Biblical Principle #262: Law’s Solution for Disputed Losses

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The Law of Moses prescribed resolutions for scenarios involving disputed property losses.


In certain cases, guilt might not be confessed and innocence might not be obvious. GOD gave Moses instructions for Israel in certain specific scenarios, saying:

7 “‘And if a person gives his neighbor silver or goods for safekeeping and it is stolen from the house of that person, if the thief is found he shall repay double. 8 And if the thief is not found, the owner of the house shall come forward into the presence of God, and he shall swear whether or not he himself indeed acted wickedly concerning any part of the goods of his neighbor. 9 According to every trespass mentioned, whether for calf, beast of burden, sheep, garment, or any lost thing of which one is accused, whatever then it might be, the judgment of both parties will come before God, and the one condemned through God will pay twofold back to the neighbor.

10 “ ‘And when a person gives his neighbor a beast of burden or young bull or a sheep or any animal to keep, and it becomes injured or dies, or it becomes captured and no one notices, 11 an oath will be sworn to God between the two persons, whether indeed he did not act maliciously at all with the deposit entrusted to the care of his neighbor, and thus its owner shall accept and not make payment. 12 But if it is stolen from him, the other shall make payment to its owner. 13 But if it was mauled by wild beasts, he shall bring him to the prey, and the other shall not make payment.

14 “ ‘And when someone requests something from his neighbor and it is injured or dies or is stolen, and the owner was not with it, the other shall make payment. 15 But if the owner was with it, the other shall make payment, but not if he was a hired servant; it will be his for his wages.’”

Exodus 22:7-15 LES

Basically, the Law was about applying common sense and personal responsibility. If a man agreed to help his neighbor by keeping watch over his animal, for instance, but then the man did not take proper measures to deliver the animal back to his neighbor in a healthy condition, then the man, in essence, broke his word and had a duty to make it right for his neighbor by reimbursing the neighbor for his loss.

Such laws would not be (or have been) necessary if every person loved their neighbor as themselves, and demonstrated personal integrity and accountability. Sadly, Israel needed these commands in Moses’ generation, and people today need them just as much—even though we don’t live under the Law of Moses.

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