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17 “You shall not covet[a] 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 donkey, nor anything that belongs to your neighbor.”[b]

18 All the people were seeing[c] the thundering and the lightning, and heard[d] the sound of the horn, and saw[e] the mountain smoking—and when[f] the people saw it they trembled with fear[g] and kept their distance.[h] 19 They said to Moses, “You speak[i] to us and we will listen, but do not let God speak with us, lest we die.”

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  1. Exodus 20:17 tn The verb חָמַד (khamad) focuses not on an external act but on an internal mental activity behind the act, the motivation for it. The word can be used in a very good sense (Pss 19:10; 68:16), but it has a bad connotation in contexts where the object desired is off limits. This command is aimed at curtailing the greedy desire for something belonging to a neighbor, a desire that leads to the taking of it or the attempt to take it. It was used in the story of the Garden of Eden for the tree that was desired.
  2. Exodus 20:17 sn See further G. Wittenburg, “The Tenth Commandment in the Old Testament,” Journal for Theology in South Africa 21 (1978): 3-17: and E. W. Nicholson, “The Decalogue as the Direct Address of God,” VT 27 (1977): 422-33.
  3. Exodus 20:18 tn The participle is used here for durative action in the past time (GKC 359 §116.o).
  4. Exodus 20:18 tn The verb “to see” (רָאָה, raʾah) refers to seeing with all the senses, or perceiving. W. C. Kaiser suggests that this is an example of the figure of speech called zeugma because the verb “saw” yokes together two objects, one that suits the verb and the other that does not. So, the verb “heard” is inserted here to clarify (“Exodus,” EBC 2:427).
  5. Exodus 20:18 tn The verb “saw” is supplied here because it is expected in English (see the previous note on “heard”).
  6. Exodus 20:18 tn The preterite with vav (ו) consecutive is here subordinated as a temporal clause to the following clause, which receives the prominence.
  7. Exodus 20:18 tn The meaning of נוּעַ (nuaʿ) is “to shake, sway to and fro” in fear. Cf. Isa 7:2 “and his heart shook…as the trees of the forest shake with the wind.”
  8. Exodus 20:18 tn Heb “and they stood from/at a distance.”
  9. Exodus 20:19 tn The verb is a Piel imperative. In this context it has more of the sense of a request than a command. The independent personal pronoun “you” emphasizes the subject and forms the contrast with God’s speaking.