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We are not bound to stand by and let a thief steal from us if we come home and find him in our house (Exo. 22:2-3). First, the law is written in terms of the thief's "breaking in." We take this as indicating a breaking into a house, but in the context of this verse it is a breaking into a yard—a thief who steals animals. This is a slow process. A man has to drive the animal away. If we see him during the day, we can raise an alarm, and neighbors will help us track him down. At night, however, we cannot see —no street lights in ancient Israel, and none in rural areas today. We don't know the thief's intention. Maybe he is invading our yard with a view to killing us. Thus, we may go into the yard and kill him. Thus, the law is not directly addressing the situation of a man's breaking into the house, the sleeping area, of a family. Secondly, the concepts "day" and "night" in Scripture have an extensive metaphorical meaning. In Gen. 1:5, God called the light day, and the darkness night. Light and darkness are frequently used in Scripture to describe Spiritual or social conditions. Moreover, this passage does not actually use the terms day/night or light/darkness, but says "if the sun is risen upon him." The rising of the sun sheds light upon the situation. Moreover, the rising of the sun is a token of power (Jud. 5:31; Gen. 32:31; Ps. 19:4-6). Thus, the verse means that the owner is able to identify the thief (the sunrise of understanding), or is able to over power him without killing him (the sunrise of strength). The meaning of the law is this: If you don't recognize him, and cannot deal with him in any other way, you may kill him; but if you know who he is, or have the strength to deal with him, you may not kill him. This will vary from situation to situation, and local ordinances specify what a shopkeeper or houseowner may do to a person who breaks in—under what circumstances the sun may be said to have risen upon a situation. Obviously, if the thief tried to kill the man, the owner would have the right to defend himself.
- James Jordan, The Law of the Covenant 136-37 (1984), at http://www.garynorth.com/freebooks/: HTML, DjVu.