Notes for Exodus 22:1LEB

The next section of laws concerns property rights. These laws protected property from thieves and oppressors, but also set limits to retribution. The message could be: Yahweh’s laws demand that the guilty make restitution for their crimes against property and that the innocent be exonerated.


Beginning with Exodus 22:1LEB, the verse numbers through Exodus 22:31LEB in the English Bible differ from the verse numbers in the Hebrew text (BHS), with Exodus 22:1LEB ET = Exodus 21:37LEB HT, Exodus 22:2LEB ET = Exodus 22:1LEB HT, etc., through Exodus 22:31LEB ET = Exodus 22:30LEB HT. Thus in the English Bible ch. 22 has 31 verses, while in the Hebrew Bible it has 30 verses, with the one extra verse attached to ch. 21 in the Hebrew Bible.


The imperfect tense here has the nuance of obligatory imperfect – he must pay back.


בָּקַר(baqar) and צֹאן (tson) are the categories to which the ox and the sheep belonged, so that the criminal had some latitude in paying back animals.


Notes for Exodus 22:2LEB

"found" (so KJV, ASV, NRSV).


The word בַּמַּחְתֶּרֶת (bammakhteret) means "digging through" the walls of a house (usually made of mud bricks). The verb is used only a few times and has the meaning of dig in (as into houses) or row hard (as in Jonah 1:13LEB).


The text has "there is not to him bloods." When the word "blood" is put in the plural, it refers to bloodshed, or the price of blood that is shed, i.e., blood guiltiness.


This law focuses on what is reasonable defense against burglary. If someone killed a thief who was breaking in during the night, he was not charged because he would not have known it was just a thief, but if it happened during the day, he was guilty of a crime, on the assumption that in daylight the thief posed no threat to the homeowner’s life and could be stopped and made to pay restitution.


Notes for Exodus 22:3LEB

The words "a thief" have been added for clarification. S. R. Driver (Exodus 224) thinks that these lines are out of order, since some of them deal with killing the thief and then others with the thief making restitution, but rearranging the clauses is not a necessary way to bring clarity to the paragraph. The idea here would be that any thief caught alive would pay restitution.


Notes for Exodus 22:4LEB

The construction uses a Niphal infinitive absolute and a Niphal imperfect: if it should indeed be found. Gesenius says that in such conditional clauses the infinitive absolute has less emphasis, but instead emphasizes the condition on which some consequence depends (see GKC 342-43 §113.o).


"in his hand."


He must pay back one for what he took, and then one for the penalty – his loss as he was inflicting a loss on someone else.


Notes for Exodus 22:5LEB

The verb בָּעַר (baar, "graze") as a denominative from the word "livestock" is not well attested. So some have suggested that with slight changes this verse could be read: "If a man cause a field or a vineyard to be burnt, and let the burning spread, and it burnt in another man’s field" (see S. R. Driver, Exodus 225).


The phrase "his livestock" is supplied from the next clause.


Notes for Exodus 22:6LEB

"if a fire goes out and finds"; NLT "if a fire gets out of control."


Thorn bushes were used for hedges between fields, but thorn bushes also burned easily, making the fire spread rapidly.


This is a Hiphil participle of the verb "to burn, kindle" used substantivally. This is the one who caused the fire, whether by accident or not.


Notes for Exodus 22:7LEB

The word usually means "vessels" but can have the sense of household goods and articles. It could be anything from jewels and ornaments to weapons or pottery.


"to keep." Here "safekeeping," that is, to keep something secure on behalf of a third party, is intended.




Notes for Exodus 22:8LEB



Here again the word used is "the Yahwehs," meaning the judges who made the assessments and decisions. In addition to other works, see J. R. Vannoy, "The Use of the Word ha’elohim in ( 21:6LEB and Exodus 22:7-8LEB, " The Law and the Prophets, 225–41.


The phrase "to see" has been supplied.


The line says "if he has not stretched out his hand." This could be the oath formula, but the construction here would be unusual, or it could be taken as "whether" (see W. C. Kaiser, Jr., "Exodus" EBC 2:438). U. Cassuto (Exodus 286) does not think the wording can possibly fit an oath; nevertheless, an oath would be involved before Yahweh (as he takes it instead of "judges") – if the man swore, his word would be accepted, but if he would not swear, he would be guilty.


Notes for Exodus 22:9LEB

"concerning every kind [thing] of trespass."


The text simply has "this is it" (הוּא זֶה, hu’ zeh).


Again, or "Yahweh."


This kind of clause Gesenius calls an independent relative clause – it does not depend on a governing substantive but itself expresses a substantival idea (GKC 445-46 §138.e).


The verb means "to be guilty" in Qal; in Hiphil it would have a declarative sense, because a causative sense would not possibly fit.


Notes for Exodus 22:10LEB

The form is a Niphal participle from the verb "to break" – "is broken," which means harmed, maimed, or hurt in any way.


This verb is frequently used with the meaning "to take captive." The idea here then is that raiders or robbers have carried off the animal.


"there is no one seeing."


Notes for Exodus 22:11LEB

The construct relationship שְׁבֻעַת יְהוָה (shévu’at yéhvah, "the oath of Yahweh") would require a genitive of indirect object, "an oath [to] Yahweh." U. Cassuto suggests that it means "an oath by Yahweh" (Exodus 287). The person to whom the animal was entrusted would take a solemn oath to Yahweh that he did not appropriate the animal for himself, and then his word would be accepted.


Notes for Exodus 22:12LEB

Both with this verb "stolen" and in the next clauses with "torn in pieces," the text uses the infinitive absolute construction with less than normal emphasis; as Gesenius says, in conditional clauses, an infinitive absolute stresses the importance of the condition on which some consequence depends (GKC 342-43 §113.o).


The point is that the man should have taken better care of the animal.


Notes for Exodus 22:13LEB

The word עֵד (’ed) actually means "witness," but the dead animal that is returned is a silent witness, i.e., evidence. The word is an adverbial accusative.


Notes for Exodus 22:14LEB

"if a man asks [an animal] from his neighbor" (see also Exod 12:36LEB). The ruling here implies an animal is borrowed, and if harm comes to it when the owner is not with it, the borrower is liable. The word "animal" is supplied in the translation for clarity.


"he"; the referent (the man who borrowed the animal) has been specified in the translation for clarity.


Notes for Exodus 22:15LEB

Literally "it came with/for its hire," this expression implies that the owner who hired it out and was present was prepared to take the risk, so there would be no compensation.


Notes for Exodus 22:16LEB

The second half of the chapter records various laws of purity and justice. Any of them could be treated in an expository way, but in the present array they offer a survey of Yahweh’s righteous standards: Maintain the sanctity of marriage (16–17); maintain the purity of religious institutions (18–20), maintain the rights of human beings (21–28), maintain the rights of Yahweh (29–31).


This is the word בְּתוּלָה (bétulah); it describes a young woman who is not married or a young woman engaged to be married; in any case, she is presumed to be a virgin.


Or "pledged" for marriage.


The verb מָהַר (mahar) means "pay the marriage price," and the related noun is the bride price. B. Jacob says this was a proposal gift and not a purchase price (Exodus 700). This is the price paid to her parents, which allowed for provision should there be a divorce. The amount was usually agreed on by the two families, but the price was higher for a pure bride from a noble family. Here, the one who seduces her must pay it, regardless of whether he marries her or not.


Notes for Exodus 22:18LEB

There still were many who wished to follow pagan beliefs and consort with the dead (see Deut 18:10–11LEB). The sorceress was someone who dealt with drugs or herbs for occult purposes.


Notes for Exodus 22:19LEB

"lies with."


Notes for Exodus 22:20LEB

"not to Yahweh."


The verb חָרַם (kharam) means "to be devoted" to Yahweh or "to be banned." The idea is that it would be Yahweh’s to do with as he liked. What was put under the ban was for Yahweh alone, either for his service or for his judgment. But it was out of human control. Here the verb is saying that the person will be utterly destroyed.


Notes for Exodus 22:21LEB

Or "oppress."


Or "alien," both here and in Exodus 23:9LEB. This individual is a resident foreigner; he lives in the land but, aside from provisions such as this, might easily be without legal rights.


Notes for Exodus 22:22LEB

The verb "afflict" is a Piel imperfect from עָנָה (’anah); it has a wide range of meanings: "afflict, oppress, humiliate, rape." These victims are at the mercy of the judges, businessmen, or villains. The righteous king and the righteous people will not mistreat them (see Isa 1:17LEB; Job 31:16-21LEB).


Notes for Exodus 22:23LEB

The accusative here is the masculine singular pronoun, which leads S. R. Driver to conclude that this line is out of place, even though the masculine singular can be used in places like this (Exodus 232). U. Cassuto says its use is to refer to certain classes (Exodus 292).


Here again and with "cry" the infinitive absolute functions with a diminished emphasis (GKC 342-43 §113.o).


Here is the normal use of the infinitive absolute with the imperfect tense to emphasize the verb: "I will surely hear," implying, "I will surely respond."


Notes for Exodus 22:24LEB

The punishment will follow the form of talionic justice, an eye for an eye, in which the punishment matches the crime. Yahweh will use invading armies ("sword" is a metonymy of adjunct here) to destroy them, making their wives widows and their children orphans.


Notes for Exodus 22:25LEB

"any of" has been supplied.


The moneylender will be demanding and exacting. In Ps 109:11 and 2 Kgs 4:1 the word is rendered as "extortioner."




In ancient times money was lent primarily for poverty and not for commercial ventures (H. Gamoran, "The Biblical Law against Loans on Interest," JNES 30 [1971]: 127-34). The lending to the poor was essentially a charity, and so not to be an opportunity to make money from another person’s misfortune. The word נֶשֶׁךְ (neshekh) may be derived from a verb that means "to bite," and so the idea of usury or interest was that of putting out one’s money with a bite in it (See S. Stein, "The Laws on Interest in the Old Testament," JTS 4 [1953]: 161-70; and E. Neufeld, "The Prohibition against Loans at Interest in the Old Testament," HUCA 26 [1955]: 355-412).


Notes for Exodus 22:26LEB

The construction again uses the infinitive absolute with the verb in the conditional clause to stress the condition.


The clause uses the preposition, the infinitive construct, and the noun that is the subjective genitive – "at the going in of the sun."


Notes for Exodus 22:27LEB

"his skin."


Literally the text reads, "In what can he lie down?" The cloak would be used for a covering at night to use when sleeping. The garment, then, was the property that could not be taken and not given back – it was the last possession. The modern idiom of "the shirt off his back" gets at the point being made here.


"and it will be."


Notes for Exodus 22:28LEB

The two verbs in this verse are synonyms: קָלַל (qalal) means "to treat lightly, curse," and אָרַר (’arar) means "to curse."


The word אֱלֹהִים (’elohim) is "Yahwehs" or "Yahweh." If taken as the simple plural, it could refer to the human judges, as it has in the section of laws; this would match the parallelism in the verse. If it was taken to refer to Yahweh, then the idea of cursing Yahweh would be more along the line of blasphemy. B. Jacob says that the word refers to functioning judges, and that would indirectly mean Yahweh, for they represented the religious authority, and the prince the civil authority (Exodus 708).


Notes for Exodus 22:29LEB

The expressions are unusual. U. Cassuto renders them: "from the fullness of your harvest and from the outflow of your presses" (Exodus 294). He adds the Hittite parallel material to show that the people were to bring the offerings on time and not let them overlap, because the firstfruits had to be eaten first by the priest.


Notes for Exodus 22:31LEB

The use of this word here has to do with the laws of the sanctuary and not some advanced view of holiness. The ritual holiness at the sanctuary would prohibit eating anything torn to pieces.


Or "by wild animals."