Reading through the Bible together
In the first 15 verses there is a continuation of laws regarding personal property. These laws are an elaboration of the eighth commandment “You will not steal.” God desired that the children of Israel be given specific cases so that they would fully understand the extent of the law. Stolen oxen and sheep that are subsequently killed are to be returned five and four-fold. If they are yet alive, two should be returned to the original owner. Generally the idea of repaying double for stolen goods is found in these verses (4, 7, 9). The elaboration of the first and second commandments specifically condemns sorcery, sacrifices to other gods, and beastiality, which are all punishable by death. The seriousness of these offenses demonstrates that Israel lived under a theocracy. In this context to sacrifice to other gods meant high treason and the equivalent to declaring a new nationality.
This chapter also offers special consideration and protection to strangers, widows, and fatherless children. God wanted to assure his people that the destitute among them should be cared for. In a recent discovery at Khirbet Qeiyafa, Israel, an inscription was found in 2008 that is the oldest Hebrew text ever discovered. One scholar believes it may have been an injunction to care for widows and orphans while another believes that it relates to the establishment of the monarchy. If the former interpretation is correct, it is a good example of this belief in Israel’s history, if the latter then we have physical evidence for the move away from a theocracy to a human king. This raises important issues about our care for the needy and our allegiances. Those who follow God as their ultimate authority will care for the impoverished and less fortunate.
Southern Adventist University