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Exodus 22, further personal responsiblities

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by Helen, Sep 13, 2002.

  1. Helen

    Helen <img src =/Helen2.gif>

    Aug 29, 2001
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    Whereas chapter 21 had to do with regulations regarding individual relationships, chapter 22 deals with two other sorts of responsibilities: responsibility for property and social responsibility. The first fifteen verses have to do with property, and the remainder with the responsibility legally enforceable in social relationships.

    In essence, the regulations regarding responsibility for property indicate that theft or carelessness is to be repaid, sometimes in double and sometimes fivefold, depending on the circumstances. For instance, in verse 1 we see if a man slaughters a stolen ox or sheep, he must pay back five times its worth to the rightful owner. However, in verse four we find that if the stolen animal is found alive in the thief’s possession, then he must only pay back double the animal’s worth (as well as returning the animal).

    We see this carried through in Israel’s history. For instance in 2 Samuel 12:6. David had taken Bathsheba and had had her husband put in a position in battle to be killed. When the prophet Nathan confronted David, first with a hypothetical story, David pronounced the penalty indicating the above law was still in force: “He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” However there was no way David could pay Uriah fourfold back, for Uriah was now dead. So the Lord pronounced an even harsher sentence, telling David the sword would never depart from his house!

    There are some interesting provisos in the list of regulations in Exodus 22. For instance, if it is dark and a homeowner strikes a person breaking in so that the person dies, the homeowner is not held responsible. But if the incident happens after sunrise, the owner is held responsible. When you can see what you are doing, in other words, you become more responsible for your own actions.

    We also find that “a thief must CERTAINLY make restitution, but if he has nothing, he must be sold [himself] to pay for his theft.” In this sense, then, every man had a way of being held responsible for what he did. This would have also saved enormous expenses which we currently incur building and staffing prisons!

    In disputed cases, the matter is to be taken before a judge, and the judge’s decision is final. Both parties are ordered to accept it.

    A careful reading of these first 15 verses indicates a sense of fairness and justice not only declared by God but which rings in the heart of the reader as right and good. There is responsibility, but there is also understanding of extenuating circumstances. As with the proverbs of Solomon, paying close attention to these laws will result in “attaining wisdom and discipline…acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair.”

    The second section of this chapter contains some areas that are very much in dispute regarding whether they are ‘right’ or ‘just’ or not. We need to pay a bit of attention to them.

    1. Seduction of a virgin requires the bride price be paid whether or not the man marries the girl. This made premarital sex quite expensive!

    2. And then there is the simple and abrupt command: “Do not allow a sorceress to live.” What is meant by this? The word translated in the NIV as sorceress and in the King James as witch means far more than either of these words indicates. The word is kashaph. It means whispering a spell, or making an enchantment. As such, it is not limited to the female, but includes anything to do with what we would refer to today as a shaman, or one seeking to get information from the spirit world or exert control over it or other humans using enchantments or any form of witchcraft. Thus, the person involved with the occult was not allowed to live. Period. This is directly in line with the first and second commandments and, if the pronouncement was made by the shaman in the Lord’s name, then the third commandment was being violated as well. This type of wholesale violation of the holiness and majesty of God and His commandments was not to be allowed in the nation of Israel under any conditions whatsoever.

    We find the prohibition regarding any kind of occultism a number of times in the Bible. What I would like to bring to attention here is a passage from Isaiah which helps explain this prohibition:

    Isaiah 8:19-22
    When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.

    There are other violations demanding the death penalty, and then there are two sets of commands regarding people in unfortunate circumstances and the responsibility of others toward them. Taking advantage of a widow or an orphan will result in God’s direct anger and verse 24 states, ”My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.”

    Regarding lending money to a person who is desperately in need, the person’s cloak cannot be held overnight as this will result in the person not having a covering on his bed for himself. This principle easily extends to the understanding that if a loan is made to someone, it may not be at the cost of what is necessary for his health and livelihood.

    Verse 28 commands that God not be blasphemed. What is blasphemed? This is essentially the same as the next part of that same command which is that the ruler of the people cannot be cursed. Neither of these forbids anger or even the expression of that anger. It forbids, rather, bringing the names of either into disrepute with anyone else. With God that would be encouraging idolatry and rebellion, and with the leader of the people, it would also be encouraging rebellion. All authority is to be respected while authority is vested in that person. With God that means forever. With man that means while in office.

    Then we read, ”Do not hold back offerings from your granaries or your vats.” Many people consider this a command to tithe today. But we need to remember that the new nation of Israel was to be a theocracy, and the priests were also the judges and civil authorities. Therefore the tithe, or offerings, were not only to honor God but to support the civil structure. It was what the priests and those tending the tabernacle received for their work! It was taxation. Today that command would translate roughly as “Don’t cheat on your taxes.”

    Two more commands follow in this chapter. First, the firstborn of all people and flocks belonged to the Lord. There would be directions for the redemption of the firstborn sons of the families, but the animals were to be sacrificed to God on the altar on their eighth day of life.

    And, lastly, God states, ”You are to be my holy people. So do not eat the meat of an animal torn by wild beasts; throw it to the dogs.”

    It is possible that even a fresh sheep which has been torn by wild beasts contains the enzymes from the saliva of those beasts which also seems to be in the meat of animals enraged or frightened and which God did not want to be part of His people’s diet. Thus there may be a distinct health reason for this as well as the spiritual reason of keeping the people apart from the world, and keeping them holy to God.
  2. Clint Kritzer

    Clint Kritzer Active Member
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    Oct 10, 2001
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