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David Guzik's Commentaries
on the Bible

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Chapter 23
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Exodus 22 - More Laws to Direct Judges

A. Laws regarding personal property and restitution.

1. (1-4) Restitution required in cases of theft.

a. The Mosaic law knew nothing of sending a person to jail because of theft; the thief was simply required to pay back what he had stolen, plus twenty percent - or, one hundred percent in some cases (if the theft is certainly found alive in his hand).

b. If the person was unable to pay back what was stolen, plus the penalty, they were to be sold as indentured laborers, with the money from the sale going to the victim.

c. This concern for victims of crimes is almost completely lacking in our modern legal philosophy, which seems far more concerned with the rights of criminals than the rights of victims.

d. The owner of property had the right to protect his property with force - but only with reasonable force. It was assumed that if it was daylight, the property owner could defend himself short of lethal force.

2. (5-8) Further application of the principle of restitution.

a. The owner of an animal was responsible for where the animal would graze; he had to respect his neighbor's property (the grazing land).

b. Restitution was also required in cases of vandalism or foolish negligence, even if one was keeping property of another. In the Mosaic legal system, a great premium was put on personal responsibility, even with another's property.

i. This translates into a proper concern for the property of others today. A Christian, if he backs into someone else's car, will certainly leave a note and make good the damage. A Christian will have proper insurance, guaranteeing they can compensate for someone else's loss.

ii. If someone gives you something to keep for them, you are responsible for it. This includes what God gives us to keep for Him!

c. Restitution was paid according to a pre-determined amount or percentage; it was not left to the whims of the victims or the judges.

3. (9-13) More application of the principle of restitution.

a. When testimony was given, a man's word was taken as true unless proven otherwise. This is basis of the legal principle of the accused being innocent unless proven guilty.

b. The New Testament makes it clear that believers should not take legal disputes among themselves to secular judges; they should allow the matter to be judged by the church (1 Corinthians 6:1-8).

4. (14-15) Restitution principles applied to borrowing and lending.

B. Moral and ceremonial laws.

1. (16-17) The remedy for pre-marital sex.

a. Some will say that this passage does not prohibit pre-marital sex; but it does in practice, because it requires a man to either marry or provide for a woman he has pre-marital sex with.

b. This law emphasizes the principle that there is no such thing as "casual" sex; both Old and New Testaments state that sexual relations carry lasting consequences (1 Corinthians 6:15-16).

i. "This was an exceedingly wise and humane law, and must have operated powerfully against seduction and fornication; because the person who might feel inclined to take the advantage of a young woman knew that he must marry her, and giver her a dowry" (Clarke).

c. This law is only effective when virginity is prized among women; here, a woman's virginity is her guarantee that she cannot be treated "cheaply".

i. Far too many people - especially women - sell themselves cheaply by easily giving away their virginity. A man illustrated this with a true story about a friend who owned an antique store and had a table for sale. The table was worth $600, but was marked down to $300. A man tried to bargain her down to $200, and not only did she refuse, but she realized the true value of the table, and upped the price to its true worth - even when offered $300. The man finally bought the table for $600, and certainly treated it like a $600 table - because it's worth had been fought for. Many women who know they are being treated shabbily by men have contributed to the problem by selling themselves cheaply.

2. (18-20) Three capital crimes.

a. The practice of sorcery was almost always associated with "medicinal arts" (the taking of drugs) in the ancient world, and was therefore a connection between drug taking and occultic practices.

b. This was considered a severe enough threat that sorcery was considered a capital crime - the link between drugs and the occult was rightly seen as deadly.

c. Bestiality was practiced in the ancient world, and God's Word specifically prohibits it. However, if we will not allow God's Word to inform our sexual morality, why should this be considered wrong? .

i. If we will throw out God's Word when it comes to other areas of sexual morality, where will we draw the line? How can we say sex with animals, children, or the dead is wrong if the ethic is "if it feels good, do it"?

ii. In response to their university's sponsorship of GLAD (Gay/Lesbian Awareness Days), a university group answered with BAD (Bestiality Awareness Days) - but were not allowed to have their own "celebration" - why?

3. (21-27) Compassion for the poor and weak.

a. A good measure of our moral character is found in how we treat a stranger; people have often found it easy to treat their own flesh and blood right, but God commands us to have a concern for others - including the stranger.

i. The hatred and strife between ethnic and national groups shows just how little humanity has progressed .

ii. How accommodating are we to the stranger among us? Do we stay with our own safe group, and enjoy all the blessings, or are we outreaching and out-looking to be a blessing to others?

b. The widow and fatherless child were the weakest and most vulnerable members of society; a special care and concern for them is commanded - by a God who promises to protect them.

c. Interest was prohibited on loans made to the poor; and any taking collateral had to be reasonable.

i. This did not prohibit the taking of interest on loans that were not for relief of the poor.

ii. "It is evident that what is here said must be understood of accumulated usury, or what we call compound interest only; and accordingly neshech is mentioned with and distinguished from tarbith and marbith, interest or simple interest, Leviticus 25:36,37; Proverbs 28:8; Ezekiel 18:8, 13, 17, and 22:12." (Clarke).

d. Jesus came from a poor family; when He was dedicated in the temple, shortly after His birth, the sacrifice was that of a poor family: two birds (Luke 2:24).

4. (28-31) Laws regarding holiness and separation unto God.

a. The most basic battle for holiness is always with the tongue; God cares how we talk about Him and those He has put us into submission to.

b. We also respect God by giving Him His due; if we are commanded to give something to God, it is a sin to not give it.

c. We are commanded to act differently than the animals; we are not scavengers who tear at carcasses as animals do. This reinforces the basic idea of holiness - we are set apart, different.

Copyright Statement
David Guzik's Commentaries on the Bible are reproduced by permission of David Guzik, Siegen, Germany. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Guzik, David. "Commentary on Exodus 22". "David Guzik's Commentaries
on the Bible". <>. 1997-2003.  


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