1 Thessalonians 2:7
But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherishes her children:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(7) Among you.—Rather, in the midst of you, making the gentleness still more marked. “Her,” in the Greek emphatically her own. The contrast is drawn between the charlatan, licentious, sophistical, fawning, greedy, vainglorious teachers, to whom Greeks were well accustomed, and the Apostles, sitting familiarly like mothers amidst a group of their own children, folding them for warmth to their bosoms “Keep a mother’s heart for men,” was the advice which made Henri Perreyve’s life so winning (Méditations, p. 87).

1 Thessalonians 2:7-8. But we were gentle — Mild, tender; among Εν μεσω υμων, in the midst of, you — Like a hen surrounded with her young; even as a nurse — A mother who suckles her own offspring, as the word τροφος here signifies; cherisheth her children — The offspring of her own womb, warming them in her bosom, and feeding them with her milk. So being affectionately desirous of you Ουτως ιμειρομενοι υμων, being tenderly affectionate toward you; or loving you tenderly; a beautiful poetical expression, as Blackwall observes, signifying the most passionate desire: we were willing to have imparted not the gospel only, but our own souls — Or lives, rather. Chandler observes, that “the apostle here considers the Thessalonians as in the infancy of their conversion; himself as the tender mother who nursed them; the gospel as the milk with which he fed them; and his very soul, or life, as what he was willing to part with for their preservation. Could the fondest mother carry her affection for her helpless infant further?” He adds, “Nothing can exceed the elegance, the strength, and the moving affection of this description! A man must have no bowels, who does not find them moved by so fine, so lively, and warm a scene.”2:7-12 Mildness and tenderness greatly recommend religion, and are most conformable to God's gracious dealing with sinners, in and by the gospel. This is the way to win people. We should not only be faithful to our calling as Christians, but in our particular callings and relations. Our great gospel privilege is, that God has called us to his kingdom and glory. The great gospel duty is, that we walk worthy of God. We should live as becomes those called with such a high and holy calling. Our great business is to honour, serve, and please God, and to seek to be worthy of him.But we were gentle among you - Instead of using authority, we used only the most kind and gentle methods to win you and to promote your peace and order. The word here rendered "nurse," may mean any one who nurses a child, whether a mother or another person. It seems here to refer to a mother (compare 1 Thessalonians 2:11), and the idea is, that the apostle felt for them the affectionate solicitude which a mother does for the child at her breast. 7. we were—Greek, "we were made" by God's grace.

gentle—Greek, "mild in bearing with the faults of others" [Tittmann]; one, too, who is gentle (though firm) in reproving the erroneous opinions of others (2Ti 2:24). Some of the oldest manuscripts read, "we became little children" (compare Mt 18:3, 4). Others support the English Version reading, which forms a better antithesis to 1Th 2:6, 7, and harmonizes better with what follows; for he would hardly, in the same sentence, compare himself both to the "infants" or "little children," and to "a nurse," or rather, "suckling mother." Gentleness is the fitting characteristic of a nurse.

among you—Greek, "in the midst of you," that is, in our intercourse with you being as one of yourselves.

nurse—a suckling mother.

her—Greek, "her own children" (compare 1Th 2:11). So Ga 4:19.

But we were gentle among you: he next gives account of their carriage more positively: and first he speaks of their gentleness among them; hpioi, the Latin takes it for nhpioi, infants, we were as infants to you, as nurses are as infants with their infants, and children with children. This is one of the fruits of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22; it stands opposite to moroseness, austerity, and roughness of temper, and is commendable in all, especially in ministers, 2 Timothy 2:24; and was eminent in Christ, as was prophesied of him, Isaiah 40:11 42:3; and the contrary he reproveth in James and John, Luke 9:54,55. It springs from humility, meekness, and patience; as the contraries are pride, passion, and frowardness. In some cases sharpness and severity may be needful; prudence is to direct, therefore, our carriage. The apostle had now to do with young converts, and under the trial of persecution; and not apostates and obstinate sinners, against whom we find he was sometimes severe and sharp, as Jude required, Judges 1:22,23.

Even as a nurse cherisheth her children; and he represents this gentleness by that of a nurse to her children; not of a hired nurse, but a mother nurse, Numbers 11:12, who useth all tenderness towards them, beareth with their frowardness, condescends to the meanest offices and employments, and draws out her breasts to them, and lays them in her bosom, and all this to cherish them. And she doth this not out of hope of gain, but out of motherly affection. Thus, saith the apostle, were we gentle among you. As he converted them to Christ, he was their spiritual father, but his gentleness was like that of a mother, nursing her own children. He considered their weakness in their first believing, and bore with it; their many infirmities, temptations, afflictions that were upon them, had compassion over them, and supported them under them, and cherished them with the sincere milk of gospel truths; and he did all this not for gain, but out of sincere affection and a willing mind. Some extend the word we render nurse to the brute creatures themselves, especially birds, that hatch, and then cherish their young with the warmth of their own body, and care in feeding them: trofov, the word signifies a feeder, and so may have a more general signification: see Job 39:14. But we were gentle among you,.... Meek and humble, mild and moderate; not using severity, or carrying it in a haughty imperious manner; assuming power and dominion, lording it over God's heritage, and commanding persons to do homage and honour to them, and forcing themselves upon them, and obliging them to maintain them. The Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions, instead of "gentle", read, "little children"; as the word signifies, by adding a letter to it, and expresses much the same as the other, that they were harmless and modest, and disinterested; and sought not themselves neither honour nor wealth, but the real good of others, and were kind and tender, and affectionate to them:

even as a nurse cherisheth her children: or "the children of her own self"; her own children, and so designs a nursing mother, one whose the children are, has bore them as well as nurses them, and therefore has the most tender concern for them; she lays them in her bosom, and hugs them in her arms, and so warms and cherishes them; gives them the breast, bears with their frowardness, condescends to do the meanest things for them; and that without any self-interest, from a pure parental affection for them: and such were the apostles to these Thessalonians; they were their spiritual parents, of whom they travailed in birth, till Christ was formed in them; they used them with the greatest kindness and tenderness; they fed them with the sincere milk of the word; they bore patiently all the slighting and ill treatment they met with; and condescended to men of low estates, and did them all the good offices they could, without any selfish views or sinister ends: a like simile is used by the Jews (e), who say,

"he that rises in the night to study in the law, the law makes known to him his offences; and not in a way of judgment, but as a mother makes known to her son, "with gentle words":''

but the ministration of the Gospel is much more gentle.

(e) Zohar in Lev. fol. 10. 2.

But we were {f} gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children:

(f) We were rough, and yet easy and gentle as a nurse that is neither seeking glory, nor covetous, but who takes all pains as patiently as if she were a mother.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Thessalonians 2:7. Paul begins in this verse the positive description of his appearance and conduct in Thessalonica.

ἀλλʼ ἐγενήθημεν ἤπιοι] a contrast not to δυνάμενοι ἐν βάρει εἶναι (Heinsius, Turretin, and others), but to the principal idea of 1 Thessalonians 2:6. The apostle’s conduct is not that of one δόξαν ἐξ ἀνθρώπων ζητῶν, but of one who was ἤπιος; God had made him show himself (ἐγενήθημεν) not as master, but as servant. Oecumenius: ὡς εἴς ἐξ ὑμῶν ἐγενήθημεν.

ἤπιος] mild, kindly, is used of an amiable disposition or conduct of a higher toward a lower, i.e. of a prince to his subjects, of a judge to the accused, of a father to his children. Comp. Hom. Od. ii. 47; Herodian, ii. 4, init.; Pausan. Eliac. ii. 18.

ἐν μέσῳ ὑμῶν] in your midst, i.e. in intercourse with you. Erroneously Calovius, it denotes: erga omnes pariter. Non erga hos blandi, ergo illos morosi. There is, however, no emphasis on ὑμῶν; the apostle does not indicate that he behaved otherwise in other places.

A colon is to be put after ἐν μέσῳ ὑμῶν, so that ὡςοὕτως are connected as protasis and apodosis, and describe the intensity of Paul’s love to the Thessalonians; whilst in ἐγενήθημενὑμῶν this love only in and for itself, or according to its general nature, was stated as a feature of the apostle’s behaviour.

τροφός] a nurse (מֵינֶקֶת) here, as is evident from τὰ ἑαυτῆς τέκνα, the suckling mother herself. Under the image of a mother Paul represents himself also, in Galatians 4:19, as elsewhere, under the image of a father; see 1 Thessalonians 2:11; 1 Corinthians 4:15; Philemon 1:10.

θάλπειν] originally to warm, of birds which cover and warm their young with their feathers: (see Deuteronomy 22:6); consequently an image of protecting love and anxious care generally, our cherishing; see Ephesians 5:29.1 Thessalonians 2:7. ἐν βάρει ἶναι = “be men of weight,” or “be a burden” on your funds. Probably both meanings are intended, so that the phrase (cf. Field, 199) resumes the ideas of πλεον. and ἀνθ. δόξαν (self-interest in its mercenary shape and as the love of reputation) which are reiterated in 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12, a defence of the apostles against the charges, current against them evidently in some circles (probably pagan) at Thessalonica, of having given themselves airs and unduly asserted their authority, as well as of having levied or at any rate accepted contributions for their own support.—ἀπόστολοι were known to any of the local Christians who had been Jews (cf. Harnack’s Expansion of Christianity, i. 66 f., 409 f.), since agents and emissaries (ἀπόστολοι) from Jerusalem went to and fro throughout the synagogues: but . Χριστοῦ was a new conception. The Christian ἀπόστολοι had their commission from their heavenly messiah.—ἤπιοι (2 Timothy 2:24); as Bengel observes, there was nothing ex cathedra about the apostles, nothing selfish or crafty or overbearing. All was tenderness and devotion, fostering and protecting care, in their relations to these Thessalonian Christians who had won their hearts. To eschew flattery (5) did not mean any indifference to consideration and gentleness, in their case; they were honest without being blunt or masterful.—τροφός a nursing mother (cf. Hor., Ep. i. 4, 8). “In the love of a brave and faithful man there is always a strain of maternal tenderness; he gives out again those beams of protecting fondness which were shed on him as he lay on his mother’s knee” (George Eliot). Rutherford happily renders: “On the contrary, we carried ourselves among you with a childish simplicity, as a mother becomes a child again when she fondles her children”.7. But we were gentle among you] Lit., and more graphically, in the midst of you (R. V.); also, were fount gentle—same verb as in 1 Thessalonians 2:1, and ch. 1 Thessalonians 1:5 (shewed ourselves toward you, R. V.).

Instead of gentle, babes is the reading of “most of the ancient authorities” (R. V., margin), including the Vulgate (parvuli): the difference in the Greek lies only in the repetition or omission of a single letter. The modern editors (with the weighty exception of Westcott and Hort: see the Note in their New Testament in Greek, vol. II., p. 128), decide in favour of the received reading,—(1) because “gentle” better suits the context; and (2) because this Greek word occurs only once besides in the N.T. (1 Tim. 2:24), for copyists are prone to change an unfamiliar into any familiar word resembling it that gives a tolerable sense, and “babes” is a favourite expression of St Paul. If babes be the genuine reading—and it is difficult to resist the evidence in its favour—then it must be explained as it is by Origen and Augustine, endorsed by Westcott: like a nurse amongst her children, talking in baby language to the babes.

The gentleness of these apostles of Christ stands in tacit contrast with the airs of authority and the exactions of selfish and vain-glorious men in like circumstances (1 Thessalonians 2:5-6). The behaviour of the “false apostles” who appeared at Corinth affords us an example of that which St Paul and his comrades avoided. See 2 Corinthians 11:20-21; 2 Corinthians 12:13-18.

We note the union of gentleness and courage (1 Thessalonians 2:2) in the missionaries: a mark of the true hero, like Wordsworth’s ‘Happy Warrior,’—

“who though endued as with a sense

And faculty for storm and turbulence,

Is yet a soul whose master-bias leans

To homefelt pleasures and to gentle scenes.”

(We were gentle in the midst of you) as though a nurse were cherishing her own children. The “nurse” is mother at the same time—a mother with the babe at her breast, the perfect image of fostering love. Comp. Christ’s picture in Matthew 23:37.1 Thessalonians 2:7. Ἤπιοι, gentle) A very sweet word, which is wont to be applied chiefly to parents and physicians. It is opposed to flattery [1 Thessalonians 2:5]: for he is called ἤπιος, who has true gentleness.—ἐν μέσῳ ὑμῶν, in the midst of you) like a hen surrounded by her chickens. They did not act as if from the chair (ex cathedrâ, from the authoritative chair), which is said to belong to Peter, and which calls the style of its court apostolical.—τροφὸς) a mother, and at the same time a nurse. Weigh well the expression, her own. The spiritual are analogous to the natural affections, 1 Thessalonians 2:11; 1 Timothy 5:1-2.Verse 7. - But. The apostle now describes iris conduct positively. We were gentle; a word used of the amiable conduct of a superior toward an inferior, as of a master toward a servant, a prince toward his subjects, or a father toward his children. "The servant of God must not strive, but be gentle toward all men" (2 Timothy 2:24). Some manuscripts read, "We were babes among you" - the difference being only the addition of another letter. Among you; in our intercourse with you. Even as a nurse; or rather, a nursing mother, for the children arc her own. Cherisheth; the word employed for birds warming and cherishing their young. Her children. A stronger expression of tenderness and love could hardly be made. Even as a nursing mother dedicates her life for her infant; so, says Paul, we are willing to dedicate ourselves for you. Some important manuscripts read the verse thus: "But we were babes among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children;" but this arises from an obvious error of the transcriber. Gentle (ἤπιοι)

This reading is adopted by Tischendorf, Weiss, and the Rev. T. Westcott and Hort read νήπιοι babes. This gives a stronger and bolder image, and one which falls in better with the course of thought, in which Paul is asserting his innocence of guile and flattery, and not of harshness.

Among you (ἐν μέσῳ ὑμῶν)

Better, and more literally, in the midst of you, which implies more intimate intercourse than among you. Comp. Luke 22:27.

Nurse (τροφός)

N.T.o. In Class. sometimes of a mother, and so probably here. See Galatians 4:19.

Cherisheth (θάλπῃ)

Po. Here and Ephesians 5:29. The verb originally means to warm. See lxx, Deuteronomy 22:6.

Her own children

Note the inversion of metaphor. Paul is first the babe, then the nurse or mother. For similar instances see 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:4; 2 Corinthians 3:13-16; Romans 7:1 ff. See Introduction to 2 Corinthians, Vol. 3, p. 19.

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