Table of Contents
Exodus 22 - Commentary by Rev. John Schultz
Matthew Henry's Commentary gives the following outline of this chapter:
The laws of this chapter relate,
I. To the eighth commandment, concerning theft <v. 1-4>, trespass by cattle <v. 5>, damage by fire <v. 6>, trusts <v. 7-13>, borrowing cattle <v. 14-15>, or money <v. 25-27>.
II. To the seventh commandment. Against fornication <v. 16-17>, bestiality <v. 19>.
III. To the first table, forbidding witchcraft <v. 18>, idolatry <v. 20>. Commanding to offer the firstfruits <v. 29-30>.
IV. To the poor <v. 21-24>.
V. To the civil government <v. 28>.
VI. To the peculiarity of the Jewish nation <v. 31>.
This chapter is linked to the previous one by the subject of cattle. But, whereas chapter 21 mainly dealt with death and injury to humans, the first 27 verses of this chapter deal with theft. Sin has not only made us murderers, but also thieves. Honesty does not come naturally to sinful man. Sin and lying go together. The first thing Adam and Eve did after they fell into the sin of disobedience was to lie about it. Theft and lying are twin brothers.
We have to remember again under what conditions Moses heard God say these words. He was in the cloud in the very presence of the God of truth. Dishonesty in any form must have been far from Moses' mind. In the presence of the Lord everything is open and uncovered. For God all men are naked. But there is no such thing as a naked thief. Stealing means keeping the cover.
As we mentioned previously, God respects private property. It is part of man's dignity to own. Stealing, therefore, is more than taking what belongs to another, it is an insult to the image of God in man. God takes such insults very seriously. Jesus uses the parable of the sheep and the goats at the day of judgment to illustrate this point. He lets the King say: "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me," and "whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."[ 1 ] When we steal from men, we actually steal from God. Our relationship to our neighbor reflects in essence our relationship to God. Loving your neighbor means respecting his property. Love excludes stealing.
The primary intent of stealing is, of course, to increase one's own property. God's commandment to Moses denies this principle. A thief who is caught has, not only, to reimburse but also to compensate for the loss. Stealing makes the thief poorer, not richer. We could object, of course, that many thieves, if not most, never get caught. But then, we have to realize that our scope of vision is very limited. The farthest we can ever see is to the end of life on earth. We only have to imagine what God will do in eternity to withdraw our objection. Men will be held accountable throughout all eternity for all words spoken and all things stolen unless, that is, he has passed judgment through the cross of Christ. Jesus says in Matthew: "But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken."[ 2 ] If this pertains to careless speech, how much more will we have to account for deliberate lies and mischievous acts!
As far as life on earth is concerned, and in the event that the thief is caught, God wants him to make restitution. "If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep." Adam Clark's Commentary gives an interesting comment on this verse: "In our translation (that is the KJV) of this verse, by rendering different Hebrew words by the same term in English, we have greatly obscured the sense. I shall produce the verse with the original words which I think improperly translated, because one English term is used for two Hebrew words, which in this place certainly do not mean the same thing. If a man shall steal an ox [shor], or a sheep [seh], and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen [bakar] for an ox [shor], and four sheep [tson] for a sheep [seh]. I think it must appear evident that the sacred writer did not intend that these words should be understood as above. A shor certainly is different from a bakar, and a seh from a tson. Where the difference in every case lies, wherever these words occur, it is difficult to say. The shor and the bakar are doubtless creatures of the beef kind, and are used in different parts of the sacred writings to signify the bull, the ox, the heifer, the steer, and the calf. The seh and the tson are used to signify the ram, the ewe, the lamb, the he-goat, the she-goat, and the kid. And the latter word tson seems frequently to signify the flock, composed of either of these lesser cattle, or both sorts conjoined. A shor is used, Job xxi. 10, for a `bull,' probably it may mean so here. `If a man steal a bull, he shall give five oxen for him,' which we may presume was no more than his real value, as very few bulls could be kept in a country destitute of horses, where oxen were so necessary to till the ground. Tson is used for a flock either of sheep or goats, and seh for an individual of either species. For every seh, four, taken indifferently from the tson or flock, must be given; i.e., a sheep stolen might be recompensed with four out of the `flock,' whether of sheep or goats."
"If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep." In his Commentary on the Psalms, George Knight states that the Hebrew law knew no incarceration. The only time a man was held in prison was in preparation for his execution. In all other cases; when no capital punishment was demanded, justice consisting in corporal punishment or imposition of fines, was meted out swiftly. The fine for stealing and killing livestock is stated in the above quoted verse.
Nelson's Bible Dictionary has an article entitled "Restitution." We read: "The act of restoring to the rightful owner something that has been taken away, stolen, lost, or surrendered <Leviticus 6:1-7> gives the Mosaic Law of restitution; this law establishes the procedure to be followed in restoring stolen property. Full restitution of the property had to be made and an added 20 percent (one-fifth of its value) must be paid as compensation <Lev. 5:16>. If a man stole an ox or donkey or sheep, and the animal was recovered alive, the thief had to make restitution of double the value stolen <Ex. 22:4>. If the thief had killed or sold the animal, however, he had to make a fourfold (for a sheep) or a fivefold (for an ox) restitution <Ex. 22:1>. In the New Testament, the word restitution is not used, but the idea is expressed. Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, said to Jesus, 'If I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold' <Luke 19:8>."
The interesting feature in this law is that it defines what guilt actually is. Stealing was not considered to be just an act of taking someone else's property. The thief became guilty before the Lord and had to atone for his sin by bringing a guilt offering.
In the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus lets the youngest son say: "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son."[ 3 ]
The sacrifice to be brought is described in Leviticus: "And as a penalty he must bring to the priest, that is, to the LORD, his guilt offering, a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value. In this way the priest will make atonement for him before the LORD, and he will be forgiven for any of these things he did that made him guilty."[ 4 ] The stain of guilt is not taken away by only making restitution to the neighbor. It has to be expiated before the Lord with the shedding of blood. A thief forfeits his life and he has to lay his soul upon God's altar in the form of a sacrificial animal.
This is what Zacchaeus did when he was visited by the Lord Jesus and understood that his sins were being forgiven. We read that he said to Jesus: "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount." And Jesus' answer to him is, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."[ 5 ]
Vs. 2 and 3 show that the owner of a house could not kill a thief in cold blood. We read: "If a thief is caught breaking in and is struck so that he dies, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; but if it happens after sunrise, he is guilty of bloodshed." This is not stated but, supposedly, if the owner of the house were attacked by the thief and acted in self defense, the matter would be different.
The verses 5 and 6 deal with negligence. At least, the way the NIV interprets vs. 5 could be interpreted as negligence. We read: "If a man grazes his livestock in a field or vineyard and lets them stray and they graze in another man's field, he must make restitution from the best of his own field or vineyard." The KJV does not have this ambiguity. The text there says: "If a man shall cause a field or vineyard to be eaten, and shall put in his beast, and shall feed in another man's field; of the best of his own field, and of the best of his own vineyard, shall he make restitution." In the next verse, where it is fire which destroys, not cattle that grazes, there is no such ambiguity. The fire was accidental, or at least it was not started with the purpose of burning the neighbor's field. The intention was to clean a thorn bush off from the field But the man on whose field the fire started was still held responsible.
This kind of negligence is the same as that of the man who digs a hole and does not cover it, in ch. 21:33,34. Negligence is the result of egocentric behavior. It is the attitude of a man who does not stop to think how his actions will affect his neighbor. It is ultimately a lack of love. God want us to love our neighbor as ourselves The Scriptures say: "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD."[ 6 ]
Ironically, the only two incidents cited of a fire catching on a neighbor's field were first that were set intentionally by Samson burned the fields of the Philistines as an act of revenge, and Absalom burned Joab's field to catch the general's attention.[ 7 ]
The next section (vs. 7-15) deals with goods of livestock entrusted to a neighbor for safekeeping. Actually, the whole section deals with the matter of trust. Matthew Henry comments on this: "If a man deliver goods, suppose to a carrier to be conveyed, or to a warehouse-keeper to be preserved, or cattle to a farmer to be fed, upon a valuable consideration, and if a special confidence be reposed in the person they are lodged with, in case these goods be stolen or lost, perish or be damaged, if it appear that it was not by any fault of the trustee, the owner must stand to the loss, otherwise he that has been false to this trust must be compelled to make satisfaction. The trustee must aver his innocence upon oath before the judges, if the case was such as afforded no other proof, and they were to determine the matter according as it appeared."
The Pulpit Commentary says here: "Deposition of property in the hands of a friend, to keep and guard, was a marked feature in the life of primitive societies, where investments were difficult, and bankers unknown. Persons about to travel, especially merchants, were wont to make such a disposition of the greater part of their movable property, which required some one to guard it in their absence. Refusals to return such deposits were rare; since ancient morality regarded such refusal as a crime of deep dye (Herd. vii.86). sometimes, however, they took place; and at Athens there was a special form of action which might be brought in such cases called parakatathe dike. The penalty, if a man were cast in the suit, was simple restitution, which is less satisfactory than the Mosaic enactment - 'He shall pay double.' "
These regulations seem to protect the man in whose custody things or animals were placed. In our modern society the tendency is more to hold the custodian responsible, whatever the cause of the disappearance. Certainly in business, a receipt given for goods entrusted would ensure restitution, regardless of the reason for non-delivery. An airline, for instance, would have to pay for luggage stolen or damaged, if a claim check were presented. That is why disclaimers are used. The law in this section could be seen as such a disclaimer.
In the last two verses of this section, the borrowing of animals was, obviously, for use in agriculture. We may suppose that the presence of the owner of the borrowed animal meant that the man was there to ensure the safety of his property. If the borrowed animal died under the man's very eyes, the borrower could not be held responsible. Borrowing a donkey or an ox would be the equivalent of borrowing heavy farm equipment in our day.
The second part of this chapter, vs. 16-17, runs parallel to the seventh commandment, "You shall not commit adultery" (ch. 20:14). The case described, however, is fornication not adultery. It may be more appropriate to say that this section is a warning to man to keep sexual desire under control. God warns against giving in without restriction to natural desires and to unnatural ones, like in vs. 19. The word that is translated with "seduce" in vs. 16 is the Hebrew pathah. According to Strongs Definitions Definition this means "to open, i.e. be (causatively, make) roomy; usually figuratively (in a mental or moral sense) to be (causatively, make) simple or (in a sinister way) delude." The KJV translates it with, "allure, deceive, enlarge, entice, flatter, persuade, silly (one)." The intent is to break down the fences of moral restriction.
The fact that the girl is seduced suggests that she gave in to the man's approach. It is not a matter of rape. In Deuteronomy the difference between rape and consent is defined, also whether the girl was engaged to be married to someone else or not must be declared. The latter would be a ground for the death penalty for both the man and the girl. She is considered to have broken her vow, as if she had committed adultery. We read: "If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death-- the girl because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man's wife. You must purge the evil from among you. But if out in the country a man happens to meet a girl pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die. Do nothing to the girl; she has committed no sin deserving death. This case is like that of someone who attacks and murders his neighbor, for the man found the girl out in the country, and though the betrothed girl screamed, there was no one to rescue her."[ 8 ]
Human sexuality is one of the great mysteries in life. Most people experience it with greater or lesser intensity, but few people understand the meaning of it. Sexual unity is a physical expression of a spiritual reality. Unless we see this, sexuality becomes meaningless. It is obvious that God intended man to have sexual relations. He invented sex. Genesis tells us: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."[ 9 ] We understand this to mean that sexuality is part of the image of God. When man fell into sin and his spirit died, he lost control over his own life. It seems that the devil caused more havoc in man's sexuality than in any other aspect of his life. Under the influence of demonic propaganda many people have come to believe that sex and sin are identical. Many of God's children consider their sex life to be something they have to live with, while feeling guilty.
The real meaning of sexual unity become clear in the New Testament. The apostle Paul penetrates to the core of the mystery when he says: "'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' This is a profound mystery-- but I am talking about Christ and the church."[ 10 ] It will be clear that sexual unity will only be an expression of the relationship between Christ and the church within the bonds of marriage. That is why fornication and adultery are considered such serious sins; not because they are sexual but because they make a caricature of the image of God. If man breaks down the fences of moral restraint and uses his sex drives for his own sake, he demonstrates that he does not know what he is doing and he does not know who he is. Because there is a point of no return, if we give in to lust, the devil uses this part of our fallen nature even more cleverly than any other. In some heathen cultures he even managed to give it a religious insinuation. Prostitution was part of the cult in some Greek and Roman religious practices.
Vs. 18 deals with witchcraft. No further details are given here. We read more in Leviticus.[ 11 ]
At this point The Pulpit Commentary remarks that there does not seem to be any progression of thought in the various commandments given. We read: "It has been already observed that in the remainder of the Book of the Covenant there is a want of method, or logical sequence. Seduction, witchcraft, bestiality, worship of false gods, oppression, are sins as different from each other as can well be named, and seem to have no connecting link." The author of this excellent commentary seems to have forgotten that there is a common denominator in all sin, which is that it all comes from the same author. The shadow of the enemy hovers heavily over all the acts of perversion: seduction, witchcraft, bestiality, and idolatry.
Witchcraft is put on the same line as prostitution in Leviticus, where God says: "I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people."[ 12 ] This verse suggests that the real meaning of adultery, fornication, and prostitution is spiritual. Just as we have seen that the real meaning of sexual intercourse is spiritual, a person who practices witchcraft is a professional who has intercourse with demonic powers. This is the ultimate sin a person can commit. The human body is meant to be given to the Lord. A person who, not only refuses to surrender himself to the Lord but instead surrenders himself to God's enemy, commits the foulest act possible and slaps God in the face. That is why Leviticus says: "A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them; their blood will be on their own heads."[ 13 ]
Witchcraft makes a profession of human intercourse with demons. In bestiality man lowers himself in giving his body to something that is lower then he. The apostle Paul says: "The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body."[ 14 ] In having sexual intercourse with an animal, a human being makes a caricature of the image of God and thus of God Himself. In idolatry man attributes supremacy to God's enemy and denies God's supremacy. Not only is the object of worship completely opposite of God, but the worship itself is contrary to what worship is intended to be. We have seen already, in connection with the first and second of the Ten Commandments that in making idols man tries to control his own destiny. God knows, however, that when man makes an idol and prays to it, the devil answers his prayers. Idol worship is never an innocent occupation with wooden or metal statutes; it is intercourse with demonic beings. In all idol worship, there comes a point where man realizes that he is talking to his enemy. So the act of worship becomes an act of self-defense. Idol worship is not a positive rejoicing in the presence of an idol, it is the appeasing of an evil being. Man fools himself into believing that when a spirit sees animal blood he will be satisfied. A demon want the blood of the man who sacrifices and nothing else.
The next section, vs. 21-24, deals with love to the neighbor, or rather, the negative side of it. The subject recurs throughout the Pentateuch, both in negative and positive form,[ 15 ] and also in the later prophets.[ 16 ]
Matthew Henry says in his outline that these verses pertain to the poor. This is not literally true. The subject is the treatment of foreigners, widows and people who are in financial need. The point in question is that a man would use the disadvantage of other people to his own advantage. The first category in this section is the aliens. The KJV calls them strangers. They are people who are not of Jewish ancestry, but who have come to live among the people of Israel for one reason or another. The intent of the law seems to be that immigration should be encouraged. This is in accord with God's designation of Israel as "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." The presence of aliens would allow Israel to function as priests. God had entrusted them with His revelation so that they would pass it on.
The subject is very relevant in our day. In many developed countries foreigners come to work, but most nations do not see this as a God-given opportunity for the witness of the Gospel. In many situations it is considered to be a threat to the labor market and a cause of unemployment for the natives of the country itself. However legitimate such complaints may be, a Christian should look at those conditions from a Biblical perspective, not from an economic one.
God reminds Israel that they were foreigners themselves. When this law was given, only a few months had passed since they had come out of their own slavery. Evidently, some people had already forgotten this and had started to treat the aliens among them with hostility. This must have been the reason that this commandment was given at this point. The Israelites did not see themselves yet as "World Christians," to use a modern term.
The next commandment is even closer to home. God warns the people, "Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless."
There are many references in the Old Testament to show how God feels about widows and orphans. In Deuteronomy we read: "When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow."[ 17 ]
David condemns people who mistreat the widows when he says: "They slay the widow and the alien; they murder the fatherless. They say, "The LORD does not see; the God of Jacob pays no heed."[ 18 ] Elsewhere he states, "The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked."[ 19 ]
The prophets repeatedly admonish the people on the point of caring for the disadvantaged. Isaiah says: "Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow."[ 20 ] And in Zechariah we read: "Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other."[ 21 ]
God has a special place in His heart for widows and orphans. He is describes as: "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling."[ 22 ] George Mueller of Bristol built his work among the orphans upon the promise in this verse. By faith he claimed provisions from the Father of the fatherless for the orphanages he ran to the glory of God. And God allowed him to build a monument of faith that still stands one and a half century later.
Jesus praised the widow who gave to the Lord out of her poverty. Mark tells us: "Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, 'I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything-- all she had to live on.' "[ 23 ]
Since the Lord's work often receives more support from poor widows than from rich people, God protects this class of people in a very special way. In our verse the Lord says to men who suppress the rights of widows: "I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless." We could say that if a man does not want to support the Lord's work according to his means, or beyond, his widow will! We forfeit our lives if we disregard the Word of God.
Vs. 25 tells us: "If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest." This commandment pertains to the Jewish people. As God's children, the Israelites were to exercise compassion toward each other. As in the preceding verses, the intent is that they do not take advantage of someone else's misfortune. It is true that, in the body of Christ, we are not under the law; but this law should be a guideline for the relationships among Christians also. This does not mean that a Christian would not be allowed to rent anything to another Christian. There is no reason why someone else should take our money and use it to his own advantage alone and not let us share in the wealth. The case in point in this commandment is a man in need. The borrower needs the help to survive. At the same time, though, the New Testament warns against borrowing. The apostle Paul says: "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law."[ 24 ] The KJV is more forceful in saying: "Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law." This warning is issued to the borrower, not to the lender. We each have our own responsibility toward God.
Adam Clarke distinguishes between "usury" and "simple interest." He uses the words neshech and tarbith. But none of the other commentaries or dictionaries indicate that two different words are used. In Leviticus this is made even clearer: "If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you. Do not take interest of any kind from him, but fear your God, so that your countryman may continue to live among you. You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food at a profit."[ 25 ]
Vs. 25-27 indicate that the Israelites were allowed to take a pledge against a loan, only certain articles were prohibited as items of pledge. In these verses it is the cloak; another one is a pair of mill stones, or even a single one. In Deuteronomy we read: "Do not take a pair of millstones-- not even the upper one-- as security for a debt, because that would be taking a man's livelihood as security."[ 26 ] The implication is that compassion is not to be separated from responsibility. Giving money without holding the borrower accountable is not in essence an act of compassion.
"If you take your neighbor's cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate."
The Lord foresaw the evil intent of the loaner to bring the borrower under his dominion. By taking a poor man's cloak as a security against a loan, the man would have no blanket for the night since, obviously, the cloak doubled up as a blanket. We are dealing with a society of poor people, who live on the edge of starvation. It seems that the practical impact of this law upon society was that the borrower would deposit his cloak at his creditor's in the morning and pick it up again in the evening and then, again, return with it the next morning until the loan was paid off.
We live in a strange creation. On the one hand God has surrounded us with beauty beyond description. Describing the lilies of the field, Jesus says: "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these."[ 27 ] God is the God of beauty and abundance; yet at the same time, Jesus identified Himself with the poorest of the poor. He says: "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."[ 28 ] And at the crucifixion it became clear that His wardrobe did not consist of anything of real value. The fact that the undergarment was seamless does not necessarily mean that it was of high quality. And even if it was, it would have been a gift from one of His followers. On the cross Jesus died naked. The "cloak [which] is the only covering he has for his body," was not even His. His cloak was taken from Him and not returned to Him by the evening. He was wrapped in a shroud provided by someone else. Paul says: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich."[ 29 ]
The chapter ends with four verses pertaining again to our relationship with God. The NIV renders vs. 28 with: "Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people." The KJV says: "Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people." Since the theme of this section is mainly about relationship with God, it seems more logical to translate "Elohim" with "God" than with "the gods." Strongs' gives the following definition of elohiym as, "gods in the ordinary sense; but specifically used (in the plural thus, especially with the article) of the supreme God; occasionally applied by way of deference to magistrates; and sometimes as a superlative"
The verse draws a line of authority from God to men who have authority over others. The fact that human authority over fellow human beings exists is an indirect reference to the existence of sin. Before sin entered the world through the human race, man did not rule over man. It wasn't till Adam and Eve fell into sin that God said to Eve: "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."[ 30 ] The divine pattern was, obviously, that each person would submit personally to the direct authority of God over him. That would eliminate the need for a chain of command. The chain was necessary to limit the damage sin would do to interpersonal relations.
It is important to recognize the source of human authority as well as the background of it. Paul defines human authority in Romans: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves."[ 31 ] And again, in Titus he says: "Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good."[ 32 ]
Peter agrees when he says: "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. ....Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king."[ 33 ]
Jesus puts the matter in the right perspective, when He answers Pilate: "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above."[ 34 ]
"Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people." The word blaspheme is qalal in Hebrew. Strongs defines this as "to make light," in the sense of trifling or hold into contempt. It seems to refer to an attitude of carelessness. The KJV translates it in this verse as "revile." To curse, on the other hand, is deliberate. The Hebrew word is arar which means to curse or, even, "to execrate." It is the lowest thing human beings can do to each other. The Bible gives us no license to curse any of God's creatures. Only God has the right to curse. We read in Genesis: "So the LORD God said to the serpent, 'Because you have done this, cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.' "[ 35 ] As far as we are concerned, we should follow Jude's advice: "But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you!' "[ 36 ] Even Jesus never cursed Satan during His life on earth.
Vs. 29 and 30 show the opposite side of blasphemy. We honor God when we consecrate our sacrifices to Him. The book of Proverbs says: "Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine."[ 37 ]
Neglect of offerings means dishonor to God. As we read in Malachi, where God says to Israel: "'A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?' says the LORD Almighty. 'It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name. But you ask, 'How have we shown contempt for your name?' You place defiled food on my altar. But you ask, 'How have we defiled you?' By saying that the LORD's table is contemptible."[ 38 ]
The commandment to consecrate the firstborn to God is first given in ch. 13:2 - "Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether man or animal." The book of Numbers specifies that every firstborn son has to be redeemed. We read: "The first offspring of every womb, both man and animal, that is offered to the LORD is yours. But you must redeem every firstborn son and every firstborn male of unclean animals. When they are a month old, you must redeem them at the redemption price set at five shekels of silver, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs."[ 39 ] Added to this, all the male members of the tribe of Levi were considered payment for the firstborn Israelite boys. We read in Numbers, "Take the Levites for me in place of all the firstborn of the Israelites, and the livestock of the Levites in place of all the firstborn of the livestock of the Israelites. I am the LORD."[ 40 ]
There seems to be a difference between redemption, in the sense of being delivered from the punishment of sin, and redemption based on the value of a human life. God demands payment for our sin by death, but He also demands payment for the value of our soul. Evidently, man's fall into sin devalued his life. With the atonement comes the restoration of our value as a human being. Jesus emphasizes this when He says: "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?"[ 41 ] A human soul is worth more than the whole world!
In claiming the first fruit and the firstborn, God indicates that everything belongs to Him. As we read in ch. 19:5-6, "Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." The KJV puts it more correctly: "Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation." God did not choose Israel although the whole earth belongs to Him, but because of it.
At the same time the commandments given in these verses cast their shadow ahead toward the resurrection from the dead. The first fruits of the harvest and the firstborn of the womb were an image of life out of death. Jesus is called "the firstborn from the dead."[ 42 ] This is also brought out in the stipulation that the presentation of the firstborn should take place on the eighth day. Circumcision was to take place on the eighth day and the firstborn animal should stay with his mother for eight days. The resurrection took place on the eighth day, the day after the Sabbath. There was, of course, also a humanitarian consideration in that an animal would suffer if its young were taken away from her immediately after birth. The mother would have to suck it for one week in order to get rid of her milk.
The last verse of this chapter reads: "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." This is, what Matthew Henry calls, "The peculiarity of the Jewish nation." In ch. 19:6 God had said to the people: "You will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." Now, for the first time this holiness is applied to daily living. There is a difference between the ritual killing of an animal and eating meat and the senseless killing that goes on in nature. The animal the people are forbidden to eat is one that was killed by a wild beast, but not eaten. Death did not exists in nature before man fell into sin. Nobody ate meat. The wolf lived with the lamb, the leopard lay down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling lived together in peace.[ 43 ] When all the consequences of sin are wiped off the face of the earth this condition will exist again. But now animals eat each other and man eats meat of animals. But the torn animal of vs. 31 was not eaten; it was just killed by another animal, just for the sake of killing. This showed the consequences of sin at its worst. God calls His people to be holy, that is to distance themselves from this condition in which nature has fallen and not to profit from it. The expression "throw it to the dogs" is probably a metaphor of the condition of the world in which scavengers feed, although it could, of course, be taken literally.
The Pulpit Commentary states here: "The blood of such an animal would not be properly drained from it. Some would remain in the tissues, and thence the animal would be unclean; again, the carnivorous beast which 'tore' it would also be unclean, and by contact would impart of its uncleanness to the other." This is, undoubtedly, true this does not exclude the deeper meaning. God was, certainly, not interested in mere ritual purity.
Deuteronomy gives a further addition to this commandment. "Do not eat anything you find already dead. You may give it to an alien living in any of your towns, and he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner. But you are a people holy to the LORD your God."[ 44 ] Whether we may see a link between the terms "throw it to the dogs" and "give it to an alien" or "sell it to a foreigner," I don't know. It could be that people linked the expressions in their mind and that, later, aliens and foreigner were referred to as dogs.
[ 1 ]
[ 2 ]
[ 3 ]
[ 4 ]
[ 5 ]
[ 6 ]
[ 7 ]
See Judges 15:4,5; II Sam. 14:30
[ 8 ]
[ 9 ]
[ 10 ]
[ 11 ]
See Lev. 19:31; 20:6, 27.
[ 12 ]
[ 13 ]
[ 14 ]
I Cor. 6:13
[ 15 ]
See Ex. 23:9; Lev. 19:33; 25:35; Deut. 10:19
[ 16 ]
Jer. 7:6; 22:3; Zech. 7:10; Mal. 3:5
[ 17 ]
[ 18 ]
[ 19 ]
[ 20 ]
[ 21 ]
[ 22 ]
[ 23 ]
[ 24 ]
[ 25 ]
[ 26 ]
[ 27 ]
[ 28 ]
[ 29 ]
II Cor. 8:9
[ 30 ]
[ 31 ]
[ 32 ]
[ 33 ]
I Pet. 2:13-17
[ 34 ]
[ 35 ]
[ 36 ]
Jude vs. 9
[ 37 ]
[ 38 ]
[ 39 ]
Num. 18:15, 16
[ 40 ]
[ 41 ]
[ 42 ]
[ 43 ]
See Isa. 11:6
[ 44 ]
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