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every thing, that should have been so appropriated, had become consecrated to God, and could no longer be applied to their use, without sacrilege and a breach of his vow. But on this exposition, Christ not only remarked, that it abrogated the fifth commandment, but he likewise added, as a counter-doctrine, that Moses, their own legislator, had expressly declared, that the man who cursed father or mother deserved to die. Now, it is impossible for a man to curse his parents more effectually, than by a vow like this, when he interprets it with such rigour, as to preclude him from doing any thing in future for their benefit. It is not imprecating upon them a curse in the common style of curses, which evaporate into air ; but it is fulfilling the curse, and making it to all intents and purposes effectual.1
Of the two crimes above noticed, the act of striking a parent evinces the most depraved and wicked disposition: and severe as the punishment was, few parents would apply to a magistrate, until all methods had been tried in vain. Both these crimes are included in the case of the stubborn, rebellious, and drunkard son ; whom his parents were unable to keep in order, and who, when intoxicated, endangered the lives of others. Such an irreclaimable offender was to be pu. nished with stoning. (Deut. xxi. 18—21.) Severe as this law may seem, we have no instance recorded of its being carried into effect; but it must have had a most salutary operation in the prevention of crimes, in a climate like that of Palestine, where (as in all southern climates) liquor produces more formidable effects than with us, and where also it is most probable that, at that time, the people had not the same efficacious means which we possess, of securing drunkards, and preventing them from doing mischief.
2. Civil government being an ordinance of God, provision is made in all well regulated states for respecting the persons of magistrates. We have seen in a former chapter, that when the regal government was established among the Israelites, the person of the king was inviolable, even though he might be tyrannical and unjust. It is indispensably necessary to the due execution of justice, that the persons of magistrates be sacred, and that they should not be insulted in the discharge of their office. All reproachful words or curses, uttered against persons invested with authority, are prohibited in Exod. xxii. 28. "No punishment, however is specified; probably it was left to the discretion of the judge, and was different according to the rank of the magistrate and the extent of the crime.
III. The Crimes or offences AGAINST PROPERTY, mentioned by Moses, are theft, man-stealing, and the denial of any thing taken in trust, or found.
1. On the crime of Theft, Moses imposed the punishment of double (and in certain cases still higher) restitution; and if the thief were unable to make it (which however could rarely happen, as every Israelite by law had his paternal field, the crops of which
might be attached), he was ordered to be sold for a slave, and payment was to be made to the injured party out of the purchase money. (Exod. xxii. 1.3.) The same practice obtains, according to Chardin, among the Persians. The wisdom of this regulation is much greater than the generality of mankind are aware of: for, as the desire of gain and the love of luxuries are the prevalent inducements to theft, restitution varied according to circumstances would effectually prevent the unlawful gratification of that desire, while the idle man would be deterred from stealing by the dread of slavery, in which he would be compelled to work by the power of blows. If, however, a thief was found breaking into a house in the night season, he might be killed (Exod. xxii. 2.), but not if the sun had arisen, in which case he might be known and apprehended, and the restitution made, which was enjoined by Moses. When stolen oxen or sheep were found in the possession of a thief, he was to make a two-fold restitution to the owner, who thus obtained a profit for his risk of loss. (Exod. xxii. 3.) This punishment was applicable to every case in which the article stolen remained unaltered in his possession. But if it was already alienated or slaughtered, the criminal was to restore four-fold for a sheep, and five-fold for an ox (Exod. xxii. 1.), in consequence of its great value and indispensable utility in agriculture, to the Israelites, who had no horses. In the time of Solomon, when property had become more valuable from the increase of commerce, the punishment of restitution was increased to seven-fold. (Prov. vi. 30, 31.). When a thief had nothing to pay, he was sold as a slave (Exod. xxü. 2.), probably for as many years as were necessary for the extinction of the debt, and of course, perhaps for life; though in other cases the Hebrew servant could be made to serve only for six years. If, however, a thief,-after having denied, even upon oath, any theft with which he was charged, had the honesty or conscience to retract his perjury, and to confess his guilt, instead of double restitution, he had only to repay the amount stolen, and onefifth more. (Levit
. vi. 2.5.) In case of debt also, the creditor might seize the debtor's person and sell him, together with his wife and children, if he had any. This is inferred from the words of the statute, in Levit. xxv. 39. There is an allusion to this custom in Job xxiv. 9.); and a case in point is related in 2 Kings iv. 1. This practice also obtained among the Jews in the days of Nehemiah (v. 1-5.), and Jesus Christ refers to in Matt. xviii. 25.
2. Man-stealing, that is the seizing or stealing of the person of a free-born Israelite, either to use him as a slave himself, or to sell him as a slave to others, was absolutely and irremissibly punished with death. (Exod. xxi. 16. Deut. xxiv. 7.)
3. “Where a person was judicially convicted of having denied any thing committed to his trust, or found by him, his punishment, as in the case of theft, was double restitution ; only that it never, as in that crime, went so far as quadruple, or quintuple restitution; at least nothing of this kind is ordained in Exod xxii. 8. If the person
accused of this crime had sworn himself guiltless, and afterwards, from the impulse of his conscience, acknowledged the commission of perjury, he had only one-fifth beyond the value of the article denied to refund to its owner.” (Levit
. vi. 5.) 4. The Mosaic laws respecting Debtors were widely different from those which obtain in European countries: the mode of procedure sanctioned by them, though simple, was very efficient. Persons, who had property due to them, might, if they chose, secure it either by means of a mortgage, or by a pledge, or by a bondsman or surety.
(1.) The creditor, when about to receive a pledge for a debt, was not allowed to enter the debtor's house, and take what he pleased; but was to wait before the door, till the debtor should deliver up that pledge with which he could most easily dispense. (Deut. xxiv. 10, 11. Compare Job xxii. 6. xxiv. 3. 7-9.)
(2.) When a millor a mill-stone, or an upper garment, was given as a pledge, it was not to be kept all night. These articles appear to be specified as examples for all other things with which the debtor could not dispense without great inconvenience. (Exod. xxii. 26, 27. Deut. xxiv. 6. 12.)
(3.) The debt which remained unpaid until the seventh or sabbatic year (during which the soil was to be left without cultivation, and, consequently, a person was not supposed to be in a condition to make payments,) could not be exacted during that period. (Deut. xv. 1–11.) But, at other times, in case the debt was not paid, the creditor might seize, first, the hereditary land of the debtor, and enjoy its produce until the debt was paid, or at least until the year jubilee ; or, secondly, the houses. These might be sold in perpetuity, except those belonging to the Levites. (Levit. xxv. 14—32.) Thirdly, in case the house or land was not sufficient to cancel the debt, or if it so happened that the debtor had none, the person of the debtor might be sold, together with his wife and children, if he had any. This is implied in Lev. xxv. 39.; and this custom is alluded to in Job xxiv. 9. It existed in the time of Elisha (2 Kings iv. 1.): and on the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity, some rich persons exercised this right over their poor debtors. (Nehem. v. 113.) Our Lord alludes to the same custom in Matt. xviii. 25. As the
person of the debtor might thus be seized and sold, his cattle and furniture were consequently liable for his debts. This is alluded to, by Solomon, in Prov. xxii
. 27. It does not appear that imprisonment for debt existed in the age of Moses, but it appears to have prevailed in the time of Jesus Christ. (Matt. xviii. 34.)
(4.) If a person had become bondsman or surety for another, he was liable to be called upon for payment in the same way with the original debtor. But this practice does not appear to have obtained before the time of Solomon, (in whose Proverbs there are several references to it,) when it was attended with serious consequences. It seems that the formality observed was, for the person who became
surety to ; his hand to the debtor, and not to the creditor, to intimate that he became, in a legal sense, one with the debtor; for Solomon cautions his son against giving his hand to a stranger, to a person whose circumstances he did not know; and entreats him to go and urge the person to whom he had given his hand, or for whom he had become surety, to pay his own debt: so that it must have been to the debtor that the hand was given. See Prov. xi. 15. xvii. 18. and xxii. 26. IV. Among the crimes which may be committed AGAINST THE PERson, 1. Murder claims the first place. As this is a crime of the most heinous nature, Moses has described four accessory circumstances or marks, by which to distinguish it from simple homicide or manslaughter, viz. (1.) When it proceeds from hatred or enmity. (Numb. xxxv. 20, 21. Deut. xix. 11.)—(2.) When it proceeds from thirst of blood, or a desire to satiate revenge with the blood of another. (Numb. xxxv. 20.)–(3.) When it is committed premeditatedly and deceitfully. (Exod. xxi. 14.)–(4.) When a man lies in wait for another, falls upon him, and slays him. (Deut. xix. 11.)—The punishment of murder was death without all power of redemption. 2. Homicide or Manslaughter is discriminated by the following adjuncts or circumstances:—(1) That it takes place without hatred or enmity. (Numb. xxxv. 22. Deut. xix. 4–6.-(2.) Without thirst for revenge. (Exod. xxi. 13. Numb. xxxv. 22.)–(3.) When it happens by mistake. (Numb. xxxv. 11. o By accident, or (as it is termed in the English law) chance-medley. (Deut. xix. 5.) In order to constitute wilful murder, besides enmity, Moses deemed it essential, that the deed be perpetrated by a blow, a thrust, or a cast, or other thing of such a nature as inevitably to cause death (Numb. xxxv. 16–21.): such as, the use of an iron tool, a stone, or piece of wood, that may probably cause death, the striking of a man with the fist, out of enmity,+ushing a man down in such a manner that his life is endangered, and throwing any thing at a man, from sanguinary motives, so as to occasion his death. The punishment of homicide was confinement to a city of refuge, as will be shown in the following section. Besides the two crimes of murder and homicide, there are two other species of homicide, to which no punishment was annexed, viz. o If a man caught a thief breaking into his house by night, and killed him, it was not blood-guiltiness, that is, he could not be punished; but if he did so when the sun was up, it was blood-guiltiness; for the thief's life ought to have been spared, for the reason annexed to the law (Exod. xxii. 2, 3.), viz. because then the person robbed might have it in his power to obtain restitution; or, at any rate, the thief, if he could not otherwise make up his loss, might be sold, in order to repay him.—(2.) If the Goel or avenger of blood overtook the innocent homicide before he reached a city of refuge, and killed him while his heart was hot, it was considered as done in justifiable zeal (Deut. xix. 6.); and even if he found him without the imits of his asylum, and slew him, he was not punishable. (Numb. xxxv. 26, 27.) The taking of pecuniary compensation for murder was prohibited; but the mode of punishing murderers was undetermined; and indeed it appears to have been left in a great degree to the pleasure of the Goel. An exception, however, was made to the severity of the law in the case of a perfect slave (that is, one not of Hebrew descent) whether male or female. Although a man had struck any of his slaves, whether male or female, with a stick, so as to cause their death, unless that event took place immediately, and under his hand, he was not punished. If the slave survived one or two days, the master escaped with impunity: it being considered that his death might not have proceeded from the beating, and that it was not a master's interest to kill his slaves, because, as Moses says (Exod. xx. 20, 21.), they are his money. If the slave died under his master's hand while beating him, or even during the same day, his death was to be avenged; but, in what manner Moses has not specified. Probably the Israelitish master was subjected only to an arbitrary punishment, regulated according to circumstances by the pleasure of the judge. In order to increase an abhorrence of murder, and to deter them from the perpetration of so heinous a crime, when it had been committed '. some person unknown, the city nearest to which the corpse was found was to be ascertained by mensuration: after which the elders or magistrates of that city were required to declare their utter ignorance of the affair in the very solemn manner prescribed in Deut. xxi. 1–9. 3. For other Corporal Injuries, of various kinds, different statutes were made, which show the humanity and wisdom of the Mosaic law. Thus, if a man injured another in a fray, he was obliged to pay the expenses of his cure, and of his bed, that is, the loss of his time arising from his confinement. (Exod. xxi. 18, 19.) By this admirable precept, most courts of justice still regulate their decisions in such cases.—If a pregnant woman was hurt, in consequence of a fray between two individuals, as posterity among the Jews was among the peculiar promises of their covenant, in the event of her premature delivery, the author of the misfortune was obliged to give her husband such a pecuniary compensation as he might demand; the amount of which, if the offender thought it too high, was to be determined by the decision of arbiters. On the other hand, if either the woman or her child was hurt or maimed, the law of retaliation took its full effect, as stated in Exod. xxi. 22–25.-The law of retaliation also operated, if one man hurt another by either assaulting him openly, or by any insidious attack, whether the parties were both Israelites, or an Israelite and a foreigner. (Levit. xxiv. 19–22.) This equality of the law, however, did not extend to slaves: but if a master knocked out the eye or tooth of a slave, the latter received his freedom as a compensation for the injury he had sustained. (Exod. xxi. 26, 27.)