Friday, August 17, 2012

Exodus 22:10-15 Restitution and Responsiblilty

"If a man gives a donkey, an ox, a sheep or any other animal
 to his neighbor for safekeeping
and it dies or is injured or is taken away while no one is looking,
the issue between them will be settled by the taking of an oath before the LORD
that the neighbor did not lay hands on the other person's property.
The owner is to accept this, and no restitution is required.

But if the animal was stolen from the neighbor,
he must make restitution to the owner.
If it was torn to pieces by a wild animal,
he shall bring in the remains as evidence
and he will not be required to pay for the torn animal.

If a man borrows an animal from his neighbor
and it is injured or dies while the owner is not present,
he must make restitution.
But if the owner is with the animal,
the borrower will not have to pay.
If the animal was hired, the money paid for the hire covers the loss.

Exodus 22:10-15 (NIV)

This passage continues the themes of responsibility and restitution which began in earlier verses of this chapter.  In some cases, it is difficult to determine exactly what has happened in a situation involving a loss of property.  Rather than allow continued suspicion to exist between neighbors, the situation was resolved by the taking of an oath before the LORD that the one under suspicion had not stolen his neighbor's property.  No restitution was required in this case.  The owner would accept this because he knew that no one would lightly take an oath before the LORD.  Perhaps more significantly, he knew that the LORD would not take this oath lightly, and would punish the offender if he had lied.

However, if an animal was stolen while in the care of another, that person was responsible for making restitution for it.  If a wild animal had killed it, the remains were to be brought in as evidence that the animal had not been eaten by himself.  No payment was required in this case.
A borrowed animal which was injured or died while in the care of another required restitution.  If the owner had remained with the animal, the borrower was not responsible for reparations.  [I suppose it was assumed that the owner should have been watching over his own animal.]  If the animal had been hired, the money paid for the hire covered the loss.  [This last provision troubled me, for what if a person hired an ox worth $500 for $100 for one day of plowing his fields?  If the ox is injured or dies, the owner would have lost out on $400 worth of property!  So I assume that this is still talking about a situation where the owner is still with the hired animal as it is working.  In that case, I could see that the actual owner would be responsible for the animal's well-being.]     

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