Exodus 20:17: “You Shall Not Covet”

Joel Hoffman has prepared a video in which he explains the Hebrew behind Exodus 20:17. This video is part of Joel’s project, Exploring the Bible videos series.

Joel’s presentation focuses on the proper translation of Exodus 20:17.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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5 Responses to Exodus 20:17: “You Shall Not Covet”

  1. Daniel says:

    >Somehow my response for this post wound up on the forged codices post. Weird. (that or bad eyesight on my part.)So I guess, by way of application, I can desire and covet my neighbor's wife as long as I don't actually "take" her. Well, that's certainly liberating.Seriously, there needs to be some conclusion to the study offered here. Since we have cleared up centuries of inferior translating, and presumably inferior application, now we should do …?


  2. >Daniel: Thanks for bringing up this question. I've pickup on the theme: What to do with significant Bible mistranslations?Joel


  3. Daniel says:

    >Thanks for the feedback Joel. You have some good questions on your site that you raise. Not to be contentious, but now what? How does the instruction to "not TAKE my neighbor's wife" differ from the instruction to "not COVET my neighbor's wife"? I understand the difference between desire and action but I am unclear how this plays out in reality.Perhaps this will be unpacked down the road.


  4. >[I tried to post a response yesterday, but it seems to have vanished. Here's a second try.]Specifically regarding "covet" versus "take," I think the important difference is between internal states and external overt actions. It seems that the Ten Commandments only have a position on the latter.I think this is particularly important, because I think the Ten Commandments are at their core a statement of morality (as I explain here — "On the Ten Commandments"), and there's a huge difference between claiming that what we do can be immoral versus claiming that how we feel or think can be immoral.


  5. Andy says:

    >The LXX translates Chamad as Epithumeo in Exodus 20:17, which carries the typically translated meaning of "covet." And, as I watched the video, I had no problem using the word covet in the context of any of the sited verses. It seems perfectly reasonable to me that the Israelites would worry about other peoples lusting after their land while they were away. After all, no one would take it who did not desire it first.The only verse that seemed to me to warrant further consideration is Proverbs 12:12, although I'm not quite sure which translation was being used as the ones I checked seemed to translate the second half of the verse online the lines of "the root of the righteous produces" (or "are productive). And even here, while a bicola construct could imply "take" rather than "covet," it does not require it. A contrasting of "covet" and "give" is perfectly valid.So, while I found this particular video interesting, I certainly did not find its arguments compelling. I would be interested in hearing Professor Mariottini's thoughts on this, though.Andy


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