Commentary

THE LAW (continued) 1- Stealing 1 - 15 2- Adultery 16 - 20 3- Oppression 21 - 27 4- Reviling and cursing 28 5- Robbing the rights of God 29 - 31 1- Stealing God considered Himself responsible, not only for the life of man and his body, but also for his possessions. Selfishness through which someone intends to acquire for himself what belongs to his fellow man, is considered a sin committed by man against God Himself. The Statutes concerning thefts, thieves and the victim of that crime came very flexible, for that time. For example: A. As for the thief himself, who makes his life, possessions and freedom subject to loss, if he was killed during his theft at night, will not be compensated for by blood. If the theft is found in his hand, the thief shall restore double what he stole; but if he had already sold or had it slain, he will have to restitute an ox by five oxen, and a goat by four goats, even if he has to sell all his possessions, or to sell himself as a slave. Despite such harshness, the robber’s life was the object of God’s care; if he is found breaking in and is struck, by night, so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed. On the contrary, if the sun has risen on him, there would be full restitution for his bloodshed from his killers, for God does not want the spirit of vengeance but only that of chastisement. B. Theft is not confined to breaking in, but may happen also through negligence. For example, if man lets his animal loose and it feeds in another man’s field, or if he kindles fire to consume thorns in his field, so that it also consumed his neighbor’s crops, he shall have to give restitution. Moreover, if a man put in his hand gold, silver or an animal to keep, and he neglects it he should be judged. C. If a man delivers to his neighbor money, articles, or animals to keep, and it is lost through negligence from the man’s house, the matter should be brought to the judges to decide the amount of restitution, depending on the financial ability of the responsible party. If the owner of the articles kept is in need the other party shall pay for what is lost. D. Everyone is committed to look after his neighbor’s possessions during his absence; as there were no bank safes or insurances at that time; the cooperation of the whole congregation would be the insurance for all. 2- Adultery We have already dealt with the crime of adultery in chapter twenty (the sixth commandment). Here, the concept of adultery goes far to include sorcery and sacrificing to foreign gods. Whoever uses sorcery for his benefit would be like a wife who forsakes her man and seeks another to sustain her. Sacrificing to idols is like a bride who, instead of offering her life as a sacrifice of love to her only groom, she offers her heart a sacrifice of lust and defilement to others. Some wrongly assume that adultery was banned by God because it hurts one of the parties, physically, socially or emotionally, or a third party: a husband who is wronged. However, the Law reveals it as a sin of uncleanness, which is hated by God, 170 Who commands that whoever lies with a beast be put to death, as he defiles his soul and body, together with the earth itself. 3- Oppression God cannot stand the oppression of man against his fellow man; especially if the party oppressed is a stranger, a widow, an orphan or a poor person. God banned lending for interest (Exod. 22.25), as these loans were not used in honest commercial business, but they were done because of poverty that leads some to pawn his only garment. God the Gracious says, “If you ever take your neighbor’s garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down” (Exod. 22.26). He warned His people against oppression, reminding them of two things: first, having tasted and experienced the humiliation of being a stranger, how could they not feel the pain of the stranger? Second, He could not stand to hear the crying out of the oppressed and the needy, which would kindle His wrath against the oppressors. 4- Reviling and cursing “You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people” (Exod. 22.28). The Church is set on mutual respect and on obedience of the young toward the old. The believer, who feels God’s care, would never revile Him and would always obey rulers in the Lord. 5- Robbing God’s rights In addition to speaking in this chapter of refraining from stealing the possessions of others and from oppressing the strangers, the weak and the needy, He also speaks of refraining from robbing God’s right in the firstborns and first fruits (chapter 13), as a sign of consecrating the whole congregation to God. It is amazing that His care for the firstborns and first fruits is not only in order for the needy to find their fulfillment in the house of the Lord but He even cares for the dogs saying, “And you shall be holy men to Me: you shall not eat any meat which is torn by beasts in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs” (Exod. 22.31). On the other hand, He commanded us to be holy to Him, from the practical point of view, through giving the firstborns of our sons, beside those of beasts of the field, and the first fruits of our ripe produce; and abstractly, through refraining from eating unclean items: “You shall not eat any meat that is torn by beasts in the field”. It is as though the believer, in his fellowship with God, strives to do virtue and also refrains from wickedness. He acts in righteousness and refuses evil.

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