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Answering The Atheist
January 16, 2005 / Volume 5, Issue 3

THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Is it wrong to steal? Some texts say that it is (Exodus 20:15; Leviticus 19:11, 13; Deuteronomy 5:19; Psalm 37:21; 1 Thessalonians 4:6), but other texts teach that it is fine to steal (Exodus 3:22; 12:35-36; Ezekiel 39:10). Is there a contradiction?

RESPONSE:
Several times the Bible reveals that we should not steal. The first set of verses listed by the questioner clearly demonstrate this. So then, what about the second list? Let's look at them.

In Exodus 3:21-22, God tells Moses what will come to pass when the children of Israel depart from the land of Egypt. They would not go forth empty-handed, but upon asking the Egyptians for their goods, they would be received. In such an odd fashion, Israel would plunder the Egyptians. Again, in Exodus 11:2-3, and once more in Exodus 12:35-36. Note that in each instance, the Israelites did not "steal" the Egyptians goods, but simply asked for them, and the Egyptians granted their request.

In the midst of a text wherein God exercises His wrath against those who exalted themselves against Him, we find the Lord speaking about the weapons of the enemy being used to make fires, and the children of Israel plundering those who plundered them, and pillaging those who pillaged them. The burning of the weapons is surely not stealing, for the owners of the weapons had perished (v 4-5). So far as the plundering and pillaging, it should be noted that they would be receiving back their own, since they themselves had been plundered and pillaged by these people.

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible