1 Corinthians 9:9
For it is written in the law of Moses, You shall not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treads out the corn. Does God take care for oxen?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(9) The ox that treadeth out the corn.—Better, the ox while treading out the corn. In this verse the question of the previous one is answered. The Law does say the same: “For it is written in the Law of Moses,” etc. The pointed and emphatic mention of the Law of Moses would give the words great weight with Jewish opponents. On a space of hard ground called a threshing-floor the oxen were driven to and fro over the corn collected there, and thus the separation of the grain from the husk was accomplished.

Doth God take care for oxen?—We must not take these and the following words as a denial of the divine regard for the brute creation, which runs through the Mosaic law and is exemplified in Jonah 4:11, but as an expression of the Apostle’s belief as to the ultimate and highest object of God’s love. The good which such a provision as the Law achieved for the oxen was nothing compared to the good which it accomplished for man. God did not do this simply as a provision for the ox, but to teach us men humanity—to teach us that it is a divine principle that the labourer should have his reward.

9:1-14 It is not new for a minister to meet with unkind returns for good-will to a people, and diligent and successful services among them. To the cavils of some, the apostle answers, so as to set forth himself as an example of self-denial, for the good of others. He had a right to marry as well as other apostles, and to claim what was needful for his wife, and his children if he had any, from the churches, without labouring with his own hands to get it. Those who seek to do our souls good, should have food provided for them. But he renounced his right, rather than hinder his success by claiming it. It is the people's duty to maintain their minister. He may wave his right, as Paul did; but those transgress a precept of Christ, who deny or withhold due support.For it is written - Deuteronomy 25:4.

In the law of Moses - See the note at Luke 24:44.

Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth ... - To muzzle means, "to bind the mouth; to fasten the mouth to prevent eating or biting" - Webster. This was done either by passing straps around the mouth, or by placing, as is now sometimes done, a small "basket" over the mouth, fastened by straps to the horns of the animal, so as to prevent its eating, but not to impede its breathing freely. This was an instance of the humanity of the laws of Moses. The idea is, that the ox should not be prevented from eating when it was in the midst of food; and that as it labored for its owner, it was entitled to support; and there was a propriety that it should be permitted to partake of the grain which it was threshing.

That treadeth ... - This was one of the common modes of threshing in the east, as it is with us; see the note and illustration on Matthew 3:12.

The corn - The "grain," of any kind; wheat, rye, barley, etc. Maize, to which we apply the word "corn," was then unknown; see the note at Matthew 12:1.

Doth God take care for oxen? - Doth God take care for oxen only? Or is not this rather "a principle" which shows God's care for all that labor, and the humanity and equity of his laws? And if he is so solicitous about the welfare of brutes as to frame an express law in their behalf, is it not to be presumed that the same "principle" of humanity and equity will run through all his dealings and requirements? The apostle does not mean to deny that God does take care for oxen, for the very law was proof that he did; but he means to ask whether it is to be supposed that God would regard the comfort of oxen and not of people also? Whether we are not to suppose that the same principle would apply also to those who labor in the service of God? He uses this passage, therefore, not as originally having reference to people, or to ministers of the gospel, which cannot be; but as establishing a general "principle" in regard to the equity and humanity of the divine laws; and as thus showing that the spirit of the law of God would lead to the conclusion that God intended that the laborer everywhere should have a competent support.

9. ox … treadeth … corn—(De 25:4). In the East to the present day they do not after reaping carry the sheaves home to barns as we do, but take them to an area under the open air to be threshed by the oxen treading them with their feet, or else drawing a threshing instrument over them (compare Mic 4:13).

Doth God … care for oxen?—rather, "Is it for the oxen that God careth?" Is the animal the ultimate object for whose sake this law was given? No. God does care for the lower animal (Ps 36:6; Mt 10:29), but it is with the ultimate aim of the welfare of man, the head of animal creation. In the humane consideration shown for the lower animal, we are to learn that still more ought it to be exercised in the case of man, the ultimate object of the law; and that the human (spiritual as well as temporal) laborer is worthy of his hire.

Art being not so improved formerly as now, nor in all places as in some places; they were wont anciently, both in the land of Judea, and since in Greece, and (as is said) at this day in some places of France, to tread out their corn by the feet of oxen: and by the law of Moses, Deu 25:4, it should seem that some too covetous persons would muzzle the mouths of their oxen, that while they trod out the corn, they might eat none of it; which God, looking upon as an act of cruelty or unmercifulness, forbade his ancient people the Jews. Now, saith the apostle:

Doth God take care for oxen? That is, more for oxen than for ministers or men? For God doth take care for oxen, he preserveth both man and beast; he takes care, as our Saviour elsewhere teacheth us, for the sparrows, for the fowls of the air, for the grass of the field, and therefore for oxen, which are a degree of creatures more noble: but by the same reason we must conclude, that he taketh a greater care for men, especially such as he employeth in his more immediate service. For it is written in the law of Moses,.... Deuteronomy 25:4

Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. The manner of threshing, or beating out the corn among the Jews, was not the same with ours; it was not done by the flail, at least not always, but by the means of oxen; and by these not only treading upon it to and fro, but drawing a wooden instrument after them, the bottom of which was stuck with iron teeth, and the top of it filled with stones, to press it down close by the weight thereof; the sheaves put in proper form, the oxen were led to and fro upon them, drawing this threshing instrument after them, by which means the grain was separated from the husk and ear (g); see Isaiah 41:15 The learned Beckius (h) has given us a figure of this instrument, and the manner of using it: now according to this law, whilst the ox was thus employed, its mouth was not to be muzzled, but it might freely eat of the corn it trod upon, excepting, the Jews say (i), what was dedicated to sacred uses. They give many rules relating to this law, and particularly observe, that it is to be extended to all sorts of creatures, as well as the ox, and to all sorts of business (k); and that what is said of the ox, is much more to be observed with respect to men (l); and which agrees with the apostle's reasoning here:

doth God take care for oxen? yes, he does, and for creatures of less importance than they, even the fowls of the air, and the most worthless of them, sparrows, two of which are sold for a farthing; but not for them only, nor principally, but chiefly for men.

(g) Ben Melec. in 2 Samuel 12.31. & Jarchi in Isaiah 41.1, 5. (h) Not. in Targum in 1 Chronicles 20.3. p. 210. Vid. Surenhusii Biblos Kattallages, p. 535. (i) Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Meilah, c. sect. 6. & Trumot, c. 9. sect. 3.((k) Jarchi in loc. Maimon. Hilch. Shecirot, c. 13. sect. 1, 2, 3. Moses Kotsensis Mitzot Tora, pr. neg. 184. & affirm. 91. (l) T. Bab. Bava Metzia, fol. 88. 2.

For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for {i} oxen?

(i) Was it God's proper intention to provide for oxen, when he made this law? For there is not the smallest thing in the world, but that God has a concern for.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Corinthians 9:9. Γάρ] introduces the answer which is to prove that the ταῦτα οὐ λέγει does not hold good.

τῷ Μωϋσ. νόμῳ] carries a certain solemnity, as coming after ὁ νόμος in ver 8. The quotation is from Deuteronomy 25:4, given exactly according to the LXX., where it is forbidden to keep the ox that drew the thrashing machine from eating by a muzzle (φιμός, κημός), which used to be done among heathen nations (Varro, i. 25; Cato, de re rust. 54). See Michaelis, Mos. R. III. § 130. The motive of the prohibition, in accordance with that spirit of tenderness towards the lower creation which breathes throughout the whole law (see Ewald, Alterth. p. 222), was humanity to the helpful animals. See Josephus, Antt. iv. 8. 21; Philo, de Carit. p. 711 F. The same citation is made in 1 Timothy 5:18. Comp also Constitt. Ap. ii. 25. 3.

φιμώσεις] = ΚΗΜΏΣΕΙς, which B* D* F G, Tisch. actually read, and which we should accept as genuine, since the former might easily creep into the text from the LXX. Regarding ΚΗΜΟῦΝ, to muzzle, comp Xen. de re eq. v. 3; Poll. i. 202. As to the future with the force of an imperative (thou wilt—that I expect of thee—not muzzle an ox in the thrashing-floor), see on Matthew 1:21.

Beginning with μὴ τῶν βοῶν, there follows now the interpretation of this law, given in the form of a twofold question which runs on to λέγει, first of all, negatively: God does not surely concern Himself about oxen? To modify this negation by an “only” (so Erasmus and many others, among whom is Rückert: “for nothing further than”) is unwarrantable, although even Tholuck’s view in its latest form still amounts to this (das A. T. im N. T., ed. 6, p. 40). What Paul means is, that this class of creatures, the oxen, are not the objects of the divine solicitude in that provision of the law; what expresses the care to be taken for the oxen, is said not for their sakes, but διʼ ἡμᾶς. Οὐ γὰρ ὑπὲρ τῶν ἀλόγων ὁ νόμος, ἀλλʼ ὑπὲρ τῶν νοῦν κ. λόγον ἐχόντων, Philo, de Sacrif. p. 251. Manifestly in this way the apostle sets aside[1425] the actual historical sense of that prohibition (Josephus, Antt. iv. 8. 21) in behalf of an allegorical sense,[1426] which, from the standpoint of a purely historic interpretation, is nothing but an application made “a minori ad majus” (comp Bava Mezia, f. 88). But this need not surprise us, considering the freedom used in the typico-allegorical method of interpreting Scripture, which regarded such an application as the reference of the utterance in question designed by God, and which from this standpoint did not take the historical sense into account along with the other at all. The interpreter, accordingly, who proceeds upon this method with regard to any particular passage does not call in question its historical meaning as such, considered in itself, but only (as was self-evident to his readers) as regards the higher typical destination of the words, inasmuch as he goes to work not as a historical, but as a typico-allegorical expositor. It is in the typical destination of the law in general (Colossians 2:17), whereby it pointed men above and beyond itself, that such a mode of procedure finds its justification, and on this ground it has both its freedom, according as each special case may require, and at the same time its ethical limit, in the necessity of being in harmony with what befitted God.

[1425] Not simply generalizes (Kling in the Stud. u. Krit. 1839, p. 834 f.; comp. Neander), nor “subordinates the one to the other” (Osiander), nor the like, which run counter to the plain meaning of the words. Luther’s gloss, too, goes astray with a naive simplicity of its own: “God cares for all things; but He does not care that anything should be written for oxen, seeing that they cannot read.”

[1426] Comp. also Weiss, bibl. Theol. p. 296.9. Doth God take care for oxen?] Luther and Estius are here fully of one mind against those who suppose the Apostle to mean that God does not care for oxen. “God cares for all,” says the former, and the latter gives proofs of this care from Holy Writ, for example, Psalm 36:6; Psalm 147:9. But the precepts of the law were illustrations of general principles which extended far beyond the special precepts contained in it. Such a precept was that in Exodus 23:19, ‘Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk,’ cf. Exodus 34:26; Deuteronomy 14:21, which had in view the general principle of the cultivation of a spirit of humanity. As an instance of the superior humanity of the Jewish law, Dean Stanley mentions the fact that “the Egyptians had an inscription, still extant, to this effect,” and that in Greece there was a proverb, “the ox on the heap of corn,” to describe a man in the midst of plenty which he could not enjoy. In this and many other instances we have to bear in mind that ‘the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.’ St Paul applies this passage from the Old Testament in an exactly similar manner in 1 Timothy 5:18. It occurs in Deuteronomy 25:4.1 Corinthians 9:9. Οὐ φιμώσεις βοῦν ἀλοῶντα) So the LXX., Deuteronomy 25:4.—ἀλοῶντα, threshing) Horses in the present day are employed in threshing corn in some parts of Germany.—μὴ τῶν βοῶν, does God care for oxen) It is not at all denied, that God cares for oxen, since the man, who would have muzzled the ox, threshing the corn, would have committed a sin against the law. But the conclusion proceeds from the less to the greater. [If God cares for mere oxen, much more for men]. This is a specimen of the right mode of handling the Mosaic laws, enacted regarding animals.Verse 9. - In the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 25:4). He uses the same argument again in 1 Timothy 5:19. The mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn; rather, an ox while treading out the corn. The flail was not unknown, but a common mode of threshing was to let oxen tread the corn on the threshing floor. Doth God take care for oxen? Certainly he does; and St. Paul can hardly mean to imply that he does not, seeing that tenderness for the brute creation is a distinguishing characteristic of the Mosaic legislation (Exodus 23:12, 19; Deuteronomy 22:6, 7, 10, etc.). If St. Paul had failed to perceive this truth, he must have learnt it at least from Psalm 145:15, 16; Jonah 4:11. Even the Greeks showed by their proverb that they could pity the hunger of the poor beasts of burden starving in the midst of plenty. It is, however, a tendency of all Semitic idiom verbally to exclude or negative the inferior alternative. St. Paul did not intend to say, "God has no care for oxen;" for he knew that "his tender mercies are over all his works:" he only meant in Semitic fashion to say that the precept was much more important in its human application; and herein he consciously or unconsciously adopts the tone of Philo's comment on the same passage ('De Victim Offerentibus,' § 1), that, for present purposes, oxen might be left out of account. The rabbinic Midrash, which gave this turn to the passage, was happier and wiser than most specimens of their exegesis. St. Paul sets the typico allegorical interpretation above the literal in this instance (comp. 1 Timothy 5:18), because he regards it as the more important. It is a specimen of the common Jewish exegetic method of a fortiori or minori ad magus. Luther's curious comment is: "God cares for all things; but he does not care that anything should be written for oxen, because they cannot read"! Muzzle (φιμώσεις)

See on Matthew 22:12, Matthew 22:34; see on Mark 4:39. Some texts read κημώσεις a muzzle, from κημός a muzzle See Deuteronomy 25:4.

Ox - treadeth

The custom of driving the oxen over the corn strewed on the ground or on a paved area, was an Egyptian one. In later times the Jews used threshing instruments, dragged by the beasts through the grain Herodotus says that pigs were employed for this purpose in Egypt, but the monuments always represent oxen, or, more rarely, asses. In Andalusia the process may still be seen, the animals pulling the drag in a circle through the heap of grain; and in Italy, the method of treading out by horses was in use up to a comparatively recent date.

The verb ἀλοάω to tread, occurring only here, Deuteronomy 25:10, and 1 Timothy 5:18, is etymologically related to ἅλων halon, threshing-floor (see on Matthew 3:12), which also means the disk of the sun or moon, or a halo, thus implying the circular shape of the floor. Dr. Thomson says: "The command of Moses not to muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn is literally obeyed to this day by most farmers, and you often see the oxen eating from the floor as they go round. There are niggardly peasants, however, who do muzzle the ox" ("The Land and the Book"). This custom was in strong contrast with that of Gentile farmers, who treated their laboring animals cruelly, sometimes employing inhuman methods to prevent them from eating while threshing. All students of the Egyptian monuments are familiar with the hieroglyphic inscription in a tomb at Eileithyas, one of the oldest written poems extant:

"Thresh ye for yourselves,

Thresh ye for yourselves,

Thresh ye for yourselves, O oxen.

Measures of grain for yourselves,

Measures of grain for your masters."

Doth God take care for oxen?

The A.V. misses the true point of the expression. Paul, of course, assumes that God cares for the brute creation; but he means that this precept of Moses was not primarily for the oxen's sake but for man's sake. He is emphasizing the typical and spiritual meaning of the command. Render, as Rev., Is it for the oxen that God careth?

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