Leviticus 19:11, 13 false swearing in an oath about stealing.
Besides Leviticus 6:1-7, we need briefly to consider one more text in Leviticus (ch 19:11-13) and three texts in Deuteronomy about stealing. Leviticus 19 as a whole, to which we shall return to later for a detailed consideration, is a reworking of most of the Ten Commandments linking them to holiness and love. In Leviticus 19:11-13 the commandments about stealing along with false swearing are taken up. As will be evident, this text has many similarities to Leviticus 6:1-7 but also some differences. The structure of the texts, perhaps, is that of patterned recursion (A-B-A1, which we have encountered before (NRSV):
You shall not steal (ganab:H1589);
you shall not deal falsely (kachash:H3584); and
you shall not lie (shaqar:H8266) to one another. 12And
you shall not swear (shaba’:H7650) falsely (sheqer:H8267)1by my name, profaning the name of your God:
B Iamthe LORD.2 13
A1 You shall not defraud (‘ashaq:H6231) your neighbor; you shall not steal (gazal:H1497) ; and
you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning.
Both A and A1 speak of stealing employing the two main verbs for this activity. Ganabis the term used in the 8th commandment.3Gazalforms a verbal link to Leviticus 6:4.4Ganabis followed by three “adverbial” modifiers which all speak of stealing brought about by or covered up by some form of deceit. In modern terms the text is speaking of truthtellingin economic matters. The Law mandates that in economic matters Israelites speak the truth to each other. This seems like such a clear principlethat I am sorely tempted to leave the story of justice in traditionalIsrael and go to preaching in reference to the modernworld.
Maybe the step is not so great from
a simple, face-to-face village dealings about stealing things of economic value
within traditional Israelite culture
to complex, faceless big city dealings about stealing things of economic value
in court or before a congressional hearing within a modern American society (to speak of my own people).
Here the link with Leviticus 6:1-7 is most evident, i.e. stealing linked to lying especially in an oath. The difference between Leviticus 6 and 19 is that Leviticus 6 is a matter of case law (“if...then...”), but Leviticus 19 is apodictic command (“you shall/shall not”). In A1 gazalis linked to stealing accomplished by delayedpayment of wages. The social context is one in which day laborers were to be paid their wages at the end of each day. They would then take those wages and buy food for the evening meal and perhaps have a little left for breakfast. Delaying,to pay wages, is stealing. Deut 24:14 is most emphatic and extends the law to the alien:
Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy,
whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns. 15
Pay him his wages each day before sunset, because he is poor and is counting on it. Otherwise he may cry to the LORD against you, and you will be guilty (chet’:H2399) of sin.
The contrasts and comparisons between Leviticus 6:1-7 and Leviticus 19:11-13 are most easily seen in a chart:
LEVITICUS 6:1-7 NRSV
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2
When any of you sin and commit a trespass against the LORD by deceiving (kachash:H3584) a neighbor in a matter of a deposit or a pledge, or by robbery, or
if you have defrauded (‘ashaq:H6231) a neighbor, 3or have found something lost and lied (kachash:H3584) about it--
if you swear (shaba’:H7650) falsely (sheqer:H8267) regarding any of the various things that one may do and sin thereby-- 4
when you have sinned and realize your guilt, and would restore what you took by robbery (gazal:H1497) or by fraud (‘ashaq:H6231) or the deposit that was committed to you, or the lost thing that you found, 5or anything else about which you have sworn (shaba’:H7650) falsely (sheqer:H8267),
you shall repay the principal amount and shall add one-fifth to it.
You shall pay it to its owner
when you realize your guilt. 6
And you shall bring to the priest, as your guilt offering to the LORD, a ram without blemish from the flock, or its equivalent, for a guilt offering. 7
The priest shall make atonement on your behalf before the LORD, and
you shall be forgiven for any of the things that one may do and incur guilt thereby.
LEVITICUS 19:11-13 NRSV
You shall not steal (=Ex 20:15/Deut 5:19, TC); you shall not deal falsely (kachash:H3584); and you shall not lie to one another. 12 And you shall not swear (shaba’:H7650) falsely (sheqer:H8267) by my name,
profaning the name of your God:
You shall not defraud (‘ashaq:H6231) your neighbor;
you shall not steal (gazal:H1497); and
you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning.
(see vs 12 above)
Deuteronomy 23:24, 25, distinction between gleaning and stealing.
Besides Deuteronomy 24:14 (“Do not take advantage of a hired man....”) cited above, there are two other brief statements about stealing in Deuteronomy which round out the topic of stealing in the Law. Deuteronomy explains when eating fruit or grain from a neighbor’s vineyard or grain field becomes inappropriate, i.e. stealing:
If you enter your neighbor's vineyard, you may eat all the grapes you want, but
do not put any in your basket. 25
If you enter your neighbor's grainfield, you may pick kernels with your hands, but
you must not put a sickle to his standing grain.
McConville (2002, 352) helpfully explains the social world and the underlying understanding of this text saying “These two provisions, unique to Deuteronomy, are consistent with its concept of the obligation of each Israelite to all brothers and sisters within the covenant community. As in the prohibition on interest taking, economic life is made subject to social need. The freedom to eat the neighbor’s produce is a strong depiction of the teaching that the fruitfulness of the land is Yahweh’s gift to the whole people.”
We learned something of this communal approach to fruit trees as new missionaries in Batangas City while studying Tagalog. Often when the fruit on the tree in our yard was in season, neighbors would come and help
themselves. This does not undermine private ownership. To pick fruit and put it in a basket or take a sickle to a grain field was stealingprivate property, but standing under the tree and eating the fruit was not! This is certainly not what I as an American learned as a child. We shall return to this text when we take up land distribution, ownership and usage as prescribed in the Law as the Constitution for Israel.
Deuteronomy 24:7 kidnapping as stealing.
Deuteronomy 24:7 says:
If a man is caught kidnapping (ganab:H1589) one of his brother Israelites and treats him as a slave or sells him,
the kidnapper must die.
You must purge the evil from among you.
The translations of Deuteronomy 24:7 of ganabrender it either “kidnapping” (NIV, NRSV, NJB, NKJ) or “stealing” (KJB, ASV, RSV, ESV, JPS). Obviously kidnapping is a specific form of stealing. But why the death penalty for such stealing? A literal translation of the opening line reads “If a man is caught stealing the life (nephesh:H5315) of one of his brothers....” Nelson (2002, 289) calls this “social murder”. The brother would no doubt sell him to a foreigner. Therefore the death penalty is applied to this sort of stealing, i.e. life for life (lextalionis). As we shall see shortly, the death penalty for all sorts of stealing was common in other ANE laws, but not in the Law of Moses. This is the only case where the death penalty is applied to stealing. We have refrained from moving directly to modern day application for reasons explained above, but surely this text speaks with directness to trafficking of humans in the modern world, especially sex trafficking. Such trafficking steals the lifeof a person, especially of young, naive, defenseless girls. The penalty then was death. We leave for later the discussion of the death penalty in the modern world.
One might round out this list of "footnotes" to the laws of stealing with Deuteronomy 24:24 about delay in paying wages as an act of stealing (see below under aliens)
Law not given as one block, i.e. some parts of the Law are given piecemeal.
This is not the place to discuss the genre or nature of the Law. The TC and BC are “blocks” of materials. The laws in Leviticus and Numbers are less clearly blocks and some, as we shall see in Numbers, are given because people came to Moses with a “legal” problem, such as female inheritance, and Moses gave them a decision which became law. Deuteronomy is given as “speeches”, i.e. blocks (see later).
Also along the same lines we observe that Israelites were constantly engaged in what the NIV calls “disputes” which translates a range of Hebrew terms.5No doubt these disputes which when they became many (Ex 18; Deut 1) not only triggered the setting up and revising of a judicial system, about which we know very little, but also the giving of additional laws. Why the Law should be given in part in an adhoc(to the thing) and adhominem(to the man) manner is not explained, just described. This non-systematic way of teaching, i.e. laws given for particular cases and given somewhat piecemeal, is also found in the teachings of Jesus which are in part given as organized blocks, e.g. Sermon on the Mount, but are also given in response to questions such as “Who will be the greatest?” (Matt 18:1). Paul’s letters clearly are “occasional” and in some cases, most notably the Corinthian correspondence, that deals with a string of “disputes” many of which, if not all, are matters of justice in the broad sense in which we are using the term.
Stealing in Ancient Near Eastern laws and the laws of Israel.
How do the laws about stealing in the BC, Leviticus and Deuteronomy compare with laws about stealing from other, older, ANE law codes?6There are plenty of good studies on the relation of the Book of the Covenant (BC) to the Laws of Hammurabi (LH) and to other ancient near Eastern (ANE) law collections.7But the step from comparison of specific laws with each other to the comparison of law systems where one takes into consideration not only the literary structure of the whole but also the social world settings and the values that underlie the laws is far more difficult. You will see me struggle with the latter below. The comments on that struggle are definitely preliminary comments. Signs reading “Road Under Construction: Travel at Your Own Risk” need to be posted!
Death penalty not applied to stealing possessions in Law of Moses.
The most important ANE law collection for this comparison is the Laws of Hammurabi. If one begins reading at the beginning, it is striking that after the first five laws dealing with false testimony in varied circumstances (LH 1-5) that the LH plunges into a detailed set of laws about varied kinds of stealing (LH 6-25). We do not have the space to reproduce these laws here.8What is striking about them is that in almost every case the refrain at the end of the law is “he shall be killed” (LH 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 19, 21, 22) or “cast into the fire”( 25). The apparent exception is that if one steals an ox, sheep, donkey, pig or boat from the palace, he is to repay it thirtyfold or if the object is stolen from a commoner, he is to repay it tenfold (LH8]. Perhaps we are to understand this as a statement of “composition”, i.e. a payment in lieu of the penalty (Baker, 2009, 17).9If he is unable to repay, which probably is the situation in many cases, the thief is to be killed. With the exception of kidnapping, i.e. stealing a life (Ex 21:16; Deut 24:7), the laws on stealing in the Law of Moses10require the thief to make restitution but do not call for the death penalty. If he cannot pay, he is sold into debt-slavery presumably for six years (Ex 22:3).11
Why the difference between the LH and the BC in terms of the penalty for stealing? The usual answer is that in Israel life was valued more than property.12 This surely is correct, but we need to explore this a bit more.
First, it appears that the understandingofsocietyassociallyranked(a three tier rank in LH) is used to assign penalties, i.e. different penalties for different ranks (we have explored that previously). Between equals, the law of equality (lextalionis) is applied (LH 196, 197, 200), but not between unequal’s (LH 198, 199, 201, 202, cf. 203, 204). For example in the area of intentional murder, Barmish (2005, 167, cf 175) argues that instead of applying the principle of “life for life” of the lextalionisthat certain persons, if they were in the higher social rank, could avoid capital punishment by offering compensation for intentional murder rather than be murdered/killed themselves.13In Israel, however, the master who kills a chattel-slave is put to death (Ex 21:20, see exegesis above).
Second, it seems that in the LH possessions are placed on the same level as human life so that when a possession is stolen, human life is taken (LH 8-25). What is confusing is that whereas “life for life” seems to have been applied between equals, when it comes to stealing of possession, the matter is “life for possession” which is not a matter of equality or is it? Could it really be that in some cases possessions were seen as on a par with life itself? Is this why life was taken if a possession was taken? To add yet another layer to my confusion, Baker (2009, 18) observes that the Middle Assyrian laws and the Hittite laws about stealing are less harsh than the LH but still harsher in general than the Law of Moses.
Third, perhaps what is going on in the LH is that lextalionis(LT) is understood as a principle of equality and is considered a basic principle of justice, i.e the center of the StarofJustice. But that principle is embeddedin a society which 1) allows for the social rank of a person to adjust the penalties prescribed in “life for life, eye for eye” and 2) understands that some possessions are equal in value with life itself. Therefore it may be true that both the TC/BC and the LH hold to the LT as a basic principle of justice, i.e. the center of the StarofJustice, but the out working of that principle is governed by the larger values in the society?14If this is correct--and I admitted above that this is a “road under construction”, it means that justice in Israel was strikingly different than in the LH in particular and the ANE in general.
Also, it ought to alert the reader to the possibility that although in my own society we speak of “justice for all” as central to our understanding of who we are as a people, we must ask if that principle is modified or in some ways made unworkable because of the social context(s) within which it operates. For example, within Israel, as we shall consider later, the cities of refuge and the Levitical cities were distributed in such a way that all had equalityofaccessto these places of refuge from the avenger of blood in the case of manslaughter, and to Levitical cities where Levites might assist in providing justice (this needs to be explained later). One would think that in modernity there ought to be equality of access to places of justice and justice personnel. If not, then the principle of justiceforallis actually subverted by the social context just as the lextalioniswas subverted in ancient Babylon by its cultural values. Shortly, we shall come again to this question of access to justice when we consider aliens in Israel (Ex 22:21; 23:9).
Restitution for the stealing of possession was, at the most, fivefold in the Law of Moses, Ex 22:1, 4
Where the death penalty for stealing was not applied in the ANE, the level of restitution in the LH (tenfold, LH 8, 265, Roth, 1997, 82, 130) and other laws (Hittite Laws 57-70, Roth, 1997, 226) tends to be much higher than the 5/4 restoration or twofold restoration in Ex 22:1, 4.
Protection of the thief who steals by daylight is unique to the Law of Moses, Ex 22:3a,
The thief who breaks in at night may be killed by the home owner without incurring guilt, but “if this happens after sunrise, he is guilty of bloodshed” (Ex 22:3a). There are laws parallel to this one allowing for the killing of the thief at night, but the protection of the thief in a daylight robbery is unique. Childs (1974, 474) states that “To my knowledge no other law code seems to have a similar concern for the life of the thief!”
Less severe treatment of a thief who cannot pay restitution is evident in the Law of Moses, Ex 22:3
The continuation of the law about the thief in Exodus 22:3 states that “"A thief must certainly make restitution, but if he has nothing, he must be sold to pay for his theft.” This probably refers to the six-year indentured service which is discussed in Exodus 21:1-6.15In LH 8 the thief who cannot repay tenfold for his theft “shall be killed”. In LH 54, 55 the negligent person who allowed for a flood by not reinforcing his embankment of the irrigation canal is sold (presumably into slavery). In LH 255, 256 a man who stole “seed” shall be “dragged around the field by cattle” which might cause death (Wright, 2009, 234).
In the Law of Moses stealing is not just a crime against a victim requiring restitution but also a sin against the LORD requiring atonement
We have already seen in Leviticus 6:1-7 that stealing is not only a crimethat does harmand requires the thief to put things right with the victim, i.e. restitution, but that stealing is also a sinbecause it breaks the law of God. Therefore the thief must also put things right with God by a “guilt offering” which will make atonement for the thief and bring him forgiveness with God. In reading the LH and other law collections of the ANE nothing about atonement and forgiveness in the context of stealing is discovered. This is not to say that the other ANE societies did not understand the need for atonement or forgiveness, but simply that it was not part of their law collections and was not part of the restoration process linked to stealing.
This raises the much larger issue of the relation between law and morality/ethics which we shall discuss later. (Law and morality are not the same thing. Prostitution is legal in some states in America but certainly not moral from a biblical perspective.) As already noted the BC, like the LH, does not speak of atonement. Atonement for a sin which is a crime is found first in Leviticus 6:1-7 (cf Num 5:8).16
Focus and Perspective of the Law of Moses and the Laws of the ANE
This is a preliminary comment about the focus of the Law and its perspective. By this heading I wish to ask
1) to whom was the Law spoken, 2) for whom was it given and 3) how does this perspective compare and contrast with that of the LH and other law collections. Taking the fourth commandment as a starting point, we can observe that the Law, although obviously spoken to everyone (we shall come to this below) is especially spoken to the head of the house, “You..nor your son” (Ex 20:10). If we ask “for whom”, again the answer is everyone, but it is instructive that the fourth command, the first of the social commandments in our reckoning, is especially concerned with the lower ranks, i.e. manservant and maidservant, those who might easily be asked to work on a day of rest. In terms of the eighth commandment, stealing, again we would suggest that while the law obviously is given to everyone and for everyone’s protection there surely is a sense in which it protects the most vulnerable. On the other hand, in LH 8 there is some indication that the law favors the powerful, i.e. the temple priest associated with the god or the palace/temple:
If man (awilum) steals an ox, a sheep, a donkey, a pig, or a boat--
if it belongs either to the godortothepalace[temple, so Richardson, 2000, 45], he shall give thirty fold;
if it belongs to a commoner(muskenim), he shall replace it tenfold;
if the thief does not have anything to give, he shall be killed.
There is considerable work that needs to be done here--or perhaps it has been done and I have missed it! This broad
perspectival approach to the Law is difficult to grasp, but probably most instructive both for comparison among ancient laws and guidance in thinking about contemporary laws.
Summary of teaching about stealing
Case laws about stealing in the context of the Book of the Covenant and Leviticus, which explicated the eighth (and third) commandment, focuses on the restitutionmade to the victim. The focus is not on penaltyor retributivejustice. The relation between retributive justice and restorative justice is still being revised and debated in restorative justice circles. Probably we should think of retributive justice, i.e. penalty, being incorporated in restitution, i.e. distributive or restorative justice.
Within the context of the Law, the community of Israel and the intention of God to build a just society, it would appear that restitution is not only intended to restore to the victim that which has been lost, but to at least open up the way for restoration between the human victim and the offender. This can be inferred from the realization that the restitution offered to the LORD, i.e. the guilt-offering, opens up a way for the offended to be forgiven and presumably reconciled to the LORD. In like manner, the restitution offered to the victim in a face-to-faceencounter opens up the way for forgiveness and reconciliation. When justice has been done, peace can and should follow as a result.
The measure or amount of the restitution, although somewhat perplexing for us at this cultural distance, was clearly based on the lawofequality, i.e. “life for life, eye for eye”, etc. The restitution was to be fair, i.e. just. Such restitution included compensation for time and productivity lost.
Restitution made to the victim is a prerequisiteto the guilt offering brought before the LORD.
The Laws of the ANE, especially the Law of Hammurabi, also speak about the need for the offender to offer restitution to the victim. The amount of the restitution is much higher than the amount in Israel. And apparently in many (most?) cases, at least in the LH, the death penalty is inflicted. Where this is the case, obviously no restitution is made.
The Law of Moses in contrast to the laws of the ANE put a much higher value on life than possessions,
i.e. the death penalty is never inflicted for stealing, unless one is stealing the life of another person, i.e. kidnapping.
In the Laws of the ANE there is no discussion of a “guilt offering” for stealing. Stealing is a crime
against the victim but not a sinagainst the gods.
In neither the Law of Moses nor the laws of the ANE is there mention of sending the victim to prison as a punishment for the crime. Of course, this is an observation of what is not there prompted by our own context where sending thieves to prison is expected.
The eighth commandment against stealing was a matter of justice for the defenseless as is the case with all of the social commandments (#4-10). One might on occasion be able to steal from the rich, but the really vulnerable are those who have little or no protection, i.e. the widow, the orphan and the alien.
Finally, it might be good to ask about links between stealing and the Israelite’s experience in Egypt. We have explored the obvious link between Israelites being slavesin Egypt and how they are now to treat slaves in light of their own experience. Below we shall do the same with Israelites being aliensin Egypt. In light of these explicit links of the laws to their Egyptian experience, one wonders if the Israelites did not also see themselves as victimsof theft in Egypt. Exodus 1 and 2 make clear that Egypt used Israelites as “slave labor”, i.e. did not pay them wages or adequate wages for their work. Egypt stolefrom Israel. Perhaps we should read Exodus 3:21, 22 and its repetition in 11:2, 3a as the LORD’s sanctioning an amazing act of restitutionto put right this massive stealing:17
And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. 22
Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing,
which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder (natsal:5337) the Egyptians.
Tell the people that every man is to ask his neighbor and every woman is to ask her neighbor for objects of silver and gold. 3
The LORD gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians.
Moreover, Moses himself was a man of great importance in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh's officials and in the sight of the people.
Then as the Israelite as the people are just about to leave Egypt with “their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls wrapped up in their cloaks on their shoulders” (Ex 12:34), the narrator takes time at this all crucial point in the narrative to report to the reader that (Ex 12:35, 36):
The Israelites had done as Moses told them; they had asked the Egyptians for jewelry of silver and gold, and for clothing, 36,
and the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked.
And so they plundered (natsal:5337) the Egyptians.
What is even more amazing is that this plundering of the Egyptians was spoken about to Abraham by the LORD in one of the two (Gen 15 & 17) great expansions of the programmatic text of Genesis 12, (Gen 15:13, 14):
Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. 14
But I will punish (diyn:H1777) the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with greatpossessions.
The act of coming out with great possessions, i.e. plunder, is linked with the LORD’s punishing or “judging” (KJV, ASV) or bringing “judgment” (RSV, NRSV, ESV). The LORD’s mighty act of justice in the Exodus event brought Israel out of Egypt where they had been slaves, aliens and victims of theft.18 The coming out with greatpossessionsprobably should be understood as a divine act of putting things right, i.e. restitution.19
What use did Israel make of this “plunder” taken from the Egyptians? The Israelites mainly took “silver and gold” from the Egyptians. This was the portable wealth of those days. If it happened today, it would be cash and credit cards. These “back wages” which the LORD has now paid to Israel, this restitution of what had been stolen (5/5/2 fold?), would enable Israel to buy water, etc. as they crossed the desert. The LORD tells Moses (Deut 2:4-6):
Give the people these orders:
You are about to pass through the territory of your brothers the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir.
They will be afraid of you, but be very careful. 5
Do not provoke them to war, for I will not give you any of their land, not even enough to put your foot on.
I have given Esau the hill country of Seir as his own. 6
The LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands.
Deuteronomy 2:28, 29 confirms that Israel did indeed buy food and water from the descendants of Esau and the Moabites. This plunder enabled the Israelite to offer gold and silver for the Tabernacle (Ex 25:3) but alas later Israel misused this “plunder” in the Golden Calf incident (Ex 32:1-6).
If understanding these texts as matters of restitutionfor stolenlabor, labor stolen over many years, is correct, it certainly opens up a vista of restorative justice that for obvious reasons some individuals, groups and nations would wish to ignore and resist.
Preliminary comments on applying the Law of Moses to our modern society.
If we want to “jump” from these observations about the law concerning stealing in a traditionalsociety and apply them to a modernsociety, we probably should start with a statement of three of the foundational values reflected in the Law:
humans are more important than possessions,
stealing is both a crime against a victim and a sin against the LORD and
the goal of the Law is the building and maintenance of a just society in Israel.
There are, of course, other values to be explored. To move to our modern society, we must ask about its values and then struggle with the comparison of the two sets of values where they differ.
the maximization of economic prosperity, pursuit of happiness
Ganabis used eight times in the Law: Ex20:15,16/Deut 5:19 (TC) , Ex 21:16, 22:1, 7 , 12 (BC); Deut 24:7 (kidnapping).
Gazalis found six times in the Pentateuch: Gen. 21:25; 31:31; Lev. 6:4; 19:13; Deut. 28:29, 31.
5“Dispute” is a translation of dabar(H1697) in Ex 18:16; 18:19; 24:14 and of riby(H7379) in Deut 1:12; 19:17; 21:25; 25:1.
Baker (2009, 16-19, 27-28) provides us with a succinct and most helpful summary of the varied law codes.
I am dependent on Baker’s (2009) excellent summary of materials. In addition see the recent work by Wright (2009) on the BC and the LH.
Online see http://avalon.law.yale.edu/ancient/hamframe.asp.
One wonders if there is not the need for further investigation about how the apparent exception to the death penalty actually worked.
I am fudging a bit here by using “Law of Moses” for this does not occur in the text until Joshua 8:31, 32.
If a thief breaks in at night, the householder may kill the thief in self-defense; but if the thief comes in daylight, the household may not kill the thief (Ex 22:2, 3). Such a nighttime killing is not a matter of punishment but of self-defense.
Baker (2009, 28, n. 39) cites Greenberg whose seminal and controversial essay, “Some Postulates of Biblical Criminal Law”, can be found in several places: Greenberg, (1976, 18-37), Greenberg, (1991, 333-354) Greenberg (1995, 25-42). These postulates have stimulated considerable
discussion. See Jackson (1978, 8-38), Jackson (1990, 113-125); Jackson (2006, 166-171). See summary of Jackson’s views in Burnside (2003,
10-28, esp. 21-23). Also see Wright (2009, 455, n. 81).
Barmash says “The principle of lextalionis does not operate as the foundational principle of the statutes on homicide in cuneiform law collection” (176).
Given that lextalionis has already been discussed above, we note the newest study on the topic by Rothkamm (2011). The foundation article is Frymer-Kensky (1980).
For a very detailed discussion of the arbitrariness of this penalty see Jackson (2006, 203-302) who reminds us that Benjamin becomes the slave of Joseph because he sold Joseph’s cup (Gen 44:10 -17).
The atonement (kaphar:H3722) passages in Exodus (29:33, 36, 37; 30:10, 15, 16) do not speak of atonement for sin, the exception is Ex 32:30 and the golden calf incident (cf Num 16:46, 47). This incident is not a crime against other humans but a sin against the LORD. Atonement in Leviticus deals with sin of the one making the offering (Lev 1:4; 4:20, 26, 31; 5:6, 10, 13, 16, 18), how the offering is to be eaten (Lev 6:30; 7:7), the purification or consecration of the altar (Lev 8:15) and the priests (Lev 8:34). Only in Lev 6:1-7 is atonement made to deal with a relationshipwith another being and in that passage the being is God himself. Atonement is used twice in Deuteronomy where it deals with the discovery of a man slain and left in a field (21:8) and where the LORD makes atonement for “his land and people” (32:43).
Propp (1999, 208) observes that this is an early Jewish interpretation found in Philo, Ezekiel the Tragedian and Jubilees.
Even much later in the story, this event of coming out with silver and gold has not been forgotten (Ps 105:37).
This divine restitution (“plunder”) that was paid to Israelites when they came out of Egypt may find an echo in the law in Deuteronomy 15:14. This law that requires Israelites who set free their debt-slaves on the seventh year to also put something their hands (“plunder” ?) as they leave so as to make a new start:
Supply him liberally from your flock, your threshing floor and your winepress. Give to him as the LORD your God has blessed you.