A Handbook of Bible Law - Laws regarding property

Copyright 1991 by Charles A. Weisman. 2nd Edition: Aug., 1992; 3rd Edition: Dec., 1994

Laws regarding property

Comments: Laws pertaining to property in the Bible can be divided into two categories of property -(1) land, including homes, and, (2) personal property, which includes articles of merchandise, clothing, food, tools, and other varied items.

The right to personal property is embraced within the command -"Thou shall not steal." Certainly nothing could be stolen if it did not belong to someone. In other words, if a right to something did not exist there could be no theft. God thus recognized the right of property by preserving and protecting that right with a law, a law that forbids any one else from taking possession of what another owns. Thus, the right to property has always been regarded as a natural and inalienable right, for it comes from God.

Land, once possessed, was regarded as the family heritage, and to be passed from one generation to the next. The land could be sold, but not "permanently." The seller could always redeem or buy back the land he sold, and all land not redeemed reverted back to the original owner at the Jubilee. Thus the land was not really sold but rather only leased for a time-the longest term would be fifty years. The price of the land sold or lease of land would be according to the number of years left until the Jubilee.

No taxes appear to have been levied against land. Such taxes could conceivably disposes a man of his land or inheritance.

The law of God emphasizes restitution for trespasses or damages done to one's land or crops (Exod. 22:5). If one caused a fire which destroyed another's property he must make full restitution for it (Exod. 22:6). Nowhere in the Bible is there any indication that property rights are to ever be abolished.

18A - Land and Real Estate

  1. The earth and all realty and things on it belong to God. Gen. 14:199 22; Exod. 19:5; Lev. 25:23; Deut. 10:14; Psa. 24:1; Psa. 50:10-12; Psa. 89:11; 1 Cor. 10:26, 28.
  2. Land can be sold but not permanently. You shall grant a redemption for all the land in your possession (the original owner has the right to buy back land he sold). Lev. 25:23-24.
  3. In the year of the Jubilee (every fiftieth year) land is to be returned to the person, or his rightful heirs or family, that originally possessed the land. Lev. 25:10, 13-17, 28, 31, 33-34.
  4. If a house in the city is sold, it can be redeemed (bought back) within a year. After that the house is unredeemable and shall belong permanently to him who bought it. It will not return to the seller in the Jubilee. Lev. 25:29-30.
  5. Houses in the rural or country regions may be redeemed at any time, and they shall be released in the Jubilee. Lev. 25:31.
  6. If one becomes poor and is unable to redeem his land, a kinsmen of his may redeem for him what he had sold. Lev. 25:25; Ruth 4:3-4; Jer. 32:7.
  7. If one has no means by which to pay the purchaser of his property the redemption money, then what was sold shall remain in the hand of him who bought it until the Year of Jubilee. Lev. 25:28.
  8. Transfer of land to be by signed deed in the presence of witnesses. Jer. 32:8-12.
  9. Deeds to land are to be preserved as a record. Jer. 32:14.
  10. Silver used to buy land. Gen. 23:13-16; Josh. 24:32; Jer. 32:9.
  11. Do not to remove established landmarks and boundaries. Deut 19:14; Deut 27:17; Job 24:2 Prov. 22:28; Prov. 23:10.
  12. You should take appropriate precautions of any dangerous situation on your land which might cause damage or injury to other persons or their property. Exod. 21:33-34; Deut 22:8.
  13. The mortgage of land and homes brings one into bondage. Neh. 5:1 -5.
  14. Restitution is required for damage done to one's land or crops. Exod. 22:5-6.

18B - Property Rights and Theft

  1. You shall not steal another's property. Exod. 20:15; Lev. 19:11, 13; Psa. 62:10; Prov. 21:7; Amos 3:10; Deut 5:19; Matt. 19:18; Mark 10: 19; Luke 18:20; Rom. 13:9; 1 Cor. 6:10; 1 Pet 4:15.
  2. Theft from the poor is especially forbidden. Prov. 22:22.
  3. A thief is cursed by God and to be cut off from the people. Jer. 7:9-15; Zech. 5:3-4; 1 Cor. 6:10.
  4. Theft proceeds from the heart and defiles a man. Matt. 15:19-20.
  5. One who is judged to have stolen property is to repay double to the owner. Exod. 22:7-9.
  6. If one strikes a thief found breaking in a building and he dies, there shall be no guilt upon him for murder. Exod. 22:2.
  7. We are exhorted to stop theft in the land by having a thief labor with his hands. Eph. 4:28.
  8. We should not despise one who steals due to hunger, though he must restore sevenfold of what he took. Prov. 6:30.

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