What does the tenth commandment add to the seventh and eighth?

Douglas Somerset

Puritan Board Freshman
This question was asked in 2008: "Why is there a tenth commandment? Aren't its contents already covered somewhere in the previous nine (especially seven and eight)? The WLC spends very few words on this one, and I get the impression that the divines thought they had everything pretty well covered already."

I appreciate the answers already given then, but I am wondering if there are new thoughts on the same question. The tenth commandment must add something new, important, and fundamental that is not already in the seventh and eighth. What is that new element? Is it simply the emphasis on the heart rather than the outward conduct?

Ben Zartman

Puritan Board Sophomore
And is it not enough that it should emphasize the heart? That's what drives the commands exceeding deep--that's what convicted Paul: not that he had outwardly got as far as stealing, but that he had lusted for something that was not his.
Without the 10th, Our Lord's sermon on exceeding the righteousness of the Pharisees might not have had a text.
That's the command that throws the spotlight into your inmost being and makes you despair of yourself and flee to Christ.


Puritan Board Junior
@Ben Zartman has it right. It goes to the part no one can see; and success or failure here on the 10th drives the others.

Why else are you idolatrous except that you covet another God? Or adulterous that you covet a forbidden relationship? Or a liar than that you covet convenience rather than truth?

Every violation in commandments 2 to 9 stem from failure in the First and Tenth commandments in some fashion.


Puritan Board Post-Graduate
The tenth commandment acts as a bookend to bring the commandments to their righteous conclusion, but also to bring us back to the beginning (Colossians 3:5) to further reinforce that these ten commandments are one unit.

I also do not think it is a coincidence that both the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Confession continue in their discussion of the commandments immediately after the tenth with the reminder that no one can keep them perfectly (HC Q&A 114 "even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience" LC Q&A 149, "doth daily break them in thought, word, and deed, SC Q&A 82 ibid.). Thus the tenth commandment has driven home not only the inward requirement of all the commandments but the inward failure, even in the best of saints, so that we may not grow haughty or self-righteous about our obedience.

Wretched Man

Puritan Board Freshman
One could easily deceive themselves claiming categorically, "I haven't committed adultery or stolen... or explicitly violated the other man-centered commandments". But then the 10th commandment would stop them in their tracks. This I might argue is the least intuitive commandment and if not presented, would be violated without conviction (i.e. Romans 7:7).

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
Along the lines of what others have said... Yes, the tenth commandment does cover what's already been said, but is important because it takes things deeper. Much as the first commandment sets up all the commandments (a failure to keep any commandment is first of all a failure to have no other gods), the tenth commandment takes all the commandments and says they must be true in the heart. Not only must I practice truth, chastity, generosity, etc., I am also commanded to do so joyfully, not grudgingly. This is no small addition, as Paul attests in Romans 7:7-8 and as Jesus asserts in Luke 12:13-15. The command not to covet is also, like the first commandment, all about the Great Commandment to love God first of all, since covetousness is idolatry (Ephesians 5:5, Colossians 3:5).

Douglas Somerset

Puritan Board Freshman
The word "covetousness" seems to be used in two different senses. Sometimes it has the narrower meaning of the desire for money, riches, and possessions, and sometimes it seems to be used with a more fundamental meaning of lust and discontent in the heart underlying sin. Which is the one that is "idolatry", or are they both idolatry?

Summarising what has been said so far, it would seem that it is wrong to think of Commandments 6 to 10 as covering five different aspects of human life. Instead, Commandment 10 is, in a sense, in a category by itself. Is this something that has been adequately recognised in Reformed Theology?