thou shalt not covet

Deu 5:21 ‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife; and you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, his male servant, his female servant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.’

In this video, Dr. Joel M. Hoffman attempts to make the case that “thou shalt not covet” should be translated “thou shalt not take”.

I was first alerted to this view from his TED talk, and thought it might be probable. After looking at his evidence, I was less than convinced. His primary claim is that when the same word is used in Exodus 34:24 it means take:

Exo 34:24 For I will cast out the nations before you and enlarge your borders; neither will any man covet your land when you go up to appear before the LORD your God three times in the year.

To use this one verse to translate the rest of the verses most probably violates one of the three translator errors he discusses in his TED talks:

Specifically, the word could be used figuratively in Exodus 34:24. For example, in English we could use the word “covet” when a man strongly desires a woman. If a married man said he did not want to leave his wife at a party because someone might covet her, we would rightfully understand the man is implying the individual who covets might act on the covetousness. If he was assured no one would covet her, he might leave the party feeling safe about his wife. That is just one of many ways Exodus 34:24 could make sense if the word is actually “covet”.

Further evidence that “covet” does not mean take is in the fact the Ten Commandments already has a commandment against stealing (and adultery), and the Septuagint translates it as epithumeō (to set the heart upon).

One piece of evidence in favor of Dr. Hoffman is when Jesus is listing commandments there is an odd “Do not defraud” commandment added by Jesus:


In all, I do not think there is a compelling case that “covet” should be instead translated as “take”. Maybe “defraud” is a possibility.

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
This entry was posted in Bible, Figures of Speech, Morality, Textual Criticism, Theology, videos. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to thou shalt not covet

  1. Pingback: interpretation of languages | reality is not optional

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