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In "Debt: The First 5000 Years" by David Graeber, there is a claim on page 129:

Even in the Bible, the admonition in the Ten Commandments not to "covet thy neighbor's wife" clearly referred not to lust in one's heart (adultery had already been covered in commandment number seven) but to the prospect of taking her as a debt-peon -- in other words, as a servant to sweep one's yard and hang out the laundry.

The citation is to a short "Editor's Corner" article by L. Randall Wray appearing Summer 1999 edition of the Journal of Post Keynesian Economics. I found it here. (The claim is on internal page 685, page 7 of the pdf).

In this article, the claim is repeated, with attribution to

Michael Hudson, "How the debt overhead led to financial crises in antiquity: from Babylonia to Leviticus, Financial tensions between tax collectors and creditors," lecture, Jerome Levy Economics Institute, March 6, 1998

I don't know how to follow the trail from here. Can anyone confirm or deny?

I'm wondering how this claim could even theoretically be substantiated -- do we have historical records that could tell us how the Bible was understood "originally"?

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    It is going to be difficult to defintively answer this question with evidence rather than opinion. You may have more luck at Biblical Hermeneutics SE. – Oddthinking Apr 7 '16 at 2:01
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    But theft was also already been covered by commandment eight. If those two commandments show the sin of those acts, then the last commandment might show the sin of desire even without acting on it. So the fact that adultery was already prohibited doesn't mean sexual coveting couldn't be in view in the tenth commandment. – curiousdannii Apr 7 '16 at 12:08
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    @curiousdannii: I agree, I don't think "adultery had already been covered in commandment number seven" is very strong evidence. – Eli Rose Apr 7 '16 at 12:22
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Context suggests that that commandment is more related to wealth than sex:

“You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.” (Exodus 20:17, ESV)

Modern translations usually only render the Hebrew word here as covet about a half-dozen times, and those tend to also focus on wealth. Deuteronomy 7:25, for example, emphasizes the wealth connection:

The carved images of their gods you shall burn with fire. You shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them or take it for yourselves, lest you be ensnared by it, for it is an abomination to the Lord your God.

In the NT, that connection is maintained; Jesus interprets the adultery commandment, not the coveting commandment, to refer to lusting after someone else's wife (Matthew 5:27–28). He too connects covetousness to wealth:

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:13–15)

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    Interesting that women are considered to be property... – jamesqf Apr 7 '16 at 5:12
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    @jamesqf Um, women being seen as property several thousand years ago is… old news. – StarWeaver Apr 7 '16 at 8:31
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    @jamesqf This isn't even the worst example of this, not even close... – user568458 Apr 7 '16 at 10:28
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    Thanks for the response! I hadn't thought about the Hebrew that gets translated into 'covet'; that's interesting. However I'm not quite convinced -- I can certainly imagine a wife being seen as a posession and her being seen primarily as someone to have sex with. – Eli Rose Apr 7 '16 at 12:37
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    @jamesqf I don't think this is the right time or place to explain why the religion is bad or whatever you're getting at. In any case, i think both lust and economics are wrong; it's about jealousy -- coveting is a mostly internal application of jealousy, like harboring a grudge would be to anger. And you can be jealous of your neighbors's connection with their wife wether you or they think he's an object or a person or whatever. – StarWeaver Apr 7 '16 at 19:15

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