Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant ,.... The apostle having suggested his own fears and jealousies, lest, notwithstanding all his gifts and grace, he should be left to do anything that might be a means of laying him aside, and rendering him useless in his ministerial work; and which he hints for the use of these Corinthians, who boasted of their knowledge, and made an imprudent use of their Christian liberty, to the hurt of weak minds; he proceeds to lay before them the case of the Jewish fathers, who, notwithstanding the many favours and privileges they were blessed with, yet falling into lust, fornication, intemperance, and idolatry, their carcasses fell in the wilderness, and entered not into the land of rest; wherefore the apostle would not have them be ignorant, or unmindful, or take no notice of these things, since they were for ensamples to them, and written for their admonition, and were warnings to them to take care lest they should also fall: particularly the apostle's view is to dissuade from the eating of things offered to idols, though a thing indifferent, and from their imprudent use of their Christian liberty with respect unto it; since it was not only doing an injury to weak believers, but it likewise exposed themselves to danger, who, by using such freedom as to sit in an idol's temple, and there publicly eat, might be drawn into idolatry itself; nor should they depend upon their knowledge, and gifts, and attainments, since it is clear, from these instances, that the highest external privileges, favours, and enjoyments, cannot secure men from falling: for which purpose it was proper to call to mind,
how that all our fathers were under the cloud ; which was a symbol of the divine presence with the Israelites, as it was on Mount Sinai, and in the tabernacle and temple; was a protection of them, being in the daytime as a pillar of cloud to screen them from the scorching heat of the sun, and in the night time as a pillar of fire to preserve them from beasts of prey, as well as in both to guide and direct them in the way; and was a type of Christ, who is a covert from the heat, as well as the wind and storm; a protection of his people from the vindictive justice and wrath of God, and from the rage and fury of men and devils. This also might express the state and condition of the former dispensation, which was dark and obscure in comparison of the present one, in which saints, with open face, behold the glory of the Lord; and likewise the state of the people of God in this world, even under the present dispensation, who, in comparison of the heavenly glory, and the beatific vision the saints enjoy there see but through a glass darkly. This cloud, which is sometimes represented as a pillar, was not an erect solid body, which was at some distance before the Israelites, and merely as a guide, but was all around them; it was before them, and behind them, and on each side, and was over them; see Numbers 14:14 so that the apostle rightly says they were under it. And to distant beholders in the daytime it looked like a pillar of cloud; and in the nighttime, the sun being down, it looked like a pillar of fire; for one and the same thing is meant by both and so the Jews say
"the pillar of cloud, סובבו encompassed the camp of Israel, as a wall encompasses a city, nor could the enemy come at them.'
Hence those allusions to it in Isaiah 4:5 . The Jews indeed speak of several clouds of glory; nor are they agreed about the number of them:
"when the people of Israel were travelling in the wilderness, they say
"how many were the clouds of glory, מקיפין , "that encompassed Israel" in the wilderness? R. Hoshea and R. Josiah are divided. R. Josiah says five, four at the four winds, and one went before them. R. Hoshea says seven, four at the four winds of the heavens, and one מלמעלן , "above them", and one below them, and one ran before them;'
to which he ascribes the above effects: but the Scripture speaks but of one cloud, which departed at the death of Moses:
and all passed through the sea ; the Red sea, in a very miraculous manner; Moses by a divine order lift up his rod, and stretched out his hand over it, and the Lord by a strong east wind caused it to go back, and made it dry land; the waters were divided, and rose up as a wall, on the right hand, and on the left, so that the children of Israel passed through it on dry ground, and all came safe to shore, and not one perished; and yet but two of these entered into the land of Canaan. Origen
"he had heard it as a tradition from the ancients, that in the passage through the sea, to every tribe of Israel were made separate divisions of water, and that every tribe had its own way open in the sea.'
And indeed this is a tradition of the Jews, whom he means by the ancients, or at least such who had received it from them; by which it appears to be a very ancient one.
"R. Eliezer says
The same is related, by others
"smite the sea with thy rod, and when he had smitten it, it became divided into twelve parts, between which were as many paths, and every part was like a vast mountain.'
But be this as it will, it is certain that they all passed through it, and came safe to shore.