The first half of this chapter (vv 1-15) deal with property rights and the second half (vv 16-31) are miscellaneous laws. The property right laws relate to the eight, ninth and tenth commandments: You shall not steal. You shall not testify falsely against your neighbor. You shall not covet what belongs to your neighbor. The last chapter dealt with laws as it related to personhood but these laws relate to personal belongings. Life was to be considered so precious that to take a life by malice of forethought meant death for the murderer. Personal property was to be held in very high regard also but did not mean the death penalty. There is, however, a provision (v 2) for protecting property during the night. However, if property is stolen and the thief is caught he is not to be killed. He is to give back the property and pay double to the owner but if it has been consumed or sold has to pay five fold for an oxen and four fold four a sheep. So, restitution was based on value. Both animals are valuable but and oxen was more valuable because a farmer needed the oxen for plowing his fields. The people of God are to have respect for another person’s property.
The laws in (vv 16-31) do not fit into a category of their own. They are miscellaneous laws regarding individual situations. In (vv 16, 17) there is a difference made between adultery and fornication. Fornication is wrong but not as wrong as adultery. If a man sleeps with a daughter of Israel he is to make it right, pay the dowry and marry her but if the father refuses he is to pay the dowry nonetheless. Sorceresses, sex with animals, and sacrificing to other gods all were to receive the death penalty. Strangers, widows and orphans should be protected and cared for. The sons of Israel were to lend to one another in kindness and not for prophet. V 28 is interesting because it is a shall not but does not give a punishment. Paul spoke of this law when he was being questioned by the Sanhedrin counsel. (Acts 23:5) Vv 29, 30 regard the first born sons and first born animals. Remember that God passed over the first born of the sons of Israel but all the first born of Egypt died; therefore, the first born sons of Israel must be redeemed and the first born of the animals are to be sacrificed to God. However, (vv 29, 30) is not a how to law but a do not delay command. V 31 is about eating animals found dead in the field. Evidently this was something that was done by the inhabitants of the land of Canaan but for the people of God eating meet was sacred because all life is sacred; therefore, they are not to eat animals that were not ceremonially slaughtered.