For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)They that sleep. . . .—As the connection of sleep with night has already been sufficiently worked out, and is not touched upon again in 1Thessalonians 5:8, the first clause seems only to be inserted for the sake of bringing out the second, and to justify the sudden introduction of the words, “and be sober.” It may thus be paraphrased: “I say, ‘and be sober too,’ for as they that sleep in the night, so they that be drunken are drunken in the night.” It is implied that the streets even of heathen Thessalonica were seldom affronted with the common English spectacle of drunken men by daylight; while among the Jews it was proof positive of sobriety to say, “It is but the third hour of the day” (Acts 2:15). In St. Cyprian’s time, Christians were known from other men because their breath smelt of wine in the early morning through attending the Blessed Sacrament (Epistle lxiii. 15): no heathens would have touched wine by that time.1 Thessalonians 5:7-11. For they that sleep, sleep in the night, &c. — Night is the time for sleep, and they that are guilty of drunkenness, gluttony, and other vices of intemperance, generally choose to hide them under the cover of darkness; and if we were still in the night of heathenish ignorance, and in a state of spiritual blindness and unbelief, our insensibility of divine things, our unwatchfulness, sloth, and indolence would have some excuse: but being of the day — And brought out of darkness into Christian and marvellous light, we have none: let us, therefore, be sober — That is, temperate, chaste, holy, and wakeful, as νηφωμεν signifies; putting on the breast-plate of faith and love — As a defence of the heart, the seat of the passions; and for a helmet — Which will defend the head, the seat of reason; the hope of final, eternal salvation. The breast and head being particularly exposed in battle, and wounds in these parts being extremely dangerous, the ancients carefully defended them by armour, to which the apostle here compares the Christian virtues of faith, love, and hope. In the parallel passage, Ephesians 6:14, the expression, instead of the breast- plate of faith and love, is the breast-plate of righteousness; to show that the righteousness of a Christian consists in faith and love: a breast-plate which, being of a truly heavenly fabric, will, if put on, and not afterward put off, render the heart, the seat of the affections, invulnerable. The apostle’s meaning, stripped of the metaphor, is this: That, to defend our affections against the impressions of outward and sensible objects, nothing is so effectual as faith in Christ, and in the declarations and promises of his gospel, and love to God and man. The head being the seat of those thoughts and imaginations, on which the affections and passions in a great measure depend, it must be of great importance to defend it against the entrance of such thoughts and imaginations as have any tendency to excite bad affections or carnal desires. But for that purpose, nothing is better than to have the head so filled with the glorious hope of the salvation offered to us in the gospel, as to exclude all vain thoughts, imaginations, and expectations whatever. This hope therefore is most properly and elegantly termed the Christian’s helmet. This exhortation to the Thessalonian believers teaches us that the sons of light must not only watch but fight. See note on Ephesians 6:11-18.
For God hath not appointed us to wrath — As he hath the finally impenitent, unbelieving, and disobedient: for the design of God in sending his Son was not to condemn but to save the world; and therefore they who are appointed to wrath, are only such as through impenitence, unbelief, and disobedience, reject him and his gospel; but to obtain salvation — Present and eternal; by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ — Who hath procured it for all true persevering believers, whose faith worketh by love; and will assuredly at length bestow it upon them; of which he hath given us full proof, in that he not only became incarnate, and subjected himself to the infirmities of our flesh, and to the many burdens and sufferings of this mortal life, for our sakes, but even died in ignominy and torture on the cross for us; that whether we wake or sleep, live or die, we should live together with him — In other words, That while we live, and when we die, the life and happiness of our immortal souls should be secure in a union with him, which death itself shall not be able to dissolve. Some interpret the expression, whether we wake or sleep, as signifying, “whether Christ come in the night, when we are sleeping on our beds, or in the day, when we are awake and busy in the pursuit of our common affairs.” But, as Doddridge has properly observed, since sleeping had just before been put for death, it seems more natural to interpret this clause as speaking of the state of believers, whether alive or dead: and then it must be considered as containing a direct proof of the life of the soul while the body is sleeping in the grave. “God forbid,” adds that pious divine, “that any should understand these words as intimating that Christ’s death is intended to secure our salvation, whether we take a watchful care of it or not. Yet, alas! the generality of Christians (so called) live as if that were the genuine and only interpretation.” Wherefore comfort yourselves together — Παρακαλειτε αλληλους comfort, or exhort one another, under the various afflictions of life, and edify — Εις τον ενα, each the other; in Christian knowledge and holiness, or endeavour to promote the work of grace in one another; even as also I know ye do — How well would it be, if professing Christians in general would emulate the character which the apostle gives to these believers at Thessalonica, if, “entering into each other’s true interests, as Chandler observes, they would banish from their conversation that calumny, slander, folly, and flattery which engross so much of this short transitory life, and by discoursing of things of substantial worth, endeavour to fortify each other against the snares of life, and those innumerable temptations which lie in wait to ruin us. With what comfort should we meet each other at the great day, were we, on that occasion, able to recollect that in general we had managed our conversation to our mutual advantage? For we should then be sensible that in some measure we owe our glory to our concern for, and fidelity to, each other. Besides, the remembrance of this would enlarge the love of the saints to each other in the future state.”
And they that be drunken, are drunken in the night - The night is devoted by them to revelry and dissipation. It is in accordance with the usual custom in all lands and times, that the night is the usual season for riot and revelry. The leisure, the darkness, the security from observation, and the freedom from the usual toils and cares of life, have caused those hours usually to be selected for indulgence in intemperate eating and drinking. This was probably more particularly the case among the ancients than with us, and much as drunkenness abounded, it was much more rare to see a man intoxicated in the day-time than it is now. To be drunk then in the day-time was regarded as the greatest disgrace. See Polyb. Exc. Leg. 8, and Apul. viii., as quoted by Wetstein; compare Acts 2:15 note; Isaiah 5:11 note. The object of the apostle here is, to exhort Christians to be sober and temperate, and the meaning is, that it is as disgraceful for them to indulge in habits of revelry, as for a man to be drunk in the day-time. The propriety of this exhortation, addressed to Christians, is based on the fact that intoxication was hardly regarded as a crime, and, surrounded as they were with those who freely indulged in drinking to excess, they were then, as they are now, exposed to the danger of disgracing their religion. The actions of Christians ought always to be such that they may be performed in open day and in the view of all the world. Other people seek the cover of the night to perform their deeds; the Christian should do nothing which may not be done under the full blaze of day.Acts 2:15 Ephesians 5:12,13: and in ancient times they had their feasts in the night. Ye therefore that are not in the night of your former ignorance, ought neither to be found in the sleep of security nor in the sin of drunkenness, whereby may be meant also any kind of intemperance; for a man may be drunk, and not with wine, Isaiah 29:9; drunk with pleasure, with cares, with sensual love and desires, with passion, and by spiritual judgments upon the soul, Isaiah 29:10.
and they that be drunken, are drunken in the night; drunkenness is a work of darkness, and therefore men given to excessive drinking love darkness rather than light, and choose the night for their purpose. To be drunk at noon is so shameful and scandalous, that men who love the sin, and indulge themselves in it, take the night season for it; and equally shameful it is, that enlightened persons should be inebriated, either with the cares of this life, or with an over weening opinion of themselves.For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)1 Thessalonians 5:7. A reason for the exhortation in 1 Thessalonians 5:6 by a reference to the practice of the outward life.
νυκτὸς μεθύουσιν] refers to the known custom of devoting the evening and the night for debauchery.
μεθύσκεσθαι is entirely synonymous with μεθύειν. It is not to be assumed that the change of the verb is intentional, in order to denote with the first “the act of getting drunk,” and with the second “the state of being so” (Macknight); since, as also the analogy of the first half of the sentence proves, the progress of the discourse is contained in the addition of νυκτός, and accordingly only the idea already expressed in μεθυσκόμενοι is again taken up by μεθύουσιν. The view of Baumgarten-Crusius, repeated by Koch and Hofmann, that 1 Thessalonians 5:7 is to be understood in a figurative sense (comp. already Chrysostom and Oecumenius), and that Paul intends to say: “A want of spiritual life (καθεύδειν) and immorality (μεθύσκεσθαι) belong to the state of darkness (νυκτός), thus not to you,” is logically and grammatically impossible, since νυκτός, on account of the same verbs as subjects and predicates, can only contain a designation of time. In order to justify the above interpretation, οἱ γὰρ καθεύδοντες καὶ (οἱ) μεθυσκόμενοι νυκτός εἰσιν would require to have been written.1 Thessalonians 5:7. Cf. Plutarch, De Iside. vi., Οἶνον δὲ οἱ μὲν ἐν Ἥλιου πόλει θεραπεύοντες τὸν θεὸν οὐκ εἰσφέρουσιν τοπαράπαν εἰς τὸ ἱερόν, ὡς οὐ προσῆκον ἡμέρας πίνειν, τοῦ κυρίου καὶ βασιλέως ἐφορῶντος.7. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night] The “sons of day” must be wakeful and sober, for the opposite conditions belong to night and are proper to its children. To be drunken by day was a monstrous and almost unheard-of thing (comp. Acts 2:15). Negligence and wantonness have no place in those who belong to “the day.”
These words look beyond their literal sense, as “sober” in 1 Thessalonians 5:6. Drunkenness signifies the condition of a soil besotted and enslaved by evil. We catch here another echo of our Lord’s warnings: “Lest haply your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly as a snare” (Luke 21:34; comp. 1 Thessalonians 5:3 above; also Luke 12:45-46; and Romans 13:13). Thus dawn surprises guilty revellers.1 Thessalonians 5:7. Μεθυσκόμενοι—μεθύουσιν, those who are drunken, are drunken) Μεθύσκομαι denotes the act, μεθύω, the state or habit; so in καθεύδοντες—καθεύδουσι, the Ploce is apparent. For first, ΚΑΘΕΎΔΟΝΤΕς has the inchoative power, falling into sleep; then καθεύδουσι expresses continuance, they go on in sleep.—νυκτὸς) in the night time, for the most part. Even constant somnolency and drunkenness render the very night worse. Such persons are averse (shrink) from the day.
 The figure by which the same word is twice put, once in the simple sense, next to express an attribute of it. Append.—ED.Verse 7. - For; the reason of this exhortation. They that sleep, sleep in the night; and they that are drunken are drunken in the night. Here not to be taken in a metaphorical sense, but a simple statement of fact - what occurs in ordinary experience. The night is the season in which sleep and drunkenness usually occur; whereas the day is the season of watchfulness, sobriety, and work. Both heathen and Jews considered it as eminently disgraceful for a man to be seen drunken in the day-time. Hence, when the Jews accused the believers on the day of Pentecost with being filled with new wine, Peter answered, "We are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day" (Acts 2:15).
Lit. who are made drunk or get drunk. See on John 2:10. In N.T. always of intoxication. In lxx, the Hebrews shekar strong drink is several times rendered by μέθυσμα; Judges 13:4, Judges 13:7; 1 Samuel 1:11, 1 Samuel 1:15.
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