Hebrews 1:4
Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
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(4) Being made.—Better, having become. These words must be closely joined with the last clause of Hebrews 1:3; they speak, not of the glory which was ever His, but of that which became His after He had “made purification of sins.”

Better.—That is, greater. We may discern a twofold reason for the comparison; having become “greater than the angels,” our Lord is exalted above the highest of created beings (see Ephesians 1:21; Philippians 2:9), and above those through whom God had in former time declared His law (Hebrews 2:2).

Name.—The verses which follow show that we are to understand by this all the dignity and glory contained in the name SON OF GOD. Not that this name first belonged to Him as exalted Mediator; but the glory which “became” His (Hebrews 1:3-4) is proportionate to and consonant with the name which is His by essential right (Hebrews 1:2).

That this name and dignity belong to Jesus Christ (as yet unnamed, but confessedly the subject of the preceding verses) is now to be established by the testimony of Scripture. Two important questions have been asked:—(1) Does the writer adduce these quotations as strictly demonstrative? (2) If so, on what assumption does their relevancy rest? It is evident that the whole argument is addressed to men who believed that the Christ had appeared in the person of Jesus. Of the passages here cited some were already, by universal consent, applied to the Messiah. As to the others, it was sufficient if the trained and thoughtful reader could recognise the accuracy of such an application when once suggested. That in no case is there mere “accommodation” or illustration will, it is hoped, be made clear. On the other hand, the writer’s object is less to convince his readers of some new truth than to draw attention to what the well-known passages really contain and express.

Hebrews 1:4-6. Being made — Rather being; (for the word made is not implied in the original expression, γενομενος;) so much better — Higher; than the angels — As the Jews gloried exceedingly in the law of Moses, on account of its being delivered by the ministry of angels, the apostle proves, by passages from the Jewish Scriptures, that the Son is superior in nature and dignity to all the angelical hosts. How much more then may we glory in the gospel, which was given, not by the ministry of angels, but by the very Son of God. As he hath by inheritance obtained — Greek, κεκληρονομηκην, he hath inherited; a more excellent name than they — Namely, the name of Son; a name which he is said to inherit, because he really is God’s Son, and that in a sense in which no creature, man or angel, is his Song of Solomon 1 st, Not by adoption, regeneration, or title, as patriarchs, prophets, or any other saints might be his sons: for he is distinguished from all these, Mark 12:6. 2d, Not by the resurrection merely, by which the saints will hereafter be manifested to be the sons of God, Luke 20:36. For he was distinguished from Moses and Elias on the mount of transfiguration, who had both entered the immortal state, Matthew 17:6. 3d, Not by creation, as Adam was, (Luke 3:38,) and angels are God’s sons; for he is here represented as having a right to the name of Song of Solomon by inheritance, which the angels have not. Hence he is termed the only- begotten of the Father; an expression which excludes from that honourable relation angels, and all other beings whatever. For unto which of the angels — Although sometimes termed in Scripture the sons of God, because created by him; said he at any time, Thou art my Son — God of God, Light of Light, the eternal Word of the eternal Father; this day have I begotten thee — Namely, in and from eternity; which, by its unalterable permanency of duration, is one continued unsuccessive day. See the note on Psalm 2:7. “It is true, because the angel said to his mother, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God; some contend that these words, Thou art my Son, &c.; are a prediction of our Lord’s miraculous conception. But on that supposition the argument taken from the name falls: for instead of proving Jesus superior to angels, his miraculous conception does not make him superior to Adam, who was as much the immediate work of God as Christ’s human nature was the immediate work of the Holy Ghost. Besides, he is said (John 3:17) to have been the Son of God before he was sent into the world;” and Hebrews 1:2 of this chapter, when the worlds were made by him. See Macknight.

And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son — I will own myself to be his Father, and him to be my Son, by eminent tokens of my peculiar love. “The former clause relates to his natural Sonship by an eternal inconceivable generation, the other to his Father’s acknowledgment and treatment of him as his incarnate Son: indeed this promise related immediately to Solomon, but in a far higher sense to the Messiah; applied to whom, it hath a very different meaning from what it had when applied to Solomon.” — Wesley. Understood of the Messiah, it is a prediction that God would, in the most public manner, declare Jesus his Son by voices from heaven uttered on different occasions, and by the descent of the Holy Ghost on him after his baptism, and by his resurrection from the dead. Whereas the same promise spoken concerning Solomon, means only that he was to be the object of God’s especial affection and care. Accordingly it was so explained in the revelation to David himself, 1 Chronicles 22:9; I will give him rest from all his enemies round about. And again — That is, in another passage of Scripture; when he bringeth in the first-begotten — Him who is before all creatures, Proverbs 8:24-25; more excellent than all, Genesis 49:3; and Heir or Lord of all, Psalm 2:6; Psalm 2:8. The appellation first-begotten includes that of Son, together with the rights of primogeniture, which the first-begotten Son of God enjoys, in a manner not communicable to any creature; into the world — Namely, at his incarnation; he, God, saith, Let all the angels of God worship him — So much higher was he, when in his lowest estate, than the highest angel! “In the Hebrew text it is cal Elohim, which in our Bibles is rendered all ye gods. But the expression is elliptical, and may be supplied as the writer of this epistle hath done; all ye angels of God — In the 97th Psalm, whence it is commonly thought this quotation is made, the establishment of the kingdom of Christ is foretold, together with its happy influence in destroying idolatry. Because, in a few instances, the word Elohim, gods, denotes idols, this clause is translated by some, Worship him, all ye idols. But how can idols, most of whom are nonentities, worship the Son?”

1:4-14 Many Jews had a superstitious or idolatrous respect for angels, because they had received the law and other tidings of the Divine will by their ministry. They looked upon them as mediators between God and men, and some went so far as to pay them a kind of religious homage or worship. Thus it was necessary that the apostle should insist, not only on Christ's being the Creator of all things, and therefore of angels themselves, but as being the risen and exalted Messiah in human nature, to whom angels, authorities, and powers are made subject. To prove this, several passages are brought from the Old Testament. On comparing what God there says of the angels, with what he says to Christ, the inferiority of the angels to Christ plainly appears. Here is the office of the angels; they are God's ministers or servants, to do his pleasure. But, how much greater things are said of Christ by the Father! And let us own and honour him as God; for if he had not been God, he had never done the Mediator's work, and had never worn the Mediator's crown. It is declared how Christ was qualified for the office of Mediator, and how he was confirmed in it: he has the name Messiah from his being anointed. Only as Man he has his fellows, and as anointed with the Holy Spirit; but he is above all prophets, priests, and kings, that ever were employed in the service of God on earth. Another passage of Scripture, Ps 102:25-27, is recited, in which the Almighty power of the Lord Jesus Christ is declared, both in creating the world and in changing it. Christ will fold up this world as a garment, not to be abused any longer, not to be used as it has been. As a sovereign, when his garments of state are folded and put away, is a sovereign still, so our Lord, when he has laid aside the earth and heavens like a vesture, shall be still the same. Let us not then set our hearts upon that which is not what we take it to be, and will not be what it now is. Sin has made a great change in the world for the worse, and Christ will make a great change in it for the better. Let the thoughts of this make us watchful, diligent, and desirous of that better world. The Saviour has done much to make all men his friends, yet he has enemies. But they shall be made his footstool, by humble submission, or by utter destruction. Christ shall go on conquering and to conquer. The most exalted angels are but ministering spirits, mere servants of Christ, to execute his commands. The saints, at present, are heirs, not yet come into possession. The angels minister to them in opposing the malice and power of evil spirits, in protecting and keeping their bodies, instructing and comforting their souls, under Christ and the Holy Ghost. Angels shall gather all the saints together at the last day, when all whose hearts and hopes are set upon perishing treasures and fading glories, will be driven from Christ's presence into everlasting misery.Being made so much better - Being exalted so much above the angels. The word "better" here does not refer to moral character, but to exaltation of rank. As Mediator; as the Son of God in our nature, he is exalted far above the angels.

Than the angels - Than all angels of every rank; see notes on Ephesians 1:21; compare 1 Peter 3:22. "Angels, and authorities, and powers being made subject unto him." He is exalted to his mediatorial throne, and all things are placed beneath his feet.

As he hath by inheritance - Or in virtue of his name - the Son of God; an exaltation such as is implied in that name. As a son has a rank in a family above servants; as he has a control over the property above that which servants have, so it is with the Mediator. He is the Son of God: angels are the servants of God, and the servants of the church. They occupy a place in the universe compared with what he occupies, similar to the place which servants in a family occupy compared with that which a son has. To illustrate and prove this is the design of the remainder of this chapter. The argument which the apostle insists on is, that the title "the Son of God is to be given to him alone. It has been conferred on no others. Though the angels, and though saints are called in general "sons of God," yet the title" the Son of God" has been given to him only. As the apostle was writing to Hebrews, he makes his appeal to the Hebrew Scriptures alone for the confirmation of this opinion.

A more excellent name - To wit, the name Son. It is a more honorable and exalted name than has ever been bestowed on them. It involves more exalted privileges, and entitles him on whom it is bestowed to higher respect and honor than any name ever bestowed on them.

4. Being made … better—by His exaltation by the Father (Heb 1:3, 13): in contrast to His being "made lower than the angels" (Heb 2:9). "Better," that is, superior to. As "being" (Heb 1:3) expresses His essential being so "being made" (Heb 7:26) marks what He became in His assumed manhood (Php 2:6-9). Paul shows that His humbled form (at which the Jews might stumble) is no objection to His divine Messiahship. As the law was given by the ministration of angels and Moses, it was inferior to the Gospel given by the divine Son, who both is (Heb 1:4-14) as God, and has been made, as the exalted Son of man (Heb 2:5-18), much better than the angels. The manifestations of God by angels (and even by the angel of the covenant) at different times in the Old Testament, did not bring man and God into personal union, as the manifestation of God in human flesh does.

by inheritance obtained—He always had the thing itself, namely, Sonship; but He "obtained by inheritance," according to the promise of the Father, the name "Son," whereby He is made known to men and angels. He is "the Son of God" is a sense far exalted above that in which angels are called "sons of God" (Job 1:6; 38:7). "The fulness of the glory of the peculiar name "the Son of God," is unattainable by human speech or thought. All appellations are but fragments of its glory beams united in it as in a central sun, Re 19:12. A name that no than knew but He Himself."

Being made so much better than the angels: this God-man, the great gospel Minister, is more excellent than angels, and so must surpass all the prophets. He became thus by being surety constituted and declared, as ordained by God’s decree from eternity, in eminency above them by actual investiture on his ascension, Ephesians 1:20,21. A more excellent person he is beyond any comparison for his Divine nature, and in his human transcending the angelical, on the account of the hypostatical union: see Hebrews 1:6.

Angels; these were spirits likest God, and called Elohims, or gods, Hebrews 1:7 Psalm 104:4; being most pure, glorious, powerful, and heavenly creatures, Mark 8:38 13:32 2 Thessalonians 1:7; of various ranks, orders, and degrees, Ephesians 1:21 Colossians 1:16; used by Christ as his ministers in the delivering of his law on Mount Sinai to Israel, Hebrews 2:2 Acts 7:53 Galatians 3:19. The measure of his transcendency over these, for person, office, and name, is infinitely beyond expression.

As he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name; this was his peculiar, hereditary lot, due to him by natural right, as the heir and first-born of God, justly acquired by him, and actually possessed of him, not as a mere title, but a name descriptive of his person, distinguishing him from, and setting him above, all others: God the Son incarnate, Isaiah 7:14 9:6; Lord over all creatures in heaven and in earth, and under it, Philippians 2:9-11; not a simple messenger, but a Son, Matthew 17:5 John 1:18; the Redeemer, Justifier, and Saviour of his people, Luke 1:31,32. He is a person of name famous for power, glory, and dignity above all others, Ephesians 1:21 Philippians 2:9-11.

A more excellent name than they; diaforwteron, differencing from, and setting above, all the names of angels for eminency, the archangel himself being a servant and attendant on him, 1 Thessalonians 4:16. His is more differencing and transcending in his kind than the name of angels is in their kind; he is above whatever they can pretend to, and so a more excellent Prophet than they. He hath in all things, as well as name, over them the pre-eminency.

Being made so much better than the angels,.... Christ is so much better than the angels, as the Creator, than the creature; as an independent being, than a dependent one; as he that blesses, than he that is blessed; as he that is worshipped, than he that worships: as a king, than his subjects; as a master, than his servants; and as he that sends, than he that is sent: and Christ may be said to be "made so", when he was manifested and declared to be so; and he was actually preferred to them, and exalted above them in human nature, after he had expiated the sins of his people, and when he was set down at the right hand of God, as in the latter part of the preceding verse, with which these words stand connected; for in his state of humiliation, and through his sufferings and death, he was made lower than they; but when he was risen from the dead, and ascended to heaven, he was placed at the right hand of God, where none of them ever was, or ever will be: besides, the phrase, "being made", signifies no more than that "he was"; and so the Syriac version renders it, "and he was so much better than the angels"; and so the Ethiopic version, "he is so much better": and this is observed, to prove him to be more excellent than any creature, since he is preferred to the most excellent of creatures; and to show, that the Gospel dispensation is superior to the legal dispensation, which was introduced by the ministration of angels; and to take off the Jews from the worship of angels, to which they were prone: and this doctrine of his could not be well denied by them, since it was the faith of the Jewish church, that the Messiah should be preferred to the angels: for in their ancient writings they say of him, he shall be exalted above Abraham, he shall be lifted up above Moses, and be higher than the ministering angels (s); and that he is above them, appears from what follows,

as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they; which is that of the Son of God, a name peculiar to him; and which belongs to him in such a sense as it does not to angels, as is evident from the following verse: and though this name is not founded on his office, as Mediator, but arises from his nature and relation to God; yet he was declared to be the Son of God, and it was made manifest, that this name of right belonged to him, upon the discharge of his office, at his resurrection and ascension to heaven; and therefore he is said to obtain it by inheritance; or he appeared to inherit it of right, and that it was his possession for evermore.

(s) Tanchuma spud Huls. p. 321.

{4} Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent {i} name than they.

(4) Before he comes to declare the office of Christ, he sets forth the excellency of his person. First of all he shows him to be man, and that in addition he is God also.

(i) Dignity and honour.

Hebrews 1:4. The author has first, Hebrews 1:1-3, instituted a parallel between the mediators of the Old Testament revelations in general or in pleno, and the Mediator of the Christian revelation. But among the revelations of God under the Old Covenant, none attained in point of glory to the Mosaic; inasmuch as this was given not only through the medium of a man enlightened by the Spirit of God,—i.e. by one of the προφῆται, mentioned Hebrews 1:1,—but, according to the universal Jewish belief (vid. ad ii. 2), was given by the instrumentality not only of Moses, but also of angels. As, therefore, the author has maintained the superiority of Christ, as the Son of God, over the προφῆται, so is he now naturally further led to show the superiority of Christ over the angels also. This is done in the declaration, Hebrews 1:4, which in a grammatical sense is closely connected with that which precedes, and serves for the completing of the description of Christ’s characteristic qualifications; at the same time, however, logically regarded, affords the theme for the following disquisition, which constitutes the first section of the epistle (Hebrews 1:5 to Hebrews 2:18).

The supposition of Tholuck, that the addition of Hebrews 1:4 “has an independent object,” i.e. is occasioned by polemic reference to the opinion spread abroad among the Jews, in addition to other conceptions with regard to the person of the Messiah, that He was an intermediate spirit or angel,[32] is entirely erroneous. It finds no countenance whatever in the reasoning of the author, and is opposed to the whole scope of the epistle, that of showing in detail the inferiority of the Old Covenant as compared with the New, and of influencing in a corresponding manner the conduct of the readers.

The oratorical formula of comparison: τοσούτῳὅσῳ, which recurs Hebrews 7:20-22, Hebrews 8:6, Hebrews 10:25, is found likewise with Philo, but never with Paul.

ΚΡΕΊΤΤΩΝ] better, or more excellent, namely, in power, dignity, and exaltedness; comp. Hebrews 7:19; Hebrews 7:22, Hebrews 8:6, Hebrews 9:23, Hebrews 10:34, Hebrews 11:16; Hebrews 11:35; Hebrews 11:40, Hebrews 12:24.

γενόμενος] marks the having begun to be in time, whereas ὤν, Hebrews 1:3, expressed the timeless eternal existence. ΚΡΕΊΤΤΩΝ ΤῶΝ ἈΓΓΈΛΩΝ did Christ become just at that time when, having accomplished the work of redemption, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. The ΓΕΝΌΜΕΝΟς thus closely attaches itself to the ἘΚΆΘΙΣΕΝ, Hebrews 1:3, and is more fully explained by the fact that Christ, by virtue of His incarnation, and so long as He dwelt on earth, was made lower than the angels; comp. Hebrews 2:7; Hebrews 2:9.

The comparative ΔΙΑΦΟΡΏΤΕΡΟΝ, found in the N. T. only here and Hebrews 8:6, serves, since even the positive ΔΙΆΦΟΡΟΝ would have sufficed for the indication of the superiority, for the more emphatic accentuating of the signification of the word. The opinion of Hofmann, that the comparative is chosen because the name ἌΓΓΕΛΟς is in itself an ὌΝΟΜΑ ΔΙΆΦΟΡΟΝ, when the author contrasts the spirits of God with men living in the flesh, is quite remote from the idea of the passage.

ΠΑΡΆ] after a comparative is very common in our epistle; cf. Hebrews 3:3, Hebrews 9:23, Hebrews 11:4, Hebrews 12:24. Comp. also Luke 3:13; 3 Esdr. 4:35; Thucyd. i. 4:23: ἩΛΊΟΥ ΤΕ ἘΚΛΕΊΨΕΙς, ΑἻ ΠΥΚΝΌΤΕΡΑΙ ΠΑΡᾺ ΤᾺ ἘΚ ΤΟῦ ΠΡῚΝ ΧΡΌΝΟΥ ΜΝΗΜΟΝΕΥΌΜΕΝΑ ΞΥΝΈΒΗΣΑΝ; Herod. 7. 103; Winer, Gramm., 7 Aufl. p. 225. With Paul it never occurs. Similar is ὑπέρ with the accusative, Hebrews 4:12; Luke 16:8.

ὌΝΟΜΑ] must not, with Beza, Calov, Wittich, Storr, Valckenaer, Zachariae, Heinrichs, be altered into the notion of “dignity.” For this ὌΝΟΜΑ never signifies in itself, and its substitution would in our passage, in relation to ΚΡΕΊΤΤΩΝ ΓΕΝΌΜΕΝΟς, bring about only a tautology. The name of pre-eminence above the angels, which Christ has obtained as an inheritance, is the name ΥἹΌς, Son of God,—comp. Hebrews 1:5 and Hebrews 1:1,—while the angels by their name are characterized only as messengers and servants of God. Contrary to the context, Delitzsch says: the name ΥἹΌς suffices not to express the thought in connection with ὌΝΟΜΑ. The supra-angelic name, to which the author refers, lies beyond the notionally separating and sundering language of men. It is the heavenly total-name of the Exalted One, His שֵׁם הַמְּפֹרָשׁ, nomen explicitum, which in this world has entered into no human heart, and can be uttered by no human tongue, the ὄνομα ὃ οὐδεὶς οἶδεν εἰ μὴ αὐτός, Revelation 19:12. The following words of Scripture are, he supposes, only upward pointing signs, which call forth in us some foreboding as to how glorious He is. But this is opposed to the connection. For even though it be true, as advanced by Delitzsch in support of his view, that in the following O. T. passages there occur also, in addition to υἱός, the wider appellations θεός and κύριος; yet, on the other hand, not merely ἐν υἱῷ, Hebrews 1:1, as likewise Hebrews 1:5 with its proof-giving γάρ, but also the antithesis πρὸς μὲν τοὺς ἀγγέλους and πρὸς δὲ τὸν υἱόν, Hebrews 1:7-8, shows that υἱός is the main conception, to which the words of address: ὁ θεός and κύριε, Hebrews 1:8; Hebrews 1:10, stand in the relation of subordination, inasmuch as they are already contained in this very idea of Son.

The perfect κεκληρονίμηκεν, however, not the aorist ἐκληρονόμησεν, is employed by the author; because Christ did not first obtain this name at the time of the καθίζειν ἐν δεξιᾷ τῆς μεγαλ., Hebrews 1:3, but had already as pre-existing Logos obtained it as an abiding portion and possession. We have not, in connection with κεκληρονόμηκεν, to think “quite in general of the O. T. time, in which the future Messiah received in the Word of God the name of Son,” as is asserted by Riehm (Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbr. p. 274), whose statement is endorsed by E. Woerner.[33] For this view is contradicted by the διʼ οὗ καὶ ἐποίησεν τοὺς αἰῶνας, Hebrews 1:2, in its relation to ἐν υἱῷ, Hebrews 1:1, according to which Christ already existed as the Son before all time. The declarations of Hebrews 1:5Hebrews 1:4 to Hebrews 2:18. The Son and the Angels. Hebrews 1:4, although forming part of the sentence 1–3, introduces a subject which continues to be more or less in view throughout chaps 1 and 2. The exaltation of the Mediator to the right hand of Sovereignty is in keeping with His designation as Son, a designation which marked Him out as superior to the angels. Proof is adduced from the O.T. To this proof, in accordance with the writer’s manner, a resulting admonition is attached, Hebrews 2:1-4. And the remainder of chap. 2 is occupied with an explanation of the reasonableness of the incarnation and the suffering it involved; or, in other words, it is explained why if Christ is really greater than the angels, He had to be made a little lower than they.

τοσούτῳ κρείττων γενόμενος … “having become as much superior to the angels as He has obtained a more excellent name than they”. The form of comparison here used, τοσ.… ὅσῳ is found also, Hebrews 7:20-22, Hebrews 8:6, Hebrews 10:25; also in Philo. κρείττων is one of the words most necessary in an Epistle in which comparison is never out of sight. The Son became (γενόμενος) greater than the angels in virtue of taking His seat at God’s right hand. This exaltation was the result of His earthly work. It is as Mediator of the new revelation, who has cleansed the sinful by His death, that He assumes supremacy. And this is in keeping with and in fulfilment of His obtaining the name of Son. This name κεκληρονόμηκεν, He has obtained, not “von Anfang an” as Bleek and others say, but as Riehm points out, in the O.T. The Messiah, then future, was spoken of as Son; and therefore to the O.T. reference is at once made in proof. The Messianic Sonship no doubt rests upon the Eternal Sonship, but it is not the latter but the former that is here in view.

In support of this statement the writer adduces an abundance of evidence, no fewer than seven passages being cited from the O.T. Before considering these, two preliminary objections may first be removed. (1) To us nothing may seem less in need of proof than that Christ who has indelibly impressed Himself on mankind is superior to the angels who are little more than a picturesque adornment of earthly life. But when this writer lived the angels may be said to have been in possession, whereas Christ had yet to win His inheritance. Moreover, as Schoettgen shows (p. 905) it was usual and needful to make good the proposition, “Messias major est Patriarchis, Mose, et Angelis ministerialibus”. Prof. Odgers, too, has shown (Proceedings of Soc. of Hist. Theol., 1895–6) that quite possibly the writer had in view some Jewish Gnostics who believed that Christ Himself belonged to the angelic creation and had, with the angels, a fluid personality and no proper human nature. In any case it was worth the writer’s while to carry home to the conviction of his contemporaries that a mediation accomplished by one who was tempted and suffered and wrought righteousness, a mediation of an ethical and spiritual kind, must supersede a mediation accomplished by physical marvels and angelic ministries. (2) The passages cited from the Old Testament in proof of Christ’s superiority although their immediate historical application is disregarded, are confidently adduced in accordance with the universal use of Scripture in the writer’s time. But it must not be supposed that these passages are culled at random. With all his contemporaries this writer believed that where statements were made of an Israelitish king or other official in an ideal form not presently realised in those directly addressed or spoken of, these were considered to be Messianic, that is to say, destined to find their fulfilment and realisation in the Messiah. These interpretations of Scripture were the inevitable result of faith in God. The people were sure that God would somehow and at some time fulfil the utmost of His promise.

The first two quotations (Hebrews 1:5) illustrate the giving of the more excellent name; the remaining quotations exhibit the superiority of the Son to angels, or more definitely the supreme rule and imperishable nature of the Son, in contrast to the perishable nature and servile function of the angels.

4. being made] Rather, “becoming,” or “proving himself to be.” The allusion is to the Redemptive Kingdom of Christ, and the word merely qualifies the “better name.” Christ, regarded as the Agent or Minister of the scheme of Redemption, became mediatorially superior to the Angel-ministrants of the Old Dispensation, as He always was superior to them in dignity and essence.

so much] The familiar classical ὄσῳτοσούτῳ (involving the comparison and contrast which runs throughout this Epistle, Hebrews 3:3, Hebrews 7:20, Hebrews 8:6, Hebrews 9:27, Hebrews 10:25) is not found once in St Paul.

better] This word, common as it is, is only thrice used by St Paul (and then somewhat differently), but occurs 13 times in this Epistle alone (Hebrews 6:9, Hebrews 7:7; Hebrews 7:19; Hebrews 7:22, Hebrews 8:6, Hebrews 9:23, Hebrews 10:34, Hebrews 11:16; Hebrews 11:35; Hebrews 11:40, Hebrews 12:24).

so much better than the angels] The writer’s object in entering upon the proof of this fact is not to check the tendency of incipient Gnostics to worship Angels. Of this there is no trace here, though St Paul in his letter to the Colossians, raised a warning voice against it. Here the object is to shew that the common Jewish boast that “they had received the law by the disposition of Angels” involved no disparagement to the Gospel which had been ministered by One who was “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Ephesians 1:21). Many Jews held, with Philo, that the Decalogue alone had been uttered by God, and that all the rest of the Law had been spoken by Angels. The extreme development of Jewish Angelology at this period may be seen in the Book of Enoch. They are there called “the stars,” “the white ones,” “the sleepless ones.” St Clement of Rome found it necessary to reproduce this argument in writing to the Corinthians, and the 4th Book of Esdras illustrates the tendency of mind which it was desirable to counteract.

hath by inheritance obtained] Rather, “hath inherited.” Comp. Luke 1:32; Luke 1:35. “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name” (Php 2:9). He does not here seem to be speaking of the eternal generation. Christ inherits His more excellent name, not as the Eternal Son, but as the God-Man. Possibly too the writer uses the word “inherited” with tacit reference to the prophetic promises.

a more excellent name than they] Not here the name of “the only-begotten Son of God” (John 3:18), which is in its fulness “a name which no one knoweth save Himself” (Revelation 19:12). The “name” in Scripture often indeed implies the inmost essence of a thing. If, then, with some commentators we suppose the allusion to be to this Eternal and Essential name of Christ we must understand the word “inheritance” as merely phenomenal, the manifestation to our race of a præexistent fact. In that view the glory indicated by the name belonged essentially to Christ, and His work on earth only manifested the name by which it was known. This is perhaps better than to follow St Chrysostom in explaining “inherited” to mean “always possessed as His own.” Comp. Luke 1:32, “He shall be called the Son of the Highest.”

more excellent … than] This construction (παρὰ after a comparative) is not found once in St Paul’s Epistles, but several times in this Epistle (Hebrews 1:4, Hebrews 2:9, Hebrews 3:3, Hebrews 9:23, Hebrews 11:4, Hebrews 12:24). It should be observed, as bearing on the authorship of the Epistle, that in these four verses alone there are no less than six expressions and nine constructions which find no—or no exact—parallel in St Paul’s Epistles.

Hebrews 1:4. Τοσούτῳ, so much) This verse has two clauses, of which, by Chiasmus, the second is discussed in Hebrews 1:5, but the first in Hebrews 1:13; and the Interrogation gives a point to both. The Chiasmus,[6] σχῆμα χιαστὸν, oratio decussata, is so frequent in this epistle, that the observation of this figure alone contributes very much to the explanation of the epistle. See Hebrews 1:9, ch. Hebrews 2:9; Hebrews 2:12; Hebrews 2:17, Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 3:8, Hebrews 4:14-16, Hebrews 5:7, Hebrews 6:7, Hebrews 7:6, Hebrews 8:4; Hebrews 8:10, Hebrews 9:1, Hebrews 10:20; Hebrews 10:23; Hebrews 10:33; Hebrews 10:38, Hebrews 11:1; Hebrews 11:33, Hebrews 12:22-24, Hebrews 13:10, with the annott. It may be asked, Why, in this one epistle, does that figure occur in every chapter? Ans. It is shown, at some of those passages which I have just now quoted, that Paul uses the Chiasmus even elsewhere, but more frequently to the Jews; and Surenhusius shows, in the βίβλος καταλλαγῆς, p. 78, etc., 607, 608, that their teachers greatly delight in this figure of speech in their writings. Therefore the apostle, who became all things to all men, has adapted his style to the Hebrews; and these men, who were guided by the Spirit, had quite ready at their command all the forms of discourse, in a greater degree than the most practised rhetoricians.—κρείττων γενόμενος, being made better) by His exaltation, Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 1:13. The antithesis is ἠλαττωμένον, made lower or less, ch. Hebrews 2:9. This may be compared with Mark 10:18, note, [where Jesus, in His voluntary humiliation, saith, “Why callest thou Me good?” etc.] κρείττων, better, more excellent, more powerful: οἱ κρείττονες, the gods, among the ancient heathens.—τῶν ἀγγέλων, than the angels) whose excellence is elsewhere spoken of as great.—παρʼ αὐτοὺς) παρὰ denotes great pre-eminence above [as compared with] others. Comp. παρὰ, Hebrews 1:9, ch. Hebrews 3:3. Angels are excluded in part explicitly, Hebrews 1:5; Hebrews 1:13, and in part by implication; for while none of them has taken this name, the Son of GOD, from that very circumstance they are not the heirs of this name, and therefore not the heirs of all things; but they are a portion, no doubt a distinguished one, of the inheritance of the Son, whom they worship as Lord, Hebrews 1:6 : nor were the worlds created by them, but rather they themselves were created, Hebrews 1:7.—κεκληρονόμηκεν ὄνομα, He hath inherited a name) The name of Son is proper for the Son, because He is the Son; and in this name principally the inheritance consists. All things are an addition to the inheritance, Hebrews 1:2. The inheritance of the name is more ancient than the worlds themselves. The inheritance of all things is as old as all things themselves.

[6] See Appendix.

Verse 4. - Having become by so much better than the angels as he hath inherited a more excellent name than they (διαφορωτέρον παρ αὐτοὺς). (For the same Greek form of comparison, see Hebrews 1:9; Hebrews 3:3.) "Παρα ingentem printer caeteros excellentiam denotat" (Bengel). This verse, though, in respect of grammatical construction, it is the conclusion of the exordium, serves as the thesis of the first section of the argument to follow, the drift of which is to show the SON'S superiority to the angels. The mention of the angels comes naturally after the allusion to Psalm 110, viewed and quoted as it is afterwards in connection with Psalm 8, in which "a little lower than the angels" is taken to denote the state previous to the exaltation; and it is preparatory also for the argument that follows. The more distinguished name, expressing the measure of superiority to the angels, is (as the sequel shows) the name of SON, assigned (as aforesaid) to the Messiah in prophecy, and so, with all that it implies, "inherited" by him in time according to the Divine purpose. Observe the perfect, "hath inherited," instead of the aorist as hitherto, denotes, with the usual force of the Greek tense, the continuance of the inheritance obtained. If we have entered into the view all along taken by the writer, we shall see no difficulty in the SON being said to have become better than the angels at the time of his exaltation, as though he had been below them before. So he had in respect of his assumed humanity, and it is to the SON denoted in prophecy to be humanly manifested in time that the whole sentence in its main purport refers. As such, having been, with us, lower than the angels, he became greater, the interposed references to his eternal personality retaining their full force notwithstanding. But why should the name of SON in itself imply superiority to the angels? Angels themselves are, in the Old Testament, called "sons of God." It has been suggested that the writer of the Epistle was not aware of the angels being so designated, since the LXX., from which he invariably quotes, renders פְנִי אֶלִים by ἀγγέλοι. But this is not so invariably. In Genesis 6:1; Psalm 29:1; and Psalms 89:7, we find υἱοί Θεοῦ. And, whatever be the application of the words in each of these passages, they at any rate occur in the LXX. as denoting others than the Messiah. Nor, in any case, would it be easily supposable that one so versed in biblical lore as the writer must have been had been thus misled in so important a point of his argument. The fact is that his argument, properly understood, is quite consistent with a full knowledge of the fact that others as well as the Messiah are so designated. For it is not merely the term "Son" as applied to the Messiah in prophecy, but the unique manner in which it is so applied, that is insisted on in what follows. The form of his commencement shows this. He does not say, "Whom, except the Messiah, did he ever call Son?" but, "To which of the angels did he ever speak as follows, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee?" In language generally the meaning of a word may depend very materially on the context in which it occurs and other determining circumstances. Indeed, the mere use of the title in the singular, "my Son," carries with it a different idea from its use in the plural of a class of beings. But this is not all. A series of passages from the Old Testament is adduced by way of expressly showing that the sonship assigned to the Messiah carries with it the idea of a relation to God altogether beyond any ever assigned to angels. Such is the position of the writer. We shall see in the sequel how He makes it good. Hebrews 1:4The detailed development of the argument is now introduced. The point is to show the superiority of the agent of the new dispensation to the agents of the old - the angels and Moses. Christ's superiority to the angels is first discussed.

Being made so much better than the angels (τοσούτῳ κρείττων γενόμενος τῶν ἀγγέλων)

The informal and abrupt introduction of this topic goes to show that the writer was addressing Jewish Christians, who were familiar with the prominent part ascribed to angels in the O.T. economy, especially in the giving of the law. See on Galatians 3:9. For being made, rend. having become; which is to be taken in close connection with sat down, etc., and in contrast with ὢν being, Hebrews 1:3. It is not denied that the Son was essentially and eternally superior to the angels; but his glorification was conditioned upon his fulfillment of the requirements of his human state, and it is this that is emphasized. After having passed through the experience described in Philippians 2:6-8, he sat down on the right hand of the divine majesty as messianic sovereign, and so became or proved to be what in reality he was from eternity, superior to the angels. Τοσούτῳ - ὅσῳ so much - as. Never used by Paul. Κρείττων better, superior, rare in Paul, and always neuter and adverbial. In Hebrews thirteen times. See also 1 Peter 3:17; 2 Peter 2:21. Often in lxx. It does not indicate here moral excellence, but dignity and power. He became superior to the angels, resuming his preincarnate dignity, as he had been, for a brief period, less or lower than the angels (Hebrews 2:7). The superiority of Messiah to the angels was affirmed in rabbinical writings.

He hath by inheritance obtained (κεκληρονόμηκεν)

More neatly, as Rev., hath inherited, as a son. See Hebrews 1:2, and comp. Romans 8:17. For the verb, see on Acts 13:19, and see on 1 Peter 1:4.

More excellent (διαφορώτερον)

Διάφορος only once outside of Hebrews, Romans 12:6. The comparative only in Hebrews. In the sense of more excellent, only in later writers. Its earlier sense is different. The idea of difference is that which radically distinguishes it from κρείττων better. Here it presents the comparative of a comparative conception. The Son's name differs from that of the angels, and is more different for good.

Than they (παρ' αὐτοὺς)

Lit. beside or in comparison with them. Παρα, indicating comparison, occurs a few times in Luke, as Luke 3:13; Luke 13:2; Luke 18:4. In Hebrews always to mark comparison, except Hebrews 11:11, Hebrews 11:12.

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