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Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Covetousness

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kuv´et -us -nes : Has a variety of shades of meaning determined largely by the nature of the particular word used, or the context, or both. Following are some of the uses: (1) To gain dishonestly (בּצע , bāca‛ ), e.g. the King James Version Exodus 18:21 ; Ezekiel 33:31 . (2) The wish to have more than one possesses, inordinately, of course (πλεονεξία , pleonexı́a ), e.g. Luke 12:15 ; 1 Thessalonians 2:5 . (3) An inordinate love of money φιλάργυρος , philárguros , the King James Version Luke 16:14 ; 2 Timothy 3:2 ; philargurı́a , 1 Timothy 6:10 ); negative in Hebrews 13:5 , the King James Version.

Covetousness is a very grave sin; indeed, so heinous is it that the Scriptures class it among the very gravest and grossest crimes (Ephesians 5:3 ). In Colossians 3:5 it is "idolatry," while in 1 Corinthians 6:10 it is set forth as excluding a man from heaven. Its heinousness, doubtless, is accounted for by its being in a very real sense the root of so many other forms of sin, e.g. departure from the faith ( 1 Timothy 6:9 , 1 Timothy 6:10 ); lying (2 Kings 5:22-25 ); theft (Joshua 7:21 ); domestic trouble (Proverbs 15:27 ); murder (Ezekiel 22:12 ); indeed, it leads to "many foolish and hurtful lusts" (1 Timothy 6:9 ). Covetousness has always been a very serious menace to mankind, whether in the Old Testament or New Testament period. It was one of the first sins that broke out after Israel had entered into the promised land (Achan, Josh 7); and also in the early Christian church immediately after its founding (Ananias and Sapphira, Acts 5); hence, so many warnings against it. A careful reading of the Old Testament will reveal the fact that a very great part of the Jewish law - such as its enactments and regulations regarding duties toward the poor, toward servants; concerning gleaning, usury, pledges, gold and silver taken during war - was introduced and intended to counteract the spirit of covetousness.

Eerdmans maintains (Expos , July, 1909) that the commandment, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house" (Exodus 20:17 ), meant to the Israelite that he should not take anything of his neighbor's possessions that were momentarily unprotected by their owner. Compare Exodus 34:23 . Thus, it refers to a category of acts that is not covered by the commandment, "Thou shalt not steal." It is an oriental habit of mind from of old that when anyone sees abandoned goods which he thinks desirable, there is not the least objection to taking them, and Exodus 20:17 is probably an explanation of what is to be understood by "house" in Exodus 20:17 .

Examples of covetousness: Achan (Josh 7); Saul (1 Samuel 15:9 , 1 Samuel 15:19 ); Judas (Matthew 26:14 , Matthew 26:15 ); Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11 ); Balaam (2 Peter 2:15 with Judges 1:11 ).


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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Covetousness'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/isb/c/covetousness.html. 1915.

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