Neither be ye idolaters - The apostle considers partaking of the idolatrous feasts as being real acts of idolatry; because those who offered the flesh to their gods considered them as feeding invisibly with them on the flesh thus offered, and that every one that partook of the feast was a real participator with the god to whom the flesh or animal had been offered in sacrifice. See 1 Corinthians 10:21.
Rose up to play - See the note on Exodus 32:6. The Jews generally explain this word as implying idolatrous acts only: I have considered it as implying acts of impurity, with which idolatrous acts were often accompanied. It also means those dances which were practised in honor of their gods. That this is one meaning of the verb παιζειν, Kypke has largely proved. The whole idolatrous process was as follows:
5. as might be expected, impure mixtures, in consequence of those dances. The people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play; and it is in reference to this issue of idolatrous feasts and dancings that the apostle immediately subjoins: Neither let us commit Fornication, etc.
Neither be ye idolaters - This caution is evidently given in view of the danger to which they would be exposed if they partook of the feasts that were celebrated in honor of idols in their temples. The particular idolatry which is referred to here is, the worship of the golden calf that was made by Aaron Exodus 32:1-5.
As it is written - Exodus 32:6.
The people sat down to eat and to drink - To worship the golden calf. They partook of a feast in honor of that idol. I have already observed that it was common to keep a feast in honor of an idol, and that the food which was eaten on such an occasion was mainly the meat which had been offered in sacrifice to it. This instance was particularly to the apostle‘s purpose, as he was cautioning the Corinthians against the danger of participating in the feasts celebrated in the pagan temples.
And rose up to play - ( παίζειν paizein). The Hebrew word used in Exodus 32:6 (צחק tsaachaq) means “to laugh, to sport, to jest, to mock, to insult” Genesis 21:9; and then to engage in dances accompanied with music, in honor of an idol. This was often practiced, as the worship of idols was celebrated with songs and dances. This is particularly affirmed of this instance of idol worship Exodus 32:19; and this was common among ancient idolaters; and this mode of worship was even adopted by David before the ark of the Lord; 2 Samuel 6:5; 1 Chronicles 13:8; 1 Chronicles 15:29. All that the word “to play” here necessarily implies is, that of choral songs and dances, accompanied with revelry in honor of the idol. It was, however, the fact that such worship was usually accompanied with much licentiousness; but that is not necessarily implied in the use of the word. Most of the oriental dances were grossly indecent and licentious, and the word here may be designed to include such indelicacy and licentiousness.
It was this singlehearted purpose to win the race for eternal life that Paul longed to see revealed in the lives of the Corinthian believers. He knew that in order to reach Christ's ideal for them, they had before them a life struggle from which there would be no release. He entreated them to strive lawfully, day by day seeking for piety and moral excellence. He pleaded with them to lay aside every weight and to press forward to the goal of perfection in Christ. AA 315.1
Paul pointed the Corinthians to the experience of ancient Israel, to the blessings that rewarded their obedience, and to the judgments that followed their transgressions. He reminded them of the miraculous way in which the Hebrews were led from Egypt under the protection of the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. Thus they were safely conducted through the Red Sea, while the Egyptians, essaying to cross in like manner, were all drowned. By these acts God had acknowledged Israel as His church. They “did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” The Hebrews, in all their travels, had Christ as a leader. The smitten rock typified Christ, who was to be wounded for men's transgressions, that the stream of salvation might flow to all. AA 315.2
Notwithstanding the favor that God showed to the Hebrews, yet because of their lust for the luxuries left behind in Egypt, and because of their sin and rebellion, the judgments of God came upon them. The apostle enjoined the Corinthian believers to heed the lesson contained in Israel's experience. “Now these things were our examples,” he declared, “to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.” He showed how love of ease and pleasure had prepared the way for sins that called forth the signal vengeance of God. It was when the children of Israel sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play, that they threw off the fear of God, which they had felt as they listened to the giving of the law; and, making a golden calf to represent God, they worshiped it. And it was after enjoying a luxurious feast connected with the worship of Baalpeor, that many of the Hebrews fell through licentiousness. The anger of God was aroused, and at His command “three and twenty thousand” were slain by the plague in one day. AA 315.3Read in context »
The Lord designated a special family of the tribe of Levi to bear the ark; and others of the Levites were specially appointed of God to bear the tabernacle and all its furniture, and to perform the work of setting up and taking down the tabernacle. And if any man from curiosity or from lack of order got out of his place and touched any part of the sanctuary or furniture, or even came near any of the workmen, he was to be put to death. God did not leave His holy tabernacle to be borne, erected, and taken down, indiscriminately, by any tribe who might choose the office; but persons were chosen who could appreciate the sacredness of the work in which they were engaged. These men appointed of God were directed to impress upon the people the special sacredness of the ark and all that appertained thereunto, lest they should look upon these things without realizing their holiness and should be cut off from Israel. All things pertaining to the most holy place were to be looked upon with reverence. 1T 652.1
The travels of the children of Israel are faithfully described; the deliverance which the Lord wrought for them, their perfect organization and special order, their sin in murmuring against Moses and thus against God, their transgressions, their rebellions, their punishments, their carcasses strewn in the wilderness because of their unwillingness to submit to God's wise arrangements—this faithful picture is hung up before us as a warning lest we follow their example of disobedience and fall like them. 1T 652.2
“But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” Has God changed from a God of order? No; He is the same in the present dispensation as in the former. Paul says: “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.” He is as particular now as then. And He designs that we should learn lessons of order and organization from the perfect order instituted in the days of Moses for the benefit of the children of Israel. 1T 652.3Read in context »