Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


1 Corinthians 7:9

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

But if they cannot contain - If they find it inconvenient and uncomfortable to continue as widowers and widows, let them remarry.

It is better to marry than to burn - Bishop Pearce translates the original thus: For it is better to marry than to be made uneasy. Πυρουσθαι, says he, "signifies primarily to burn; but in a metaphorical sense, to be troubled, vexed, or made uneasy. So in 2 Corinthians 11:29; : Who is offended and I burn not, και ουκ εγω πυρουμαι, and I am not troubled. So in Terence, Uro hominem, is I vex him." It would be well to soften the sense of this word in reference to the subject of which the apostle speaks. He cannot mean burning with lust, no more than Virgil means so when he says, Aen. iv. ver. 68: Uritur infelix Dido, the unfortunate Dido is tormented; and in Eccl. ii. 68: Me tamen urit amor, love torments me. All this may be said with the strictest truth in such cases where the impure fire referred to above has no existence.

A curious story, which certainly casts light on the phraseology of this place, is related by Dr. Lightfoot, from the tract Kiddushin, fol. 81. "Some captive women were brought to Nehardea, and disposed in the house and the upper room of Rabbi Amram. They took away the ladder (that the women might not get down, but stay there till they were ransomed.) As one of these captives passed by the window, the light of her great beauty shined into the house. Amram (captivated) set up the ladder; and when he was got to the middle of the steps (checked by his conscience) he stopped short, and with a loud voice cried out Fire! Fire! in the house of Amram! (This he did that, the neighbors flocking in, he might be obliged to desist from the evil affection which now prevailed in him.) The rabbins ran to him, and (seeing no fire) they said, Thou hast disgraced us. To which he replied: It is better that ye be disgraced in the house of Amram in this world, then that ye be disgraced by me in the world to come. He then adjured that evil affection to go out of him, and it went out as a pillar of Fire. Amram said: Thou art Fire, and I am Flesh; yet for all that I have prevailed against thee." From this story much instruction may be derived.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

But if they cannot contain - If they have not the gift of continence; if they cannot be secure against temptation; if they have not strength of virtue enough to preserve them from the danger of sin, and of bringing reproach and scandal on the church.

It is better - It is to be preferred.

Than to burn - The passion here referred to is often compared to a fire; see Virgil, Aeneas 4:68. It is better to marry, even with all the inconveniences attending the marriage life in a time of distress and persecution in the church 1 Corinthians 7:26, than to be the prey of raging, consuming, and exciting passions.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The apostle tells the Corinthians that it was good, in that juncture of time, for Christians to keep themselves single. Yet he says that marriage, and the comforts of that state, are settled by Divine wisdom. Though none may break the law of God, yet that perfect rule leaves men at liberty to serve him in the way most suited to their powers and circumstances, of which others often are very unfit judges. All must determine for themselves, seeking counsel from God how they ought to act.