How much do you give back for that animal? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
Tonight we return to our look at the Law in the Old Testament and we will look at just one verse today, and that is Exodus 22:1.
“Whoever steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.”
Often, when we read about sacrifices in the Old Testament, we can often just glance over the passage without really considering what is going on in it. There is a sacrifice that is taking place. We often think of a sacrifice as giving up chocolate for 40 days for Lent. Once the time is passed, we go right back. Such is not the case here.
What did it mean to give up an animal?
Many of us are pet owners and we would certainly not want to do anything to our pets that would result in injury or loss of life. You can even find something you can put on your door so that if your house is on fire, the fire department will know that they need to rescue any pets that you have as well. You can find many stories of pet rescues on YouTube.
What about your livestock?
I’m not a farmer, so if someone reads this as a farmer they’re free to give some personal looks at this. For your livestock, that is your sustenance now and also your future. You didn’t have a Wal-Mart just down the street that you could go to and pick up a new coat. No. If cold weather was coming, you needed that wool from that sheep in order to make clothes.
You could not go down to the local grocery store and buy a slab of meat. No. If you wanted to get meat and you lived in the wilderness, you had to kill the animal. Of course, you could go out and hunt, but there were times you’d just need to kill an animal.
How do you get more animals? Breeding. This is why male animals were so much more valuable. One bull could easily bring about pregnancy in several cows. If all you have are several males and one female, you will not get the same results.
Thus, when an Israelite offered a sacrifice, they were offering up an enormous economic investment. Such would also make them take their sins more seriously. Do you think you’d be less prone to sin if it meant you had to give up the family pet or that you had to drop some more income into the church offering plate?
So what about this passage? That economic investment is valuable to God and the rates of exchange are huge in this one. Most people would not be able to do that, which tells us God is not going to tolerate theft. Quite likely, the thief would simply have to sell himself into slavery to pay such a debt, which might stop him from doing it in the first place.
Interestingly, when David is told the parable of the family who has a sheep taken from them to offer to a guest, he does say that the person who did this should pay back fourfold. David had this kind of law in mind, and keep in mind David himself did pay fourfold.
Today, we would understand the idea of making up for one’s wrongs with extra quite well. Such is the case with lawsuits today that not only cover cost of medical expenses, but also cover any future loss and economic loss during recovery. This is a principle we still have from our past.