The Commandments of the Noahide – Part 7

The Kotel “Western Wall”

Do Not Steal


The commandment “do not steal” seems like it could just stand alone, with no further explanation, like it appears in Exodus 20:15, “You Shall Not Steal”. This is what I thought as I was contemplating before writing this article. The more I reflected on “stealing” and what “to steal” means, the more I could see that it isn’t just a cut and dry subject.

When we steal we are taking something that doesn’t belong to us. Usually we immediately think of personal property. But can it go beyond that? Can I or someone steal something that isn’t tangible, not visible to the naked eye? Do we possess more than what we see or touch?

Can someone rob another of their joy, or their happiness? How about trying to steal someone’s reputation, by spreading false or unsubstantiated information. What happens when we gossip about another person? What if that gossip isn’t true or entirely true? What are doing when we forward a post or article that hasn’t been verified about someone, that just may not be true? As a parent and family member, it’s easy to talk about one family member to another, either seriously or lighthearted. We are either saying something “positive” or “negative” about that other person that isn’t present. A positive remark adds to, and a negative remark takes away! Are we adding to someone’s reputation, or taking away from it? These are a few examples, but it would be interesting to see if Torah takes us further into stealing or robing from another.

This commandment for the Noahide is taken from Genesis when Adam and Eve took fruit from the tree of: “the knowledge of good and evil”, after being told from Hashem that they are not to take fruit from that tree. The fruit was not theirs to take, but they took it anyway, they were steeling from G-d! The commandment could then read; do not take what is not yours to have. It does not say, “only physical items”. I would venture to say that anything that is not mine, I am not to take it without permission, be it physical, spiritual, emotional, sexual – in any shape or form.

Perhaps a good example, is when making a phone call, and instead of just starting the conversation, asking the question, “do you have a moment?”. This doesn’t seem like a major issue, but it may be to the other person. You are asking them for a moment of their time. Giving the recipient an opportunity to let you know if they have it to give. They may be in the middle of something important, and don’t have it to give. How about pushing someone to share something that they just don’t want to share. Perhaps the timing is not right. Are we taking something from them that they don’t want to give? And just too weak to say no! Would taking a family item that your relative didn’t really say you could have, but you want it now? Or something from work, keeping in mind that you have worked very hard, above and beyond expectations, deserving extra compensation, so taking a small item home, is that so bad? That time your on a date and your date doesn’t really give the signal for a “good night kiss”, but it’s just a kiss, and we had a great time, is there anything wrong with pushing forward and “stealing” a kiss? Is that taking without her permission, what is not yours to take?


The stealing of the fruit is believed to be the origin of this commandment. It may be interesting to look a little deeper.

From the New King James Bible:

Gen 2:9 And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Gen 2:15-17

Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying,

Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Gen 3:1-7

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman,

Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

And the woman said to the serpent,

We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”

Then the serpent said to the woman,

You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

To gain a little better understanding of the events presents a question, what are some of the “key” words in these verses from the English translation? After identifying them, what did the original say, in the Hebrew? Here is what I see:

  • the phrases:
    • “you shall not eat” – “No will eat”,
    • knowing good and evil” – the knowledge (hadaat)
  • The words:
    • good – (tov) and evil – (ra),
    • day – yom – a typical day,
    • die – muth – to die, (death),
    • fruit – periy – fruit (can be produce, offspring, actions),
    • tree – ‘ets tree (wood, timber, stalk, etc,),
    • eyes – ‘ayin – eye (a physical eye),
    • opened – paqach – to open, to be opened (literally – eyes, ears; figuratively – be observant),
    • food – ma’akal – food, fruit, meat

Knowledge of ‘Good and Evil’

Was it or is it bad to have a “knowledge of good and evil”? For us today its hard to imagine a life not having this knowledge. Did Hashem punish Adam and Eve for now possessing that knowledge; by eating the fruit from that tree; for being disobedient; or for taking what was not theirs to take?

A couple of events occurred after they had their fill of fruit from the tree. These events may shed some light on the answer. Genesis gives a great amount of time to the point that Adam and Eve were naked prior to the fruit incident and they were not ashamed. But then after they ate the fruit they covered themselves. After reflecting on this, I wondered what it had to do with “the knowledge of ‘good and evil’” To be naked before a spouse isn’t evil! There weren’t other people that would see them naked, so why is this important? There are several words in Hebrew that translate to “naked” and to “nude”. These words in some instances can translate to either english word. However in Genesis 2:25 the Hebrew word ‘arom’ is used, and in 3:7, 10, & 11 the word ‘erom’ is used. Also we are told in 2:25 that they were ‘etbooshasho’, translated as ashamed knowing that they were naked. But this word ‘etbooshasho’ also means disappointed, confused, perplexed. So prior to eating this fruit they were ‘arom’ and not ‘etbooshasho’. Arom is an adjective that means “before the eyes of anyone”. And era can mean to not be confused, or perplexed. After eating from the tree, they decided to cover themselves, and hid from Hashem. As verse 7 reads – their “eyes” were opened, – they were now “erom”. When challenged as to why they were hiding, Adam said that he was ‘era’. Era is to be afraid, fearful, or anxious. Eating from the Tree providing knowledge of good and evil, brought fear, and anxiety into the picture, that did not exist before. Hashem did not want this to be present in man! Adam was anxious and decided to cover himself, and Eve. They didn’t need to, but because of there anxiety they did. Also they tried to hide from Hashem, because for their fear and anxiety. So it was the ‘era’ that became present in their lives, and now they would have to learn to control it and not let it rule over them.

The “What If?”

Hashem challenges each of them for their actions. Upon conclusion each of the three receives their respective consequence. But then Hashem is concerned about a “what if”. He presents a scenario of “What if they eat from the ‘Tree of Life’, they will then live forever?”. He then takes action to remove them from the garden, and posts centuries at the entrance, so they cannot reenter.

In Conclusion

A couple of questions are answered with this. The reason for being removed from the garden was preventive. Not for eating of the fruit, but to prevent them from eating the other fruit from the Tree of Life. Because of Hashems concern of them living forever, tells us that they were not created to live forever. They would die at some point. So why did Hashem say that they would die if they ate the fruit, if they were going to die anyway at some point. I believe that a “death process” started. Prior this time they would live until such time Hashem would recall their soul back, perhaps the body would have stayed the same and not aged. But now the body would be in a dying process from birth, and age until that final day, when our body ceases to function, and our soul returns to Hashem.

Being removed from the garden was not a punishment – it was preventive. The punishments were issued to Eve and Adam for taking what was not theirs to take. The act was disobedience, because they were told not to do it. The tree and its fruit belonged to Hashem, and it was in His garden. Their job was to tend to the garden. It’s like if I take something from my employer at work, with out asking. I am being disobedient for taking it, but it’s also stealing, because its not mine, it belongs someone else – my employer. There was a reason Hashem didn’t want them to take the fruit from that tree. Consequently their action of taking (stealing) the fruit against Hashems will caused several negative ramifications.

This act of stealing had far reaching ramifications. They would now have pain in child birth, and work by the sweat of the brow. Also “fear and anxiety” were introduced, that hadn’t existed before. Ultimately they were removed from the garden, because they could no longer be trusted. One of their children became a murderer, they other was the victim of that murder. However their third child whose name was Seth, went on to provide the linage that took us to Noah, and on to Abraham.

by, Jim Behnke

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