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Affluent Investor | April 28, 2017

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God Says Don’t Even Think About Taking Someone’s Property

The Jewish concept of property began with God creating man in his image. The Torah records, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26)

Christians have waxed eloquent about the meanings of “in our image” and “in our likeness” for centuries, often limited only by their creativity. However, in accordance with sound principles of hermeneutics, we must look into how the phrases were used at the time they were written in order to determine what Moses meant by them. Ancient people in Egypt and Mesopotamia referred to their idols as the image of the god they represented. The image carved from wood and overlaid with gold or silver wasn’t the god; the god lived in the idol and used it as a portal into the material world. Apparently, without the idol the god was homeless and powerless in the material realm and even with an idol the god’s power was limited to a small radius around the idol, which explains why everyone had to have one in their home.

Kings were also called the image of god. They meant by the terms “image” and “likeness” that the god had appointed the monarch to his office and he acted on behalf of the god and with his consent. “No matter a monarch’s boasts to the contrary, his hierarchical position in ancient society was penultimate: it was the sovereign’s task to testify to, and carry out, the word and intention of The Ultimate (the Divine Realm).”[1] As long as the king followed the divine plan, he acted with the full authority and rights of the divine.

Of course, kings would delegate tasks to subordinates with the full authority of the king as long as they carried out the king’s plans. Those subordinates were often referred to as the image of the king.

What must be stressed in all of this, is that the “image” is to be understood as a legal and political concept. It expressed the reality of a very specific arrangement: an “image” was thought of — and described in terms of responsibility — as “obedient servanthood.” In the Ancient Near East, this ideal was exemplified by the title, arad kitti, “the faithful servant.”[2]

Judaism anchors property rights to the principles of God having created mankind in his image and having given him dominion over the earth and all other creatures. Only through property can man actualize his role as the image of God. “…the right to private property in Judaism is nearly absolute and can be restricted only in the most extreme circumstances.”[3]

The Torah holds individual property rights in such high regard that it forbade Israelis from even thinking about taking the property of others in the tenth commandment: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor,” (Exodus 20:17) which is repeated in Deuteronomy 5:21 as “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” All of these are negative commands, which if converted to positive statements would say something like, “Respect the private property of others. I have made it sacred.”

With its very limited government and property rights, the people of Israel enjoyed more freedom than any other nation in history. But they gave away that freedom against God’s wishes. They demanded a king like the nations around them. God warned them a king would oppress them as the kings of all the nations around them did:

These will be the rights of the king who is to reign over you. He will take your sons and assign them to his chariotry and cavalry, and they will run in front of his chariot. He will use them as leaders of a thousand and leaders of fifty; he will make them plough his ploughland and harvest his harvest and make his weapons of war and the gear for his chariots. He will also take your daughters as perfumers, cooks, and bakers. He will take the best of your fields, of you vineyards and olive groves and give them to his officials. He will tithe your crops and vineyards to provide for his eunuchs and his officials. He will take the best of your manservants and maidservants, of your cattle and your donkeys, and make them work for him. He will tithe your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out on account of the king you have chosen for yourselves, but on that day God will not answer you. (I Samuel 8:11-18)

God predicted in the Torah that the people would demand a king one day so he specified what kind of king he would accept and it was one with very limited powers. His provision for a king feels like that of divorce; as Jesus said, God made room for it because of the hardness of their hearts. But no king followed completely God’s design for a righteous monarch. Instead, the people got what they asked for – a king like the pagan nations around them. The people thought they were wiser than God but the oppression God warned about crushed them.

If what we know about economics today was true for the past then the Israelis under the judges would have been far wealthier than those under the kings. By some accounts government of Israel established by God thrived for over four centuries with limited interruptions. God never designed another one. Whatever Christians might say in the debate about the role of government, they should begin with the only one God ever created. It was a libertarian’s dream.

 

[1] Scott N. Morschauser, “Created in the Image of God: The Ancient Near Eastern Background of the Imago Dei,” Theology Matters, Vol 3 No 6 • Nov/Dec 1997, 2.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Judaism, Law and the Free Market , Kindle Edition, Chapter 3 “Social Welfare in Talmudic Law”, “The Biblical Roots of Private Property,” paragraph 1.

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  • DEPORTEM

    The last sentence needs clarification. “Biblical libertarians” are not the same thing as “Ron Paul libertarians.” Biblical libertarians are not anti-Semitic, and are not isolationists.

    • davidnrobyn

      You’re being less than truthful on two counts: Ron Paul is not anti-Semitic (I expect that you mean anti-Jewish by that), and he’s not isolationist. Review the Commandments. In between “Thou shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt not covet”, there’s one that goes, “Thou shalt not bear false witness”.

      • DEPORTEM

        Biblical libertarianism supports the principle of a strong military-industrial complex, an extensive arsenal of weapons and
        material with logistical support systems in place, well-trained, well-armed rapid-deployment troops stationed domestically and in foreign locations to protect our citizens and our national interests abroad, including pre-emptive military action when necessary. The bible never defines national security in terms of economic protectionism and self-interests to the exclusion militarized humanitarian relief and rescue missions for our own citizens or our friends and allies. The premise of isolationism is that a nation can be secure in a vacuum. Anti-Semitism is just one of the demons that is spawned by selfish disregard for your friends and allies. Ron Paul rejects all of the things in the above list. On a good note, his Mises Austrian economic views are valid and commendable, and he would
        make a good Secretary of the Treasury. I would support his call for auditing the fed, eliminating the IRS, and a host of other unconstitutional federal laws and agencies, but he has made no secret of his feelings about Israel, and that it doesn’t matter whether Iran gets nuclear weapons. The bible teaches that a little leaven leavens the whole lump. He claims that he had no idea that articles published in his newsletters were racist, called for a race war, were anti-Semitic, and called for the destruction of Israel. These are newsletters he has yet to disown.

        For anyone who is interested, the following website has an interesting summary of Paul’s anti-Semitic associations and views. http://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2014/01/12/the-ten-worst-u-s-purveyors-of-antisemitism-5-ron-paul/

        So, no, there nothing “false” about my witnessing and elaborating on the public policies and beliefs of Ron Paul, and the outcome of those policies if implemented by him or his son Rand if elected. I could not allow the writer’s reference to “Libertarianism” as having a biblical context, and thus to be confused as an approval of isolationism, and the attending lack of custodial responsibility for protecting our friends and allies.

        • zenjen

          I am sick and tired of protecting our “friends and allies” and if we are sending them aid i.e. money, then they are whores and bad ones at that, since they don’t do anything for it. We don’t owe the jews in israhell anything. If they don’t want the nooselams to have nukes then israhell should give up theirs.

          • DEPORTEM

            I agree with you that we are spending money on a lot of so-called “allies” who are really just using us, and many of them are outright enemies. But, Israel is a true ally, and deserves our support. A correct balance of power in the Mideast is an important issue that affects the United States in a number of ways internationally. Israel is a buffer against the bad guys blockading international waterways, and attacking neighboring nations with whom we have strong economic investments and where we have Americans who live and work over there. So, isolationism is not a feasible solution. We do business with nations all over the world, and we need to protect our people, but we do need to be more selective in picking our friends. Having said that, I will tell you that Israel is, by far, the best of the best!

          • zenjen

            I never said anything about isolationism, you seem to really love it though. Not sending whores money we don’t have is NOT isolationism, it’s being smart. America didn’t have problems with the middle east until we went in there and displaced all of those people so that the Jews could have their own country. That issue was between them and God. To put icing on the cake good ‘ol Ike sent the CIA into Iran to install the Shaw. If that happened to me I would be more than pissed off. Now who are the bad guys? Oh, and what makes Israel the best of the best?

          • DEPORTEM

            Zenjen,

            Just admit it, you are just another bigoted Jew-hater who isn’t bright enough to recognize that isolationism is exactly what you are saying when you recommend “not sending whores money.” You are obviously an ignorant little twit who doesn’t even know of the long troubled history of the Middle East which has been going on long before we set foot over there.

            Our presence there now has NOTHING whatsoever to do with the problems that have been going on since Mohammad started raiding Meccan caravans back in 610 A.D. and his
            followers later raped, enslaved, pillaged and slaughtered the inhabitants of the neighboring nations until his conquests became known as the Ottoman Empire. Muslims have slaughtered over 270 million human beings during the past 1,400 years of their existence.

            The first international crisis that our nation had was with Muslim pirates in the Mediterranean who were capturing our unarmed merchant ships, enslaving, murdering, selling or selling them for ransom. This happened when George Washington was president, and lasted for 4 presidencies. We had to pay “tribute” money that amounted to 16-22% of America’s total revenues to these international predators so that we could conduct international trade with Europe. We did not have a navy, nor a standing army, and we had zero presence in so-called “Muslim lands.” Your ignorance of history is amazing! So, our presence there now is to try and stop their atrocities, although the present administration in Washington has made things 10 times worse.

            Have you even been listening to the news about all of the decapitations of Christians, including women, children and babies? By the way you little “ignort,” all of North Africa was inhabited by Christians until Muslims slaughtered their way across the continent and into Spain, until they were stopped by Charles Martel (the “Hammer”). The Murdering Muslim bastards arrived at the gates of Vienna where they were stopped dead in their tracks, and prevented from taking over Europe. Go get educated, and quit making stupid comments on subjects that you know nothing about! And, if you don’t know why Israel is the best of the best, you can start by looking at what they’ve accomplished since becoming a nation in 1948. Then look at the long list of Jewish Nobel prize holders. http://www.jinfo.org/Nobel_Prizes.html
            and http://en.wikipedia.or /wiki/List_of_Jewish_Nobel_laureates.
            Not all of them lived in Israel, but the list speaks volumes regarding Jewish contributions to mankind, and they only comprise .2% of the world population. God has blessed you and the rest of the ungrateful idiots in spite of your blind arrogant subjective hatred for that which you don’t understand. Thank Jonas Salk, a Jew for the Polio vaccine which has saved countless lives, and perhaps you own ungrateful hide. Learn some humility, and thank a Jew for many of the benefits that you take for granted.

            John Adams:
            “I will insist the Hebrews have [contributed] more to civilize men than any other nation. If I was an atheist and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations… They are the most glorious nation that ever inhabited this Earth. The Romans and their empire were but a bubble in comparison to the Jews.”

            John F. Kennedy:
            “Israel was not created in order to disappear-

            Israel will endure and flourish.

            It is the child of hope and the home of the brave.

            It can neither be broken by adversity
            nor demoralized by success.

            It carries the shield of democracy and
            it honors the sword of freedom.”

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