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Holman Bible Dictionary

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The inordinate desire to possess what belongs to another, usually tangible things.

While the Hebrew word for “covet” can also be translated “to desire,” in the Tenth Commandment it means an ungoverned and selfish desire that threatens the basic rights of others. Coveting was sinful because it focused greedily on the property of a neighbor that was his share in the land God had promised His people. After Israel's defeat at Ai, Achan confessed that his selfish desire for treasure was so great that he disobeyed God's specific commandment (Joshua 7:21). In defense of Judah's poor, Micah declared the Lord's judgment against the land-grabbers for coveting small farms and actually seizing them from their powerless owners (Micah 2:2). Although the commandment against coveting seems concerned only with motivation, some passages indicate that coveting in the heart was expected to end with taking what was desired.

In the New Testament the same Greek word is translated “covet” in the King James Version and “earnestly desire” in the Revised Standard Version (1 Corinthians 12:39). So, covet could be used in good sense. Another Greek word describes the ruthless self-assertion that the Tenth Commandment forbids (Luke 12:15; Ephesians 5:5). In the Luke passage Jesus said that the covetous man will not be “rich toward God.” In the Ephesian passage Paul classed the covetous man with the idolater. So, the greedy person—one who covets—denies his faith in God and scorns His values.

William J. Fallis

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'COVET, COVETOUS'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".
<>. 1991.


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