We are continuing with Moses on Mt. Sinai as God fleshes out His outline. Today we look at the laws of restitution. I feel another spreadsheet coming on.
The laws here deal with property rights. To me, this builds on the commandment not to covet your neighbor’s goods. Twice in His instructions there is mention made of taking an oath before God that the “missing property” was not absconded with by the one entrusted to care for it. That action would definitely fall under the umbrella of coveting. Let’s look at it all neat and orderly.
|Penalty||Reimbursement rate/ means||Extra provisions||Oath required
|Physical hazard/ animal encounters||money for loss||dead animal belongs to offender|
|Animal v animal/ no history||sell surviver and split proceeds 50/50||dead animal 50/50|
|Animal v animal/ with history||replace loss with like kind||dead animal belongs to offender|
|Animal v property||give the best of his own field|
|Theft animal/ disposed||"5 X for ox|
4 X for sheep; if unable to pay, sold to cover debt"
|Theft animal/ kept||double; if unable to pay, sold to cover debt|
|Theft property||double |
|Breaking & entry||double; if unable to pay, sold to cover debt||If killed during robbery, no restitution for either party; survives owner's defense, thief pays double|
|Arson||FULL restitution for all losses|
|Surety goods theft||thief pays double if found||IF one entrusted with item "taken" is found to be the thief, pays double to property owner||swears is not the thief of missing property
|Surety animal theft||if stolen, if thief located, makes double restitution; if thief not found, entrusted one makes restitution||IF one entrusted with item "taken" is found to be the thief, pays double to property owner||swears is not the thief of missing property
|Surety animal damaged or destroyed||no restitution if incident unobserved and entrusted one swears innocence||if it was stolen entrusted one makes restitution||swears did not see or harm animal and is not the thief
|Borrowed property damaged||full restitution if owner NOT with borrowed item/animal||NO recompense if owner present|
I came away thinking about the thief. If the person was stealing because they were starving, they wound up as a slave out of the deal to pay back the debt. That would be going from bad to worse. Whatever they took had to be paid back double in ALL circumstances. I wonder if that punishment would help with that portion of the crime rate today. Probably not, because jail time doesn’t seem to be enough deterrent to keep it from happening.
The “surety” section, where one person leaves their goods (money, animal, etc.) in the care of another was interesting. If the item left in care was an animal there was more of a responsibility carried with it. If money or regular goods were stolen while under care, if the thief wasn’t caught, no restitution was granted. This area also included an extra caveat of having to swear before God that the person entrusted with the item didn’t take it themselves. In the case of an animal theft, the owner was required to accept the entrusted person’s word on this subject BUT if they were found to be lying (“breach of trust”) it was treated like regular theft. Why weren’t they required to pay what regular theft of an animal incurred? The thief, if caught, with surety items was not held to the regular animal theft standards either. I wonder why that was.
God knew His children would need rules, regulations and consequences just like any other nation. HE set the tone and standards. We have a LONG way to go to finish compiling His list. The Ten Commandments, as I said before, was just the basic outline.
Father God, thank You for allowing me to organize Your words this way. I get lost when I can’t see it in an orderly fashion. Did You write it down for Moses in an organized list or jump around like in our text? Did the Israelites reorder it like I did? I don’t want to lose any of what You shared while I reorganize it.
Even though we are not under the law these laws, so far, are ones that are appropriate still. I believe they are some of the basis for our laws today. Thank You for giving an example that we can follow still.