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Exodus 22:1-10

Context
Laws about Property

22:1 1 (21:37) 2  “If a man steals an ox or a sheep and kills it or sells it, he must pay back 3  five head of cattle for the ox, and four sheep for the one sheep. 4 

22:2 “If a thief is caught 5  breaking in 6  and is struck so that he dies, there will be no blood guilt for him. 7  22:3 If the sun has risen on him, then there is blood guilt for him. A thief 8  must surely make full restitution; if he has nothing, then he will be sold for his theft. 22:4 If the stolen item should in fact be found 9  alive in his possession, 10  whether it be an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he must pay back double. 11 

22:5 “If a man grazes 12  his livestock 13  in a field or a vineyard, and he lets the livestock loose and they graze in the field of another man, he must make restitution from the best of his own field and the best of his own vineyard.

22:6 “If a fire breaks out and spreads 14  to thorn bushes, 15  so that stacked grain or standing grain or the whole field is consumed, the one who started 16  the fire must surely make restitution.

22:7 “If a man gives his neighbor money or articles 17  for safekeeping, 18  and it is stolen from the man’s house, if the thief is caught, 19  he must repay double. 22:8 If the thief is not caught, 20  then the owner of the house will be brought before the judges 21  to see 22  whether he has laid 23  his hand on his neighbor’s goods. 22:9 In all cases of illegal possessions, 24  whether for an ox, a donkey, a sheep, a garment, or any kind of lost item, about which someone says ‘This belongs to me,’ 25  the matter of the two of them will come before the judges, 26  and the one whom 27  the judges declare guilty 28  must repay double to his neighbor. 22:10 If a man gives his neighbor a donkey or an ox or a sheep or any beast to keep, and it dies or is hurt 29  or is carried away 30  without anyone seeing it, 31 

1 sn The next section of laws concerns property rights. These laws protected property from thieves and oppressors, but also set limits to retribution. The message could be: God’s laws demand that the guilty make restitution for their crimes against property and that the innocent be exonerated.

2 sn Beginning with 22:1, the verse numbers through 22:31 in the English Bible differ from the verse numbers in the Hebrew text (BHS), with 22:1 ET = 21:37 HT, 22:2 ET = 22:1 HT, etc., through 22:31 ET = 22:30 HT. Thus in the English Bible ch. 22 has 31 verses, while in the Hebrew Bible it has 30 verses, with the one extra verse attached to ch. 21 in the Hebrew Bible.

3 tn The imperfect tense here has the nuance of obligatory imperfect – he must pay back.

4 tn בָּקַר (baqar) and צֹאן (tson) are the categories to which the ox and the sheep belonged, so that the criminal had some latitude in paying back animals.

5 tn Heb “found” (so KJV, ASV, NRSV).

6 tn The word בַּמַּחְתֶּרֶת (bammakhteret) means “digging through” the walls of a house (usually made of mud bricks). The verb is used only a few times and has the meaning of dig in (as into houses) or row hard (as in Jonah 1:13).

7 tn The text has “there is not to him bloods.” When the word “blood” is put in the plural, it refers to bloodshed, or the price of blood that is shed, i.e., blood guiltiness.

sn This law focuses on what is reasonable defense against burglary. If someone killed a thief who was breaking in during the night, he was not charged because he would not have known it was just a thief, but if it happened during the day, he was guilty of a crime, on the assumption that in daylight the thief posed no threat to the homeowner’s life and could be stopped and made to pay restitution.

8 tn The words “a thief” have been added for clarification. S. R. Driver (Exodus, 224) thinks that these lines are out of order, since some of them deal with killing the thief and then others with the thief making restitution, but rearranging the clauses is not a necessary way to bring clarity to the paragraph. The idea here would be that any thief caught alive would pay restitution.

9 tn The construction uses a Niphal infinitive absolute and a Niphal imperfect: if it should indeed be found. Gesenius says that in such conditional clauses the infinitive absolute has less emphasis, but instead emphasizes the condition on which some consequence depends (see GKC 342-43 §113.o).

10 tn Heb “in his hand.”

11 sn He must pay back one for what he took, and then one for the penalty – his loss as he was inflicting a loss on someone else.

12 tn The verb בָּעַר (baar, “graze”) as a denominative from the word “livestock” is not well attested. So some have suggested that with slight changes this verse could be read: “If a man cause a field or a vineyard to be burnt, and let the burning spread, and it burnt in another man’s field” (see S. R. Driver, Exodus, 225).

13 tn The phrase “his livestock” is supplied from the next clause.

14 tn Heb “if a fire goes out and finds”; NLT “if a fire gets out of control.”

15 sn Thorn bushes were used for hedges between fields, but thorn bushes also burned easily, making the fire spread rapidly.

16 tn This is a Hiphil participle of the verb “to burn, kindle” used substantivally. This is the one who caused the fire, whether by accident or not.

17 tn The word usually means “vessels” but can have the sense of household goods and articles. It could be anything from jewels and ornaments to weapons or pottery.

18 tn Heb “to keep.” Here “safekeeping,” that is, to keep something secure on behalf of a third party, is intended.

19 tn Heb “found.”

20 tn Heb “found.”

21 tn Here again the word used is “the gods,” meaning the judges who made the assessments and decisions. In addition to other works, see J. R. Vannoy, “The Use of the Word ha’elohim in Exodus 21:6 and 22:7,8,” The Law and the Prophets, 225-41.

22 tn The phrase “to see” has been supplied.

23 tn The line says “if he has not stretched out his hand.” This could be the oath formula, but the construction here would be unusual, or it could be taken as “whether” (see W. C. Kaiser, Jr., “Exodus,” EBC 2:438). U. Cassuto (Exodus, 286) does not think the wording can possibly fit an oath; nevertheless, an oath would be involved before God (as he takes it instead of “judges”) – if the man swore, his word would be accepted, but if he would not swear, he would be guilty.

24 tn Heb “concerning every kind [thing] of trespass.”

25 tn The text simply has “this is it” (הוּא זֶה, huzeh).

26 tn Again, or “God.”

27 tn This kind of clause Gesenius calls an independent relative clause – it does not depend on a governing substantive but itself expresses a substantival idea (GKC 445-46 §138.e).

28 tn The verb means “to be guilty” in Qal; in Hiphil it would have a declarative sense, because a causative sense would not possibly fit.

29 tn The form is a Niphal participle from the verb “to break” – “is broken,” which means harmed, maimed, or hurt in any way.

30 tn This verb is frequently used with the meaning “to take captive.” The idea here then is that raiders or robbers have carried off the animal.

31 tn Heb “there is no one seeing.”



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