And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,…
This paragraph ought to have been included in the preceding chapter, as it is the conclusion of the subject there considered. The last paragraphs treated of sacrilege, or trespass in the holy things of God; this has reference to trespass between man and man. We have here -
I. AN ENUMERATION OF WRONGS. These may be distributed into two classes, viz.:
1. In matters of fraud. These may be
(1) in respect to things in custody, "that which was delivered him to keep." Under this heading may he ranged things left in pledge, the possession of which is afterwards denied. Also things borrowed and fraudulently retained.
(2) In respect to "fellowship." This may refer, in matters of partnership, to claiming for sole interest profits that should be divided, or shifting liabilities which should be jointly borne wholly to the partner's account. The Hebrew here is "putting of the hand," which the margin interprets "in dealing." Any fraud in trade would, therefore, come under this head, viz. by light weight, short measure, false balances, false samples, adulterations, misrepresentation of values, or saunterings by which an employer is robbed of his time.
(3) In respect to trusts. Executors so managing estates as to enrich themselves at the expense of their wards. Public servants manipulating accounts to pocket balances, or taking bribes to favour particular contractors to the prejudice of competitors or of the public.
(4) In respect to "the lost thing which he found." Solon's law was, "Take not up that which you laid not down." Historians relate that in England, in the days of Alfred the Great, golden bracelets might be safely hung up in the road. Whoever retains what he found when he knows who the owner is, or without using diligence to discover him, is a thief.
2. In matters of violence. Such as
(1) "A thing taken away by violence." A horrible example is furnished in the case of the vineyard of Naboth (1 Kings 21:15, 16).
(2) Any kind of oppression. Exactions under pressure of necessity. Exactions under threats. Withholding adequate remuneration for service (see James 2:6; James 5:4-6).
II. AGGRAVATIONS OF THE WRONGS. These are:
1. When lies are told to cover them.
(1) Some may have the hardihood stoutly to deny, in the face of witnesses to the contrary, that they came into fraudulent possession of property.
(2) It is more easily denied when there are no witnesses to attest delivery, or prove custody or trust against the holder.
(3) Lies are told in the forms of evasion, shuffling, and false colouring.
2. When oaths are taken to give countenance to the lies.
(1) God is a witness of everything (2 Chronicles 16:9; Psalm 34:15; Proverbs 15:3). He is often a silent observer. It is an awful aggravation of a wrong to think that it is done under the eye of God,
(2) But when an oath is taken to cover a wrong, God is appealed to. What a fearful outrage against the God of truth, to be thus called in to attest a lie!
(3) Whether a wrong be done before God as a "witness," which it must be if it is done at all; or whether he be "appealed" to by an oath, every trespass against man is also "a trespass against Jehovah" (see James 5:4). Trespasses cannot, therefore, be treated lightly because of the insignificance of the person wronged, when the Almighty also is concerned. In all the interest which God takes in the justice of human actions, he has the good of man at heart.
III. THE LAW OF REPARATION.
1. He shall make up the wrong to the person injured.
(1) "He shall restore it in the principal." If this cannot be done in the identical thing, then an "estimation" of its value must be taken, and payment made, viz. "in shekels of silver, after the shekel of the sanctuary" (comp. Leviticus 5:15).
(2) "He shall add the fifth part more thereto." This is a proper consideration for the inconvenience the owner may have suffered through the fraud. But if the "estimation" be, as some read it in Leviticus 5:15, "two shekels," then the restoration would be "fourfold," since the atonement money was "half a shekel." This would agree with Exodus 22:1 (comp. also 2 Samuel 12:6; Luke 19:8).
(3) And he shall "give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass offering." The trespass offering will not be accepted else. Job's blends had to make peace with him before their sacrifices would be accepted (Job 42:8; see also Matthew 5:23, 24).
2. He shall then "bring his trespass offering unto the Lord."
(1) "A ram that is perfect." God will accept nothing that is imperfect. Therefore we must come to him through Christ, who can invest us with his righteousness.
(2) "With thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest." This, according to Leviticus 5:15, would be of the value of two shekels.
(3) "And the priest shall make an atonement for him," etc. Reflect: What a power there is in conscience! What a costly thing is sin! How carefully should it be avoided! Let us avail ourselves of the benefits of redemption. - J.A.M.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,