Exodus 22

These small group studies of Exodus contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Exodus 22 Inductive Bible Study

Outline:

I. Laws about stealing (1-4)

II. Laws about restitution (5-15)

III. Miscellaneous laws (16-21)

IV. Laws about caring for others (22-27)

V. More miscellaneous laws (28-31)

I. Laws about stealing (1-4)

Discussion Questions

Why must a thief pay more than what he stole to begin with? Isn’t it enough to just give back what he had stolen?

Why is a person not punished if he kills a thief during the night? What does this tell us, if anything, about God’s thoughts toward self-defense or protecting one’s own property? Why is it important if the sun is up or not when this happens?

In what case was a thief to be sold? How does this relate to what we learned in chapter 21 about the laws of slavery? What do you think of this law to deal with thieves?

Teaching Points

1. By making a thief pay more than what he stole, it makes the deterrent to stealing greater. Imagine if he only had to repay what he stole. In that case, there would be no risk to stealing. If you get caught, so what? You only end up where you started. But by having to pay back 4-5 times more than what you steal, even a person with no morals would have to think twice about the risk of stealing, since getting caught would mean a heavy financial punishment. The purpose of setting laws is to deter crimes, so hefty punishments are required for the law to be effective.

2. No punishment is levied for killing a thief in your home during the night. This gives indirect support to the “right” of self-defense and protection of one’s property/family. This verse makes it clear the Bible is not against all types of killing (as do verses on capital punishment). Killing and murder is different. At the same time, punishment is handed out for killing even a thief during the daytime. Why? Perhaps for two reasons. First of all, in the daytime it is easier to avoid accidental deaths in a skirmish. Presumably, you could defend your property with fatally injuring the thief. At night time, it is harder to keep that balance of self-defense with compassion for the criminal. Secondly, thieves mostly break in at night. This law of self-defense could be used by people committing murder or manslaughter and then claiming the victim was a thief. The fact that it occurs in the day, makes it unlikely it was a thief. This verse makes it clear that purposely beating someone to death, even a thief, is not acceptable. Combined with NT verses on loving your enemy and turning the other cheek, we can remember to show compassion even for thieves, such as Jesus on the cross did to the criminal being crucified next to him.

3. If a thief could not pay the penalty for stealing, he would be forced to sell himself. Last week we discussed the kind of situation one would find himself in before selling himself as a slave. Probably he would be in a desperate situation of financial ruin/debt because of poor life choices/sin. It is unlikely an upstanding, diligent citizen would find himself in such kind of financial ruin. Secondly, a person would only be forced to sell himself as a slave if he had nothing else of value to sell. It is a last resort. In a perfect world there wouldn’t be any slavery or prisons or sin. But the world is not perfect. Personally, I find this option of selling oneself as a slave (remember that it was for six years) far preferable to prison, which offers no benefits for the victim.

4. What kind of modern day applications can we make from the principles in these verses?

A. To deter sin, punishment has to be a real deterrent and enforced. On a nation-wide scale that means setting higher punishments for crimes. On an individual scale it could mean disciplining a child for wrong doing instead of just a scolding.

B. We can defend ourselves and our family against aggressors, criminals, and the like. However, we should do so in a compassionate way. Getting a group of buddies together and beating a pickpocket to death or within an inch of his life is not acceptable. Perhaps in the act of self-defense the attacker will die, but we should never kill someone intentionally, deserved or not. Leave that aspect of justice up to the law.

C. Sinning has consequences. You don’t want to be a slave? Don’t steal. You don’t want to be in financial trouble? Make wise financial choices and don’t get into massive debt. Keep the law and you don’t have to worry about punishment.

II. Laws about restitution (5-15)

Discussion Questions

Why would someone allow their animals to graze in somebody else’s field? What was the punishment for this? What principle can we glean from this? What kind of applications can we glean from this law for modern day China?

Explain the law in verse 6? What was the purpose for this law? How would this law help to prevent similar occurrences? Is it reasonable for someone to be punished for an accident? What does this law show us about God’s opinion of accidents? How can we prevent accidents? If we aren’t careful and make a mistake that harms others (for example I am not looking and run into a kid at the school I teach at, a doctor accidentally gives the wrong medication, or a business person makes a mistake in accounting that costs his company money) what should we do about it?

Explain the purpose for the laws in verses 7-8.

What was the “court system” used?

Explain the concept of restitution. Why do you think restitution is given so frequently as the punishment for crimes? How does this type of law punish the criminal and deter crime? How does it protect the victim and ensure that their cases are dealt with appropriately? Do you think that restitution should be more common in modern day laws?

Do you think there is any relationship between restitution and repentance? If so, what? Give some specific examples of how we can follow the concept of restitution in our own relationships with others.

Is restitution a universal principle or a cultural principle for that time and place? How might it differ in application than back then?

Teaching Points

1. I really like verses 5-6 and think we can get important principles from these verses. What can we learn from these verses? On the surface, you might think they are not very related to our modern day problems. How many of you have farms or keep livestock? Yeah, none of us. In this kind of case though, we cannot just toss out the verses as being irrelevant or outdated. They do contain some universal principles with modern day applications. Verses 5: This basically refers to selfishly using up others resources instead of your own. The resource mentioned here is your neighbor’s field. Can you think of any other resources with the same principle? Others include wasting your neighbors/friends time instead of your own. Or their money. Or their energy. Etc. Etc. I will give an example. A lot of pet owners in the States take their dogs for a walk and let their dogs “do their business” on other people’s lawns instead of their own. Many times it is intentional. Sometimes perhaps it is not their reason. Regardless, they should ask if that home owner enjoys having to clean up after their dog. Of course they don’t. This is a selfish action. He should make it up to the homeowner. There are many more possible examples. The lesson here to consider others more important than yourself. Don’t selfishly take advantage of others and their resources. Consider instead how you can help others. For example a farmer with extra water/grass could offer it to a neighbor with less. How about a modern day example?

2. Verse 6 refers to accidental harm done to others. The fire probably wasn’t started maliciously. The fire starter didn’t intend to destroy his neighbor’s crops/fruit. But it happened. The fire perhaps got out of control or whoever started it left it unwatched and it spread. This verse shows us that we are responsible even for accidents. What do you think about this? We know God thinks we should take responsibility for our accidents because we find that right here. Accidents could be very dangerous. My grandfather was killed by a drunk driver when walking by the road. Was it intentional? No. But his accident cost my grandfather his life (my grandmother was also hit and spent weeks in the hospital) and changed the entire family’s life for decades. Sometimes accidents aren’t as serious. They could include me knocking over a kid at school, dropping and breaking a dish or computer, giving a patient the wrong medicine, or making a mistake in paperwork at the office. We are not perfect, but the thing about accidents is that they are preventable. How to prevent accidents? The person who started the fire could have prevented it from spreading by being more mindful of the wind, having water nearby to put out the fire if it spread, asking for help in watching the fire, etc. The best way to prevent accidents is by being careful. I guess over 90% of accidents could be prevented by being alert, and careful. Being careful could include double or triple checking. For example, look both ways when crossing a street, don’t carry too many dishes at the same time, double check all prescriptions assigned to patients, ask a co-worker to proofread or go over your assignment, etc. Don’t be too confident in your own ability. Pride goes before the fall.

3. What word is repeated again and again throughout this chapter? Restitution. What does this mean? reparation made by giving an equivalent or compensation for loss, damage, or injury caused; indemnification. the restoration of property or rights previously taken away, conveyed, or surrendered. Basically it means making up for a wrong doing with real, tangible compensation. Let’s say for example there is a pharmaceutical company. It sells thousands of bottles of drugs meant to relieve symptoms of a cold. Later is found these drugs cause lung cancer and 20 people got lung cancer from the drugs. The company issues a formal and public apology. The spokesperson seems genuinely sorry for what happened. All the drugs are removed from the market. Each of the 20 cancer patients get a letter in the mail expressing the deepest sympathy for what happened. Is that restitution? What is? If the company pays the entire health bill for the 20 victims will that reach the level of restitution the Bible demands? Probably not. There are several cases of 1 for 1 restitution, but most are two, three, four, or five to one. The argument could be made that no amount of money is enough to compensate the victim for what they have to go through. The company should consider lost wages, health bills, and the entire picture. In many kinds of cases today, thieves are sent to jail as punishment, but there is no restitution. What do you think of restitution as a form of punishment? I think it is great because it both punishes the criminal while giving real actual benefit to the victim.

A. What kind of modern day applications can we make from the concept of restitution? It is clear that an apology is not enough to right a wrong in many cases. True repentance will also try to make up for the harm done. Applied to an individual level, that means when our mistakes (intentional or otherwise) cost another person’s time, energy, money, possessions, etc. we should strive our best to make up for it. Sometimes it is impossible, but we should do everything we can. For example if I borrow David’s Itouch and lose it or drop it, then an apology is not enough. I should replace his Itouch with MINE!!! See verses 14-15. These verses also show us that if we agree to watch something for somebody we have a responsibility to take care of it. This could include watching a pet for somebody, taking care of someone’s plants while they are traveling, house sitting, etc. It doesn’t matter what the exact thing is, what matters is that we care for it responsibly. If you don’t think you are able to do that, then don’t take the responsibility to begin with.

III. Miscellaneous laws (16-21)

Discussion Questions

What was the penalty for a man sleeping with a woman prior to marriage? How did this help protect the woman? What role did the father have after this kind of situation? Why might the father let his daughter marry a guy like this after doing this?

Why might the father refuse giving his daughter to a guy like this?

What does this law/punishment show us about God’s thoughts towards sex (It is only intended for husband and wife, therefore the punishment is the price for paying for this wife as the guy should have done originally.)?

Why was the punishment mentioned for the sins in verses 18-20 so severe? Do you think these laws (if enforced) were strong deterrents to engaging in these revolting behaviors? How would these laws protect society?

What is the reason for the command in verse 21? What principle does this demonstrate?

Teaching Points

1. The male is the one seen as responsible for pre-marital intercourse. Obviously it takes two, but probably in most cases it would be the male taking the initiative. Also the male would be the head of the family, so is the one held responsible for this. The first solution for this problem is for the man to pay the dowry and marry immediately. Although it was sin and a mistake was made, this is the most honorable thing to do (instead of casting out the woman like David’s son did). This law acts as protection for the woman. I would assume that a woman who had already slept with a man (probably based on promises of an imminent marriage) would be very difficult to find a husband.

2. The father, however, has veto power over the marriage. This is also a protection for the woman. She has already been seduced and therefore can’t see clearly or objectively. The father, OTOH, is an outside third party with a less biased view of the situation. He should be able to see clearly to make a judgment whether to allow his daughter to marry this guy or not. Many modern ladies revolt against the idea that they have to submit to their father’s plans for marriage. But actually it is a protection. In this case, the father would have the choice to refuse marriage to this man if he thought the man was not suitable, would not care properly for his daughter, or perhaps would engage in similar acts of immorality in the future. Either way the male has to pay the full bridal price for the woman. This is like restitution since he has taken from her what should only be given in marriage. Throughout the Bible the concept of sex only in marriage is clearly taught. Hebrews 13:4

3. Verses 18-20 are all capital punishment laws. Sorcery, bestiality, and sacrificing to other gods is all worthy of death. It is interesting to note that these things were all practiced by the Canaanites who God commanded the Israelites to destroy. This kind of laws told people how serious these sins were. They also would act to keep Israel clean. If people could do these things without punishment, then they would influence others and the entire nation would be degraded and polluted, a far cry from the “holy nation” they were supposed to be.

IV. Laws about caring for others (22-27)

Why do you think God makes special laws for protecting the widow and orphan? What does this show us about God’s heart towards societies’ outcasts? What does this show us our attitude should be towards those less fortunate than ourselves? How can we reach out to these types of people? What NT verses refer to this issue?

Teaching Points

1. Verse 21. This is a reminder to treat others how you want to be treated. They were abused and forced into slavery in Egypt and now God commands them never to treat foreigners in their land in a similar way. This is also another reminder that forced slavery of nations or peoples is never acceptable in the Scriptures.

2. James 1:27, Genesis 22:21-22, Deut 24:17-21, Psalms 82:3-4. All the other punishments in this chapter were to be enforced by men. But in the case of abusing the widow/orphan, God Himself says He will kill the person with the sword. God will set Himself against the wicked people who take advantage of and prey on the less fortunate. You don’t want to find yourself staring down the edge of a sword held by God. The entire Bible reinforces the principle of caring for the weak and downtrodden. See Isaiah 42 (where the Messiah was going to be the defender of the oppressed.)

3. These verses are more reminders to care for others, show love. It is definitely true that the command to love God with all heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself sums up the law. If you love your neighbor, you won’t steal. If you love your neighbor, you won’t let your animals graze on his fields instead of your own. If you love your neighbor, you will be extra careful not to set a fire to his field, you will take care of the things he gives you to watch, you will take care of anything you borrow. If you love your neighbor, you will not sleep with a lady and steal her virginity before marriage. If you love your neighbor, you will not wrong or abuse them, you will not oppress them. And here, you will not charge interest to a poor person. When we give, we should assume that money as gone. Give without any thought of return. Our giving should be a way to help others. We should be generous. How can we decide whether or not to give to a cause or person who comes to us (there are many needy people.) What should our attitude be in loaning or giving to others? Many young people need help with tuition and go to friends or relatives for that help. Should you help them?

V. More miscellaneous laws (28-31)

Why might somebody curse God? How should we treat rulers/leaders? Who put these leaders/rules over us? What can we learn from verse 29?

1. Verses 29-30 are a reminder of our responsibility to give from what God has given us back to God. That is not optional. We should delay in doing it. We should not put it off or wait until the “harvest” is better or we are more stable financially. Notice this verse doesn’t give any condition as to how big the harvest is. Whenever you harvest, you are to give to God. Or if you are not a farmer, whenever you make an income/salary you are to give to God. Do not wait or our fleshly nature may want to hold some of it back or we may forget, etc.

Study Exodus 23

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