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THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 10 - Verse 9
Verse 9. Neither let us tempt Christ, etc. The word tempt, when applied to man, means to present motives or inducements to sin: when used with reference to God, it means, to try his patience, to provoke his anger, or to act in such a way as to see how much he will bear, and how long he will endure the wickedness and perverseness of men. The Israelites tempted him, or tried his patience and forbearance, by rebellion, murmuring, impatience, and dissatisfaction with his dealings. In what way the Corinthians were in danger of tempting Christ is not known, and can only be conjectured. It may be that the apostle cautions them against exposing themselves to temptation in the idol temples—placing themselves, as it were, under the unhappy influence of idolatry, and thus needlessly trying, the strength of their religion, and making an experiment on the grace of Christ, as if he were bound to keep them even in the midst of dangers into which they needlessly ran. They would have the promise of grace to keep them only when they were in the way of their duty, arid using all other precautions. To go beyond this, to place themselves in needless danger, to presume on the grace of Christ to keep them in all circumstances, would be to tempt him, and provoke him to leave them. See Barnes "Mt 4:7".
As some of them also tempted. There is evidently here a word to be understood, and it may be either "Christ" or "God." The construction would naturally require the former; but it is not certain that the apostle meant to say that the Israelites tempted Christ. The main idea is that of temptation, whether it be of Christ or of God; and the purpose of the apostle is to caution them against the danger of tempting Christ, from the fact that the Israelites were guilty of the sin of tempting their leader and protector, and thus exposing themselves to his anger. It cannot be denied, however, that the more natural construction of this place is that which supposes that the word "Christ" is understood here rather than" God." In order to relieve this interpretation from the difficulty that the Israelites could not be said with any propriety to have tempted "Christ," since he had not then come in the flesh, two remarks may be made: First, by the "angel of the covenant," and the "angel of his presence," (Ex 23:20,23; 32:34
Ex 33:2; Nu 20:16; Isa 63:9; Heb 11:26, ) that went with them, and delivered them from Egypt, there is reason to think the sacred writers understood the Messiah to be intended; and that he who subsequently became incarnate was he whom they tempted. And, secondly, we are to bear in mind that the term Christ has acquired with us a signification somewhat different from that which it originally had in the New Testament. We use it as a proper name, applied to Jesus of Nazareth. But it is to be remembered that it is the mere Greek word for the Hebrew "Anointed," or the "Messiah;" and by retaining this signification of the word here, no small part of the difficulty will be avoided; and the expression then will mean simply that the Israelites "tempted the Messiah;" and the idea will be that he who conducted them, and against whom they sinned, and whom they tempted, was the Messiah who afterwards became incarnate; an idea that is in accordance with the ancient ideas of the Jews respecting this personage, and which is not forbidden, certainly, in any part of the Bible.
And were destroyed of serpents. Fiery serpents. Nu 21:6.
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