Hebrews 13:4
Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) Marriage is honourable in all.—Rather, Let marriage be held in honour among all, and let the bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. The precept is directed against impurity (Hebrews 12:16), and also against the false asceticism of men “forbidding to marry” (1Timothy 4:3). The laxity of morals among Gentiles (Note on Acts 15:20) and the prevalence of divorce amongst Jews (Matthew 5:32) explain the sudden introduction of such warnings: of these sinners the all-seeing God will be the judge. (Comp. 1Thessalonians 4:6.)

Hebrews 13:4. Marriage is honourable in, or for, all sorts of persons, clergy as well as laity, though the Romanists teach otherwise; and the bed undefiled — Consistent with the highest purity. For who can imagine that God would make any thing morally evil absolutely necessary for the support of the human race in future generations? But whoremongers and adulterers God will judge — That is, punish, and frequently does so in a very awful manner, even in the present world; though they frequently escape punishment from men. The distinction between these two characters, whoremongers and adulterers, is well known to be this: that the former are single persons who have unlawful converse with one another, and the latter are those who are both, or at least one of them, in a married state. The sin of the first is fornication, of the other adultery; although the word πορνεια, fornication, may sometimes be used to denote any uncleanness, and so to comprise adultery also.13:1-6 The design of Christ in giving himself for us, is, that he may purchase to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works; and true religion is the strongest bond of friendship. Here are earnest exhortations to several Christian duties, especially contentment. The sin opposed to this grace and duty is covetousness, an over-eager desire for the wealth of this world, with envy of those who have more than ourselves. Having treasures in heaven, we may be content with mean things here. Those who cannot be so, would not be content though God raised their condition. Adam was in paradise, yet not contented; some angels in heaven were not contented; but the apostle Paul, though abased and empty, had learned in every state, in any state, to be content. Christians have reason to be contented with their present lot. This promise contains the sum and substance of all the promises; I will never, no, never leave thee, no, never forsake thee. In the original there are no less than five negatives put together, to confirm the promise: the true believer shall have the gracious presence of God with him, in life, at death, and for ever. Men can do nothing against God, and God can make all that men do against his people, to turn to their good.Marriage is honorable in all - The object here is to state that "honor" is to be shown to the marriage relation. It is not to be undervalued by the pretence of the superior purity of a state of celibacy, as if marriage were improper for any class of people or any condition of life; and it should not be dishonored by any violation of the marriage contract. The course of things has shown that there was abundant reason for the apostle to assert with emphasis, that "marriage was an honorable condition of life." There has been a constant effort made to show that celibacy was a more holy state; that there was something in marriage that rendered it "dishonorable" for those who are in the ministry, and for those of either sex who would be eminently pure. This sentiment has been the cause of more abomination in the world than any other single opinion claiming to have a religious sanction. It is one of the supports on which the Papal system rests, and has been one of the principal upholders of all the corruptions in monasteries and nunneries. The apostle asserts, without any restriction or qualification, that marriage is honorable in all; and this proves that it is lawful for the ministers of religion to marry, and that the whole doctrine of the superior purity of a state of celibacy is false; see this subject examined in the notes on 1 Corinthians 7.

And the bed undefiled - Fidelity to the marriage vow.

But whore mongers and adulterers God will judge - All licentiousness of life, and all violations of the marriage covenant, will be severely punished by God; see the notes on 1 Corinthians 6:9. The sins here referred to prevailed everywhere, and hence, there was the more propriety for the frequent and solemn injunctions to avoid them which we find in the Scriptures.

4. is, &c.—Translate, "Let marriage be treated as honorable": as Heb 13:5 also is an exhortation.

in all—"in the case of all men": "among all." "To avoid fornication let EVERY MAN have his own wife" (1Co 7:2). Judaism and Gnosticism combined were soon about to throw discredit on marriage. The venerable Paphnutius, in the Council of Nice, quoted this verse for the justification of the married state. If one does not himself marry, he should not prevent others from doing so. Others, especially Romanists, translate, "in all things," as in Heb 13:18. But the warning being against lasciviousness, the contrast to "whoremongers and adulterers" in the parallel clause, requires the "in all" in this clause to refer to persons.

the bed undefiled—Translate, as Greek requires "undefiled" to be a predicate, not an epithet, "And let the bed be undefiled."

God will judge—Most whoremongers escape the notice of human tribunals; but God takes particular cognizance of those whom man does not punish. Gay immoralities will then be regarded in a very different light from what they are now.

Marriage is honourable in all: the next duty charged on the subjects of Christ’s kingdom, is chastity; the commendation of it is a precept to it. Marriage is that state which God instituted at the beginning, after the creation of Adam and Eve, which was by his law the making of them two to become one flesh, Genesis 2:24; confirmed by Christ, Matthew 19:5. On this state God, the fountain of all honour, hath stamped his own name and excellence, and hath made it, by an irreversible law, a glorious and honourable state. The connection is present, real, and necessary; God saith it, therefore it is so, and must be so; and this after God’s institution in all its concomitants every where, and in all times; but especially in all persons in the kingdom of Christ, true Christians of all sorts and degrees, of what state or calling soever, qualified for and called to it, whether magistrates, ministers, or church members; God by it preventing sin, preserving holy and pure communion between the married, propagating his church, and accomplishing the number of his chosen by it, Psalm 111:3 Malachi 2:15 1 Corinthians 7:9 1 Thessalonians 4:3,4 1 Peter 3:1,7.

And the bed undefiled; a good, moral use of the marriage bed, the natural and lawful use of the wife by the husband, and of the husband by the wife, according to the law of God; which is so far from being unclean, filthy, and inconsistent with the purity of Christ, as papists, apostates from the faith, assert, 1 Timothy 4:1-4, that it is holy, pure, and chaste in itself, and a most excellent means of preserving chastity among the subjects of Christ’s kingdom, 1 Thessalonians 4:4 Titus 2:5 1 Peter 3:2; by this they are kept in their bodies from being polluted or dishonoured by fornication or adultery. Marriage is thus honourable in all husbands and wives, of what degree or order soever, whilst they are such; and must be undefiled in all, because their bodies are the members of Christ, and temples of the Holy Ghost, 1 Corinthians 6:15,17-20.

But whoremongers and adulterers God will judge; but God hates unclean societies of all men and women, but especially of Christians; and as he will certainly judge, and inflict eternal punishment upon, all kind of unclean persons, so especially upon whoremongers and adulterers who profess themselves subjects of Christ’s pure kingdom, 2 Peter 2:6 Judges 1:4,7 Re 2:21. Marriage is honourable in all,.... Some read these words as an exhortation, "let" it "be so"; others as an assertion, it is so. "Marriage" is the union of one man and one woman in wedlock, whereby they become one flesh; it is a joining together of male and female in this relation, and of two only, and of such as are not within the degrees of blood forbid by the law, Leviticus 18:6 and of such as are fit for marriage: and this is "honourable", as it was instituted by God, and has been honoured with the presence of Christ, Genesis 2:22. And it is so in the ends of it, being to procreate children, multiply the earth, build up families, preserve a legitimate offspring, and prevent fornication and all uncleanness; and it is so, when the duties of the relation are performed on both sides: and it is honourable "in all"; in all things, in all respects, upon all accounts; "every way", as the Arabic version renders it; or as the Ethiopic version, "everywhere"; it has been honourably esteemed of among all nations; it becomes persons of all ranks and degrees, quality, and order; and it is honourable in all that are lawfully married, and do not violate the marriage contract, or defile the marriage bed: hereby are condemned such who despise marriage, that they may give a loose to their wandering and insatiable lusts; and such who, under a pretence of greater sanctity and perfection, reject it as unlawful; and the Papists, who deny it to men employed in sacred work:

and the bed undefiled: the Arabic version reads, "his bed"; and the Syriac and Ethiopic versions, "their bed"; the bed of such whose marriage is honourable; which is not polluted by admitting others into it, or by acts of fornication and adultery: "but", or "for", as the Alexandrian copy reads,

whoremongers and adulterers God will judge; the former of these may be rendered "fornicators", as it is by the Vulgate Latin version: fornication is a sin committed by single persons, unmarried ones; and though it was reckoned among the Gentiles a thing indifferent, yet is contrary to the law of God, and is a work of the flesh, and makes unfit for the kingdom of God, and brings down the judgments of God both here and hereafter. And this is in opposition to marriage, which is appointed to prevent it. The sin "adulterers" are guilty of, is a sin committed by persons, who are either one or both in a married state, and so is directly a pollution of the marriage bed: this was punishable with death by the law of God, and light of nature; and though men may make light of it, God will judge and punish such as commit it, both in this life, with diseases, poverty, and disgrace, and in the world to come, at the great day of account; for however secretly it may be committed, God, who is omniscient, sees it, and will bring it into judgment; nor shall any be able to escape the righteous judgment of God, for he is omnipotent, as well as omniscient. The Jews say,

"whoever lies with another man's wife, shall not escape "the judgment", or damnation of hell (t)''

(t) T. Bab. Sota. fol. 4. 2.

{2} Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.

(2) He commends chaste matrimony in all sorts of men, and threatens utter destruction from God against whoremongers and adulterers.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Hebrews 13:4. Exhortation to chastity in the narrower sense.

Τίμιος] held in estimation, honourable, sc. ἔστω. Others supplement ἐστίν. So already the Peshito (honoratum est connubium inter omnes), then Beza, Grotius (apud omnes gentes moratas honos est conjugio), M‘Caul, and others. But against this stands the addition: καὶ ἡ κοίτη ἀμίαντος, since the latter could not be asserted as a truth in point of fact. Rather might the indicative rendering thereof be preserved by taking the clauses descriptively: “Marriage honourable in all things,” etc., which then would not be different in sense from the direct requirement that marriage should be honourable. Nevertheless, this mode of interpretation too—recently adopted by Delitzsch—could only be justified if it were followed by a long series of similar statements; here, on the other hand, where imperatives are placed in close proximity before and after, it is unnatural.

ὁ γάμος] marriage. In this sense the word occurs frequently with the Greeks. In the N. T. it has everywhere else the signification: wedding, and its celebration.

ἐν πᾶσιν] is neuter: in all things. The majority take ἐν πᾶσιν as masculine. There is then found expressed in it the precept, either, as by Luther and others, that marriage should in the estimation of all be held in honour, i.e. not desecrated by adultery; or, as by Böhme, Schulz, and others, that it should not be despised or slighted by any unmarried person (according to Hofmann, by any one, whether he live in wedlock, or he think that he ought for his own part to decline it); or finally, as by Calvin and many, that it is to be denied to no order of men (as later to the Catholic priests). In the two last cases it is generally supposed that the reference is to a definite party of those who, out of ascetic or other interest, looked unfavourably upon the married life. But for all three modes of explanation, παρὰ πᾶσιν would have been more suitably written than ἐν πᾶσιν; and a preference for celibacy on the part of born Jews in particular, to whom nevertheless the Epistle to the Hebrews is addressed, is an unexplained presupposition, because one not in accordance with the teaching of history.

καὶ ἡ κοίτη ἀμίαντος] and the marriage bed (against the ordinary usus loquendi, Valckenaer and Schulz: the cohabitation) be undefiled.

πόρνους γὰρ καὶ μοιχοὺς κρινεῖ ὁ Θεός] for fornicators and adulterers will God judge (condemn at the judgment of the world). Comp. 1 Corinthians 6:9 f., al. The ὁ Θεός placed at the close of the sentence is not without emphasis. It reminds that, though such sins of uncleanness remain for the most part unpunished by earthly judges, the higher Judge will one day be mindful of them.Hebrews 13:4. τίμιος ὁ γάμος ἐν πᾶσιν. “Is ἔστω or ἐστὶ to be supplied?” Probably the former, as in Hebrews 13:5, “Let marriage be held in honour among all”. As a natural result of holding marriage in honour, its ideal sanctity will be violated neither by the married nor by the unmarried. Therefore the καὶ links the two clauses closely together and has some inferential force, “and thus let the bed be undefiled” [μιαίνειν τὴν κοίτην occurs in Plutarch to denote the violation of conjugal relations. Used with γυναῖκα in Ezekiel 18:6; Ezekiel 23:17]. The next clause shows in what sense the words are to be taken. William Penn’s saying must also be kept in view: “If a man pays his tailor but debauches his wife, is he a current moralist?” For marriage as a preventative against vice, cf. 1 Corinthians 7 and 1 Thessalonians 4:4. Weiss gathers from the insertion of this injunction that the writer is not guided in his choice of precepts by the condition of those to whom he is writing but by “theoretical reflection”. But in the face of Hebrews 12:16, this seems an unwarranted inference. πόρνουςὁ θεός. Fornicators may escape human condemnation, but God (in emphatic position) will judge them.4. Marriage is honourable in all] More probably this is an exhortation, “Let marriage be held honourable among all,” or rather “in all respects,” as in Hebrews 13:18. Scripture never gives even the most incidental sanction to the exaltation of celibacy as a superior virtue, or to the disparagement of marriage as an inferior state. Celibacy and marriage stand on an exactly equal level of honour according as God has called us to the one or the other state. The mediæval glorification of Monachism sprang partly from a religion of exaggerated gloom and terror, and partly from a complete misunderstanding of the sense applied by Jewish writers to the word “Virgins.” Nothing can be clearer than the teaching on this subject alike of the Old (Genesis 2:18; Genesis 2:24) and of the New Covenant (Matthew 19:4-6; John 2:1-2; 1 Corinthians 7:2). There is no “forbidding to marry” (1 Timothy 4:1-3) among Evangelists and Apostles. They shared the deep conviction which their nation had founded on Genesis 1:27; Genesis 2:18-24 and which our Lord had sanctioned (Matthew 19:4-6). The warning in this verse is against unchastity. If it be aimed against a tendency to disparage the married state it would shew that the writer is addressing some Hebrews who had adopted in this matter the prejudices of the Essenes (1 Timothy 4:3). In any case the truth remains “Honourable is marriage in all;” it is only lawless passions which are “passions of dishonour” (Romans 1:26).

and the bed undefiled] A warning to Antinomians who made light of unchastity (Acts 15:20; 1 Thessalonians 4:6).

whoremongers] Christianity introduced a wholly new conception regarding the sin of fornication (Galatians 5:19; Galatians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5-6; Revelation 22:15) which, especially in the depraved decadence of Heathenism under the Empire, was hardly regarded as any sin at all. Hence the necessity for constantly raising a warning voice against it (1 Thessalonians 4:6, &c.).

God will judge] The more because they often escape altogether the judgment of man (1 Samuel 2:25; 2 Samuel 3:39).Hebrews 13:4. Τίμιος) viz. ἔστω, comp. Hebrews 13:5, i.e. let it be honoured. It is an antithesis to whoremongers. He exhorts the unmarried, who are in great danger of falling into fornication, to marry, acknowledging it as something precious [so τίμιος often means], and worthily to use the good which it confers: comp. 1 Thessalonians 4:4.—γάμος) marriage.—ἐν πᾶσι) in all. There is obviously greater danger of fornication than of adultery; comp. 1 Corinthians 7:2, ἕκαστος, every one [“To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife”]; and all ought to value marriage highly, so that if a man does not enter into that state himself, he should not prevent others from doing so, 1 Timothy 4:3.—ἡ κοίτη) the bed, the couch, the state and use of marriage. Marriagethe bedwhoremongersadulterers: a Chiasmus.—ἀμίαντος, undefiled) Supply again, letbe. An antithesis to adulterers.—κρινεῖ ὁ Θεὸς, GOD will judge) By far the greatest number of whoremongers and adulterers escape the notice of human tribunals. As such intrigues are not made known in the way in which they formerly were, Numbers 5:20-21, a great number, although their conduct is well known, yet escape civil punishment and ecclesiastical discipline, or are made to feel it very slightly. [Sometimes, indeed, judges themselves are whoremongers and adulterers, men that are placed in the highest ecclesiastical and political offices: and therefore they know how to take measures for their own impunity; but they also take measures for the impunity of others like themselves, when the case admits of it (or when a case occurs). Very many acts of this sort remain entirely concealed in the world, or are extenuated by various devices, or are upheld by violence.—V. g.] God will judge: [A thing dreadful to be spoken! ch. Hebrews 10:30-31.—V. g.]—He most of all punishes them, whom man does not punish. Comp. 2 Samuel 3:39. The apostle speaks of the judgment as near. [At that greatest of all days, what deeds, I pray you, will be brought to light! Then indeed execrable crimes will no longer be reckoned as a mark of polished manners.—V. g.]Verse 4. - Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. So in the A.V. the first clause of this verse, which is taken as an assertion, the copula ἔστι, being understood. So it is also taken by Chrysostom and other ancients. If so, it is a declaration, interposed among hortations, of the honorableness of the" estate of matrimony," with the hortatory purpose of suggesting this "remedy against sin "(as in 1 Corinthians 7:9), or as a protest against false asceticism, such as is alluded to in 1 Timothy 4:3, "forbidding to marry." And certainly the expression, τίμιος ὁ γάμος, taken by itself, would most naturally have this meaning. But most modern commentators understand it as an exhortation, supplying ἔστω; and this for the following cogent reasons: it occurs in the midst of a series of exhortations, and is therefore more likely to be one; it is difficult to understand the connected clause, "and the bed undefiled (καὶ ἡ κοίτη ἀμίαντος)," as a statement; and the exactly similar phrase in ver. 5, ἀφιλάργυρος ὁ τρόπος, seems evidently hortatory. Hence we take it to mean "Let marriage be τίμος ἐν πᾶσον." Two questions remain - that of the import of τίμιος, and whether πᾶσιν is masculine or neuter. Τίμιος elsewhere, when applied to persons, means "held in honor" (as in Acts 5:34, of Gamaliel); when applied to things, it means "precious" (as in 1 Corinthians 3:12; Revelation 17:4; Revelation 18:12, 16; Revelation 21:19, of precious stones; in 1 Peter 1:19, of the blood of the Lamb; 2 Peter 1:4, of promises; Acts 20:24, of "my own life;" James 5:7, of the fruit of the earth). Bengel explains thus: "Caelibes, quibus periculum scortationis imminet, hortatur ut matrimonium contrahant, tanquam pretiosum quiddam agnoscentes, ejusque bone digne utantur. Conf. 1 Thessalonians 4:4.' And, taking πᾶσιν as masculine, he explains further: "Omnesque debent matrimonium magni facere, ut, si quis eo ipse non utatur, alios tamen non prohibeat." According to this view the first clause is an injunction to all to appreciate marriage, the second warns those that are married against any violation of the bond: "Τίμιος γάμος antitheton ad scortatotes, κοίτη ἀμίαντος ad adulteros" (Bengel). But the more natural, and the usual, meaning of the common expression ἐν πᾶσιν is "in all things," not "among all persons" (cf. Jaffa, ver. 18; also Colossians 1:18; Titus 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 4:5). If so here, τίμιος ὁ γάμος must be taken rather as an injunction with respect to the sanctity of marriage when contracted: "Let it be held in honor in all respects; in all ways reverently regarded as a holy bond;" the succeeding clause, ἡ κοίτη ἀμίαντος, being a further explication of the same idea (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:4, "That every one of you should know how to possess his own vessel [meaning, probably, as seems to be required by the verb κτᾶσθαι, 'get to himself his own wife] in sanctification and honor (ἐν ἀγιασμῷ καὶ τιμῇ);" where ἐν τιμῇ may express the same ides as τίμιος in the text). 'In the conclusion of the verse "for" (γὰρ) suits the drift of the sentence as above understood, and is considered to be supported better than "but" (δὲ) of the Textus Receptus. Observe, lastly, that, in "God will judge," "God" is emphatic, being placed last. Though the kind of sin spoken of is lightly regarded among men, and may escape detection or punishment now, yet certainly God will judge it (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:6, "God is the Avenger of all such, as we have also forewarned you and testified;" and 1 Corinthians 6:9, where fornicators and adulterers are included among those about whom Christians are not to deceive themselves, as though they would "inherit the kingdom of God"). Marriage is honorable in all (τίμιος ὁ γάμος ἐν πᾶσιν)

Γάμος everywhere else in N.T. a wedding or wedding feast, often in the plural, as Matthew 22:2, Matthew 22:3, Matthew 22:4; Luke 12:36. Τίμιος honorable or held in honor. Often in N.T. precious, of gold, stones, etc., as 1 Corinthians 3:12; Revelation 17:4; Revelation 18:12; of life, Acts 20:24; the fruits of the earth, James 5:7; the blood of Christ, 1 Peter 1:19; the divine promises, 2 Peter 1:4. Rend. "let marriage be had in honor." The statement is hortatory, as suiting the character of the entire context, and especially the γὰρ for; "for whoremongers," etc. Ἑν πᾶσιν in all respects," as 1 Timothy 3:11; 2 Timothy 4:5; Titus 2:9; Colossians 1:18; Philippians 4:12. If as A.V., the more natural expression would be παρὰ πᾶσιν as Matthew 19:26; Acts 26:8; Romans 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:6; James 1:27. Ἑν πᾶσιν in all things appears in this chapter, Hebrews 13:18. There are many points in which marriage is to be honored besides the avoidance of illicit connections. See on 1 Thessalonians 4:6.

God will judge (κρινεῖ ὁ θεός)

Note the emphatic position of ὁ θεός. He will judge and condemn infractions of the marriage-bond, however social sentiment may condone them.

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