Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me
Though the false apostles had greatly influenced the members of this church, yet there were many among them that had a very great respect for the apostle, and kept up a correspondence with him, though at a distance from him, by writing; in which way they informed him of their doubts and difficulties, that arose in their minds about certain things, and desired his judgment in them, to which they paid a very great deference. The things they wrote to him about, here referred to, may be collected from the contents of this chapter, and some others following; as whether a Christian man ought not to abstain from the use of women; whether a believer ought to live with an unbelieving yoke fellow; whether such as had been circumcised should not make use of some methods to draw on the foreskin of their flesh; whether apprentices, who were called by the grace of God, ought to serve out their time with their masters; and concerning celibacy or virginity, the eating of things offered to idols, and the maintenance of ministers: and he begins with the first; to which he answers,
it is good for a man not to touch a woman;
which is to be understood, not of merely touching a woman, which can neither be criminal, nor in all cases inexpedient, or be attended with any ill, or dangerous consequences; nor of the matrimonial contract, which is lawful and honourable; but of the act of carnal copulation with a woman: in this sense the Jews use the phrase,
``there are three (they say F18) that fled from transgression, and the blessed God joined his name with them; and they are these, Joseph, and Joel, and Phalti. Joseph, as appears from what is said, ( Psalms 81:5 ) "a testimony in Joseph is his name"; what is the meaning of the phrase "in Joseph?" this testifies concerning him, (rpyjwp tvab egn alv) , "that he did not touch Potiphar's wife" (i.e. he did not lie with her); Jael, as is clear from what is said, ( Judges 4:18 ) "and Jael went forth to meet Sisera, and she covered him with a mantle"; what is the meaning of the phrase, (hkymvb) ? (which is rendered, "with a mantle";) our Rabbins here (in Babylon) say with a linen cloth; but our Rabbins there (in the land of Israel) say with bed clothes; says Resh Lekish, if we run over the whole Scripture, we shall not find any household goods so called; wherefore what is it? it is all one as (hk ymv) , "my name is thus": and the meaning is, my name witnesses concerning her, (evr wtwa hb egn alv) , "that that wicked one (Sisera) did not touch her" F19; (i.e. had not carnal knowledge of her;) Phalti, as is evident from hence, one Scripture says, "and Saul gave Michal his daughter to Phalti", ( 1 Samuel 25:44 ) and another Scripture says Phaltiel; sometimes he is called Phalti, and sometimes he is called Phaltiel; who takes Phalti? and who gives Phaltiel? but I testify concerning him; (dwd tvab egn alv) , "that he did not touch David's wife"; (i.e. did not lie with her;)''see ( Genesis 20:6 ) . And in this sense also is the word "touch" used, both by Greek and Latin authors. The apostle's meaning is not that it is unlawful to marry, or that it is sinful to lie with a woman in lawful wedlock; but that it is much better, and more expedient on several accounts, to abstain from the use of women, when persons have the gift of continency.
F18 Vajikra Rabba, sect. 23. fol. 164. 4. & 165. 1. Vid Shemot Rabba, sect. 1. fol. 91. 4.
F19 Vid. Kimchi in Jud. iv. 18.