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The Law of Repenting for the Sin of Theft

Jan 21, 2008

Numbers 5 deals with two cases where the earthly court is unable to do justice because of the lack of witnesses. In such cases where someone believes that justice cannot be done, the case can be appealed to God for complete justice. But, of course, if a person does this, he must leave it with God to judge and not attempt to carry out the justice himself, for God says "vengeance is Mine."

This is the proper course of action, according to biblical law. The Law of God does not support the actions of many today who feel it is their God-given duty to blow up abortion clinics or kill abortionist doctors or steal from banks and thieves. It does not matter how great the injustice is. God is perfectly capable of handling it, and ultimately, the only reason people take vengeance into their own hands is if they do not really believe that God is sovereign and is capable of handling it in His own way.

Often, their view is reinforced by the length of time it takes for God to bring the sinners to justice. God is not so concerned about doing things quickly, because He is a God of Grace and Mercy, and He loves those sinners more than we do. In the case of the Canaanites, for instance, God told Abraham that his seed would have to wait 400 years because "the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete" (Gen. 15:16).

We know that God intended to bring judgment upon Canaan according to the principle of "Cursed Time," which is a period of 414 years. The curse upon Canaan came in the days of Noah (Gen. 9:25), and it took 2 x 414 years before their iniquity was complete, or full. That was the year that Joshua led Israel into Canaan and brought judgment upon them. Meanwhile, Canaan received 2 x 414 years of GRACE in which to repent.

But to set up that judgment, God brought Israel out of Egypt at the end of 400 years, based on an entirely different time cycle, because God was doing more than one thing at a time. It was a 400-year cycle from the birth of Isaac (Abraham's "seed") to the Exodus when God brought that "seed" out of Egypt.

It was also 414 years from the birth of Ishmael to the Exodus, because Isaac was born when Ishmael was 14 years old. Thus, Egypt was brought to judgment on a 414-year cycle for reasons listed in my book on Secrets of Time.

So first Egypt was judged, and after Israel had spent 40 years in the wilderness, Canaan was judged. Both occurred precisely on schedule according to the Divine Court date. It could not be rushed, nor could it be postponed apart from repentance during that grace period. (By the way, Canaan's judgment was postponed after Abimelech repented in Gen. 21:26. This occurred 414 years after Noah's curse upon Canaan, and the repentance served to give Canaan another 414 years of grace before Joshua brought judgment upon them.)

Not understanding how God's Judicial System works has caused many problems over the centuries. A lack of understanding in these matters has caused many to ruin their lives by taking the law into their own hands. Knowing these principles could have saved many lives and much grief over the years.

We have already seen how the Law of Jealousy was an example of how a man might appeal to the Divine Court if he thought that his wife had had an extra-marital affair. There is one other case, not well understood, just before it in Num. 5:6-8.

" (6) Speak to the sons of Israel, 'When a man or woman commits any of the sins of mankind, acting unfaithfully against the Lord, and that person is guilty, (7) then he shall confess his sins which he has committed, and he shall make restitution in full for his wrong, and add to it one-fifth of it, and give it to him whom he has wronged. (8) But if the man has no relative to whom restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution which is made for the wrong must go to the Lord for the priest, besides the ram of atonement, by which atonement is made for him'."

Here is a strange law which, at first glance, seems to contradict Exodus 22:1-4. In Exodus the minimum restitution is double (Ex. 22:3). This is applicable when the goods can be returned unharmed. But if not, then the thief owes four times the value of the goods stolen (22:1), or in the case of the tools of a man's trade (an "ox"), he would owe five times its value.

So what is different about the situation in Numbers 5, by which the man was to add a mere one-fifth the value of the item stolen as restitution?

The difference is that the thief is repenting and confessing his sin (vs. 7). It is obvious that the thief would have gotten away with his theft, except for his self-confession. I suggest that the victim appealed the case to the heavenly court, and God brought the man to repentance during the Grace period. Repentance brings the mercy factor into the picture, and God rewards such people with a reduced sentence. Instead of paying five times the value of the goods, he only pays one-fifth its value. It is a mathematical inversion from 5 to 1/5.

The goods still must be returned to their rightful owner, of course, along with an extra 1/5 of its value. In Num. 5:8, we read that the restitution was to go to a "relative," but if the man had no relative, it was to go directly to the Lord (i.e., the priest). Here the case presumes that the wronged man is deceased. In such case, the restitution is to go to the goel, the redeemer of blood, who is the relative responsible to see to it that justice is done.

If, however, there is no goel either, then God Himself becomes the victim's Goel. It falls under the same category as the widows, orphans, and strangers in the land who have no goel as their covering to protect them. God Himself becomes their Goel, and their covering is better than any man's could be. Such cases are mentioned in Exodus 22:21-24,

" (21) And you shall not wrong a stranger [foreigner] or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (22) You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. (23) If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; (24) and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless."

If we afflict or oppress others, God tends to put us in the same position as our victims, in order to teach us by experience what it means to be in that vulnerable position. He expected Israel to know by experience in Egypt what it meant to afflict foreigners, for they themselves were foreigners in Egypt. They knew how bitter the Egyptians had made their lives (Ex. 1:14). God thus expected Israel to be kind to foreigners in their land and not treat them as they had been treated.

And so, if the victim in Numbers 5 is deceased and has no relative (goel) to receive the restitution payment, God becomes the Goel, to whom the restitution is to be paid.

Between this restitution law and the law of jealousy, we see good examples of the mind of God. We see also the relationship between the earthly court and the heavenly court. We see the responsibility of the goel and what to do if a person has no goel to protect him or her from injustice. God takes an active interest in the injustices perpetrated upon men--not only Israelites, but also the foreigners, for there is no partiality with God.

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Category: God's Law

Dr. Stephen Jones

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