The Ten Commandments
A book by Joseph Lewis
The Tenth Commandment
... chapter continued from previous file ...
The very existence of presumed magical methods as a protection against coveting sorcery and diabolical bewitchment by the evil eye is proof of the intensity of the belief, in Biblical times, in the potency of "coveting."
Perhaps the most common expression used by orthodox Hebrews as a prophylactic against the evil that might result from a "covetous" or praiseworthy remark is kenanhore. They say, "Kenanhore, what a beautiful, or healthy, or smart child!" The word kenanhore is believed to be a protective shield against the evil spirits that might cause the child to lose its beauty, its health, its intelligence, or cause it harm in some other way. The same word is used when mentioning a happy marriage, a fortunate event, recovery from an illness, a successful venture or any number of good things that might be reversed through a "covetous" expression.
There are many other propitiatory gestures and phrases used by the Hebrews. Marriages are constantly in danger of being wrecked by the dreaded evil of coveting. The bridegroom, whose conjugal happiness is envied by someone, is considered especially susceptible. He may protect himself, however, by walking backwards. A glance at the left side of the nose is also protection against the evil eye. [*50] One method of bewitching the bridal pair is to tie three knots during the ceremony; the bride will be forbidden to her husband as long as the knots remain tied. To break the spell, one must kill a hen, drop the blood on the knots, and untie them. [*51]
Children are constantly in danger of being coveted, particularly those who are healthy and good-looking. To counteract this, a piece of matzoh (the unleavened bread used during the Passover) sprinkled with salt is put in the pocket of the child. The sex of the child is also a factor in coveting. If the first child is a girl, this is considered a good omen for the succeeding boys, because it is believed that the evil eye is then not irritated. If the first child is a boy, the evil eye never ceases its malign influence. [*52]
An example of the efforts of the Biblical Hebrew to avoid the influence of the evil eye is found in the story of Joseph. When he inquired of his brothers about the welfare of his father and his grandfather, they replied: "Thy servant, our father, is well, he is yet alive." From this answer Joseph would know that his grandfather, Isaac, was dead, and at the same time the sympathetic implication of mentioning death was avoided.
To mention the sins of a sick person was prohibited for fear that it would cause the evil influence to affect his condition adversely. It was forbidden to repeat a conversation in which a curse was included. In fact, orthodox Hebrews are sometimes quite perplexed as to whether they should repeat audibly the imprecation of Jeremiah calling down bitter maledictions on the Children of Israel! It is said that a student fell ill and died while studying aloud this portion of the Bible. [*53]
The tefillin or phylacteries is an amulet to protect the pious Hebrew from the covetousness of others. It is believed to possess power to ward off demons and the "unwelcome ministrations of Satan." The wearer of the phylacteries was supposed to be immune to all the powers of evil. [*54] Only male Hebrews wear them, and when worn, "the left hand is surrounded by a thousand and the right hand by tens of thousands of guardian angels." [*55] It is believed to be the duty of every pious Jew to use the tefillin [**56] every morning to assure him protection throughout the day.
At a marriage among certain orthodox Jews, the bride is taken into an upper room after the religious ceremony, accompanied by all her friends, who remain with her. She is then seated on a chair. Her mother-in-law unveils her, and with a pair of scissors cuts off the ends of her hair. This ceremony is supposed to be of great importance in driving away evil influences that might harm or enter between the newly married pair. [*57]
Another method of counteracting the effects of the evil eye among orthodox Hebrews is the following: Take a handful of salt, pass it around the head of a child that has been bewitched, then throw a little of it in each corner of the room and the balance over the threshold. Another is for the mother to kiss her child three times, spitting after each kiss. [*58] Knotting the strings of the orthodox Hebrew's prayer shawls is also a measure against witchcraft. [*59]
Common among orthodox Hebrews is the custom of bringing salt and bread into a new house as a sympathetic form of protection that anyone who lives there shall never be without salt and bread, two essentials for the sustenance of life.
As mentioned in the discussion of the Third Commandment, changing one's name was done to avoid the evil eye and the covetousness of envious people. [**60]
Josephus records that Eleazer, who came before the Roman Emperor Vespasian, was able to drive away an evil spirit by using the ring of Solomon and some herbs. [*61]
The number and variety of charms and amulets used by the Hebrews to counteract the malign influence of coveting, and as a protection against the evil eye, are too numerous to mention here. They are as plentiful as the unrestrained imagination of a superstitious people could invent. Nor, as stated before, were the Hebrews alone in this superstition; it prevailed among all peoples of a low intellectual and cultural level.
As frequently used as the word kenanhore is the gesture "knock wood" among other peoples. It is also supposed to prevent the evil spirits from hearing good news and thereby avoid arousing their jealousy and provoking them to covetous designs. So widespread is this superstition that it has become part of our daily habits. Who has not seen people "knock wood" whenever they speak of a fortunate event? Some facetiously tap their heads when a piece of wood is not handy, believing thereby that the same effect will be achieved -- the inference being that they are "blockheads." That this gesture continues despite the fact that its original meaning is no longer understood by those who still indulge in its use is only another instance of how tenaciously useless customs cling.
Another practice of sympathetic magic is to cross two fingers, which is supposed to prevent the crossing of one's plans by those covetous of the objective, and to check temporarily the evil eye until the event has been culminated. This gesture has the same purpose and is as widespread as "knocking wood" and saying "kenanhore."
Spitting is also used as a prophylactic against the evils of coveting, sorcery and the evil eye. When speaking of evil and of evil things, the early Hebrews would press one thumb on the ground, repeat the word "Pipi" nine times and spit. [*62] Another method is to spit at the object and utter the word "Maris." Spitting on one's breast was supposed to avert the Jealousy of the gods. [*63] The Bible records innumerable instances of its superstitious use by the Hebrews and its symbolic personification. It states that if the father of Miriam (the wife of Moses) had spat in her face when she was born, she would not have contracted leprosy. [*64] In parts of Ireland even today, a newborn child is spat on by its father; neighbors spit on the child for luck the first day it is brought out; and the older women spit on the ground all around it to ward off evil.
As part of the baptismal rite of the Roman Catholic Church, the priest anoints the ears and nostrils of the child with spittle as a measure of protection to ward off evil. Among the Greek Catholics, the baptismal rites have a similar purpose. While the priest opens the service by swinging his censer to exorcise all evil spirits and influences from the four corners of the room, one of the godparents, to make doubly sure, accompanies him by spitting into each suspected nook. [*65]
In parts of Wales, it was the custom to spit before the name of the Devil was mentioned. The Mohammedans believe in a demon called "Kninzab," who is supposed to cast doubts on prayer, and in order to avoid his evil influence they spit three times over their left arm. [*66]
The Armenians spit on a stone and turn it under, or make cakes of dough, wet them with water and throw them into a fire, the spell of the evil eye being broken as the cakes crack asunder. [*67] Another custom to prevent the evil eye from affecting children was for the mother to spit three times on their bosoms, three being a sacred number. Hence it is recorded that Damoetas, having praised himself, adds that on the advice of old Cotyttaris he had spat thrice into his bosom to prevent fascination. [*68]
Hebrews spit on the money collected for the first sale of the day, believing it will bring a good day's business. It is a common custom in Great Britain and Ireland, and also among the Southern Negroes, to spit on money that is received. [*69] The Negro spits on the money he receives as a protective measure, fearing that otherwise that money and any on his person with which it comes in contact will not remain long with him. Some people spit on dice "for luck" before they roll them.
The fear of coveting, in the Biblical sense of casting an evil eye on the possessions of a neighbor, led to all manner of ways and means to avoid its consequences, such as expressing one's approbation in unflattering terms. A handsome boy is referred to as grotesque. Counting money is avoided for fear that it will diminish. Things that normally make one feel proud are subdued. For instance, when a father took his child to school for the first time, he generally tried to screen him with his cloak for fear that he would receive a "kenanhore" and some evil would follow. A double wedding is avoided for the same reason. [*70]
In some cases a curse, rags, dirt and filth are supposed to exert beneficial and protective influences over a person, and divert him from the evil eye, which is attracted by beauty and good fortune.
If a herdsman, among the Huzels of the Carpathians, suspects himself of having the evil eye, he will ask one of his household to call him vile and vicious names, thinking that this will undo the effect of the evil eye. [*71] Esthonian fishermen believe that they never have such good luck as when someone is angry and curses them. There was a popular belief in parts of Germany that if you wished a huntsman good luck when he went out to shoot a deer, he would not be successful. To avert the ill luck caused by such a wisher, the hunter had to throw a broomstick at him. If he was to have really good luck on his venture, one had to wish that he would break his neck or his leg. [*72]
The Romans were so firmly convinced that they would call forth evil spirits if they spoke favorably about a person that it became customary, when praising and complimenting, to preface remarks with the propitiatory words "Fend evil, I should say." [*73] In Italy, it is the custom, before making a "covetous" or praiseworthy remark, to say: "No evil eye take effect." In England, at one time, it was so feared that praise would have an evil effect that it has now become a tradition not to overpraise. In the Highlands today, as well as in many parts of this country, it is a common thing for a mother whose child has been admired to say that she hopes that no evil will come because of the praise it has received. Undue praise is thought to be followed by ill luck. How often do we hear people say that because they have boasted too much, something will surely happen to cause them regret.
Amulets and Charms
Wearing amulets and charms as a prophylactic against coveting, sorcery and the evil eye is indicative of another form of belief in animism and sympathetic magic. A famous talisman was the caduceus used by Mercury the messenger, which was supposed to protect him from being hindered in his flights by envious eyes when on errands for rival deities. The caduceus is now a medical decoration.
In Italy, double walnuts and almonds are carried as amulets against the evil eye, witches and headaches, and to bring good luck. [*74] The custom of touching the threshold and doorpost with a sprig of the strawberry plant to drive away evil spirits is still widespread in Italy. [*75] The gargoyles on churches were originally used to frighten demons and evil spirits away. The more obnoxious they were, the more efficacious they were believed to be. For the same reason, the phallus-shaped object was used as an amulet. It was believed that the very nature of the object would deflect the evil eye. Many Italians today, if they pass or see a person whom they suspect of exercising an evil influence, will touch their genitals as a prophylactic measure. Pope Pius IX was reputed to be possessed of the evil eye, and the women, while kneeling for his blessing as he passed, would make a counteracting sign under their skirts. [*76]
Changing from male to female attire, and vice versa, was a method of escaping the evil eye. Among the Egyptian Jews, during the Middle Ages, the bride led the wedding dance with a helmet on her head and a sword in her hand, while the bridegroom adorned himself as a woman and put on female attire. Other superstitious people practised similar methods. In Cos, where the priest of Hercules wore female attire, the bridegroom was likewise attired. In Southern Celebes a bridegroom, at a certain point of the long and elaborate marriage ceremonies, put on the garments which his bride had just taken off. Argive brides wore false beards when they slept with their husbands for the first time. Among the Bharias of the Central Provinces of India, the bridegroom puts on a woman's ornaments and carries with him an iron nut cutter or dagger to keep off evil spirits. Similarly, a Khangar bridegroom, in order to avert the evil eye, carries a dagger, and a smudge of lampblack is put on his forehead to disfigure him. If he did not do this, it is thought that his fine appearance in his wedding garments would be too attractive to escape the evil eye.
After a Bharia wedding, the bride's mother dresses in the groom's father's garments and also puts on a false beard and mustache. She dances, holding a wooden ladle in one hand and a packet of ashes in the other. Every time she approaches the bridegroom's father on her rounds, she spills some of the ashes over him, and occasionally gives him a crack on the head with her ladle. This is considered potent against the evil forces. [*77]
The belief in the efficacy of knots as an amulet to prevent the evil of coveting was not only prevalent among the Biblical Hebrews, but was also widely practiced by other primitive peoples. The Hebrews made use of knots in their round shawl -- the tallith. In Syria, before a bridegroom puts on his wedding garments, extreme care is taken to see that no buttons are buttoned and no knots are tied, for they believe that if a button is buttoned or a knot is tied, it will put him in the power of his enemies who would deprive him of his nuptial rights by magical means. In Lesbos, the malignant person who would injure the bridegroom on his wedding day ties a thread to a bush while he utters his envious imprecations. Another method of rendering the bridegroom impotent is to tie a handkerchief which has touched some part of his body in a knot.
Knots have also been used as mediums of bewitchment in causing illness and disease. Among the Hos of Togoland, a sorcerer will tie a knot in a stalk of grass, mention the name of the person he wants to bewitch, and then utter his imprecations. This, it is believed, will surely produce the results desired. Babylonian witches were believed to have caused all manner of evil by tying knots in a cord, muttering the evil and mentioning the names of their victims.
As late as 1718 the parliament of Bordeaux sentenced someone to be burned alive for having spread desolation through a whole family by means of knotted cords, and in 1705 two persons were condemned to death in Scotland for stealing certain charmed knots which a woman had made in order thereby to mar the wedded happiness of Spalding of Ashintilly. Within the past hundred years, it was still the custom in the Highlands of Perthshire for both the bride and groom to unloosen all knots on their garments before the wedding and until the ceremony was over; immediately thereafter, the couple withdrew to adjust their disordered clothes. The less superstitious thought that it was sufficient merely to leave the bridegroom's left shoe unbuckled "to prevent witches from depriving him, on his nuptial night, of the power of loosening the virgin zone." [*78]
Unusual things in nature are presumed by the superstitious to have homeopathic qualities. Hunchbacks are thought to possess something that counteracts malign influences. It is not uncommon to see some people touch a hunchback's hump under the belief that it will bring good luck or protect them from harm.
A fox's tail and a crimson thread were hung on the forehead of a horse to protect him from the evil eye. [*79] Many today still use the tail of a rabbit or fox on a bicycle or motorcycle. Even today it is a common sight to see horseshoes nailed to barns and houses for "good luck." Countless people carry a rabbit's foot for the same reason. Bells were placed around the neck of cows to drive away envious and evil spirits.
It was believed that the sign of the cross, a few drops of holy water or the name of Mary or Jesus could put evil spirits to immediate and ignominious flight. [*80]
The use of watch charms, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, rings and many other forms of decorations today is but a survival of the primitive custom of using amulets and charms to ward off evil. Is it not time that sensible, educated people discontinued imitating savages and stopped this kind of tomfoolery?
Noise as a Prophylactic against Evil
Noise is also supposed to be a prophylactic against the evil eye and covetous spirits. The purpose of blowing the shofar (discordant sounds from a ram's horn) on the Hebrew New Year was to drive away evil spirits. [*81] When an epidemic occurs in Burma, the whole population makes as much noise as possible to scare away the evil spirits that supposedly brought the disease. Bell ringing, drum beating and playing loud music are resorted to for the same purpose. [*82] It was a German custom to make a great deal of noise on the evening before a wedding and to shoot and crack whips during the bridal procession to frighten away evil influences. For the same reason, orthodox women cry at weddings. They believe their tears will mask their true feelings of joy and thus delude the demons or evil spirits. During eclipses of the sun and moon, great noises were supposed to prevent magicians from doing harm to the stars. [*83]
The Solomon Islanders of Bougainville Straits believe that epidemics are almost always caused by evil spirits. Accordingly, when the people of a village have been suffering from an illness, they beat tins, shout and knock on the houses to expel the demons and so cure the ailment. Whenever cholera breaks out in a Burmese village, the able-bodied men scramble on the roofs and beat them with bamboos and billets of wood, while all the rest of the population, old and young, stand below and thump drums, blow trumpets, yell, scream, beat the floors and make as much noise as possible. This uproar, repeated on three successive nights, is thought to be very effective in driving away the cholera demon. [*84]
It is still the custom in China to fire off crackers on the last day and night of the year for the purpose of terrifying and expelling the devils. The people vie with one another as to who can fire the greatest number of crackers and make the most noise. The louder the noise, the more agreeable the sound, as this is supposed to have a beneficial effect by driving the demons away. [*85] In Corea, the devils are also driven out of the town on New Year's Eve by firing guns and popping crackers. [*86] It is quite probable that the present New Year custom, observed almost universally in the Western Hemisphere, of noise-making, hilarity and revelry is a survival of this primitive superstition concerning noise and its effect in driving away evil spirts.
In Siam, the banishment of demons is annually carried out on the last day of the old year. A signal gun is fired from the palace; it is answered from the next station, and so on from station to station, till the firing has reached the outer gate of the city. [*87] Among the heathen Wotyaks of a Finnish village of Eastern Russia, all the young girls of the village assemble on the last day of the year or on New Year's day, armed with sticks, the ends of which are split in nine places. With these they beat every corner of the houses and yards, saying: "We are driving Satan out of the village." [*88] The Cheremiss, another Finnish people of Eastern Russia, chase Satan from their dwellings by beating the walls with cudgels of limewood. For the same purpose they fire guns, stab the ground with knives, and insert burning chips of wood in the crevices. They also leap over bonfires, shaking out their garments as they do so. [*89]
Incense and foul odors are supposed to have the same effect as noise in driving away evil spirits. In North India, a mixture of food and spices, and sometimes the eyelashes of the patient, are waved seven times over a sick child; when these are burned, the foul smell is supposed to free the child from the effects of the evil eye. [*90]
In some parts of Silesia, the people burn pine resin all night long between Christmas and the New Year in order that the pungent smoke may drive witches and evil spirits away from their homes. They also fire shots over fields and meadows, into shrubs and trees, and wrap straw around the fruit trees to prevent the spirits from doing them harm. [*91] In some parts of Scotland, was the custom at the end of the year not only to "burn out the Old Year," but also to make a bonfire to burn out all the witches. In the year 1644, an eyewitness saw nine persons, condemned as witches, burned to death. [*92]
Church bells were originally rung during storms to drive away evil spirits, and until quite recently this was considered a protection. F. T. Elworthy relates that near his home are two churches that ring their bells on their respective "saint's day" to drive the devil over to the other parish. [*93]
Just as the "blessed" St. Christopher's medal is a poor substitute for careful driving, so the cross, statues of saints, sacred relics and ringing church bells are poor substitutes for the lightning rod to protect the church from the "demons of the air" and the "wrath of God."
When Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning rod, the church was incensed at the "impious" arrogance of attempting to circumvent the "tokens of divine displeasure." As late as 1783, it was declared that in Germany alone, within the thirty-three years after Franklin's great invention which the church so bitterly opposed as a piece of blasphemy and condemned as the "heretical rod," four hundred towers of churches had been damaged and one hundred and twenty bell ringers killed. In Roman Catholic countries, the opposition to the lightning rod was so bitter, the consequent destruction to churches so frequent, and the loss of lives so great, that peasants feared to attend church services. [*94]
A significant illustration of the impotence of propitiatory prayers and sacred amulets as a means of protection against the elements of nature and the "wrath of God," is the case of St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice. In spite of the angels at the summit of the church, the consecrated bells in its tower and the sacred relics with which the church was so richly blessed, it was hit repeatedly by lightning. This seemingly incongruous situation caused consternation and theological embarrassment when the question was asked by parishioners: "Why should the Almighty strike his own consecrated temples or suffer Satan to strike them?" After a lightning rod was erected above its steeple, it was never struck again! [*95]
But perhaps the most striking instance of the uselessness of amulets and charms is to be found in the case of the Church of San Nazaro, at Brescia, in Italy. This church boasted some of the most sacred relics, relics that were supposed to possess extraordinary powers in warding off evil and the demons of the air. The government of Venice had stored in the vaults of the church over two hundred thousand pounds of explosive powder. This was in 1767, seventeen years after Benjamin Franklin had invented the lightning rod, but both the government officials and the church authorities had greater faith in the sacred relics than in this infidel invention. During a storm, the church was struck by lightning, the powder in the vaults exploded, one-sixth of the entire city was destroyed and over three thousand lives were lost! [*96]
Could there be a better illustration of the comparison between the superstitions of religion and the benefits of science?
The discovery of the indifference of nature to the morality of the person subject to its laws is as great an achievement of the human mind as was the discovery of the evolutionary process of life. The earth will revolve on its axis, the sun will rise and set, the rains will fall, the seasons will pass according to their accustomed time, men and women will love, and children will be born, regardless of belief or disbelief in the Bible or its God, regardless of prayers or sacrifices. The force of gravity acts alike on the good and bad; poison kills the purest-minded, as well as the most vicious; cold will chill and heat will warm all alike; electricity lights our houses and runs our machinery with the same unconcern as it snuffs out the life of an innocent person; the planted seed will grow according to the soil and moisture, and not according to the social position of the one who planted it; water will drown irrespective of the character of the person unable to swim; fire burns the tender flesh of the child with the same intensity as the hardened criminal; disease attacks the innocent and guilty alike; and death comes to each and all "when it will come" -- the inevitable ending of all that lives -- as evidence of the inexorable law of life. There will be no mark to distinguish between the devout and the infidel. The atheist and the religious believer will suffer from the same ills and will enjoy the same fruits.
The discovery of the indifference of nature to the individual subject to its unvarying laws has liberated the minds of men from the myriad unseen forces which gripped them in fear. This emancipating discovery drove the evil spirits and demons from the sky, the malign agencies of a jealous and wrathful god; it was a warning to the ghosts "to cover their eyeless sockets with their fleshless hands and fade forever from the imaginations of men." It was the "Emancipation Proclamation" for the human mind.
Neither a Sin nor a Crime
The authoritative Catholic Encyclopedia says that "even when indulged, covetousness is not a grievous sin." [*97] This statement is made despite the fact that the Catholic Church's arrangement of the Decalogue makes coveting the basis of two Commandments instead of one! Nor does the law recognize coveting, in the modern meaning of the word, as a crime.
Law applies to those acts of the individual in the social group which are ascertainable and possess some definite technical or moral relationship. To apply legal regulations and restrictions to the present-day meaning of the word "coveting" would be like penalizing dreams or the imagination. John M. Zane, in discussing this Commandment as law, dissociating it from its taboo antecedents, says: "The Tenth Commandment is an injunction against a state of mind. It is not a workable law." [*98] It is because this Commandment was not founded on either ethics or morals that makes it, in a legal sense, an unworkable law. It is because this Commandment was founded on a superstitious belief that makes it impossible to give it status in the light of present-day legal standards of conduct. Does not the very fact that coveting is not condemned as a sin according to the dogma of the Church, and is not considered a crime according to law, make it obvious that the word "coveting," in the Biblical sense, meant something entirely different from what it is understood to mean today?
Coveting at its worst can be classified only as a personal shortcoming, a harmless indulgence in wishful thinking. Everyone knows that it is better to achieve a goal than to envy the accomplishment of another; yet, very often coveting can become the instrument of achievement. The desire to possess things which our neighbor has and which are improvements over our own possessions is often the mainspring of progress. On what authority can coveting honor, respects and admiration of one's fellow man be condemned either as a sin by the dogma of the Church or as a crime by law? Shakespeare poetically expressed it thus:
"By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
-- King Henry V, Act IV, Scene 3.
Not being acquainted with the primitive meaning of "coveting" as biblically used, even the clergy have been more confused and bewildered concerning the meaning of this Commandment than all the others, particularly when trying to evaluate it in a legal, ritual or moral sense. Dean Farrar, in seeking a legal connection of this Commandment with the laws of society, sadly admits his failure. He says: "Search all the laws of all the world, and you will not find one which resembles it." [*99] A very good reason why such a law cannot be found is that "it is an injunction against a state of mind." Even the prophet Jeremiah admitted this when he said: "For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness." [*100] A law for the suppression of thinking can no more be enforced than a law for the suppression of breathing.
The Rev. Frederick David Niedermeyer said, concerning this Commandment: "A government could not enforce it, for there is no way to prove what a man's thoughts are unless they are expressed in word or action." [*101]
R. H. Charles admits that "this Commandment hit widest of the mark because it adds no fresh province to the area covered by the preceding Commandments." [*102]
The Rev. G. Campbell Morgan, however, in his analysis of this Commandment, says: "This Commandment may be broken without the knowledge of any human being." [*103]
If this is so, then how can a human being know whether he is or is not violating this Commandment? Surely, if a person is unable to tell whether he is conforming to or disobeying a command, then how can he regulate his conduct? What he may think is perfect conformity may be a flagrant violation, and what he may consider a violation will restrain him automatically from observing it! If this is so, how is it possible either to reward or punish for either obeying or violating its precepts? If no one knows the result of his actions, then of what value can such a Commandment be?
The Rev. J. C. Masse says: "The Tenth Commandment is God's demand that man shall put the reins of government of his life into the hands of God."
How applicable are these words of Professor Tylor to the "learned nonsense" of Biblical "authorities": "To ingenious attempts at explaining by the light of reason things which want the light of history to show their meaning, much of the learned nonsense of the world has been due."
If the purpose of this Commandment was to prevent covetousness, then it should have counteracted this desire by stifling the impulse for the things which do not rightfully belong to us, or condemning it in unmistakable terms as a base impulse. The writers of the Bible, however, were not only wholly ignorant of such a code, but such a conception was utterly beyond their limited comprehension.
"Coveting" is not mentioned in this Commandment as if it were one of the "seven sins" to be avoided as a plague. There are far worse "sins" than "coveting," as we understand them today, that could have been made the basis of one of the Commandments. Meanness, hatred, revenge, duplicity, faithlessness, arrogance and innumerable other obnoxious traits are far greater evils than mere coveting. If ethical principles and moral conduct were the objective of the Decalogue, there could have been recorded in the place of this ancient superstition and antiquated taboo a veritable dictionary of acts regarding human behavior that would have been of immeasurable benefit in regulating human conduct for the promotion of peace and happiness among mankind.
As long as the Decalogue is generally accepted as a code of morals based upon a supernatural edict, is any further evidence needed to prove Sir James G. Frazer's observation that "some of the old laws of Israel are clearly savage taboos of a familiar type thinly disguised as commands of the Deity"?
Could there be a more striking example of such "savage taboos" than the Ten Commandments?
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