2 Corinthians 12:12-15
Truly the signs of an apostle were worked among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.…
What the word signifies is evident, for it was what the apostle steadily declined to do — viz., live at the expense of the Corinthians. Now there are in all languages many ways of expressing this idea, mostly more or less uncomplimentary. It is likely that the apostle would in this place have used one of the more disparaging expressions, for evidently there is a good deal of restrained sarcasm and scorn of mercenary motives in this part of his letter. Yet the word does not at first sight appear to have much point, for it is generally translated "render numb" or "make torpid" (cf. Genesis 32:25, LXX.), and is a verb formed from νάρκη, the name of a kind of torpedo which has a reputation for numbing the hand that touches it. But I venture to go back to the fish itself, and to suggest that the popular use of the word was a somewhat different one. Was not the torpedo supposed to attach itself by suction to some creature of larger growth, and to make use of it for its own support? Whether it does so is of comparatively small concern, for neither then nor now has popular language had much regard for the facts of natural history. I strongly suspect that the idea really embodied in the word is theft vulgarly expressed by our own phrase, "to sponge upon." I can only guess that this latter phrase borrows its meaning from the real or supposed parasitic habits of the sponge as a living creature. If it be so, then there would be a singular resemblance in history and meaning between the two expressions, each borrowed by a seafaring people from the apparent habits of a marine animal, and applied with some contempt to the conduct of unworthy men. At any rate, it does not seem to me at all unlikely that the apostle would have used such an expression as "sponging upon" here. He was never careful of the elegance of his language when he wished it to be forcible, and in this Epistle especially he makes no attempt to be dignified. Evidently he had in his mind the very words and phrases which his vulgar detractors at Corinth had used concerning him. They had reached him in no mild dilutions, and he made no pretence of not feeling their point. They had accused him, as I think, of having "sponged upon" other Churches, while, with a truly natural inconsistency, they did not conceal their vexation at his refusal to put himself under any obligation to them. Wonderful is the lofty earnestness with which he deals with these vulgar topics, gilding the muddy levels with the glow and sparkle of his own ardent charity. But I think he did not hesitate to repeat their own shrug. He had not "sponged upon" them, it was true, and did not intend to sponge upon them, however often he came to them.
(R. Winterbotham, M. A. , B. Sc. , LL. B.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.