Responsibility for Property & Some Moral Principles (Part 1)
The various laws given by God to the Israelite nation continue in Exodus 22.

"If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox and four sheep for a sheep" (22:1). To have to pay back four or fives times is very steep, but this is a unique situation where the stolen property cannot be returned. If it could be returned, the penalty was only two-fold (cf. 22:4). Clearly, these laws show that theft was not to be tolerated. One might wonder why stealing an ox would require a larger penalty than for a sheep. Stealing an ox would be more difficult and therefore the penalty matched the crime.

"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 shall make full restitution; if he has nothing, then he shall be sold [as a slave] for his theft" (22:2,3). In general, the life of a thief is of greater value than the value of your property he is trying to steal. One would be held accountable for killing a thief during daylight hours. However, if it is dark it may be unclear whether the intruder is there to steal or to attack you. In that case, if the intruder is struck and killed, there would be no guilt for his death.

"If fire breaks out and catches in thorns, so that stacked grain, standing grain, or the field is consumed, he who kindled the fire shall surely make restitution" (22:6). A major theme is stressed here again: one is responsible for his actions.

"If a man delivers to his neighbor a donkey, an ox, a sheep, or any animal to keep, and it dies, is hurt or driven away, no one seeing it, then an oath of the LORD shall be between them both, that he has not put his hand into his neighbor's goods; and the owner of it shall accept that, and he shall not make it good. But if, in fact, it is stolen from him, he shall make restitution to the owner of it" (22:10-12). If one was traveling, he would depend on neighbors to help take care of his animals. If the neighbor was negligent, then he would have to pay for what was stolen. In other situations of loss, however, his word (as an oath) was sufficient.

"If a man entices a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money according to the bride-price of virgins" (22:16,17). Having sexual relations with a married (or betrothed) woman was considered much more serious than with an uncommitted virgin, due to breaking a covenant. Adultery was punishable by death whereas pre-marital sex carried with it a monetary fine as well as the responsibility of a spouse. There was one exception however, which I find intriguing. The father of the virgin could refuse the man from taking his daughter as his wife yet could still require the fine be paid. In other words, the father had to approve any potential marriage (cf. I Cor. 7:37,38). Up until just recently, fathers were empowered to approve or deny marriage requests. This is a change in our culture that I am not convinced is for the better (but more can be said about that on another occasion).

"You shall not permit a sorceress to live. Whoever lies with an animal shall surely be put to death. He who sacrifices to any god, except to the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed" (22:18-20). Here are several crimes that required the death penalty. Bestiality was both immoral and idolatrous in Egyptian worship and also Canaanite fertility rites, but God did not want His people involved in such perversion.