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Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 44: Hebrews, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at



Chapter 1:3 Who being the brightness, etc. The words are rendered by Beza, “the effulgence of his glory, and the impress of his person;” by Doddridge, “the effulgent ray of his glory, and the express delineation of his person;” by Macknight, “an effulgence of his glory, and an exact image of his substance;” and by Stuart, “the radiance of his glory, and the exact image of his substance.” The word “brightness,” does not adequately express the meaning of the first word, ἀπαύγασμα, which signifies an emitted light, a splendor proceeding from an object. The most suitable word would be, outshining, or irradiation, “the outshining of his glory.” The “express image” of our version is the impress, the engraven or impressed form, derived from the archetype. And “impress,” as given by Beza, fully expresses it.

The words are doubtless metaphorical, but the idea is this — that Christ, as a Mediator, as the Son of God in human nature, exactly represents what God is, being the very image of him who is invisible. “Substance,” or essence, is the divine nature in all its glorious and incomprehensible attributes of power, wisdom, holiness, justice, and goodness. These and other perfections are exhibited in Christ perfectly, and in such a way that we can look on them, and in a measure understand them. Hence he said, “He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father,” Joh 14:9.

The word ὑπόστασις, does not mean a “person,” either in Scripture or in classic writers. It is a meaning invented by the fathers during the Arian controversy. As used in the Sept. and in the New Testament, it means foundation or basis, Eze 43:11, — substance, Ps 139:15, — expectation, Ps 38:11, — and confidence, 2Co 9:4. Its classic meaning, according to Stuart, is foundation, steadfastness, courage, purpose, resolution, determination, substance, essence, being. There is in Col 1:15, a phrase of a similar import, with “the impress of his substance,” where Christ is said to be “the image (εἴχων — the likeness) of the invisible God.” The substance or essence is “the invisible God,” and “the impress” is “the image.”

“In the opinion,” says Stuart, “that the verse now under consideration relates to the incarnate Messiah, and not to the Logos in his divine nature simply considered, I find that Scott and Beza concur, not to mention others of the most respectable commentators.”

It was the mistaken view which the fathers took of the passage that led them to invent a new meaning to the word ὑπόστασις; and many have followed them.


Chapter 1:5. Thou art my Son, etc. It is to be observed that Christ is called a Son when his prophetic office is referred to, Heb 1:2, when spoken of as a king, Heb 1:8, when his priesthood is mentioned, Heb 5:5, and when a comparison is made between him and Moses, Heb 3:6. But as a king over his people is he represented here as superior to angels; and David as his type was also called a son because he was a king. Christ is said here to have derived his name by “inheritance” — from whom? The Apostle refers throughout to the Old Testament; and what does Peter say That David, being a Prophet, knew that God “would raise up Christ to sit on his throne,” Ac 2:30. Then the inheritance in this instance was from David. Christ is God’s only­begotten Son as to his divine nature; but he is also a Son in a peculiar manner, superior to all others, that is, as a Prophet, Priest, and King. There were types of him in these offices; but they were only types, and therefore far inferior to him even as to these offices. And angels never sustained such offices.


Chapter 1:6 And again when he bringeth, etc Critics have found some difficulty in the order in which the particles are arranged here, and have proposed a transposition, which is not at all necessary. The word “first­begotten,” or first­born, seems to have been used on account of what the previous verse contains. The words, “Today have I begotten thee,” refer clearly to the resurrection; and Christ is said to have been “the first­born from the dead,” Col 1:18. Having then referred to Christ’s resurrection, he now as it were goes back to his birth, or to the announcement made in prophecy of his coming into the world, and seems to say, that not only when he became the first­born from the dead he attained a manifested superiority over angels, but even at his first introduction into the world, for they were commanded even to worship him. “And when again,” or also, or moreover, “he introduces,” etc.; as though he had said, “God owned him as his Son by raising him from the dead; and again, or in addition to this, when he introduced him into the world, he commanded the angels to worship him.” So that the subordination of angels was evident before his resurrection, even at his very introduction into the world.

Stuart considers his introduction to be his birth, and regards the words, “and let all the angels of God worship him,” as borrowed, though not literally, from Ps 97:7, to express what is intimated in the account of his birth, Lu 2:10-14. The Hebrews, written to, were, he supposes, acquainted with that event.

This is the view taken by some of the fathers, Chrysostom and others. But some, as Mede, thinking the quotation a prophecy, consider that his second coming is intended, as the contents of the Psalm were deemed to be descriptive of the day of judgment. A third party, as Dr. Owen, view the introduction to be Christ’s birth, and consider the Psalm as giving an allegorical description of the progress of the Gospel in the world; and this seems to be the view taken by Calvin, and is apparently the most consistent.

The difference in the quotation is quite immaterial. The words in the Psalm are, “Worship him all gods,” or rather angels; for so is the word sometimes rendered. The version of the Sept. is, “Worship him all ye his angels;” and here “God “is put instead of “his.”


Chapter 1:10. Thou, Lord, etc. The quotation is literally from the Sept., only the order of the words in the first sentence is changed; and it is literally the Hebrew, except that σὺ χύζιε are added. The Hebrew is, “Of old the earth hast thou founded, and the work of thy hands are the heavens.”

Nothing can more clearly prove the divine nature of Christ than this quotation; and it settles at once the meaning of αἰω̑νας; in Heb 1:2, as it confirms the truth that Christ, the Messiah, being not only the Son but also the only­begotten of God, is the Creator of the world, even the earth and the heavens, as here stated. Nor can the word have any other meaning in Heb. 9:26, Heb. 11:3

It is generally admitted that this Psalm refers to Christ; and Dr. Owen mentions three particulars in proof of this, — the redemption of the Church, Ps. 102:13, 16, — the call of the Gentiles, Ps. 102:15, 21, — and the creation of a new people, Ps 102:18; and he adds, that the Jews themselves refer the last thing to the time of the Messiah.

Referring to the words, “as a vesture,” the same author beautifully observes, that the whole creation is like God’s vesture, by which he shews himself to men in his power and wisdom, and that hence it is said, that he “clothes himself with light as with a garment,” Ps 104:2.


Chapter 1:14 Are they not all ministering spirits, etc It is said of Christ also, that he was a minister or a servant; but while he was a servant, he was at the same time the Lord of all, which cannot be said of angels. Yet as a servant he was superior to them; for he became so in a work which they were not capable of doing. So that as a servant a superiority belongs to him. But his office as a servant is not contemplated here. Indeed all the names given to him, in common either with men on earth or with angels in heaven, mean very different things when applied to him; such as son, servant, priest, king, Savior, etc.

It ought to be born in mind that throughout this chapter Christ is spoken of in his character of a Mediator, and not as to his divine nature simply considered, and that the reference is made, as to his superiority over angels, to the testimonies in the Old Testament. He is in this chapter represented as superior to angels, —

1. Because he is called in a peculiar respect a Son.

2. Because angels were commanded to worship him.

3. Because he is addressed as having an eternal throne, and being honored more than all his associates as a king.

4. Because he is the Creator of the world.

5. And lastly, because there is a promise made to him that all his enemies shall be finally subdued, while angels are only employed in ministering to his people.

Who, after duly considering all these things, can possibly come to any other conclusion than that the Messiah is a divine person as well as human? Angels are commanded to worship him, his throne is eternal, he created this world, and all his enemies shall finally be made his footstool. That he is sometimes spoken of as having a delegated power, as in Heb 1:2, “by whom he (God) made the world,” and sometimes as acting independently, as in Heb 1:10, “Thou, Lord, hast founded the earth;” all this only proves, that as he is inferior to the Father in his mediatorial office, so he is one with the Father as his only­begotten Son. Creation is what God claims as peculiarly his own work; and were not the Son one in essence with the Father, creation could not have been ascribed to him.


Chapter 2:1. Lest at any time we should let them slip. Much has been written as to the meaning of the verb here used. It is said by Schleusner that it signifies two things, “to flow through,” as waters through a sieve or a leaky vessel, and “to flow by,” as a river. It is used mostly in the latter sense. Chrysostom and others, both ancient and modern, give it the sense of falling away or perishing; but, according to Stuart, there is no instance either in Scripture or the classics which countenances such a meaning. As it was often the case, so here, the fathers gave what they conceived to be the general sense, without attending to the precise meaning of the word used; and thus their propositions are often very loose. Besides, most of them were wholly ignorant of the language of the Old Testament.

To flow by, in the sense of escaping, is its meaning in classical authors; and Stuart says that all the examples commonly referred to apply only to things, and not to persons. The word only occurs here in the New Testament, and once in the Sept.; and there also it refers to a person, and is clearly used transitively. The passage is Pr 3:21, “O son, pass not by (or disregard not, μὴ παραῤῥυὢς, flow not by,) but keep (or retain, τήρησον) my counsel and thought.” The form of the sentence is different in Hebrew, but the idea is here preserved, “My son, let them not depart from thine eyes; keep (retain) sound wisdom and discretion.” Not to suffer them to depart from the eyes, is the same as not to pass them by or disregard them. There is no other idea compatible with the context; and it is what exactly suits this passage. Then the sentence would be, “Lest we should at any time disregard (or neglect) them.”

It is justly observed by Stuart, that everything in the whole passage is in favor of this meaning: it is the opposite of “taking heed;” and it is often the case in Scripture that the negative idea is stated as well as the positive, and vice versa. Besides, in Heb 1:3 the same idea is presented to us on the same subject, “If we neglect, etc. Indeed, to disregard or neglect may be deemed as the consequence of not taking heed or attending to a thing. Inattention to truth is followed by the neglect of what it teaches and inculcates. Unless we earnestly attend to what we hear, we shall inevitably neglect what is required. There may be some attention without performance; but there can be no performance without attention.


Chapter 2:7 Thou madest him, etc The reference is to Ps 8:1-9, and has been variously explained. There are especially three opinions on the subject. Some, like Calvin and Doddridge, consider that the case of “man,” as described in the Psalm, is alluded to, or accommodated to Christ. Others, like Grotius, hold that “man,” in the Psalm, is to be understood historically and mystically. The third party, as most of the Fathers, as well as some later divines, such as Beza, Dr. Owen., and Stuart, maintain that the Psalm is strictly prophetic. What makes it difficult to regard it in this light is the exclamation, “What is man?” and also the dominion over the brute creation, which is the only thing mentioned in the Psalm as constituting the glory and honor of man.

All critics refer on this subject to the grant given to Adam in Ge 1:28. But this grant, forfeited no doubt by Adam’s sin and fall, was afterwards renewed to Noah and his sons, when they came out of the ark, and was even enlarged, as the permission to eat animal food was given them. Ge 9:1-3. It was this grant no doubt the Psalmist had in view. Noah and his sons were men of faith; Noah is distinctly said to have been a righteous man. It was to them as bearing this character that the grant was made. What Adam forfeited was restored to those restored to God’s favor, that is, the dominion over the brute creation and the inheritance of this lower world. But as Canaan was afterwards to the Israelites a type of heaven, and also a pledge to those who were Israelites indeed, so might be regarded the possession of the earth granted to Noah and his sons, though dominion in which “glory and honor” consisted, is what is expressly mentioned in the Psalm; and dominion is the special subject handled by the Apostle, Heb 1:5.

Though man, as to his nature, is inferior to the angels, yet in that nature God has granted him a dominion never granted to angels. The power over every living thing in the world was bestowed, not on angels, but on man, according to the testimony of the Old Testament; so that the power ascribed by the Jews to angels was not warranted by their own Scriptures. This fact seems to have been referred to as an introduction to what the Apostle was proceeding to say respecting Christ, and as an evidence that his human nature, though in itself inferior to that of angels, did not detract from his superiority; as though he had said, “It is no objection that he became man, for even to man, not to angels, has been granted the dominion of the world.”

Then the Apostle extends the idea, and refers to Christ as one who was to make good the grant made. The dominion promised to man, especially what that dominion was a pledge of, was not attained by man; but Christ, who has assumed his nature, and in this respect became lower than the angels, will yet attain it for him. It is through Christ indeed that we obtain a right to the things of this world as well as to the things of the next world. God promises both to his people; but in Christ only are his promises, yea and amen. The promise made to man as a believer, both as to this world and the next, is as it were made good only through Christ, who assumed his nature for this very purpose.

By taking this view we avoid the necessity of making that prophetic which has no appearance of being so, or of supposing that the Psalm is referred to by way of accommodation. The fact respecting man restored to God’s favor is stated, and the Apostle teaches us that the dominion granted to him can only be realized through Christ, who has already attained that dominion in his own person, and will eventually confer it on all his people.


Chapter 2:9. That he by the grace of God, etc How to connect the different parts of this verse has been a difficulty which critics have in various ways attempted to remove. There is hardly a sense in our version. We must either regard a transposition in the words, or, like Stuart, give the meaning of when to ὅπως, “when by the grace of God he had tasted death for all.” But this is an unnatural meaning, and therefore not satisfactory. Doddridge supposes a transposition, and gives this version, —

“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, that by the grace of God he might taste death for every man, crowned with glory and honor.”

Macknight more properly connects “the suffering of death” with “crowned with glory and honor,” while he makes a similar transposition. Bloomfield considers that there is an ellipsis in the last clause, and gives this rendering, —

“But him, who was made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus, we behold, on account of having suffered death, crowned with glory and honor, which suffering he bore, in order that by the grace of God he might taste of death for every man.”

This borders on tautology, and cannot be admitted. That the transposition made by Doddridge and Macknight gives the real meaning, admits hardly of a doubt; and such a version would be the most suitable in our language. But how to account for the arrangement in the Apostle’s words seems to be this, it is a construction according to the system of Hebrew parallelism; the first and the last clause are connected, and the second and the third. Let the verse be arranged in lines, and this will become quite evident, —

“But him, who was made a little lower than angels, — We behold, even Jesus, for the suffering of death, Crowned with glory and honor, — That by God’s grace he might for all taste death.”

The meaning is clearly this, — that he was made lower than angels in order to die for all, and that on account of his atoning death he was crowned with glory and honor; which perfectly accords with what the Apostle teaches us in Php 2:8-10. See a similar arrangement in Mt 7:6, and 1Co 6:11.


Chapter 2:14 The power of death, etc This is rendered by Stuart “deadly power.” The genitive after χράτος; is no doubt in several instances rendered adjectively, as “the power of his glory,” in Col 1:11, “his glorious power;” and “the power of his might,” in Eph 6:10, may be rendered “His mighty power.” But there is here an antithesis which ought to be preserved, — the death of Christ and the death over which Satan is said to have power. Christ by his death deprived Satan of his power to cause death.

To “destroy” does not suitably express what is meant by the verb here used. It means to render void, useless, inefficacious, and hence to overcome, to subdue. When applied to the Law, it means to render void or to abolish: but when it refers to a person, as here, or to a hostile power, as in 1Co 15:24, it means to subjugate, to put down, or to overcome. So here, the rendering most suitable would be, “that by death he might overcome (or subdue) him who had the power of death,” that is, the power of causing eternal ruin; for death here must mean the second death. And hence the Rabbinical notion about the angel of death, that is, of temporal death, has no connection with this passage.

There is here evidently an allusion to Ge 3:13. The originator of death is Satan, both as to the soul and the body; and hence our Savior calls him a murderer. To subdue this murderer was to remove the sin which he introduced, by means of which he brought in death; and this removal of sin was effected by death, so that the remedy for sin was the same with the effect which sin produced.


Chapter 2:16 For verily he took not, etc The words may be rendered, “For verily he lays not hold on angels, but on the seed of Abraham does he lay hold.” Both early and later divines have supposed “nature” to be understood; but some moderns, following Cameron of an earlier age, regard the verb in the sense of bringing aid or help. So Stuart and Bloomfield. The first renders the verse thus, —

“Besides, he doth not at all help the angels, but he helpeth the seed of Abraham.”

The present, the historical present, is used for the past; or if we render οὐ γὰρ δήπου “for nowhere,” the reference is to Scripture; nowhere in Scripture is such a thing recorded.

But to “take hold on” is sufficiently plain and very expressive. Christ took hold on Peter when he was sinking, (Mt 14:31:) it is the same verb. Our Savior took not hold on the angels when sinking into ruin, but he did take hold on the seed of Abraham to save them from perdition. The connection seems to be with the preceding verses; therefore γὰρ ought to be rendered “for” and not “besides,” as by Stuart, nor “moreover,” as by Macknight. A reason is given why Christ became partaker of flesh and blood; and the reason was, because he did not come to deliver angels but the seed of Abraham; that is, his spiritual, not his natural seed, for he speaks throughout of God’s sons and God’s children. See John 1:12, 13, where the born of God are represented to be those to whom Christ grants the privilege of children.


Chapter 3:4 He that built, etc. This verse has been considered as difficult with respect to the connection it has with the argument of the Apostle. Stuart states thus the difficulty, — “Moses as the delegate of God was the founder of the Jewish institution, and Christ is merely declared to be only a delegated founder, then in what way does the writer make out the superiority of Christ to Moses. Both were delegates of the same God, and both the founders of a new and divine dispensation. If Christ, then, is not here asserted to be founder in some other character than that of a delegate, I am unable to perceive any force in the writer’s argument.” Hence the Professor comes to the conclusion, that Christ is meant by the Apostle when he says, “He who built (or formed) all things is God,” conceiving that the argument is otherwise inconclusive.

Now, the mistake of the Professor is this, that he makes delegation to be the comparison and not the character of the delegation. That Christ’s power was delegated is quite evident from this passage: Christ is said to have been “appointed” in Heb 3:2, and is said to be “faithful,” which implies that he had an office delegated to him. Then the delegation is undeniable; and what the Apostle evidently dwells upon is the superiority of the delegated power: Moses was faithful as a servant in God’s house; the people of Israel were previously Gods adopted people; but Christ has power, a delegated power, to make as it were a new people; he builds his own house. Moses was a part of the house in which he served; but as Christ builds his own house, he is worthy of more glory than Moses. These are the comparisons made by the Apostle.

Then this verse is introduced, and that for two reasons, — first, to shew that God built the house in which Moses served; and secondly, to intimate the divine power of Christ, as none but God builds all things. Moses’ house is called God’s house in Heb 3:2; and Christ’s house is called his own in Heb 3:5. Hence the obvious inference is, that he is one with God, as God only builds all things, though in his Mediatorial character he acts as God’s Apostle and high priest. The same kind of representation we find in Heb. 1:2, 10: it is said that by him God made the world; and afterwards that the Son is the Creator, who had founded the earth, and whose work are the heavens. Creative power, though exercised by Christ as a Mediator, must yet be a divine power.


Chapter 3:9. Tempted, etc. To understand this passage we must bear in mind the event referred to. The same year in which the people of Israel came forth from Egypt, they were distressed for water at Rephidim, (Ex 17:1;) and the place had two names given to it, Massah and Meribah, because the people tempted God and chided with Moses. The Lord did not swear then that they should not enter into the land of Canaan; but this was on the following year, after the return of the spies. (Nu 14:20-38.) And God said then that they had tempted him “ten times;” that is, during the short time since their deliverance from Egypt. It was after ten temptations that God deprived them of the promised land.

Bearing in mind these facts, we shall be able to see the full force of the passage. The “provocation” or contention, and “temptation” refer clearly to the latter instance, as recorded in Numbers 14, because it was then that God swear that the people should not enter into his rest. The people’s conduct was alike in both instances.

To connect “forty years” with “grieved” was the work of the Punctuists, and this mistake the Apostle corrected; and it is to be observed that he did not follow in this instance the Septuagint, in which the words are arranged as divided by the Masorites. Such a rendering as would correspond with the Hebrew is as follows, — “Today when ye hear his voice,

8. Harden not your hearts as in the provocation, In the day of temptation in the wilderness.

9. When your fathers tempted me, they proved me And saw my works forty years:

10 I was therefore offended with that generation and said, Always do they go astray in heart, And they have not known my ways;

11. So that I swear in my wrath, They shall by no means enter into my rest.’”

The meaning of the ninth verse is, that when the children of Israel tempted God, they proved him, i.e., found out by bitter experience how great his displeasure was, and saw his works or his dealings with them for forty years. He retained them in the wilderness during that period until the death of all who disbelieved his word at the return of the spies; he gave them this proof of his displeasure. “Therefore” in Heb 3:11 is connected with “tempted;” it was because they tempted him that he was offended with them so as to swear that they should not enter into his rest. There is evidently a ו left out in Hebrew, found only in one MS.; but it is required by the future form of the verb. To “go astray in heart” was to disbelieve God’s word, (see Heb 3:12, and Nu 14:11;) and not to have known Gods ways, was not to recognize his power, and goodness, and faithfulness in their deliverance from Egypt. See Nu 14:22. Not to know here does not mean what Stuart says, not to approve, but not to comprehend or understand God’s ways, or not to recognize them as his ways or doings.

The last line is in the form of an oath, “If they shall enter,” etc.; but when in this defective form, the “if” may be rendered as a strong negative, “by no means.” Doddridge has “never,” and Macknight “not,” in which he has been followed by Stuart.


Chapter 3:15 While it is said, etc. No doubt the connection first referred to in the note is the most suitable. This verse is as it were the heading of what follows; but to put the sixteenth verse in an interrogatory form, as is done by Stuart, seems not suitable to the passage. I would render the words thus, —

15. With regard to what is said, “Today, when ye hear his

16. voice, harden not your hearts as in the provocation,” some indeed when they heard did provoke, but not all who came

17. out of Egypt under Moses: but with whom was he offended for forty years? was it not with those who sinned, whose

18. carcasses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they should not enter into his rest, but to those who did not believe?

The “provocation” is the subject; who offered it are then mentioned; and afterwards the cause of it, the want of faith.


Chapter 4:2 For unto us was the Gospel preached, etc. Literally it is, “For we have been evangelized.” Doddridge has, “For we are made partakers of the good tidings;” Macknight, “For we also have received the good tidings;” and Stuart, “For to us also blessings are proclaimed.” Perhaps the most literal version would be, “For we also have had good tidings.” The same form of words occurs again in Heb 4:6, “And they to whom it was first preached,” etc.; rather, “And they who had first good tidings,” etc. The good tidings were evidently the promise of rest.

“The word preached” is literally “the word of hearing;” that is, the word heard, a noun being put for a participle, a common thing in Hebrew.

Though there are several MSS. and the Greek fathers in favor of “mixed” being in the accusative case, agreeing with “them,” “who united not by faith with those who heard,” i.e., obeyed; yet the Vulgate and the Syriac countenance our present reading, which has been adopted by Erasmus, Beza, Dr. Owen, and most modern divines, as being most suitable to the passage.

Our version is followed by Doddridge and Macknight. The version of Stuart is the same with that of Calvin, “being not connected with faith in those who heard it.” The Syriac seems the most literal, “being not mingled with faith by them who heard it.” They had not the ingredient of faith to mix up as it were with it. Instead of receiving the promise, they refused and rejected it, as though it were an unwholesome and disagreeable draught. The word is used in 2 Macc. 15:39, of wine mingled with water.


Chapter 4:12. For the word of God, etc. Some, as Stuart and Bloomfield, view “the word” here as minatory, being a threatening to the unbelievers before mentioned. Though it may be so viewed, yet it seems not to be right to translate λόγος; “threatening,” as done by Stuart.


“Quick” or living, and “powerful” or efficacious, are regarded by many as meaning nearly the same thing; but “living” designates what is valid, what continues in force, as opposed to what is dead and no longer existing; and “efficacious” refers to the effect, capable of producing the effect designed. Exclusion from rest as to unbelievers was still living, still in force, abiding the same without any change. See 1 Pet. 1:23, 25. It was also in full power so as effectually to exclude from rest all who did not believe. And then to prevent every evasion, so that no one might think a mere profession sufficient, or rather to guard against the incipient seduction of sin, he compares this “word” to a sword which can dissect the whole well­compacted frame of man, so that even the very marrow may be discovered; and then passing from this simile, he says that this “word” is capable of judging the thoughts and purposes of the heart. And in order to identify as it were this “word” with God himself; he immediately refers to God’s omniscience. The design of the Apostle seems to have been to guard the Hebrews against the deceitfulness of sin; so that they might not give heed to any of its hidden suggestions.

Stuart makes the transition from the “word” to God at the end of the twelfth verse, and renders the clause thus, “He also judgeth the thoughts and purposes of the heart.” But this clause may more properly be viewed as explanatory of what is said of the two-edged sword.


Chapter 4:12. Two­edged sword, etc Whether the penetrating, or convincing, or killing power of the “word” is set forth by the metaphor of the “sword,” has been controverted. Beza and Scott, as well as Calvin, regard its convincing and killing power as intended. “It enters,” says Beta, “into the inmost recesses of the soul, so that it indicts on the perverse a deadly wound, and by killing the old man quickens into life the elect.” Stuart views its killing power as alone intended: “The sense is,” he observes, “that the divine commination is of most deadly punitive efficacy.”

Now, if the whole passage be duly considered in connection with what is gone before, there will appear a sufficient reason to conclude, that the metaphor of “the sword “is only intended to shew that the “word” reaches to all the inward workings of the soul, that it extends to the motives and the most hidden thoughts and purposes of the heart. The last clause in the 12th verse clearly explains what is meant by the “sword;” and this is further confirmed by the following verse, where it is said that all things are naked and open to God, of whose word he speaks, and with whom we have to do. All this seems to concur with the purpose for which the words were introduced, that is, to warn the Hebrews of the danger of listening to the seductive and deceiving power of sin.

As to the 13th verse, Bloomfield suggests a transposition which would render the transition from God’s word to God himself much more easy, “Moreover there exists no creature that is not manifest in the sight of him with whom we have to do; but all things are naked and exposed to his eyes.” But the construction here is similar to what we have noticed in two previous instances, Heb. 2:9, 17, 18; the first and the last clause are connected, and the two middle clauses.

The last sentence is rendered by Grotius, “of whom is our word, i.e., of whom we speak; by Beza, “with whom we have to do; by Doddridge, Macknight, and Stuart, “to whom we must give an account.” Wherever λόγος signifies “account,” the verb “to render,” or a similar verb is connected with it. There are two instances in the Sept. where it stands alone with a pronoun in the dative case as here, and it means business, affair, or concern: see Jud 18:28, and 2Ki 9:5. In the last passage it is connected also, as here, with the preposition πρὸς. There can therefore be no doubt but that our version is the right one, “with whom we have to do,” or literally, “with whom there is to us a concern.” There is no usus loquendi, as pleaded by some, in favor of the other meaning.


Chapter 6:1 Therefore leaving, etc Authors differ as to the character of this passage, whether it be hortatory or didactic, that is, whether the Apostle, putting himself as it were with them, exhorts them to advance in knowledge, or, discharging the office of a teacher, he intimates the course which he means to pursue. Stuart and some others, as well as Calvin, take the first view, as though the Apostle had said, “As the perfect or grown up are alone capable of receiving strong food, it behooves us to quit the state of childhood and to advance into the state of manhood, so as to attain perfect knowledge.” It is said that this view comports better with what follows, “for it is impossible,” etc.

But there are especially two things in the passage which militate against this view, first, “not laying the foundation,” etc. which refers evidently to teaching; and secondly, the third verse, which also refers to teaching.

It is usual with the Apostle to speak of himself in the plural number: see, for instance, the 9th verse. “Therefore” is a general inference from what he had been saying, and not from a particular clause, as though he had said, “Such being the case with you, let me now therefore, in order to draw you onward, leave the first principles, and proceed to state things which are suitable to advanced Christians: it is not my purpose now to preach repentance and faith in which you have been already taught, and to do this is unavailing as to those who have fallen away; ‘for it is impossible,’” etc. His object was not to convert them to the faith, but to confirm and advance them in it.

Or the whole argument may be more fully stated thus, — “What I design now to do is not to call you to repentance and faith, to require you to be baptized that you might receive the miraculous gift of the Holy Ghost, and to teach you the doctrine of the resurrection as confirmed by our Savior’s resurrection, and of the day of judgment, when a sentence shall be pronounced on the just and unjust which shall never be reversed; for all these things have been long known to you, and you have made a long profession of them: there is therefore no need of taking such a course, nor is it of any benefit, for if you fall away, it is impossible to restore you again to repentance.” But instead of making the case personal to them, he states it generally. He thus most powerfully stimulated them to make advances in the knowledge of divine truths; for not to advance is to retrograde, and to retrograde is the direct way to apostasy.


Chapter 6:5. And the powers of the world to come. The five things mentioned here have been variously explained.

1 Enlightened, — baptized, say most of the fathers, and some moderns too, but without any countenance from the use of the word in Scripture, either in the New Testament or in the Sept. It means to emit light, to bring to light, to enlighten, and hence to instruct, to teach. It is often used in the Sept. for a word that means to teach in Hebrew. The taught, the instructed in the duty and necessity of repentance and in Christian truth generally, were no doubt “the enlightened.” This is the meaning given to it by Crotius, Beza, Dr Owen, Doddridge, Scott, Stuart, etc.

2 The heavenly gift, — faith — Christ — the Holy Spirit — pardon of sins — peace of conscience — eternal life: all these have been stated, but the first, “faith towards God,” mentioned in the first verse, is no doubt what is meant.

3. Partakers of the Holy Ghost; that is, in his miraculous powers, as understood by most; it is what is evidently intimated by “baptisms and laying on of hands” in the second verse.

4 The good word of God, — the Gospel — the Gospel covenant — the promises of the Gospel — the heavenly inheritance: such have been the explanations given. There are but two places where the phrase “the good word” occurs, and that is in Jer 29:10, and in Jer 33:14; and there it means the promise of restoration given to the Jews, and here it clearly means the promise of the resurrection mentioned in the second verse.

5. The powers of the world to come; that is, miraculous powers, say most; but αἰω<n oj me>λλων, “the world to come,” says Schleusner never means in the New Testament the time of the Gospel, but the future world. See Mt 12:32; Lu 18:30; Eph 1:21. He therefore explains the clause thus, “The power and efficacy of the doctrine respecting the future felicity of Christians in heaven.” It would have comported more with the “eternal judgment” in these converse, had he said, “respecting the future state both of the saved and of the lost in the next world;” for eternal judgment refers to both.

To “taste,” according to the usage of Scripture, is to know, to partake of, to experience, to possess, to enjoy. It does not mean here, as some have thought, slightly to touch a thing, or to sip it, but to know, to know experimentally, to feel, or to enjoy.

Thus we see that there is a complete correspondence between the particulars mentioned here and the things stated in verses 1 and 2.


Chapter 6: 4­9. On the subject handled in these verses, Stuart asks and answers a question thus, “Does the whole paragraph pertain to real Christians, or to those who are such only by profession? To the former beyond all reasonable doubt.” The question is not suitable, for the Apostle only speaks of those who had enjoyed certain privileges, and as to whether they were real or merely professing Christians, he does not treat of. Paul addressed the Corinthians as “the Church of God;” and it might in the same way be asked, “Did he address them as real Christians, or as those who were only such by profession t” and it might be answered, “Doubtless as real Christians.” And yet we find that he says, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith.” What is spoken of here is the enjoyment of certain privileges and the danger of not making a right use of them, and even the awful doom of those who disregarded them and turned away from the truth.

Our author indeed fully admits the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints; but a question of this kind, not relevant to the subject, tends only to create embarrassment. He indeed afterwards somewhat modifies it by saying, that “God treats Christians as free agents and rational beings, and guards them against defection, not by mere physical force, but by moral means adapted to their nature as free and rational agents.” No doubt God thus acts according to the whole current of Scripture; but this in no way contravenes the truth, clearly taught in many passages, that his elect people, real Christians, shall never perish.


Chapter 6:10. And labor of love, etc Though Griesbach and others have excluded τοῦ χόπου, “labor,” from the text, yet Bloomfield thinks that there are sufficient reasons for retaining the words. The greatest number of MSS. contain them, and they seem necessary to render the passage complete, though the meaning without them would be the same. There is here an instance of an arrangement similar to what is found often in the Prophets, as will be seen by putting the verse in lines, —

“For not unrighteous is God, To forget your work, And the labor of that love Which ye have shewed to his name, Having ministered and ministering to the saints.”

Excluding the first line, we see that the first and last are connected, and the two middle lines. Their “work” was to minister to the saints; and in addition to this there was “the labor of that love” which they manifested towards God. He would not forget their work in aiding the saints, nor the love which they had shewn towards his name by an open profession of it, and activity and zeal in God’s service. Grotius says that “the labor of love” was in behalf of the Christian faith.

Stuart says that “work” was the outward act, and that “love” was the principle from which it emanated. Examples of this kind no doubt occur often in Scripture, the not being first stated, and then the inward principle or motive; but if “labor” be retained, this view cannot be maintained.


Chapter 6:11. To the full assurance, etc. The preposition πρὸς, “to,” may be rendered “with regard to, in respect of” If this meaning be given to it, then the diligence required was with reference to the full assurance of hope: they were to exercise diligence in order that they might enjoy the assurance of hope to the end. But if the preposition be rendered “for the sake of,” as by Stuart, then the meaning is, that they were to exercise the same diligence as they had already exhibited in the work and labor of love, for the purpose of attaining the full assurance of hope.

Now Calvin takes the first meaning; he considers that the Apostle now refers to the full assurance of hope or of faith as he regards it, as he had before spoken of the works of benevolence. What follows seems to favor this view, for the Apostle proceeds to speak of faith and patience as exemplified by the fathers, especially by Abraham.

Some, as Beza, connect “to the end” with “shewing the same diligence,” but it is more suitable to connect them with “the assurance of hope,” as it is done by most.

The remarks of Scott on the difference of “the assurance of hope,” of “the understanding,” and of “faith,” are so clear and discriminating that they shall be added, —

“He who so understands the Gospel as to perceive the relation of each part to all the rest, and its use as a part of some great design, in something of the same manner that a skillful anatomist understands the use and office of every part of the human body, in relation to the whole, has the full assurance of understanding; and those things willful appear inconsistent, useless, or superfluous to others, he perceives essentially necessary to the system or the great design. The man who is fully convinced that this consistent and harmonious though complicated design is the work and revelation of God, and has no doubt the things testified are true, that the promises and threatenings will be fulfilled, and that Christ will certainly save all true believers, has the full assurance of faith, though he may through misapprehension, or temptation, or other causes, doubt of his own personal interest in this salvation. But he, who beyond doubt or hesitation is assured that he himself is a true believer, interested in all the precious promises, sealed by the sanctifying Spirit, and ‘a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed,’ has the full assurance of hope.


Chapter 7:14 For under it the people received the Law, etc These words are variously explained. The preposition ἐπὶ often means “for,” or “on the account of,” as ἐπ᾿ ἐλπίδι, “for the hope,” (Ac 26:6;) and so Macknight renders it here “on account of it the people received the Law.” It is not true that the people were under the priesthood when they were subjected to the Law; for the Law was given before the Levitical priesthood was established: it was after the tabernacle was made and set up that Aaron and his sons were consecrated priests. See Ex 40:12-15

Stuart gives another rendering, “For the Law was given to the people in connection with this,” or “on this condition,” as he explains himself in a note. And he observes, “The meaning is, that the Levitical priesthood and the Mosaic Law are closely and inseparably linked together.”

As the Apostle speaks afterwards of the change of the Law, that is, respecting the priesthood, it is more consistent to regard the same law as intended here, “though the people had received a law respecting it,” that is, the priesthood. This is parenthetically put in for two reasons, — to anticipate an objection on the ground of a divine appointment, and to introduce the subject for the purpose of shewing that it was an appointment intended to be changed.


Chapter 7:11­17. This passage may be thus rendered, —

11. “Now if indeed perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (though the people had received a law respecting it,) what need was there still that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not to be named after the order

12. of Aaron? The priesthood then being changed, there is of

13. necessity a change also of the law; for he of whom these things are said belongs to another tribe, from whom no one

14. attended at the altar. It is indeed evident that our Lord sprang from Judah, of which tribe Moses said nothing

15. respecting the priesthood. And this is still more manifest, since according to the likeness of Melchisedec rises another

16. priest; who is made, not according to the law of carnal

17. precept, but according to the power of perpetual life; for he testifies, ‘Thou art a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchisedec.’”

“The law of carnal precept” is the rule that refers to the present life, life in the flesh, which is frail and uncertain; and contrasted with it is “perpetual life, which belongs to Christ as a priest, according to the quotation which follows. The meaning is, that Christ was not made a priest according to that law which regulates things belonging to dying men, (see Heb 7:23,) but in accordance with what was suitable to one endued with permanent life or existence.

The argument of the whole passage seems to be as follows, — There is no perfection in the Levitical priesthood, for another priest has been appointed. This being the case, the law respecting the priesthood must necessarily be changed; and that it is changed is proved by two things, — by the fact that Christ did not spring from the tribe of Levi, and by the prophetic announcement that he was to be a priest according to the order of Melchisedec, and consequently a perpetual priest, and not like the sons of Aaron, who were priests in succession, being all subject to death.


Chapter 7:19. But the bringing in, etc. Theophylact, Luther, Capellus, and others have rendered this noun as in the same predicament with “disannulling” or abrogation in the former verse, —

18. “There is therefore an abrogation of the preceding commandment, on account of its weakness and uselessness, (for

19. the law perfected nothing,) and an introduction of a better hope, through which we draw nigh to God.”

This passage forms an inference or a conclusion from what has been said. The “commandment” abrogated was respecting the Levitical priesthood. Its “weakness” was, that it could not really atone for sin; and its uselessness, that it could not make men holy or confer life. The same thing is expressed in the words included in the parenthesis. But what has been said does not only prove that the Levitical priesthood is abolished, but also that there is brought in or introduced a better hope; which means that a better thing than the Levitical priesthood, which was an object of hope to the ancient saints, is introduced after that priesthood, and was expressly mentioned by David in the Psalms many years after the Levitical priesthood was established. This appears to be the genuine meaning of the passage.

Then the following verses come in very suitably, as the “introduction” is mentioned here, —

20. “And inasmuch as it was not without an oath, (for they

21. indeed were made priests without an oath, but he with an oath, made by him who said to him, ‘The Lord hath sworn and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever, according

22. to the order of Melchisedec,’) of a covenant so much the

23. better is Jesus the surety. They are also many who are made priests, because they are not suffered by death to continue; but he, because he abideth for ever, hath a priesthood that passeth not to another, (or more literally, hath an intransmissible priesthood.)”

What was not “without an oath” was “the introduction,” etc. There are here two additional things stated as proving the superiority of Christ’s priesthood: the oath proved that he was the surety of a better covenant; and his priesthood, unlike that of Aaron, which passed from one to another, was intransmissible or unsuccessive, as the word means, and not “unchangeable,” as in our version.


Chapter 7:27. Who needeth not daily, etc A difficulty has been raised as to this verse. It is said that Christ did not, like the priests, offer up a daily sacrifice, first for his own sins and then for the sins of the people, “for this he did once when he offered up himself.” It seems hence, it is said, that he offered a sacrifice for himself as well as for the people. In order to explain this, it has been proposed to take in the following verse; and it has been said that there is here an arrangement similar to what often occurs in the Prophets; that is, when two things are stated, the last is first referred to, and then the first. The two things here are the priest’s own sins and those of the people. The Apostle is supposed to speak first of what Christ did as to the sins of the people, and then that in the following verse he shews that Christ had no sins of his own, for he became or was made “a perfect priest,” and that “for ever,” being sinless not only when he actually offered the great sacrifice, but also sinless as our intercessor in heaven.

This is the explanation of Bishop Jebb, and is adopted by Bloomfield. That arrangements of this kind are found in the New Testament, and even in this Epistle is what cannot be doubted. But the last word, “perfected,” will not admit of the meaning given to it, “he is and was, and shall be everlastingly perfect and free from sin.” Were this its meaning, there would be a complete correspondence with the former part. Perfection is twice before applied to Christ in this Epistle, (Heb. 2:10, Heb. 5:9,) but not in the sense above stated. When Christ is said to be perfected or made perfect, the meaning is that he is completely fitted and qualified for his undertaking, or that he has fully completed his work of expiation. Here the meaning seems to be that he is for ever made perfect as a priest, having not only once for all made an adequate atonement for the sins of his people, but also continues a priest for ever.

As to the 27th verse, it may be thus rendered, —

27. “Who has no need daily to offer sacrifices, as the high priests, (first for their own sins, and then for those of the people:) for this he did once for all, when he offered up himself”

“This he did” refers only to the offering of a sacrifice, and “for their own sins,” etc., apply only to the high priests. Thus we avoid the difficulty alluded to.

From an idea that the high priest offered sacrifices only once a year, i.e., on the day of expiation, Macknight renders καθ ἡμέραν “from time to time,” etc. He considers it as equivalent to κατ ἐναυτὸν “from year to year,” in Heb 10:1, and refers to Ex 13:10, where “from year to year” is in Hebrew from “days to days,” and the same in the Sept., ἀφ᾿ ἡμερῶν εἰς ἡμέρας. Whether the high priest offered sacrifices daily, is what cannot be ascertained from Scripture, though Stuart refers to Le 6:19-22, and Num. 28:3, 4, where nothing satisfactory is found. He quotes indeed some words from Philo, who says that this was the case. Scott considered that what was done daily by the priests is here attributed to the high priest, they being his coadjutors. But Macknight’s explanation is the most satisfactory, especially as the comparison throughout is between Christ and the high priest.

The 28th verse may be thus rendered,—

“For the law made men high priests, who have infirmity; but the word of the oath, the Son, perfected for ever.”

“Perfected,” or completely qualified, that is, as a priest. The word, perfected, depends as to its specific meaning on the context. The subject here is the perpetuity of the priest. The high priests under the Law did not continue because of death, (Heb 7:23,) and this is the “infirmity” mentioned here, though in another place, (Heb 5:2,) it means sinfulness. Then the perfection of the Son is the perpetuity of his life, referred to in verses 16 and 24. The high priests died, and hence were not fitted for their work; but Christ lives, and therefore continues for ever fully qualified for his office. See Heb 7:26.


Chapter 8:1. This is the sum, etc Many think that the word κεφάλαιον does not mean here a sum in the sense of a summary, but a principal thing. So Chrysostom understood it. Macknight’s version is, “Now of the things spoken the chief is;” Stuart’s is substantially the same. But the idea seems to be somewhat different: the literal rendering is, “Now the head as to the things said is,” etc.; that is, the sum total, the whole amount.

Parkhurst quotes a passage from Menander which is very similar to the first part of this verse, Τὸ δὲ κεφάλιιον τῶν λόγων ῎Ανθρωπος εἶ— “But the sum of my discourse is, Thou art a man,” etc. The word means here the substance or the sum total. The word ראש, read, in Hebrew, has a like meaning, the total number of the people, Ex 30:12; Nu 4:2


Chapter 8:9. And I regarded them not, etc The Apostle here follows the Sept., though in some other parts of this quotation he follows more closely the Hebrew. Our version in Jer 31:32, is, “although I was a husband to them,” which is not countenanced by any of the earlier versions. The phrase is peculiar, not found anywhere else except in Jer 4:17; which is rendered by Kimchi, “I have abhorred them.”

The verb means to have, to possess, to rule, to exercise dominion, to marry; and Pocock and some others think, that it means to loathe, to disdain, to abhor, when followed as here by the preposition ב and it is said that its cognate in Arabic has this meaning. The Vulg. here is, “and I have ruled over them;” and the Syr., “and I have despised them.” The expression is softened by the Sept., “and I have disregarded (or cared not) for them.” The same is done as to the preceding clause, “because they continued not in my covenant,” which is in Hebrew, though not as rendered in our version, “because they broke my covenant.” So אשר rendered by the Syr. and the Targ. “Which my covenant” has been derived from the Vulg., and is a construction which the original will not bear.

Still the most probable and the easiest solution is, to suppose a typographical mistake in Jer 31:32, the word בעלתי: being used instead of בחלתי: there being only one letter different. The reasons for this supposition are these: — All the versions are different here from what they are in Jer 4:17, where the same phrase is supposed to occur, — and this latter verb is found in Zec 11:8, followed by: as here, and means to “abhor,” or according to some, to “reject.”

There is also another word, נעלתי which has been mentioned, and has but one letter different; and as it is used by Jeremiah himself in chapter Jer 14:19, and with ב, in the sense of abhorring or loathing, it may justly be deemed as the most probable word.

But Newcome suggests another thing, a typographical mistake in the Greek. There is another reading in some copies of the Sept., and that is, εμελησα, “I have cared for them;” and this would in substance agree with “I was a husband to them.” This conjecture is less probable; for it involves a mistake both in the Sept. and in this Epistle. But either of these suppositions would reconcile the passages; and it is singular that in both cases the change required is only in one letter!


Chapter 9:2 The first, etc. Doddridge, Macknight, and Stuart, connect “the first” with “tabernacle,” but improperly. The rendering ought to be no doubt as in our version, or as follows, “For a tabernacle was made; the first, in which were the candlestick, and the table, and the shew­bread, which is called holy.” We find in verse 3, that “the Holy of holies” is also called a tabernacle, which was as it were the second tabernacle, or the second part of it, see Heb 9:7. The word “holy,” followed by “of holies,” is an adjective agreeing in gender with tabernacle; and “of holies” seem to mean holy things; so that it might be rendered, “The holy tabernacle of holy things.” The accents are of no authority. The word “holy” in the plural with an article, as in verse 8 and 12, designates the Holy of holies; or it may refer to both places, the sanctuary and the Holy of holies, for the people were excluded from both; and no access, strictly speaking, applied to them only.


Chapter 9:9, 10. These two verses have greatly tried the ingenuity of critics, not as to the general meaning, but as to the construction. All agree as to the general import of the passage, and yet they find a difficulty in the syntax. This has arisen from not apprehending the style of the Apostle; he often arranges his sentences according to the practice of the ancient prophets. So he does here. In verse ninth he mentions two things, “gifts” or oblations and “sacrifices;” then he refers first to “sacrifices,” and afterwards to the “gifts.” Of the “sacrifices,” he says, that they could not perfect or justify “the worshipper,” for so λατρευόντα ought to be rendered here; but of “the gifts,” together with meats, etc., he says, that they were only imposed until the time of reformation. Here syntax is satisfied. The two verses may be thus rendered, —

9. “Which is a type for the present time, while gifts and sacrifices are offered, which (sacrifices) cannot perfect the

10. worshipper as to his conscience, being imposed (gifts) only, together with meats, and drinks, and divers washings, even ordinances of the flesh, until the time of reformation.”

Now, there is here a consistency in every part; δυνάμεναι is in the same gender with θυσίαι, and what is said is suitable to sacrifices, they being not able to atone for sin; and then ἐπικείμενα is of the same gender with δῶρά, and what is said of them is also suitable, that they were imposed or required only, together with meats, etc., which were rituals referring to the flesh or body, and not to the conscience or the soul, until the time of reforming or rectifying all things came.

Doddridge rightly states the efficacy of the Jewish sacrifices when he says, that they averted “temporal evils,” but did expiate offenses in the court above; they removed offenses against the government under which the Jews lived, and restored them to the privileges of eternal communion with the Church; and thus they were types and symbols of the efficacy of the true sacrifices by which we are restored to the favor of God, and to a spiritual communion with him.


Chapter 9:16, 17. Much has been written on the meaning of the word διαθήκη in this passage. It is rendered “covenant” throughout by Doddridge, Macknight, Scholefield, etc.; and Scott is disposed to take the same view. Macknight’s version is this, —

16. “For where a covenant is, there is a necessity that the

17. death of the appointed sacrifice be brought in; for a covenant is firm over dead sacrifices, since it never hath force whilst the appointed sacrifice liveth.”

The difficulty here is as to the word διαθέμενος, rendered above, “the appointed sacrifice,” — by Doddridge, “he by whom the covenant is confirmed,” — and by Scholefield, “the mediating sacrifice.” But the word is never found to have such meanings in the New Testament, in the Sept., or in the classics. It is therefore impossible to accede to such a view of the passage.

It is then said, on the other hand, that διαθήκη does not mean a testament or a will in the New Testament nor in the Sept. This is not true; for it clearly means a testament or a will in Ga 3:15, and in connection, too, with its common meaning, a covenant, see Ga 3:17. Besides it has commonly, if not always, this meaning in the classics.

These two verses are to be viewed as an illustration, and may be regarded as parenthetic; and were γὰρ rendered “in fact,” or indeed, this would appear more evident, “Where indeed a testament is,” etc. As an illustration, a reference to a testament is exceedingly suitable; for with regard to Christ, his death was really the ratification of the covenant; as by death a Will attains its validity, so by Christ’s death the covenant of which he is the Mediator. Death in both instances has a similar effect. And this, and no more than this, seems to have been the intention of the Apostle. The different meaning of the same word in the same passage is to be found out by words connected with it; in the present instance διαθέμενος is sufficient, independently of the 17th verse, which can be rightly applied to nothing but to a will or a testament.

Many agree with Calvin on these verses, such as Erasmus, Beza, Schleusner, Stuart, Bloomfield, etc.


Chapter 10:5 But a body hast thou prepared me The words in the Psalm are, “Mine ears hast thou opened,” Ps 40:6; or more literally, “Ears hast thou opened for me.” Calvin seems to have discarded the idea of an allusion to the boring of the ear in sign of servitude. The two verbs are certainly different. He evidently refers to Isa 50:5, “The Lord hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious;” which clearly applies to Christ. He therefore makes the meaning of the phrase to be, “Thou hast made me teachable and obedient.” This view has been adopted by Merrick, Bishop Horne, and Stuart. But how to make the words, “a body hast thou prepared for me,” to bear an analogous meaning, does not very clearly appear. Bishop Horne gives this version, “Thou hast prepared” or fitted “my body,” that is, to be obedient and to do thy will.

Mede conceived that the allusion is to the practice of boring the ear in token of servitude, mentioned in Ex 21:6; and that as that practice was unknown to the Greeks, the Seventy rendered the words in conformity with what they did as to their slaves; which was, to set a mark on the body; “Thou hast fitted (or adapted) a body for me;” that is, that I might be thy servant. That Christ assumed “the form of a servant,” is expressly declared in Php 2:7. There is in this case an agreement as to meaning; but the difficulty is: as to the verb כרה which does not mean to bore or to perforate, but to dig, to hollow out, and in a secondary sense, to form or to make a thing, such as a well, a pit, a grave, or a cave. As to “ears” instead of an “ear,” as in Ex 21:6, that might be accounted for by saying, that the object was to shew the entire willingness of Christ to become a servant.

These have been the two ways proposed to reconcile the passages as they now stand. There are no different readings in Hebrew, nor in the Sept., nor in this Epistle. Proposals have therefore been made as to a change in the texts on the supposition of typographical mistakes.

Some, as Grotius, Hammond, and Dr. Owen, have proposed ὠτία, ears, instead of σῶμα, body, in the Sept. When did this change take place? Before or after the Apostle’s time? If before, then the Apostle adopted a false reading; if after, then the same mistake must have been made in the Sept. and in this Epistle; which is not credible.

Others have supposed a mistake in the Hebrew text; and this conjecture has been approved by Kennicott, Doddridge, Bishop lowth, Adam Clarke, and Pye Smith. It is no objection to say that the Syr., Vulg., and the Targ., confirm the present reading; for the mistake might have been made long before any of these were in existence. Such a change might indeed have been made in the first ages of Christianity, and might have been made intentionally, through a wish to obscure the testimony of Scripture respecting Christ.

The words are supposed to have been אז גוה instead of אזנים, as the text now is. There would in this case be a literal agreement; the passage in the Psalm might then be thus rendered, —

6. “Sacrifice and offering thou hast not delighted in, Then a body hast thou formed for me; Burnt­offering and sin­offering thou hast not required,

7. Then I said, Behold, I am coming.” —

There is here a consistency throughout. “Behold, I am coming,” that is, in the body designed for him. And then the Apostle says, “When coming into the world, he saith,” etc., clearly referring to our Saviors incarnation. And this “body” is afterwards expressly mentioned in verse 10, in opposition to sacrifices. It is true that in his argument in verse 9, he dwells on the words, “I come;” but then his coming was in the body prepared for him.


Chapter 10:14 He hath perfected, etc The word simply means to complete, to finish, to perfect; and it depends on the context what that completion or perfection means. To perfect the sanctified or the expiated, or those atoned for, was completely to free them from the imputation of sin, to make them fully clear from guilt, or in other words, fully to take away their sins, which was never done by the sacrifices of the law, verse 11. This is the point here handled. Stuart gives the real meaning by the following free translation, — “By one offering, then, he hath fully accomplished for ever what was needed by those for whom expiation is (was) made.”

The perfecting “for ever” by one offering in this verse, proves that “for ever,” εἰς τὸ διηνεκὲς, in verse 12, is to be connected with the offering of one sacrifice, and not with the sitting on God’s right hand; the verse may be thus rendered, —

12. “But he, having offered one sacrifice for sins for perpetuity, (or, according to Beza and Stuart, ‘one perpetual sacrifice for sins,’) sat down on the right hand of God, henceforth waiting until his enemies be made his footstool.”

Some copies have αὐτὸς; — “he;” and some, οὗτος; — “this.” If the latter be adopted, it ought not to be rendered “this man,” but “this priest,” such being the word used before. As one sacrifice is opposed to many sacrifices, so a perpetual sacrifice, that is, a sacrifice perpetually efficacious, is opposed to those sacrifices which were often made.


Chapter 10:19 21. Of these verses the following rendering is offered, —

19. “Having then, brethren, liberty as to an entrance into the

20. holiest through the blood of Jesus, which he has consecrated for us, a way new and leading to life, through the

21. veil, that is, his flesh, — and having a great priest over the house of God, let us approach,” etc.

It is rather “liberty” or freedom than “boldness,” and so it is rendered by Beza, Doddridge, and Stuart. The Vulgate has “confidence.” The word for “consecrated” is literally “initiated:” Christ first opened the way, and opened it for his people. The “way” is in apposition with “entrance.” It was “new,” in contrast with the old under the Law, and living or “leading to life:” so ζῶσαν evidently means here. It has often a causative sense. The “living bread” in Joh 6:51, is said in Joh 6:33 to be the bread that “giveth life.” So here the living way may be said to be that which leads to life.

There is a division of opinion as to the “veil.” Calvin, Doddridge, Stuart, and others, take the veil as a figurative expression for the human nature of Christ; and they ground their opinion on the following texts, Joh 1:14; 1Ti 3:16; Php 2:6. Others give this explanation, “As the veil was removed for the entrance of the high priest, so Christ s body was removed by death, in order to open an entrance into heaven.” But the easiest and the most natural way is to consider it an allusion to what took place at our Saviors death, the rending asunder of the veil of the temple, (Mt 27:51,) which was a significant intimation and a striking symbol of what was done by Christ when he died on the cross. It was by his flesh or body being torn and rent, when suffering for us, that a way to the holiest was opened to us, and the same is ascribed to his blood in the former verse, so that one part corresponds with the other. The way was opened through the veil being rent, which symbolized his rent or torn flesh.


Chapter 10:22. With pure water It is evident that baptism is not here referred to, because the Apostle is instructing the Hebrews, who had been baptized, how they were daily to draw nigh to God.

The words “pure water” are not found elsewhere in the New Testament, nor in the Sept. but once, Eze 36:25, where our version is “purifying water,” and no doubt correctly, though the early versions have “pure water.” It was a command as to Aaron, “He shall wash (λούσεται) with water his whole body (πάν τὸ σῶμα;)” So the Sept., but the Hebrew is “his flesh,” (בשרו,) though the Samaritan text has “all,” (כל) before it, Le 16:4. See also Le 16:24. The terms here used are sacerdotal or Levitical. The “sprinkled” with blood were the priests at their consecration, and not those who brought their offerings. See Le 8:30. In no other case were any sprinkled with blood except the lepers, and the people when the covenant was made. Washing with water was also done by the priests at their consecration, (see Le 8:6,) and whenever they ministered. (Exod. 30:20, 21.)

The reason of this allusion especially to what was done as to the priests, seems to have been this, to shew that all who now draw nigh to God through Christ are priests, for they all serve God as it were in the sanctuary, and like the high priest, enter as it were into the holiest, not once a year, but daily and constantly, whenever they hold communion with God.

As sprinkling in the case of Christians is continually needed, so is washing, as the daily washing of the priests before they engaged in their duties. (Ex 40:32.) The sprinkling betokens forgiveness, and washing, sanctification or cleansing. See 1Pe 1:2; and 1Co 7:1; 1Th 5:23.

It may be added that as (ζῶσαν, living, seems to have been used in Heb 10:20 in a causative sense, so καθαρὸν in this passage; and it may be rendered, as in Eze 36:25, “purifying.” The priests after washing were said to be clean, and were deemed to have been thereby purified, which proves that washing was nothing more than a symbol. Pure or purifying water signifies the sanctifying effect of divine grace.


Chapter 10:26. Willfully, etc. It is rendered by the Vulg., “voluntarie — voluntarily;” by Beza,ultro — of one’s own accord;” by Doddridge and Macknight, as in our version, and by Stuart, “voluntarily.”

It occurs in one other place, (1Pe 5:2,) and is rendered “willingly;” it is found as an adjective in Phm 1:14, and is rendered willingly; and in both instances in opposition to “constraint.” So that Schleusner’s explanation seems right, “with no compelling force — nulla vi cogente.” It is used in the Sept. for a Hebrew word which means freely, with free will, spontaneously. We may therefore thus render the words, “For if we sin of our own free will, (that is, renounce the faith, which is clearly the sin intended,) after having received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more a sacrifice for sins.”

According to this verse the case of the persecuted is not here contemplated, for they are under constraint; but such are spoken of here as renounced the faith willingly, freely, by their own free choice; so that “willfully” is not what is meant, but spontaneously, without any outward constraining force or influence.

The fathers, such as Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Augustine, sadly blundered on this passage, because they did not understand the sin that is here intended, though it be evidently that of apostasy according to the drift of the whole context; and hence they said some strange things about sin after baptism, though baptism is neither mentioned nor alluded to in the whole passage. How many errors and absurdities have been introduced by the fathers into the world!


Chapter 10:30 The Lord shall judge The same meaning is given to “judge” here by Beza as by Calvin; but Doddridge, Grotius, and Macknight think it means to avenge, to vindicate, or defend. The argument is considered to be this, — “If God would avenge the injury done to his people, much more the injury or reproach done to his Son and the Holy Spirit.” Stuart and Bloomfield give the verb the sense of condemning or punishing; that is, his apostatizing people, — “The Lord will condemn (or punish) his people.”

The two quotations are connected in Deut. 32:35, 36. “Vengeance” refers to idolaters; and lest an advantage should have been taken of this, he added, as it seems, these words, “The Lord will judge his people;” that is, he will call his people to an account, so as to reward some, and to punish others. The apostates might have said, “Though we leave the Christian, and turn to the Jewish religion, we shall not be idolaters; therefore the vengeance you threaten will not belong to us. To prevent this kind of evasion, the Apostle adds, “The Lord will summon to judgment his own people, and give to each according to their works. The fact, that God is a judge, who will reward some and punish others, is what is meant; and this view accords with the passage in Deuteronomy, and also with the design of the Apostle here.

The two verbs also, the Hebrew ידין, and the Greek κρινεῖ, will admit of this meaning. The first, indeed, though not the second, often means to vindicate, to defend; but the context in De 32:36, requires its sense to be that of executing what is right and just to all. See Ge 30:6


Chapter 12:1. Which doth so easily beset us, etc. Calvin follows the Vulg., “which surrounds us, or stands around us. It is rendered by Chrysostom, “which easily surrounds us; by Beza, “which is ready to encompass us;” by Doddridge, “which in present circumstances hath the greatest advantage against us;” by Macknight, “easily committed.”

The word εὐπερίστατον means literally, “well­standing­around.” But εὐ in composition often means readily, easily, aptly. Then we may render it, “the readily surrounding sin,” that is, the sin which readily surrounds us, and thereby entangle us, so as to prevent as, like long garments, to run our course. The runners threw aside every weight or burden, and also their long garments. These two things seem to have been alluded to. Therefore the second clause is not explanatory of the preceding, as some consider it, but is wholly a distinct thing; there was the burden and the readily entangling sin. The burden was probably worldly cares, or as Theophylact says, “the baggage of earthly concerns;” and the easily encircling sin seems to have been the fear of persecution as Doddridge suggests; which, if allowed to prevail, would lead them to apostasy.

If the word be taken in an active sense, then what is meant is the deceptive power of sin, it being that which readily surrounds and allures us; but if it be taken passively, then what is specifically meant is, that the sin referred to is that which stands fairly and plausibly around us; for “well­standing­around” is what presents on every side a fair and plausible appearance. And apostasy might have been so represented; for the Jews could produce many plausible arguments. Scapula says that ἀπερίστατος is applied by the Greek rhetoricians to a question barely or briefly stated, unaccompanied with any circumstances; then, if instead of the negative, ευ, well, be prefixed to it, the meaning would be that it is something well stated and plausibly represented. The version in this case would be, “the sin that plausibly presents itself” If this meaning be received, then there seems to be a striking contrast in the passage; we are surrounded by a throng of witnesses, and also by sin with its plausible pretenses. It is usual with Paul to personify sin.


Chapter 12:2. Who for the joy, etc. Hardly any agree with Calvin in the view he takes of this clause. The preposition is, indeed, used in both senses; but the words, “set before him,” and the argument, evidently favor the other view. The subject handled is, that the prospect of future glory ought to sustain us under the evils of the present life; and Christ is referred to as an example; and the Apostle says, that he for the sake of the joy set before him endured the cross. The same word is here used and rendered, “set before him,” as in Heb 6:18

The first clause of the verse is rendered by Calvin, “the prince and perfecter of the faith;” by Beza, “the leader and consummator of the faith;” by Doddridge, “the leader and finisher of our faith;” by Macknight, “the captain and perfecter of the faith,” and by Stuart, “the author and perfecter of our faith.” The first word is rendered “author” by the Vulg., and “the beginner” by Erazmus. Following this meaning we may render thus, “the beginner and perfecter of the faith,” that is, of the Gospel, or of the religion we profess. Christ being the author or originator, and also the complete revealer of the faith, of what we profess to believe, may fitly be set forth as our example. This is the view of Stuart.

Doddridge takes faith as a principle, that is, subjective faith, faith in us; so Theophylact did, “He at first gives us faith, and afterwards brings it to perfection.” Scott mentions this view, and then adds, “From him as the great Prophet, the doctrine of faith had been delivered from the beginning, and perfected in the revelation made in the Gospel; and this none would ever be authorized to change, add to, or deduct from.”

But the reference here seems to be to what Christ did in his own person, as it appears from what follows; he endured the cross, which seems to refer to the first word, “leader;” and his sitting down at God’s right hand appears to be explanatory of his being the consummator of the faith. The Apostle’s subject is the race, that is, the race of faith, or in behalf of the faith we profess. Christ is the captain or leader in this race of faith; and though he had the cross to endure, he yet completed it, and is now at God’s right hand. This is the example that is presented to us. Schleusner explains τελειωτὴν as one who brings anything to an end, a finisher, a completer. Christ is the captain or leader in the contest of faith, and the completer of it, having brought it to a triumphant issue.


Chapter 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth, etc The quotation is from Prov. 3:11, 12, made from the Sept., consistently with the Hebrew, except in the last clause; which in Hebrew is, “As a father, the Son in whom he delights.” Some have unwisely attempted to amend one of the words in Hebrew, while there are three words which must be altered if we attach importance to verbal identity; and even the amended word can hardly answer the purpose, a sense being given to it, which it has nowhere else.

If we make כאב: a verb, it will not be suitable, for its meaning is to be sore, to be sad, to be sorrowful, and is ever used intransitively; and if like Schleusner, we make it a יכאיב, it will hardly bear the meaning here required; it is used in the sense of making sore, sad, or sorrowful. This, indeed, approaches to a verbal identity; but then there is “every” to be put in, and “delights in” is to be changed into “receiveth.” To be over­scrupulous about words, when the general meaning is the same, is neither wise nor reasonable, but wholly puerile; it is a disposition clearly discountenanced by the usage of Scripture, there being many passages in which the meaning is given but not the words. Even in this Epistle the same passage is quoted twice, but in different words. See Heb. 8:12, Heb. 10:17

The Vulg., the Syr., and the Targ., materially agree with the Hebrew text as it is. The Arab. alone favors the Sept. Macknight quotes Hallet as saying, that the Syr. and the Targ., as well as the Arab., coincide with the Sept.; which is quite a mistake. The Syr. is, “For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth, like a father who correcteth his own son;” and the Targ. is nearly the same, the word “father” being retained. And then what this author says as to the meaning of the verb כאב: is not true; there is no instance in which it is used in the sense of scourging. We must not pervert the meaning of words, or invent a new meaning, to gratify a fond desire for verbal agreement.

But there is in this quotation what deserves special notice. “Correction” was by the rod; so we find the rod and correction joined together in Pr 22:15. In Hebrew it is “the rod of correction (מוסר),” and in the Sept., “rod and correction (παιδεία.)” In Pr 23:13, correction and beating with the rod are represented as the same thing. Bearing this in mind, we shall understand the connection and meaning of this passage, —

11. The correction of the Lord, my Son, despise not, — And fret not at his chastisement;

12. For whom the Lord loveth he chastiseth, And corrects as a father the Son he graciously accepts.

The middle lines are evidently connected; chastisement is the subject of both, the noun and the verb are from the same root. Then the first and the fourth are also connected; the “Son” is mentioned in both; and the verb in the last line must be borrowed from the subject of the first line, and that is correction. We hence see the reason why μαστιγοῖ is introduced, it being nothing more than to supply what is left to be understood in Hebrew.


Chapter 12:11. Peaceable fruit of righteousness, etc This is a phrase which is commonly understood as to its general import, and yet it is difficult to explain it satisfactorily. Some take “of righteousness” as the exegetic genitive case, “the peaceable fruit,” that is, as Macknight explains it, “which is righteousness;” and he adds, “Righteousness is denominated peaceful, because it is productive of inward peace to the afflicted person himself, and of outward peace to them with whom he lives; also it is called the fruit of God’s chastisements, because afflictions have a natural tendency to produce virtues in the chastised, which are the occasion of joy far greater than the pain arising from the chastisement.” Ps. 119:67, 71, 75

Doddridge also seems to have understood the phrase in the same sense, for he says, that chastisement “produces and improves those virtues which afford joy and peace to the mind.” To the same effect are the remarks of Scott, and Calvin’s view seems to be similar.

The phrase admits of another meaning: “The fruit of righteousness,” according to the more frequent usage of Scripture, means the fruit which belongs to righteousness, or in the words of Stuart, “such as righteousness produces,” or in the words of an author quoted by Poole, “which proceeds from righteousness.” Righteousness seems to mean here what is just and right, or what ought to be done according to the will of God, as when our Savior says, “For thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness,” Mt 3:15. What may be deemed as especially referred to here, is submission or subjection to the divine will mentioned in Heb 12:9. This subjection was righteousness; it was right according to the statement in Heb 12:7. It was said before that the object of correction is to make us partakers of God’s holiness; now he mentions righteousness; they are connected. We must be made holy, we must be cleansed from pride, worldliness, and self­will, in order that we may do what is right and just, that is, submit to God’s will when he chastises us; and when this submission or righteousness takes place, then correction produces a peaceable or a blessed fruit, that is, such an effect, or such a blessing, as peace or happiness. Peace and happiness are both signified by the word; but “blessed” or happy is more suitably applied to “fruit” than “peaceable” or peaceful.

Then the meaning may be thus conveyed, “but it afterwards yields to those who are exercised (or trained, that is, unto holiness) by it, a blessed fruit, such as righteousness (that is, subjection to our Father’s will) brings forth.”


Chapter 12:13. And make straight paths, etc. If this be a quotation, and not an appropriation of certain words, it is taken from Pr 4:26, where the Hebrew is, “Make direct the path of thy feet;” and the Sept., “Make straight the paths for thy feet,” the very words of this passage. That the verb in Hebrew means to “make direct,” and not to “ponder,” as in our version, is evident from a similar phrase in Ps 78:50, “He made (or made direct) a way to his anger.” The verb is the same as in Proverbs. The noun means a balance, or rather the beam of a balance, (see Pr 16:11,) which is straight, and is used to equalize what is weighed. The verb may therefore include the idea of making straight or of making even. The verse that follows in Pr 4:26, favors this idea of a straight path, “Turn not to the right hand nor to the left,” which implies that it is a straight course that is to be taken. See Pr 4:25

“Make direct the path of thy feet,” or “Make straight the paths for thy feet,” evidently means, “Let the path or paths along which you go, be direct or straight.” The ways of error and sin are called crooked paths: see Pr 2:15; Isa 59:8. So the way of truth and holiness is compared to a straight line, from which we are not to deviate either to the right hand or to the left.

It is remarkable what the Apostle says in Ga 2:14, of Peter and those who dissembled with him, that they “did not walk uprightly (or literally, did not foot straightly, οὐκ ὀρθοποδοῦσι) according to the truth of the Gospel;” they deviated from the straight line prescribed by the Gospel. The idea, therefore, of removing impediments, of making their paths plain or smooth, as Macknight and others render it, seems not to be here intended; nor does it comport with what follows, “that the lame,” or the feeble, “may not turn aside, but rather be healed,” that is, of his lameness, or his weakness. For were those reputed strong in the faith not to walk straightly, but to turn into the crooked ways of dissimulation, like Peter and others at Antioch, the lame, the weak in faith, would be tempted to do the same, instead of having their lameness healed, or their weakness strengthened by the example of others walking in a straight course.

The idea of dislocation given to ἐκτραπὣ by Schleusner, Macknight, and others, is one invented for the purpose of suiting what they conceived to be the meaning of this passage, which is by no means necessary, and is indeed inappropriate to the context when rightly understood. “That which is lame,” τὸ χωλὸν, is a neuter instead of a masculine, an idiom we often meet with in the New Testament.


Chapter 12:15 Lest any root, etc This quotation, made from De 29:18, seems to be an adoption of some words, and nothing more; for it is neither literally the Hebrew nor the Sept. “Root” refers not to a principle in Deuteronomy, but to an individual, to a person given to idolatry. A person also seems to be intended here. The clause in Hebrew is, “Lest there be among you a fruit­bearing root, hemlock or wormwood;” and in the Sept., “Lest there be among you a root springing up in gall and bitterness.” As the idea only of a growing bitter or poisonous root is borrowed, it is not necessary to suppose that the application here is the same as in Deuteronomy. What is there applied to an idolater, is here applied to a person disturbing the peace of the Church.

Some understand this passage as referring to defection or apostasy; and therefore render the first clause, “Lest any one recede (or depart) from the grace of God,” that is, the Gospel, or Christian faith. But the words can hardly admit of this meaning. Hence most give this version, “Lest any one fall short of the grace of God.” But what is this “grace of God?” Various answers have been given, — God’s favor to those who cultivate holiness; God’s mercy offered in the Gospel; the promised rest; eternal life. But taking this verse, as we certainly ought, in connection with the preceding, we may justly say, that it is God’s sanctifying grace, or “the holiness “mentioned before; and then, according to the inverted order which we often find in Scripture, the next clause refers to “peace,” “lest any root of bitterness, growing up, should disturb you, and many by it (or by this) be polluted (or infected.)”

Then follow examples of these two evils in the same order: the first, “the fornicator,” is the violator of “holiness,” or is deficient as to this grace of God; and the second, “the profane,” is a disturber of the peace of the Church, as Esau was, of the peace of his own family, being “a root of bitterness.”

But observe, “peace” was to be with “all men;” yet the example as to the disturber of it refers to the peace of the Church; so with respect to “holiness,” what is universal is inculcated; but the example as to the violator of it is particular. For want of seeing this, no doubt some of the fathers regarded “holiness” in the former verse us meaning chastity.

Esau became “a root of bitterness” by being profane; and to be profane in this instance was to despise holy things, to regard them of no value, so as to prefer to them the gratification of the flesh. This was Esau’s profaneness, which led eventually to a dreadful discord in his family; and to shew the evil which follows such profaneness, the Apostle points out the loss he sustained as a warning to others.


Chapter 12:18­24. In this comparison between the Law and the Gospel, it would no doubt be more consonant to what is said in Exodus and also to the comparison here made, to regard μὴ as a part of the text, though omitted in all the copies already examined. Very seldom indeed is there any sufficient ground for a conjecture of this kind; nor can it be said that there is here an indispensable necessity for it, only that the comparison would be more complete, — “Ye are not come to a mount not to be touched under the peril of destruction; but to a mount to which you have a free access.” So terrible was the delivery of the Law, that to touch the mountain was instant death; to approach Sion is what we are graciously invited to do, it being the city of God, who giveth life.” The participle ζῶν seems to have this meaning here, as there appears no other reason why the word is here applied to God.

In describing the superiority of the Gospel to the Law, the Apostle borrows expressions from the former dispensation; and though Mount Sion and Jerusalem seemed to belong to the Law, yet they are taken here in contrast with Sinai, where the Law was proclaimed. Sion is, indeed, an evangelical term, and the whole ceremonial Law, though added to the Law proclaimed on Mount Sinai, was yet the Gospel typically, and existed in part before the Law was given.

The contrast here is very striking: terror and death were to the Israelites at Sinai; but a free approach and life are to those who come to Sion: there were on Sinai angels, surrounded with fire, darkness, and tempest; but myriads of them, an innumerable host, are now ministering spirits to the inhabitants of Sion: the whole assembly at the foot of Sinai were only the children of Israel; but the assembly in Sion is the general assembly and Church of the firstborn, the saints of God gathered from all nations: God appeared on Sinai as the judge, ruler, and governor of one people; but the God of Sion is the judge and governor of all who come there from all the various nations of the earth: to those at Sinai the state of departed saints was imperfectly known; but to those who are come to Sion their condition is well known, they being a part of that body — the Church — of which Christ is the head: the mediator at Sinai was Moses, a faithful servant, and no more; but the Mediator of the New Covenant, which belongs to Sion, is Jesus, by virtue of whose blood all sins are forgiven, and all pollutions removed — a blood which pleads for mercy and not for vengeance as the blood of Abel. All the parts of the first contrast are not mentioned, but they may easily be gathered from the second.

That the Church on earth is here meant by Sion, seems very clear. The Church is often called the kingdom of heaven, and its subjects are called the citizens of heaven. That angels and saints departed are mentioned as those to whom we are come, is no objection, because everything that belongs to Sion is seen only by faith. Our connection with distant believers, living on the earth, is maintained only by faith, exactly in the same manner as our connection with angels or departed spirits. Whether the angels mentioned here are ministering spirits, or the hosts above who serve God in heaven, it makes no difference, as they are fellow­servants and fellow­citizens as it were with all the family on earth. See Col. 1:16, 17. It is the same company, though one is now on earth and the other in heaven; they will finally be more closely united.

To the notion that some, as Macknight and others, have entertained, that Sion here means the Church in its glorified state after the resurrection, there are insuperable objections: the contrast in that case would not be suitable; for the object of the Apostle is evidently to set forth the excellency of the Gospel dispensation in comparison with that of the Law; no satisfactory difference on such a supposition could be made between the Church of the firstborn and the spirits of just men made perfect; the expression, “the enrolled in heaven,” is more suitably applied to those on earth than to those in glory; and there would be no propriety in that case in mentioning Christ as the Mediator, or that his blood speaks a language different from that of Abel.


Chapter 12:27 As of things that are made, etc The meaning of ὡς πεποιημένων, as given by Doddridge, Scott, and Stuart, is, that they were things created, and therefore perishable, appointed only for a time. Macknight considered the expression elliptical for things “made with hands;” which denotes what is of an imperfect nature. But the explanation of Schleusner is the most natural and most suitable to the passage. He says that ποιέω means sometimes to accomplish, to finish, to bring to an end. (Rom. 4:21, Rom. 9:28; Eph 3:11; 1Th 5:24.) Then the rendering would be, “as of things to be completed,” or brought to an end. They were things to be shaken or changed, as things to be finished or terminated. The corresponding verb in Hebrew, עשה, has evidently this meaning, “all his works which he had made,” (עשה,) or completed, or finished. (Ge 2:2; see Isa 41:4.)


Chapter 12:28. let us have grace, etc So Beza, Grotius, Doddridge, and Scott. The Vulg. and Calvin are no doubt wrong. The authority as to MSS. is altogether in favor of the verb being in the imperative mood. Macknight gives this singular rendering, “Let us hold fast a gift whereby we can worship God,” etc. He explains the “gift” as denoting the dispensation of religion. No less unsuitable is the version of Stuart, though countenanced by some of the fathers, “Let us manifest gratitude (by which we may serve God acceptably) with reverence and godly fear.” When “χάρις” means gratitude, it is ever followed by a dative case, which is not the case here. To have faith, ἔχειν πίστιν is to possess it, (Mt 17:20;) to have eternal life is to possess it, (Mt 19:16;) to have hope is to enjoy or possess it, (Ro 15:4;) and so to have grace is to possess it. And this alone comports with what follows; it is the possession of that by which we may “serve God acceptably.” By “grace” we are to understand the gracious help and assistance which God promises to all who seek it.

To receive a kingdom is to obtain a right or a title to it; and having the promise of this kingdom we ought to seek, attain, and possess that grace, that divine help, by which we may in the meantime serve God acceptably. This is the obvious meaning of the passage.


Chapter 12:28. With reverence and godly fear The first word, αἰδως, means “modesty,” as rendered in 1Ti 2:9, and it is not found elsewhere in the New Testament. It has in the classics the meaning of respect and reverence. The second word, εὐλαθεία, properly means caution, circumspection, awfulness, and hence dread and fear. It is found only here, and Heb 5:7. It occurs as a passive participle twice, in Ac 23:10, and in Heb 11:7, and means to be influenced or moved with fear. Neither “godly” nor “religious” ought to be added to it.

It may seem difficult to reconcile this “fear” or dread with that love, and confidence, and delight with which God is to be served according to the evident testimony of Scripture, especially of the New Testament. But were we to take the first word as meaning “modesty,” (or humility,) as rendered by Beza, we might regard the words as describing what we ought to feel in considering what we are in ourselves, and what the danger is to which we are exposed. The meaning then would be, that we are to serve God under a deep consciousness of our own weakness, and under a fear or dread of the danger of apostasy, though that dread may arise in part from an apprehension of what God will be to apostates, according to what is said in the following verse. Without these two feelings it is indeed impossible for us in our present state to serve God acceptably; for without humility arising from a sense of unworthiness and weakness, we shall not be capable of appreciating his mercy; and without the dread of sin, and especially of apostasy, we shall never depend as we ought on God’s power to preserve us.

These feelings do not in the least degree interfere with the exercise of love, gratitude, or confidence, but on the contrary strengthen them. The weak shall be supported, but he must feel his weakness; and those who dread sin (not God) shall be kept and preserved; but they must feel this dread. And the more our weakness is felt, the stronger we shall be, as Paul says, “When I am weak, then am I strong;” and the more we fear and dread sin, the safer we shall be. But, like Peter, we shall stumble and fall if we become self­confident and exempt from the dread of sin.

No other meaning but that of fear or dread belongs to εὐλαθεία, wherever found, either as a noun or a participle. It is the fear of evil and not the fear of God. See the Sept., in Jos 22:24; and 1 Macc. 3:30; 12:42. There is no place found where it denotes the fear of God.


Chapter 13:5 let your conversation, etc. It is rendered by Macknight “behavior;” and by Stuart “conduct.” But τρόπος; means not only way, manner, conduct, but also a turn as it were of the mind, disposition, ingenium, as given by Schleusner. Parkhurst quotes a passage from Demosthenes, in which it evidently bears this sense. This version may then be given, “Let there be no moneyloving disposition;” or, “Let your disposition be free from the love of money.” The Syr. is, “Let not your heart love money.” The Vulg. gives a loose version, “Let the conduct be without avarice.” Beza’s is nearly the same. “Be content,” or “be satisfied, with what you have;” that is, deem what you have sufficient or enough.


Chapter 13:5 I will never leave thee, etc There are three places where these words with some variety are found, De 31:6; Jos 1:5; 1Ch 28:20. In the first, they are the words of Moses to the people of Israel; in the second, the words of God to Joshua; and in the third the words of David to Solomon. The Hebrew in the three places is exactly the same, excepting the change of person; but in none is the version of the Sept. the same. The words, as here given, is literally the Hebrew in Jos 1:5, where the Greek version is wholly different; only the Apostle introduces the treble negatives as found in that version in De 31:6, but not given in that version in either of the two other instances. Then the quotation is from Jos 1:5, except that the Apostle follows the Sept. in De 31:6, as to the three negatives.

The Hebrew could not be rendered as to the verbs more correctly than what is done by the Apostle, which are the same in the Sept., except in Jos 1:5. The first verb means to relax, and in a transitive sense, to let go, to dismiss, to give up, to surrender; and the second verb means to leave, to forsake, to desert. The verbs in Greek bear a similar meaning. To give a distinct sense to each, we may render the clause thus, —

“I will not dismiss thee,
Nor will I by any means desert thee.”

That is, I will not give thee up so as to separate myself from thee; nor will desert thee, no, by no means, when thou art in difficulties and trials.

The three negatives with the last verb are remarkable. There is in Hebrew what somewhat corresponds with them. The ו when preceded by a negative may often be rendered and not, nor, neither. Then the version would be this, “I will not dismiss thee, nor will I, no, forsake thee.” It is indeed a promise, that God will continue to be our God, so as not to give us up, and that he will by no means forsake us in time of need.

The quotation in the next verse is from Ps 118:6, and is literally the Sept. The Hebrew is somewhat different, “The Lord is mine, and I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Then the next verse shews that the Lord who was his was also a help to him, “The Lord, mine, is my help, (literally, for my help;) and I shall look on my haters;” a phrase which signifies that he should gain the victory over them. The word “help” is borrowed by the Sept. from the seventh verse; and as it was evidently the Apostle’s design to confirm the last clause of the previous citation, “I will not forsake thee,” he deemed it sufficient to quote the words of the Sept.


Chapter 13:7 Rule over you, etc. The word ἡγουμένοι means properly leaders, conductors, guides, such as lead the way, and according to its secondary meaning, presidents, chiefs, governors, rulers. It is rendered “prefects — praefectorum,” by the Vulg.; “leaders — ductorum,” by Beza and Stuart; and “rulers” by Macknight; Doddridge paraphrases it, “Who have presided over you.” The version most suitable to the context is “your leaders;” for they are spoken of as persons to be followed; they were such as took the lead in religion and were examples to others. But in verse 17 the idea of a ruler is most suitable, for they were to be obeyed. The specific meaning of a word which has various senses is ever to be ascertained from the context. The leaders here referred to were those who had finished their course; for they were to remember them, and not to observe their conduct then as though they were living; and contemplating the end or conclusion of their life, they were to follow their faith.

The word ἔχθασις; means an outlet, a way of escape, also the end, conclusion, or termination of a thing, or the issue; and ἀναστροφὴ signifies manner of life, intercourse, behavior, conduct, the way in which one lives. There is no English word that can suitably express it. It may be rendered here “life,” — “and contemplating the end of their life, follow their faith;” that is, what they believed. They ended their life in peace, and were enabled to triumph over all evils by means of the faith which they professed and possessed.


Chapter 13:8 Jesus Christ the same, etc The connection of this verse is differently viewed, and also its meaning. Some connect it with the preceding verse thus, — “Jesus Christ is even the same in power, grace, and faithfulness; he supported your leaders and guides, who have completed their trials victoriously; he being still the same will support you.” Such is the view taken by Grotius, Doddridge, Macknight, Scott, and Stuart. Others, as Scholefield, Bloomfield, and some German divines, connect the verse with what follows in this sense, — “Jesus Christ is the same, therefore be ye the same, and be not carried about by divers and strange doctrines.”

But there is no need of this exclusive connection, as the verse appears connected with the preceding and the following verse. Those who adopt the first view seem to be wrong as to the main subject of the passage. What the Apostle exhorted the Hebrews to do was to follow the faith of their leaders who were gone to rest, and the contemplation of their happy and victorious end was introduced for the purpose of encouragement in following their faith. And that this is the particular and the chief point handled here is evident from the ninth verse, where this doctrine is as it were applied, “Be ye not carried about,” etc. Then the meaning of the whole passage may be given thus, — “Follow the faith of your departed guides; there is no change in it, Christ is ever the same in his mind, will, and purpose as to the faith: suffer not, therefore, yourselves to be led astray by various and strange doctrines, different from the faith of those who taught you and have attained a happy end.” Thus the passage appears consistent throughout and suitably connected, —

7. Remember your leaders, who have spoken to you the word of God, and contemplating the end of their life, follow their

8. faith: Jesus Christ, yesterday and today, is the same, and

9. will be for ever: Be not carried about by various and strange (new) doctrines; for it is good that the heart should be made firm by grace, not by meats, by which they have not profited who have been so occupied.

If the auxiliary verb be put in at all in the eighth verse, it ought to be put in twice. But the words may be rendered as a nominative case absolute, “Jesus Christ being the same yesterday, and today, and for ever;” as though he had said, “I exhort you to follow their faith, inasmuch as Jesus Christ, our teacher, mediator, and Savior never changes, but is ever the same.”

The MSS. are more in favor μὴ παραφέρεσθε, “Be ye not carried away,” than of μὴ περιφέρεσθε, “Be ye not carried about;” but as the latter verb is used on the same subject in Eph 4:14, it is better to adopt it here: the difference indeed is very trifling.

The passage, as thus explained, bears strongly against every innovation in the faith, in the doctrine of the Gospel, Christ its teacher being ever the same. There are to be no strange or new doctrines; for such is the meaning of strange here, that is, what is alien to the Gospel, and therefore new. And what are all the additions which have been made by the fathers, and especially by the Church of Rome, but various doctrines, foreign to the Gospel, which ever continues the same? Their variety is as great as their novelty. Christ was, is, and will ever be the same as teacher, mediator, and Savior; hence the faith, once delivered to the saints, must continue unchangeably the same.


Chapter 13:9. For it is a good thing, etc There seems to be some obscurity in the latter part of this verse, and in the following verses. There appears, however, to be an intimation of what the Apostle means in the term “strange” or new, as applied to the doctrines here referred to. There was probably an attempt made to unite some parts of the ceremonial law, especially the feasts, with the Gospel. The distinction of meats was not new, but this kind of mixture might have been so termed, that is, a participation in those sacrifices, part of which was allowed to be eaten by those who presented them, Le 7:11-21. This was probably one of the strange or new doctrines. Such a compliance must have been made for the sake of avoiding reproach and persecution.

The Apostle says in verse 10, that those who did eat of the sacrifices could not be partakers of what Christians feed on. Then in verse 11, he mentions the sacrifice made annually by the high priest, no part of which was eaten, but the whole was burnt without the camp, (referring to the state of things when the tabernacle was erected in the wilderness,) intimating that the chief sacrifice was not partaken of either by the priests or by the people. Taking this fact as an intimation, and a symbol of what was to be, he says that Christ had offered the great and the real sacrifice without the gate, (alluding now to the temple at Jerusalem,) where we are to follow him, bearing the reproach to which he was subjected; and we are not to return as it were to the tabernacle, and to partake of such sacrifices as were there eaten.

As an inducement to bear reproach, he reminds them that life is but short, and that Christians expect their home in another country; and at last he states what sacrifices they were still to offer to God, not the sacrifices of peace­offerings, but those of praise and thanksgiving, and also of good works.

The “meats” according to this view, mentioned in verse 9, must have been the meats eaten when free­will­offerings were presented. Admitting that the great sacrifice for sin had been offered by Christ, some might have still supposed and taught that such offerings as these were still allowed; and to eat of such offerings might have been thought a very profitable thing, calculated to produce a great benefit. In opposition to such a sentiment, the Apostle may be supposed to have said, that it was good that the heart should be strengthened by grace, not by meats, which did not prove profitable to those who usually partook of them.

The “altar” is to be taken for the sacrifices offered on it. He declares that it was not possible to partake of the Christian’s food, and of the offerings made on the altar. The literal rendering of the 11th and 12th verses is as follows, —

11. “Moreover, of the animals whose blood for sin is brought into the holiest by the high priest, the bodies of these are

12. burnt without the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that he might make expiation for the people by his own blood, suffered without the gate.”

The purpose for which these words seem to have been added, was to shew that no eating, no meats, were connected with the sacrifice for sin; and by saying in the following verse that we are to follow Christ without the camp, bearing his reproach, the Apostle intimates that this reproach ought not to be avoided by joining those in the tabernacle, engaged in offering peace­offerings on which they feasted.

The import of the whole passage, 9-16, may be thus stated: — “Be not led away by various kinds of doctrines, and such as are new; grace, and not eating of offerings, strengthens the heart to enable it to maintain the faith and to endure trials; and this grace, the meat that belongs to our altar, cannot be partaken of by those who are still wedded to the altar of the earthly tabernacle. And as to the annual sacrifice for sin, it is not eaten, but all burnt, not in the tabernacle, but without the camp, — an intimation of what Christ did when he suffered without the gate. Thither we must follow him, and not return again to the tabernacle in order to avoid reproach; and this reproach will not be long, for we are hastening to another world; and instead of presenting free­will offerings and eating of them, what we are to offer now are the sacrifices of praise, of thanksgiving, and of good works.”


Chapter 13:17 That they may do it with joy, etc. There is a difference of opinion as to this sentence. Some, as Theophylact, Grotius, and Doddridge refer “it,” or “this,” to watching; others, as Macknight, Scott, and Stuart, apply “it” to the account that is to be given by ministers. The first view, which Calvin evidently takes, is alone consistent with the rest of the passage. The concluding words of the verse are wholly inappropriate, if the account at the day of judgment be considered as intended, but in every way suitable when we regard watching as referred to. To say that an unfavorable account at the last day would be “unprofitable” to the people, would be to use an expression in no way congruous; but to represent the watching of ministers, when rendered “grievous” by the perverseness and refractory conduct of the people, as unprofitable to the people themselves, is altogether appropriate; and it is a very important consideration, and affords a strong argument in favor of obedience. The people by insubordination, not only grieve those who watch over them, but also injure themselves, prevent their own improvement, and render the watching care of their ministers useless. Reference is made by Macknight to 1Th 2:19; but “joy” only is mentioned there; and Doddridge justly observes, “It is not possible for any perverseness of the people to prevent a faithful minister from giving up his account with joy; nor can any groans be mingled with the triumphant songs which God will put into the mouths of all his people.” No doubt the “grief” here mentioned shews clearly the meaning of the passage.


Chapter 13:20 Through the blood of the covenant, etc The Vulg., our version, Calvin, and Scott, connect the words with “bringing again from the dead;” only the Vulg. and Calvin render the preposition in, and our version and Scott, through. The idea conveyed by in is explained by Calvin, and the same is given by Theodoret, and what is meant by through is thus explained by Scott, — “In order to shew that his ransom was accepted, and that he might perform his gracious work as the great Shepherd of the sheep, God the Father had raised him from the dead ‘through the blood of the everlasting covenant.’”

Others, as Beza, Doddridge and Stuart, connect the words with “the great Shepherd,” that is, that Christ became the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of an everlasting covenant; and Ac 20:28, and Joh 10:11-19, have been referred to as favorable to this view. Stuart’s version is the following, —

20. “Now may the God of peace, that raised from the dead our Lord Jesus, (who by the blood of an everlasting covenant

21. has become the great Shepherd of the sheep,) prepare you for every good work, that ye may do his will; working in you that which is well­pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever.”

But a more literal rendering may be given thus, —

20. “Now the God of peace, who has restored from the dead the Shepherd of the sheep (the chief through the blood of

21. the everlasting covenant) our Lord Jesus, — may he fit you for every good work to do his will, forming in you what is well­pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever.”

The word μέγας great, means sometimes “chief,” summus, as given by Schleusner; and it has this meaning in Heb 4:14. In Joh 10:11, etc., our Savior refers to his death, the shedding of his blood, as an evidence that he was the good Shepherd. It may then be rightly said, that he became the chief by or through the blood of the everlasting covenant, that is, through the blood that sealed and rendered effectual a covenant that is permanent, and not temporary like that of Moses.

His prayer was that God would fit, adapt, or prepare them for every good work; and this he afterwards explains, “forming,” producing, or creating “in you,” etc.; for the verb, ποιέω, to make, is often used in this sense. He means an internal influence or operation, as expressed more fully in Php 2:13, “For it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do (literally, to work) of his good pleasure.” And this forming or creating in them what was pleasing in his sight was to be done through Jesus Christ, through him as a Mediator, he having become the chief Shepherd of the sheep by shedding his blood for them.


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