If the theft be certainly found in his hand alive, whether it be ox, or ass, or sheep; he shall restore double.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)If the theft be certainly found in his hand.—If he had not converted it, consumed it, or, if it were an animal, killed it, then, instead of the four-fold or five-fold restitution of Exodus 22:1, a restoration of double was to suffice.Exodus 21:12. The distinction may have been based on the fact that in the light of day there was a fair chance of identifying and apprehending the thief.
Ex 22:1-31. Laws concerning Theft.
1-4. If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep—The law respects the theft of cattle which constituted the chief part of their property. The penalty for the theft of a sheep which was slain or sold, was fourfold; for an ox fivefold, because of its greater utility in labor; but, should the stolen animal have been recovered alive, a double compensation was all that was required, because it was presumable he (the thief) was not a practised adept in dishonesty. A robber breaking into a house at midnight might, in self-defense, be slain with impunity; but if he was slain after sunrise, it would be considered murder, for it was not thought likely an assault would then be made upon the lives of the occupants. In every case where a thief could not make restitution, he was sold as a slave for the usual term.Alive; not killed, nor sold, as Exodus 22:1.
Double; not more,
1. Because in that case it was presumed, either that he intended to restore it, or at least that he was but raw and unexercised in the trade of stealing, and so should be more gently punished.
2. Because the right owner recovered his goods with less charge and trouble. Or,
3. Because it was but a single crime, whereas the other, Exodus 22:1, was an aggravated and complicated crime, where one sin and injury was added to another.
Object. It is said, he shall restore sevenfold, Proverbs 6:31.
Sevenfold is put for abundantly, as that word is oft used, as Genesis 4:24 Psalm 12:6 79:12; and a learned man observes, it is never used for that definite number.
Answ. 2. This sevenfold, or seven times, may relate not to the proportion of his restitution, but to the number of his thefts, or rather of his detections; and the sense is this, Though he be found guilty of theft seven times, all his punishment is, that he shall restore as the law prescribes. Whereas adultery, of which he there speaks in the following verses, is a crime of that nature, that if a man be once found guilty of it, restitution cannot be made, nor will it serve his turn, but he falls into all the mischiefs there reckoned up.
whether it be ox, or ass, or sheep, or any other creature; and even, as Jarchi thinks, anything else, as raiment, goods, &c.
he shall restore double; two oxen for an ox, two asses for an ass, and two sheep for a sheep: and, as the same commentator observes, two living ones, and not dead ones, or the price of two living ones: so Solon made theft, by his law, punishable with death, but with a double restitution (k); and the reason why here only a double restitution and not fourfold is insisted on, as in Exodus 22:1 is, because there the theft is persisted in, here not; but either the thief being convicted in his own conscience of his evil, makes confession, or, however, the creatures are found with alive, and so more useful being restored, and, being had again sooner, the loss is not quite so great.If the theft be certainly found in his hand alive, whether it be ox, or ass, or sheep; he shall restore double.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)4. If the stolen animal be not killed, or sold (v. 1), but still alive his possession, he only repays double, i.e. the stolen animal itself, and a second as a fine. The same principle of double restitution recurs vv. 7, 9; it was adopted also ‘in the laws of Manu (viii. 329), at least in the case of things of small value; by Solon, for theft; in Athenian law, in cases of damage (βλάβη) done intentionally (Dem. adv. Mid. § 43, p. 528: in unintentional βλάβη simple restitution was prescribed); by Plato, Legg. ix., p. 857 a, for theft; in both the XII. Tables (Gell. XI. 18. 15) and the later Roman law, for theft, when the thief was not caught in the act’ (Kn.); and by Hạmmurabi in various cases of fraudulent claim (§§ 101, 120, 124, 160, 161); cf. DB. v. 596b.Verse 4. - If the theft be certainly found in his hand. If he be caught in flagrante delicto, with the thing stolen in his possession, "whether it be ox, or ass, or small cattle," he shall restore double. The law of theft in the Mosaic legislation is altogether of a mild character, as compared with the Roman, or even with the English law, until the present century. Double restitution was a sort of "retaliation" - it involved a man losing the exact amount which he had expected to gain
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