“Stolen Freedom” In The Hebrew Bible

In Biblical Hebrew, there is only one word to describe the concept of ‘stealing’ and that word is “Geneva” {גניבה}. This means, among others, that the concept of ‘stealing’ in the Hebrew Bible is different than the modern term we use today. In order to explain this, let’s have a look at the following examples: “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.” (Exodus 21:16) Also, look closely at the words of Joseph from when he was imprisoned in Egypt: “For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews…” (Genesis 40:15) As we have just witnessed above, in Biblical Hebrew the concept of ‘stealing’ and the concept of ‘kidnapping’ is identical.

This concept is manifested in one of the Jewish traditions that interprets the well-known commandment:” Thou shalt not steal” as to the ‘stealing’ of a person which means the same as kidnapping.

In other words, the Bible places strong emphasis on the fundamental rights of man and teaches us that man has a God given right for freedom and for protection of his possessions. Interestingly, in Modern Hebrew, there is a different word for ‘kidnapping’ and this word is “Cha’teefah” {חטיפה} – which actually originated in the Hebrew Bible and it means ‘seizing.’