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My Research on the Bible and Biblical Hebrew Shorties

Shorty*: Where “Do Not Steal” Appears in the Ten Commandments

The response to this intriguing question/title may surprise you — “Do Not Steal” does not appear at all in the Ten Commandments; At least, not in the conventional sense.

Jewish scholarship has unanimously agreed, throughout the generations, that the Eighth Commandment (“Do not Steal”) refers solely to “stealing souls”, namely, capturing (taking hostage) of fellow human beings. Rashi (1040-1105), the most revered of Jewish Bible commentators, starts his explanation of “Do not steal” (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17) in no ambiguous words, consistent with how the Talmud perceives this commandment:

 “The written speaks of one who steals souls”.

This interpretation relies on the position of this commandment relative to the two preceding ones, the sixth commandment (“Do not murder”) and the seventh (“Do not commit adultery”); However, it mostly relies on other verses in the Torah, where the concept of “stealing a person for sale” is addressed. For example (bold mine):

  • “He that steals a man and sells him, and found in his hand, shall surely be put to death” (Exodus 21:16);
  • “If a man be found stealing a soul of his brethren of the Children of Israel and deals with him as a slave, or sells him, then that thief shall die; and thou shalt put evil away from amongst you” (Deuteronomy 24:7).

This teaches us of the severity of the Eighth Commandment (“Do not steal”), implying thereby that “Do not steal” in the Ten Commandments could not possibly relate to stealing of property.

Does this imply that prohibition on stealing in the conventional sense, namely, stealing property, does not appear in the Ten Commandments?

Not exactly‼

True, Torah does not explicitly prohibit stealing (in the conventional sense). But it alerts us against harmful one-sided human relationship, the real root-cause of stealing, which may, often inevitably and inescapably, lead to “stealing”:

“Coveting, or desiring, that which is not yours”.

Therefore, the Torah prohibits coveting, root-cause of stealing, in the most expansive and all-inclusive sense of the word (the Tenth Commandment):

  • “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house   Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maiden servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:14);
  • “Neither shalt thou covet thy neighbor’s wife     Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbor’s house, his field or his manservant or his maidservant, his ox or his ass or anything that is thy neighbor’s” (Deuteronomy 5:18).

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* “Shorty” is a short post

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