1 Corinthians 7:9

9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.

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 were as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.
8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do.
9 But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.
10 To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband
11 (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband) --and that the husband should not divorce his wife.
Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.