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THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 10 - Verse 2

Verse 2. And were all baptized. In regard to the meaning of the word baptized, See Barnes "Mt 3:6".

We are not to suppose that the rite of baptism, as we understand it, was formally administered by Moses, or by any other person, to the Jews, for there is not the least evidence that any such rite was then known; and the very circumstances here referred to forbid such an interpretation. They were baptized "in the cloud" and "in the sea," and this cannot be understood as a religious rite administered by the hand of man. It is to be remembered that the word baptism has two senses—the one referring to the application of water as a religious rite, in whatever mode it is done; and the other the sense of dedicating, consecrating, initiating into, or bringing under obligation to. And it is evidently in this latter sense that the word is used here, as denoting that they were devoted to Moses as a leader, they were brought under his laws, they became bound to obey him, they were placed under his protection and guidance by the miraculous interposition of God. This was done by the fact that their passing through the sea and under the cloud, in this manner, brought them under the authority and direction of Moses as a leader, and was a public recognition of their being his followers, and being bound to obey his laws.

Unto Moses, (eiv.) This is the same preposition which is used in the form of baptism prescribed in Mt 28:19. See Barnes "Mt 28:19".

It means that they were thus devoted or dedicated to Moses; they received and acknowledged him as their ruler and guide; they professed subjection to his laws, and were brought under his authority. They were thus initiated into his religion, and thus recognized his Divine mission, and bound themselves to obey his injunctions. —Bloomfield.

In the cloud. This cannot be proved to mean that they were enveloped, and, as it were, immersed in the cloud, for there is no evidence that the cloud thus enveloped them, or that they were immersed in it as a person is in water. The whole account in the Old Testament leads us to suppose that the cloud either passed before them as a pillar, or that it had the same form in the rear of their camp, or that it was suspended over them, and was thus the symbol of the Divine protection. It would be altogether improbable that the dark cloud would pervade the camp. It would thus embarrass their movements, and there is not the slightest intimation in the Old Testament that it did. Nor is there any probability in the supposition of Dr. Gill and others, that the cloud, as it passed from the rear to the front of the camp, "let down a plentiful rain upon them, whereby they were in such a condition as if they had been all over dipped in water." For,

(1.) there is not the slightest intimation of this in the Old Testament.

(2.) The supposition is contrary to the very design of the cloud. It was not a natural cloud, but was a symbol of the Divine presence and protection. It was not to give rain on the Israelites, or on the land, but it was to guide, and to be an emblem of the care of God.

(3.) It is doing violence to the Scriptures to introduce suppositions in this manner without the slightest authority. It is further to be observed, that this supposition does by no means give any aid to the cause of the Baptist after all. In what conceivable sense were they, even on this supposition, immersed? Is it immersion in water when one is exposed to a shower of rain? We speak of being sprinkled or drenched by rain, but is it not a violation of all propriety of language to say that a man is immersed in a shower? If the supposition, therefore, is to be admitted, that rain fell from the cloud as it passed over the Jews, and that this is meant here by "baptism unto Moses," then it would follow that sprinkling would be the mode referred to, since this is the only form that has resemblance to a falling shower. But the supposition is not necessary. Nor is it needful to suppose that water was applied to them at all. The thing itself is improbable, and the whole case is met by the simple supposition that the apostle means that they were initiated in this way into the religion of Moses, recognized his Divine mission, and under the cloud became his followers and subject to his laws. And if this interpretation is correct, then it follows that the word baptize does not of necessity mean to immerse.

And in the sea. This is another expression that goes to determine the sense of the word baptize. The sea referred to here is the Red Sea, and the event was the passage through that sea. The fact in the case was, that the Lord caused a strong east wind to blow all night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided, (Ex 14:21,) and the waters were a wall unto them on the right hand and on the left, Ex 14:22. From this whole narrative it is evident that they passed through the sea without being immersed in it. The waters were driven into high adjacent walls for the very purpose that they might pass between them dry and safe. There is the fullest proof that they were not submerged in the water. Dr. Gill supposes that the water stood up above their heads, and that "they seemed to be immersed in it." This might be true; but this is to give up the idea that the word baptize means always to immerse in water, since it is a fact, according to this supposition, that they were not thus immersed, but only seemed to be. And all that can be meant therefore is, that they were in this manner initiated into the religion of Moses, convinced of his Divine mission, and brought under subjection to him as their leader, lawgiver, and guide. This passage is a very important one to prove that the word baptism does not necessarily mean entire immersion in water. It is perfectly clear that neither the cloud nor the waters touched them. "They went through the midst of the sea on dry ground." It remains only to be asked whether, if immersion was the only mode of baptism known in the New Testament, the apostle Paul would have used the word not only so as not necessarily to imply that, but as necessarily to mean something else?

{a} "same" Ex 16:15,35; Neh 9:15,20; Ps 78:24,25

{*} "meat" "food"

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