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.
In the twenty-second chapter of Exodus the rights of property are defended, and the text before us may be considered as the law of fire insurance under the Mosaic dispensation. The law was a constant lesson to the people on their vast responsibility for the consequences of their conduct. God's law thus showed that Omnipotence identified itself with every just claim, and would insist on compensation for every wrong inflicted.
I. This ancient law brings into view the general doctrine of liability for the consequences of our actions and neglect. Nothing is more difficult than to raise in most men's minds a vivid sense of the wide-spreading results of their own character and conduct. They readily acknowledge the responsibility of others, but not their own. Men never take so modest a view of their own individuality as when the object is to set forth the insignificance of their own contribution to the "evil that is in the world." But such calculations are founded on a gross delusion. The most commonplace sinner has a power of mischief in him which might sadden the blessed as they look at it.
II. The dormant sense of liability for the consequences of our conduct ought surely to be awakened by considering how we hold other men responsible in common life. Society is pervaded by the law of personal responsibility; the weight rests on every head, on every heart. It is the burden of life which every man must bear. Every man's sphere of action is much wider than he imagines. The punishment of sin always seems to a habitual transgressor disproportionate to the offence. There is not a sinner who will not be astounded when God "sets in order before him" the facts of his case.
III. The right conception of judgment to come is the bringing to the consciousness of the finite the knowledge of the Infinite in this regard. "This hast thou done." He who subverts the faith or the conscience of one soul subverts in effect the faith and conscience of all souls, and "their blood will I require at the watchman's hand."
IV. These considerations should impress the mind with a new sense of the infinite bearings of our thoughts, words, and actions, and should make us "swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath." Let to-day be the day of salvation by becoming the day of judgment, for "if we would judge ourselves, we should not be condemned with the world."
E. White, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 392.
References: Exodus 22:6.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 239. Exodus 22:24.—S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 93. Exodus 22:26.—Expositor, 3rd series, vol. v., p. 166. Exodus 23:6.—J. W. Burgon, Ninety-one Short Sermons, No. 77. Exodus 23:9.—Parker, Christian Chronicle, May 10th, 1883. Exodus 23:12.—S. Martin, Westminster Chapel Pulpit, 1st series, No. 4.
If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
And if it be stolen from him, he shall make restitution unto the owner thereof.
If it be torn in pieces, then let him bring it for witness, and he shall not make good that which was torn.
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.
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.
And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.
If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death.
He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed.
Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.
If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry;
And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.
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.
If thou at all take thy neighbour's raiment to pledge, thou shalt deliver it unto him by that the sun goeth down:
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.
Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people.
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.
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.