The First to the Corinthians 10:1-33

10  Now I want you to know, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud+ and all passed through the sea+  and all got baptized into Moses by means of the cloud and of the sea,  and all ate the same spiritual food+  and all drank the same spiritual drink.+ For they used to drink from the spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock meant the Christ.+  Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the wilderness.+  Now these things became examples for us, in order for us not to desire injurious things, as they desired them.+  Neither become idolaters, as some of them did; just as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink. Then they got up to have a good time.”+  Neither let us practice sexual immorality, as some of them committed sexual immorality, only to fall, 23,000 of them in one day.+  Neither let us put Jehovah to the test,+ as some of them put him to the test, only to perish by the serpents.+ 10  Neither be murmurers,+ as some of them murmured,+ only to perish by the destroyer.+ 11  Now these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for a warning to us+ upon whom the ends of the systems of things have come.+ 12  So let the one who thinks he is standing beware that he does not fall.+ 13  No temptation has come upon you except what is common to men.+ But God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear,+ but along with the temptation he will also make the way out so that you may be able to endure it.+ 14  Therefore, my beloved ones, flee from idolatry.+ 15  I speak as to men with discernment; judge for yourselves what I say. 16  The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of the Christ?+ The loaf that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of the Christ?+ 17  Because there is one loaf, we, although many, are one body,+ for we are all partaking of that one loaf. 18  Look at Israel in the fleshly sense: Are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers with the altar?+ 19  What, then, am I saying? That what is sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything?+ 20  No; but I say that what the nations sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God;+ and I do not want you to become sharers with the demons.+ 21  You cannot be drinking the cup of Jehovah and the cup of demons; you cannot be partaking of “the table of Jehovah”+ and the table of demons. 22  Or ‘are we inciting Jehovah to jealousy’?+ We are not stronger than he is, are we? 23  All things are lawful, but not all things are advantageous.+ All things are lawful, but not all things build up.+ 24  Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.+ 25  Eat whatever is sold in a meat market, making no inquiry because of your conscience, 26  for “to Jehovah belong the earth and everything in it.”+ 27  If an unbeliever invites you and you want to go, eat whatever is set before you, making no inquiry on account of your conscience. 28  But if anyone says to you, “This is something offered in sacrifice,” do not eat because of the one who told you and because of conscience.+ 29  I do not mean your own conscience, but that of the other person. For why should my freedom be judged by another person’s conscience?+ 30  If I am partaking with thanks, why am I to be spoken of abusively over that for which I give thanks?+ 31  Therefore, whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory.+ 32  Keep from becoming causes for stumbling to Jews as well as Greeks and to the congregation of God,+ 33  just as I am trying to please all people in all things, not seeking my own advantage,+ but that of the many, so that they may be saved.+


Study Notes

were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea: Paul here refers to a great miracle that took place during the Exodus in Moses’ day. Jehovah made the waters of the Red Sea stand up like walls on either side of the Israelites so that they could cross the seabed on dry ground. (Ex 14:21, 22, 29) The pillar of cloud signifying Jehovah’s protective care was above and behind them. (Ex 14:19, 24) The Israelites were thus “under the cloud” as they “passed through the sea.”

baptized into Moses: Or “immersed into Moses.” Paul here speaks about a symbolic baptism, or immersion, of the congregation of Israel. In this case, the Greek word ba·ptiʹzo signifies that the Israelite forefathers were being entrusted to Moses as their God-given leader. Jehovah did the baptizing by means of his angel. As the Israelites moved eastward on the bed of the Red Sea, they were surrounded by the waters and hidden from the pursuing army of Pharaoh by the cloud. God then figuratively lifted them out of these waters by bringing them onto the eastern shores as a free nation. (Ex 14:19, 22, 24, 25) To experience this baptism, the Israelites had to unite themselves with Moses and follow him through the sea. So this symbolic baptism was “into Moses” in that the people had to follow his leadership.

You are Peter, and on this rock: The Greek word peʹtros in the masculine gender means “a piece of rock; a stone.” Here it is used as a proper name (Peter), the Greek form of the name Jesus gave Simon. (Joh 1:42) The feminine form peʹtra is rendered “rock,” and it may denote bedrock, a cliff, or a mass of rock. This Greek word also occurs at Mt 7:24, 25; 27:60; Lu 6:48; 8:6; Ro 9:33; 1Co 10:4; 1Pe 2:8. Peter evidently did not view himself as the rock on which Jesus would build his congregation, since he wrote at 1Pe 2:4-8 that Jesus was the long-foretold “foundation cornerstone,” chosen by God himself. Similarly, the apostle Paul referred to Jesus as the “foundation” and “the spiritual rock.” (1Co 3:11; 10:4) So Jesus was evidently using a play on words, saying in effect: ‘You, the one I called Peter, a Piece of Rock, have discerned the true identity of the Christ, “this rock,” the one who will serve as the foundation of the Christian congregation.’

means: The Greek word e·stinʹ (literally meaning “is”) here has the sense of “signifies; symbolizes; stands for; represents.” This meaning was evident to the apostles, since on this occasion Jesus’ perfect body was there in front of them and so was the unleavened bread that they were about to eat. Therefore, the bread could not have been his literal body. It is worth noting that the same Greek word is used at Mt 12:7, and many Bible translations render it “means.”

rock: The Greek word peʹtra in the feminine gender is rendered “rock,” and it may denote bedrock, a cliff, or a mass of rock. This Greek word also occurs at Mt 7:24, 25; 16:18; 27:60; Lu 6:48; 8:6; Ro 9:33; 1Pe 2:8. (See study note on Mt 16:18.) On at least two occasions and in two different locations, the Israelites received a miraculous provision of water from a rock. (Ex 17:5-7; Nu 20:1-11) Therefore, the rock as a source of water, in effect, followed them. The rock itself was symbolic, picturing the Christ, who said to the Jews: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.”​—Joh 7:37.

meant: Or “was.” Here the form of the Greek verb for “to be” has the sense of “to signify; to mean.”​—Compare study note on Mt 26:26.

examples: The plural form of the Greek word tyʹpos could in this context also be rendered “warning examples” or “lessons.” In this verse and in the following verses, Paul mentions several events in the history of God’s ancient people that can serve as powerful warning examples for Christians.

not to desire injurious things: The Israelites began “to desire injurious things,” or “evil things,” as some Bibles render this expression, in part because of failing to appreciate the good things that Jehovah provided. For example, the Israelites repeatedly showed that they viewed the miraculously provided manna with contempt. (Nu 11:4-6; 21:5) Their unappreciative spirit manifested itself in a disgraceful display of greed when Jehovah provided them with an ample supply of quail to eat. The quail were not in themselves “injurious things,” any more than were the leeks, onions, and cucumbers that the Israelites were longing for. (Nu 11:19, 20, 31-34) It was the Israelites’ greedy, selfish longing that made these things “injurious” and “evil,” as Paul expressed it.

Neither become idolaters, as some of them did: Paul here refers to the occasion when the Israelites worshipped a golden calf at the foot of Mount Sinai. (Ex 32:1-6) They directly violated Jehovah’s command against that wicked practice, a law that they had agreed to obey just a few weeks earlier. (Ex 20:4-6; 24:3) They apparently did not intend to reject Jehovah as their God; Aaron even called their idolatrous celebration “a festival to Jehovah.” However, the Israelites fell into the trap of trying to mix the worship of Jehovah with idolatry.

sexual immorality . . . immorality: The Greek word por·neiʹa, used twice in this verse, is a general term for all sexual activity that is unlawful according to the Bible. It includes adultery, prostitution, sexual relations between unmarried individuals, homosexual acts, and bestiality.​—See Glossary.

sexually immoral people: This expression renders the Greek noun porʹnos, which is related to the noun por·neiʹa (sexual immorality, 1Co 5:1) and the verb por·neuʹo (to practice sexual immorality, 1Co 6:18). (See Glossary, “Sexual immorality.”) From ancient times, Corinth was known as a place where people had a morally decadent lifestyle and worshipped the goddess Aphrodite. That worship promoted sensuality and immorality. (Compare study note on 1Co 7:2.) Paul indicates that some Christians in Corinth had previously led an immoral lifestyle but had changed their conduct and were now good associates.​—1Co 6:11.

practice sexual immorality . . . committed sexual immorality: Just before the Israelites were to enter the Promised Land, Moabite women enticed thousands of them to commit sexual immorality and engage in the unclean worship of the Baal of Peor in Shittim on the Plains of Moab.​—Nu 25:1-3, 9; see study note on 1Co 5:1.

23,000 of them in one day: Paul is apparently referring to the event described at Nu 25:9 as a strong warning against getting involved in sexual immorality. (See study note on 1Co 5:9.) Because Nu 25:9 says that “those who died from the scourge amounted to 24,000,” some have pointed to a seeming contradiction between that account and the figure that Paul gives here. However, Paul clearly specifies that the number here listed died “in one day,” likely meaning that 23,000 were directly killed by the scourge. The “leaders” of those people died at the hands of the judges after the initial scourge. (Nu 25:4, 5) It may be that the figure in Numbers is the total of all who died, including the leaders whom God held responsible for the sins of the people.

Neither let us put Jehovah to the test: Paul apparently had in mind different times when the Israelites put Jehovah to the test in the wilderness, such as on the occasions mentioned at Ex 16:2, 3; 17:2, 3, 7; and Nu 14:22. Paul alludes to a specific time in the second part of this verse by saying as some of them put him to the test, only to perish by the serpents. This event is described at Nu 21:5, 6, where the record says that “the people kept speaking against God and Moses” and that “Jehovah sent poisonous serpents among the people.” Paul may also be alluding to Ps 78:18, where the psalmist says that the Israelites “challenged [lit., “tested”] God in their heart.”​—See App. C3 introduction; 1Co 10:9.

Neither be murmurers, as some of them murmured: The Israelites murmured, complaining against Jehovah on several occasions. For example, they strongly criticized Moses and Aaron when 10 of the 12 spies sent out to inspect the land of Canaan brought back negative reports. They even proposed appointing a new leader instead of Moses and felt that it might be better to go back to Egypt. (Nu 14:1-4) Later, “the whole assembly . . . began to murmur” about the execution of the rebels Korah, Dathan, and Abiram and those who sided with them. The murmurers apparently thought that the execution was unjust, and their complaining spirit affected many others. Jehovah responded by sending a scourge that took the lives of 14,700 Israelites. (Nu 16:41, 49) Jehovah regarded such murmuring against his representatives as murmuring against him personally.​—Nu 17:5.

examples: Or “warning examples.”​—See study note on 1Co 10:6.

upon whom the ends of the systems of things have come: The apostle Paul had related a number of events in Israel’s history (1Co 10:1-10) leading up to the ends of the systems of things, or the prevailing states of affairs, of his time. (See Glossary, “System[s] of things.”) Those “systems of things” were closely related to the Law covenant and included such elements as the following: a priesthood, a system of sacrifices and dietary regulations, a system of tabernacle and temple worship with festivals and sabbaths, and a national system that came to involve human kings. Many of the distinguishing features of the Israelite or Jewish age, or epoch, did not come to their complete end until 70 C.E. At that time, Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed, permanently ending the Jewish priesthood, sacrifices, and temple worship as prescribed in the Law. Also, the Jewish people, once God’s chosen nation, were scattered among the nations, fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy at Lu 21:24 as well as Paul’s words here about “the ends of the [Jewish] systems of things.”

examples: The plural form of the Greek word tyʹpos could in this context also be rendered “warning examples” or “lessons.” In this verse and in the following verses, Paul mentions several events in the history of God’s ancient people that can serve as powerful warning examples for Christians.

what the nations sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons: In the preceding verse, Paul made it clear that an idol is nothing. But the real danger of idol worship is the power behind it. Paul is apparently quoting from or alluding to De 32:17. A similar thought is expressed at Ps 106:36, 37. Jesus said that the power behind all such idol worship is Satan, who is “the ruler of the demons.” (Mt 12:24-26) Thus, when people of the nations were making sacrifices to idols or to false gods, they were in reality worshipping demons. Moreover, as part of the ceremony, the worshippers would often eat some of the sacrificed meat. They were, in effect, sharing a meal with their gods and thereby having fellowship with the demons.

the cup of Jehovah: Five verses earlier, Paul speaks about the cup of wine symbolizing Christ’s blood at the Lord’s Evening Meal. (1Co 10:16) There he calls the cup used at this observance “the cup of blessing that we bless.” When Jesus instituted this observance, he said a blessing, or prayer, before passing the cup to his disciples. (Mt 26:27, 28; Lu 22:19, 20) Following this pattern, a blessing, or prayer, is said before drinking from the cup. However, it was Jehovah who made all provisions for Christians, including Jesus’ ransom sacrifice; it was to Jehovah that Jesus offered the merit of his sacrifice; it was the will of Jehovah that governed how that sacrifice would be used; and it was Jehovah who foretold and instituted the new covenant. (Jer 31:31-34) So it is proper to speak of “the cup of Jehovah.”​—See App. C3 introduction; 1Co 10:21a.

the cup of demons . . . the table of demons: Just as the Lord’s Evening Meal is a communion meal​—in certain respects similar to the communion sacrifices in ancient Israel (Le 3:1-16; 7:28-36; 1Co 10:16)​—so sharing in sacrificial meals of idol worshippers would make Christians partakers together with demons. A Christian could not share in the Lord’s Evening Meal and also in the meals of pagans worshipping false gods.

the table of Jehovah: This expression is understood to be a quote from or an allusion to Mal 1:7, 12, where the altar in Jehovah’s temple is called “the table of Jehovah.” It is called a “table” because the sacrifices offered on it are compared to “food [lit., “bread”].” (Mal 1:7; ftn.; Eze 41:22) When the Israelites ate part of the communion sacrifices to God, they became sharers with him, as if partaking of a meal together, for God was represented by the altar.​—See study note on the cup of Jehovah in this verse and App. C3 introduction; 1Co 10:21b.

Or ‘are we inciting Jehovah to jealousy’?: Paul is warning Christians not to provoke Jehovah to jealous anger by engaging in any form of idolatry. Paul alludes to De 32:21 but does not use a direct quote. The context, De 32:19-21, shows that Jehovah is the one saying: “They have incited me to fury [or “jealousy,” ftn.] with what is not a god.”​—For a discussion of the use of the divine name in this verse, see App. C3 introduction; 1Co 10:22.

lawful: Or “permissible.”​—See study note on 1Co 6:12.

lawful: Or “permissible.” Paul obviously did not mean that it is lawful to do things that God condemns. (Ac 15:28, 29) Rather, he realized that since Christians are not required to follow the many decrees of the Mosaic Law, they would face numerous situations that are not regulated by the Scriptures. In such matters, they would need to consider not only their own conscience but also that of others. As an example, he cited the eating of food. (1Co 6:13) Some Christians whose conscience was sensitive objected to eating certain foods. (1Co 10:23, 25-33) Therefore, even though it was lawful or permissible for Christians to eat those foods, Paul himself would not insist on eating such foods if doing so would stumble others or disturb their conscience.​—1Co 8:12, 13.

Eat whatever is sold in a meat market: “A meat market” (Greek, maʹkel·lon) sold not only meat and fish but other foods as well. Temples sometimes sold excess meat to merchants who might sell it in their stores. Meat sold at a market no longer had any “sacred” significance and was just as good as any other meat. Christians did not need to view meat that originated from a temple as bad in itself or as contaminated. They could simply buy it if it had been suitably drained of blood.​—See study notes on 1Co 8:1, 4.

concerning the eating of food offered to idols: The Greek expression rendered “food offered to idols” in this verse also occurs at Ac 15:29, where it is rendered “things sacrificed to idols.” However, the Greek term is broad and may include meat of a sacrifice actually used in a religious ceremony and meat that was left over from such a sacrifice. Here, Paul is referring to leftover meat that was sold to the public in a market. (1Co 10:25) In 1 Corinthians 8 and 10 and Romans 14, Paul was not granting Christians permission to share in acts of idolatry or in any feast honoring an idol. Rather, Paul was inspired to make allowance for simply eating, as an ordinary meal, meat that had been sold to the general public. Such meat from an idol temple was not unclean or defiled simply because of its origin.​—See study notes on 1Co 8:1; 10:25.

Now concerning food offered to idols: In the first century C.E., Greeks and Romans offered animal sacrifices to idols. Parts of the animal were placed on the altar. A portion went to the priests and a portion went to the worshippers for a meal or a feast. However, leftovers of the meat were often sold in the “meat market.” (1Co 10:25) The Corinthian Christians had written to Paul, asking whether it was acceptable to eat such meat. (1Co 7:1a) Inspired by holy spirit, Paul helped them understand that to mature Christians, “an idol is nothing.” (1Co 8:4) Still, he advised Christians against going to an idol temple to eat meat. Eating at the pagan temple could give the wrong impression to spiritually weak observers, who might conclude that the Christian was worshipping the idol. Some of those weaker Christians might be stumbled or even be influenced to the point of eating meat during idolatrous religious ceremonies. (1Co 5:9, 10; 8:9, 10) That would be in direct violation of the governing body’s decree found at Ac 15:28, 29.​—See study notes on 1Co 8:4; 10:25.

Jehovah: In this quote from Ps 24:1, the divine name, represented by four Hebrew consonants (transliterated YHWH), occurs in the original Hebrew text.​—See App. C1 and C2.

because of conscience: Some later Greek manuscripts and ancient translations into other languages add the following: “For the earth belongs to the Lord, and so does its fullness.” This reading is reflected in a few modern translations. However, many early and reliable manuscripts do not include this sentence in verse 28. Apparently, it was not part of the original text. A similar statement appears at 1Co 10:26, where there is no uncertainty regarding the Greek text.​—See App. A3; see study note on 1Co 10:26.

Jehovah: In this quote from Ps 24:1, the divine name, represented by four Hebrew consonants (transliterated YHWH), occurs in the original Hebrew text.​—See App. C1 and C2.

the congregation of God: The Greek word ek·kle·siʹa, usually rendered “congregation,” is applied in a number of ways in the Christian Greek Scriptures. (See Glossary, “Congregation.”) At times, the word may apply to the entire group of spirit-anointed Christians. (Mt 16:18; Heb 2:12; 12:23) In this context, however, Paul uses the term in a more limited sense, urging Christians to avoid “becoming causes for stumbling” to members of the “congregation of God,” that is, Christians who lived at that particular time and who would be affected by their actions.