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Property Laws

The Lord said:

22 If you steal an ox and slaughter or sell it, you must replace it with five oxen; if you steal a sheep and slaughter it or sell it, you must replace it with four sheep. 2-4 But if you cannot afford to replace the animals, you must be sold as a slave to pay for what you have stolen. If you steal an ox, donkey, or sheep, and are caught with it still alive, you must pay the owner double.

If you happen to kill a burglar who breaks into your home after dark, you are not guilty. But if you kill someone who breaks in during the day, you are guilty of murder.

If you allow any of your animals to stray from your property and graze[a] in someone else’s field or vineyard, you must repay the damage from the best part of your own harvest of grapes and grain.

If you carelessly let a fire spread from your property to someone else’s, you must pay the owner for any crops or fields destroyed by the fire.

Suppose a neighbor asks you to keep some silver or other valuables, and they are stolen from your house. If the thief is caught, the thief must repay double. But if the thief isn’t caught, some judges[b] will decide if you are the guilty one.

Suppose two people claim to own the same ox or donkey or sheep or piece of clothing. Then the judges[c] must decide the case, and the guilty person will pay the owner double.

10 Suppose a neighbor who is going to be away asks you to keep a donkey or an ox or a sheep or some other animal, and it dies or gets injured or is stolen while no one is looking. 11 If you swear with me as your witness that you did not harm the animal, you do not have to replace it. Your word is enough. 12 But if the animal was stolen while in your care, you must replace it. 13 If the animal was attacked and killed by a wild animal, and you can show the remains of the dead animal to its owner, you do not have to replace it.

14 Suppose you borrow an animal from a neighbor, and it gets injured or dies while the neighbor isn’t around. Then you must replace it. 15 But if something happens to the animal while the owner is present, you do not have to replace it. If you had leased the animal, the money you paid the owner will cover any harm done to it.

Laws for Everyday Life

The Lord said:

16 Suppose a young woman has never been married and isn’t engaged. If a man talks her into having sex, he must pay the bride price[d] and marry her. 17 But if her father refuses to let her marry the man, the bride price must still be paid.

18 Death is the punishment for witchcraft.

19 Death is the punishment for having sex with an animal.

20 Death is the punishment for offering sacrifices to any god except me.

21 Do not mistreat or abuse foreigners who live among you. Remember, you were foreigners in Egypt.

22 Do not mistreat widows or orphans. 23 If you do, they will beg for my help, and I will come to their rescue. 24 In fact, I will get so angry that I will kill your men and make widows of their wives and orphans of their children.

25 Don’t charge interest when you lend money to any of my people who are in need. 26 Before sunset you must return any coat taken as security for a loan, 27 because that is the only cover the poor have when they sleep at night. I am a merciful God, and when they call out to me, I will come to help them.

28 Don’t speak evil of me[e] or of the ruler of your people.

29 Don’t fail to give me the offerings of grain and wine that belong to me.[f]

Dedicate to me your first-born sons 30 and the first-born of your cattle and sheep. Let the animals stay with their mothers for seven days, then on the eighth day give them to me, your God.

31 You are my chosen people, so don’t eat the meat of any of your livestock that was killed by a wild animal. Instead, feed the meat to dogs.

Equal Justice for All

The Lord said:

23 Don’t spread harmful rumors or help a criminal by giving false evidence.

Always tell the truth in court, even if everyone else is[g] dishonest and stands in the way of justice. And don’t favor the poor, simply because they are poor.

If you find an ox or a donkey that has wandered off, take it back where it belongs, even if the owner is your enemy.

If a donkey is overloaded and falls down, you must do what you can to help, even if it belongs to someone who doesn’t like you.[h]

Make sure that the poor are given equal justice in court. Don’t bring false charges against anyone or sentence an innocent person to death. I won’t forgive you if you do.

Don’t accept bribes. Judges are blinded and justice is twisted by bribes.

Don’t mistreat foreigners. You were foreigners in Egypt, and you know what it is like.

Laws for the Sabbath

The Lord said:

10 Plant and harvest your crops for six years, 11 but let the land rest during the seventh year. The poor are to eat what they want from your fields, vineyards, and olive trees during that year, and when they have all they want from your fields, leave the rest for wild animals.

12 Work the first six days of the week, but rest and relax on the seventh day. This law is not only for you, but for your oxen, donkeys, and slaves, as well as for any foreigners among you.

13 Make certain that you obey everything I have said. Don’t pray to other gods or even mention their names.

Three Annual Festivals

The Lord said:

14 Celebrate three festivals each year in my honor.

15 Celebrate the Festival of Thin Bread by eating bread made without yeast, just as I have commanded.[i] Do this at the proper time during the month of Abib,[j] because it is the month when you left Egypt. And make certain that everyone brings the proper offerings.

16 Celebrate the Harvest Festival[k] each spring when you start harvesting your wheat, and celebrate the Festival of Shelters[l] each autumn when you pick your fruit.

17 Your men must come to these three festivals each year to worship me.

18 Do not offer bread made with yeast when you sacrifice an animal to me. And make sure that the fat of the animal is burned that same day.

19 Each year bring the best part of your first harvest to the place of worship.

Don’t boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.

A Promise and a Warning

The Lord said:

20 I am sending an angel to protect you and to lead you into the land I have ready for you. 21 Carefully obey everything the angel says, because I am giving him complete authority, and he won’t tolerate rebellion. 22 If you faithfully obey him, I will be a fierce enemy of your enemies. 23 My angel will lead you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites, and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out. 24 Don’t worship their gods or follow their customs. Instead, destroy their idols and shatter their stone images.

25 Worship only me, the Lord your God! I will bless you with plenty of food and water and keep you strong. 26 Your women will give birth to healthy children, and everyone will live a long life.

27 I will terrify those nations and make your enemies so confused that they will run from you. 28 I will make the Hivites, Canaanites, and Hittites panic as you approach. 29 But I won’t do all this in the first year, because the land would become poor, and wild animals would be everywhere. 30 Instead, I will force out your enemies little by little and give your nation time to grow strong enough to take over the land.

31 I will see that your borders reach from the Red Sea[m] to the Euphrates River and from the Mediterranean Sea to the desert. I will let you defeat the people who live there, and you will force them out of the land. 32 But you must not make any agreements with them or with their gods. 33 Don’t let them stay in your land. They will trap you into sinning against me and worshiping their gods.

The People Agree To Obey God

24 The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on this mountain. Bring along Aaron, as well as his two sons Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of Israel’s leaders. They must worship me at a distance, but you are to come near. Don’t let anyone else come up.”

Moses gave the Lord’s instructions to the people, and they promised, “We will do everything the Lord has commanded!” Then Moses wrote down what the Lord had said.

The next morning Moses got up early. He built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up a large stone for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. He also sent some young men to burn offerings and to sacrifice bulls as special offerings[n] to the Lord. Moses put half of the blood from the animals into bowls and sprinkled the rest on the altar. Then he read aloud the Lord’s commands and promises, and the people shouted, “We will obey the Lord and do everything he has commanded!”

Moses took the blood from the bowls and sprinkled it on the people. Next, he told them, “With this blood the Lord makes his agreement with you.”

Moses and Aaron, together with Nadab and Abihu and the seventy leaders, went up the mountain 10 and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something that looked like a pavement made out of sapphire,[o] and it was as bright as the sky.

11 Even though these leaders of Israel saw God, he did not punish them. So they ate and drank.

Moses on Mount Sinai

12 The Lord said to Moses, “Come up on the mountain and stay here for a while. I will give you the two flat stones on which I have written the laws that my people must obey.” 13 Moses and Joshua his assistant got ready, then Moses started up the mountain to meet with God.

14 Moses had told the leaders, “Wait here until we come back. Aaron and Hur will be with you, and they can settle any arguments while we are away.”

15 When Moses went up on Mount Sinai, a cloud covered it, 16 and the bright glory of the Lord came down and stayed there. The cloud covered the mountain for six days, and on the seventh day the Lord told Moses to come into the cloud. 17-18 Moses did so and stayed there forty days and nights. To the people, the Lord’s glory looked like a blazing fire on top of the mountain.

Footnotes

  1. 22.5 graze: Or “eat everything.”
  2. 22.8 some judges: Or “I.”
  3. 22.9 the judges: Or “I.”
  4. 22.16 bride price: It was the custom for a man to pay his wife’s family a bride price before the actual wedding ceremony took place.
  5. 22.28 me: Or “your judges.”
  6. 22.29 Don’t fail. . . me: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  7. 23.2 everyone else is: Or “the authorities are.”
  8. 23.5 you: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text of verse 5.
  9. 23.15 as I have commanded: See 12.14-20.
  10. 23.15 Abib: See the note at 12.2.
  11. 23.16 Harvest Festival: Traditionally called the “Festival of Weeks” and known in New Testament times as “Pentecost.”
  12. 23.16 Festival of Shelters: The Hebrew text has “Festival of Ingathering” (so also in 34.22), which was the final harvesting of crops and fruits before the autumn rains began. But the usual name was “Festival of Shelters.”
  13. 23.31 Red Sea: Hebrew yam suph, here referring to the Gulf of Aqaba, since the term is extended to include the northeastern arm of the Red Sea (see also the note at 13.18).
  14. 24.5 special offerings: Often translated “peace offerings,” which were to make peace between God and his people, who ate certain parts of the sacrificed animal.
  15. 24.10 sapphire: A precious stone, blue in color.

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