If what was stolen is actually found alive in his possession--whether ox or donkey or sheep--he must pay back double.
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.
I. God asks for the first ripe fruits of our EDUCATION. The wise man's education is never finished. To cease to learn is to cease to grow; to cease to grow is to decay in force and faculty. Yet there is a special sense in which education ceases. The youth leaves school, the scholar the university, the apprentice is "out of his time." Then we have to think and act for ourselves, and use the knowledge we have acquired. We have to face the great questions that concern man's life and destiny. Then God asks from us the first ripe fruits of our education in the use of our intelligence and feeling and conscience. He asks us to face these great questions; to think soberly and ponder the path of our feet.
II. God asks from us the first ripe fruits of our TOIL. The Jews gave this in kind — from flock, vineyard, or field. We give an equivalent — money. The first money earned is the first-fruits of toil. From that lay by something for God.
III. God asks from us the first ripe fruits of our CONVERSION. I have often seen a child so overcome with an unexpected gift that he has forgotten to say "Thank you," but surely Christ does not expect such forgetfulness from those whom He has snatched from the burning.
IV. Then there are some first-fruits of EXPERIENCE which God commands us to offer to Him. "I have learned by experience" is the confession sometimes of self-convicted folly, sometimes of grateful wonder. How near have we been to spiritual death! How well hidden the pit. falls under our feet! How strong the arms that have held us up! How wonderful the consolations! How sweet the grace of the Divine! So experience enriches the soil in which we are planted to produce a lustier and richer growth. Now to offer to God the first ripe fruits of experience is surely to learn and profit by its lessons. It is to remember; to take warning; to know our own selves — our peculiar weaknesses and danger; it is to trust God more and self less; to look for larger answers to prayer, and more wonderful vindications of faith.
V. Does not God want THOSE LOVELY AND PRECIOUS FRUITS WHICH GROW ON THE HOUSEHOLD VINE? The only true dedication of children to God is that Christian nurture which leads to their dedicating themselves.
(R. B. Brindley.).
TopicsActually, Alive, Animal, Ass, Bloodguilt, Certainly, Donkey, Double, Ox, Pay, Possession, Property, Repayeth, Restore, Risen, Sheep, Stole, Stolen, Theft, Twice, Value, Whatever, 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 22:4
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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