1 Corinthians 10:8
Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.
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(8) And fell in one day three and twenty thousand.—In Numbers 25:9 the statement is that twenty-four thousand perished. Various and ingenious attempts have been made to reconcile these two accounts of the actual numbers. The explanation most in harmony with the character of the writer, and the utterly unessential nature of the point historically, is, I venture to think, that either the Apostle quoted from memory a fact of no great importance, or else that he referred for his figures to some copy of the LXX., in which the numbers might be specified as here.

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 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.

8. fornication—literally, Fornication was generally, as in this case (Nu 25:1-18), associated at the idol feasts with spiritual fornication, that is, idolatry. This all applied to the Corinthians (1Co 5:1, 9; 6:9, 15, 18; 1Co 8:10). Balaam tempted Israel to both sins with Midian (Re 2:14). Compare 1Co 8:7, 9, "stumbling-block," "eat … thing offered unto … idol."

three and twenty thousand—in Nu 25:9 "twenty and four thousand." If this were a real discrepancy, it would militate rather against inspiration of the subject matter and thought, than against verbal inspiration. The solution is: Moses in Numbers includes all who died "in the plague"; Paul, all who died "in one day"; one thousand more may have fallen the next day [Kitto, Biblical Cyclopædia]. Or, the real number may have been between twenty-three thousand and twenty-four thousand, say twenty-three thousand five hundred, or twenty-three thousand six hundred; when writing generally where the exact figures were not needed, one writer might quite veraciously give one of the two round numbers near the exact one, and the other writer the other [Bengel]. Whichever be the true way of reconciling the seeming discrepant statements, at least the ways given above prove they are not really irreconcilable.

The story to which this verse relates is that, Numbers 25:1-9. When Balaam could not curse the Israelites, he advised the debauching of them by the Moabitish women, first enticing them to fornication and adultery, then to idolatry: and they were enticed, which caused a plague amongst them, which destroyed amongst them

in one day three and twenty thousand, saith our apostle: Moses saith, that there died twenty and four thousand. There are many guesses for the clearing of that seeming contradiction. Some say, that Moses mentioneth not one day, there might in all die twenty-four thousand, but not all the same day, nor possibly by the same death. But nothing is in Scripture more ordinary, than to speak of things or persons in round numbers, though something over or under; and also to speak according to the common reckoning of people, who also may talk variously. Some might report twenty-three, some twenty-four thousand: or possibly Paul chose to mention the lesser rather than the greater round number. The sense of Moses might be, about twenty-four thousand, or near up to that number, all of which probably had not been guilty of adultery or fornication. Paul saith, there died twenty-three thousand. If there did die twenty-four thousand, there must needs die twenty-three thousand. Neither let us commit fornication,.... To which the Corinthians were much addicted: hence the apostle elsewhere, in this epistle, makes use of arguments, to dissuade from it, as he does here, they judging it to be no evil:

as some of them committed; i.e. fornication; as they did at Shittim, with the daughters of Moab, Numbers 25:1 which was a stratagem of Balaam's, and the advice he gave to Balak king of Moab, to draw them into that sin, which made way for their commission of idolatry, which they committed by eating the sacrifices of their gods, and bowing down unto them; particularly they joined themselves to Baal Peor, the same with Priapus, one part of whose religious rites lay in acts of uncleanness, and this brought the divine displeasure on them:

and fell in one day three and twenty thousand; in Numbers 25:9 the number said to be "twenty and four thousand": and so say all the three Targums on the place (w), and both the Talmuds (x) and others (y); on the other hand, all the Greek copies of this epistle, and the Oriental versions, agree in the number of twenty and three thousand; so that it does not appear to be any mistake of copies, in either Testament. To reconcile this matter, or at least to abate the difficulties of it, let the following things be observed; as that the apostle does not write as an historian, and so not with that exactness as Moses did; besides, he does not say that there fell "only" three and twenty thousand, and this beings lesser number than is contained in his, and so a certain truth; moreover, Moses and the apostle use different words in their account; Moses says there died so many, including the heads of the people that were hanged up against the sun, and all that perished by the sword; the apostle says, that there fell such a number, referring only to the latter, who only could be properly said to fall, and not those that were hanged up: now the heads of the people that suffered the first kind of death, might, as is very probable, be a thousand; and they that died in the other way, three and twenty thousand, which make the sums to agree, and both are expressed by Moses, under the general name of a plague or stroke; to all this, that the apostle uses a limiting clause, which Moses does not, and says that these three and twenty thousand fell in one day. So that it is very likely that the heads of the people, supposed to be a thousand, were hanged up in one day; and the three and twenty thousand that fell by the sword died the next, which the apostle only takes notice of. Hence the Jew (z) has no reason to charge the apostle with an error.

(w) Targum Onkelos, Jon. ben Uzziel & Jerusalem in Numb, xxv. 9. (x) T. Hieros Sota, fol. 21. 4. T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 106. 1.((y) Midrash Kohelet, fol. 68. 4. Tzeror Hammor, fol. 127. 3.((z) R. Isaac Chizzuk Emuna, par. 2. c. 36. p. 468.

Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.
1 Corinthians 10:8. Ἐπόρνευσαν] Numbers 25:1 ff.

εἴκοσι τρεῖς] According to Numbers 25:9, there were 24,000. So too Philo, de vit. Mos. 1, p. 694 A; de fortit. p. 742 D; and the Rabbins in Lightfoot, Horae, p. 205; also Josephus, Antt. iv. 6. 12. A slip of memory on the apostle’s part, as might easily take place, so that there is no need of supposing a variation in the tradition (Bengel, Pott), or an error in his copy of the LXX. (Ewald). Among the arbitrary attempts at reconciliation which have been made are the following: that Paul narrates only what happened on one day, Moses what happened on two (Grotius); that Moses gives the maximum, Paul the minimum (Calvin, Bengel); that 23,000 fell vi divina, and 1000 gladio zelotarum (Krebs, after Bernard and Havercamp on Josephus, loc. cit.); that Paul states merely what befell the tribe of Simeon (Michaelis). Cajetanus and Surenhusius would have us read εἴκοσι τέσσαρες, as, in point of fact, is given in a few codd[1601], but manifestly by way of correction. Osiander too leans to this; comp Valckenaer.

[1601] odd. codices or manuscripts. The uncial manuscripts are denoted by the usual letters, the Sinaitic by א.1 Corinthians 10:8. μηδὲ πορνεύωμεν: here P. comes closer to his readers, adopting the communicative 1st pl[1438] For the prevalence of this vice at Cor[1439] and its connexion with Cor[1440] idolatry, see 1 Corinthians 7:2, 1 Corinthians 6:11, and Introd., p. 734 (cf. Numbers 25:1 f. also Revelation 2:14); for its existence in the Cor[1441] Church, ch. 5. above, and 2 Corinthians 12:21. Wis 14:12 affirms, of idolatry at large, ἀρχὴ πορνείας ἐπίνοια εἰδώλων; see the connexion of Romans 1:24 with the foregoing context.—“23,000” is a curious variation from the figure given in Numbers 25:9 for the slain of Baal-Peor, which is followed by other Jewish authorities, vix., 24,000. It is more respectful to credit the Ap. with a trifling inadvertence than to suppose, with Gd[1442], that he makes a deliberate understatement to be within the mark. Ev[1443] gives no evidence for his alleged “Jewish tradition” in support of the reduced estimate. Possibly, a primitive error of the copyist, substituting γʹ for δʹ (Hn[1444]).

[1438] plural.

[1439] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[1440] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[1441] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[1442] F. Godet’s Commentaire sur la prem. Ép. aux Corinthiens (Eng. Trans.).

[1443] T. S. Evans in Speaker’s Commentary.

[1444] C. F. G. Heinrici’s Erklärung der Korintherbriefe (1880), or 1 Korinther in Meyer’s krit.-exegetisches Kommentar (1896).8. Neither let us commit fornication] i.e. the natural result of joining in the impure worship of Ashtaroth, or Astarte, the Syrian Venus. The temple of Aphrodite, on the Acro-Corinthus, contained a thousand priestesses devoted to the same licentious worship. See Introduction. The warning in the text was, therefore, by no means needless. The occasion referred to is that related in Numbers 25:1-6.

three and twenty thousand] In Numbers 25:9 we find 24,000. The actual number would no doubt be between the two, so that both here and in the book of Numbers only round numbers are given. “Our Apostle saith not definitely three and twenty thousand perished, but three and twenty thousand at the least.” Lightfoot.1 Corinthians 10:8. Ἐπόρνευσαν, committed fornication) Numbers 25:1.—εἴκοσι τρεῖς χιλιάδες, twenty-three thousand) They are said to have been twenty-four thousand, Numbers 25:9. A stroke from God swept them away; but besides, the princes [“the heads of the people,” Numbers 25:4] were hanged, and the judges were commanded to put to death their men, over whom they presided, who had been joined to Baal-peor. Moses as well as Paul gives the number of them, whom the plague itself of that day destroyed. Why then does Paul subtract a thousand? The precise number of the dead, we may suppose, was between the round numbers, 23,000, and 24,000, say 23,600, and had been known by tradition. We do not follow the subtilties of other interpreters.Verse 8. - Commit fornication. This sin was not only an ordinary accompaniment of idolatry, but often a consecrated part of it, as in the case of the thousand hierodouloi, or female attendants, in the temple of Aphrodite on Acro-Corinthus. Three and twenty thousand. The number given in Numbers 25:9 is twenty-four thousand. We cannot give any account of the discrepancy, which is, however, quite unimportant.
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