If a thief is caught breaking in and is beaten to death, no one shall be guilty of bloodshed.
I. THEFT (vers. 1-5). The illustrations in the law relate to thefts of cattle. But the principles embodied apply to thefts generally (cf. ver. 7). Note -
1. The law which punishes the theft, protects the thief's life. It refuses, indeed, to be responsible for him in the event of his being smitten in the night-time, while engaged in the act of housebreaking (ver. 2) - large rights of self-defence being in this case necessary for the protection of the community. The thief might be killed under a misapprehension of his purpose; or by a blow struck at random in the darkness, and under the influence of panic; or in justifiable self-defence, in a scuffle arising from the attempt to detain him. In other circumstances, the law will not allow the thief's life to be taken (ver. 3). All the ends of justice are served by his being compelled to make restitution. Blood is not to be spilt needlessly. The killing of a thief after sunrise is to be dealt with as murder. We infer from this that theft ought not to be made a capital offence. English law, at the beginning of this century, was, in this respect, far behind the law of Moses.
2. Theft is to be dealt with on the principle of restitution.
(1) It calls for more than simple restitution. At most the restitution of the simple equivalent brings matters back to the position in which they were before the criminal act was committed. That position ought never to have been disturbed; and punishment is still due to the wrongdoer for having disturbed it. Hence the law that if the stolen animal is found in the thief's hand alive, he shall restore double (ver. 4); if he has gone the length of killing or selling it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep (ver. 1).
(2) Penalty is proportioned to offence. Both as respects the value of the things stolen, and as respects the lengths to which criminality has proceeded.
3. If direct restitution is impossible, the thief shall be compelled to make restitution by his labour - "He shall be sold for his theft" (ver. 3). It would be an improvement in the administration of justice if this principle were more frequently acted on. The imprisoned thief might be made to work out an equivalent for his theft; and this, in addition to the hardships of his imprisonment, might be accepted as legal restitution.
II. DAMAGE (vers. 5, 6). The damage done, in the one case to a field or vineyard, by allowing a beast to stray into it, and feed upon the produce; in the other, by setting fire to thorn hedges, and injuring the corn-stacks, or standing corn, is supposed to be unintentional. Yet, as arising from preventible causes - from carelessness and neglect - the owner of the beast, or the person who kindled the fire, is held responsible. He must make good the damage from the best of his own possessions. We are held fully responsible for the consequences of neglect (cf. Hebrews 2:3).
III. DISHONEST RETENTION OF PROPERTY (vers. 7-14). Cases of this kind involved judicial investigation.
1. If the charge of dishonest retention was made out, the fraudulent party was to restore double (ver. 9).
2. If an ox, ass, sheep, or any beast, entrusted. to another to keep, died, was hurt, or was driven away, "no man seeing it," the person responsible for its safety could clear himself by an oath from the suspicion of having unlawfully "put his hand" to it (ver. 11). In this case, he was not required to make good the loss.
3. If, however, the animal was stolen from his premises, under circumstances which implied a want of proper care, he was required to make restitution (ver. 12).
4. If the animal was alleged to have been torn to pieces, the trustee was required to prove this by producing the mangled remains (ver. 13).
IV. Loss OF WHAT IS BORROWED (vers. 14, 15).
1. If the owner is not with his property, the borrower is bound to make good loss by injury or death.
2. If the owner is with it, the borrower is not held responsible.
3. If the article or beast be lent on hire, the hire is regarded as covering the risk. - J.O.
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
1. As a stern and diabolical reality (Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:9).
2. As unlawful trafficking with the unseen world (Leviticus 19:31; Isaiah 8:19, "For the living to the dead," i.e., on behalf the living to the dead).
3. As sometimes trickery and imposture (Isaiah 8:19), "that peep and mutter" (probably ventriloquise. See art. Smith's Bible Dictionary, Smith's Dic. Bible).
4. As filthy defilement (Leviticus 19:31).
5. As deserving death (Leviticus 20:6. cf. text).
6. As one of the crimes for which the Canaanites were destroyed.
7. As inconsistent with a trust in God (Isaiah 8:19).
8. As frustrated by God (Isaiah 44:25).
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. In this country we only meet with it now in the form of spiritualism, 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 conviction of those who disbelieved.
3. And why does it shun the light? For the old reason (John 3:19-21).
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 (Deuteronomy 29:29).
3. Because it is "another gospel" (Galatians 1:8).
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.
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 (Isaiah 8:19), when there is a firm trust in God.
2. For good (Luke 16:27-31), when there is no such trust.
(J. W. Burn.)
TopicsAccount, Act, Alive, Ass, Beast, Blood, Bloodguiltiness, Blood-guiltiness, Bloodshed, Blow, Breaking, Caught, Caused, Death, Defender, Die, Died, Dies, Dieth, Double, Encountered, Forcing, Guilt, Guilty, Owner, Ox, Pay, Possession, Responsible, Shed, Sheep, Smitten, Stolen, Struck, Thief, Whether
Outline1. Of Theft
5. Of damage
7. Of trespasses
14. Of borrowing
16. Of fornication
18. Of witchcraft
19. Of bestiality
20. Of idolatry
21. Of strangers, widows, and fatherless
25. Of usury
26. Of pledges
28. Of reverence to magistrates
29. Of the first fruits
31. Of torn flesh
Dictionary of Bible ThemesExodus 22:2
LibraryExcursus on Usury.
The famous canonist Van Espen defines usury thus: "Usura definitur lucrum ex mutuo exactum aut speratum;"  and then goes on to defend the proposition that, "Usury is forbidden by natural, by divine, and by human law. The first is proved thus. Natural law, as far as its first principles are concerned, is contained in the decalogue; but usury is prohibited in the decalogue, inasmuch as theft is prohibited; and this is the opinion of the Master of the Sentences, of St. Bonaventura, of St. Thomas …
Philip Schaff—The Seven Ecumenical Councils
Parable of the Importunate Widow.
Ciii. Zacchæus. Parable of the Pounds. Journey to Jerusalem.
Epistle Xl. To Mauricius Augustus.
Appeal to the Christian Women of the South
Epistle xvii. To Felix, Bishop of Messana.
Feast of the Dedication. The Jews Attempt to Stone Jesus and He Retires to Peræa.
A Summary of the Christian Life. Of Self-Denial.
Jesus' Last Public Discourse. Denunciation of Scribes and Pharisees.
Circumcision, Temple Service, and Naming of Jesus.
The Development of the Earlier Old Testament Laws
The Blessing of Jacob Upon Judah. (Gen. Xlix. 8-10. )
The Eighth Commandment
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