Messianic Education Trust
(Ex 21:1 - 24:18)

Shemot/Exodus 22:4   When a man consumes a field or a vineyard and he releases his livestock

The Hebrew root has a number of different meanings; in this verse it is usually translated 'graze' (NASB, NIV, CJB, JPS). Sarna comments that the root "most frequently means 'to set fire, burn' as in verse 5. But it can also mean 'to ravage' which is the action of a beast" (JPS Torah Commentary, Exodus, N. Sarna, pg. 131) and points out that the same word is used in Isaiah 5:5 "Now I am going to tell you / What I will do to My vineyard / I will remove its hedge / That it may be ravaged". The Whatis(Right, Septuagint) also translates the word here as 'grazed over'. Who Is ...

Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105 CE), French rabbi who wrote commentaries on the Torah, the Prophets and the Talmud, lived in Troyes where he founded a yeshiva in 1067; focuses on the plain meaning (p'shat) of the text, although sometimes quite cryptic in his brevity
Rashi suggests the word 'consume' which is also listed in Brown, Driver and Briggs as a meaning that the verb has in the Hifil stem.

It is interesting to see the two meanings juxtaposed in verses 4 and 5, bringing together the idea of burning and grazing. In both cases, whether deliberate or accidental, damage is done to a third party so restitution is to be made from the best of the responsible man's crops, equivalent acreage of land or value in money, because the victim's ground and produce has been consumed as if passed over by fire.

King David became very animated and angry one day when Nathan the prophet came to him with a report of injustice in his kingdom. Instead of mere crop damage, a rich man - with flocks and herds of his own - had stolen his poor neighbour's only lamb - a family pet - to feed a travelling guest. "Then David's anger burned greatly against the [rich] man and he said to Nathan, 'As the L-rd lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die. And he must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this and had no compassion" (2 Samuel 12:5-6, NASB). When Nathan pointed out that the story was really about him, David confessed his sin for he had consumed the wife of Uriyah the Hitti. Although David could not make restitution, he nevertheless committed his heart to G-d and Psalm 51 recounts David's repentance: "You don't want sacrifices or I would give them - my sacrifice to G-d is a broken spirit" (Psalm 51:18-19(16-17), CJB).

When Yeshua saw the multitudes that came to Him, "He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:26, NASB). He could see that the people had been ravaged, consumed, even burnt, so He made restitution: "I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep" (John 10:11, CJB). G-d gave of His best - His only Son - to make restitution for us and to make recompense for the destruction and burning in our lives. As the L-rd said, "I will pasture My sheep and I will let them rest ... I will seek the lost, bring back the outcasts, bandage the broken, and strengthen the sick" (Ezekiel 34:13-16, CJB). G-d Himself will be our shepherd if we let Him.

Further Study: Psalm 51; Yo'el 2:21-27

Application: G-d is in the restoration and restitution business. He wants to rescue those who have been consumed and ravaged by the world and bring them into His kingdom. Are you in need of rescuing, or does your heart long to work with Him? Then sign up today and join the greatest reclamation project of all time!

© Jonathan Allen, 2005

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