Hebrews 2
Pulpit Commentary
Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.
Verses 1-5. - INTERPOSED EXHORTATION as explained above. Verse 1. - On this account (i.e. on account of what has been seen of the SON'S superiority to the angels) we ought (or, we are bound) more abundantly to give heed to the things that we have heard (i.e. the gospel that has been preached to us in the Son), lest at any time (or, lest haply) we let them slip (rather, float past them). The word παραρρυῶμεν (aorist subjunctive from παραρρέω) denotes flowing or floating past anything. The allusion is to the danger, incidental to those to whom the Epistle was addressed, of failing to recognize the transcendent character of the gospel revelation, missing it through inadvertence, drifting away from it.
For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward;
Verses 2, 3. - For if the word that was spoken through angels (i.e. the Law) was made (or, proved) steadfast (i.e. as explained in the next clause, ratified by just visitation of every transgression and disobedience), how shall we (Christians) escape, if we neglect so great salvation? The danger of neglect must be in proportion to the dignity of the revelation. The readers are now further reminded of the manner in which the gospel had been made known to them, and been ratified in their own experience, by way of enhancing the danger of disregarding it. Which (not the simple relative pronoun η}, but ἥτις, which denotes always, when so used, some general idea in the antecedent, equivalent to "being such as"), having at the first begun to be spoken through the Lord (opposed to "the word spoken through angels" in the preceding verse. Its beginning was through the Lord himself, i.e. Christ the SON, not through intermediate agency. Ὁ Κύριος is a special designation of Christ in the New Testament; and, though not in itself proving belief in his divinity, is significant as being constantly used also as a designation of God, and substituted in the LXX. for יהוה. It has a special emphasis here as expressing the majesty of Christ), was confirmed (ἐβεβαιώθη, answering to ἐγένετο βέβαῖος in the former verse) unto us by them that heard (i.e. by the apostles and others who knew Christ in the flesh). Here the writer ranks himself among those who had not heard Christ himself; his doing which has been considered to afford a presumption against St. Paul having been the writer. For, though not an eyewitness of Christ's ministry, he is in the habit elsewhere of insisting strongly on his having received his "knowledge of the mystery," not from men or through men, but by direct revelation from the ascended Savior (cf. Galatians 1:1, 12). Still, he does not deny elsewhere that for the facts of Christ's history he was indebted to the testimony of others (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3, etc.). It was rather the meaning of the mystery that he had learnt from heaven.
How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;
God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?
Verse 4. - God also bearing them witness; rather, God attesting with them. The word is συνεπιμαρτυροῦντος, a double compound, meaning to attest jointly with others. The idea is that the hearers of "the Lord" testified, and God attested their testimony by the signs that accompanied their ministry. The passage is instructive as expressing the grounds of acceptance of the gospel. Its truth was already "confirmed" to believers by the testimony of unimpeachable witnesses to that which, so attested, carried with it its own evidence. But the signs attending the apostolic ministry were granted for further attestation. Thus "signs and wonders," the craving for which as a condition of belief was so condemned by our Lord, have their true evidential value assigned them. They did not furnish the original basis of belief, which rested on Christ himself, his Person. and his work, as unimpeachably attested. They came in only as suitable accompaniments of a Divine dispensation, and as additional confirmations. The apologists of the last generation were given to rest the evidence of Christianity too exclusively on miracles. The tendency of the present age is to dwell rather on its internal evidence, and, so far as it can be done, to explain away the miracles. They are not to be explained away, having been, as has been said, fitting accompaniments and confirmations of such a dispensation as the gospel was. But to us, as well as to those early believers, they are not the first or main ground of our belief. To us, as re them, Christ and his gospel, testified to as they are by" them that heard," are their own sufficient evidence. Indeed, the cogency of the "signs" in the way of evidence is less now than formerly, since they too have now passed into the category of things that rest on testimony. The evidential counterpart to them in our case is the continued attestation which God gives to the gospel in its living power on the souls of men, and its results in the world before our eyes. It is thus that our faith is strengthened in "the salvation at first spoken through the Lord, and confirmed to us by them that heard." Four expressions are used for the miraculous accompaniments of the first preaching of the gospel, denoting, apparently, not so much different classes of miracles, as different ways of regarding them. They were

(1) signs (σημεῖα), attesting the truth of what was preached;

(2) wonders (τέρατα), something out of the common course of things, arresting attention;

(3) diverse powers (ποικίλαι δυνάμεις), varying manifestations of a Divine power at work;

(4) distributions of the Holy Ghost (Πνευμάτος ἁγίου μερισμοί), gifts of the Spirit to individual Christians apportioned variously - the last expression having especial reference to the χαρίσματα of the apostolic Church, so often alluded to in St. Paul's Epistles. The phrase, with that which follows, according to his own will, is peculiarly Pauline, and confirms the conclusion that the writer, though not necessarily St. Paul himself, was at any rate one of the circle influenced by his teaching.
For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.
Verse 5. - Here the second division of the first section of the argument, according to the summary given above (Hebrews 1:2), begins. But it is also connected logically with the interposed exhortation, the sequence of thought being as follows: "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" - For (as an additional reason) not to angels (but to the Son, as will be seen) did he (God) subject the world to come, whereof we speak, "The world to come (ἡ οἰκουμένη ἡ μέλλουσα)" must be understood, in accordance with what has been said above in explanation of" the last of these days" (Hebrews 1:1), as referring to the age of the Messiah's kingdom foretold in prophecy. The word μέλλουσαν does not in itself necessarily imply futurity from the writer's standpoint though, according to what was said above, the complete fulfilment of the prophetic anticipation is to be looked for in the second advent, whatever earnest and foretaste of it there may be already under the gospel dispensation. The word οἰκουμένην (sub γὴν) is the same as was used (Hebrews 1:6) in reference to the Son's advent, denoting the sphere of created things over which he should reign. And it is suitably used here with a view to the coming quotation from Psalm 8, in which the primary idea is man's supremacy over the inhabited globe. The whole phrase may be taken to express the same idea as the "new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (cf. 2 Peter 3:13).
But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?
Verse 6. - But one in a certain place (or, somewhere) testified, saying. The phrase does not imply uncertainty as to the passage cited. It is one used by Philo when exact reference is not necessary. It is equivalent to "but we do find the following testimony with regard to man." We say to man; for the eighth psalm, from which the citation comes, evidently refers to man generally; not primarily or distinctively to the Messiah. Nor does it appear to have been ranked by the Jews among the Messianic psalms. It would be arbitrary interpretation to assign to it (as some have done) an original meaning of which it contains no signs. This being the case, how are we to explain its application to Christ, which is not confined to this passage, but is found also in 1 Corinthians 15:27? There is no real difficulty. True, the psalm speaks of man only; but it is of man regarded according to the ideal position assigned to him in Genesis 1, as God's vicegerent. Man as he now is (says the writer of this Epistle) does not fulfill this ideal; but Christ, the Son of man, and the Exalter of humanity, does. Therefore in him we find the complete fulfillment of the meaning of the psalm. If it be still objected that the application (in which sovereignty over all created things is inferred) transcends the meaning of the psalm, which refers to this earth only - πάντα in ver. 6. of the psalm being taken in a wider sense than seems justified by the following verses, which confine the application to earthly creatures, it may be replied

(1) that the idea of the psalmist is to be gathered, not only from Genesis 1:28, which he quotes, but, further, from the whole purport of Genesis 1, of which the psalm is a lyrical expression, including the conception of man having been made in God's image, and invested with a sovereignty little short of Divine;

(2) that, if the application does transcend the scope of the psalm, it was open to an inspired writer of the New Testament thus to extend its meaning, as seen in the new light from Christ. Taking the latter view, we have but to put the argument thus, in order to see its force and legitimacy: In Psalm 8. (read in connection with Genesis 1, on which it is founded) a position is assigned to man which at present he does not realize; but its whole idea is fulfilled, and more than fulfilled, in Christ. It is to be observed that the original reference of the psalm to man generally is not only evident in itself, but also essential to the writer's argument. For he is now passing from the view set forth in Hebrews 1, of what the SON is in himself, to the further view of his participation in humanity, in order to exalt humanity to the position forfeited through sin; and thus (as has been shown in the foregoing summary) to lead up to the idea of his being our great High Priest. What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? In the psalm this exclamation comes after a contemplation of the starry heavens, which had impressed the psalmist's mind with a sense of God's transcendent glory. In contrast with this glory, man's insignificance and unworthiness occur to him, as they have similarly occurred to many; but, at the same time, he thought of the high position assigned to man in the account of the creation, on which position he next enlarges. He asks how it can be that man, being what he is now, can be of such high estate. Thus the Epistle carries out truly the idea of the psalm, which is that man's appointed position in the scale of things is beyond what he seems now to realize.
Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands:
Verse 7. - Thou madest him a little lower than the angels. Here the LXX. takes Elohim (being a plural form) to mean "angels;" as also in Psalm 97:7 and Psalms 138:1. The more correct rendering of the Hebrew may be, "thou reddest him a little short of God," with reference to his having been made "in God's image," "after God's likeness," and having dominion over creation given him. But, if so, Elohim must be understood in its abstract sense of "Divinity" (so Genesis), rather than as denoting the Supreme Being. Otherwise, "thyself" would have been the more appropriate expression, the psalm being addressed to God. The argument is not affected by the difference of translation. Indeed, the latter rendering enhances still more the position assigned to man. Thou crownedst him with glory and worship, and didst set him over the works of thy hands. The latter clause of this sentence, which is found in the LXX., but not in the Hebrew, is omitted in several codices. It is not wanted for the purpose of the argument.
Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.
Verse 8. - Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all things in subjection under him, etc. Here the argument from the psalm begins. It is to the following effect: For the subjection of all things, in the Creator's design, to man leaves nothing exempted from his sovereignty. But we do not see man, as he is upon earth now, occupying this implied position of complete sovereignty. Therefore the full idea of the psalm awaits fulfillment. And we Christians find its complete fulfillment in him who, having become a man like us, and is made with us "a little lower than the angels," is now, as man, and for man, "crowned with glory and honor," at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Or we may put it thus: In the present οἰκουμένη man is not supreme over "all things" in the sense denoted; but in the οἰκουμένη to come "of which we speak," with its far wider bearings, he is, in the Person of Christ, over "all things" thus supreme. Therefore in Christ alone does man attain his appointed destiny. We may here observe how, even without the enlightenment of Scripture, man's own consciousness reveals to him an ideal of his position in creation which, in his present state, he does not realize. The strange apparent contradiction between man as he is and man as he feels he should be, between experience and conscience, between the facts and the ideal of humanity, has long been patent to philosophers as well as divines.
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
Verse 9. - The phrase βραχύ τι, where it occurs in this verse with reference to Christ's temporary humiliation, is by many taken to mean "for a little while," on the ground that this meaning suits best the application to Christ, though its most obvious meaning in the psalm (quoted in ver. 7) is, as in the A.V., "a little." The Greek in itself will bear either meaning; and if "a little" be, as it seems to be, the original meaning in the psalm, there is no necessity for supposing a departure from it. All that the writer need be supposed to intimate is that Christ, through his incarnation, took man's position as represented in the psalm. For the suffering of death. So the A.V. renders, connecting the words by punctuation with the clause preceding; the idea being supposed to be that Christ was "made a little lower than the angels" with a view to the "suffering of death;" i.e. because of the "suffering of death" which he had to undergo. But the proper force of διὰ with the accusative is better preserved, and a better meaning given to the passage, by connecting διὰ τὸ πάθημα τοῦ θανάτου with the clause that follows, and translating, But we see him who has been made a little lower than the angels, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor. His crowning was the consequence of his suffering; because of his suffering he was crowned; he won, as man, and in virtue of his human obedience unto death, his position of "glory and honor." Exactly the same idea is found in Hebrews 5:7, etc., where the purpose and result of Christ's suffering, here anticipated, are more explicitly set forth (cf. also Hebrews 12:2). This view, too, suits the drift of the passage before us, which is that human nature has been exalted in the Person of Christ. That he, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man. Two questions arise here:

(1) As to the meaning of the expression, "that he should taste death," etc.;

(2) as to the true reading, as well as the meaning, of the phrase translated "by the grace of God." As to

(1), the clause is introduced by ὅπως, followed by the subjunctive, ὅπως γεύσηται: and the construction of the sentence evidently connects it, not with ἠλαττωμένον, but with ἐστεφανωμένον It is, "Because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, in order that for [i.e. in behalf of] all he may taste of death." Now, the fact that the actual death was previous to the crowning suggests reference, not so much to it as to its permanent efficacy: and, further, the emphatic words are ὑπὲρ παντὸς, as shown by their position in the sentence; and thus the idea seems to be, "In order that for all his tasting of death may be availing." And he may even be regarded as still tasting of death after his crowning, in the sense of knowing its taste through his human experience, and so perfectly sympathizing with mortal man (cf. Hebrews 5:15, and below in this chapter, vers. 14, 15). It is a further question whether παντὸς should be here taken as masculine, as in the A.V., or, like the preceding πάντα, as neuter, in the sense of "all creation." The latter rendering seems in itself more natural, though" all mankind" must be conceived as the main idea in the writer's view. At the same time, it is to be remembered how the redemption is elsewhere spoken of as availing for creation generally, for the restitution of universal harmony (cf. Romans 8:19, etc.; Ephesians 1:10, 20, etc.). A further reason for understanding παντὸς in the wider sense will appear in our examination of the phrase next to be considered.

(2) As to the reading χάριτι Θεοῦ. It is found in all existing manuscripts except in one uncial of the tenth century (Codex Uffenbach, cited as M), in a scholium to Codex 67, and in a codex of the Peschito. But, on the other hand, Origen, an earlier authority than any manuscript, speaks of the prevalent reading in his time being χωρὶς Θεοῦ χάριτι being found only in some copies (ἐν τισιν ἀντιγράφοσις). Theodoret, Theodorus of Mopsuestia, and the Nestorians also read χωρὶς: and the Latin Fathers, Ambrose, Fulgentius, and others, have absque as its equivalent. Jerome also speaks of the reading absque, but as occurring only "in quibusdam exemplaribus" - thus reversing in his day what Origen had said two centuries earlier as to the comparative prevalence of the two readings. The charge made by Marius Mercator, Theophylact, and OEcumenius against the Nestorians, that they had introduced the reading χωρὶς in support of their own views, is evidently untenable, since the testimony of Origen proves its prevalence long before the Nestorian controversy. It is, on the other hand, very probable that the use made of this reading by the Nestorians was a cause of the other being clung to by the orthodox, and being retained almost exclusively in the existing codices. And this probability greatly weakens the force of the evidence of the manuscripts as to the original reading. That both were very early ones is evident; but that χωρὶς was the original one is probable for two reasons:

(1) that Origen testifies to its prevalence in his early day, and accepts it as at least equally probable with the other; and

(2) that transcribers were more likely to change the unusual and somewhat difficult χωρὶς into the familiar and easy χάριτι than vice versa. Theodorus of Mopsuestia thus accounts for the reading χάριτι, which he rejects very decidedly. He says that some persons, not observing the sequence of the passage, had laughably changed the true reading, because they did not understand it, into one that seemed easy to them. If χάριτι be the true reading, the meaning is plain enough; it expresses the view, often reiterated by St. Paul, of the whole work of redemption being "of grace." The objection to it, on internal grounds, is that the introduction of this view here seems flat and purposeless, as Theodorus of Mopsuestia forcibly contends in his argument against the reading. Ξωρὶς, then, being adopted, the question remains whether to connect χωρὶς Θεοῦ (as Theodorus of Mopsuestia does, and as the Nestorians must have done) with γεύσηται θανάτου, or with ὑπὲρ παντός. If taken with the former, its purpose must be to exclude the Godhead in Christ from participation in the taste of death. Some further explain by reference to the cry from the cross, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" But such reference does not suit the view above taken of the intended meaning o ὅπως γεύσηται θανάτου. Taken with ὑπὲρ παντός (as is rather suggested by the arrangement of the sentence, in which this is the emphatic phrase), it gives the meaning, "that for all except God he may taste of death" - this parenthetical exception of the Divine Being himself being similar to that which St. Paul sees reason for inserting in his application of the same psalm to Christ: Δῆλον ὅτι ἐκτὸς τοῦ ὑποτάζαντος αὐτῶ τὰ πάντα (1 Corinthians 15:27). So Origen takes it: Αἰ τε δὲ "χωρὶς Θεοῦ ὑπὲρ παντὸς ἐγεύσατο θανάτον," οὐμόνον ὑπὲρ ἀνθρώπων ἀπέθανεν ἀλλὰ καὶ ὑπὲρ τῶν λοιπῶν λογικῶν. Also Theodoret: Υπὲρ ἀπάντων τοίνυν τὸ σωτήριον ὑπέμεινε πάθος χωρὶς Θεοῦ μόνη γὰρ ἡ θεία φύσις τῆς ἐντεῦθεν γενομένης θεραπείας ἀνενδεής. The latter Father explains the wide sense in which it follows that ὑπὲρ παντὸς must be understood by referring to what St. Paul says (Romans 8:21) of creation itself being delivered from the bondage of corruption through Christ, and to the rejoicing of angels in the salvation of man.
For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
Verse 10. - For it became him, for whom (διὰ, with accusative) are all things, and through whom (διὰ with genitive) are all things (i.e. God), in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. This refers to what was said in the preceding verse, of Christ having been crowned with glory on account of his suffering of death, and of his tasting death for all. That he should attain through human suffering even unto death to his own perfected state of glory, as being the Leader of human sons whom the one Father of all would bring to glory, was a design worthy of him for whom and through whom are all things - suitable to what we conceive of him and of his way of working. The word ἔπρεπε is used in the same sense not infrequently in the LXX. It is probably used here with some view to "the offence of the cross," which might still linger in the minds of some of the Hebrew Christians. In the argument that follows, supported still by reference to Old Testament anticipations, the writer not only meets possible objections lingering in the Hebrew mind, but also carries on and completes the view of the SON which it is his purpose to inculcate, leading up (as aforesaid) to the final position of his being the High Priest of humanity.
For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,
Verse 11. - For both he that sanctifieth (i.e. Christ, the ἀρχηγὸς) and they that are sanctified (i.e. the "many sons" who are brought unto glory) are all of one (ἐξ ἑνὸς, i.e. of God). The idea expressed here by the verb ἁγιάζω, to sanctify, may be determined by comparison with Hebrews 9:13, 14; Hebrews 10:14, 29; and Hebrews 13:12 (ἵνα ἁγιάση διὰ τοῦ ἰδίου αἱμάτος τὸν λαόν); cf. John 17:9. It is not the idea, to us most familiar, of moral sanctification through the Holy Spirit, but that of the redeemed being brought into a new relation to God, hallowed for "glory," through redemption; whence all Christians are called ἅγοι. Ἁγιάζειν is the equivalent in the LXX. of the Hebrew קָדַשׂ, which is applied to the hallowing of both the sacrifices and the people to God's service. As an atoning sacrifice, Christ thus hallowed himself (John 17:19), that thus he might hallow the "many sons." Ἐξ ἑνός must certainly be taken as referring to God, not (as some take it) to Abraham or Adam. For the necessity of the SON taking part of flesh and blood in order to accomplish the redemption is not introduced till ver. 14. So far the common fatherhood spoken of has been that of him "for whom are all things and by whom are all things," who, "in bringing many sons to glory," has perfected "the Captain of their salvation." The idea is that it was meet that the Captain should be perfected through human sufferings, since both he and the "many sons" are of one Divine Father; in their relation of sonship (with whatever difference of manner and degree) they are associated together. Be it observed, however, that it is not the original relation to God of the "Sanctifier" and the "sanctified," but their relation to him in the redemption, that is denoted by ἐξ ἑνός. The common sonship does not consist in this, that he is Son by eternal generation and they by creation. It has been seen above that the term υἵος is net applied to Christ in this Epistle with reference to his eternal Being, but to his incarnation; and the human "sons" are not regarded as such till made so by redemption. Ὁ ἁγιάζων, and οι{ ἁγιαζομένοι rule the sense of ἐξ ἑνός. The view is that the one Father sent the SON into the world to be the Firstborn of many sons. The expression, frequent in the Pentateuch, "I am he that sanctifieth," may be cited in illustration of the moaning of the passage. For which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren; i.e. in the Messianic utterances of the Old Testament, to which, in accordance with the plan and purpose of the Epistle, reference is again made for proof. The point of the quotations that follow (vers. 12, 13) is that the Messiah, notwithstanding the position above the angels, shown above to be assigned to him, is represented also as associating himself with men as brethren, in dependence on one heavenly Father.
Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.
Verse 12. - I will declare thy Name unto my brethren, in the midst of the Church (or, congregation) will I sing praise unto thee. This first citation is from Psalm 22:22, quoted, it would seem, from memory or from a text of the LXX. different from ours, διηγήσομαι being changed to ἀπαγγελῶ, but with no difference of meaning. The psalm is attributed by tradition to David, being entitled "a psalm of David." Delitzsch and Ebrard accept it as certainly his, concluding, from its position in the first book of the psalms (1-72.), that it was included in the collection made by David himself (cf. 2 Chronicles 23:18 with Psalm 72:20). Others, as recently Perowne, think that the fact of the suffering and humiliation described, being beyond any experienced by David himself, points to some other unknown author. The conclusion, however, does not necessarily follow. David, writing "in Spirit," when under persecution by Saul, may be conceived as drawing a picture, with regard both to present humiliation and to expected triumph, beyond the facts of his own case, taking his own experience as typical of a higher fulfillment. And the minute details of the suffering described, answering so remarkably to the circumstances of the Crucifixion, certainly suggest the idea of a distinct prophetic vision. Still, there is no reason for concluding that the psalm was not, like other Messianic psalms, suggested by and founded on the writer's own circumstances and experience. Detitzsch says well, "The way of sorrows by which David mounted to his earthly throne was a type of that Via Dolorosa by which Jesus, the Son of David, passed before ascending to the right hand of the Father." There is no psalm of which the ultimate Messianic reference is to Christian believers more undoubted. The first words of it were uttered by Jesus himself from the cross (Matthew 27:46); and for its fulfillment in him, recognized by the evangelists, see Matthew 27:39, 43; John 19:23, 28. The general purport of the psalm is as follows: A persecuted sufferer, under a feeling of being forsaken by God, pours out his complaint, and prays for succor; suddenly, at the end of ver. 21, the tone of the psalm changes into one of confident anticipation of deliverance and triumph, when the psalmist shall praise the Lord in the congregation of his brethren, when all that fear the Lord shall join him in praise, when the "ends of the earth" shall turn to the Lord, and "all the families of the nations" shall worship with Israel. The close agreement of the latter part of the psalm with the Messianic anticipations of prophecy is obvious, and would in itself determine its Messianic import. The marked difference between this psalm and those previously quoted is that the typical psalmist appears here as a human sufferer previously to his triumph, thus anticipating the similar view of the Messiah in prophecy, as notably in Isaiah lilt. And hence this psalm is suitably quoted here as a striking and early anticipation of a Messiah "perfected through sufferings," and associated in sympathy with human "brethren," the verse actually quoted, in which "he is not ashamed to call them brethren," being sufficient to remind the readers of the whole of this aspect of Messianic prophecy.
And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.
Verse 13. - And again, I will put my trust in him. There are two passages of the Old Testament from which this may be a citation 2 Samuel 22:3 and Isaiah 8:17. In either case the original is slightly altered in the citation, probably with a purpose; the emphatic ἐγὼ being prefixed, and ἔσομαι being (suitably after this addition) placed before instead of after πεποιθὼς. The purpose of this change may be to bring into prominence the thought that the Messiah himself, in his humanity, puts his trust in God as well as the "brethren" with whom he associates himself. The passage in 2 Samuel 22:3 is from the psalm of David, written "in the day when the Loan had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul." It is given also in the Book of Psalms as Psalm 18, where the LXX. reads ἐλπιῶ ἐπ αὐτόν instead of πεποίθως ἔσομαι ἐπ αὐτῷ: so that, if the quotation is from the psalm, it is taken from the historical book. But is the quotation from the psalm or from Isaiah? If from the former, it serves (if Psalm 22. is also David's) to complete the type of the same royal sufferer, showing him reliant on God along with his brethren in the day of success, as well as during previous trial. Most commentators, however, suppose the quotation to be from Isaiah, inasmuch as the following one is from him, not only coming immediately after the first in the original, but also dependent on it for its meaning. Nor is the introduction of the second quotation by καὶ πάλιν conclusive against its being the continuation of the same original passage, since it introduces a new idea, to which attention may be thus drawn. Possibly the writer, familiar as he was with the Old Testament, had both passages in his view, the phrase common to both serving as a connecting link between David and Isaiah. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me. The applicability of the whole passage in Isaiah (Isaiah 8:17, 18) to the writer's argument is not at first sight obvious. It occurs in connection with the memorable message to Ahaz, on the occasion of the confederacy of Rezin and Pekah against Judah, in the course of which the prophet foretells (Isaiah 7:14) the birth of Immanuel. In Hebrews 8. and Hebrews 9. he expands this message, rising into a vein of undoubted Messianic prophecy (see especially Isaiah 9:1-8). In the midst of general dismay and disbelief the prophet stands firm and undaunted, presenting himself as a sign as well as a messenger of the salvation which he foretells: "Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts." The "children" thus associated with himself as signs appear to have been his two sons, with their symbolical names, Shear-jashub and Maher-shalal-hash-baz, the first of whom he had been commanded to take with him (Isaiah 7:3) on his first visit to Ahaz, and the second of whom (Isaiah 8:3) had been borne to him by the "prophetess," and named under a Divine command. His own name also may be regarded in the "sign" as symbolical, meaning "Jehovah's salvation." If then, the words of vers. 17, 18 are quoted as those of the prophet himself (and they are certainly his own in our Hebrew text), he is viewed as himself a sign, in the sense of type, of the Immanuel to come. And the point of the quotation is that, to complete such typical sign, it was required that "the children God had given him" should be combined with him in the representation. They represent the ἀδελφοί, the ἀγιαζομένοι, as Isaiah does the υἱὸς, the ἀγιάζων, all being together ἐξ ἑνός. If it be objected that the children given to Isaiah were his own offspring, and not "brethren," as in the antitype, it may be replied that it is net the human paternity of the "children," but their having been given by God to the prophet to be "signs" along with him, that is the prominent; idea in the original passage, and that, thus viewed, the words of Isaiah have their close counterpart in those of our Lord; "The men which thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them me" (John 17:6, 9, 11, 12). Such, then, may be the ground for assigning the utterance to Christ, justified by the Messianic character of Old Testament prophecy in general, according to which "the historic sense of the utterance does not exclude the purpose of prophecy; but leaves typical references open which declare themselves historically by some corresponding Messianic fact, and hence are recognized afterwards from the point of view of historic fulfillment" (Meyer). But when we refer to the LXX. (which in the passage before us varies greatly from the Hebrew) we find a further reason. The LXX. has (Isaiah 8:16, 17, 18) "Then shall be manifest these that seal the Law that one should not learn it. And he will say (καὶ ἐρεῖ), I will wait upon God, who has turned away his hoe from the house of Israel, and I will put my trust in him. Lo I and the children which God hath given me." Here, in the absence of any preceding nominative in the singular to be the subject of ἐρεῖ, the writer of the Epistle may have understood the Messiah to be the speaker; and the Seventy also may have so intended the expression. The general drift of the passage, as interpreted in the Epistle, remains the same, though the LXX. more distinctly suggests and justifies its application to Christ. The only difference is that, according to the Hebrew, the prophet speaks and is regarded as a type; according to the LXX., the Antitype himself is introduced as speaking, and declaring the type of Isaiah to be fulfilled in himself.
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
Verses 14, 15. - Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of (literally, have been, made partakers of; i.e. so made as to share alike), blood and flesh (this is the order of the words, as in Ephesians 6:12, according to the great preponderance of authority; Delitzsch sees in it a reference to "the blood-shedding for the sake of which the Savior entered into the fellowship of bodily life with us"), he also himself likewise (rather, iv, like manner; i.e. with "the children") took part in the same; that through death he might destroy (καταργήσῃ, equivalent to "bring to nought," "render impotent as though not existing;" the word is frequent with St. Paul) him that had (or, has) the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver (i.e. from bondage) all those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. Here the purpose of the Incarnation is set forth as requiring the complete association of the SON with human brethren to which prophecy had pointed. But more is now declared than the prophecies so far quoted have implied; and thus is introduced (by way of anticipation, as is usual in the Epistle) the doctrine of atonement, which is to be dwelt on afterwards. For the object of Christ's becoming one of us is now further said to be that by dying he might effect redemption. The "children" in ver. 14 are the παιδία of the type in Isaiah, fulfilled in the "many sons" to be "sanctified" and brought to glory. (We may observe, by the way, the difference between the words used of their participation in human nature and of Christ's - κεκοίνωκε and μετέσχε: the aorist in the latter case expresses his sharing what was not his before, and so distinctly implies his pre-existence.) For understanding' the account here given of the purpose of the Incarnation, we must remember that death, originally announced (Genesis 2:17) as the penalty of transgression, is regarded in the New Testament (notably by St. Paul) as the sign of the continual dominion of sin over the human race. Thus in Romans 5:12, 15 the mere fact that all men "from Adam to Moses" had died is adduced as sufficient proof that all were under condemnation as sinners. Whatever further idea is implied in the word "death " - such as alienation from God in whom is life eternal, or any "blackness of darkness" thereupon ensuing in the world beyond the grave - of man's subjection or liability to all this his natural death is regarded as the sign. It is to be remembered, too, that "the devil," through whom it was that sin first entered, and death through sin, is revealed to us generally as the representative of evil (ὁ πονηρός), and, as such, the primeval manslayer (ἀνθρωποκτόνος ἀπ ἀρχῆς), with power given him over death, the penalty of sin, as long as man remains in his dominion, unredeemed. Till redemption cast a new light upon the gloom of death, man was all his life long in fear of it; its shadow was upon him from his birth; it loomed ever before him as a passing into darkness, unrelieved by hope. We know well how the hopeless dismalness of death was a commonplace with the classical poets, and how, even now, the natural man shrinks from it as the last great evil. But Christ, human, yet sinless, died for all mankind, and, so dying, wrested from the devil his power over death, and emancipated believers from their state of "bondage" (as to which, see below). On particular expressions in this passage we may remark:

(1) That, "having the power of death," which has been variously interpreted, may be taken in the usual sense of ἔχειν κράτος τινος, viz. "having power, or dominion, over." Satan has had the dominion over death allowed him because of human sin. And it may be observed that elsewhere, not only death, but other woes that flesh is heir to - its precursors and harbingers - are attributed to Satanic agency (cf. John 1:12; John 2:6; Luke 13:16; 1 Corinthians 5:5).

(2) Christ is not here said to have as yet abolished death itself; only to have rendered impotent him that had the power of it; for natural death still "reigns," though to believers it has no "sting." In the end (according to 1 Corinthians 15:26; Revelation 20:14; Revelation 21:4) death itself will be destroyed. In one passage, indeed, it is spoken of by St. Paul as already abolished (καταργήσαντος μὲν τὸν θάνατον, 2 Timothy 1:10); but this is in the way of anticipation: death is already vanquished and disarmed to believers.

(3) The bondage (δουλεία) spoken of is the condition of unredeemed man, often so designated by St. Paul. See Romans 7. and 8, where man's bondage (felt when conscience is awake) to "the law of sin in the members," and his emancipation from it through faith, are described; and especially Romans 8:15, 16, 17 ("For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear," etc.), as elucidating

(4)The word ἔνοχος, followed this passage by the genitive (δουλείας), expresses here more than "liability to;" it implies present implication, equivalent to "in hold to." The A.V., "subject to," expresses the idea adequately.
And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.
Verses 16, 17. - For verily, etc. The A.V. (following the ancient interpreters) takes this verse as referring to the Incarnation. But

(1) ἐπιλαμβάνεσθαι σπέρματος and, still more, ἐπιλαμβάνεσθαι ἀγγέλων, seems an awkward way of expressing "to assume the nature of." The usual sense of the verb, followed by a genitive, is "to take hold of," as ἐπιλαμβάνεσθαι χειρός (Acts 23:19; Mark 8:23); and especially in the sense of "succouring" (cf. Matthew 14:31; Hebrews 8:9; Isaiah 31:32, Ἐν ἡμέρα ἐπιλᾶμβομένου μου τῆς χειρὸς αὐτῶν; and Ecclus. 4:11, Ἡ σοφία ἐπιλαμβάνεται τῶν ζητούντων αὐτήν.

(2) The present tense of the verb is inappropriate to the past act of the Incarnation, which has, moreover, been sufficiently declared in ver. 14.

(3) The sequence of though+, in the following verse is not easily intelligible if the Incarnation be the subject of this:" Whence it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren;" - this does not follow from his having become incarnate; we should rather say that his incarnation was the means of his being made like them. Translate, therefore, observing the position of the substantives before the verbs, For not, I ween, angels cloth he lay hold of (to succor them), but the seed of Abraham he doth lay hold of. The allusion is to its being the human "children of promise," and not angels, that are denoted in prophecy as being, and acknowledged to be, the object of the Messianic redemption. The expression, "the seed of Abraham," is, of course, not intended to exclude the Gentiles: it is appropriately used in reference to the Messianic promises of the Old Testament (cf. Genesis 23:18; Isaiah 41:8): and the extension of its meaning to "all them that believe" would be as familiar to the first readers of the Epistle as to us (cf. Matthew 3:9; John 8:39; Romans 4:11, 16). The conclusion of ver. 17 (which repeats virtually what has been alleged before, after reason given) now naturally follows: Whence it behooved him in all things to be assimilated to his brethren; i.e. to the race which was the object of his redemptive succor. But, further, why the need of this entire assimilation, to the extent of participation in suffering unto death? That he might become a merciful (or, compassionate) high priest, in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. It was that he might be fully constituted as the High Priest of humanity. Here, according to the manner of the Epistle, the view of priesthood, to be afterwards set forth at length, is briefly hinted. It is taken up in Hebrews 5, after the conclusion that Christ is man's High Priest has been reached by another line of argument (see preceding summary). In Hebrews 5. one of the essentials of a true high priest (whose office is to mediate for man in things pertaining to God) is set forth as being that he should be of the same race and nature with those for whom he mediates, and able in all respects to sympathize with them: and this view is here foreshadowed.
Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.
Verse 18. - Such power of sympathy Christ, by undergoing human sulk. ring and temptation, acquired. For in that (or, wherein) he hath suffered himself being tempted (or having been himself tempted in that wherein he hath suffered), he is able to succor them that are tempted.

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