Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Five oxen; because they are of greater value than sheep. (Theodoret) — As these things may easily be stolen, a heavier fine is imposed than on those who steal money. The Scythians punish theft with the utmost severity. (Grotius) — All these punishments, till the 25th chapter, were inflicted by the judge. (Tirinus)
Ver. 2. Blood. The reason is, because it could not easily be known whether the thief had not a design upon the life of the people in the house; and therefore, the law gave them authority to defend themselves. But they were not authorized to kill the thief designedly. The laws of Athens and of Rome, permitted nocturnal robbers to be slain, at least when they came armed. (Plato, de leg. ix. &c.) To defend our goods or honour, by killing the aggressor, is contrary to justice and reason. (Calmet)
Ver. 4. Double. This is an exception from the general law, ver. 1, (Calmet) because he can more easily make restitution, as he has not sold or destroyed the thing. (Du Hamel)
Ver. 8. Gods. “In the presence of the Lord,” Septuagint.
Ver. 9. Damage. Hebrew, “thing lost, which another challengeth.…and whom the judges condemn, he,” &c. If the person who had deposited a thing, pretended that the one produced was not the same, or not equally good, and failed in proving the charge, he was liable to pay double its value. (Calmet)
Ver. 12. Stealth, of the person to whom it was entrusted, or by his connivance, as the Hebrew mámu, (de cum eo) “from with him,” intimates. (Menochius)
Ver. 13. Slain. Or any part of its mangled remains, in proof of his assertion. (Syriac)
Ver. 14. Restitution. It is to be presumed he was guilty of some negligence. (Calmet)
Ver. 15. Especially, &c. This is a third case, in which the person who lends, suffers all the loss, in consideration of the money which he had received. Others explain, “If he be a hired servant, he shall pay out of his wages,” Syriac. (Grotius)
Ver. 17. Money. Fifty sicles, as it is expressed, Deuteronomy xxii. 29. If the maid were of high birth, the magistrates might inflict other punishments on the seducer.
Ver. 18. Wizards. Hebrew, “a witch.” Women are more given to such delusions, which imply an apostacy from God to serve the devil, and disturb the republic.
Ver. 20. Death. Hebrew, “shall be anathema,” (érom) which denotes utter destruction both of the person and of his goods. (Jonathan) (1 Kings xv. 3.)
Ver. 21. Were strangers. The Celtes punished with death the murderer of a stranger, while they only banished him who had murdered a citizen. (Calmet)
Ver. 24. Fatherless. Thus God will retaliate upon the oppressors of the poor. (Haydock)
Ver. 25. Poor. Such are often most in want. Usury is not lawful, even with respect to the rich. The Hebrew terms it a bite. (Menochius) — “What is usury, said Cato, but to kill a man.” The Romans required thieves to restore double, but usurers were to render four times as much as they had taken. (Varro, Rustic. i.) — Restitution is prescribed, 2 Esdras v. 11. Some Calvinists have stood up in its defence, in opposition to the Scriptures, fathers, and Councils of the Catholic Church. Lend, hoping to gain nothing by it, Luke vi. 35. “Let him who loves money,.…lend (in the persons of the poor) to Him who says, Give, and it shall be given to you.” (St. Leo, ser.) The Jews themselves have reprobated usury in any use. (Calmet)
Ver. 28. Gods. Judges, priests, &c. Josephus and Philo say, we must not speak ill of strange gods, lest the Gentiles should take occasion to blaspheme the true God, and that we may be farther removed from the danger of taking the name of God in vain, and losing that respect which we owe to it.
Ver. 29. Tithes. Hebrew, “thy plentitude, (first-fruits and tithes) and thy tears;” (or liquors distilled form odoriferous trees) in a word, all that is most excellent. Censorinus (de die nat.) says, excellently well: “They who acknowledged that they had received food, a country, light, and even their very persons, from the bounty of the gods, failed not to consecrate a part of all to the gods,…to the temples and chapels, where they worshipped them.” (Calmet)
Ver. 31. Beasts. “Wild beasts,” Septuagint. — This was to encourage humanity. (Theodoret)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The punishment of theft and other trespasses. The law of lending without usury, of taking pledges, of reverence to superiors, and of paying tithes.
1 If any man steal an ox or a sheep, and kill or sell it: he shall restore five oxen for one ox, *and four sheep for one sheep.
2 If a thief be found breaking open a house or undermining it, and be wounded so as to die: he that slew him shall not be guilty of blood.
3 But if he did this when the sun is risen, he hath committed murder, and he shall die. If he have not wherewith to make restitution for the theft, he shall be sold.
4 If that which he stole be found with him, alive, either ox, or ass, or sheep: he shall restore double.
5 If any man hurt a field or a vineyard, and put in his beast to feed upon that which is other men’s: he shall restore the best of whatsoever he hath in his own field, or in his vineyard, according to the estimation of the damage.
6 If a fire breaking out light upon thorns, and catch stacks of corn, or corn standing in the fields, he that kindled the fire shall make good the loss.
7 If a man deliver money, or any vessel unto his friend to keep, and they be stolen away from him that received them: if the thief be found he shall restore double:
8 If the thief be not known, the master of the house shall be brought to the gods, and shall swear that he did not lay his hand upon his neighbour’s goods,
9 To do any fraud, either in ox, or in ass, or sheep, or raiment, or any thing that may bring damage: the cause of both parties shall come to the gods: and if they give judgment, he shall restore double to his neighbour.
10 If a man deliver ass, ox, sheep, or any beast, to his neighbour’s custody, and it die, or be hurt, or be taken by enemies, and no man saw it:
11 There shall be an oath between them, that he did not put forth his hand to his neighbour’s goods: and the owner shall accept of the oath, and he shall not be compelled to make restitution.
12 *But if it were taken away by stealth, he shall make the loss good to the owner.
13 If it were eaten by a beast, let him bring to him that which was slain, and he shall not make restitution.
14 If a man borrow of his neighbour any of these things, and it be hurt or die, the owner not being present, he shall be obliged to make restitution.
15 But if the owner be present, he shall not make restitution, especially if it were hired, and came for the hire of his work.
16 *If a man seduce a virgin not yet espoused, and lie with her: he shall endow her, and have her to wife.
17 If the maid’s father will not give her to him, he shall give money according to the dowry, which virgins are wont to receive.
18 Wizards thou shalt not suffer to live.
19 Whosoever copulateth with a beast, shall be put to death.
20 *He that sacrificeth to gods, shall be put to death, save only to the Lord.
21 Thou shalt not molest a stranger, nor afflict him: for yourselves also were strangers in the land of Egypt.
22 *You shall not hurt a widow or an orphan.
23 If you hurt them, they will cry out to me, and I will hear their cry:
24 And my rage shall be enkindled, and I will strike you with the sword, and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.
25 If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor, that dwelleth with thee, thou shalt not be hard upon them as an extortioner, nor oppress them with usuries.
26 *If thou take of thy neighbour a garment in pledge, thou shalt give it him again before sun-set.
27 For that same is the only thing, wherewith he is covered, the clothing of his body, neither hath he any other to sleep in: if he cry to me, I will hear him, because I am compassionate.
28 Thou shalt not speak ill of the gods, and *the prince of thy people thou shalt not curse.
29 Thou shalt not delay to pay thy tithes and thy first-fruits: *thou shalt give the first-born of thy sons to me.
30 Thou shalt do the same with the first-born of thy oxen also and sheep: seven days let it be with its dam: the eighth day thou shalt give it to me.
31 You shall be holy men to me: *the flesh that beasts have tasted of before, you shall not eat, but shall cast it to the dogs.
1: 2 Kings xii. 6.
12: Genesis xxxi. 39.
16: Deuteronomy xxii. 28.
20: Leviticus xix. 4.
22: Zacharias vii. 10.
26: Deuteronomy xxiv. 13.
28: Acts xxiii. 5.
29: Exodus xiii. 2. and 12. and xxxiv. 19.; Ezechiel xliv. 30.
31: Leviticus xxii. 3.