Hebrews 13
ICC New Testament Commentary
Let brotherly love continue.
1Let your brotherly love continue. 2Never forget to be hospitable, for by hospitality (διὰ ταύτης, as 12:15) some have entertained angels unawares. 3Remember prisoners as if you were in prison yourselves; remember those who are being ill-treated (11:37), since you too are in the body.

Neither φιλαδελφία nor φιλοξενία is a &LXX term, though the broader sense of the former begins in 4 Mac 13:23, 26, 14:1. Μενέτω (cp. 6:10, 10:24, 32f.), though its demands might be severe at times (cp. Romans 12:10, Romans 12:1 P 1:22; Clem. Romans 1:2; Herm. Mand. 8:10); the duty is laid as usual on members of the church, not specially on officials. In v. 2 a particular expression of this φιλαδελφία is called for. φιλοξενία was practically an article of religion in the ancient world. The primary reference here in τινες is to Abraham and Sara (Genesis 18:1f.), possibly to Manoah (Jdg 13:3f.), and even to Tobit (Tob 12:15); but the point of the counsel would be caught readily by readers familiar with the Greek and Roman legends of divine visitants being entertained unawares by hospitable people, e.g. Hom. Odyss. xvii. 485 f. (καί τε θεοὶ ξείνοισιν ἐοικότες ἀλλοδαποῖσι " παντοῖοι τελέθοντες, ἐπιστρωφῶσι πόληας, cp. Plat. Soph. 216 B); Sil. Ital. vii. 173 f. (“laetus nec senserat hospes " advenisse deum”), and the story of Philemon and Baucis (Ovid, Met. viii. 626 f.) alluded to in Acts 14:11. In the Hellenic world the worship of Zeus Xenios (e.g. Musonius Rufus, xv. a, ὁ περὶ ξένους ἄδικος εἰς τὸν ξένιον ἁμαρτάνει Δία) fortified this kindly custom. According to Resh Lakish (Sota, 10a), Abraham planted the tree at Beersheba (Genesis 21:33) for the refreshment of wayfarers, and φιλοξενία was always honoured in Jewish tradition (e.g. Sabbath, 127. 1, “there are six things, the fruit of which a man eats in this world and by which his horn is raised in the world to come: they are, hospitality to strangers, the visiting of the sick,” etc.). But there were pressing local reasons for this kindly virtue in the primitive church. Christians travelling abroad on business might be too poor to afford a local inn. Extortionate charges were frequent; indeed the bad repute which innkeepers enjoyed in the Greek world (cp. Plato’s Laws, 918 D) was due partly to this and partly also to a “general feeling against taking money for hospitality” (cp. Jebb’s Theophrastus, p. 94). But, in addition, the moral repute of inns stood low (Theophrastus, Char. 6:5 δεινὸς δὲ πανδοκεῦσαι καὶ πορνοβοσκῆσαι κτλ.); there is significance in the Jewish tradition preserved by Josephus (Ant. v. 1. 1) that Rahab ἡ πόρνη (11:31) kept an inn. For a Christian to frequent such inns might be to endanger his character, and this consideration favoured the practice of hospitality on the part of the local church, apart altogether from the discomforts of an inn. (“In the better parts of the empire and in the larger places of resort there were houses corresponding in some measure to the old coaching inns of the eighteenth century; in the East there were the well-known caravanserais; but for the most part the ancient hostelries must have afforded but undesirable quarters. They were neither select nor clean,” T. G. Tucker, Life in the Roman World, p. 20.) Some of these travellers would be itinerant evangelists (cp. 3 John 1:5-8).

According to Philo the three wayfarers seen by Abraham did not at first appear divine (οἱ δὲ θειοτέρας ὄντες φύσεως ἐλελήθεσαν), though later on he suspected they were either prophets or angels when they had promised him the birth of a son in return for his splendid hospitality (Abrah. 22-23). “In a wise man’s house,” Philo observes, “no one is slow to practise hospitality: women and men, slaves and freedmen alike, are most eager to do service to strangers”; at the same time such hospitality was only an incident (πάρεργον) and instance (δεῖγμα σαφέστατον) of Abraham’s larger virtue, i.e. of his piety. Josephus also (Ant. i. 11. 2) makes Abraham suppose the three visitors were human strangers, until at last they revealed themselves as divine angels (θεασάμενος τρεῖς ἀγγέλους καὶ νομίσας εἶναιξένους ἤσπασατό τʼ ἀναστὰς καὶ παρʼ αὐτῷ καταχθέντας παρεκάλειξενίων μεταλαβεῖν). It was ignorance of the classical idiom (cp. Herod. i. 44, ὑποδεξάμενος τὸν ξεῖνον φονέα τοῦ παιδὸς ἐλάνθανε βόσκων) in ἔλαθον ξενίσαντες, which led to the corruptions of ἔλαθον in some Latin versions into “latuerunt,” “didicerunt,” and “placuerunt.” Note the paronomasia ἐπιλανθάνεσθε … ἔλαθον, and-the emphatic position of ἀγγέλους. “You never know whom you may be entertaining,” the writer means. “Some humble visitor may turn out to be for you a very ἄγγελος θεοῦ” (cp. Galatians 4:14).

Μιμνήσκεσθε (bear in mind, and act on your thought of) τῶν δεσμίων. Strangers come within sight; prisoners (v. 3) have to be sought out or—if at a distance—borne in mind. Christian kindness to the latter, i.e. to fellow-Christians arrested for some reason or other, took the form either of personally visiting them to alleviate their sufferings by sympathy and gifts (cp. Matthew 25:36, 2 Timothy 1:16), or of subscribing money (to pay their debts or, in the case of prisoners of war, to purchase their release), or of praying for them (Colossians 4:18 and 4:3). All this formed a prominent feature of early Christian social ethics. The literature is full of tales about the general practice: e.g. Aristid. Rev_15; Tertull. ad Mart. 1 f. and Apol. 39, with the vivid account of Lucian in the de Morte Peregr. 12, 13. This subject is discussed by Harnack in the Expansion of Early Christianity (bk. 2Ch_3, section 5). Our author urges, “remember the imprisoned” ὡς συνδεδεμένοι. If ὡς is taken in the same sense as the following ὡς, the meaning is: (a) “as prisoners yourselves,” i.e. in the literal sense, “since you know what it means to be in prison”; or (b) “as imprisoned,” in the metaphorical sense of Diognet. 6, Χριστιανοὶκατέχονται ὡς ἐν φρουρᾷ τῷ κόσμῳ. A third alternative sense is suggested by LXX of 1 S 18:1 (ἡ ψυχὴ Ἰωνάθαν συνεδέθη τῇ ψυχῇΔαυίδ), but the absence of a dative after συνδεδεμένοι and the parallel phrase ὡς ἐν σώματι rule it out. Probably ὡς is no more than an equivalent for ὡσεί. Christians are to regard themselves as one with their imprisoned fellows, in the sense of 1 Corinthians 12:26 εἴτε πάσχει ἓν μέλος, συμπάσχει πάντα τὰ μέλη. This interpretation tallies with 10:34 above (cp. Nehemiah 1:3, Nehemiah 1:4). It does not, however, imply that ἐν σώματι, in the next clause, means “in the Body (of which you and your suffering fellows are alike members”); for ἐν σώματι refers to the physical condition of liability to similar ill-usage. See Orig. c. Cels. ii. 23, τῶν τοῖς ἐν σώμασι (Bouhéreau conj. σώματι) συμβαινόντων, and especially Philo’s words describing some spectators of the cruelties inflicted by a revenue officer on his victims, as suffering acute pain, ὡς ἐν τοῖς ἑτέρων σώμασιναὐτοὶ κακούμενοι (de Spec. Leg. iii. 30). So in de Confus. Ling. 35, καὶ τῷ συμφορῶν ἀνηνύτων τῶν κακουχομένων (i.e. by exile, famine, and plague; cp. Hebrews 11:37) οὐκ ἐνδεθεῖσαι χωρίῳ, σώματι.

Seneca (Ep. ix. 8) illustrates the disinterestedness of friendship by observing that the wise man does not make friends for the reason suggested by Epicurus, viz., to “have someone who will sit beside him when he is ill, someone to assist him when he is thrown into chains or in poverty,” but “that he may have someone beside whom, in sickness, he may himself sit, someone whom he may set free from captivity in the hands of the enemy.” The former kind of friendship he dismisses as inadequate: “a man has made a friend who is to assist him in the event of bondage (‘adversum vincula’), but such a friend will forsake him as soon as the chains rattle (‘cum primum crepuerit catena’).” In Ep. Arist. 241, 242, when the king asks what is the use of kinship, the Jew replies, ἐὰν τοῖς συμβαίνουσι νομίζωμεν ἀτυχοῦσι μὲν ἑλαττοῦσθαι καὶ κακοπαθῶμεν ὡς αὐτοί, φαίνεται τὸ συγγενὲς ὅσον ἰσχῦόν ἐστι. Cicero specially praises generosity to prisoners, and charity in general, as being serviceable not only to individuals but to the State (de Offic. ii. 18, “haec benignitas etiam rei publicae est utilis, redimi e servitute captos, locupletari tenuiores”).

4Let marriage be held in honour by all, and keep the marriage-bed unstained. God will punish the vicious and adulterous.

5 Keep your life free from the love of money; be content with what you have, for He (αὐτός) has said,

“Never will I fail you, never will I forsake you.”

6So that we can say confidently,

“The Lord is my helper (βοηθός, cp. 2:18, 4:16), I will not be afraid,

What can men do to me?”

As vv. 1, 2 echo 10:24, 32, 33, v. 4 drives home the πόρνος of 12:16, and vv. 5, 6 echo the reminder of 10:34. Evidently (v. 4), as among the Macedonian Christians (1 Thessalonians 4:3-9), φιλαδελφία could be taken for granted more readily than sexual purity. Τίμιος (sc. ἔστω as in v. 5, Romans 12:9, the asyndeton being forcible) ὁ γάμος ἐνπᾶσιν, i.e. primarily by all who are married, as the following clause explains. There may be an inclusive reference to others who are warned against lax views of sexual morality, but there is no clear evidence that the writer means to protest against an ascetic disparagement of marriage. Κοίτη is, like the classical λέχος, a euphemistic term for sexual intercourse, here between the married; ἀμίαντος is used of incest, specially in Test. Reub. i:6, ἐμίανα κοίτην τοῦ πατρός μου: Plutarch, de Fluviis, 18, μὴθέλων μιαίνειν τὴν κοίτην τοῦ γεννήσαντος, etc.; but here in a general sense, as, e.g., in Wisdom:

μακαρία ἡ στεῖρα ἡ ἀμίαντος,

ἥτις οὐκ ἔγνω κοίτην ἐν παραπτώματι,

ἕξει καρπὸν ἐν ἐπισκοπῇ ψυχῶν (3:13),

and οὔτε βίους οὔτε γάμους καθαροὺς ἔτι φυλάσσουσιν,

ἕτερος δʼ ἕτερον ἢ λοχῶν ἀναιρεῖ ἢ νοθεύων ὀδυνᾷ (14:24).

In πόρνους γὰρ καὶ μοιχούς κτλ., the writer distinguishes between μοιχοί, i.e. married persons who have illicit relations with other married persons, and πόρνοι of the sexually vicious in general, i.e. married persons guilty of incest or sodomy as well as of fornication. In the former case the main reference is to the breach of another person’s marriage; in the latter, the predominating idea is treachery to one’s own marriage vows. The possibility of πορνεία in marriage is admitted in Tob 8:7 (οὐ διὰπορνείαν ἐγὼ λαμβάνω τὴν ἀδελφήν μου ταύτην), i.e. of mere sexual gratification1 as distinct from the desire and duty of having children, which Jewish and strict Greek ethics held to be the paramount aim of marriage (along with mutual fellowship); but this is only one form of πορνεία. In the threat κρινεῖ (as in 10:30) ὁ θεός, the emphasis is on ὁ θεός. “Longe plurima pars scortatorum et adulterorum est sine dubio, quae effugit notitiam iudicum mortalium … magna pars, etiamsi innotescat, tamen poenam civilem et disciplinam ecclesiasticam vel effugit vel leuissime persentiscit” (Bengel).

This is another social duty (cp. Philo, de Decalogo, 24). In view of the Epicurean rejection of marriage (e.g. Epict. iii. 7. 19), which is finely answered by Antipater of Tarsus (Stob. Florileg. lxvii. 25: ὁ εὐγενὴς καὶεὔψυχος νέος … θεωρῶν διότι τέλειος οἷκος καὶ βίος οὑκ ἄλλως δύναταιγενέσθαι, ἢ μετὰ. γυναικὸς καὶ τέκνων κτλ.), as well as of current ascetic tendencies (e.g., 1 Timothy 4:3), there may have been a need of vindicating marriage, but the words here simply maintain the duty of keeping marriage vows unbroken. The writer is urging chastity, not the right and duty of any Christian to marry. Prejudices born of the later passion for celibacy led to the suppression of the inconvenient ἐν πᾶσι (om. 38. 460. 623. 1836. 1912* Didymus, Cyril Jerus., Eus., Athan, Epiphanius, Thdt.). The sense is hardly affected, whether γάρ (א A D* M P lat sah boh) or δέ (C Dc Ψ 6 syr arm eth Clem., Eus., Didymus, Chrys.) is read, although the latter would give better support to the interpretation of the previous clause as an antiascetic maxim.

A warning against greed of gain (vv. 5, 6) follows the warning against sexual impurity. There may be a link of thought between them. For the collocation of sensuality and the love of money, see Epict. iii. 7. 21, σοὶ καλὴν γυναῖκα φαίνεσθαι μηδεμίαν ἢ τὴνσήν, καλὸν παῖδα μηδένα, καλὸν ἀργύρωμα μηθέν, χρύσωμα μηθέν: Test. Judges 1:18, φυλάξασθε ἀπὸ τῆς πορνείας καὶ τῆς φιλαργυρίας … ὅτι ταῦτα … οὐκ ἀφίει ἄνδρα ἐλεῆσαι τὸν πλησίον αὐτοῦ, and Philo’s (de Post. Caini, 34) remark, that all the worst quarrels, public and private, are due to greedy craving for ἢ εὐμορφίασγυναικὸς ἢ χρημάτων κτλ. In de Abrah. 26, he attributes the sensuality of Sodom to its material prosperity. Lucian notes the same connexion in Nigrin. 16 (συνεισέρχεται γὰρ μοιχεία καὶ φιλαργυρία κτλ., the love of money having been already set as the source of such vices). In 1 Corinthians 5:10f. Paul brackets οἱ πόρνοι with οἱ πλεονέκται, and πλεονεξία (cp. 1 Thessalonians 4:6) as selfishness covers adultery as well as grasping covetousness. But the deeper tie between the two sins is that the love of luxury and the desire for wealth open up opportunities of sensual indulgence. In injuries to other people, Cicero observes (de Offic. i. 7. 24), “latissime patet avaritia.” When Longinus describes the deteriorating effects of this passion or vice in character (de Sublim. 44), he begins by distinguishing it from mere love of pleasure; φιλαργυρία μὲν νόσημα μικροποιόν, φιληδονία δʼ ἀγεννέστατον. Then he proceeds to analyse the working of φιλαργυρία in life, its issue in ὕβρις, παρανομία, and ἀναισχυντία.

Ἀφιλάργυρος (the rebel Appianus tells Marcus Aurelius, in OP xxxiii. 10, 11, that his father τὸ μὲν πρῶτον ἦν φιλόσοφος, τὸ δεύτερον ἀφιλάργυρος, τὸ τρίτον φιλάγαθος) ὁ τρόπος (in sense of “mores,” as often, e.g., M. Aurelius, i. 16, καὶ πᾶς ὁ τοιοῦτοστρόπος). Ἀρκούμενοι is the plur. ptc. after a noun (as in 2 Corinthians 1:7, Romans 12:9), and with τοῖς παροῦσιν reproduces a common Greek phrase for contentment, e.g. Teles, vii. 7, ἀλλʼ ἡμεῖς οὐ δυνάμεθαἀρκεῖσθαι τοῖς παροῦσιν, ὅταν καὶ τρυφῇ πολὺ διδῶμεν, and xxviii. 31, καὶ μὴ ἔχων οὐκ ἐπιποθήσεις ἀλλὰ βιώσῃ ἀρκούμενος τοῖς παροῦσιν. The feature here is the religious motive adduced in αὐτὸς γὰρ εἴρηκεν (of God as usual, e.g., 1:13), a phrase which (cp. Acts 20:35 αὐτὸς εἶπεν) recalls the Pythagorean αὐτὸς ἔφα (“thus said the Master”). The quotation οὐ μή σε ἀνῶ οὐδʼ οὐ μή σε ἐγκαταλίπω is a popular paraphrase of Joshua 1:5 or Genesis 28:15 (cp. Deuteronomy 31:8, 1 Chronicles 28:20) which the writer owes to Philo (de Confus. Ling. 32), who quotes it exactly in this form as a λόγιον τοῦ ἵλεω θεοῦ μεστὸν ἡμερότητος, but simply as a promise that God will never leave the human soul to its own unrestrained passions. The combination of the aor. subj. with the first οὐ μή and the reduplication of the negative (for οὐδʼ οὐ μή, cp. Matthew 24:21) amount to a strong asseveration. Note that the writer does not appeal, as Josephus does, to the merits of the fathers (Antiq. xi. 5. 7, τὸν μὲν θεὸν ἴστε μνήμῃ τῶν πατέρων Ἀβράμου καὶ Ἰσάκου καὶ Ἰακώβου παραμένον τα καὶ διὰ τῆς ἐκείνων δικαιοσύνης οὐκ ἐγκαταλείποντα τὴν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν πρόνοιαν) in assuring his readers that they will not be left forlorn by God.

Ἐγκαταλείπω (so all the uncials except D) may be simply an orthographical variant of the true reading ἐγκαταλίπω (aorist subj.). In Deuteronomy 31:6 the A text runs οὐ μή σε ἀνῇ οὐδʼ οὐ σε ἐγκαταλείπῃ, in Joshua 1:5 οὐκ ἐγκαταλείπω σε οὐδὲ ὑπερόψομαί σε, and in Genesis 28:15 οὐ μή σε ἐγκαταλείπω. The promise originally was of a martial character. But, as Keble puts it (Christian Year, “The Accession”):

“Not upon kings or priests alone

the power of that dear word is spen

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.
Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.
Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.
We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.
For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp.
Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.
Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.
For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.
By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.
But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.
But I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.
Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I have written a letter unto you in few words.
Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty; with whom, if he come shortly, I will see you.
Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you.
Grace be with you all. Amen.
ICC New Testament commentary on selected books

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