Friday, August 12, 2022

2022.08.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 22:1–15

Read Exodus 22:1–15

Questions from the Scripture text: What does the man in Exodus 22:1 do with what he has stolen? How much does he have to pay back for a little thing (sheep)? How much for a big one (ox)? What situation does Exodus 22:2 address? What happens to the man that kills a thief while defending himself and his house? But what changes this (Exodus 22:3a)? What if the thief cannot pay back (verse 3b)? What does the thief have to pay back if he still has the animal (Exodus 22:4)? What has the man in Exodus 22:5 done? When he pays back, what quality doe she have to give? What has happened in Exodus 22:6? Who has to do what, in that case? What was stolen in Exodus 22:7? Who pays how much if the thief is found? If they cannot find the thief, what happens (Exodus 22:8)? Who decides cases of lost things (Exodus 22:9)? What will the penalty be? What has happened in Exodus 22:10? What must the rightful owner accept if it is not stolen (Exodus 22:11)? What must the thief do if it is stolen (Exodus 22:12)? What if a beast has torn it to pieces (Exodus 22:13)? But what if, instead of asking for it to be kept, it was the recipient who had asked to borrow it (Exodus 22:14)? But what if the owner is with it when it happens (Exodus 22:15a)? Or if it was rented rather than borrowed (verse 15b)?

What procedures and penalties did the Lord give Israel for addressing theft? Exodus 22:1–15 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these fifteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that before God, men must be respectful and responsible with others’ property. 

Repaying theftExodus 22:1Exodus 22:4. The first case in the passage is the worst. An extra degree of malice is involved in slaughtering or selling the animal (Exodus 22:1). The bigger the theft, the bigger the restitution (fivefold for the ox, compared to fourfold for the sheep). Even in the case where the man gets back the particular animal that was his, the thief must still restore double (Exodus 22:4).

The risk of theftExodus 22:2-3. Nighttime might be the best time to steal, but you risk your life (Exodus 22:2). Lethal force is permissible for self-defense in such a dangerous situation. (Though, as in Exodus 22:3a, it is expected that during the day, when others may be called to help, lethal force will be avoided—we ought to care about the lives of even bad men). The poorer a man was, the greater the risk it was for him to steal, because he himself would be sold, if he couldn’t pay the 2x, 4x, or 5x that would be required. We should try harder not to do wrong than not to suffer wrong.

Responsibility for destructionExodus 22:5-6. If he’s letting his animal graze his own field, it’s likely in the worst/leftover area of what is his. But, he’d better be careful to keep it restrained, because anything it takes from a neighbor will cost him his best. And if a man kindled a fire, he had better be careful, because he will have to pay in full for anything the fire destroys. Notice that rather than accumulating regulations for animal or fire containment, men were just held responsible for outcomes.

Responsibility for things entrusted for safekeepingExodus 22:7-13. When a man asked his neighbor to keep something, he assumed the risk that it would be stolen, damaged, lost, etc. A thief would still have to restore double. And if the neighbor had consumed it or was trying to keep it, the various forms of restitution would apply. Judges would attempt to arbitrate cases (Exodus 22:8-9), but sometimes, there just isn’t evidence (Exodus 22:10), so Yahweh Himself would have to be appealed to (Exodus 22:11), and the owner would just have to accept that. We should recognize civil authority as employed by God, but then also know that God Himself enforces His authority.

Responsibility for things borrowed/hiredExodus 22:14-15. When borrowing, the risk becomes that of the borrower. Whatever happens to the item in his possession, he has to restore. However, if the owner is there, it becomes his responsibility. Renting, however, included the risk of loss, so that the risk becomes the owner’s not the renter’s

Taken all together, these laws make clear that we should be as careful with others’ property as with our own.

What is a situation in which you might be more respectful with others’ property?

Sample prayer: Lord, forgive us for being heartless toward others and not caring about their property as much as we do our own. And, forgive us for forgetting—or, worse, not caring—that we are always before Your face. Thank You for giving us those things that we need, and for giving us civil government and civil laws that restrain theft. Grant that our government and laws would indeed do that, and that we would love You and neighbor, we ask in Christ’s Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP5 “Listen to My Words, O LORD” or TPH174 “The Ten Commandments 

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