1 Corinthians 10:9
Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(9) Neither let us tempt Christ.—Better, Neither let us tempt the Lord, as some of them tempted, and perished by serpents. There is much controversy as to whether the word here is “God” or “Christ” or “the Lord,” each having a certain amount of MS. support. On the whole, the reading here adopted (the Lord) seems from internal evidence to have been most likely the true reading. It is possible that the word “God” crept into the text, having been put as a marginal explanation to get over the supposed difficulty involved in applying the words which follow, “they also tempted,” to Christ. For in what sense could it have been said that the Israelites tempted Christ? There is no reason, however, for connecting “some of them tempted” (the word “also” is not in the original) with the object of the previous clause: and it is noticeable that the second word translated “tempted” is not the same as the first. “Let us not tempt” is in the original an intensified form of the verb which is used in its simple form in “some of them tempted.” The reading “Christ” may have come into the text as being an explanation that by the word “Lord” St. Paul meant the Redeemer.

The real meaning of the passage, however, is evident. The Israelites had, by their longing after the things left behind in Egypt, tried God so that God had asserted Himself in visiting them with punishment, and so Christians must be on their guard, with such a warning before them, not to tempt their Lord by hankering after those worldly and physical pleasures from which He by His death has delivered them. (See Numbers 21:4-6.) Some of the Corinthian Christians seemed by their conduct, as regards eating and drinking and indulging in sensuality, to long for that liberty in reference to things which they had enjoyed before conversion, instead of enjoying these spiritual blessings and feeding on the spiritual sustenance which Christ had provided for them.

Were destroyed of serpents.—Better, and were destroyed by the serpents. The article before “serpents” indicates that the reference is to a particular and well known fact.

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 2:14.10:6-14 Carnal desires gain strength by indulgence, therefore should be checked in their first rise. Let us fear the sins of Israel, if we would shun their plagues. And it is but just to fear, that such as tempt Christ, will be left by him in the power of the old serpent. Murmuring against God's disposals and commands, greatly provokes him. Nothing in Scripture is written in vain; and it is our wisdom and duty to learn from it. Others have fallen, and so may we. The Christian's security against sin is distrust of himself. God has not promised to keep us from falling, if we do not look to ourselves. To this word of caution, a word of comfort is added. Others have the like burdens, and the like temptations: what they bear up under, and break through, we may also. God is wise as well as faithful, and will make our burdens according to our strength. He knows what we can bear. He will make a way to escape; he will deliver either from the trial itself, or at least the mischief of it. We have full encouragement to flee from sin, and to be faithful to God. We cannot fall by temptation, if we cleave fast to him. Whether the world smiles or frowns, it is an enemy; but believers shall be strengthened to overcome it, with all its terrors and enticements. The fear of the Lord, put into their hearts, will be the great means of safety.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.

9. tempt Christ—So the oldest versions, Irenæus (264), and good manuscripts read. Some of the oldest manuscripts read "Lord"; and one manuscript only "God." If "Lord" be read, it will mean Christ. As "Christ" was referred to in one of the five privileges of Israel (1Co 10:4), so it is natural that He should be mentioned here in one of the five corresponding sins of that people. In Nu 21:5 it is "spake against God" (whence probably arose the alteration in the one manuscript, 1Co 10:9, "God," to harmonize it with Nu 21:5). As either "Christ" or "Lord" is the genuine reading, "Christ" must be "God." Compare "Why do ye tempt the Lord?" (Ex 17:2, 7. Compare Ro 14:11, with Isa 45:22, 23). Israel's discontented complainings were temptings of Christ especially, the "Angel" of the covenant (Ex 23:20, 21; 32:34; Isa 63:9). Though they drank of "that Rock … Christ" (1Co 10:4), they yet complained for want of water (Ex 17:2, 7). Though also eating the same spiritual meat (Christ, "the true manna," "the bread of life"), they yet murmured, "Our soul loatheth this light bread." In this case, being punished by the fiery serpents, they were saved by the brazen serpent, the emblem of Christ (compare Joh 8:56; Heb 11:26). The Greek for "tempt" means, tempt or try, so as to wear out the long-suffering of Christ (compare Ps 95:8, 9; Nu 14:22). The Corinthians were in danger of provoking God's long-suffering by walking on the verge of idolatry, through overweening confidence in their knowledge. To tempt, in the general notion of the term, signifies to make a trial; applied unto God, it signifieth to make a trial of God, either with reference to his power, Psalm 78:18-20, or to his truth and goodness: not to be satisfied with God’s word, but to challenge him to a sensible demonstration, is to tempt God. Or else to tempt may signify more generally, to provoke God; for indeed all notorious sinning against God is a tempting of God, not believing the wrath of God, which he hath revealed in his word against sin, till men feel it. The term

Christ here is very remarkable to prove Christ’s Divine nature and existence before he was incarnate; for the same person who is here called Christ, is called God, Psalm 106:14, and Jehovah also in the same Psalm; neither could they have tempted Christ at that time, if at that time he had not been existent.

Were destroyed of serpents; by serpents he meaneth the fiery serpents; we have the history, Numbers 21:6-9. Neither let us tempt Christ,.... As all such persons do, who, presuming on the power and grace of Christ to keep them, or upon what they have received from him, unnecessarily expose themselves to snares and temptations, and so to danger; and as many of the Corinthians did, who are here chiefly respected, who trusting to their gifts and attainments, their knowledge and Christian liberty, would go into an idol's temple, sit down at meat there, and exposed themselves great and imminent danger; which was a tempting Christ, whether he would preserve them or not:

as some of them also tempted; that is, as some of the Israelites tempted, which they did more than once; but what is referred to here, is the time they spake against God and Moses, in Numbers 21:5 as appears from the punishment annexed, their being destroyed by serpents. The Arabic version adds "him", meaning Christ, which is a right interpretation of the text; otherwise there would be no force in the apostle's reasoning; for Christ was the angel that went before the Israelites in the wilderness, the angel of God's presence, that bore, and carried, and saved them; he is the Jehovah they tempted at Massah and Meribah, and elsewhere, and God they spake against at this place referred to; hence it is clear that our Lord existed before his incarnation, and that he is truly and properly God; the Alexandrian copy reads, "neither let us tempt God", and so the Ethiopic version: "and were destroyed of serpents"; fiery ones, which were sent among them by the Lord Christ, they tempted and spoke against, which bit them, and of these bites many of them died. This might lead to the consideration, of the original cause of man's sin and fall, and the ruin of human nature, by the means of a serpent; and may be an emblem of the future destruction of the wicked, which will be everlasting fire, prepared for the devil, the old serpent, and his angels.

Neither let us tempt {i} Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.

(i) To tempt Christ is to provoke him to a combat as it were, which those men do who abuse the knowledge that he has given them, and make it to serve for a cloak for their lusts and wickedness.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Corinthians 10:9. Ἐκπειρ.] Stronger than the simple verb (to prove to the full), Matthew 4:7; Luke 10:25. Comp the classic ἐκπειράομαι (Herod, iii. 135; Plat. ep. 13, p. 362 E). To try the Lord,[1604] נִסָּה אֶת־יְהֹוָה, means generally, to let it come to the point whether He will show Himself to be God; in this case: whether He will punish (“quousque itura sit ejus patientia,” Grotius). See in general, Wetstein, a[1605] Matthew 4:7. What special kind of trying Paul has here in view, appears from καθὼς κ.τ.λ[1606], where the reference is to the people after their deliverance losing heart over the contrast between their position in the wilderness and the pleasures of Egypt. See Numbers 21:4-6. The readers therefore could not fail to understand that what the apostle meant was discontent on their part with their present Christian position, as involving so much renunciation of sensual pleasures formerly indulged in. How many, forgetting the blessings of their spiritual deliverance, might look back with a discontented longing to the licence of the past! It is a common opinion that Paul designates their participation in the sacrificial feasts as a tempting of God (comp 1 Corinthians 10:22, where, however, the connection is totally different, and ΤῸΝ ΚΎΡΙΟΝ does not apply to God at all). So Billroth, Rückert, de Wette, Osiander, Maier; but this is quite at variance with the context, because not in keeping with the historical events indicated by the ΚΑΘῺς ΚΑῚ Κ.Τ.Λ[1608], and familiar to the readers. The context equally forbids the interpretations of Chrysostom and Theophylact: the craving for wonders; Theodoret, the speaking with tongues; Grotius, the conduct of the schismatics; and Michaelis, that of the anti-Pauline party.

ἐπείρασαν] namely, αὐτόν, not in an absolute sense (Winer, Reiche).

ἀπώλλυντο] see the critical remarks. The imperfect lays the stress on the continuous development of what occurred, and thus places it in the foreground of the historic picture. See Kühner, II. p. 74. As to ὑπό with ἀπώλλ., see Valckenaer, p. 261. Ellendt, Lex. Soph. II. p. 880.

[1604] The Κύριος is God in Numbers 21:4 ff. Paul’s readers, whose familiarity with the history in question is taken for granted, had no reason to refer it to Christ as the λόγος ἄσαρκος (from which comes the Recepta Χριστόν).

[1605] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[1606] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1608] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.1 Corinthians 10:9-10. The sins condemned in 1 Corinthians 10:7-8 are sins of sensuality; these, of unbelief (Ed[1445])—which takes two forms: of presumption, daring God’s judgments; or of despair, doubting His goodness. The whole wilderness history, with its crucial events of Massah and Meribah, is represented as a “trying of the Lord” in Psalm 95:8 ff. (cf. Numbers 14:22), a δοκιμασία (Hebrews 3:7-12); this process culminated in the insolence of Numbers 21:4 f., which was punished by the infliction of the “fiery serpents”. The like sin, of presuming on the Divine forbearance, the Cor[1446] would commit if they trifled with idolatry (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:22) and “sinned wilfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth” (Hebrews 10:26; Romans 6:1); cf. Deuteronomy 6:16 (Matthew 4:7), Psalm 78:17 ff., for this trait of the Israelite character. ἐκ-πειράζω is to try thoroughly, to the utmost—as though one would see how far God’s indulgence will go. The graphic impf[1447], ἀπώλλυντο, “lay a-perishing,” transports us to the scene of misery resulting from this experiment upon God!—ὑπὸ of agent after ἀπόλλυμι—a cl[1448] idiom, h.l. for N.T.—elsewhere construed with dat[1449], or ἐν and dat[1450], of cause or ground of destruction (1 Corinthians 8:11, Romans 14:15, etc.).—The “murmuring” also occurred repeatedly in the wilderness; but P. alludes specifically to the rebellion of Korah and its punishment—the only instance of violent death overtaking this sin (Numbers 16:41). The ὀλοθρευτὴς in such supernatural chastisement is conceived as the “destroying angel” (2 Samuel 24:16, Isaiah 37:36), called ὁ ὀλοθρεύων in Exodus 12:23, Hebrews 11:28 (cf. Wis 18:25); in later Jewish theology, Sammael, or the Angel of Death (Weber, Altsyn. Théologie, p. 244). The O.T. analogy suggests that P. had in view the murmurings of jealous partisans and unworthy teachers at Cor[1451] (1 Corinthians 1:12, 1 Corinthians 3:6, 1 Corinthians 4:6; 1 Corinthians 4:18 ff.); at this point he reverts to the impv[1452] of 2nd. pers[1453], γογγύζετε.—τινες (quidam), used throughout of the Israelite offenders, may mean many or few, anything short of “all” (1 Corinthians 10:1-4); cf., 1 Corinthians 10:5, also 1 Corinthians 9:22, 1 Corinthians 8:7, Romans 3:3.

[1445] T. C. Edwards’ Commentary on the First Ep. to the Corinthians.2

[1446] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[1447]mpf. imperfect tense.

[1448] classical.

[1449] dative case.

[1450] dative case.

[1451] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[1452] imperative mood.

[1453]ers. grammatical person, or personal.9. Neither let us tempt Christ] Whether we read Christ here with the authorized version, or ‘the Lord’ with many MSS. and editors, makes but little difference. In either case Christ is meant, Who, as the Angel of the Covenant (see note on 1 Corinthians 10:4), was the guide of the Israelites throughout all their wanderings. What it was to tempt Christ we may best learn from the Old Testament narrative. See Numbers 14:22. It was to try Him, to see whether He would be as good as His word, whether He would punish their sin as He had declared He would. The word in the original means to try to the uttermost. For the occasion referred to see Numbers 21:6, though this is not the only occasion on which the Israelites were said to have tempted God.

of serpents] Literally, by the serpents, i.e. the well-known fiery flying serpents mentioned in Moses’ narrative.1 Corinthians 10:9. Μηδὲ ἐκπειράζωμεν) The compound verb, as in Matthew 4:7. The simple verb follows immediately after.—τὸν Χριστὸν, Christ) Paul mentions five benefits, 1 Corinthians 10:1-4, of which the fourth and fifth were closely connected; and five crimes, of which the fourth and fifth were in like manner closely connected. In speaking of the fifth benefit, he expressly mentions Christ; and in speaking of the fourth crime, he shows that it was committed against Christ. [See Appendix., P. II., on this passage, where the reading Χριστὸν is defended against Artemonius, Not. Crit.[86]].—ἘΠΕΊΡΑΣΑΝ, tempted) Numbers 21:5. Christ is therefore God. Comp. Exodus 17:2. Often those things which are declared concerning the Lord in Old Testament, are spoken of Christ in New Testament, Romans 14:10-11; and that temptation, by which the people sinned, was an offence peculiarly against Christ, Exodus 23:20; Exodus 32:34; Isaiah 63:9; for when they had drunk from that Rock, which was Christ, 1 Corinthians 10:4, they yet complained for want of water, Numbers 21:5. Therefore they were also preserved from the fiery serpents, by raising a serpent on a pole, a type of Christ. As Abraham “saw Christ’s day” [John 8:56], as Moses embraced “the reproach of Christ” [Hebrews 11:26], so the Israelites tempted Christ: and yet the Corinthians could more directly tempt Christ.

[86] Lachm. reads Κύριον with BC, and some MSS. of Memph. Vers. But Tischend., with D(Λ)Gfg Vulg., both Syr. Versions, Memph., Theb., and Marcion, according to Epiphanius (ὁ δὲ Μαρκίων ἀντὶ τοῦ Κύριον Χριστὸν ἐποίησεν), Iren. 264, Χριστόν. This last is the better attested reading therefore. A has θεόν.—ED.Verse 9. - Tempt Christ (see the note on ver. 4). Christ is here identified with the angel which went before the Israelites, whom they were specially warned not "to provoke," because "my Name is in him" (Exodus 23:20, 21). Another reading is "the Lord." "Christ" may have come in from a marginal gloss. On the other hand, since "Christ" is the more difficult reading, it was, perhaps, the more likely to be altered by copyists. The word for "tempt" means "tempt utterly," "tempt beyond endurance." As some of them (Exodus 17:2, 7; Numbers 14:22; Numbers 21:5, 6). Of serpents; rather, perished by the serpents, viz. the "fiery serpents" of the wilderness (Numbers 21:6). Let us tempt Christ (ἐκπειράζωμεν τὸν Χριστόν)

The compound word is very significant, "to tempt out" (ἐκ); tempt thoroughly; try to the utmost. It occurs in three other places: Matthew 4:7; Luke 4:12; Luke 10:25; and, in every case, is used of tempting or testing Christ. Compare Psalm 77:18 (Sept.). For Christ read Κύριον the Lord.

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