Matthew Poole's Commentary
If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.Of theft, Exodus 22:1-4. Of eating another man’s vineyard, Exodus 2:5 Of hurt coming by fire, Exodus 22:6. Of hurt coming to goods committed to one’s trust, Exodus 22:7-13. Of hurt befalling things borrowed, Exodus 22:14,15. Of committing adultery, Exodus 22:16,17. Of witchcraft, Exodus 22:18. Of uncleanness with beasts, Exodus 22:19. Of idolatry, Exodus 22:20. That none shall hurt strangers or widows, Exodus 22:21-24. Of unsury, Exodus 22:25. Of pawning clothes, Exodus 22:26,27. Of honouring magistrates, Exodus 22:28. Of the first-fruits, Exodus 22:29. Of eating flesh torn by beasts, Exodus 22:31.
An ox, or a sheep; or, an ass, which is added Exodus 22:4, and consequently any other living creature, to be valued according to its worth and use to man, proportionably to the rule here laid down. Only these are instanced in for their usefulness in the service both of God and men.
Or sell it, which was an aggravation of the crime, and a token of greater boldness, resolvedness, and expertness in the trade of thieving, than was in him who kept it at home, Exodus 22:4.
Four sheep for a sheep.
Quest. 1. Why so much, seeing the stealer of other things was tied to restore but double?
Answ. 1. For terror, because these beasts being kept in the fields might more easily be stolen.
2. Because the loss of these was greater than of other things; for they did not only lose what the cattle might be sold for, but all the service, increase, and other benefits which a man might receive from them.
Quest. 2. Why more for oxen than for sheep?
Answ. 1. Because it argued greater boldness and customariness in the thief to steal that which might more easily be discovered.
2. Because besides the intrinsical worth of the ox, the labour of the ox was very considerable to his owner, Proverbs 14:4, and therefore the loss greater.
If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.Ver. 2: Breaking up, to wit, an house, which the Chaldee here adds, and by night, as appears from the next verse.
For him, i.e. for the thief, though he be killed by a man in his own defence. Because in that case the thief might be presumed to have a worse design, and the owner of the house could neither expect or have the help of others to secure him from the intended violence, nor guide his blows with that discretion and moderation which in the day-time he might use.
If the sun be risen upon him, there shall be blood shed for him; for he should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.There shall be blood shed for him; he that kills him shall be put to death, because he punished him more than his crime deserved, and might have been otherwise either secured or righted; and in that case, it is probable, the thief designed not murder, but theft only. But if it were evident that the housebreaker designed murder, he might doubtless kill him in his own defence.
He shall be sold; either so long till his service was worth the thing stolen, or rather for the ordinary time of six years, because this was not a simple thief, but a housebreaker, which was much worse.
Quest. How can he be sold, who is supposed to be killed?
Answ. 1. The Hebrew word may be better rendered should be sold, as the foregoing word of the same future time is rendered, should make restitution, to wit, if he were not killed; and therefore the killer of him being sufficiently secured against this injury, was more culpable in killing him without necessity.
If the theft be certainly found in his hand alive, whether it be ox, or ass, or sheep; he shall restore double.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.
If a man shall cause a field or vineyard to be eaten, and shall put in his beast, and shall feed in another man's field; of the best of his own field, and of the best of his own vineyard, shall he make restitution.A field or vineyard, or orchard, or other things of like nature; which is generally to be observed in laws.
If fire break out, and catch in thorns, so that the stacks of corn, or the standing corn, or the field, be consumed therewith; he that kindled the fire shall surely make restitution.He that kindled the five, whether wilfully for such a purpose, or carelessly in such a time or place as was dangerous.
He shall surely make restitution; which if he were not able to do, it is probable he was to be sold for it, as in like cases was provided.
If a man shall deliver unto his neighbour money or stuff to keep, and it be stolen out of the man's house; if the thief be found, let him pay double.Stuff, Heb. vessels, garments, utensils, or any kind of household stuff.
If the thief be not found, then the master of the house shall be brought unto the judges, to see whether he have put his hand unto his neighbour's goods.That they may examine all circumstances, and use all means to find out the truth, by offering him his oath, or otherwise.
Unto his neighbour’s goods; either to take and reserve them for his own use, or to dispose of them to another for his own advantage.
For all manner of trespass, whether it be for ox, for ass, for sheep, for raiment, or for any manner of lost thing, which another challengeth to be his, the cause of both parties shall come before the judges; and whom the judges shall condemn, he shall pay double unto his neighbour.All manner of trespass, to wit, about matters deposited upon trust, and lost, of which alone this place speaks.
Which another challengeth to be his; or, when, or concerning which he shall say, This is it, viz. the thing that I have lost; or rather, This is he, to whom I committed it, and whom I suspect and charge as guilty.
Whom the judges shall condemn; whether the person with whom the things were deposited, if they judged him guilty of theft, or the depositor, if he were convicted of a false accusation.
If a man deliver unto his neighbour an ass, or an ox, or a sheep, or any beast, to keep; and it die, or be hurt, or driven away, no man seeing it:To keep, as his servant, not freely, but for wages.
Then shall an oath of the LORD be between them both, that he hath not put his hand unto his neighbour's goods; and the owner of it shall accept thereof, and he shall not make it good.An oath of the Lord; so called here, as also 1 Kings 2:43, because it is taken by his authority and appointment, and for his honour, and in his name alone, God being made both witness, and judge, and avenger thereby. Shall be between them both, i.e. shall end the difference between them both; the one shall give his oath, and the other shall accept of it: or be taken by them both; by the one, that he did deliver them to him upon agreement and for hire; by the other, that he put not his hand to them.
And if it be stolen from him, he shall make restitution unto the owner thereof.From him, Heb. from with him, which is an emphatical expression, and notes that this was taken away, either,
1. From those things which were with him, or which were his, i.e. from the midst of his own goods, which supposeth fraud in him. Or,
2. From under his eye, when he either did know of it, or with common care and diligence it might have been known and prevented, and this argues gross neglect in him. And this is one reason why this man is bound to make restitution, when the other, Exodus 22:7, is not: another reason of the difference is, because those things, Exodus 22:7, were only or principally dead things, and such things as required no great care; or if they did, (for in that case also were included oxen, asses, &c., Exodus 22:9) yet he with whom they were left received no recompence for them, and therefore was not obliged to any singular care about them; but here the things were such as needed great care and diligence, which also this man was obliged to perform by the hire which he received upon that account, which was Jacob’s case, Genesis 31:39.
If it be torn in pieces, then let him bring it for witness, and he shall not make good that which was torn.Let him bring it; it, i.e. some part of the torn creature, which the wild beast haply had left, Amos 3:11,12.
Quest. What if the whole creature were carried away, as a sheep or lamb is sometimes by the wolf?
Answ. 1. I suppose this was not frequent, and that those ravenous creatures did speedily fall to their meal, and that something was left not far from the place, which the shepherd might easily procure.
2. The words may Be otherwise rendered, he shall bring a witness, as the Chaldee and Samaritan render it; or a testimony, i.e. some evidence whereby the judge might be satisfied; as for instance, that some wolf or lion, &c. was seen in those parts, &c., or some witness of his diligence and Faithfulness in all other things, which therefore might well be presumed in this.
And if a man borrow ought of his neighbour, and it be hurt, or die, the owner thereof being not with it, he shall surely make it good.Ought, i.e. any living thing, which may be
die, as it follows.
He shall surely make it good: this may seem hard, but all things considered is reasonable; because in doubtful cases, wherein it is not evident whether the borrower was faulty or not, as it is here, it ought to be interpreted in favour of the lender, rather than of the borrower; partly, to oblige the borrower to the greater fidelity and care in such things, which being not his own, men are commonly more careless about; partly, because the benefit being wholly the borrower’s, the loss also in all reason ought to be his, and the lender ought not to suffer for his kindness, lest he should be discouraged from such actions for the future.
But if the owner thereof be with it, he shall not make it good: if it be an hired thing, it came for his hire.If the owner thereof be with it: the law reasonably presumes, both that the borrower would not abuse it in the sight of its owner, and that the lender might and would take due care about it.
He shall not make it good, except there be some manifest fault in the borrower, as if he should kill or wound the beast in the lender’s presence; which exception is easily to be understood from divers other laws of God.
It came for his hire, i.e. the benefit was the lender’s, and not the borrower’s, and therefore the former reason ceaseth; and whether the master were present or absent, he that receives the gain or hire shall bear the loss, except when it came through the borrower’s gross and wilful default.
And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.If a man entice a maid, by persuasions, promise of marriage, allurements, or rewards. But if she were betrothed, it was punished with death, Deu 22:23,24.
If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.This shows the necessity of parents’ consent in marriage.
According to the dowry of virgins, i.e. in such proportion as the virgin’s quality requires; for there was no certain and equal dowry appointed for all women. See Poole on 1 Samuel 18:25.
Quest. Why is there no punishment for the woman?
Answ. 1. She had no distinct estate, being yet in her father’s house.
2. The loss of her virginity was a sufficient punishment, especially in Israel, where it was a great reproach and prejudice.
3. She was not so culpable as the man, both because she was of the weaker sex, and because she was drawn to the sin by the man’s persuasion.
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.i.e. Any person that is in league with the devil, and by his help either doth any mischief, or discovers and practices things above the reach of other men or women. Of which see Exodus 7:11 Leviticus 20:27 Deu 18:10 1 Samuel 28:9. The word is of the feminine gender, partly because women are most prone to these devilish arts, and most frequently guilty of them; and partly to intimate that no pity should be showed to such offenders, though they were of the weaker sex.
Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death.No text from Poole on this verse.
He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed.Sacrificeth, or otherwise worshippeth, as appears from Deu 17:2-5, and many other places. One act of worship put for all by a very familiar synecdoche.
Destroyed, Heb. anathematized, i.e. esteemed execrable, and as such destroyed without mercy. See Deu 13:15 18:20.
Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.No text from Poole on this verse.
Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.No text from Poole on this verse.
If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry;No text from Poole on this verse.
And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.No text from Poole on this verse.
If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury.Any of my people, i.e. any Israelite; for it was permitted to take usury of the Gentiles, Deu 23:20.
That is poor: this seems to be added not by way of apposition, as if God’s people and the poor were all one, because such are commonly poor; but by way of restriction; for God had promised greatly to bless and enrich the generality of his people, if they by their wickedness did not hinder it, and that there should be few poor among them; yet some such there should be for the trial and exercise of their charity. See Leviticus 19:10 Deu 15:4,7,11.
Usury; the Hebrew word signifies biting; so usury is called, not by way of distinction, as if moderate usury were allowed in this case, which is manifestly false, because the borrower is here supposed to be poor, to whom not the use only, but ofttimes even the principal is to be remitted, Luke 6:34,35; but by way of explication, because all usury is of a biting or eating nature, which commonly consumes the person that pays it.
If thou at all take thy neighbour's raiment to pledge, thou shalt deliver it unto him by that the sun goeth down:Thy neighbour’s; to wit, that is poor, as appears by comparing this with the next verse, where he is supposed to have but one garment, and with Deu 24:12,13.
By that the sun goeth down; because he speaks of such raiment or covering wherein he used to sleep, Exodus 22:27. But you are not to think that the creditor would every morning take, and every night redeliver his pledge; and therefore this is rather a prohibition to take any such thing for a pledge as a man hath great and daily need of, by this argument, that if he did take it, he could not keep it. Compare Deu 24:6.
For that is his covering only, it is his raiment for his skin: wherein shall he sleep? and it shall come to pass, when he crieth unto me, that I will hear; for I am gracious.No text from Poole on this verse.
Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people.Gods; not gods falsely so called, as some would have it, as appears by 1 Kings 18:27 Jeremiah 10:11; but magistrates and governors, whether civil or ecclesiastical, as it is evident both from Acts 23:3-5 and from the following words, which explain the former, according to the common use of Scripture, and from the title of gods commonly given to such, as Exodus 7:1 Psalm 82:6 John 10:34,35.
The ruler of thy people. Compare /APC Sir 10:20, Judges 1:8.
Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me.Thou shalt not delay beyond the times appointed, lest this delay grow to a total neglect. And delay may here be put for neglect, as that word is used, Deu 7:10 23:21 Habakkuk 2:3; which may seem to be favoured by the following clause, which commands the giving or offering of the first-born without any mention of the hastening or delaying of it.
Thy ripe fruits, Heb thy fulness; and whereas this word is sometimes applied to seed or corn, as Numbers 18:27, and sometimes to the vintage, as Deu 22:9, the circumstances must determine, as it doth in like cases, how it must be taken; which here seem to restrain it to dry fruits, as corn, &c., because it is opposed to
liquors; and so all sorts of fruits are comprehended here. Unless you will make this a usual figure called hendyadis, as judgment and justice, Deu 16:18, is put for judgment of justice, or just judgment; so here the fulness and liquors, for the fulness of thy liquors; and so this may be one kind mentioned for all the rest, than which nothing more frequent.
Shalt thou give unto me, not in kind, but by a price of redemption to be paid to me in their stead.
Likewise shalt thou do with thine oxen, and with thy sheep: seven days it shall be with his dam; on the eighth day thou shalt give it me.Likewise, i.e. ye shall offer their first-born.
On the eighth day; not sooner, because it was till then tender and imperfect, and therefore not fit to be offered to God; but it was not tied to that day, for it might be offered afterwards, appears from Leviticus 22:27, even till it was a year old.
And ye shall be holy men unto me: neither shall ye eat any flesh that is torn of beasts in the field; ye shall cast it to the dogs.Ye shall be holy, i.e. separated from all filthiness, both moral and ceremonial.
Neither shall ye eat any flesh that is torn of beasts; partly, because the blood was not taken out of it; partly, because the clean beast was ceremonially defiled by the touch of the unclean; and partly, to beget in them a detestation of cruelty, even in the beasts, and much more in men.