|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
11:2-16 Here begin particulars respecting the public assemblies, ch. 1Co 14. In the abundance of spiritual gifts bestowed on the Corinthians, some abuses had crept in; but as Christ did the will, and sought the honour of God, so the Christian should avow his subjection to Christ, doing his will and seeking his glory. We should, even in our dress and habit, avoid every thing that may dishonour Christ. The woman was made subject to man, because made for his help and comfort. And she should do nothing, in Christian assemblies, which looked like a claim of being equal. She ought to have power, that is, a veil, on her head, because of the angels. Their presence should keep Christians from all that is wrong while in the worship of God. Nevertheless, the man and the woman were made for one another. They were to be mutual comforts and blessings, not one a slave, and the other a tyrant. God has so settled matters, both in the kingdom of providence and that of grace, that the authority and subjection of each party should be for mutual help and benefit. It was the common usage of the churches, for women to appear in public assemblies, and join in public worship, veiled; and it was right that they should do so. The Christian religion sanctions national customs wherever these are not against the great principles of truth and holiness; affected singularities receive no countenance from any thing in the Bible.
Verse 4. - Prophesying; that is, preaching. Having his head covered. This was a Jewish custom. The Jewish worshipper in praying always covers his head with his tallith. The Jew (like Orientals generally) uncovered his feet because the place on which he stood was holy ground; but he covered his head by way of humility, even as the angels veil their faces with their wings. AEneas is said by Servius to have introduced this custom into Italy. On the other hand, the Greek custom was to pray with the head uncovered. St. Paul - as some discrepancy of custom seems to have arisen - decided in favour of the Greek custom, on the high ground that Christ, by his incarnation, became man, and therefore the Christian, who is" in Christ," may stand with unveiled head in the presence of his Father. Dishonoureth his head. He dishonoureth his own head, which is as it were a sharer in the glory of Christ, who is Head of the whole Church. "We pray," says Tertullian, "with bare heads because we blush not." The Christian, being no longer a slave, but a son (Galatians 4:7), may claim his part in the glory of the eternal Son. The head was covered in mourning (2 Samuel 15:30; Jeremiah 14:13), and the worship of the Christian is joyous.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Every man praying or prophesying,.... This is to be understood of praying and prophesying in public, and not in private; and not to be restrained to the person that is the mouth of the congregation to God in prayer, or who preaches to the people in the name of God; but to be applied to every individual person that attends public worship, that joins in prayer with the minister, and hears the word preached by him, which is meant by prophesying; for not foretelling future events is here meant, but explaining the word of God, the prophecies of the Old Testament, or any part of Scripture, unless singing of psalms should rather be designed, since that is sometimes expressed by prophesying: so in 1 Samuel 10:5 "thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place, with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp before them, and they shall prophesy". The Targum renders it thus, , "and they shall sing praise"; upon which Kimchi observes, that it is as if it was said, their prophecy shall be "songs" and praises to God, spoken by the Holy Ghost. So in 1 Samuel 19:23 it is said of Saul, that he "went on and prophesied". The Targum is, he went on, "and praised". And again, "he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied". Targum, "and praised", or sung praise. Once more, in 1 Chronicles 25:1 it is said of Asaph, and others, that they "should prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals"; which Kimchi explains of Asaph's singing vocally, and of his sons playing upon musical instruments.
Having his head covered; which, it seems, was the custom of some of them so to do in attendance on public worship: this they either did in imitation of the Heathens (r), who worshipped their deities with their heads covered, excepting Saturn and Hercules, whose solemnities were celebrated with heads unveiled, contrary to the prevailing customs and usages in the worship of others; or rather in imitation of the Jews, who used to veil themselves in public worship, through a spirit of bondage unto fear, under which they were, and do to this day; and with whom it is a rule (s), that
"a man might not stand and pray, neither with his girdle on, , nor with his head uncovered; nor with his feet uncovered.''
Accordingly it is said (t) of Nicodemus ben Gorion,
"that he went into the school grieved, and "veiled himself", and stood in prayer;''
and a little after that
"that he went into the sanctuary and "veiled" himself, and stood and prayed;''
though the Targum on Judges 5:2 suggests,
"that the wise men sit in the synagogues, , "with the head uncovered", to teach the people the words of the law;''
and on Judges 5:9 has these words,
"Deborah in prophecy said, I am sent to praise the Scribes of Israel, who when they were in tribulation did not cease from expounding the law; and so it was beautiful for them to sit in the synagogues, "with the head uncovered", and teach the people the words of the law, and bless and confess before the Lord;''
but it seems that a different custom had now prevailed; now from this Gentile or judaizing practice, the apostle would dissuade them by observing, that such an one that uses it, "dishonoureth his head"; meaning either in a figurative, spiritual, and mystical sense, his head Christ, in token of the liberty received from him, and because he is above in heaven, and clear of all sin, the head must be uncovered in public worship; or otherwise the reverse is suggested of him, which is highly to dishonour him, and is the sense many interpreters give into: rather the reason should be, because Christ, the believer's head, appears for him in heaven, opens a way of access for him, gives him audience and acceptance in his person, and through his blood and righteousness; and therefore should appear with open face and head uncovered, as a token of freedom and boldness; otherwise he dishonours his head as if his blood and sacrifice were not effectual, and his intercession not prevalent: but the natural head, taken in a literal sense, is rather meant; and the sense is, that by covering it, it looks as if he was guilty and ashamed, and in subjection; whereas to appear uncovered expresses freedom, boldness, and superiority, like himself, who is the head of the woman; whereas to be covered, as with a woman's veil or hood, is effeminate, unmanly, and dishonourable.
(r) Macrob Saturnal. l. 3. c. 6. Alex. ab. Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 2. c. 14. & 19. & 22. (s) Maimon. Hilch. Tephilla, c. 5. sect. 5. (t) T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 20. 1.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
4. praying—in public (1Co 11:17).
prophesying—preaching in the Spirit (1Co 12:10).
having—that is, if he were to have: a supposed case to illustrate the impropriety in the woman's case. It was the Greek custom (and so that at Corinth) for men in worship to be uncovered; whereas the Jews wore the Talith, or veil, to show reverence before God, and their unworthiness to look on Him (Isa 6:2); however, Maimonides [Mishna] excepts cases where (as in Greece) the custom of the place was different.
dishonoureth his head—not as Alford, "Christ" (1Co 11:3); but literally, as "his head" is used in the beginning of the verse. He dishonoreth his head (the principal part of the body) by wearing a covering or veil, which is a mark of subjection, and which makes him look downwards instead of upwards to his Spiritual Head, Christ, to whom alone he owes subjection. Why, then, ought not man to wear the covering in token of his subjection to Christ, as the woman wears it in token of her subjection to man? "Because Christ is not seen: the man is seen; so the covering of him who is under Christ is not seen; of her who is under the man, is seen" [Bengel]. (Compare 1Co 11:7).
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