International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
COVETOUSNESS (kŭv'ĕt-ŭs-ne*chs). The word has various shades of meaning, among the most important are the following:
1. The desire to have something (1Cor.12.31; 1Cor.14.39).
2. The inordinate desire to have something (Luke.12.15ff.; Eph.5.5; Col.3.5).
3. Excessive desire of what belongs to another (Exod.20.17; Rom.7.7). A great deal of OT law was intended to counteract the spirit of covetousness. Outstanding examples of those who coveted in this sense are Achan (Josh.7.1-Josh.7.26), Saul (1Sam.15.9, 1Sam.15.19), Ananias and Sapphira (Acts.5.1-Acts.5.11).
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 (batsa`), e.g. the King James Version Ex 18:21; Eze 33:31.
(2) The wish to have more than one possesses, inordinately, of course (pleonexia), e.g. Lu 12:15; 1Th 2:5.
(3) An inordinate love of money philarguros, the King James Version Lu 16:14; 2Ti 3:2; philarguria, 1Ti 6:10; negative in Heb 13:5, the King James Version.
Eerdmans maintains (Expos, July, 1909) that the commandment, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house" (Ex 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 Ex 34:23 ff. 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 Ex 20:17 b is probably an explanation of what is to be understood by "house" in Ex 20:17 a.
Examples of covetousness: Achan (Jos 7); Saul (1Sa 15:9,19); Judas (Mt 26:14,15); Ananias and Sapphira (Ac 5:1-11); Balaam (2Pe 2:15 with Jude 1:11).