1 Corinthians 7:5

5 Abstaining from sex is permissible for a period of time if you both agree to it, and if it's for the purposes of prayer and fasting - but only for such times. Then come back together again. Satan has an ingenious way of tempting us when we least expect it.

1 Corinthians 7:5 Meaning and Commentary

1 Corinthians 7:5

Defraud ye not one the other
By withholding due benevolence, denying the use of the marriage bed, refusing to pay the conjugal debt, and which is called a "diminishing of her marriage duty", ( Exodus 21:10 ) where the Septuagint use the same word "defraud", as the apostle does here; it is what both have a right to, and therefore, if either party is denied, it is a piece of injustice, it is properly a defrauding; though with proper conditions, such as follow, it may be lawful for married persons to lie apart, and abstain from the use of the bed, but then it should never be done,

except it be with consent:
because they have a mutual power over each other's bodies, and therefore the abstinence must be voluntary on each side; otherwise injury is done to the person that does not consent, who is deprived against will of just right; but if there is agreement, then there is no defrauding, because each give up their right; and such a voluntary abstinence is commended by the Jews F26;

``everyone that lessens the use of the bed, lo, he, is praiseworthy; and he who does not make void, or, cause to cease the due benevolence, but (wtva tedm) , "by consent of his wife";''

i.e. he also is praiseworthy: another condition of this abstinence is that it be only for a time; which shall be agreed unto, and fixed by both parties; not for ever which would be contrary to the will of God; the institution and end of marriage, and of dangerous consequence to either party. The Jews allow of a vow of continency for a while; and which they limit to different persons; thus F1,

``if a man by a vow excludes, wife from the use of the bed, the school of Shammai say it is for the space of two weeks, the school of Hillell say one week; scholars go out to learn the law, without leave of their wives, thirty days, workmen one week;''

which vow, for such a limited time, they seem to allow of, without mutual consent; and herein they disagree with the rule the apostle gives; and who further observes, the end to be had in view by such a voluntary separation for a time,

that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer;
not that this was necessary for the ordinary discharge of such service, as for private acts of devotion among themselves, and constant family prayer; but either when times of fasting and prayer on some emergent occasions were appointed by themselves, or by the church, or by the civil government on account of some extraordinary and momentous affairs; and this seems to be observed by the apostle, in agreement with the customs and rules of the Jewish nation, which forbid the use of the bed, as on their great and annual fast, the day of atonement F2, so on their fasts appointed by the sanhedrim for obtaining of rain {c}: the word "fasting" is omitted in the Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions, and so it is in the Alexandrian copy, two of Stephens's; and others: the apostle adds,

and come together again;
to the same bed, and the use of it, and that for this reason,

that Satan tempt you not for your incontinence;
for not having the gift of continency, should they pretend to keep apart long: Satan, who knows the temperament and disposition of men and women, may tempt them not only to hatred of, and quarrels with one another, but to impure lusts and desires, to fornication, adultery, and all uncleanness; a very good reason why, though abstinence from the marriage bed for a short time, by the consent of both parties, for religious purposes, may be lawful, yet ought not to be continued; since Satan may hereby get an advantage over them, and draw them into the commission of scandalous enormities. The Jews have a notion of Satan's being a tempter, and of his tempting men to various sins, which they should guard against, as idolatry So say they F4,

``thou mayest not look after idolatry, according to ( Deuteronomy 4:19 ) and again, thou must take heed lest this be a cause of it to thee, (Ktwa tyoy Njvw) , "and Satan tempt thee" to look after them, and do as they do:''

and again F5, frequently should a man think

``upon the unity of the blessed God, lest there should be anything above or below, before him or behind him, or by him, and so, (wtyom Njvh) , "Satan tempt him", and he come into heresy.''


F26 Maimon. Hilch. Ishot, c. 21. sect. 11.
F1 Misn. Cetubot, c. 5. sect. 6.
F2 Misn. Yoma, c. 8. sect. 1.
F3 Misn. Taanith, c. 1. sect. 6.
F4 Mosis Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora, pr. neg. 14.
F5 Mosis Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora, pr. neg. 15.

1 Corinthians 7:5 In-Context

3 The marriage bed must be a place of mutuality - the husband seeking to satisfy his wife, the wife seeking to satisfy her husband.
4 Marriage is not a place to "stand up for your rights." Marriage is a decision to serve the other, whether in bed or out.
5 Abstaining from sex is permissible for a period of time if you both agree to it, and if it's for the purposes of prayer and fasting - but only for such times. Then come back together again. Satan has an ingenious way of tempting us when we least expect it.
6 I'm not, understand, commanding these periods of abstinence - only providing my best counsel if you should choose them.
7 Sometimes I wish everyone were single like me - a simpler life in many ways! But celibacy is not for everyone any more than marriage is. God gives the gift of the single life to some, the gift of the married life to others.