Exodus 23:4
If you meet your enemy's ox or his ass going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again.
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(4) Thine enemy’s ox.—The general duty of stopping stray animals and restoring them to friendly owners, expressly taught in Deuteronomy 22:1-3, is here implied as if admitted on all hands. The legislator extends this duty to cases where the owner is our personal enemy. It was not generally recognised in antiquity that men’s enemies had any claims upon them. Cicero, indeed, says—“Sunt autem quædam officia etiam adversus eos servanda, a quibus injuriam aceeperis” (De Off. i. 11); but he stops short of enjoining active benevolence. Here and in Exodus 23:5 we have a sort of anticipation of Christianity—active kindness to an enemy being required, even when it costs us some trouble. The principle of friendliness is involved—the germ which in Christianity blossoms out into the precept, “Love your enemies.”

Exodus 23:4. Thou shalt surely bring it back to him — So far shalt thou be from revenging his injuries, that thou shalt render good to him for them, whereby if thou dost not reconcile him, thou wilt at least procure peace to thyself, and an honour to religion.23:1-9 In the law of Moses are very plain marks of sound moral feeling, and of true political wisdom. Every thing in it is suited to the desired and avowed object, the worship of one only God, and the separation of Israel from the pagan world. Neither parties, friends, witnesses, nor common opinions, must move us to lessen great faults, to aggravate small ones, excuse offenders, accuse the innocent, or misrepresent any thing.So far was the spirit of the law from encouraging personal revenge that it would not allow a man to neglect an opportunity of saving his enemy from loss.3. countenance—adorn, embellish—thou shalt not varnish the cause even of a poor man to give it a better coloring than it merits. So far shalt thou be from revenging his injuries, that thou shalt render good to him for them, whereby if thou dost not reconcile him, thou wilt procure peace to thyself, and honour to religion. If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray,.... Or any other beast, as the Samaritan version adds; for these are only mentioned for instances, as being more common, and creatures subject to go astray; now when such as these are met going astray, so as to be in danger of being lost to the owner, though he is an enemy; or as the Targum of Jonathan,"whom thou hatest because of a sin, which thou alone knowest in him;''yet this was not so far to prejudice the finder of his beasts against him, as to be careless about them, to suffer them to go on without acquainting him with them, or returning them to him, as follows:

thou shalt surely bring it back to him again; whether it be an ox, or an ass, or any other beast, the law is very strong and binding upon the finder to return it to his neighbour, though an enemy, and bring it either to his field or to his farm.

If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely {b} bring it back to him again.

(b) If we are bound to do good to our enemies beast, how much more to our enemy himself, Mt 5:44.

4. thine enemy’s ox] that such a service would be rendered to a friend, is taken for granted. In Dt. the comprehensive term ‘brother,’ i.e. fellow-countryman, is employed, in accordance with the prevalent usage of that book (cf. Deuteronomy 15:2-3; Deuteronomy 15:7; Deuteronomy 15:9; Deuteronomy 15:11-12; Deuteronomy 17:15 al.).

4, 5. An enemy’s beast to be preserved from harm. These two injunctions breathe a spirit unusual in the OT. (cf., however, Leviticus 19:17-18), and reminding one of Matthew 5:44. They are repeated in Deuteronomy 22:1-4, in an expanded form, accommodating them to the spirit and point of view of Deuteronomy. They can hardly be here in their original place; for they evidently interrupt the connexion between vv. 1–3 and vv. 6–9: they would follow better after Exodus 22:24 or 27.Verse 4. - Thine enemy's ox. A private enemy is here spoken of, not a public one, as in Deuteronomy 23:6. It is remarkable that the law should have so far anticipated Christianity as to have laid it down that men have duties of friendliness even towards their enemies, and are bound under certain circumstances to render them a service. "Hate thine enemies" (Matthew 5:43) was no injunction of the Mosaic taw, but a conclusion which Rabbinical teachers unwarrantably drew from it. Christianity, however, goes far beyond Mosaism in laying down the broad precept - "Love your enemies." "Thy fulness and thy flowing thou shalt not delay (to Me)." מלאה fulness, signifies the produce of corn (Deuteronomy 22:9); and דּמע (lit., tear, flowing, liquor stillans), which only occurs here, is a poetical epithet for the produce of the press, both wine and oil (cf. δάκρυον τῶν δένδρων, lxx; arborum lacrimae, Plin. 11:6). The meaning is correctly given by the lxx: ἀπαρχὰς ἅλωνος καὶ ληνοῦ σοῦ. That the command not to delay and not to withhold the fulness, etc., relates to the offering of the first-fruits of the field and vineyard, as is more fully defined in Exodus 23:19 and Deuteronomy 26:2-11, is evident from what follows, in which the law given at the exodus from Egypt, with reference to the sanctification of the first-born of man and beast (Exodus 13:2, Exodus 13:12), is repeated and incorporated in the rights of Israel, inasmuch as the adoption of the first-born on the part of Jehovah was a perpetual guarantee to the whole nation of the right of covenant fellowship. (On the rule laid down in Exodus 22:30, see Leviticus 22:27.)
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