Exodus 22

1 The restitution cost for violating personal property rights is very steep. The ox is more costly than a sheep to begin with because it is bigger and has more functionality. Here we see that the higher cost animal also has a higher restitution multiplier. Verse 4 covers the case where the possession is not destroyed.

In the US criminal system, if the thief sells a stolen item, then the purchaser may be forced to return the item without compensation even though he bought the item in good faith. In the Bible, the thief is entirely responsible for the restitution. Also, because of lack of jail space, etc., thieves might be apprehended and released, serving little, if any, time for their crime. Both these cases are a violation of justice since the victims suffer loss and the criminals suffer little.

2 If the thief breaks in at night, the owner of the house has no way of knowing whether he is defending his property or his life. Thus, if the thief dies the owner is not guilty of murder or accidental death. He was acting in self-defense, and the perpetrator has been exacted the correct punishment.
3 However, the property owner who catches a thief during the daylight can plainly see that there is no reason to defend his life. He may apprehend the thief and the judges would make the thief pay restitution.

Note that there is no such thing as jail-time here. Either the perpetrator pays restitution or he is sold as a servant. Our jail system talks about reformation. This is the real thing. By becoming a servant the criminal should learn to look out for the needs of others. The criminal would have the same rights as servants listed above. The interesting question in my mind is who would enlist the servitude of a known thief?

I have heard people say that they would steal to feed their family if they needed to (or at least sympathize with others who would). This law covers that case. Of course, the "appropriate" thing is for the community to help the poor family. However, if no help were available the father would need to consider selling himself as a servant. If he decides to become a thief instead, then if he is captured he becomes a servant anyway.

4 Any stolen possession that the criminal has not sold or destroyed must be returned along with enough compensation to purchase another one just like it.
5 Fences were rare, but it was still the animal owner's responsibility to make sure his livestock did not ruin someone else's food source. If it does happen the owner of the perpetration animal must restore an equal quantity to that which was lost, but it must also be his best quality.
6 Whether the perpetrator deliberately or accidentally set fire to a grain field, he must pay money equal to the value of the crop that was destroyed.
7 These next several verses concern lending, borrowing, and "storage" of property. The trustee is given protection in the case where another steals items in his care. The thief would pay double, but the text does not define to whom it is paid. It would be conceivable that the trustee would be paid. It has occurred to me that the double value could cover the cost of finding and apprehending the thief. However, there is no mention of court costs anywhere. The judges were all volunteers.
8 If the trustee can not account for lost or stolen property a trial was to be held.
9 If the judges determine that the trustee did indeed steal that which was entrusted then he would pay back double the amount to the one who trusted him.
10 However, there will be times when a possession will die or "disappear" where the trustee is not at fault.
11 Under such circumstances the trustee gives a solemn oath before God that he did not steal his neighbor's possessions. At this point the victim must simply let the matter go. It is in God's hands now, and He will punish the perpetrator in His own time and in His own way. Sometimes in our lives things will go "wrong" and there is nothing we can do about it. God never says that we have to understand everything that happens, but we do have to trust that He knows the who, what, where, how, and why behind everything.
13 This is the "act of God" clause. If a trusted possession is destroyed by circumstances beyond the trustee's control, then he is not to be held accountable for the loss.
14 You should only borrow something with the knowledge that you will need to repair or replace it if you damage or destroy it.
15 However, if the owner is using or overseeing the possession when it breaks or dies then the borrower is not held responsible. An example of this would be if the owner let someone borrow his plow and was showing the borrower how to use it.

If the borrowed possession is broken by a hired hand then he is responsible for it.

16 If a man has sex with a virgin he is subsequently required to marry her. The word "seduce" connotes that this is a consensual relationship, not rape.
17 The couple-to-be may have tried to "elope" against her father's wishes. This rule gives the father the right to override. However, a non-virgin daughter might be difficult or impossible to get married off, so the father would only do this if he truly felt that such a marriage would harm his daughter or the family name. Of course, the elopement would be evidence that the husband-to-be is neither trustworthy nor does he work through proper protocols.
18 A sorceress is a woman (or man by extension) that attempts to control the "forces of nature" with spells or enchantments. This is a direct affront to God for two reasons. First, God alone has the authority to use words for the purposes of creation (Gen 1). Any such action is a direct treason and sets the spell caster up in God's place. Second, men are to be stewards of the earth, not to control the Power behind it. We are God's servants, He is not our servant.
19 God designed sex to be shared between a man and his wife. Any deviation from this is considered a capital offense. Here bestiality is explicitly prohibited.
20 Giving divine reverence or sacrifices to anyone or anything other than God violates the First Commandment.
21 The Israelites were supposed to learn mercy from their oppression. They knew first hand how wrong oppression was, so they were not to practice it either.
22 God has a special place in His heart for those who are completely helpless. As God's people we have the opportunity to help those in need. If instead we choose to abuse them or make life even harder for them then God will take vengeance on their behalf.
25 A poor man might not be able or willing to sell himself as a servant. He could still receive a loan, but the lender is not allowed to charge him interest.
26 A garment could be taken as collateral for a loan. However, such a necessity must be returned each day for temporary use since the debtor may have no other blanket to protect him from the cold.
28 We are not to despise God or take Him lightly. In the same way we are not to bitterly curse those in leadership positions. This is not to say that rulers can not be questioned or corrected, but it does mean that we are to respect them and help them to be wise. Harsh criticism of a ruler does not solve problems, it only adds to them.
29 Later we will see how and why God demands a tithe from His people. Here He states that our tithe is not to be leftovers. To the contrary, the tithe is to be the first fruit that is harvested, which is generally the best part of the harvest. Since farm products tend to spoil, they needed to be given fairly quickly after harvesting.

For those of us who earn a paycheck, we should set aside the tithe first so that we will not later forget or be tempted to use the money for something else.

30 The firstborn oxen and sheep were to be given to God as well. In summary, the first fruits of all your increase is to be given to God.
31 Food meat preparation is to be handled very carefully from the slaughter to what is done with leftovers. No one would consider anything killed by wild animals to be "properly handled." To eat such an animal would make one "unholy" which means that they are not living like people devoted to God.

In the physical world, this command has health implications. People are much less likely to get sick from meat that is handled properly. A carcass in the field might have any number of harmful bacteria in it, especially if it has been rotting in the sun for a while.