Thou shalt not covet.

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Part 3
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. (Exodus 20:17)1

Correcting a Misconception

Some Bible teachers apply the Seventh Commandment (“Thou shalt not commit adultery”) exclusively to miscegenation or race mixing and assign the Tenth Commandment (“Thou shalt not covet”) to marital infidelity. However, because the Tenth Commandment forbids not only the coveting of thy neighbor’s wife but also of thy neighbor’s possessions, consistency would demand that it also addresses theft. Consequently, a reinterpretation of the Eighth Commandment (“Thou shalt not steal”) would be necessary to support this paradigm.

This erroneous interpretation of the Tenth Commandment is the result of misunderstanding the full scope and intent of the Seventh Commandment, which condemns not only miscegenation but all manifestations of adultery, including infidelity, incest, sodomy, bestiality, and all other sexual perversions.

The Tenth Commandment deals with neither infidelity nor theft. Rather it condemns heart sins – which often lead to infidelity, theft, and other sins of the flesh.

Intent Alone

How can intent alone be a violation of Yahweh’s law? It is a violation simply because Yahweh2 says it is. Yahweh looks principally, not to men’s outward appearance or conduct, but to their hearts.

When Yahweh sent Samuel to appoint a new king over Israel, why was David chosen over his eldest brother Eliab? If you were to answer that Yahweh chose David because of his heart, because he was a man after Yahweh’s heart, you would be only partially correct. Yahweh chose David because David’s heart was good but also because Eliab’s heart was not so good. Yahweh’s revelation to Samuel was aimed more at Eliab than David:

But YHWH3 said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for YHWH seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but YHWH looketh on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)

Yahweh chose David because Eliab’s heart was not what He was looking for and David’s was.

The Pharisees

The Pharisees in Yeshua’s4 (Jesus’ given Hebrew name) day demonstrated that men can appear outwardly righteous while inwardly they are whitened sepulchers, full of rotting spiritual corpses.

It is no different today. Every four years, America elects national leaders who have been groomed to appear outwardly “righteous,” but who are proven time and again to be rotting corpses with no moral compass whatsoever. (This is yet another reason we should abandon America’s Constitutional Republic and its fundamentally flawed election process and replace it with Yahweh’s government, the leadership of which is determined by placing the selection of any two or more biblically qualified candidates in the hands of Yahweh. See Chapter 5 of Bible Law vs. The United States Constitution: The Christian Perspective for more regarding Yahweh’s means of choosing His leaders.)

Regulating, Prosecuting, & Punishing Matters of the Heart

Some expositors are hesitant to apply the Tenth Commandment to heart sins because of man’s unlawful attempts to identify, regulate, prosecute, and punish matters of the heart. These heart “sins” are often identified as thought or hate crimes, and invariably, these “crimes” are not what Yahweh identifies as sin but what men take upon themselves to label as sin, which usually amounts to calling evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20). An example of this inversion is contemporary society’s increasing proclivity for labeling, regulating, prosecuting, and punishing those who preach against sodomy. (See “The Seventh Commandment” for more regarding Yahweh’s condemnation of sodomy, or homosexuality.)

Yahweh has not authorized finite man to adjudicate matters of the heart. This is why it is important to guard ourselves against presuming and judging the motives of others. Yahweh reserves the right to judge and punish sins of the heart, because only He can see them. For this reason, the Tenth Commandment – the only Commandment focused solely on heart sins – has no accompanying judgment by which man can punish its violations. For man to attempt to punish heart crimes – even those identified by Yahweh – is an act of humanism and a usurpation of Yahweh’s authority as God.

The Perfect Order of the Ten Commandments

The inspired order of the Ten Commandments makes perfect sense. The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding; therefore, Yahweh begins with Himself: Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. And He culminates with the very essence of you and me – our hearts, which if not fully surrendered to Him make us nothing more than whitened sepulchers. The Tenth Commandment brings us full circle back to the First Commandment because First Commandment violations originate in one’s heart.

Yahweh desires our surrendered hearts as much as any husband desires the heart of his wife. Consequently, Yahweh requires that what we do for Him and His kingdom be not merely mechanical obedience, but an expression that originates in our hearts. It is, therefore, incumbent upon us to not only address the outward violations of Yahweh’s Commandments but also the root cause – hearts not given fully to Yahweh. Without doing so, our sin is never fully dealt with.

Tenth Commandment Statutes

All heart sins – lust, greed, jealousy, and envy – are related to covetousness. Therefore, the commands forbidding these sins are Tenth Commandment statutes.

Covetousness is usually aimed at another’s possessions. It often culminates in Eighth Commandment and sometimes Sixth and Ninth Commandment infractions. King Ahab coveted Naboth’s vineyard, which culminated in all three: theft, murder, and false accusations (1 Kings 21).

Lust is usually aimed at another man’s woman or another woman’s man and often culminates in Seventh Commandment violations. Envy, or jealousy, is usually aimed at another’s position, achievements, success, or notoriety, which often culminates in Ninth Commandment violations.

Solomon had the following to say about envy:

A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones. (Proverbs 14:30)

Envy invariably leads to resentment and usually hatred.

Today’s English Version translates Proverb 14:30 as “Peace of mind makes the body healthy, but jealousy is like a cancer.” Jealousy has been described as poisonous envy. It was jealousy that precipitated Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery:

And the patriarchs, moved with envy [became jealous, NASB], sold Joseph into Egypt…. (Acts 7:9)

Jealousy was at the heart of King Saul’s hatred of David:

And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of musick. And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands. And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom? And Saul eyed David from that day and forward. (1 Samuel 18:6-9)

Joseph’s brothers and Saul should have practiced what the Apostle Paul admonished the Roman and Corinthian Christians:

Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. (Romans 12:15)

That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. (1 Corinthians 12:25-26)

Christians5 are one body in Christ; therefore, if one member is exalted, the body and all its members are exalted with it. As with a family, if the father, the mother, or even one of the children is honored, the entire family is honored. The opposite is equally true: if one member is disgraced, the entire family or body is disgraced.

Envy was part of the reason the Pharisees and Chief Priests plotted to kill Yeshua:

But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? For this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation…. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death. (John 11:46-53)

Envy was also behind some of the 1st-century persecution of Christians:

But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy [becoming jealous, NASB], took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also. (Acts 17:5-6)

Christianity was turning the unconverted Judahites’ world upside down, and the Christians were on their way to the top. As a result, the Judahites were moved with envy, or jealousy, against the Christians. We can expect the same response today whenever 21st-century Christianity begins to turn today’s world order upside down.

Righteous Envy

The Prophet Habakkuk wrote concerning “him that coveteth an evil covetousness” (Habakkuk 2:9). If there is an evil covetousness, there must also be righteous covetousness. (See Part 1 for more regarding righteous coveting.) As with lying, bribery, and covetousness, envy or jealousy is not always unrighteous. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church regarding his godly jealousy:

For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2)

In 1 Kings 19, Elijah is described as being jealous for Yahweh, and several times Yahweh relates His own jealousy regarding that which belongs to Him, particularly His wife and her affections.

Like covetousness, jealousy is not inherently sinful. It depends upon its object. When it is an unrighteous fixation, it needs to be shunned in all its varied forms:

Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speaking. (1 Peter 2:1)

Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 7:1)

Paul focused not only upon the sins of the flesh, but also those of the spirit – that is, not only on our actions, but also the motives of our heart.


Covetousness is the inordinate desire for what belongs to another person. Greed, on the other hand, may have nothing to do with another person’s possessions. Greed was involved in Achan’s covetousness of the silver and garment that no longer belonged to another human but had been devoted to Yahweh (Joshua 7). Greed was also the sin that Elijah’s servant Gahazi committed when he pursued Naaman for two talents of silver and a change of clothes, a sin for which he was condemned to leprosy (2 Kings 5).

Greed is a sin that may involve other men’s possessions, which may lead to theft. On the other hand, it may simply be either an inordinate desire to protect at any cost what you already have or a discontented desire for more. In short, materialism.

…he transgresseth … who enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied…. (Habakkuk 2:5)

Seventeenth-century Puritan preacher Thomas Watson described some of the more grievous consequences of covetousness and greed:

A man is given to covetousness when he so sets his heart upon worldly things, that for the love of them, he will part with [the] heavenly; for the “wedge of gold,” he will part with the “pearl of price.” When Christ said to the young man in the gospel, “Sell all, and come and follow me;” … “he became sorrowful.” Matt xix 22. He would rather part with Christ than with all his earthly possessions.6

Note that the young ruler did not claim to be following the Tenth Commandment. Greed was the sin of the rich young ruler who, although he claimed to be obedient to all of the Commandments, was nonetheless required to sell his possessions and give the proceedings to the poor. Why? Because Yeshua knew the sin of his heart was greed – not for the someone else’s wealth – but for what he already possessed. His greed amounted to greed for what actually belonged to Yahweh, a fact Yeshua demonstrated in that He possessed the authority to command him regarding it.


Covetousness and greed have the ability to supplant Yahweh in our hearts, and for that reason, Paul identifies them as idolatry:

Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness [greed, NASB], which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)

For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (Ephesians 5:5)

Bear in mind that not all idolatry is covetousness or greed, but all covetousness and greed amount to idolatry committed in one’s heart (Ezekiel 14:3).

In Matthew 13:22, in the parable of the sower, the deceitfulness of riches is described as being able to choke the written Word of God; it can also choke the Word of God made flesh (John 1:14) right out of our lives.

Idolatry is our will, our pleasures, and our desires or lusts taking precedence over those of Yahweh. Consequently, idolatry is at the core of covetousness and greed. It is a sin that amounts to us seeking our own kingdom rather than Yahweh’s. It is the difference between the parable of the rich man in Luke 12 and what Yeshua instructs us in Matthew 6:

And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. (Luke 12:15-21)

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also…. No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon…. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:20-21, 24, 33)

It is the difference between those who are willing to exchange “the pearl of great price” for filthy lucre and those who understand that their souls are worth more than the entire world (Matthew 16:26):

He may be said to be covetous not only who gets the world unrighteously, but who loves the world inordinately.7

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End Notes

1. All Scripture is quoted from the King James Version. Portions of Scripture have been omitted for brevity. If you have any questions regarding a passage, please open your Bible and study the text to ensure it has been properly used.

2. Yahweh is the personal Hebrew name of the God of the Bible. “The Third Commandment,” a more thorough explanation concerning the sacred names of God, may be read online, or the book Thou shalt not take the name of YHWH thy God in vain may be ordered from Mission to Israel Ministries, PO Box 248, Scottsbluff, Nebraska 69363, for a suggested $4 donation.*

3. Where the Tetragrammaton – the four Hebrew characters transliterated “YHWH” and representing the personal name of God – has been unlawfully rendered the LORD or GOD in Scripture, I have taken the liberty to correct this error by inserting YHWH where appropriate. For a more thorough explanation concerning the sacred names of God, “The Third Commandment” may be read online, or the book Thou shalt not take the name of YHWH thy God in vain may be ordered from Mission to Israel Ministries, PO Box 248, Scottsbluff, Nebraska 69363, for a suggested $4 donation.*

4. Yeshua is the English transliteration of our Savior’s given Hebrew name. Jesus is the English transliteration of the Greek Iesous, which is the Greek transliteration of the of Savior’s Hebrew name Yeshua. For a more thorough explanation concerning the use of the sacred names of God, “The Third Commandment” may be read online, or the book Thou shalt not take the name of YHWH thy God in vain may be ordered from Mission to Israel Ministries, PO Box 248, Scottsbluff, Nebraska 69363, for a suggested $4 donation.*

5. Not everyone claiming to be a Christian has been properly instructed in the biblical plan of salvation. Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:36-41, 22:1-16; Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-27; Colossians 2:11-13; and 1 Peter 3:21 should be studied in order to understand what is required to be covered by the blood of Yeshua and forgiven for your sins. For a more thorough explanation concerning baptism and its relationship to salvation, “Baptism by the Scriptures” and “Fifty Objections to Baptism Answered” may be read online, or the book Baptism: All You Wanted to Know and More may be ordered from Mission to Israel Ministries, PO Box 248, Scottsbluff, Nebraska 69363, for free.

6. Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments (Edinburgh, UK: Billing & Sons Limited, 1890, first printed in 1692 as a part of A Body of Practical Divinity) p. 175.

7. Ibid., p. 174.

*We are admonished in Matthew 10:8 “freely ye have received, freely give.” Although we have suggested a price for our books, we do not sell them. In keeping with 2 Corinthians 9:7, this ministry is supported by freewill offerings. If you cannot afford the suggested price, inform us of your situation, and we will be pleased to provide you with whatever you need for whatever you can send.

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