1 Corinthians 7:38
So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better.
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(38) So then . . .—Better, So then he that gives his daughter in marriage does well, and (not “but”) he that giveth her not shall do better. It is worth noticing how, in the case of the one who gives his daughter in marriage, we have the present tense “does well”—as if the good he did began and ended there; and, in the other case, the future “shall do” (in 1Corinthians 7:37 also)—the good result of his action continuing while the girl remains with her parent. This passage clearly shows how St. Paul has not been contrasting right and wrong: but comparative degrees of what is expedient.

All throughout this passage the Apostle takes for granted the absolute control of the parent over the child, in accordance with the principles of both Greek and Jewish jurisprudence. Hence, no advice is given to the young maiden herself, but only to her father.

7:36-40 The apostle is thought to give advice here about the disposal of children in marriage. In this view, the general meaning is plain. Children should seek and follow the directions of their parents as to marriage. And parents should consult their children's wishes; and not reckon they have power to do with them, and dictate just as they please, without reason. The whole is closed with advice to widows. Second marriages are not unlawful, so that it is kept in mind, to marry in the Lord. In our choice of relations, and change of conditions, we should always be guided by the fear of God, and the laws of God, and act in dependence on the providence of God. Change of condition ought only to be made after careful consideration, and on probable grounds, that it will be to advantage in our spiritual concerns.Doeth well - Does right; violates no law in it, and is not to be blamed for it.

Doeth better - Does that which is on the whole to be preferred, if it can be done. He more certainly, in the present circumstances, consults her happiness by withholding her from the marriage connection than he could by allowing her to enter it.

38. her—The oldest manuscripts have "his own virgin daughter."

but—The oldest manuscripts have "and."

So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well: there is no general rule for all parents in this case, where the duty or sin of parents may arise from their or their children’s different circumstances. But supposing that a parent, having duly weighed all circumstances, be fully resolved, and he finds the child’s will concurring, that she can forbear, and is willing to do in the case what her parent desires; in such a case as this, if the parent disposeth her in marriage, I cannot say he sinneth, but he doth what he may do.

But he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better; but with reference to the present state of things in the church and in the world, and with reference to the young woman’s liberty for the service of God, he doth better, if he doth not so dispose her. The thing is in itself indifferent, and Christians must be in it ruled and inclined one way or another from circumstances.

So then he that giveth her in marriage doth well,.... Does that which is in its own nature good; that which is agreeable to the will of God, is of his institution and appointment, and therefore must be good, and answer many good ends and purposes. Such an one that marries his daughter, he seeing a necessity for it, and a propriety in it, does a very good thing; secures her chastity, and his own credit; prevents fornication, and other evils that might follow; consults the good of mankind, and the honour of religion.

But he that giveth her not in marriage doth better; not a better action in itself, simply considered; but more profitable and advantageous under such and such circumstances, with such and such conditions and consequences; since hereby a single person is more fit to encounter with and endure persecutions, is freer from the cares of life, and more at liberty to wait upon the Lord, and give up himself to his service.

So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth {l} better.

(l) Provides better for his children, and that not in just any way, but by reason of such conditions as are mentioned before.

1 Corinthians 7:38. Result of 1 Corinthians 7:36-37, καὶκαί, as well … as also. Paul had thought of saying καλῶς ποιεῖ in the second clause also, but thereupon strengthens his expression (κρεῖσσον) so as to correspond with the relations of the two predicates, οὐχ ἁμαρτ. in 1 Corinthians 7:36, and καλῶς ποιεῖ in 1 Corinthians 7:37.

ὁ ἐκγαμ.] he who marries her (his virgin, 1 Corinthians 7:37) out (gives her out of his family in marriage). This going “out” is not taken into account in the second clause.

κρεῖσσον] for see 1 Corinthians 7:34. Regarding ἐκγαμ., comp Matthew 24:38; it is not preserved in Greek writers.

1 Corinthians 7:38, the sum of the matter: either to marry one’s daughter or refuse her in marriage is, abstractly viewed, an honourable course; the latter, in Paul’s judgment, and for Christians in the present posture of things, is better. “Ce bien et mieux résument tout le chapitre” (Gd[1213]).

[1213] F. Godet’s Commentaire sur la prem. Ép. aux Corinthiens (Eng. Trans.).

1 Corinthians 7:38. Ὣστε, therefore) We must observe, with how great earnestness, fidelity, and fulness, Paul dwells on this passage.—καὶ) also.

Verse 38. - Doeth well. Because" marriage is honourable in all." Doeth better. Obviously not morally, because, if one course be morally better than another, we are bound to take it; but "better" with reference to expediency in "the urgent necessity" which rested on the Christian world in that day. It is quite clear that, if these words are meant to disparage matrimony in comparison with celibacy, or to treat celibacy in the abstract as a holier state that marriage, they have been set aside by the universal practice and theory of the Christian world. But, as we have seen, they are expressed by St. Paul only as a relative and diffident opinion. It is remarkable that not one word is said as to the choice of the virgin herself in the matter, which is one of the most essential points on which the decision must turn. St. Paul, no doubt, assumes the acquiescence or preference of the maiden as one of the elements in the absence of any "need" for her marriage; but also he writes after lifelong familiarity with the all but absolute control exercised by Jewish parents over their youthful daughters. 1 Corinthians 7:38
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