You Shall Not Steal
The 8th Commandment
You shall not steal is the eighth of the 10 Commandments that God gave the Israelites through Moses. The eighth commandment prohibits theft in all its forms by recognizing the right of personal ownership of property. People who are guilty of breaking this commandment are often guilty of breaking the tenth commandment as well, which forbids covetousness - that is, improperly wanting what another person has - in their heart and mind. And like the ninth commandment, which prohibits false witness, this commandment ensure the stability of society. This commandment continues to be observed in the Jewish religion.
What is the Scripture reference? Exodus 20:15, "Thou shalt not steal." (KJV); "You shall not steal." (ESV); "You shall not steal." (NASB); "You shall not steal." (NIV)
What is the relationship focus? People and people (commandments 5-10 emphasis people's relationship with other people as opposed to "people and God")
Is the commandment a prohibition? Yes (the commandment is saying what "must not be" done as opposed to what "must be" done)
Though usually understood to prohibit the unauthorized taking of private property, this commandment is interpreted by traditional Jewish commentaries to apply to theft of an actual person, or kidnapping. The Hebrew word translated “steal” is “ganab” The Hebrew Bible contains a number prohibitions of stealing and descriptions of negative consequences for this sin.
The Genesis narrative describes Rachel as having stolen household goods from her father Laban when she fled from Laban’s household with her husband Jacob and their children. Laban hotly pursued Jacob to recover his goods, and intended to do him harm, but Rachel hid the stolen items and avoided detection. Exodus 21:16 and Deuteronomy 24:7 apply the same Hebrew word to kidnapping (stealing a man) and demands the death penalty for such a sin.
The Hebrew word translated “steal” is more commonly applied to material possessions. Restitution may be demanded, but there is no judicial penalty of death. However, a thief may be killed if caught in the act of breaking in at night under circumstances where the occupants may reasonably be in fear of greater harm. The ancient Hebrew understanding honored private property rights and demanded restitution even in cases that might have been accidental, such as livestock grazing in another man’s field or vineyard.
If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep. If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him, but if the sun has risen on him, there shall be bloodguilt for him. He shall surely pay.
If he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. If the stolen beast is found alive in his possession, whether it is an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double. If a man causes a field or vineyard to be grazed over, or lets his beast loose and it feeds in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best in his own field and in his own vineyard.
If fire breaks out and catches in thorns so that the stacked grain or the standing grain or the field is consumed, he who started the fire shall make full restitution. If a man gives to his neighbor money or goods to keep safe, and it is stolen from the man’s house, then, if the thief is found, he shall pay double. If the thief is not found, the owner of the house shall come near to God to show whether or not he has put his hand to his neighbor’s property.
For every breach of trust, whether it is for an ox, for a donkey, for a sheep, for a cloak, or for any kind of lost thing, of which one says, "This is it," the case of both parties shall come before God. The one whom God condemns shall pay double to his neighbor. — Exodus 22:1-9 (ESV)
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