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Page 382


Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour's wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour's.

- Deuteronomy 5:21


  • Coveting - Eagerly and jealously desiring the possessions of another

    What shall we say then? 1s the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.

    - Romans 7:7

    For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

    - Romans 13:9

    Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, not his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.

    - Exodus 20:17


    Exodus 20:2, however, is not stated in the fonn of a command. It serves as a preface or introduction to the ten commandments that follow. To keep the ten commandments, the Jews combine the first and second commandments. This, however, removes the marked difference between worshipping other gods (Commandment One) and the use of images (Commandment Two).

    The Roman Catholic Church retains Exodus 20:2 as an introduction, but combines the first and second commandments into one. It teaches that the use of images forbidden in Commandment Two refers to images of false gods and it is therefore a continuation of Commandment One. To retain ten commandments, the tenth is divided into two following the wording of Deuteronomy 5:21. "Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbor's wife" is referred to as Commandment Nine; and "Neither shalt thou covet thy neighbor's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or anything that is thy neighbor's" is designated as the tenth commandment.

    This division of the commandments repeats the previous error of combining the first and second commandments, thereby destroying their distinctiveness. In addition, it confuses the commandment against coveting, for three reaons:

      1. To covet another's wife or his goods remains coveting; it is one sin - covetousness - the sin forbidden in this commandment.

      2. Romans 7:7 and 13:9 refer to coveting as one commandment, not two.

      3. The wording of Exodus 20:17 makes this type of division impossible - Coveting another's wife is placed between the coveting of his house and his manservant.

    Therefore, in the early church, Josephus, Origen, Athanasius, Ambrose, the Greek Orthodox Church (Eastern Christianity); and later during the Reformation, the Reformed church forefathers supported the Protestant division of the commandments as displayed in the chart on the following page.

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