Matthew 5:34

34 But I say to you, 1Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for 2it is the throne of God,

Matthew 5:34 Meaning and Commentary

Matthew 5:34

But I say unto you, swear not at all
Which must not be understood in the strictest sense, as though it was not lawful to take an oath upon any occasion, in an affair of moment, in a solemn serious manner, and in the name of God; which may be safely done: but of rash swearing, about trivial matters, and by the creatures; as appears by what follows,

neither by heaven;
which is directly contrary to the Jewish canons {m}, which say,

``they that swear (Mymvb) , "by heaven", and by earth, are free.''

Upon the words in ( Song of Solomon 2:7 ) , "I adjure you" it is asked F14,

``by what does she adjure them? R. Eliezer says, by the heavens, and by the earth; by the hosts, the host above, and the host below.''

So Philo the Jew says F15 that the most high and ancient cause need not to be immediately mentioned in swearing; but the "earth", the sun, the stars, (ouranon) , "heaven", and the whole world. So R. Aben Ezra, and R. David Kimchi, explain ( Amos 4:2 ) . "The Lord God hath sworn by his holiness"; that is, say they, (Mymvb) , "by heaven": which may be thought to justify them, in this form of swearing; though they did not look upon it as a binding oath, and therefore if broken they were not criminal F16.

``He that swears (Mymvb) by heaven, and by the earth, and by the sun, and the like; though his intention is nothing less than to him that created them, this is no oath.''

The reason why it is forbidden by Christ to swear by heaven, is,

for it is God's throne;
referring to ( Isaiah 66:1 ) where he sits, the glory of his majesty shines forth, and is itself glorious and excellent, and not to be mentioned in a vain way; and especially, for the reason Christ elsewhere gives, ( Matthew 23:22 ) that "he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon"; so that they doubly sinned, first, by openly swearing by that which is God's creature; and then, by tacitly bringing God into their rash and vain oaths.


F13 Misn. Shebuot, c. 4. sect. 13.
F14 Shirhashirim Rabba, fol. 10. 4.
F15 De Special. leg. p 770.
F16 Maimon. Hilch. Shebuot, c. 12. sect. 3.

Matthew 5:34 In-Context

32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
33 "Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.'
34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,
35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.

Cross References 2

  • 1. James 5:12
  • 2. Matthew 23:22; Isaiah 66:1; Acts 7:49; See Revelation 4:2
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