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God, Justice, and SocietyAspects of Law and Legality in the Bible$
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Jonathan Burnside

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199759217

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199759217.001.0001

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Theft And Burglary

Theft And Burglary

(p.285) 9 Theft And Burglary
God, Justice, and Society

Jonathan Burnside

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that the biblical laws of theft and burglary are excellent illustrations of the need to read biblical law narratively and not semantically. The biblical laws of theft take an objective approach to the question of “who is a thief” by applying objective tests of hot possession and lukewarm possession. These tests are shown to apply both in biblical law and biblical narratives (e.g., the Jacob story and the Joseph cycle). There is a risk that objective tests could lead to individual acts of injustice (as in the Joseph narratives), although the possibility of admitting evidence that would acquit the innocent should not be discounted (cf. the Laws of Hammurabi). Elsewhere in the Bible, the biblical laws of theft are used to expose King David's offences against Uriah the Hittite (which involve murder and adultery). Their use in this context emphasizes the creativity and didacticism of biblical law.

Keywords:   adultery, burglary, hot possession, Jacob story, Joseph cycle, King David, Laws of Hammurabi, theft, Uriah the Hittite

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