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Holman Bible Dictionary


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(rehss tih tyoo' shuhn) The act of returning what has wrongfully been taken or replacing what has been lost or damaged and the Divine restoration of all things to their original order.

Human Restitution The Law required “trespass offerings” to be made for sins against a neighbor (theft, deception, dishonesty, extortion, keeping lost property, or damaging property). Such crimes involved “unfaithfulness” towards God and disrupted fellowship and peace among the people. They were to be atoned for by a guilt offering to God, and “restitution” to the wronged neighbor. Atonement and forgiveness of the sin were received after restitution had been made to the victim. The sin offering to God always followed the act of restitution. Old Testament law established a principle of “punishment to fit the crime” (life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, wound for wound). Restitution was consistent with this concept of equity. The stolen property was to be returned, or “full” compensation was to be made. The guidelines for making complete restitution also included a provision for punitive damages (up to five times what had been lost), justice that moved beyond “an eye for an eye.” Provisions were made for complications in this process (Exodus 22:3 ). The act of making restitution to a victim was so closely identified with the atoning sacrifice made to God, that the two expressions could be seen as elements of the same command. Neither could stand alone. Specific examples of this law in operation are not found, but the principle in action is found (1 Kings 20:34 ; 2 Kings 8:6 ; Nehemiah 5:10-12 ). There is no legal or ritual application of this command in the New Testament; however, the principle of restitution is clearly pictured in the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10 ). Jesus implicitly validated the practice when he admonished followers to “be reconciled” to a brother before offering a gift to God (Matthew 5:23-24 ).

Divine Restitution The New Testament word is found only once (Acts 3:21 ) and can be translated “restoration.” It describes the future work of God that will reestablish all “things” to their pristine order and purpose. The implication here is not the restoration of persons, but of the created order, that is, the universal renewal of the earth. This divine restoration will accompany the return and triumph of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:25-28 ).

Ken Massey

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Restitution'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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