5-27 Turned Aside After Satan

1 Timothy 5:14-15: “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some are already turned aside after Satan”.

Popular Interpretation

This is taken to mean that young widows are likely to be carried away by Satan because of having spare time on their hands.


1. The widows turn themselves aside after Satan - Satan is not necessarily seeking the women.

2. Verses 12 and 13 explain that the widows “cast off their first faith” - something they did themselves. “They learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house”. It was by their doing this that they “turned aside after Satan’ - their evil desires.

3. Using the tongue in the wrong way is a result of an evil state of the heart - “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matt. 12:34). Their turning aside after Satan involved being “tattlers...and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not” (v. 13). Thus “Satan” refers to their evil heart.

4. Through profitless talking and not keeping hold of the true spirit of the Word of God, some at the Ephesus ecclesia where Timothy was based had “turned aside unto vain jangling” (1 Tim. 1: 6). Paul is now pointing out that some of the young widows in that ecclesia had also turned aside for the same reason “unto Satan”, or their evil desires, expressed in their idle talking.

5. The phrase “already turned” means “immediately”; Paul is saying that as soon as their husbands die, the young widows immediately go aside after Satan, their evil desires, therefore it is better for them to remarry.

6. “The adversary” is not the same word as “Satan”, although it may still refer to the Jews seeking opportunity to criticize the Christians (see note on 1 Tim. 3:6-7 “Suggested Explanations” No. 3). It can mean “an adversary at law” in a legal sense, implying that the Jews could get them in trouble at a Roman court.

Suggested Explanations

1. By publicly getting a bad name for “wandering about from house to house” (v. 13), these women were giving opportunity to the Jewish adversaries to “rail against” (A.V.margin) the Christians. Jude 9 & 10 implies that the Judaizers brought “railing accusation” against the Christians.

2. “Speaking things which they ought not” (v. 13), recalls Jude v. 10 about the Judaizers: “these speak evil of those things which they know not”. “Wandering” connects with Jude’s description of “wandering stars” (Jude v. 13). Diotrephes, one of the Judaizers who was trying to discredit the apostle John and the other apostles, (as the Judaizers did to Paul) is described as “prating against us with malicious words” (3 Jn. v.10). “Prating” is from the same word translated “tattlers” in 1 Timothy 5:13 concerning these women. The women going from house to house may imply from church to church, as that is how the word “house” is often used in the New Testament (due to the many house churches then in existence). This is what the Jewish false teachers did; 2 John v. 7 talks about deceivers or seducers that had entered into the Christian world, i.e. the false brethren “unawares brought in” to the church of Galatia. There are many references to these “seducing spirits” (1 Tim. 4:1) - i.e. false teachers (1 Jn. 4:1) - within the church, to which the church was not to give “heed” (1 Tim. 4:1). That these were Jewish false teachers is suggested by other references to “giving heed” in the context of being watchful against Jewish infiltration of Christianity:

- “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees” (Mk. 8:15);

- “Not giving heed to Jewish fables” (Titus 1:14);

- “Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies’ (1 Tim.1:4) - the source of which genealogies was probably the Old Testament, over which the Judaizers were encouraging the Christians to argue to no profit.

The “seducing spirits” of 1 Timothy 4:1 had seared consciences (v.2), implying that they were apostate believers. They forbad to marry, “commanding to abstain from meats” (v. 3), which especially the latter, was the big contention of the Jewish element in the church in the first century. Notice that what is said here about the Judaizers is also true of the Catholics - supporting the idea that 2 Thessalonians 2 is about both Jews and Catholics.

Thus the “seducing spirits” of 1 Timothy 4:1 were the Jewish infiltrators of the church, which were doubtless amongst the “deceivers” of 2 John v.7, which 2 John v. 10 implies were going from house to house (church to church) spreading their doctrine of belittling the person of Christ. These Judaizers “subvert whole houses” (Titus 1:11). Back in 1 Timothy 5:13, the fact that the women also went from house to house is another indication that what they were doing was also what the Judaizers were doing. Thus it is an interesting possibility that when their husbands died, these women lacked spiritual leadership, and therefore turned aside after the Jewish Satan, being influenced by the Jews to undermine the church. Using such apparently innocent members of the church would have been a very effective way of infiltrating. Perhaps there is a reference to this in 2 Timothy 3. This speaks of men within the ecclesia, “having a form of Godliness, but denying the power thereof” (v. 5), unsound judgment in ecclesial decisions (v. 8 A.V. margin). “Their folly shall be manifest unto all men” (v. 9) - at the Judgment, where the responsible appear. They are likened to Jannes and Jambres, who, according to Jewish tradition, were apostate Jews. These false teachers (probably Judaizers), “creep into (i.e. subtly infiltrate) houses (churches), and lead captive silly women” (v. 6). Note how the Judaizers are described as capturing Christians to become infiltrators in 2 Timothy 2:26 and in 1 Timothy 3:7. This view of the women is confirmed by the following two points:

i) Acts 13:50 describes the Jews stirring up “the devout and honourable women and (thereby) ...raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas”.

ii) There is evidence in profane history that many Gentile women were influenced by the Jews. Thus Josephus ( ‘Wars of the Jew’, II, 20.2) says that when the Jews of Damascus were persecuted, the proselyte wives of the Gentiles living there were also attacked. Josephus describes the Gentile wives of the men of Damascus as “almost all of them addicted to the Jewish religion”. William Barclay says that during the first century “the Jewish religion had a special attraction for a women...round the synagogues were gathered many women, often women of high social position, who found in this (Jewish) teaching just what they so much longed for. Many of these women became proselytes” (1). That the women Paul refers to were also wealthy is shown by them having time to go round from house to house, instead of having to work.


(1) William Barclay, The Acts Of The Apostles (Louisville: Westminster / John Knox, 2003) p. 114.

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