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Exodus 22:1-15 To Catch a Thief 

As the Hebrew Israelites gathered at Mt. Sinai and heard YeHoVaH Almighty give the Ten Commandments, fear gripped their hearts.  This caused them to withdraw from the mountain and send Moses to speak to the Almighty on their behalf. While Moses communed with YeHoVaH in the mountain, he was given the Commandments, Statues, Judgments, and Ordinances for the newly formed Nation of Israel. 

Within those instructions was an elaboration of the Commandment, “Thou shalt not steal”, and many others. Stealing and theft could be done in a variety of ways, all of which could leave the victims at a loss without compensation or restitution. YeHoVaH, in the instructions given to the Hebrew Israelites, covered many of the ways a thief could steal and how the victims of the loss should be recompensed and restored.

In this study, To Catch a Thief, we will identify the thief, the various ways a thief could steal, how a thief could cause harm and loss to his or her neighbor, and what was to be done to compensate and restore the one who had suffered loss.

The goal of giving these Laws and making them known to every man and woman in the land was to help them to know the cost of their actions before they committed the act.

Mr. and Mrs. Adam knew the consequences of eating from the tree before they ate.

Cain did not know the consequences of his actions before killing Abel. YeHoVaH exiles him and Cain appealed and complained that his punishment was more than he could bear and if someone found him, they would kill him. YeHoVaH’s mercy was displayed by putting a sign on Cain, forbidding his murder, and making known the consequences that would befall whoever murdered Cain.

Ge 4:13 And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear. 

Ge 4:14 Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me. 

Ge 4:15 And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him. 

Each person and family was responsible for the Law and required to know the Law. 

No person could say they did not know. The fathers and mothers were responsible to know the Law, and responsible to teach the Law to their children.

In our society, and in many societies today, people do not know the laws that govern their societies or the consequences of violating those laws until after they have violated them and stand before a judge who gives a sentence after a verdict has been reached.

Too often, many commit crimes, go to court, and hear the consequences of their actions after the fact. 

In a Torah home or family, the Laws are taught, and family members are held accountable for the Law. If they are not taught or held accountable at home, they will be held accountable in the broader community.

When your child breaks the Law, it is important for parents to look at their child as if they were not their child, as if they were someone else’s child that you did not know.


If someone else’s child, you don’t know defrauds you, steals from you, or hurts you, there’s a good chance you would want them to experience the full weight of the Law. However, those feelings change when it’s your child, which in essence, exposes the double standard that exist within you.

YeHoVaH shows no respect of persons and expects us to do likewise. We have to treat our neighbors' children in our communities, the same as we would treat our own children. Therefore, the judgment would be equally meted out for everyone, equally and justifiably. 

When it comes to the Law of God, we are to be just.

When YeHoVaH freed the Israelites, and those who joined themselves to Israel, from slavery, He established them as equals amongst equals and showed no partiality. The Laws He gave them were designed to give each member of the community of Israel the same rights, and He did not exalt anyone over anyone else.

YeHoVaH had established one Law for the Israelites and the stranger who sojourned with them.

Ex 12:49 One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you.

YeHoVaH reaffirmed the one Law principle in other places in Torah.

Nu 15:14 And if a stranger sojourn with you, or whosoever be among you in your generations, and will offer an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD; as ye do, so he shall do.

Nu 15:15 One ordinance shall be both for you of the congregation, and also for the stranger that sojourneth with you, an ordinance for ever in your generations: as ye are, so shall the stranger be before the LORD.

Nu 15:16 One law and one manner shall be for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you…


…Nu 15:29 Ye shall have one law for him that sinneth through ignorance, both for him that is born among the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them.

Ex 22:1 If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.

This law alone should discourage theft from another knowing that the recompense would cost much more to the thief than the animal stolen.

People steal for different reasons, but all theft causes loss to the one who has been stolen from.

The Proverbs writer wrote:

Pr 6:30 Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry;

Pr 6:31 But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house.

The law only required no more than fivefold.

Ex 22:2 If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.

If a thief is caught breaking in and is killed in the process, the person who kills the thief is innocent and will not suffer as a result.

Ex 22:3 If the sun be risen upon him, there shall be blood shed for him; for he should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.


Restitution – 07999 שָׁלַם shalam {shaw-lam'} 

Meaning:  1) to be in a covenant of peace, be at peace, to be at peace to make safe, to make whole or good, restore, make compensation, to make good, pay 

Usage:  AV - pay 19, peace 11, recompense 11, reward 10, render 9, restore 8, repay 7, perform 7, good 6, end 4, requite 4, restitution 4, finished 3, again 3, amends

If a thief is caught breaking in and is killed in the process, after the sun rises, the person who kills the thief is not innocent and will suffer as a result. If the thief is not killed, he must make full restitution or be sold if he is unable to pay for the loss or damages.

Ex 22:4 If the theft be certainly found in his hand alive, whether it be ox, or ass, or sheep; he shall restore double.

“Caught red-handed”

Ex 22:5 If a man shall cause a field or vineyard to be eaten, and shall put in his beast, and shall feed in another man's field; of the best of his own field, and of the best of his own vineyard, shall he make restitution.

If a man’s animal enters another man’s field and feed in his field, he is obligated to restore from the best of his field.

Ex 22:6 If fire break out, and catch in thorns, so that the stacks of corn, or the standing corn, or the field, be consumed therewith; he that kindled the fire shall surely make restitution.

The person who started the fire is responsible for the damages it causes another.

Ex 22:7 If a man shall deliver unto his neighbour money or stuff to keep, and it be stolen out of the man's house; if the thief be found, let him pay double.

The thief must repay double.

Ex 22:8 If the thief be not found, then the master of the house shall be brought unto the judges, to see whether he have put his hand unto his neighbour's goods.

If a man entrust another with his goods, the person entrusted is taken before the judges to see if he is responsible for taking what the man accuses has been stolen, if the thief is not found.

Ex 22:9 For all manner of trespass, whether it be for ox, for ass, for sheep, for raiment, or for any manner of lost thing, which another challengeth to be his, the cause of both parties shall come before the judges; and whom the judges shall condemn, he shall pay double unto his neighbour.

Ex 22:10 If a man deliver unto his neighbour an ass, or an ox, or a sheep, or any beast, to keep; and it die, or be hurt, or driven away, no man seeing it:

There were no witnesses.

Ex 22:11 Then shall an oath of the LORD be between them both, that he hath not put his hand unto his neighbour's goods; and the owner of it shall accept thereof, and he shall not make it good.

The neighbor swears that he did no harm to the animal or the harm that came to the animal was beyond his control

Ex 22:12 And if it be stolen from him, he shall make restitution unto the owner thereof.

The neighbor is responsible for the animal if it was stolen from him while in his care because he did not protect the animal from theft.

Ex 22:13 If it be torn in pieces, then let him bring it for witness, and he shall not make good that which was torn.


If it was attacked by animals, it was beyond the neighbor's control.

Ex 22:14 And if a man borrow aught of his neighbour, and it be hurt, or die, the owner thereof being not with it, he shall surely make it good.

The man is responsible for the animal if it was solely in his care and the owner was not present.

Ex 22:15 But if the owner thereof be with it, he shall not make it good: if it be an hired thing, it came for his hire.

If the owner was present with the animal when the incident happened, the man is not responsible.

If the man hired or rented the animal and the owner was present when the incident occurred, the man is not responsible for the animal.

The Law was read and made known to all members of the community. Each person was responsible for the Law and required to know the Law. Fathers and mothers were responsible to teach their children the Law of YeHoVaH.

Last Updated on October 19, 2021 by

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