By the grace of G-d 
Copyright © 2012 Nathaniel Segal 

Do not covet the house of your fellow.

Do not covet the wife of your fellow, or his male slave, or his female slave, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that belongs to your fellow.

— Exodus 20:14 * 

In addition, do not covet the wife of your fellow;

And do not lust after the house of your fellow, his field, or his male slave, or his female slave, his ox or his donkey, or anything that belongs to your fellow.

— Deuteronomy 5:18 * 

Comments and Notes

* These verse numbers are according to the Jewish tradition.

These verses together form the tenth of the Ten Commandments – again according to the Jewish tradition.  Jews call these the "Ten Speeches", "Ten Proclamations", or "Ten Edicts" (Aseret HaDibrot).  G-d's Covenant with the Jewish people actually contains 613 commandments, not just ten.  Two hundred forty-eight of these are positive commandments – what one should do.  Three hundred sixty-five of these are negative commandments – what one should not do.

Upon hearing the Ten Proclamations at Mount Sinai, the people affirmed their commitment by saying, ". . . Everything that G-d has said, we will do, and [then] we will understand [literally 'hear']" (Exodus 24:7).

The Speeches contain 620 letters – corresponding to the 613 Commandments for Jews plus the Seven Noahide Commandments for the rest of humanity (Ba'al HaTurim).  G-d has commanded the entire human race to observe and respect the revelation at Sinai.  This is an eternal covenant.  Gentiles, and also Jews, earn a place in the World to Come by observing this eternal Covenant.  However, if Gentiles observe their Seven Commandments for any other reason, G-d rewards them but, measure for measure, they do not earn a place in the World to Come.  Many people recognize the wisdom that is contained in the Seven Commandments.  They understand that a civilized world cannot exist without these fundamental laws.  Some people call this set Natural Law.  Accordingly, these people receive a natural reward.

Then, Moses reviewed the Ten Speeches during the last year of his life, in preparation for entering the Land of Israel.  G-d had spoken the Ten Speeches forty years earlier at Mount Sinai.  Changes in the wording here in the Tenth Speech in Deuteronomy reflect relevance to those who would soon find themselves occupied with agriculture or would be living in towns.  Moses' review adds the words "his field" because the Israelites would first begin to own fields (see Ba'al HaTurim).

The Ninth Speech from Sinai is to not bear false witness against another person – one's fellow.  The Tenth Speech against covetousness follows on the heels of the Ninth.  Is there a relationship between these two speeches?  We learn explicitly from Moses' review one thing that directly addresses an aspect of human nature.  A man who covets the wife of his fellow is tempted to testify falsely that this man is dead so that he can marry the wife.  Keep in mind that, upon entering the Land of Israel, the Israelites might find themselves in battle.  A woman cannot remarry until it is demonstrated that her husband has died.  Addressing this, the Tenth Speech is explicit:  "If you are tempted to have your friend's wife for your own, overcome this temptation, and, by all means, don't be tempted to lie that he died in battle."

"The rich and the powerful, they take what they want . . ." 
— Character Nathan Ford in the TV series Leverage 
Produced by Electric Entertainment – 2008-2012