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M6. Committing Theft or Robbery.    [Make a Comment]

We are not to steal or commit robbery.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed be He):

Key Scriptures

Exodus 20:13(15) (Meir MN33; Chinuch C36)
Do not murder. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not give false evidence against your neighbor.

Exodus 21:16 (Maimonides RN243; Chinuch C36)
Whoever kidnaps someone must be put to death, regardless of whether he has already sold him or the person is found still in his possession.

Exodus 21:37-22:3 (22:1-4) (Maimonides RP239; Chinuch C54)
If someone steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters or sells it, he is to pay five oxen for an ox and four sheep for a sheep. If a thief caught in the act of breaking in is beaten to death, it is not murder; unless it happens after sunrise, in which case it is murder. A thief must make restitution; so if he has nothing, he himself is to be sold to make good the loss from the theft. If what he stole is found alive in his possession, he is to pay double, no matter whether it is an ox, a donkey or a sheep.

Exodus 22:6(7)
If a person entrusts a neighbor with money or goods, and they are stolen from the trustee's house, then, if the thief is found, he must pay double.

Leviticus 5:21-24(6:2-5) (Maimonides RP194, RN245, RN248, RN249; Meir MP68; Chinuch C130, C225, C226, C229)
If someone sins and acts perversely against ADONAI by dealing falsely with his neighbor in regard to a deposit or security entrusted to him, by stealing from him, by extorting him, or by dealing falsely in regard to a lost object he has found, or by swearing to a lie - if a person omits any of these sins, then, if he sinned and is guilty, he is to restore whatever it was he stole or obtained by extortion, or whatever was deposited with him, or the lost object which he found, or anything about which he has sworn falsely. He is to restore it in full plus an additional one-fifth; he must return it to the person who owns it, on the day when he presents his guilt offering.

Leviticus 19:11-12 (Maimonides RN244, RN248, RN249; Meir MN30, MN34, MN36; Chinuch C225, C226, C244)
Do not steal from, defraud or lie to each other. Do not swear by my name falsely, which would be profaning the name of your God; I am ADONAI.

Leviticus 19:13 (Maimonides RP194, RN245, RN247; Meir MN35, MN37; Chinuch C228, C229)
Do not oppress or rob your neighbor; specifically, you are not to keep back the wages of a hired worker all night until morning.

Leviticus 25:42 (Maimonides RN243)
For they are my slaves, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; therefore they are not to be sold as slaves.

Deuteronomy 19:14 (Maimonides RN246; Meir MN85; Chinuch C522)
You are not to move your neighbor's boundary marker from the place where people put it long ago, in the inheritance soon to be yours in the land ADONAI your God is giving you to possess.

Deuteronomy 24:7 (Chinuch C36)
If a man kidnaps any of his brothers, fellow members of the community of Isra'el, and makes him his slave or sells him, that kidnapper must die; in this way you will put an end to such wickedness among you.

Matthew 19:16-19
A man approached Yeshua and said, "Rabbi, what good thing should I do in order to have eternal life?" He said to him, "Why are you asking me about good? There is One who is good! But if you want to obtain eternal life, observe the mitzvot." The man asked him, "Which ones?" and Yeshua said, "Don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't give false testimony, honor father and mother and love your neighbor as yourself." (See also, Mark 10:17-19)

Ephesians 4:28
The thief must stop stealing; instead, he should make an honest living by his own efforts. This way he will be able to share with those in need.

Supportive Scriptures

Jeremiah 7:9-11
"First you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, offer to Ba'al and go after other gods that you haven't known. Then you come and stand before me in this house that bears my name and say, 'We are saved' - so that you can go on doing these abominations! Do you regard this house, which bears my name, as a cave for bandits? I can see for myself what's going on," says ADONAI.

Psalm 62:11(10)
Don't put your trust in extortion, don't put false hopes in robbery; even if wealth increases, don't set your heart on it.

Proverbs 30:8-9
... keep falsehood and futility far from me, and give me neither poverty nor wealth. Yes, provide just the food I need today; for if I have too much, I might deny you and say, "Who is ADONAI?" And if I am poor, I might steal and thus profane the name of my God.

Luke 19:8
But Zakkai stood there and said to the Lord, "Here, Lord, I am giving half of all I own to the poor; and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay him back four times as much."

Romans 13:9
For the commandments, "Don't commit adultery", "Don't murder", "Don't steal", "Don't covet", and any others are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself."


Stealing is taking from someone, that to which the taker has no right. One who steals is called a thief. Robbery is similar in that there is an unlawful taking, but it is more severe in that the taking is by force. One who commits robbery is called a robber. The prohibition against stealing is one of the Ten Commandments; stealing and committing robbery are dealt with in separate Scriptures.

One might ask why Psalm 62:11(10) calls extortion robbery, since there is no apparent force employed. The answer is that the kind of force which elevates stealing to robbery does not have to be physical force. Coercion and threats are a form of force, in that they achieve their end by evoking fear. It is similar with Leviticus 19:13, which calls delaying the payment of wages not only theft, but robbery. That is because the employer, in delaying payment to his worker, improperly exercises coercive power he has over his worker - a form of force.

Stealing and robbery are not only technical sins, but are also moral ones in that the perpetrator is willing to harm another individual. This intentional causing of harm to another automatically violates Leviticus 19:18:

... love your neighbor as yourself ...

as well as a plethora of other Scriptures commanding that we love (and therefore not harm) others.

If one is caught stealing, he must pay restitution and, under certain circumstances, must pay several times the restitution. The higher goal, however, is for the thief or robber to experience a heart-change and be moved to repentance even if he is not caught. Zakkai the tax collector is an example of such a man when, touched by the Spirit in Luke 19:8, blurts out to Yeshua:

Here, Lord, I am giving half of all I own to the poor; and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay him back four times as much. Yeshua responds in verse 9: Today salvation has come to this house, inasmuch as this man too is a son of Avraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost.

This same need for heartfelt repentance is expressed in Ephesians 4:28 which instructs the thief to stop stealing and, instead, to earn honest money that he can "share with those in need". A noted writer Jay E. Adams asks rhetorically: "When is a thief not a thief? When he stops stealing?"1 Then he answers his own question: "No, if the only thing a thief has done is to stop stealing, he remains a thief who, at the moment, is not stealing." Adams goes on to explain that it takes a repentant change of heart for a thief to become an honest man; only then is he no longer a thief.

1. Jay E. Adams, "The Christian Counselor's Manual", p. 178, (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1973).

Classical Commentators

Maimonides, Meir, and HaChinuch treat their respective mitzvot similarly to one another. They command against stealing or robbing, and discuss the amount of restitution that is required under various circumstances. They do not, however, address theft and robbery in terms of their inherent immorality, or suggest that there is a requirement that the offender repent.

There is an unusual application (by all three classical commentators) of the Exodus 20 Scriptures that prohibit stealing in that they do not discuss them in connection with the stealing of property, but rather regarding kidnapping - the stealing of people - and, in particular, Jewish people. This is strange, not only because the immorality of kidnapping human beings is self-evident, but also because Exodus 21:16 and Deuteronomy 24:7 that specifically prohibit kidnapping are not dealt with in any of the classical mitzvah compilations.


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