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[Series showing the progressive unfoldment of the Christ, Truth, throughout the Scriptures]

The Eighth Commandment

From the October 1965 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Stealing was not normally considered by the Hebrews to be a capital offense; but when stealing was associated with kidnapping, especially with the sale of an individual thus kidnapped, death was indeed the prescribed penalty (see Deut. 24:7). However, when Joseph was "stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews," as he himself expressed it (Gen. 40:15), and was afterwards sold by the Ishmeelites to Potiphar in the land of Egypt (see Gen. 39:1), we have no record that such drastic punishment was invoked. The reason: Egypt would not fall under the jurisdiction of Israelite law, if indeed this law was in effect in Joseph's time. In the case of the stealing of animals or other property, the Hebrews insisted that the thief should make restitution, varying in amount according to the circumstances of the crime (see Ex. 22:1, 4, 7).

Theft and robbery were not unnaturally closely connected in the thought of the Biblical writers and teachers. Indeed, "Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him" (Lev. 19:13), is as firmly stated as is the commandment, "Thou shalt not steal" (Ex. 20:15).

In a familiar and highly significant passage the author of the book of Malachi asks (3:8), "Will a man rob God?" He goes on to explain that in withholding their required offerings of tithes the people have in effect robbed God of what is rightfully due Him. By so doing, the prophet suggests, they have subjected themselves to curses which would swiftly give place to blessings when they fully and freely provided their gifts of tithes. This all-inclusive blessing was to be so great that "there shall not be room enough to receive it" (verse 10).

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