Hebrews 12:12
Why lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) Wherefore.—As in Hebrews 10:24, the writer passes from the thought of personal risk and duty, to speak (in Hebrews 12:12-17) of that which is binding on all members of a community. “Wherefore”—since the trouble which has brought discouragement should rather call forth thankfulness—“strengthen (literally, make straight again, restore to a right state) the weakened hands and the palsied knees.” The words are almost a reproduction of Isaiah 35:3, where those who have lost heart and hope (compared to men whose limbs are palsy-stricken) are encouraged by the promise of the coming of their God bringing recompense and salvation. (See Hebrews 10:36-37.)

Hebrews 12:12-14. Wherefore — Since afflictions are so beneficial; lift up the hands — Whether your own or your brethren’s; which hang down — Unable to continue the combat; shake off discouragement, sloth, and indolence, and exert yourselves in your spiritual warfare, and in the performance of your duty; and strengthen, by faith and prayer, the feeble knees — Unable to continue the race. And make straight paths for your own feet — And for those of others; remove every hinderance, every offence out of the way; lest that which is lame — Those who are weak and feeble among you; be turned out of the way — Of truth and duty; but let it rather be healed — Let them rather be delivered from their fears and dejections, and be confirmed in their Christian course. Follow peace with all men — As much as in you lieth; do not willingly or unnecessarily give offence to any, and be not easily offended with others; bear and forbear, for the sake of peace and mutual love; and holiness — Internal and external, holiness of heart and life; the mind of Christ, and a conformity to God; without which — How ready soever men may be to flatter themselves with vain expectations; no man shall see the Lord — It being his unalterable decree to exclude those who live and die under the defilement of sin, from the sight of himself in the celestial world, for which their unholy tempers and vile affections render them altogether unfit; only the pure in heart shall or can see God, Matthew 5:8. We must be like him, if we would see him as he is, 1 John 3:2.12:12-17 A burden of affliction is apt to make the Christian's hands hang down, and his knees grow feeble, to dispirit him and discourage him; but against this he must strive, that he may better run his spiritual race and course. Faith and patience enable believers to follow peace and holiness, as a man follows his calling constantly, diligently, and with pleasure. Peace with men, of all sects and parties, will be favourable to our pursuit of holiness. But peace and holiness go together; there can be not right peace without holiness. Where persons fail of having the true grace of God, corruption will prevail and break forth; beware lest any unmortified lust in the heart, which seems to be dead, should spring up, to trouble and disturb the whole body. Falling away from Christ is the fruit of preferring the delights of the flesh, to the blessing of God, and the heavenly inheritance, as Esau did. But sinners will not always have such mean thoughts of the Divine blessing and inheritance as they now have. It agrees with the profane man's disposition, to desire the blessing, yet to despise the means whereby the blessing is to be gained. But God will neither sever the means from the blessing, nor join the blessing with the satisfying of man's lusts. God's mercy and blessing were never sought carefully and not obtained.Wherefore - In view of the facts which have been now stated - that afflictions are sent from God, and are evidences of his paternal watchfulness.

Lift up the hands which hang down - As if from weariness and exhaustion. Renew your courage; make a new effort to bear them. The hands fall by the side when we are exhausted with toil, or worn down by disease; see the notes on Isaiah 35:3, from which place this exhortation is taken.

And the feeble knees - The knees also become enfeebled by long effort, and tremble as if their strength were gone. Courage and resolution may do much, however, to make them firm, and it is to this that the apostle exhorts those to whom he wrote. They were to make every effort to bear up under their trials. The hope of victory will do much to strengthen one almost exhausted in battle; the desire to reach home invigorates the frame of the weary traveler. So it is with the Christian. In persecution, and sickness, and bereavement, he may be ready to sink under his burdens. The hands fall, and the knees tremble, and the heart sinks within us. But confidence in God, and the hope of heaven, and the assurance that all this is for our good, will reinvigorate the enfeebled frame, and enable us to bear what we once supposed would crush us to the dust. A courageous mind braces a feeble body, and hope makes it fresh for new conflicts.

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 [2596]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).

This introduceth the use of the doctrine of God’s chastening providences, stated before.

Wherefore concludes the rationality and necessity of the duty subjoined, as consequent from the truth asserted before.

Lift up; anorywsate notes the making, or setting aright, that which was out of its proper place and posture, as disordered members into their right frame and composure, that there be not any let in our Christian race, nor fainting by our course in it.

The hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; by hanging down hands, and palsied knees, are metaphorically represented the hearts, spirits, and souls of these children, such as droop, despond, and are ready to faint and die away under chastening, Isaiah 35:3-6. The sum of the counsel is, rightly to compose our thoughts, affections, and members, under trials from notorious enemies, and unbelieving brethren, so as to perfect our Christian course in the fear and strength of God, continuing stedfast in prayer, 1 Timothy 2:8, walking constantly in God’s ways, and obeying all his commandments, Psalm 119:48,100, patiently bearing all God’s corrections, and bringing forth the peaceful fruit of them. This is the truth of the metaphor. These words may be considered as spoken to the Hebrews, with respect to themselves; accordingly, the Syriac version reads, "your hands", and "your knees"; who were sluggish, and inactive in prayer, in hearing the word, in attendance on ordinances, in holding fast their profession, and in the performance of those things which adorn it; they were weary and fatigued with weights and burdens of sins and afflictions; and were faint, fearful, and timorous, through distrust of the promised good, because of their persecutions, being in present distress, and in a view of approaching danger, with which they might be surprised, as well as affected with their present afflictions: and then the exhortation to "lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees", is to be active in every duty; to be courageous against every enemy: to bear patiently every burden; to take heart, and be of good cheer under every afflictive providence: or else they may be considered as an exhortation to them with respect to others, which seems to be most agreeable to Isaiah 35:3 from whence they are taken; and then what is signified in them is done by sympathizing with persons in distress; by speaking comfortably to them, and by bearing their burdens. {8} Wherefore lift up the hands which {d} hang down, and the feeble knees;

(8) The conclusion: we must go forward courageously and keep always a right course and (as far forth as we may) without any staggering or stumbling.

(d) The description of a man that is out of heart and completely discouraged.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Hebrews 12:12-13. Animating conclusion of the exhortation to stedfastness continued up to this point.

διό] Wherefore, sc. because the sufferings you have to undergo manifest to you that ye are sons of God, and are salutary for you.

τὰς παρειμένας χεῖρας καὶ τὰ παραλελυμένα γόνατα ἀνορθώσατε] make firm again the slackened hands and the weary knees. Comp. LXX. Isaiah 35:3 : ἰσχύσατε χεῖρες ἀνειμέναι καὶ γόνατα παραλελυμένα. Sir 25:23 : χεῖρες παρειμέναι καὶ γόνατα παραλελυμένα. Comp. also Deuteronomy 32:36 : εἶδε γὰρ παραλελυμένους αὐτοὺς καὶπαρειμένους.

Theophylact: δεικνύων ἀπὸ μεταφορᾶς τῶν κυριωτέρων μερῶν, ὅτι ὅλοι παρειμένοι εἰσὶ τῇ ψυχῇ· αἱ μὲν γὰρ χεῖρες ἐνεργείας, οἱ δὲ πόδες κινήσεως σύμβολον.

ἀνορθοῦν] literally, to make the crooked straight again; then in general to restore anything to its original right or perfect condition. [Cf. Luke 13:13; Acts 15:16.]Hebrews 12:12. διὸ τὰς παρειμένας … “Wherefore” introducing the immediate application of this encouraging view of trials, “lift up” to renew the conflict, “the nerveless hands” fallen to your side and “the paralysed knees”. ἀνορθώσατε seems at first sight more appropriate to χεῖρας than to γόνατα (Vaughan) but it is here used in the general sense of “restore,” “renew the life of”; as in Soph., O.T., 46–51, ἀσφαλείᾳ τήνδʼ ἀνόρθωσον πόλιν. It might be rendered “revive”. Probably the writer had in his mind Isaiah 35:3, ἰσχύσατε, χεῖρες ἀνειμέναι καὶ γόνατα παραλελυμένα. In Sir 25:23 the woman that does not increase the happiness of her husband is χεῖρες παρειμέναι καὶ γόνατα παραλελυμένα, in other words, makes him despair and cease from all effort. So here, the hands hang down in listless consciousness of defeat. καὶ τροχιὰς ὀρθὰς … “and make straight paths for your feet, that that which is lame be not turned out of the way but rather be healed”. The words are quoted from Proverbs 4:26, ὀρθὰς τροχιὰς ποίει σοῖς ποσί, and if ποιήσατε is retained they form a hexameter line. The whole verse forms an admonition to the healthier portion of the church to make no deviation from the straight course set before them by the example of Christ, and thus they would offer no temptation to the weaker members [τὸ χωλὸν, the lame and limping] to be turned quite out of the way, but would rather be an encouragement to them and so afford them an opportunity of being healed of their infirmity. [A number of interpreters take ἐκτραπῇ in the sense of “dislocated”. Thus Davidson, “The words ‘turned out of the way’ mean in medical writers ‘dislocated,’ and this gives a more vigorous sense and forms a better opposition to ‘be healed’. Inconsistency and vacillation in the general body of the church would create a way so difficult for the lame, that their lameness would become dislocation, and they would perish from the way; on the other hand, the habit of going in a plain path would restore them to soundness.” This is inviting, but there is much against it. (1) The medical use of ἐκτρέπομαι is rare (see Stephanus) and not likely to occur here. (2) When used in a general sense ἰαθῇ is an appropriate antithesis; thus in Niceph. Call. (see Stephanus) occur the words Ἰωάννῃ τῷ Ἱεροσολύμων πατριάρχῃ τὴν ἀκοὴν ἐκτραπεῖσαν ἰᾶται. (3) The passage in Proverbs from which the former part of the verse is cited goes on thus: “Turn not aside to the right hand nor to the left”.] Immediately after these words follows a clause which guides to the interpretation of εἰρήνην διώκετε μετὰ πάντων, “God will make thy ways straight and will guide thy goings in peace”; and a considerable part of the counsels given in the context in Proverbs concerns the maintenance of peaceful relations with others. The circumstances of the Hebrews were fitted to excite a quarrelsome spirit, and a feeling of alienation towards those weak members who left the straight path. They must not suffer them to be alienated but must restore them to the unity of the faith, and in endeavouring to reclaim them must use the methods of peace not of anger or disputation. καὶ τὸν ἁγιασμόν … “and the consecration without which no one shall see the Lord”. The ἁγιασμός which this Epistle has explained is a drawing near to God with cleansed conscience (Hebrews 10:14; Hebrews 10:22), a true acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice as bringing the worshipper into fellowship with God.12. Wherefore] The poetic style, and even the metrical form of diction in these two verses (of which Hebrews 12:13 contains a complete hexameter,

καὶ τροχιὰς ὀρθὰς ποιήσατε τοῖς ποσὶν ὑμῶν

and half an iambic,

ἵνα μὴ τὸ χωλὸν ἐκτραπῇ),

reflect the earnestness of the writer, as he gives more and more elaboration to his sentences in approaching the climax of his appeal. It is most unlikely that they are quotations from Hellenistic poets, for the first agrees closely with Proverbs 4:26 (LXX.). On these accidentally metrical expressions see my Early Days of Christianity, i. 464, ii. 14.

lift up the hands …] Lit. “straighten out the relaxed hands and the palsied knees.” Make one effort to invigorate the flaccid muscles which should be so tense in the struggle in which you are engaged. The writer is thinking of Isaiah 35:3; Ecclus. 25:28, and perhaps of the metaphors of the race and the fight which he has just used.Hebrews 12:12. Διὸ, wherefore) The exhortation is resumed from Hebrews 12:1.—τὰς παρειμένας χεῖρας καὶ τὰ παραλελυμένα γόνατα ἀνορθώσατε) Isaiah 35:3, LXX., ἰσχύσατε χεῖρες ἀνειμέναι καὶ γόνατα παραλελυμένα. The same also at Deuteronomy 32:36, εἶδε γὰρ αὐτοὺς, κ.τ.λ. So Sir 25:25. This exhortation has three parts, as it has respect to ourselves, to others, and to GOD; and Paul has often reference to this threefold division, for example, 1 Corinthians 6:11. The first part begins with τὰς παρειμένας, that hang down; the second with εἰρήνην, peace; the third with καὶ τὸν ἁγιασμὸν, and holiness: and the first is referred to by these words, μή τις ὑστερῶν, lest any one fail (Hebrews 12:15); the second is referred to by the words, μη τις ῥίζα πικρίας, lest there be any root of bitterness; the third is referred to by μή τις πόρνος ἢ βέβηλος, lest there be any fornicator or profane person (Hebrews 12:16). The Anaphora[76] proves this by putting ΜΉ ΤΙς, lest any one, thrice.—χεῖρας, hands) your, comp. Hebrews 12:13, and the hands of the brethren, Hebrews 12:15; Isaiah 35:4 : and so γόνατα, knees, and ποσὶν, feet, [have of you and of the brethren understood.]

[76] The repetition of the same words at beginnings.Verse 12. - Wherefore lift up (for, straighten anew) the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees (rather, the relaxed hands and the loosened or enfeebled knees). The word παραλελυμένα is used only by St. Luke elsewhere in the New Testament, and with reference to persons paralyzed (Luke 5:18, 24; Acts 8:7; Acts 9:33). The form of the exhortation is taken from Isaiah 35:3, 'Ἰσχύσατε χεῖρες ἀνειμέναι καὶ γόνατα παραλελυμένα. The figure of the palaestra is thus again brought into view, with reference both to boxing and running. Wherefore (διὸ)

Because chastening is thus necessary, and serves for wholesome discipline, and issues in holiness.

Lift up (ἀνορθώσατε)

Found in Luke 13:13; Acts 15:16 (citn). Occasionally in lxx. It signifies to set up, make, erect. In O.T. to establish, as a throne (2 Samuel 7:13, 2 Samuel 7:16); a house (2 Samuel 7:26; 1 Chronicles 17:24); to raise up one who is down (Psalm 145:9; Sir. 11:12). In Acts 15:16, to build anew. By medical writers, to straighten; to set dislocated parts of the body. See Luke 13:13. The translation here should be more general: not lift up, which is inappropriate to paralyzed knees, but set right; brace. As falling in with the thought of this passage, comp. the lxx of Psalm 17:35, which, for the A.V. "thy gentleness hath made me great," gives "thy discipline hath established me or set me up." See also Psalm 19:8.

The hands which hang down (τὰς παρειμένας χεῖρας)

Rend. the slackened or weakened hands. Comp. Isaiah 35:3; Sir. 25:23; 2 Samuel 4:1. The verb παριέναι (only here and Luke 11:42) originally means to let pass, disregard, neglect; thence to relax, loosen. See Clem. Rom. Ad 1 Corinthians 34, who associates it with νωθρὸς slothful (comp. Hebrews 5:11).

And the feeble knees (καὶ τὰ παραλελυμένα γόνατα)

For feeble rend. palsied. See on Luke 5:18.

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