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THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 10 - Verse 4
Verse 4. And did all drink the same spiritual drink. The idea here is essentially the same as in the previous verse, that they had been highly favoured of God, and enjoyed tokens of the Divine care and guardianship. That was manifested in the miraculous supply of water in the desert, thus showing that they were under the Divine protection, and were objects of the Divine favour. There can be no doubt that by "spiritual drink" here the apostle refers to the water that was made to gush from the rock that was smitten by Moses, Ex 17:6; Nu 20:11. Why this is called "spiritual" has been a subject on which there has been much difference of opinion. It cannot be because there was anything peculiar in the nature of the water, for it was evidently real water, fitted to allay their thirst. There is no evidence, as many have supposed, that there was a reference in this to the drink used in the Lord's Supper. But it must mean that it was bestowed in a miraculous and supernatural manner; and the word "spiritual" must be used in the sense of supernatural, or that which is immediately given by God. Spiritual blessings thus stand opposed to natural and temporal blessings, and the former denote those which are immediately given by God as an evidence of the Divine favour. That the Jews used the word "spiritual" in this manner is evident from the writings of the Rabbins. Thus they called the manna "spiritual food," (Yade Mose in Shemor Rabba, fol. 109, 3;) and their sacrifices they called "spiritual bread," (Tzeror Hammor, fol. 93,2.)—Gill. The drink therefore, here referred to, was that bestowed in a supernatural manner, and as a proof of the Divine favour.
For they drank of that spiritual Rock. Of the waters which flowed from that rock. The Rock here is called "spiritual," not from anything peculiar in the nature of the rock, but because it was the source to them of supernatural mercies, and became thus the emblem and demonstration of the Divine favour, and of spiritual mercies, conferred upon them by God.
That followed them. Margin, Went with, (akolouyoushv.) This evidently cannot mean that the rock itself literally followed them, any more than that they literally drank the rock; for one is as expressly affirmed, if it be taken literally, as the other. But as when it is said they "drank of the rock," it must mean that they drank of the water that flowed from the rock; so when it is said that the "rock followed" or accompanied them, it must mean that the water that flowed from the rock accompanied them. This figure of speech is common everywhere. Thus the Saviour said, (1 Co 11:25,) "This cup is the new testament," that is, the wine in this cup represents my blood, etc.; and Paul says, (1 Co 11:25,27,) "Whosoever shall drink this cup of the Lord unworthily," that is, the wine in the cup, etc., and, "as often as ye drink this cup," etc., that is, the wine contained in the cup. It would be absurd to suppose that the rock that was smitten by Moses literally followed them in the wilderness; and there is not the slightest evidence in the Old Testament that it did. Water was twice brought out of a rock to supply the wants of the children of Israel. Once at Mount Horeb, as recorded in Ex 17:6, in the wilderness of Sin, in the first year of their departure from Egypt. The second time water was brought from a rock about the time of the death of Miriam, at Kadesh, and probably in the fortieth year of their departure from Egypt, Nu 20:1. It was to the former of these occasions that the apostle evidently refers. In regard to this we may observe,
(1.) that there must have been furnished a large quantity of water to have supplied the wants of more than two millions of people.
(2.) It is expressly stated, (De 9:21,) that "the brook (
(3.) Mount Horeb was higher than the adjacent country; and the water that thus gushed from the rock, instead of collecting into a pool and becoming stagnant, would flow off in the direction of the sea.
(4.) The sea to which it would naturally flow would be the Red Sea, in the direction of the Eastern or Elanitic branch of that sea.
(5.) The Israelites would doubtless, in their journeyings, be influenced by the natural direction of the water, or would not wander far from it, as it was daily needful for the supply of their wants.
(6.) At the end of thirty-seven years we find the Israelites at Ezion-geber, a seaport on the eastern branch of the Red Sea, where the waters probably flowed into the sea, Nu 33:36. In the fortieth year of their departure from Egypt, they left this place to go into Canaan by the country of Edom, and were immediately in distress again by the want of water. It is thus probable that the water from the rock continued to flow, and that it constituted a stream, or river; that it was near their camp all the time till they came to Ezion-geber; and that thus, together with the daily supply of manna, it was a proof of the protection of God, and an emblem of their dependence. If it be said that there is now no such stream to be found there, it is to be observed that it is represented as miraculous, and that it would be just as reasonable to look for the daily descent of manna there in quantities sufficient to supply more than two millions of men, as to expect to find the gushing and running river of water. The only question is, whether God can work a miracle, and whether there is evidence that he has done it. This is not the place to examine that question. But the evidence is as strong that he wrought this miracle as that he gave the manna, and neither of them is inconsistent with the power, the wisdom, or the benevolence of God.
And that Rock was Christ. This cannot be intended to be understood literally, for it was not literally true. The rock from which the water flowed was evidently an ordinary rock, a part of Mount Horeb; and all that this can mean is, that that rock, with the stream of water thus gushing from it, was a representation of the Messiah. The word was is thus often used to denote similarity or representation, and is not to be taken literally. Thus, in the institution of the Lord's Supper, the Saviour says of the bread, "This is my body," that is, it represents my body. Thus also of the cup, "This cup is the new testament in my blood," that is, it represents my blood, 1 Co 11:24,25. Thus the gushing fountain of water might be regarded as a representation of the Messiah, and of the blessings which result from him. The apostle does not say that the Israelites knew that this was designed to be a representation of the Messiah, and of the blessings which flow from him, though there is nothing improbable in the supposition that they so understood and regarded it, since all their institutions were probably regarded as typical. But he evidently does mean to say that the rock was a vivid and affecting representation of the Messiah; that the Jews did partake of the mercies that flow from him; and that even in the desert they were under his care, and had in fact among them a vivid representation of him, in some sense corresponding with the emblematic representation of the same favours which the Corinthian and other Christians had in the Lord's Supper. This representation of the Messiah, perhaps, was understood by Paul to consist in the following things:
(1.) Christians, like the children of Israel, are passing through the world as pilgrims, and to them that world is a wilderness—a desert.
(2.) They need continued supplies, as the Israelites did, in their journey. The world, like that wilderness, does not meet their necessities, or supply their wants.
(3.) That rock was a striking representation of the fulness of the Messiah, of the abundant grace which he imparts to his people.
(4.) It was an illustration of their continued and constant dependence on him for the daily supply of their wants. It should be observed, that many expositors understand this literally. Bloomfield translates it, "And they were supplied with drink from the spiritual Rock which followed them, even Christ." So Rosenmuller, Calvin, Glass, etc. In defence of this interpretation, it is said, that the Messiah is often called "a rock" in the Scriptures; that the Jews believed that the "angel of JEHOVAH" who attended them, (Ex 3:2, and other places,) was the Messiah; and that the design of the apostle was to show that this attending Rock, the Messiah, was the source of all their blessings, and particularly of the water that gushed from the rock. But the interpretation suggested above seems to me to be most natural. The design of the apostle is apparent. It is to show to the Corinthians, who relied so much on their privileges, and felt themselves so secure, that the Jews had the very same privileges— had the highest tokens of the Divine favour and protection, were under the guidance and grace of God, and were partakers constantly of that which adumurated or typified the Messiah, in a manner as real, and in a form as much fitted to keep up the remembrance of their dependence, as even the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper.
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