Let’s read Exodus 22:2-4, “If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed. If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed. He should make full restitution; if he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. If the theft is certainly found alive in his hand, whether it is an ox or donkey or sheep, he shall restore double.” (NKJV)

This portion deals with the consequences of thievery.  First mentioned is the thief who is caught in the very act of breaking into someone’s home (or business).  If we contrast verse 2 with verse 3, we realize that verse 2 is speaking of a thief that breaks in during the night, under cover of the darkness.  If someone, while defending his property, should happen to kill the thief, there has no crime been committed so there would be “no guilt for his bloodshed.”  In the Bible, there are different words used for a thief and a robber.  The word ‘thief’ means ‘a stealer.’  The word ‘robber’ means ‘a tyrant, destroyer, ravenous.’  A thief would present no physical danger while a robber would be a threat.  In the darkness of night, a homeowner could not tell if the thief was a threat.  He could not tell if he had a weapon or not, so if he killed the thief, thinking that he was a robber, there would be no prosecution.

Verse 4 is somewhat different in that this thief breaks in when “the sun has risen on him.”  Perhaps this indicates that in the light of day, the homeowner could see there was a thief breaking in.  He could leave his home, or even talk the thief out of stealing from him.  Perhaps he could even overpower the thief and prevent him from stealing from him.  Either way, if the homeowner kills the thief during the daylight, then “there shall be guilt for his bloodshed.”

Verse 5 speaks of the thief that is caught with the objects still in his possession.  He is required to make full restitution, which means “he shall restore double.”  If he has stolen two sheep, he must pay the owner four sheep, etc.  If he has no way to repay such a debt, he is to be sold into slavery and the money given to the owner of the house that he has stolen from.

God’s law to His people was so comprehensive and manifested his impartial judgements.  Different crimes called for different punishments.  While the punishment for theft was not death, if a thief was killed in the night during his act of crime, there would be no punishment for the one that killed him.

The Lord Jesus addressed God’s fairness in judgment in Luke 12:47-48, “And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” (NKJV).  This shows us that in God’s sovereignty, He will administer different punishments to those who reject the Lord Jesus and end up in Hell.  Those who have many opportunities, who are often warned, who have the gospel, and do not repent and believe, shall be far more severely punished than others.  However, all who refuse the Lord Jesus will be punished severely and eternally.  We read of that awful punishment in Matthew 13:41-42, “The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

Even as the Lord taught His people Israel how to administer punishments justly and fairly, He also will administer punishment to all who refuse Him.  He will do it justly, fairly, and without grace.  My friend, have you trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ so that you might escape this terrible judgment?  I encourage you to put your faith in the Lord Jesus today, before it is eternally too late.  (362.4)