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Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible Barnes' Notes
These files are public domain.
These files are public domain.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ bnb/ 1-corinthians-10.html. 1870.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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In regard to the design of 1 Corinthians 10:0, commentators have not been agreed. Some have supposed that there is no connection with the preceding, but that this is a digression. The ancient Greek expositors generally, and some of the moderns, as Grotius, supposed that the connection was this: Paul had in the previous chapter described himself as mortifying his flesh, and keeping his body under, that he might gain the prize. In this chapter they suppose that his object is to exhort the Corinthians to do the same; and that in order to do this he admonishes them not to be lulled into security by the idea of the many spiritual gifts which had been conferred upon them. This admonition he enforces by the example of the Jews, who had been highly favored also, but who had nevertheless been led into idolatry. This is also the view of Doddridge, Calvin, and others. Macknight regards the chapter as an independent discussion of the three questions, which he supposes had been submitted to Paul:
(1) Whether they might innocently go with their friends into the pagan temples, and partake of the feasts which were there made in honor of the idol.
(2) Whether they might buy and eat meat sold in the markets which had been sacrificed to idols.
(3) Whether, when invited to the houses of the pagans, they might partake of the meat sacrificed to idols, and which was set before them as a common meal - I regard this chapter as having a very close connection with 1 Corinthians 8:1-13. In the close of 1 Corinthians 8:1-13. 1 Corinthians 10:13, Paul had stated, when examining the question whether it was right to eat meat offered in sacrifice to idols, that the grand principle on which he acted, and on which they should act, was that of “self-denial.” To illustrate this he employs 1 Corinthians 9:0, by showing how “he” acted on it in reference to a maintenance; showing that it was this principle that led him to decline a support to which he was really entitled. Having illustrated that, he returns in this chapter to the subject which he was discussing in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13; and the design of this chapter is further to explain and enforce the sentiments advanced there, and to settle some other inquiries pertaining to the same general subject.
The first point, therefore, on which he insists is, “the danger of relapsing into idolatry” - a danger which would arise should they be in the habit of frequenting the temples of idols, and of partaking of the meats offered in sacrifice; 1 Corinthians 10:1-24. Against this he had cautioned them in general, in 1 Corinthians 8:7, 1 Corinthians 8:9-12. This danger he now sets forth by a variety of illustrations. the first shows them that the Jews had been highly favored, had been solemnly consecrated to Moses and to God, and had been under the divine protection and guidance 1 Corinthians 10:1-4; yet that this had not kept them from the displeasure of God when they sinned; 1 Corinthians 10:5. He shows that notwithstanding their privileges, they had indulged in inordinate desires 1 Corinthians 10:6; that they had become idolaters 1 Corinthians 10:7 that they had been guilty of licentiousness 1 Corinthians 10:8; that they had tempted their leader and guide 1 Corinthians 10:9; that they had complained 1 Corinthians 10:10; and that, as a consequence of this, many of them had been destroyed.
In view of all this, Paul cautions the Corinthians not to be self-confident or to feel secure; and not to throw themselves in the way of temptation by partaking of the feasts of idolatry; 1 Corinthians 10:12-14. This danger he further illustrates 1 Corinthians 10:15, 1 Corinthians 10:24 by showing that if they partook of those sacrifices, they in fact became identified with the worshippers of idols. This he proved by showing that in the Christian communion, those who partook of the Lord’s Supper were identified with Christians 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; that in the Jewish sacrifices the same thing occurred, and that those who partook of them were regarded as Jews, and as worshippers of the same God with them 1 Corinthians 10:18; and that the same thing must occur, in the suture of the case, by partaking of the sacrifices offered to idols. They were really partaking of that which had been offered to devilS; and against any such participation Paul would solemnly admonish them; 1 Corinthians 10:19-22. Going on the supposition, therefore, that there was nothing wrong in itself in partaking of the meat that had been thus killed in sacrifice, yet Paul says 1 Corinthians 10:23, that it was not expedient thus to expose themselves to danger; and that the grand principle should be to seek the comfort and edification of others; 1 Corinthians 10:24. Paul thus strongly and decisively admonishes them not to enter the temples of idols to partake of those feasts; not to unite with idolaters in their celebration; not to endanger their piety by these temptations.
There were, however, two other questions on the subject which it was important to decide, and which had probably been submitted to him in the letter which they had sent for counsel and advice. The first was, whether it was right to purchase and eat the meat which had been sacrificed, and which was exposed indiscriminately with other meat in the market; 1 Corinthians 10:25. To this Paul replies, that as no evil could result from this, as it could not be alleged that they purchased it as meat sacrificed to idols, and as all that the earth contained belonged to the Lord, it was not wrong to purchase and to use it. Yet if even this was pointed out to them as having been sacrificed to idols, he then cautioned them to abstain from it; 1 Corinthians 10:28. The other question was, whether it was right for them to accept the invitation of a pagan, and to partake of meat then that had been offered in sacrifice; 1 Corinthians 10:27. To this a similar answer was returned. The general principle was, that no questions were to be asked in regard to what was set before them; but if the food was expressly pointed out as having been offered in sacrifice, then to partake of it would be regarded as a public recognition of the idol; 1 Corinthians 10:28-30. Paul then concludes the discussion by stating the noble rule that is to guide in all this: that everything is to be done to the glory of God 1 Corinthians 10:31; and that the great effort of the Christian should be so to act in all things as to honor his religion, as not to lead others into sin; 1 Corinthians 10:32-33.
Moreover, brethren - But, or now (δε de). This verse, with the following illustrations 1 Corinthians 10:1-4, is properly connected in Paul’s argument with the statements which he had made in 1 Corinthians 8:8, etc., and is designed to show the danger which would result from their partaking of the feasts that were celebrated in honor of idols. It is not improbable, as Mr. Locke supposes, that the Corinthians might have urged that they were constantly solicited by their pagan friends to attend those feasts; that in their circumstances it was scarcely possible to avoid it; that there could be no danger of their relapsing into idolatry; and their doing so could not be offensive to God, since they were known to be Christians; since they had been baptized, and purified from sin; since they were devoted to his service; since they knew that an idol was nothing in the world; and since they had been so highly favored, as the people of God, with so many extraordinary endowments, and were so strongly guarded against the possibility of becoming idolaters. To meet these considerations, Paul refers them to the example of the ancient Jews. They also were the people of God. They had been solemnly dedicated to Moses and to God. They had been especially favored with spiritual food from heaven, and with drink miraculously, poured from the rock. Yet notwithstanding this, they had forgotten God, had become idolaters, and had been destroyed. By their example, therefore, Paul would warn the Corinthians against a similar danger.
I would not that ye should be ignorant - A large part of the church at Corinth were Gentiles. It could hardly be supposed that they were well informed respecting the ancient history of the Jews. Probably they had read these things in the Old Testament; but they might not have them distinctly in their recollection. Paul brings them distinctly before their minds, as an illustration and an admonition. The sense is, “I would not have you unmindful or forgetful of these things; I would have you recollect this case, and suffer their example to influence your conduct. I would not have you suppose that even a solemn consecration to God and the possession of distinguished tokens of divine favor are a security against the danger of sin, and even apostasy; since the example of the favored Jews shows that even in such circumstances there is danger.”
How that all our fathers - That is, the fathers of the Jewish community; the fathers of us who are Jews. Paul speaks here as being himself a Jew, and refers to his own ancestors as such. The word “all” here seems to be introduced to give emphasis to the fact that even those who were destroyed 1 Corinthians 10:5 also had this privilege. It could not be pretended that they had not been devoted to God, since all of them had been thus consecrated professedly to his service. The entire Jewish community which Moses led forth from Egypt had thus been devoted to him.
Were under the cloud - The cloud - the “Shechinah” - the visible symbol of the divine presence and protection that attended them out of Egypt. This went before them by day as a cloud to guide them, and by night it became a pillar of fire to give them light; Exodus 13:21-22. In the dangers of the Jews, when closely pressed by the Egyptians, it went beHinD them, and became dark to the Egyptians, but light to the Israelites, thus constituting a defense; Exodus 14:20. In the wilderness, when traveling through the burning desert, it seems to have been expanded over the camp as a covering, and a defense from the intense rays of a burning sun; Numbers 10:34, “And the cloud of Jehovah was upon them by day;” Numbers 14:14, “Thy cloud standeth over them.” To this fact the apostle refers here. It was a symbol of the divine favor and protection; comp Isaiah 4:5. It was a guide, a shelter, and a defense. The Jewish Rabbis say that “the cloud encompassed the camp of the Israelites as a wall encompasses a city, nor could the enemy come near them.” Pirke Eleazer, chapter 44, as quoted by Gill. The probability is, that the cloud extended over the whole camp of Israel, and that to those at. a distance it appeared as a pillar.
And all passed through the sea - The Red Sea, under the guidance of Moses, and by the miraculous interposition of God; Exodus 14:21-22. This was also a proof of the divine protection and favor, and is so adduced by the apostle. His object is to accumulate the evidences of the divine favor to them, and to show that they had as many securities against apostasy as the Corinthians had, on which they so much relied.
And were all baptized - In regard to the meaning of the word “baptized,” see the note at Matthew 3:6. We are not to suppose that the rite of baptism, as we understand it, was formally administered by Moses, or by any other person, to the Jews, for there is not the least evidence that any such rite was then known, and the very circumstances here referred to forbid such an interpretation. They were baptized “in the cloud” and “in the sea,” and this cannot be understood as a religious rite administered by the hand of man. It is to be remembered that the word “baptism” has two senses - the one referring to the application of water as a religious rite, in whatever mode it is done; and the other the sense of “dedicating, consecrating, initiating into,” or bringing under obligation to. And it is evidently in this latter sense that the word is used here, as denoting that they were devoted to Moses as a leader, they were brought under his laws, they became bound to obey him, they were placed under his protection and guidance by the miraculous interposition of God. This was done by the fact that their passing through the sea, and under the cloud, in this manner, brought them under the authority and direction of Moses as a leader, and was a public recognition of their being his followers, and being bound to obey his laws.
Unto Moses - (εἰς eis). This is the same preposition which is used in the form of baptism prescribed in Matthew 28:19. See the note at that place. It means that they were thus devoted or dedicated to Moses; they received and acknowledged him as their ruler and guide; they professed subjection to his laws, and were brought under his authority. They were thus “initiated into” his religion, and thus recognized his divine mission, and bound themselves to obey his injunctions - Bloomfield.
In the cloud - This cannot be proved to mean that they were enveloped and, as it were, “immersed” in the cloud, for there is no evidence that the cloud thus enveloped them, or that they were immersed in it as a person is in water. The whole account in the Old Testament leads us to suppose that the cloud either passed before them as a pillar, or that it had the same form in the rear of their camp, or that it was suspended over them, and was thus the symbol of the divine protection. It would be altogether improbable that the dark cloud would pervade the camp. It would thus embarrass their movements, and there is not the slightest intheation in the Old Testament that it did. Nor is there any probability in the supposition of Dr. Gill and others, that the cloud. as it passed from the rear to the front of the camp, “let down a plentiful rain upon them, whereby they were in such a condition as if they had been all over dipped in water.” Because:
(1) There is not the slightest intheation of this in the Old Testament.
(2) The supposition is contrary to the very design of the cloud. It was not a natural cloud, but was a symbol of the divine presence and protection. It was not to give rain on the Israelites, or on the land, but it was to guide, and to be an emblem of the care of God.
(3) It is doing violence to the Scriptures to introduce suppositions in this manner without the slightest authority. It is further to be observed, that this supposition does by no means give any aid to the cause of the Baptist after all. In what conceivable sense were they, even on this supposition, “immersed?” Is it “immersion in water” when one is exposed to a shower of rain? We speak of being “sprinkled or drenched” by rain, but is it not a violation of all propriety of language to say that a man is “immersed” in a shower? If the supposition, therefore, is to be admitted, that rain fell from the cloud as it passed over the Jews, and that this is meant here by “baptism unto Moses,” then it would follow that “sprinkling” would be the mode referred to, since this is the only form that has resemblance to a falling shower. But the supposition is not necessary. Nor is it needful to suppose that water was applied to them at all. The thing itself is improbable; and the whole case is met by the simple supposition that the apostle means that they were initiated in this way into the religion of Moses, recognized his divine mission, and under the cloud became his followers and subject to his laws. And if this interpretation is correct, then it follows that the word “baptize” does not of necessity mean to “immerse.” (See Editors’ Notes on Matthew 3:6 and Matthew 3:16.)
And in the sea - This is another expression that goes to determine the sense of the word “baptize.” The sea referred to here is the Red Sea, and the event was the passage through that sea. The fact in the case was, that the Lord caused a strong east wind to blow all night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided Exodus 14:21, and the waters were a wall unto them on the right hand and on the left, Exodus 14:22. From this whole narrative it is evident that they passed through the sea without being “immersed” in it. The waters were driven into high adjacent walls for the very purpose that they might pass between them dry and safe. There is the fullest proof that they were not submerged in the water. Dr. Gill supposes that the water stood up above their heads, and that “they seemed to be immersed in it.” This might be true; but this is to give up the idea that the word baptize means always to immerse in water, since it is a fact, according to this supposition, that they were not thus immersed, but only seemed to be. And all that can be meant, therefore, is, that they were in this manner initiated into the religion of Moses, convinced of his divine mission, and brought under subjection to him as their leader, lawgiver, and guide. This passage is a very important one to prove that the word baptism does not necessarily mean entire immersion in water. It is perfectly clear that neither the cloud nor the waters touched them. “They went through the midst of the sea on dry ground.” It remains only to be asked whether, if immersion was the only mode of baptism known in the New Testament, the apostle Paul would have used the word not only so as not necessarily to imply that, but as necessarily to mean something else? (See Editors’ Notes on Matthew 3:6 and Matthew 3:16.)
And did all eat the same spiritual meat - That is, “manna.” Exodus 16:15, Exodus 16:35; Nehemiah 9:15, Nehemiah 9:20. The word meat here is used in the old English sense of the word, to denote “food” in general. They lived on “manna.” The word “spiritual” here is evidently used to denote that which was given by the Spirit, or by God; that which was the result of his miraculous gift, and which was not produced in the ordinary way, and which was not the gross food on which people are usually supported. It had an excellency and value from the fact that it was the immediate gift of God, and is thus called “angels food.” Psalms 78:25. It is called by Josephus “divine and extraordinary food.” Ant. Psalms 3:1. In the language of the Scriptures, that which is distinguished for excellence, which is the immediate gift of God, which is unlike that which is gross and of earthly origin, is called “spiritual,” to denote its purity, value, and excellence. Compare Romans 7:14; 1 Corinthians 3:1; 1 Corinthians 15:44, 1 Corinthians 15:46; Ephesians 1:3. The idea of Paul here is, that all the Israelites were nourished and supported in this remarkable manner by food given directly by God; that they all had thus the evidence of the divine protection and favor, and were all under his care.
And did all drink the same spiritual drink - The idea here is essentially the same as in the previous verse, that they had been highly favored of God, and enjoyed tokens of the divine care and guardianship. That was manifested in the miraculous supply of water in the desert, thus showing that they were under the divine protection, and were objects of the divine favor. There can be no doubt that by “spiritual drink” here, the apostle refers to the water that was made to gush from the rock that was smitten by Moses. Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:11. Why this is called “spiritual” has been a subject on which there has been much difference of opinion. It cannot be because there was anything special in the nature of the water, for it was evidently real water, suited to allay their thirst. There is no evidence, as many have supposed, that there was a reference in this to the drink used in the Lord’s Supper. But it must mean that it was bestowed in a miraculous and supernatural manner; and the word “spiritual” must be used in the sense of supernatural, or that which is immediately given by God. Spiritual blessings thus stand opposed to natural and temporal blessings, and the former denote those which are immediately given by God as an evidence of the divine favor. That the Jews used the word “spiritual” in this manner is evident from the writings of the Rabbis. Thus, they called the manna “spiritual food” (Yade Mose in Shemor Rabba, fol. 109. 3); and their sacrifices they called “spiritual bread” (Tzeror Hammer, fol. 93. 2). - Gill. The drink, therefore, here referred to was that bestowed in a supernatural manner and as a proof of the divine favor.
For they drank of that spiritual Rock - Of the waters which flowed from that Rock. The Rock here is called “spiritual,” not from anything special in the nature of the rock, but because it was the source to them of supernatural mercies, and became thus the emblem and demonstration of the divine favor, and of spiritual mercies conferred upon them by God.
That followed them - Margin. “Went with” ἀκολουθούσης akolouthousēs. This evidently cannot mean that the rock itself literally followed them, any more than that they literally drank the rock, for one is as expressly affirmed, if it is taken literally, as the other. But as when it is said they “drank of the rock,” it must mean that they drank of the water that flowed from the rock; so when it is said that the “rock followed” or accompanied them, it must mean that the water that flowed from the rock accompanied them. This figure of speech is common everywhere. Thus, the Saviour said 1 Corinthians 11:25, “This cup is the new testament,” that is, the wine in this cup represents my blood, etc.; and Paul says 1 Corinthians 11:25, 1 Corinthians 11:27, “whosoever shall drink this cup of the Lord unworthily,” that is, the wine in the cup, etc., and “as often as ye drink this cup,” etc., that is, the wine contained in the cup. It would be absurd to suppose that the rock that was smitten by Moses literally followed them in the wilderness; and there is not the slightest evidence in the Old Testament that it did. Water was twice brought out of a rock to supply the needs of the children of Israel. Once at Mount Horeb, as recorded in Exodus 17:6, in the wilderness of Sin, in the first year of their departure from Egypt. The second time water was brought from a rock about the time of the death of Miriam at Kadesh, and probably in the 40th year of their departure from Egypt, Numbers 20:1. It was to the former of these occasions that the apostle evidently refers. In regard to this we may observe:
(1) That there must have been furnished a large quantity of water to have supplied the needs of more than two million people.
(2) It is expressly stated Deuteronomy 9:21), that “the brook נחל nachal, stream, torrent, or river, see Numbers 34:5; Joshua 15:4, Joshua 15:47; 1 Kings 8:65; 2 Kings 24:7) descended out of the mount,” and was evidently a stream of considerable size.
(3) Mount Horeb was higher than the adjacent country, and the water that thus gushed from the rock, instead of collecting into a pool and becoming stagnant, would flow off in the direction of the sea.
(4) The sea to which it would naturally flow would be the Red Sea, in the direction of the Eastern or Elanitic branch of that sea.
(5) The Israelites would doubtless, in their journeyings, be influenced by the natural direction of the water, or would not wander far from it, as it was daily needful for the supply of their needs.
(6) At the end of thirty-seven years we find the Israelites at Ezion-geber, a seaport on the eastern branch of the Red Sea, where the waters probably flowed into the sea; Numbers 33:36. In the 40th year of their departure from Egypt, they left this place to go into Canaan by the country of Edom, and were immediately in distress again by the lack of water. It is thus probable that the water from the rock continued to flow, and that it constituted a stream, or river; that it was near their camp all the time until they came to Ezion-geber; and that thus, together with the daily supply of manna, it was a proof of the protection of God, and an emblem of their dependence. If it be said that there is now no such stream to be found there, it is to be observed that it is represented as miraculous, and that it would be just as reasonable to look for the daily descent of manna there in quantities sufficient to supply more than two million people, as to expect to find the gushing and running river of water. The only question is, whether God can work a miracle, and whether there is evidence that he has done it. This is not the place to examine that question. But the evidence is as strong that he performed this miracle as that he gave the manna, and neither of them is inconsistent with the power, the wisdom, or the benevolence of God.
And that Rock was Christ - This cannot be intended to be understood literally, for it was not literally true. The rock from which the water flowed was evidently an ordinary rock, a part of Mount Horeb; and all that this can mean is, that that rock, with the stream of water thus gushing from it, was a representation of the Messiah. The word was is thus often used to denote similarity or representation, and is not to be taken literally. Thus, in the institution of the Lord’s Supper, the Saviour says of the bread, “This is my body,” that is, it represents my body. Thus, also of the cup, “This cup is the new testament in my blood,” that is, it represents my blood, 1 Corinthians 11:24-25. Thus, the gushing fountain of water might be regarded as a representation of the Messiah, and of the blessings which result from him. The apostle does not say that the Israelites knew that this was designed to be a representation of the Messiah, and of the blessings which flow from him, though there is nothing improbable in the supposition that they so understood and regarded it, since all their institutions were probably regarded as typical. But he evidently does mean to say that the rock was a vivid and affecting representation of the Messiah; that the Jews did partake of the mercies that flow from him; and that even in the desert they were under his care, and had in fact among them a vivid representation of him in some sense corresponding with the emblematic representation of the same favors which the Corinthian and other Christians had in the Lord’s Supper. This representation of the Messiah, perhaps, was understood by Paul to consist in the following things:
(1) Christians, like the children of Israel, are passing through the world as pilgrims, and to them that world is a wilderness - a desert.
(2) They need continued supplies, as the Israelites did, in their journey. The world, like that wilderness, does not meet their necessities, or supply their needs.
(3) That rock was a striking representation of the fulness of the Messiah, of the abundant grace which he imparts to his people.
(4) It was an illustration of their continued and constant dependence on him for the daily supply of their needs. It should be observed that many expositors understand this literally. Bloomfield translates it: “and they were supplied with drink from the spiritual Rock which followed them, even Christ.” So Rosenmuller, Calvin, Glass, etc. In defense of this interpretation, it is said, that the Messiah is often called “a rock” in the Scriptures; that the Jews believe that the “angel of Jehovah” who who attended them (Exodus 3:2, and other places) was the Messiah; and that the design of the apostle was, to show that this “attending Rock,” the Messiah, was the source of all their blessings, and particularly of the water that gushed from the rock. But the interpretation suggested above seems to me to be most natural. The design of the apostle is apparent. It is to show to the Corinthians, who relied so much on their privileges, and felt themselves so secure, that the Jews had the very same privileges - had the highest tokens of the divine favor and protection, were under the guidance and grace of God, and were partakers constantly of that which adumbrated or typified the Messiah, in a manner as real, and in a form as much suited to keep up the remembrance of their dependence, as even the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper.
But with many of them ... - That is, with their conduct. They rebelled and sinned, and were destroyed. The design of the apostle here is, to remind them that although they enjoyed so many privileges, yet they were destroyed; and thus to admonish the Corinthians that their privileges did not constitute an absolute security from danger, and that they should be cautious against the indulgence of sin. The phrase rendered here “with many” ἐν τοῖς πλείων en tois pleiōn should have been rendered “with most of them,” literally” with the many; and it means that with the greater part of them God was not well pleased; that is, he was pleased with but few of them.
Was not well pleased - Was offended with their ingratitude and rebellion.
For they were overthrown ... - That is, by the pestilence, by wars, or died by natural and usual diseases, so that they did not reach the land of Canaan. But two men of that generation, Caleb and Joshua, were permitted to enter the land of promise; Numbers 14:29-30.
Now these things - The judgments inflicted on them by God for their sins.
Were our examples - Greek: “types” (τύποι tupoi). Margin, “figures.” They were not designed to be types of us, but they are to be held up as furnishing an admonition to us, or a warning that we do not sin in the same way. The same God directs our affairs that ordered theirs; and if we sin as they did, we also must expect to be punished, and excluded from the favor of God, and from heaven.
Lust after evil things - Desire those things which are forbidden, and which would be injurious. They lusted after flesh, and God granted them their desires, and the consequence was a plague, and the destruction of multitudes Exodus 11:4. So Paul infers that the Corinthian Christians should not lust after, or desire the meat offered in sacrifice to idols, lest it should lead them also to sin and ruin.
Neither be ye idolaters - This caution is evidently given in view of the danger to which they would be exposed if they partook of the feasts that were celebrated in honor of idols in their temples. The particular idolatry which is referred to here is, the worship of the golden calf that was made by Aaron Exodus 32:1-5.
As it is written - Exodus 32:6.
The people sat down to eat and to drink - To worship the golden calf. They partook of a feast in honor of that idol. I have already observed that it was common to keep a feast in honor of an idol, and that the food which was eaten on such an occasion was mainly the meat which had been offered in sacrifice to it. This instance was particularly to the apostle’s purpose, as he was cautioning the Corinthians against the danger of participating in the feasts celebrated in the pagan temples.
And rose up to play - (παίζειν paizein). The Hebrew word used in Exodus 32:6 (צחק tsaachaq) means “to laugh, to sport, to jest, to mock, to insult” Genesis 21:9; and then to engage in dances accompanied with music, in honor of an idol. This was often practiced, as the worship of idols was celebrated with songs and dances. This is particularly affirmed of this instance of idol worship Exodus 32:19; and this was common among ancient idolaters; and this mode of worship was even adopted by David before the ark of the Lord; 2Sa 6:5; 1 Chronicles 13:8; 1 Chronicles 15:29. All that the word “to play” here necessarily implies is, that of choral songs and dances, accompanied with revelry in honor of the idol. It was, however, the fact that such worship was usually accompanied with much licentiousness; but that is not necessarily implied in the use of the word. Most of the oriental dances were grossly indecent and licentious, and the word here may be designed to include such indelicacy and licentiousness.
Neither let us commit fornication ... - The case referred to here was that of the licentious contact with the daughters of Moab, referred to in Numbers 25:1-9.
And fell in one day - Were slain for their sin by the plague that prevailed.
Three and twenty thousand - The Hebrew text in Numbers 25:9, is twenty-four thousand. In order to reconcile these statements, it may be observed that perhaps 23,000 fell directly by the plague, and 1,000 were slain by Phinehas and his companions (Grotius); or it may be that the number was between 23,000 and 24,000, and it might be expressed in round numbers by either - Macknight. At all events, Paul has not exceeded the truth. There were at least 23,000 that fell, though there might have been more. The probable supposition is, that the 23,000 fell immediately by the hand of God in the plague, and the other thousand by the judges; and as Paul’s design was particularly to mention the proofs of the immediate divine displeasure, he refers only to those who fell by that, in illustration of his subject - There was a particular reason for this caution in respect to licentiousness:
(1) It was common among all idolaters; and Paul in cautioning them against idolatry, would naturally warn them of this danger.
(2) It was common at Corinth. It was the prevalent vice there. To “Corinthianize” was a term synonymous among the ancients with licentiousness.
(3) So common was this at Corinth, that, as we have seen (see the introduction), not less than 1,000 prostitutes were supported in a single temple there; and the city was visited by vast multitudes of foreigners, among other reasons on account of its facilities for this sin. Christians, therefore, were in a special manner exposed to it; and hence, the anxiety of the apostle to warn them against it.
Neither let us tempt Christ ... - The word “tempt,” when applied to man, means to present motives or inducements to sin; when used with reference to God, it means to try his patience, to provoke his anger, or to act in such a way as to see how much he will bear, and how long he will endure the wickedness and perverseness of people. The Israelites tempted him, or “tried his patience and forbearance,” by rebellion, complaining, impatience, and dissatisfaction with his dealings. In what way the Corinthians were in danger of tempting Christ is not known, and can only be conjectured. It may be that the apostle cautions them against exposing themselves to temptation in the idol temples - placing themselves, as it were, under the unhappy influence of idolatry, and thus needlessly trying the strength of their religion, and making an experiment on the grace of Christ, as if he were bound to keep them even in the midst of dangers into which they needlessly ran. They would have the promise of grace to keep them only when they were in the way of their duty, and using all proper precautions. To go beyond this, to place themselves in needless danger, to presume on the grace of Christ to keep them in all circumstances, would be to tempt him, and provoke him to leave them; see the note at Matthew 4:7.
As some of them also tempted - There is evidently here a word to be understood, and it may be either “Christ” or “God.” The construction would naturally require the former; but it is not certain that the apostle meant to say that the Israelites tempted Christ. The main idea is that of temptation, whether it is of Christ or of God; and the purpose of the apostle is to caution them against the danger of tempting Christ, from the fact that the Israelites were guilty of the sin of tempting their leader and protector, and thus exposing themselves to his anger. It cannot be denied, however, that the more natural construction of this place is that which supposes that the word “Christ” is understood here rather than “God.” In order to relieve this interpretation from the difficulty that the Israelites could not be said with any propriety to have tempted “Christ,” since he had not then come in the flesh, two remarks may be made.
First, by the “angel of the covenant,” and the “angel of his presence” Exodus 23:20, Exodus 23:23; Exodus 32:34; Exodus 33:2; Numbers 20:16; Isaiah 63:9; Hebrews 11:26, that went with them, and delivered them from Egypt, there is reason to think the sacred writers understood the Messiah to be intended; and that he who subsequently became incarnate was he whom they tempted. And secondly, We are to bear in mind that the term “Christ” has acquired with us a signification somewhat different from that which it originally had in the New Testament. We use it as “a proper name,” applied to Jesus of Nazareth. But it is to be remembered that it is the mere Greek word for the Hebrew “Anointed,” or the “Messiah;” and by retaining this signification of the word here, no small part of the difficulty will be avoided; and the expression then will mean simply that the Israelites tempted “the Messiah;” and the idea will be that he who conducted them, and against whom they sinned, and whom they tempted, was “the Messiah,” who afterward became incarnate; an idea that is in accordance with the ancient ideas of the Jews respecting this personage, and which is not forbidden, certainly, in any part of the Bible.
And were destroyed of serpents - Fiery serpents; see Numbers 21:6.
Neither murmur ye - Do not repine at the allotments of Providence, or complain of His dealings.
As some of them also murmured - Numbers 14:2. The ground of their complaining was, that they had been disappointed; that they had been brought out of a land of plenty into a wilderness of want; and that instead of being conducted at once to the land of promise, they were left to perish in the desert. They therefore complained of their leaders, and proposed to return again into Egypt.
And were destroyed of the destroyer - That is, they were doomed to die in the wilderness without seeing the land of Canaan; Exodus 14:29. The “destroyer” here is understood by many to mean the “angel of death,” so often referred to in the Old Testament, and usually called by the Jews “Sammael.” The work of death, however, is attributed to an angel in Exodus 12:23; compare Hebrews 11:28. It was customary for the Hebrews to regard most human events as under the direction of angels. In Hebrews 2:14, he is described as he “that had the power of death;” compare the Book of Wisdom 18:22, 25. The simple idea here, however, is, that they died for their sin, and were not permitted to enter the promised land,
For ensamples - Greek: “types” (τύποι tupoi). The same word which is used in 1 Corinthians 10:6. This verse is a repetition of the admonition contained in that verse, in order to impress it more deeply on the memory; see the note at 1 Corinthians 10:6. The sense is, not that these things took place simply and solely to be examples, or admonitions, but that their occurrence illustrated great principles of human nature and of the divine government; they showed the weakness of men, and their liability to fall into sin, and their need of the divine protection, and they might thus be used for the admonition of succeeding generations.
They are written for our admonition - They are recorded in the writings of Moses, in order that we and all others might be admonished not to confide in our own strength. The admonition did not pertain merely to the Corinthians, but had an equal applicability to Christians in all ages of the world.
Upon whom the ends of the world are come - This expression is equivalent to that which so often occurs in the Scriptures, as, “the last time,” “the latter day,” etc.; see it fully explained in the notes on Acts 2:17. It means the last dispensation; or, that period and mode of the divine administration under which the affairs of the world would be wound up. There would be no mode of administration beyond that of the gospel. But it by no means denotes necessarily that the continuance of this period called “the last times,” and “the ends of the world” would be brief, or that the apostle believed that the world would soon come to an end. It might be the last period, and yet be longer than any one previous period, or than all the previous periods put together. There may be a last dynasty in an empire, and yet it may be longer than any previous dynasty, or than all the previous dynasties put together. The apostle Paul was at special pains in 2 Thessalonians 2:0 to show, that by affirming that the last time had come, he did not mean that the world would soon come to an end.
Wherefore - As the result of all these admonitions. Let this be the effect of all that we learn from the unhappy self-confidence of the Jews, to admonish us not to put reliance on our own strength.
That thinketh he standeth - That supposes himself to be firm in the love of God, and in the knowledge of his truth; that regards himself as secure, and that will be therefore disposed to rely on his own strength.
Take heed lest he fall - Into sin, idolatry, or any other form of iniquity. We learn here:
(1) That a confidence in our own security is no evidence that we are safe.
(2) Such a confidence may be one of the strongest evidences that we are in danger. Those are most safe who feel that they are weak and feeble, and who feel their need of divine aid and strength. They will then rely on the true source of strength; and they will be secure.
(3) All professed Christians should be admonished. All are in danger of falling into sin, and of dishonoring their profession; and the exhortation cannot be too often or too urgently pressed, that they should take heed lest they fall into sin. The leading and special idea of the apostle here should not he forgotten or disregarded. It is, that Christians in their favored moments, when they are permitted to approach near to God, and when the joys of salvation fill their hearts, should exercise special caution. For:
Accordingly, it often happens that Christians, after they have been especially favored with the tokens of the divine favor, soon relapse into their former state, or fall into some sin that grieves the hearts of their brethren, or wounds the cause of religion. So it is in revivals; so it is in individuals. Churches that are thus favored are filled with joy, and love, and peace. Yet they become self-confident and elated; they lose their humility and their sense of their dependence; they cease to be watchful and prayerful, supposing that all is safe; and the result often is, that a season of revival is succeeded by a time of coldness and declension. And thus, too, it is with individuals. Just the opposite effect is produced from what should be, and from what need be. Christians should then be especially on their guard; and if they then availed themselves of their elevated advantages, churches might be favored with continued revivals and ever-growing piety; and individuals might be filled with joy, and peace, and holiness, and ever-expanding and increasing love.
There hath no temptation taken you - What temptation the apostle refers to here is not quite certain. It is probable, however, that he refers to such as would, in their circumstances, have a tendency to induce them to forsake their allegiance to their Lord, and to lead them into idolatry and sin. These might be either open persecutions, or afflictions on account of their religion; or they might be the various allurements which were spread around them from the prevalence of idolatry. They might be the open attacks of their enemies, or the sneers and the derision of the frivilous and the great. The design of the apostle evidently is, to show them that, if they were faithful, they had nothing to fear from any such forms of temptation, but that God was able to bring them through them all. The sentiment in the verse is a very important one, since the general principle here stated is as applicable to Christians now as it was to the Corinthians.
Taken you - Seized upon you, or assailed you. As when an enemy grasps us, and attempts to hold us fast.
But such as is common to man - εἰ μὴ ἀνθρώπινος ei mē anthrōpinos. Such as is “human.” Margin, “Moderate.” The sense is evident. It means such as human nature is liable to, and has been often subjected to; such as the human powers, under the divine aid may be able to resist and repel. The temptations which they had been subjected to were not such as would be suited to angelic powers, and such as would require angelic strength to resist; but they were such as human nature had been often subjected to, and such as man had often contended with successfully. There is, therefore, here a recognition of the doctrine that man has natural ability to resist all the temptations to which he is subject; and that consequently, if he yields, he is answerable for it. The “design” of the apostle is to comfort the Corinthians, and to keep their minds from despondency. He had portrayed their danger; he had shown them how others had fallen; and they might be led to suppose that in such circumstances they could not be secure. He therefore tells them that they might still be safe, for their temptations were such as human nature had often been subject to, and God was able to keep them from falling.
But God is faithful - This was the only source of security; and this was enough. If they looked only to themselves, they would fall. If they depended on the faithfulness of God, they would be secure. The sense is, not that God would keep them without any effort of their own; not that he would secure them if they plunged into temptation; but that if they used the proper means, if they resisted temptation, and sought his aid, and depended on his promises, then he would be faithful. This is everywhere implied in the Scriptures; and to depend on the faithfulness of God, otherwise than in the proper use of means and in avoiding the places of temptation, is to tempt him, and provoke him to wrath; see the notes on Matthew 4:0.
Who will not suffer you to be tempted ... - This is a general promise, just as applicable to all Christians as it was to the Corinthians. It implies:
(1) That all the circumstances, causes, and agents that lead to temptation are under the control of God. Every man that tempts another; every fallen spirit that is engaged in this; every book, picture, place of amusement; every charm of music, and of song; every piece of indecent statuary; and every plan of business, of gain or ambition, are all under the control of God. He can check them; he can control them; he can paralyze their influence; he can destroy them; compare Matthew 6:13.
(2) When people are tempted, it is because God suffers or permits it. He Himself does not tempt human beings James 1:13; He does not infuse evil thoughts into the mind; He does not create an object of temptation to place in our way, but He suffers it to be placed there by others. When we are tempted, therefore, we are to remember that it is because He allows or permits it; not because He does it. His agency is that of sufferance, not of creation. We are to remember, too, that there is some good reason why it is thus permitted; and that it may be turned in some way to his glory, and to our advancement in virtue.
(3) There is a certain extent to which we are able to resist temptation. There is a limit to our power. There is a point beyond which we are not able to resist it. We do not have the strength of angels.
(4) That limit will, in all cases, be beyond the point to which we are tempted. If not, there would be no sin in falling, anymore than there is sin in the oak when it is prostrated before the tempest.
(5) If people fall into sin, under the power of temptation, they only are to blame. They have strength to resist all the temptations that assail them, and God has given the assurance that no temptation shall occur which they shall not be able, by His aid, to resist. In all instances, therefore, where people fall into sin; in all the yielding to passion, to allurement, and to vice, man is to blame, and must be responsible to God. And this is especially true of Christians, who, whatever may be said of others, cannot plead that there was not power sufficient to meet the temptation, or to turn aside its power.
But will with the temptation ... - He will, at the same time that He allows the trial or temptation to befall us, make a way of deliverance; He will save us from being entirely overcome by it.
That ye may be able to bear it - Or that you may be able to bear up under it, or endure it. God knows what His people are able to endure, and as He has entire control of all that can affect them, He will adapt all trials to their strength, and will enable them to bear all that is appointed to them. This is a general promise, and is as applicable to other Christians as it was to the Corinthians. It was to them a positive promise, and to all in the same circumstances it may be regarded as such now. It may be used, therefore:
(1) As a ground of encouragement to those who are in temptation and trial. God knows what they are able to endure; and he will sustain them in their temptations. It matters not how severe the trial; or how long it may be continued; or how much they may feel their own feebleness; yet He who has appointed the trial is abundantly able to uphold them. They may, therefore, repose their all upon Him, and trust to His sustaining grace.
(2) It may be used as an argument, that none who are true Christians, and who are thus tried, shall ever fall away, and be lost. The promise is positive and certain, that a way shall be made for their escape, and they shall be able to bear it. God is faithful to them; and though he might suffer them to be tempted beyond what they are able to bear, yet He will not, but will secure an egress from all their trials. With this promise in view, how can it be believed that any true Christians who are tempted will be suffered to fall away and perish? If they do, it must be from one of the following causes; either because God is not faithful; or because He will permit them to be tempted above what they are able to bear; or because He will not make a way for their escape. Since no Christian can believe either of these, it follows that they who are converted shall be kept unto salvation.
Wherefore - In view of the dangers and temptations that beset you; in view of your own feebleness and the perils to which you would be exposed in the idol temples, etc.
Flee from idolatry - Escape from the service of idols; from the feasts celebrated in honor of them; from the temples where they are worshipped. This was one of the dangers to which they were especially exposed; and Paul therefore exhorts them to escape from everything that would have a tendency to lead them into this sin. He had told them, indeed, that God was faithful; and yet he did not expect that God would keep them without any effort of their own. He therefore exhorts them to flee from all approaches to it, and from all the customs which would have a tendency to lead them into idolatrous practices. He returns, therefore, in this verse, to the particular subject discussed in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 - the propriety of partaking of the feasts in honor of idols; and shows the danger which would follow such a practice. That danger he sets forth in view of the admonitions contained in this chapter, from 1 Corinthians 10:1 to 1 Corinthians 10:12. The remainder of the chapter is occupied with a discussion of the question stated in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, whether it was right for them to partake of the meat which was used in the feasts of idolaters.
I speak as to wise men ... - I speak to people qualified to understand the subject; and present reasons which will commend themselves to you. The reasons referred to are those which occupy the remainder of the chapter.
The cup of blessing which we bless - The design of this verse and the following verses seems to be, to prove that Christians, by partaking of the Lord’s Supper, are solemnly set apart to the service of the Lord Jesus; that they acknowledge Him as their Lord, and dedicate themselves to him, and that as they could not and ought not to be devoted to idols and to the Lord Jesus at the same time, so they ought not to participate in the feasts in honor of idols, or in the celebrations in which idolaters would be engaged; see 1 Corinthians 10:21. He states, therefore:
(1) That Christians are “united” and dedicated to Christ in the communion; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17.
(2) That this was true of the Israelites, that they were one people, devoted by the service of the altar to the same God, 1 Corinthians 10:18.
(3) That though an idol was nothing, yet the pagan actually sacrificed to devils, and Christians ought not to partake with them; 1 Corinthians 10:19-21. The phrase “cup of blessing” evidently refers to the wine used in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. it is called “the cup of blessing” because over it Christians praise or bless God for his mercy in providing redemption. It is not because it is the means of conveying a blessing to the souls of those who partake of it - though that is true - but because thanksgiving, blessing, and praise were rendered to God in the celebration, for the benefits of redemption; see Note, Matthew 26:26. Or it may mean, in accordance with a well known Hebraism, “the blessed cup;” the cup that is blessed. This is the more literal interpretation; and it is adopted by Calvin, Beza, Doddridge, and others.
Which we bless - Grotius, Macknight, Vatablus, Bloomfield, and many of the early church fathers suppose that this means, “over which we bless God;” or, “for which we bless God.” But this is to do violence to the passage. The more obvious signification is, that there is a sense in which it may be said that the cup is blessed, and that by prayer and praise it is set apart and rendered in some sense sacred to the purposes of religion. it cannot mean that the cup has undergone any physical change, or that the wine is anything but wine; but that it has been solemnly set apart to the service of religion, and by prayer and praise designated to be used for the purpose of commemorating the Saviour’s love. That may be said to be blessed which is set apart to a sacred use (Genesis 2:3; Exodus 20:11); and in this sense the cup may be said to be blessed; see Luke 9:16, “And he took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven he blessed them,” etc.; compare Genesis 14:9; Genesis 27:23, Genesis 27:33, Genesis 27:41; Genesis 28:1; Lev 9:22-23; 2 Samuel 6:18; 1 Kings 8:41.
Is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? - Is it not the emblem by which the blood of Christ is exhibited, and the means by which our union through that blood is exhibited? Is it not the means by which we express our attachment to him as Christians; showing our union to him and to each other; and showing that we partake in common of the benefits of his blood? The main idea is, that by partaking of this cup they showed that they were united to him and to each other; and that they should regard themselves as set apart to him. We have communion with one κοινωνία koinōnia,) that which is in “common,” that which pertains to all, that which evinces fellowship) when we partake together; when all have an equal right, and all share alike; when the same benefits or the same obligations are extended to all. And the sense here is, that Christians “partake alike” in the benefits of the blood of Christ; they share the same blessings; and they express this together, and in common, when they partake of the communion.
The bread ... - In the communion. It shows, since we all partake of it. that we share alike in the benefits which are imparted by means of the body of the Redeemer. In like manner it is implied that if Christians should partake with idolaters in the feasts offered in honor of idols, that they would be regarded as partaking with them in the services of idols, or as united to them, and therefore such participation was improper.
For we - We Christians. “Being many.” Greek “The many” (οἱ πολλοί hoi polloi). This idea is not, as our translation would seem to indicate, that Christians were numerous, but that “all” (for οἱ πολλοί hoi polloi is here evidently used in the sense of παντες pantes, “all”) were united, and constituted one society.
Are one bread - One loaf; one cake. That is, we are united, or are one. There is evident allusion here to the fact that the loaf or cake was composed of many separate grains of wheat, or portions of flour united in one; or, that as one loaf was broken and partaken by all, it was implied that they were all one. We are all one society; united as one, and for the same object. Our partaking of the same bread is an emblem of the fact that we are one. In almost all nations the act of eating together has been regarded as a symbol of unity or friendship.
And one body - One society; united together.
For we are all partakers ... - And we thus show publicly that we are united, and belong to the same great family. The argument is, that if we partake of the feasts in honor of idols with their worshippers, we shall thus show that we are a part of their society.
Behold Israel - Look at the Jews. The design here is to illustrate the sentiment which he was establishing, by a reference to the fact that among the Jews those who partook of the same sacrifices were regarded as being one people, and as worshipping one God. So, if they partook of the sacrifices offered to idols, they would be regarded also as being fellow-worshippers of idols with them.
After the flesh - See Romans 4:1. The phrase “after the flesh” is designed to denote the Jews who were not converted to Christianity; the natural descendants of Israel, or Jacob.
Are not they which eat of the sacrifices - A portion of the sacrifices offered to God was eaten by the offerer, and another portion by the priests. Some portions of the animal, as the fat, were burnt; and the remainder, unless it was a holocaust, or whole burnt-offering, was then the property of the priests who had officiated, or of the persons who had brought it; Exodus 29:13, Exodus 29:22; Lev, Leviticus 3:4, Leviticus 3:10, Leviticus 3:15; Leviticus 4:9; Leviticus 7:3-4; Leviticus 8:26. The right shoulder and the breast was the part which was assigned to the priests; the remainder belonged to the offerer.
Partakers of the altar - Worshippers of the same God. They are united in their worship, and are so regarded. And in like manner, if you partake of the sacrifices offered to idols, and join with their worshippers in their temples, you will be justly regarded as “united” with them in their worship, and partaking with them in their abominations.
What say I then? - This is in the present tense; τί οὖν φημι ti oun phēmi, what do I say? What is my meaning? What follows from this? Do I mean to say that an idol is anything; that it has a real existence? Does my reasoning lead to that conclusion; and am I to be understood as affirming that an idol is of itself of any consequence? It must be recollected that the Corinthian Christians are introduced by Paul 1 Corinthians 8:4 as saying that they knew that an idol was nothing in the world. Paul did not directly contradict that; but his reasoning had led him to the necessity of calling the propriety of their attending on the feasts of idols in question; and he introduces the matter now by asking these questions, thus leading the mind to it rather than directly affirming it at once. “Am I in this reasoning to be understood as affirming that an idol is anything, or that the meat there offered differs from other meat? No; you know, says Paul, that this is not my meaning. I admit that an idol in itself is nothing; but I do not admit, therefore, that it is right for you to attend in their temples; for though the “idol” itself - the block of wood or stone - is nothing, yet the offerings are really made to devils; and I would not have you engage in such a service;” 1 Corinthians 10:20-21.
That the idol is anything? - That the block of wood or stone is a real living object of worship, to be dreaded or loved? See the note at 1 Corinthians 8:4.
Or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is anything? - Or that the meat which is offered “differs” from that which is not offered; that the mere act of offering it changes its qualities? I do not admit or suppose this.
But - The negative here is omitted, but is understood. The ellipsis of a negative after an interrogative sentence is common in the Classical writers as well as in the Scriptures. Bloomfield. The sense is, “No; I do not say this, but I say that there are reasons why you should not partake of those sacrifices; and one of those reasons is, that they have been really offered to devils.”
They sacrifice to devils - (δαιμονίοις daimoniois, “demons”). The pagans used the word demon either in a good or a bad sense. They applied it commonly to spirits that were supposed to be inferior to the supreme God; genii; attending spirits; or, as they called them, divinities, or gods. A part were in their view good, and a part evil. Socrates supposed that such a demon or genius attended him, who suggested good thoughts to him, and who was his protector. As these beings were good and well disposed, it was not supposed to be necessary to offer any sacrifices in order to appease them. But a large portion of those genii were supposed to be evil and wicked, and hence, the necessity of attempting to appease their wrath by sacrifices and bloody offerings. It was therefore true, as the apostle says, that the sacrifices of the pagan were made, usually at least, to devils or to evil spirits.
Many of these spirits were supposed to be the souls of departed people, who were entitled to worship after death, having been enrolled among the gods. The word “demons,” among the Jews, was employed only to designate evil beings. It is not implied in their writings to good angels or to blessed spirits, but to evil angels, to idols, to false gods. Thus, in the Septuagint the word is used to translate אלילים Elilim, “idols” Psalms 95:5; Isaiah 65:10; and שׁד shēd, Shaid, as in Deuteronomy 32:17, in a passage which Paul has here almost literally used, “They sacrificed unto devils, not to God.” No where in the Septuagint is it used in a good sense. In the New Testament the word is uniformly used also to denote “evil spirits,” and those usually which had taken possession of people in the time of the Saviour; Matthew 7:22; Matthew 9:33-34; Matthew 10:8; Matthew 11:18; Mark 1:34, Mark 1:39, et al. See also Campbell on the Gospels, Pre. Dissertation vi. part 1, Section 14-16. The precise force of the original is not, however, conveyed by our translation. It is not true that the pagans sacrificed to “devils,” in the common and popular sense of that word, meaning thereby the apostate angel and the spirits under his direction; for the pagans were as ignorant of their existence as they were of the true God; and it is not true that they designed to worship such beings. But it is true:
(1) That they did not worship the supreme and the true God. They were not acquainted with his existence; and they did not profess to adore him.
(2) They worshipped “demons;” beings that they regarded as inferior to the true God; created spirits, or the spirits of people that had been enrolled among the number of the gods.
(3) It was true that many of these beings were supposed to be malign and evil in their nature, and that their worship was designed to deprecate their wrath. So that, although an idol was nothing in itself, the gold or wood of which it was made was inanimate, and incapable of aiding or injuring them; and although there were no real beings such as the pagans supposed - no genii or inferior gods; yet they “designed” to offer sacrifice to such beings, and to deprecate their wrath. To join them in this, therefore, would be to express the belief that there were such beings, and that they ought to be worshipped, and that their wrath should be deprecated.
I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils - I would not that you should have communion with demons. I would not have you express a belief of their existence; or join in worship to them; or partake of the spirit by which they are supposed to be actuated - a spirit that would be promoted by attendance on their worship. I would not have you, therefore, join in a mode of worship where such beings are acknowledged. You are solemnly dedicated to Christ; and the homage due to him should not be divided with homage offered to devils, or to imaginary beings.
Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord ... - This does not mean that they had no physical ability to do this, or that it was a natural impossibility; for they certainly had power to do it. But it must mean that they could not “consistently” do it. It was not fit, proper, decent. They were solemnly bound to serve and obey Christ, they had devoted themselves to him, and they could not, consistently with these obligations, join in the worship of demons. This is a striking instance in which the word “cannot” is used to denote not natural but moral inability.
And the cup of devils - Demons; 1 Corinthians 10:20. In the feasts in honor of the gods, wine was poured out as a libation, or drank by the worshippers; see Virgil, Aeneas viii. 273. The custom of drinking “toasts” at feasts and celebrations arose from this practice of pouring out wine, or drinking in honor of the pagan gods; and is a practice that still partakes of the nature of paganism. It was one of the abominations of paganism to suppose that their gods would be pleased with the intoxicating drink. Such a pouring out of a libation was usually accompanied with a prayer to the idol god, that he would accept the offering; that he would be propitious; and that he would grant the desire of the worshipper. From that custom the habit of expressing a sentiment, or proposing a toast, uttered in drinking wine, has been derived. The toast or sentiment which now usually accompanies the drinking of a glass in this manner, if it means anything, is now also a “prayer.” But to whom? To the god of wine? To a pagan deity? Can it be supposed that it is a prayer offered to the true God; the God of purity? Has Yahweh directed that prayer should be offered to Him in such a manner? Can it be acceptable to Him? Either the sentiment is unmeaning, or it is a prayer offered to a pagan god, or it is mockery of Yahweh; and in either case it is improper and wicked. And it may as truly be said now of Christians as in the time of Paul. “Ye cannot consistently drink the cup of the Lord at the communion table, and the cup where a prayer is offered to a false god, or to the dead, or to the air; or when, if it means anything, it is a mockery of Jehovah.” Now can a Christian with any more consistency or propriety join in such celebrations, and in such unmeaning or profane libations, than he could go into the temple of an idol, and partake of the idolatrous celebrations there?
And of the table of devils - Demons. It is not needful to the force of this that we should suppose that the word means necessarily evil spirits. They were not God; and to worship them was idolatry. The apostle means that Christians could not consistently join in the worship that was offered to them, or in the feasts celebrated in honor of them.
Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? - That is, shall we, by joining in the worship of idols, “provoke” or “irritate” God, or excite him to anger? This is evidently the meaning of the word παραζηλοῦμεν parazēloumen, rendered “provoke to jealousy.” The word קנא qaana', usually rendered by this word by the Septuagint, has this sense in Deuteronomy 32:21; 1 Kings 14:22; Ezra 8:3; Psalms 78:58. There is a reference here, doubtless, to the truth recorded in Exodus 20:5. That God “is a jealous God,” and that he regards the worship of idols as a direct affront to himself. The sentiment of Paul is, that to join in the worship of idols, or in the observance of their feasts, would be to participate in that which had ever been regarded by God with special abhorrence, and which more than anything else tended to provoke his wrath. We may observe, that any course of life that tends to alienate the affections from God, and to fix them on other beings or objects, is a sin of the same kind as that referred to here. Any inordinate love of friends, of property, of honor, has substantially the same idolatrous nature, and will tend to provoke him to anger. And it may be asked of Christians now, whether they will by such inordinate attachments provoke the Lord to wrath? whether they will thus excite his displeasure, and expose themselves to his indignation? Very often Christians do thus provoke him. They become unduly attached to a friend, or to wealth, and God in anger takes away that friend by death, or that property by the flames, or they conform to the world, and mingle in its scenes of fashion and gaiety, and forget God; and in displeasure he visits them with judgments, humbles them, and recalls them to Himself.
Are we stronger than he? - This is given as a reason why we should not provoke his displeasure. We cannot contend successfully with Him; and it is therefore madness and folly to contend with God, or to expose ourselves to the effects of His indignation.
All things are lawful for me - See the note at 1 Corinthians 6:12. This is a repetition of what he had said before; and it is here applied to the subject of eating the meat that had been offered to idols. The sense is,” Though it may be admitted that it was strictly “lawful” to partake of that meat, yet there were strong reasons why it was inexpedient; and those reasons ought to have the binding force of law.”
All things edify not - All things do not tend to build up the church, and to advance the interests of religion; and when they do not have this effect, they are not expedient, and are improper. Paul acted for the welfare of the church. His object was to save souls. Anything that would promote that object was proper; anything which would hinder it, though in itself it might not be strictly unlawful, was in his view improper. This is a simple rule, and might be easily applied by all. If a man has his heart on the conversion of people and the salvation of the world, it will go far to regulate his conduct in reference to many things concerning which there may be no exact and positive law. It will do much to regulate his dress; his style of living; his expenses; his entertainments; his mode of contact with the world. He may not be able to fix his finger on any positive law, and to say that this or that article of dress is improper; that this or that piece of furniture is absolutely forbidden; or that this or that manner of life is contrary to any explicit law of Yahweh; but he may see that it will interfere with his great and main purpose, “to do good on the widest scale possible;” and therefore to him it will be inexpedient and improper. Such a grand leading purpose is a much better guide to direct a man’s life than would be exact positive statutes to regulate everything, even if such minute statutes were possible.
Let no man seek his own - This should be properly interpreted of the matter under discussion, though the direction assumes the form of a general principle. Originally it meant, “Let no man, in regard to the question about partaking of the meat offered in sacrifice to idols, consult his own pleasure, happiness, or convenience; but let him, as the leading rule on the subject, ask what will be for the welfare of others. Let him not gratify his own taste and inclinations, regardless of their feelings, comfort, and salvation; but let him in these things have a primary reference to their welfare.” He may dispense with these things without danger or injury; He cannot indulge in them without endangering the happiness or purity of others. His duty therefore requires him to abstain. The injunction, however, has a general form, and is applicable to all Christians, and to all cases “of a similar kind.” It does not mean that a man is not in any instance to regard his own welfare, happiness, or salvation; it does not mean that a man owes no duty to himself or family; or that he should neglect all these to advance the welfare of others; but the precept means, that “in cases like that under consideration,” when there is no positive law, and when a man’s example would have a great influence, he should be guided in his conduct, not by a reference to his own ease, comfort or gratification, but by a reference to the purity and salvation of others. And the observance of this simple rule would make a prodigious change in the church and the world.
But every man another’s wealth - The word “wealth” is not in the Greek. Literally, “that which is of another;” the word τὸ to referring to anything and everything that pertains to his comfort, usefulness, happiness, or salvation - The sentiment of the whole is, “when a man is bound and directed by no positive law, his grand rule should be the comfort and salvation of others.” This is a simple rule; it might be easily applied; and this would be a sort of balance-wheel in the various actions and plans of the world. If every man would adopt this rule, he could not be in much danger of going wrong; he would be certain that he would not live in vain.
Whatsoever is sold in the shambles - In the market. The meat of animals offered in sacrifice would be exposed there to sale as well as other meat. The apostle says that it might be purchased, since the mere fact that it had been offered in sacrifice could not change its quality, or render it unfit for use. They were to abstain from attending on the feasts of the idols in the temple, from partaking of meat that had been offered them, and from celebrations observed expressly in honor of idols; but lest they should become too scrupulous, the apostle tells them that if the meat was offered indiscriminately in the market with other meat, they were not to hesitate to purchase it, or eat it.
Asking no question for conscience’ sake - Not hesitating or doubting, as if it might possibly have been offered in sacrifice. Not being scrupulous, as if it were possible that the conscience should be defiled. This is a good rule still, and may be applied to a great many things. But:
(1) That which is purchased should be in itself lawful and right. It would not be proper for a man to use ardent spirits or any other intoxicating drinks because they were offered for sale, any more than it would be to commit suicide because people offered pistols, and bowie-knives, and halters to sell.
(2) There are many things now concerning which similar questions may be asked; as, e. g. is it right to use the productions of slave-labor, the sugar, cotton, etc., that are the price of blood? Is it right to use that which is known to be made on Sunday; or that which it is known a man has made by a life of dishonesty and crime? The consciences of many persons are tender on all such questions; and the questions are not of easy solution. Some rules may perhaps be suggested arising from the case before us:
For the earth is the Lord’s - This is quoted from Psalms 24:1. The same sentiment is also found in Psalms 50:11, and in Deuteronomy 10:14. It is here urged as a reason why it; is right to partake of the meat offered in the market. It all belongs to the Lord. It does not really belong to the idol, even though it has been offered to it. It may, therefore, be partaken of as his gift, and should be received with gratitude.
And the fulness thereof - All that the earth produces belongs to Him. He causes if to grow; and He has given it to be food for man; and though it may have been devoted to an idol, yet its nature is not changed. It is still the gift of God; still the production of His hand; still the fruit of His goodness and love.
If any of them that believe not - That are not Christians; that are still pagans.
Bid you to a feast - Evidently not a feast in the temple of an idol, but at his own house. If he asks you to partake of his hospitality.
And ye be disposed to go - Greek, “And you will to go.” It is evidently implied here that it would be not improper to go. The Saviour accepted such invitations to dine with the Pharisees (see the note at Luke 11:37); and Christianity is not designed to abolish the courtesies of social life; or to break the bonds of contact; or to make people misanthropes or hermits. It allows and cultivates, under proper Christian restraints, the contact in society which will promote the comfort of people, and especially that which may extend the usefulness of Christians. It does not require, therefore, that we should withdraw from social life, or regard as improper the courtesies of society; see the note at 1 Corinthians 5:10.
Whatsoever is set before you ... - Whether it has been offered in sacrifice or not; for so the connection requires us to understand it.
Eat - This should be interpreted strictly. The apostle says “eat,” not “drink;” and the principle will not authorize us to “drink” whatever is set before us, asking no questions for conscience sake; for while it was matter of indifference in regard to eating, whether the meat had been sacrificed to idols or not, it is not a matter of indifference whether a man may drink intoxicating liquor. That is a point on which the “conscience” should have much to do; and on which its honest decisions, and the will of the Lord, should be faithfully and honestly regarded.
But if any man - If any fellow guest; any scrupulous fellow Christian who may be present. That the word “any” (τις tis) refers to a fellow guest seems evident; for it is not probable that the host would point out any part of the food on his own table, of the lawfulness of eating which he would suppose there was any doubt. Yet there might be present some scrupulous fellow Christian who would have strong doubts of the propriety of partaking of the food, and who would indicate it to the other guests.
For his sake that showed it - Do not offend him; do not lead him into sin;, do not pain and wound his feelings.
And for conscience’ sake - Eat not, out of respect to the conscientious scruples of him that told thee that it had been offered to idols. The word “conscience” refers to the conscience of the informer 1 Corinthians 10:29; still he should make it a matter of conscience not to wound his weak brethren, or lead them into sin.
For the earth is the Lord’s ... - See 1 Corinthians 10:26. These words are missing in many mss. (see Mill’s Greek Testament), and in the Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and Arabic versions; and are omitted by Griesbach. Grotius says that they should be omitted. There might easily have been a mistake in transcribing them from 1 Corinthians 10:26. The authority of the mss., however, is in favor of retaining them; and they are quoted by the Greek fathers and commentators. If they are to be retained, they are to be interpreted, probably, in this sense; “There is no “necessity” that you should partake of this food. All things belong to God; and he has made ample provision for your needs without subjecting you to the necessity of eating this. Since this is the case, it is best to regard the scruples of those who have doubts of the propriety of eating this food, and to abstain.”
Conscience, I say, not thine own - I know that you may have no scruples on the subject. I do not mean that with you this need be a matter of conscience. I do not put it on that; ground, as if an idol were anything, or as if it were in itself wrong, or as if the quality of the meat so offered had been changed; but I put it on the ground of not wounding the feelings of those who are scrupulous, or of leading them into sin.
For why is my liberty ... - There is much difficulty in this clause; for as it now stands, it seems to be entirely contradictory to what the apostle had been saying. He had been urging them to have respect to other people’s consciences, and in some sense to give up their liberty to their opinions and feelings. Macknight and some others understand it as an objection: “Perhaps you will say, But why is my liberty to be ruled by another man’s conscience?” Doddridge supposes that this and 1 Corinthians 10:30 come in as a kind of parenthesis, to prevent their extending his former caution beyond what he designed. “I speak only of acts obvious to human observation: for as to what immediately lies between God and my own soul, why is my liberty to be judged, arraigned, condemned at the bar of another man’s conscience?” But it is probable that this is not an objection. The sense may be thus expressed: “I am free; I have “liberty” to partake of that food, if I please; there is no law against it, and it is not morally wrong: but if I do, when it is pointed out to me as having been sacrificed to idols, my liberty - the right which I exercise - will be “misconstrued, misjudged, condemned” (for so the word κρίνεται krinetai seems to be used here) by others. The weak and scrupulous believer will censure, judge, condemn me as regardless of what is proper, and as disposed to fall in with the customs of idolaters; and will suppose that I cannot have a good conscience. Under these circumstances, why should I act so as to expose myself to this censure and condemnation? It is better for me to abstain, and not to use this liberty in the case, but to deny myself for the sake of others.”
For if I by grace be a partaker - Or rather, “If I partake by grace; if by the grace and mercy of God, I have a right to partake of this; yet why should I so conduct as to expose myself to the reproaches and evil surmises of others? Why should I lay myself open to be blamed on the subject of eating, when there are so many bounties of Providence for which I may be thankful, and which I may partake of without doing injury, or exposing myself in any manner to be blamed?”
Why am I evil spoken of - Why should I pursue such a course as to expose myself to blame or censure?
For that for which I give thanks - For my food. The phrase “for which I give thanks” seems to be a periphrasis for “food,” or for that of which he partook to nourish life. It is implied that he always gave thanks for his food; and that this was with him such a universal custom, that the phrase “for which I give thanks” might be used as convenient and appropriate phraseology to denote his ordinary food. The idea in the verse, then, is this: “By the favor of God, I have a right to partake of this food. But if I did, I should be evil spoken of, and do injury. And it is unnecessary. God has made ample provision elsewhere for my support, for which I may be thankful. I will not therefore expose myself to calumny and reproach, or be the occasion of injury to others by partaking of the food offered in sacrifice to idols.”
Whether therefore ye eat or drink - This direction should be strictly and properly applied to the case in hand; that is, to the question about eating and drinking the things that had been offered in sacrifice to idols. Still, however, it contains a general direction that is applicable to eating and drinking at all times; and the phrase “whatsoever ye do” is evidently designed by the apostle to make the direction universal.
Or whatsoever ye do - In all the actions and plans of life; whatever he your schemes, your desires, your doings, let all be done to the glory of God.
Do all to the glory of God - The phrase “the glory of God” is equivalent to the honor of God; and the direction is, that we should so act in all things as to “honor” him as our Lawgiver, our Creator, our Redeemer; and so as to lead others by our example to praise him and to embrace His gospel. A child acts so as to honor a father when he always cherishes reverential and proper thoughts of him; when he is thankful for his favors; when he keeps his laws; when he endeavors to advance his plans and his interests; and when he so acts as to lead all around him to cherish elevated opinions of the character of a father. He “dishonorers” him when he has no respect to his authority; when he breaks his laws; when he leads others to treat him with disrespect. In like manner, we live to the glory of God when we honor him in all the relations which he sustains to us; when we keep his laws; when we partake of his favors with thankfulness, and with a deep sense of our dependence; when we pray unto him; and when we so live as to lead those around us to cherish elevated conceptions of his goodness, and mercy, and holiness. Whatever plan or purpose will tend to advance His kingdom, and to make him better known and loved, will be to His glory. We may observe in regard to this:
(1) That the rule is “universal.” It extends to everything. If in so small matters as eating and drinking we should seek to honor God, assuredly we should in all other things.
(2) It is designed that this should be the constant rule of conduct, and that we should be often reminded of it. The acts of eating and drinking must be performed often; and the command is attached to that which must often occur, that we may be often reminded of it, and that we may be kept from forgetting it.
(3) It is intended that we should honor God in our families and among our friends. We eat with them; we share together the bounties of Providence; and God designs that we should honor Him when we partake of His mercies, and that thus our daily enjoyments should be sanctified by a constant effort to glorify Him.
(4) We should devote the strength which we derive from the bounties of His hand to His honor and in His service. He gives us food; He makes it nourishing; He invigorates our frame; and that strength should not be devoted to purposes of sin, and profligacy, and corruption. it is an act of high dishonor to God, when he gives us strength, that we should at once devote that strength to pollution and to sin.
(5) This rule is designed to be one of the chief directors of our lives. It is to guide all our conduct, and to constitute a “test” by which to try our actions. Whatever can be done to advance the honor of God is right; whatever cannot be done with that end is wrong. Whatever plan a man can form that will have this end is a good plan; whatever cannot be made to have this tendency, and that cannot be commended, continued, and ended with a distinct and definite desire to promote His honor, is wrong, and should be immediately abandoned.
(6) What a change would it make in the world if this rule were every where followed! How differently would even professing Christians live! How many of their plans would they be constrained at once to abandon! And what a mighty revolution would it at once make on earth should all the actions of people begin to be performed to promote the glory of God!
(7) It may be added that sentiments like that of the apostle were found among the Jews, and even among pagans. Thus, Maimonides, as cited by Grotius, says, “Let everything be in the name of Heaven,” that is, in the name of God. Capellus cites several of the rabbinical writers who say that all actions, even eating and drinking, should be done “in the name of God.” See the “Critici Sacri.” Even the pagan writers have something that resembles this. Thus, Arrian Ephesians 1:19 says, “Looking unto God in all things small and great.’ Epictetus, too, on being asked how anyone may eat so as to please God, answered, “By eating justly, temperately, and thankfully.”
Give none offence - Be inoffensive; that is, do not act so as to lead others into sin; see the note at Romans 14:13.
Neither to the Jews ... - To no one, though they are the foes of God or strangers to him. To the Jews be inoffensive, because they think that the least approach to idol worship is to be abhorred. Do not so act as to lead them to think that you connive at or approve idol worship, and so as to prejudice them the more against the Christian religion, and lead them more and more to oppose it. In other words, do not attend the feasts in honor of idols.
Nor to the Gentiles - Greek “Greeks.” To the pagans who are unconverted. They are attached to idol worship. They seek every way to justify themselves in it. Do not countenance them in it, and thus lead them into the sin of idolatry.
Nor to the church of God - To Christians. Many of them are weak. They may not be as fully instructed as you are. Your example would lead them into sin. Abstain, therefore, from things which, though they are in themselves strictly “lawful,” may yet be the occasion of leading others into sin, and endangering their salvation.
Even as I ... - Paul here proposes his own example as their guide. The example which he refers to is that which he had exhibited as described in this and the preceding chapters. His main object had been to please all people; that is, not to alarm their prejudices, or needlessly to excite their opposition (see the note at 1 Corinthians 9:19-23), while he made known to them the truth, and sought their salvation - It is well when a minister can without ostentation appeal to his own example, and urge others to a life of self-denial and holiness, by his own manner of living, and by what he is himself in his daily walk and conversation.