Sh'mot (Exodus) Chapter 22

The corresponding letter to this chapter is Tahv - truth, perfection.

There is a difference in the numbering of the verses between the Tanakh and the newer translations. The first verse of Chapter 22 is listed as the last verse of Chapter 21 in the Tanakh 21:37. Because of this all of the verse numbers are off by one in this chapter. However, there are no missing verses.

Sh'mot 22:1 "If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.

Stealing an animal for ones own use was not considered as grievous as stealing it and then selling it or killing it and profiting from the sale too. If the thief has already killed or sold the sheep, then he is obligated to repay 5 fold for an ox because the owner was not only out the ox but also out the work that the animal could do. The owner should be compensated for the loss of the animal's labor. The sheep is not a work animal and the owner would not be out the animals labor, therefore only 4 sheep where required.

Sh'mot 22:2-4 If the thief is caught while breaking in, and is struck so that he dies, there will be no blood guiltiness on his account. But if the sun has risen on him, there will be blood guiltiness on his account. He shall surely make restitution; if he owns nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. If what he stole is actually found alive in his possession, whether an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double.

While breaking in - This was done by digging in through the soft walls of a mud house. The idea here seems to be that defending ones self during a break in at night when it is harder to get help and also harder to determine the intruders intentions would justify the victims use of lethal force to defend himself and his family. During the day, the victim would not be justified in killing an intruder.

If the animal is found in his position, then he must return it and also pay for his crime by giving another animal to the man he stole from. The punishment should fit the crime.

He shall be sold for his theft - This is one way a man could be made a slave.

Sh'mot 22:5 If a man lets a field or vineyard be grazed bare and lets his animal loose so that it grazes in another man's field, he shall make restitution from the best of his own field and the best of his own vineyard.

This teaches us that the owner was responsible for their animal's actions.

Sh'mot 22:6 "If a fire breaks out and spreads to thorn bushes, so that stacked grain or the standing grain or the field itself is consumed, he who started the fire shall surely make restitution.

These laws are still, for the most part, carried out today. Our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. Whenever there is a fire that is intentionally set, or just gets out of control, the person who set the fire is held responsible for damage to the homes and possessions of others. We are getting away from these principles, however, and sometimes people are given punishment well beyond their offenses.

Sh'mot 22:7-9 "If a man gives his neighbor money or goods to keep for him, and it is stolen from the man's house, if the thief is caught, he shall pay double. If the thief is not caught, then the owner of the house shall appear before the judges, to determine whether he laid his hands on his neighbor's property. For every breach of trust, whether it is for ox, for donkey, for sheep, for clothing, or for any lost thing about which one says, 'This is it,' the case of both parties shall come before the judges; he whom the judges condemn shall pay double to his neighbor.

When we are given something to take care of for another person we are responsible for it if it is lost or stolen and not recovered.

The owner is to be repaid double. - This means that the owner is restored to his initial state and the caretaker is penalized the same amount as the thing lost. This law compensated the owner but did not over punish the caretaker.

Sh'mot 22:10-13 "If a man gives his neighbor a donkey, an ox, a sheep, or any animal to keep for him, and it dies or is hurt or is driven away while no one is looking, an oath before the L-RD shall be made by the two of them, that he has not laid hands on his neighbor's property; and its owner shall accept it, and he shall not make restitution. But if it is actually stolen from him, he shall make restitution to its owner. If it is all torn to pieces, let him bring it as evidence; he shall not make restitution for what has been torn to pieces.

If the animal died or was injured as an act of G-d, the neighbor is not required to make restitution. However, if the animal was stolen then he was to be compensated.