But I say to you, That whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)To lust after her.—The intent is more strongly marked in the Greek than in the English. It is not the passing glance, not even the momentary impulse of desire, but the continued gaze by which the impulse is deliberately cherished till it becomes a passion. This noble and beautiful teaching, it has often been remarked, and by way of disparagement, is found elsewhere. Such disparagement is out of place. By the mercy of God the Light that “lighteth every man” has led men to recognise the truth thus asserted, and parallels to it may be found in the writings of Conlucius, Seneca, Epictetus, and even of the Jewish Rabbis themselves. The words of Juvenal closely express the general sentiment:—
“ Scelus intra se tacitus qui cogitat ullum,
Facti crimen habet.”
[“Who in his breast a guilty thought doth cherish,
He bears the guilt of action.”]
Our Lord’s words speak primarily of “adultery,” but are, of course, applicable to every form of sensual impurity.Matthew 5:21. Our Saviour in these verses explains the seventh commandment. It is probable that the Pharisees had explained this commandment, as they had the sixth, as extending only to the external act; and that they regarded evil thoughts and a wanton imagination as of little consequence, or as not forbidden by the law. Our Saviour assures them that the commandment did not regard the external act merely, but the secrets of the heart, and the movements of the eye. He declares that they who indulge a wanton desire, that they who look on a woman to increase their lust, have already, in the sight of God, violated the commandment, and committed adultery in the heart. Such was the guilt of David, whose deep and awful crime fully shows the danger of indulging in evil desires, and in the rovings of a wanton eye. See 2 Samuel 11; Psalm 51. See also 2 Peter 2:14. So exceeding strict and broad is the law of God! And so heinous in his sight axe thoughts and feelings which may be forever concealed from the world!
hath committed adultery with her already in his heart—We are not to suppose, from the word here used—"adultery"—that our Lord means to restrict the breach of this commandment to married persons, or to criminal intercourse with such. The expressions, "whosoever looketh," and "looketh upon a woman," seem clearly to extend the range of this commandment to all forms of impurity, and the counsels which follow—as they most certainly were intended for all, whether married or unmarried—seem to confirm this. As in dealing with the sixth commandment our Lord first expounds it, and then in the four following verses applies His exposition (Mt 5:21-25), so here He first expounds the seventh commandment, and then in the four following verses applies His exposition (Mt 5:28-32).
Thou shalt not commit adultery, Exodus 20:14. This law (saith our Saviour) your doctors expound, You shall not carnally lie with a woman that is not your wife; but there is a great deal more in it than so, for he that but secretly in his heart desireth such a thing, or taketh pleasure in such thoughts, and casts his eyes upon a woman in order to such a thing, is in the sight of God an adulterer. Hence we read of eyes full of adultery, to avoid which Job made a covenant with his eyes, Job 31:1, and would not suffer his heart to walk after his eyes, Job 31:7. We must so interpret the commandments of God, as not to extend them only to forbid or command those acts which are plainly mentioned in them, but the inward pleasing of our hearts with such things as are forbidden, the desires of our hearts after them, or whatsoever is a probable means to give us that sinful pleasure of our thoughts, or further inflame such unlawful desires in our souls.
hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. But these men, who forbad external looking upon a woman, generally speaking, had no notion of heart sins; and which was the prevailing opinion of the Pharisees, in Christ's time.
"A good thought, they (r) allow, is reckoned as if done; as it is said, Malachi 3:16. Upon which it is asked, what is the meaning of that, and "that thought" upon "his name?" Says R. Ase, if a man thinks to do a good work, and is hindered, and does it not, the Scripture reckons it to him, as if he did it; but an evil thought, the holy blessed God does not account of it as if done, as is said, Psalm 66:18.''
Upon which words, a noted commentator (s) of their's has this remark:
"Though I regard iniquity in my heart to do it, even in thought, yea, against God himself, as if I had expressed it with my lips, he does not hear it; that is, , "he does not reckon it to me for sin"; because the holy blessed God does not account an evil thought for an action, to them that are in the faith of God, or of the true religion.''
For it seems, this is only true of the Israelites; it is just the reverse with the Gentiles, in whom God does not reckon of a good thought, as if it was done, but does of an evil one, as if it was in act (t). It must be owned, that this is not the sense of them all; for some of them have gone so far as to say (u), that
"the thoughts of sin are greater, or harder, than sin itself:''
by which they mean, that it is more difficult to subdue sinful lusts, than to refrain from the act of sin itself; and particularly, some of them say things which agree with, and come very near to what our Lord here says; as when they affirm (w), that
"everyone that looks upon a woman with intention, it is all one as if he lay with her.''
And that , "he that committeth adultery with his eyes, is called an adulterer" (x). Yea, they also observe (y), that a woman may commit adultery in her heart, as well as a man; but the Pharisees of Christ's time were of another mind.
(k) T. Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 1, 2.((l) T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 24. 1. Sabbat. fol. 64. 2.((m) T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 61. 1. Eruvin, fol. 18. 2.((n) T. Bab. Nedarim, fol. 20. 1. T. Hieros. Challa, fol. 58. 3. Derech Eretz. c. 1. fol. 17. 3.((o) T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 61. 1. Eruvin, fol. 18. 2.((p) Zohar in Lev. fol. 34. 4. (q) T. Bab Sota, fol. 21. 2.((r) T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 40. 1.((s) R. David Kimchi, in Psal. lxvi. 18. (t) T. Hieros. Peah, fol. 16. 2.((u) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 29. 1.((w) T. Hieros. Challa, fol. 58. 3. Massechet Calah, fol. 16. 4. Vid. Maimon. Issure Bia, c. 21. sect. 2. & Moses Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora precept. neg. 126. (x) Vajikra Rabba, sect. 23. fol. 265. 1.((y) Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 9. fol. 196. 1.But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 5:28.—ὁ βλέπων: the looker is supposed to be a husband who by his look wrongs his own wife.—γυναῖκα: married or unmarried.—πρὸς τὸ ἐπιθυμῆσαι. he look is supposed to be not casual but persistent, the desire not involuntary or momentary, but cherished with longing. Augustine, a severe judge in such matters, defines the offence thus: “Qui hoc fine et hoc animo attenderit ut eam concupiscat; quod jam non est titillari delectatione carnis sed plene consentire libidini” (De ser. Domini). Chrysostom, the merciless scourge of the vices of Antioch, says: ὁ ἑαυτῷ τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν συλλέγων, ὁ μηδενὸς ἀναγκάζοντος τὸ θηρίον ἐπεισάγων ἠρεμοῦντι τῷ λογισμῷ. Hom. xvii. The Rabbis also condemned unchaste looks, but in how coarse a style compared with Jesus let this quotation given by Fritzsche show: “Intuens vel in minimum digitum feminae est ac si intueretur in locum pudendum”. In better taste are these sayings quoted by Wünsche (Beiträge): “The eye and the heart are the two brokers of sin”; “Passions lodge only in him who sees”.—αὐτὴν (bracketed as doubtful by W. H): the accusative after ἐπιθ. is rare and late.—We cannot but think of the personal relations to woman of One who understood so well the subtle sources of sexual sin. Shall we say that He was tempted in all points as we are, but desire was expelled by the mighty power of a pure love to which every woman was as a daughter, a sister, or a betrothed: a sacred object of tender respect?
 Westcott and Hort.β) Adultery, 27–32.
28. to lust after her i. e. “with a view to lust after her.”
in his heart] Contrast with the pure in heart, Matthew 5:8.Matthew 5:28. Ὁ βλέπων, that looketh) Refer to this expression the right eye mentioned in the next verse.—πρὸς, to) This particle determines the character of the looking.—ἤδη, already) by that very act.Verse 28. - But I say (ver. 22, note). The bare command forbidding an external action is insufficient. It must extend to the thought. Contrast Josephus ('Ant.,' 12:09. 1), "The purposing to do a thing, without actually doing it, is not worthy of punishment." Generally, however, the sinfulness of wrong thoughts must have been acknowledged (cf. Psalm 51:10, and the tenth commandment; cf. late examples in Schott-gen). Hammond ('Pr. Cat.,' in Ford) says, "In the Law, the fastening of the eyes on an idol, considering the beauty of it, saith Maimonides, is forbidden (Leviticus 19:4), and not only the worship of it" (vide Maimonides, 'Hilk. Ab. Zar.,' 2:2, by whom, however, the thought is, perhaps, rather condemned for what it leads to than per se; and similarly with Job 31:1; Proverbs 6:25). Whosoever; Revised Version, every one who (ver. 22, note). Looketh... to lust after (πρὸς τὸ ἐπιθυμῆσαι). As πρὸς τό with the infinitive (e.g. Matthew 6:1), primarily denotes purpose; this may be equivalent to "looketh in order that he may lust, looketh to stimulate his lust" (cf. Meyer, Trench); but, as Weiss points out, this surely belongs to the refinement, not to the beginning of sin. Hence Nosgen suggests "looketh... lustfully" (cf. James 4:5). Probably this is one of those cases where, as Ellicott says on 1 Corinthians 9:18, πρὸς τό with the infinitive has "a shade of meaning that seems to lie between purpose and result, and even sometimes to approximate to the latter." At all events, it does not express, as εἰς τό would have expressed, the immediate purpose of the look (vide Ellicott, loc. cit.); cf. Matthew 6:1. Her (αὐτήν, B, D, etc.); accusative with ἐπιθυμεῖν, here only in the New Testament. Perhaps the pronoun should be omitted, with א.
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