1 Corinthians 7:5
Defraud you not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5) Except it be . . . that ye may give yourselvesi.e., that ye may have leisure. Any such separation should be temporary, and with consent of both parties. Even then it must not be from mere caprice, but for some religious purpose, such as a special season of prayer. (See Exodus 19:15; 1Samuel 21:4.) The alteration in the Greek text of the word “give into the present tense, so as to make the word “prayer” refer to daily devotions, and not to special and exceptional seasons, and the interpolation of the word “fasting”—not found in the older MSS.—are a striking example of how the ascetic tendencies of a particular ecclesiastical school of thought led to their “amending” the sacred text so as to make it be in harmony with their own views, instead of reverently regarding it as that by which those very views should be corrected.

And come together again.—Better (as in the best MSS.), and be together again. This is still an explanation of the purpose of the separation, not to be a lasting one, but that we may again return to the state of union. The text here bears further traces of having been altered so as to make it seem that the Apostle meant that the return to matrimonial life should be only to a temporary union, and not to a continuous state of life. The proper reading implies the latter, the word “be” being used as in Acts 2:44.

For your incontinency.—Better, because of your incontinency; the reference being, as in 1Corinthians 7:2, to the moral condition surrounding them, and to the influence to which a man thus separated would be subject. The Corinthian Christians are here solemnly reminded that this sin, as all sin, is from Satan—because the Corinthians at large did not regard it as sin at all, but even mingled sensuality with worship.

1 Corinthians 7:5-7. Defraud not — Or deprive not; one the other — Of this benevolence; or withdraw not from the company of each other; except it be with consent for a time, that — On those special and solemn occasions, you may entirely give yourselves up to the exercises of devotion. From this passage it appears, that, in the first age, when married persons parted for a time to employ themselves in the duties of devotion, they lived in separate habitations, or rather in different parts of their own house. For in the eastern countries the houses were so built, that the women had apartments allotted to themselves. And come together again — As usual, and do not continue the separation too long; that Satan tempt you not — To unclean thoughts, if not actions too, which he probably might do, if you should long remain separate from each other; for your incontinency — The word ακρασια, thus translated, properly signifies, the want of the government of one’s passions and appetites. It is properly observed here by Dr. Macknight, “that marriage being an affair of the greatest importance to society, it was absolutely necessary that its obligation and duties, as well as the obligation and duties of the other relations of life, should be declared by inspiration in the Scriptures. This passage, therefore, of the word of God ought to be read with due reverence, both because it was dictated by the Holy Spirit, and because throughout the whole of his discourse the apostle has used the greatest chastity and delicacy of expression.” But I speak this — That which I have said, for the preventing of incontinency, both in the unmarried, (1 Corinthians 7:2,) and married, (1 Corinthians 7:5,) by permission — From Christ, to leave you to your liberty therein, if you have the gift of continency. Or, as an advice, as some render κατα συγγνωμην. Bengelius says the word denotes an opinion, rightly suited to the state or disposition of another. And not of commandment — Not as an injunction. Or, as some commentators suppose, he may refer to what follows. For I would that all men — All the disciples of Christ who are unmarried, and can live chastely, were even as I myself — That is, would remain eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake; or, that they could as easily bear the restraints of a single life in present circumstances, and exercise as resolute a command over their natural desires. Paul, having tasted the sweetness of this liberty, wished others to enjoy it as well as himself. But every man hath his proper gift of God — According to our Lord’s declaration, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given, Matthew 19:11.7:1-9 The apostle tells the Corinthians that it was good, in that juncture of time, for Christians to keep themselves single. Yet he says that marriage, and the comforts of that state, are settled by Divine wisdom. Though none may break the law of God, yet that perfect rule leaves men at liberty to serve him in the way most suited to their powers and circumstances, of which others often are very unfit judges. All must determine for themselves, seeking counsel from God how they ought to act.Defraud ye not ... - Of the right mentioned above. Withdraw not from the society of each other.

Except it be with consent - With a mutual understanding, that you may engage in the extraordinary duties of religion; compare Exodus 19:15.

And come together again ... - Even by mutual consent, the apostle would not have this separation to be perpetual, since it would expose them to many of the evils which the marriage relation was designed to avoid.

That Satan ... - That Satan take not advantage of you, and throw you into temptation, and fill you with thoughts and passions which the marriage compact was designed to remedy.

5. Defraud … not—namely, of the conjugal duty "due" (1Co 7:3; compare the Septuagint, Ex 21:10).

except it be—"unless perchance" [Alford].

give yourselves to—literally, "be at leisure for"; be free from interruptions for; namely, on some special "season," as the Greek for "time" means (compare Ex 19:15; Joe 2:16; Zec 7:3).

fasting and prayer—The oldest manuscripts omit "fasting and"; an interpolation, evidently, of ascetics.

come together—The oldest manuscripts read, "be together," namely, in the regular state of the married.

Satan—who often thrusts in his temptations to unholy thoughts amidst the holiest exercises.

for your incontinency—because of your inability to "contain" (1Co 7:9) your natural propensities, which Satan would take advantage of.

Defraud not one the other; that is: Withhold not yourselves one from another; which he rightly calls defrauding one another, because he had before declared it a debt; and further declared, that neither the husband nor the wife had a power over their own bodies, but the power of either of their bodies was in their correlate. He adds,

except it be with consent, mutual consent, and then it is indeed no defrauding; and

for a time, for a religious end,

that they might give themselves to fasting and prayer: not that this abstinence is necessary to us by any Divine precept, to prepare us for solemn prayer, (for such only is here spoken of), for then the apostle would not have made consent necessary in this case; but the Jews were commanded it, Exodus 19:15, as a preparation to their hearing of the law; and it was a piece of the legal purification, as appeareth from 1 Samuel 21:4, as to which Christians were at liberty, and might observe or not observe it, as they agreed.

And come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency: then he requires, that they should return to their former course, not defrauding one another, lest the devil, observing their abstinence, should tempt them to unlawful mixtures, seeing their inability to contain themselves within the bounds of temperance and chastity. Defraud ye not one the other,.... By withholding due benevolence, denying the use of the marriage bed, refusing to pay the conjugal debt, and which is called a "diminishing of her marriage duty", Exodus 21:10 where the Septuagint use the same word "defraud", as the apostle does here; it is what both have a right to, and therefore, if either party is denied, it is a piece of injustice, it is properly a defrauding; though with proper conditions, such as follow, it may be lawful for married persons to lie apart, and abstain from the use of the bed, but then it should never be done,

except it be with consent: because they have a mutual power over each other's bodies, and therefore the abstinence must be voluntary on each side; otherwise injury is done to the person that does not consent, who is deprived against will of just right; but if there is agreement, then there is no defrauding, because each give up their right; and such a voluntary abstinence is commended by the Jews (z);

"everyone that lessens the use of the bed, lo, he, is praiseworthy; and he who does not make void, or, cause to cease the due benevolence, but , "by consent of his wife";''

i.e. he also is praiseworthy: another condition of this abstinence is that it be only for a time; which shall be agreed unto, and fixed by both parties; not for ever which would be contrary to the will of God; the institution and end of marriage, and of dangerous consequence to either party. The Jews allow of a vow of continency for a while; and which they limit to different persons; thus (a),

"if a man by a vow excludes, wife from the use of the bed, the school of Shammai say it is for the space of two weeks, the school of Hillell say one week; scholars go out to learn the law, without leave of their wives, thirty days, workmen one week;''

which vow, for such a limited time, they seem to allow of, without mutual consent; and herein they disagree with the rule the apostle gives; and who further observes, the end to be had in view by such a voluntary separation for a time,

that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; not that this was necessary for the ordinary discharge of such service, as for private acts of devotion among themselves, and constant family prayer; but either when times of fasting and prayer on some emergent occasions were appointed by themselves, or by the church, or by the civil government on account of some extraordinary and momentous affairs; and this seems to be observed by the apostle, in agreement with the customs and rules of the Jewish nation, which forbid the use of the bed, as on their great and annual fast, the day of atonement (b), so on their fasts appointed by the sanhedrim for obtaining of rain (c): the word "fasting" is omitted in the Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions, and so it is in the Alexandrian copy, two of Stephens's; and others: the apostle adds,

and come together again; to the same bed, and the use of it, and that for this reason,

that Satan tempt you not for your incontinence; for not having the gift of continency, should they pretend to keep apart long: Satan, who knows the temperament and disposition of men and women, may tempt them not only to hatred of, and quarrels with one another, but to impure lusts and desires, to fornication, adultery, and all uncleanness; a very good reason why, though abstinence from the marriage bed for a short time, by the consent of both parties, for religious purposes, may be lawful, yet ought not to be continued; since Satan may hereby get an advantage over them, and draw them into the commission of scandalous enormities. The Jews have a notion of Satan's being a tempter, and of his tempting men to various sins, which they should guard against, as idolatry, &c. So say they (d),

"thou mayest not look after idolatry, according to Deuteronomy 4:19 and again, thou must take heed lest this be a cause of it to thee, , "and Satan tempt thee" to look after them, and do as they do:''

and again (e), frequently should a man think

"upon the unity of the blessed God, lest there should be anything above or below, before him or behind him, or by him, and so, , "Satan tempt him", and he come into heresy.''

(z) Maimon. Hilch. Ishot, c. 21. sect. 11. (a) Misn. Cetubot, c. 5. sect. 6. (b) Misn. Yoma, c. 8. sect. 1.((c) Misn. Taanith, c. 1. sect. 6. (d) Mosis Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora, pr. neg. 14. (e) Mosis Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora, pr. neg. 15.

Defraud ye not one the other, {4} except it be with consent for a time, that ye may {d} give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

(4) He adds an exception: unless the one abstain from the other by mutual consent, that they may the better give themselves to prayer, in which nonetheless he warns them to consider what is expedient, lest by this long breaking off as it were from marriage, they are stirred up to incontinency.

(d) Do nothing else.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Corinthians 7:5. Withhold not yourselves from each other, unless it were perhaps (nisi forte, comp 2 Corinthians 13:5; Luke 9:13) that ye did so as occasion emerged (ἄν), by agreement for a time (supply ἀποστερῆτε ἀλλήλ.; see on Luke 9:13). The obvious meaning is euphemistically expressed by ἈΠΟΣΤΕΡ.; ἌΓΑΝ ΤΟΊΝΥΝ ἉΡΜΟΔΊΩς ΤΟῦΤΟ ΤΈΘΕΙΚΕΝ ἘΠῚ ΤῶΝ Οὐ ΣΥΜΦΏΝΩς ΤῊΝ ἘΓΚΡΆΤΕΙΑΝ ΑἹΡΟΥΜΈΝΩΝ, Theodoret.

ἽΝΑ ΣΧΟΛΆΣΗΤΕ Κ.Τ.Λ[1075]] ἵνα introduces the design of the concession just made ἐκ συμφών. πρὸς καιρόν: in order that ye may have free leisure for prayer—may be able to give yourselves to it without being drawn away and distracted by sensual desire and the pleasures of sense. What Paul means is not the ordinary praying of the Christian heart, which ought to ascend ἀδιαλείπτως (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Ephesians 6:18), but such extraordinary exercises in prayer as they might have determined specially to devote themselves to for a longer period (a series of days). We are not to assume that such domestic devotions, as the apostle here plainly supposes to be engaged in by husband and wife in common, had been already then connected with Christian festivals; probably they were still entirely dependent upon the wants and wishes of individuals. But the idea of cohabitation being excluded for a time by religious exercises, is found both among the Jews (Exodus 19:15; 1 Samuel 21:4) and the heathen. See Wetstein and Dougt. Anal. II. p. 111 f. Comp Test. XII. Patr. p. 673: καιρὸς γὰρ συνουσίας γυναικὸς αὐτοῦ, καὶ καιρὸς ἐγκρατείας εἰς προσευχὴν αὐτοῦ.

καὶ πάλιν ἦτε] still dependent on ἵνα, indicates σεμνῶς the being together again for matrimonial intercourse. With respect to ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό,[1077] comp on Acts 1:15.

ἵνα μὴ πειράζῃ κ.τ.λ[1079]] design of the ΚΑῚ ΠΆΛΙΝἮΤΕ: in order that Satan may not tempt you to sin (to breach of the marriage-vow) on account of your incontinency, because ye are incontinent; for “Satanas vitiorum scintillas excitat,” Grotius. Ἀκρασία, which occurs again in the N. T. in its older form of ἈΚΡΆΤΕΙΑ, Matthew 23:25, comes from ἈΚΡΑΤΉς (ΚΡΑΤΕῖΝ), and is the opposite of ἘΓΚΡΆΤΕΙΑ. See Lobeck, a[1080] Phryn. p. 524; Stallbaum, a[1081] Plat. Rep. p. 461 B. Rückert conjectures that the word means: not mingling in matrimonial intercourse (on account of your non-participation therein). This is quite against usage; for ἀκρᾱσία (with the Α long, from ἌΚΡΑΤΟς), in the Ionic form ἈΚΡΗΣΊΗ, means bad mixture, as opposed to εὐκρασία. See Theophrastus, c. pl. iii. 2. 5; TDio Cassius, lxxvii. 22. Paul had reason enough to affirm incontinency of the Corinthians generally, and to call their attention in warning to this lack of moral strength, on which the devil would base his attempts to find access to them with his temptations. Comp 2 Corinthians 2:11.

[1075] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1077] Erasmus remarks rightly: “ut intelligas, eos ante fuisse separatos thalamis.”

[1079] .τ.λ. καὶ τὰ λοιπά.

[1080] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.

[1081] d refers to the note of the commentator or editor named on the particular passage.1 Corinthians 7:5. μὴ ἀποστερεῖτε κ.τ.λ.: “Do not rob one another”—sc. of the ὀφειλή; the deprivation is an injustice (same vb[1009] as in 1 Corinthians 6:7 f.); “congruit hoc verbum cum verbo debendi” (Bg[1010]). This also, with 1 Corinthians 7:4, against the rigorists. The impvs. of this context are pr[1011], relating to habits of life.—εἰ μὴ κ.τ.λ. qualifies the command not to rob, by stating an exception: this exception, however, the Ap. “valde limitat” (Bg[1012]), first by τι (in some measure, somehow), next by ἄν (haply, if the case should arise), thirdly by ἐκ συμφώνου (of consent: making the separation no longer robbery), lastly by πρὸς καιρόν (for a season). Such separation may be made for specific religious ends—“that you may be disengaged for prayer” (vacetis orationi, Vg[1013]), and with a view to renewed intercourse (καὶ πάλιν ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ ἦτε). So fearful was the Ap. of putting a strain on the ill-disciplined Cor[1014] nature, with sensual incitements rife in the atmosphere: “lest Satan be tempting you because of your want of self-control”.—ἀκρασία, later Gr[1015] for ἀκράτεια (opp[1016] of ἐγκράτεια, cf. 1 Corinthians 9:25), signifies non-mastery of appetite.—Σχολάζω (here in aor[1017], of particular occasion; πειράζητε, pr., of constant possibility), construed with dat[1018] or πρός τι, in cl[1019] Gr[1020] often denotes leisure from ordinary for higher pursuits—e.g., σχολάζειν μουσικῇ, φιλοσοφίᾳ; also used of scholars who “devote themselves” to a master: a negative condition of προσκαρτερεῖσθαι τῇ προσευχῇ (Romans 12:12, Colossians 4:2).

[1009] verb

[1010] Bengel’s Gnomon Novi Testamenti.

[1011]
present tense.

[1012] Bengel’s Gnomon Novi Testamenti.

[1013]
Latin Vulgate Translation.

[1014] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[1015] Greek, or Grotius’ Annotationes in N.T.

[1016]
opposite, opposition.

[1017] aorist tense.

[1018] dative case.

[1019] classical.

[1020] Greek, or Grotius’ Annotationes in N.T.5. that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer] The best MSS., most of the Fathers, and many of the best versions, including the Vulgate, omit the word ‘fasting.’

Satan] Cf. 1 Peter 5:8.1 Corinthians 7:5. Μὴ ἀποστερεῖτε, defraud not) So the LXX., Exodus 21:10, he shall not defraud her of her duty of marriage, τὴν ὁμιλίαν αὐτῆς (ענתה) οὐκ ἀποστερήσει. This word agrees with the word due, 1 Corinthians 7:3.—εἰ μή τι ἄν, except it be) It is very much limited. When these conditions occur, it is not privation, but abstinence.—ἵνα σχολάζητε, that you may be at leisure) The apostle speaks here of great leisure, σχολὴν, and ease. Previous abstinence is subservient to prayer. [Those who fasted among the Greeks added here fasting.—Not. crit.[57]]. Abstinence may also have other motives originating it [besides the object of prayer], and those of a bad kind.—καὶ πὰλιν, and again) Concerning such intervals, and their measure, see Selden on the Hebrew wife.—ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ, together) This does not mean the very act of connubial intercourse, but is opposed to the previous separation.—πειράζῃ, should tempt) to fornication, etc., 1 Corinthians 7:2.—ὁ Σατανᾶς, Satan) who amid the exercises of the sublimer virtues seeks an opportunity of doing the greatest injury. Temptation cannot be easily presupposed without Satan.—ἀκρασίαν, incontinency) 1 Corinthians 7:9.

[57] Rec. Text inserts before τῇ προσευχῇ the words τῇ νηστείαò καὶ with both Syr. Versions. But ABCD(Λ)G fg Vulg. Orig. Cypr. omit the words.—ED.Verse 5. - Defraud ye not. St. Paul purposely leaves the expression general. Primarily he is thinking of "the due" or "the power" which each has over the other, as is shown by the next verse; but he does not confine the expression to this. Except it be; literally, unless by chance. The exception he regards as something possible, but not normal. For a time. By this and the next words he disparages, by anticipation, the celibate and separate married lives which, in a corrupt age, were so much and so unwisely admired in the ascetic saints of the Middle Ages. Temporary separation for special reasons had been recognized from the earliest times (Exodus 19:15; 1 Samuel 21:4). Ye may give yourselves; rather, ye may have leisure. The verb is in the aorist, which shows that the "leisure" contemplated was for brief periods, not during continuous years. It was altered to the present by the officious copyists, who believed in external and mechanical rules of holiness. To fasting and prayer. "Fasting" is an ascetic interpolation, not found in א, A, B, C, D, F. On this interpolation, and perhaps on the analogy of the rule given by Moses at Sinai (Exodus 19:15), rose the practice of married persons living apart at Lent (Stanley). Come together again. The prepossessions of ascetic scribes have again tampered with the text. The true reading is, "be together again" (ῆτε), not "come together" (συνέρχησθε). For your incontinency; rather, because of. Their past lives and their present temptations were a warning that they could not lay on themselves burdens which God did not require. They should not strive

"...to wind themsleves to high
For sinful man beneath the sky."
Violent, unnatural, self tormenting, repressions beyond what God demands, and adopted without reference to the strength or the circumstances of individual natures, only tend, as all ascetics have confessed, to increase rather than to diminish the force of sensual temptations. May give yourselves (σχολάσητε)

Lit., may have leisure. Like the Latin phrase vacaare rei to be free for a thing, and so to devote one's self to it.

Incontinency (ἀκρασίαν)

Only here and Matthew 23:35, on which see note.

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