|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
2:14-18 The angels fell, and remained without hope or help. Christ never designed to be the Saviour of the fallen angels, therefore he did not take their nature; and the nature of angels could not be an atoning sacrifice for the sin of man. Here is a price paid, enough for all, and suitable to all, for it was in our nature. Here the wonderful love of God appeared, that, when Christ knew what he must suffer in our nature, and how he must die in it, yet he readily took it upon him. And this atonement made way for his people's deliverance from Satan's bondage, and for the pardon of their sins through faith. Let those who dread death, and strive to get the better of their terrors, no longer attempt to outbrave or to stifle them, no longer grow careless or wicked through despair. Let them not expect help from the world, or human devices; but let them seek pardon, peace, grace, and a lively hope of heaven, by faith in Him who died and rose again, that thus they may rise above the fear of death. The remembrance of his own sorrows and temptations, makes Christ mindful of the trials of his people, and ready to help them. He is ready and willing to succour those who are tempted, and seek him. He became man, and was tempted, that he might be every way qualified to succour his people, seeing that he had passed through the same temptations himself, but continued perfectly free from sin. Then let not the afflicted and tempted despond, or give place to Satan, as if temptations made it wrong for them to come to the Lord in prayer. Not soul ever perished under temptation, that cried unto the Lord from real alarm at its danger, with faith and expectation of relief. This is our duty upon our first being surprised by temptations, and would stop their progress, which is our wisdom.
Verses 16, 17. - For verily, etc. The A.V. (following the ancient interpreters) takes this verse as referring to the Incarnation. But
(1) ἐπιλαμβάνεσθαι σπέρματος and, still more, ἐπιλαμβάνεσθαι ἀγγέλων, seems an awkward way of expressing "to assume the nature of." The usual sense of the verb, followed by a genitive, is "to take hold of," as ἐπιλαμβάνεσθαι χειρός (Acts 23:19; Mark 8:23); and especially in the sense of "succouring" (cf. Matthew 14:31; Hebrews 8:9; Isaiah 31:32, Ἐν ἡμέρα ἐπιλᾶμβομένου μου τῆς χειρὸς αὐτῶν; and Ecclus. 4:11, Ἡ σοφία ἐπιλαμβάνεται τῶν ζητούντων αὐτήν.
(2) The present tense of the verb is inappropriate to the past act of the Incarnation, which has, moreover, been sufficiently declared in ver. 14.
(3) The sequence of though+, in the following verse is not easily intelligible if the Incarnation be the subject of this:" Whence it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren;" - this does not follow from his having become incarnate; we should rather say that his incarnation was the means of his being made like them. Translate, therefore, observing the position of the substantives before the verbs, For not, I ween, angels cloth he lay hold of (to succor them), but the seed of Abraham he doth lay hold of. The allusion is to its being the human "children of promise," and not angels, that are denoted in prophecy as being, and acknowledged to be, the object of the Messianic redemption. The expression, "the seed of Abraham," is, of course, not intended to exclude the Gentiles: it is appropriately used in reference to the Messianic promises of the Old Testament (cf. Genesis 23:18; Isaiah 41:8): and the extension of its meaning to "all them that believe" would be as familiar to the first readers of the Epistle as to us (cf. Matthew 3:9; John 8:39; Romans 4:11, 16). The conclusion of ver. 17 (which repeats virtually what has been alleged before, after reason given) now naturally follows: Whence it behooved him in all things to be assimilated to his brethren; i.e. to the race which was the object of his redemptive succor. But, further, why the need of this entire assimilation, to the extent of participation in suffering unto death? That he might become a merciful (or, compassionate) high priest, in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. It was that he might be fully constituted as the High Priest of humanity. Here, according to the manner of the Epistle, the view of priesthood, to be afterwards set forth at length, is briefly hinted. It is taken up in Hebrews 5, after the conclusion that Christ is man's High Priest has been reached by another line of argument (see preceding summary). In Hebrews 5. one of the essentials of a true high priest (whose office is to mediate for man in things pertaining to God) is set forth as being that he should be of the same race and nature with those for whom he mediates, and able in all respects to sympathize with them: and this view is here foreshadowed.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
For verily he took not on him the nature of angels,.... Good angels; for they are all along spoken of in this book; and it would have been impertinent to have said this of evil angels: and this is to be understood not of a denying help and assistance to the angels; for though they have not redemption from Christ, which they needed not, yet have they help from him; they are chosen in him, and are gathered together under him; and he is the head of them, and they are upheld and sustained by him in their being, and well being: but of a non-assumption of their nature; there was no need of it with respect to good angels, and there was no salvation designed for evil ones; and to have assumed the nature of angels, would have been of no service to fallen man; an angelic nature is not capable of death, which was necessary to atone for sin, save men, and destroy Satan: this negative proposition is very strongly put, "he never took", as the Vulgate Latin version more rightly renders it; at no time, in no place; nor is it said in any place of Scripture that he did; this is a certain truth, and not to be disputed. The Syriac and Arabic versions render it, "he took not of, or from angels"; he took not any individual from among them:
but he took on him the seed of Abraham; not all his posterity, but some individual, as the word seed is sometimes used, Genesis 4:25. Christ assumed human nature as derived from Abraham; for the Messiah was to spring from Abraham, and is promised, as that seed of his, in whom all nations should be blessed; and he was particularly promised to the Jews, the seed of Abraham, to whom the apostle was writing; and it was with a view to Abraham's spiritual seed, the children of the promise, that Christ partook of flesh and blood: the word here used signifies to catch hold of anyone ready to perish, or to lay hold on a person running away, and with great vehemence and affection to hold anything fast, that it be not lost, and to help persons, and do good unto them; all which may be observed in this act of Christ's, in assuming an individual of human nature, in Abraham's line, into union with his divine person; whereby he has saved those that were gone out of the way, and were ready to perish, and done them the greatest good, and shown the strongest affection to them: and from hence may be learned the deity and eternity of Christ, who was before Abraham, as God, though a son of his as man; and his real humanity, and that it was not a person, but a seed, a nature he assumed; and also the union and distinction of natures in him: and Christ's taking human, and not angelic nature, shows the sovereignty of God, and his distinguishing grace and mercy to men.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
16. For verily—Greek, "For as we all know"; "For as you will doubtless grant." Paul probably alludes to Isa 41:8; Jer 31:32, Septuagint, from which all Jews would know well that the fact here stated as to Messiah was what the prophets had led them to expect.
took not on him, &c.—rather, "It is not angels that He is helping (the present tense implies duration); but it is the seed of Abraham that He is helping." The verb is literally, to help by taking one by the hand, as in Heb 8:9, "When I took them by the hand," &c. Thus it answers to "succor," Heb 2:18, and "deliver," Heb 2:15. "Not angels," who have no flesh and blood, but "the children," who have "flesh and blood," He takes hold of to help by "Himself taking part of the same" (Heb 2:14). Whatever effect Christ's work may have on angels, He is not taking hold to help them by suffering in their nature to deliver them from death, as in our case.
the seed of Abraham—He views Christ's redemption (in compliment to the Hebrews whom he is addressing, and as enough for his present purpose) with reference to Abraham's seed, the Jewish nation, primarily; not that he excludes the Gentiles (Heb 2:9, "for every man"), who, when believers, are the seed of Abraham spiritually (compare Heb 2:12; Ps 22:22, 25, 27), but direct reference to them (such as is in Ro 4:11, 12, 16; Ga 3:7, 14, 28, 29) would be out of place in his present argument. It is the same argument for Jesus being the Christ which Matthew, writing his Gospel for the Hebrews, uses, tracing the genealogy of Jesus from Abraham, the father of the Jews, and the one to whom the promises were given, on which the Jews especially prided themselves (compare Ro 9:4, 5).
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