Exodus 22:16-31

Key Verse(s):

Exodus 22:31 (HCSB)

31 “Be My holy people. You must not eat the meat of a mauled animal found in the field; throw it to the dogs.


This collection of laws, and pericopes, is concerned with social matters for the most part. As we might expect, the main gist of them is to reflect God’s holiness, as stated in Exodus 22:31a: “Be My holy people.”

The section starts with addressing premarital sex, and imposing a discouraging penalty. Exodus 22:16-17 seem to clearly be addressing consensual relations. Obviously this is designed to preserve and encourage man to pursue God’s designed avenue for sex: marriage.

The three capital offenses in Exodus 22:18-20 are punishments for direct affronts to God: manipulation of powers reserved solely for God (witchcraft), bestiality (against the created order and design of God, remember we are His image-bearers!), and worshipping false idols places something else in God’s throne. All three are brazen acts of defiance and rebellion that defy God in the basest of ways, and tear us from Him.

Exodus 22:21-26 are concerned with protecting the weak or vulnerable. God’s people should look and behave differently. Rather than discard and lay waste to the weak among us, we should protect and aid them. Thus the care for widows and orphans should be a hallmark of a Christian life, as they are loved by God, so should be love by us. And exploitation of the poor, the needy, again should not be a Christian attitude. Compassion and sacrifice should be our attitude.

Finally, the last three verses are all about honoring God. Note that human leaders are mentioned in the same verse as God when speaking of blaspheming and cursing (Exodus 22:28). This seems to suggest a special relationship, perhaps a reminder that human leaders are placed by God. (Romans 13:2-7) God expects to be first in our lives, in all things, hence the principle of the tithe: giving, or dedicating to, God the firstfruits of all. And although Exodus 22:31 contains some practical dietary restrictions, I think there is a symbolic picture here of God’s people not consuming, not partaking of, the broken, dirty, nasty things of this world that we can be so tempted to settle for, but instead hold out for the proper, life-giving things of God.


Lord, thank You again for guidance to keep our attitudes and spiritual focus on You and Your ways. I pray that we would identify self-serving attitudes and practices, and purge those from our lives. Help us to cleanse and feast only on the life-giving things You provide for us, in all areas of our lives. Amen.


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