Hebrews 4:12
Verse (Click for Chapter)
New International Version
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

New Living Translation
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.

English Standard Version
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Berean Study Bible
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it pierces even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Berean Literal Bible
For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even as far as the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrows, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

New American Standard Bible
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

King James Bible
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart.

International Standard Version
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul and spirit, joints and marrow, as it judges the thoughts and purposes of the heart.

NET Bible
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart.

New Heart English Bible
For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Aramaic Bible in Plain English
For the word of God is living and all-efficient, and much sharper than a double edged sword, and it pierces to the separation of soul and spirit and of joints, marrow and of bones, and judges the reasoning and conscience of the heart.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
God's word is living and active. It is sharper than any two-edged sword and cuts as deep as the place where soul and spirit meet, the place where joints and marrow meet. God's word judges a person's thoughts and intentions.

New American Standard 1977
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Jubilee Bible 2000
For the word of God is alive and efficient and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

King James 2000 Bible
For the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

American King James Version
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

American Standard Version
For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Douay-Rheims Bible
For the word of God is living and effectual, and more piercing than any two edged sword; and reaching unto the division of the soul and the spirit, of the joints also and the marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Darby Bible Translation
For the word of God [is] living and operative, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and penetrating to [the] division of soul and spirit, both of joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of [the] heart.

English Revised Version
For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Webster's Bible Translation
For the word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Weymouth New Testament
For God's Message is full of life and power, and is keener than the sharpest two-edged sword. It pierces even to the severance of soul from spirit, and penetrates between the joints and the marrow, and it can discern the secret thoughts and purposes of the heart.

World English Bible
For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Young's Literal Translation
for the reckoning of God is living, and working, and sharp above every two-edged sword, and piercing unto the dividing asunder both of soul and spirit, of joints also and marrow, and a discerner of thoughts and intents of the heart;
Study Bible
God's Word is Living and Active
11Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following the same pattern of disobedience. 12For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it pierces even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight; everything is uncovered and exposed before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.…
Cross References
Psalm 45:3
Gird Your sword on Your thigh, O Mighty One, In Your splendor and Your majesty!

Psalm 149:6
Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, And a two-edged sword in their hand,

Proverbs 5:4
But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, Sharp as a two-edged sword.

Isaiah 49:2
He has made My mouth like a sharp sword, In the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me; And He has also made Me a select arrow, He has hidden Me in His quiver.

Jeremiah 23:29
"Is not My word like fire?" declares the LORD, "and like a hammer which shatters a rock?

John 12:48
There is a judge for the one who rejects Me and does not receive My words: The word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.

Acts 7:38
He was in the assembly in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. And he received living words to pass on to us.

1 Corinthians 14:24
But if an unbeliever or uninstructed person comes in while everyone is prophesying, he will be convicted and called to account by all,

Ephesians 5:26
to sanctify her, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,

Ephesians 6:17
And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Treasury of Scripture

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

the word.

Hebrews 13:7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken to you …

Isaiah 49:2 And he has made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his …

Luke 8:11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.

Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled …

2 Corinthians 2:17 For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of …

2 Corinthians 4:2 But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in …

Revelation 20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them…

is quick.

Psalm 110:2 The LORD shall send the rod of your strength out of Zion: rule you …

Psalm 119:130 The entrance of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.

Ecclesiastes 12:11 The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the …

Isaiah 55:11 So shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not …

Jeremiah 23:29 Is not my word like as a fire? said the LORD; and like a hammer that …

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power …

1 Corinthians 1:24 But to them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power …

2 Corinthians 10:4,5 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through …

1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when you …

James 1:18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should …

1 Peter 1:23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, …

John 6:51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat …

1 Peter 2:4,5 To whom coming, as to a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but …

sharper.

Psalm 45:3 Gird your sword on your thigh, O most mighty, with your glory and your majesty.

Psalm 149:6 Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword …

Proverbs 5:4 But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.

Isaiah 11:4 But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with …

Isaiah 49:2 And he has made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his …

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said …

Acts 5:33 When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them.

Ephesians 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which …

Revelation 1:16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went …

Revelation 2:16 Repent; or else I will come to you quickly, and will fight against …

Revelation 19:15,21 And out of his mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it he should smite …

and is.

Psalm 139:2 You know my sitting down and my rising up, you understand my thought afar off.

Jeremiah 17:10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every …

1 Corinthians 14:24,25 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believes not, or …

Ephesians 5:13 But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: …

Revelation 2:23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall …

(12) As in Hebrews 3:12 the warning against the "evil heart of unbelief" is solemnly enforced by the mention of the "Living God," so here, in pointing to the peril of disobedience, it is to the living power of the word of God that the writer makes appeal. But in what sense? Does he bring before us again the word of Scripture, or the divine Word Himself? Outside the writings of St. John there is no passage in the New Testament in which the word of God is as clearly invested with personal attributes as here. The word is "quick" (that is, living), "powerful" (or, active--mighty in operation, as most of our versions render the word), "able to discern the thoughts of the heart." Philo, whose writings are pervaded by the doctrine of the divine Word (see the Note appended to St. John's Gospel in Vol. I. of this Commentary, p. 553), in certain passages makes use of expressions so remarkably resembling some that are before us in this verse that we cannot suppose the coincidence accidental. Thus, in an allegorical explanation of Genesis 15:10, he speaks of the sacred and divine Word as cutting through all things, dividing all perceptible objects, and penetrating even to those called indivisible, separating the different parts of the soul. But though these and the many other resemblances that are adduced may prove the writer's familiarity with the Alexandrian philosophy, they are wholly insufficient to show an adoption of Philo's doctrinal system (if system it could be called) in regard to the divine Word, or to rule the interpretation of the single passage in this Epistle in which an allusion to that system could be traced. Nor is the first-mentioned argument conclusive. There certainly is personification here, and in part the language used would, if it stood alone, even suggest the presence of a divine Person; but it is not easy to believe that in the New Testament the words "sharper than a two-edged sword" would be directly applied to the Son of God. In this Epistle, moreover (and even in this context, Hebrews 4:2), reference is repeatedly made to the word of God in revelation, without a trace of any other meaning. The key to the language of this verse, so far as it is exceptional, is found in that characteristic of the Epistle to which reference has been already made--the habitual thought of Scripture as a direct divine utterance. The transition from such a conception to those of this verse was very easy; and we need not feel surprise if with expressions which are naturally applied to the utterance are joined others which lead the thought to God as Speaker. It is, therefore, the whole word of God that is brought before us--mainly the word of threatening and judgment, but also (comp. Hebrews 4:2 and the last member of this verse) the word of promise.

Piercing even to the dividing asunder . . .--Rather, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, both joints and marrow. For the comparison of God's word to a sword see Isaiah 49:2; Ephesians 6:17; (Revelation 1:16); comp. also Wisdom Of Solomon 18:15-16, "Thine Almighty word leapt down from heaven out of Thy royal throne . . . and brought Thine unfeigned commandment as a sharp sword, and standing up filled all things with death." The keen two-edged sword penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit (not soul from spirit), with unfailing stroke severing bone from bone and piercing the very marrow. The latter words, by a very natural metaphor, are transferred from the material frame to the soul and spirit.

And is a discerner . . .--Is quick to discern, able to judge, the thoughts (reflections, conceptions, intents) of the heart. Man's word may be lifeless, without power to discriminate, to adapt itself to a changed state or varying circumstances, to enforce itself: the Spirit of God is never absent from His word.

For the word of God is quick and powerful,.... This is to be understood of Christ, the essential Word of God; for the Word of God was a known name of the Messiah among the Jews; See Gill on John 1:1 and therefore the apostle makes use of it when writing to them: and the words are introduced as a reason why care should be taken, that men fall not off from the Gospel, because Christ, the author, sum, and substance of it, is the living God, omnipotent and omniscient; for not a thing, but a person is spoken of, who is a Judge, and a critical discerner of the secrets of men's hearts: and certain it is, that this Word is spoken of as a person, and is said to be a priest in the following verses; to which may be added, that the several things said of the Word exactly agree with Christ: he is "the Word of God"; as the word is the birth of the mind, he is the only begotten of the Father; he is the Word that spoke for the elect in the council and covenant of grace, and that spoke all things out of nothing in creation; he is the Word that has been promised, and spoken of by the prophets from the beginning of the world; and is the interpreter of his Father's mind, and our Advocate with the Father: he is

quick, or, as it may be better rendered, "living"; he has life in himself as God, he is the living God; he is the living Redeemer and Mediator, and he lives for ever as man; he is the author and giver of life, natural, spiritual, and eternal: and he is powerful, as he appears to be in the creation and sustaining of all things; in his miracles and ministrations; in the work of man's redemption; in the preservation of his people, and in his advocacy and intercession:

and sharper than any twoedged sword; or "more cutting than one", by the words of his mouth, by the power of his Spirit, and the efficacy of his grace; for his mouth itself is as a sharp sword, and out of it comes forth one, Isaiah 49:2 by which he pierces the hearts of men, cuts them to the quick, and lays them open. Jehovah is called a twoedged sword with the Jews (m); and Philo the Jew speaks of the flaming sword of the Logos (n).

Piercing even to the dividing asunder soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow; the like property Philo the Jew ascribes to the "Logos", or Word; he calls him "a cutter", and says he cuts and divides all things, even all sensible things, yea, atoms, and things indivisible (o); the apostle seems here to have respect to the several names with which the soul of man is called by the Jews, , "soul, spirit, and breath" (p); the latter of these, they say, dwells between the other two. Some by the soul understand the natural and unregenerate part in man, and by the spirit the renewed and regenerate part, which though sometimes are not so easily distinguished by men, yet they are by Christ; others think the soul designs the inferior faculties, the affections; and the spirit the superior ones, the mind and understanding; but the apostle's meaning seems to be this, that whereas the soul and spirit are invisible, and the joints and marrow are covered and hid; so sharp and quick sighted, and so penetrating is the divine Word, that it reaches the most secret and hidden things of men: and this sense is confirmed by what follows,

and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart; Christ knows what is in man; he is the searcher of the hearts, and the trier of the reins of the children of men; and this will be more apparent at the last day, when he will make manifest the counsels of the heart, and will critically inquire, and accurately judge of them.

(m) Zohar in Cab. Lex. p. 364. (n) De Cherubim, p. 112. (o) Onis rerum divin. Haeres, p. 499, 500, 510, 511, 513. (p) Zohar in Gen. fol. 55. 2. & 113. 1, 2. & is Exod. fol. 58. 3, 4. & in Lev. fol. 29. 2. T. Hieros. Celaim, fol. 31. 3. Tzeror Hammor, fol. 2. 1. 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.

sharper—"more cutting."

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.4:11-16 Observe the end proposed: rest spiritual and eternal; the rest of grace here, and glory hereafter; in Christ on earth, with Christ in heaven. After due and diligent labour, sweet and satisfying rest shall follow; and labour now, will make that rest more pleasant when it comes. Let us labour, and quicken each other to be diligent in duty. The Holy Scriptures are the word of God. When God sets it home by his Spirit, it convinces powerfully, converts powerfully, and comforts powerfully. It makes a soul that has long been proud, to be humble; and a perverse spirit, to be meek and obedient. Sinful habits, that are become as it were natural to the soul, and rooted deeply in it, are separated and cut off by this sword. It will discover to men their thoughts and purposes, the vileness of many, the bad principles they are moved by, the sinful ends they act to. The word will show the sinner all that is in his heart. Let us hold fast the doctrines of Christian faith in our heads, its enlivening principles in our hearts, the open profession of it in our lips, and be subject to it in our lives. Christ executed one part of his priesthood on earth, in dying for us; the other he executes in heaven, pleading the cause, and presenting the offerings of his people. In the sight of Infinite Wisdom, it was needful that the Saviour of men should be one who has the fellow-feeling which no being but a fellow-creature could possibly have; and therefore it was necessary he should actual experience of all the effects of sin that could be separated from its actual guilt. God sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, Ro 8:3; but the more holy and pure he was, the more he must have been unwilling in his nature to sin, and must have had deeper impression of its evil; consequently the more must he be concerned to deliver his people from its guilt and power. We should encourage ourselves by the excellence of our High Priest, to come boldly to the throne of grace. Mercy and grace are the things we want; mercy to pardon all our sins, and grace to purify our souls. Besides our daily dependence upon God for present supplies, there are seasons for which we should provide in our prayers; times of temptation, either by adversity or prosperity, and especially our dying time. We are to come with reverence and godly fear, yet not as if dragged to the seat of justice, but as kindly invited to the mercy-seat, where grace reigns. We have boldness to enter into the holiest only by the blood of Jesus; he is our Advocate, and has purchased all our souls want or can desire.
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