1 Corinthians 7:9

9 But if they do not have self-control, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with desire.

1 Corinthians 7:9 Meaning and Commentary

1 Corinthians 7:9

But if they cannot contain
Or "if they do not contain", as the words may be rendered, and as almost all versions do render them; if they have not the gift of continency; if they are not willing, and do not think fit to contain, for none are to be compelled; if either therefore they want a will or power to contain, let them marry; it is not only lawful for them to marry, but it is right and best for them; hence it appears that second marriages are lawful, which were condemned by some of the ancients: for it is better to marry than to burn; or be burnt; not with material fire, as Judah ordered Tamar to be brought forth and burnt with, for whoredom; nor with hell fire, the just demerit of uncleanness; but with the fire of lust itself; and so the Syriac version reads it, "it is better to marry than to be burnt" (atgrb) , "with lust"; when persons not only find in them some lustful motions and desires, and a glowing heat of concupiscence; but are as it were all on fire with the lusts of the flesh, and in great danger of being drawn into the commission of fornication, adultery, or other pollutions, and even unnatural lusts; it is much better to enter into a marriage state, though it may have its cares, inconveniences, and difficulties, than to be under temptations and inclinations to such defilements: so the Jews often express the lust of concupiscence by fire; they tell F7 us a

``story of R. Amram, that he redeemed all the captives, men and women; and the women and the virgins dwelt in a chamber in his house alone; one time, Satan kindled in him, (hwath va) , "the fire of lust", and he set a ladder to go up to them, and when he came upon the steps of the ladder, he began to cry with a loud voice, (Mrme yb arwn Mrme yb arwn) , "fire in the house of Amram, fire in the house of Amram": and the men came to quench the fire, and found nothing burning; for it was only his intention to cause to cease from him the fire of lust; and his thought ceased and his mind grew cool; and they asked him, why he mocked them? he replied, for this is a greater "fire" than all the fires in the world, for it is the fire of hell:''

This story is also told in the Talmud F8, with some little variation: so we read of one that is (er ruyb jyhlta) , "inflamed" {i}, or all on fire "with the corruption of nature", who does not direct his heart to God: and such a man that finds his corruptions prevail over him, he ought to marry, they say F11, as a proper remedy against it:

``he whose mind is intent upon the law continually, and learns it as Ben Azzai, and cleaves to it all his days, and does not marry a wife, there is no iniquity in his hands, and that because his corruption does not prevail over him; but if his corruption prevails over him, (hva avyl byyx) , "he ought to marry a wife":''

and that for the very reason the apostle here gives. The Ethiopic version reads, "it is better to marry than to commit fornication"; that and adultery both are expressed by fire and burning, with the Jews, as they prove from ( Hosea 7:4 ) ( Song of Solomon 8:6 ) F12


F7 Caphtor, fol. 62. 1.
F8 T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 81. 1.
F9 Zohar in Lev. fol. 21. 1.
F11 Maimon. Hilch. Ishot, c. 15. sect. 3.
F12 Vet. Nizzachon, p. 43, 44.

1 Corinthians 7:9 In-Context

7 I wish that all people were just like me. But each has his own gift from God, one this and another that.
8 I say to the unmarried and to widows: It is good for them if they remain as I am.
9 But if they do not have self-control, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with desire.
10 I command the married-not I, but the Lord-a wife is not to leave her husband.
11 But if she does leave, she must remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband-and a husband is not to leave his wife.