Exodus 22:2

If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed. 3 If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed. He should make full restitution; if he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.

Most translations seem to support the idea that if you strike him in the day and he dies, then the striker is guilty. making it lawful to kill the intruder in the night but not in the day. It implies if you shed the robber's blood in the day you must pay, which is illogical.

In the NKJV version, part of the verse "He should make full restitution; if he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft" implies the robber should make a full restoration.

The word for Guilt used in this verse is Dam which means blood. The Hebrew preposition "ל֑וֹ" lo is also used as a negative.

Could it be translated as; if the sun rises on him (robber) no blood restitution. (Meaning the robber doesn't die). Full restitution should be made by the robber, if he has nothing he should be sold for his theft.

The idea of the sun rising on him is likened to being found out, similar to the concept of 1 Cor. 3:13 every man's work shall be made manifest for the day shall declare it.


3 Answers 3


The verse breaks, which were not part of the original text, are somewhat confusing here.

If the arbitrary break between verses 2 and 3 is moved to the middle of verse 3, it makes much more sense:

“If a thief is caught in the act of breaking into a house and is struck and killed in the process, the person who killed the thief is not guilty of murder. But if it happens in daylight, the one who killed the thief is guilty of murder.

“A thief who is caught must pay in full for everything he stole. If he cannot pay, he must be sold as a slave to pay for his theft.

— Exodus 22:2–3, NLT

The first part says that if you happen to kill someone that breaks into your house during the night, it isn't considered murder, but if it happens during daylight it is murder, presumably because at night you can't see who it is, can't tell whether they are armed, can't easily flee, and are more afraid for your life.

The second part describes what happens when a thief is caught, which is fairly standard for most offences: make restitution, and if you can't make restitution, sell yourself into temporary bondage to raise enough money to pay what you owe. (Unlike in the modern world, by not having a prison system ancient Israel saved a lot of expense and avoided running an environment that trains minor criminals to be major criminals.)

  • Thievery did not carry the death penalty, a thieve in the daytime could be identified and brought to justice. + 1 – Dec 2, 2021 at 10:01
  • 1
    Only problem with that interpretation is, those words don't exist in the Hebrew. The interpreter has added them in. If you go back to the Hebrew, and read only the words that are there, it's different to the NLT version you posted.
    – 0000
    Dec 2, 2021 at 16:44

If you kill him in the day time, blood must be shed for him. You would have to pay with your life. To avoid this, apprehend the thief and make him pay full restitution or be sold for his theft if he has nothing.


I'll divide my answer into two parts:

  1. What does Moses say?
  2. What does Moses mean?

As I begin, here are some corrections: "ל֑וֹ"is not used as a negative. Jouon Muraoka lists these as negatives in Hebrew (and "ל֑וֹ" is not on the list):

160a The usual negatives are: I לֹא in a verbal clause (sometimes also in a nominal clause, and with an isolated noun); II אַל in a negative imperative, i.e. prohibition; III אַ֫יִן, אֵין in a nominal clause; IV לְבִלְתִּי negative of the infinitive construct. Rare and poetic are: negatives V בַּל; VI בְּלִי; VII בִּלְתִּי; negatives with a peculiar nuance are VIII טֶ֫רֶם; IX אֶ֫פֶס.

(Paul Joüon and T. Muraoka, A Grammar of Biblical Hebrew, vol. 27 of Subsidia biblica. Accordance electronic ed. (Roma: Pontificio istituto biblico, 2006), 567.)

Also, the word for guilt is, indeed, דָּם. But here it's in the plural, "דָּמִֽים" This is the so-called "plural of abstraction/amplification." He is not guilty of blood. He is guilty of what the blood cries out for: justice.

Finally, 1 Cor. 3:13 is unrelated to this section of scripture.

What does Moses say?

In the Hebrew we read: ”<1> אִם־בַּמַּחְתֶּ֛רֶת יִמָּצֵ֥א הַגַּנָּ֖ב וְהֻכָּ֣ה וָמֵ֑ת אֵ֥ין ל֖וֹ דָּמִֽים׃ <2> אִם־זָרְחָ֥ה הַשֶּׁ֛מֶשׁ עָלָ֖יו דָּמִ֣ים ל֑וֹ שַׁלֵּ֣ם יְשַׁלֵּ֔ם אִם־אֵ֣ין ל֔וֹ וְנִמְכַּ֖ר בִּגְנֵבָתֽוֹ“ (Exodus 22:1-2 HMT-W4)

Translation: "In the case where the thief is in the middle of a break-in, and is found, struck down, and then dies, there is not against him (presumably the owner of the house) bloodguilt. In the case where the sun has risen on him, there is bloodguilt against him (presumably the owner). He (the thief) must surely make full restitution. If he does not have [enough], then he will be sold on account of his thievery."

What does Moses mean?

The Expositor's bible Commentary gives an apt description of the context in these words:

Breaking (see Notes) and entering (vv. 2–3) a home in the night exposes the intruder to the loss of his life (justifiable homicide), in which case the householder will not be held responsible (cf. Jer 2:34 for its use as a metaphor). Such invasion during the daylight hours is a different situation, since there would be witnesses and the scope of the intruder’s intentions (whether just to steal or also to kill) can be assessed. Eshnunna Law 13 makes this same distinction between nighttime and daytime intrusions.

(Walter C. Kaiser Jr., “Exodus,” in Genesis-Leviticus, vol. 1 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Revised Edition. ed. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland; Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 495.)

Kaiser gives a good summary. What we have here is "case law." Concrete examples are used as case studies to develop both an attitude and a practice. There is nothing wrong with defending oneself, even if the punishment doesn't fit the crime since not being able to see escalates the risk of danger. But in normal circumstances where there is light and witnesses, we follow normal protocol.

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