According to ancient Near Eastern law, it is a serious offense to be in possession of lost property, tantamount to stealing and punishable by death. A finder is expected to make every effort to return a lost animal or implement to its owner. The OT "Book of the Covenant" assumes the same principle and emphasizes that it applies even if the owner is one's enemy (Exod 23:4). It is dealt with in greater detail by the Deuteronomic Laws, using the word "brother" instead of "enemy" and clarifying some of the ambiguities in the earlier law (Deut 22:1–3). In both texts, the returning of lost property is combined with a command to help another person in difficulty with his/her beast of burden (Exod 23:5, Deut 22:4). Although these biblical texts occur in legal sections of the OT, they are not so much laws as exhortations to take action for the welfare of fellow-Israelites. Members of the covenant community are expected to take the initiative in helping others, whether or not they deserve it, according to the principle of loving one's neighbor as oneself.

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