A StubbornThings Symposium 6/6/14
Introduction • Probably most of what I’ve learned about The Ten Commandments is from watching Charlton Heston in the movie by the same name, as well as from listening to Dennis Prager’s radio program where he has gone into great and wise detail.
The good writers and thinkers in this symposium can tell you far more about them than I can. But the central aspect that occurs to me — other than doing a useful exegesis of the Commandments themselves — is why we should even bother. Who cares, in this day and age of ever-cycling fashions and cultural fads, what someone wrote thousands of years ago?
Today, thoughts are completely disposable. If you don’t like the one rumbling around inside your head now (or that’s stuck to your back bumper), just wait, it will change — especially if someone finds it politically expedient to do so.
In a world rapidly changed by science and technology, with the emphasis on the new and the novel, with words disappearing as fast as you can hit “send,” and with ideas and language intentionally being bent for political ends — what use are old things? Old things just sit there. They can’t change with the times. They can’t defend themselves. But, perhaps like St. Thomas, a few of us here can breath life into those old things and show how they are just as relevant today as they were thousands of years ago.
That is the challenge. The other challenge is digging into the meaning of these Commandments, for the deceitful Cultural Marxists have not let religion alone and unmolested. Religion is a prime enemy of those who would run our lives from a central, all-powerful state. Many misconceptions abound and have been implanted — and believed by many devout religious people without question. After all, it says “Thou shalt not kill,” right? So therefore many good Christians know that there should be no wars and no death penalty (but somehow abortion is still okay). Or does that Commandment actually say “Thou shalt not murder?”
There is plenty of room for disagreement about the meaning of these Commandments. But there is no disagreement (at least here) that these Commandments are worth taking a second and third look at. After all, a society based upon “Thou shalt not covet” is radically different from one based upon covetousness which leads to Communistic-style forced wealth distribution.
Dennis Prager made an observation on his radio show the other day that puts these Commandments into perspective: “Do you know what the biggest difference is between a religious education and a secular education? . . . In a religious education, you are taught that the biggest battle you have is with yourself. In a secular education you are taught that your biggest battle is with society.”
One can thus see that the entire thrust of The Ten Commandments is not just a religious imperative, per se, although the Commandments certainly do represent the Judeo-Christian moral view. Those Commandments represent the very idea that man is a moral creature who comes with certain ethical responsibilities. He is not, as the Left sees him, a blank slate, helplessly and inevitably formed — for better or for worse — by his environment. He is, and must be, a proactive creature in this regard.
Blaming others, blaming “society,” just won’t cut it. The Left tends to blame poverty for the depredations of man. But the truth is that our values are what make us who we are. We have our own stuff to work on. And these Commandments are an extremely important guide for this endeavor.
— The Editor
Number 10: “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.”
Last, but not Least
The 10th Commandment — Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s. Exodus 20:17 (KJV) – sums up all the other commandments, yet stands apart from the other instructions in the Decalogue.
Let’s start with realizing that this set of commands were, according to Moses, who was there, scribed on the stone slabs with the “finger” of God right at the time that Israel was becoming a nation. These laws were not laws in the sense of prescribing punishments for breaking them. They are not only limits to actions, but also cover spiritual and mental attitudes – something only God would necessarily know. The Ten Commandments are the directions for forming a vital, prosperous, free nation.
How can following rules produce freedom? If we choose to police ourselves in regard to these laws, then we will have little need for government. The more we control our own attitudes, speech and behavior, the fewer laws we need.
The 10th Commandment is the most important, save the first three. Why? Because:
- It controls all the others. Eve coveted the knowledge of God and look where that got us. If you indulge in covetousness, i.e. envy and jealousy, you are far more likely to end up killing, stealing, committing adultery, lying; we don’t do those acts without first engaging in envy. According to R. B. Theime, one of the most effective theologians of our time, there’s a distinction between envy and jealousy. Jealousy, he said, was being miserably desirous of what others had; envy was wanting to deny others their possessions, which is even worse. Both attitudes lead to sin and crime.
- Covetousness ruins any chance we have of happiness. Nothing is more damaging to our happiness as the nasty habit of concentrating on what other people have. We are aware, those of us who spend any time on line, that bandwidth is limited. We are aware that there is only so much time in which to make our point. But we are seldom aware that each of us has a limited mental bandwidth. Thoughts take time and energy; if we squander that time and energy on hating others because they have what we want, if we wile away hours tabulating the wealth, accomplishments, relationships, and experiences of others, we have no time to notice what we have. We have no energy left for appreciating our own blessings.
- A nation that wallows in covetousness will ruin its self. That’s what we’re seeing today. Envy is the signature policy of the Obama administration. Only those who are envious are concerned about financial equality, are willing to gin up hatred of the “1%,” are worried about “redistributing wealth” and “leveling the playing field.” These attitudes make victims out of people who could be out there striving for their American Dream; it makes villains of those who have already accomplished their dreams.
The 10th Commandment is also interesting in that it is the only commandment that is gives specific examples. Thou shalt not commit murder, or steal, or commit adultery – all simple and to the point, but No. 10 gives us lists – no coveting of our neighbor’s (those in our periphery) house, wife, servants (appliances), animals (cars) or anything that is thy neighbor’s. There’s no wiggle room there.
Now a feminist may get all bristly over the wife being listed here. When we covet another’s wife (husband), girlfriend (boyfriend), friend – it doesn’t imply that God sees wives as property, but that those doing the coveting do. To covet someone else’s wife is to see her as nothing more than his ox or his ass (pardon the pun). We objectify persons when we add them to our want list.
Coveting also places too high an importance on ownership. As a woman I must admit to enjoying what I call museum shopping. This is not shopping for the purpose of purchasing anything – that’s no fun at all, but shopping for the joy of looking at and touching all the lovely things laid out for our admiration. It allows us to ‘shop’ in stores we can’t afford, to enjoy the beauty of things we’ll never own.
It’s fun – no decisions to be made, no money to be parted from, no debt to incur. However, I have been M-shopping with those who found the process depressing because they couldn’t buy the $10,000 hand-carved side chair or the $5,000 black diamond necklace. You see, coveting is not only bad for society, but it is bad for our happiness and unhappy citizens are bad for society.
Yes, yes, you say, but this list of rules is over 3,000 years old and pertained to a group of Jewish nomads lost in the Sinai Peninsula; what has this to do with me? This applies to us now because we are nearly drowning in envy. Paul saw this time prophetically when he wrote to Timothy, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy” (2 Tim. 3:1-2). Is that true? Is that what we’re like today? Listen to Elliot Rogers’ diatribe recorded just before he killed 6 random people. If that is any indication, we’ve arrived.
— Deana Chadwell blogs at ASingleWindow.com.
Moses has historically been known as the Great Lawgiver for good reasons. Twice he spent time on the mountain in the presence of the Great I AM, who inscribed the law on stone tablets. In his anger at the Israelite’s fall into idolatry, Moses smashed the first tablets, had to very forcefully reorder the people and return to the mount to receive the law a second time. In an age of great violence these Commandments became the basis for law and freedom in Israel and then, with the spread of Judeo-Christian teachings, to the larger western civilization.
Today there are many people who deny the part those Commandments have played in the development of modern society and seem to hate any reference to them in the public square. In fact they must be scrubbed from sight. The very thought of The Ten Commandments is an affront to their tender sensibilities, and so they demand freedom from religion. This demand means, in their minds, that believers in the word of God must acquiesce to the total surrender of any public statement of their faith. It also means the denial and rewriting of history and the complete obliteration of the very existence of the Word of God.
Unless otherwise noted, I have decided to use the TANAKH Text:
NA= Nevi’im [The Prophets];
KH= Kethuvim [The Writings].
This version was translated in the United States from the Hebrew by The Jewish Publication Society. It’s a little different from the King James Version of the Old Testament, but I find the differences interesting, and in some instances very illuminating. Obviously translation is dependent on subjective factors that may lead to different word choices, emphasis and cultural constructs, but I like comparing those differences.
My friendly advisor in Judaic thought tells me that some more Orthodox sects of Judaism teach there are events that occur outside of time, and that the giving of the law to Moses was such an event. They also teach that all those who were, or would ever be Children of Israel were standing < i> outside of time as witnesses to God’s writing of the Law and giving it to all mankind through the Prophet Moses, son of the woman Jochebed and her husband, both of the House of Levi, who was the son of Jacob, who was the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, Father of the Faithful, whose seed is called to bless all the nations of the earth. And so the blessings begin to go forth from Sinai.
This is THE TENTH COMMANDMENT as given in the TANAKH, JPS:
YOU SHALL NOT COVET YOUR NEIGHBOR’S WIFE. YOU SHALL NOT CRAVE YOUR NEIGHBOR’S HOUSE, OR HIS FIELD, OR HIS MALE OR FEMALE SLAVE, OR HIS OX, OR HIS ASS, OR ANYTHING THAT IS THY NEIGHBOR’S. Deuteronomy 5:18.
The use of the word “covet” here is given only to your neighbor’s wife, who appears to be worth more than his house in the TANAKH, while his other possessions are lumped together under the word “crave.” The two words give me very different feelings in this close context. Coveting sounds like it could be a longing from afar, almost like a “strong wish” for something, but a craving sounds beastly and uncontrollable. Once a man has used or abused his neighbor’s wife he can choose to forget about her, but he still does not own his neighbor’s physical property, and his need for that becomes insatiable.
The King James Version is different still and uses the word “desire” in relation to your neighbor’s wife. At any rate, the commandment is very clear that we are not to desire, crave, or covet our neighbor’s family (think of the stolen and abused children of today), property or goods of any kind. That should cover all the bases.
I cannot help but think that of all the commandments dealing with our relationships to our “neighbors” or fellow men, this particular one is last in order of presentation as a reminder of those already given. This one warns us to consider the beginnings of sin that lead to the greater sins, that is, in order from most serious to least: murder, adultery, stealing, and false witness, the ways we can harm our fellow humans, and we have already been told not to do those things. But all the grosser sins can be avoided if we control our appetite, our jealousy over what belongs to another. When we wake up and find ourselves taking the path of covetousness, while we still have the capability and strength to see clearly our need to repent, we must do so and stop our downward slide into those greater sins.
When we are young and often insecure, it is common to succumb to jealousy over the beauty, poise or apparent riches of others. Teenagers may feel ugly, unloved and stupid, their clothing is unfashionable, they have zits, no one will ever date them – the woes of adolescence are long. This is one of the reasons youth require much positive training and reinforcement in proper behavior. Jealousy can become addictive if it isn’t recognized while personality traits are being formed, and jealousy is the little sister of covetousness.
At any age we all need to recognize and restrain jealousy. Keeping any of The Ten Commandments takes self awareness and self control, virtues disdained in our society today. Many of our fellow beings seem to have fallen into a dangerous degree of jealously, covetousness and greater sins. This is the same course that has led to the destruction of great societies of the past.
Do not covet anything that is thy neighbor’s has political repercussions as class warfare is used to divide us as a people. Do you think a person’s money and property should be confiscated by tax policy to be given to you or anyone else? Do you really believe that redistribution of wealth is a worthy goal? Who or what fosters covetousness in certain segments of the population? Who gets to decide what you do with what you have earned? How should charity be handled, by the heavy hand of government, or by individuals acting freely out of love for their fellow men? Where is the most individual growth fostered?
It seems our national leaders themselves covet every cent, every right private citizens hold. The lust for power and the greed engendered in some citizens of our nation are appalling.
Do not covet or crave that which is not yours. Stand up straight, like free men and women. Become the kind of adults who see work itself as a blessing, who are willing to earn their own daily bread.
— Anniel is a frequent contributor to StubbornThings and suggested this symposium.