1 - 4 Regulations in Case of Theft
1 “If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen for the ox and four sheep for the sheep. 2 “If the thief is caught while breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account. 3 But if the sun has risen on him, there will be bloodguiltiness on his account. He shall surely make restitution; if he owns nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. 4 If what he stole is actually found alive in his possession, whether an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double.
A theft – here we are in the application of the eighth commandment – is considered on a case by case basis. Some differences are made. In case of theft and slaughter or resale, five or four times (2Sam 12:6; Lk 19:8) must be paid, depending on the animal that has been stolen. If the animal is still alive in the thief’s possession, the thief must give the double as compensation.
We see here that theft does not make someone richer, but poorer. Unlawfully obtained profit means the loss of one’s own property. This can also be applied spiritually. Every man who lives to receive honor from men steals that honor from God to Whom all honor is due. He who lives to be honored by men will lose his human truth.
The law also makes a difference between theft during the day and theft at night. It is assumed that the thief will break in at night. If he is caught and killed, the one who killed him will go free. In this case, the thief loses not only what he would have stolen and the compensation he would have to pay, but also his life.
However, if the thief works during the day and is caught and killed, the one who killed him will not go unpunished. It is assumed that it is not necessary to kill a thief during the day. You can then call for help. But in the night, everyone sleeps and the situation is incalculable. This rule shows that even the life of a thief cannot be taken for granted. We must not act out of revenge. The judgment on a crime must be established by the judge.
The great contrast of compensation in case of theft is the Lord Jesus. He has given back to God through His work on the cross what He has not robbed: the honor of God (Psa 69:5b). Therefore, for all eternity, He will receive the honor He is worth and is due to Him.
5 - 6 Special Forms of Expropriation
5 “If a man lets a field or vineyard be grazed [bare] and lets his animal loose so that it grazes in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best of his own field and the best of his own vineyard. 6 “If a fire breaks out and spreads to thorn bushes, so that stacked grain or the standing grain or the field [itself] is consumed, he who started the fire shall surely make restitution.
In verse 5 there is a case of acting intentionally. Someone steals the fruit of someone else’s land to feed his own cattle and thereby spare the fruit of his own land. Here another is deliberately disadvantaged in order not to have to suffer any loss himself. However, the compensation means that he must give the best part of his own field or vineyard to the injured party. It is therefore important to keep control of one’s own property and not to let it be to the detriment of others. It is always spiritually important that we use our gifts for the good of others and not to harm them.
In verse 6 does not seem someone acting intentionally. It is about someone who sets fire to burn thorn bushes. However, he does not hold the fire under control. It becomes a flare-up fire, whereby standing grain from another person’s field is consumed by the fire. The compensation consists of a full payment of the value of what has been lost.
As a spiritual application we can think of the following. A fire represents judgment. Thorn bushes are a consequence of sin. If sin reveals itself, it must be judged. It may happen that the judgment of sin in the church, an act of discipline, is carried out too far. Discipline must be applied, but if it has achieved its objective, it must also be made undone.
If someone repents and the discipline is not made undone, then someone is wrongly denied the blessing of the community. He cannot, so to speak, not take pleasure in the fruits of the land. If discipline has reached its goal, it must be eliminated, that such a one might not “be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow” (2Cor 2:7). The compensation to be given is “to reaffirm [your] love for him” (2Cor 2:8).
In a personal application we can think of people who are adrift in nature. They are ready to intervene immediately when sin occurs. It indeed is good to intervene then. But because of their frantic nature they sometimes go too far and condemn the whole person. In this way they also eradicate the wheat with the weeds. Then they have to confess their wrong or excessive approach and accept the other again in the good that is in him too.
7 - 13 Properties Given to Keep
7 “If a man gives his neighbor money or goods to keep [for him] and it is stolen from the man’s house, if the thief is caught, he shall pay double. 8 If the thief is not caught, then the owner of the house shall appear before the judges, [to] determine whether he laid his hands on his neighbor’s property. 9 For every breach of trust, [whether it is] for ox, for donkey, for sheep, for clothing, [or] for any lost thing about which one says, ‘This is it,’ the case of both parties shall come before the judges; he whom the judges condemn shall pay double to his neighbor. 10 “If a man gives his neighbor a donkey, an ox, a sheep, or any animal to keep [for him], and it dies or is hurt or is driven away while no one is looking, 11 an oath before the LORD shall be made by the two of them that he has not laid hands on his neighbor’s property; and its owner shall accept [it], and he shall not make restitution. 12 But if it is actually stolen from him, he shall make restitution to its owner. 13 If it is all torn to pieces, let him bring it as evidence; he shall not make restitution for what has been torn to pieces.
If something is entrusted to us, we are responsible for ensuring that it is not stolen. Custody is a matter of trust. If it is stolen, the thief, if found, will have to pay double the amount. There is not only restitution, but also compensation for the shock and inconvenience, while the thief must experience that theft is punished.
If the thief is not found, there is suspicion on him to whom the money or good has been entrusted. The judges shall take the oath against him. By taking the oath, the suspicion is removed.
Much has been given us, believers, in ward. Timothy was instructed to keep the premises entrusted to him (1Tim 6:20; 2Tim 1:14; cf. Ezra 8:24-34). If we have lost something that has been entrusted to us, for example our peace, we must look for the ‘thief’. We may have allowed something into our lives that has made us lose sight of the Lord.
It may also be that our worship has disappeared – of which the ox speaks. It may be that we are no longer serving – the donkey speaks of service. Or we have lost our behavior as Christians - the garment represents the outward behavior that people see of us. If it is found, it is replaced by the double. Christians who have wandered astray and are back on the right path, will commit themselves with double zeal to the Lord.
14 - 15 Borrowed Things
14 “If a man borrows [anything] from his neighbor, and it is injured or dies while its owner is not with it, he shall make full restitution. 15 If its owner is with it, he shall not make restitution; if it is hired, it came for its hire.
What is given into custody has to do with the confidence of the owner in him to whom he gives something into custody. The issue is: how does he deal with this confidence. Something you borrow is about using something you miss yourself, but need.
We may use what has been entrusted to another, but not misuse it. This applies both materially and spiritually. We must always be aware that we have received everything we have on loan: “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1Cor 4:7).
16 - 17 Lie with a Virgin
16 “If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged, and lies with her, he must pay a dowry for her [to be] his wife. 17 If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the dowry for virgins.
This is an elaboration of the seventh commandment. An unmarried girl falls under the care of her father. If someone sleeps with her, that is, if he seduces her to sexual intercourse, he is obliged to marry her, unless the father refuses to give her to him. In any case, a dowry has to be paid. A general lesson is that parents may not be passed over while arranging a marriage.
We also see here that sexual intercourse is not without consequences. The girl has lost her honor and will therefore be more difficult to marry. The man who seduced her has to pay a full dowry. He too must realize that he has committed a sin by doing something that only belongs within marriage.
18 - 20 Sins of Apostacy
18 “You shall not allow a sorceress to live. 19 “Whoever lies with an animal shall surely be put to death. 20 “He who sacrifices to any god, other than to the LORD alone, shall be utterly destroyed.
Sorcery (verse 18) and idolatry (verse 20) originate from the world of occultism, the world of the devil. Anyone guilty of this must pay for it with the loss of his life. These horrible sins are direct rebellion against God. It is an open defying of His absolute rights to the worship of man and certainly of His people. On several places in the Scriptures God’s people are warned to stay away from them (Lev 20:6; Deu 18:10). Saul has not taken any notice of this commandment (1Sam 28:7-10).
Between these two forms of occultism is warned against communion with an animal (verse 19). The fact that God’s people must be warned against this disgusting expression of fellowship indicates that they are capable of it.
In a spiritual sense we see this sin in Revelation 13, which speaks of an animal from the sea, a political power (Rev 13:1), and an animal from the abyss, a religious power (Rev 13:11). Both animals are inspired by satan. Occultism will reach its height in these animals. Many of those who count themselves among the people of God will bow before them and testify of their fellowship with them (Rev 17:3:11-13).
21 - 27 Foreigner, Widow, Orphan and Poor
21 “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. 22 You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. 23 If you afflict him at all, [and] if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; 24 and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless. 25 “If you lend money to My people, to the poor among you, you are not to act as a creditor to him; you shall not charge him interest. 26 If you ever take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets, 27 for that is his only covering; it is his cloak for his body. What else shall he sleep in? And it shall come about that when he cries out to Me, I will hear [him], for I am gracious.
Here the mercy of God radiates toward the weak in society. God stands up for them (Psa 146:9). It is not a social program for global improvement or a call to work for asylum seekers. It is about reflecting God’s mercy, something that can only happen through His people.
Because the Israelites have been foreigners in Egypt, they must be able to imagine what it is like to be a foreigner living in their midst. That should make them merciful towards them. In the same way believers must have compassion with people in the world because they used to belong to it. A haughty attitude towards the lowest sunken person does not suit a believer.
God is particularly concerned about the fate of the widow or orphan. To oppress them is pure exploitation and abuse of power. God hears their call of help and will avenge them according to the law of retribution.
Loaning money to a compatriot is allowed, but without calculating interest. It must be an act of mercy. Earning from the poverty of the compatriot betrays heartlessness.
If someone is so poor that he even has to pledge his garment, the garment must be returned to him in the evening. His poverty and then nudity evoke feelings of grace in God. God wants us to learn to share in His feelings.
28 Attitude Towards Government
28 “You shall not curse God, nor curse a ruler of your people.
The government – the judges or the judiciary – may not be cursed (cf. Pro 10:20). If that happens, it is rebellion against the competent God-given authority (Rom 13:1-2). Such an attitude is a characteristic of the apostasy of the Christian faith (Jude 1:8). God wants the citizen to acknowledge and submit to the competent authority. Paul is mistaken in this and must apologize, what he does with the quoting of this verse (Acts 23:4-5).
29 - 30 The First Fruits
29 “You shall not delay [the offering from] your harvest and your vintage. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to Me. 30 You shall do the same with your oxen [and] with your sheep. It shall be with its mother seven days; on the eighth day you shall give it to Me.
In giving the first fruits of the land, God’s right to the land is recognized. The people are warned not to withhold anything from it. The temptation to keep what is due to God to oneself has been ingrained in man by sin.
The firstborn belong to the LORD, and in them all the people. The same applies to the livestock.
31 Flesh Torn to Pieces
31 “You shall be holy men to Me, therefore you shall not eat [any] flesh torn to pieces in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs.
Here God makes the great distinction between His people and the peoples around them. He has set His people apart for Himself. That they are his people is manifested above all in what they eat or don’t eat. Here the emphasis is on what they should not eat. Holy people do not eat food that is linked to violence. Such food is for the unclean dogs, who have no sense of holiness.
Believers should not feed on things to which clearly adheres the corruption of the world. The world has programs to look at and to spiritually be nourish by, from which the believers – holy men, these are for God separated people – must keep a great distance.