Read Exodus 22
Protection of Property
1 “Whoever steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.
2 “If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; 3 but if it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed.
“Anyone who steals must certainly make restitution, but if they have nothing, they must be sold to pay for their theft. 4 If the stolen animal is found alive in their possession—whether ox or donkey or sheep—they must pay back double.
5 “If anyone grazes their livestock in a field or vineyard and lets them stray and they graze in someone else’s field, the offender must make restitution from the best of their own field or vineyard.
6 “If a fire breaks out and spreads into thornbushes so that it burns shocks of grain or standing grain or the whole field, the one who started the fire must make restitution.
7 “If anyone gives a neighbor silver or goods for safekeeping and they are stolen from the neighbor’s house, the thief, if caught, must pay back double. 8 But if the thief is not found, the owner of the house must appear before the judges, and they must determine whether the owner of the house has laid hands on the other person’s property. 9 In all cases of illegal possession of an ox, a donkey, a sheep, a garment, or any other lost property about which somebody says, ‘This is mine,’ both parties are to bring their cases before the judges. The one whom the judges declare guilty must pay back double to the other.
10 “If anyone gives a donkey, an ox, a sheep or any other animal to their neighbor for safekeeping and it dies or is injured or is taken away while no one is looking, 11 the issue between them will be settled by the taking of an oath before the Lord that the neighbor did not lay hands on the other person’s property. The owner is to accept this, and no restitution is required. 12 But if the animal was stolen from the neighbor, restitution must be made to the owner. 13 If it was torn to pieces by a wild animal, the neighbor shall bring in the remains as evidence and shall not be required to pay for the torn animal.
14 “If anyone borrows an animal from their neighbor and it is injured or dies while the owner is not present, they must make restitution. 15 But if the owner is with the animal, the borrower will not have to pay. If the animal was hired, the money paid for the hire covers the loss.
16 “If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife. 17 If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins.
18 “Do not allow a sorceress to live.
19 “Anyone who has sexual relations with an animal is to be put to death.
20 “Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the Lord must be destroyed.
21 “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.
22 “Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. 23 If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry.24 My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.
25 “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest.26 If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it by sunset, 27 because that cloak is the only covering your neighbor has. What else can they sleep in? When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.
28 “Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people.
29 “Do not hold back offerings from your granaries or your vats.
“You must give me the firstborn of your sons. 30 Do the same with your cattle and your sheep. Let them stay with their mothers for seven days, but give them to me on the eighth day.
31 “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.
When we read the Old Testament, it’s easy at times to get bogged down in what might seem like irrelevant details and rules. Exodus 22 is no exception to this challenge, as we read about livestock, silver, fires, and thieves.
Immediately after instructing God’s people to not allow sorceresses and those who are involved “romantically” with animals to live, Moses drops a truth bomb in verse 20. He says, “Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the Lord must be destroyed.”
You may think you’re in the clear since you don’t practice Old Testament sacrifices. You may think you’re safe from God’s judgment in Exodus 22 because you don’t sacrifice to any god–you’re not sacrificing doves and sheep at the altar! But every day, you worship other gods. Maybe it’s food, drink, or stuff. Maybe you worship your own body and obsess over it, or maybe you worship your reputation and what others think of you. While we don’t sacrifice animals at the altar, we sacrifice our resources for our own comfort and pleasure. In the process, we put our own desires before God.
In the Ten Commandments, God says, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). He’s kind enough to remind us again in chapter 22 that we shall not worship or sacrifice to any other god. And if we’re honest, we know we need this reminder–not just in Exodus 20 and 22, but pretty much every moment of every single day.
We need to be people who are thankful for God’s mercy, grace, and forgiveness. God doesn’t give us what we deserve (mercy). He forgives us for our sins and transgressions against Him and others. And He demonstrates grace towards us—He gives us something we don’t deserve. Even though our sins of worshipping and sacrificing to idols earn us death, God gives us life through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Let’s not miss these great Truths that still affect us today in the midst of a bunch of seemingly outdated laws and rules.
Would you consider yourself a rule breaker or rule follower? Why?
Why do you think God gave us such detailed laws and rules in chapters like Exodus 22?
What are some ways you sacrifice to or worship idols? Share your response with someone in your family or in your Life Group.
Did You Know?
The word “restitution” is used six times in the first 14 verses of Exodus 22. It means “to restore something lost or stolen to its proper owner or to recompense for injury or loss.”