1 Corinthians 10:4 MEANING

1 Corinthians 10:4
(4) That spiritual Rock that followed them.--There was a Jewish tradition that the Rock--i.e., a fragment broken off from the rock smitten by Moses--followed the Israelites through their journey, and St. Paul, for the purpose of illustration, adopts that account instead of the statement in Numbers 20:11. The emphatic repetition of the word "spiritual" before "drink" and "rock" reminds the reader that it is the spiritual and not the historic aspect of the fact which is present to St. Paul's mind. The traditional account of the Rock was a more complete illustration of the abiding presence of God, which was the point that the Apostle here desires to bring forward.

And that Rock was Christ.--As Christ was "God manifest in the flesh" in the New Dispensation, so God manifest in the Rock (the source of sustaining life) was the Christ of the Old Dispensation. The Jews had become familiar with the thought of God as a Rock. (See 1 Samuel 2:2; Psalm 91:12; Isaiah 32:2.) Though the Jews may have recognised the Rock poetically as God, they knew not that it was, as a manifestation of God's presence, typical of the manifestation which was yet to be given in the Incarnation. Such seems to be the force of the statement and of the word "But" which emphatically introduces it. But though they thought it only a Rock, or applied the word poetically to Jehovah, that Rock was Christ.

Verse 4. - The same spiritual drink. The water from the smitten rock might (Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:11) be called a "spiritual" drink, both as being a miraculous gift (comp. Galatians 4:29, where Isaac is said to be "born after the spirit"), and as being a type of that "living water" which "springs up into everlasting life" (John 4:14; John 7:37), and of the blood of Christ in the Eucharist (John 6:55). These "waters in the wilderness" and "rivers in the desert" were a natural symbol of the grace of God (Isaiah 43:23; Isaiah 55:1), especially as bestowed in the sacrament through material signs. They drank; literally, they were drinking, implying a continuous gift. Of that spiritual Rock that followed them; rather, literally, of a spiritual following Rock. This is explained

(1) as a mere figure of speech, in which the natural rock which Moses smote is left out of sight altogether; and

(2) as meaning that not the rock, but the water from the rock, followed after them in their wanderings (Deuteronomy 9:21). There can, however, be little or no doubt that St. Paul refers to the common Jewish Hagadah, that the actual material rock did follow the Israelites in their wanderings. The rabbis said that it was round, and rolled itself up like a swarm of bees, and that, when the tabernacle was pitched, this rock came and settled in its vestibule, and began to flow when the princes came to it and sang, "Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it" (Numbers 21:17). It does not, of course, follow from this allusion that St. Paul, or even the rabbis, believed their Hagadah in other than a metaphorical sense. The Jewish Hagadoth - legends and illustrations and inferences of an imaginative Oriental people - are not to be taken au pied de la lettre. St. Paul obviates the laying of any stress on the mere legend by the qualifying word, "a spiritual Rock." And that Rock was Christ. The writings of Philo, and the Alexandrian school of thought in general, had familiarized all Jewish readers with language of this kind. They were accustomed to see types of God, or of the Word (Logos), in almost every incident of the deliverance from Egypt and the wanderings in the wilderness. Thus in Wisd. 10:15 and Wisdom 11:4 it is Wisdom - another form of the Logos - who leads and supports the Israelites. The frequent comparison, of God to a Rock in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 32, passim; 1 Samuel 2:2; Psalm 91:12, etc.) would render the symbolism more easy, especially as in Exodus 17:6 we find, "Behold, I [Jehovah] will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb."

10:1-5 To dissuade the Corinthians from communion with idolaters, and security in any sinful course, the apostle sets before them the example of the Jewish nation of old. They were, by a miracle, led through the Red Sea, where the pursuing Egyptians were drowned. It was to them a typical baptism. The manna on which they fed was a type of Christ crucified, the Bread which came down from heaven, which whoso eateth shall live for ever. Christ is the Rock on which the Christian church is built; and of the streams that issue therefrom, all believers drink, and are refreshed. It typified the sacred influences of the Holy Spirit, as given to believers through Christ. But let none presume upon their great privileges, or profession of the truth; these will not secure heavenly happiness.And did all drink the same spiritual drink,.... By which is meant the water out of the rock, which was typical of the blood of Christ, which is drink indeed, and not figurative, as this was, for which reason it is called spiritual; or of the grace of Christ, often signified by water, both in the Old and New Testament; and is what Moses and the law could not give; for righteousness and life, grace and salvation, could never be had by the works of the law: and very unpromising it was, and is to carnal men, that these should come by a crucified Christ, as it was to the Israelites, that water, in such plenty, should gush out of the rock in Horeb; but as those waters did not flow from thence without the rock being stricken by the rod of Moses, so the communication of the blessings of grace from Christ is through his being smitten by divine justice with the rod of the law; through his being, stricken for the transgressions of his people, and and being made sin, and a curse of the law in their room and stead. And as those waters continued through the wilderness as a constant supply for them, so the grace of Christ is always sufficient for his people; a continual supply is afforded them; goodness and mercy follow them all the days of their lives:

for they drank, of that spiritual rock that followed them; by which the apostle means not Christ himself, for he went before them as the angel of God's presence, but the rock that typified him; not that the rock itself removed out of its place, and went after them, but the waters out of the rock ran like rivers, and followed them in the wilderness wherever they went, for the space of eight and thirty years, or thereabout, and then were stopped, to make trial of their faith once more; this was at Kadesh when the rock was struck again, and gave forth its waters, which, as the continual raining of the manna, was a constant miracle wrought for them. And this sense of the apostle is entirely agreeable to the sentiments of the Jews, who say, that the Israelites had the well of water all the forty years (k). The Jerusalem Targum (l) says of the

"well given at Mattanah, that it again became unto them violent overflowing brooks, and again ascended to the tops of the mountains, and descended with them into the ancient valleys.''

And to the same purpose the Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel (m),

"that it again ascended with them to the highest mountains, and from the highest mountains it descended with them to the hills, and encompassed the whole camp of Israel, and gave drink to everyone at the gate of his own dwelling place; and from the high mountains it descended with them into the deep valleys.''

Yea, they speak of the rock in much the same language the apostle does, and seem to understand it of the rock itself, as if that really went along with the Israelites in the wilderness. Thus one of their writers (n) on those words, "must we fetch you water out of this rock?" makes this remark:

"for they knew it not, , "for that rock went", and remained among the rocks.''

And in another place it is said (o),

"that the rock became in the form of a beehive; (elsewhere (p) it is said to be round as a sieve;) and rolled along, , "and came with them", in their journeys; and when the standard bearers encamped, and the tabernacle stood still, the rock came, and remained in the court of the tent of the congregation; and the princes came and stood upon the top of it, and said, ascend, O well, and it ascended.''

Now, though in this account there is a mixture of fable, yet there appears something of the old true tradition received in the Jewish church, which the apostle has here respect to.

And the rock was Christ: that is, it signified Christ, it was a type of him. So the Jews (q) say, that the Shekinah is called , "the holy rock"; and Philo the Jew says (r) of this rock, that the broken rock is , "the wisdom of God". Christ may be compared to the rock for his outward meanness in his parentage and education, in his ministry and audience, in his life and death; and for his height also, being made higher than the kings of the earth, than the angels in heaven, and than the heavens themselves; and for shelter and safety from the wrath of God, and from the rage of men; and for firmness, solidity, and strength, which are seen in his upholding all things by his power, in bearing the sins of his people, and the punishment due unto them, in the support of his church, and bearing up his people under all afflictions and temptations, and in preserving them from a total and final falling away: and a rock he appears to be, as he is the foundation of his church and every believer, against which hell and earth can never prevail; and to it he may be likened for duration, his love being immovable, his righteousness everlasting, his salvation eternal, and he, as the foundation of his church, abiding for ever.

(k) Jarchi in Numbers 20.2.((l) In Numbers 21.20. (m) In ib. (n) Jarchi in Numbers 20.10. (o) Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 1. fol. 177. 2.((p) Gloss. in T. Bab. Pesach. fol. 54. 1.((q) Zohar in Num. fol. 87. 4. & Imre Binah in ib. (r) Lib. Allegor. l. 3. p. 1103.

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