- The laws of this chapter relate, I. To the eighth commandment, concerning theft, verse 1-4 Trespass by cattle, verse
- 5. Damage by fire, verse 6.
- Trusts, verse 7-13.
- Borrowing cattle, verse 14, 15.
- Or money, verse 25-27.
- II. To the seventh commandment. Against fornication, verse 16, 17.
- Bestiality, verse 19.
- III. To the first table. Forbidding witchcraft, verse 18.
- Idolatry, verse 20.
- Commanding to offer the first-fruits, verse 29.
- 30. IV. To the poor, verse 21-24.
- V. To the civil government, verse 28.
- VI. To the Jewish nation, verse 13.
Five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep - More for an ox than for a sheep, because the owner, besides all the other profit, lost the daily labour of his ox. If we were not able to make restitution, he must be sold for a slave: the court of judgment was to do it, and it is likely the person robbed received the money. Thus with us in some cases, felons are transported to the Plantations, where only, Englishmen know what slavery is. But let it be observed, the sentence is not slavery, but banishment: nor can any Englishman be sold, unless he first indent himself to the captain that carries him over.
If a thief broke a house in the night, and was killed in the doing it, his blood was upon his own head. But if it were in the day-time that the thief was killed, he that killed him was accountable for it, unless it were in the necessary defence of his own life.
For he should make full restitution - This the law determined: not that he should die.
In his hand alive - Not killed, nor sold, as Exodus 22:1, so that the owner recover it with less charge and trouble.
He that wilfully put his cattle into his neighbour's field, must make restitution of the best of his own. The Jews hence observed it as a general rule, that restitution must always be made of the best; and that no man should keep any cattle that were likely to trespass upon his neighbour, or do him any damage.
He that designed only the burning of thorns might become accessary to the burning of corn, and should not be held guiltless. If the fire did mischief, he that kindled it must answer for it, though it could not be proved that he designed the mischief. Men must suffer for their carelessness, as well as for their malice. It will make us very careful of ourselves, if we consider that we are accountable not only for the hurt we do, but for the hurt we occasion through inadvertency.
If a man deliver goods, suppose to a carrier to be conveyed, or to a warehouse-keeper to be preserved, or cattle to a farmer to be fed upon a valuable consideration, and a special confidence reposed in the person they are lodged with; in case these goods be stolen or lost, perish or be damaged, if it appear that it was not by any fault of the trustee, the owner must stand to the loss, otherwise he that has been false to his trust must be compelled to make satisfaction.
If a man (suppose) lent his team to his neighbour, if the owner were with it, or were to receive profit for the loan of it, whatever harm befel the cattle the owner must stand to the loss of it: but if the owner were so kind to the borrower as to lend it him gratis, and put such a confidence in him as to trust it from under his own eye, then, if any harm happened, the borrower must make it good. Learn hence to be very careful not to abuse any thing that is lent to us; it is not only unjust but base and disingenuous, we should much rather chuse to lose ourselves, than that any should sustain loss by their kindness to us.
If the father refused, he shall pay money - This shews how ill a thing it is, and by no means to be allowed, that children should marry without their parents consent: even here where the divine law appointed the marriage, both as a punishment to him that had done wrong, and a recompence to her that had suffered wrong, yet there was an express reservation for the father's power; if he denied his consent, it must be no marriage.
Witchcraft not only gives that honour to the devil which is due to God alone, but bids defiance to the divine providence, wages war with God's government, puts his work into the devil's hand expecting him to do good and evil. By our law, consulting, covenanting with, invocating or employing any evil spirit to any intent whatever, and exercising any enchantment, charm, or sorcery, whereby hurt shall be done to any person, is made felony, without benefit of clergy; also pretending to tell where goods lost or stolen may be found, is an iniquity punishable by the judge, and the second offence with death. This was the case in former times. But we are wiser than our fore-fathers. We believe, no witch ever did live! At least, not for these thousand years.
A stranger must not be abused, not wronged in judgment by the magistrates, not imposed upon in contracts, nor any advantage taken of his ignorance or necessity, no, nor must he be taunted, or upbraided with his being a stranger; for all these were vexations. For ye were strangers in Egypt - And knew what it was to be vexed and oppressed there. Those that have themselves been in poverty and distress, if Providence enrich and enlarge them, ought to shew a particular tenderness towards those that are now in such circumstances as they were in formerly, now doing to them as they then wished to be done by.
Ye shall not afflict the widow or fatherless child - That is, ye shall comfort and assist them, and be ready upon all occasions to shew them kindness. In making just demands from them, their condition must be considered who have lost those that should protect them: they are supposed to be unversed in business, destitute of advice, timorous, and of a tender spirit; and therefore must be treated with kindness and compassion, and no advantage taken against them, nor any hardship put upon them, which a husband or a father would have sheltered them from.
If thou lend - (1.) They must not receive use for money from any that borrowed for necessity. And such provision the law made for the preserving estates to their families by the year of Jubilee, that a people who had little concern in trade could not be supposed to borrow money but for necessity; therefore it was generally forbidden among themselves; but to a stranger they were allowed to lend upon usury. This law therefore in the strictness of it seems to have been peculiar to the Jewish state; but in the equity of it, it obligeth us to shew mercy to those we have advantage against, and to be content to share with those we lend to in loss as well as profit, if Providence cross them: and upon this condition it seems as lawful to receive interest for my money, which another takes pains with, and improves, as it is to receive rent for my land, which another takes pains with, and improves, for his own use. (2.) They must not take a poor man's bed-clothes in pawn; but if they did, must restore them by bed-time.
Thou shalt not revile the gods - That is, the judges and magistrates. Princes and magistrates are our fathers, whom the fifth commandment obligeth us to honour, and forbids us to revile. St. Paul applies this law to himself, and owns that he ought not to speak evil of the ruler of his people, no, not though he was then his most unrighteous persecutor, Acts 23:5.
The first-born of thy sons shalt thou give unto me - And much more reason have we to give ourselves and all we have to God, who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all. The first ripe of their corn they must not delay to offer; there is danger if we delay our duty, lest we wholly omit it; and by slipping the first opportunity in expectation of another, we suffer Satan to cheat us of all our time.
Ye shall be holy unto me - And one mark of that honourable distinction is appointed in their diet, which was, that they should not eat any flesh that was torn of beasts - Both because the blood was not duly taken out of it, and because the clean beast was ceremonially defiled, by the touch of the unclean.