The restitution laws of the Bible are much superior to the penalties for theft today. If the thief is penalized at all, the payment goes to the state. The man robbed gets nothing, but has to pay taxes year after year to put the thief up in prison (there are no prisons in Scripture). If the thief cannot make the required restitution, he is sold into slavery to raise the necessary money. The provisions of the sabbath year [Deut. 15:12] and Jubilee [Lev. 25:39-55], which freed Hebrew slaves, would not apply to the thief, for obvious reasons: This would be arbitrary justice, and would give the thief an incentive to steal as the years of release approached. Such a man forfeits his right to the consideration given other Hebrews who wind up in slavery. Jesus says that the man sold to pay for his theft will not come out of the prisonhouse of slavery until he has paid it all (Matt. 5:26; and cf. Matt. 18:23ff.). The slave contract for the thief would be for as many years as were needed to pay his debt.
- James Jordan, The Law of the Covenant 136 (1984), at http://www.garynorth.com/freebooks/: HTML, DjVu.