[Men] do not despise a thief, if he steal
They do not discommend or reproach him for it, or fix a mark of infamy upon him, or expose him to public shame by whipping him; but rather excuse him and pity him when it appears what his case is, what put him upon it, and that he had no other intention in it than to do as follows; to satisfy his soul;
his craving appetite for food, having nothing to eat, nor no other way of getting any: the words should be supplied thus, "for he does this to satisfy his soul"; or, as the Syriac version, "for he steals to satisfy his soul": and so they are a reason why men do not despise him, nor use him ill, because it is done with no other view; not with a wicked design to hurt his neighbour, nor with a covetous intent to increase his own substance in an unlawful way, but only to satisfy nature in distress; and another reason follows, or the former confirmed; when he is hungry;
or for "he is hungry" F19; pressed with famine; the temptation is great, nature urges him to it; and though it is criminal, men in such cases wilt not bear hard upon him for it. The Targum is,
``it is not to be wondered at in a thief that he should steal to satisfy his soul when it is hungry.''The Vulgate Latin version is,
``it is not a great fault when anyone steals, for he steals to fill a hungry soul;''it is a fault, but it is not a very heinous one, at least it is not so heinous as adultery, for the sake of which it is mentioned, and with which it is compared: the design of the instance is to show the adultery is far greater than that; and yet in our age we see that the one is severely punished even with death for trifling things, when the other goes unpunished.
F19 (ber yk) "quia esurit", Cocceius, Michaelis.