People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving. Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold though it costs him all the wealth of his house.
These two verses are part of a longer warning against adultery (:21-35) and are, in fact, sandwiched between verses which discuss severe consequences for such choices.
Verse 30 suggests the general understanding and feelings in antiquity about someone who stole food “when he is starving.” “People do not despise” someone in such a situation.
But verse 31 notes that this hungry thief will still have to pay for what he did. According to our verse, it would cost seven times what he took — even if “it cost him all the wealth of his house.”
Actually, the Law of Moses (see Exodus 22:1-9), said five times was the limit of such a penalty payment. So seven times probably represents more of a symbolic number — suggesting the thief will pay “in full.”
These verses indicate people had some understanding for the situation. Yet, there would be consequences for his or her actions.
BUT…the surrounding verses also make it clear that’s not the same way people felt about a man who slept with another man’s wife. There are different levels of consequences for different bad choices — and that would be one of the really costly ones!
STILL, the good news is that we don’t have to be thieves or adulterers — we can change! As the Apostle Paul once wrote, “And such were some of you!” (1 Corinthians 6:11). God CAN help us!