Exodus 22 Property Wrongs

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Questions: What is the basis of civil law? Why does personal morality matter? How much do I owe God? Click [Read More] to pursue answers.

Exodus 22:1-22:31

This chapter presents a fascinating study on right and wrong. The first half basically sets the punishment for property theft, with particular attention to various ‘corner cases’ where responsibility is not obvious. A few of the implicit lessons:

1. Profiting from a crime is worse (5x) than merely committing it (2x)
2. Reliable judges are necessary to ensure fairness
3. But not sufficient; sometimes God must be the judge, and an oath the evidence
4. Borrowing or holding something in trust creates great responsibility

Apart from a thief being sold into slavery, most moderns would generally approve these rules — especially the emphasis on restitution, a concept sadly lacking in today’s definition of justice. However, they’d be quite shocked by much of the second half, which focuses on a number of things we barely consider sinful, much less criminal:

* disrespect

To be sure, it also spends significant time on a few items (discrimination, oppression) that are hot topics today. Yet it is hard for my modern mind to tie it all together. But, perhaps the answer is in the command at the end:

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.

We do not own our own lives — we rent them from God! We are holy, set apart by God for Himself. Perhaps that is one reason why this passage dwells so much on the responsibility of those who borrow or hold something in trust: that is the essence of our legal position vis-a-vis God. In God’s legal system, right and wrong isn’t merely determined by horizontal obligations, but by vertical ones. To deny God His rent (tithe) is stealing; to worship another god is to abuse the body we hold in trust for Him.

Prayer

God, forgive me for thinking that I own myself. I acknowledge that you alone are God, and you are responsible for everything good I have and enjoy. Help me to know your purposes for me, that I might render unto you the things I justly owe you. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Note:

After a long hiatus (last entry: November 25th), I am restarting my effort to blog through the Bible. I may need to restructure it slightly ask the links on my reading plan have gone bad. 😦

My goal this time around is to be more narrative and less expository, both to save time as well as to make it less intellectual and more intentional. We’ll see how it goes.

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