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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Theft

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(גְּנֵבָה, κλέμμα or κλοπή ) is treated in the Mosaic code in its widest bearings (Exodus 22:1 sq;), especially when accompanied by burglary or the abruption of animals (Josephus, Ant. 16:1, 1; Philo, Opp. 2, 336). If the stolen property had already been sold or rendered useless, the thief was required to make fivefold restitution in cases of horned cattle (comp. 2 Samuel 12:6; Philo, Opp. 2, 337), or fourfold in case of sheep or goats; but only twofold in case the living animal was restored. But the statute likewise included the stealing of inanimate articles, as silver and gold (Josephus, Ant. 4:8,27). The prominence given to the former kind of theft is explainable on the ground of the pastoral character of the Hebrews (comp. Justin. 2:2; Walther, Gesch. d. rom. Rechts, p. 807; Sachs. Criminal Codex, art. 226; Marezoll, Criminal-Codex, p. 388). Any other kind of property might easily be found and recovered, and hence its theft was punished by its simple restoration, with a fifth part of the value added for loss of use (5:22 sq.; Leviticus 6:3 sq.). Rabbinical legislation on this point may be seen in the Mishna (Baba Metsiuh, 2). From Proverbs 6:30, Michaelis infers a sevenfold restitution in Solomon's time, but the passage probably speaks only in round numbers. On the ancient Greek laws, see Potter, Antiq. 1, 364 sq.; and on that of the twelve tables, Adam, Romans Antiq. 1, 426; Abegg, Strasfrechtswiss. p. 449; or generally Gellitus, 11:18; on that of the modern Arabs, see Wellsted, Travels, 1, 287; on the Talmudic, see Otho, Lex. Rabb. p. 253. The Rabbinical interpretations of the law are given in the Mishna, Baba Kamma, 7 sq. If the burglar suffered a fatal wound in the act by night, the act was regarded as a justifiable homicide (Exodus 22:2). So likewise in Solon's laws (Demosth. Timocr. p. 736) and among the ancient Romans (Heinecc. Antiq. Jur. Romans IV, 1, 3, 499), as well as Germans (Hanke, Gesch. d. deutsch. peinl. Rechts, p. 99). Kidnapping (plagium) of a free Israelite was a capital crime (Exodus 21:16; Deuteronomy 24:7), punishable with strangulation (Sanhedr. 11:1); and was an act to which a long line of defenseless sea-coast like Palestine was peculiarly liable from piracy. A similar penalty prevailed among the ancient Greeks (Xenoph. Memor. 1, 2, 62; Demosth. Philipp. p. 53) and Romans after Constantine (see Marezoll, Criminalrecht, p. 370; Reim, Criminalr. d. Romans p. 390); comp. Philo, Opp. 2, 338. See generally Michaelis, Mos. Recht, 6:66 sq., 83 sq. (See STEAL).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Theft'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/t/theft.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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