"Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law." Psalm 119:18
Text: Exodus 22 : 3-4
THE COURTS OF ISRAEL
The giving of the laws set the foundation for the establishing of the law courts of Israel! One of the roles that Moses would have to fulfil would be to train people who would become good and fair judges of the nation.
THE LAW MUST BE UPHELD PROPERLY
While it is possible that accidental death could occur, especially when people fight in the dark of night, perpetrators of evil must be tried in court! If a thief is caught in the day, he must be tried and sentenced by the court.
“If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed.
He should make full restitution; if he has nothing, then he shall
be sold for his theft. If the theft is certainly found alive in his hand,
whether it is an ox or donkey or sheep, he shall restore double.”
1. Assuming that the thief has already received a beating
This set of laws is slightly different from the first set, where the thief has to repay fivefold, or fourfold! This is probably due to the fact that the law takes into consideration that he had already been punished for his misdeed!
2. Guilt from the shedding of blood
Those who beat the thief to death “when the sun has risen on him” would be held accountable by the law. The judge could charge the villagers for using excessive violence. They would have to suffer grave consequences!
3. Full restitution by the thief
The thief must first make sure that he returned all that he had stolen. However, that was not all. He would also have to “restore double’ what he had stolen. This is the punitive and deterrent element in the judgment made against him!
4. Sold as a slave
If the thief is unable to pay all that he has been ordered by the court, he might find himself sold as a slave. The money raised would then be used to pay his victims. [All the other laws protecting slaves would apply (Cf. Exodus 21)]
THE NECESSITY OF HAVING GOOD JUDGES
Jethro was right when he advised Moses to look for men of high integrity to assist him in his work. The danger of abuse of the law was very real indeed!
“You shall teach them the statutes and the lawsâ?¦
Moreover you shall select from all the people, able men,
such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness…”