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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)If a man shall cause a field . . . to be eaten.—On theft follows trespass, another injury to property. Two kinds of trespass alone are mentioned; but from these the principles to be followed in punishing trespass generally can be sufficiently made out. Accidental injury, such as that caused by fire extending from one man’s field into another’s, was to be simply compensated up to the amount of damage done; but voluntary injury, such as followed on the turning of beasts into a neighbour’s ground, was to be more than compensated. The amount of produce destroyed was to be exactly calculated, and then the injurer was to make good the full amount of his neighbour’s loss out of the best of his own produce.Exodus 22:5. He that wilfully put his cattle into his neighbour’s field, must make restitution of the best of his own. The Jews hence observed it as a general rule, that restitution must always be made of the best; and that no man should keep any cattle that were likely to trespass upon his neighbour, or do him any damage.
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.A field or vineyard, or orchard, or other things of like nature; which is generally to be observed in laws.
and shall put in his beast, and shall feed in another man's field; do damage in one or both those two ways, either by his feet treading down the grass and fruits of the earth, which the Rabbins, as Jarchi says, think, is meant by putting in his beast; or with his beast eating up the same, which is intended by the latter phrase:
of the best of his own field, and of the best of his own vineyard, shall he make restitution for what damage is done by his beast in his neighbour's field or vineyard; and this held good of any garden or orchard injured in like manner; and it is a general rule with the Jews, that when any damage is sustained, he that does the damage is obliged to pay with the best the earth produces (l), even though better than was the man's that suffered the loss, that for the future he might be more careful of doing injury to another (m).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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)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.Verses 5, 6. - LAW OF TRESPASS. - Next to theft, and not much behind it, is the wanton damage of what belongs to another - as when a person injures his neighbour's crops, either by turning beasts into his field, or by causing a conflagration in it. To turn beasts in was the more determinedly malicious act, and therefore the damage done was to be compensated by making over to the injured party a like quantity of produce out of the best that a man was possessed of; whereas simple restitution, was sufficient when fire had spread accidentally from a man's own land to his neighbour's. We may conclude that if the trespass of the cattle were accidental, simple restitution sufficed; and if the fire were kindled of set purpose, the heavier rate of penalty was exacted. Verse 5. - If a man shall cause a field or vineyard to be eaten. - Rather "to be eaten of," or "to be browsed upon." And shall feed. - Rather, "and it shall feed." Of the best, etc. - This means that, without reference to the quality of the crop damaged, the injurer should forfeit an equal amount of his own best produce.
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