fragrance in thy footing treads;

Thou dost preserve the stars from wrong."

Wordsworth.

Security Pledges! Exo . In all parts of Southern Africa the skin cloak is the covering of males and females by day and night. The Hottentot cloak is composed of sheepskins, retaining the wool on the inside of it; and in this he sleeps comfortably under a bush or tree. In the East, extreme heat of the day is often succeeded by extreme cold of the night. The Israelite encamping in the wilderness would probably be often content with such a cloak or mantle. No doubt in the Holy Land there would be many poor, who could afford no other raiment than this by night and day. The Red Indian has his blanket, in which he wraps himself when wandering in his vast native forests. The thoughtful and gracious care of God, therefore, shines out sweetly in this humane and considerate enactment. Man should follow the Divine example.

"Have love! Not love alone for one,

But man, as man, thy brothers call;

And scatter, like the circling sun,

Thy charities on all."

Schiller.

Gratitude-Gifts! Exo . St. Paul stamps the sin of ingratitude to God as peculiarly heinous, when he says of the heathen (Romans 1) that they were not thankful. Seneca—between whom and St. Paul some suppose that there was personal intercourse—says: "We are thankful to a friend for a few acres of land only, or for a little money; and yet for the possession of the whole earth, which God has given us, we care not to testify any grateful returns." The English proverb declares a humiliating axiom: "The river passed, and God is forgotten." The Italian form of it sounds a still sadder depth of ingratitude: "The peril passed, the saint mocked." Mandrabulus the Samian, having vowed to the goddess Juno a golden ram if she disclosed to him a certain mine, the Greek story runs that under her auspices and direction he was the discoverer. Once in possession, however, his votive-offering of a golden ram dwindled down into a silver one; that again for a brass one; and at last nothing at all. God here lays down the law of Divine gratitude, in which are also involved the Divine rights of human self-consecration: "All that I have is Thine;" "I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine;" "Let my Beloved come into His garden, and eat His pleasant fruits." But

"Man, the worldly, ingrate man can ever

Enjoy God's gifts, but never mind the Giver;

And like the swine, though pampered with enough,

His eyes are never higher than the trough."

Quarles.

Cheerful Consecration! Exo . As fruits artificially raised or forced in the hothouse have not the exquisite flavour of those fruits which are grown naturally, and in their due season; so that obedience, which is enforced by the requirements of the law, wants the genuine flavour and sweetness of that obedience which springs from a heart warmed with the love of God in Christ. God loves a cheerful giver, for this among other reasons: The votive-fruits of such self-dedication are exceeding sweet to His taste. "How much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices!" (Son 2:10).

"Come, bring thy gift. If blessings were as slow

As men's returns, what would become of fools?"

Herbert.

Legislation-Links! Exo . The study of the Mosaic laws will repay the students. "They will repay the historian," says Hamilton; "for they will introduce him to a civilisation compared with which the Greek culture and Roman commonwealth are barbarisms. They will repay the jurist, for in the dividends and compensations—the doctrine of trespass and damage and malice prepense laid down by the Hebrew lawgiver, he will find the origin or earnest of much in our own British statute-book. And they will repay every student of morals and of mankind; for thoughts, says Wines, colonise as well as races; ideas, like families, have a genealogy and a propagation. The cradle of all codes is the law of Mosaic enactments."

"These are the lessons God would write—

These laws as with a burning pen,

In traces of eternal light,

Upon the hearts of men."

Schiller.

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Exodus 22". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/exodus-22.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.