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Exodus 22 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on Exodus 22 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

1 If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.

2 If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.

3 If the sun be risen upon him, there shall be blood shed for him; for he should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.

(22:3) "If he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft."
Selling a thief to pay for his theft
If a thief is caught and is too poor to make a complete restitution, then he is to be sold to pay for his theft.
Does God approve of slavery?
What the Bible says about slavery and crime and punishment
I really fail to understand why the author of the SAB things it is justice if someone steals, but doesn't make restitution. Locking up someone in prison for crimes like that is inhumane. It does not produce any good effect, except keeping this person off the streets for a while. Far better to return what was stolen. And being poor is not an excuse. If the thief has an able body, let him work. And yes, that's forced labour. But that's simply the result of the choice the thief made by stealing in the first place.
Note that modern philosophers make similar points with regards to proper punishment for stealing.

4 If the theft be certainly found in his hand alive, whether it be ox, or ass, or sheep; he shall restore double.

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.

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.

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

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 neighbour’s goods.

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 neighbour.

10 If a man deliver unto his neighbour 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:

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

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

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

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

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.

16 And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.

(22:16-17) If a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife."
If you have sex with her, you must marry her.
If you "entice" an "unmarried maid" to "lie" with you, then you must marry her, unless the father refuses to give her to you, in which case you must pay him the going price for virgins.
The Bible makes it very clear that sexual intercourse is marriage. Are you married if the marriage is not consummated? Prior to the no fault divorce laws that was an important consideration.
So according to Biblical standards these persons were married at this point. However, what to do if the father was opposed and the maid under a certain age? In that case a divorce was allowed, but the dowry still had to be paid, as the maid would have to use this to secure her living. I fail to see what is particularly women unfriendly about this. The law, by its nature, must deal with things gone wrong.

17 If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.

18 Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

(22:18) "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live."
Is magic OK?
Does God approve of capital punishment?
What the Bible says about witches and crime and punishment
There can be no doubt that magic was not OK. And in chapter 4:2 no magic took place.

19 Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death.

(22:19) "Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death."
This is still punishable in most societies, albeit not with the death penalty.

20 He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed.

(22:20) "He who sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed."
How many gods are there?
This verse does not discuss the existence of gods, but only the pretences of those making such sacrifices.

21 Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

(22:21-22) Be kind to strangers, widows, and fatherless children.
How should strangers be treated?
The author of the SAB compares apples and oranges. See Num. 1:51 on a very different kind of stranger.

22 Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.

23 If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry;

24 And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.

(22:24) "I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless."
verse 21 sets out how strangers should be treated, and here we have the penalty. But the author of the SAB finds that unjust. So the law should spell out standards of behaviour, but not impose any penalties. That's gonna work.
For those with remaining rational faculties: note that the Bible follows the tooth for a tooth principle: they will receive like they have done.

25 If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury.

26 If thou at all take thy neighbour’s raiment to pledge, thou shalt deliver it unto him by that the sun goeth down:

27 For that is his covering only, it is his raiment for his skin: wherein shall he sleep? and it shall come to pass, when he crieth unto me, that I will hear; for I am gracious.

28 Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people.

(22:28) "Thou shalt not revile the gods ( is there more than one?), nor curse the ruler of thy people. (Even if the ruler is a tyrant?)
The word gods means here the judges. It's used more often this way, see for example Psalm 82:1.

29 Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me.

(22:29) "The firstborn of thy sons thou shalt give unto me."
(As a burnt offering?)
Does God approve of human sacrifice?
Of course this verse is not about human sacrifice, that was clearly forbidden (Lev. 18:21)! The giving of the firstborn was dedicating him to God's service as per chapter 13:15.

30 Likewise shalt thou do with thine oxen, and with thy sheep: seven days it shall be with his dam; on the eighth day thou shalt give it me.

31 And ye shall be holy men unto me: neither shall ye eat any flesh that is torn of beasts in the field; ye shall cast it to the dogs.

(22:31) "Ye shall be holy men unto me."
Is only God holy?
Holy in this verse means to be set apart. See Psalm 16:10.