In Exo. 22:7-9, if a man gives his neighbor an inanimate object to watch, and it is stolen, the bailee has no liability; but in Exo. 22:10-13, if the neighbor is given an animal to watch and it is stolen, the bailee is liable. The law changes based on the nature of what is given to be watched. Inanimate moveables involve a lower level of liability and animals a greater level. But in the Mishnah (chapter 3 of tractate Baba Mesi’a) the important difference is whether or not the bailee is paid – a distinction utterly without precedent in the Torah’s law, and the Torah’s distinction is erased: Whether an animal or vessel is watched, if the bailee was not paid and the item is stolen, the bailee can take an oath and be free of liability.
- David Kraemer, “Scriptural Interpretation in the Mishnah” in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament: The History of its Interpretation 280 (Magne Saebo, Ed.) (1996).