Exodus 22

Exodus 22:5-13

5. 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.

5. Si depasci fecerit quispiam agrum aut vitem, et immiserit jumentum suum ut depasceretur agrum alterius: bonum agri ejus et bonum vineae ejus restituet.

6. If fire break out, and catch in thorns, so that the stacks of corn, or the standing corn, or the field, be consumed therewith; he that kindled the fire shall surely make restitution.

6. Quum egressus fuerit ignis, et invenerit spinas: absumptusque fuerit acervus, vel seges, vel ager, reddendo redder qui ignem accendit, rem combustam.

7. If a man shall deliver unto his neighbor money or stuff to keep, and it be stolen out of the man's house; if the thief be found, let him pay double.

7. Quum dederit quispiam proximo suo argentum, vel vasa ad custodiendum, et furto ablatum fuerit e domo viri illius: si inventus fuerit fur, reddet duplum.

8. If the thief be not found, then the master of the house shall be brought unto the judges, to see whether he have put his hand unto his neighbor's goods.

8. Si non inventus fuerit fur, tunc applicabitur dominus domus ad judices, annon miserit manum suam in substantiam proximi sui.

9. For all manner of trespass, whether it be for ox, for ass, for sheep, for raiment, or for any manner of lost thing, which another challengeth to be his, the cause of both parties shall come before the judges; and whom the judges shall condemn, he shall pay double unto his neighbor.

9. Super omni causa praevaricationis, super bove, super asino, super pecude, super vestimento, super omni re amissa: quum dixerit quispiam hoc esse, usque ad judices veniet causa utriusque: et quem damnaverint judices, is reddat duplum proximo suo.

10. If a man deliver unto his neighbor an ass, or an ox, or a sheep, or any beast, to keep, and it die, or be hurt, or driven away, no man seeing it:

10. Si dederit quispiam proximo suo asinum, vel bovem, vel pecudem, aut quodcunque animal ad custodiendum, et mortuum fuerit, aut contractum, aut ab hostibus captum nemine vidente.

11. Then shall an oath of the Lord be between them both, that he hath not put his hand unto his neighbor's goods; and the owner of it shall accept thereof, and he shall not make it good.

11. Juramentum Jehovae erit inter utrumque, annon miserit manum suam in substantiam proximi sui, et juramentum suscipiet dominus ejus, et non reddet.

12. And if it be stolen from him, he shall make restitution unto the owner thereof.

12. Quod si furto ablatum fuerit ei, reddet domino ejus.

13. If it be torn in pieces, then let him bring it for witness, and he shall not make good that which was torn.

13. Si vero rapiendo raptum fuerit, adducet ei testem: raptum non reddet.

14. And if a man borrow ought of his neighbor, and it be hurt, or die, the owner thereof being not with it; he shall surely make it good.

14. Si commodato acceperit quispiam a proximo suo, et confractum fuerit aut mortuum domino ejus absente, reddendo reddet.

15. But if the owner thereof be with it, he shall not make it good: if it be an hired thing, it came for his hire.

15. Si dominus ejus fuerit cum eo, non reddet: si conductum fuerit, veniens pro mercede sua.


9. For all manner of trespass. An action for theft is here permitted, but with a fine attached if any should rashly accuse his neighbor; for else it might be doubted when or for what reasons the restitution of double or quadruple was to be required. He therefore permits that if any one suspects another of theft, he should summon that person to plead his cause; and if he should prove his case, that he should recover double the thing lost; but if the judges should pronounce that he had brought his action groundlessly, that he, on the contrary, should pay the penalty of his false accusation. For such an action as this is not altogether a civil one, but carries with it the stain of infamy, and thus it would be unjust that a man should be injured by false suspicions whom the judges acquit of crime. The word used here for judges is Myhla, elohim, which properly means gods, as being of the plural number; it is, however often used for God.1 It is transferred to judges for the purpose of dignifying their office; because in it they represent the person of God, in whose hand alone is all dominion and power. Therefore Christ says they were called gods, because to them "the word of God came," (John 10:34,) i.e., that they should preside in His name, and be set over others, on which subject we treated under the Fifth Commandment.

5. If a man shall cause a field or vineyard to be eaten. This kind of fraud is justly ranked among thefts; viz., if any man shall have put in his beast to feed in another's field or vineyard. For if a person have made improper use of his servant to steal by him, he himself is deemed guilty of the offense, even although he may have touched nothing with his own hand; nor does he less do wrong who has given occasion of injury by means of a brute. Still, God restricts the punishment to a compensation of double the amount, because it cannot be certainly established that the master of the animal desired to effect the damage fraudulently and designedly; yet He requires the loss to be made up at the highest estimate of its value;2 for thus I interpret "the goodness of his field and his vineyard," that the place having been examined, a liberal restitution shall be awarded to its owner, according to the utmost it would have probably produced in its greatest state of fertility.

6. If fire break out and catch in thorns. This injury is somewhat different from the foregoing, for he who kindles the fire is commanded to make good the damage done by him, although there may have been no willful intention to do harm. For the incendiary who had maliciously destroyed either a cornfield or a vineyard was to be far more severely punished; here, however, mere carelessness is punished. Although no mention is made either of house or barn, still the law includes all similar cases requiring compensation from him who had kindled a fire even in an open field. But it seems that such a person would be blameless, because he could not. foresee that the fire would ignite the thorns; yet, in order that every one should take as much care of the property of another as of his own, God commands him to suffer the penalty of his heedless or stupid negligence.

7. If a man shall deliver unto his neighbor money. It is here determined under what circumstances an action for theft would lie in case of a deposit, viz., if an inanimate thing, as a garment or furniture, be given ill charge, and the person with whom it is deposited should allege that it is stolen, God commands that, if the thief be discovered, he should pay double; but, if not, that an oath should be required of the man who declares that the thing has been stolen from him. But, if it be an animal that was given in charge, a somewhat different provision is made, viz., that if it have been violently carried away, or torn by beasts, the person with whom it was deposited should be free; but if it had been stolen, that he should make restitution. In order to understand the principle of this law, we must observe that depositaries are not to be compelled to do more than faith. fully preserve the thing entrusted to them; just as a prudent and careful father of a family is attentive to the preservation of his property. When they have acquitted themselves diligently in this respect, it would be unjust to require more, of them; otherwise, when they undertake the burden of this gratuitous office, their generosity would be an injury to themselves. But, since it is not so easy to steal an animal from the stall, or from the hands of the shepherd, the negligence of the shepherd betrays itself in the loss of the beast,3 supposing no violence to have been used. Justice, then, is done in both cases, i.e., that the depository shall not make good a vessel, or money, or a garment, because this would be in a manner to put him in the place of the thief; but that if the animal be stolen he shall pay its price, unless he can cleat' himself of carelessness. If any should think that too great indulgence is shown to the depositary, when God would have the dispute terminated by his oath; the reply is easy, that we do not entrust anything to be kept by another, unless we are persuaded of his honesty. Whoever, then, has chosen a guardian for his property, has borne witness to his own prejudice that he is a good and trustworthy man; and consequently, it would be absurd that he should soon afterwards be involved in all accusation of theft without proof. Wherefore it was reasonable that God would have the owner of the lost goods acquiesce in the oath of him. whom he has considered to be his faithful friend. Besides, a man is altogether acquitted who clears himself by calling God to witness his innocence, unless any sinister suspicion is alleged against him, and provided he excuses himself on probable evidence.

10. If a man deliver unto his neighbor an ass. Since in the passage from whence I have taken these four verses, mention is made of a deposit, and Moses is professedly providing against frauds, and robberies, and thefts, I have thought it well to place them under this head. It has indeed some relation to the Third Commandment, because it shows the lawful use of an oath, viz., that in matters of concealment men should have recourse to the witness of God, and that, by the interposition of His sacred name, an end should be put to their strife. But, while the authority attributed to oaths depends on the reverence due to God, at the same time faith and piety are enforced in them,4 so that all things should correspond. I have, however, considered the main point, i.e., how controversies as to things concealed should be brought to an end for the advancement of peace and equity. He would therefore have the depositary acquitted, if he swears that the animal entrusted to him is lost (either by death or violence,5) although lie should produce no witness of the matter, since it would be unjust that he should bear the blame, unless fraud, or some more palpable offense, have been committed by him. At the conclusion, then, it is said, "the owner of it shall accept" the oath, which is equivalent to saying, that lie shall be compelled to acquiesce, and shall give no more trouble about it. The expression, "an oath of the Lord shall be between them both," is a remarkable one, whereby the obligation and sanctity of an oath are enforced, whilst Moses reminds us that God is the author of this sacred mode of attestation, and presides over it as its judge and avenger.

Moses now lays down the law as to a borrowed animal, if it die, or be mutilated, or injured. There is, however, a wide distinction between a thing borrowed and a thing deposited, for he who lends confers a favor; and therefore, when a man borrows a thing, he binds himself to restore it in safety, as far as in him lies. A distinction, however, is made, if the owner himself of the animal be an eye-witness of the death or fracture, he shall bear the loss; but if the animal should die or be injured in his absence, its value is awarded to him. His presence is tantamount to this, as if it were said, if he shall have seen with his own eyes that the injury did not occur by the fault of him to whom he lent it, then he shall give him no trouble about it. For instance, if you have lent me a horse, and take the journey with me, although anything untoward should happen -- supposing you are assured that it did not occur by my temerity, or negligence, or bad management, I am free, and exempt from loss.

What is here laid down as to a borrowed animal must be applied also to all other things borrowed.

1 "Le Dieu vivant." -- Fr.

2 C.'s view of these words seems to be adopted by none of the commentators. They understand them more simply, that the restitution was to be made in kind, and of the best of the aggressor's produce. Whether we read with C. "bonum agri," or with others "de bono," or "de optimo," as Dathe and A. V., does not appear to affect this sense.

3 "Que la beste se soit esvanouye sans qu'il en ait rien sceu;" in that the beast has vanished without his knowing anything about it. -- Fr.

4 For these latter words, which I hardly understand, the following are substituted in Fr., "Cela touche quant et quant a son service et religion."

5 Added from Fr.


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