Thou shalt not covet

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For more information, see the Skeptic's Annotated Bible article:
Ten Commandments
Protestant numbering
1st 6th
2nd 7th
3rd 8th
4th 9th
5th 10th
Catholic numbering
1st a b 6th
2nd 7th
3rd 8th
4th 9th
5th 10th

Thou shalt not covet is the 10th of the Ten Commandments in the Protestant tradition. It is described in both the 9th and 10th commandments according to Catholic numbering. They prohibit coveting of a neighbors property. Property is said to include ones house, wife, slaves, oxen, asses, and, well, "anything" else.

Exodus 20:17 Bible-icon.png:

17 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.

Deuteronomy 5:21 Bible-icon.png:

21 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.


  • A wife is listed among property. Modern societies tend not to accept this view anymore.
  • There is no prohibition against coveting a husband. Thus men and women are viewed unequally. It does not say “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s spouse’ because it is assumed that everything, including law, is directed at males.
  • Slaves are listed among property. Slavery is no longer officially sanctioned anywhere in the world.
  • Coveting is a thought crime. How can you command someone not to covet? And why would you? If stealing is wrong, then there is no need for this commandment. If I tell you that you have a beautiful house and that I wish I had it for myself, is that immoral? (Some claim that “covet” in this verse more properly means “to cast an evil eye” or spell upon something, and this should be viewed as a prohibition of sorcery. But the Hebrew word ‘chamad’ according to Strong’s Concordance, means ‘to delight in: beauty, greatly beloved, covet, delectable thing, delight, desire, goodly, lust, pleasant, precious thing.’)
  • This makes the commandment "thou shalt not commit adultery" redundant. Well done God.

In United States law[edit]

  • The 10th commandment is possibly the commandment that is most firmly not a part of U.S. law. Capitalism is the basis for the U.S. economy. The idea that "I shouldn't want the nice things my neighbor has," if actually followed, would probably cause the collapse of the entire U.S. economy. It is absurd to pretend that this commandment even remotely applies to the U.S. system of laws.

See also[edit]