One of the interesting things about the Greek is the the universal nature to how and why the prescriptions of the Scripture apply to life.
1 Corinthians 7:2 But because of immoralities (porneia), each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. 3 The husband must [a]fulfill (apodidōmi) his duty (eunoia) to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority (exousiazō) over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority (exousiazō) over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Stop depriving (apostereō) one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and [b]come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 But this I say by way of concession (suggnōmē), not of command (epitagē). 7 [c]Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift (charisma) from God, one in this manner, and another in that. 8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. 9 But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion (puroō).
Before I get into any analysis of this passage, it is important to understand the cultural context of Paul’s writing. Paul was a self described Pharisee of Pharisees and one who upheld the law to the full meaning. So it’s interesting to see his perspective in Christ knowing the background behind how sex was treated in Jewish culture.
Here’s what JewFAQ has to say on the cultural aspects around how sex was treated in marriage:
Sex should only be experienced in a time of joy. Sex for selfish personal satisfaction, without regard for the partner’s pleasure, is wrong and evil. A man may never force his wife to have sex. A couple may not have sexual relations while drunk or quarreling. Sex may never be used as a weapon against a spouse, either by depriving the spouse of sex or by compelling it. It is a serious offense to use sex (or lack thereof) to punish or manipulate a spouse.
Sex is the woman’s right, not the man’s. A man has a duty to give his wife sex regularly and to ensure that sex is pleasurable for her. He is also obligated to watch for signs that his wife wants sex, and to offer it to her without her asking for it. The woman’s right to sexual intercourse is referred to as onah, and it is one of a wife’s three basic rights (the others are food and clothing), which a husband may not reduce. The Talmud specifies both the quantity and quality of sex that a man must give his wife. It specifies the frequency of sexual obligation based on the husband’s occupation, although this obligation can be modified in the ketubah (marriage contract). A man may not take a vow to abstain from sex for an extended period of time, and may not take a journey for an extended period of time, because that would deprive his wife of sexual relations. In addition, a husband’s consistent refusal to engage in sexual relations is grounds for compelling a man to divorce his wife, even if the couple has already fulfilled the halakhic obligation to procreate.
Although sex is the woman’s right, she does not have absolute discretion to withhold it from her husband. A woman may not withhold sex from her husband as a form of punishment, and if she does, the husband may divorce her without paying the substantial divorce settlement provided for in the ketubah.
The reason why culturally sex is a woman’s right is based in Scripture. Childbearing is one of the important facets of marriage that God made in Creation, and those that were barren were often considered cursed by God.
You can see how in our cultural the perspect shift away from childbearing as being valuable to God, and our emphasis on birth control is one of the major factors that have drawn marriage away from how God intended it to be.
Regardless, the Jewish stance on sex in marriage through not denying each other is important because it already encapsulates much of what Paul is describing in the Scriptures.
1 Corinthians 7:2 But because of immoralities (porneia), each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.
G4202 — πορνεία — porneia — por-ni’-ah
From G4203; harlotry (including adultery and incest); figuratively idolatry: – fornication.
Many of you probably recognize porneia from some of the words that it used for in English such as pornography. Most of the time this word is referred to in Scripture is for fornication, although it is an all inclusive word to generally mean any illicit sexual contact outside of marriage.
3 The husband must [a]fulfill (apodidōmi) his duty (eunoia) to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.
G591 — ἀποδίδωμι — apodidōmi — ap-od-eed’-o-mee
From G575 and G1325; to give away, that is, up, over, back, etc. (in various applications): – deliver (again), give (again), (re-) pay (-ment be made), perform, recompense, render, requite, restore, reward, sell, yield,
G2133 — εὔνοια — eunoia — yoo’-noy-ah
From the same as G2132; kindness; euphemistically conjugal duty: – benevolence, good will.
Jesus uses apodidomi — fulfill, reward, pay, give, render — many times in his parables in terms of men giving an account in the day of judgment, the parable of the unmerciful servant to pay all, the parable of the vineyard labourers to give them hire, and rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.
Likewise, eunoia illustrates the intention of how and why it is supposed to be done. It’s kind, benevolent, and good will to have sex with your spouse. It’s from G2132 which is:
G2132 — εὐνόεω — eunoeō — yoo-no-eh’-o
From a compound of G2095 and G3563; to be well minded, that is, reconcile: – agree.
It’s interesting that it means to be well mind, or reconciliation/agreement being that marriage was created by God in Genesis, and that the husband and wife are to be one flesh. That is the holiness to which God created sex in marriage is to affirm the one flesh relationship that they have.
We know that this is important because of the biochemical changes in the brain that occur when men and women have sex with each other. They bond together, and they literally become as one spiritually as well.
4 The wife does not have authority (exousiazō) over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority (exousiazō) over his own body, but the wife does.
G1850 — ἐξουσιάζω — exousiazō — ex-oo-see-ad’-zo
From G1849; to control: – exercise authority upon, bring under the (have) power of.
Exousiazo is from the root of exousia which literally means authority or power that one has over something. Jesus, after His resurrection, was given all authority (exousia) in heaven and earth.
Husbands and wives have no power over each other when it comes to sex. To weild sex as manipulation in marriage is indeed a sin, and the Jewish stance on sex in marriage agrees with this as you read earlier. To withhold sex is going against the nature of marriage that God created which is for the husband and wife to be one flesh.
5 Stop depriving (apostereō) one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and [b]come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
G650 — ἀποστερέω — apostereō — ap-os-ter-eh’-o
From G575 and στερέω stereō (to deprive); to despoil: – defraud, destitute, kept back by fraud.
This reinforces the conclusions made above by stating that withholding sex is indeed defrauding a spouse of their marriage rights. Defrauding in the other Scriptures is referred to with lawsuits among believers, and being dishonest with wages or with the truth.
Marriage is a covenantal contract to which sex is to be offered and given freely as a reaffirmation of God’s creation. To emphasize the fulfillment of the relationship between Christ and the Church.
6 But this I say by way of concession (suggnōmē), not of command (epitagē). 7 [c]Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift (charisma) from God, one in this manner, and another in that. 8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. 9 But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion (puroō).
G4774 — συγγνώμη — suggnōmē — soong-gno’-may
From a compound of G4862 and G1097; fellow knowledge, that is, concession: – permission.
G2003 — ἐπιταγή — epitagē — ep-ee-tag-ay’
From G2004; an injunction or decree; by implication authoritativeness: – authority, commandment.
G5486 — χάρισμα — charisma — char’-is-mah
From G5483; a (divine) gratuity, that is, deliverance (from danger or passion); (specifically) a (spiritual) endowment, that is, (subjectively) religious qualification, or (objectively) miraculous faculty: – (free) gift.
G4448 — πυρόω — puroō — poo-ro’-o
From G4442; to kindle, that is, (passively) to be ignited, glow (literally), be refined (by implication), or (figuratively) to be inflamed (with anger, grief, lust): – burn, fiery, be on fire, try.
I find the last part particularly interesting. If you look up the two root words for suggnome you have:
G4862 — σύν — sun — soon
A primary preposition denoting union; with or together (but much closer than G3326 or G3844), that is, by association, companionship, process, resemblance, possession, instrumentality, addition, etc.: – beside, with. In compounds it has similar applications, including completeness.
G1097 — γινώσκω — ginōskō — ghin-oce’-ko
A prolonged form of a primary verb; to “know” (absolutely), in a great variety of applications and with many implications (as shown at left, with others not thus clearly expressed): – allow, be aware (of), feel, (have) known (-ledge), perceive, be resolved, can speak, be sure, understand.
The “concession” for men and women to be married if they burn is seen right there in the words themselves. It is knowledge of union and companionship and completeness that God may work in some men and women’s lives if they are to be married. Yet, still unmarried is indeed good if God has delivered you from those particular passions.
I discussed charisma in Joy, grace, forgiveness, and charisma on how it relates to our mission for God, and it seems that each Christian’s mission is different. Some will have helpmeets, and some will not. Some women will be single and some will not. I hestitate to say that there is some “gift of singleness” since that is overplayed, but you must recognize that not everyone is to be married. In fact, most will eventually marry.
Genesis 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Overall, this passage is most interesting because of the nature of the role of sex in marriage. Weaponizing sex by using it for manipulation or extortion is not how God creating it. Sex is an intimate bonding experience that is holy in the context of marriage. Thus, it is an affirmation of the one flesh relationship.
Nowadays, sex has mostly been weaponized by wives in marriage in attempting, often successfully, to get what they want. This imparts negative impacts on the manipulator (wife) as well as the manipulated (husband). Likewise, a husband withholding which may have happened more in ancient times imparted negative impacts on both the husband as well as the wife.
You can see how stepping outside of the will of God for marriage on both ends of the spectrum is detrimental to both parties involved. Sin is like that. No one wins when one sins.
This is why it is important to choose wisely and vet thoroughly who you marry, as well as have both spouses in marriage on the same page — wanting to serve God.
God’s Truth has always been about unity in body, mind, and Spirit, and the marriage bed is one of the the primary examples of that.