Exodus 22

Protection of Property (22:1–15)

First, the Israelites were to treat the alien with kindness and fairness (verse 21). The reason was that the Israelites themselves had been aliens for over four hundred years in Egypt. Those who have suffered a particular trial should be more sympathetic to others going through the same trial(2 Corinthians 1:3–4).

God also had special concern for the widow and orphan (verse 22). They had little ability to defend their rights, and as a result they were often impoverished and uncared for (James 1:27). But God Himself promised to hear their cry and punish their oppressors (verse 24).

25–27 God forbade the charging of interest on personal loans made to fellow Israelites—especially when they were needy (verse 25). In order to get such a loan, one usually had to give some item of value to the lender as a pledge, as security for the loan; a poor man might only be able to give his cloak—an outer garment that was often used as a blanket for sleeping. Such a man had to be given back his cloak each night so he would not suffer from the cold; the lender was required to show compassion to the debtor, because God Himself was compassionate81 (verse 27). Further instructions concerning lending are found in Leviticus 25:35–38 and Deuteronomy 15:7–8.

28 Do not blaspheme God. To “blaspheme” God means to deliberately say or do anything that detracts from His glory or honor. In particular, it means to deny Him, to insult Him, to make other gods or other people “equal” to Him. The Jews accused Jesus of blasphemy, of making Himself equal with God (Mark 2:7; 14:64); they didn’t realize that indeed Jesus was God. Also blaspheming the Holy Spirit is the same as blaspheming God, for they too are one (Mark 3:28–29). According to the law, the penalty for blaspheming God was death (Leviticus 24:13–16).

The Israelites were not to curse their ruler—that is, their leader, their king, their high priest (see Acts 23:4–5). Their “ruler” was God’s representative; he ruled with God’s authority. To “curse” the ruler was to oppose God (Romans 13:1–2). This law applies to Christians today: we must not “curse” (defame, betray, or inappropriately oppose) the leaders whom God places over us.

29–30 In these verses the “law of firstfruits” is given. The Israelites were required to offer to God the first and best of their harvest, both from their granaries and their wine vats—and to not hold back (verse 29).

Likewise, they were to offer—to consecrate—their firstborn sons to God (see Exodus 13:1–2 and comment). But, of course, they were not to sacrifice their sons; they were to redeem them by offering an animal sacrifice (see Exodus 13:11–16 and comment). Later on, the firstborn sons were redeemed by substituting in their place the service of the Levites (Numbers 3:44–48).

The Israelites were also required to offer to God the firstborn of their cattle and sheep. These were to be consecrated to God; later they could be sacrificed when they were one year old. They were to stay with their mothers for seven days—to suckle and thereby give the mothers relief from the buildup of milk.

31 This verse gives the fundamental reason for all of the laws given by God to the Israelites: “You are to be my holy people.” The Israelites were to reflect God’s holiness by their obedience to His laws (see Exodus 19:5–6 and comment). They had been chosen—called—to be God’s holy nation; therefore they needed to live lives worthy of the calling they had received (Ephesians 4:1).

Then verse 31 concludes with one more law: the Israelites must not eat the meat of an animal killed by wild beasts. There were two reasons for this: first, the beasts were ritually unclean and thus contaminated the meat; and second, the blood would not have been drained from the killed animal. God’s holy people were to eat nothing that was “unclean”82 (Leviticus 22:8) and nothing that had blood left in it (Leviticus 17:10–12).

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