Adam Clarke Commentary
1 Corinthians 10
Peculiar circumstances in the Jewish history were typical of the greatest mysteries of the Gospel; particularly their passing through the Red Sea, and being overshadowed with the miraculous cloud, 1 Corinthians 10:1, 1 Corinthians 10:2. The manna with which they were fed, 1 Corinthians 10:3. And rock out of which they drank, 1 Corinthians 10:4. The punishments inflicted on them for their disobedience are warnings to us, 1 Corinthians 10:5. We should not lust as they did, 1 Corinthians 10:6. Nor commit idolatry, 1 Corinthians 10:7. Nor fornication as they did; in consequence of which twenty-three thousand of them were destroyed, 1 Corinthians 10:8. Nor tempt Christ as they did, 1 Corinthians 10:9. Nor murmur, 1 Corinthians 10:10. All these transgressions and their punishments are recorded as warnings to us, that we may not fall away from the grace of God, 1 Corinthians 10:11, 1 Corinthians 10:12. God never suffers any to be tempted above their strength, 1 Corinthians 10:13. Idolatry must be detested, 1 Corinthians 10:14. And the sacrament of the Lord's Supper properly considered and taken, that God may not be provoked to punish us, 1 Corinthians 10:15-22. There are some things which may be legally done which are not expedient; and we should endeavor so to act as to edify each other, 1 Corinthians 10:23, 1 Corinthians 10:24. The question concerning eating things offered to idols considered, and finally settled, 1 Corinthians 10:25-30. We should do all things to the glory of God, avoid whatsoever might be the means of stumbling another, and seek the profit of others in spiritual matters rather than our own gratification, 1 Corinthians 10:31-33.
I would not that ye should be ignorant - It seems as if the Corinthians had supposed that their being made partakers of the ordinances of the Gospel, such as baptism and the Lord's Supper, would secure their salvation, notwithstanding they might be found partaking of idolatrous feasts; as long, at least, as they considered an idol to be nothing in the world. To remove this destructive supposition, which would have led them to endless errors both in principle and practice, the apostle shows that the Jews had sacramental ordinances in the wilderness, similar to those of the Christians; and that, notwithstanding they had the typical baptism from the cloud, and the typical eucharist from the paschal lamb, and the manna that came down from heaven, yet, when they joined with idolaters and partook of idolatrous feasts, God was not only displeased with them, but signified this displeasure by pouring out his judgments upon them, so that in one day 23,000 of them were destroyed.
Under the cloud - It is manifest from Scripture that the miraculous cloud in the wilderness performed a three-fold office to the Israelites.
And were all baptized unto Moses - Rather Into Moses - into the covenant of which Moses was the mediator; and by this typical baptism they were brought under the obligation of acting according to the Mosaic precepts, as Christians receiving Christian baptism are said to be baptized Into Christ, and are thereby brought under obligation to keep the precepts of the Gospel.
Spiritual meat - The manna which is here called spiritual.
Spiritual drink - By the βρωμα πνευματικον spiritual meat, and πομα πνευματικον, spiritual drink, the apostle certainly means both meat and drink, which were furnished to the Israelitish assembly miraculously, as well as typically: and he appears to borrow his expression from the Jews themselves, who expressly say רוחני הלז הלחם hallechem hallaz ruchani, that bread was spiritual, and היו רוחניים מיים meyim ruchainiyim haiu, the waters were spiritual. Alschech in legem. fol. 238, to which opinion the apostle seems particularly to refer. See Schoettgen.
The spiritual rock that followed them - There is some difficulty in this verse. How could the rock follow them? It does not appear that the rock ever moved from the place where Moses struck it. But to solve this difficulty, it is said that rock here is put, by metonymy, for the water of the rock; and that this water did follow them through the wilderness. This is more likely; but we have not direct proof of it. The ancient Jews, however, were of this opinion, and state that the streams followed them in all their journeyings, up the mountains, down the valleys, etc., etc.; and that when they came to encamp, the waters formed themselves into cisterns and pools; and that the rulers of the people guided them, by their staves, in rivulets to the different tribes and families. And this is the sense they give to Numbers 21:17; : Spring up, O well, etc. See the places in Schoettgen.
Others contend, that by the rock following them we are to understand their having carried of its waters with them on their journeyings. This we know is a common custom in these deserts to the present day; and that the Greek verb ακολουθεω, to follow, has this sense, Bishop Pearce has amply proved in his note on this place. The Jews suppose that the rock itself went with the Israelites, and was present with them in their thirty-eight stations, for only so many are mentioned. See Alschech in legem. fol. 236. And see Schoettgen.
Now, though of all the senses already given that of Bishop Pearce is the best, yet it does appear that the apostle does not speak about the rock itself, but of Him whom it represented; namely, Christ: this was the Rock that followed them, and ministered to them; and this view of the subject is rendered more probable by what is said 1 Corinthians 10:9, that they tempted Christ, and were destroyed by serpents. The same rock is in the vale of Rephidim to the present day; and it bears aboriginal marks of the water that flowed from it in the fissures that appear on its sides. It is one block of fine granite, about seven yards long, five broad, and - high. A fragment of this typical rock now lies before me, brought by a relative of my own, who broke it off, and did not let it pass into any hand till he placed it in mine. See the note on Exodus 17:6.
They were overthrown in the wilderness - And yet All these persons were under the cloud - All passed through the sea - All were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea - All ate the same spiritual meat - All drank the same spiritual drink, for they were made partakers of the spiritual Rock, Christ. Nothing can be a more decisive proof than this that people, who have every outward ordinance, and are made partakers of the grace of our Lord Jesus, may so abuse their privileges and grieve the Spirit of God as to fall from their state of grace, and perish ever lastingly. Let those who are continually asserting that this is impossible, beware lest they themselves, if in a state of grace, become, through their overmuch security, proofs in point of the possibility of ending in the flesh, though they began in the Spirit. Reader, remember who said, Ye shall not surely die; and remember the mischiefs produced by a belief of his doctrine.
These things were our examples - The punishments which God inflicted on them furnish us with evidences of what God will inflict upon us, if we sin after the similitude of those transgressors.
We should not lust after evil things - It is most evident that the apostle refers here to the history in Numbers 11:4, etc.: And the mixed multitude fell a lusting, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat? Into the same spirit the Corinthians had most evidently fallen; they lusted after the flesh in the idol feasts, and therefore frequented them to the great scandal of Christianity. The apostle shows them that their sin was of the same nature as that of the murmuring rebellious Israelites whom God so severely punished; and if he did not spare the natural branches, there was no likelihood that he should spare them.
Neither be ye idolaters - The apostle considers partaking of the idolatrous feasts as being real acts of idolatry; because those who offered the flesh to their gods considered them as feeding invisibly with them on the flesh thus offered, and that every one that partook of the feast was a real participator with the god to whom the flesh or animal had been offered in sacrifice. See 1 Corinthians 10:21.
Rose up to play - See the note on Exodus 32:6. The Jews generally explain this word as implying idolatrous acts only: I have considered it as implying acts of impurity, with which idolatrous acts were often accompanied. It also means those dances which were practised in honor of their gods. That this is one meaning of the verb παιζειν, Kypke has largely proved. The whole idolatrous process was as follows:
Fell in one day three and twenty thousand - In Numbers 25:9, the number is 24,000; and, allowing this to be the genuine reading, (and none of the Hebrew MSS. exhibit any various reading in the place), Moses and the apostle may be thus reconciled: in Numbers 25:4, God commands Moses to take all the heads (the rulers) of the people, and hang them up before the Lord against the sun; these possibly amounted to 1000, and those who fell by the plague were 23,000, so that the whole amounted to 24,000. Instead of εικοσιτρεις χιλιαδες, 23,000, two MSS., with the later Syriac and the Armenian, have εικοσιτεσσαρες χιλιαδες, 24,000; but this authority is too slender to establish a various reading, which recedes so much from the received text. I think the discordance may be best accounted for by supposing, as above, that Phineas and his companions might have slain 1000 men, who were heads of the people, and chief in this idolatry; and that the plague sent from the Lord destroyed 23,000 more; so an equal number to the whole tribe of Levi perished in one day, who were just 23,000. See Numbers 26:62; and see Lightfoot.
Neither let us tempt Christ - I have already supposed, in the note on 1 Corinthians 10:4; (note), that Christ is intended by the spiritual rock that followed them: and that it was he, not the rock, that did follow or accompany the Israelites in the wilderness. This was the angel of God's presence who was with the Church in the wilderness, to whom our fathers would not obey, as St. Stephen says, Acts 7:38, Acts 7:39. Instead of Χριστον, Christ, several MSS. and a few versions have Κυριον, the Lord, and some few Θεον, God. But though some respectable MSS. have the Lord instead of Christ, yet this latter has the greatest proportion of authority on its side. And this affords no mean proof that the person who is called יהוה Yehovah in the Old Testament, is called Christ in the New. By tempting Christ is meant disbelieving the providence and goodness of God; and presuming to prescribe to him how he should send them the necessary supplies, and of what kind they should be, etc.
Neither murmur ye - How the Israelites murmured because of the manna, which their souls despised as a light bread - something incapable of affording them nourishment, etc., and because they had been brought out of Egypt into the wilderness, and pretended that the promises of God had failed; and how they were destroyed by serpents, and by the destroyer or plague; may be seen at large in the texts referred to in the margin on this and the preceding verses. It appears from what the apostle says here, that the Corinthians were murmuring against God and his apostle for prohibiting them from partaking of the idolatrous feasts, just as the Israelites did in the wilderness in reference to a similar subject. See the history of Phineas, with Zimri and Cosbi, and the rebellion of Corah and his company, etc., etc.
Destroyed of the destroyer - The Jews suppose that God employed destroying angels to punish those rebellious Israelites; they were five in number, and one of them they call משחית Meshachith, the destroyer; which appears to be another name for Samael, the angel of death, to whose influence they attribute all deaths which are not uncommon or violent. Those who die violent deaths, or deaths that are not in the common manner of men, are considered as perishing by immediate judgments from God.
Upon whom the ends of the world are come - Τα τελη των αιωνων· The end of the times included within the whole duration of the Mosaic economy. For although the word αιων means, in its primary sense, endless being, or duration; yet, in its accommodated sense, it is applied to any round or duration that is complete in itself: and here it evidently means the whole duration of the Mosaic economy. "Thus, therefore," says Dr. Lightfoot, "the apostle speaks in this place that those things, which were transacted in the beginning of the Jewish ages, are written for an example to you upon whom the ends of those ages are come; and the beginning is like to the end, and the end to the beginning. Both were forty years; both consisted of temptation and unbelief; and both ended in the destruction of the unbelievers - that, in the destruction of those who perished in the wilderness; this, in the destruction of those that believed not: viz. the destruction of their city and nation." The phrase יומיא סוף soph yomaiya, the end of days, says the Targum of Jerusalem, Genesis 3:15, means משיחא דמלכא ביומוי beyomoi demalca Meshicha, in the days of the King Messiah. We are to consider the apostle's words as referring to the end of the Jewish dispensation and the commencement of the Christian, which is the last dispensation which God will vouchsafe to man in the state of probation.
Let him that thinketh he standeth - Ὁ δοκων ἑσταναι· Let him who most confidently standeth - him who has the fullest conviction in his own conscience that his heart is right with God, and that his mind is right in the truth, take heed lest he fall from his faith, and from the state of holiness in which the grace of God has placed him. I have already shown that the verb δοκειν, which we render to seem, to think, to suppose, is used by the best Greek writers, not to lessen or weaken the sense, but to render it stronger and more emphatic. See the note on Luke 8:18.
In a state of probation every thing may change; while we are in this life we may stand or fall: our standing in the faith depends on our union with God; and that depends on our watching unto prayer, and continuing to possess that faith that worketh by love. The highest saint under heaven can stand no longer than he depends upon God and continues in the obedience of faith. He that ceases to do so will fall into sin, and get a darkened understanding and a hardened heart: and he may continue in this state till God come to take away his soul. Therefore, let him who most assuredly standeth, take heed lest he fall; not only partially, but finally.
But such as is common to man - Ανθρωπινος· Chrysostom has properly translated this word ανθρωπινος, τουτεστι μικρος, βραχυς, συμμετρος ; that is, small, short, moderate. Your temptations or trials have been but trifling in comparison of those endured by the Israelites; they might have been easily resisted and overcome. Besides, God will not suffer you to be tried above the strength he gives you; but as the trial comes, he will provide you with sufficient strength to resist it; as the trial comes in, he will make your way out. The words are very remarkable, ποιησει συν τῳ πειρασμῳ και την εκβασιν, "He will, with the temptation, make the deliverance, or way out." Satan is never permitted to block up our way, without the providence of God making a way through the wall. God ever makes a breach in his otherwise impregnable fortification. Should an upright soul get into difficulties and straits, he may rest assured that there is a way out, as there was a way in; and that the trial shall never be above the strength that God shall give him to bear it.
Therefore - flee from idolatry - This is a trial of no great magnitude; to escape from so gross a temptation requires but a moderate portion of grace and circumspection.
I speak as to wise men - The Corinthians valued themselves not a little on their wisdom and various gifts; the apostle admits this, and draws an argument from it against themselves. As ye are so wise, surely ye can see the propriety of abominating idolatry of every kind: for an idol is nothing in the world, and can do nothing for you and nothing against you.
The cup of blessing - The apostle speaks here of the Eucharist, which he illustrates by the הברכה כוס cos habberacah, cup of blessing, over which thanks were expressed at the conclusion of the passover. See this largely explained at the conclusion of the notes on Matthew 26:75, and in my Discourse upon the Eucharist, 8vo. 2nd edit. 1814.
The communion of the blood of Christ? - We who partake of this sacred cup, in commemoration of the death of Christ, are made partakers of his body and blood, and thus have fellowship with him; as those who partake of an idol feast, thereby, as much as they can, participate with the idol, to whom the sacrifice was offered. This I have proved at large in the above tract, to which I must refer the reader, as the subject is too voluminous to be inserted here.
For we, being many, are one bread - The original would be better translated thus: Because there is one bread, or loaf; we, who are many, are one body. As only one loaf was used at the passover, and those who partook of it were considered to be one religious body; so we who partake of the eucharistical bread and wine, in commemoration of the sacrificial death of Christ, are one spiritual society, because we are all made partakers of that one Christ whose blood was shed for us to make an atonement for our sins; as the blood of the paschal lamb was shed and sprinkled in reference to this of which it was the type.
Behold Israel after the flesh - The Jews not yet converted to Christianity: the latter being Israel after the Spirit. As the design of the apostle was to withdraw his converts at Corinth from all temptations to idolatry, he produces two examples to show the propriety of his endeavors.
What say I then? - A Jewish phrase for, I conclude; and this is his conclusion: that although an idol is nothing, has neither power nor influence, nor are things offered to idols any thing the worse for being thus offered; yet, as the things sacrificed by the Gentiles are sacrificed to demons and not to God, those who partake of them have fellowship with demons: those who profess Christianity cannot have fellowship both with Christ and the devil.
Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord - It is in vain that you who frequent these idol festivals profess the religion of Christ, and commemorate his death and passion in the holy eucharist; for you can not have that fellowship with Christ which this ordinance implies, while you are partakers of the table of demons. That the Gentiles, in their sacrifices, fed on the slain beasts, and ate bread and drank wine in honor of their gods, is sufficiently clear from various accounts. See my Discourse on the Holy Eucharist, where many examples are produced. The following from Virgil, Aen. viii, verse 179-273, is proof in point: -
Tum lecti juvenes certatim araeque sacerdos
Viscera tosta ferunt taurorum, onerantque canistris
Dona laboratae Cereris, Bacchumque ministrant.
Vescitur Aeneas simul et Trojana juventus
Perpetui tergo bovis et lustralibus extis. -
Quare agite, O juvenes, tantarum in munere laudum,
Cingite fronde comas, et pocula porgite dextris,
Communemque vocate Deum, et date vina volentes.
The loaves were served in canisters; the wine
In bowls; the priests renewed the rites divine:
Broiled entrails are their food, and beef's continued chine
Ye warlike youths, your heads with garlands crown,
Fill high the goblets with a sparkling flood,
And with deep draughts invoke our common god.
Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? - All idolatry is represented as a sort of spiritual adultery; it is giving that heart to Satan that should be devoted to God; and he is represented as being jealous, because of the infidelity of those who have covenanted to give their hearts to him.
Are we stronger than he? - As he has threatened to punish such transgressors, and will infallibly do it, can we resist his omnipotence? A sinner should consider, while he is in rebellion against God, whether he be able to resist that power whereby God will inflict vengeance.
All things are lawful for me - I may lawfully eat all kinds of food, but all are not expedient; ου παντα συμφερει· It would not be becoming in me to eat of all, because I should by this offend and grieve many weak minds. See the notes on 1 Corinthians 6:12, etc.
Let no man seek his own, etc. - Let none, for his private gratification or emolument, disturb the peace or injure the soul of another. Let every man live, not for himself, but for every part of the great human family with which he is surrounded.
Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat - The case to which the apostle refers is simply this; it was customary to bring the flesh of the animal to market, the blood of which had been poured out in sacrifice to an idol; or, taken more particularly, the case was this; one part of the sacrifice was consumed on the altar of the idol: a second part was dressed and eaten by the sacrificer; and a third belonged to the priest, and was often sold in the shambles. To partake of the second share, or to feast upon the sacrifice, St. Paul absolutely forbids, because this was one part of the religious worship which was paid to the idol; it was sitting down as guests at his table, in token that they were in fellowship with him. This was utterly incompatible with receiving the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, which was the communion of the body and blood of Christ. But as to the third share, the apostle leaves them at liberty either to eat of it or forbear; except that, by eating, their weak brethren should be offended; in that case, though the thing was lawful, it was their duty to abstain. See the notes on 1 Corinthians 8:1, etc. Hindoos eagerly embrace whatever has been offered to an idol: hence it is common to see the flowers that have been thus offered placed in the hair of a Hindoo. Water that has been thus made sacred is preserved in Hindoo houses, and with it they rub their bodies, and occasionally sip a drop, regarding it as the water of life. - See Ward.
Asking no questions for consciences sake - Dr. Lightfoot observes, that "the Jews were vexed with innumerable scruples in their feasts, as to the eating of the thing, as well as to the company with which they ate; and even the manner of their eating. Of fruits and herbs brought to the table, they were to inquire whether they were tithed according to custom; whether they were consecrated by the Truma, or whether they were profane; whether they were clean, or touched with some pollution, etc. And concerning flesh set on the table, they were to inquire whether it was of that which had been offered to idols; whether it were the flesh of an animal that had been torn by wild beasts; or of that which had been strangled, or not killed according to the canons; etc., etc. All which doubts the liberty of the Gospel abolished as to one's own conscience, with this proviso, that no scandal or offense be cast before another man's weak or scrupulous conscience."
From this it is evident that the apostle had the case of the Jewish converts in view, and not the Gentiles. The latter were not troubled with such extraordinary scrupulousness.
For the earth is the Lord's - And because God made the earth and its fullness, all animals, plants, and vegetables, there can be nothing in it or them impure or unholy; because all are the creatures of God.
If any - bid you to a feast - The apostle means any common meal, not an idol festival; for to such no Christian could lawfully go.
Whatsoever is set before you, eat - Do not act as the Jews generally do, torturing both themselves and others with questions, such as those mentioned in 1 Corinthians 10:26.
This is offered in sacrifice unto idols - While they were not apprized of this circumstance they might lawfully eat; but when told that the flesh set before them had been offered to an idol, then they were not to eat, for the sake of his weak conscience who pointed out the circumstance. For the apostle still takes it for granted that even the flesh offered in sacrifice to an idol might be eaten innocently at any private table, as in that case they were no longer in danger of being partakers with devils, as this was no idol festival.
For the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof - This whole clause, which appears also in 1 Corinthians 10:26, is wanting here in ABCDEFGH, several others, the Syriac, Erpen, Coptic, Sahidic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Vulgate, Itala; and in several of the fathers. Griesbach has left it out of the text: and Professor White says, "Certissime delendum;" it should most undoubtedly be erased. It has scarcely any authority to support it.
For why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience? etc. - Though in the case of flesh offered to idols, and other matters connected with idolatry, (on which it appears there was much of a tender conscience among some of the Corinthians), it was necessary to sacrifice something to an over-scrupulous conscience, yet the Gospel of Christ did not lay any man under this general burthen, that he must do nothing at which any weak brother might feel hurt or be stumbled; for the liberty of the Gospel must not take for its rule the scrupulosity of any conscience; for if a man, by grace - by the allowance or authority of the Gospel, partake of any thing that God's bounty has sent, and which the Gospel has not forbidden, and give thanks to God for the blessing, no man has right or authority to condemn such a person. This seems to be the meaning of these two verses; and they read a lesson of caution to rash judges, and to those who are apt to take offense.
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink - As no general rule can be laid down in reference to the above particulars, there is one maxim of which no Christian must lose sight - that whether he eats or drinks of this or the other kind of aliments, or whatever else he may do, he must do it so as to bring glory to God. This is a sufficient rule to regulate every man's conscience and practice in all indifferent things, where there are no express commands or prohibitions.
Give none offense, etc. - Scrupulously avoid giving any cause of offense either to the unconverted Jews or the unconverted Gentiles, so as to prejudice them against Christianity: nor to the Church of God, made up of converts from the above parties.
Even as I please all men - Act as I do: forgetting myself, my own interests, convenience, ease, and comfort, I labor for the welfare of others; and particularly that they may be saved. How blessed and amiable was the spirit and conduct of this holy man!
This chapter has already presented the serious reader with a variety of maxims for his regulation. -
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