PLEASE DON’T COVET YOUR NEIGHBOR’S ASS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Neighbor

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or ass, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

— Exodus 20:17


This is the last of the ten biggies, at least as we currently view them. The lack of punctuation and vagueness of Hebrew for that ancient time makes figuring out where one commandment ends and the next begins a bit tricky.

So there we were, Garry and I, in the car. Driving home. I was mentally shuffling a heap of miscellaneous rubbish that passes for my brain and for no particular reason, trying to remember all ten of the commandments.

Why? Because I thought I should know them. Shouldn’t we all? They are supposedly the basis of moral law, right? Why don’t I know them? Why aren’t they all on the tip of my tongue?

I found myself at a full stop around seven or eight, depending on how I divided the “How to behave to God” section which contains a lot of run-on sentences that could be interpreted as two or sometimes even three commandments but all have been lumped into a single “be good to God” commandment.

I asked Garry if he knew the ten commandments. He replied, with some asperity, that he had to pay attention to the traffic. There wasn’t any traffic, except for one slow driver in front of us. I suppose Garry was trying to not ram him. Finally, he admitted he didn’t know all of them, at least not in order. And he spent years in Sunday school and church, too … so he really ought to know. Lutheran. They do that stuff, right?

“A sad state of affairs,” I pointed out, “When two educated souls cannot recite the ten commandments.”

“There’s a lot of stuff about not making idols. Not murdering or coveting.”

“Yeah, and taking one day off each week.”

When I got home, I looked them up.

Charlton Heston and the 10 commandments

It turns out there are many “proper behavior to God” commandments. Not all Christians, or Jews, divide commandments in the same way. You can count as many as fifteen (à la Mel Brooks in “History of the World, Part I”) or as few as eight. It depends on how you look at them — and punctuate the sentences.

Following are the Big Ten according to most Protestant sects.


Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17 NKJV)

1 – “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.

2 – “You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My Commandments.

3 – “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

4 – “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

5 – “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

6 – “You shall not murder.

7 – “You shall not commit adultery.

8 – “You shall not steal.

9 – “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

10 – “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

 


I’ve always wondered how come we need laws from God to know that murder is not okay. Aren’t we born knowing this? Don’t we know without being told that stealing is bad? That we should take care of our parents and show them respect? Do we really need laws to tell us?

In the tenth, it’s covetousness, which is not good because jealousy is okay for God, but not for us. That is also where your neighbor’s ass comes into the picture, one of the many things you are not supposed to covet.

I’m just here to help.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.

35 thoughts on “PLEASE DON’T COVET YOUR NEIGHBOR’S ASS – Marilyn Armstrong”

  1. I know them roughly. It’s funny how men have a universal language when they are driving and the women have to shut up because they are concentrating, although Mr. Swiss tells me to stop taking photos sometimes, because it puts him off – perhaps there is a commandment covering that sort of thing “Thou shalt not disturb your man when he is driving”.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I knew those, but not well. I’ve reblogged this excellent post on a new thing I’m trying out…to showcase the best of the blogs I read. And I had a great cartoon about your subject, which I’ll share on my post, because I don’t know how to share it here. You might get a smile! Thanks Marilyn! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you. We really COULDN’T remember what they were. It was weird because it was something we should know. I mean, all people in western culture should know them, even if they aren’t Christian or Jewish. But we didn’t. And frankly, I don’t remember them unless I look them up.

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  3. I used to know them, a long time ago. I could recite them when asked. But that was a long time ago, back when I was a practicing Christian. Now I just go by the one, Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them to unto you …or variations thereof. It’s way easier to remember. ^_^

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  4. Sometimes I do think that God must have a sense of humour; or else some of the funnier things happening would lose much of their effect!
    And I think I probably know all of them, with some heavy thinking (and not driving at the same time, but sitting next to a driver would be fine!) – but obviously not many of the 10 are still in favour nowadays. In the German translation there is no talk about ‘asses’ either… althouigh in some of the translation, the ass is mentionnend in the list. Most evangelical translations read more or less like this: *Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, servant, handmaid, cattle, nor all that thy neighbour has.*
    Which has the distinct (dis)advantage that you also shall not covet your neighbours chickens, horse, donkey, cows etc etc…. nor, of course, his wife, servant and maid, or other employees!
    I didn’t read your 10 commandments but now I wonder if I’d get them together…. Maybe next Sunday will give me the occasion to test my knowledge, when I shall be driving with Hero Husband the 120km from one place to another! You always come up with something new. Fascinating stuff it is!

    And – sorry – but it seems to me that many, many children don’t know any longer that parents should be honoured and cared for. What I see around me oftentimes is saddening and gives me little hope for the future.

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    1. It’s just interesting that with all the well-educated people I know, this set of commandments is particularly difficult to remember — and especially remember in order. I think it’s the “honor God” set at the beginning that makes the others harder because you never remember which is which.

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  5. I’ve considered the same thing a few times now and it amazes and saddens me that more people can’t bring all 10 to mind all that easily – if at all. 😦
    We started off with 1 law – Don’t eat my apples! – that lasted a whole hour or so. We are just no damn good at remembering or keeping to the rules, never have been never will. I think that’s why God did the Jesus thing He knows we don’t do ‘Thou Shalt Not…” all that well (massive understatement) so he went the other way (the way He should have from the beginning) Thou SHALT LOVE thy God. and as a follow on: Love your Neighbour and Love Yourself too – but Love Me first and use me as the exemplar.

    I wonder if don’t carve anything in Heaven, Earth or Underwater is one commandment and don’t pray or bow down to them another? If so why do Christians bow down to a wooden cross with a dead body on it?? But then who knows why Christians do anything?? I doubt even God does – or He does but shakes his head over it all.

    Catholics have butchered the 4th commandment. They made sure we follow Man’s word for the Sabbath, not God’s. The rule is: rest on the last day of the week, not the first – you got to work (6 days) for your day off. Both Catholics and Hebrews agree Sunday is the First day of the week.

    Coveting is not quite the same thing as being jealous btw – there’s no Commandment against jealousy. If God does it it has to be ok. Coveting means wanting something belonging to a man ( or woman – someone like yourself) and desiring it as your own. This breaks our Love of God as the one to whom we should be asking for things or receiving them, and as such it is not ok. Stealing is taking something from another that was not yours, coveting is the same thing but all in the mind. As for Adultery, similar stuff, but Jesus said just to look upon another woman lustfully was committing adultery in his heart – the mind thing again.

    It’s important that we keep our body, heart and mind clean and focussed on God so that He is our only desire and provider and that we then do as he does to all those we meet. Following what a man or other men (or women) do is where we all start going wrong – like Adam followed Eve. Going your ‘own’ way is pretty much the same as following any person’s advice – the problem being all of us are finite beings and so can’t know everything so mistakes will be made.

    Makes sense if you think about it some. 😉

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    1. I know jealous and covet are different. Jealous comes up in a different commandment. I’ll have to look.

      Jealous is in Number 2 — 2 – “You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My Commandments.

      And of course, covet is big in number 10.

      He is a jealous God (why if he created everything? why not be a benign god?) and coveting is apparently a human thing.

      Not being a god, these are all too specific and picayune for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m pretty sure Time and Translations have modified how we understand those words today. Jealous and Fear ( as in fear the Lord) have deeper meanings i believe. 🙂

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  6. Also – I am a little curious why only the 4th and 5th are of the ‘Thou Shalt..” kind while the other 8, including the Big 3 at the start, are all Thou Shalt Not…” and we both know how ‘well’ our minds work with a negative when choosing what it is we should do. ( ie. Don’t Kill someone, maim them instead!). The ‘Love God’ thing is just so less open to error. 😉

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  7. Shouldn’t there be an exception to coveting asses if that particular ass belongs to, let’s say J-Lo, or Kate Upton, or Nicki Minaj? After all, God created them. It’s only fair.

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