1 Thessalonians 4:4

4 that each of you should learn to control your own bodya in a way that is holy and honorable,

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:4 Using Other Translations

That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;
that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor,
Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor—

What does 1 Thessalonians 4:4 mean?

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible
1 Thessalonians 4:4

That everyone of you should know how to possess his vessel,
&c.] By which may be meant, either a man's wife, or his body, and it is not very easy to determine which, for the Jews call both by this name. Sometimes they call F16 a woman (Mlwg) , which the gloss says is a "vessel" unfinished. It is reported F17, that when R. Eleazar died, Rabbenu Hakkadosh would have married his widow, and she would not, because she was (hvwdq lv ylk) , "a vessel of holiness", greater than he. Moreover, it is said F18, that

``he that forces (a young woman) must drink (wuyueb) , "in his own vessel" how drink in his own vessel? though she be lame, though she be blind, and though she is stricken with ulcers.''

The commentators F19 on the passage add,

``in the vessel which he has chosen; that is to say, whether he will or not, he must marry her;''

see ( Proverbs 5:15 ) . And again, they sometimes call a man's wife his tent: hence that saving F20,

``(wtva ala wlha Nya) "there is no tent but his wife", as it is said, ( Deuteronomy 5:30 ) , go, say to them, get you into your tents again.''

And certain it is, that the woman is called the "weaker vessel" in ( 1 Peter 3:7 ) , between which passage and this there seems to be some agreement. The same metaphor of a "vessel" is made use of in both; and as there, honour to be given to the weaker vessel, so here, a man's vessel is to be possessed in honour; and as there, husbands are to dwell with their wives according to knowledge so here, knowledge is required to a man's possessing his vessel aright. Now for a man to possess his vessel in this sense, is to enjoy his wife, and to use that power he has over her in a becoming manner; see ( 1 Corinthians 7:4 ) , and which is here directed to "in sanctification and honour"; that is, in a chaste and honourable way; for marriage is honourable when the bed is kept undefiled; and which may be defiled, not only by taking another into it, and which is not possessing the wife in sanctification and honour, it is the reverse, for it is a breaking through the rules of chastity and honour; but it may even be defiled with a man's own wife, by using her in an unnatural way, or by any unlawful copulation with her; for so to do is to use her in an unholy, unchaste, wicked, and dishonourable manner; whereas possessing of her according to the order and course of nature, is by the Jews, in agreement with the apostle, called F21, (wmue vdqm) , "a man's sanctifying himself", and is chaste, and honourable. And it may be observed, that the Jews use the same phrase concerning conjugal embraces as the apostle does here. One of their canons runs thus F23:

``though a man's wife is free for him at all times, it is fit and proper for a disciple of a wise man to use himself (hvwdqb) , "in", or "to sanctification".''

When these thing's are observed, this sense of the words will not appear so despicable as it is thought by some. The body is indeed called a "vessel"; see ( 2 Corinthians 4:7 ) , because in it the soul is contained, and the soul makes use of it, and its members, as instruments, for the performance of various actions; and, with Jewish writers, we read of (wpwg ylk) , "the vessel of his body" F24; so then, for a man to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour, is to keep under his body and bring it into subjection, and preserve it in purity and chastity; as the eyes from unchaste looks, the tongue from unchaste words, and the other members from unchaste actions; and to use it in an honourable way, not in fornication, adultery, and sodomy; for, by fornication, a man sins against his own body; and by adultery he gets a wound, and a dishonour, and a reproach that will not be wiped away; and by sodomy, and such like unnatural lusts, men dishonour their own bodies between themselves: particularly by "his vessel", as Gataker thinks, may be meant the "membrum virile", or the genital parts, which, by an euphemism, may he so called; see ( 1 Samuel 21:5 )


FOOTNOTES:

F16 T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol 22. 2.
F17 Juchasin, fol. 48. 2. Shalsheleth Hakkabala, fol. 23. 1.
F18 Misna Cetubot, c. 3. sect. 4, 5.
F19 Jarchi & Bartenora in ib.
F20 T. Bab. Moed Katon, fol. 7. 2. & 15. 2.
F21 Maimon. in Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 7. sect. 4.
F23 Maimon. Hilch Deyot, c. 5. sect. 4.
F24 Caphtor, fol. 57. 2.
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