Hebrews 1:7
And of the angels he said, Who makes his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(7) Spirits.—Better, winds. It is very difficult to assign any clear meaning to the ordinary rendering,—unless, indeed, we were to adopt the very strange opinion of many of the earlier commentators, that the stress is laid on “maketh” in the sense of “createth.” The parallelism in these two lines of Hebrew poetry is complete, “angels” answering to “ministers,” “winds” to “a flame of fire.” The meaning appears to be that God, employing His messengers for His varied purposes, sends them forth in what manner He may please, clothing them with the appearance of the resistless wind or the devouring fire. (We may contrast 1Kings 19:11-12.) The force of the passage lies in the vividness with which it presents the thought of the Most High served by angels who “at His bidding speed,” untiring as the wind, subtle as the fire. We feel much more distinctly than we can put into words the infinite contrast between such ministers and the Son seated at the right hand of God. The quotation is taken from Psalm 104:4, without any variation in the Greek. Whether this translation faithfully represents the original is a question that has been warmly discussed. Not that there is any doubt that such a rendering of the Hebrew is in itself natural; but it is often alleged that the context requires an inversion of the words, Who maketh winds His messengers, flaming fire His ministers. The point cannot be examined here; we will only express a decided opinion that the translation defended above not only expresses the meaning of the Hebrew, but perfectly accords with the context of the Psalm.

Hebrews 1:7-9. Of the angels — Speaking of them; he — David; saith, Who maketh — Or rather, who made; his angels spirits, &c. — That is, the greatest thing said of angels is, that they are beings not clogged with flesh, and who are zealous and active in the service of God like flames of fire. The expressions intimate not only their office, but also their nature, which is very excellent; the metaphor being taken from the most swift, subtle, and efficacious things on earth; but, nevertheless, infinitely below the majesty of the Son. For unto the Son he saith — Of him the psalmist speaks in more exalted language, expressive of his sovereign, universal, and everlasting dominion, saying, Thy throne — That is, thy reign, which the word throne implies; O God, is for ever and ever — These words are quoted from the 45th Psalm, which, in the opinion of “some commentators, was composed concerning Solomon’s marriage with Pharaoh’s daughter. But could Solomon, with any propriety, be addressed by the title of God? Or could it be said of him that his kingdom, which lasted only forty years, was eternal? It was not even eternal in his posterity; and with respect to his loving righteousness, and hating wickedness, it but ill applies to one who, in his old age, became an encourager of idolatry, through the influence of women. This Psalm, therefore, is applicable only to Christ. Further, Solomon’s marriage with Pharaoh’s daughter being expressly condemned as contrary to the law, (1 Kings 11:2,) to suppose that this Psalm was composed in honour of that event, is certainly an ill-founded imagination. The rabbins, in their commentaries, affirm that it was written wholly concerning the Messiah. Accordingly, they translate the title of the Psalm as we do, A Song of Loves: the LXX., ωδη υπερ του αγαπητου, a song concerning the Beloved: a title justly given to the Messiah, whom God, by voices from heaven, declared his beloved Son.” — Macknight. Pierce says, “They who imagine this Psalm is an epithalamium upon Solomon’s marrying Pharaoh’s daughter, must suppose that it is here foretold that Solomon was to have a numerous progeny by her, whom he should set up for princes up and down the world, by one of whom he should be succeeded, 1 Kings 11:16, Instead of thy father shall be thy children, when thou mayest make princes in all the earth. But this cannot be true; for besides that we read not of any children Solomon had by Pharaoh’s daughter, it is certain that Rehoboam, who succeeded him, was the son of Naamah, an Ammonitess, 2 Chronicles 12:13. And so far was he from being able to set his sons to rule over other countries, that it was with great difficulty his successors kept two tribes of the twelve steadfast to them. The whole tenor of the Psalm directs us plainly to understand it of some excellent prince, who was highly favoured of God, and not of such a degenerate one as Solomon became, God also having testified his displeasure against him. Further, how unlikely is it that Hebrews 1:2 should be understood of Solomon? Nothing could be more suitably said of Christ than what we there meet with: Grace is poured into thy lips, therefore God hath blessed thee for ever: but was such language fit to be used concerning a man who became a most notorious idolater? Was not the promise conditional that was made to Solomon of blessedness, and had he not forfeited it by breaking the condition? The last verse of the Psalm seems also very unlikely to belong to Solomon: I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations; therefore shall the people praise thee for ever and ever. Certainly a greater than Solomon is here: and the primitive Christians were much in the right, who universally agreed in applying the Psalm to Christ, and him only.” See notes on Psalms 45.

A sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom — That is, thy reign, of which the sceptre is the ensign, is full of justice and equity. Or, thy government is exercised for maintaining truth and righteousness in the world. Thou hast loved righteousness, &c. — Thou art infinitely pure and holy; therefore God — Who, as thou art Mediator, is thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness — With the Holy Ghost, the fountain of joy; above thy fellows — Above all the children of men. For God gave not the Spirit by measure unto him, John 3:34. In other words, God bestowed on him, as a prophet, priest, and king, endowments, whereby he excelled all his associates (as μετοχοι signifies) in those offices. “Anciently, kings, priests, and prophets were consecrated to their several offices by the ceremony of solemn unction with perfumed oil, called in the Psalm the oil of gladness, because it occasioned great joy, both to the person anointed, and to those who were present at the ceremony. Wherefore the Son, being appointed of God to the high offices of universal King, Priest, and Prophet among men, he is called, by way of eminence, the Lord’s Messiah, Christ, or Anointed One. But the oil with which God anointed or consecrated him to these offices was not any material oil, nor was the unction external, but internal, with the Holy Ghost. We may therefore understand the Psalm as a prediction of the descent of the Holy Ghost on Jesus at his baptism, whereby was signified God’s giving him the Spirit without measure.”1:4-14 Many Jews had a superstitious or idolatrous respect for angels, because they had received the law and other tidings of the Divine will by their ministry. They looked upon them as mediators between God and men, and some went so far as to pay them a kind of religious homage or worship. Thus it was necessary that the apostle should insist, not only on Christ's being the Creator of all things, and therefore of angels themselves, but as being the risen and exalted Messiah in human nature, to whom angels, authorities, and powers are made subject. To prove this, several passages are brought from the Old Testament. On comparing what God there says of the angels, with what he says to Christ, the inferiority of the angels to Christ plainly appears. Here is the office of the angels; they are God's ministers or servants, to do his pleasure. But, how much greater things are said of Christ by the Father! And let us own and honour him as God; for if he had not been God, he had never done the Mediator's work, and had never worn the Mediator's crown. It is declared how Christ was qualified for the office of Mediator, and how he was confirmed in it: he has the name Messiah from his being anointed. Only as Man he has his fellows, and as anointed with the Holy Spirit; but he is above all prophets, priests, and kings, that ever were employed in the service of God on earth. Another passage of Scripture, Ps 102:25-27, is recited, in which the Almighty power of the Lord Jesus Christ is declared, both in creating the world and in changing it. Christ will fold up this world as a garment, not to be abused any longer, not to be used as it has been. As a sovereign, when his garments of state are folded and put away, is a sovereign still, so our Lord, when he has laid aside the earth and heavens like a vesture, shall be still the same. Let us not then set our hearts upon that which is not what we take it to be, and will not be what it now is. Sin has made a great change in the world for the worse, and Christ will make a great change in it for the better. Let the thoughts of this make us watchful, diligent, and desirous of that better world. The Saviour has done much to make all men his friends, yet he has enemies. But they shall be made his footstool, by humble submission, or by utter destruction. Christ shall go on conquering and to conquer. The most exalted angels are but ministering spirits, mere servants of Christ, to execute his commands. The saints, at present, are heirs, not yet come into possession. The angels minister to them in opposing the malice and power of evil spirits, in protecting and keeping their bodies, instructing and comforting their souls, under Christ and the Holy Ghost. Angels shall gather all the saints together at the last day, when all whose hearts and hopes are set upon perishing treasures and fading glories, will be driven from Christ's presence into everlasting misery.And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits - He gives to them an inferior name, and assigns to them a more humble office. They are mere ministers, and have not ascribed to them the name of "Son." They have a name which implies a more humble rank and office - the name "spirit," and the appellation of a "flame of fire." They obey his will as the winds and the lightnings do. The "object" of the apostle in this passage is to show that the angels serve God in a ministerial capacity - as the winds do; while the Son is Lord of all. The one serves him passively, as being wholly under his control; the other acts as a Sovereign, as Lord over all, and is addressed and regarded as the equal with God. This quotation is made from Psalm 104:4. The passage "might" be translated, "Who maketh his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire;" that is, "who makes his angels like the winds, or as swift as the winds, and his ministers as rapid, as terrible, and as resistless as the lightning."

So Doddridge renders it; and so did the late Dr. John P. Wilson (manuscript notes). The passage in the Psalm is susceptible, I think, of another interpretation, and might be regarded as meaning, "who makes the winds his messengers, and the flaming fire his ministers;" and perhaps this is the sense which would most naturally occur to a reader of the Hebrew. The Hebrew, however, will admit of the construction here put upon it, and it cannot be proved that it was the original intention of the passage to show that the angels were the mere servants of God, rapid, quick, and prompt to do his will - like the winds. The Chaldee Paraphrase renders this passage in the Psalm, "Who makes his messengers swift as the wind; his ministers strong like a flame of fire." Prof. Stuart maintains that the passage in the Psalms cannot mean "who makes the winds his messengers," but that the intention of the Psalmist is to describe the "invisible" as well as the "visible" majesty of God, and that he refers to the angels as a part of the retinue which goes to make up His glory.

This does not seem to me to be perfectly certain; but still it cannot be demonstrated that Paul has made an improper use of the passage. It is to be presumed that he, who had been trained in the knowledge of the Hebrew language, would have had a better opportunity of knowing its fair construction than we can; and it is morally certain that he would employ the passage "in an argument" as it was commonly understood by those to whom he wrote - that is, to those who were familiar with the Hebrew language and literature. If he has so used the passage; if he has - as no one can disprove - put the fair construction on it, then it is just in point. It proves that the angels are the "attendant servants" of God; employed to grace his train, to do his will, to accompany him as the clouds and winds and lightnings do, and to occupy a subordinate rank in his creation. "Flame of fire." This probably refers to lightning - which is often the meaning of the phrase. The word "ministers" here, means the same as angels, and the sense of the whole is, that the attending retinue of God, when he manifests himself with great power and glory, is like the winds and the lightning. His angels are like them. They are prompt to do his will - rapid, quick, obedient in his service; they are in all respects subordinate to him, and occupy, as the winds and the lightnings do, the place of servants. They are not addressed in language like what is applied to the Son of God, and they must all be far inferior to him.

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).

He adds another demonstration of the gospel Minister’s exceeding angels, because he hath the name of God, and angels are called only God’s ministers: for the Creator of angles, who best understandeth their nature and office, by his Spirit testifieth what they are, Psalm 104:4.

Who maketh his angels spirits; he created them such as they are, spiritual, intellectual, and immortal substances, the highest in this sort and kind of creatures. pneumata do not here signify winds, as if the Spirit compared angels to them for their swiftness and power, but spiritual, intellectual beings, as the Son of man is; and in this it is the attribute, and not the subject, that which is predicated or spoken of angels.

And his ministers a flame of fire; they are but ministers and servants, who reveal or perform his will to those to whom God sends them; honourable officers of the great King, fulfilling his pleasure, Hebrews 1:14, executing all his commands, and going and coming at his beck, Psalm 103:20,21. Though they are seraphims, bright, glorious, and excellent creatures, they are but the grand officers of state in heaven, encompassing God’s throne, waiting for his commands, which they obey and fulfil as swiftly as the winds or flashes of lightning could despatch them. Though they are styled by the Spirit cherubims, Genesis 3:24; compare Ezekiel 1:5 10:1-15; and seraphims, Isaiah 6:6; for their light, glory, and excellency; yet still are they creatures, and below the Son, because his servants. Or "to the angels", as in the following verse, "to the Son", which stands opposed to this; and the words said to them, or of them, are found in Psalm 104:4

who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire: this cannot be understood of the wind and lightning, and of God's making these his messengers and ministers to do his will; for such a sense is not suitable to the scope of the psalm, from whence they are taken, nor to the order of the words in which they stand; for it is not said he makes spirits, or winds, his angels, and flaming fire his ministers, but the reverse; and is contrary to the design of the apostle in citing them, which is to show the superiority of Christ to angels, of whom it is said, that they are made spirits: they are "spirits", created ones, and so differ from God the Creator: they are incorporeal ones, and so differ from men; they are immaterial, and so die not; they are spiritual substances subsisting in themselves: and they are "made" such by God the Father, and by the Son the Lord Jesus Christ, within the six days of the creation, and all at once; for it is not to be supposed that the Lord is daily making them; and this proves the Son to be God, as well as more excellent than the angels; unless this is to be understood of the daily disposal of them in providence, in causing winds, thunder, lightning, and the like. Some choose to supply the word with "as", and read, who maketh his angels as winds; for invisibility, velocity, power, and penetration: "and his ministers as a flame of fire"; and these are the same with the angels, for they are ministers to God; they attend his presence; are ready to perform any service for him; they sing his praise, and are his chariots in which he rides: and they are ministers to Christ; they attended at his incarnation: were solicitous for his preservation, ministered to him in distress, assisted at his resurrection, and accompanied him in his ascension, and will be with him at his second coming: and they are as a flame of fire, so called from their great power, force, and swiftness; and from their burning love, and flaming zeal, hence named seraphim; and because they are sometimes the executioners of God's wrath, and will descend in flaming fire, when Christ shall be revealed from heaven: angels sometimes appear in fiery forms; the chariots and horses of fire, by which Elijah was carried up to heaven, were no other than angels, in such forms: so the Jews (x) say of the angels,

"all the angels, their horses are horses of fire, and their chariots fire, and their bows fire, and their spears fire, and all their instruments of war fire.''

And they have a notion, that an angel is half water, and half fire (y).

(x) Sepher Jetzirah, p. 16. Ed. Rittangel. (y) T. Hieros. Roshhashana, fol. 58. 1.

{8} And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels {m} spirits, and his ministers a {n} flame of fire.

(8) He proves and confirms the dignity of Christ revealed in the flesh, by these six evident testimonies by which it appears that he far surpasses all angels, so much so that he is called both Son, and God in Heb 1:5,6,7,8,10,13.

(m) Cherub, Ps 18:11.

(n) Seraph, Isa 6:2.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Hebrews 1:7. Πρός] with regard to, as Luke 20:19; Acts 12:21; Romans 10:21, and frequently. Comp. Matthiae, p. 1181; Winer, Gramm., 7 Aufl. p. 378.

μέν] corresponds to the δέ of Hebrews 1:8, thus places Hebrews 1:7 in express opposition to Hebrews 1:8.

λέγει] namely, God, in the Scripture.

The citation is from Psalm 104:4, according to the LXX. (Cod. Alex., whereas Cod. Vatican, has πῦρ φλέγον instead of πυρὸς φλόγα). The psalm praises Jehovah as the Creator and Sustainer of all nature. In the Hebrew the words cited read: עֹשֶׂה מַלְאָכָיו רוּחוֹת מְשָׁרְתָיו אֵשׁ לֹהֵט, and, having respect to their connection with what precedes and that which follows, no doubt can obtain on the point that they are to be rendered,—what is objected thereto by Hofmann (Schriftbew. I. p. 325 f., 2 Aufl.), Delitzsch, and Alford is untenable,—“God makes winds His messengers, and flames of fire (lightnings) His servants,” in such wise that the thought is expressed: as the whole of nature, so are also winds and lightnings servants of God the Lord.[37] Otherwise have the LXX. apprehended the sense of the words, as is shown by the addition of the article before ἀγγέλους and λειτουργούς, and they are followed by our author. [So the Targum also.] They have taken τοὺς ἀγγέλους αὐτοῦ and τοὺς λειτουργοὺς αὐτοῦ as the objects, ̔νεύματα and πυρὸς φλόγα, on the other hand, as the predicates to ποιῶν, thus have found the meaning of the words: “He makes His angels winds, and His servants a flame of fire.” If we now observe the scope of the thought of those declarations of Scripture concerning the Son which follow, Hebrews 1:8-12, placed as they are in antithetical relation to the one before us, it is evident that the author must have discovered the inferiority of the angels compared with the Son, as attested in Scripture, in a twofold respect—(1) that the angels are servants, whereas the Son is ruler; (2) that the angels are mutable and perishable, whereas the Son abides the same for ever.

The conception of such a subjection on the part of the angels, that they must submit even to be changed into elements, is, moreover, not uncommon among the Rabbins. Comp. e.g. Shemoth rabba, sec. 25, fol. 123. 3 : “aliquando ipsos (angelos) facit ventos, q. d. qui facis angelos tuos ventos, aliquando ignem, q. d. ministros tuos flammam ignis.” Jalkut Simeoni, part II. fol. 11. 3 : “Angelus dixit ad Manoah: nescio ad cujus imaginem ego factus sim; nam Deus singulis horis nos immutat; cur ergo nomen meum interrogas? Nonnunquam facit nosi ignem, alias ventum, interdum viros, alias denique angelos.” See in general, Schöttgen and Wetstein ad loc.

πνεύματα] not: spirits (Luther, Erasmus, Paraphrase; Clarius, Piscator, Owen, Seb. Schmidt, Brochmann, Bengel, Böhme), but: winds.

λειτουργούς] only another name for ἀγγέλους.

[37] Comp., as to the thought, Xenophon, Memorabilia, iv. 3. 14, where quite similarly lightning and winds (κεραυνός and ἄνεμοι) are called ὑπηρέται τῶν θεῶν.

Hebrews 1:7-12. Contrastful comparison of a declaration of Scripture characterizing the angels, and two declarations characterizing the Son.Hebrews 1:7. καὶ πρὸς μὲν τοὺς ἀγγέλους λέγει.… The πρὸς μὲν of this verse is balanced by πρὸς δὲ in Hebrews 1:8; and in both πρός is to be rendered “with reference to,” or “of” as in Luke 20:19; Romans 10:21; Xen., Mem., iv. 2–15. Cf. Winer, p. 505: and our own expression “speak to such and such a point”. ὁ ποιῶν κ.τ.λ. cited from Psalm 104:4, Lünemann and others hold that the Hebrew is wrongly rendered and means “who maketh winds his messengers” not “who maketh His angels winds”. Calvin, too, finds no reference to angels in the words. He believes that in this Hymn of Creation the Psalmist, to illustrate how God is in all nature, says “who maketh the winds his messengers,” i.e., uses for his purposes the apparently wildest of natural forces, and “flaming fire his ministers,” the most rapid, resistless and devouring of agents controlled by the Divine hand. Cf. Shakespeare, “thought-executing fires”. The writer accepts the LXX translation and it serves his purpose of exhibiting that the characteristic function of angels is service, and that their form and appearance depend upon the will of God. This was the current Jewish view. Many of the sayings quoted by Schoettgen and Weber suggest that with some of the Rabbis the belief in angels was little more than a way of expressing their faith in a spiritual, personal power behind the forces of nature. “When they are sent on a mission to earth, they are wind: when they stand before God they are fire.” The angel said to Manoah, “I know not after what image I am made, for God changes us every hour; why, then, dost thou ask after my name? Sometimes He makes us fire, at others wind; sometimes men, at other times angels.” Sometimes they appear to have no individual existence at all, but are merely the light-radiance or halo of God’s glory. “No choir of angels sings God’s praises twice, for each day God creates new hosts which sing His praises and then vanish into the stream of fire from under the throne of His glory whence they came.” Cf. also the Book of Jubilees, ii. 2. “On the first day He created the heavens which are above and the earth and the waters and all the spirits which serve before Him—the angels of the presence, and the angels of sanctification, and the angels of the spirit of the winds, and the angels of the spirit of the clouds, and of darkness, and of snow and of hail, and of hoar frost, and the angels of the voices of the thunder and of the lightning, and the angels of the spirits of cold and of heat, and of winter and of spring, and of autumn and of summer, and of all the spirits of His creatures which are in the heavens and on the earth, the abysses and the darkness, eventide and the light, dawn and day which He hath prepared in the knowledge of His heart.” One thing all these citations serve to bring out is that the angels were merely servants; like the physical forces of nature they were dependent and perishable. In contrast to these qualities are those ascribed to the Son.7. And of the angels he saith] Rather, “And, with reference to the Angels, He saith.” He has shewn that the title of “Son” is too special and too super-eminent to be ever addressed to Angels; he proceeds to shew that the Angels are but subordinate ministers, and that often God clothes them with “the changing garment of natural phenomena” transforming them, as it were, into winds and flames.

Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire] Rather, “who maketh His Angels winds,” for the Angels are already “spirits” (Hebrews 1:14). This must be the meaning here, though the words might also be rendered “Who maketh winds His messengers, and fiery flame His ministers.” This latter rendering, though grammatically difficult, accords best with the context of Psalm 104:4 where, however, the Targum has “Who maketh His messengers swift as winds, His ministers strong as flaming fire.” The Rabbis often refer to the fact that God makes His Angels assume any form He pleases, whether men (Genesis 18:2) or women (Zechariah 5:9) or wind or flame (Exodus 3:2; 2 Kings 6:17). Thus Milton says:

“For spirits as they please

Can either sex assume, or both; so soft

And uncompounded is their essence pure;

Not tied or manacled with joint or limb

Nor founded on the brittle strength of bones,

Like cumbrous flesh; but in what shape they choose

Dilated or condensed, bright or obscure,

Can execute their aery purposes.”

But that mutable and fleeting form of existence which is the glory of the Angels would be an inferiority in the Son. He could not be clothed, as they are at God’s will, in the fleeting robes of varying material phenomena. Calvin, therefore, is much too rash and hasty when he says that the writer here draws his citation into a sense which does not belong to it, and that nothing is more certain than that the original passage has nothing to do with angels. With a wider knowledge of the views of Philo, and other Rabbis, he would have paused before pronouncing a conclusion so sweepingly dogmatic. The “Hebrew” readers of the Epistle, like the writer, were evidently familiar with Alexandrian conceptions. Now in Philo there is no sharp distinction between the Logos (who is a sort of non-incarnate Messiah) and the Logoi who are sometimes regarded as Angels just as the Logos Himself is sometimes regarded as an Archangel (see Siegfried’s Philo, p. 22). The Rabbis too explained the “us” of Genesis 1:26 (“Let us make man”) as shewing that the Angels had a share in creation, see Sanhedrin, p. 38, 2. Such a passage as Revelation 19:10 may help to shew the reader that the proof of Christ’s exaltation above the Angels was necessary.Hebrews 1:7. Πρὸς, unto) [Engl. Vers. of, i.e. in reference to] “He saith to the angels,” by an indirect speech; comp πρὸς, to, Hebrews 11:18, note, [“In reference to whom it was said, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.”] The apostle seems also to have had in his mind Psalm 130:20, which immediately precedes the passage, Psalm 104:4.—λέγει, He saith) viz. God, by the prophet.—ὁ ποιῶνφλόγα) LXX., in exactly as many letters, Psalm 104:4. Πνεύματα, spirits, and πυρὸς φλόγα, a flame of fire, signify not only the office of angels, but their very nature, which is no doubt of surpassing excellence, as the metaphor is taken from things the most efficacious and the most subtile, but yet very far inferior to the majesty of the Son. Therefore the expression, ποιῶν, who maketh, intimates that the angels are creatures, made by His command; but the Son is eternal, Hebrews 1:8, and the Creator, Hebrews 1:10. The subject, viz. ἄγγελοι, angels, and λειτουργοὶ, ministers, as is proved by their being put with the article,[8] has its antithesis in Hebrews 1:8-9. Moreover, the antithesis of Who makes, intimating the creation of the angels, is found in Hebrews 1:10-11. I consider it to be the predicate of the Father; comp. Hebrews 1:8.

[8] The article always distinguishes the subject from the predicate: therefore we cannot translate, “Who maketh winds His angels, or messengers, and a flame of fire His ministers.”—ED.Verse 7. - And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. A further intimation of the position assigned in the Old Testament to angels, contrasted by means of μὲν and δὲ, with further quotations with reference to the SON. A difficulty has been felt with regard to this passage (cited, as usual, from the LXX.) on the ground of the original Hebrew being supposed not to bear the meaning assigned to it. Hence the writer of the Epistle is said to have made use of an erroneous rendering for the purpose of his argument. Certainly the context of the psalm, in which God is represented as arraying himself in the glories and operating through the powers of nature, suggests no other meaning than that he uses the winds as his messengers, etc., in the same poetical sense in which he was said in the preceding verse to make the clouds his chariot; cf. Psalm 148:8, "Fire and hail, snow and vapors, stormy wind fulfilling his word." If so, there is no necessary reference in the original psalm to angels. But it is to be observed, on the other hand, that the structure of ver. 4 is not in the Hebrew identical with that of "he maketh the clouds his chariot" in ver. 3, and hence, in itself, suggests some difference of meaning. For

(1) a different verb is used; and

(2) the order of the accusatives following the verb is reversed; in both which respects the I,XX. correctly follows the Hebrew. In ver. 3 the verb is שׂום (ὁ τιθεὶς in the LXX.), the primary meaning of which is "to set," "to place," and, when followed by two accusatives as object and predicate, denotes" to constitute or render a person or thing what the predicate expresses." In ver. 4 the verb is עָשָׂה (ὁ ποιῶν in the LXX.), the primary meaning of which, when used actively, is "to form," "to fabricate." It is used of God making the heaven and the earth (Genesis 1:7, 16; Genesis 2:2, etc.). When elsewhere, as here, it is followed by two accusatives, one of them (which may come either first or second in order) is found to denote the material out of which anything is formed. Thus Exodus 38:3, "He made all the vessels (of) brass" (cf. Exodus 30:25; Exodus 36:14; Exodus 37:15, 23). Hence an obvious meaning of ver. 4, so far as the mere language is concerned, would be, "He maketh [or, 'formeth'] his messengers [or, 'angels'] of winds, and his ministers of a flaming fire." (Winds certainly, not spirits, because of the context. But here the Greek πνεύματα is, in itself, as ambiguous as the Hebrew רוּחות and was as probably meant to denote winds.) According to this rendering, the meaning of the verse would seem to be that, out of the natural elements of wind and fire, some special agencies are called into being or operation; not simply that winds and fire generally are used for God's purposes. The change of phraseology between vers. 3 and 4 certainly suggests some change in the idea of the psalmist. What, then, are these agencies? What is meant by the "messengers" and "ministers" connected with the elements of wind and fire? The author of the Epistle (and probably the LXX. too, though the words ἀγγέλοι and λειτουργοὶ are, in themselves, as ambiguous as the Hebrew) saw in these words a reference to the angels, who are denoted by the same two words in Psalm 103:20, 21, and who are undoubtedly spoken of elsewhere in the Old Testament as operating in the forces of nature (as in the death of the Egyptian firstborn, the pestilence in the time of David, and the destruction of Sennacherib's army), and seem, in some sense, to be identified with the winds themselves in Psalm 18:10, "He rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind;" and in Psalm 35:5, "Let them be as chaff before the wind; and let the angel of the LORD chase them." We say that the LXX., as well as the author of the Epistle, probably intended to express this meaning. It is, indeed, more than probable; for, ambiguous as may be the words ἀγγέλοι and λειτουργοὶ ιν τηεμσελ´εσ, the structure of the Greek sentence (in which "his angels" and "his ministers" are the objects, arid "winds" and "flames of fire" the predicates), seems to necessitate this meaning, which is further probable from what we know of Alexandrian angelology. It may thus well be that, whether or net the LXX. (rendering, as it does, the Hebrew word for word) gives the exact force of the original phrase, it hits its essential meaning, as intimating angelic agency in nature. And the learned Jews of Alexandria, followed as they are by the later rabbis generally, and by the writer of this Epistle, were, to say the least, as likely to understand the Hebrew as any modern scholars. The question, however, is not, after all, of great importance. For let us grant that the writer of the Epistle unwittingly adduced an erroneous rendering in the course of his argument. What then? It is not necessary to suppose that the inspiration of the sacred writers was such as to enlighten them in matters of Hebrew criticism. If it guarded them from erroneous teaching, it was sufficient for its purpose. And in this case the passage, as cited, at any rate expresses well the general doctrine of the Old Testament about angels, viz. that, unlike the Son, they are but subordinate agents of the Divine purposes, and connected especially with the operations of nature. It is to be observed, too, that the quotations generally in this Epistle are adduced, not as exhaustive proofs, but rather as suggestive of the general teaching of the Old Testament, with which the readers are supposed to be familiar. Fourth quotation, Psalm 103:4, varies slightly from lxx in substituting a flame of fire for flaming fire.

Who maketh his angels spirits (ὁ ποιῶν τοὺς ἀγγέλους αὐτοῦ πνεύματα)

For spirits rend. winds This meaning is supported by the context of the Psalm, and by John 3:8. Πνεῦμα often in this sense in Class. In lxx, 1 Kings 18:45; 1 Kings 19:11; 2 Kings 3:17; Job 1:19. Of breath in N.T., 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 11:11. In Hebrew, spirit and wind are synonymous. The thought is according to the rabbinical idea of the variableness of the angelic nature. Angels were supposed to live only as they ministered. Thus it was said: "God does with his angels whatever he will. When he wishes he makes them sitting: sometimes he makes them standing: sometimes he makes them winds, sometimes fire." "The subjection of the angels is such that they must submit even to be changed into elements." "The angel said to Manoah, 'I know not to the image of what I am made; for God changes us each hour: wherefore then dost thou ask my name? Sometimes he makes us fire, sometimes wind."' The emphasis, therefore, is not on the fact that the angels are merely servants, but that their being is such that they are only what God makes them according to the needs of their service, and are, therefore, changeable, in contrast with the Son, who is ruler and unchangeable. There would be no pertinency in the statement that God makes his angels spirits, which goes without saying. The Rabbis conceived the angels as perishable. One of them is cited as saying, "Day by day the angels of service are created out of the fire. stream, and sing a song, and disappear, as is said in Lamentations 3:23, 'they are new every morning.'" For λειτουργοὺς ministers, see on ministration, Luke 1:23, and see on ministered, Acts 13:2.

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