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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
1 Corinthians 10

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-3

1 Corinthians 10:1-3. Moreover — Or now; brethren — That you may be induced to attend to the exhortation which I have been giving you, and may run your Christian race with resolution, zeal, and diligence, and not become reprobates, consider how highly favoured your fathers were, who were God’s elect and peculiar people, and nevertheless were rejected by him. They were all under the cloud, that eminent token of God’s gracious presence with them, which defended them from the Egyptians; (Exodus 14:20;) being to the latter a cloud of darkness, but giving light by night to the Israelites; the cloud which accompanied them in their journeyings, and was spread over them like a covering, to screen them from the heat of the sun, intense in the deserts of Arabia, Numbers 14:14. And all passed through the sea — God opening a way through the midst of the waters; and were all baptized, as it were, unto Moses — Initiated into the religion which he taught them; in the cloud and in the sea — Perhaps sprinkled here and there with drops of water from the sea, and from the cloud, by which baptism might be more evidently signified. But whether or not, as the Israelites, by being hid from the Egyptians under the cloud, and by passing through the sea, were made to declare their belief in the Lord and in his servant Moses, (Exodus 14:31,) the apostle very properly represents them as being thereby baptised unto Moses. And did all eat the same spiritual meat — That is, the manna, which was an emblem of the bread of life; that came down from heaven — Namely, 1st, Of Christ’s flesh and blood, or his obedience unto death, which is meat indeed, John 6:55. 2d, Of his heavenly doctrine, whereby the souls of the faithful are supported and nourished, John 6:63. And 3d, Of the sacramental bread which we eat at his table. The word spiritual is here used for typical, as it is also Revelation 11:8, where we read, Which great city spiritually, (that is, typically,) is called Sodom and Egypt. That the feeding of the Israelites with manna had a typical meaning, appears from Deuteronomy 8:3; and that it signified true doctrine in particular, appears from its being called angels’ food, Psalms 78:25. And it is termed spiritual meat, because the spiritual blessings which it typified were the same with those typified by the bread in the Lord’s supper, which the Corinthians ate.


Verse 4

1 Corinthians 10:4. And did all drink the same spiritual — That is, typical; drink — Namely, typical of Christ and of the living water, the divine influence derived from him, John 8:37. For they drank of that spiritual — Or mysterious; rock — The wonderful streams of which followed them in their several journeyings for many years through the wilderness. It must be observed, water was twice brought from a rock by a miracle, for the Israelites in the wilderness; once in Rephidim, which was their eleventh station, and in the first year after they came out of Egypt; of which miracle we have an account, Exodus 17.; the second time was at Kadesh, which was their thirty-third station, and in the fortieth year after their leaving Egypt, Numbers 20:1. To both places the name of Meribah was given; but the latter was called Meribah-Kadesh, to distinguish it from Meribah of Rephidim. It is the miracle performed in Rephidim of which the apostle here speaks. The water, it appears, that issued from this rock formed a brook, which (Deuteronomy 9:21) is said to have descended out of the mount, that is, out of Horeb; (Exodus 17:5-6;) for before that miracle there was no brook in these parts. And it issued in such abundance as to be termed a river, Psalms 78:16; Psalms 105:41. Indeed, six hundred thousand men, with their women and children, and cattle, required a river to supply them with drink. And Horeb being a high mountain, there seems to have been a descent from it to the sea; and the Israelites, during the thirty-seven years of their journeying, appear to have gone by those tracts of country in which the waters from Horeb could follow them, till in the thirty-ninth year they came to Ezion-Gaber, (Numbers 33:36,) a port of the Red sea, far down the Arabian side, where it is supposed the water from Horeb went into that sea. The country through which the Israelites journeyed so long a time, being watered by this river, produced, no doubt, herbage for the cattle of the Israelites, which, in this desert, must otherwise have perished. And that Rock was Christ — A manifest type of him, the Rock of ages, who, being smitten in his death and sufferings, poured forth streams of redemption, grace, and heavenly blessings, which follow his people through all this wilderness, and will end in rivers of pleasure at the right hand of God for ever.


Verse 5-6

1 Corinthians 10:5-6. But with many of them — Although they had so many tokens of the divine presence with them, and enjoyed such singular favours; God was not well pleased — So far from it, that he swore in his wrath they should not enter into the rest he had provided for them; and therefore they were overthrown in the wilderness — With the most terrible marks of his wrath. Even the whole generation that came adult out of Egypt died there, and sometimes in such multitudes, that the ground was overspread with carcasses, as a field is in which a battle has been fought. Now these things — These punishments; were our examples — Showing what we are to expect, notwithstanding our profession of Christianity, if we act like them; if, enjoying the like benefits, we commit the like sins. The benefits are here set down in the same order as by Moses in Exodus; the sins and punishments in a different order: evil desire first, as being the foundation of all; next idolatry, 1 Corinthians 10:7; 1 Corinthians 10:14; then fornication, which usually accompanied it, 1 Corinthians 10:8; tempting and murmuring against God in the following verses. To the intent we should not lust after evil things — Should not indulge irregular and luxurious desires; as they also lusted — After flesh, in contempt of the manna, and thereby brought the wrath of God upon themselves, and were consumed with pestilential distempers, while the meat was yet between their teeth, Psalms 78:30-31. Learn, therefore, as if he had said, by what they suffered, to cultivate that temperance and self-denial which I have just been recommending to you.


Verse 7-8

1 Corinthians 10:7-8. Neither be ye idolaters — By partaking of their idolatrous feasts: by no means join the heathen in these, because if the persons whose friendship you wish to cultivate, tempt you to commit idolatry, neither your superior knowledge, nor the spiritual gifts which ye possess, will secure you against their allurements: of these things you have a striking proof in the ancient Israelites. As it is written Exodus 32:6; Exodus 32:19, with relation to the feast of the golden calf; The people sat down to eat and drink — Of the sacrifices and libations which were offered to the calf. He says, sat down to eat, for in ancient times the Hebrews always sat at meat: see Genesis 43:33. It was in later times only that, in compliance with the manners of eastern nations, they lay on couches at their meals. And rose up to play — Or to dance, as the word παιζειν here signifies, in honour of their idol. Dancing was one of the rites practised by the heathen in the worship of their gods. And that the Israelites worshipped the golden calf by dancing, is evident from Exodus 32:19, where it is said of Moses, that he saw the calf and the dancing, and his anger waxed hot. Neither let us commit fornication — A sin commonly committed at the idolatrous feasts among the heathen. And it was the more proper for the apostle to caution the Corinthians against it, because in their heathen state they had practised it even as an act of worship, acceptable to their deities; nay, and after their conversion, some of them, it appears, had not altered their manners in that particular, 2 Corinthians 12:21. As some of them committed — With the Midianitish women, when they partook of the sacrifices offered to Baal-peor: the sad consequence of which was, that there fell in one day three and twenty thousand — By the plague, besides the princes who were afterward hanged, and those whom the judges slew; so that there died in all twenty-four thousand, Numbers 25:1-9.


Verse 9-10

1 Corinthians 10:9-10. Neither let us tempt Christ — By our unbelief and distrusting his providence, after the tokens he hath given us to encourage our faith, and engage our dependance; as some of them — Of the next generation; tempted him — While he resided among them as the angel of God’s presence, who led them through the wilderness, Exodus 23:20-21; Isaiah 63:9; and were destroyed of serpents — From the venom of which others were recovered by looking at the brazen serpent, which was so illustrious a type of the Messiah. “In the history, these are called fiery serpents, Deuteronomy 8:15; and Gesner is of opinion that these serpents were of the dipsas kind, (a name taken from the thirst they cause in those they sting,) which Lucian hath described in his treatise, entitled Dipsades, where, speaking of the deserts of Lybia, he says, ‘Of all the serpents which inhabit these solitudes, the most cruel is the dipsas, no bigger than a viper, but whose sting causes most dismal pains, even till death. For it is a gross venom, which burns, breeds thirst, and putrifies; and those who are afflicted with it, cry as if they were in the fire.’ For an account of this serpent, see Kolben’s State of the Cape of Good Hope, vol. 2. p. 165.” — Macknight. Neither murmur ye — Under those dispensations of providence, which may seem at present very afflictive, particularly on account of the malice and power of your enemies; as some of them murmured — When they heard the report of the spies, Numbers 14:2; and were destroyed of the destroyer — The destroying angel, who was commissioned by one judgment after another to take them off. The Jews generally interpret this of him whom they fancy to be the angel of death, and whom they called Sammael. See on Hebrews 2:14.


Verses 11-13

1 Corinthians 10:11-13. Now all these things — These various calamitous events; happened unto them for ensamples — That we might learn wisdom at their expense, and not trust to external privileges, while we go on in a course of disobedience to the divine authority. The apostle’s meaning is, that punishment inflicted on sinners in a public and extraordinary manner, makes them examples of the divine vengeance to their own generation, and to all succeeding ones which have any knowledge of their history. And they are written for our admonition — To warn us Christians; upon whom the ends of the world — Or, of the ages; των αιωνων, are come — That is, at the end of the Mosaic dispensation, whose duration was measured by ages or jubilees. Or it may signify the last dispensation of religion, namely, that of the gospel, which succeeded the patriarchal and the Jewish. The expression has great force. All things meet together and come to a crisis under the last, the gospel dispensation; both benefits and dangers, punishments and rewards. And under it Christ will come as an avenger and a judge. Wherefore — As if he had said, Seeing that so many who enjoyed great spiritual privileges, yet were punished for their sins, therefore let him that thinketh he standeth — Or rather, that most assuredly standeth, (for the word δοκει, rendered thinketh, most certainly strengthens, rather than weakens the sense,) or is confident that he is able to resist temptation, and to continue steadfast in the practice of his duty; and that, thereupon, he shall be secure from punishment; take heed lest he fall — Into sin and perdition. There hath no temptation πειρασμος, trial, of any kind, whether by way of suffering, as the word means, James 1:2; 1 Peter 1:6; and in many other places; or of inducement to sin, as the expression signifies, James 1:13-14; but such as is common to man — Usual and ordinary among men: or, as the Greek word more especially imports, proportioned to human strength. At the time the apostle wrote this, the Christians at Corinth had not been much persecuted; see chap. 1 Corinthians 4:8. But — Or and; God is faithful — To his promise, and therefore will not suffer you to be tempted — Or tried; above that ye are able — Through the strength which he imparts, to endure the trial, and stand in the evil day; but will, with the temptation — By which he suffers you to be assaulted; make a way to escape — Greek, την εκβασιν, a passage out — That is, will provide for your deliverance; that — If you be not wanting to yourselves; you may be able to bear it — Yea, and may acquire new strength by, and comfort from the combat.


Verse 14-15

1 Corinthians 10:14-15. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, &c. — To understand what follows, it seems necessary to suppose that the Corinthians, in their letter, put three questions to the apostle concerning meats sacrificed to idols. 1st, Whether they might innocently go with their heathen acquaintance into the idol’s temple, and partake of the feasts on the sacrifices which were eaten there in honour of the idol? 2d, Whether they might buy and eat meat sold in the markets which had been sacrificed to idols? 3d, Whether, when invited to the houses of the heathen, they might eat of meats sacrificed to idols, which were set before them as a common meal? To the first of these questions the apostle answered, chap. 8., that their joining the heathen in their feasts on the sacrifices in the idol’s temple, even on the supposition that it was a thing in itself innocent, might be a stumbling-block to their weak brethren, in which case it ought to be avoided; but whether such a practice were a thing innocent or sinful in itself, he did not on that occasion consider. Here, therefore, he resumes the subject, that he might treat of it fully, and answer the other questions proposed to him by the Corinthians relative to that matter. Flee from idolatry — And from all approaches to it, whatever circumstances of allurement or danger may seem to plead for some degrees of compliance. I speak as to wise men — I use a rational argument, which will bear the strictest examination, and which I am willing should be canvassed as accurately as you please; judge you, therefore, what I say — What I advance, to show you that the eating of the sacrifices in the idol’s temple is, or leads to, a real worshipping of the idol: and that, therefore, you will naturally bring guilt upon your consciences, by such associations and participations of their idolatrous feasts.


Verse 16-17

1 Corinthians 10:16-17. The cup of blessing — In the Lord’s supper, the sacramental cup; which we bless — Set apart to a sacred use, solemnly invoking the blessing of God upon it. Dr. Macknight renders the original expression, ο ευλογουμεν, for which we bless God, a sense which he thinks is sanctioned by 1 Corinthians 11:24, “where this blessing is interpreted by the giving of thanks. And he considers it as denoting the whole communicants’ joining together in blessing God over the cup, for his mercy in redeeming the world through the blood of Christ. Thus both Luke and Paul, in their account of the institution, express this part of the action by ευχαριστησας, having given thanks. And hence the service itself hath long borne the name of the eucharist, or thanksgiving, by way of eminence.” Is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? — The means of our partaking of those invaluable benefits which are the purchase of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break — And which was appointed in the first institution of the ordinance for this purpose; is it not the communion of the body of Christ? — In the like sense? That is, the means and token of our sharing in the privileges which he procured by the offering up of his body for us, to be torn, broken, and put to death. For we, being many, are yet, as it were, one bread — One loaf, as the word αρτος often signifies, and is translated, Matthew 16:9; where Jesus asks, Do ye not remember the five αρτους, loaves, of the five thousand? and Matthew 4:3, Command that these stones be made, αρτους, loaves. The sense is, It is this communion which makes us all one: by partaking of one and the same bread, we are united and formed into one mystical body. “This account of the Lord’s supper, the apostle gave to show the Corinthians, that as by eating thereof, the partakers declare they have the same object of worship, the same faith, the same hope, and the same dispositions with the persons whom they join in that act of religion, and that they will follow the same course of life; so, in all reasonable construction, by eating the sacrifices of idols, the partakers declare they are of the same faith and practice with the worshippers of idols, that they have the same objects of worship with them, and that they expect to share with them in the benefits to be derived from that worship.”


Verse 18

1 Corinthians 10:18. Behold — Consider, by way of illustration; Israel after the flesh — How it is with the present Jews, the natural descendants of Jacob, who worship God by sacrifices, according to the Mosaic law. He says, after the flesh, to distinguish them from the spiritual Israel, consisting of believers of all nations, called the Israel of God, Galatians 6:16. Are not they who eat of the sacrifices — Who feast upon the remainders of the sacrifices offered at the altar; see Leviticus 7:15; 1 Samuel 1:4-5; partakers of the altar — Do they not join in the worship there performed, and own the God there worshipped? And is not this an act of communion with that God to whom such sacrifices are offered? And is not the case the same with those who eat of the sacrifices offered to idols? This argument, drawn from the sentiments of the Jews, was used with peculiar propriety, especially in reasoning with the false teachers at Corinth, who, it seems, were Jews, and who, to ingratiate themselves with the Corinthians, are supposed to have encouraged them to eat of the idol’s sacrifices.


Verses 19-22

1 Corinthians 10:19-22. What say I then — Do I, in saying this, allow that an idol is any thing divine? Or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing — Is a sacrifice to a real deity? Or is made either better or worse, or to differ from ordinary meat, by being thus offered to idols? You well know that I intend to maintain nothing of this kind: so far from it, that I aver the things which the Gentiles sacrifice — To supposed deities; they sacrifice to devils — For, though I grant the idol is nothing, yet those spirits that sometimes dwell in the images of these idols, and give answers from them, are something: they are demons, most wicked and unclean spirits, defiling every person and thing that has any relation to them. We may observe here, “The word δαιμωνια, demons, is used in the LXX. to denote the ghosts of men deceased; and Josephus (Bell., lib. 1 Corinthians 7:6) says, demons are the spirits of wicked men. It is therefore probable, that the writers of the New Testament use the word demons in the same sense, especially as it is well known that the greatest part of the heathen gods were dead men. The heathen worshipped two kinds of demons: the one kind were the souls of kings and heroes, deified after death, but who could have no agency in human affairs; the other kind of demons were those evil spirits who, under the names of Jupiter, Apollo, Trophonius, &c., moving the heathen priests and priestesses to deliver oracles, greatly promoted idolatry.” — Macknight. Such in reality, as if he had said, are the gods of the heathen, and with such only can ye hold communion in those sacrifices. And not to God — The heathen in general had no idea of God; that is, of an unoriginated, eternal, immutable, and infinitely perfect being, the Creator and Governor of all things. And I would not ye should have fellowship with devils — Or with their votaries, either in their worship, their principles, their practices, or their hopes; — ye who have at your baptism solemnly renounced the devil and all his adherents. For certainly it is not a small sin, nor a thing to be made light of, to have fellowship with them. Ye cannot of right — Or in reason, you ought not, it is contrary to your Christian profession so to do; drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils — Ye cannot have communion with both; cannot reasonably make profession of the worship of God, (which you do in the Lord’s supper in the highest instance,) and also of the worship of devils, (as you do in the idol feasts,) these being so contrary one to the other. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy — Namely, by joining devils in competition with him? or by thus caressing his rivals? Are we stronger than He? — Able to resist or to bear his wrath? Can we secure ourselves against his judgments, when he comes forth to punish for such sins?


Verse 23-24

1 Corinthians 10:23-24. All things, &c. — He here comes to speak of another case, namely, the buying and eating privately, meats which had been offered to idols: are lawful for me — All kinds of meats according to the gospel. See on 1 Corinthians 6:12. But — Granting this, it must also be acknowledged that all such things are not, in every circumstance, expedient — For the reasons mentioned before; (see on 1 Corinthians 8:9-13;) and all things edify not others — Do not help them forward in holiness. And we ought certainly to consider what may most effectually conduce to the edification of our brethren, and of the church of God in general, as well as what may suit our own particular inclinations or conveniences; for we may find good reasons for declining many things as insnaring to others, which, were we to consider ourselves alone, might be perfectly indifferent. Let no man, therefore, seek his own — Advantage or pleasure; but every man another’s wealth — Or weal, namely, spiritual; the edification and salvation of his soul, 1 Corinthians 10:33. Or, let no man prefer his own temporal profit or satisfaction before another’s spiritual and eternal welfare.


Verse 25-26

1 Corinthians 10:25-26. The apostle now applies this principle to the point in question; and on the ground of it, gives the following rules concerning meats. Whatsoever is sold in the shambles — Though it were offered to idols before, yet being now set openly to sale, the idol is no more honoured therewith, and it is common meat; that you may buy, and eat it in private, either in a friend’s house or your own, asking no question — Whether it has been offered in sacrifice to an idol or not; for conscience’ sake — With a view to satisfy your conscience respecting the lawfulness of eating it. Or the expression, for conscience’ sake, may mean, lest any needless scruple should arise, either in your own or your brother’s conscience, so that you could not eat of it freely, without doubting in yourself, or giving offence to your brother. For the earth is the Lord’s, as the psalmist has expressed it, Psalms 24:1, and the fulness thereof — All creatures therein, which were made for man’s use, and are given us freely to enjoy in Christ, 1 Timothy 4:4; 1 Timothy 6:17. And no demon hath any power or dominion over them. “By this argument the apostle showed the Corinthians that their knowledge and faith, as Christians, ought to prevent them from asking any questions concerning their food, which might lead the heathen to think that they acknowledged the power of their deities, either to give or to withhold any part of the fulness of the earth from the worshippers of the true God.”


Verses 27-30

1 Corinthians 10:27-30. If any of them that believe not — Any heathen who lives in your neighbourhood; bid you to a feast — Invite you to his house; and ye be disposed — To accept the invitation; whatever is set before you — At the entertainment; eat, asking no question — About its having been sacrificed to idols; for conscience’ sake. See on 1 Corinthians 10:25. But receiving it, whatever it may be, as that supply which Divine Providence has then been pleased to send you. But if any man say, This food is part of what hath been offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not, for his sake that showed it — Whether he be a heathen, who might thereby be confirmed in his idolatry, or a brother, who might otherwise be insnared by thy example, and tempted to violate the dictates of his own mind; and for conscience’ sake — For the sake of his weak conscience, lest it should be wounded by seeing thee do what he judged to be unlawful. To explain this further, “The heathen often, in their own houses, made an ordinary feast of a part of the sacrifice, see on chap. 1 Corinthians 8:1; to these entertainments, the apostle told the Corinthian brethren, they might lawfully go when invited. But on such occasions, if a Christian domestic or slave, by informing them that this or that dish consisted of things which had been sacrificed to an idol, signified that they considered their eating these things as sinful, they were to abstain from them, for the reasons mentioned in the text.” For the earth is the Lord’s, &c. — This clause, inserted in our copies, is omitted in the Alex. Clermont, and other manuscripts, and the Syriac, Arabic, and Vulgate versions; and some other critics think it disturbs the sense. “But,” says Macknight, “it renders the argument more complete; for the meaning is, The Lord, to whom the earth and all its fulness belong, having allowed men a sufficiency of other wholesome food, no one is under any necessity of offending those who are either ignorant or scrupulous, by eating a particular kind.” Conscience, I say, not thine own — I speak of his conscience, not thine, lest it be troubled, and his mind be disquieted; for why is my liberty judged by another’s conscience — I ought not to use my liberty so as to do that which another man thinks in his conscience to be evil, and so judges me a transgressor for it. Or, as Dr. Doddridge paraphrases the verse, “I mean not thine own conscience immediately, but that of another person; for how indifferent soever thou mayest esteem the matter, thou art obliged in duty to be very cautious that thou dost not wound and grieve that of thy brother: but you will observe, that I here 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, and condemned at the bar of another man’s conscience? I am not, in such cases, to govern myself by the judgment and apprehension of others; nor have they any authority to judge or censure me for not concurring with them in their own narrow notions and declarations.” Others think it is an objection in the mouths of the Corinthians, and to be thus understood: “But why should I suffer myself to be thus imposed on, and receive law from any, where Christ has left me free?” But the above interpretation seems more probable, which supposes that this and the following verse come in as a kind of parenthesis, to prevent their extending the former caution beyond what he designed by it. For if I, by grace — The divine favour; be a partaker — Of the common gifts of Providence; why am I evil spoken of for my free and cheerful use of that for which I give thanks — As tracing it up to the hand of the great Supreme Benefactor?


Verses 31-33

1 Corinthians 10:31-33. Whether, therefore, &c. — To close the present point with a general rule, applicable not only in this, but in all cases, see to it that whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do — In all things whatsoever, whether of a religious or civil nature, in all the common as well as sacred actions of life, keep the glory of God in view, and steadily pursue, in all, this one end of your being, the planting or advancing the vital knowledge and love of God, first in your own souls, then in the souls of as many others as you can have access to, or by any means influence. Give none offence — If, and as far as, it is possible, neither to the unbelieving Jews — By lessening their abhorrence of idols; nor to the unbelieving Greeks — By confirming them in their idolatry; nor to the church of God — By making the ignorant think you idolaters. Even as I — As much as lieth in me; please all men in all things — Innocent; not seeking mine own profit — Mine own temporal interest or gratification; but the profit — The everlasting advantage; of many, that they may be saved — By being brought to and confirmed in that religion, on which their eternal happiness depends.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 10:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/1-corinthians-10.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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