2020-12-21 - All in the Family
Exodus Chapters 21-23
A. Social Law
This is the last section in this area of property rights. There are again two points that can be taken from this passage. First, it presumes the right to hold private property and the responsibility that goes with that. Second, it requires that individuals be responsible, to a reasonable level, in their interactions with others. This means, as believers, we need to take responsibility for our actions as Christ‘s ambassadors, regardless of the cultural standards.
Our current court situation deals with this from the point of view of reasonable care. If something happens to the property and you have shown you took what is considered adequate care, then that is all that can be expected of you.
In this passage, the situation is similar. If Smith has stored his goods with Holmes, then Holmes has some responsibility for them. If they are stolen and the thief is caught, then the normal theft laws prevail. The thief must pay restitution, in this case double. If by some chance the thief isn‘t caught, then Holmes must appear before the court to determine if he, himself, is the thief. If it is shown he is, then the standard penalty applies. If he isn‘t, Smith is out of luck. Because the items being talked about need only minimum care in storage, the holder only needs to take reasonable care. The assumption is Smith is paying Holmes for this care, and if anything extraordinary takes place, this is the risk Smith takes.
The passage then goes on to point out these principles are to be carried out in other similar situations. The case is to be handled the same, whether the property is an ox, donkey, sheep, clothes or anything that is lost or stolen. The livestock require a greater level of care, because not only are they kept, but they must be fed, sheltered, etc. They are placed in the hands of a shepherd, and his responsibility is more that of Holmes, who was simply storing property. When a loss occurs, the facts related to that loss must be brought before the court, to determine the level of culpability of the shepherd.
Again, in the case of theft, it was assumed the shepherd wasn‘t taking adequate care. It was his responsibility to prevent the loss of the animals. But except in the case of robbery, the assumption is that proper care was maintained and the loss is unfortunate, and not the fault of the holder. The owner is out of luck. This is again the risk the owner takes by having someone else care for his animals. Evidence must be presented, to establish the facts of the case.
The last two issues in this passage relate to the distinctions between borrowing and hiring. If I borrow something from you, then I am responsible for anything that happens to it while its in my hands. If it is still in your hands at the time something happens, then it‘s your problem. In the case of hiring, or rental, then any loss is considered to be covered in the rental fee. All of these assume that whatever occurs is not through intent, but through accident, etc.
Exodus study to be continued.
All scripture references are from the New International Version (NIV) unless otherwise noted.