Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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.1. If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it (so as to make profit by it), he is to repay fivefold for the ox, and fourfold for the sheep. Cf. (with differences) Ḥamm. § 8 (see p. 420). The ox is reckoned as of higher value than the sheep on account especially of its being useful in agricultural work. The case of the animal being still alive, and in the thief’s possession, is dealt with in v. 4. The fourfold restitution of a sheep is the penalty named by David in his reply to Nathan’s parable (2 Samuel 12:4): sevenfold restitution is mentioned only in the hyperbolical passage, Proverbs 6:31, but may be read rightly by the LXX. in 2 Samuel 12:4, ‘fourfold’ being here not improbably a correction made on the basis of the present law. Fourfold restitution was also the penalty, when the thief was caught in the act, by the later Roman law; and for the theft of an animal it is still usual among the modern Bedawin (Cook, p. 216). Multiple restitution (in varying ratios) the penalty prescribed by Hạmmurabi for many cases of fraud (DB. v. 596b): and it is still in many parts of the world a common penalty for theft (Post, Grundriss der ethnol. Jurispr. ii. 430 f.).
and kill it] The word (ṭâbaḥ) is the one regularly used of slaughtering cattle for food (Genesis 43:16, 1 Samuel 25:11 al.).
1–4. Theft of ox or sheep; and burglary.
If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.2–3a. A thief caught breaking in by night may be killed without any guilt being incurred by his death, but not if the act take place by day. In the dark the householder would probably not be able to recognize the burglar, so as to bring him to justice, nor would he know whether he might not intend murder: a mortal blow, given in defence of his life and property, would therefore be excusable under the circumstances: but no such excuse could be made for it in the light of day. A thief might also be killed in the night with impunity by Athenian law (Dem. Timocr., § 113, p. 736; cf. Plato, Legg. ix. 874 b), and by the law of the XII. Tables (viii. 12) ‘si nox furtum factum sit, si im (eum) occisit, iure caesus esto.’ Ḥamm. § 21 is not really parallel: see Cook, p.213.
2. breaking in] digging through: cf. Jeremiah 2:34, Job 24:16, Matthew 6:19 RVm. Still the usual method of housebreakers in Syria: see Trumbull, The Threshold Covenant (1896), p. 260 f.
for him] i.e. for the householder, if he kills him in the darkness. For the expression, cf. Numbers 35:27 RVm. (אין לו דם); and for ‘blood’ (marg.), implying ‘bloodguiltiness,’ Psalm 51:14. Elsewhere blood is said to be ‘upon’ a person, Deuteronomy 19:10.
3a. upon him] i.e. upon the thief.
for him] the householder, as v. 2.
3b. If the text is correct, we must understand tacitly after v. 3a, ‘[He ought not therefore to be killed;] he should make restitution, &c.’ This however is a good deal to supply: both v. 2 and v. 3a start distinctly from the supposition that the thief is slain; and the ox, ass or sheep, of v. 4, are hardly likely to have been found in the house that was ‘dug’ into, v. 2. Hence there is great probability in Budde’s view that vv. 2, 3a are out of place; and that vv. 3b, 4 form really the sequel to v. 1, stating what is to be done in the two other alternative cases, (1) if the thief have nothing, (2) if the stolen animal be found in his possession alive. Render then (directly following v. 1): (v. 3b) ‘he shall surely make restitution [the word rendered ‘pay’ in vv. 1, 4]: if he have nothing, then he shall be sold,’ &c. (to the end of v. 4).
for his theft] i.e. not ‘as a punishment for his act of stealing,’ but ‘as compensation for the thing stolen.’ ‘According to Jos. Ant. xvi. 1. 1 a thief sold under these circumstances was not sold to a foreigner, and became free in the 7th year (ch. Exodus 21:2)’ (Kn.).
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.
If the theft be certainly found in his hand alive, whether it be ox, or ass, or sheep; he shall restore double.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.
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.5. a field] i.e. a field of his own, from which he allows the cattle to stray into the field of a neighbour.
the best] The Heb. as Genesis 47:6; Genesis 47:11, also of land. The verse contains difficulties, however; and two corrections have accordingly been proposed. (1) Why, as no malicious intention seems to be imputed to the owner of the cattle, is compensation to be made from the best of his field? LXX. Sam. read words after ‘another man’s field,’ which remove this difficulty, viz. ‘[he shall surely make it good from his own field according to its produce; but if it eat the whole of the field,] of the best of his own field,’ &c.; the whole of the crop is eaten; the carelessness is accordingly greater, no judgement can be formed of the quality of the destroyed crop, and it is consequently to be replaced from the best which can be given. (2) This however by no means removes all the difficulties: (a) a ‘vineyard’ was not a pasture-ground for cattle, it was protected against animals by a stone fence, Isaiah 5:5; (b) the renderings ‘cause to be eaten’ and ‘feed’ (הבעיר and בער) are doubtful: to ‘eat’ or to ‘feed’ (i.e. to graze) is an uncertain rendering of בער, even in Isaiah 3:14; Isaiah 5:5; Isaiah 6:13; and both words elsewhere mean only to kindle (fire: so in v. 6), to burn, or (fig.) to destroy. Hence it is very probable that we should read with slight changes (הבערה for בעירה, and ובערה for ובער), ‘If a man cause a field or a vineyard to be burnt [to destroy stubble or weeds, as is still the custom in Palestine in summer: cf. on ch. Exodus 15:7, and Verg. G. i. 84 f.], and let the burning (same word as in v. 6b, ‘the fire’) spread, and it burn in another man’s field, of the best,’ &c. (so Bä.; and, long before him, Aldis Wright, Journ. of Phil. iv., 1872, p. 72 f.): as the damage is due carelessness, if not (Wright) to incendiarism, the reason why compensation is to be made of the ‘best’ becomes apparent (cf. Cook, p. 202). Fire spreads rapidly in the hot summers of Palestine; and such carelessness is punished severely by the Arabs (L. and B. ii. 293).
5, 6. Compensation to be paid for damage done by cattle being allowed negligently to stray (v. 5—if the text be sound); and by fire spreading accidentally (v. 6) to another man’s field.
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.6. Damage done by fire spreading accidentally to another man’s field. In this case compensation according to the damage done in sufficient, as no blame, or malice, attaches to the person who kindled the fire.
break out] lit. go forth (Numbers 21:28), i.e. spread from the place in which it originated—being blown, for instance, by the wind. Contrast in v. 5 let the burning spread, viz. through culpable neglect.
thorns] such as were used to form a ‘hedge’ about fields (cf. Isaiah 5:5 a, Sir 28:24).
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.7. stuff] Heb. kçlim, plur. of keli, a very general term, including both household articles (Genesis 45:20; Joshua 7:11 ‘stuff,’ as here; Leviticus 13:49 ‘thing’), vessels (ch. Exodus 27:3; 2 Kings 4:3), jewels or ornaments (ch. Exodus 3:22), as also weapons or armour (Genesis 27:3, 1 Samuel 14:1, &c.), instruments (Exodus 27:19 al.; Amos 6:5), &c.
to keep] for safety (cf. the story of the παρακαταθήκη, or ‘deposit,’ entrusted to the Spartan, Glaucus, in Hdt. vi. 86).
7, 8. If a man receives money or any household article for safe custody, and it is stolen, the thief, if he can be discovered, is to repay twofold (v. 7); if the thief cannot be discovered, the man to whom the property was entrusted must be acquitted at a sanctuary of the suspicion which will then naturally light upon him (v. 8).
7–13. Compensation for loss or damage in various cases of deposit. At the present day, among the Bedawin, a man going on a journey for instance will deposit money or goods with another for safety during his absence. Such a deposit is regarded by the Arabs as a sacred trust (Cook, p. 227; Doughty, i. 176, 267, 280, ii. 301).
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.8. unto God] i.e. to the local sanctuary. On the term ‘God,’ here and v. 9, and the paraphrase ‘the judges’ (marg.), see on Exodus 21:6 and Exodus 18:15. To judge by the analogy of v. 11, a denial on oath was sufficient for an acquittal. Comp. 1 Kings 8:31-32.
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.9. Extension of the principle of v. 8 to all cases of suspected misappropriation of property, whether arising out of a ‘deposit,’ or not.
any manner of lost thing] which is found, it is implied, suspiciously in the possession of another.
This is it] viz. the thing that I have lost.
he whom, &c.] i.e. whoever, in such a case, is convicted of being in the unlawful possession of property. How the conviction was effected, is not stated: perhaps the oath was only one element in a judicial enquiry; perhaps it was accompanied by an ordeal, and if this was not passed successfully, it was regarded as God’s condemnation.
double] as in vv. 4, 7; not fourfold (v. 1), the disputed article being still, in the general case assumed in v. 9, in the possession of the party accused.
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:10. be hurt] lit. be broken, i.e. be maimed or wounded: so v. 14, Ezekiel 34:4; Ezekiel 34:16, Zechariah 11:16, Leviticus 22:22.
or driven away] better, carried away, viz. by raiders (Job 1:15; Job 1:17); 1 Chronicles 5:21 Heb., 2 Chronicles 14:15. The word commonly rendered taken captive, 1 Samuel 30:3; 1 Samuel 30:5, &c.
10–13. Procedure to be followed, when the property deposited, and afterwards injured or lost, is an animal.
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.11. the oath of Yahweh] 2 Samuel 21:7, 1 Kings 2:43. The person is whom the animal had been entrusted must swear solemnly that he has not appropriated it himself.
shall accept it] viz. the oath. Both Burckhardt (Bedouins, i. 126–9) and Doughty (Arab. Deserta, i. 267), state that among the Arabs now, if a person suspected of theft is willing to take certain specially solemn oaths, he is considered to be acquitted.
not make restitution] no reasonable precaution having been neglected. In primitive and semi-primitive societies an accused or suspected person is often allowed to clear himself by taking a solemn oath of purgation; there are several examples in the Code of Hạmmurabi (see p. 423; cf. also Exo 1 Kings 8:31 f.). The practice was also common in the Middle Ages (see E. B. Tylor’s arts. Oath and Ordeal in the Encycl. Brit. and ‘Ordeals and Oaths’ in Macmillan’s Magazine, May, 1876). The oath might be followed by an ordeal (see Manu viii. 109–116, cited by Gray, Numbers, p. 45); or it might involve such curses upon the person taking it, if he did not speak the truth, that the act of taking it constituted itself the ordeal.
And if it be stolen from him, he shall make restitution unto the owner thereof.12. If, however, the animal be stolen, this might have been guarded against by greater care, and compensation must be made.
If it be torn in pieces, then let him bring it for witness, and he shall not make good that which was torn.13. If the animal be torn by wild beasts, the man entrusted with it has only to produce its torn flesh as evidence of the fact, and he need make no compensation. No reasonable precautions could guard against this most common misfortune to cattle in the East (cf. Genesis 31:39); and the fact that the remains of the flesh could be produced would show that the shepherd had been watchful, and had even driven off the wild beast before it had completely consumed the carcase (1 Samuel 17:35, Amos 3:12). Cf. Ḥamm. § 244 (a hired animal); and Manu viii. 235 f.
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.14. barrow (an animal)] No object is expressed in the Heb.: it must be understood from vv. 10–13. The sequel shews that an animal is intended. ‘Borrow’ is lit. ask: so Exo 2 Kings 6:5. Cf. on Exodus 12:36be hurt] lit. broken, as v. 10.
14, 15. Compensation for injury to a borrowed animal. If the owner is not with it, the borrower is responsible and must make restitution; if the owner is with it, it is presumed that he might have prevented any ill-usage or injury, and the borrower is not responsible. Cf. Ḥamm. §§ 245–6 (a hired animal).
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.15. it came for its hire] and therefore, it is presumed, the owner was prepared to take the risk, so that compensation for injury is unnecessary. The sense expressed by the marg. is hardly likely: for if the cost of compensation in the possible case of injury or death were included in the hire, it would make this unreasonably high. Others understand sâkîr in its usual sense of a ‘hired servant,’ and make an entirely new case of v. 15b, rendering: If it be a hired servant (who, viz., has injured his own master’s animal), it (the damage) cometh into his hire, and is gradually worked off by him (so Kautzsch and Socin, Bä., Ryssel). The connexion with vv. 14, 15a is however in this case in exact; for the ‘it’ is not, as in v. 15a, one who has borrowed the animal from its owner, but one who has been entrusted with it by his master.
And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.16. a marriage-price] Heb. môhar, Arab, mahr; i.e.—not a ‘dowry,’ but—the price paid for the wife to her parents or family, according to ancient Hebrew custom (cf. Genesis 34:12, 1 Samuel 18:25). The same custom prevailed anciently, and prevails still, in many other parts of the world (see Post, Familienrecht, pp. 157 ff., 173 ff.): cf., for instance, the Homeric ἕδνα or ἔεδνα, Il. xvi. 178; Od. xvi. 391 f., xxi. 160–162, &c.; and, for Arabia, W. R. Smith, Marriage and Kinship in Ancient Arabia, p. 78 f. The môhar was paid at the time of betrothal; and its payment ratified the engagement. The amount varied naturally with the relative circumstances of the two parties; and was a subject of mutual agreement between the suitor and the girl’s family (cf. Genesis 34:12).
16, 17. Compensation for the seduction of an unbetrothed maiden The unmarried and unbetrothed daughter counts as part of her father’s property; by the loss of her virginity her value is diminished; her father consequently has a claim for compensation; and the seducer must pay the price sufficient to make the girl his wife. Comp. Deuteronomy 22:28-29 (where, however, the case contemplated is one not of seduction, but of rape). The seduction of a betrothed maiden is regarded as virtually the same thing as adultery: this is dealt with in Deuteronomy 22:23-27.
If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.17. If, however, the father will not give her in marriage to her seducer, he must still pay him the usual marriage-price that would be expected for a daughter. In Deuteronomy 22:28 the penalty for rape Isaiah 50 shekels of silver (about £7]), not quite twice the ordinary price of a slave (Exodus 21:32).
Exodus 22:18 to Exodus 23:19. A collection of miscellaneous moral, religious, and ceremonial commands, not very systematically arranged. They correspond to the ‘words’ of Exodus 24:3 (see on Exodus 21:1): with few exceptions, all are introduced by Thou shalt: even where the opening word is If, thou shalt generally follows (Exodus 22:25-26, Exodus 23:4-5). The moral commands are prompted chiefly by motives of philanthropy and equity: the religious and ceremonial ones are comprised in Exodus 22:20; Exodus 22:28-31, Exodus 23:10-19 (cf. Exodus 20:23-26). It is probable that in parts the original laws have had parenetic additions made to them by the compiler.
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.18. Magic and divination were practised extensively in the ancient world, as indeed they are still among uncivilised peoples and among the uneducated even in civilised countries: we have particularly abundant information respecting the practice of them in Assyria (see briefly the writer’s Daniel, in the Camb. Bible, p. 13 ff., more fully Jastrow, Relig. of Bab. and Ass. (1898), pp. 352–406). As inconsistent with the spirit the religion of Jehovah, as fostering superstition, and as associated commonly with heathen beliefs, they are condemned repeatedly in the OT.: see Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6; Leviticus 20:27 (all H), and esp. Deuteronomy 18:10-11, locus classicus on the subject, where eight types are enumerated (see the writer’s note ad loc.); and often in the prophets. See further on the subject, with numerous illustrations of the methods of magic practised different parts of the world, O. C. Whitehouse’s articles Magic, Soothsayer, Sorcery, in DB.
a sorceress] The fem. (only here) of the word rendered sorcerer in Deuteronomy 18:10, Malachi 3:5, 2 Chronicles 33:6, Daniel 2:2†: cf. Jeremiah 27:9; and sorceries in 2 Kings 9:22, Micah 5:11, Nahum 3:4, Isaiah 47:9; Isaiah 47:12†. Micah 5:11 seems to shew that the ‘sorceries’ were something material, such as drugs, herbs, &c., used superstitiously for the purpose of producing magical effects. Sorcery was resorted to for all kinds of purposes, to heal diseases, to ward off disasters, to bring misfortune upon a neighbour, to inspire a woman with love, &c.; it was often supposed to operate by the power obtained through incantations or other spells over spirits (the Arab. jinn).
The law is one which, as the reader need hardly be reminded, has often been wofully misapplied, and led to the committal of great cruelties: witches were often burnt in the middle ages; and they were executed in England as late as 1716. The right feeling that sorcery is debasing and superstitious finds expression in a law which is no doubt not out of harmony with the severe punishments common in the East, even to modern times,—and even, we may add, in mediaeval Europe: but the law belongs to the older dispensation, and does not breathe the spirit of Christ (Luke 9:55). The rise of a historical sense, and the recognition that the revelation contained in the OT. was progressive and that the laws given to Israel are not, simply as such, binding upon Christian nations, have taught men that an injunction such as this can have no place in a Christian law-book.
Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death.19. Cf. Leviticus 18:23; Leviticus 20:15 f. (both H); Deuteronomy 27:21.
He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed.20. Sacrifice by an Israelite to any god save Jehovah to be punished with the ban. Jehovah is a ‘jealous God’ (Exodus 20:5), who does not tolerated the worship of any other god beside Himself.
utterly destroyed] banned or devoted. The ‘ban’ (ḥérem) was an archaic institution, often alluded to in the OT. A city or nation that was hostile to Jehovah was ‘banned,’ or ‘devoted’ (etymologically, as Arabic shews, separated or set apart1), i.e. given over to Him as a form of offering, human beings being destroyed, with or without the cattle and spoil as well, according to the gravity of the occasion. For examples, see Deuteronomy 2:34 f., Exodus 3:6 f., Exodus 7:2, Exodus 13:12-18 (an idolatrous Isr. city to be ‘devoted’), Joshua 6:17-19; Joshua 6:21, Jdg 1:17; Jdg 21:11, 1 Samuel 15:3; 1 Samuel 15:9. Here the ‘ban’ is to be put in force against the Israelite who is disloyal to Jehovah. The ban was also a Moabite institution. Mesha in his inscription (see DB. s.v. Moab, or EB. s.v. Mesha), ll. 16–18 tells us how, after he had carried off the ‘vessels of Yahweh’ from the town of Nebo (Numbers 32:38), and dragged them before Chemosh, he slew 7000 Israelite prisoners, for he had ‘devoted’ the city to Ashtor-Chemosh (cf. Numbers 21:2 f.). See further DB. v. 619b, EB. Ban.
 The root is the Arabic ḥarama, to shut off, set apart, whence ḥarâm, the sacred enclosure round the Mosque of Omar at Jerusalem, and ḥarîm, the secluded part of a Mohammedan establishment, in which the women live, applied also to its occupants, i.e. the ‘harem.’
In AV. heḥěrîm was usually rendered ‘utterly destroy,’ and the corresponding subst. ḥérem ‘cursed thing’ (Deuteronomy 7:26), or (in Joshua 6, Joshua 7.) ‘accursed thing’: but these renderings both express secondary ideas, besides being to all appearance entirely unrelated to each other: in RV. the verb, when applied to things, is rendered ‘devote’ (as Leviticus 27:29 AV.); when applied to human beings it is still rendered ‘utterly destroy,’ but ‘Heb. devote’ has been added on the margin; and ‘devoted thing’ has been substituted for ‘cursed’ and ‘accursed thing’ (e.g. Joshua 6:18; Joshua 7:1 ff.): the connexion between the two cognate terms has thus been preserved throughout.
Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.21. a sojourner shalt thou not wrong …; for ye were sojourners in the land of Egypt] The ‘sojourner’ (gêr), or resident foreigner (see on Exodus 12:48; and cf. Exodus 2:22, Exodus 20:10), had at this time no legal status in Israel, and was thus liable in many ways to injustice and oppression. With this injunction comp. Leviticus 19:33-34, Deuteronomy 1:16; Deuteronomy 10:18 f., and the other passages from Dt. and Jer. cited on v. 22; for allusions to the oppression of the gêr, see Ezekiel 22:7; Ezekiel 22:29, Malachi 3:5.
wrong] Heb. hônâh; cf. Leviticus 19:33 (‘oppress’), also of the gêr.
oppress] lit. crush (Numbers 22:25): fig. of external oppressors, Jdg 2:8 al.; as here, only Exodus 23:9 besides.
for ye were sojourners, &c.] The same motive, in exactly the same words, in Exodus 23:9, Leviticus 19:34 (H), Deuteronomy 10:19. For the cognate verb cased of the ‘sojourn’ in Egypt, see Genesis 12:10 (of Abraham), Exodus 6:4, Deuteronomy 26:5, Isaiah 52:4, Psalm 105:12.
21–27. A group of humanitarian laws. The gêr, or resident foreigner, the widow, and the orphan not to be oppressed, vv. 21–24; interest not to be taken from the poor, v. 25; a garment taken in pledge to be returned before nightfall, vv. 26 f.
Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.22. The helpless widow, and orphan, not to be oppressed. The widow, the orphan, and the ‘sojourner,’ as liable in various ways to suffer from rapacious judges, and hard-hearted moneyed men, are constantly commended to the philanthropic regard of the Israelite in Dt. (Deuteronomy 10:18, Deuteronomy 14:29, Deuteronomy 16:11; Deuteronomy 16:14, Deuteronomy 24:17; Deuteronomy 24:19-21, Deuteronomy 26:12-13, Exodus 27:19); so in the prophets, Jeremiah 7:6; Jeremiah 22:3; cf. Isaiah 1:17, and elsewhere. Contrast Job’s conduct (Job 31:16-17; Job 31:21).
If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry;23. If thou afflict him in any wise, and he cry at all unto me, I will surely hear his cry] so the Heb., making it probable that vv. 21b, 22 (which are moreover distinguished from the context by the plur. ye), 24 (which will naturally go with v. 22) are an addition to the original text. It is true, there are not unfrequent cases in poetry, when a class of persons has been spoken of, of their being referred to individually by a sing. pronoun (see G.-K. § 145m; and the passages collected in the writer’s Jeremiah, p. 362); but this is very unusual in prose: such passages as Genesis 2:19, Leviticus 21:7; Leviticus 25:31, Deuteronomy 7:3, Joshua 24:7, Jdg 12:5; Jdg 21:6, are hardly parallel to the present one.
cry … unto me] cf. Deuteronomy 15:9; Deuteronomy 24:15; also James 5:4.
23, 24. If the Israelite does this, Jehovah will treat him with a just retribution.
And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.24. Those who had shewn heartlessness towards widows and orphans will perish in battle (cf. Isaiah 9:17), and their wives and children will become widows and orphans themselves.
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.25. Interest not to be taken on money lent to the poor.
as a creditor] exacting and impatient: cf. 2 Kings 4:1, Psalm 109:11 (where the same word is rendered ‘extortioner’).
usury] interest. This was formerly the sense of ‘usury’ (Lat. usura, something paid for the use of money); but the word is now restricted to exorbitant interest; the rendering has consequently become misleading. The taking of interest is prohibited also in Leviticus 25:36 f. (H), and Deuteronomy 23:19 f.: it is referred to also with disapproval in Ezekiel 18:8; Ezekiel 18:13; Ezekiel 18:17; Ezekiel 22:12, Proverbs 28:8, Psalm 15:5 (as what the model Israelite would not do). The same feeling against taking interest on money lent was entertained by Greek thinkers (see Plato, Legg. v. 742; Arist. Polit. i. 10. 5): it was also shared largely in the early Christian Church. Many good Christians, however, now put out their money on interest: what, then, is the cause of the change of feeling? The cause is to be found in the different purpose for which money is now lent. In modern times money is commonly lent for commercial purposes, to enable the borrower to increase his capital and develope his business: and it is as natural and proper that a reasonable payment should be made for the accommodation, as that it should be made for this loan (i.e. the hire) of a house, or any other commodity. But this use of loans is a modern development: in ancient times money was commonly lent for the relief of poverty brought about by misfortune or debt; it partook thus of the nature of a charity; and to take interest on money thus lent was felt to be making gain out of a neighbour’s need. The interest which ancient feeling condemned was thus not the interest taken on a commercial loan such as is taken habitually in the modern world, but the interest taken on a charitable loan, which only increases the borrower’s distress. Be the feeling with which the ancients regarded all interest is of course still rightly maintained against usurious interest, such as ‘money-lenders’ often exact from those whom need drives into their hands. Cf. the remarks of Grote, Hist. of Greece, Part II., ch. xi., in connexion with the measures adopted by Solon at Athens for the relief of those who had borrowed money on the security of their own persons (cf. 2 Kings 4:1).
If thou at all take thy neighbour's raiment to pledge, thou shalt deliver it unto him by that the sun goeth down:26. garment] mantle (Heb. salmâh), the large rectangular piece of cloth described in the note on Exodus 12:34; perhaps the only article that a poor man would have to offer as a pledge, as well as his only covering by night (v. 27). The mantle might be retained by the debtor, in order that he might sleep in it himself: see Deuteronomy 24:12. A garment was a common pledge: see not only Amos 2:8, Job 22:6, already quoted, but also Proverbs 20:16 = Proverbs 27:13. The poor still sleep in Palestine in their ordinary clothes (L. and B. i. 54, 99, iii. 89); cf. Shaw, Travels in Barbary and the Levant (1738), p. 290 (cited by Kn.).
26, 27. A garment taken in pledge to be returned before sun-down. Cf. Ḥamm. § 241. Comp. Deuteronomy 24:6; Deuteronomy 24:10-13, where other limitations are placed on the arbitrary power of the creditor. Loans on interest are forbidden, in Dt. (Deuteronomy 23:19 f.) not less than here (v. 25): but loans on the security of a pledge are permitted, under certain provisos checking harsh or arbitrary action on the part of the creditor; he is not, for instance, to enter the house of the debtor to choose his own pledge, or to take in pledge an article necessary to life, such as the domestic hand-mill. For pledges given on a large scale as security for a loan, see Nehemiah 5:3 (where houses and vineyards were, as we should say in such a case, mortgaged), 5 (children). Allusions to abuses in the exaction or retention of pledges are contained in Amos 2:8, Ezekiel 18:12; Ezekiel 18:16 (contrast v. 7), Exodus 33:15, Job 22:6; Job 24:3; Job 24:9.
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.27. wherein, &c.] i.e. wherein else can he sleep?
gracious] see on Exodus 34:6; and cf. Exodus 33:19.
Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people.28. Reverence to be shewn to God, and to those in authority.
revile] the word (ḳâlal) usually rendered curse (e.g. Exodus 21:17): here represented by revile, because of the syn. (’ârar) in v. 28b.
God] The paraphrase judges (RVm.) is not here admissible; for though ‘to go to God’ might mean to go to the judges, as the representatives or spokesmen of God, this would not justify ‘God’ in any connexion being taken to signify judges. LXX. θεούς, Vulg. diis, AV. the gods; and so Jos. Ant. iv. 8, 10, c. Ap. ii. 33, and Philo, Vit. Mos. iii. p. 166, de Mon. i. p. 219 (cited by Kn.), understanding the passage, in a sense agreeable the circumstances of their own time, of heathen gods: but this, rough quite legitimate grammatically, would make the precept one very alien to the spirit of the OT.
a ruler] lit. one lifted up, i.e. placed above others in a position of authority. A word very common (see on Exodus 16:12) in P and Ezek., but rare elsewhere. The command is quoted by St Paul in Acts 23:5, almost exactly as it stands in the LXX. Cf. Proverbs 24:21, Romans 13:1, 1 Peter 1:17; 1 Peter 2:13.
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.29–31. A group of fundamental ceremonial injunctions. Jehovah’s customary due from the first annual produce of the threshing-floor and the wine-press to be promptly paid: firstborn males, both of men and animals, to be given to Him; flesh torn of beasts not to be eaten. The laws are stated here tersely and generally: more detailed, and sometimes discrepant, regulations are given in the later codes.
29a. thy fulness and thy trickling thou shalt not delay] A paraphrase is a necessity for English idiom: but it obliterates the characteristic curtness of the original. The two substantives are paraphrased by LXX., no doubt correctly, by ‘the firstfruits of thy threshing-floor and of thy wine-press.’ Both expressions are, however, peculiar, and no doubt archaic. ‘Fulness’ is used similarly in Numbers 18:27 (P) ‘like the fulness [in the parallel, v. 30, ‘increase,’ ‘produce’] from the wine-vat, and the corn from the threshing-floor’ (offered viz. by the Israelites as tithe): it seems to mean properly full yield (RVm. abundance)—here of the newly threshed corn, as in Nu. l.c. of the freshly expressed grape-juice. Naturally it does not signify here the whole yield of the year, but only that part of it which was offered to Jehovah as ‘firstfruits’ (cf. Exodus 23:16; Exodus 23:19). ‘Trickling’ (the masc. of the ordinary Heb. word for ‘tear’), whatever the true explanation of the expression may be1, pretty clearly denotes the freshly extracted juice of the grape (tirôsh, ‘must’),—perhaps also (but see footnote) of the olive (yiẓhâr, ‘fresh oil’) as well.
 Lane, Arab. Lex. p. 913, cites the expression ‘tear of the vine’ for wine; and A. R. S. Kennedy (EB. iv. 5314, s.v. Wine and Strong Drink) refers to the Spanish lagrima, ‘tear,’ the name for wine made from grape-juice which has exuded from the grapes without pressure. Such wine has always been considered superior to that made from juice extracted by treading the grapes; and as this method of obtaining grape-juice is mentioned in the Mishnah, and is still practised in Syria,—the grapes being laid out for some days on a mishtâḥ, or ‘spreading-place,’ from which the exuding juice trickled down into the wine-vat (see ibid.),—it is possible that the choice juice so obtained is what is here meant. If this explanation is correct, however, ‘oil’ will not have been included in the term; and the inclusion of this in the firstfruits (Deuteronomy 18:4, &c.) will not have taken place till later.
The dedication to the deity of a portion of the new produce of the year is a widely prevalent custom. ‘Primitive peoples often partake of the new corn sacramentally, because they suppose it to be instinct with a divine spirit of life. At a later age, when the fruits of the earth are conceived as created rather than as animated by divinity, the new fruits are no longer partaken of sacramentally; but a portion of them is presented as a thank-offering to the divine beings who are supposed to have produced them.… Till the firstfruits have been presented to the deity, people are not at liberty to eat of the new crops’ (Frazer, The Golden Bough,2 ii. 459, with numerous examples, pp. 318–340, 459–471, some excerpted by Dr Gray, Numbers, p. 225 f.). Cf. Leviticus 23:14 a (H), Deuteronomy 26:1-11.
29b, 30. Like the firstfruits of the soil, the firstborn of men and animals are also to be given to Jehovah. This principle has been laid down before, Exodus 13:1-2 (P), 11–16 (J): see on Exodus 13:1-2, and p. 409.
shalt thou give unto me] how it is to be given is not stated: exactly the same expression is used in v. 30 of animals (which were sacrificed). The principle is formulated in general terms, which must have been interpreted in the light of the usage of the time: how it was understood in practice is stated by J (Exodus 13:13 b = Exodus 34:20 b).
30. The firstling of a cow or sheep to be given to Jehovah on the eighth day after birth. The ‘eighth day’ agrees with the general principle (Leviticus 22:27 H), that no animal might be offered in sacrifice till it was of that age. The present law evidently presupposes a plurality of local sanctuaries (cf. on Exodus 20:24): a journey to Jerusalem, every time that a firstling of cow or sheep was born, would naturally be out of the question. In Dt. (Deuteronomy 15:19 f.) no age-limit is prescribed, but the firstlings are to be taken ‘year by year,’—i.e. no doubt mostly, as cattle in Arabia chiefly yean in spring (p. 411; Rel. Sem.2 465), at Maẓẓoth,—to the central sanctuary, and eaten there at a sacred meal by the owner and his household: the older usage has thus been accommodated to the later principle of a single sanctuary. Nothing is said here about the firstlings of unclean animals: see in J Exodus 13:13 a = Exodus 34:20 a.
 W. R. Smith, The Religion of the Semites, ed. 2, 1894.
31a. Flesh torn by wild beasts not to be eaten.
holy men] ‘Holy’ is a word with a history; and the ideas expressed by it in the OT. do not appear to have been always the same. ‘Its connotation would seem to have been at first physical and ceremonial, and to have become gradually more and more ethical and spiritual’ (Sanday-Headlam on Romans 1:7). Originally, like all such words, it had naturally a physical sense, now completely lost both in Heb. and in the other Semitic languages, but conjectured to have been that of separation. In actual usage it expresses the idea of belonging to deity, whether of the character of deity itself (cf. on Exodus 15:11), or of the character of men or things as belonging to Him: as the conception of deity became elevated and purified, the idea expressed by ‘holy’ became elevated and purified likewise, till at last it expressed the idea of most absolute purity and sanctity. Here the context shews that it must be used in one of its lower senses: it is followed by a command, not to shun and abhor every kind of evil, for instance, or to be morally pure or saintly, but by the purely ceremonial command not to eat flesh torn by beasts: the ‘holiness’ is thus not moral, but ritual. In Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2; Deuteronomy 26:19, it is used in a higher sense: for it is in each case connected with some prohibition of idolatry or superstition, or an exhortation to obey Jehovah’s moral commands. See farther, on the idea of Holiness, Sanday-Headlam, l.c.; A. B. Davidson, Theol. of OT., pp. 144–160; Skinner, art. Holiness in DB.; Simcox, art. Clean and Unclean in EB.
and flesh in the field, a torn animal, ye shall not eat] The Heb. is not very natural; and perhaps, with LXX. (who express ‘flesh torn of beasts’ alone), Budde, Bä., we should read simply, ‘and the flesh of a torn animal ye shall not eat,’ regarding בשדה ‘in the field’ as a dittograph of בשר ‘flesh.’ For ṭerçphâh, ‘that which is torn (by wild beasts),’ or ‘a torn animal,’ see v. 13, Genesis 31:39. With the present law, comp. Leviticus 17:15 (P), where lustrations are prescribed for those who have eaten either nebhçlâh (‘a carcase,’ ‘that which dieth of itself’) or ṭerçphâh, but neither is in so many words prohibited as food1, and Deuteronomy 14:21, where the eating of nebhçlâh is prohibited, but nothing is said about ṭerçphâh. The reason of both prohibitions is doubtless to be found in the fact that such flesh had not been properly drained of blood (Deuteronomy 12:16; Deuteronomy 12:23, &c.).
 Both were prohibited absolutely to priests (Leviticus 22:8; Ezekiel 44:31; cf. Ezekiel 4:14).
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.
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.