For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2005 James Melough

22:1.  “If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.”


The greater penalty for stealing an ox may have been to compensate the owner not only for the animal, but also for the work it could have been doing.  No such loss resulted from theft of a sheep.


22:2.  “If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.”


The next verse makes it clear that this command related to a nighttime theft, and in such a case the slayer was absolved from guilt.


22:3.  “If the sun be risen upon him, there shall be blood shed for him; for he should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.”


Where the thief was killed while stealing in daylight his killer was guilty of murder, because he could identify the man, and should have taken the matter to the judges, who would have compelled the thief to make full restitution, or be sold as a slave and the money given the victim as compensation.


22:4.  “If the theft be certainly found in his hand alive, whether it be ox, or ass, or sheep; he shall restore double.”


This verse needs no clarification.


22:5.  “If a man shall cause a field or vineyard to be eaten, and shall put in his beast, and shall feed in another man’s field; of the best of his own field, and of the best of his own vineyard, shall he make restitution.”


If a man put his animal into another man’s field to graze, or if he stole grapes from another man’s vineyard, he was to repay with the best from his own field or vineyard.


22:6.  “If fire break out, and catch in thorns, so that the stacks of corn, or the standing corn, or the field, be consumed therewith; he that kindled the fire shall surely make restitution.


Where a man had kindled a fire that spread and destroyed another’s growing or stacked corn, or field, he must make full restitution.


22:7.  “If a man shall deliver unto his neighbor money or stuff to keep, and it be stolen out of the man’s house, if the thief be found, let him pay double.”


This verse is self-explanatory.


22:8.  “If the thief be not found, then the master of the house shall be brought unto the judges, to see whether he have put his hand unto his neighbor’s goods.”


22:9.  “For all manner of trespass, whether it be for ox, for ass, for sheep, for raiment, or for any manner of lost thing, which another challengeth to be his, the cause of both parties shall come before the judges; and whom the judges condemn, he shall pay double unto his neighbor.”


These verses need no explanation.


22:10.  “If a man deliver unto his neighbor an ass, or an ox, or a sheep, and it die, or be hurt, or driven away, no man seeing it:”


22:11.  “Then shall an oath of the Lord be between them both, that he hath not put his hand unto his neighbor’s goods; and the owner of it shall accept thereof, and he shall not make it good.”


Where the animal died, was injured, or disappeared without its being known whether it had wandered off or been stolen, the custodian was to swear that he was innocent of any wrongdoing; and the neighbor was to believe him, and exonerate him from any responsibility.


22:12.  “And if it be stolen from him, he shall make restitution unto the owner thereof.”


His having accepted custody of the animal made him responsible, hence his having to make restitution.


22:13.  “If it be torn in pieces, then let him bring it for witness, and he shall not make good that which was torn.”


Since this could have happened to the animal while in the care of its owner, the custodian was relieved of any responsibility, except to present the carcase to verify his word.


22:14.  “And if a man borrow ought of his neighbor, and it be hurt, or die, the owner thereof being not with it, he shall surely make it good.”


An ox or ass, hurt or dying while under the care of a borrower, rendered him liable, and he must recompense its owner its full value.


22:15.  “But if the owner thereof be with it, he shall not make it good: if it be an hired thing, it came for his hire.”


If the owner of an animal he had hired to another was with it when it was hurt or died, he had no claim on the hirer.


22:16.  “And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.”


If a man seduced a young woman not engaged to another, he was to marry her, and pay her parents the equivalent of the dowry she would normally have been bringing to her husband.


22:17.  “If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.”


Where the father refused to give his daughter to the man, he, the seducer, still had to pay the amount of the dowry.


22:18.  “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”


A witch was a woman who whispered spells or enchantments, practiced sorcery, magic, etc., sorcery being defined as the activity of one thought to have supernatural powers granted by evil spirits.  That there are such women is further attested by 1 Samuel 28, which records Saul’s consultation with the witch at Endor.


22:19.  “Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death.”


Anyone guilty of beastiality, i.e., engaging in sex with an animal, was to be executed.


22:20.  “He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed.”


Idolatry was also a capital offence.  Jehovah only is to be worshiped.


22:21.  “Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.”


A stranger was an alien, and whether resident or transient, he was not to be affronted, harried, or expelled.  The Israelites were to remember that they, while aliens in Egypt, had been cruelly treated.


22:22.  “Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.”


“...afflict” here means to treat harshly, humiliate, oppress, exploit, etc.


22:23.  “If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry;”


22:24.  “And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.”


The Lord would respond in fierce anger to the cry of the afflicted, causing the oppressors to be slain with the swords of their enemies, leaving their wives widows, and their children orphans.


22:25.  “If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as a usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury.”


Usury means to lend money, usually at an exorbitant interest rate, and this the Israelites were forbidden to do; and while it seems that a reasonable interest rate was ordinarily permitted in the case of money lent to Gentiles, money lent to Israelites and to the poor was to be interest-free, see Deuteronomy 23:20.


22:26.  “If thou at all take thy neighbor’s raiment to pledge, thou shalt deliver it unto him by that the sun goeth down:”


22:27.  “For that is his covering only, it is his raiment for his skin: wherein shall he sleep? and it shall come to pass, when he crieth unto me, that I will hear; for I am gracious.”


This virtually forbade the taking of a poor man’s clothing as pledge for repayment of a loan, for nothing would be gained by taking it in the morning and returning it at sundown, when he needed it for warmth.


The lender’s violation would evoke God’s quick and angry response.


22:28.  “Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people.”


The gods were the judges, and no evil was to be spoken of them; neither was the prince or king to be cursed.  The same respect is also enjoined in the NT, see, e.g., 1 Timothy 2:1, “I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority ....”


22:29.  “Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me.”


God was to be acknowledged as the Giver of all things by offering Him not only the firstfruits of their fields and vineyards, but by offering Him also their firstborn sons, this being done symbolically by presenting a lamb as a substitute, according to God’s direction, see Numbers 3:45-51.


22:30.  “Likewise shalt thou do with thine oxen, and with thy sheep: seven days it shall be with his dam; on the eighth day thou shalt give it me.”


The firstborn of their oxen and sheep were also claimed by God, and were to be offered when they were eight days old.


22:31.  “And ye shall be holy men unto me: neither shall ye eat any flesh that is torn of beasts in the field; ye shall cast it to the dogs.”


They themselves were to demonstrate that they belonged to God, their consecration being attested by the holiness of their lives.


The proscription of the flesh of clean animals that had been killed by wild beasts is related to the fact that the clean animals were types of the Lord Jesus Christ, and God, even in the types, would guard against even the suggestion that His Son’s death was anything but a voluntary sacrifice, offered to glorify the Father, and secure the redemption of the souls of believing men and women.  The Lord Himself declared, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.  No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.  This commandment have I received of my Father,” John 10:17-18.


The casting of the torn flesh to the dogs may be the symbolic announcement of the fact that those who see Christ’s death as being anything less than a voluntary sacrifice for the expiation of sin, thus make themselves as dogs, i.e., unclean in God’s sight.

[Exodus 23]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough