In our study of Exodus chapter twenty two, we see that God's people are called to show compassion for those around us and we are to be an example to the rest of the world.
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"If someone steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters or sells it, he is to pay five oxen for an ox and four sheep for a sheep.
We are introduced to the principle of restitution for stolen property and we see that, if the stolen item cannot be returned, then, there is to be a greater penalty.
"If a thief caught in the act of breaking in is beaten to death, it is not murder; unless it happens after sunrise, in which case it is murder. A thief must make restitution; so if he has nothing, he himself is to be sold to make good the loss from the theft. If what he stole is found alive in his possession, he is to pay double, no matter whether it is an ox, a donkey or a sheep.
This passage gives us the principle that lethal force is not allowed to be used to defend property but only to defend life. We also see that a thief is to return twice what he has taken.
"If a person causes a field or vineyard to be grazed over or lets his animal loose to graze in someone else's field, he is to make restitution from the best produce of his own field and vineyard. "If a fire is started and spreads to thorns, so that stacked grain, standing grain or a field is destroyed, the person who lit it must make restitution.
Now we see the ruling about negligence and we see that the person who is careless must make restitution from the best of what he has.
"If a person entrusts a neighbor with money or goods, and they are stolen from the trustee's house, then, if the thief is found, he must pay double. But if the thief is not found, then the trustee must state before God that he did not take the person's goods himself.
If another's possessions are in your care and they are stolen and the thief is caught, then the thief must pay restitution. If the thief is not found, then, the one who was in possession of the item before it was stolen must go before the judges and and declare that he did not take the item.
In every case of dispute over ownership, whether of an ox, a donkey, a sheep, clothing, or any missing property, where one person says, 'This is mine,' both parties are to come before God; and the one whom God condemns must pay the other one double.
Now, we see that all criminal matters are to be presented to the judges and they will determine who has to pay restitution.
"If a person trusts a neighbor to look after a donkey, ox, sheep or any animal, and it dies, is injured or is driven away unseen, then the neighbor's oath before ADONAI that he has not taken the goods will settle the matter between them - the owner is to accept it without the neighbor's making restitution. But if it was stolen from the neighbor, he must make restitution to the owner. If it was torn to pieces by an animal, the neighbor must bring it as evidence, and then he doesn't need to make good the loss. "If someone borrows something from his neighbor, and it gets injured or dies with the owner not present, he must make restitution. If the owner was present, he need not make good the loss. If the owner hired it out, the loss is covered by the hiring fee.
Here, we see rulings about animals that are in another's care and something happens to it. In these cases the need for restitution is based on who was supervising the animal and whether it was a business transaction or not.
"If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price for her to be his wife. But if her father refuses to give her to him, he must pay a sum equivalent to the bride-price for virgins.
Now, we see the principle of legal marriage and we see that, once sexual activity has taken place, the man and woman that is presumed to be a virgin are married in the eyes of God. Then, they can either choose to honor the marriage with the payment of the bride-price or, if the father does not agree to the marriage, then, the marriage is void and he must be paid the bride-price anyway because the woman is no longer presumed to be a virgin. In all of this, we see that there is value associated with being a virgin.
"You are not to permit a sorceress to live.
Now, we see that a witch is to be put to death.
"Whoever has sexual relations with an animal must be put to death.
The penalty for beastiality is death.
"Anyone who sacrifices to any god other than ADONAI alone is to be completely destroyed.
The punishment for idolatry is death.
"You must neither wrong nor oppress a foreigner living among you, for you yourselves were foreigners in the land of Egypt.
This verse speaks of refugees and the treatment of them and we see that they must be treated with compassion.
"You are not to abuse any widow or orphan. If you do abuse them in any way, and they cry to me, I will certainly heed their cry. My anger will burn, and I will kill you with the sword - your own wives will be widows and your own children fatherless.
This principle deals with the proper treatment of widows and orphans and the fact that God watches over them.
"If you loan money to one of my people who is poor, you are not to deal with him as would a creditor; and you are not to charge him interest.
Here, we see the principle of giving to the poor believer and we see that we are not to give them a loan or to charge them interest but to simply give out of charity and compassion while maintaining their dignity.
If you take your neighbor's coat as collateral, you are to restore it to him by sundown, because it is his only garment - he needs it to wrap his body; what else does he have in which to sleep? Moreover, if he cries out to me, I will listen; because I am compassionate.
This is dealing with the very poor who are willing to give his very clothes or blankets in securing a loan. This shows a commitment to pay and returning it by sundown is an act of compassion and trust.
"You are not to curse God, and you are not to curse a leader of your people.
This verse speaks of showing respect to judges (elders) and leaders and this is not talking about secular judges and politicians but it is speaking of leaders in the faith.
"You are not to delay offering from your harvest of grain, olive oil or wine. "The firstborn of your sons you are to give to me. You are to do the same with your oxen and your sheep - it is to stay with its mother seven days, and on the eighth day you are to give it to me.
This passage speaks of the firstfruits and the fact that they belong to God.
"You are to be my specially separated people. Therefore you are not to eat any flesh torn by wild animals in the countryside; rather, throw it out for the dogs.
We see that the purpose behind all of these rulings is so that we, as God's people, will be set apart or different from the world around us. Finally, we see the principle that we are only to eat meat that has been properly dealt with and that refers to the principle of kosher foods and the fact that the harvesting of meat must be done in a specific manner to honor the blood. It also reminds us that every aspect of our lives is to be holy.