Noachide Laws #1 – Theft

Aside from the 613 mitzvos that God gave the Jews, He commanded 7 things of all mankind. These are called the “sheva mitzvos b’nei Noach” – the seven laws for the descendants of Noah. Six, or possibly all seven, of these mitzvos were originally commanded to Adam; they were re-stated to Noah after the flood, to be passed down to his descendants, the entire population of the world.

Like Jews, non-Jews are not allowed to steal. For non-Jews, however, this single commandment includes a number of things that are individual mitzvos for Jews: not stealing with stealth, not robbing by force, not kidnapping, not cheating a customer, not denying a debt, not moving a boundary marker, etc. It also includes those things that are meant to serve as a safeguard against stealing, such as not coveting another’s possessions.

Theft is one of the mitzvos that are easy to see applied from the time of Adam. God told Adam and Eve not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, which they did. Being told not to take something and then taking it is the very definition of theft. As Rashi on Genesis 6:11 points out, theft is the sin that ultimately condemned the generation of the flood.