The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Exodus 22

Exo 22:1

Vv 1-9: Restitution varies here according to several factors. First, restitution varies, depending on whether the stolen animal is recovered. Second, restitution varies according to the value of the animal, especially with regard to the productivity of the beast. If a man's ox was stolen, the fields could not be plowed, the wagon pulled, or the grain threshed. Thus, a stolen (and not recovered) ox was to be paid for fivefold, while a sheep only fourfold. In Lev 6, the sacrificial system provided a means for the thief to repent, to make restitution, and to obtain forgiveness. In the New Testament, Zaccheus demonstrated his repentance by restoring fourfold what he had wrongly taken (Luke 19:8-10).

Restitution kept the offender out of prison, and kept him in society. It also enabled him to make his offense right by repaying the victim of the crime in a way that replaced the harm by a positive benefit. Thus, both the offender and the offended could live together, both with a sense of justice and human dignity. Today, most often, the victim receives little or no compensation, the offender makes no restitution, and is forced to live apart from society, at a price society is penalized to pay.

Restitution is a corrective, but not a cure for the crime of stealing. The Bible clearly prescribes the cure, especially in the New Testament. Crime would have the thief get ahead at the expense of one's neighbor. Justice would have one person gain while, at the same time, the other party gained equally. Jesus Christ teaches that we should be willing to sacrifice our own interests if that benefits our neighbor: "Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you" (Mat 5:42). "And if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same thing. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men" (Luk 6:32-35).

Christ calls for nothing less than a complete reversal of the attitudes and actions of the thief: "Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need (Eph 4:28).

The thief does not wish to work, but rather to live off of others who work. The thief looks upon the needy as the vulnerable, whose weaknesses he may very well use to his advantage, and thus to prey upon them. The Christian must put away laziness and go to work. The Christian views the needs of others as the opportunity to manifest the love and grace of God to men, and thus reaches out to help, giving of his own resources.

Exo 22:6

Very seldom in the East are there roads, fences, etc to divide fields of one man from another. Thus fires spread very rapidly (LB 343).

Exo 22:8

JUDGES: "Elohim", or "God" (NIV mg).

Exo 22:16

SEDUCES: Or "entices" (AV). This, in ct to Deu 22:28,29 ("forced" or "rapes... violated": NIV).

Exo 22:26

Great extremes of climate in the East. May be very hot during the day (and thus no need for an outer garment), but very cold at night.

Exo 22:28

GOD: "Elohim", or "judges" (AV mg; NIV mg). Translated "gods" (AV)!

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