Exodus 22:1
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.
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(1-4) Theft is here treated of with great brevity, only three kinds being distinguished—(1) Housebreaking; (2) stealing without conversion of the property; (3) stealing with conversion. The main principle of punishment laid down is the exaction from the offender o! Double (Exodus 22:4). When, however, there has been conversion of the property, the penalty is heavier, the return of four-fold in the case of a sheep, of five-fold in that of an ox (Exodus 22:1). Incidentally it is enacted that the burglar may be resisted by force (Exodus 22:2), and that to kill him shall be justifiable homicide; and further, it is laid down that a thief unable to make the legal restitution shall become a slave in order to pay his debt (Exodus 22:3).

(1) If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep.—The flocks and herds of the Israelites constituted their principal property, and hence cattle-stealing is taken as the representative of theft in general.

And kill it, or sell it.—Plainly showing persistence and determination.

Five oxen . . . four sheep.—The principle of the variation is not clear. Perhaps the theft of an ox was regarded as involving more audacity, and so more guilt, in the thief.

Exodus 22:1. Five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep — More for an ox than for a sheep, because the owner, besides all the other profit, lost the daily labour of his ox. If he were not able to make restitution, he was to be sold for a slave: the court of judgment was to do it, and it is likely the person robbed received the money.

22; 1 - 31 Judicial laws. - The people of God should ever be ready to show mildness and mercy, according to the spirit of these laws. We must answer to God, not only for what we do maliciously, but for what we do heedlessly. Therefore, when we have done harm to our neighbour, we should make restitution, though not compelled by law. Let these scriptures lead our souls to remember, that if the grace of God has indeed appeared to us, then it has taught us, and enabled us so to conduct ourselves by its holy power, that denying ungodliness and wordly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, Titus 2:12. And the grace of God teaches us, that as the Lord is our portion, there is enough in him to satisfy all the desires of our souls.The theft of an ox appears to have been regarded as a greater crime than the theft of a sheep, because it showed a stronger purpose in wickedness to take the larger and more powerful animal. It may have been on similar moral ground that the thief, when he had proved his persistency in crime by adding to his theft the slaughter, or sale, of the animal, was to restore four times its value in the case of a sheep (compare the marginal references), and five times its value in the case of an ox; but if the animal was still in his possession alive (see Exodus 22:4) he had to make only twofold restitution. CHAPTER 22

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.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 man shall steal an ox or a sheep,.... In which the substance of men chiefly lay in those times, and particularly the people of Israel, who were now come out of Egypt, with their flocks and herds, and these lying near together, were the more liable to be stolen; and hence also the laws in the preceding chapter concerning oxen and damages done by them, and oxen and sheep are only mentioned; perhaps chiefly because used in sacrifice, as well as serviceable for other things; not but that stealing other cattle and other things were criminal and forbidden, and to be punished in proportion:

and kill it, or sell it; either of which cases would plainly show that he took it away with an intention to deprive the owner of it, and to convert it to his own use:

he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep; the reason of this difference, five being obliged to be given for the one, and but four for the other, is, because the one was more valuable than the other, as well as more useful, and also more easily stolen, and therefore the greater mulct or fine was laid upon the theft of it, to deter from it: the Targum of Jonathan expresses the reason of the law thus; five for oxen, because the theft of them hindered from ploughing, or made to cease from it; and for sheep but four, because there was trouble in the theft of them, and there was no tillage or agriculture by them: and Saadiah Gaon observes, that the damage that comes to the owner of the ox is more than that by a lamb, because with it, the ox, he ploughs, which is a creature that was used in those countries to be employed in that service, as well as in treading out the corn: Maimonides (u) accounts for it thus,"the restitution of the theft of oxen is increased by one, because the theft of them is easy; sheep are fed in flocks, and are easily kept and watched, and can scarcely be taken away by theft but in the night; but oxen are fed scattered here and there, and therefore cannot be so easily kept by the herdsmen; hence also their theft used to be more common:''four fold restitution was in use with the ancient Persians, with whom it was a rule,"whoever took any substance of another, in retaliation they took fourfold from him, and if he restored it, he gave fourfold of the same (w).''

(u) Moreh Nevochim, par. 3. c. 41. (w) Lib. Shed-dar, apud Hyde Relig. Vet. Pers. p. 472.

If a man shall steal an {a} ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.

(a) Either a great beast of the herd, or a small beast of the flock.

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.

Verse 1. - If a man shall steal an ox. The principal property possessed by the Israelites in the wilderness was their cattle; whence this occurs to the legislator as the thing most likely to be stolen. It required more boldness in a thief to carry off an ox than a sheep or goat; and so the crime was visited with a heavier penalty. Exodus 22:1With regard to cattle-stealing, the law makes a distinction between what had been killed or sold, and what was still alive and in the thief's hand (or possession). In the latter case, the thief was to restore piece for piece twofold (Exodus 22:4); in the former, he was to restore an ox fivefold and a small animal (a sheep or a goat) fourfold (Exodus 22:1). The difference between the compensation for an ox and a small animal is to be accounted for from the comparative worth of the cattle to the possessor, which determined the magnitude of the theft and the amount of the compensation. But the other distinctions of twofold, fourfold, and fivefold restitution cannot be accounted for, either by supposing "that the animal slain or sold was lost to its master, and might have been of peculiar value to him" (Knobel), for such a consideration of personal feelings would have been quite foreign to the law-not to mention the fact that an animal that had been sold might be recovered by purchase; or from the fact that "the thief in this case had carried his crime still further" (Baumgarten), for the main thing was still the theft, not the consumption or sale of the animal stolen. The reason can only have lain in the educational purpose of the law: viz., in the intention to lead the thief to repent of his crime, to acknowledge his guilt, and to restore what he had stolen. Now, as long as he still retained the stolen animal in his own possession, having neither consumed nor parted with it, this was always in his power; but the possibility was gone as soon as it had either been consumed or sold (see by Archologie, 154, Note 3).

(Note: Calvin gives the same explanation: Major in scelere obstinatio se prodit, ubi res furtiva in quaestum conversa est, nec spes est ulla resipiscentiae, atque ita continuo progressu duplicatur malae fidei crimen. Fieri potest ut fur statim post delictum contremiscat: qui vero animal occidere ausus est, aut vendere, prorsus in maleficio obduruit.)

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