Moving forward in the timeline we see more examples of man obeying God’s command to be “fruitful, multiple, replenish and subdue”. The genealogies of Genesis show that the individuals that received the direct command, Adam and Noah, were still living when their descendants fulfilled the command. It is reasonable to assume that the command was handed down one generation to the next.
Cain (Genesis 4:17) as did Nimrod in Genesis 11 built entire cities. Noah began to be a husbandman (Genesis 9:20), Abraham “armed” his servants in order to rescue Lot (Genesis 14:14) and there are more examples of individuals using ingenuity and applying labor to property to bring about a solution to the problem. It is worth noting, that the moral implications of what some of these individuals did is not the issue at this point. God has given a formula for productivity. The fall of man has corrupted the motivation of many, but not the formula.
As we consider God’s command, why is Genesis 23 so important? Up to this point, we have not seen a legal framework. God had given many commands, including “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed:” Genesis 9:6. But what we have not seen is a clear application of this in regards to property in general.
The children of Heth designed a system for the registry of property ownership and an authority to protect that property from the violent actions of others. They created an administrative procedure designed to record ownership of property and they would use force to protect that ownership.
The phrase, “in the audience” is used two different times in regards to the transaction being consummated before the public. “The children of Heth” in Genesis 23:10 and “sons of Heth” in Genesis 24:16. The same group “made sure” of Abraham’s possession in Genesis 24:20. The selling of the land became a matter of public record. The sons of Heth knew the land had transferred ownership. They were even willing to secure that ownership from false claim.
Why is this so important? Prior to Genesis 23 there is no means of identifying ownership of property outside of the principle of possession. “I possess it, therefore I own it”. This works very well for pottery or an other portable items, even for sheep. But how do you carry real estate around with you?
We have no idea where Cain and Able got their respective property to raise sheep or farm the land. How do we know they owned the sheep and the land. It is a good assumption, but there is no record of it. By default, we assume that since they were in possession, they owned it. Same with Noah. Where did he get the tools and more importantly the wood to build the ark. He needed a lot of gopher wood. Where the trees growing on his property?
As this pertains to the study of economics, the subject of private property and the rules protecting it must be emphasized. Abel possessed his life, until Cain stole it from him Genesis 4:8 and God judged him harshly.
“That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose” Genesis 6:4. We do not know the exact meaning but we certainly can deduce that the sons of God took something that they were not supposed to take. They took another’s property. The result? A world wide flood.
Satan stole humanity. He took innocence away from Adam and Eve and the whole world has suffered since and would eventually cost Christ His life in order to redeem mankind. God judged Satan most severely.
God created the material and immaterial things of life. He distributes to whomever He will. Both in a quantity that is pleasing to Him, and a quantity that is needful for us to use to glorify Him. He expects us to be creative and use our intellect to understand the physical world, harness and bring forth in abundance of goods necessary for life.
God did not create theft. Theft is a perversion. Starting with Satan in garden of Eden and continuing into today, the world disobeys God’s command to be “fruitful, multiply, replenish and have dominion” because of sin by taking another’s property.
Without private property and the laws securing private property we would not progress as a civilization and we would be in direct disobedience to God.