Nepaug Bible Church - - Pastor's Prayer Meeting Lesson Notes -

Part II: God's Sustainment Of Israel In The Wilderness Amid Humanly Helpless Trials
K. God's Elaboration And Application Of The Ten Commandments
6. God's Elaborating On His Commands Relative To Stealing
(Exodus 22:1-4)
  1. Introduction
    1. Though God told Israel not to steal in Exodus 20:15, no provision was given there on the punishment of the thief, nor what was to occur if the criminal act was related to other rules of the Ten Commandments.
    2. Accordingly, Exodus 22:1-4 clarified these matters (as follows):
  2. God's Elaborating On His Commands Relative To Stealing, Exodus 22:1-4.
    1. After giving Moses the Ten Commandments, God enlarged and applied them in Israel's life so that there would be no possible misunderstanding as to what He meant by them, and this elaboration is known as the "Book of the Covenant" in Exodus 20:22-24:11, Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament, p. 140.
    2. The sixth part of that "Book of the Covenant", Exodus 22:1-4, applies the eighth commandment against stealing when the sin involved associate commands, and what punishment followed specific thefts:
      1. God revealed that the theft of animals for personal gain was to be punished in accord with the degree of covetousness that was behind the theft, and that with an eye on the cost of the theft to the victim, 22:1:
        1. The theft of an ox for personal gain required a greater recompense of five oxen by the thief than the theft of a sheep, a less valuable animal that required a payback of only four sheep, Exodus 22:1b.
        2. Two reasons can be offered for this difference in punishment degree: (1) First, the theft of an ox was a greater loss to a poor family than was a sheep: a slain ox provided more food and clothing than did a slain sheep, but as a living beast of burden, the ox was needed to farm for the family's livelihood. (2) Second, a poor man would be the more likely party to steal a sheep to meet his basic living needs where stealing an ox occurred for the purpose of greed, requiring a stiffer punishment , Ex. 20:17.
      2. God also revealed that if a thief was caught breaking into a property owned by another at night and the property owner struck and thus killed him, the homeowner was not to be held guilty of manslaughter; he had the right to defend himself and his family, and the intent of a thief at night would be unclear to such an owner, Ex. 22:2. This revealed the rights of the victim took precedence over those of the thief.
      3. Yet, God required that if the thief was killed by the property owner in daylight when his intentions of only trying to steal were evident, the owner was guilty of manslaughter and was subject to vengeance by the thief's relatives, Ex. 22:3a; Ryrie Study Bible, KJV, ftn. This law revealed the thief had rights that were to be respected if they did not conflict with those of his victim, Ibid., B.K.C.,O.T., p. 142.
      4. If the thief was caught with the item or animal he had stolen in his hand, and the item(s) stolen were still living or not damaged, meaning the thief had not converted the item(s) stolen into gain for himself, instead of repaying four- or fivefold as in the Exodus 22:1 case, he was to repay double what he had taken, Ex. 22:4. This penalty discouraged the thief from seeking gain by the act of stealing itself, for he could obtain what he wanted by working for it, something the punishment required. Incidentally, this principle of rehabilitation for thieves is taught by Paul in Ephesians 4:28, for this punishment retards the lure to steal, which act itself disrupts the social order, and is thus a serious sin.
      5. Finally, if the thief lacked the means to repay the cost of his theft's action, whatever the cost he owed as a result of his sinful act, he was to serve as a slave to the victim of his theft until the debt he owed due to the theft was reimbursed to the victimized party, Exodus 22:3b.
Lesson: God wanted His people to learn to AVOID STEALING as an ACT because it is so destructive to the social order, and to avoid stealing by learning to WORK for items rather than covet what others own. The DEGREE of covetousness involved in a theft was to be recompensed accordingly, and the rights of the thief were to be realized only as the rights of the victim were heeded as a first priority.

Application: May we SHIFT our focus away from any temptations to covet what others have and rather work to earn our own way! However, if a theft occurs, it should be handled so as to respect the value of each person's possessions and rights with preference being given to the victim over the criminal!