Matthew 5:28

28 But I say to you that 1everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Matthew 5:28 Meaning and Commentary

Matthew 5:28

But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman
Many and severe are the prohibitions of the Jews, concerning looking upon a woman, which they aggravate as a very great sin: they say {k}, it is not lawful to look upon a beautiful woman, though unmarried; nor upon another man's wife, though deformed; nor upon a woman's coloured garments: they forbid F12 looking on a woman's little finger, and say F13, that he that tells money to a woman, out of his hand into her's, that he may look upon her, though he is possessed of the law and good works, even as Moses, he shall not escape the damnation of hell: they affirm F14, that he that looks upon a woman's heel, his children shall not be virtuous; and that a man may not go after a woman in the way, no, not after his wife: should he meet her on a bridge, he must take her to the side of him; and whoever goes through a river after a woman, shall have no part in the world to F15 come: nay, they forbid F16 a man looking on the beauty of his own wife. Now these things were said by them, chiefly to cover themselves, and because they would be thought to be very chaste; when they were, as Christ calls them, an "adulterous generation" in a literal sense: they usually did what our Lord observes, "strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel". We read in the Talmud F17, of (hjwv dyox) , a "foolish saint" and it is asked, who is he? and it is answered, one that sees a woman drowning in a river, and says it is not lawful for me (hb ylwktoyal) , "to look" upon her, and deliver her. It was not any looking upon a woman, that is forbid by Christ as criminal; but so to look, as "to lust after her"; for such an one

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 F18 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, ( Psalms 66:18 ) .''

Upon which words, a noted commentator F19 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, (Nwe yl bvx) (al) , "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 F20. It must be owned, that this is not the sense of them all; for some of them have gone so far as to say F21, 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 F23, that

``everyone that looks upon a woman (hnwwkb) , with intention, it is all one as if he lay with her.''

And that (Pawn arqn wynyeb Pawn) , "he that committeth adultery with his eyes, is called an adulterer" F24. Yea, they also observe F25, 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.


F11 T. Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 1, 2.
F12 T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 24. 1. Sabbat. fol. 64. 2.
F13 T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 61. 1. Eruvin, fol. 18. 2.
F14 T. Bab. Nedarim, fol. 20. 1. T. Hieros. Challa, fol. 58. 3. Derech Eretz. c. 1. fol. 17. 3.
F15 T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 61. 1. Eruvin, fol. 18. 2.
F16 Zohar in Lev. fol. 34. 4.
F17 T. Bab Sota, fol. 21. 2.
F18 T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 40. 1.
F19 R. David Kimchi, in Psal. lxvi. 18.
F20 T. Hieros. Peah, fol. 16. 2.
F21 T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 29. 1.
F23 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.
F24 Vajikra Rabba, sect. 23. fol. 265. 1.
F25 Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 9. fol. 196. 1.

Matthew 5:28 In-Context

26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
27 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.'
28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.
30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Cross References 1

  • 1. Job 31:1; Proverbs 6:25; [2 Samuel 11:2]
The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.