The rationale for the sequence and selection of these laws is often unclear.
Two laws (vv. 1–3,4
) that develop two corresponding laws from the earlier Covenant Collection.
The earlier law governing the return of wandering animals (Ex 21.1–3
) is here revised and extended.
Your neighbor's ox, in contrast to “your enemy's ox” (Ex 23.4
). Neighbor, lit. “brother”; see 20.8n.
Anything else, the earlier law is universalized to apply to any lost property.
Reworking Ex 23.5
to emphasize the neighbor, as in v. 1
The prohibition against cross‐dressing seeks to maintain gender boundaries; a similar concern for boundaries is evident in
Avoiding simultaneous consumption of two generations of the same creature is also evident in other laws (
14.21; Ex 23.19; 34.26; Lev 22.28
The roof was used as living space (Josh 2.6; Judg 3.20–25; 2 Sam 11.2
). Bloodguilt, criminal negligence; a capital offense (see 19.10n.
Corresponding to Lev 19.19
, these laws attempt to maintain specific boundaries between categories seen as incompatible (as in v. 5; 14.3–20
For‐feited, not permitted for human consumption.
Tassels, this may reflect an application of royal garb, seen, for example, in Neo‐Assyrian palace reliefs, to the nation as a whole.
gives a theological rationale.
In the ancient Near East, marriage was a contractual relationship. The woman could not act independently: She remained in
her father's household until a suitor paid a brideprice (vv. 28–29; Ex 22.16–17
) to compensate for the reduction of the household. At that point she became formally “engaged,” although still residing with
her father (v. 21
). Later, at the marriage feast, the union was consummated (Gen 29.22–25
) and the woman took up residence in her husband's house.
Makes up charges against her, possibly for mercenary reasons, since nonfulfillment of the marital contract would entail refund of the bride‐price and
possibly a payment of a penalty for breach of contract. The evidence, the blood‐stained cloth of v. 17
Elders, see 16.18n.; 21.19n.
The cloth upon which husband and wife slept upon consummation of the relationship. It was understood that the cloth should have been
bloodstained from the couple's first intercourse; there is scant medical support for this widespread assumption.
They shall fine him, the penalty for his slanderous accusation is financial, although the penalty for her infidelity, if proven true, is capital
. One hundred shekels, about
), twice the fine for rape (v. 29
Entrance of her father's house, at the very site of the offense. Stone her to death, see 13.10n.
Disgraceful act in Israel, a violation of basic community sexual and religious norms (Gen 34.7; Josh 7.15; Judg 19.23–34; 20.6,10
). Purge the evil, see 13.5n.
Adultery is a violation of the seventh commandment (
) and a capital offense (Lev 18.20; 20.10
). Both of them shall die, a contrast with ancient Near Eastern norms, which required the male's death but left the wife's fate to her husband. The
law removes the wife from her husband's authority and defines her as a legal person accountable for her actions.
Two laws to determine culpability (vv. 23–24
) or nonculpability (vv. 25–27
) in cases of rape. Both laws show detailed points of contact with Middle Assyrian Laws (M.A.L.; ca. 1076 BCE).
Engaged to be married, this legal status permits the transition from adultery to rape: Although the woman still resides with her father, she is
contractually bound to her future husband. In the town, where there are potential witnesses (M.A.L. § A 12).
The assault in open country, where there are no likely witnesses, suggests planned malice.
Like … someone who attacks and murders a neighbor, i.e., premeditated (
). Rape is a criminal assault rather than a sex crime.
These conditions correspond to M.A.L. § A 55, which implies forced rape. In contrast, Ex 22.16–17
specifies intercourse with, but not forced rape of, a “virgin who is not engaged.” The conflation of these two models in
this law leaves it unclear whether or not it refers to consensual intercourse.
And lies with her, as in Ex 22.16
, placing the woman in a legally ambiguous position, unavailable to others (v. 14
Fifty shekels, presumably the bride‐price. In contrast to Ex 22.17
, the father's consent is not sought. Postbiblical Jewish law granted both father and daughter the right to refuse.
A transition to the next section. Father's wife, i.e., a widowed step‐mother (see Lev 18.7–8
). Violating his father's rights, lit. “uncovering his father's skirt” (text note b); i.e., even indirect sexual contact with him must be avoided (Gen 9.23–24; 49.4; Lev 18.8; 20.11
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