The term desire in the Hebrew Bible covers a wide range of human longings, emotions, and cravings. The direct and explicit term of desire is nevertheless limited to only two roots found in the Decalogue—the verb forms of the lexical roots חמד and אוה, which reflect not only the dynamics of desire occurring in human beings, but also in God. With an comprehensive semantic analysis and an overview of the synonyms and antonyms, the author shows that the verb form of the lexical root אוה denotes a variety of needs related to human existence including aspiration for God while the verb form of the lexical root חמד denotes the desire to acquire material wealth and possessions beyond basic needs. All the findings are compared on two levels—in relation to human beings (objects and people) and in relation to God—and ultimately serve for the interpretation of the roots in both versions of the Decalogue (Exod 20:17 and Deut 5:21) to resolve questions concerning the meaning of the desire in Tenth Commandment and substantiate whether the answers to life’s questions provided by the Bible correspond to modern society.
Samo Skralovnik is professor in the department of biblical studies and Judaism at the faculty of theology, University of Ljubljana (Slovenia, Europe).
List of Acronyms and Abbreviations
Chapter 1: The General Characteristics of the Decalogue
Chapter 2: The Decalogue in the Jewish Perception
Chapter 3: The Semantic Study
Chapter 4: A Semantic Analysis of the Passages Containing the Verb Form of the Lexical Root חמד
Chapter 5: A Semantic Analysis of the Passages Containing the Verb Form of the Lexical Root אוה
Chapter 6: Evaluation of the Results of the Semantic Analysis
Chapter 7: The Meaning and Interpretation of Desire in the Tenth Commandment
About the Author
A deep analysis of the semantics of the word fields ḥmd and ʼwh is critical not only for correct understanding of the meaning of "desire" in Old Testament—especially in both versions of the 10th Commandment (Exod 20:17 and Deut 5:21)—but also for understanding the dynamic of desire in the New Testament. For example, in 1 Corinthians, Paul recalls the events described in Num 11:4-34, using the expression ἐπεθύμησαν, which is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew ʼwh. This raises many questions that this book tries to address: where does this desire originate in, and where is it directed to? In what sense and in what context does Paul (and other New Testament authors) use the term ἐπιθυμεῖν? What does the Old Testament background of this term convey, and what do New Testament authors want to accomplish with it? Therefore, the book is important not only for Hebrew grammarians, Old Testament biblical scholars, and translators but also for scholars who focus mainly on the New Testament.
This monograph focuses on the interpretation of the meaning of desire in the Tenth Commandment (Exod 20:17) by using a synchronous analysis of the verb forms of the roots חמד and אוה that appear in the two versions of the Tenth Commandment. This monograph is not the first to attempt to provide an answer by employing a semantic analysis. Still, as a significant majority of previous studies were merely a part of other discussions that primarily focused on other topics, these findings were often not supported by arguments or were adapted to a broader context that the authors were concentrating on. A review of the contemporary bibliography also reveals the absence of a comprehensive semantic analysis that includes all biblical passages containing the lexical roots and assesses the (existential) dynamics of desire in both lexical roots in their relation to one another. This gap is filled by this monograph which offers a valuable contribution to the semantic analysis of the Decalogue.
The Meaning and Interpretation of Desire in the Bible focuses on the Tenth Commandment in Exodus and in Deuteronomy. The author is the first to have analyzed all the texts in the Hebrew Bible where the verbs denoting desire, hmd in 'wh, occur. He found out there are different stimulus of the desire in each particular verb, yet the same existential dynamics in pursuing their goal. Therefore, the author interprets the Tenth Commandment as a prohibition of the mental process which leads to the consent of the will (readiness of the heart). Taking into account the holistic biblical expression, this commandment prohibits the realization of the (greedy) desire, too. This finding opens a new understanding of the texts that contain both verbs and could correct the conclusions of previous studies.