Chapter 22

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Deeds that concealed the evidence of theft were punished more severely than cases where the evidence readily established who had committed the theft. A thief who sold or slaughtered a stolen bull or sheep had to make compensation with five bulls for one bull and with four sheep for one sheep. If the stolen bull or sheep remained in the possession of the thief, the required compensation for a bull, a donkey, or a sheep was double for what the individual stole. (22:1, 4 [21:37; 22:3)

At night, when an intruder could not be identified, the homeowner would not be considered bloodguilty if he fatally struck a thief who had broken into his house. After sunrise, however, the thief could be identified. Therefore, the homeowner would be considered bloodguilty if he killed the thief. A thief was required to make restitution for his crime. If he had nothing with which to pay the required compensation, he would be sold for his theft and remain enslaved until the prescribed amount was paid. (22:2, 3 [22:1, 2])

A man who disregarded the property rights of another man had to compensate the injured party for the damage he caused. Letting domestic animals graze in someone else’s field or vineyard required that the guilty party make restitution with the best part of his own field or of his own vineyard. (22:5 [22:4])

Negligence relating to fire required compensating for any damage caused to someone else’s property. The individual responsible for the fire that spread to thorns and then to stacked or standing grain or a field had to make full restitution. (22:6 [22:5])

If a man gave “silver” (money) or valuable items to his fellow for safekeeping and a theft occurred in the house, the thief, when caught, had to pay double in compensation for whatever he stole. Whenever the thief could not be found, the owner of the house, where the specific items had been left for safekeeping, was required to establish his innocence, declaring before God that he had not personally put out his hand to take his fellow’s items. (22:7, 8 [22:6, 7])

If a man claimed that a domestic animal (bull, donkey, or sheep), an article of clothing, or any type of lost items in the possession of another man really belonged to him, both parties had to come “before God.” This likely meant that they had to appear before the judges who represented God. Then, evidently through the judges, God would condemn the guilty party (either the man in possession of property that did not belong to him or the man who had falsely accused the other man of having taken his property). The guilty party would be required to pay double the value of the property (either the misappropriated property or the property concerning which he had falsely accused the innocent party). (22:9 [22:8])

In an arrangement that would primarily benefit him, a man might give his fellow a donkey, a bull, a sheep, or another domestic animal to guard. If during the time of guardianship, the animal died, was injured, or was seized and no one witnessed what had happened to it, an “oath before YHWH” (doubtless in the presence of the judges who represented YHWH) would settle the case. If the one who guarded the animal swore that he had not “laid his hand on the property of his fellow,” the owner of the property was to accept the oath-bound statement and the other man was not required to make any restitution. In the event the animal was stolen, he did have to compensate the owner for the loss, for he should have been more diligent in watching the animal that had been left with him to guard. For an animal a beast of prey killed, he needed to present the evidence that the animal had been torn, but he did not have to compensate the owner for it. According to the Septuagint, he was to take the owner of the animal to the prey. (22:10-13 [22:9-12])

A man who borrowed a domestic animal from his fellow benefited himself when doing so. Therefore, when the animal was injured or died while the owner was not with it, the borrower had to compensate the owner fully for the loss. No compensation was required if the owner had arranged to receive payment for the temporary use of his animal. Besides the payment, the owner would not be entitled to any additional compensation. His having made use of the animal for hire involved a measure of risk, a risk that he had been willing to take when making the arrangement. (22:14, 15 [22:13, 14])

A man who seduced a virgin (one who was not betrothed) and had sexual relations with her was required to pay the bride price to her father and had to marry her. If the father was unwilling to have his daughter become the wife of the seducer whom he may have considered to be unfit as a marriage mate, that man still had to pay the bride price. Her value had been diminished because she had been deprived of her virginity. (22:16, 17 [22:15, 16])

Sorcery was not to be tolerated among the Israelites. No sorceress was to remain alive among the people. ( 22:18 [22:17])

The death penalty was imposed on anyone guilty of bestiality or of offering a sacrifice to any deity other than YHWH. (22:19, 20 [22:18, 19])

Compassionate treatment of disadvantaged persons was to be the law among the Israelites. Strangers or foreigners among them were to be treated fairly and not to be wronged or oppressed, for the Israelites knew what it meant to live as afflicted strangers or foreigners in Egypt. The Israelites were warned not to mistreat widows or orphans, for YHWH would hear their outcry and he would, in his due time, execute severe judgment against oppressors. Deprived of YHWH’s care and concern, the guilty ones would face circumstances that would cost them their lives and leave behind widows and orphans. (22:21-24 [22:20-23])

No Israelite was to profit from the adversity of a fellow Israelite. A poor Israelite who had to borrow money should be given an interest-free loan. While the poor Israelite may have been required to give his garment as a pledge, the creditor had to return the garment before sunset, for the poor person needed it to keep himself warm when retiring for the night. The garment would have been his only covering, serving him as his blanket. YHWH would give attention to the outcry of the poor man who was callously deprived of his garment and subjected to the cold of the night without it. YHWH is compassionate and would not leave the cruel creditor unpunished for failing to return the pledged garment. (22:25-27 [22:24-26])

The command not to revile God may be understood to mean not to range oneself up against his authority and not to dishonor him as the Supreme Sovereign. Human authority was also to be treated respectfully, with one’s not resorting to cursing rulers because of having to submit to their direction, direction that may be resented. (22:28 [22:27]) In the Septuagint, the reference is to “gods,” not to God. Possibly the use of the plural “gods” accommodated the circumstances in which the translator was living. Targum Jonathan represents the command to the Israelites as meaning not to “revile [their] judges, nor [to] curse the rabbans [teachers or masters] who are appointed rulers among [the] people.”

After being settled in the land, the Israelites were not to delay making their contribution for sacred purposes from their harvests and their presses (olive oil or wine from the juice of crushed grapes). They were to offer their firstborn sons to YHWH by redeeming them with the designated payment of silver. The male firstborn of cattle and sheep were to stay with the mothers for seven days, and then they, on the eighth day, were to be given to YHWH as a sacrifice. In the Septuagint, the donkey is included, but the firstborn of the donkey had to be redeemed, as the animal could not be offered to YHWH on the altar. (22:29, 30 [22:28, 29])

As men or people who were “holy” to YHWH, they were not to defile themselves. One way in which they could avoid defilement was to abstain from eating meat from an animal that had been torn by a predator. Flesh or meat from such torn animals was to be thrown to scavenger dogs, to be devoured. (22:31 (22:30)