Upon reading the question in the title you probably immediately thought – ‘That’s easy. Of course not!’ And you would be correct in that assumption. Be that as it may, there are some who contend that the Bible contradicts itself on this subject. They argue that the same God who orders people not to steal encouraged the Israelites to steal in the Old Testament. Let’s look at the verses they use and see what’s going on. First, here are two Old Testament texts that instructed the children of Israel not to steal:
“You shall not steal.” (Ex. 20:15)
“You shall not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning.” (Lev. 19:13)
In these two verses the injunctions are clear: do not steal; do not rob. Those who erroneously contend that the God of the Bible encourages stealing compare those imperatives with what the LORD ordained for the children of Israel to do on the way out of Egypt; namely, plunder the Egyptians. Conveniently, all that a person may quote in an attempt to denigrate the Scripture is, “And they spoiled [plundered, NRSV] the Egyptians” (Ex 12:35-36).
Sadly, the aforementioned citation is misleading because it does not include all of verses 35 and 36. Here’s what the two verses read in totality:
35 Now the children of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, and they had asked from the Egyptians articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing. 36 And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they granted them what they requested. Thus they plundered the Egyptians. (Ex. 12:35,36 emphasis added)
Now what does the plundering here refer to? Does it mean that the Israelites ‘stuck up the Egyptians’ on their way to the Red Sea? Does it mean that the Israelites snuck into the homes of unsuspecting Egyptians at an hour they did not expect? Not at all! Rather, one only needs to read what comes a little bit before to see that the Israelites simply asked the Egyptians for their articles of gold and silver and clothing (vs.35) and the Egyptians gave them what they requested (vs.36). And the reason the Egyptians did what they did, and gave what they gave, is shown in the first half of verse thirty-six: “the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they granted them what they requested” (vs.36a). This speaks to the non-threatening way in which this event happened. This was not theft; this was the Israelites asking the Egyptians for something and, under the sovereignty of God, the Egyptians complied. So the plundering that happened was a result of the Egyptians’ mass-giving and not a result of theft.