Exodus 22

The Word Made Fresh

1“Anyone who steals an ox or sheep, and slaughters or sells it, must pay back five oxen for an ox or four sheep for a sheep.

2“If a thief is caught in the act of stealing and is beaten so that he dies, the owner of what is stolen is not guilty. 3However, if the theft takes place in the daytime the one who kills him is guilty.

3“A thief is required to pay back what is stolen, but if he cannot, he may be sold as a slave to pay for his theft.

4“If a stolen ox, donkey, or sheep is found in the thief’s possession, the thief must repay the owner double.

5“If a man allows his animals to graze or feed in a field or vineyard that belongs to someone else, he must repay the owner whatever was eaten from the produce of his own field or vineyard.

6“If someone allows a fire to spread into the brush but then it burns stacked or standing grain or burns up a field, whoever started the fire must repay in full.

7“If someone gives a neighbor silver or other belongings for safekeeping, and it is stolen from the neighbor’s house, the thief must pay double. 8If the thief is not caught, the neighbor into whose care the property was given must be brought before a judge to prove his own innocence.

9“Whenever the ownership of animals or other property is in question between two persons, they should both be brought to court and the one the judge finds guilty must repay the other.

10“If one of you gives to a neighbor an animal for safekeeping and it dies or is injured, or if it is taken away with no witnesses, 11then the neighbor must swear in my presence that he has not stolen the animal, and the owner shall accept his statement and no repayment is required. 12However, if it is proven that the animal was stolen the owner must be repaid. 13If it was not stolen, but killed and mangled by wild animals, there is no requirement for restitution to be made.

14When one of you borrows an animal from another and it dies or is injured when the owner isn’t there, full repayment must be made. 15If the owner witnesses the death or injury no repayment is necessary. If the animal was hired by the neighbor, only the fee needs to be repaid.

16“If a man seduces a girl and has sex with her, and she is not engaged to someone else, he must pay the bride price for her and marry her. 17He must pay the bride price even if her father refuses to let him marry her.

18“Do not allow a witch to live.

19“Anyone who has sexual relations with an animal must be put to death.

20“Anyone who makes sacrifices to any other god than the LORD must be done away with.

21“You must not mistreat a foreigner who lives among you, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. 22You must not mistreat any widow or orphan. 23If you do I will hear them cry out to me and 24my anger will boil over and I will see that you are put to death with the sword, and your own wives and children will become widows and orphans.

25“If you lend money to a poor person you must not charge them interest. 26If your neighbor gives you their overcoat as a pledge to repay, you must return it to them before the sun goes down, 27because their overcoat may be the only thing they have to cover themselves with to sleep. I will hear if your neighbor cries out to me because I am a compassionate God.

28“Do not curse your God or any leader among your people.

29“Do not refrain from giving an offering from your harvest or your stored grain.

“Your firstborn sons belong to me. 30The same with your animals; let them stay with their mothers for seven days, but when they are eight days old give them to me.

31“You are to be my people, set apart for me, and you may not eat the meat of an animal that has been mangled by wild beasts in the field. The dogs may have that meat, but not you.

Commentary

1-4: If you steal an ox or sheep and sell it or butcher it you will have to pay the owner back five oxen or four sheep. If you can’t pay, you will be sold into slavery to compensate the owner. If they catch you before you dispose of the animal you have to pay back double. I guess in this case slavery can be considered an alternative to imprisonment, and it saves the state the cost of room and board for you.

If you want to try burglary, better do it by day. Your victims have the right to defend their property, and if you break in at night they may use whatever force deemed necessary even if it kills you. If you break in during the day the law considers that your victim ought to be able to prevent you from stealing without having to kill you.

5: If you let your animals graze in someone else’s field you have to pay them back.

6: If you start a fire that burns a neighbor’s grain you have to pay them back.

7-8: If a neighbor asks you to keep something for them and it is stolen from you and the thief is not caught then you might have to go to court to give evidence that you didn’t steal it. If the thief is caught, he or she has to repay the owner double.

9: If there is any dispute about who owns some item or piece of property, the case is taken to court and the one declared to be the owner will receive double the value from the other.

10-13: Back to the matter of safekeeping. If a neighbor asks you to keep an animal and the animal dies or is injured or disappears, then you have to swear before the LORD that you had nothing to do with it and your neighbor has to take your word for it. If it is later found that the animal was stolen and the thief is caught, verses 7-8 apply. If the animal was mangled by wild animals, give the carcass to the owner; you don’t owe anything beyond that.

14-15: If you borrow or hire an animal from a neighbor and something happens to it, you have to pay for it – unless the owner witnesses the accident. In that case you owe nothing other than the fee you paid to hire it.

16-17: If a man seduces a single girl and has sex with her he will have to pay the girl’s father the price of the wedding and take the girl as his wife. If the father won’t allow her to marry him, he has to pay anyway.

18: It would not be a good idea to practice sorcery.

19: Having sex with an animal is a capital offense; it flies in the face of God’s intentions in creating men and women for each other.

20: Sacrificing an animal to honor any god but the LORD is a capital offense. It is, of course, a violation of the 1st Commandment.

21-24: Remembering the way they were treated in Egypt, the Israelites should know to have the proper respect for other people. That carries over into the way they should treat their own who are disadvantaged, and in their culture that means in particular widows and orphans. Mistreating them is considered cause for God to allow them to be overrun by an enemy. The “eye for an eye” reasoning is applied here. If you mistreat widows and orphans, then your own family will become widows and orphans.

25-27: Treat the poor with respect and with regard for basic human needs. Don’t charge interest if you lend to them, and don’t keep anything they give you in trust if it causes them harm. God sees.

28: Your respect for God is reflected in your respect for your leaders.

29: Don’t tarry with your tithe.

30: Firstborn sons are to be dedicated to God. Firstborn among the flocks and herds are to be sacrificed when they are eight days old.

31: Meat that is mangled by wild animals is not to be eaten. It can be fed to your dogs, though.

Takeaway

The laws in chapter 22 are specific and simple, for the most part. They mostly provide for specific cases, whereas the Ten Commandments were more general and sweeping in scope. Another way to look at it is to understand the Ten Commandments as general rules, and the following laws as specific applications of the general rules.