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The Ten Commandments

  1. Have no other gods.

  2. Don't worship images.

  3. Don't mention Gods name in vain.

  4. Remember the sabbath day.

  5. Honour your father and mother.

  6. Don't kill.

  7. Don't commit adultery.

  8. Don't steal.

  9. Don't lie.

10. Don't desire anything or anyone that belongs to someone else.

The Eighth Commandment

Is it stealing or robbing when an ex-spouse take the partner for all he's got, or when one gender demands rights from the other without feeling obliged to offer anything in return? 

"You shall not steal." Exodus 20:15

It seems that this command is perfectly clear and doesn't permit misinterpretation, except perhaps for the word "steal."  How can anything that someone considers to be rightfully his possibly be considered stolen if it has been taken from the possession of someone else, even if that someone didn't willingly want to give it up?  Why do so many people think that something has been stolen from them?  In case there should be any doubt in anyone's mind what the word "steal" encompasses, here is the definition from Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th Edition:

steal  vb stole; stolen; stealing [ME stelen, fr. OE stelan; akin to OHG stelan to steal] vi (bef. 12c)

1 : to take the property of another wrongfully and especially as an habitual or regular practice

a : to take or appropriate without right or leave and with intent to keep or use wrongfully (stole a car)
b : to take away by force or unjust means (they've stolen our liberty)
c : to take surreptitiously or without permission (~ a kiss)
d : to appropriate to oneself or beyond one's proper share …

syn STEAL, PILFER, FILCH, PURLOIN mean to take from another without right or without detection.  STEAL may apply to any surreptitious taking of something and differs from the other terms by commonly applying to intangible as well as material things (steal jewels) (stole a look at the gifts).  PILFER implies stealing repeatedly in small amounts (pilfered from his employer).  FILCH adds a suggestion of snatching quickly and surreptitiously (filched an apple from the tray).  Purloin stresses removing for one's own use or purposes (printed a purloined document).

If any of the above is done by application of force, it is called robbing.

That clears it up quite nicely, doesn't it?  It sounds very much like what goes on during acrimonious divorces, where one spouse feeds disproportionately on the other's possessions, where the lawyers often leave little for the spouses to share, where the courts often apply the full force of the law to deprive the man of so much that he often decides to kill himself because he thinks that life isn't worth living any longer, and where there is often nothing left for the children, leaving the latter with far less than their proportionate and rightful share of the family's assets.

It is curious that the little word "steal" is such an important one and that of all possible actions by man it received prominent mention in The Ten Commandments.  However, God obviously knows what He was doing when he forbade stealing and made sure that the point was understood by issuing The Tenth Commandment.  A violation of The Tenth Commandment appears to be a prerequisite for a violation of the Eighth Commandment.

Back to The Ten Commandments     The Seventh Commandment    The Ninth Commandment

Last updated:
1999 06 11
2001 01 29 (format changes)