Tenth Commandment

The Tenth Commandment

You shall not covet is the tenth and last of the 10 Commandments that God gave the Israelites through Moses. The tenth commandment is the most penetrating of them all, because it prohibits the inward longing, that is, the improper desire, for something that belongs to another person. This is the only commandment of the ten that addresses the heart alone. The inclusion of such a deeply spiritual command among the ten commandments shows that this list is no mere code of laws defining crimes, but a body of ethical and spiritual lifestyle principles for the moral education of the people of Yahweh. This commandment continues to be observed in the Jewish religion.

What is the Scripture reference? Exodus 20:17, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor'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." (KJV); “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” (ESV) What is the relationship focus? People and people (commandments 5-10 emphasis people's relationship with other people as opposed to "people and God") Is the commandment a prohibition? Yes (the commandment is saying what "must not be" done as opposed to what "must be" done)


Unlike the other commandments which focus on outward actions, this commandment focuses on thought. It is an imperative against setting one’s desire on things that are forbidden. One commandment forbids the act of adultery. This commandment forbids the desire for adultery. One commandment forbids stealing. This commandment forbids the desire for unjust acquisition of another’s goods. The New Testament describes Jesus Christ as interpreting the Ten Commandments as issues of the heart’s desires rather than merely prohibiting certain outward actions. You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not murder,” and “anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment…You have heard that it was said, “Do not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. — Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28 (NIV)

The command against coveting is seen as a natural consequence of the command to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

The prohibition against desiring forbidden things is also seen as a moral imperative for the individual to exercise control over the thoughts of his mind and the desires of his heart.