Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Exodus 22

By Joseph Benson


Verse 1
Exodus 22:1. Five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep — More for an ox than for a sheep, because the owner, besides all the other profit, lost the daily labour of his ox. If he were not able to make restitution, he was to be sold for a slave: the court of judgment was to do it, and it is likely the person robbed received the money.

Verse 2
Exodus 22:2. If a thief broke into a house in the night, and was killed in the doing it, his blood was upon his own head; but if it were in the day-time that the thief was killed, he that killed him was accountable for it, unless it were in the necessary defence of his own life.

Verse 3-4
Exodus 22:3-4. For he should make full restitution — This the law determined: not that he should die. In his hand alive — Not killed, nor sold, as Exodus 22:1, so that the owner recover it with less charge and trouble.

Verse 5
Exodus 22:5. He that wilfully put his cattle into his neighbour’s field, must make restitution of the best of his own. The Jews hence observed it as a general rule, that restitution must always be made of the best; and that no man should keep any cattle that were likely to trespass upon his neighbour, or do him any damage.

Verse 6
Exodus 22:6. He that designed only the burning of thorns might become accessary to the burning of corn, and should not be held guiltless. If the fire did mischief, he that kindled it must answer for it, though it could not be proved that he designed the mischief. Men must suffer for their carelessness, as well as for their malice. It will make us very careful of ourselves, if we consider that we are accountable, not only for the hurt we do, but for the hurt we occasion through inadvertency.

Verses 7-13
Exodus 22:7-13. 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 a special confidence 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 his trust must be compelled to make satisfaction.

Verse 14-15
Exodus 22:14-15. If a man (suppose) lent his team to his neighbour, if the owner were with it, or were to receive profit for the loan of it, whatever harm befell the cattle the owner must stand to the loss of it; but if the owner were so kind to the borrower as to lend it him gratis, and put such a confidence in him as to trust it from under his own eye, then, if any harm happened, the borrower must make it good. We may learn hence to be very careful not to abuse any thing that is lent to us; it is not only unjust, but base and disingenuous: we should much rather choose to lose ourselves, than that any should sustain loss by their kindness to us.

Verse 17
Exodus 22:17. If the father refuse, he shall pay money — This shows how ill a thing it is, and by no means to be allowed, that children should marry without their parents’ consent: even here, where the divine law appointed the marriage, both as a punishment to him that had done wrong, and a recompense to her that had suffered wrong, yet there was an express reservation for the father’s power; if he denied his consent, it must be no marriage.

Verse 18
Exodus 22:18. Witchcraft not only gives that honour to the devil which is due to God alone, but bids defiance to the divine providence, wages war with God’s government, puts his work into the devil’s hand, expecting him to do good and evil. By our law, consulting, covenanting with, invocating, or employing any evil spirit to any intent whatever, and exercising any enchantment, charm, or sorcery, whereby hurt shall be done to any person, is made felony, without benefit of clergy; also pretending to tell where goods lost or stolen may be found, is an iniquity punishable by the judge, and the second offence with death.

Verse 21
Exodus 22:21. A stranger must not be abused, not wronged in judgment by the magistrates, not imposed upon in contracts, nor any advantage taken of his ignorance or necessity, no, nor must he be taunted, or upbraided with his being a stranger; for all these were vexatious. For ye were strangers in Egypt — And knew what it was to be vexed and oppressed there. Those that have themselves been in poverty and distress, if Providence enrich and enlarge them, ought to show a particular tenderness toward those that are now in such circumstances as they were in formerly, now doing to them as they then wished to be done to.

Verse 22
Exodus 22:22. Ye shall not afflict the widow, or fatherless child — That is, ye shall comfort and assist them, and be ready upon all occasions to show them kindness. In making just demands from them, their condition must be considered who have lost those that should protect them; and no advantage must be taken against them, nor any hardship put upon them, which a husband or a father would have sheltered them from.

Verse 25
Exodus 22:25. If thou lend — 1st, They must not receive use for money from any Israelite that borrowed for necessity. And such provision the law made for the preserving estates to their families by the years of jubilee, that a people who had little concern in trade could not be supposed to borrow money but for necessity; therefore it was generally forbidden among themselves; but to a stranger they were allowed to lend upon usury. 2d, They must not take a poor man’s bed-clothes in pawn; but if they did, must restore them by bed-time.

Verse 28
Exodus 22:28. Thou shalt not revile the gods — That is, the judges and magistrates. Princes and magistrates are our fathers, whom the fifth commandment obligeth us to honour, and forbids us to revile. St. Paul applies this law to himself, and owns that he ought not to speak evil of the ruler of his people, no, not though he was then his most unrighteous persecutor, Acts 23:5.

Verse 29
Exodus 22:29. The firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me — And much more reason have we to give ourselves and all we have to God, who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all. The first ripe of their corn they must not delay to offer; there is danger if we delay our duty, lest we wholly omit it; and by slipping the first opportunity in expectation of another, we suffer Satan to cheat us of all our time.

Verse 31
Exodus 22:31. Ye shall be holy unto me — And one mark of that honourable distinction is appointed in their diet, which was, that they should not eat any flesh that was torn of beasts — Both because the blood was not duly taken out of it, and because the clean beast was ceremonially defiled by the touch of the unclean.