“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.” (Exodus 20:17)
This is the broadest prohibition of the Ten Commandments, spilling over to numerous portions of the Scripture. This commandment gives us three different views of “covet.” The initial commandment (Exodus 20:17) uses the Hebrew word chamad, which means “to delight in.” The repeated commandment (Deuteronomy 5:21) uses the word ‘avah, which translates “to wish for.” And the applied commandment (Jeremiah 6:13) uses the word batsa’, which is “to be greedy.”
There are two classic examples from which we can learn.
In spite of the awesome evidence of the Rea Sea crossing, water from the rock, and the manna from heaven, Israel was not satisfied with the Lord’s provision (Numbers 11:7-15). They “fell a lusting” (‘avah) for the old delicacies of Egypt (Numbers 11:4-6). The Lord gave Israel its request for “meat” (Numbers 11:16-31), then sent a plague of judgment (Numbers 11:32-35) on the ungrateful nation.
There is also the tragic example of Achan (Joshua 7). Achan had been warned twice (Deuteronomy 7:25; Joshua 6:18-19) not to crave the riches of Jericho. But he gave into “a delightful desire” (chamad, Joshua 7:21). Achan’s sin brought judgment upon the whole nation (Joshua 7:5-15) until he was executed (Joshua 7:25-26).
God does not tolerate covetousness. The Bible is clear: Those that covet are never satisfied (Psalm 78:23-37) and have leanness sent to their souls (Psalm 106:13-15). May our Lord protect us from giving in to the “lust of the flesh” (1 John 2:16). HMM III