THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS Commentary by A. R. Faussett
Canonicity and authorship.–Clement of Rome, at the end of the first century (A.D), copiously uses it, adopting its words just as he does those of the other books of the New Testament; not indeed giving to either the term “Scripture,” which he reserves for the Old Testament (the canon of the New Testament not yet having been formally established), but certainly not ranking it below the other New Testament acknowledged Epistles. As our Epistle claims authority on the part of the writer, Clement’s adoption of extracts from it is virtually sanctioning its authority, and this in the apostolic age. Justin Martyr quotes it as divinely authoritative, to establish the titles “apostle,” as well as “angel,” as applied to the Son of God. Clement of Alexandria refers it expressly to Paul, on the authority of Pantænus, chief of the Catechetical school in Alexandria, in the middle of the second century, saying, that as Jesus is termed in it the “apostle” sent to the Hebrews, Paul, through humility, does not in it call himself apostle of the Hebrews, being apostle to the Gentiles. Clement also says that Paul, as the Hebrews were prejudiced against him, prudently omitted to put forward his name in the beginning; also, that it was originally written in Hebrew for the Hebrews, and that Luke translated it into Greek for the Greeks, whence the style is similar to that of Acts. He, however, quotes frequently the words of the existing Greek Epistle as Paul’s words. Origen similarly quotes it as Paul’s Epistle. However, in his Homilies, he regards the style as distinct from that of Paul, and as “more Grecian,” but the thoughts as the apostle’s; adding that the “ancients who have handed down the tradition of its Pauline authorship, must have had good reason for doing so, though God alone knows the certainty who was the actual writer” (that is, probably “transcriber” of the apostle’s thoughts). In the African Church, in the beginning of the third century, Tertullian ascribes it to Barnabas. Irenæus, bishop of Lyons, is mentioned in Eusebius, as quoting from this Epistle, though without expressly referring it to Paul. About the same period, Caius, the presbyter, in the Church of Rome, mentions only thirteen Epistles of Paul, whereas, if the Epistle to the Hebrews were included, there would be fourteen. So the canon fragment of the end of the second century, or beginning of the third, published by Muratori, apparently omits mentioning it. And so the Latin Church did not recognize it as Paul’s till a considerable time after the beginning of the third century. Thus, also, Novatian of Rome, Cyprian of Carthage, and Victorinus, also of the Latin Church. But in the fourth century, Hilary of Poitiers (A.D. 368), Lucifer of Cagliari (A.D. 371), Ambrose of Milan (A.D. 397) and other Latins, quote it as Paul’s; and the fifth Council of Carthage (A.D. 419) formally reckons it among his fourteen Epistles.
As to the similarity of its style to that of Luke’s writings, this is due to his having been so long the companion of Paul. Chrysostom, comparing Luke and Mark, says, “Each imitated his teacher: Luke imitated Paul flowing along with more than river fulness; but Mark imitated Peter, who studied brevity of style.” Besides, there is a greater predominance of Jewish feeling and familiarity with the peculiarities of the Jewish schools apparent in this Epistle than in Luke’s writings. There is no clear evidence for attributing the authorship to him, or to Apollos, whom Alford upholds as the author. The grounds alleged for the latter view are its supposed Alexandrian phraseology and modes of thought. But these are such as any Palestinian Jew might have used; and Paul, from his Hebræo-Hellenistic education at Jerusalem and Tarsus, would be familiar with Philo’s modes of thought, which are not, as some think, necessarily all derived from his Alexandrian, but also from his Jewish, education. It would be unlikely that the Alexandrian Church should have so undoubtingly asserted the Pauline authorship, if Apollos, their own countryman, had really been the author. The eloquence of its style and rhetoric, a characteristic of Apollos’ at Corinth, whereas Paul there spoke in words unadorned by man’s wisdom, are doubtless designedly adapted to the minds of those whom Paul in this Epistle addresses. To the Greek Corinthians, who were in danger of idolizing human eloquence and wisdom, he writes in an unadorned style, in order to fix their attention more wholly on the Gospel itself. But the Hebrews were in no such danger. And his Hebræo-Grecian education would enable him to write in a style attractive to the Hebrews at Alexandria, where Greek philosophy had been blended with Judaism. The Septuagint translation framed at Alexandria had formed a connecting link between the latter and the former; and it is remarkable that all the quotations from the Old Testament, excepting two (Heb 10:30; 13:5), are taken from the Septuagint. The fact that the peculiarities of the Septuagint are interwoven into the argument proves that the Greek Epistle is an original, not a translation; had the original been Hebrew, the quotations would have been from the Hebrew Old Testament. The same conclusion follows from the plays on similarly sounding words in the Greek, and alliterations, and rhythmically constructed periods. Calvin observes, If the Epistle had been written in Hebrew, Heb 9:15-17 would lose all its point, which consists in the play upon the double meaning of the Greek “diathece,” a “covenant,” or a “testament,” whereas the Hebrew “berith” means only “covenant.”
Internal evidence favors the Pauline authorship. Thus the topic so fully handled in this Epistle, that Christianity is superior to Judaism, inasmuch as the reality exceeds the type which gives place to it, is a favorite one with Paul (compare 2Co 3:6-18; Ga 3:23-25; 4:1-9, 21-31, wherein the allegorical mode of interpretation appears in its divinely sanctioned application–a mode pushed to an unwarrantable excess in the Alexandrian school). So the Divine Son appears in Heb 1:3, &c., as in other Epistles of Paul (Php 2:6; Col 1:15-20), as the Image, or manifestation of the Deity. His lowering of Himself for man’s sake similarly, compare Heb 2:9, with 2Co 8:9; Php 2:7, 8. Also His final exaltation, compare Heb 2:8; 10:13; 12:2, with 1Co 15:25, 27. The word “Mediator” is peculiar to Paul alone, compare Heb 8:6, with Ga 3:19, 20. Christ’s death is represented as the sacrifice for sin prefigured by the Jewish sacrifices, compare Ro 3:22-26; 1Co 5:7, with Heb 7:1-10:39. The phrase, “God of Peace,” is peculiar to Paul, compare Heb 13:20; Ro 15:33; 1Th 5:23. Also, compare Heb 2:4, Margin, 1Co 12:4. Justification, or “righteousness by faith.” appears in Heb 11:7; 10:38, as in Ro 1:17; 4:22; 5:1; Ga 3:11; Php 3:9. The word of God is the “sword of the Spirit,” compare Heb 4:12, with Eph 6:17. Inexperienced Christians are children needing milk, that is, instruction in the elements, whereas riper Christians, as full-grown men, require strong meat, compare Heb 5:12, 13; 6:1, with 1Co 3:1, 2; 14:20 Ga 4:9; Col 3:14. Salvation is represented as a boldness of access to God by Christ, compare Heb 10:19, with Ro 5:2; Eph 2:18; 3:12. Afflictions are a fight, Heb 10:32; compare Php 1:30; Col 2:1. The Christian life is a race, Heb 12:1; compare 1Co 9:24; Php 3:12-14. The Jewish ritual is a service, Ro 9:4; compare Heb 9:1, 6. Compare “subject to bondage,” Heb 2:15, with Ga 5:1. Other characteristics of Paul’s style appear in this Epistle; namely, a propensity “to go off at a word” and enter on a long parenthesis suggested by that word, a fondness for play upon words of similar sound, and a disposition to repeat some favorite word. Frequent appeals to the Old Testament, and quotations linked by “and again,” compare Heb 1:5; 2:12, 13, with Ro 15:9-12. Also quotations in a peculiar application, compare Heb 2:8, with 1Co 15:27; Eph 1:22. Also the same passage quoted in a form not agreeing with the Septuagint, and with the addition “saith the Lord,” not found in the Hebrew, in Heb 10:30; Ro 12:19.
The supposed Alexandrian (which are rather Philon-like) characteristics of the Epistle are probably due to the fact that the Hebrews were generally then imbued with the Alexandrian modes of thought of Philo, &c., and Paul, without coloring or altering Gospel truth “to the Jews, became (in style) as a Jew, that he might win the Jews” (1Co 9:20). This will account for its being recognized as Paul’s Epistle in the Alexandrian and Jerusalem churches unanimously, to the Hebrews of whom probably it was addressed. Not one Greek father ascribes the Epistle to any but Paul, whereas in the Western and Latin churches, which it did not reach for some time, it was for long doubted, owing to its anonymous form, and generally less distinctively Pauline style. Their reason for not accepting it as Paul’s, or indeed as canonical, for the first three centuries, was negative, insufficient evidence for it, not positive evidence against it. The positive evidence is generally for its Pauline origin. In the Latin churches, owing to their distance from the churches to whom belonged the Hebrews addressed, there was no generally received tradition on the subject. The Epistle was in fact but little known at all, whence we find it is not mentioned at all in the Canon of Muratori. When at last, in the fourth century, the Latins found that it was received as Pauline and canonical on good grounds in the Greek churches, they universally acknowledged it as such.
The personal notices all favor its Pauline authorship, namely, his intention to visit those addressed, shortly, along with Timothy, styled “our brother,” Heb 13:23; his being then in prison, Heb 13:19; his formerly having been imprisoned in Palestine, according to English Version reading, Heb 10:34; the salutations transmitted to them from believers of Italy, Heb 13:24. A reason for not prefixing the name may be the rhetorical character of the Epistle which led the author to waive the usual form of epistolary address.
Design.–His aim is to show the superiority of Christianity over Judaism, in that it was introduced by one far higher than the angels or Moses, through whom the Jews received the law, and in that its priesthood and sacrifices are far less perfecting as to salvation than those of Christ; that He is the substance of which the former are but the shadow, and that the type necessarily gives place to the antitype; and that now we no longer are kept at a comparative distance as under the law, but have freedom of access through the opened veil, that is, Christ’s flesh; hence he warns them of the danger of apostasy, to which Jewish converts were tempted, when they saw Christians persecuted, while Judaism was tolerated by the Roman authorities. He infers the obligations to a life of faith, of which, even in the less perfect Old Testament dispensation, the Jewish history contained bright examples. He concludes in the usual Pauline mode, with practical exhortations and pious prayers for them.
His mode of address is in it hortatory rather than commanding, just as we might have expected from Paul addressing the Jews. He does not write to the rulers of the Jewish Christians, for in fact there was no exclusively Jewish Church; and his Epistle, though primarily addressed to the Palestinian Jews, was intended to include the Hebrews of all adjoining churches. He inculcates obedience and respect in relation to their rulers (Heb 13:7, 17, 24); a tacit obviating of the objection that he was by writing this Epistle interfering with the prerogative of Peter the apostle of the circumcision, and James the bishop of Jerusalem. Hence arises his gentle and delicate mode of dealing with them (Heb 13:22). So far from being surprised at discrepancy of style between an Epistle to Hebrews and Epistles to Gentile Christians, it is just what we should expect. The Holy Spirit guided him to choose means best suited to the nature of the ends aimed at. Wordsworth notices a peculiar Pauline Greek construction, Ro 12:9, literally, “Let your love be without dissimulation, ye abhorring … evil, cleaving to … good,” which is found nowhere else save Heb 13:5, literally, “Let your conversation be without covetousness, ye being content with,” &c. (a noun singular feminine nominative absolute, suddenly passing into a participle masculine nominative plural absolute). So in quoting Old Testament Scripture, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews quotes it as a Jew writing to Jews would, “God spoke to our fathers,” not, “it is written.” So Heb 13:18, “We trust we have a good conscience” is an altogether Pauline sentiment (Ac 23:1; 24:16; 2Co 1:12; 4:2; 2Ti 1:3). Though he has not prefixed his name, he has given at the close his universal token to identify him, namely, his apostolic salutation, “Grace be with you all”; this “salutation with his own hand” he declared (2Th 3:17, 18) to be “his token in every Epistle”: so 1Co 16:21, 23; Col 4:18. The same prayer of greeting closes every one of his Epistles, and is not found in any one of the Epistles of the other apostles written in Paul’s lifetime; but it is found in the last book of the New Testament Revelation, and subsequently in the Epistle of Clement of Rome. This proves that, by whomsoever the body of the Epistle was committed to writing (whether a mere amanuensis writing by dictation, or a companion of Paul by the Spirit’s gift of interpreting tongues, 1Co 12:10, transfusing Paul’s Spirit-taught sentiments into his own Spirit-guided diction), Paul at the close sets his seal to the whole as really his, and sanctioned by him as such. The churches of the East, and Jerusalem, their center, to which quarter it was first sent, received it as Paul’s from the earliest times according to Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem (A.D. 349). Jerome, though bringing with him from Rome the prejudices of the Latins against the Epistle to the Hebrews, aggravated, doubtless, by its seeming sanction of the Novatian heresy (Heb 6:4-6), was constrained by the force of facts to receive it as Paul’s, on the almost unanimous testimony of all Greek Christians from the earliest times; and was probably the main instrument in correcting the past error of Rome in rejecting it. The testimony of the Alexandrian Church is peculiarly valuable, for it was founded by Mark, who was with Paul at Rome in his first confinement, when this Epistle seems to have been written (Col 4:10), and who possibly was the bearer of this Epistle, at the same time visiting Colosse on the way to Jerusalem (where Mark’s mother lived), and thence to Alexandria. Moreover, 2Pe 3:15, 16, written shortly before Peter’s death, and like his first Epistle written by him, “the apostle of the circumcision,” to the “Hebrew” Christians dispersed in the East, says, “As our beloved brother Paul hath written unto you” (2Pe 3:15), that is, to the Hebrews; also the words added, “As also in all his Epistles” (2Pe 3:16), distinguish the Epistle to the Hebrews from the rest; then he further speaks of it as on a level with “other Scriptures,” thus asserting at once its Pauline authorship and divine inspiration. An interesting illustration of the power of Christian faith and love; Peter, who had been openly rebuked by Paul (Ga 2:7-14), fully adopted what Paul wrote; there was no difference in the Gospel of the apostle of the circumcision and that of the apostle of the uncircumcision. It strikingly shows God’s sovereignty that He chose as the instrument to confirm the Hebrews, Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles (Ro 11:13); and on the other hand, Peter to open the Gospel door to the Gentiles (Ac 10:1, &c.), though being the apostle of the Jews; thus perfect unity reigns amidst the diversity of agencies.
Rome, in the person of Clement of Rome, originally received this Epistle. Then followed a period in which it ceased to be received by the Roman churches. Then, in the fourth century, Rome retracted her error. A plain proof she is not unchangeable or infallible. As far as Rome is concerned, the Epistle to the Hebrews was not only lost for three centuries, but never would have been recovered at all but for the Eastern churches; it is therefore a happy thing for Christendom that Rome is not the Catholic Church.
It plainly was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, which would have been mentioned in the Epistle had that event gone before, compare Heb 13:10; and probably to churches in which the Jewish members were the more numerous, as those in Judea, and perhaps Alexandria. In the latter city were the greatest number of resident Jews next to Jerusalem. In Leontopolis, in Egypt, was another temple, with the arrangements of which, Wieseler thinks the notices in this Epistle more nearly corresponded than with those in Jerusalem. It was from Alexandria that the Epistle appears first to have come to the knowledge of Christendom. Moreover, “the Epistle to the Alexandrians,” mentioned in the Canon of Muratori, may possibly be this Epistle to the Hebrews. He addresses the Jews as peculiarly “the people of God” (Heb 2:17; 4:9; 13:12), “the seed of Abraham,” that is, as the primary stock on which Gentile believers are grafted, to which Ro 11:16-24 corresponds; but he urges them to come out of the carnal earthly Jerusalem and to realize their spiritual union to “the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb 12:18-23; 13:13).
The use of Greek rather than Hebrew is doubtless due to the Epistle being intended, not merely for the Hebrew, but for the Hellenistic Jew converts, not only in Palestine, but elsewhere; a view confirmed by the use of the Septuagint. Bengel thinks, probably (compare 2Pe 3:15, 16, explained above), the Jews primarily, though not exclusively, addressed, were those who had left Jerusalem on account of the war and were settled in Asia Minor.
The notion of its having been originally in Hebrew arose probably from its Hebrew tone, method, and topics. It is reckoned among the Epistles, not at first generally acknowledged, along with James, Second Peter, Second and Third John, Jude, and Revelation. A beautiful link exists between these Epistles and the universally acknowledged Epistles. Hebrews unites the ordinances of Leviticus with their antitypical Gospel fulfilment. James is the link between the highest doctrines of Christianity and the universal law of moral duty–a commentary on the Sermon on the Mount–harmonizing the decalogue law of Moses, and the revelation to Job and Elias, with the Christian law of liberty. Second Peter links the teaching of Peter with that of Paul. Jude links the earliest unwritten to the latest written Revelation. The two shorter Epistles to John, like Philemon, apply Christianity to the minute details of the Christian life, showing that Christianity can sanctify all earthly relations.
Heb 1:1-14. The Highest of All Revelations Is Given Us Now in the Son of God, Who Is Greater than the Angels, and Who, Having Completed Redemption, Sits Enthroned at God’s Right Hand.
The writer, though not inscribing his name, was well known to those addressed (Heb 13:19). For proofs of Paul being the author, see my Introduction. In the Pauline method, the statement of subject and the division are put before the discussion; and at the close, the practical follows the doctrinal portion. The ardor of Spirit in this Epistle, as in First John, bursting forth at once into the subject (without prefatory inscription of name and greeting), the more effectively strikes the hearers. The date must have been while the temple was yet standing, before its destruction, A.D. 70; some time before the martyrdom of Peter, who mentions this Epistle of Paul (2Pe 3:15, 16); at a time when many of the first hearers of the Lord were dead.
1. at sundry times–Greek, “in many portions.” All was not revealed to each one prophet; but one received one portion of revelation, and another another. To Noah the quarter of the world to which Messiah should belong was revealed; to Abraham, the nation; to Jacob, the tribe; to David and Isaiah, the family; to Micah, the town of nativity; to Daniel, the exact time; to Malachi, the coming of His forerunner, and His second advent; through Jonah, His burial and resurrection; through Isaiah and Hosea, His resurrection. Each only knew in part; but when that which was perfect came in Messiah, that which was in part was done away (1Co 13:12).
in divers manners–for example, internal suggestions, audible voices, the Urim and Thummim, dreams, and visions. “In one way He was seen by Abraham, in another by Moses, in another by Elias, and in another by Micah; Isaiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel, beheld different forms” [Theodoret]. (Compare Nu 12:6-8). The Old Testament revelations were fragmentary in substance, and manifold in form; the very multitude of prophets shows that they prophesied only in part. In Christ, the revelation of God is full, not in shifting hues of separated color, but Himself the pure light, uniting in His one person the whole spectrum (Heb 1:3).
spake–the expression usual for a Jew to employ in addressing Jews. So Matthew, a Jew writing especially for Jews, quotes Scripture, not by the formula, “It is written,” but “said,” &c.
in time past–From Malachi, the last of the Old Testament prophets, for four hundred years, there had arisen no prophet, in order that the Son might be the more an object of expectation [Bengel]. As God (the Father) is introduced as having spoken here; so God the Son, Heb 2:3; God the Holy Ghost, Heb 3:7.
the fathers–the Jewish fathers. The Jews of former days (1Co 10:1).
by–Greek, “in.” A mortal king speaks by his ambassador, not (as the King of kings) in his ambassador. The Son is the last and highest manifestation of God (Mt 21:34, 37); not merely a measure, as in the prophets, but the fulness of the Spirit of God dwelling in Him bodily (Joh 1:16; 3:34; Col 2:9). Thus he answers the Jewish objection drawn from their prophets. Jesus is the end of all prophecy (Re 19:10), and of the law of Moses (Joh 1:17; 5:46).
2. in these last days–In the oldest manuscripts the Greek is. “At the last part of these days.” The Rabbins divided the whole of time into “this age,” or “world,” and “the age to come” (Heb 2:5; 6:5). The days of Messiah were the transition period or “last part of these days” (in contrast to “in times past”), the close of the existing dispensation, and beginning of the final dispensation of which Christ’s second coming shall be the crowning consummation.
by his Son–Greek, “IN (His) Son” (Joh 14:10). The true “Prophet” of God. “His majesty is set forth: (1) Absolutely by the very name “Son,” and by three glorious predicates, “whom He hath appointed,” “by whom He made the worlds,” “who sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;” thus His course is described from the beginning of all things till he reached the goal (Heb 1:2, 3). (2) Relatively, in comparison with the angels, Heb 1:4; the confirmation of this follows, and the very name “Son” is proved at Heb 1:5; the “heirship,” Heb 1:6-9; the “making the worlds,” Heb 1:10-12; the “sitting at the right hand” of God, Heb 1:13, 14.” His being made heir follows His sonship, and preceded His making the worlds (Pr 8:22, 23; Eph 3:11). As the first begotten, He is heir of the universe (Heb 1:6), which He made instrumentally, Heb 11:3, where “by the Word of God” answers to “by whom”‘ (the Son of God) here (Joh 1:3). Christ was “appointed” (in God’s eternal counsel) to creation as an office; and the universe so created was assigned to Him as a kingdom. He is “heir of all things” by right of creation, and especially by right of redemption. The promise to Abraham that he should be heir of the world had its fulfilment, and will have it still more fully, in Christ (Ro 4:13; Ga 3:16; 4:7).
worlds–the inferior and the superior worlds (Col 1:16). Literally, “ages” with all things and persons belonging to them; the universe, including all space and ages of time, and all material and spiritual existences. The Greek implies, He not only appointed His Son heir of all things before creation, but He also (better than “also He”) made by Him the worlds.
3. Who being–by pre-existent and essential being.
brightness of his glory–Greek, the effulgence of His glory. “Light of (from) light” [Nicene Creed]. “Who is so senseless as to doubt concerning the eternal being of the Son? For when has one seen light without effulgence?” [Athanasius, Against Arius, Orations, 2]. “The sun is never seen without effulgence, nor the Father without the Son” [Theophylact]. It is because He is the brightness, &c., and because He upholds, &c., that He sat down on the right hand, &c. It was a return to His divine glory (Joh 6:62; 17:5; compare Wisdom 7:25, 26, where similar things are said of wisdom).
express image–“impress.” But veiled in the flesh.
The Sun of God in glory beams
Too bright for us to scan;
But we can face the light that streams
For the mild Son of man.
of his person–Greek, “of His substantial essence”; “hypostasis.”
upholding all things–Greek, “the universe.” Compare Col 1:15, 17, 20, which enumerates the three facts in the same order as here.
by the word–Therefore the Son of God is a Person; for He has the word [Bengel]. His word is God’s word (Heb 11:3).
of his power–“The word” is the utterance which comes from His (the Son’s) power, and gives expression to it.
by himself–omitted in the oldest manuscripts.
purged–Greek, “made purification of … sins,” namely, in His atonement, which graciously covers the guilt of sin. “Our” is omitted in the oldest manuscripts. Sin was the great uncleanness in God’s sight, of which He has effected the purgation by His sacrifice [Alford]. Our nature, as guilt-laden, could not, without our great High Priest’s blood of atonement sprinkling the heavenly mercy seat, come into immediate contact with God. Ebrard says, “The mediation between man and God, who was present in the Most Holy Place, was revealed in three forms: (1) In sacrifices (typical propitiations for guilt); (2) In the priesthood (the agents of those sacrifices); (3) In the Levitical laws of purity (Levitical purity being attained by sacrifice positively, by avoidance of Levitical pollution negatively, the people being thus enabled to come into the presence of God without dying, De 5:26)” (Le 16:1-34).
sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high–fulfilling Ps 110:1. This sitting of the Son at God’s fight hand was by the act of the Father (Heb 8:1; Eph 1:20); it is never used of His pre-existing state co-equal with the Father, but always of His exalted state as Son of man after His sufferings, and as Mediator for man in the presence of God (Ro 8:34): a relation towards God and us about to come to an end when its object has been accomplished (1Co 15:28).
4. Being made … better–by His exaltation by the Father (Heb 1:3, 13): in contrast to His being “made lower than the angels” (Heb 2:9). “Better,” that is, superior to. As “being” (Heb 1:3) expresses His essential being so “being made” (Heb 7:26) marks what He became in His assumed manhood (Php 2:6-9). Paul shows that His humbled form (at which the Jews might stumble) is no objection to His divine Messiahship. As the law was given by the ministration of angels and Moses, it was inferior to the Gospel given by the divine Son, who both is (Heb 1:4-14) as God, and has been made, as the exalted Son of man (Heb 2:5-18), much better than the angels. The manifestations of God by angels (and even by the angel of the covenant) at different times in the Old Testament, did not bring man and God into personal union, as the manifestation of God in human flesh does.
by inheritance obtained–He always had the thing itself, namely, Sonship; but He “obtained by inheritance,” according to the promise of the Father, the name “Son,” whereby He is made known to men and angels. He is “the Son of God” is a sense far exalted above that in which angels are called “sons of God” (Job 1:6; 38:7). “The fulness of the glory of the peculiar name “the Son of God,” is unattainable by human speech or thought. All appellations are but fragments of its glory beams united in it as in a central sun, Re 19:12. A name that no than knew but He Himself.”
5. For–substantiating His having “obtained a more excellent name than the angels.”
unto which–A frequent argument in this Epistle is derived from the silence of Scripture (Heb 1:13; Heb 2:16; 7:3, 14) [Bengel].
this day have I begotten thee–(Ps 2:7). Fulfilled at the resurrection of Jesus, whereby the Father “declared,” that is, made manifest His divine Sonship, heretofore veiled by His humiliation (Ac 13:33; Ro 1:4). Christ has a fourfold right to the title “Son of God”; (1) By generation, as begotten of God; (2) By commission, as sent by God; (3) By resurrection, as “the first-begotten of the dead” (compare Lu 20:36; Ro 1:4; Re 1:5); (4) By actual possession, as heir of all [Bishop Pearson]. The Psalm here quoted applied primarily in a less full sense to Solomon, of whom God promised by Nathan to David. “I will be his father and he shall be my son.” But as the whole theocracy was of Messianic import, the triumph of David over Hadadezer and neighboring kings (2Sa 8:1-18; Ps 2:2, 3, 9-12) is a type of God’s ultimately subduing all enemies under His Son, whom He sets (Hebrew, “anointed,” Ps 2:6) on His “holy hill of Zion,” as King of the Jews and of the whole earth. the antitype to Solomon, son of David. The “I” in Greek is emphatic; I the Everlasting Father have begotten Thee this day, that is, on this day, the day of Thy being manifested as My Son, “the first-begotten of the dead” (Col 1:18; Re 1:5). when Thou hast ransomed and opened heaven to Thy people. He had been always Son, but now first was manifested as such in His once humbled, now exalted manhood united to His Godhead. Alford refers “this day” to the eternal generation of the Son: the day in which the Son was begotten by the Father is an everlasting to-day: there never was a yesterday or past time to Him, nor a to-morrow or future time: “Nothing there is to come, and nothing past, but an eternal NOW doth ever last” (Pr 30:4; Joh 10:30, 38; 16:28; 17:8). The communication of the divine essence in its fulness, involves eternal generation; for the divine essence has no beginning. But the context refers to a definite point of time, namely, that of His having entered on the inheritance (Heb 1:4). The “bringing the first-begotten into the world” (Heb 1:6), is not subsequent, as Alford thinks, to Heb 1:5, but anterior to it (compare Ac 2:30-35).
6. And–Greek, “But.” Not only this proves His superiority, BUT a more decisive proof is Ps 97:7, which shows that not only at His resurrection, but also in prospect of His being brought into the world (compare Heb 9:11; 10:5) as man, in His incarnation, nativity (Lu 2:9-14), temptation (Mt 4:10, 11), resurrection (Mt 28:2), and future second advent in glory, angels were designed by God to be subject to Him. Compare 1Ti 3:16, “seen of angels”; God manifesting Messiah as one to be gazed at with adoring love by heavenly intelligences (Eph 3:10; 2Th 1:9, 10; 1Pe 3:22). The fullest realization of His Lordship shall be at His second coming (Ps 97:7; 1Co 15:24, 25; Php 2:9). “Worship Him all ye gods” (“gods,” that is, exalted beings, as angels), refers to God; but it was universally admitted among the Hebrews that God would dwell, in a peculiar sense, in Messiah (so as to be in the Talmud phrase, “capable of being pointed to with the finger”); and so what was said of God was true of, and to be fulfilled in, Messiah. Kimchi says that the ninety-third through the hundred first Psalms contain in them the mystery of Messiah. God ruled the theocracy in and through Him.
the world–subject to Christ (Heb 2:5). As “the first-begotten” He has the rights of primogeniture (Ro 8:29); Col 1:15, 16, 18). In De 32:43, the Septuagint has, “Let all the angels of God worship Him,” words not now found in the Hebrew. This passage of the Septuagint may have been in Paul’s mind as to the form, but the substance is taken from Ps 97:7. The type David, in the Ps 89:27 (quoted in Heb 1:5), is called “God’s first-born, higher than the kings of the earth”; so the antitypical first-begotten, the son of David, is to be worshipped by all inferior lords, such as angels (“gods,” Ps 97:7); for He is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Re 19:16). In the Greek, “again” is transposed; but this does not oblige us, as Alford thinks, to translate, “when He again shall have introduced,” &c., namely, at Christ’s second coming; for there is no previous mention of a first bringing in; and “again” is often used in quotations, not to be joined with the verb, but parenthetically (“that I may again quote Scripture”). English Version is correct (compare Mt 5:33; Greek, Joh 12:39).
7. of–The Greek is rather, “In reference TO the angels.”
spirits–or “winds”: Who employeth His angels as the winds, His ministers as the lightnings; or, He maketh His angelic ministers the directing powers of winds and flames, when these latter are required to perform His will. “Commissions them to assume the agency or form of flames for His purposes” [Alford]. English Version, “maketh His angels spirits,” means, He maketh them of a subtle, incorporeal nature, swift as the wind. So Ps 18:10, “a cherub … the wings of the wind.” Heb 1:14, “ministering spirits,” favors English Version here. As “spirits” implies the wind-like velocity and subtle nature of the cherubim, so “flame of fire” expresses the burning devotion and intense all-consuming zeal of the adoring seraphim (meaning “burning), Isa 6:1. The translation, “maketh winds His messengers, and a flame of fire His ministers (!),” is plainly wrong. In the Ps 104:3, 4, the subject in each clause comes first, and the attribute predicated of it second; so the Greek article here marks “angels” and “ministers” as the subjects, and “winds” and “flame of fire,” predicates, Schemoth Rabba says, “God is called God of Zebaoth (the heavenly hosts), because He does what He pleases with His angels. When He pleases, He makes them to sit (Jud 6:11); at other times to stand (Isa 6:2); at times to resemble women (Zec 5:9); at other times to resemble men (Ge 18:2); at times He makes them ‘spirits’; at times, fire.” “Maketh” implies that, however exalted, they are but creatures, whereas the Son is the Creator (Heb 1:10): not begotten from everlasting, nor to be worshipped, as the Son (Re 14:7; 22:8, 9).
8. O God–the Greek has the article to mark emphasis (Ps 45:6, 7).
for ever … righteousness–Everlasting duration and righteousness go together (Ps 45:2; 89:14).
a sceptre of righteousness–literally, “a rod of rectitude,” or “straightforwardness.” The oldest manuscripts prefix “and” (compare Es 4:11).
9. iniquity–“unnrighteousness.” Some oldest manuscripts read, “lawlessness.”
therefore–because God loves righteousness and hates iniquity.
God … thy God–Jerome, Augustine, and others translate Ps 45:7, “O God, Thy God, hath anointed thee,” whereby Christ is addressed as God. This is probably the true translation of the Hebrew there, and also of the Greek of Hebrews here; for it is likely the Son is addressed, “O God,” as in Heb 1:8. The anointing here meant is not that at His baptism, when He solemnly entered on His ministry for us; but that with the “oil of gladness,” or “exulting joy” (which denotes a triumph, and follows as the consequence of His manifested love of righteousness and hatred of iniquity), wherewith, after His triumphant completion of His work, He has been anointed by the Father above His fellows (not only above us, His fellow men, the adopted members of God’s family, whom “He is not ashamed to call His brethren,” but above the angels, fellow partakers in part with Him, though infinitely His inferiors, in the glories, holiness, and joys of heaven; “sons of God,” and angel “messengers,” though subordinate to the divine Angel–“Messenger of the covenant”). Thus He is antitype to Solomon, “chosen of all David’s many sons to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel,” even as His father David was chosen before all the house of his father’s sons. The image is drawn from the custom of anointing guests at feasts (Ps 23:5); or rather of anointing kings: not until His ascension did He assume the kingdom as Son of man. A fuller accomplishment is yet to be, when He shall be VISIBLY the anointed King over the whole earth (set by the Father) on His holy hill of Zion, Ps 2:6, 8. So David, His type, was first anointed at Bethlehem (1Sa 16:13; Ps 89:20); and yet again at Hebron, first over Judah (2Sa 2:4), then over all Israel (2Sa 5:3); not till the death of Saul did he enter on his actual kingdom; as it was not till after Christ’s death that the Father set Him at His right hand far above all principalities (Eph 1:20, 21). The forty-fifth Psalm in its first meaning was addressed to Solomon; but the Holy Spirit inspired the writer to use language which in its fulness can only apply to the antitypical Solomon, the true Royal Head of the theocracy.
10. And–In another passage (Ps 102:25-27) He says.
in the beginning–English Version, Ps 102:25, “of old”: Hebrew, “before,” “aforetime.” The Septuagint, “in the beginning” (as in Ge 1:1) answers by contrast to the end implied in “They shall perish,” &c. The Greek order here (not in the Septuagint) is, “Thou in the beginning, O Lord,” which throws the “Lord” into emphasis. “Christ is preached even in passages where many might contend that the Father was principally intended” [Bengel].
laid the foundation of–“firmly founded” is included in the idea of the Greek.
heavens–plural: not merely one, but manifold, and including various orders of heavenly intelligences (Eph 4:10).
works of thine hands–the heavens, as a woven veil or curtain spread out.
11. They–The earth and the heavens in their present state and form “shall perish” (Heb 12:26, 27; 2Pe 3:13). “Perish” does not mean annihilation; just as it did not mean so in the case of “the world that being overflowed with water, perished” under Noah (2Pe 3:6). The covenant of the possession of the earth was renewed with Noah and his seed on the renovated earth. So it shall be after the perishing by fire (2Pe 3:12, 13).
remainest–through (so the Greek) all changes.
as … a garment–(Isa 51:6).
12. vesture–Greek, “an enwrapping cloak.”
fold them up–So the Septuagint, Ps 102:26; but the Hebrew, “change them.” The Spirit, by Paul, treats the Hebrew of the Old Testament, with independence of handling, presenting the divine truth in various aspects; sometimes as here sanctioning the Septuagint (compare Isa 34:4; Re 6:14); sometimes the Hebrew; sometimes varying from both.
changed–as one lays aside a garment to put on another.
thou art the same–(Isa 46:4; Mal 3:6). The same in nature, therefore in covenant faithfulness to Thy people.
shall not fail–Hebrew, “shall not end.” Israel, in the Babylonian captivity, in the hundred second Psalm, casts her hopes of deliverance on Messiah, the unchanging covenant God of Israel.
13. Quotation from Ps 110:1. The image is taken from the custom of conquerors putting the feet on the necks of the conquered (Jos 10:24, 25).
14. ministering spirits–referring to Heb 1:7, “spirits … ministers.” They are incorporeal spirits, as God is, but ministering to Him as inferiors.
sent forth–present participle: “being sent forth” continually, as their regular service in all ages.
to minister–Greek, “unto (that is, ‘for’) ministry.”
for them–Greek, “on account of the.” Angels are sent forth on ministrations to God and Christ, not primarily to men, though for the good of “those who are about to inherit salvation” (so the Greek): the elect, who believe, or shall believe, for whom all things, angels included, work together for good (Ro 8:28). Angels’ ministrations are not properly rendered to men, since the latter have no power of commanding them, though their ministrations to God are often directed to the good of men. So the superiority of the Son of God to angels is shown. They “all,” how ever various their ranks, “minister”; He is ministered to. They “stand” (Lu 1:19) before God, or are “sent forth” to execute the divine commands on behalf of them whom He pleases to save; He “sits on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb 1:3, 13). He rules; they serve.
Heb 2:1-18. Danger of Neglecting So Great Salvation, First Spoken by Christ; to Whom, Not to Angels, the New Dispensation Was Subjected; though He Was for a Time Humbled below the Angels: This Humiliation Took Place by Divine Necessity for Our Salvation.
1. Therefore–Because Christ the Mediator of the new covenant is so far (Heb 1:5-14) above all angels, the mediators of the old covenant.
the more earnest–Greek, “the more abundantly.”
heard–spoken by God (Heb 1:1); and by the Lord (Heb 2:3).
let them slip–literally “flow past them” (Heb 4:1).
2. (Compare Heb 2:3.) Argument a fortiori.
spoken by angels–the Mosaic law spoken by the ministration of angels (De 33:2; Ps 68:17; Ac 7:53; Ga 3:19). When it is said, Ex 20:1, “God spake,” it is meant He spake by angels as His mouthpiece, or at least angels repeating in unison with His voice the words of the Decalogue; whereas the Gospel was first spoken by the Lord alone.
was steadfast–Greek, “was made steadfast,” or “confirmed”: was enforced by penalties on those violating it.
transgression–by doing evil; literally, overstepping its bounds: a positive violation of it.
disobedience–by neglecting to do good: a negative violation of it.
3. we–who have received the message of salvation so clearly delivered to us (compare Heb 12:25).
so great salvation–embodied in Jesus, whose very name means “salvation,” including not only deliverance from foes and from death, and the grant of temporal blessings (which the law promised to the obedient), but also grace of the Spirit, forgiveness of sins, and the promise of heaven, glory, and eternal life (Heb 2:10).
which–“inasmuch as it is a salvation which began,” &c.
spoken by the Lord–as the instrument of proclaiming it. Not as the law, spoken by the instrumentality of angels (Heb 2:2). Both law and Gospel came from God; the difference here referred to lay in the instrumentality by which each respectively was promulgated (compare Heb 2:5). Angels recognize Him as “the Lord” (Mt 28:6; Lu 2:11).
confirmed unto us–not by penalties, as the law was confirmed, but by spiritual gifts (Heb 2:4).
by them that heard him–(Compare Lu 1:2). Though Paul had a special and independent revelation of Christ (Ga 1:16, 17, 19), yet he classes himself with those Jews whom he addresses, “unto us”; for like them in many particulars (for example, the agony in Gethsemane, Heb 5:7), he was dependent for autoptic information on the twelve apostles. So the discourses of Jesus, for example, the Sermon on the Mount, and the first proclamation of the Gospel kingdom by the Lord (Mt 4:17), he could only know by the report of the Twelve: so the saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Ac 20:35). Paul mentions what they had heard, rather than what they had seen, conformably with what he began with, Heb 1:1, 2, “spake … spoken.” Appropriately also in his Epistles to Gentiles, he dwells on his independent call to the apostleship of the Gentiles; in his Epistle to the Hebrews, he appeals to the apostles who had been long with the Lord (compare Ac 1:21; 10:41): so in his sermon to the Jews in Antioch of Pisidia (Ac 13:31); and “he only appeals to the testimony of these apostles in a general way, in order that he may bring the Hebrews to the Lord alone” [Bengel], not to become partisans of particular apostles, as Peter, the apostle of the circumcision, and James, the bishop of Jerusalem. This verse implies that the Hebrews of the churches of Palestine and Syria (or those of them dispersed in Asia Minor [Bengel], 1Pe 1:1, or in Alexandria) were primarily addressed in this Epistle; for of none so well could it be said, the Gospel was confirmed to them by the immediate hearers of the Lord: the past tense, “was confirmed,” implies some little time had elapsed since this testification by eye-witnesses.
4. them–rather, “God also [as well as Christ, Heb 2:3] bearing witness to it,” &c., joining in attestation of it.”
signs and wonders–performed by Christ and His apostles. “Signs” and miracles, or other facts regarded as proofs of a divine mission; “wonders” are miracles viewed as prodigies, causing astonishment (Ac 2:22, 33); “powers” are miracles viewed as evidences of superhuman power.
divers miracles–Greek, “varied (miraculous) powers” (2Co 12:12) granted to the apostles after the ascension.
gifts, &c.–Greek, “distributions.” The gift of the Holy Spirit was given to Christ without measure (Joh 3:34), but to us it is distributed in various measures and operations (Ro 12:3, 6, &c.; 1Co 12:4-11).
according to his own will–God’s free and sovereign will, assigning one gift of the Spirit to one, another to another (Ac 5:32; Eph 1:5).
5. For–confirming the assertion, Heb 2:2, 3, that the new covenant was spoken by One higher than the mediators of the old covenant, namely, angels. Translate in the Greek order, to bring out the proper emphasis, “Not the angels hath He,” &c.
the world to come–implying, He has subjected to angels the existing world, the Old Testament dispensation (then still partly existing as to its framework), Heb 2:2, the political kingdom of the earth (Da 4:13; 10:13, 20, 21; 12:1), and the natural elements (Re 9:11; 16:4). and even individuals (Mt 18:10). “The world to come” is the new dispensation brought in by Christ, beginning in grace here, to be completed in glory hereafter. It is called “to come,” or “about to be,” as at the time of its being subjected to Christ by the divine decree, it was as yet a thing of the future, and is still so to us, in respect to its full consummation. In respect to the subjecting of all things to Christ in fulfilment of Ps 8:1-9, the realization is still “to come.” Regarded from the Old Testament standpoint, which looks prophetically forward to the New Testament (and the Jewish priesthood and Old Testament ritual were in force then when Paul wrote, and continued till their forcible abrogation by the destruction of Jerusalem), it is “the world to come”; Paul, as addressing Jews, appropriately calls it so, according to their conventional way of viewing it. We, like them, still pray, “Thy kingdom come”; for its manifestation in glory is yet future. “This world” is used in contrast to express the present fallen condition of the world (Eph 2:2). Believers belong not to this present world course, but by faith rise in spirit to “the world to come,” making it a present, though internal. reality. Still, in the present world, natural and social, angels are mediately rulers under God in some sense: not so in the coming world: man in it, and the Son of man, man’s Head, are to be supreme. Hence greater reverence was paid to angels by men in the Old Testament than is permitted in the New Testament. For man’s nature is exalted in Christ now, so that angels are our “fellow servants” (Re 22:9). In their ministrations they stand on a different footing from that on which they stood towards us in the Old Testament. We are “brethren” of Christ in a nearness not enjoyed even by angels (Heb 2:10-12, 16).
6. But–It is not to angels the Gospel kingdom is subject, BUT …
one … testified–the usual way of quoting Scripture to readers familiar with it. Ps 8:5-7 praises Jehovah for exalting MAN, so as to subject all the works of God on earth to him: this dignity having been lost by the first Adam, is realized only in Christ the Son of man, the Representative Man and Head of our redeemed race. Thus Paul proves that it is to MAN, not to angels, that God has subjected the “world to come.” In Heb 2:6-8, MAN is spoken of in general (“him … him … his); then at Heb 2:9, first Jesus is introduced as fulfilling, as man, all the conditions of the prophecy, and passing through death Himself; and so consequently bringing us men, His “brethren,” to “glory and honor.”
What, &c.–How insignificant in himself, yet how exalted by God’s grace! (Compare Ps 144:3). The Hebrew, “Enosh” and “Ben-Adam,” express “man” and “Son of man” in his weakness: “Son of man” is here used of any and every child of man: unlike, seemingly, the lord of creation, such as he was originally (Ge 1:1-2:25), and such as he is designed to be (Ps 8:1-9), and such as he actually is by title and shall hereafter more fully be in the person of, and in union with, Jesus, pre-eminently the Son of man (Heb 2:9).
art mindful–as of one absent.
visitest–lookest after him, as one present.
7. a little–not as Bengel, “a little time.”
than the angels–Hebrew, “than God,” “Elohim,” that is, the abstract qualities of God, such as angels possess in an inferior form; namely, heavenly, spiritual, incorporeal natures. Man, in his original creation, was set next beneath them. So the man Jesus, though Lord of angels, when He emptied Himself of the externals of His Divinity (see on Php 2:6, 7), was in His human nature “a little lower than the angels”; though this is not the primary reference here, but man in general.
crownedst him with glory and honour–as the appointed kingly vicegerent of God over this earth (Ge 1:1-2:25).
and didst set him over the works of thy hands–omitted in some of the oldest manuscripts; but read by others and by oldest versions: so Ps 8:6, “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands.”
8. (1Co 15:27.)
For in that–that is, “For in that” God saith in the eighth Psalm, “He put the all things (so the Greek, the all things just mentioned) in subjection under him (man), He left nothing … As no limitation occurs in the sacred writing, the “all things” must include heavenly, as well as earthly things (compare 1Co 3:21, 22).
But now–As things now are, we see not yet the all things put under man.
9. But–We see not man as yet exercising lordship over all things, “but rather, Him who was made a little lower than the angels (compare Lu 22:43), we behold (by faith: a different Greek verb from that for ‘we see,’ Heb 2:8, which expresses the impression which our eyes passively receive from objects around us; whereas, ‘we behold,’ or ‘look at,’ implies the direction and intention of one deliberately regarding something which he tries to see: so Heb 3:19; 10:25, Greek), namely, Jesus, on account of His suffering of death, crowned,” &c. He is already crowned, though unseen by us, save by faith; hereafter all things shall be subjected to Him visibly and fully. The ground of His exaltation is “on accoumt of His having suffered death” (Heb 2:10; Php 2:8, 9).
that he by the grace of God–(Tit 2:11; 3:4). The reading of Origen, “That He without God” (laying aside His Divinity; or, for every being save God: or perhaps alluding to His having been temporarily “forsaken,” as the Sin-bearer, by the Father on the cross), is not supported by the manuscripts. The “that,” &c., is connected with “crowned with glory,” &c., thus: His exaltation after sufferings is the perfecting or consummation of His work (Heb 2:10) for us: without it His death would have been ineffectual; with it, and from it, flows the result that His tasting of death is available for (in behalf of, for the good of) every man. He is crowned as the Head in heaven of our common humanity, presenting His blood as the all-prevailing plea for us. This coronation above makes His death applicable for every individual man (observe the singular; not merely “for all men”), Heb 4:14; 9:24; 1Jo 2:2. “Taste death” implies His personal experimental undergoing of death: death of the body, and death (spiritually) of the soul, in His being forsaken of the Father. “As a physician first tastes his medicines to encourage his sick patient to take them, so Christ, when all men feared death, in order to persuade them to be bold in meeting it, tasted it Himself, though He had no need” [Chrysostom]. (Heb 2:14, 15).
10. For–giving a reason why “the grace of God” required that Jesus “should taste death.”
it became him–The whole plan was (not only not derogatory to, but) highly becoming God, though unbelief considers it a disgrace [Bengel]. An answer to the Jews, and Hebrew Christians, whosoever, through impatience at the delay in the promised advent of Christ’s glory, were in danger of apostasy, stumbling at Christ crucified. The Jerusalem Christians especially were liable to this danger. This scheme of redemption was altogether such a one as harmonizes with the love, justice, and wisdom of God.
for whom–God the Father (Ro 11:36; 1Co 8:6; Re 4:11). In Col 1:16 the same is said of Christ.
all things–Greek, “the universe of things,” “the all things.” He uses for “God,” the periphrasis, “Him for whom … by whom are all things,” to mark the becomingness of Christ’s suffering as the way to His being “perfected” as “Captain of our salvation,” seeing that His is the way that pleased Him whose will and whose glory are the end of all things, and by whose operation all things exist.
in bringing–The Greek is past, “having brought as He did,” namely, in His electing purpose (compare “ye are sons,” namely, in His purpose, Ga 4:6; Eph 1:4), a purpose which is accomplished in Jesus being “perfected through sufferings.”
many–(Mt 20:28). “The Church” (Heb 2:12), “the general assembly” (Heb 12:23).
sons–no longer children as under the Old Testament law, but sons by adoption.
unto glory–to share Christ’s “glory” (Heb 2:9; compare Heb 2:7; Joh 17:10, 22, 24; Ro 8:21). Sonship, holiness (Heb 2:11), and glory, are inseparably joined. “Suffering,” “salvation,” and “glory,” in Paul’s writings, often go together (2Ti 2:10). Salvation presupposes destruction, deliverance from which for us required Christ’s “sufferings.”
to make … perfect–“to consummate”; to bring to consummated glory through sufferings, as the appointed avenue to it. “He who suffers for another, not only benefits him, but becomes himself the brighter and more perfect” [Chrysostom]. Bringing to the end of troubles, and to the goal full of glory: a metaphor from the contests in the public games. Compare “It is finished,” Lu 24:26; Joh 19:30. I prefer, with Calvin, understanding, “to make perfect as a completed sacrifice”: legal and official, not moral, perfection is meant: “to consecrate” (so the same Greek is translated Heb 7:28; compare Margin) by the finished expiation of His death, as our perfect High Priest, and so our “Captain of salvation” (Lu 13:32). This agrees with Heb 2:11, “He that sanctifieth,” that is, consecrates them by Himself being made a consecrated offering for them. So Heb 10:14, 29; Joh 17:19: by the perfecting of His consecration for them in His death, He perfects their consecration, and so throws open access to glory (Heb 10:19-21; Heb 5:9; 9:9 accord with this sense).
captain of, &c.–literally, Prince-leader: as Joshua, not Moses, led the people into the Holy Land, so will our Joshua, or Jesus, lead us into the heavenly inheritance (Ac 13:39). The same Greek is in Heb 12:2, “Author of our faith.” Ac 3:15, “Prince of life” (Ac 5:31). Preceding others by His example, as well as the originator of our salvation.
11. he that sanctifieth–Christ who once for all consecrates His people to God (Jude 1, bringing them nigh to Him as the consequence) and everlasting glory, by having consecrated Himself for them in His being made “perfect (as their expiatory sacrifice) through sufferings” (Heb 2:10; Heb 10:10, 14, 29; Joh 17:17, 19). God in His electing love, by Christ’s finished work, perfectly sanctifies them to God’s service and to heaven once for all: then they are progressively sanctified by the transforming Spirit “Sanctification is glory working in embryo; glory is sanctification come to the birth, and manifested” [Alford].
they who are sanctified–Greek, “they that are being sanctified” (compare the use of “sanctified,” 1Co 7:14).
of one–Father, God: not in the sense wherein He is Father of all beings, as angels; for these are excluded by the argument (Heb 2:16); but as He is Father of His spiritual human sons, Christ the Head and elder Brother, and His believing people, the members of the body and family. Thus, this and the following verses are meant to justify his having said, “many sons” (Heb 2:10). “Of one” is not “of one father Adam,” or “Abraham,” as Bengel and others suppose. For the Saviour’s participation in the lowness of our humanity is not mentioned till Heb 2:14, and then as a consequence of what precedes. Moreover, “Sons of God” is, in Scripture usage, the dignity obtained by our union with Christ; and our brotherhood with Him flows from God being His and our Father. Christ’s Sonship (by generation) in relation to God is reflected in the sonship (by adoption) of His brethren.
he is not ashamed–though being the Son of God, since they have now by adoption obtained a like dignity, so that His majesty is not compromised by brotherhood with them (compare Heb 11:16). It is a striking feature in Christianity that it unites such amazing contrasts as “our brother and our God” [Tholuck]. “God makes of sons of men sons of God, because God hath made of the Son of God the Son of man” [St. Augustine on Psalm 2].
12. (Ps 22:22.) Messiah declares the name of the Father, not known fully as Christ’s Father, and therefore their Father, till after His crucifixion (Joh 20:17), among His brethren (“the Church,” that is, the congregation), that they in turn may praise Him (Ps 22:23). At Ps 22:22, which begins with Christ’s cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” and details minutely His sorrows, passes from Christ’s sufferings to His triumph, prefigured by the same in the experience of David.
will I sing–as leader of the choir (Ps 8:2).
13. I will put my trust in him–from the Septuagint, Isa 8:17, which immediately precedes the next quotation, “Behold, I and the children,” &c. The only objection is the following words, “and again,” usually introduce a new quotation, whereas these two are parts of one and the same passage. However, this objection is not valid, as the two clauses express distinct ideas; “I will put my trust in Him” expresses His filial confidence in God as His Father, to whom He flees from His sufferings, and is not disappointed; which His believing brethren imitate, trusting solely in the Father through Christ, and not in their own merits. “Christ exhibited this “trust,” not for Himself, for He and the Father are one, but for His own people” (Heb 2:16). Each fresh aid given Him assured Him, as it does them, of aid for the future, until the complete victory was obtained over death and hell Php 1:16 [Bengel].
Behold I and the children, &c.–(Isa 8:18). “Sons” (Heb 2:10), “brethren” (Heb 2:12), and “children,” imply His right and property in them from everlasting. He speaks of them as “children” of God, though not yet in being, yet considered as such in His purpose, and presents them before God the Father, who has given Him them, to be glorified with Himself. Isaiah (meaning “salvation of Jehovah”) typically represented Messiah, who is at once Father and Son, Isaiah and Immanuel (Isa 9:6). He expresses his resolve to rely, he and his children, not like Ahaz and the Jews on the Assyrian king, against the confederacy of Pekah of Israel, and Rezin of Syria, but on Jehovah; and then foretells the deliverance of Judah by God, in language which finds its antitypical full realization only in the far greater deliverance wrought by Messiah. Christ, the antitypical Prophet, similarly, instead of the human confidences of His age, Himself, and with Him God the Father’s children (who are therefore His children, and so antitypical to Isaiah’s children, though here regarded as His “brethren,” compare Isa 9:6; “Father” and “His seed,” Isa 53:10) led by Him, trust wholly in God for salvation. The official words and acts of all the prophets find their antitype in the Great Prophet (Re 19:10), just as His kingly office is antitypical to that of the theocratic kings; and His priestly office to the types and rites of the Aaronic priesthood.
14. He who has thus been shown to be the “Captain (Greek, ‘Leader’) of salvation” to the “many sons,” by trusting and suffering like them, must therefore become man like them, in order that His death may be efficacious for them [Alford].
the children–before mentioned (Heb 2:13); those existing in His eternal purpose, though not in actual being.
are partakers of–literally, “have (in His purpose) been partakers” all in common.
flesh and blood–Greek oldest manuscripts have “blood and flesh.” The inner and more important element, the blood, as the more immediate vehicle of the soul, stands before the more palpable element, the flesh; also, with reference to Christ’s blood-shedding with a view to which He entered into community with our corporeal life. “The life of the flesh is in the blood; it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Le 17:11, 14).
also–Greek, “in a somewhat similar manner”; not altogether in a like manner. For He, unlike them, was conceived and born not in sin (Heb 4:15). But mainly “in like manner”; not in mere semblance of a body, as the Docetæ heretics taught.
took part of–participated in. The forfeited inheritance (according to Jewish law) was ransomed by the nearest of kin; so Jesus became our nearest of kin by His assumed humanity, in order to be our Redeemer.
that through death–which He could not have undergone as God but only by becoming man. Not by Almighty power but by His death (so the Greek) He overcame death. “Jesus suffering death overcame; Satan wielding death succumbed” [Bengel]. As David cut off the head of Goliath with the giant’s own sword wherewith the latter was wont to win his victories. Coming to redeem mankind, Christ made Himself a sort of hook to destroy the devil; for in Him there was His humanity to attract the devourer to Him, His divinity to pierce him, apparent weakness to provoke, hidden power to transfix the hungry ravisher. The Latin epigram says, Mors mortis morti mortem nisi morte tu lisset, Æternæ vitæ janua clausa foret. “Had not death by death borne to death the death of Death, the gate of eternal life would have been closed”.
destroy–literally, “render powerless”; deprive of all power to hurt His people. “That thou mightest still the enemy and avenger” (Ps 8:2). The same Greek verb is used in 2Ti 1:10, “abolished death.” There is no more death for believers. Christ plants in them an undying seed, the germ of heavenly immortality, though believers have to pass through natural death.
power–Satan is “strong” (Mt 12:29).
of death–implying that death itself is a power which, though originally foreign to human nature, now reigns over it (Ro 5:12; 6:9). The power which death has Satan wields. The author of sin is the author of its consequences. Compare “power of the enemy” (Lu 10:19). Satan has acquired over man (by God’s law, Ge 2:17; Ro 6:23) the power of death by man’s sin, death being the executioner of sin, and man being Satan’s “lawful captive.” Jesus, by dying, has made the dying His own (Ro 14:9), and has taken the prey from the mighty. Death’s power was manifest; he who wielded that power, lurking beneath it, is here expressed, namely, Satan. Wisdom 2:24, “By the envy of the devil, death entered into the world.”
15. fear of death–even before they had experienced its actual power.
all their lifetime–Such a life can hardly be called life.
subject to bondage–literally, “subjects of bondage”; not merely liable to it, but enthralled in it (compare Ro 8:15; Ga 5:1). Contrast with this bondage, the glory of the “sons” (Heb 2:10). “Bondage” is defined by Aristotle, “The living not as one chooses”; “liberty,” “the living as one chooses.” Christ by delivering us from the curse of God against our sin, has taken from death all that made it formidable. Death, viewed apart from Christ, can only fill with horror, if the sinner dares to think.
16. For verily–Greek, “For as we all know”; “For as you will doubtless grant.” Paul probably alludes to Isa 41:8; Jer 31:32, Septuagint, from which all Jews would know well that the fact here stated as to Messiah was what the prophets had led them to expect.
took not on him, &c.–rather, “It is not angels that He is helping (the present tense implies duration); but it is the seed of Abraham that He is helping.” The verb is literally, to help by taking one by the hand, as in Heb 8:9, “When I took them by the hand,” &c. Thus it answers to “succor,” Heb 2:18, and “deliver,” Heb 2:15. “Not angels,” who have no flesh and blood, but “the children,” who have “flesh and blood,” He takes hold of to help by “Himself taking part of the same” (Heb 2:14). Whatever effect Christ’s work may have on angels, He is not taking hold to help them by suffering in their nature to deliver them from death, as in our case.
the seed of Abraham–He views Christ’s redemption (in compliment to the Hebrews whom he is addressing, and as enough for his present purpose) with reference to Abraham’s seed, the Jewish nation, primarily; not that he excludes the Gentiles (Heb 2:9, “for every man”), who, when believers, are the seed of Abraham spiritually (compare Heb 2:12; Ps 22:22, 25, 27), but direct reference to them (such as is in Ro 4:11, 12, 16; Ga 3:7, 14, 28, 29) would be out of place in his present argument. It is the same argument for Jesus being the Christ which Matthew, writing his Gospel for the Hebrews, uses, tracing the genealogy of Jesus from Abraham, the father of the Jews, and the one to whom the promises were given, on which the Jews especially prided themselves (compare Ro 9:4, 5).
17. Wherefore–Greek, “Whence.” Found in Paul’s speech, Ac 26:19.
in all things–which are incidental to manhood, the being born, nourished, growing up, suffering. Sin is not, in the original constitution of man, a necessary attendant of manhood, so He had no sin.
it behooved him–by moral necessity, considering what the justice and love of God required of Him as Mediator (compare Heb 5:3), the office which He had voluntarily undertaken in order to “help” man (Heb 2:16).
his brethren–(Heb 2:11); “the seed of Abraham” (Heb 2:16), and so also the spiritual seed, His elect out of all mankind.
be, &c.–rather as Greek, “that He might become High Priest”; He was called so, when He was “made perfect by the things which He suffered” (Heb 2:10; Heb 5:8-10). He was actually made so, when He entered within the veil, from which last flows His ever continuing intercession as Priest for us. The death, as man, must first be, in order that the bringing in of the blood into the heavenly Holy Place might follow, in which consisted the expiation as High Priest.
merciful–to “the people” deserving wrath by “sins.” Mercy is a prime requisite in a priest, since his office is to help the wretched and raise the fallen: such mercy is most likely to be found in one who has a fellow-feeling with the afflicted, having been so once Himself (Heb 4:15); not that the Son of God needed to be taught by suffering to be merciful, but that in order to save us He needed to take our manhood with all its sorrows, thereby qualifying Himself, by experimental suffering with us, to be our sympathizing High Priest, and assuring us of His entire fellow-feeling with us in every sorrow. So in the main Calvin remarks here.
faithful–true to God (Heb 3:5, 6) and to man (Heb 10:23) in the mediatorial office which He has undertaken.
high priest–which Moses was not, though “faithful” (Heb 2:1-18). Nowhere, except in Ps 110:4; Zec 6:13, and in this Epistle, is Christ expressly called a priest. In this Epistle alone His priesthood is professedly discussed; whence it is evident how necessary is this book of the New Testament. In Ps 110:1-7, and Zec 6:13, there is added mention of the kingdom of Christ, which elsewhere is spoken of without the priesthood, and that frequently. On the cross, whereon as Priest He offered the sacrifice, He had the title “King” inscribed over Him [Bengel].
to make reconciliation for the sins–rather as Greek, “to propitiate (in respect to) the sins”; “to expiate the sins.” Strictly divine justice is “propitiated”; but God’s love is as much from everlasting as His justice; therefore, lest Christ’s sacrifice, or its typical forerunners, the legal sacrifices, should be thought to be antecedent to God’s grace and love, neither are said in the Old or New Testament to have propitiated God; otherwise Christ’s sacrifices might have been thought to have first induced God to love and pity man, instead of (as the fact really is) His love having originated Christ’s sacrifice, whereby divine justice and divine love are harmonized. The sinner is brought by that sacrifice into God’s favor, which by sin he had forfeited; hence his right prayer is, “God be propitiated (so the Greek) to me who am a sinner” (Lu 18:13). Sins bring death and “the fear of death” (Heb 2:15). He had no sin Himself, and “made reconciliation for the iniquity” of all others (Da 9:24).
of the people–“the seed of Abraham” (Heb 2:16); the literal Israel first, and then (in the design of God), through Israel, the believing Gentiles, the spiritual Israel (1Pe 2:10).
18. For–explanation of how His being made like His brethren in all things has made Him a merciful and faithful High Priest for us (Heb 2:17).
in that–rather as Greek, “wherein He suffered Himself; having been tempted, He is able to succor them that are being tempted” in the same temptation; and as “He was tempted (tried and afflicted) in all points,” He is able (by the power of sympathy) to succor us in all possible temptations and trials incidental to man (Heb 4:16; 5:2). He is the antitypical Solomon, having for every grain of Abraham’s seed (which were to be as the sand for number), “largeness of heart even as the sand that is on the seashore” (1Ki 4:29). “Not only as God He knows our trials, but also as man He knows them by experimental feeling.”
Heb 3:1-19. The Son of God Greater than Moses, Wherefore Unbelief towards Him Will Incur a Heavier Punishment than Befell Unbelieving Israel in the Wilderness.
As Moses especially was the prophet by whom “God in times past spake to the fathers,” being the mediator of the law, Paul deems it necessary now to show that, great as was Moses, the Son of God is greater. Ebrard in Alford remarks, The angel of the covenant came in the name of God before Israel; Moses in the name of Israel before God; whereas the high priest came both in the name of God (bearing the name Jehovah on his forehead) before Israel, and in the name of Israel (bearing the names of the twelve tribes on his breast) before God (Ex 28:9-29, 36, 38). Now Christ is above the angels, according to the first and second chapters because (1) as Son of God He is higher; and (2) because manhood, though originally lower than angels, is in Him exalted above them to the lordship of “the world to come,” inasmuch as He is at once Messenger of God to men, and also atoning Priest-Representative of men before God (Heb 2:17, 18). Parallel with this line of argument as to His superiority to angels (Heb 1:4) runs that which here follows as to His superiority to Moses (Heb 3:3): (1) because as Son over the house; He is above the servant in the house (Heb 3:5, 6), just as the angels were shown to be but ministering (serving) spirits (Heb 1:14), whereas He is the Son (Heb 3:7, 8); (2) because the bringing of Israel into the promised rest, which was not finished by Moses, is accomplished by Him (Heb 4:1-11), through His being not merely a leader and lawgiver as Moses, but also a propitiatory High Priest (Heb 4:14; 5:10).
1. Wherefore–Greek, “Whence,” that is, seeing we have such a sympathizing Helper you ought to “consider attentively,” “contemplate”; fix your eyes and mind on Him with a view to profiting by the contemplation (Heb 12:2). The Greek word is often used by Luke, Paul’s companion (Lu 12:24, 27).
brethren–in Christ, the common bond of union.
partakers–“of the Holy Ghost.”
heavenly calling–coming to us from heaven, and leading us to heaven whence it comes. Php 3:14, “the high calling”; Greek “the calling above,” that is, heavenly.
the Apostle and High Priest of our profession–There is but one Greek article to both nouns, “Him who is at once Apostle and High Priest”–Apostle, as Ambassador (a higher designation than “angel”-messenger) sent by the Father (Joh 20:21), pleading the cause of God with us; High Priest, as pleading our cause with God. Both His Apostleship and High Priesthood are comprehended in the one title, Mediator [Bengel]. Though the title “Apostle” is nowhere else applied to Christ, it is appropriate here in addressing Hebrews, who used the term of the delegates sent by the high priest to collect the temple tribute from Jews resident in foreign countries, even as Christ was Delegate of the Father to this world far off from Him (Mt 21:37). Hence as what applies to Him, applies also to His people, the Twelve are designated His apostles, even as He is the Father’s (Joh 20:21). It was desirable to avoid designating Him here “angel,” in order to distinguish His nature from that of angels mentioned before, though he is “the Angel of the Covenant.” The “legate of the Church” (Sheliach Tsibbur) offered up the prayers in the synagogue in the name of all, and for all. So Jesus, “the Apostle of our profession,” is delegated to intercede for the Church before the Father. The words “of our profession,” mark that it is not of the legal ritual, but of our Christian faith, that He is the High Priest. Paul compares Him as an Apostle to Moses; as High Priest to Aaron. He alone holds both offices combined, and in a more eminent degree than either, which those two brothers held apart.
profession–“confession,” corresponds to God having spoken to us by His Son, sent as Apostle and High Priest. What God proclaims we confess.
2. He first notes the feature of resemblance between Moses and Christ, in order to conciliate the Hebrew Christians whom He addressed, and who still entertained a very high opinion of Moses; he afterwards brings forward Christ’s superiority to Moses.
Who was faithful–The Greek implies also that He still is faithful, namely, as our mediating High Priest, faithful to the trust God has assigned Him (Heb 2:17). So Moses in God’s house (Nu 12:7).
appointed him–“made Him” High Priest; to be supplied from the preceding context. Greek, “made”; so in Heb 5:5; 1Sa 12:6, Margin; Ac 2:36; so the Greek fathers. Not as Alford, with Ambrose and the Latins, “created Him,” that is, as man, in His incarnation. The likeness of Moses to Messiah was foretold by Moses himself (De 18:15). Other prophets only explained Moses, who was in this respect superior to them; but Christ was like Moses, yet superior.
3. For–assigning the reason why they should “consider” attentively “Christ” (Heb 3:1), highly as they regard Moses who resembled Him in faithfulness (Heb 3:2).
was–Greek, “has been.”
counted worthy of more glory–by God, when He exalted Him to His own right hand. The Hebrew Christians admitted the fact (Heb 1:13).
builded the house–Greek, “inasmuch as He hath more honor than the house, who prepared it,” or “established it” [Alford]. The Greek verb is used purposely instead of “builded,” in order to mark that the building meant is not a literal, but a spiritual house: the Church both of the Old Testament and New Testament; and that the building of such a house includes all the preparations of providence and grace needed to furnish it with “living stones” and fitting “servants.” Thus, as Christ the Founder and Establisher (in Old Testament as well as the New Testament) is greater than the house so established, including the servants, He is greater also than Moses, who was but a “servant.” Moses, as a servant, is a portion of the house, and less than the house; Christ, as the Instrumental Creator of all things, must be God, and so greater than the house of which Moses was but a part. Glory is the result of honor.
4. Someone must be the establisher of every house; Moses was not the establisher of the house, but a portion of it (but He who established all things, and therefore the spiritual house in question, is God). Christ, as being instrumentally the Establisher of all things, must be the Establisher of the house, and so greater than Moses.
5. faithful in all his house–that is in all God’s house (Heb 3:4).
servant–not here the Greek for “slave,” but “a ministering attendant”; marking the high office of Moses towards God, though inferior to Christ, a kind of steward.
for a testimony of, &c.–in order that he might in his typical institutions give “testimony” to Israel “of the things” of the Gospel “which were to be spoken afterwards” by Christ (Heb 8:5; 9:8, 23; 10:1).
6. But Christ–was and is faithful (Heb 3:2).
as a son over his own house–rather, “over His (God’s, Heb 3:4) house”; and therefore, as the inference from His being one with God, over His own house. So Heb 10:21, “having an High Priest over the house of God.” Christ enters His Father’s house as the Master [OVER it], but Moses as a servant [IN it, Heb 3:2, 5] [Chrysostom]. An ambassador in the absence of the king is very distinguished–in the presence of the king he falls back into the multitude [Bengel].
whose house are we–Paul and his Hebrew readers. One old manuscript, with Vulgate and Lucifer, reads, “which house”; but the weightiest manuscripts support English Version reading.
the rejoicing–rather, “the matter of rejoicing.”
of the hope–“of our hope.” Since all our good things lie in hopes, we ought so to hold fast our hopes as already to rejoice, as though our hopes were realized [Chrysostom].
firm unto the end–omitted in Lucifer and Ambrose, and in one oldest manuscript, but supported by most oldest manuscripts.
7-11. Exhortation from Ps 95:7-11, not through unbelief to lose participation in the spiritual house. Seeing that we are the house of God if we hold fast our confidence … (Heb 3:6). Jesus is “faithful,” be not ye unfaithful (Heb 3:2, 12). The sentence beginning with “wherefore,” interrupted by the parenthesis confirming the argument from Ps 95:7-11, is completed at Heb 3:12, “Take heed,” &c.
Holy Ghost saith–by the inspired Psalmist; so that the words of the latter are the words of God Himself.
To-day–at length; in David’s day, as contrasted with the days of Moses in the wilderness, and the whole time since then, during which they had been rebellious against God’s voice; as for instance, in the wilderness (Heb 3:8). The Psalm, each fresh time when used in public worship, by “to-day,” will mean the particular day when it was, or is, used.
his voice–of grace.
8. Harden not your hearts–This phrase here only is used of man’s own act; usually of God’s act (Ro 9:18). When man is spoken of as the agent in hardening, the phrase usually is, “harden his neck,” or “back” (Ne 9:17).
provocation … temptation–“Massah-meribah,” translated in Margin “tentation … chiding,” or “strife” (Ex 17:1-7). Both names seem to refer to that one event, the murmuring of the people against the Lord at Rephidim for want of water. The first offense especially ought to be guarded against, and is the most severely reproved, as it is apt to produce many more. Nu 20:1-13 and De 33:8 mention a second similar occasion in the wilderness of Sin, near Kadesh, also called Meribah.
in the day–Greek, “according to the day of.”
9. When–rather, “Where,” namely, in the wilderness.
your fathers–The authority of the ancients is not conclusive [Bengel].
tempted me, proved me–The oldest manuscripts read, “tempted (Me) in the way of testing,” that is, putting (Me) to the proof whether I was able and willing to relieve them, not believing that I am so.
saw my works forty years–They saw, without being led thereby to repentance, My works of power partly in affording miraculous help, partly in executing vengeance, forty years. The “forty years” joined in the Hebrew and Septuagint, and below, Heb 3:17, with “I was grieved,” is here joined with “they saw.” Both are true; for, during the same forty years that they were tempting God by unbelief, notwithstanding their seeing God’s miraculous works, God was being grieved. The lesson intended to be hinted to the Hebrew Christians is, their “to-day” is to last only between the first preaching of the Gospel and Jerusalem’s impending overthrow, namely, FORTY YEARS; exactly the number of years of Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness, until the full measure of their guilt having been filled up all the rebels were overthrown.
10. grieved–displeased. Compare “walk contrary,” Le 26:24, 28.
that generation–“that” implies alienation and estrangement. But the oldest manuscripts read, “this.”
said–“grieved,” or “displeased,” at their first offense. Subsequently when they hardened their heart in unbelief still more, He sware in His wrath (Heb 3:11); an ascending gradation (compare Heb 3:17, 18).
and they have not known–Greek, “But these very persons,” &c. They perceived I was displeased with them, yet they, the same persons, did not a whit the more wish to know my ways [Bengel]; compare “but they,” Ps 106:43.
not known my ways–not known practically and believingly the ways in which I would have had them go, so as to reach My rest (Ex 18:20).
11. So–literally, “as.”
I sware–Bengel remarks the oath of God preceded the forty years.
not–literally, “If they shall enter … (God do so to me and more also),” 2Sa 3:35. The Greek is the same, Mr 8:12.
my rest–Canaan, primarily, their rest after wandering in the wilderness: still, even when in it, they never fully enjoyed rest; whence it followed that the threat extended farther than the exclusion of the unbelieving from the literal land of rest, and that the rest promised to the believing in its full blessedness was, and is, yet future: Ps 25:13; 37:9, 11, 22, 29, and Christ’s own beatitude (Mt 5:5) all accord with this, Heb 3:9.
12. Take heed–to be joined with “wherefore,” Heb 3:7.
lest there be–Greek (indicative), “lest there shall be”; lest there be, as I fear there is; implying that it is not merely a possible contingency, but that there is ground for thinking it will be so.
in any–“in any one of you.” Not merely ought all in general be on their guard, but they ought to be so concerned for the safety of each one member, as not to suffer any one to perish through their negligence [Calvin].
heart–The heart is not to be trusted. Compare Heb 3:10, “They do always err in their heart.”
unbelief–faithlessness. Christ is faithful; therefore, saith Paul to the Hebrews, we ought not to be faithless as our fathers were under Moses.
departing–apostatizing. The opposite of “come unto” Him (Heb 4:16). God punishes such apostates in kind. He departs from them–the worst of woes.
the living God–real: the distinctive characteristic of the God of Israel, not like the lifeless gods of the heathen; therefore One whose threats are awful realities. To apostatize from Christ is to apostatize from the living God (Heb 2:3).
13. one another–Greek, “yourselves”; let each exhort himself and his neighbor.
daily–Greek, “on each day,” or “day by day.”
while it is called To-day–while the “to-day” lasts (the day of grace, Lu 4:21, before the coming of the day of glory and judgment at Christ’s coming, Heb 10:25, 37). To-morrow is the day when idle men work, and fools repent. To-morrow is Satan’s to-day; he cares not what good resolutions you form, if only you fix them for to-morrow.
lest … of you–The “you” is emphatic, as distinguished from “your fathers” (Heb 3:9). “That from among you no one (so the Greek order is in some of the oldest manuscripts) be hardened” (Heb 3:8).
deceitfulness–causing you to “err in your heart.”
14. For, &c.–enforcing the warning, Heb 3:12.
partakers of Christ–(Compare Heb 3:1, 6). So “partakers of the Holy Ghost” (Heb 6:4).
hold–Greek, “hold fast.”
the beginning of our confidence–that is, the confidence (literally, substantial, solid confidence) of faith which we have begun (Heb 6:11; 12:2). A Christian so long as he is not made perfect, considers himself as a beginner [Bengel].
unto the end–unto the coming of Christ (Heb 12:2).
15. While it is said–connected with Heb 3:13, “exhort one another … while it is said, To-day”: Heb 3:14, “for we are made partakers,” &c., being a parenthesis. “It entirely depends on yourselves that the invitation of the ninety-fifth Psalm be not a mere invitation, but also an actual enjoyment.” Alford translates, “Since (that is, ‘for’) it is said,” &c., regarding Heb 3:15 as a proof that we must “hold … confidence … unto the end,” in order to be “partakers of Christ.”
16. For some–rather interrogatively, “For WHO was it that, when they had heard (referring to ‘if ye will hear,’ Heb 3:15), did provoke (God)?” The “For” implies, Ye need to take heed against unbelief: for, was it not because of unbelief that all our fathers were excluded (Eze 2:3)? “Some,” and “not all,” would be a faint way of putting his argument, when his object is to show the universality of the evil. Not merely some, but all the Israelites, for the solitary exceptions, Joshua and Caleb, are hardly to be taken into account in so general a statement. So Heb 3:17, 18, are interrogative: (1) the beginning of the provocation, soon after the departure from Egypt, is marked in Heb 3:16; (2) the forty years of it in the wilderness, Heb 3:17; (3) the denial of entrance into the land of rest, Heb 3:18. Compare Note, see on 1Co 10:5, “with the majority of them God was displeased.”
howbeit–“Nay (why need I put the question?), was it not all that came out of Egypt?” (Ex 17:1, 2).
by Moses–by the instrumentality of Moses as their leader.
17. But–Translate, “Moreover,” as it is not in contrast to Heb 3:16, but carrying out the same thought.
corpses–literally, “limbs,” implying that their bodies fell limb from limb.
18. to them that believed not–rather as Greek, “to them that disobeyed.” Practical unbelief (De 1:26).
19. they could not enter–though desiring it.
Heb 4:1-16. The Promise of God’s Rest Is Fully Realized through Christ: Let Us Strive to Obtain It by Him, Our Sympathizing High Priest.
1. Let us … fear–not with slavish terror, but godly “fear and trembling” (Php 2:12). Since so many have fallen, we have cause to fear (Heb 3:17-19).
being left us–still remaining to us after the others have, by neglect, lost it.
his rest–God’s heavenly rest, of which Canaan is the type. “To-day” still continues, during which there is the danger of failing to reach the rest. “To-day,” rightly used, terminates in the rest which, when once obtained, is never lost (Re 3:12). A foretaste of the rest Is given in the inward rest which the believer’s soul has in Christ.
should seem to come short of it–Greek, “to have come short of it”; should be found, when the great trial of all shall take place [Alford], to have fallen short of attaining the promise. The word “seem” is a mitigating mode of expression, though not lessening the reality. Bengel and Owen take it, Lest there should be any semblance or appearance of falling short.
2. gospel preached … unto them–in type: the earthly Canaan, wherein they failed to realize perfect rest, suggesting to them that they should look beyond to the heavenly land of rest, to which faith is the avenue, and from which unbelief excludes, as it did from the earthly Canaan.
the word preached–literally, “the word of hearing”: the word heard by them.
not being mixed with faith in them that heard–So the Syriac and the Old Latin Versions, older than any of our manuscripts, and Lucifer, read, “As the world did not unite with the hearers in faith.” The word heard being the food which, as the bread of life, must pass into flesh and blood through man’s appropriating it to himself in faith. Hearing alone is of as little value as undigested food in a bad stomach [Tholuck]. The whole of oldest extant manuscript authority supports a different reading, “unmingled as they were (Greek accusative case agreeing with ‘them’) in faith with its hearers,” that is, with its believing, obedient hearers, as Caleb and Joshua. So “hear” is used for “obey” in the context, Heb 4:7, “To-day, if ye will hear His voice.” The disobedient, instead of being blended in “the same body,” separated themselves as Korah: a tacit reproof to like separatists from the Christian assembling together (Heb 10:25; Jude 19).
3. For–justifying his assertion of the need of “faith,” Heb 4:2.
we which have believed–we who at Christ’s coming shall be found to have believed.
do enter–that is, are to enter: so two of the oldest manuscripts and Lucifer and the old Latin. Two other oldest manuscripts read, “Let us enter.”
into rest–Greek, “into the rest” which is promised in the ninety-fifth Psalm.
as he said–God’s saying that unbelief excludes from entrance implies that belief gains an entrance into the rest. What, however, Paul mainly here dwells on in the quotation is that the promised “rest” has not yet been entered into. At Heb 4:11 he again, as in Heb 3:12-19 already, takes up faith as the indispensable qualification for entering it.
although, &c.–Although God had finished His works of creation and entered on His rest from creation long before Moses’ time, yet under that leader of Israel another rest was promised, which most fell short of through unbelief; and although the rest in Canaan was subsequently attained under Joshua, yet long after, in David’s days, God, in the ninety-fifth Psalm, still speaks of the rest of God as not yet attained. Therefore, there must be meant a rest still future, namely, that which “remaineth for the people of God” in heaven, Heb 4:3-9, when they shall rest from their works, as God did from His, Heb 4:10. The argument is to show that by “My rest,” God means a future rest, not for Himself, but for us.
finished–Greek, “brought into existence,” “made.”
4. he spake–God (Ge 2:2).
God did rest the seventh day–a rest not ending with the seventh day, but beginning then and still continuing, into which believers shall hereafter enter. God’s rest is not a rest necessitated by fatigue, nor consisting in idleness, but is that upholding and governing of which creation was the beginning [Alford]. Hence Moses records the end of each of the first six days, but not of the seventh.
from all his works–Hebrew, Ge 2:2, “from all His work.” God’s “work” was one, comprehending, however, many “works.”
5. in this place–In this passage of the Psalm again, it is implied that the rest was even then still future.
6. it remaineth–still to be realized.
some must enter–The denial of entrance to unbelievers is a virtual promise of entrance to those that believe. God wishes not His rest to be empty, but furnished with guests (Lu 14:23).
they to whom it was first preached entered not–literally, “they who first (in the time of Moses) had the Gospel preached to them,” namely, in type, see on Heb 4:2.
unbelief–Greek, rather “disobedience” (see on Heb 3:18).
7. Again–Anew the promise recurs. Translate as the Greek order is, “He limited a certain day, ‘To-day.'” Here Paul interrupts the quotation by, “In (the Psalm of) David saying after so long a time (after five hundred years’ possession of Canaan),” and resumes it by, “as it has been said before (so the Greek oldest manuscript, before, namely, Heb 3:7, 15), To-day if ye hear His voice,” &c. [Alford].
8. Answer to the objection which might be made to his reasoning, namely, that those brought into Canaan by Joshua (so “Jesus” here means, as in Ac 7:45) did enter the rest of God. If the rest of God meant Canaan, God would not after their entrance into that land, have spoken (or speak [Alford]) of another (future) day of entering the rest.
9. therefore–because God “speaks of another day” (see on Heb 4:8).
remaineth–still to be realized hereafter by the “some (who) must enter therein” (Heb 4:6), that is, “the people of God,” the true Israel who shall enter into God’s rest (“My rest,” Heb 4:3). God’s rest was a Sabbatism; so also will ours be.
a rest–Greek, “Sabbatism.” In time there are many Sabbaths, but then there shall be the enjoyment and keeping of a Sabbath-rest: one perfect and eternal. The “rest” in Heb 4:8 is Greek, “catapausis;” Hebrew, “Noah”; rest from weariness, as the ark rested on Ararat after its tossings to and fro; and as Israel, under Joshua, enjoyed at last rest from war in Canaan. But the “rest” in this Heb 4:9 is the nobler and more exalted (Hebrew) “Sabbath” rest; literally, “cessation”: rest from work when finished (Heb 4:4), as God rested (Re 16:17). The two ideas of “rest” combined, give the perfect view of the heavenly Sabbath. Rest from weariness, sorrow, and sin; and rest in the completion of God’s new creation (Re 21:5). The whole renovated creation shall share in it; nothing will there be to break the Sabbath of eternity; and the Triune God shall rejoice in the work of His hands (Zep 3:17). Moses, the representative of the law, could not lead Israel into Canaan: the law leads us to Christ, and there its office ceases, as that of Moses on the borders of Canaan: it is Jesus, the antitype of Joshua, who leads us into the heavenly rest. This verse indirectly establishes the obligation of the Sabbath still; for the type continues until the antitype supersedes it: so legal sacrifices continued till the great antitypical Sacrifice superseded it, As then the antitypical heavenly Sabbath-rest will not be till Christ, our Gospel Joshua, comes, to usher us into it, the typical earthly Sabbath must continue till then. The Jews call the future rest “the day which is all Sabbath.”
10. For–justifying and explaining the word “rest,” or “Sabbatism,” just used (see on Heb 4:9).
he that is entered–whosoever once enters.
his rest–God’s rest: the rest prepared by God for His people [Estius]. Rather, “His rest”: the man’s rest: that assigned to him by God as his. The Greek is the same as that for “his own” immediately after.
hath ceased–The Greek aorist is used of indefinite time, “is wont to cease,” or rather, “rest”: rests. The past tense implies at the same time the certainty of it, as also that in this life a kind of foretaste in Christ is already given [Grotius] (Jer 6:16; Mt 11:28, 29). Our highest happiness shall, according to this verse, consist in our being united in one with God, and moulded into conformity with Him as our archetype [Calvin].
from his own works–even from those that were good and suitable to the time of doing work. Labor was followed by rest even in Paradise (Ge 2:3, 15). The work and subsequent rest of God are the archetype to which we should be conformed. The argument is: He who once enters rest, rests from labors; but God’s people have not yet rested from them, therefore they have not yet entered the rest, and so it must be still future. Alford translates, “He that entered into his (or else God’s, but rather ‘his’; Isa 11:10, ‘His rest’: ‘the joy of the Lord,’ Mt 25:21, 23) rest (namely, Jesus, our Forerunner, Heb 4:14; 6:20, ‘The Son of God that is passed through the heavens’: in contrast to Joshua the type, who did not bring God’s people into the heavenly rest), he himself (emphatical) rested from his works (Heb 4:4), as God (did) from His own” (so the Greek, “works”). The argument, though generally applying to anyone who has entered his rest, probably alludes to Jesus in particular, the antitypical Joshua, who, having entered His rest at the Ascension, has ceased or rested from His work of the new creation, as God on the seventh day rested from the work of physical creation. Not that He has ceased to carry on the work of redemption, nay, He upholds it by His mediation; but He has ceased from those portions of the work which constitute the foundation; the sacrifice has been once for all accomplished. Compare as to God’s creation rest, once for all completed, and rested from, but now still upheld (see on Heb 4:4).
11. Let us … therefore–Seeing such a promise is before us, which we may, like them, fall short of through unbelief.
labour–Greek, “strive diligently.”
that rest–which is still future and so glorious. Or, in Alford’s translation of Heb 4:10, “That rest into which Christ has entered before” (Heb 4:14; Heb 6:20).
fall–with the soul, not merely the body, as the rebel Israelites fell (Heb 3:17).
after the same example–Alford translates, “fall into the same example.” The less prominent place of the “fall” in the Greek favors this. The sense is, “lest any fall into such disobedience (so the Greek for ‘unbelief’ means) as they gave a sample of” [Grotius]. The Jews say, “The parents are a sign (warning) to their sons.”
12. For–Such diligent striving (Heb 4:11) is incumbent on us FOR we have to do with a God whose “word” whereby we shall be judged, is heart-searching, and whose eyes are all-seeing (Heb 4:13). The qualities here attributed to the word of God, and the whole context, show that it is regarded in its JUDICIAL power, whereby it doomed the disobedient Israelites to exclusion from Canaan, and shall exclude unbelieving so-called Christians from the heavenly rest. The written Word of God is not the prominent thought here, though the passage is often quoted as if it were. Still the word of God (the same as that preached, Heb 4:2), used here in the broadest sense, but with special reference to its judicial power, INCLUDES the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit with double edge, one edge for convicting and converting some (Heb 4:2), and the other for condemning and destroying the unbelieving (Heb 4:14). Re 19:15 similarly represents the Word’s judicial power as a sharp sword going out of Christ’s mouth to smite the nations. The same word which is saving to the faithful (Heb 4:2) is destroying to the disobedient (2Co 2:15, 16). The personal Word, to whom some refer the passage, is not here meant: for He is not the sword, but has the sword. Thus reference to Joshua appropriately follows in Heb 4:8.
quick–Greek, “living”; having living power, as “the rod of the mouth and the breath of the lips” of “the living God.”
powerful–Greek, “energetic”; not only living, but energetically efficacious.
two-edged–sharpened at both edge and back. Compare “sword of the Spirit … word of God” (Eph 6:17). Its double power seems to be implied by its being “two-edged.” “It judges all that is in the heart, for there it passes through, at once punishing [unbelievers] and searching [both believers and unbelievers]” [Chrysostom]. Philo similarly speaks of “God passing between the parts of Abraham’s sacrifices (Ge 15:17, where, however, it is a ‘burning lamp’ that passed between the pieces) with His word, which is the cutter of all things: which sword, being sharpened to the utmost keenness, never ceases to divide all sensible things, and even things not perceptible to sense or physically divisible, but perceptible and divisible by the word.” Paul’s early training, both in the Greek schools of Tarsus and the Hebrew schools at Jerusalem, accounts fully for his acquaintance with Philo’s modes of thought, which were sure to be current among learned Jews everywhere, though Philo himself belonged to Alexandria, not Jerusalem. Addressing Jews, he by the Spirit sanctions what was true in their current literature, as he similarly did in addressing Gentiles (Ac 17:28).
piercing–Greek, “coming through.”
even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit–that is, reaching through even to the separation of the animal soul, the lower part of man’s incorporeal nature, the seat of animal desires, which he has in common with the brutes; compare the same Greek, 1Co 2:14, “the natural [animal-souled] man” (Jude 19), from the spirit (the higher part of man, receptive of the Spirit of God, and allying him to heavenly beings).
and of the joints and marrow–rather, “(reaching even TO) both the joints (so as to divide them) and marrow.” Christ “knows what is in man” (Joh 2:25): so His word reaches as far as to the most intimate and accurate knowledge of man’s most hidden parts, feelings, and thoughts, dividing, that is, distinguishing what is spiritual from what is carnal and animal in him, the spirit from the soul: so Pr 20:27. As the knife of the Levitical priest reached to dividing parts, closely united as the joints of the limbs, and penetrated to the innermost parts, as the marrows (the Greek is plural); so the word of God divides the closely joined parts of man’s immaterial being, soul and spirit, and penetrates to the innermost parts of the spirit. The clause (reaching even to) “both the joints and marrow” is subordinate to the clause, “even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit.” (In the oldest manuscripts as in English Version, there is no “both,” as there is in the clause “both the joints and … which marks the latter to be subordinate). An image (appropriate in addressing Jews) from the literal dividing of joints, and penetrating to, so as to open out, the marrow, by the priest’s knife, illustrating the previously mentioned spiritual “dividing of soul from spirit,” whereby each (soul as well as spirit) is laid bare and “naked” before God; this view accords with Heb 4:13. Evidently “the dividing of the soul from the spirit” answers to the “joints” which the sword, when it reaches unto, divides asunder, as the “spirit” answers to the innermost “marrow.” “Moses forms the soul, Christ the spirit. The soul draws with it the body; the spirit draws with it both soul and body.” Alford’s interpretation is clumsy, by which he makes the soul itself, and the spirit itself, to be divided, instead of the soul from the spirit: so also he makes not only the joints to be divided asunder, but the marrow also to be divided (?). The Word’s dividing and far penetrating power has both a punitive and a healing effect.
discerner of the thoughts–Greek, “capable of judging the purposes.”
intents–rather, “conceptions” [Crellius]; “ideas” [Alford]. AS the Greek for “thoughts” refers to the mind and feelings, so that for “intents,” or rather “mental conceptions,” refers to the intellect.
13. creature–visible or invisible.
in his sight–in God’s sight (Heb 4:12). “God’s wisdom, simply manifold, and uniformly multiform, with incomprehensible comprehension, comprehends all things incomprehensible.”
opened–literally, “thrown on the back so as to have the neck laid bare,” as a victim with neck exposed for sacrifice. The Greek perfect tense implies that this is our continuous state in relation to God. “Show, O man, shame and fear towards thy God, for no veil, no twisting, bending, coloring, or disguise, can cover unbelief” (Greek, ‘disobedience,’ Heb 4:11). Let us, therefore, earnestly labor to enter the rest lest any fall through practical unbelief (Heb 4:11).
14. Seeing then–Having, therefore; resuming Heb 2:17.
great–as being “the Son of God, higher than the heavens” (Heb 7:26): the archetype and antitype of the legal high priest.
passed into the heavens–rather, “passed through the heavens,” namely, those which come between us and God, the aerial heaven, and that above the latter containing the heavenly bodies, the sun, moon, &c. These heavens were the veil which our High Priest passed through into the heaven of heavens, the immediate presence of God, just as the Levitical high priest passed through the veil into the Holy of Holies. Neither Moses, nor even Joshua, could bring us into this rest, but Jesus, as our Forerunner, already spiritually, and hereafter in actual presence, body, soul, and spirit, brings His people into the heavenly rest.
Jesus–the antitypical Joshua (Heb 4:8).
hold fast–the opposite of “let slip” (Heb 2:1); and “fall away” (Heb 6:6). As the genitive follows, the literally, sense is, “Let us take hold of our profession,” that is, of the faith and hope which are subjects of our profession and confession. The accusative follows when the sense is “hold fast” [Tittmann].
15. For–the motive to “holding our profession” (Heb 4:14), namely the sympathy and help we may expect from our High Priest. Though “great” (Heb 4:14), He is not above caring for us; nay, as being in all points one with us as to manhood, sin only excepted, He sympathizes with us in every temptation. Though exalted to the highest heavens, He has changed His place, not His nature and office in relation to us, His condition, but not His affection. Compare Mt 26:38, “watch with me”: showing His desire in the days of His flesh for the sympathy of those whom He loved: so He now gives His suffering people His sympathy. Compare Aaron, the type, bearing the names of the twelve tribes in the breastplate of judgment on his heart, when he entered into the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually (Ex 28:29).
cannot be touched with the feeling of–Greek, “cannot sympathize with our infirmities”: our weaknesses, physical and moral (not sin, but liability to its assaults). He, though sinless, can sympathize with us sinners; His understanding more acutely perceived the forms of temptation than we who are weak can; His will repelled them as instantaneously as the fire does the drop of water cast into it. He, therefore, experimentally knew what power was needed to overcome temptations. He is capable of sympathizing, for He was at the same time tempted without sin, and yet truly tempted [Bengel]. In Him alone we have an example suited to men of every character and under all circumstances. In sympathy He adapts himself to each, as if He had not merely taken on Him man’s nature in general, but also the peculiar nature of that single individual.
but–“nay, rather, He was (one) tempted” [Alford].
like as we are–Greek, “according to (our) similitude.”
without sin–Greek, “choris,” “separate from sin” (Heb 7:26). If the Greek “aneu” had been used, sin would have been regarded as the object absent from Christ the subject; but choris here implies that Christ, the subject, is regarded as separated from sin the object [Tittmann]. Thus, throughout His temptations in their origin, process, and result, sin had nothing in Him; He was apart and separate from it [Alford].
16. come–rather as Greek, “approach,” “draw near.”
boldly–Greek, “with confidence,” or “freedom of speech” (Eph 6:19).
the throne of grace–God’s throne is become to us a throne of grace through the mediation of our High Priest at God’s right hand (Heb 8:1; 12:2). Pleading our High Priest Jesus’ meritorious death, we shall always find God on a throne of grace. Contrast Job’s complaint (Job 23:3-8) and Elihu’s ” If,” &c. (Job 33:23-28).
mercy–“Compassion,” by its derivation (literally, fellow feeling from community of suffering), corresponds to the character of our High Priest “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Heb 4:15).
find grace–corresponding to “throne of grace.” Mercy especially refers to the remission and removal of sins; grace, to the saving bestowal of spiritual gifts [Estius]. Compare “Come unto Me … and I will give you rest (the rest received on first believing). Take My yoke on you … and ye shall find rest (the continuing rest and peace found in daily submitting to Christ’s easy yoke; the former answers to “receive mercy” here; the latter, to “find grace,” Mt 11:28, 29).
in time of need–Greek, “seasonably.” Before we are overwhelmed by the temptation; when we most need it, in temptations and persecutions; such as is suitable to the time, persons, and end designed (Ps 104:27). A supply of grace is in store for believers against all exigencies; but they are only supplied with it according as the need arises. Compare “in due time,” Ro 5:6. Not, as Alford explains, “help in time,” that is, to-day, while it is yet open to us; the accepted time (2Co 6:2).
help–Compare Heb 2:18, “He is able to succor them that are tempted.”
Heb 5:1-14. Christ’s High Priesthood; Needed Qualifications; Must Be a Man; Must Not Have Assumed the Dignity Himself, but Have Been Appointed by God; Their Low Spiritual Perceptions a Bar to Paul’s Saying All He Might on Christ’s Melchisedec-like Priesthood.
1. For–substantiating Heb 4:15.
every–that is, every legitimate high priest; for instance, the Levitical, as he is addressing Hebrews, among whom the Levitical priesthood was established as the legitimate one. Whatever, reasons Paul, is excellent in the Levitical priests, is also in Christ, and besides excellencies which are not in the Levitical priests.
taken from among men–not from among angels, who could not have a fellow feeling with us men. This qualification Christ has, as being, like the Levitical priest, a man (Heb 2:14, 16). Being “from men,” He can be “for (that is, in behalf of, for the good of) men.”
ordained–Greek, “constituted,” “appointed.”
both gifts–to be joined with “for sins,” as “sacrifices” is (the “both … and” requires this); therefore not the Hebrew, “mincha,” “unbloody offerings,” but animal whole burnt offerings, spontaneously given. “Sacrifices” are the animal sacrifices due according to the legal ordinance [Estius].
2. Who can–Greek, “being able”; not pleasing himself (Ro 15:3).
have compassion–Greek, “estimate mildly,” “feel leniently,” or “moderately towards”; “to make allowance for”; not showing stern rigor save to the obstinate (Heb 10:28).
ignorant–sins not committed in resistance of light and knowledge, but as Paul’s past sin (1Ti 1:13). No sacrifice was appointed for wilful sin committed with a high hand; for such were to be punished with death; all other sins, namely, ignorances and errors, were confessed and expiated with sacrifices by the high priest.
out of the way–not deliberately and altogether wilfully erring, but deluded through the fraud of Satan and their own carnal frailty and thoughtlessness.
infirmity–moral weakness which is sinful, and makes men capable of sin, and so requires to be expiated by sacrifices. This kind of “infirmity” Christ had not; He had the “infirmity” of body whereby He was capable of suffering and death.
3. by reason hereof–“on account of this” infirmity.
he ought … also for himself, to offer for sins–the Levitical priest ought; in this our High Priest is superior to the Levitical. The second “for” is a different Greek term from the first; “in behalf of the people … on account of sins.”
4. no man–of any other family but Aaron’s, according to the Mosaic law, can take to himself the office of high priest. This verse is quoted by some to prove the need of an apostolic succession of ordination in the Christian ministry; but the reference here is to the priesthood, not the Christian ministry. The analogy in our Christian dispensation would warn ministers, seeing that God has separated them from the congregation of His people to bring them near Himself, and to do the service of His house, and to minister (as He separated the Levites, Korah with his company), that content with this, they should beware of assuming the sacrificial priesthood also, which belongs to Christ alone. The sin of Korah was, not content with the ministry as a Levite, he took the sacerdotal priesthood also. No Christian minister, as such, is ever called Hiereus, that is, sacrificing priest. All Christians, without distinction, whether ministers or people, have a metaphorical, not a literal, priesthood. The sacrifices which they offer are spiritual, not literal, their bodies and the fruit of their lips, praises continually (Heb 13:15). Christ alone had a proper and true sacrifice to offer. The law sacrifices were typical, not metaphorical, as the Christian’s, nor proper and true, as Christ’s. In Roman times the Mosaic restriction of the priesthood to Aaron’s family was violated.
5. glorified not himself–did not assume the glory of the priestly office of Himself without the call of God (Joh 8:54).
but he that said–that is, the Father glorified Him or appointed Him to the priesthood. This appointment was involved in, and was the result of, the Sonship of Christ, which qualified Him for it. None but the divine Son could have fulfilled such an office (Heb 10:5-9). The connection of Sonship and priesthood is typified in the Hebrew title for priests being given to David’s sons (2Sa 8:18). Christ did not constitute Himself the Son of God, but was from everlasting the only-begotten of the Father. On His Sonship depended His glorification, and His being called of God (Heb 5:10), as Priest.
6. He is here called simply “Priest”; in Heb 5:5, “High Priest.” He is a Priest absolutely, because He stands alone in that character without an equal. He is “High Priest” in respect of the Aaronic type, and also in respect to us, whom He has made priests by throwing open to us access to God [Bengel]. “The order of Melchisedec” is explained in Heb 7:15, “the similitude of Melchisedec.” The priesthood is similarly combined with His kingly office in Zec 6:13. Melchisedec was at once man, priest, and king. Paul’s selecting as the type of Christ one not of the stock of Abraham, on which the Jews prided themselves, is an intimation of Messianic universalism.
7. in the days of his flesh–(Heb 2:14; 10:20). Heb 5:7-10 state summarily the subject about to be handled more fully in the seventh and eighth chapters.
when he had offered–rather, “in that He offered.” His crying and tears were part of the experimental lesson of obedience which He submitted to learn from the Father (when God was qualifying Him for the high priesthood). “Who” is to be construed with “learned obedience” (or rather as Greek, “His obedience”; “the obedience” which we all know about). This all shows that “Christ glorified not Himself to be made an High Priest” (Heb 5:5), but was appointed thereto by the Father.
prayers and supplications–Greek, “both prayers and supplications.” In Gethsemane, where He prayed thrice, and on the cross, where He cried, My God, my God … probably repeating inwardly all the twenty-second Psalm. “Prayers” refer to the mind: “supplications” also to the body (namely, the suppliant attitude) (Mt 26:39) [Bengel].
with strong crying and tears–The “tears” are an additional fact here communicated to us by the inspired apostle, not recorded in the Gospels, though implied. Mt 26:37, “sorrowful and very heavy.” Mr 14:33; Lu 22:44, “in an agony He prayed more earnestly … His sweat … great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Ps 22:1 (“roaring … cry”), Ps 22:2, 19, 21, 24; 69:3, 10, “I wept.”
able to save him from death–Mr 14:36, “All things are possible unto Thee” (Joh 12:27). His cry showed His entire participation of man’s infirmity: His reference of His wish to the will of God, His sinless faith and obedience.
heard in that he feared–There is no intimation in the twenty-second Psalm, or the Gospels that Christ prayed to be saved from the mere act of dying. What He feared was the hiding of the Father’s countenance. His holy filial love must rightly have shrunk from this strange and bitterest of trials without the imputation of impatience. To have been passively content at the approach of such a cloud would have been, not faith, but sin. The cup of death He prayed to be freed from was, not corporal, but spiritual death, that is, the (temporary) separation of His human soul from the light of God’s countenance. His prayer was “heard” in His Father’s strengthening Him so as to hold fast His unwavering faith under the trial (My God, my God, was still His filial cry under it, still claiming God as His, though God hid His face), and soon removing it in answer to His cry during the darkness on the cross, “My God, my God,” &c. But see below a further explanation of how He was heard. The Greek literally, is, “Was heard from His fear,” that is, so as to be saved from His fear. Compare Ps 22:21, which well accords with this, “Save me from the lion’s mouth (His prayer): thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.” Or what better accords with the strict meaning of the Greek noun, “in consequence of His REVERENTIAL FEAR,” that is, in that He shrank from the horrors of separation from the bright presence of the Father, yet was reverentially cautious by no thought or word of impatience to give way to a shadow of distrust or want of perfect filial love. In the same sense Heb 12:28 uses the noun, and Heb 11:7 the verb. Alford somewhat similarly translates, “By reason of His reverent submission.” I prefer “reverent fear.” The word in derivation means the cautious handling of some precious, yet delicate vessel, which with ruder handling might easily be broken [Trench]. This fully agrees with Jesus’ spirit, “If it be possible … nevertheless not My will, but Thy will be done”; and with the context, Heb 5:5, “Glorified not Himself to be made an High Priest,” implying reverent fear: wherein it appears He had the requisite for the office specified Heb 5:4, “No man taketh this honor unto himself.” Alford well says, What is true in the Christian’s life, that what we ask from God, though He may not grant in the form we wish, yet He grants in His own, and that a better form, does not hold good in Christ’s case; for Christ’s real prayer, “not My will, but Thine be done,” in consistency with His reverent fear towards the Father, was granted in the very form in which it was expressed, not in another.
8. Though He WAS (so it ought to be translated: a positive admitted fact: not a mere supposition as were would imply) God’s divine Son (whence, even in His agony, He so lovingly and often cried, Father, Mt 26:39), yet He learned His (so the Greek) obedience, not from His Sonship, but from His sufferings. As the Son, He was always obedient to the Father’s will; but the special obedience needed to qualify Him as our High Priest, He learned experimentally in practical suffering. Compare Php 2:6-8, “equal with God, but … took upon Him the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death,” &c. He was obedient already before His passion, but He stooped to a still more humiliating and trying form of obedience then. The Greek adage is, “Pathemata mathemata,” “sufferings, disciplinings.” Praying and obeying, as in Christ’s case, ought to go hand in hand.
9. made perfect–completed, brought to His goal of learning and suffering through death (Heb 2:10) [Alford], namely, at His glorious resurrection and ascension.
eternal salvation–obtained for us in the short “days of Jesus’ flesh” (Heb 5:7; compare Heb 5:6, “for ever,” Isa 45:17).
unto all … that obey him–As Christ obeyed the Father, so must we obey Him by faith.
10. Greek, rather, “Addressed by God (by the appellation) High Priest.” Being formally recognized by God as High Priest at the time of His being “made perfect” (Heb 5:9). He was High Priest already in the purpose of God before His passion; but after it, when perfected, He was formally addressed so.
11. Here he digresses to complain of the low spiritual attainments of the Palestinian Christians and to warn them of the danger of falling from light once enjoyed; at the same time encouraging them by God’s faithfulness to persevere. At Heb 6:20 he resumes the comparison of Christ to Melchisedec.
hard to be uttered–rather as Greek, “hard of interpretation to speak.” Hard for me to state intelligibly to you owing to your dulness about spiritual things. Hence, instead of saying many things, he writes in comparatively few words (Heb 13:22). In the “we,” Paul, as usual, includes Timothy with himself in addressing them.
ye are–Greek, “ye have become dull” (the Greek, by derivation, means hard to move): this implies that once, when first “enlightened,” they were earnest and zealous, but had become dull. That the Hebrew believers AT Jerusalem were dull in spiritual things, and legal in spirit, appears from Ac 21:20-24, where James and the elders expressly say of the “thousands of Jews which believe,” that “they are all zealous of the law”; this was at Paul’s last visit to Jerusalem, after which this Epistle seems to have been written (see on Heb 5:12, on “for the time”).
12. for the time–considering the long time that you have been Christians. Therefore this Epistle was not one of those written early.
which be the first principles–Greek, “the rudiments of the beginning of.” A Pauline phrase (see on Ga 4:3; Ga 4:9). Ye need not only to be taught the first elements, but also “which they be.” They are therefore enumerated Heb 6:1, 2 [Bengel]. Alford translates, “That someone teach you the rudiments”; but the position of the Greek, “tina,” inclines me to take it interrogatively, “which,” as English Version, Syriac, Vulgate, &c.
of the oracles of God–namely, of the Old Testament: instead of seeing Christ as the end of the Old Testament Scripture, they were relapsing towards Judaism, so as not only not to be capable of understanding the typical reference to Christ of such an Old Testament personage as Melchisedec, but even much more elementary references.
are become–through indolence.
milk … not … strong meat–“Milk” refers to such fundamental first principles as he enumerates in Heb 6:1, 2. The solid meat, or food, is not absolutely necessary for preserving life, but is so for acquiring greater strength. Especially in the case of the Hebrews, who were much given to allegorical interpretations of their law, which they so much venerated, the application of the Old Testament types, to Christ and His High Priesthood, was calculated much to strengthen them in the Christian faith [Limborch].
13. useth–Greek, “partaketh,” that is, taketh as his portion. Even strong men partake of milk, but do not make milk their chief, much less their sole, diet.
the word of righteousness–the Gospel wherein “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith” (Ro 1:17), and which is called “the ministration of righteousness” (2Co 3:9). This includes the doctrine of justification and sanctification: the first principles, as well as the perfection, of the doctrine of Christ: the nature of the offices and person of Christ as the true Melchisedec, that is, “King of righteousness” (compare Mt 3:15).
14. strong meat–“solid food.”
them … of full age–literally, “perfect”: akin to “perfection” (Heb 6:1).
by reason of use–Greek, “habit.”
senses–organs of sense.
exercised–similarly connected with “righteousness” in Heb 12:11.
to discern both good and evil–as a child no longer an infant (Isa 7:16): so able to distinguish between sound and unsound doctrine. The mere child puts into its mouth things hurtful and things nutritious, without discrimination: but not so the adult. Paul again alludes to their tendency not to discriminate, but to be carried about by strange doctrines, in Heb 13:9.
Heb 6:1-14. Warning against Retrograding, Which Soon Leads to Apostasy; Encouragement to Steadfastness from God’s Faithfulness to His Word and Oath.
1. Therefore–Wherefore: seeing that ye ought not now to be still “babes” (Heb 5:11-14).
leaving–getting further forward than the elementary “principles.” “As in building a house one must never leave the foundation: yet to be always laboring in ‘laying the foundation’ would be ridiculous” [Calvin].
the principles of the doctrine–Greek, “the word of the beginning,” that is, the discussion of the “first principles of Christianity (Heb 5:12).
let us go on–Greek, “let us be borne forward,” or “bear ourselves forward”; implying active exertion: press on. Paul, in teaching, here classifies himself with the Hebrew readers, or (as they ought to be) learners, and says, Let us together press forward.
perfection–the matured knowledge of those who are “of full age” (Heb 5:14) in Christian attainments.
foundation of–that is, consisting in “repentance.”
repentance from dead works–namely, not springing from the vital principle of faith and love toward God, and so counted, like their doer, dead before God. This repentance from dead works is therefore paired with “faith toward God.” The three pairs of truths enumerated are designedly such as Jewish believers might in some degree have known from the Old Testament, but had been taught more clearly when they became Christians. This accounts for the omission of distinct specification of some essential first principle of Christian truth. Hence, too, he mentions “faith toward God,” and not explicitly faith toward Christ (though of course included). Repentance and faith were the first principles taught under the Gospel.
2. the doctrine of baptisms–paired with “laying on of hands,” as the latter followed on Christian baptism, and answers to the rite of confirmation in Episcopal churches. Jewish believers passed, by an easy transition, from Jewish baptismal purifications (Heb 9:10, “washings”), baptism of proselytes, and John’s baptism, and legal imposition of hands, to their Christian analogues, baptism, and the subsequent laying on of hands, accompanied by the gift of the Holy Ghost (compare Heb 6:4). Greek, “baptismoi,” plural, including Jewish and Christian baptisms, are to be distinguished from baptisma, singular, restricted to Christian baptism. The six particulars here specified had been, as it were, the Christian Catechism of the Old Testament; and such Jews who had begun to recognize Jesus as the Christ immediately on the new light being shed on these fundamental particulars, were accounted as having the elementary principles of the doctrine of Christ [Bengel]. The first and most obvious elementary instruction of Jews would be the teaching them the typical significance of their own ceremonial law in its Christian fulfilment [Alford].
resurrection, &c.–held already by the Jews from the Old Testament: confirmed with clearer light in Christian teaching or “doctrine.”
eternal judgment–judgment fraught with eternal consequences either of joy or of woe.
3. will we do–So some of the oldest manuscripts read; but others, “Let us do.” “This,” that is, “Go on unto perfection.”
if God permit–For even in the case of good resolutions, we cannot carry them into effect, save through God “working in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Php 2:13). The “for” in Heb 6:4 refers to this: I say, if God permit, for there are cases where God does not permit, for example, “it is impossible,” &c. Without God’s blessing, the cultivation of the ground does not succeed (Heb 6:7).
4. We must “go on toward perfection”; for if we fall away, after having received enlightenment, it will be impossible to renew us again to repentance.
for those–“in the case of those.”
once enlightened–once for all illuminated by the word of God taught in connection with “baptism” (to which, in Heb 6:2, as once for all done,” once enlightened” here answers); compare Eph 5:26. This passage probably originated the application of the term “illumination” to baptism in subsequent times. Illumination, however, was not supposed to be the inseparable accompaniment of baptism: thus Chrysostom says, “Heretics have baptism, not illumination: they are baptized in body, but not enlightened in soul: as Simon Magus was baptized, but not illuminated.” That “enlightened” here means knowledge of the word of truth, appears from comparing the same Greek word “illuminated,” Heb 10:32, with Heb 10:26, where “knowledge of the truth” answers to it.
tasted of the heavenly gift–tasted for themselves. As “enlightened” refers to the sense of sight: so here taste follows. “The heavenly gift”; Christ given by the Father and revealed by the enlightening word preached and written: as conferring peace in the remission of sins; and as the Bestower of the gift of the Holy Spirit (Ac 8:19, 20),
made partakers of the Holy Ghost–specified as distinct from, though so inseparably connected with, “enlightened,” and “tasted of the heavenly gift,” Christ, as answering to “laying on of hands” after baptism, which was then generally accompanied with the impartation of the Holy Ghost in miraculous gifts.
5. tasted the good word of God–distinct from “tasted OF (genitive) the heavenly gift”; we do not yet enjoy all the fulness of Christ, but only have a taste OF Him, the heavenly gift now; but believers may taste the whole word (accusative case) of God already, namely, God’s “good word of promise.” The Old Testament promise of Canaan to Israel typified “the good word of God’s” promise of the heavenly rest (Heb 4:1-16). Therefore, there immediately follows the clause, “the powers of the world to come.” As “enlightening” and “tasting of the heavenly gift,” Christ, the Bread of Life, answers to FAITH: so “made partakers of the Holy Ghost,” to CHARITY, which is the first-fruit of the Spirit: and “tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,” to HOPE. Thus the triad of privileges answers to the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Spirit, in their respective works toward us. “The world to come,” is the Christian dispensation, viewed especially in its future glories, though already begun in grace here. The world to come thus stands in contrast to course of this world, altogether disorganized because God is not its spring of action and end. By faith, Christians make the world to come a present reality, though but a foretaste of the perfect future. The powers of this new spiritual world, partly exhibited in outward miracles at that time, and then, as now, especially consisting in the Spirit’s inward quickening influences are the earnest of the coming inheritance above, and lead the believer who gives himself up to the Spirit to seek to live as the angels, to sit with Christ in heavenly places, to set the affections on things above, and not on things on earth, and to look for Christ’s coming and the full manifestation of the world to come. This “world to come,” in its future aspect, thus corresponds to “resurrection of the dead and eternal life” (Heb 6:2), the first Christian principles which the Hebrew believers had been taught, by the Christian light being thrown back on their Old Testament for their instruction (see on Heb 6:1,2). “The world to come,” which, as to its “powers,” exists already in the redeemed, will pass into a fully realized fact at Christ’s coming (Col 3:4).
6. If–Greek, “And (yet) have fallen away”; compare a less extreme falling or declension, Ga 5:4, “Ye are fallen from grace.” Here an entire and wilful apostasy is meant; the Hebrews had not yet so fallen away; but he warns them that such would be the final result of retrogression, if, instead of “going on to perfection,” they should need to learn again the first principles of Christianity (Heb 6:1).
to renew them again–They have been “once” (Heb 6:4) already renewed, or made anew, and now they need to be “renewed” over “again.”
crucify to themselves the Son of God–“are crucifiying to themselves” Christ, instead of, like Paul, crucifying the world unto them by the cross of Christ (Ga 6:14). So in Heb 10:29, “trodden under foot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith … sanctified, an unholy thing.” “The Son of God,” marking His dignity, shows the greatness of their offense.
put him to an open shame–literally, “make a public example of” Him, as if He were a malefactor suspended on a tree. What the carnal Israel did outwardly, those who fall away from light do inwardly, they virtually crucify again the Son of God; “they tear him out of the recesses of their hearts where He had fixed His abode and exhibit Him to the open scoffs of the world as something powerless and common” [Bleek in Alford]. The Montanists and Novatians used this passage to justify the lasting exclusion from the Church of those who had once lapsed. The Catholic Church always opposed this view, and readmitted the lapsed on their repentance, but did not rebaptize them. This passage implies that persons may be in some sense “renewed,” and yet fall away finally; for the words, “renew again,” imply that they have been, in some sense, not the full sense, ONCE RENEWED by the Holy Ghost; but certainly not that they are “the elect,” for these can never fall away, being chosen unto everlasting life (Joh 10:28). The elect abide in Christ, hear and continuously obey His voice, and do not fall away. He who abides not in Christ, is cast forth as a withered branch; but he who abides in Him becomes more and more free from sin; the wicked one cannot touch him; and he by faith overcomes the world. A temporary faith is possible, without one thereby being constituted one of the elect (Mr 4:16, 17). At the same time it does not limit God’s grace, as if it were “impossible” for God to reclaim even such a hardened rebel so as yet to look on Him whom he has pierced. The impossibility rests in their having known in themselves once the power of Christ’s sacrifice, and yet now rejecting it; there cannot possibly be any new means devised for their renewal afresh, and the means provided by God’s love they now, after experience of them, deliberately and continuously reject; their conscience being served, and they “twice dead” (Jude 12), are now past hope, except by a miracle of God’s grace. “It is the curse of evil eternally to propagate evil” [Tholuck]. “He who is led into the whole (?) compass of Christian experiences, may yet cease to abide in them; he who abides not in them, was, at the very time when he had those objective experiences, not subjectively true to them; otherwise there would have been fulfilled in him, “Whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance” (Mt 13:12), so that he would have abided in them and not have fallen away” [Tholuck]. Such a one was never truly a Spirit-led disciple of Christ (Ro 8:14-17). The sin against the Holy Ghost, though somewhat similar, is not identical with this sin; for that sin may be committed by those outside the Church (as in Mt 12:24, 31, 32); this, only by those inside.
7. the earth–rather as Greek (no article), “land.”
which drinketh in–Greek, “which has drunk in”; not merely receiving it on the surface. Answering to those who have enjoyed the privilege of Christian experiences, being in some sense renewed by the Holy Ghost; true alike of those who persevere and those who “fall away.”
the rain that cometh oft upon it–not merely failing over it, or towards it, but falling and resting upon it so as to cover it (the Greek genitive, not the accusative). The “oft” implies, on God’s part, the riches of His abounding grace (“coming” spontaneously, and often); and, on the apostate’s part, the wilful perversity whereby he has done continual despite to the oft-repeated motions of the Spirit. Compare “How often,” Mt 23:37. The rain of heaven falls both on the elect and the apostates.
bringeth forth–as the natural result of “having drunk in the rain.” See above.
meet–fit. Such as the master of the soil wishes. The opposite of “rejected,” Heb 6:8.
by whom–rather as Greek, “for (that is, on account of) whom,” namely, the lords of the soil; not the laborers, as English Version, namely, God and His Christ (1Co 3:9). The heart of man is the earth; man is the dresser; herbs are brought forth meet, not for the dresser, by whom, but for God, the owner of the soil, for whom it is dressed. The plural is general, the owners whoever they may be; here God.
blessing–fruitfulness. Contrast God’s curse causing unfruitfulness (Ge 3:17, 18); also spiritually (Jer 17:5-8).
from God–Man’s use of means is vain unless God bless (1Co 3:6, 7).
8. that which–rather as Greek (no article), “But if it (the ‘land,’ Heb 6:7) bear”; not so favorable a word as “bringeth forth,” Heb 6:7, said of the good soil.
rejected–after having been tested; so the Greek implies. Reprobate … rejected by the Lord.
nigh unto cursing–on the verge of being given up to its own barrenness by the just curse of God. This “nigh” softens the severity of the previous “It is impossible,” &c. (Heb 6:4, 6). The ground is not yet actually cursed.
whose–“of which (land) the end is unto burning,” namely, with the consuming fire of the last judgment; as the land of Sodom was given to “brimstone, salt, and burning” (De 29:23); so as to the ungodly (Mt 3:10, 12; 7:19; 13:30; Joh 15:6; 2Pe 3:10). Jerusalem, which had so resisted the grace of Christ, was then nigh unto cursing, and in a few years was burned. Compare Mt 22:7, “burned up their city” an earnest of a like fate to all wilful abusers of God’s grace (Heb 10:26, 27).
9. beloved–appositely here introduced; LOVE to you prompts me in the strong warnings I have just given, not that I entertain unfavorable thoughts of you; nay, I anticipate better things of you; Greek “the things which are better”; that ye are not thorn-bearing, or nigh unto cursing, and doomed unto burning, but heirs of salvation in accordance with God’s faithfulness (Heb 6:10).
we are persuaded–on good grounds; the result of proof. Compare Ro 15:14, “I myself am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye are full of goodness.” A confirmation of the Pauline authorship of this Epistle.
things that accompany–Greek, “things that hold by,” that is, are close unto “salvation.” Things that are linked unto salvation (compare Heb 6:19). In opposition to “nigh unto cursing.”
though–Greek, “if even we thus speak.” “For it is better to make you afraid with words, that ye may not suffer in fact.”
10. not unrighteous–not unfaithful to His own gracious promise. Not that we have any inherent right to claim reward; for (1) a servant has no merit, as he only does that which is his bounden duty; (2) our best performances bear no proportion to what we leave undone; (3) all strength comes from God; but God has promised of His own grace to reward the good works of His people (already accepted through faith in Christ); it is His promise, not our merits, which would make it unrighteous were He not to reward His people’s works. God will be no man’s debtor.
your work–your whole Christian life of active obedience.
labour of love–The oldest manuscripts omit “labor of,” which probably crept in from 1Th 1:3. As “love” occurs here, so “hope,” Heb 6:11, “faith,” Heb 6:12; as in 1Co 13:13: the Pauline triad. By their love he sharpens their hope and faith.
ye have showed–(Compare Heb 10:32-34).
toward his name–Your acts of love to the saints were done for His name’s sake. The distressed condition of the Palestinian Christians appears from the collection for them. Though receiving bounty from other churches, and therefore not able to minister much by pecuniary help, yet those somewhat better off could minister to the greatest sufferers in their Church in various other ways (compare 2Ti 1:18). Paul, as elsewhere, gives them the utmost credit for their graces, while delicately hinting the need of perseverance, a lack of which had probably somewhat begun to show itself.
11. And–Greek, “But.”
desire–Greek, “earnestly desire.” The language of fatherly affection, rather than command.
every one of you–implying that all in the Palestinian churches had not shown the same diligence as some of those whom he praises in Heb 6:10. “He cares alike for great and small, and overlooks none.” “Every one of them,” even those diligent in acts of LOVE (Heb 6:10), needed to be stimulated to persevere in the same diligence with a view to the full assurance of HOPE unto the end. They needed, besides love, patient perseverance, resting on hope and faith (Heb 10:36; 13:7). Compare “the full assurance of faith,” Heb 10:22; Ro 4:21; 1Th 1:5.
unto the end–the coming of Christ.
12. be not–Greek, “become not.” In Heb 5:11, he said, “Ye have become dull (Greek, ‘slothful’) of hearing”; here he warns them not to become “slothful absolutely,” namely, also in mind and deed. He will not become slothful who keeps always the end in view; hope is the means of ensuring this.
followers–Greek, “imitators”; so in Eph 5:1, Greek; 1Co 11:1.
patience–Greek, “long-suffering endurance.” There is the long-suffering patience, or endurance of love, 1Co 13:4, and that of faith, Heb 6:15.
them who … inherit the promises–Greek, “who are inheriting,” &c.; to whom the promises are their inheritance. Not that they have actually entered on the perfect inheritance, which Heb 11:13, 39, 40 explicitly denies; though doubtless the dead in Christ have, in the disembodied soul, a foretaste of it; but “them (enumerated in Heb 11:2-40) who in every age have been, are, or shall be, inheritors of the promises”; of whom Abraham is an illustrious example (Heb 6:13).
13. For–confirming the reasonableness of resting on “the promises” as infallibly sure, resting as they do on God’s oath, by the instance of Abraham. “He now gives consolation, by the oath of God’s grace, to those whom, in the second, third, and fourth chapters, he had warned by the oath of God’s ‘wrath.’ The oath of wrath did not primarily extend its force beyond the wilderness; but the oath of grace is in force for ever” [Bengel].
14. multiplying … multiply–Hebraism for superabundantly multiply.
thee–The increase of Abraham’s seed is virtually an increase of himself. The argument here refers to Abraham himself as an example; therefore Paul quotes Ge 22:17, “thee,” instead of “thy seed.”
15. so–thus relying on the promise.
16. for confirmation–not to be joined, as English Version, to “an oath”; but to “an end” [Alford]. I prefer, “The oath is to them, in respect to confirmation (of one’s solemn promise or covenant; as here, God’s), an end of all contradiction (so the Greek is translated, Heb 12:3), or “gainsaying.” This passage shows: (1) an oath is sanctioned even in the Christian dispensation as lawful; (2) that the limits to its use are, that it only be employed where it can put an end to contradiction in disputes, and for confirmation of a solemn promise.
17. Wherein–that is, Which being the case among men, God, in accommodation to their manner of confirming covenants, superadded to His sure word His oath: the “TWO immutable things” (Heb 6:18).
willing … counsel–Greek, “willing … will”; words akin. Expressing the utmost benignity [Bengel].
more abundantly–than had He not sworn. His word would have been amply enough; but, to make assurance doubly sure, He “interposed with an oath” (so the Greek). Literally, He acted as Mediator, coming between Himself and us; as if He were less, while He swears, than Himself by whom He swears (for the less among men usually swear by the greater). Dost thou not yet believe, thou that hearest the promise? [Bengel].
heirs of promise–not only Abraham’s literal, but also his spiritual, seed (Ga 3:29).
18. immutable–Translate, as in Heb 6:17, “unchangeable.”
impossible … to lie–“ever to lie”; this is the force of the Greek aorist [Alford]. His not being able to deny Himself is a proof, not of weakness, but of strength incomparable.
consolation–under doubts and fears, and so “encouragement,” literally, “exhortation.”
fled for refuge–as if from a shipwreck; or, as one fleeing to one of the six cities of refuge. Kadesh, that is, holy, implies the holiness of Jesus, our Refuge. Shechem, that is, shoulder, the government is upon his shoulder (Isa 9:6). Hebron, that is, fellowship, believers are called into the fellowship of Christ. Bezer, that is, a fortress, Christ is so to all who trust in Him. Ramoth, that is, high, for Him hath God exalted with His right hand (Ac 5:31). Golan, that is, joy, for in Him all the saints are justified and shall glory.
lay hold upon the hope–that is, the object of our hope, as upon a preservative from sinking.
set before us–as a prize for which we strive; a new image, namely, the race course (Heb 12:1, 2).
19. Hope is found represented on coins by an anchor.
sure and steadfast–sure in respect to us: steadfast, or “firm” [Alford], in itself. Not such an anchor as will not keep the vessel from tossing, or an anchor unsound or too light [Theophylact].
which entereth into that–that is the place
within the veil–two images beautifully combined: (1) The soul is the ship: the world the sea: the bliss beyond the world, the distant coast; the hope resting on faith, the anchor which prevents the vessel being tossed to and fro; the encouraging consolation through the promise and oath of God, the cable connecting the ship and anchor. (2) The world is the fore-court: heaven, the Holy of Holies; Christ, the High Priest going before us, so as to enable us, after Him, and through Him, to enter within the veil. Estius explains, As the anchor does not stay in the waters, but enters the ground hidden beneath the waters, and fastens itself in it, so hope, our anchor of the soul, is not satisfied with merely coming to the vestibule, that is, is not content with merely earthly and visible goods, but penetrates even to those which are within the veil, namely, to the Holy of Holies, where it lays hold on God Himself, and heavenly goods, and fastens on them. “Hope, entering within heaven, hath made us already to be in the things promised to us, even while we are still below, and have not yet received them; such strength hope has, as to make those that are earthly to become heavenly.” “The soul clings, as one in fear of shipwreck to an anchor, and sees not whither the cable of the anchor runs–where it is fastened: but she knows that it is fastened behind the veil which hides the future glory.”
veil–Greek, “catapetasma”: the second veil which shut in the Holiest Place. The outer veil was called by a distinct Greek term, calumma: “the second (that is, the inner) veil.”
20. The absence of the Greek article requires Alford’s translation, “Where. As forerunner for us (that is, in our behalf), entered Jesus” [and is now: this last clause is implied in the ‘where’ of the Greek, which implies being IN a place: ‘whither’ is understood to ‘entered,’ taken out of ‘where’; whither Jesus entered, and where He is now]. The “for us” implies that it was not for Himself, as God, He needed to enter there, but as our High Priest, representing and introducing us, His followers, opening the way to us, by His intercession with the Father, as the Aaronic high priest entered the Holiest Place once a year to make propitiation for the people. The first-fruits of our nature are ascended, and so the rest is sanctified. Christ’s ascension is our promotion: and whither the glory of the Head has preceded, thither the hope of the body, too, is called. We ought to keep festal day, since Christ has taken up and set in the heavens the first-fruit of our lump, that is, the human flesh [Chrysostom]. As John Baptist was Christ’s forerunner on earth, so Christ is ours in heaven.
Heb 7:1-28. Christ’s High Priesthood after the Order of Melchisedec Superior to Aaron’s.
1. this Melchisedec–(Heb 6:20; Ps 110:4). The verb does not come till Heb 7:3, “abideth.”
king … priest–Christ unites these offices in their highest sense, and so restores the patriarchal union of these offices.
Salem–Jerusalem, that is, seeing peace; others make Salem distinct, and to be that mentioned (Ge 33:18; Joh 3:23).
the most high God–called also “Possessor of heaven and earth” (Ge 14:19, 22). This title of God, “the Most High,” handed down by tradition from the primitive revelation, appears in the Phoenician god “Elion,” that is, Most High. It is used to imply that the God whom Melchisedec served is THE TRUE God, and not one of the gods of the nations around. So it is used in the only other cases in which it is found in the New Testament, namely in the address of the demoniac, and the divining damsel constrained to confess that her own gods were false, and God the only true God.
who met Abraham–in company with the king of Sodom (Ge 14:17, 18).
slaughter–perhaps defeat, as Alford translates. So Ge 14:17 (compare Ge 14:15) may be translated. Arioch, king of Ellasar, lived and reigned after the disaster [Bengel]. However, if Chedorlaomer and Amraphel and Tidal were slain, though Arioch survived, “slaughter of the kings” would be correct.
blessed him–As priest he first blessed Abraham on God’s part; next he blessed God on Abraham’s part: a reciprocal blessing. Not a mere wish, but an authoritative and efficacious intercession as a priest. The Most High God’s prerogative as “Possessor of heaven and earth,” is made over to Abraham; and Abraham’s glory, from his victory over the foe, is made over to God. A blessed exchange for Abraham (Ge 14:19, 20).
2. gave–Greek, “apportioned”; assigned as his portion.
tenth … of all–namely, the booty taken. The tithes given are closely associated with the priesthood: the mediating priest received them as a pledge of the giver’s whole property being God’s; and as he conveyed God’s gifts to man (Heb 7:1, “blessed him”), so also man’s gifts to God. Melchisedec is a sample of how God preserves, amidst general apostasy, an elect remnant. The meeting of Melchisedec and Abraham is the connecting link between to two dispensations, the patriarchal, represented by Melchisedec, who seems to have been specially consecrated by God as a KING-PRIEST, the highest form of that primitive system in which each father of a household was priest in it, and the Levitical, represented by Abraham, in which the priesthood was to be limited to one family of one tribe and one nation. The Levitical was parenthetical, and severed the kingdom and priesthood; the patriarchal was the true forerunner of Christ’s, which, like Melchisedec’s, unites the kingship and priesthood, and is not derived from other man, or transmitted to other man; but derived from God, and is transmitted in God to a never-ending perpetuity. Melchisedec’s priesthood continueth in Christ for ever. For other points of superiority, see Heb 7:16-21. Melchisedec must have had some special consecration above the other patriarchs, as Abraham, who also exercised the priesthood; else Abraham would not have paid tithe to him as to a superior. His peculiar function seems to have been, by God’s special call, KING-priest whereas no other “patriarch-priest” was also a God-consecrated king.
first being–Paul begins the mystical explanation of the historical fact (allegorical explanations being familiar to JEWS), by mentioning the significancy of the name.
righteousness–not merely righteous: so Christ. Hebrew “Malchi” means king: “Tzedek,” righteousness.
King of Salem–not only his own name, but that of the city which he ruled, had a typical significance, namely, peace. Christ is the true Prince of peace. The peace which He brings is the fruit of righteousness.
3. Without father, &c.–explained by “without genealogy” (so the Greek is for “without descent); compare Heb 7:6, that is, his genealogy is not known, whereas a Levitical priest could not dispense with the proof of his descent.
having neither beginning of days nor end of life–namely, history not having recorded his beginning nor end, as it has the beginning and end of Aaron. The Greek idiom expressed by “without father,” &c., one whose parentage was humble or unknown. “Days” mean his time of discharging his function. So the eternity spoken of in Ps 110:4 is that of the priestly office chiefly.
made like–It is not said that he was asbsolutely “like.” Made like, namely, in the particulars here specified. Nothing is said in Genesis of the end of his priesthood, or of his having had in his priesthood either predecessor or successor, which, in a typical point of view, represents Christ’s eternal priesthood, without beginning or end. Aaron’s end is recorded; Melchisedec’s not: typically significant. “The Son of God” is not said to be made like unto Melchisedec, but Melchisedec to be “made like the Son of God.” When Alford denies that Melchisedec was made like the Son of God in respect of his priesthood, on the ground that Melchisedec was prior in time to our Lord, he forgets that Christ’s eternal priesthood was an archetypal reality in God’s purpose from everlasting, to which Melchisedec’s priesthood was “made like” in due time. The Son of God is the more ancient, and is the archetype: compare Heb 8:5, where the heavenly things are represented as the primary archetype of the Levitical ordinances. The epithets, “without father,” &c. “beginning of days, “nor end,” “abideth continually,” belong to Melchisedec only in respect to his priesthood, and in so far as he is the type of the Son of God, and are strictly true of Him alone. Melchisedec was, in his priesthood, “made like” Christ, as far as the imperfect type could represent the lineaments of the perfect archetype. “The portrait of a living man can be seen on the canvas, yet the man is very different from his picture.” There is nothing in the account, Ge 14:18-20, to mark Melchisedec as a superhuman being: he is classed with the other kings in the chapter as a living historic personage: not as Origen thought, an angel; nor as the Jews thought, Shem, son of Noah; nor as Calmet, Enoch; nor as the Melchisedekites, that he was the Holy Ghost; nor as others, the Divine Word. He was probably of Shemitic, not Canaanite origin: the last independent representative of the original Shemitic population, which had been vanquished by the Canaanites, Ham’s descendants. The greatness of Abraham then lay in hopes; of Melchisedec, in present possession. Melchisedec was the highest and last representative of the Noahic covenant, as Christ was the highest and ever enduring representative of the Abrahamic. Melchisedec, like Christ, unites in himself the kingly and priestly offices, which Abraham does not. Alford thinks the epithets are, in some sense, strictly true of Melchisedec himself; not merely in the typical sense given above; but that he had not, as mortal men have, a beginning or end of life (?). A very improbable theory, and only to be resorted to in the last extremity, which has no place here. With Melchisedec, whose priesthood probably lasted a long period, the priesthood and worship of the true God in Canaan ceased. He was first and last king-priest there, till Christ, the antitype; and therefore his priesthood is said to last for ever, because it both lasts a long time, and lasts as long as the nature of the thing itself (namely, his life, and the continuance of God’s worship in Canaan) admits. If Melchisedec were high priest for ever in a literal sense, then Christ and he would now still be high priests, and we should have two instead of one (!). Tholuck remarks, “Melchisedec remains in so far as the type remains in the antitype, in so far as his priesthood remains in Christ.” The father and mother of Melchisedec, as also his children, are not descended from Levi, as the Levitical priests (Heb 7:6) were required to be, and are not even mentioned by Moses. The wife of Aaron, Elisheba, the mother from whom the Levitical priests spring, is mentioned: as also Sarah, the original mother of the Jewish nation itself. As man, Christ had no father; as God, no mother.
4. consider–not merely see, but weigh with attentive contemplation, the fact.
even–“to whom (as his superior) Abraham even paid tithe (went so far as to pay tithe) of (consisting of, literally, ‘from’) the best of the spoils (literally, ‘the top of the heap”; whether of corn, the first-fruits of which, taken from the top, used to be consecrated to God; or of spoils, from the top of which the general used to take some portion for consecration to God, or for his own use).” He paid “tithes of ALL,” and those tithes were taken out of the topmost and best portion of the whole spoils.
the patriarch–in the Greek emphatically standing at the end of the whole sentence: And this payer of tithe being no less a personage than “the patriarch,” the first forefather and head of our Jewish race and nation See on Heb 7:3, on Melchisedec’s superiority as specially consecrated king-priest, above the other patriarch-priests.
5. sons of Levi–namely, those alone who belonged to the family of Aaron, to whom the priesthood was restricted. Tithes originally paid to the whole tribe of Levi, became at length attached to the priesthood.
according to the law–sanctioned by Jehovah (Heb 9:19).
of their brethren–with whom, in point of natural descent, they are on a level.
though, &c.–Though thus on a level by common descent from Abraham, they yet pay tithe to the Levites, whose brethren they are. Now the Levites are subordinate to the priests; and these again to Abraham, their common progenitor; and Abraham to Melchisedec. “How great” (Heb 7:4) then, must this Melchisedec be in respect to his priesthood, as compared with the Levitical, though the latter received tithes! and now unspeakably great must “the Son of God” be, to whom, as the sacerdotal archetype (in God’s purpose), Melchisedec was made like! Thus compare the “consider,” Heb 7:4, in the case of Melchisedec, the type, with the “consider” (Greek, “contemplate attentively,” see on Heb 3:1, a stronger word than here) in the case of Christ, the archetype.
6. he whose descent is not counted from them–not from “the sons of Levi,” as those “who receive the priesthood.” This verse explains “without descent” (Greek, “genealogy” in both verses, Heb 7:3). He who needs not, as the Levitical priests, to be able to trace his genealogy back to Levi.
received–Greek, “hath received tithes.”
blessed–Greek, “hath blessed.” The perfect tense implies that the significance of the fact endures to the present time.
him that had–“the possessor of the promises,” Abraham’s peculiar distinction and designation. Paul exalts Abraham in order still more to exalt Melchisedec. When Christ is the subject, the singular “promise” is used. “The promises” in the plural, refer to God’s promise of greatness to himself and his seed, and of the possession of Canaan, twice repeated before the blessing of Melchisedec. As the priests, though above the people (Heb 7:7) whom it was their duty to “bless,” were yet subordinate to Abraham; and as Abraham was subordinate to Melchisedec, who blessed him, Melchisedec must be much above the Levitical priests.
7. The principle that the blesser is superior to him whom he blesses, holds good only in a blessing given with divine authority; not merely a prayerful wish, but one that is divinely efficient in working its purport, as that of the patriarchs on their children: so Christ’s blessing, Lu 24:51; Ac 3:26.
8. Second point of superiority: Melchisedec’s is an enduring, the Levitical a transitory, priesthood. As the law was a parenthesis between Abraham’s dispensation of promise of grace, and its enduring fulfilment at Christ’s coming (Ro 5:20, Greek, “The law entered as something adscititious and by the way”): so the Levitical priesthood was parenthetical and temporary, between Melchisedec’s typically enduring priesthood, and its antitypical realization in our ever continuing High Priest, Christ.
here–in the Levitical priesthood.
there–in the priesthood after the order of Melchisedec. In order to bring out the typical parallel more strongly, Paul substitutes, “He of whom it is witnessed that he liveth,” for the more untypical, “He who is made like to Him that liveth.” Melchisedec “liveth” merely in his official capacity, his priesthood being continued in Christ. Christ, on the other hand, is, in His own person, “ever living after the power of an endless life” (Heb 7:16, 25). Melchisedec’s death not being recorded, is expressed by the positive term “liveth,” for the sake of bringing into prominence the antitype, Christ, of whom alone it is strictly and perfectly true, “that He liveth.”
9. as I may so say–to preclude what he is about to say being taken in the mere literal sense; I may say that, virtually, Levi, in the person of his father Abraham, acknowledged Melchisedec’s superiority, and paid tithes to him.
who receiveth tithes–(Compare Heb 7:5).
in Abraham–Greek, “by means of (by the hand of) Abraham”; through Abraham. “Paid tithes,” literally, “hath been tithed,” that is, been taken tithes of.
10. in the loins of his father–that is, forefather Abraham. Christ did not, in this sense, pay tithes in Abraham, for He never was in the loins of an earthly father [Alford]. Though, in respect to His mother, He was “of the fruit of (David’s, and so of) Abraham’s loins,” yet, being supernaturally, without human father, conceived, as He is above the natural law of birth, so is he above the law of tithes. Only those born in the natural way, and so in sin, being under the curse, needed to pay tithe to the priest, that he might make propitiation for their sin. Not so Christ, who derived only His flesh, not also the taint of the flesh, from Abraham. Bengel remarks, The blessings which Abraham had before meeting Melchisedec were the general promises, and the special one of a natural seed, and so of Levi; but the promises under which Christ was comprehended, and the faith for which Abraham was so commended, followed after Abraham’s meeting Melchisedec, and being blessed by him: to which fact. Ge 15:1, “After these things,” calls our attention. This explains why Christ, the supernatural seed, is not included as paying tithes through Abraham to Melchisedec.
11. perfection–absolute: “the bringing of man to his highest state, namely, that of salvation and sanctification.”
under it–The reading in the oldest manuscripts is, “Upon it (that is, on the ground of it as the basis, the priest having to administer the law, Mal 2:7: it being presupposed) the people (Heb 9:19, ‘all the people’) have received the law (the Greek is perfect, not aorist tense; implying the people were still observing the law).”
what further need–(Heb 8:7). For God does nothing needless.
another–rather as Greek, “that a different priest (one of a different order) should arise (anew, Heb 7:15).
not be called–Greek, “not be said (to be) after the order of Aaron,” that is, that, when spoken of in the Ps 110:4, “He is not said to be (as we should expect, if the Aaronic priesthood was perfect) after the order of Aaron.”
12. For–the reason why Paul presses the words “after the order of Melchisedec” in Ps 110:4, namely, because these presuppose a change or transference of the priesthood, and this carries with it a change also of the law (which is inseparably bound up with the priesthood, both stand and fall together, Heb 7:11). This is his answer to those who might object, What need was there of a new covenant?
13. Confirming the truth that a change is made of the law (Heb 7:12), by another fact showing the distinctness of the new priesthood from the Aaronic.
these things–(Ps 110:4).
pertaineth–Greek, “hath partaken of” (the perfect tense implies the continuance still of His manhood).
another–“a different tribe” from that of Levi.
14. evident–literally, “manifest before the eyes” as a thing indisputable; a proof that whatever difficulties may now appear, then Jesus Christ’s genealogy labored under none.
our Lord–the only place where this now common title occurs without “Jesus,” or “Christ,” except 2Pe 3:15.
sprang–as a plant, and a branch.
Judah–Ge 49:10; Lu 1:27, 39 (Hebron of Judah, where Lightfoot thinks Jesus was conceived) Lu 2:4, 5; Re 5:5.
of which tribe … priesthood–“in respect to which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priests” (so the oldest manuscripts read, nothing to imply that priests were to be taken from it).
15. Another proof that the law, or economy, is changed, namely, forasmuch as Christ is appointed Priest, “not according to the law of a carnal (that is, a mere outward) commandment,” but “according to the power of an indissoluble (so the Greek) life.” The hundred tenth Psalm appoints Him “for ever” (Heb 7:17). The Levitical law required a definite carnal descent. In contrast stands “the power”; Christ’s spiritual, inward, living power of overcoming death. Not agreeably to a statute is Christ appointed, but according to an inward living power.
it–the change of the law or economy, the statement (Heb 7:12, 18).
far more–Greek, “more abundantly.”
for that–“seeing that,” literally, “if”; so Ro 5:10.
after the similitude of Melchisedec–answering to “after the order of Melchisedec” (Heb 5:10). The “order” cannot mean a series of priests, for Melchisedec neither received his priesthood from, nor transmitted it to, any other mere man; it must mean “answering to the office of Melchisedec.” Christ’s priesthood is similar to Melchisedec’s in that it is “for ever” (Heb 7:16, 17).
another–rather as Greek, “a different.”
16. carnal … endless–mutually contrasted. As “form” and “power” are opposed, 2Ti 3:5; so here “the law” and “power,” compare Ro 8:3, “The law was weak through the flesh”; and Heb 7:18, “weakness.” “The law” is here not the law in general, but the statute as to the priesthood. “Carnal,” as being only outward and temporary, is contrasted with “endless,” or, as Greek, “indissoluble.” Commandments is contrasted with “life.” The law can give a commandment, but it cannot give life (Heb 7:19). But our High Priest’s inherent “power,” now in heaven, has in Him “life for ever”; Heb 9:14, “through the eternal Spirit”; Heb 7:25, “able … ever liveth” (Joh 5:26). It is in the power of His resurrection life, not of His earthly life, that Christ officiates as a Priest.
17. For–proving His life to be “endless” or indissoluble (Heb 7:16). The emphasis is on “for ever.” The oldest manuscripts read, “He is testified of, that Thou art,” &c.
18. there is–Greek, “there takes place,” according to Ps 110:4.
of the commandment–ordaining the Levitical priesthood. And, as the Levitical priesthood and the law are inseparably joined, since the former is repealed, the latter is so also (see on Heb 7:11).
going before–the legal ordinance introducing and giving place to the Christian, the antitypical and permanent end of the former.
weakness and unprofitableness–The opposite of “power” (Heb 7:16).
19. For, &c.–justifying his calling the law weak and unprofitable (Heb 7:18). The law could not bring men to: true justification or sanctification before God, which is the “perfection” that we all need in order to be accepted of Him, and which we have in Christ.
nothing–not merely “no one,” but “nothing.” The law brought nothing to its perfected end; everything in it was introductory to its antitype in the Christian economy, which realizes the perfection contemplated; compare “unprofitableness,” Heb 7:18.
did–rather connect with Heb 7:18, thus, “There takes place (by virtue of Ps 110:4) a repealing of the commandment (on the one hand), but (on the other) a bringing in afterwards (the Greek expresses that there is a bringing in of something over and above the law; a superinducing, or accession of something new, namely, something better than the good things which the pre-existing law promised [Wahl]) of a better hope,” not one weak and unprofitable, but, as elsewhere the Christian dispensation is called, “everlasting,” “true,” “the second,” “more excellent,” “different,” “living,” “new,” “to come,” “perfect.” Compare Heb 8:6, bringing us near to God, now in spirit, hereafter both in spirit and in body.
we draw nigh unto God–the sure token of “perfection.” Weakness is the opposite of this filial confidence of access. The access through the legal sacrifices was only symbolical and through the medium of a priest; that through Christ is immediate, perfect, and spiritual.
20. Another proof of the superiority of Christ’s Melchisedec-like priesthood; the oath of God gave a solemn weight to it which was not in the law-priesthood, which was not so confirmed.
he was made priest–rather supply from Heb 7:22, which completes the sentence begun in this verse, Heb 7:21 being a parenthesis, “inasmuch as not without an oath He was made surety of the testament (for, &c.), of so much better a testament hath Jesus been made the surety.”
21. Translate in the Greek order, “For they indeed (the existing legal priests) without the (solemn) promise on oath (so the Greek [Tittmann]) are made priests.”
unto him–the Lord, the Son of God (Ps 110:1).
not repent–never change His purpose.
after the order of Melchisedec–omitted in some oldest manuscripts, contained in others.
22. surety–ensuring in His own person the certainty of the covenant to us. This He did by becoming responsible for our guilt, by sealing the covenant with His blood, and by being openly acknowledged as our triumphant Saviour by the Father, who raised Him from the dead. Thus He is at once God’s surety for man, and man’s surety for God, and so Mediator between God and man (Heb 8:6).
better–Heb 8:6; 13:20, “everlasting.”
testament–sometimes translated, “covenant.” The Greek term implies that it is appointed by God, and comprises the relations and bearings partly of a covenant, partly of a testament: (1) the appointment made without the concurrence of a second party, of somewhat concerning that second party; a last will or testament, so in Heb 9:16, 17; (2) a mutual agreement in which both parties consent.
23. Another proof of superiority; the Levitical priests were many, as death caused the need of continually new ones being appointed in succession. Christ dies not, and so hath a priesthood which passes not from one to another.
were–Greek, “are made.”
many–one after another; opposed to His “unchangeable (that does not pass from one to another) priesthood” (Heb 7:24).
not suffered to continue–Greek, “hindered from permanently continuing,” namely, in the priesthood.
24. he–emphatic; Greek, “Himself.” So in Ps 110:4, “Thou art a priest”; singular, not priests, “many.”
continueth–Greek, simple verb, not the compound as in Heb 7:23. “Remaineth,” namely, in life.
unchangeable–Greek, “hath His priesthood unchangeable”; not passing from one to another, intransmissible. Therefore no earthly so-called apostolic succession of priests are His vicegerents. The Jewish priests had successors in office, because “they could not continue by reason of death.” But this Man, because He liveth ever, hath no successor in office, not even Peter (1Pe 5:1).
25. Wherefore–Greek, “Whence”; inasmuch as “He remaineth for ever.”
also–as a natural consequence flowing from the last, at the same time a new and higher thing [Alford].
save–His very name Jesus (Heb 7:22) meaning Saviour.
to the uttermost–altogether, perfectly, so that nothing should be wanting afterwards for ever [Tittmann]. It means “in any wise,” “utterly,” in Lu 13:11.
come unto God–by faith.
by him–through Him as their mediating Priest, instead of through the Levitical priests.
seeing he ever liveth–resuming “He continueth ever,” Heb 7:24; therefore “He is able to the uttermost”; He is not, like the Levitical priest, prevented by death, for “He ever liveth” (Heb 7:23).
to make intercession–There was but the one offering on earth once for all. But the intercession for us in the heavens (Heb 7:26) is ever continuing, whence the result follows, that we can never be separated from the love of God in Christ. He intercedes only for those who come unto God through Him, not for the unbelieving world (Joh 17:9). As samples of His intercession, compare the prophetical descriptions in the Old Testament. “By an humble omnipotency (for it was by His humiliation that He obtained all power), or omnipotent humility, appearing in the presence, and presenting His postulations at the throne of God” [Bishop Pearson]. He was not only the offering, but the priest who offered it. Therefore, He has become not only a sacrifice, but an intercessor; His intercession being founded on His voluntary offering of Himself without spot to God. We are not only then in virtue of His sacrifice forgiven, but in virtue of the intercession admitted to favor and grace [Archbishop Magee].
26. such–as is above described. The oldest manuscripts read, “also.” “For to US (as sinners; emphatical) there was also becoming (besides the other excellencies of our High Priest) such an High Priest.”
holy–“pious” (a distinct Greek word from that for holy, which latter implies consecration) towards God; perfectly answering God’s will in reverent piety (Ps 16:10).
harmless–literally, “free from evil” and guile, in relation to Himself.
undefiled–not defiled by stain contracted from others, in relation to men. Temptation, to which He was exposed, left no trace of evil in Him.
separate–rather, “separated from sinners,” namely, in His heavenly state as our High Priest above, after He had been parted from the earth, as the Levitical high priest was separated from the people in the sanctuary (whence he was not to go out), Le 21:12. Though justifying through faith the ungodly, He hath no contact with them as such. He is lifted above our sinful community, being “made higher than the heavens,” at the same time that He makes believers as such (not as sinners), “to sit together (with Him) in heavenly places” (Eph 2:6). Just as Moses on the mount was separated from and above the people, and alone with God. This proves Jesus is God. “Though innumerable lies have been forged against the venerable Jesus, none dared to charge Him with any intemperance” [Origen].
made–Jesus was higher before (Joh 17:5), and as the God-MAN was made so by the Father after His humiliation (compare Heb 1:4).
higher than the heavens–for “He passed through [so the Greek] the heavens” (Heb 4:14).
27. daily–“day by day.” The priests daily offered sacrifices (Heb 9:6; 10:11; Ex 29:38-42). The high priests took part in these daily-offered sacrifices only on festival days; but as they represented the whole priesthood, the daily offerings are here attributed to them; their exclusive function was to offer the atonement “once every year” (Heb 9:7), and “year by year continually” (Heb 10:1). The “daily” strictly belongs to Christ, not to the high priests, “who needeth not daily, as those high priests (year by year, and their subordinate priests daily), to offer,” &c.
offer up–The Greek term is peculiarly used of sacrifices for sin. The high priest’s double offering on the day of atonement, the bullock for himself, and the goat for the people’s sins, had its counterpart in the TWO lambs offered daily by the ordinary priests.
this he did–not “died first for His own sins and then the people’s,” but for the people’s only. The negation is twofold: He needeth not to offer (1) daily; nor (2) to offer for His own sins also; for He offered Himself a spotless sacrifice (Heb 7:26; Heb 4:15). The sinless alone could offer for the sinful.
once–rather as Greek, “once for all.” The sufficiency of the one sacrifice to atone for all sins for ever, resulted from its absolute spotlessness.
28. For–reason for the difference stated in Heb 7:27, between His one sacrifice and their oft repeated sacrifices, namely, because of His entire freedom from the sinful infirmity to which they are subject. He needed not, as they, to offer For His own sin; and being now exempt from death and “perfected for evermore,” He needs not to REPEAT His sacrifice.
the word–“the word” confirmed by “the oath.”
which–which oath was after the law, namely, in Ps 110:4, abrogating the preceding law-priesthood.
the Son–contrasted with “men.”
consecrated–Greek, “made perfect” once for all, as in Heb 2:10; 5:9; see on Heb 2:10; Heb 5:9. Opposed to “having infirmity.” Consecrated as a perfected priest by His perfected sacrifice, and consequent anointing and exaltation to the right hand of the Father.
Heb 8:1-13. Christ, the High Priest in the True Sanctuary, Superseding the Levitical Priesthood; the New Renders Obsolete the Old Covenant.
1. the sum–rather, “the principal point”; for the participle is present, not past, which would be required if the meaning were “the sum.” “The chief point in (or, ‘in the case’; so the Greek, Heb 9:10, 15, 17) the things which we are speaking,” literally, “which are being spoken.”
such–so transcendently pre-eminent, namely in this respect, that “He is set on the right hand of,” &c. Infinitely above all other priests in this one grand respect, He exercises His priesthood IN HEAVEN, not in the earthly “holiest place” (Heb 10:12). The Levitical high priests, even when they entered the Holiest Place once a year, only STOOD for a brief space before the symbol of God’s throne; but Jesus SITS on the throne of the Divine Majesty in the heaven itself, and this for ever (Heb 10:11, 12).
2. minister–The Greek term implies priestly ministry in the temple.
the sanctuary–Greek, “the holy places”; the Holy of Holies. Here the heavenly sanctuary is meant.
the true–the archetypal and antitypical, as contrasted with the typical and symbolical (Heb 9:24). Greek “alethinos” (used here) is opposed to that which does not fulfil its idea, as for instance, a type; “alethes,” to that which is untrue and unreal, as a lie. The measure of alethes is reality; that of alethinos, ideality. In alethes the idea corresponds to the thing; in alethinos, the thing to the idea [Kalmis in Alford].
tabernacle–(Heb 9:11). His body. Through His glorified body as the tabernacle, Christ passes into the heavenly “Holy of Holies,” the immediate immaterial presence of God, where He intercedes for us. This tabernacle in which God dwells, is where God in Christ meets us who are “members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.” This tabernacle answers to the heavenly Jerusalem, where God’s visible presence is to be manifested to His perfected saints and angels, who are united in Christ the Head; in contradistinction to His personal invisible presence in the Holy of Holies unapproachable save to Christ. Joh 1:14, “Word … dwelt among us,” Greek, “tabernacled.”
pitched–Greek, “fixed” firmly.
not man–as Moses (Heb 8:5).
3. For–assigning his reason for calling him “minister of the sanctuary” (Heb 8:2).
somewhat–He does not offer again His once for all completed sacrifice. But as the high priest did not enter the Holy Place without blood, so Christ has entered the heavenly Holy Place with His own blood. That “blood of sprinkling” is in heaven. And is thence made effectual to sprinkle believers as the end of their election (1Pe 1:2). The term “consecrate” as a priest, is literally, to fill the hand, implying that an offering is given into the hands of the priest, which it is his duty to present to God. If a man be a priest, he must have some gift in his hands to offer. Therefore, Christ, as a priest, has His blood as His oblation to offer before God.
4. Implying that Christ’s priestly office is exercised in heaven, not in earth; in the power of His resurrection life, not of His earthly life.
For–The oldest manuscripts read, “accordingly then.”
if, &c.–“if He were on earth, He would not even (so the Greek) be a priest” (compare Heb 7:13, 14); therefore, certainly, He could not exercise the high priestly function in the earthly Holy of Holies.
seeing that, &c.–“since there are” already, and exist now (the temple service not yet being set aside, as it was on the destruction of Jerusalem), “those (the oldest manuscripts omit ‘priests’) who offer the (appointed) gifts according to (the) law.” Therefore, His sacerdotal “ministry” must be “in the heavens,” not on earth (Heb 8:1). “If His priesthood terminated on the earth, He would not even be a priest at all” [Bengel]. I conceive that the denial here of Christ’s priesthood on earth does not extend to the sacrifice on the cross which He offered as a priest on earth; but applies only to the crowning work of His priesthood, the bringing of the blood into the Holy of Holies, which He could not have done in the earthly Holy of Holies, as not being an Aaronic priest. The place (the heavenly Holy of Holies) was as essential to the atonement being made as the oblation (the blood). The body was burnt without the gate; but the sanctification was effected by the presentation of the blood within the sanctuary by the high priest. If on earth, He would not be a priest in the sense of the law of Moses (“according to the law” is emphatic).
5. Who–namely, the priests.
serve unto the example–not “after the example,” as Bengel explains. But as in Heb 13:10, “serve the tabernacle,” that is, do it service: so “serve (the tabernacle which is but) the outline and shadow.” The Greek for “example” is here taken for the sketch, copy, or suggestive representation of the heavenly sanctuary, which is the antitypical reality and primary archetype. “The mount” answers to heaven, Heb 12:22.
admonished–The Greek especially applies to divine responses and commands.
to make–“perfectly”: so the Greek.
See–Take heed, accurately observing the pattern, that so thou mayest make, &c.
the pattern–an accurate representation, presented in vision to Moses, of the heavenly real sanctuary. Thus the earthly tabernacle was copy of a copy; but the latter accurately representing the grand archetypical original in heaven (Ex 25:40).
6. now–not time; but “as it is.”
more excellent ministry–than any earthly ministry.
by how much–in proportion as.
mediator–coming between us and God, to carry into effect God’s covenant with us. “The messenger (angel) of the covenant.”
which–Greek, “one which” [Alford]: inasmuch as being one which.
established–Greek, “enacted as a law.” So Ro 3:27, “law of faith”; and Ro 8:2; 9:31, apply “law” to the Gospel covenant. It is implied hereby, the Gospel is founded on the law, in the spirit and essence of the latter.
better promises–enumerated Heb 8:10, 11. The Old Testament promises were mainly of earthly, the New Testament promises, of heavenly blessings: the exact fulfilment of the earthly promises was a pledge of the fulfilment of the heavenly. “Like a physician who prescribes a certain diet to a patient, and then when the patient is beginning to recover, changes the diet, permitting what he had before forbidden; or as a teacher gives his pupil an elementary lesson at first; preparatory to leading him to a higher stage”: so Rabbi Albo in his Ikkarim. Compare Jer 7:21, 22, which shows that God’s original design in the old covenant ritual system was, that it should be pedagogical, as a schoolmaster leading and preparing men for Christ.
7. Same reasoning as in Heb 7:11.
faultless–perfect in all its parts, so as not to be found fault with as wanting anything which ought to be there: answering all the purposes of a law. The law in its morality was blameless (Greek, “amomos”); but in saving us it was defective, and so not faultless (Greek, “amemptos”).
should no place have been sought–as it has to be now; and as it is sought in the prophecy (Heb 8:8-11). The old covenant would have anticipated all man’s wants, so as to give no occasion for seeking something more perfectly adequate. Compare on the phrase “place … sought,” Heb 12:17.
8. finding fault with them–the people of the old covenant, who were not made “faultless” by it (Heb 8:7); and whose disregard of God’s covenant made Him to “regard them not” (Heb 8:9). The law is not in itself blamed, but the people who had not observed it.
he saith–(Jer 31:31-34; compare Eze 11:19; 36:25-27). At Rama, the headquarters of Nebuzar-adan, whither the captives of Jerusalem had been led, Jeremiah uttered this prophecy of Israel’s restoration under another David, whereby Rachel, wailing for her lost children, shall be comforted; literally in part fulfilled at the restoration under Zerubbabel, and more fully to be hereafter at Israel’s return to their own land; spiritually fulfilled in the Gospel covenant, whereby God forgives absolutely His people’s sins, and writes His law by His Spirit on the hearts of believers, the true Israel. “This prophecy forms the third part of the third trilogy of the three great trilogies into which Jeremiah’s prophecies may be divided: Jeremiah 21-25, against the shepherds of the people; Jeremiah 26-29, against the false prophets; Jeremiah 30 and 31, the book of restoration” [Delitzsch in Alford].
Behold, the days come–the frequent formula introducing a Messianic prophecy.
make–Greek, “perfect”; “consummate.” A suitable expression as to the new covenant, which perfected what the old could not (compare end of Heb 8:9, with end of Heb 8:10).
Israel … Judah–Therefore, the ten tribes, as well as Judah, share in the new covenant. As both shared the exile, so both shall share the literal and spiritual restoration.
9. Not according to, &c.–very different from, and far superior to, the old covenant, which only “worked wrath” (Ro 4:15) through man’s “not regarding” it. The new covenant enables us to obey by the Spirit’s inward impulse producing love because of the forgiveness of our sins.
made with–rather as Greek, “made to”: the Israelites being only recipients, not coagents [Alford] with God.
I took them by the hand–as a father takes his child by the hand to support and guide his steps. “There are three periods: (1) that of the promise; (2) that of the pedagogical instruction; (3) that of fulfilment” [Bengel]. The second, that of the pedagogical pupilage, began at the exodus from Egypt.
I regarded them not–English Version, Jer 31:32, translates, “Although I was an husband unto them.” Paul’s translation here is supported by the Septuagint, Syriac, and Gesenius, and accords with the kindred Arabic. The Hebrews regarded not God, so God, in righteous retribution, regarded them not. On “continued not in my covenant,” Schelling observes: The law was in fact the mere ideal of a religious constitution: in practice, the Jews were throughout, before the captivity, more or less polytheists, except in the time of David, and the first years of Solomon (the type of Messiah’s reign). Even after the return from Babylon, idolatry was succeeded by what was not much better, formalism and hypocrisy (Mt 12:43). The law was (1) a typical picture, tracing out the features of the glorious Gospel to be revealed; (2) it had a delegated virtue from the Gospel, which ceased, therefore, when the Gospel came.
10. make with–Greek, “make unto.”
Israel–comprising the before disunited (Heb 8:8) ten tribes’ kingdom, and that of Judah. They are united in the spiritual Israel, the elect Church, now: they shall be so in the literal restored kingdom of Israel to come.
I will put–literally, “(I) giving.” This is the first of the “better promises” (Heb 8:6).
mind–their intelligent faculty.
in, &c.–rather, ” ON their hearts.” Not on tables of stone as the law (2Co 3:3).
and I will be to them a God, &c.–fulfilled first in the outward kingdom of God. Next, in the inward Gospel kingdom. Thirdly, in the kingdom at once outward and inward, the spiritual being manifested outwardly (Re 21:3). Compare a similar progression as to the priesthood (1) Ex 19:6; (2) 1Pe 2:5; (3) Isa 61:6; Re 1:6. This progressive advance of the significance of the Old Testament institutions, &c., says Tholuck, shows the transparency and prophetic character which runs throughout the whole.
11. Second of the “better promises” (Heb 8:6).
they shall not–“they shall not have to teach” [Alford].
his neighbour–So Vulgate reads; but the oldest manuscripts have “his (fellow) citizen.”
brother–a closer and more endearing relation than fellow citizen.
from the least to the greatest–Greek, “from the little one to the great one.” Zec 12:8, “He that is feeble among them shall be as David.” Under the old covenant, the priest’s lips were to keep knowledge, and at his mouth the people were to seek the law: under the new covenant, the Holy Spirit teaches every believer. Not that the mutual teaching of brethren is excluded while the covenant is being promulgated; but when once the Holy Spirit shall have fully taught all the remission of their sins and inward sanctification, then there shall be no further’ need of man teaching his fellow man. Compare 1Th 4:9; 5:1, an earnest of that perfect state to come. On the way to that perfect state every man should teach his neighbor. “The teaching is not hard and forced, because grace renders all teachable; for it is not the ministry of the letter, but of the spirit (2Co 3:6). The believer’s firmness does not depend on the authority of human teachers. God Himself teaches” [Bengel]. The New Testament is shorter than the Old Testament, because, instead of the details of an outward letter law, it gives the all-embracing principles of the spiritual law written on the conscience, leading one to spontaneous instinctive obedience in outward details. None save the Lord can teach effectually, “know the Lord.”
12. For, &c.–the third of “the better promises” (Heb 8:6). The forgiveness of sins is, and will be, the root of this new state of inward grace and knowledge of the Lord. Sin being abolished, sinners obtain grace.
I will be merciful–Greek, “propitious”; the Hebrew, “salach,” is always used of God only in relation to men.
and their iniquities–not found in Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and one oldest Greek manuscript; but most oldest manuscripts have the words (compare Heb 10:17).
remember no more–Contrast the law, Heb 10:3.
made … old–“hath (at the time of speaking the prophecy) antiquated the first covenant.” From the time of God’s mention of a NEW covenant (since God’s words are all realities) the first covenant might be regarded as ever dwindling away, until its complete abolition on the actual introduction of the Gospel. Both covenants cannot exist side by side. Mark how verbal inspiration is proved in Paul’s argument turning wholly on the one word “NEW” (covenant), occurring but once in the Old Testament.
that which decayeth–Greek, “that which is being antiquated,” namely, at the time when Jeremiah spake. For in Paul’s time, according to his view, the new had absolutely set aside the old covenant. The Greek for (Kaine) New (Testament) implies that it is of a different kind and supersedes the old: not merely recent (Greek, “nea”). Compare Ho 3:4, 5.
Heb 9:1-28. Inferiority of the Old to the New Covenant in the Means of Access to God: The Blood of Bulls and Goats of No Real Avail: The Blood of Christ All-sufficient to Purge Away Sin, Whence Flows Our Hope of His Appearing Again for Our Perfect Salvation.
1. Then verily–Greek, “Accordingly then.” Resuming the subject from Heb 8:5. In accordance with the command given to Moses, “the first covenant had,” &c.
had–not “has,” for as a covenant it no longer existed, though its rites were observed till the destruction of Jerusalem.
ordinances–of divine right and institution.
a worldly sanctuary–Greek, “its (literally, ‘the’) sanctuary worldly,” mundane; consisting of the elements of the visible world. Contrasted with the heavenly sanctuary. Compare Heb 9:11, 12, “not of this building,” Heb 9:24. Material, outward, perishing (however precious its materials were), and also defective religiously. In Heb 9:2-5, “the worldly sanctuary” is discussed; in Heb 9:6, &c., the “ordinances of worship.” The outer tabernacle the Jews believed, signified this world; the Holy of Holies, heaven. Josephus calls the outer, divided into two parts, “a secular and common place,” answering to “the earth and sea”; and the inner holiest place, the third part, appropriated to God and not accessible to men.
2. Defining “the worldly tabernacle.”
a tabernacle–“the tabernacle.”
made–built and furnished.
the first–the anterior tabernacle.
candlestick … table–typifying light and life (Ex 25:31-39). The candlestick consisted of a shaft and six branches of gold, seven in all, the bowls made like almonds, with a knop and a flower in one branch. It was carried in Vespasian’s triumph, and the figure is to be seen on Titus’ arch at Rome. The table of shittim wood, covered with gold, was for the showbread (Ex 25:23-30).
showbread–literally, “the setting forth of the loaves,” that is, the loaves set forth: “the show of the bread” [Alford]. In the outer holy place: so the Eucharist continues until our entrance into the heavenly Holy of Holies (1Co 11:26).
which, &c.–“which (tabernacle) is called the holy place,” as distinguished from “the Holy of Holies.”
3. And–Greek, “But.”
second veil–There were two veils or curtains, one before the Holy of Holies (catapetasma), here alluded to, the other before the tabernacle door (calumma).
called–as opposed to “the true.”
4. golden censer–The Greek, must not be translated “altar of incense,” for it was not in “the holiest” place “after the second veil,” but in “the holy place”; but as in 2Ch 26:19, and Eze 8:11, “censer”: so Vulgate and Syriac. This GOLDEN censer was only used on the day of atonement (other kinds of censers on other days), and is therefore associated with the holiest place, as being taken into it on that anniversary by the high priest. The expression “which had,” does not mean that the golden censer was deposited there, for in that case the high priest would have had to go in and bring it out before burning incense in it; but that the golden censer was one of the articles belonging to, and used for, the yearly service in the holiest place. He virtually supposes (without specifying) the existence of the “altar of incense” in the anterior holy place, by mentioning the golden censer filled with incense from it: the incense answers to the prayers of the saints; and the altar though outside the holiest place, is connected with it (standing close by the second veil, directly before the ark of the covenant), even as we find an antitypical altar in heaven. The rending of the veil by Christ has brought the antitypes to the altar, candlestick, and showbread of the anterior holy place into the holiest place, heaven. In 1Ki 6:22, Hebrew, “the altar” is said to belong to the oracle, or holiest place (compare Ex 30:6).
ark–of shittim wood, that is, acacia. Not in the second temple, but in its stead was a stone basement (called “the stone of foundation”), three fingers high.
pot–“golden,” added in the Septuagint, and sanctioned by Paul.
manna–an omer, each man’s daily portion. In 1Ki 8:9; 2Ch 5:10, it is said there was nothing in the ark of Solomon’s temple save the two stone tables of the law put in by Moses. But the expression that there was nothing THEN therein save the two tables, leaves the inference to be drawn that formerly there were the other things mentioned by the Rabbis and by Paul here, the pot of manna (the memorial of God’s providential care of Israel) and the rod of Aaron, the memorial of the lawful priesthood (Nu 17:3, 5, 7, 10). The expressions “before the Lord” (Ex 16:32), and “before the testimony” (Nu 17:10) thus mean, “IN the ark.” “In,” however, may be used here (as the corresponding Hebrew word) as to things attached to the ark as appendages, as the book of the law was put “in the side of the ark,” and so the golden jewels offered by the Philistines (1Sa 6:8).
tables of the covenant–(De 9:9; 10:2).
5. over it–over “the ark of the covenant.”
cherubim–representing the ruling powers by which God acts in the moral and natural world. (See on Eze 1:6; Eze 10:1). Hence sometimes they answer to the ministering angels; but mostly to the elect redeemed, by whom God shall hereafter rule the world and set forth His manifold wisdom: redeemed humanity, combining in, and with itself, the highest forms of subordinate creaturely life; not angels. They stand on the mercy seat, and on that ground become the habitation of God, from which His glory is to shine upon the world. They expressly say, Re 5:8-10, “Thou hast redeemed us.” They are there distinguished from the angels, and associated with the elders. They were of one piece with the mercy seat, even as the Church is one with Christ: their sole standing is on the blood-sprinkled mercy seat; they gaze down at it as the redeemed shall for ever; they are “the habitation of God through the Spirit.”
of glory–The cherubim were bearers of the divine glory, whence, perhaps, they derive their name. The Shekinah, or cloud of glory, in which Jehovah appeared between the cherubim over the mercy seat, the lid of the ark, is doubtless the reference. Tholuck thinks the twelve loaves of the showbread represent the twelve tribes of the nation, presented as a community before God consecrated to Him (just as in the Lord’s Supper believers, the spiritual Israel, all partaking of the one bread, and becoming one bread and one body, present themselves before the Lord as consecrated to Him, 1Co 10:16, 17); the oil and light, the pure knowledge of the Lord, in which the covenant people are to shine (the seven (lights), implying perfection); the ark of the covenant, the symbol of God’s kingdom in the old covenant, and representing God dwelling among His own; the ten commandments in the ark, the law as the basis of union between God and man; the mercy seat covering the law and sprinkled with the blood of atonement for the collective sin of the people, God’s mercy [in Christ] stronger than the law; the cherubim, the personified [redeemed] creation, looking down on the mercy seat, where God’s mercy, and God’s law, are set forth as the basis of creation.
mercy seat–Greek, “the propitiatory”: the golden cover of the ark, on which was sprinkled the blood of the propitiatory sacrifice on the day of atonement; the footstool of Jehovah, the meeting place of Him and His people.
we cannot–conveniently: besides what met the eye in the sanctuary, there were spiritual realities symbolized which it would take too long to discuss in detail, our chief subject at present being the priesthood and the sacrifices. “Which” refers not merely to the cherubim, but to all the contents of the sanctuary enumerated in Heb 9:2-5.
6. The use made of the sanctuary so furnished by the high priest on the anniversary of atonement.
always–twice at the least every day, for the morning and evening care of the lamps, and offering of incense (Ex 30:7, 8).
went–Greek, “enter”: present tense.
7. once every year–the tenth day of the seventh month. He entered within the veil on that day twice at least. Thus “once” means here on the one occasion only. The two, or possibly more, entrances on that one day were regarded as parts of the one whole.
not without blood–(Heb 8:3).
errors–Greek, “ignorances”: “inadvertent errors.” They might have known, as the law was clearly promulged, and they were bound to study it; so that their ignorance was culpable (compare Ac 3:17; Eph 4:18; 1Pe 1:14). Though one’s ignorance may mitigate one’s punishment (Lu 12:48), it does not wholly exempt from punishment.
8. The Holy Ghost–Moses himself did not comprehend the typical meaning (1Pe 1:11, 12).
signifying–by the typical exclusion of all from the holiest, save the high priest once a year.
the holiest of all–heaven, the antitype.
the first tabernacle–the anterior tabernacle, representative of the whole Levitical system. While it (the first tabernacle, and that which represents the Levitical system) as yet “has a standing” (so the Greek, that is, “has continuance”: “lasts”), the way to heaven (the antitypical “holiest place”) is not yet made manifest (compare Heb 10:19, 20). The Old Testament economy is represented by the holy place, the New Testament economy by the Holy of Holies. Redemption, by Christ, has opened the Holy of Holies (access to heaven by faith now, Heb 4:16; 7:19, 25; 10:19, 22; by sight hereafter, Isa 33:24; Re 11:19; 21:2, 3) to all mankind. The Greek for “not yet” (me po) refers to the mind of the Spirit: the Spirit intimating that men should not think the way was yet opened [Tittmann]. The Greek negative, “ou po,” would deny the fact objectively; “me po” denies the thing subjectively.
9. Which–“The which,” namely, anterior tabernacle: “as being that which was” [Alford].
figure–Greek, “parable”: a parabolic setting forth of the character of the Old Testament.
for–“in reference to the existing time.” The time of the temple-worship really belonged to the Old Testament, but continued still in Paul’s time and that of his Hebrew readers. “The time of reformation” (Heb 9:10) stands in contrast to this, “the existing time”; though, in reality, “the time of reformation,” the New Testament time, was now present and existing. So “the age to come,” is the phrase applied to the Gospel, because it was present only to believers, and its fulness even to them is still to come. Compare Heb 9:11, “good things to come.”
in which–tabernacle, not time, according to the reading of the oldest manuscripts. Or translate, “according to which” parabolic representation, or figure.
could not–Greek, “cannot”: are not able.
him that did the service–any worshipper. The Greek is “latreuein,” serve God, which is all men’s duty; not “leitourgein,” to serve in a ministerial office.
make … perfect–perfectly remove the sense of guilt, and sanctify inwardly through love.
as pertaining to the conscience–“in respect to the (moral-religious) consciousness.” They can only reach as far as the outward flesh (compare “carnal ordinances,” Heb 9:10, 13, 14).
stood–consisted in [Alford]; or, “have attached to them” only things which appertain to the use of foods, &c. The rites of meats, &c., go side by side with the sacrifices [Tholuck and Wahl]; compare Col 2:16.
drinks–(Le 10:9; 11:4). Usage subsequently to the law added many observances as to meats and drinks.
and carnal ordinances–One oldest manuscript, Syriac and Coptic, omit “and.” “Carnal ordinances” stand in apposition to “sacrifices” (Heb 9:9). Carnal (outward, affecting only the flesh) is opposed to spiritual. Contrast “flesh” with “conscience” (Heb 9:13, 14).
imposed–as a burden (Ac 15:10, 28) continually pressing heavy.
until the time of reformation–Greek, “the season of rectification,” when the reality should supersede the type (Heb 8:8-12). Compare “better,” Heb 9:23.
11. But–in contrast to “could not make … perfect” (Heb 9:9).
Christ–The Messiah, of whom all the prophets foretold; not “Jesus” here. From whom the “reformation” (Heb 9:10), or rectification, emanates, which frees from the yoke of carnal ordinances, and which is being realized gradually now, and shall be perfectly in the consummation of “the age (world) to come.” “Christ … High Priest,” exactly answers to Le 4:5, “the priest that is anointed.”
being come an, &c.–rather, “having come forward (compare Heb 10:7, a different Greek word, picturesquely presenting Him before us) as High Priest.” The Levitical priests must therefore retire. Just as on the day of atonement, no work was done, no sacrifice was offered, or priest was allowed to be in the tabernacle while the high priest went into the holiest place to make atonement (Le 16:17, 29). So not our righteousness, nor any other priest’s sacrifice, but Christ alone atones; and as the high priest before offering incense had on common garments of a priest, but after it wore his holy garments of “glory and beauty” (Ex 28:2, 40) in entering the holiest, so Christ entered the heavenly holiest in His glorified body.
good things to come–Greek, “the good things to come,” Heb 10:1; “better promises,” (Heb 8:6; the “eternal inheritance,” Heb 9:15; 1Pe 1:4; the “things hoped for,” Heb 11:1).
by a … tabernacle–joined with “He entered.” Translate, “Through the … tabernacle” (of which we know) [Alford]. As the Jewish high priest passed through the anterior tabernacle into the holiest place, so Christ passed through heaven into the inner abode of the unseen and unapproachable God. Thus, “the tabernacle” here is the heavens through which He passed (see on Heb 4:14). But “the tabernacle” is also the glorified body of Christ (see on Heb 8:2), “not of this building” (not of the mere natural “creation, but of the spiritual and heavenly, the new creation”), the Head of the mystical body, the Church. Through this glorified body He passes into the heavenly holiest place (Heb 9:24), the immaterial, unapproachable presence of God, where He intercedes for us. His glorified body, as the meeting place of God and all Christ’s redeemed, and the angels, answers to the heavens through which He passed, and passes. His body is opposed to the tabernacle, as His blood to the blood of goats, &c.
greater–as contrasted with the small dimensions of the earthly anterior tabernacle.
more perfect–effective in giving pardon, peace, sanctification, and access to closest communion with God (compare Heb 9:9; Heb 10:1).
not made with hands–but by the Lord Himself (Heb 8:2).
12. Neither–“Nor yet.”
by–“through”; as the means of His approach.
goats … calves–not a bullock, such as the Levitical high priest offered for himself, and a goat for the people, on the day of atonement (Le 16:6, 15), year by year, whence the plural is used, goats … calves. Besides the goat offered for the people the blood of which was sprinkled before the mercy seat, the high priest led forth a second goat, namely, the scapegoat; over it he confessed the people’s sins, putting them on the head of the goat, which was sent as the sin-bearer into the wilderness out of sight, implying that the atonement effected by the goat sin offering (of which the ceremony of the scapegoat is a part, and not distinct from the sin offering) consisted in the transfer of the people’s sins on the goat, and their consequent removal out of sight. The translation of sins on the victim usual in other expiatory sacrifices being omitted in the case of the slain goat, but employed in the case of the goat sent away, proved the two goats were regarded as one offering [Archbishop Magee]. Christ’s death is symbolized by the slain goat; His resurrection to life by the living goat sent away. Modern Jews substitute in some places a cock for the goat as an expiation, the sins of the offerers being transferred to the entrails, and exposed on the housetop for the birds to carry out of sight, as the scapegoat did; the Hebrew for “man” and “cock” being similar, gebher [Buxtorf].
by–“through,” as the means of His entrance; the key unlocking the heavenly Holy of Holies to Him. The Greek is forcible, “through THE blood of His own” (compare Heb 9:23).
once–“once for all.”
having obtained–having thereby obtained; literally, “found for Himself,” as a thing of insuperable difficulty to all save Divine Omnipotence, self-devoting zeal, and love, to find. The access of Christ to the Father was arduous (Heb 5:7). None before had trodden the path.
eternal–The entrance of our Redeemer, once for all, into the heavenly holiest place, secures eternal redemption to us; whereas the Jewish high priest’s entrance was repeated year by year, and the effect temporary and partial, “On redemption,” compare Mt 20:28; Eph 1:7; Col 1:14; 1Ti 2:5; Tit 2:14; 1Pe 1:19.
Heb 9:13-28. Proof of and Enlargement on, the “Eternal Redemption” Mentioned in Heb 9:12.
For His blood, offered by Himself, purifies not only outwardly, as the Levitical sacrifices on the day of atonement, but inwardly unto the service of the living God (Heb 9:13, 14). His death is the inaugurating act of the new covenant, and of the heavenly sanctuary (Heb 9:15-23). His entrance into the true Holy of Holies is the consummation of His once-for-all-offered sacrifice of atonement (Heb 9:24, 26); henceforth, His reappearance alone remains to complete our redemption (Heb 9:27, 28).
13. if–as we know is the case; so the Greek indicative means. Argument from the less to the greater. If the blood of mere brutes could purify in any, however small a degree, how much more shall inward purification, and complete and eternal salvation, be wrought by the blood of Christ, in whom dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead?
ashes of an heifer–(Nu 19:16-18). The type is full of comfort for us. The water of separation, made of the ashes of the red heifer, was the provision for removing ceremonial defilement whenever incurred by contact with the dead. As she was slain without the camp, so Christ (compare Heb 13:11; Nu 19:3, 4). The ashes were laid by for constant use; so the continually cleansing effects of Christ’s blood, once for all shed. In our wilderness journey we are continually contracting defilement by contact with the spiritually dead, and with dead works, and need therefore continual application to the antitypical life-giving cleansing blood of Christ, whereby we are afresh restored to peace and living communion with God in the heavenly holy place.
the unclean–Greek, “those defiled” on any particular occasion.
the flesh–Their effect in themselves extended no further. The law had a carnal and a spiritual aspect; carnal, as an instrument of the Hebrew polity, God, their King, accepting, in minor offenses, expiatory victims instead of the sinner, otherwise doomed to death; spiritual, as the shadow of good things to come (Heb 10:1). The spiritual Israelite derived, in partaking of these legal rights, spiritual blessings not flowing from them, but from the great antitype. Ceremonial sacrifices released from temporal penalties and ceremonial disqualifications; Christ’s sacrifice releases from everlasting penalties (Heb 9:12), and moral impurities on the conscience disqualifying from access to God (Heb 9:14). The purification of the flesh (the mere outward man) was by “sprinkling”; the washing followed by inseparable connection (Nu 19:19). So justification is followed by renewing.
14. offered himself–The voluntary nature of the offering gives it especial efficacy. He “through the eternal Spirit,” that is, His divine Spirit (Ro 1:4, in contrast to His “flesh,” Heb 9:3; His Godhead, 1Ti 3:16; 1Pe 3:18), “His inner personality” [Alford], which gave a free consent to the act, offered Himself. The animals offered had no spirit or will to consent in the act of sacrifice; they were offered according to the law; they had a life neither enduring, nor of any intrinsic efficacy. But He from eternity, with His divine and everlasting Spirit, concurred with the Father’s will of redemption by Him. His offering began on the altar of the cross, and was completed in His entering the holiest place with His blood. The eternity and infinitude of His divine Spirit (compare Heb 7:16) gives eternal (“eternal redemption,” Heb 9:12, also compare Heb 9:15) and infinite merit to His offering, so that not even the infinite justice of God has any exception to take against it. It was “through His most burning love, flowing from His eternal Spirit,” that He offered Himself [Oecolampadius].
without spot–The animal victims had to be without outward blemish; Christ on the cross was a victim inwardly and essentially stainless (1Pe 1:19).
purge–purify from fear, guilt, alienation from Him, and selfishness, the source of dead works (Heb 9:22, 23).
your–The oldest manuscripts read “our.” The Vulgate, however, supports English Version reading.
conscience–moral religious consciousness.
dead works–All works done in the natural state, which is a state of sin, are dead; for they come not from living faith in, and love to, “the living God” (Heb 11:6). As contact with a dead body defiled ceremonially (compare the allusion, “ashes of an heifer,” Heb 9:13), so dead works defile the inner consciousness spiritually.
to serve–so as to serve. The ceremonially unclean could not serve God in the outward communion of His people; so the unrenewed cannot serve God in spiritual communion. Man’s works before justification, however lifelike they look, are dead, and cannot therefore be accepted before the living God. To have offered a dead animal to God would have been an insult (compare Mal 1:8); much more for a man not justified by Christ’s blood to offer dead works. But those purified by Christ’s blood in living faith do serve (Ro 12:1), and shall more fully serve God (Re 22:3).
living God–therefore requiring living spiritual service (Joh 4:24).
15. for this cause–Because of the all-cleansing power of His blood, this fits Him to be Mediator (Heb 8:6, ensuring to both parties, God and us, the ratification) of the new covenant, which secures both forgiveness for the sins not covered by the former imperfect covenant or testament, and also an eternal inheritance to the called.
by means of death–rather, as Greek, “death having taken place.” At the moment that His death took place, the necessary effect is, “the called receive the (fulfilment of the) promise” (so Lu 24:49 uses “promise”; Heb 6:15; Ac 1:4); that moment divides the Old from the New Testament. The “called” are the elect “heirs,” “partakers of the heavenly calling” (Heb 3:1).
redemption of … transgressions … under … first testament–the transgressions of all men from Adam to Christ, first against the primitive revelation, then against the revelations to the patriarchs, then against the law given to Israel, the representative people of the world. The “first testament” thus includes the whole period from Adam to Christ, and not merely that of the covenant with Israel, which was a concentrated representation of the covenant made with (or the first testament given to) mankind by sacrifice, down from the fall to redemption. Before the inheritance by the New Testament (for here the idea of the “INHERITANCE,” following as the result of Christ’s “death,” being introduced, requires the Greek to be translated “testament,” as it was before covenant) could come in, there must be redemption of (that is, deliverance from the penalties incurred by) the transgressions committed under the first testament, for the propitiatory sacrifices under the first testament reached only as far as removing outward ceremonial defilement. But in order to obtain the inheritance which is a reality, there must be a real propitiation, since God could not enter into covenant relation with us so long as past sins were unexpiated; Ro 3:24, 25, “a propitiation … His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past.”
might–Greek, “may receive,” which previously they could not (Heb 11:39, 40).
the promise–to Abraham.
16. A general axiomatic truth; it is “a testament”; not the testament. The testator must die before his testament takes effect (Heb 9:17). This is a common meaning of the Greek noun diathece. So in Lu 22:29, “I appoint (by testamentary disposition; the cognate Greek verb diatithemai) unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me.” The need of death before the testamentary appointment takes effect, holds good in Christ’s relation as MAN to us; Of course not in God’s relation to Christ.
be–literally, be borne”: “be involved in the case”; be inferred; or else, “be brought forward in court,” so as to give effect to the will. This sense (testament) of the Greek “diathece” here does not exclude its other secondary senses in the other passages of the New Testament: (1) a covenant between two parties; (2) an arrangement, or disposition, made by God alone in relation to us. Thus, Mt 26:28 may be translated, “Blood of the covenant”; for a testament does not require blood shedding. Compare Ex 24:8 (covenant), which Christ quotes, though it is probable He included in a sense “testament” also under the Greek word diathece (comprehending both meanings, “covenant” and “testament”), as this designation strictly and properly applies to the new dispensation, and is rightly applicable to the old also, not in itself, but when viewed as typifying the new, which is properly a testament. Moses (Ex 24:8) speaks of the same thing as [Christ and] Paul. Moses, by the term “covenant,” does not mean aught save one concerning giving the heavenly inheritance typified by Canaan after the death of the Testator, which he represented by the sprinkling of blood. And Paul, by the term “testament,” does not mean aught save one having conditions attached to it, one which is at the same time a covenant [Poli, Synopsis]; the conditions are fulfilled by Christ, not by us, except that we must believe, but even this God works in His people. Tholuck explains, as elsewhere, “covenant … covenant … mediating victim”; the masculine is used of the victim personified, and regarded as mediator of the covenant; especially as in the new covenant a MAN (Christ) took the place of the victim. The covenanting parties used to pass between the divided parts of the sacrificed animals; but, without reference to this rite, the need of a sacrifice for establishing a covenant sufficiently explains this verse. Others, also, explaining the Greek as “covenant,” consider that the death of the sacrificial victim represented in all covenants the death of both parties as unalterably bound to the covenant. So in the redemption-covenant, the death of Jesus symbolized the death of God (?) in the person of the mediating victim, and the death of man in the same. But the expression is not “there must be the death of both parties making the covenant,” but singular, “of Him who made (aorist, past time; not ‘of Him making’) the testament.” Also, it is “death,” not “sacrifice” or “slaying.” Plainly, the death is supposed to be past (aorist, “made”); and the fact of the death is brought (Greek) before court to give effect to the will. These requisites of a will, or testament, concur here: (1) a testator; (2) heirs; (3) goods; (4) the death of the testator; (5) the fact of the death brought forward in court. In Mt 26:28 two other requisites appear: witnesses, the disciples; and a seal, the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, the sign of His blood wherewith the testament is primarily sealed. It is true the heir is ordinarily the successor of him who dies and so ceases to have the possession. But in this case Christ comes to life again, and is Himself (including all that He hath), in the power of His now endless life, His people’s inheritance; in His being Heir (Heb 1:2), they are heirs.
17. after–literally, “over,” as we say “upon the death of the testators”; not as Tholuck, “on the condition that slain sacrifices be there,” which the Greek hardly sanctions.
otherwise–“seeing that it is never availing” [Alford]. Bengel and Lachmann read with an interrogation, “Since, is it ever in force (surely not) while the testator liveth?”
18. Whereupon–rather, “Whence.”
dedicated–“inaugurated.” The Old Testament strictly and formally began on that day of inauguration. “Where the disposition, or arrangement, is ratified by the blood of another, namely, of animals, which cannot make a covenant, much less make a testament, it is not strictly a testament, where it is ratified by the death of him that makes the arrangement, it is strictly, Greek ‘diathece,’ Hebrew ‘berith,’ taken in a wider sense, a testament” [Bengel]; thus, in Heb 9:18, referring to the old dispensation, we may translate, “the first (covenant)”: or better, retain “the first (testament),” not that the old dispensation, regarded by itself, is a testament, but it is so when regarded as the typical representative of the new, which is strictly a Testament.
19. For–confirming the general truth, Heb 9:16.
spoken … according to the law–strictly adhering to every direction of “the law of commandments contained in ordinances” (Eph 2:15). Compare Ex 24:3, “Moses told the people all the words of the Lord, and all the judgments; and all the people answered with one voice,” &c.
the blood of calves–Greek, “the calves,” namely, those sacrificed by the “young men” whom he sent to do so (Ex 24:5). The “peace offerings” there mentioned were “of oxen” (Septuagint, “little calves”), and the “burnt offerings” were probably (though this is not specified), as on the day of atonement, goats. The law in Exodus sanctioned formally many sacrificial practices in use by tradition, from the primitive revelation long before.
with water–prescribed, though not in the twenty-fourth chapter of Exodus, yet in other purifications; for example, of the leper, and the water of separation which contained the ashes of the red heifer.
scarlet wool, and hyssop–ordinarily used for purification. Scarlet or crimson, resembling blood: it was thought to be a peculiarly deep, fast dye, whence it typified sin (see on Isa 1:18). So Jesus wore a scarlet robe, the emblem of the deep-dyed sins He bore on Him, though He had none in Him. Wool was used as imbibing and retaining water; the hyssop, as a bushy, tufty plant (wrapt round with the scarlet wool), was used for sprinkling it. The wool was also a symbol of purity (Isa 1:18). The Hyssopus officinalis grows on walls, with small lancet-formed woolly leaves, an inch long, with blue and white flowers, and a knotty stalk about a foot high.
sprinkled … the book–namely, out of which he had read “every precept”: the book of the testament or covenant. This sprinkling of the book is not mentioned in the twenty-fourth chapter of Exodus. Hence Bengel translates, “And (having taken) the book itself (so Ex 24:7), he both sprinkled all the people, and (Heb 9:21) moreover sprinkled the tabernacle.” But the Greek supports English Version. Paul, by inspiration, supplies the particular specified here, not in Ex 24:7. The sprinkling of the roll (so the Greek for “book”) of the covenant, or testament, as well as of the people, implies that neither can the law be fulfilled, nor the people be purged from their sins, save by the sprinkling of the blood of Christ (1Pe 1:2). Compare Heb 9:23, which shows that there is something antitypical to the Bible in heaven itself (compare Re 20:12). The Greek, “itself,” distinguishes the book itself from the “precepts” in it which he “spake.”
20. Ex 24:8, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you concerning all these words.” The change is here made to accord with Christ’s inauguration of the new testament, or covenant, as recorded in Lu 22:20, “This cup (is) the new Testament in My blood, which is shed for you”: the only Gospel in which the “is” has to be supplied. Luke was Paul’s companion, which accounts for the correspondence, as here too “is” has to be supplied.
testament–(See on Heb 9:16, 17). The Greek “diathece” means both “testament” and “covenant”: the term “covenant” better suits the old dispensation, though the idea testament is included, for the old was one in its typical relation to the new dispensation, to which the term “testament” is better suited. Christ has sealed the testament with His blood, of which the Lord’s Supper is the sacramental sign. The testator was represented by the animals slain in the old dispensation. In both dispensations the inheritance was bequeathed: in the new by One who has come in person and died; in the old by the same one, only typically and ceremonially present. See Alford’s excellent Note.
enjoined unto you–commissioned me to ratify in relation to you. In the old dispensation the condition to be fulfilled on the people’s part is implied in the words, Ex 24:8, “(Lord made with you) concerning all these words.” But here Paul omits this clause, as he includes the fulfilment of this condition of obedience to “all these words” in the new covenant, as part of God’s promise, in Heb 8:8, 10, 12, whereby Christ fulfils all for our justification, and will enable us by putting His Spirit in us to fulfil all in our now progressive, and finally complete, sanctification.
21. Greek, “And, moreover, in like manner.” The sprinkling of the tabernacle with blood is added by inspiration here to the account in Ex 30:25-30; 40:9, 10, which mentions only Moses’ anointing the tabernacle and its vessels. In Le 8:10, 15, 30, the sprinkling of blood upon Aaron and his garments, and upon his sons, and upon the altar, is mentioned as well as the anointing, so that we might naturally infer, as Josephus has distinctly stated, that the tabernacle and its vessels were sprinkled with blood as well as being anointed: Le 16:16, 20, 33, virtually sanctions this inference. The tabernacle and its contents needed purification (2Ch 29:21).
22. almost–to be joined with “all things,” namely almost all things under the old dispensation. The exceptions to all things being purified by blood are, Ex 19:10; Le 15:5, &c.; 16:26, 28; 22:6; Nu 31:22-24.
without–Greek, “apart from.”
shedding of blood–shed in the slaughter of the victim, and poured out at the altar subsequently. The pouring out of the blood on the altar is the main part of the sacrifice (Le 17:11), and it could not have place apart from the previous shedding of the blood in the slaying. Paul has, perhaps, in mind here, Lu 22:20, “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.”
is–Greek, “takes place”: comes to pass.
remission–of sins: a favorite expression of Luke, Paul’s companion. Properly used of remitting a debt (Mt 6:12; 18:27, 32); our sins are debts. On the truth here, compare Le 5:11-13, an exception because of poverty, confirming the general rule.
23. patterns–“the suggestive representations”; the typical copies (see on Heb 8:5).
things in the heavens–the heavenly tabernacle and the things therein.
purified with these–with the blood of bulls and goats.
heavenly things themselves–the archetypes. Man’s sin had introduced an element of disorder into the relations of God and His holy angels in respect to man. The purification removes this element of disorder and changes God’s wrath against man in heaven (designed to be the place of God’s revealing His grace to men and angels) into a smile of reconciliation. Compare “peace in heaven” (Lu 19:38). “The uncreated heaven of God, though in itself untroubled light, yet needed a purification in so far as the light of love was obscured by the fire of wrath against sinful man” [Delitzsch in Alford]. Contrast Re 12:7-10. Christ’s atonement had the effect also of casting Satan out of heaven (Lu 10:18; Joh 12:31, compare Heb 2:14). Christ’s body, the true tabernacle (see on Heb 8:2; Heb 9:11), as bearing our imputed sin (2Co 5:21), was consecrated (Joh 17:17, 19) and purified by the shedding of His blood to be the meeting place of God and man.
sacrifices–The plural is used in expressing the general proposition, though strictly referring to the one sacrifice of Christ once for all. Paul implies that His one sacrifice, by its matchless excellency, is equivalent to the Levitical many sacrifices. It, though but one, is manifold in its effects and applicability to many.
24. Resumption more fully of the thought, “He entered in once into the holy place,” Heb 9:12. He has in Heb 9:13, 14, expanded the words “by his own blood,” Heb 9:12; and in Heb 9:15-23, he has enlarged on “an High Priest of good things to come.”
not … into … holy places made with hands–as was the Holy of Holies in the earthly tabernacle (see on Heb 9:11).
figures–copies “of the true” holiest place, heaven, the original archetype (Heb 8:5).
into heaven itself–the immediate presence of the invisible God beyond all the created heavens, through which latter Jesus passed (see on Heb 4:14; 1Ti 6:16).
now–ever since His ascension in the present economy (compare Heb 9:26).
to appear–To PRESENT Himself; Greek, “to be made to appear.” Mere man may have a vision through a medium, or veil, as Moses had (Ex 33:18, 20-23). Christ alone beholds the Father without a veil, and is His perfect image. Through seeing Him only can we see the Father.
in the presence of God–Greek, “to the face of God.” The saints shall hereafter see God’s face in Christ (Re 22:4): the earnest of which is now given (2Co 3:18). Aaron, the Levitical high priest for the people, stood before the ark and only saw the cloud, the symbol of God’s glory (Ex 28:30).
for us–in our behalf as our Advocate and Intercessor (Heb 7:25; Ro 8:34; 1Jo 2:1). “It is enough that Jesus should show Himself for us to the Father: the sight of Jesus satisfied God in our behalf. He brings before the face of God no offering which has exhausted itself, and, as only sufficing for a time, needs renewal; but He himself is in person, by virtue of the eternal Spirit, that is, the imperishable life of His person, now and for ever freed from death, our eternally present offering before God” [Delitzsch in Alford].
25. As in Heb 9:24, Paul said, it was not into the typical, but the true sanctuary, that Christ is entered; so now he says, that His sacrifice needs not, as the Levitical sacrifices did, to be repeated. Construe, “Nor yet did He enter for this purpose that He may offer Himself often,” that is, “present Himself in the presence of God, as the high priest does (Paul uses the present tense, as the legal service was then existing), year by year, on the day of atonement, entering the Holy of Holies.
blood of others–not his own, as Christ did.
26. then–in that case.
must … have suffered–rather as Greek, “It would have been necessary for Him often to suffer.” In order to “offer” (Heb 9:25), or present Himself often before God in the heavenly holiest place, like the legal high priests making fresh renewals of this high priestly function. He would have had, and would have often to suffer. His oblation of Himself before God was once for all (that is, the bringing in of His blood into the heavenly Holy of Holies), and therefore the preliminary suffering was once for all.
since the foundation of the world–The continued sins of men, from their first creation, would entail a continual suffering on earth, and consequent oblation of His blood in the heavenly holiest place, since the foundation of the world, if the one oblation “in the fulness of time” were not sufficient. Philo [The Creation of the World, p. 637], shows that the high priest of the Hebrews offered sacrifices for the whole human race. “If there had been greater efficacy in the repetition of the oblation, Christ necessarily would not have been so long promised, but would have been sent immediately after the foundation of the world to suffer, and offer Himself at successive periods” [Grotius].
now–as the case is,
once–for all; without need of renewal. Rome’s fiction of an UNBLOODY sacrifice in the mass, contradicts her assertion that the blood of Christ is present in the wine; and also confutes her assertion that the mass is propitiatory; for, if unbloody, it cannot be propitiatory; for without shedding of blood there is no remission (Heb 9:22). Moreover, the expression “once” for all here, and in Heb 9:28, and Heb 10:10, 12, proves the falsity of her view that there is a continually repeated offering of Christ in the Eucharist or mass. The offering of Christ was a thing once done that it might be thought of for ever (compare Note, see on Heb 10:12).
in the end of the world–Greek, “at the consummation of the ages”; the winding up of all the previous ages from the foundation of the world; to be followed by a new age (Heb 1:1, 2). The last age, beyond which no further age is to be expected before Christ’s speedy second coming, which is the complement of the first coming; literally, “the ends of the ages”; Mt 28:20 is literally, “the consummation of the age,” or world (singular; not as here, plural, ages). Compare “the fulness of times,” Eph 1:10.
appeared–Greek, “been manifested” on earth (1Ti 3:16; 1Pe 1:20). English Version has confounded three distinct Greek verbs, by translating all alike, Heb 9:24, 26, 28, “appear.” But, in Heb 9:24, it is “to present Himself,” namely, before God in the heavenly sanctuary; in Heb 9:26, “been manifested” on earth: in Heb 9:28, “shall be seen” by all, and especially believers.
put away–abolish; doing away sin’s power as well by delivering men from its guilt and penalty, so that it should be powerless to condemn men, as also from its yoke, so that they shall at last sin no more.
sin–singular number; all the sins of men of every age are regarded as one mass laid on Christ. He hath not only droned for all actual sins, but destroyed sin itself. Joh 1:29, “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin (not merely the sins: singular, not plural) of the world.”
by the sacrifice of himself–Greek, “by (through) His own sacrifice”; not by “blood of others” (Heb 9:25). Alford loses this contrast in translating, “by His sacrifice.”
27. as–inasmuch as.
it is appointed–Greek, “it is laid up (as our appointed lot),” Col 1:5. The word “appointed” (so Hebrew “seth” means) in the case of man, answers to “anointed” in the case of Jesus; therefore “the Christ,” that is, the anointed, is the title here given designedly. He is the representative man; and there is a strict correspondence between the history of man and that of the Son of man. The two most solemn facts of our being are here connected with the two most gracious truths of our dispensation, our death and judgment answering in parallelism to Christ’s first coming to die for us, and His second coming to consummate our salvation.
once–and no more.
after this the judgment–namely, at Christ’s appearing, to which, in Heb 9:28, “judgment” in this verse is parallel. Not, “after this comes the heavenly glory.” The intermediate state is a state of joyous, or else agonizing and fearful, expectation of “judgment”; after the judgment comes the full and final state of joy, or else woe.
28. Christ–Greek, “THE Christ”; the representative Man; representing all men, as the first Adam did.
once offered–not “often,” Heb 9:25; just as “men,” of whom He is the representative Head, are appointed by God once to die. He did not need to die again and again for each individual, or each successive generation of men, for He represents all men of every age, and therefore needed to die but once for all, so as to exhaust the penalty of death incurred by all. He was offered by the Father, His own “eternal Spirit” (Heb 9:14) concurring; as Abraham spared not Isaac, but offered him, the son himself unresistingly submitting to the father’s will (Ge 22:1-24).
to bear the sins–referring to Isa 53:12, “He bare the sins of many,” namely, on Himself; so “bear” means, Le 24:15; Nu 5:31; 14:34. The Greek is literally “to bear up” (1Pe 2:24). “Our sins were laid on Him. When, therefore, He was lifted up on the cross, He bare up our sins along with Him” [Bengel].
many–not opposed to all, but to few. He, the One, was offered for many; and that once for all (compare Mt 20:28).
look for him–with waiting expectation even unto the end (so the Greek). It is translated “wait for” in Ro 8:19, 23; 1Co 1:7, which see.
appear–rather, as Greek, “be seen.” No longer in the alien “form of a servant,” but in His own proper glory.
without sin–apart from, separate from, sin. Not bearing the sin of many on Him as at His first coming (even then there was no sin in Him). That sin has been at His first coming once for all taken away, so as to need no repetition of His sin offering of Himself (Heb 9:26). At His second coming He shall have no more to do with sin.
unto salvation–to bring in completed salvation; redeeming then the body which is as yet subject to the bondage of corruption. Hence, in Php 3:20 he says, “we look for THE Saviour.” Note, Christ’s prophetical office, as the divine Teacher, was especially exercised during His earthly ministry; His priestly is now from His first to His second coming; His kingly office shall be fully manifested at, and after, His second coming.
Heb 10:1-39. Conclusion of the Foregoing Argument. The Yearly Recurring Law Sacrifices Cannot Perfect the Worshipper, but Christ’s Once-for-all Offering Can.
Instead of the daily ministry of the Levitical priests, Christ’s service is perfected by the one sacrifice, whence He now sits on the right hand of God as a Priest-King, until all His foes shall be subdued unto Him. Thus the new covenant (Heb 8:8-12) is inaugurated, whereby the law is written on the heart, so that an offering for sin is needed no more. Wherefore we ought to draw near the Holiest in firm faith and love; fearful of the awful results of apostasy; looking for the recompense to be given at Christ’s coming.
1. Previously the oneness of Christ’s offering was shown; now is shown its perfection as contrasted with the law sacrifices.
having–inasmuch as it has but “the shadow, not the very image,” that is, not the exact likeness, reality, and full revelation, such as the Gospel has. The “image” here means the archetype (compare Heb 9:24), the original, solid image [Bengel] realizing to us those heavenly verities, of which the law furnished but a shadowy outline before. Compare 2Co 3:13, 14, 18; the Gospel is the very setting forth by the Word and Spirit of the heavenly realities themselves, out of which it (the Gospel) is constructed. So Alford. As Christ is “the express image (Greek, ‘impress’) of the Father’s person” (Heb 1:3), so the Gospel is the heavenly verities themselves manifested by revelation–the heavenly very archetype, of which the law was drawn as a sketch, or outline copy (Heb 8:5). The law was a continual process of acted prophecy, proving the divine design that its counterparts should come; and proving the truth of those counterparts when they came. Thus the imperfect and continued expiatory sacrifices before Christ foretend, and now prove, the reality of, Christ’s one perfect antitypical expiation.
good things to come–(Heb 9:11); belonging to “the world (age) to come.” Good things in part made present by faith to the believer, and to be fully realized hereafter in actual and perfect enjoyment. Lessing says, “As Christ’s Church on earth is a prediction of the economy of the future life, so the Old Testament economy is a prediction of the Christian Church.” In relation to the temporal good things of the law, the spiritual and eternal good things of the Gospel are “good things to come.” Col 2:17 calls legal ordinances “the shadow,” and Christ “the body.”
never–at any time (Heb 10:11).
with those sacrifices–rather, “with the same sacrifices.
year by year–This clause in the Greek refers to the whole sentence, not merely to the words “which they the priests offered” (Greek, “offer”). Thus the sense is, not as English Version, but, the law year by year, by the repetition of the same sacrifices, testifies its inability to perfect the worshippers; namely, on the YEARLY day of atonement. The “daily” sacrifices are referred to, Heb 10:11.
continually–Greek, “continuously,” implying that they offer a toilsome and ineffectual “continuous” round of the “same” atonement-sacrifices recurring “year by year.”
comers thereunto–those so coming unto God, namely, the worshippers (the whole people) coming to God in the person of their representative, the high priest.
perfect–fully meet man’s needs as to justification and sanctification (see on Heb 9:9).
2. For–if the law could, by its sacrifices, have perfected the worshippers.
once purged–IF they were once for all cleansed (Heb 7:27).
conscience–“consciousness of sin” (Heb 9:9).
3. But–so far from those sacrifices ceasing to be offered (Heb 10:2).
in, &c.–in the fact of their being offered, and in the course of their being offered on the day of atonement. Contrast Heb 10:17.
a remembrance–a recalling to mind by the high priest’s confession, on the day of atonement, of the sins both of each past year and of all former years, proving that the expiatory sacrifices of former years were not felt by men’s consciences to have fully atoned for former sins; in fact, the expiation and remission were only legal and typical (Heb 10:4, 11). The Gospel remission, on the contrary, is so complete, that sins are “remembered no more” (Heb 10:17) by God. It is unbelief to “forget” this once-for-all purgation, and to fear on account of “former sins” (2Pe 1:9). The believer, once for all bathed, needs only to “wash” his hands and “feet” of soils, according as he daily contracts them, in Christ’s blood (Joh 13:10).
4. For, &c.–reason why, necessarily, there is a continually recurring “remembrance of sins” in the legal sacrifices (Heb 10:3). Typically, “the blood of bulls,” &c., sacrificed, had power; but it was only in virtue of the power of the one real antitypical sacrifice of Christ; they had no power in themselves; they were not the instrument of perfect vicarious atonement, but an exhibition of the need of it, suggesting to the faithful Israelite the sure hope of coming redemption, according to God’s promise.
take away–“take off.” The Greek, Heb 10:11, is stronger, explaining the weaker word here, “take away utterly.” The blood of beasts could not take away the sin of man. A MAN must do that (see on Heb 9:12-14).
5. Christ’s voluntary self offering, in contrast to those inefficient sacrifices, is shown to fulfill perfectly “the will of God” as to our redemption, by completely atoning “for (our) sins.”
Wherefore–seeing that a nobler than animal sacrifices was needed to “take away sins.”
when he cometh–Greek, “coming.” The time referred to is the period before His entrance into the world, when the inefficiency of animal sacrifices for expiation had been proved [Tholuck]. Or, the time is that between Jesus’ first dawning of reason as a child, and the beginning of His public ministry, during which, being ripened in human resolution, He was intently devoting Himself to the doing of His Father’s will [Alford]. But the time of “coming” is present; not “when He had come,” but “when coming into the world”; so, in order to accord with Alford’s view, “the world” must mean His PUBLIC ministry: when coming, or about to come, into public. The Greek verbs are in the past: “sacrifice … Thou didst not wish, but a body Thou didst prepare for Me”; and, “Lo, I am come.” Therefore, in order to harmonize these times, the present coming, or about to come, with the past, “A body Thou didst prepare for Me,” we must either explain as Alford, or else, if we take the period to be before His actual arrival in the world (the earth) or incarnation, we must explain the past tenses to refer to God’s purpose, which speaks of what He designed from eternity as though it were already fulfilled. “A body Thou didst prepare in Thy eternal counsel.” This seems to me more likely than explaining “coming into the world,” “coming into public,” or entering on His public ministry. David, in the fortieth Psalm (here quoted), reviews his past troubles and God’s having delivered him from them, and his consequent desire to render willing obedience to God as more acceptable than sacrifices; but the Spirit puts into his mouth language finding its partial application to David, and its full realization only in the divine Son of David. “The more any son of man approaches the incarnate Son of God in position, or office, or individual spiritual experience, the more directly may his holy breathings in the power of Christ’s Spirit be taken as utterances of Christ Himself. Of all men, the prophet-king of Israel resembled and foreshadowed Him the most” [Alford].
a body hast thou prepared me–Greek, “Thou didst fit for Me a body.” “In Thy counsels Thou didst determine to make for Me a body, to be given up to death as a sacrificial victim” [Wahl]. In the Hebrew, Ps 40:6, it is “mine ears hast thou opened,” or “dug.” Perhaps this alludes to the custom of boring the ear of a slave who volunteers to remain under his master when he might be free. Christ’s assuming a human body, in obedience to the Father’s will, in order to die the death of a slave (Heb 2:14), was virtually the same act of voluntary submission to service as that of a slave suffering his ear to be bored by his master. His willing obedience to the Father’s will is what is dwelt on as giving especial virtue to His sacrifice (Heb 10:7, 9, 10). The preparing, or fitting of a body for Him, is not with a view to His mere incarnation, but to His expiatory sacrifice (Heb 10:10), as the contrast to “sacrifice and offering” requires; compare also Ro 7:4; Eph 2:16; Col 1:22. More probably “opened mine ears” means opened mine inward ear, so as to be attentively obedient to what God wills me to do, namely, to assume the body He has prepared for me for my sacrifice, so Job 33:16, Margin; Job 36:10 (doubtless the boring of a slave’s “ear” was the symbol of such willing obedience); Isa 50:5, “The Lord God hath opened mine ear,” that is, made me obediently attentive as a slave to his master. Others somewhat similarly explain, “Mine ears hast thou digged,” or “fashioned,” not with allusion to Ex 21:6, but to the true office of the ear–a willing, submissive attention to the voice of God (Isa 50:4, 5). The forming of the ear implies the preparation of the body, that is, the incarnation; this secondary idea, really in the Hebrew, though less prominent, is the one which Paul uses for his argument. In either explanation the idea of Christ taking on Him the form, and becoming obedient as a servant, is implied. As He assumed a body in which to make His self-sacrifice, so ought we present our bodies a living sacrifice (Ro 12:1).
6. burnt offerings–Greek, “whole burnt offerings.”
thou hast had no pleasure–as if these could in themselves atone for sin: God had pleasure in (Greek, “approved,” or “was well pleased with”) them, in so far as they were an act of obedience to His positive command under the Old Testament, but not as having an intrinsic efficacy such as Christ’s sacrifice had. Contrast Mt 3:17.
7. I come–rather, “I am come” (see on Heb 10:5). “Here we have the creed, as it were, of Jesus: ‘I am come to fulfil the law,’ Mt 5:17; to preach, Mr 1:38; to call sinners to repentance, Lu 5:32; to send a sword and to set men at variance, Mt 10:34, 35; I came down from heaven to do the will of Him that sent me, Joh 6:38, 39 (so here, Ps 40:7, 8); I am sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, Mt 15:24; I am come into this world for judgment, Joh 9:39; I am come that they might have life, and might have it more abundantly, Joh 10:10; to save what had been lost, Mt 18:11; to seek and to save that which was lost, Lu 19:10; compare 1Ti 1:15; to save men’s lives, Lu 9:56; to send fire on the earth, Lu 12:49; to minister, Mt 20:28; as “the Light,” Joh 12:46; to bear witness unto the truth, Joh 18:37. See, reader, that thy Saviour obtain what He aimed at in thy case. Moreover, do thou for thy part say, why thou art come here? Dost thou, then, also, do the will of God? From what time? and in what way?” [Bengel]. When the two goats on the day of atonement were presented before the Lord, that goat on which the lot of the Lord should fall was to be offered as a sin offering; and that lot was lifted up on high in the hand of the high priest, and then laid upon the head of the goat which was to die; so the hand of God determined all that was done to Christ. Besides the covenant of God with man through Christ’s blood, there was another covenant made by the Father with the Son from eternity. The condition was, “If He shall make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed,” &c. (Isa 53:10). The Son accepted the condition, “Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God” [Bishop Pearson]. Oblation, intercession, and benediction, are His three priestly offices.
in the volume, &c.–literally, “the roll”: the parchment manuscript being wrapped around a cylinder headed with knobs. Here, the Scripture “volume” meant is the fortieth Psalm. “By this very passage ‘written of Me,’ I undertake to do Thy will [namely, that I should die for the sins of the world, in order that all who believe may be saved, not by animal sacrifices, Heb 10:6, but by My death].” This is the written contract of Messiah (compare Ne 9:38), whereby He engaged to be our surety. So complete is the inspiration of all that is written, so great the authority of the Psalms, that what David says is really what Christ then and there said.
Sacrifice, &c.–The oldest manuscripts read, “Sacrifices and offerings” (plural). This verse combines the two clauses previously quoted distinctly, Heb 10:5, 6, in contrast to the sacrifice of Christ with which God was well pleased.
9. Then said he–“At that time (namely, when speaking by David’s mouth in the fortieth Psalm) He hath said.” The rejection of the legal sacrifices involves, as its concomitant, the voluntary offer of Jesus to make the self-sacrifice with which God is well pleased (for, indeed, it was God’s own “will” that He came to do in offering it: so that this sacrifice could not but be well pleasing to God).
I come–“I am come.”
taketh away–“sets aside the first,” namely, “the legal system of sacrifices” which God wills not.
the second–“the will of God” (Heb 10:7, 9) that Christ should redeem us by His self-sacrifice.
10. By–Greek, “In.” So “in,” and “through,” occur in the same sentence, 1Pe 1:22, “Ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit.” Also, 1Pe 1:5, in the Greek. The “in (fulfilment of) which will” (compare the use of in, Eph 1:6, “wherein [in which grace] He hath made us accepted, in the Beloved”), expresses the originating cause; “THROUGH the offering … of Christ,” the instrumental or mediatory cause. The whole work of redemption flows from “the will” of God the Father, as the First Cause, who decreed redemption from before the foundation of the world. The “will” here (boulema) is His absolute sovereign will. His “good will” (eudokia) is a particular aspect of it.
are sanctified–once for all, and as our permanent state (so the Greek). It is the finished work of Christ in having sanctified us (that is, having translated us from a state of unholy alienation into a state of consecration to God, having “no more conscience of sin,” Heb 10:2) once for all and permanently, not the process of gradual sanctification, which is here referred to.
the body–“prepared” for Him by the Father (Heb 10:5). As the atonement, or reconciliation, is by the blood of Christ (Le 17:11), so our sanctification (consecration to God, holiness and eternal bliss) is by the body of Christ (Col 1:22). Alford quotes the Book of Common Prayer Communion Service, “that our sinful bodies may be made clean by His body, and our souls washed through His most precious blood.”
once for all–(Heb 7:27; 9:12, 26, 28; 10:12, 14).
11. And–a new point of contrast; the frequent repetition of the sacrifices.
priest–The oldest manuscripts read, “high priest.” Though he did not in person stand “daily” offering sacrifices, he did so by the subordinate priests of whom, as well as of all Israel, he was the representative head. So “daily” is applied to the high priests (Heb 7:27).
standeth–the attitude of one ministering; in contrast to “sat down on the right hand of God,” Heb 10:12, said of Christ; the posture of one being ministered to as a king.
which–Greek, “the which,” that is, of such a kind as.
take away–utterly; literally, “strip off all round.” Legal sacrifices might, in part, produce the sense of forgiveness, yet scarcely even that (see on Heb 10:4); but entirely to strip off one’s guilt they never could.
12. this man–emphatic (Heb 3:3).
for ever–joined in English Version with “offered one sacrifice”; offered one sacrifice, the efficacy of which endures for ever; literally. “continuously,” (compare Heb 10:14). “The offering of Christ, once for all made, will continue the one and only oblation for ever; no other will supersede it” [Bengel]. The mass, which professes to be the frequent repetition of one and the same sacrifice of Christ’s body, is hence disproved. For not only is Christ’s body one, but also His offering is one, and that inseparable from His suffering (Heb 9:26). The mass would be much the same as the Jewish sacrifices which Paul sets aside as abrogated, for they were anticipations of the one sacrifice, just as Rome makes masses continuations of it, in opposition to Paul’s argument. A repetition would imply that the former once-for-all offering of the one sacrifice was imperfect, and so would be dishonoring to it (Heb 10:2, 18). Heb 10:14, on the contrary, says, “He hath PERFECTED FOR EVER them that are sanctified.” If Christ offered Himself at the last supper, then He offered Himself again on the cross, and there would be two offerings; but Paul says there was only one, once for all. Compare Note, see on Heb 9:26. English Version is favored by the usage in this Epistle, of putting the Greek “for ever” after that which it qualifies. Also, “one sacrifice for ever,” stands in contrast to “the same sacrifices oftentimes” (Heb 10:11). Also, 1Co 15:25, 28, agrees with Heb 10:12, 13, taken as English Version, not joining, as Alford does, “for ever” with “sat down,” for Jesus is to give up the mediatorial throne “when all things shall be subdued unto Him,” and not to sit on it for ever.
13. expecting–“waiting.” Awaiting the execution of His Father’s will, that all His foes should be subjected to Him. The Son waits till the Father shall “send Him forth to triumph over all His foes.” He is now sitting at rest (Heb 10:12), invisibly reigning, and having His foes virtually, by right of His death, subject to Him. His present sitting on the unseen throne is a necessary preliminary to His coming forth to subject His foes openly. He shall then come forth to a visibly manifested kingdom and conquest over His foes. Thus He fulfils Ps 110:1. This agrees with 1Co 15:23-28. He is, by His Spirit and His providence, now subjecting His foes to Him in part (Ps 110:1-7). The subjection of His foes fully shall be at His second advent, and from that time to the general judgment (Re 19:1-20:15); then comes the subjection of Himself as Head of the Church to the Father (the mediatorial economy ceasing when its end shall have been accomplished), that God may be all in all. Eastern conquerors used to tread on the necks of the vanquished, as Joshua did to the five kings. So Christ’s total and absolute conquest at His coming is symbolized.
be made his footstool–literally, “be placed (rendered) footstool of His feet.”
his enemies–Satan and Death, whose strength consists in “sin”; this being taken away (Heb 10:12), the power of the foes is taken away, and their destruction necessarily follows.
14. For–The sacrifice being “for ever” in its efficacy (Heb 10:12) needs no renewal.
them that are sanctified–rather as Greek, “them that are being sanctified.” The sanctification (consecration to God) of the elect (1Pe 1:2) believers is perfect in Christ once for all (see on Heb 10:10). (Contrast the law, Heb 7:19; 9:9; 10:1). The development of that sanctification is progressive.
15. The Greek, has “moreover,” or “now.”
is a witness–of the truth which I am setting forth. The Father’s witness is given Heb 5:10. The Son’s, Heb 10:5. Now is added that of the Holy Spirit, called accordingly “the Spirit of grace,” Heb 10:29. The testimony of all Three leads to the same conclusion (Heb 10:18).
for after that he had said before–The conclusion to the sentence is in Heb 10:17, “After He had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them (with the house of Israel, Heb 8:10; here extended to the spiritual Israel) … saith the Lord; I will put (literally, ‘giving,’ referring to the giving of the law; not now as then, giving into the hands, but giving) My laws into their hearts (‘mind,’ Heb 8:10) and in their minds (‘hearts,’ Heb 8:10); I will inscribe (so the Greek) them (here He omits the addition quoted in Heb 8:10, 11, I will be to them a God … and they shall not teach every man his neighbor …), and (that is, after He had said the foregoing, He then adds) their sins … will I remember no more.” The great object of the quotation here is to prove that, there being in the Gospel covenant, “REMISSION of sins” (Heb 10:17), there is no more need of a sacrifice for sins. The object of the same quotation in Heb 8:8-13 is to show that, there being a “NEW covenant,” the old is antiquated.
18. where remission of these is–as there is under the Gospel covenant (Heb 10:17). “Here ends the finale (Heb 10:1-18) of the great tripartite arrangement (Heb 7:1-25; 7:26-9:12; 9:13-10:18) of the middle portion of the Epistle. Its great theme was Christ a High Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. What it is to be a high priest after the order of Melchisedec is set forth, Heb 7:1-25, as contrasted with the Aaronic order. That Christ, however, as High Priest, is Aaron’s antitype in the true holy place, by virtue of His self-sacrifice here on earth, and Mediator of a better covenant, whose essential character the old only typified, we learn, Heb 7:26-9:12. And that Christ’s self-sacrifice, offered through the Eternal Spirit, is of everlasting power, as contrasted with the unavailing cycle of legal offerings, is established in the third part, Heb 9:13-10:18; the first half of this last portion [Heb 9:13-28], showing that both our present possession of salvation, and our future completion of it, are as certain to us as that He is with God, ruling as a Priest and reigning as a King, once more to appear, no more as a bearer of our sins, but in glory as a Judge. The second half, Heb 10:1-18, reiterating the main position of the whole, the High Priesthood of Christ, grounded on His offering of Himself–its kingly character its eternal accomplishment of its end, confirmed by Psalms 40 and 110 and Jeremiah 31” [Delitzsch in Alford].
19. Here begins the third and last division of the Epistle; our duty now while waiting for the Lord’s second advent. Resumption and expansion of the exhortation (Heb 4:14-16; compare Heb 10:22, 23 here) wherewith he closed the first part of the Epistle, preparatory to his great doctrinal argument, beginning at Heb 7:1.
boldness–“free confidence,” grounded on the consciousness that our sins have been forgiven.
to enter–literally, “as regards the entering.”
by–Greek, “in”; it is in the blood of Jesus that our boldness to enter is grounded. Compare Eph 3:12, “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence.” It is His having once for all entered as our Forerunner (Heb 6:20) and High Priest (Heb 10:21), making atonement for us with His blood, which is continually there (Heb 12:24) before God, that gives us confident access. No priestly caste now mediates between the sinner and his Judge. We may come boldly with loving confidence, not with slavish fear, directly through Christ, the only mediating Priest. The minister is not officially nearer God than the layman; nor can the latter serve God at a distance or by deputy, as the natural man would like. Each must come for himself, and all are accepted when they come by the new and living way opened by Christ. Thus all Christians are, in respect to access directly to God, virtually high priests (Re 1:6). They draw nigh in and through Christ, the only proper High Priest (Heb 7:25).
20. which, &c.–The antecedent in the Greek is “the entering”; not as English Version, “way.” Translate, “which (entering) He has consecrated (not as though it were already existing, but has been the first to open, INAUGURATED as a new thing; see on Heb 9:18, where the Greek is the same) for us (as) a new (Greek, ‘recent’; recently opened, Ro 16:25, 26) and living way” (not like the lifeless way through the law offering of the blood of dead victims, but real, vital, and of perpetual efficacy, because the living and life-giving Saviour is that way. It is a living hope that we have, producing not dead, but living, works). Christ, the first-fruits of our nature, has ascended, and the rest is sanctified thereby. “Christ’s ascension is our promotion; and whither the glory of the Head hath preceded, thither the hope of the body, too, is called” [Leo].
the veil–As the veil had to be passed through in order to enter the holiest place, so the weak, human suffering flesh (Heb 5:7) of Christ’s humanity (which veiled His God head) had to be passed through by Him in entering the heavenly holiest place for us; in putting off His rent flesh, the temple veil, its type, was simultaneously rent from top to bottom (Mt 27:51). Not His body, but His weak suffering flesh, was the veil; His body was the temple (Joh 2:19).
21. high priest–As a different Greek term (archiereus) is used always elsewhere in this Epistle for “high priest,” translate as Greek here, “A Great Priest”; one who is at once King and “Priest on His throne” (Zec 6:13); a royal Priest, and a priestly King.
house of God–the spiritual house, the Church, made up of believers, whose home is heaven, where Jesus now is (Heb 12:22, 23). Thus, by “the house of God,” over which Jesus is, heaven is included in meaning, as well as the Church, whose home it is.
22. (Heb 4:16; 7:19.)
with a true heart–without hypocrisy; “in truth, and with a perfect heart”; a heart thoroughly imbued with “the truth” (Heb 10:26).
full assurance–(Heb 6:11); with no doubt as to our acceptance when coming to God by the blood of Christ. As “faith” occurs here, so “hope,” and “love,” Heb 10:23, 24.
sprinkled from–that is, sprinkled so as to be cleansed from.
evil conscience–a consciousness of guilt unatoned for, and uncleansed away (Heb 10:2; Heb 9:9). Both the hearts and the bodies are cleansed. The legal purifications were with blood of animal victims and with water, and could only cleanse the flesh (Heb 9:13, 21). Christ’s blood purifies the heart and conscience. The Aaronic priest, in entering the holy place, washed with water (Heb 9:19) in the brazen laver. Believers, as priests to God, are once for all washed in BODY (as distinguished from “hearts”) at baptism. As we have an immaterial, and a material nature, the cleansing of both is expressed by “hearts” and “body,” the inner and the outer man; so the whole man, material and immaterial. The baptism of the body, however, is not the mere putting away of material filth, nor an act operating by intrinsic efficacy, but the sacramental seal, applied to the outer man, of a spiritual washing (1Pe 3:21). “Body” (not merely “flesh,” the carnal part, as 2Co 7:1) includes the whole material man, which needs cleansing, as being redeemed, as well as the soul. The body, once polluted with sin, is washed, so as to be fitted like Christ’s holy body, and by His body, to be spiritually a pure and living offering. On the “pure water,” the symbol of consecration and sanctification, compare Joh 19:34; 1Co 6:11; 1Jo 5:6; Eze 36:25. The perfects “having … hearts sprinkled … body (the Greek is singular) washed,” imply a continuing state produced by a once-for-all accomplished act, namely, our justification by faith through Christ’s blood, and consecration to God, sealed sacramentally by the baptism of our body.
23. (Heb 3:6, 14; 4:14.)
our faith–rather as Greek, “our hope”; which is indeed faith exercised as to the future inheritance. Hope rests on faith, and at the same time quickens faith, and is the ground of our bold confession (1Pe 3:15). Hope is similarly (Heb 10:22) connected with purification (1Jo 3:3).
without wavering–without declension (Heb 3:14), “steadfast unto the end.”
he–God is faithful to His promises (Heb 6:17, 18; 11:11; 12:26, 28; 1Co 1:9; 10:13; 1Th 5:24; 2Th 3:3; see also Christ’s promise, Joh 12:26); but man is too often unfaithful to his duties.
24. Here, as elsewhere, hope and love follow faith; the Pauline triad of Christian graces.
consider–with the mind attentively fixed on “one another” (see on Heb 3:1), contemplating with continual consideration the characters and wants of our brethren, so as to render mutual help and counsel. Compare “consider,” Ps 41:1, and Heb 12:15, “(All) looking diligently lest any fail of the grace of God.”
to provoke–Greek, “with a view to provoking unto love,” instead of provoking to hatred, as is too often the case.
25. assembling of ourselves together–The Greek, “episunagoge,” is only found here and 2Th 2:1 (the gathering together of the elect to Christ at His coming, Mt 24:31). The assembling or gathering of ourselves for Christian communion in private and public, is an earnest of our being gathered together to Him at His appearing. Union is strength; continual assemblings together beget and foster love, and give good opportunities for “provoking to good works,” by “exhorting one another” (Heb 3:13). Ignatius says, “When ye frequently, and in numbers meet together, the powers of Satan are overthrown, and his mischief is neutralized by your likemindedness in the faith.” To neglect such assemblings together might end in apostasy at last. He avoids the Greek term “sunagoge,” as suggesting the Jewish synagogue meetings (compare Re 2:9).
as the manner of some is–“manner,” that is, habit, custom. This gentle expression proves he is not here as yet speaking of apostasy.
the day approaching–This, the shortest designation of the day of the Lord’s coming, occurs elsewhere only in 1Co 3:13; a confirmation of the Pauline authorship of this Epistle. The Church being in all ages kept uncertain how soon Christ is coming, the day is, and has been, in each age, practically always near; whence, believers have been called on always to be watching for it as nigh at hand. The Hebrews were now living close upon One of those great types and foretastes of it, the destruction of Jerusalem (Mt 24:1, 2), “the bloody and fiery dawn of the great day; that day is the day of days, the ending day of all days, the settling day of all days, the day of the promotion of time into eternity, the day which, for the Church, breaks through and breaks off the night of the present world” [Delitzsch in Alford].
26. Compare on this and following verses, Heb 6:4, &c. There the warning was that if there be not diligence in progressing, a falling off will take place, and apostasy may ensue: here it is, that if there be lukewarmness in Christian communion, apostasy may ensue.
if we sin–Greek present participle: if we be found sinning, that is, not isolated acts, but a state of sin [Alford]. A violation not only of the law, but of the whole economy of the New Testament (Heb 10:28, 29).
wilfully–presumptuously, Greek “willingly.” After receiving “full knowledge (so the Greek, compare 1Ti 2:4) of the truth,” by having been “enlightened,” and by having “tasted” a certain measure even of grace of “the Holy Ghost” (the Spirit of truth, Joh 14:17; and “the Spirit of grace,” Heb 10:29): to fall away (as “sin” here means, Heb 3:12, 17; compare Heb 6:6) and apostatize (Heb 3:12) to Judaism or infidelity, is not a sin of ignorance, or error (“out of the way,” the result) of infirmity, but a deliberate sinning against the Spirit (Heb 10:29; Heb 5:2): such sinning, where a consciousness of Gospel obligations not only was, but is present: a sinning presumptuously and preseveringly against Christ’s redemption for us, and the Spirit of grace in us. “He only who stands high can fall low. A lively reference in the soul to what is good is necessary in order to be thoroughly wicked; hence, man can be more reprobate than the beasts, and the apostate angels than apostate man” [Tholuck].
remaineth no more sacrifice–For there is but ONE Sacrifice that can atone for sin; they, after having fully known that sacrifice, deliberately reject it.
27. a certain–an extraordinary and indescribable. The indefiniteness, as of something peculiar of its kind, makes the description the more terrible (compare Greek, Jas 1:18).
looking for–“expectation”: a later sense of the Greek. Alford strangely translates, as the Greek usually means elsewhere, “reception.” The transition is easy from “giving a reception to” something or someone, to “looking for.” Contrast the “expecting” (the very same Greek as here), Heb 10:13, which refutes Alford.
fiery indignation–literally, “zeal of fire.” Fire is personified: glow or ardor of fire, that is, of Him who is “a consuming fire.”
28. Compare Heb 2:2, 3; 12:25.
despised–“set at naught” [Alford]: utterly and heinously violated, not merely some minor detail, but the whole law and covenant; for example, by idolatry (De 17:2-7). So here apostasy answers to such an utter violation of the old covenant.
died–Greek, “dies”: the normal punishment of such transgression, then still in force.
without mercy–literally, “mercies”: removal out of the pale of mitigation, or a respite of his doom.
under–on the evidence of.
29. sorer–Greek, “worse,” namely, “punishment” (literally, “vengeance”) than any mere temporal punishment of the body.
suppose ye–an appeal to the Hebrews’ reason and conscience.
thought worthy–by God at the judgment.
trodden under foot the Son of God–by “wilful” apostasy. So he treads under foot God Himself who “glorified His Son as an high priest” (Heb 5:5; 6:6).
an unholy thing–literally, “common,” as opposed to “sanctified.” No better than the blood of a common man, thus involving the consequence that Christ, in claiming to be God, was guilty of blasphemy, and so deserved to die!
wherewith he was sanctified–for Christ died even for him. “Sanctified,” in the fullest sense, belongs only to the saved elect. But in some sense it belongs also to those who have gone a far way in Christian experience, and yet fall away at last. The higher such a one’s past Christian experiences, the deeper his fall.
done despite unto–by repelling in fact: as “blasphemy” is despite in words (Mr 3:29). “Of the Jews who became Christians and relapsed to Judaism, we find from the history of Uriel Acosta, that they required a blasphemy against Christ. ‘They applied to Him epithets used against Molech the adulterous branch,’ &c.” [Tholuck].
the Spirit of grace–the Spirit that confers grace. “He who does not accept the benefit, insults Him who confers it. He hath made thee a son: wilt thou become a slave? He has come to take up His abode with thee; but thou art introducing evil into thyself” [Chrysostom]. “It is the curse of evil eternally to propagate evil: so, for him who profanes the Christ without him, and blasphemes the Christ within him, there is subjectively no renewal of a change of mind (Heb 6:6), and objectively no new sacrifice for sins” (Heb 10:26) [Tholuck].
30. him–God, who enters no empty threats.
Vengeance belongeth unto me–Greek, “To Me belongeth vengeance”: exactly according with Paul’s quotation, Ro 12:19, of the same text.
Lord shall judge his people–in grace, or else anger, according as each deserves: here, “judge,” so as to punish the reprobate apostate; there, “judge,” so as to interpose in behalf of, and save His people (De 32:36).
31. fearful … to fall into the hands–It is good like David to fall into the hands of God, rather than man, when one does so with filial faith in his father’s love, though God chastises him. “It is fearful” to fall into His hands as a reprobate and presumptuous sinner doomed to His just vengeance as Judge (Heb 10:27).
living God–therefore able to punish for ever (Mt 10:28).
32. As previously he has warned them by the awful end of apostates, so here he stirs them up by the remembrance of their own former faith, patience, and self-sacrificing love. So Re 2:3, 4.
call to remembrance–habitually: so the present tense means.
illuminated–“enlightened”: come to “the knowledge of the truth” (Heb 10:26) in connection with baptism (see on Heb 6:4). In spiritual baptism, Christ, who is “the Light,” is put on. “On the one hand, we are not to sever the sign and the grace signified where the sacrifice truly answers its designs; on the other, the glass is not to be mistaken for the liquor, nor the sheath for the sword” [Bengel].
fight of–that is, consisting of afflictions.
33. The persecutions here referred to seem to have been endured by the Hebrew Christians at their first conversion, not only in Palestine, but also in Rome and elsewhere, the Jews in every city inciting the populace and the Roman authorities against Christians.
gazing-stock–as in a theater (so the Greek): often used as the place of punishment in the presence of the assembled multitudes. Ac 19:29; 1Co 4:9, “Made a theatrical spectacle to the world.”
ye became–of your own accord: attesting your Christian sympathy with your suffering brethren.
companions of–sharers in affliction with.
34. ye had compassion on me in my bonds–The oldest manuscripts and versions omit “me,” and read, “Ye both sympathized with those in bonds (answering to the last clause of Heb 10:33; compare Heb 13:3, 23; 6:10), and accepted (so the Greek is translated in Heb 11:35) with joy (Jas 1:2; joy in tribulations, as exercising faith and other graces, Ro 5:3; and the pledge of the coming glory, Mt 5:12) the plundering of your (own) goods (answering to the first clause of Heb 10:33).”
in yourselves–The oldest manuscripts omit “in”: translate, “knowing that ye have for (or ‘to’) yourselves.”
better–a heavenly (Heb 11:16).
enduring–not liable to spoiling.
substance–possession: peculiarly our own, if we will not cast away our birthright.
35-37. Consequent exhortation to confidence and endurance, as Christ is soon coming.
Cast not away–implying that they now have “confidence,” and that it will not withdraw of itself, unless they “cast it away” wilfully (compare Heb 3:14).
which–Greek, “the which”: inasmuch as being such as.
hath–present tense: it is as certain as if you had it in your hand (Heb 10:37). It hath in reversion.
recompense of reward–of grace not of debt: a reward of a kind which no mercenary self-seeker would seek: holiness will be its own reward; self-devoting unselfishness for Christ’s sake will be its own rich recompense (see on Heb 2:2; Heb 11:26).
36. patience–Greek, “waiting endurance,” or “enduring perseverance”: the kindred Greek verb in the Septuagint, Hab 2:3, is translated, “wait for it” (compare Jas 5:7).
after ye have done the will of God–“that whereas ye have done the will of God” hitherto (Heb 10:32-35), ye may now show also patient, persevering endurance, and so “receive the promise,” that is, the promised reward: eternal life and bliss commensurate with our work of faith and love (Heb 6:10-12). We must not only do, but also suffer (1Pe 4:19). God first uses the active talents of His servants; then polishes the other side of the stone, making the passive graces shine, patience, meekness, &c. It may be also translated, “That ye may do the will of God, and receive,” &c. [Alford]: “patience” itself is a further and a persevering doing of “God’s will”; otherwise it would be profitless and no real grace (Mt 7:21). We should look, not merely for individual bliss now and at death, but for the great and general consummation of bliss of all saints, both in body and soul.
37, 38. Encouragement to patient endurance by consideration of the shortness of the time till Christ shall come, and God’s rejection of him that draws back, taken from Hab 2:3, 4.
a little while–(Joh 16:16).
he that shall come–literally, “the Comer.” In Habakkuk, it is the vision that is said to be about to come. Christ, being the grand and ultimate subject of all prophetical vision, is here made by Paul, under inspiration, the subject of the Spirit’s prophecy by Habakkuk, in its final and exhaustive fulfilment.
38. just–The oldest manuscripts and Vulgate read, “my just man.” God is the speaker: “He who is just in My sight.” Bengel translates, “The just shall live by my faith”: answering to the Hebrew, Hab 2:4; literally, “the just shall live by the faith of Him,” namely, Christ, the final subject of “the vision,” who “will not lie,” that is, disappoint. Here not merely the first beginning, as in Ga 3:11, but the continuance, of the spiritual life of the justified man is referred to, as opposed to declension and apostasy. As the justified man receives his first spiritual life by faith, so it is by faith that he shall continue to live (Lu 4:4). The faith meant here is that fully developed living trust in the unseen (Heb 11:1) Saviour, which can keep men steadfast amidst persecutions and temptations (Heb 10:34-36).
if any man draw back–So the Greek admits: though it might also be translated, as Alford approves, “if he (the just man) draw back.” Even so, it would not disprove the final perseverance of saints. For “the just man” in this latter clause would mean one seemingly, and in part really, though not savingly, “just” or justified: as in Eze 18:24, 26. In the Hebrew, this latter half of the verse stands first, and is, “Behold, his soul which is lifted up, is not upright in him.” Habakkuk states the cause of drawing back: a soul lifted up, and in self-inflated unbelief setting itself up against God. Paul, by the Spirit, states the effect, it draws back. Also, what in Habakkuk is, “His soul is not upright in him,” is in Paul, “My soul shall have no pleasure in him.” Habakkuk states the cause, Paul the effect: He who is not right in his own soul, does not stand right with God; God has no pleasure in him. Bengel translates Habakkuk, “His soul is not upright in respect to him,” namely, Christ, the subject of “the vision,” that is, Christ has no pleasure in him (compare Heb 12:25). Every flower in spring is not a fruit in autumn.
39. A Pauline elegant turning-off from denunciatory warnings to charitable hopes of his readers (Ro 8:12).
saving of the soul–literally, “acquisition (or obtaining) of the soul.” The kindred Greek verb is applied to Christ’s acquiring the Church as the purchase of His blood (Ac 20:28). If we acquire or obtain our soul’s salvation, it is through Him who has obtained it for us by His bloodshedding. “The unbelieving man loses his soul: for not being God’s, neither is he his own [compare Mt 16:26, with Lu 9:25]: faith saves the soul by linking it to God” [Delitzsch in Alford].
Heb 11:1-40. Definition of the Faith Just Spoken of (Heb 10:39): Examples from the Old Covenant for Our Perseverance in Faith.
1. Description of the great things which faith (in its widest sense: not here restricted to faith in the Gospel sense) does for us. Not a full definition of faith in its whole nature, but a description of its great characteristics in relation to the subject of Paul’s exhortation here, namely, to perseverance.
substance, &c.–It substantiates promises of God which we hope for, as future in fulfilment, making them present realities to us. However, the Greek is translated in Heb 3:14, “confidence”; and it also here may mean “sure confidence.” So Alford translates. Thomas Magister supports English Version, “The whole thing that follows is virtually contained in the first principle; now the first commencement of the things hoped for is in us through the assent of faith, which virtually contains all the things hoped for.” Compare Note, see on Heb 6:5, “tasted … powers of the world to come.” Through faith, the future object of Christian hope, in its beginning, is already present. True faith infers the reality of the objects believed in and honed for (Heb 11:6). Hugo de St. Victor distinguished faith from hope. By faith alone we are sure of eternal things that they ARE: but by hope we are confident that WE SHALL HAVE them. All hope presupposes faith (Ro 8:25).
evidence–“demonstration”: convincing proof to the believer: the soul thereby seeing what the eye cannot see.
things not seen–the whole invisible and spiritual world: not things future and things pleasant, as the “things hoped for,” but also the past and present, and those the reverse of pleasant. “Eternal life is promised to us, but it is when we are dead: we are told of a blessed resurrection, but meanwhile we moulder in the dust; we are declared to be justified, and sin dwells in us; we hear that we are blessed, meantime we are overwhelmed in endless miseries: we are promised abundance of all goods, but we still endure hunger and thirst; God declares He will immediately come to our help, but He seems deaf to our cries. What should we do if we had not faith and hope to lean on, and if our mind did not emerge amidst the darkness above the world by the shining of the Word and Spirit of God?” [Calvin]. Faith is an assent unto truths credible upon the testimony of God (not on the reasonableness of the thing revealed, though by this we may judge as to whether it be what it professes, a genuine revelation), delivered unto us in the writings of the apostles and prophets. Thus Christ’s ascension is the cause, and His absence the crown, of our faith: because He ascended, we the more believe, and because we believe in Him who hath ascended, our faith is the more accepted [Bishop Pearson]. Faith believes what it sees not; for if thou seest there is no faith; the Lord has gone away so as not to be seen: He is hidden that He may be believed; the yearning desire by faith after Him who is unseen is the preparation of a heavenly mansion for us; when He shall be seen it shall be given to us as the reward of faith [Augustine]. As Revelation deals with spiritual and invisible things exclusively, faith is the faculty needed by us, since it is the evidence of things not seen. By faith we venture our eternal interests on the bare word of God, and this is altogether reasonable.
2. For–So high a description of faith is not undeserved; for … [Alford].
by it–Greek, “in it”: in respect to … in the matter of,” it, “or, as Greek more emphatically, “this.”
the elders–as though still living and giving their powerful testimony to the reasonableness and excellence of faith (Heb 12:1). Not merely the ancients, as though they were people solely of the past; nay, they belong to the one and the same blessed family as ourselves (Heb 11:39, 40). “The elders,” whom we all revere so highly. “Paul shows how we ought to seek in all its fulness, under the veil of history, the essential substance of the doctrine sometimes briefly indicated” [Bengel]. “The elders,” as “the fathers,” is a title of honor given on the ground of their bright faith and practice.
obtained a good report–Greek, “were testified of,” namely, favorably (compare Heb 7:8). It is a phrase of Luke, Paul’s companion. Not only men, but God, gave testimony to their faith (Heb 11:4, 5, 39). Thus they being testified of themselves have become “witnesses” to all others (Heb 12:1). The earlier elders had their patience exercised for a long period of life: those later, in sharper afflictions. Many things which they hoped for and did not see, subsequently came to pass and were conspicuously seen, the event confirming faith [Bengel].
3. we understand–We perceive with our spiritual intelligence the fact of the world’s creation by God, though we see neither Him nor the act of creation as described in Ge 1:1-31. The natural world could not, without revelation, teach us this truth, though it confirms the truth when apprehended by faith (Ro 1:20). Adam is passed over in silence here as to his faith, perhaps as being the first who fell and brought sin on us all; though it does not follow that he did not repent and believe the promise.
worlds–literally, “ages”; all that exists in time and space, visible and invisible, present and eternal.
framed–“fitly formed and consolidated”; including the creation of the single parts and the harmonious organization of the whole, and the continual providence which maintains the whole throughout all ages. As creation is the foundation and a specimen of the whole divine economy, so faith in creation is the foundation and a specimen of all faith [Bengel].
by the word of God–not here, the personal word (Greek, “logos,” Joh 1:1) but the spoken word (Greek, “rhema”); though by the instrumentality of the personal word (Heb 1:2).
not made, &c.–Translate as Greek, “so that not out of things which appear hath that which is seen been made”; not as in the case of all things which we see reproduced from previously existing and visible materials, as, for instance, the plant from the seed, the animal from the parent, &c., has the visible world sprung into being from apparent materials. So also it is implied in the first clause of the verse that the invisible spiritual worlds were framed not from previously existing materials. Bengel explains it by distinguishing “appear,” that is, begin to be seen (namely, at creation), from that which is seen as already in existence, not merely beginning to be seen; so that the things seen were not made of the things which appear,” that is, which begin to be seen by us in the act of creation. We were not spectators of creation; it is by faith we perceive it.
4. more excellent sacrifice–because offered in faith. Now faith must have some revelation of God on which it fastens. The revelation in this case was doubtless God’s command to sacrifice animals (“the firstlings of the flock”) in token of the forfeiture of men’s life by sin, and as a type of the promised bruiser of the serpent’s head (Ge 3:15), the one coming sacrifice: this command is implied in God’s having made coats of skin for Adam and Eve (Ge 3:21): for these skins must have been taken from animals slain in sacrifice: inasmuch as it was not for food they were slain, animal food not being permitted till after the flood; nor for mere clothing, as, were it so, clothes might have been made of the fleeces without the needless cruelty of killing the animal; but a coat of skin put on Adam from a sacrificed animal typified the covering or atonement (the Hebrew for atone means to cover) resulting from Christ’s sacrifice. The Greek is more literally rendered [Kennicott] by Wycliffe, “a much more sacrifice”; and by Queen Elizabeth’s version “a greater sacrifice.” A fuller, more ample sacrifice, that which partook more largely and essentially of the true nature and virtue of sacrifice [Archbishop Magee]. It was not any intrinsic merit in “the firstling of the flock” above “the fruit of the ground.” It was God’s appointment that gave it all its excellency as a sacrifice; if it had not been so, it would have been a presumptuous act of will-worship (Col 2:23), and taking of a life which man had no right over before the flood (Ge 9:1-6). The sacrifice seems to have been a holocaust, and the sign of the divine acceptance of it was probably the consumption of it by fire from heaven (Ge 15:17). Hence, “to accept” a burnt sacrifice is in Hebrew “to turn it to ashes” (Ps 20:3, Margin). A flame seems to have issued from the Shekinah, or flaming cherubim, east of Eden (“the presence of the Lord,” Ge 4:16), where the first sacrifices were offered. Cain, in unbelieving self-righteousness, presented merely a thank offering, not like Abel feeling his need of the propitiatory sacrifice appointed on account of sin. God “had respect (first) unto Abel, and (then) to his offering” (Ge 4:4). Faith causes the believer’s person to be accepted, and then his offering. Even an animal sacrifice, though of God’s appointment, would not have been accepted, had it not been offered in faith.
he obtained witness–God by fire attesting His acceptance of him as “righteous by faith.”
his gifts–the common term for sacrifices, implying that they must be freely given.
by it–by faith exhibited in his animal sacrifice.
dead, yet speaketh–His blood crying front the ground to God, shows how precious, because of his “faith,” he was still in God’s sight, even when dead. So he becomes a witness to us of the blessed effects of faith.
5. Faith was the ground of his pleasing God; and his pleasing God was the ground of his translation.
translated–(Ge 5:22, 24). Implying a sudden removal (the same Greek as in Ga 1:6) from mortality without death to immortality: such a CHANGE as shall pass over the living at Christ’s coming (1Co 15:51, 52).
had this testimony–namely of Scripture; the Greek perfect implies that this testimony continues still: “he has been testified of.”
pleased God–The Scripture testimony virtually expresses that he pleased God, namely, “Enoch walked with God.” The Septuagint translates the Hebrew for “walked with God,” Ge 6:9, pleased God.
6. without–Greek, “apart from faith”: if one be destitute of faith (compare Ro 14:23).
to please–Translate, as Alford does, the Greek aorist, “It is impossible to please God at all” (Ro 8:8). Natural amiabilities and “works done before the grace of Christ are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ; yea, rather, for that they are not done as God hath willed them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin” [Article XIII, Book of Common Prayer]. Works not rooted in God are splendid sins [Augustine].
he that cometh to God–as a worshipper (Heb 7:19).
must believe–once for all: Greek aorist tense.
that God is–is the true self-existing Jehovah (as contrasted with all so-called gods, not gods, Ga 4:8), the source of all being, though he sees Him not (Heb 11:1) as being “invisible” (Heb 11:27). So Enoch; this passage implies that he had not been favored with visible appearances of God, yet he believed in God’s being, and in God’s moral government, as the Rewarder of His diligent worshippers, in opposition to antediluvian skepticism. Also Moses was not so favored before he left Egypt the first time (Heb 11:27); still he believed.
and … is–a different Greek verb from the former “is.” Translate, “is eventually”; proves to be; literally, “becomes.”
rewarder–renderer of reward [Alford]. So God proved to be to Enoch. The reward is God Himself diligently “sought” and “walked with” in partial communion here, and to be fully enjoyed hereafter. Compare Ge 15:1, “I am thy exceeding great reward.”
of them–and them only.
diligently seek–Greek, “seek out” God. Compare “seek early,” Pr 8:17. Not only “ask” and “seek,” but “knock,” Mt 7:7; compare Heb 11:12; Lu 13:24, “Strive” as in an agony of contest.
7. warned of God–The same Greek, Heb 8:5, “admonished of God.”
moved with fear–not mere slavish fear, but as in Heb 5:7; see on Heb 5:7; Greek, “reverential fear”: opposed to the world’s sneering disbelief of the revelation, and self-deceiving security. Join “by faith” with “prepared an ark” (1Pe 3:20).
by the which–faith.
condemned the world–For since he believed and was saved, so might they have believed and been saved, so that their condemnation by God is by his case shown to be just.
righteousness which is by faith–Greek, “according to faith.” A Pauline thought. Noah is first called “righteous” in Ge 6:9. Christ calls Abel so, Mt 23:35. Compare as to Noah’s righteousness, Eze 14:14, 20; 2Pe 2:5, “a preacher of righteousness.” Paul here makes faith the principle and ground of his righteousness.
heir–the consequence of sonship which flows from faith.
8. From the antediluvian saints he passes to the patriarchs of Israel, to whom “the promises” belonged.
called–by God (Ge 12:1). The oldest manuscripts and Vulgate read, “He that was called Abraham,” his name being changed from Abram to Abraham, on the occasion of God’s making with him and his seed a covenant sealed by circumcision, many years after his call out of Ur. “By faith, he who was (afterwards) called Abraham (father of nations, Ge 17:5, in order to become which was the design of God’s bringing him out of Ur) obeyed (the command of God: to be understood in this reading), so as to go out,” &c.
which he should after receive–He had not fully received even this promise when he went out, for it was not explicitly given him till he had reached Canaan (Ge 12:1, 6, 7). When the promise of the land was given him the Canaanite was still in the land, and himself a stranger; it is in the new heaven and new earth that he shall receive his personal inheritance promised him; so believers sojourn on earth as strangers, while the ungodly and Satan lord it over the earth; but at Christ’s coming that same earth which was the scene of the believer’s conflict shall be the inheritance of Christ and His saints.
9. sojourned–as a “stranger and pilgrim.”
in–Greek, “into,” that is, he went into it and sojourned there.
as in a strange country–a country not belonging to him, but to others (so the Greek), Ac 7:5, 6.
dwelling in tabernacles–tents: as strangers and sojourners do: moving from place to place, as having no fixed possession of their own. In contrast to the abiding “city” (Heb 11:10).
with–Their kind of dwelling being the same is a proof that their faith was the same. They all alike were content to wait for their good things hereafter (Lu 16:25). Jacob was fifteen years old at the death of Abraham.
heirs with him of the same promise–Isaac did not inherit it from Abraham, nor Jacob from Isaac, but they all inherited it from God directly as “fellow heirs.” In Heb 6:12, 15, 17, “the promise” means the thing promised as a thing in part already attained; but in this chapter “the promise” is of something still future. However, see on Heb 6:12.
10. looked for–Greek, “he was expecting”; waiting for with eager expectation (Ro 8:19).
a city–Greek, “the city,” already alluded to. Worldly Enoch, son of the murderer Cain, was the first to build his city here: the godly patriarchs waited for their city hereafter (Heb 11:16; 12:22; 13:14).
foundations–Greek, “the foundations” which the tents had not, nor even men’s present cities have.
whose builder and maker–Greek, “designer [Eph 1:4, 11] and master-builder,” or executor of the design. The city is worthy of its Framer and Builder (compare Heb 11:16; Heb 8:2). Compare Note, see on Heb 9:12, on “found.”
11. also Sara herself–though being the weaker vessel, and though at first she doubted.
was delivered of a child–omitted in the oldest manuscripts: then translate, “and that when she was past age” (Ro 4:19).
she judged him faithful who had promised–after she had ceased to doubt, being instructed by the angel that it was no jest, but a matter in serious earnest.
12. as good as dead–literally, “deadened”; no longer having, as in youth, energetic vital powers.
stars … sand–(Ge 22:17).
13-16. Summary of the characteristic excellencies of the patriarchs’ faith
died in faith–died as believers, waiting for, not actually seeing as yet their good things promised to them. They were true to this principle of faith even unto, and especially in, their dying hour (compare Heb 11:20).
These all–beginning with “Abraham” (Heb 11:8), to whom the promises were made (Ga 3:16), and who is alluded to in the end of Heb 11:13 and in Heb 11:15 [Bengel and Alford]. But the “ALL” can hardly but include Abel, Enoch, and Noah. Now as these did not receive the promise of entering literal Canaan, some other promise made in the first ages, and often repeated, must be that meant, namely, the promise of a coming Redeemer made to Adam, namely, “the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head.” Thus the promises cannot have been merely temporal, for Abel and Enoch mentioned here received no temporal promise [Archbishop Magee]. This promise of eternal redemption is the inner essence of the promises made to Abraham (Ga 3:16).
not having received–It was this that constituted their “faith.” If they had “received” THE THING PROMISED (so “the promises” here mean: the plural is used because of the frequent renewal of the promise to the patriarchs: Heb 11:17 says he did receive the promises, but not the thing promised), it would have been sight, not faith.
seen them afar off–(Joh 8:56). Christ, as the Word, was preached to the Old Testament believers, and so became the seed of life to their souls, as He is to ours.
and were persuaded of them–The oldest manuscripts omit this clause.
embraced them–as though they were not “afar off,” but within reach, so as to draw them to themselves and clasp them in their embrace. Trench denies that the Old Testament believers embraced them, for they only saw them afar off: he translates, “saluted them,” as the homeward-bound mariner, recognizing from afar the well-known promontories of his native land. Alford translates, “greeted them.” Jacob’s exclamation, “I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord” (Ge 49:18) is such a greeting of salvation from afar [Delitzsch].
confessed … were strangers–so Abraham to the children of Heth (Ge 23:4); and Jacob to Pharaoh (Ge 47:9; Ps 119:19). Worldly men hold fast the world; believers sit loose to it. Citizens of the world do not confess themselves “strangers on the earth.”
pilgrims–Greek, “temporary (literally, ‘by the way’) sojourners.”
on the earth–contrasted with “an heavenly” (Heb 11:16): “our citizenship is in heaven” (Greek: Heb 10:34; Ps 119:54; Php 3:20). “Whosoever professes that he has a Father in heaven, confesses himself a stranger on earth; hence there is in the heart an ardent longing, like that of a child living among strangers, in want and grief, far from his fatherland” [Luther]. “Like ships in seas while in, above the world.”
14. For–proof that “faith” (Heb 11:13) was their actuating principle.
declare plainly–make it plainly evident.
seek–Greek, “seek after”; implying the direction towards which their desires ever tend.
a country–rather as Greek, “a fatherland.” In confessing themselves strangers here, they evidently imply that they regard not this as their home or fatherland, but seek after another and a better.
15. As Abraham, had he desired to leave his pilgrim life in Canaan, and resume his former fixed habitation in Ur, among the carnal and worldly, had in his long life ample opportunities to have done so; and so spiritually, as to all believers who came out from the world to become God’s people, they might, if they had been so minded, have easily gone back.
16. Proving the truth that the old fathers did not, as some assert, “look only for transitory promises” [Article VII, Book of Common Prayer].
now–as the case is.
is not ashamed–Greek, “Is not ashamed of them.” Not merely once did God call himself their God, but He is NOW not ashamed to have Himself called so, they being alive and abiding with Him where He is. For, by the law, God cannot come into contact with anything dead. None remained dead in Christ’s presence (Lu 20:37, 38). He who is Lord and Maker of heaven and earth, and all things therein, when asked, What is Thy name? said, omitting all His other titles, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” [Theodoret]. Not only is He not ashamed, but glories in the name and relation to His people. The “wherefore” does not mean that God’s good pleasure is the meritorious, but the gracious, consequence of their obedience (that obedience being the result of His Spirit’s work in them in the first instance). He first so “called” Himself, then they so called Him.
for–proof of His being “their God,” namely, “He hath prepared (in His eternal counsels, Mt 20:23; 25:34, and by the progressive acts of redemption, Joh 14:2) for them a city,” the city in which He Himself reigns, so that their yearning desires shall not be disappointed (Heb 11:14, 16).
a city–on its garniture by God (compare Re 21:10-27).
17. offered up–literally, “hath offered up,” as if the work and its praise were yet enduring [Alford]. As far as His intention was concerned, he did sacrifice Isaac; and in actual fact “he offered him,” as far as the presentation of him on the altar as an offering to God is concerned.
tried–Greek, “tempted,” as in Ge 22:1. Put to the proof of his faith. Not that God “tempts” to sin, but God “tempts” in the sense of proving or trying (Jas 1:13-15).
he that had received–rather as Greek, “accepted,” that is, welcomed and embraced by faith, not merely “had the promises,” as in Heb 7:6. This added to the difficulty in the way of his faith, that it was in Isaac’s posterity the promises were to be fulfilled; how then could they be fulfilled if Isaac were sacrificed?
offered up–rather as Greek, “was offering up”; he was in the act of offering.
his only-begotten son–Compare Ge 22:2, “Take now thy son, thine only son.” Eusebius [The Preparation of the Gospel, 1.10, and 4.16], has preserved a fragment of a Greek translation of Sanchoniatho, which mentions a mystical sacrifice of the Phoenicians, wherein a prince in royal robes was the offerer, and his only son was to be the victim: this evidently was a tradition derived from Abraham’s offering, and handed down through Esau or Edom, Isaac’s son. Isaac was Abraham’s “only-begotten son” in respect of Sarah and the promises: he sent away his other sons, by other wives (Ge 25:6). Abraham is a type of the Father not sparing His only-begotten Son to fulfil the divine purpose of love. God nowhere in the Mosaic law allowed human sacrifices, though He claimed the first-born of Israel as His.
18. Of whom–rather as Greek “He (Abraham, not Isaac) TO whom it was said” [Alford]. Bengel supports English Version. So Heb 1:7 uses the same Greek preposition, “unto,” for “in respect to,” or “of.” This verse gives a definition of the “only-begotten Son” (Heb 11:17).
in Isaac shall thy seed be called–(Ge 21:12). The posterity of Isaac alone shall be accounted as the seed of Abraham, which is the heir of the promises (Ro 9:7).
19. Faith answered the objections which reason brought against God’s command to Abraham to offer Isaac, by suggesting that what God had promised He both could and would perform, however impossible the performance might seem (Ro 4:20, 21).
able to raise him–rather, in general, “able to raise from the dead.” Compare Ro 4:17, “God who quickeneth the dead.” The quickening of Sarah’s dead womb suggested the thought of God’s power to raise even the dead, though no instance of it had as yet occurred.
he received him–“received him back” [Alford].
in a figure–Greek, “in a parable.” Alford explains, “Received him back, risen from that death which he had undergone in, under, the figure of the ram.” I prefer with Bishop Pearson, Estius, and Gregory of Nyssa, understanding the figure to be the representation which the whole scene gave to Abraham of Christ in His death (typified by Isaac’s offering in intention, and the ram’s actual substitution answering to Christ’s vicarious death), and in His resurrection (typified by Abraham’s receiving him back alive from the jaws of death, compare 2Co 1:9, 10); just as on the day of atonement the slain goat and the scapegoat together formed one joint rite representing Christ’s death and resurrection. It was then that Abraham saw Christ’s day (Joh 8:56): accounting God was able to raise even from the dead: from which state of the dead he received him back as a type of the resurrection in Christ.
20. Jacob is put before Esau, as heir of the chief, namely, the spiritual blessing.
concerning things to come–Greek, “even concerning things to come”: not only concerning things present. Isaac, by faith, assigned to his sons things future, as if they were present.
21. both the sons–Greek, “each of the sons” (Ge 47:29; 48:8-20). He knew not Joseph’s sons, and could not distinguish them by sight, yet he did distinguish them by faith, transposing his hands intentionally, so as to lay his right hand on the younger, Ephraim, whose posterity was to be greater than that of Manasseh: he also adopted these grandchildren as his own sons, after having transferred the right of primogeniture to Joseph (Ge 48:22).
and worshipped–This did not take place in immediate connection with the foregoing, but before it, when Jacob made Joseph swear that he would bury him with his fathers in Canaan, not in Egypt. The assurance that Joseph would do so filled him with pious gratitude to God, which he expressed by raising himself on his bed to an attitude of worship. His faith, as Joseph’s (Heb 11:22), consisted in his so confidentially anticipating the fulfilment of God’s promise of Canaan to his descendants, as to desire to be buried there as his proper possession.
leaning upon the top of his staff–Ge 47:31, Hebrew and English Version, “upon the bed’s head.” The Septuagint translates as Paul here. Jerome justly reprobates the notion of modern Rome, that Jacob worshipped the top of Joseph’s staff, having on it an image of Joseph’s power, to which Jacob bowed in recognition of the future sovereignty of his son’s tribe, the father bowing to the son! The Hebrew, as translated in English Version, sets it aside: the bed is alluded to afterwards (Ge 48:2; 49:33), and it is likely that Jacob turned himself in his bed so as to have his face toward the pillow, Isa 38:2 (there were no bedsteads in the East). Paul by adopting the Septuagint version, brings out, under the Spirit, an additional fact, namely, that the aged patriarch used his own (not Joseph’s) staff to lean on in worshipping on his bed. The staff, too, was the emblem of his pilgrim state here on his way to his heavenly city (Heb 11:13, 14), wherein God had so wonderfully supported him. Ge 32:10, “With my staff I passed over Jordan, and now I am become,” &c. (compare Ex 12:11; Mr 6:8). In 1Ki 1:47, the same thing is said of David’s “bowing on his bed,” an act of adoring thanksgiving to God for God’s favor to his son before death. He omits the more leading blessing of the twelve sons of Jacob; because “he plucks only the flowers which stand by his way, and leaves the whole meadow full to his readers” [Delitzsch in Alford].
22. when he died–“when dying.”
the departing–“the exodus” (Ge 50:24, 25). Joseph’s eminent position in Egypt did not make him regard it as his home: in faith he looked to God’s promise of Canaan being fulfilled and desired that his bones should rest there: testifying thus: (1) that he had no doubt of his posterity obtaining the promised land: and (2) that he believed in the resurrection of the body, and the enjoyment in it of the heavenly Canaan. His wish was fulfilled (Jos 24:32; Ac 4:16).
23. parents–So the Septuagint has the plural, namely, Amram and Jochebed (Nu 26:59); but in Ex 2:2, the mother alone is mentioned; but doubtless Amram sanctioned all she did, and secrecy. being their object, he did not appear prominent in what was done.
a proper child–Greek, “a comely child.” Ac 7:20, “exceeding fair,” Greek, “fair to God.” The “faith” of his parents in saving the child must have had some divine revelation to rest on (probably at the time of his birth), which marked their “exceeding fair” babe as one whom God designed to do a great work by. His beauty was probably “the sign” appointed by God to assure their faith.
the king’s commandment–to slay all the males (Ex 1:22).
24. So far from faith being opposed to Moses, he was an eminent example of it [Bengel].
refused–in believing self-denial, when he might possibly have succeeded at last to the throne of Egypt. Thermutis, Pharaoh’s daughter, according to the tradition which Paul under the Spirit sanctions, adopted him, as Josephus says, with the consent of the king. Josephus states that when a child, he threw on the ground the diadem put on him in jest, a presage of his subsequent formal rejection of Thermutis’ adoption of him. Faith made him to prefer the adoption of the King of kings, unseen, and so to choose (Heb 11:25, 26) things, the very last which flesh and blood relish.
25. He balanced the best of the world with the worst of religion, and decidedly chose the latter. “Choosing” implies a deliberate resolution, not a hasty impulse. He was forty years old, a time when the judgment is matured.
for a season–If the world has “pleasure” (Greek, “enjoyment”) to offer, it is but “for a season.” If religion bring with it “affliction,” it too is but for a season; whereas its “pleasures are for evermore.”
26. Esteeming–Inasmuch as he esteemed.
the reproach of Christ–that is, the reproach which falls on the Church, and which Christ regards as His own reproach, He being the Head, and the Church (both of the Old and New Testament) His body. Israel typified Christ; Israel’s sufferings were Christ’s sufferings (compare 2Co 1:5; Col 1:24). As uncircumcision was Egypt’s reproach, so circumcision was the badge of Israel’s expectation of Christ, which Moses especially cherished, and which the Gentiles reproached Israel on account of. Christ’s people’s reproach will ere long be their great glory.
had respect unto, &c.–Greek, “turning his eyes away from other considerations, he fixed them on the (eternal) recompense” (Heb 11:39, 40).
27. not fearing the wrath of the king–But in Ex 2:14 it is said, “Moses feared, and fled from the face of Pharaoh.” He was afraid, and fled from the danger where no duty called him to stay (to have stayed without call of duty would have been to tempt Providence, and to sacrifice his hope of being Israel’s future deliverer according to the divine intimations; his great aim, see on Heb 11:23). He did not fear the king so as to neglect his duty and not return when God called him. It was in spite of the king’s prohibition he left Egypt, not fearing the consequences which were likely to overtake him if he should be caught, after having, in defiance of the king, left Egypt. If he had stayed and resumed his position as adopted son of Pharaoh’s daughter, his slaughter of the Egyptian would doubtless have been connived at; but his resolution to take his portion with oppressed Israel, which he could not have done had he stayed, was the motive of his flight, and constituted the “faith” of this act, according to the express statement here. The exodus of Moses with Israel cannot be meant here, for it was made, not in defiance, but by the desire, of the king. Besides, the chronological order would be broken thus, the next particular specified here, namely, the institution of the Passover, having taken place before the exodus. Besides, it is Moses’ personal history and faith which are here described. The faith of the people (“THEY passed”) is not introduced till Heb 11:29.
endured–steadfast in faith amidst trials. He had fled, not so much from fear of Pharaoh, as from a revulsion of feeling in finding God’s people insensible to their high destiny, and from disappointment at not having been able to inspire them with those hopes for which he had sacrificed all his earthly prospects. This accounts for his strange reluctance and despondency when commissioned by God to go and arouse the people (Ex 3:15; 4:1, 10-12).
seeing him … invisible–as though he had not to do with men, but only with God, ever before his eyes by faith, though invisible to the bodily eye (Ro 1:20; 1Ti 1:17; 6:16). Hence he feared not the wrath of visible man; the characteristic of faith (Heb 11:1; Lu 12:4, 5).
28. kept–Greek, “hath kept,” the Passover being, in Paul’s day, still observed. His faith here was his belief in the invisible God’s promise that the destroying angel should pass over, and not touch the inmates of the blood-sprinkled houses (Ex 12:23). “He acquiesced in the bare word of God where the thing itself was not apparent” [Calvin].
the first-born–Greek neuter; both of man and beast.
29. they–Moses and Israel.
Red Sea–called so from its red seaweed, or rather from Edom (meaning “red”), whose country adjoined it.
which … assaying to do–Greek, “of which (Red Sea) the Egyptians having made experiment.” Rashness and presumption mistaken by many for faith; with similar rash presumption many rush into eternity. The same thing when done by the believer, and when done by the unbeliever, is not the same thing [Bengel]. What was faith in Israel, was presumption in the Egyptians.
were drowned–Greek, “were swallowed up,” or “engulfed.” They sank in the sands as much as in the waves of the Red Sea. Compare Ex 15:12, “the earth swallowed them.”
30. The soundings of trumpets, though one were to sound for ten thousand years, cannot throw down walls, but faith can do all things [Chrysostom].
seven days–whereas sieges often lasted for years.
31. Rahab showed her “faith” in her confession, Jos 2:9, 11, “I know that Jehovah hath given you the land; Jehovah your God, is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.”
the harlot–Her former life adds to the marvel of her repentance, faith, and preservation (Mt 21:31, 32).
believed not–Greek, “were disobedient,” namely, to the will of God manifested by the miracles wrought in behalf of Israel (Jos 2:8-11).
received–in her house (Jos 2:1, 4, 6).
with peace–peaceably; so that they had nothing to fear in her house. Thus Paul, quoting the same examples (Heb 11:17, 31) for the power of faith, as James (Jas 2:21, 25; see on Jas 2:21; Jas 2:25) does for justification by works evidentially, shows that in maintaining justification by faith alone, he means not a dead faith, but “faith which worketh by love” (Ga 5:6).
32. the time–suitable for the length of an Epistle. He accumulates collectively some out of many examples of faith.
Gideon–put before Barak, not chronologically, but as being more celebrated. Just as Samson for the same reason is put before Jephthæ. The mention of Jephthæ as an example of “faith,” makes it unlikely he sacrificed the life of his daughter for a rash vow. David, the warrior king and prophet, forms the transition from warrior chiefs to the “prophets,” of whom “Samuel” is mentioned as the first.
33. subdued kingdoms–as David did (2Sa 8:1, &c.); so also Gideon subdued Midian (Jud 7:1-25).
wrought righteousness–as Samuel did (1Sa 8:9; 12:3-23; 15:33); and David (2Sa 8:15).
obtained promises–as “the prophets” (Heb 11:32) did; for through them the promises were given (compare Da 9:21) [Bengel]. Rather, “obtained the fulfilment of promises,” which had been previously the object of their faith (Jos 21:45; 1Ki 8:56). Indeed, Gideon, Barak, &c., also obtained the things which God promised. Not “the promises,” which are still future (Heb 11:13, 39).
stopped the mouths of lions–Note the words, “because he believed in his God.” Also Samson (Jud 14:6), David (1Sa 17:34-37), Benaiah (2Sa 23:20).
34. Quenched the violence of fire–(Da 3:27). Not merely “quenched the fire,” but “quenched the power (so the Greek) of the fire.” Da 3:19-30 and 6:12-23 record the last miracles of the Old Testament. So the martyrs of the Reformation, though not escaping the fire, were delivered from its having power really or lastingly to hurt them.
escaped … sword–So Jephthah (Jud 12:3); and so David escaped Saul’s sword (1Sa 18:11; 19:10, 12); Elijah (1Ki 19:1, &c.; 2Ki 6:14).
out of weakness … made strong–Samson (Jud 16:28; 15:19). Hezekiah (Isa 37:1-38:22). Milton says of the martyrs, “They shook the powers of darkness with the irresistible power of weakness.”
valiant in fight–Barak (Jud 4:14, 15). And the Maccabees, the sons of Matthias, Judas, Jonathan, and Simon, who delivered the Jews from their cruel oppressor, Antiochus of Syria.
armies–literally, “camps” referring to Jud 7:21. But the reference may be to the Maccabees having put to flight the Syrians and other foes.
35. Women received their dead raised–as the widow of Zarephath (1Ki 17:17-24). The Shunammite (2Ki 4:17-35). The two oldest manuscripts read. “They received women of aliens by raising their dead.” 1Ki 17:24 shows that the raising of the widow’s son by Elijah led her to the faith, so that he thus took her into fellowship, an alien though she was. Christ, in Lu 4:26, makes especial mention of the fact that Elijah was sent to an alien from Israel, a woman of Sarepta. Thus Paul may quote this as an instance of Elijah’s faith, that at God’s command he went to a Gentile city of Sidonia (contrary to Jewish prejudices), and there, as the fruit of faith, not only raised her dead son, but received her as a convert into the family of God, as Vulgate reads. Still, English Version may be the right reading.
and–Greek, “but”; in contrast to those raised again to life.
tortured–“broken on the wheel.” Eleazar (2 Maccabees 6:18, end; 2 Maccabees 19:20,30). The sufferer was stretched on an instrument like a drumhead and scourged to death.
not accepting deliverance–when offered to them. So the seven brothers, 2 Maccabees 7:9, 11, 14, 29, 36; and Eleazar, 2 Maccabees 6:21, 28, 30, “Though I might have been delivered from death, I endure these severe pains, being beaten.”
a better resurrection–than that of the women’s children “raised to life again”; or, than the resurrection which their foes could give them by delivering them from death (Da 12:2; Lu 20:35; Php 3:11). The fourth of the brethren (referring to Da 12:2) said to King Antiochus, “To be put to death by men, is to be chosen to look onward for the hopes which are of God, to be raised up again by Him; but for thee there is no resurrection to life.” The writer of Second Maccabees expressly disclaims inspiration, which prevents our mistaking Paul’s allusion here to it as if it sanctioned the Apocrypha as inspired. In quoting Daniel, he quotes a book claiming inspiration, and so tacitly sanctions that claim.
36. others–of a different class of confessors for the truth (the Greek is different from that for “others,” Heb 11:35, alloi, heteroi).
trial–testing their faith.
imprisonment–as Hanani (2Ch 16:10), imprisoned by Asa. Micaiah, the son of Imlah, by Ahab (1Ki 22:26, 27).
37. stoned–as Zechariah, son of Jehoiada (2Ch 24:20-22; Mt 23:35).
sawn asunder–as Isaiah was said to have been by Manasseh; but see my Introduction to Isaiah.
tempted–by their foes, in the midst of their tortures, to renounce their faith; the most bitter aggravation of them. Or else, by those of their own household, as Job was [Estius]; or by the fiery darts of Satan, as Jesus was in His last trials [Glassius]. Probably it included all three; they were tempted in every possible way, by friends and foes, by human and satanic agents, by caresses and afflictions, by words and deeds, to forsake God, but in vain, through the power of faith.
sword–literally, “they died in the murder of the sword.” In Heb 11:34 the contrary is given as an effect of faith, “they escaped the edge of the sword.” Both alike are marvellous effects of faith. In both accomplishes great things and suffers great things, without counting it suffering [Chrysostom]. Urijah was so slain by Jehoiakim (Jer 26:23); and the prophets in Israel (1Ki 19:10).
in sheepskins–as Elijah (1Ki 19:13, Septuagint). They were white; as the “goat-skins” were black (compare Zec 13:4).
tormented–Greek, “in evil state.”
38. Of whom the world was not worthy–So far from their being unworthy of living in the world, as their exile in deserts, &c., might seem to imply, “the world was not worthy of them.” The world, in shutting them out, shut out from itself a source of blessing; such as Joseph proved to Potiphar (Ge 39:5), and Jacob to Laban (Ge 30:27). In condemning them, the world condemned itself.
caves–literally, “chinks.” Palestine, from its hilly character, abounds in fissures and caves, affording shelter to the persecuted, as the fifty hid by Obadiah (1Ki 18:4, 13) and Elijah (1Ki 19:8, 13); and Mattathias and his sons (1 Maccabees 2:28, 29); and Judas Maccabeus (2 Maccabees 5:27).
39. having obtained a good report–Greek, “being borne witness of.” Though they were so, yet “they received not the promise,” that is, the final completion of “salvation” promised at Christ’s coming again (Heb 9:28); “the eternal inheritance” (Heb 9:15). Abraham did obtain the very thing promised (Heb 6:15) in part, namely, blessedness in soul after death, by virtue of faith in Christ about to come. The full blessedness of body and soul shall not be till the full number of the elect shall be accomplished, and all together, no one preceding the other, shall enter on the full glory and bliss. Moreover, in another point of view, “It is probable that some accumulation of blessedness was added to holy souls, when Christ came and fulfilled all things even as at His burial many rose from the dead, who doubtless ascended to heaven with Him” [Flacius in Bengel]. (Compare Note, see on Eph 4:8). The perfecting of believers in title, and in respect to conscience, took place once for all, at the death of Christ, by virtue of His being made by death perfect as Saviour. Their perfecting in soul at, and ever after Christ’s death, took place, and takes place at their death. But the universal and final perfecting will not take place till Christ’s coming.
40. provided–with divine forethought from eternity (compare Ge 22:8, 14).
some better thing for us–(Heb 7:19); than they had here. They had not in this world, “apart from us” (so the Greek is for “without us,” that is, they had to wait for us for), the clear revelation of the promised salvation actually accomplished, as we now have it in Christ; in their state, beyond the grave their souls also seem to have attained an increase of heavenly bliss on the death and ascension of Christ; and they shall not attain the full and final glory in body and soul (the regeneration of the creature), until the full number of the elect (including us with them) is completed. The Fathers, Chrysostom, &c., restricted the meaning of Heb 11:39, 40 to this last truth, and I incline to this view. “The connection is, You, Hebrews, may far more easily exercise patience than Old Testament believers; for they had much longer to wait, and are still waiting until the elect are all gathered in; you, on the contrary, have not to wait for them” [Estius]. I think his object in these verses (Heb 11:39, 40) is to warn Hebrew Christians against their tendency to relapse into Judaism. “Though the Old Testament worthies attained such eminence by faith, they are not above us in privileges, but the reverse.” It is not we who are perfected with them, but rather they with us. They waited for His coming; we enjoy Him as having come (Heb 1:1; 2:3). Christ’s death, the means of perfecting what the Jewish law could not perfect, was reserved for our time. Compare Heb 12:2, “perfecter (Greek) of our faith.” Now that Christ is come, they in soul share our blessedness, being “the spirits of the just made perfect” (Heb 12:23); so Alford; however, see on Heb 12:23. Heb 9:12 shows that the blood of Christ, brought into the heavenly holy place by Him, first opened an entrance into heaven (compare Joh 3:13). Still, the fathers were in blessedness by faith in the Saviour to come, at death (Heb 6:15; Lu 16:22).
Heb 12:1-29. Exhortation to Follow the Witnesses of Faith Just Mentioned: Not to Faint in Trials: To Remove All Bitter Roots of Sin: For We Are under, Not a Law of Terror, but the Gospel of Grace, to Despise Which Will Bring the Heavier Penalties, in Proportion to Our Greater Privileges.
1. we also–as well as those recounted in Heb 12:11.
are compassed about–Greek, “have so great a cloud (a numberless multitude above us, like a cloud, ‘holy and pellucid,’ [Clement of Alexandria]) of witnesses surrounding us.” The image is from a “race,” an image common even in Palestine from the time of the Greco-Macedonian empire, which introduced such Greek usages as national games. The “witnesses” answer to the spectators pressing round to see the competitors in their contest for the prize (Php 3:14). Those “witnessed of” (Greek, Heb 11:5, 39) become in their turn “witnesses” in a twofold way: (1) attesting by their own case the faithfulness of God to His people [Alford] (Heb 6:12), some of them martyrs in the modern sense; (2) witnessing our struggle of faith; however, this second sense of “witnesses,” though agreeing with the image here if it is to be pressed, is not positively, unequivocally, and directly sustained by Scripture. It gives vividness to the image; as the crowd of spectators gave additional spirit to the combatants, so the cloud of witnesses who have themselves been in the same contest, ought to increase our earnestness, testifying, as they do, to God’s faithfulness.
weight–As corporeal unwieldiness was, through a disciplinary diet, laid aside by candidates for the prize in racing; so carnal and worldly lusts, and all, whether from without or within, that would impede the heavenly runner, are the spiritual weight to be laid aside. “Encumbrance,” all superfluous weight; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, and even harmless and otherwise useful things which would positively retard us (Mr 10:50, the blind man casting away his garment to come to Jesus; Mr 9:42-48; compare Eph 4:22; Col 3:9, 10).
the sin which doth so easily beset us–Greek, “sin which easily stands around us”; so Luther, “which always so clings to us”: “sinful propensity always surrounding us, ever present and ready” [Wahl]. It is not primarily “the sin,” &c., but sin in general, with, however, special reference to “apostasy,” against which he had already warned them, as one to which they might gradually be seduced; the besetting sin of the Hebrews, UNBELIEF.
with patience–Greek, “in persevering endurance” (Heb 10:36). On “run” compare 1Co 9:24, 25.
2. Looking unto–literally, “Looking from afar” (see on Heb 11:26); fixing the eyes upon Jesus seated on the throne of God.
author–“Prince-leader.” The same Greek is translated, “Captain (of salvation),” Heb 2:10; “Prince (of life),” Ac 3:15. Going before us as the Originator of our faith, and the Leader whose matchless example we are to follow always. In this He is distinguished from all those examples of faith in Heb 11:2-40. (Compare 1Co 11:1). On His “faith” compare Heb 2:13; 3:12. Believers have ever looked to Him (Heb 11:26; 13:8).
finisher–Greek, “Perfecter,” referring to Heb 11:40.
of our faith–rather as Greek, “of the faith,” including both His faith (as exhibited in what follows) and our faith. He fulfilled the ideal of faith Himself, and so, both as a vicarious offering and an example, He is the object of our faith.
for the joy … set before him–namely, of presently after sitting down at the right hand of the throne of God; including besides His own personal joy, the joy of sitting there as a Prince and Saviour, to give repentance and remission of sins. The coming joy disarmed of its sting the present pain.
cross … shame–the great stumbling-block to the Hebrews. “Despised,” that is, disregarded.
3. For–justifying his exhortation, “Looking unto Jesus.”
consider–by way of comparison with yourselves, so the Greek.
contradiction–unbelief, and every kind of opposition (Ac 28:19).
sinners–Sin assails us. Not sin, but sinners, contradicted Christ [Bengel].
be wearied and faint–Greek, “lest ye weary fainting.” Compare Isa 49:4, 5, as a specimen of Jesus not being wearied out by the contradiction and strange unbelief of those among whom He labored, preaching as never man did, and exhibiting miracles wrought by His inherent power, as none else could do.
4. not yet resisted unto blood–image from pugilism, as he previously had the image of a race, both being taken from the great national Greek games. Ye have suffered the loss of goods, and been a gazing-stock by reproaches and afflictions; ye have not shed your blood (see on Heb 13:7). “The athlete who hath seen his own blood, and who, though cast down by his opponent, does not let his spirits be cast down, who as often as he hath fallen hath risen the more determined, goes down to the encounter with great hope” [Seneca].
against sin–Sin is personified as an adversary; sin, whether within you, leading you to spare your blood, or in our adversaries, leading them to shed it, if they cannot through your faithfulness even unto blood, induce you to apostatize.
5. forgotten–“utterly,” so the Greek. Compare Heb 12:15-17, in which he implies how utterly some of them had forgotten God’s word. His exhortation ought to have more effect on you than the cheers and exhortations of the spectators have on the competitors striving in the games.
which–Greek, “the which,” of which the following is a specimen [Alford].
speaketh unto you–as in a dialogue or discourse, so the Greek, implying God’s loving condescension (compare Isa 1:18).
despise not–literally, “Do not hold of little account.” Betraying a contumacious spirit of unbelief (Heb 3:12), as “faint” implies a broken-down, weak, and desponding spirit. “Chastening” is to be borne with “subjection” (Heb 12:9); “rebuke” (more severe than chastening) is to be borne with endurance (Heb 12:7). “Some in adversity kick against God’s will, others despond; neither is to be done by the Christian, who is peculiarly the child of God. To him such adverse things occur only by the decree of God, and that designed in kindness, namely, to remove the defilements adhering to the believer, and to exercise his patience” [Grotius].
6. (Re 3:19.)
and–Greek, “yea and,” “and moreover”; bringing out an additional circumstance.
scourgeth–which draws forth “blood” (Heb 12:4).
receiveth–accepts. Takes to Himself as a son “in whom He delighteth” (Pr 3:12).
7. In Heb 12:7, 8 the need of “chastening” or “discipline” is inculcated; in Heb 12:9, the duty of those to whom it is administered.
If–The oldest manuscripts read, “With a view to chastening (that is, since God’s chastisement is with a view to your chastening, that is, disciplinary amelioration) endure patiently”; so Vulgate. Alford translates it as indicative, not so well, “It is for chastisement that ye are enduring.”
dealeth with you–“beareth Himself toward you” in the very act of chastening.
what son is he–“What son is there” even in ordinary life? Much more God as to His sons (Isa 48:10; Ac 14:22). The most eminent of God’s saints were the most afflicted. God leads them by a way they know not (Isa 42:16). We too much look at each trial by itself, instead of taking it in connection with the whole plan of our salvation, as if a traveller were to complain of the steepness and roughness of one turn in the path, without considering that it led him into green pastures, on the direct road to the city of habitation. The New Testament alone uses the Greek term for education (paideia), to express “discipline” or correction, as of a child by a wise father.
8. if ye be without–excluded from participation in chastisement, and wishing to be so.
all–all sons: all the worthies enumerated in the eleventh chapter: all the witnesses (Heb 12:1).
are–Greek, “have been made.”
then are ye bastards–of whom their fathers take no care whether they are educated or not; whereas every right-minded father is concerned for the moral well-being of his legitimate son. “Since then not to be chastised is a mark of bastardy, we ought [not to refuse, but] rejoice in chastisement, as a mark of our genuine sonship” [Chrysostom].
9. fathers … which corrected us–rather as Greek, “We had the fathers of our flesh as correctors.”
subjection–See the punishment of insubordination, De 21:18.
Father of spirits–contrasted with “the fathers of our flesh.” “Generation by men is carnal, by God is spiritual” [Bengel]. As “Father of spirits,” He is both the Originator, and the Providential and Gracious Sustainer, at once of animal and spiritual life. Compare “and LIVE,” namely, spiritually; also Heb 12:10, “that we might be partakers of His holiness” (2Pe 1:4). God is a spirit Himself, and the Creator of spirits like Himself, in contrast to men who are flesh, and the progenitors of flesh (Joh 3:6). Jesus our pattern “learned obedience” experimentally by suffering (Heb 5:8).
and live–and so, thereby live spiritually and eternally.
10. Showing wherein the chastisement of our heavenly Father is preferable to that of earthly fathers.
for a few days–that is, with a view to our well-being in the few days of our earthly life: so the Greek.
after their own pleasure–Greek, “according to what seemed fit to themselves.” Their rule of chastening is what may seem fit to their own often erring judgment, temper, or caprice. The two defects of human education are: (1) the prevalence in it of a view to the interests of our short earthly term of days; (2) the absence in parents of the unerring wisdom of our heavenly Father. “They err much at one time in severity, at another in indulgence [1Sa 3:13; Eph 6:4], and do not so much chasten as THINK they chasten” [Bengel].
that we might be partakers of his holiness–becoming holy as He is holy (Joh 15:2). To become holy like God is tantamount to being educated for passing eternity with God (Heb 12:14; 2Pe 1:4). So this “partaking of God’s holiness” stands in contrast to the “few days” of this life, with a view to which earthly fathers generally educate their sons.
11. joyous … grievous–Greek, “matter of joy … matter of grief.” The objection that chastening is grievous is here anticipated and answered. It only seems so to those being chastened, whose judgments are confused by the present pain. Its ultimate fruit amply compensates for any temporary pam. The real object of the fathers in chastening is not that they find pleasure in the children’s pain. Gratified wishes, our Father knows, would often be our real curses.
fruit of righteousness–righteousness (in practice, springing from faith) is the fruit which chastening, the tree yields (Php 1:11). “Peaceable” (compare Isa 32:17): in contrast to the ordeal of conflict by which it has been won. “Fruit of righteousness to be enjoyed in peace after the conflict” [Tholuck]. As the olive garland, the emblem of peace as well as victory, was put on the victor’s brow in the games.
exercised thereby–as athletes exercised in training for a contest. Chastisement is the exercise to give experience, and make the spiritual combatant irresistibly victorious (Ro 5:3). “Oh, happy the servant for whose improvement his Lord is earnest, with whom he deigns to be angry, whom He does not deceive by dissembling admonition” (withholding admonition, and so leading the man to think he needs it not)! [Tertullian, Patience, 11]. Observe the “afterwards”; that is the time often when God works.
12. He addresses them as runners in a race, and pugilists, and warriors [Chrysostom]. The “wherefore” is resumed from Heb 12:1.
lift up–In Isa 35:3, from which Paul here quotes, it is, “Strengthen ye the weak hands.” The hand is the symbol of one’s strength. Alford translates, “Put straight again the relaxed hands.” English Version expresses the sense well.
feeble–literally, “paralyzed”; a word used only by Luke, Paul’s companion, in the New Testament. The exhortation has three parts: the first relates to ourselves, Heb 12:12, 13; the second, to others, Heb 12:14, “peace with all men”; the third, to God, “holiness, without which,” &c. The first is referred to in Heb 12:15, “test any man fail of the grace of God”; the second in the words, “lest any root of bitterness,” &c.; the third in Heb 12:16, “Lest there be any fornicator or profane person,” &c. This threefold relation often occurs in Paul’s Epistles. Compare Note, see on Tit 2:12, “soberly, righteously, and godly.” The Greek active verb, not the middle or reflexive, requires the sense to be, Lift up not only your own hands and knees, but also those of your brethren (compare Heb 12:15; Isa 35:4).
13. Quoted from Pr 4:26, Septuagint, “Make straight paths for thy feet.”
straight–that is, leading by a straight road to joy and grace (Heb 12:1, 2, 15). Cease to “halt” between Judaism and Christianity [Bengel].
paths–literally, “wheel tracks.” Let your walk be so firm and so unanimous in the right direction that a plain track and “highway” may be thereby established for those who accompany and follow you, to perceive and walk in (Isa 35:8) [Alford].
that which is lame–those “weak in the faith” (Ro 14:1), having still Judaizing prejudices.
be turned out of the way–(Pr 4:27); and, so missing the way, lose the prize of “the race” (Heb 12:1).
rather he healed–Proper exercise of itself contributes to health; the habit of walking straight onward in the right way tends to healing.
14. follow peace with all men–with the brethren especially (Ro 14:19), that so the “lame” among them be not “turned out of the way” (Heb 12:13), and that no one of them “fail of the grace of God” (Heb 12:15).
holiness–a distinct Greek word from God’s “holiness” (Heb 12:10). Translate here “sanctification.” His is absolute holiness: our part is to put on His holiness, becoming “holy as He is holy,” by sanctification. While “following peace with all men,” we are not so to seek to please them, as to make God’s will and our sanctification a secondary object; this latter must be our first aim. (Ga 1:10).
without which–Greek, “apart from which.”
no man shall see the Lord–no man as a son; in heavenly glory (Re 22:3, 4). In the East, none but the greatest favorites are admitted to the honor of seeing the king (compare 2Sa 14:24). The Lord being pure and holy, none but the pure and holy shall see Him (Mt 5:8). Without holiness in them, they could not enjoy Him who is holiness itself (Zec 14:20). The connection of purity with seeing the Lord, appears in 1Jo 3:2, 3; Eph 5:5. Contrast Heb 12:16 (compare 1Th 4:3). In Mt 24:30; Re 1:7, it is said that all shall see the Lord; but, that shall be as a Judge, not as their lasting portion and God, which is meant here. The Greek verb does not denote the mere action of seeing, but the seer’s state of mind to which the object is presented: so in Mt 5:8 they shall truly comprehend God [Tittmann]. None but the holy could appreciate the holy God, none else therefore shall abide in His presence. “The bad shall only see Him in His form as Son of man [compare Re 1:13, with Re 1:7; and Mt 24:30; Ac 1:11; 17:31]; still it will be in the glory in which He shall judge, not in the lowliness in which He was judged. His form as God, wherein He is equal to the Father, without doubt the ungodly shall not see; for it is only ‘the pure in heart who shall see God'” [Augustine]. “He shall come to judge, who stood before a judge. He shall come in the form in which He was judged, that they may see Him whom they pierced: He who was before hidden shall come manifested in power: He, as Judge, shall condemn the real culprits, who was Himself falsely made a culprit.”
15. lest any … fall–Greek, “lest any (namely, through sloth in running) failing,” or “falling short of the grace of God … trouble you.” The image is taken from a company of travellers, one of whom lags behind, and so never reaches the end of the long and laborious journey [Chrysostom].
root of bitterness–not merely a “bitter root,” which might possibly bring forth sweet fruits; this, a root whose essence is “bitterness,” never could. Paul here refers to De 29:18, “Lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood” (compare Ac 8:23). Root of bitterness comprehends every person (compare Heb 12:16) and every principle of doctrine or practice so radically corrupt as to spread corruption all around. The only safety is in rooting out such a root of bitterness.
many–rather, “the many,” that is, the whole congregation. So long as it is hidden under the earth it cannot be remedied, but when it “springs up,” it must be dealt with boldly. Still remember the caution (Mt 13:26-30) as to rooting out persons. No such danger can arise in rooting out bad principles.
16. fornicator–(Heb 13:4; 1Co 10:8).
or profane–Fornication is nearly akin to gluttony, Esau’s sin. He profanely cast away his spiritual privilege for the gratification of his palate. Ge 25:34 graphically portrays him. An example well fitted to strike needful horror into the Hebrews, whosoever of them, like Esau, were only sons of Isaac according to the flesh [Bengel].
for one morsel–The smallness of the inducement only aggravates the guilt of casting away eternity for such a trifle, so far is it from being a claim for mercy (compare Ge 3:6). One single act has often the greatest power either for good or for evil. So in the cases of Reuben and Saul, for evil (Ge 49:4; 1Ch 5:1; 1Sa 13:12-14); and, on the other hand, for good, Abraham and Phinehas (Ge 12:1, &c.; Ge 15:5, 6; Nu 25:6-15).
his birthright–Greek, “his own (so the oldest manuscripts read, intensifying the suicidal folly and sin of the act) rights of primogeniture,” involving the high spiritual privilege of being ancestor of the promised seed, and heir of the promises in Him. The Hebrews whom Paul addressed, had, as Christians, the spiritual rights of primogeniture (compare Heb 12:23): he intimates that they must exercise holy self-control, if they wish not, like Esau, to forfeit them.
17. afterwards–Greek, “even afterward.” He despised his birthright, accordingly also he was despised and rejected when he wished to have the blessing. As in the believer’s case, so in the unbeliever’s, there is an “afterwards” coming, when the believer shall look on his past griefs, and the unbeliever on his past joys, in a very different light from that in which they were respectively viewed at the time. Compare “Nevertheless afterward,” &c. Heb 12:11, with the “afterward” here.
when he would–when he wished to have. “He that will not when he may, when he will, shall have nay” (Pr 1:24-30; Lu 13:34, 35; 19:42).
he was rejected–not as to every blessing, but only that which would have followed the primogeniture.
he found no place of repentance–The cause is here put for the effect, “repentance” for the object which Esau aimed at in his so-called repentance, namely, the change of his father’s determination to give the chief blessing to Jacob. Had he sought real repentance with tears he would have found it (Mt 7:7). But he did not find it because this was not what he sought. What proves his tears were not those of one seeking true repentance is, immediately after he was foiled in his desire, he resolved to murder Jacob! He shed tears, not for his sin, but for his suffering the penalty of his sin. His were tears of vain regret and remorse, not of repentance. “Before, he might have had the blessing without tears; afterwards, no matter how many tears he shed, he was rejected. Let us use the time” (Lu 18:27)! [Bengel]. Alford explains “repentance” here, a chance, by repenting, to repair (that is, to regain the lost blessing). I agree with him that the translation, instead of “repentance,” “no place for changing HIS FATHER’S mind,” is forced; though doubtless this is what was the true aim of the “repentance” which he sought. The language is framed to apply to profane despisers who wilfully cast away grace and seek repentance (that is, not real; but escape from the penalty of their sin), but in vain. Compare “afterward,” Mt 25:11, 12. Tears are no proof of real repentance (1Sa 24:16, 17; contrast Ps 56:8).
it–the blessing, which was the real object of Esau, though ostensibly seeking “repentance.”
18. For–The fact that we are not under the law, but under a higher, and that the last dispensation, the Gospel, with its glorious privileges, is the reason why especially the Hebrew Christians should “look diligently,” &c. (Heb 12:15, 16).
are not come–Greek, “have not come near to.” Alluding to De 4:11, “Ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire … with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness.” “In your coming near unto God, it has not been to,” &c.
the mount–The oldest manuscripts and Vulgate omit “the mount.” But still, “the mount” must be supplied from Heb 12:22.
that might be touched–palpable and material. Not that any save Moses was allowed to touch it (Ex 19:12, 13). The Hebrews drew near to the material Mount Sinai with material bodies; we, to the spiritual mount in the spirit. The “darkness” was that formed by the clouds hanging round the mount; the “tempest” accompanied the thunder.
19. trumpet–to rouse attention, and herald God’s approach (Ex 19:16).
entreated that the word should not be spoken–literally, “that speech should not be added to them”; not that they refused to hear the word of God, but they wished that God should not Himself speak, but employ Moses as His mediating spokesman. “The voice of words” was the Decalogue, spoken by God Himself, a voice issuing forth, without any form being seen: after which “He added no more” (De 5:22).
20. that which was commanded–“the interdict” [Tittmann]. A stern interdictory mandate is meant.
And–rather, “Even if a beast (much more a man) touch,” &c.
or thrust through with a dart–omitted in the oldest manuscripts. The full interdict in Ex 19:12, 13 is abbreviated here; the beast alone, being put for “whether man or beast”; the stoning, which applies to the human offender, alone being specified, the beast’s punishment, namely, the being thrust through with a dart, being left to be understood.
21. the sight–the vision of God’s majesty.
quake–Greek, “I am in trembling”; “fear” affected his mind: “trembling,” his body. Moses is not recorded in Exodus to have used these words. But Paul, by inspiration, supplies (compare Ac 20:35; 2Ti 3:8) this detail. We read in De 9:19, Septuagint, of similar words used by Moses after breaking the two tables, through fear of God’s anger at the people’s sin in making the golden calves. He doubtless similarly “feared” in hearing the ten commandments spoken by the voice of Jehovah.
22. are come–Greek, “have come near unto” (compare De 4:11). Not merely, ye shall come, but, ye have already come.
Mount Sion–antitypical Sion, the heavenly Jerusalem, of which the spiritual invisible Church (of which the first foundation was laid in literal Zion, Joh 12:15; 1Pe 2:6) is now the earnest; and of which the restored literal Jerusalem hereafter shall be the earthly representative, to be succeeded by the everlasting and “new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven” (Re 21:2-27; compare Heb 11:10).
22, 23. to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church–The city of God having been mentioned, the mention of its citizens follows. Believers being like the angels (Job 1:6; 38:7), “sons of God,” are so their “equals” (Lu 20:36); and being reconciled through Christ, are adopted into God’s great and blessed family. For the full completion of this we pray (Mt 6:10). English Version arrangement is opposed: (1) by “and” always beginning each new member of the whole sentence; (2) “general assembly and Church,” form a kind of tautology; (3) “general assembly,” or rather, “festal full assembly,” “the jubilant full company” (such as were the Olympic games, celebrated with joyous singing, dancing, &c.), applies better to the angels above, ever hymning God’s praises, than to the Church, of which a considerable part is now militant on earth. Translate therefore, “to myriads (ten thousands, compare De 33:2; Ps 68:17; Da 7:10; Jude 14; namely), the full festal assembly of angels, and the Church of the first-born.” Angels and saints together constitute the ten thousands. Compare “all angels, all nations” Mt 25:31, 32. Messiah is pre-eminently “the First-born,” or “First-begotten” (Heb 1:6), and all believers become so by adoption. Compare the type, Nu 3:12, 45, 50; 1Pe 1:18. As the kingly and priestly succession was in the first-born, and as Israel was God’s “first-born” (Ex 4:22; compare Ex 13:2), and a “kingdom of priests” to God (Ex 19:6), so believers (Re 1:6).
23. written in heaven–enrolled as citizens there. All those who at the coming of “God the Judge of all” (which clause therefore naturally follows), shall be found “written in heaven,” that is, in the Lamb’s book of life (Re 21:27). Though still fighting the good fight on earth, still, in respect to your destiny, and present life of faith which substantiates things hoped for, ye are already members of the heavenly citizenship. “We are one citizenship with angels; to which it is said in the psalm, Glorious things are spoken of thee, thou city of God” [Augustine]. I think Alford wrong in restricting “the Church of the first-born written in heaven,” to those militant on earth; it is rather, all those who at the Judge’s coming shall be found written in heaven (the true patent of heavenly nobility; contrast “written in the earth,” Jer 17:13, and Esau’s profane sale of his birthright, Heb 12:16); these all, from the beginning to the end of the world, forming one Church to which every believer is already come. The first-born of Israel were “written” in a roll (Nu 3:40).
the spirits of just men made perfect–at the resurrection, when the “Judge” shall appear, and believers’ bliss shall be consummated by the union of the glorified body with the spirit; the great hope of the New Testament (Ro 8:20-23; 1Th 4:16). The place of this clause after “the Judge of all,” is my objection to Bengel and Alford’s explanation, the souls of the just in their separate state perfected. Compare Notes, see on Heb 11:39, 40, to which he refers here, and which I think confirms my view; those heretofore spirits, but now to be perfected by being clothed upon with the body. Still the phrase, “spirits of just men made perfect,” not merely “just men made perfect,” may favor the reference to the happy spirits in their separate state. The Greek is not “the perfected spirits,” but “the spirits of the perfected just.” In no other passage are the just said to be perfected before the resurrection, and the completion of the full number of the elect (Re 6:11); I think, therefore, “spirits of the just,” may here be used to express the just whose predominant element in their perfected state shall be spirit. So spirit and spirits are used of a man or men in the body, under the influence of the spirit, the opposite of flesh (Joh 3:6). The resurrection bodies of the saints shall be bodies in which the spirit shall altogether preponderate over the animal soul (see on 1Co 15:44).
24. new–not the usual term (kaine) applied to the Christian covenant (Heb 9:15), which would mean new as different from, and superseding the old; but Greek, “nea,” “recent,” “lately established,” having the “freshness of youth,” as opposed to age. The mention of Jesus, the Perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2), and Himself perfected through sufferings and death, in His resurrection and ascension (Heb 2:10; 5:9), is naturally suggested by the mention of “the just made perfect” at their resurrection (compare Heb 7:22). Paul uses “Jesus,” dwelling here on Him as the Person realized as our loving friend, not merely in His official character as the Christ.
and to the blood of sprinkling–here enumerated as distinct from “Jesus.” Bengel reasonably argues as follows: His blood was entirely “poured out” of His body by the various ways in which it was shed, His bloody sweat, the crown of thorns, the scourging, the nails, and after death the spear, just as the blood was entirely poured out and extravasated from the animal sacrifices of the law. It was incorruptible (1Pe 1:18, 19). No Scripture states it was again put into the Lord’s body. At His ascension, as our great High Priest, He entered the heavenly holiest place “BY His own blood” (not after shedding His blood, nor with the blood in His body, but), carrying it separately from his body (compare the type, Heb 9:7, 12, 25; 13:11). Paul does not say, by the efficacy of His blood, but, “by His own proper blood” (Heb 9:12); not MATERIAL blood, but “the blood of Him who, through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot unto God” (Heb 9:14). So in Heb 10:29, the Son of God and the blood of the covenant wherewith he (the professor) was sanctified, are mentioned separately. Also in Heb 13:12, 20; also compare Heb 10:19, with Heb 10:21. So in the Lord’s Supper (1Co 10:16; 11:24-26), the body and blood are separately represented. The blood itself, therefore, continues still in heaven before God, the perpetual ransom price of “the eternal covenant” (Heb 13:20). Once for all Christ sprinkled the blood peculiarly for us at His ascension (Heb 9:12). But it is called “the blood of sprinkling,” on account also of its continued use in heaven, and in the consciences of the saints on earth (Heb 9:14; 10:22; Isa 52:15). This sprinkling is analogous to the sprinkled blood of the Passover. Compare Re 5:6, “In the midst of the throne, a Lamb as it had been slain.” His glorified body does not require meat, nor the circulation of the blood. His blood introduced into heaven took away the dragon’s right to accuse. Thus Rome’s theory of concomitancy of the blood with the body, the excuse for giving only the bread to the laity, falls to the ground. The mention of “the blood of sprinkling” naturally follows the mention of the “covenant,” which could not be consecrated without blood (Heb 9:18, 22).
speaketh better things than that of Abel–namely, than the sprinkling (the best manuscripts read the article masculine, which refers to “sprinkling,” not to “blood,” which last is neuter) of blood by Abel in his sacrifice spake. This comparison between two things of the same kind (namely, Christ’s sacrifice, and Abel’s sacrifice) is more natural, than between two things different in kind and in results (namely, Christ’s sacrifice, and Abel’s own blood [Alford], which was not a sacrifice at all); compare Heb 11:4; Ge 4:4. This accords with the whole tenor of the Epistle, and of this passage in particular (Heb 12:18-22), which is to show the superiority of Christ’s sacrifice and the new covenant, to the Old Testament sacrifices (of which Abel’s is the first recorded; it, moreover, was testified to by God as acceptable to Him above Cain’s), compare Heb 9:1-10:39. The word “better” implies superiority to something that is good: but Abel’s own blood was not at all good for the purpose for which Christ’s blood was efficacious; nay, it cried for vengeance. So Archbishop Magee, Hammond, and Knatchbull. Bengel takes “the blood of Abel” as put for all the blood shed on earth crying for vengeance, and greatly increasing the other cries raised by sin in the world; counteracted by the blood of Christ calmly speaking in heaven for us, and from heaven to us. I prefer Magee’s view. Be this as it may, to deny that Christ’s atonement is truly a propitiation, overthrows Christ’s priesthood, makes the sacrifices of Moses’ law an unmeaning mummery, and represents Cain’s sacrifice as good as that of Abel.
25. refuse not–through unbelief.
him that speaketh–God in Christ. As the blood of sprinkling is represented as speaking to God for us, Heb 12:24; so here God is represented as speaking to us (Heb 1:1, 2). His word now is the prelude of the last “shaking” of all things (Heb 12:27). The same word which is heard in the Gospel from heaven, will shake heaven and earth (Heb 12:26).
who refused him–Greek, “refusing as they did.” Their seemingly submissive entreaty that the word should not be spoken to them by God any more (Heb 12:19), covered over refractory hearts, as their subsequent deeds showed (Heb 3:16).
that spake–revealing with oracular warnings His divine will: so the Greek.
if we turn away–Greek, “we who turn away.” The word implies greater refractoriness than “refused,” or “declined.”
him that speaketh from heaven–God, by His Son in the Gospel, speaking from His heavenly throne. Hence, in Christ’s preaching frequent mention is made of “the kingdom of the heavens” (Greek, Mt 3:2). In the giving of the law God spake on earth (namely, Mount Sinai) by angels (Heb 2:2; compare Heb 1:2). In Ex 20:22, when God says, “I talked with you from heaven,” this passage in Hebrews shows that not the highest heavens, but the visible heavens, the clouds and darkness, are meant, out of which God by angels proclaimed the law on Sinai.
26. then shook–when He gave the law on Sinai.
now–under the Gospel.
promised–The announcement of His coming to break up the present order of things, is to the ungodly a terror, to the godly a promise, the fulfilment of which they look for with joyful hope.
Yet once more–Compare Notes, see on Hag 2:6; Hag 2:21, 22, both of which passages are condensed into one here. The shaking began at the first coming of Messiah; it will be completed at His second coming, prodigies in the world of nature accompanying the overthrow of all kingdoms that oppose Messiah. The Hebrew is literally, “it is yet one little,” that is, a single brief space till the series of movements begins ending in the advent of Messiah. Not merely the earth, as at the establishment of the Sinaitic covenant, but heaven also is to be shaken. The two advents of Messiah are regarded as one, the complete shaking belonging to the second advent, of which the presage was given in the shakings at the first advent: the convulsions connected with the overthrow of Jerusalem shadowing forth those about to be at the overthrow of all the God-opposed kingdoms by the coming Messiah.
27. this word, Yet once more–So Paul, by the Spirit, sanctions the Septuagint rendering of Hag 2:6, giving an additional feature to the prophecy in the Hebrew, as rendered in English Version, not merely that it shall be in a little while, but that it is to be “once more” as the final act. The stress of his argument is on the “ONCE.” Once for all; once and for ever. “In saying ‘once more,’ the Spirit implies that something has already passed, and something else shall be which is to remain, and is no more to be changed to something else; for the once is exclusive, that is, not many times” [Estius].
those things that are shaken–the heaven and the earth. As the shaking is to be total, so shall the removal be, making way for the better things that are unremovable. Compare the Jewish economy (the type of the whole present order of things) giving way to the new and abiding covenant: the forerunner of the everlasting state of bliss.
as of things … made–namely, of this present visible creation: compare 2Co 5:1; Heb 9:11, “made with hands … of this creation,” that is, things so made at creation that they would not remain of themselves, but be removed. The new abiding heaven and earth are also made by God, but they are of a higher nature than the material creation, being made to partake of the divine nature of Him who is not made: so in this relation, as one with the uncreated God, they are regarded as not of the same class as the things made. The things made in the former sense do not remain; the things of the new heaven and earth, like the uncreated God, “shall REMAIN before God” (Isa 66:22). The Spirit, the seed of the new and heavenly being, not only of the believer’s soul, but also of the future body, is an uncreated and immortal principle.
28. receiving–as we do, in prospect and sure hope, also in the possession of the Spirit the first-fruits. This is our privilege as Christians.
let us have grace–“let us have thankfulness” [Alford after Chrysostom]. But (1) this translation is according to classical Greek, not Paul’s phraseology for “to be thankful.” (2) “To God” would have been in that case added. (3) “Whereby we may serve God,” suits the English Version “grace” (that is Gospel grace, the work of the Spirit, producing faith exhibited in serving God), but does not suit “thankfulness.”
reverence and godly fear–The oldest manuscripts read, “reverent caution and fear.” Reverent caution (same Greek as in Heb 5:7; see on Heb 5:7) lest we should offend God, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. Fear lest we should bring destruction on ourselves.
29. Greek, “For even”: “for also”; introducing an additional solemn incentive to diligence. Quoted from De 4:24.
our God–in whom we hope, is also to be feared. He is love (1Jo 4:8, 16); yet there is another side of His character; God has wrath against sin (Heb 10:27, 31).
Heb 13:1-25. Exhortation to Various Graces, Especially Constancy in Faith, Following Jesus amidst Reproaches. Conclusion, with Pieces of Intelligence and Salutations.
1. brotherly love–a distinct special manifestation of “charity” or “love” (2Pe 1:7). The Church of Jerusalem, to which in part this Epistle was addressed, was distinguished by this grace, we know from Acts (compare Heb 6:10; 10:32-34; 12:12, 13).
continue–Charity will itself continue. See that it continue with you.
7. Two manifestations of “brotherly love,” hospitality and care for those in bonds.
Be not forgetful–implying it was a duty which they all recognized, but which they might forget to act on (Heb 13:3, 7, 16). The enemies of Christianity themselves have noticed the practice of this virtue among Christians [Julian, Epistles, 49].
entertained angels unawares–Abraham and Lot did so (Ge 18:2; 19:1). To obviate the natural distrust felt of strangers, Paul says, an unknown guest may be better than he looks: he may be unexpectedly found to be as much a messenger of God for good, as the angels (whose name means messenger) are; nay more, if a Christian, he represents Christ Himself. There is a play on the same Greek word, Be not forgetful and unaware; let not the duty of hospitality to strangers escape you; for, by entertaining strangers, it has escaped the entertainers that they were entertaining angels. Not unconscious and forgetful of the duty, they have unconsciously brought on themselves the blessing.
3. Remember–in prayers and acts of kindness.
bound with them–by virtue of the unity of the members in the body under one Head, Christ (1Co 12:26).
suffer adversity–Greek, “are in evil state.”
being yourselves also in the body–and so liable to the adversities incident to the natural body, which ought to dispose you the more to sympathize with them, not knowing how soon your own turn of suffering may come. “One experiences adversity almost his whole life, as Jacob; another in youth, as Joseph; another in manhood, as Job; another in old age” [Bengel].
4. is, &c.–Translate, “Let marriage be treated as honorable”: as Heb 13:5 also is an exhortation.
in all–“in the case of all men”: “among all.” “To avoid fornication let EVERY MAN have his own wife” (1Co 7:2). Judaism and Gnosticism combined were soon about to throw discredit on marriage. The venerable Paphnutius, in the Council of Nice, quoted this verse for the justification of the married state. If one does not himself marry, he should not prevent others from doing so. Others, especially Romanists, translate, “in all things,” as in Heb 13:18. But the warning being against lasciviousness, the contrast to “whoremongers and adulterers” in the parallel clause, requires the “in all” in this clause to refer to persons.
the bed undefiled–Translate, as Greek requires “undefiled” to be a predicate, not an epithet, “And let the bed be undefiled.”
God will judge–Most whoremongers escape the notice of human tribunals; but God takes particular cognizance of those whom man does not punish. Gay immoralities will then be regarded in a very different light from what they are now.
5. conversation–“manner of life.” The love of filthy lust and the love of filthy lucre follow one another as closely akin, both alienating the heart from the Creator to the creature.
such things as ye have–literally, “present things” (Php 4:11).
I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee–A promise tantamount to this was given to Jacob (Ge 28:15), to Israel (De 31:6, 8), to Joshua (Jos 1:5), to Solomon (1Ch 28:20). It is therefore like a divine adage. What was said to them, extends also to us. He will neither withdraw His presence (“never leave thee”) nor His help (“nor forsake thee”) [Bengel].
6. may–rather as Greek, expressing confidence actually realized, “So that we boldly (confidently) say” (Ps 56:4, 11; 118:6). Punctuate as both the Hebrew and the Greek require, “And (so) I will not fear: what (then) shall man do unto me?”
7. Remember–so as to imitate: not to invoke in prayer, as Rome teaches.
have the rule–rather, “who have had the rule over you”: your spiritual leaders.
who–Greek, “the which”: such persons as.
have spoken unto you–“spake” (so the Greek aorist means) during their lifetime. This Epistle was among those written later, when many of the heads of the Jerusalem Church had passed away.
whose faith–even unto death: probably death by martyrdom, as in the case of the instances of faith in Heb 11:35. Stephen, James the brother of our Lord and bishop of Jerusalem, as well as James the brother of John (Ac 12:2), in the Palestinian Church, which Paul addresses, suffered martyrdom.
considering–Greek, “looking up to,” “diligently contemplating all over,” as an artist would a model.
the end–the termination, at death. The Greek, is used of decease (Lu 9:31; 2Pe 1:15).
of their conversation–“manner of life”: “religious walk” (Ga 1:13; Eph 4:22; 1Ti 4:12; Jas 3:13). Considering how they manifested the soundness of their faith by their holy walk, which they maintained even to the end of that walk (their death by martyrdom).
8. This verse is not, as some read it, in apposition with “the end of their conversation” (Heb 13:7), but forms the transition. “Jesus Christ, yesterday and to-day (is) the same, and (shall be the same) unto the ages (that is, unto all ages).” The Jesus Christ (the full name being given, to mark with affectionate solemnity both His person and His office) who supported your spiritual rulers through life even unto their end “yesterday” (in times past), being at once “the Author and the Finisher of their faith” (Heb 12:2), remains still the same Jesus Christ “to-day,” ready to help you also, if like them you walk by “faith” in Him. Compare “this same Jesus,” Ac 1:11. He who yesterday (proverbial for the past time) suffered and died, is to-day in glory (Re 1:18). “As night comes between yesterday and to-day, and yet night itself is swallowed up by yesterday and to-day, so the “suffering” did not so interrupt the glory of Jesus Christ which was of yesterday, and that which is to-day, as not to continue to be the same. He is the same yesterday, before He came into the world, and to-day, in heaven. Yesterday in the time of our predecessors, and to-day in our age” [Bengel]. So the doctrine is the same, not variable: this verse thus forms the transition between Heb 13:7 and Heb 13:9. He is always “the same” (Heb 1:12). The same in the Old and in the New Testament.
9. about–rather, as oldest manuscripts read, “carried aside”; namely, compare Eph 4:14.
divers–differing from the one faith in the one and the same Jesus Christ, as taught by them who had the rule over you (Heb 13:7).
strange–foreign to the truth.
established with grace; not with meats–not with observances of Jewish distinctions between clean and unclean meats, to which ascetic Judaizers added in Christian times the rejection of some meats, and the use of others: noticed also by Paul in 1Co 8:8, 13; 6:13; Ro 14:17, an exact parallel to this verse: these are some of the “divers and strange doctrines” of the previous sentence. Christ’s body offered once for all for us, is our true spiritual “meat” to “eat” (Heb 13:10), “the stay and the staff of bread” (Isa 3:1), the mean of all “grace.”
which have not profited–Greek, “in which they who walked were not profited”; namely, in respect to justification, perfect cleansing of the conscience, and sanctification. Compare on “walked,” Ac 21:21; namely, with superstitious scrupulosity, as though the worship of God in itself consisted in such legal observances.
10. Christianity and Judaism are so totally distinct, that “they who serve the (Jewish) tabernacle,” have no right to eat our spiritual Gospel meat, namely, the Jewish priests, and those who follow their guidance in serving the ceremonial ordinance. He says, “serve the tabernacle,” not “serve IN the tabernacle.” Contrast with this servile worship ours.
an altar–the cross of Christ, whereon His body was offered. The Lord’s table represents this altar, the cross; as the bread and wine represent the sacrifice offered on it. Our meat, which we by faith spiritually eat, is the flesh of Christ, in contrast to the typical ceremonial meats. The two cannot be combined (Ga 5:2). That not a literal eating of the sacrifice of Christ is meant in the Lord’s Supper, but a spiritual is meant, appears from comparing Heb 13:9 with Heb 13:10, “with GRACE, NOT with MEATS.”
11, 12. For just as “the bodies of those beasts whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by … are burned without the camp,” so “Jesus also that … suffered without the gate” of ceremonial Judaism, of which His crucifixion outside the gate of Jerusalem is a type.
for–reason why they who serve the tabernacle, are excluded from share in Christ; because His sacrifice is not like one of those sacrifices in which they had a share but answers to one which was “wholly burned” outside (the Greek is “burnt completely,” “consumed by burning”), and which consequently they could not eat of. Le 6:30, gives the general rule, “No sin offering whereof any of the blood is brought into the tabernacle of the congregation to reconcile withal in the holy place, shall be eaten; it shall be burnt in the fire.” The sin offerings are twofold: the outward, whose blood was sprinkled on the outward altar, and of whose bodies the priests might eat; and the inward, the reverse.
the sanctuary–here the Holy of Holies, into which the blood of the sin offering was brought on the day of atonement.
without the camp–in which were the tabernacle and Levitical priests and legal worshippers, during Israel’s journey through the wilderness; replaced afterwards by Jerusalem (containing the temple), outside of whose walls Jesus was crucified.
12. Wherefore Jesus–In order that the Antitype might fulfil the type.
sanctify–Though not brought into the temple “sanctuary” (Heb 13:11) His blood has been brought into the heavenly sanctuary, and “sanctifies the people” (Heb 2:11, 17), by cleansing them from sin, and consecrating them to God.
his own–not blood of animals.
without the gate–of Jerusalem; as if unworthy of the society of the covenant-people. The fiery ordeal of His suffering on the cross, answers to the burning of the victims; thereby His mere fleshly life was completely destroyed, as their bodies were; the second part of His offering was His carrying His blood into the heavenly holiest before God at His ascension, that it should be a perpetual atonement for the world’s sin.
13. therefore–This “therefore” breathes the deliberate fortitude of believers [Bengel].
without the camp–“outside the legal polity” [Theodoret] of Judaism (compare Heb 13:11) “Faith considers Jerusalem itself as a camp, not a city” [Bengel]. He contrasts with the Jews, who serve an earthly sanctuary, the Christians to whom the altar in heaven stands open, while it is closed against the Jews. As Jesus suffered without the gate, so spiritually must those who desire to belong to Him, withdraw from the earthly Jerusalem and its sanctuary, as from this world in general. There is a reference to Ex 33:7, when the tabernacle was moved without the camp, which had become polluted by the people’s idolatry of the golden calves; so that “every one who sought the Lord went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation (as Moses called the tabernacle outside the camp), which was without the camp”; a lively type of what the Hebrews should do, namely, come out of the carnal worship of the earthly Jerusalem to worship God in Christ in spirit, and of what we all ought to do, namely, come out from all carnalism, worldly formalism, and mere sensuous worship, and know Jesus in His spiritual power apart from worldliness, seeing that “we have no continuing city” (Heb 13:14).
bearing–as Simon of Cyrene did.
his reproach–the reproach which He bare, and which all His people bear with Him.
14. here–on earth. Those Hebrews who clung to the earthly sanctuary are representatives of all who cling to this earth. The earthly Jerusalem proved to be no “abiding city,” having been destroyed shortly after this Epistle was written, and with it fell the Jewish civil and religious polity; a type of the whole of our present earthly order of things soon to perish.
one to come–(Heb 2:5; 11:10, 14, 16; 12:22; Php 3:20).
15. As the “altar” was mentioned in Heb 13:10, so the “sacrifices” here (compare 1Pe 2:5, namely, praise and doing good, Heb 13:16). Compare Ps 119:108; Ro 12:1.
By him–as the Mediator of our prayers and praises (Joh 14:13, 14); not by Jewish observances (Ps 50:14, 23; 69:30, 31; 107:22; 116:17). It was an old saying of the rabbis, “At a future time all sacrifices shall cease, but praises shall not cease.”
of praise–for salvation.
continually–not merely at fixed seasons, as those on which the legal sacrifices were offered, but throughout all our lives.
fruit of our lips–(Isa 57:19; Ho 14:2).
giving thanks–Greek, “confessing.” Bengel remarks that the Hebrew, “todah,” is beautifully emphatic. It literally means “acknowledgment” or “confession.” In praising a creature, we may easily exceed the truth; but in praising God we have only to go on confessing what He really is to us. Hence it is impossible to exceed the truth, and here is genuine praise.
16. But–But the sacrifice of praise with the lips (Heb 13:15) is not enough; there must be also doing good (beneficence) and communicating (that is, imparting a share of your means, Ga 6:6) to the needy.
with such–and not mere ritualistic sacrifices.
17. Obey them that have the rule over you–(Compare Heb 13:7, 24). This threefold mention of the rulers is peculiar to this Epistle. In other Epistles Paul includes the rulers in his exhortations. But here the address is limited to the general body of the Church, in contrast to the rulers to whom they are charged to yield reverent submission. Now this is just what might be expected when the apostle of the Gentiles was writing to the Palestine Christians, among whom James and the eleven apostles had exercised a more immediate authority. It was important he should not seem to set himself in opposition to their guides, but rather strengthen their hands; he claims no authority directly or indirectly over these rulers themselves [Birks]. “Remember” your deceased rulers (Heb 13:7). “Obey” your living rulers; nay, more, not only obey in cases where no sacrifice of self is required, and where you are persuaded they are right (so the Greek, for “obey”), but “submit yourselves” as a matter of dutiful yielding, when your judgment and natural will incline you in an opposite direction.
they–on their part; so the Greek. As they do their part, so do you yours. So Paul exhorts, 1Th 5:12, 13.
watch–“are vigilant” (Greek).
for–Greek, “in behalf of.”
must give account–The strongest stimulus to watchfulness (Mr 13:34-37). Chrysostom was deeply struck with these words, as he tells us [On the Priesthood, 6], “The fear of this threat continually agitates my soul.”
do it–“watch for your soul’s eternal salvation.” It is a perilous responsibility for a man to have to give account for others’ deeds, who is not sufficient for his own [Estius, from Aquinas]. I wonder whether it be possible that any of the rulers should be saved [Chrysostom]. Compare Paul’s address to the elders, Ac 20:28; 1Co 4:1-5, where also he connects ministers’ responsibility with the account to be hereafter given (compare 1Pe 5:4).
with joy–at your obedience; anticipating, too, that you shall be their “joy” in the day of giving account (Php 4:1).
not with grief–at your disobedience; apprehending also that in the day of account you may be among the lost, instead of being their crown of rejoicing. In giving account, the stewards are liable to blame if aught be lost to the Master. “Mitigate their toil by every office of attention and respect, that with alacrity, rather than with grief, they may fulfil their duty, arduous enough in itself, even though no unpleasantness be added on your part” [Grotius].
that–Grief in your pastors is unprofitable for you, for it weakens their spiritual power; nay, more, “the groans (so the Greek for ‘grief’) of other creatures are heard; how much more of pastors!” [Bengel]. So God will be provoked to avenge on you their “groaning” (Greek). If they must render God an account of their negligence, so must you for your ingratitude to them [Grotius].
18. Pray for us–Paul usually requests the Church’s intercessions for him in closing his Epistles, just as he begins with assuring them of his having them at heart in his prayers (but in this Epistle not till Heb 13:20, 21), Ro 15:30. “Us,” includes both himself and his companions; he passes to himself alone, Heb 13:19.
we trust we have a good conscience–in spite of your former jealousies, and the charges of my Jewish enemies at Jerusalem, which have been the occasion of my imprisonment at Rome. In refutation of the Jews’ aspersions, he asserts in the same language as here his own conscientiousness before God and man, Ac 23:1-3; 24:16, 20, 21 (wherein he virtually implies that his reply to Ananias was not sinful impatience; for, indeed, it was a prophecy which he was inspired at the moment to utter, and which was fulfilled soon after).
we trust–Greek, “we are persuaded,” in the oldest manuscripts. Good conscience produces confidence, where the Holy Spirit rules the conscience (Ro 9:1).
honestly–“in a good way.” The same Greek word as “good conscience.” Literally, “rightly,” “becomingly.”
19. the rather–Greek, “I the more abundantly beseech you.”
to do this–to pray for me.
that I may be restored to you–(Phm 22). It is here first in the letter he mentions himself, in a way so unobtrusive, as not to prejudice his Hebrew readers against him, which would have been the result had he commenced this as his other Epistles, with authoritatively announcing his name and apostolic commission.
20. Concluding prayer.
God of peace–So Paul, Ro 15:33; 16:20; 2Co 13:11; Php 4:9; 1Th 5:23; 2Th 3:16. The Judaizing of the Hebrews was calculated to sow seeds of discord among them, of disobedience to their pastors (Heb 13:17), and of alienation towards Paul. The God of peace by giving unity of true doctrine, will unite them in mutual love.
brought again from the dead–Greek, “brought up,” &c.: God brought the Shepherd; the Shepherd shall bring the flock. Here only in the Epistle he mentions the resurrection. He would not conclude without mentioning ‘the connecting link between the two truths mainly discussed; the one perfect sacrifice and the continual priestly intercession–the depth of His humiliation and the height of His glory–the “altar” of the cross and the ascension to the heavenly Holy of Holies.
Lord Jesus–the title marking His person and His Lordship over us. But Heb 13:21, “through Jesus Christ.” His office, as the Anointed of the Spirit, making Him the medium of communicating the Spirit to us, the holy unction flowing down from the Head on the members (compare Ac 2:36).
shepherd of the sheep–A title familiar to his Hebrew readers, from their Old Testament (Isa 63:11; Septuagint): primarily Moses, antitypically Christ: already compared together, Heb 3:2-7. The transition is natural from their earthly pastors (Heb 13:17), to the Chief Pastor, as in 1Pe 5:1-4. Compare Eze 34:23 and Jesus’ own words, Joh 10:2, 11, 14.
through the blood–Greek, “in,” in virtue of the blood (Heb 2:9); it was because of His bloody death for us, that the Father raised and crowned Him with glory. The “blood” was the seal of the everlasting covenant entered into between the Father and Son; in virtue of the Son’s blood, first Christ was raised, then Christ’s people shall be so (Zec 9:11, seemingly referred to here; Ac 20:28).
everlasting–The everlastingness of the covenant necessitated the resurrection. This clause, “the blood of the everlasting covenant,” is a summary retrospect of the Epistle (compare Heb 9:12).
21. Make you perfect–properly said of healing a rent; join you together in perfect harmony [Bengel].
to do his will, working in you–(Heb 10:36); rather as Greek, “doing in you.” Whatever good we do, God does in us.
well-pleasing in his sight–(Isa 53:10; Eph 5:10).
through Jesus Christ–“God doing (working) in you that … through Jesus Christ” (Php 1:11).
to whom–to Christ. He closes as he began (Heb 1:1-14), with giving glory to Christ.
22. suffer the word–The Hebrews not being the section of the Church assigned to Paul (but the Gentiles), he uses gentle entreaty, rather than authoritative command.
few words–compared with what might be said on so important a subject. Few, in an Epistle which is more of a treatise than an Epistle (compare 1Pe 5:12). On the seeming inconsistency with Ga 6:11, compare Note, see on Ga 6:11.
23. our brother Timothy–So Paul, 1Co 4:17; 2Co 1:1; Col 1:1; 1Th 3:2.
is set at liberty–from prison. So Aristarchus was imprisoned with Paul. Birks translates, “dismissed,” “sent away,” namely, on a mission to Greece, as Paul promised (Php 2:19). However, some kind of previous detention is implied before his being let go to Philippi. Paul, though now at large, was still in Italy, whence he sends the salutations of Italian Christians (Heb 13:24), waiting for Timothy to join him, so as to start for Jerusalem: we know from 1Ti 1:3, he and Timothy were together at Ephesus after his departing from Italy eastward. He probably left Timothy there and went to Philippi as he had promised. Paul implies that if Timothy shall not come shortly, he will start on his journey to the Hebrews at once.
24. all–The Scriptures are intended for all, young and old, not merely for ministers. Compare the different classes addressed, “wives,” Eph 5:22; little children, 1Jo 2:18; “all,” 1Pe 3:8; 5:5. He says here “all,” for the Hebrews whom he addresses were not all in one place, though the Jerusalem Hebrews are chiefly addressed.
They of Italy–not merely the brethren at Rome, but of other places in Italy.
25. Paul’s characteristic salutation in every one of his other thirteen Epistles, as he says himself, 1Co 16:21, 23; Col 4:18; 2Th 3:17. It is found in no Epistle written by any other apostle in Paul’s lifetime. It is used in Re 22:21, written subsequently, and in Clement of Rome. Being known to be his badge, it is not used by others in his lifetime. The Greek here is, “The grace (namely, of our Lord Jesus Christ) be with you all.”