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Deeper Commentary


Exo 22:1 If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it, or sells it; he shall pay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.

Exo 22:2 If the thief is found breaking in, and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt of bloodshed for him-

Ex. 22:2,3 teach that if a man kills a thief while he is in the act of breaking in to a home, this is not to be counted as murder. But if some time passes and then the owner as an act of revenge murders the thief, this is seen by God differently. Surely this reflects the fact that God is more lenient to sins committed in hot blood than those more premeditated. Yet on the other hand, sin is sin. His law, as law, can appear to make no distinction between sins of passion and premeditated sins, if the same act is committed in the end. However, this and other examples indicate God’s willingness to concede to human weakness, and recognize sins of passion more leniently than others. And our judgment in ecclesial life should reflect this too.


Exo 22:3 If the sun has risen on him, guilt of bloodshed shall be for him; he shall make restitution. If he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.
Exo 22:4 If the stolen property is found in his hand alive, whether it is ox, donkey, or sheep, he shall pay double-

Is. 40:2, in the context of Israel's punishment by the Babylonians, says that their judgment had been double what it ought to have been; and yet Ezra says it was less than the promised proportionate recompense for their sins. Here we have the utter, inconsistent grace of God; almost taking guilt for punishing them (cp. how God likewise takes the blame in Is. 54:6-8, as if He had forsaken Israel as a sweet innocent young wife). The way God restored double to Job at the end has echoes of how a thief had to restore double (Ex. 22:2-4)- as if God in His love for Job wished to show Himself as having been somehow ‘guilty’ for taking away from Job what He had?

Exo 22:5 If a man causes a field or vineyard to be eaten, and lets his animal loose, and it grazes in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best of his own field, and from the best of his own vineyard.
Exo 22:6 If fire breaks out, and catches in thorns so that the stacks of grain, or the standing grain, or the field are consumed; he who kindled the fire shall surely make restitution.
Exo 22:7 If a man delivers to his neighbour money or stuff to keep, and it is stolen out of the man’s house; if the thief is found, he shall pay double-

But Zacchaeus paid back four times what he had stolen (Lk. 19:8). The existence of God’s law shouldn’t inculcate a spirit of minimalism in us, doing the letter of the law and no more. Rather if we perceive the principles behind it, we will do far over and above what the letter of the law requires. 

Exo 22:8 If the thief isn’t found, then the master of the house shall come near to God, to find out if he hasn’t put his hand to his neighbour’s goods.
Exo 22:9 For every matter of trespass, whether it be for ox, for donkey, for sheep, for clothing, or for any kind of lost thing, about which one says, ‘This is mine’, the cause of both parties shall come before God. He whom God condemns shall pay double to his neighbour-

‘God’ here refers to the judges or elders; to come before God’s representative is to come before God.

Exo 22:10 If a man delivers to his neighbour a donkey, an ox, a sheep, or any animal to keep, and it dies or is injured, or driven away, no man seeing it;
Exo 22:11 the oath of Yahweh shall be between them both, whether he hasn’t put his hand to his neighbour’s goods; and its owner shall accept it, and he shall not make restitution.
Exo 22:12 But if it is stolen from him, he shall make restitution to its owner.
Exo 22:13 If it is torn in pieces, let him bring it for evidence. He shall not make good that which was torn.
Exo 22:14 If a man borrows anything of his neighbour’s, and it is injured, or dies, its owner not being with it, he shall surely make restitution.
Exo 22:15 If its owner is with it, he shall not make it good. If it is a leased thing, it came for its lease.

Exo 22:16 If a man entices a virgin who isn’t pledged to be married, and lies with her, he shall surely pay a dowry for her to be his wife.
Exo 22:17 If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.
Exo 22:18 You shall not allow a sorceress to live.
Exo 22:19 Whoever has sex with an animal shall surely be put to death.
Exo 22:20 He who sacrifices to any god, except to Yahweh only, shall be utterly destroyed.
Exo 22:21 You shall not wrong an alien, neither shall you oppress him, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt-

Israel were to be motivated in kindness to others by the recollection that they had been redeemed from Egypt; the memory of our redemption through the waters of baptism [cp. the Red Sea]  should have the same effect upon us.

Exo 22:22 You shall not take advantage of any widow or fatherless child-
"Take advantage" is the word used of how the Egyptians had afflicted the Hebrews (Ex. 1:11,12). Repeatedly, Israel were taught that they were to remember their redemption from affliction; and redeem others from their affliction on that basis, and never to afflict people as Egypt had done to them.

Exo 22:23 If you take advantage of them at all, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry-
As discussed on :22, "take advantage" is the word used of how the Egyptians had afflicted the Hebrews (Ex. 1:11,12). And God had heard the cry of the afflicted Hebrews. It is absolutely natural that the abused seek to abuse. But God is here asking His people to consciously break that natural cycle, and to not abuse others even if we have been abused. Only the experience of grace can motivate us to do this.

Exo 22:24 and My wrath will grow hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.
Exo 22:25 If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be to him as a creditor; neither shall you charge him interest-

In some ways, Moses became more demanding in Deuteronomy, whilst at the same time emphasizing grace and love. Thus under the Law, Israel were not to lend to their poor brother upon usury (Ex. 22:25; Lev. 25:37); but in Deuteronomy Moses forbids them to do this to any Israelite (Dt. 23:19).  

Israelites weren’t to lend to each other for interest. Yet Jesus tells the rejected man that he should’ve done at least this (Mt. 25:7)- as if to say that the man should’ve done at least something with what God had given him, even if it wasn’t the ideal, and even if it technically infringed God’s law. Indifference and selfish laziness with God’s gifts is therefore highlighted as being so reprehensible to Jesus.

Exo 22:26 If you take your neighbour’s garment as guarantee of a loan, you shall restore it to him before the sun goes down,-
Moses does not repeat every single commandment in the Law. Rather are there several themes of Moses in Deuteronomy presented. His choice of which ones he does repeat indicates his feelings towards Israel. His sensitivity towards the weakest and poorest of Israel comes out in this. He was reaching the spirit of the Lord Jesus, who said that the weakest of his brethren represented him (Mt. 25:40 Gk.). Thus Moses stresses how they were not to go into the house of a poor man to take back his pledge (Dt. 24:10); Moses could enter into the sense of shame and embarrassment of the poor man when a richer man enters his home. The Law in Exodus 22:26 did not stipulate that the house of the poor man should not be entered; by making this point in his farewell speech, Moses was showing his sensitivity, his ability now to enter into the feelings of the poorest of God's people. Indeed, the whole passage in Deuteronomy (Dt. 24:6-17) about pledges is quite an expansion upon what the Law actually said in Ex. 22. And this from a man who could have been the king of  Egypt, who could have had the world. What marvellous similarity with our Lord! 

It was forbidden by the Law to keep a man’s outer garment overnight (Ex. 22:26,27). But the Lord taught whilst the law was still in operation that we should be willing to give it up, and even offer it (Mt. 5:40). The threatened man could have quoted the Law and kept his clothing. But the Lord bids us go to a higher level, beyond using God’s law to uphold our own rights. And in this He raises a vital if difficult principle: Don’t always enforce what Biblical rights you have against your brother. Don’t rush to your own defence and justification even if Scripture is on your side. Live on the level of true love and non-resistance to evil.


Exo 22:27 for that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What would he sleep in? It will happen, when he cries to Me, that I will hear, for I am gracious-

Lev. 25:38 reasons that because of Israel's experience of the Red Sea redemption, therefore they were to have a generous spirit to their brother. Because the Egyptians were hard taskmasters, and Israel had been graciously saved from them, therefore they were not to be hard on each other (Lev. 25:40). If the oppressed [as Israel were oppressed] cry out unto you [as Israel cried out for their affliction], you must hear them, otherwise God will hear them and punish you, as if you are the Egyptian taskmaster (Ex. 22:24-27). Indeed, the whole Law of Moses is shot through with direct and indirect reference to the Red Sea experience. It was as if this was to be the motivator for their obedience and upholding of the culture of kindness which the Law sought to engender (Lev.23, 24; Dt. 17:7; 24:19-24). And our experience of redemption from this world ought to have the same effect.


Exo 22:28 You shall not blaspheme God, nor curse a ruler of your people.
Exo 22:29 You shall not delay to offer from your harvest and from the outflow of your presses. You shall give the firstborn of your sons to Me-

When you perceive an opportunity to do the Lord's service, respond immediately. See it as another opportunity for " redeeming the time" . This is a major Biblical theme. Israel were not to delay in offering their firstfruits to God (Ex. 22:29), lest their intentions weren't translated into practice. The disciples immediately left the ship, simply put their nets down and followed (Mt. 4:20,22); Matthew left his opened books and queue of clients in the tax office and walked out never to return (Lk. 5:17,18 implies). There is a marked theme in the NT of men and women hearing the Gospel and immediately responding by accepting baptism.

Exo 22:30 You shall do likewise with your cattle and with your sheep. Seven days it shall be with its mother, then on the eighth day you shall give it to Me.
Exo 22:31 You shall be holy men to Me, therefore you shall not eat any flesh that is torn by animals in the field. You shall cast it to the dogs-
This command wasn’t only for hygienic reasons. God wished to encourage His people to have a healthy work ethic, not taking short cuts, but eating animals they had raised themselves for that purpose. We live in a society where laziness and trying to live for free has become almost an art form. We cannot ultimately get around the curse, that we shall eat only as a result of the sweat of our own labour. We have to accept our humanity and our fallen condition, looking for the lifting of the curse in God’s future Kingdom.