22:1-4 The difference in responses to burglary at different times rests on the concern that the owners’ lives might be at stake, especially if the break-in took place at night. During the day they could recognize the thief and know whether or not this was a dangerous intruder (cp. Jr 2:26,34-35). Even the life of a thief was valued; he could not be sold as a slave or be killed in revenge.
22:5-6 This covers the necessity for restitution in cases of negligence causing the loss of crops.
22:7-9 In these verses, the judges translates the Hebrew word elohim, which usually refers to “God” or to “gods.” Here it refers to superiors in the society, or judges, rather than a superior being, or God (cp. 1Sm 2:25, where the Lord is distinguished from judges in a dispute between humans). In v. 9, the verb translated condemn is plural, which is appropriate for judges. The noun translated wrongdoing and its related verb are used in both political and private situations in which a breach of trust, violation of an agreement, disloyalty, or treachery was involved (23:21; Gn 31:36; 50:17; 1Kg 12:19; 2Kg 1:1; Pr 28:24; Is 1:2).
22:16-17 The verb rendered seduces expresses the idea of persuading or enticing someone, often used negatively in the case of a gullible individual (Jdg 14:15; 16:5; Pr 1:10; 16:29). “Makes a fool of” would be another possible translation. Payment of a bridal price to the girl’s father was a widely established ancient custom. The payment eventually should become her possession (Gn 31:14-15; 34:12). If a man had sexual intercourse with a woman to whom he was not engaged, he was required to pay the bridal price and marry her.
22:18 This prohibition represents one of several that outlawed all forms of occult activity (Lv 19:26-31; Dt 18:9-14). The three violations in Ex 22:18-20 would be more of a temptation once the Israelites reached the land of Canaan (23:32-33; Lv 18:1-5,23-30; 20:15-27; Dt 18:14-15).
22:19 According to John Durham, the prohibition on sex with animals is “not only because it was a sexual deviation (cp. Lv 18:23; 20:16; Dt 27:21), but even more because of its associations with animal cults and fertility worship.”
22:20 The kind of sacrifices mentioned here involved fellowship between the deity and the worshiper. The Israelites must be loyal to and have fellowship with the Lord alone.
22:21-27 The Israelites were to remember who they were and their mistreatment in Egypt, and they were to remember that the Lord would take action on behalf of the powerless and vulnerable members of society, especially within Israel (cp. Lv 25:35-38). The word translated oppress in v. 21 and 23:9 is used in 3:9 to describe what prompted the Israelites to call out for help. They needed to avoid putting themselves in the position of the Egyptians. The mention of collateral consisting of a garment needed for warmth at night shows that the loan involved helping a poverty-stricken person survive. No luxury or business venture is in view.
22:28 Respect for God displayed in behavior toward others is an issue in the verses that precede and follow this one. Respect for a leader is included, perhaps in both halves of the verse, if the Hebrew word elohim has the same reference to “judges” that it seems to have in vv. 8-9.
22:29-30 Offerings and the firstborn of humans and animals belonged to God. Only the firstborn of animals suitable for sacrificing were actually sacrificed. Others were redeemed for a price.
22:31 Be my holy people recalls the fuller description of the Lord’s vision for Israel in 19:4-6 but is expressed more personally by listing individual choices. Leviticus provides further directions about what the Israelites could eat (Lv 17:12-15).