Monday, July 26, 2004

Exodus 22

This chapter contains two sections.  The first, on protection of property, requires that punishment be proportional to the crime and that justice be restorative, i.e., that the victim be made whole.  It also provides for multiple damages in the case of the theft of animals critical to the farm economy, oxen and sheep. It is difficult to be enthusiastic of the provision that impoverished thieves must be sold into slavery, while wealthy ones may buy their way out. 

The second part of the chapter, while more fragmented, contains some important and new material. It states that God hears the cries of the helpless and oppressed, and will respond by stripping the offender's family of power.  The alien must be treated with kindness.  Widows and orphans must not be taken advantage of.  The poor must not be forced to sleep without their cloak to keep them warm.  Indeed, if money is loaned to them, it must be at no interest.  The bride price must be paid for a virgin who has been seduced, even if the father refuses to  marry her to her seducer. 

Three capital offenses are defined: sexual relations with animals, sacrificing to foreign gods, and witchcraft (or, perhaps, poisoning; see  Also forbidden are blashemy, cursing the ruler, eating meat torn by wild animals, and holding back offerings.  Finally, firstborn sons are to be given to the Lord on the eighth day after birth. 


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