Hebrews 10:38
Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(38) Now the just shall live by faith.—The Greek text of this clause is not perfectly certain, but it is probable that the word “my” should be added, so that the translation of the verse will be as follows, But my righteous one shall live by faith. In the Hebrew the first part of the verse is altogether different: “Behold his soul is lifted up, it is not upright in him; but the righteous shall live in (or, by) his faithfulness (or, faith).”The first words seem to refer to the haughty Chaldean invader; the rendering of the last words is considered below. The Greek translation varies a little in different MSS.: “If one draw back, my soul hath no pleasure in him; but the righteous one shall live by my faithfulness” (or possibly—not probably—“by faith in me”). In the Alexandrian MSS, the last words run thus: “But my righteous one shall live by faith” (or faithfulness). It is clear, then, that in the passage before us the writer has taken the words as they stood in his text of the LXX., only changing the order of the clauses. Though the Hebrew word usually rendered faith in this passage occurs more than forty times in the Old Testament, in no other case has it this meaning, but almost always signifies faithfulness or truth. Here also the first meaning seems to be “by his faithfulness”; but the thought of faithful constancy to God is inseparably connected with trustful clinging to Him. Hence the accepted Jewish exposition of the passage seems to have taken the word in the sense of “faith.” “My righteous one” will naturally mean “my righteous servant”—the man who will not be seduced into wickedness; he shall live by his faithful trust, for salvation and life shall be given him by God Himself. In this context the word righteous recalls-verse 36, “having done the will of God.”

The transposition of the two clauses makes it almost certain that the “righteous one” is the subject of both: not if any man, but, if he (the righteous one) shrink back. The Genevan and the Authorised stand alone amongst English versions in the former rendering.

Hebrews 10:38-39. Now — That is, in the mean time, as it is there added; the just, δικαιος, the righteous — He that is pardoned and renewed, or justified and regenerated, and who therefore is humble, meek, sincere, resigned to the will of God, and relying on his wisdom, power, goodness, and faithfulness; shall live — Shall be supported and preserved even in the midst of surrounding dangers, trials, and troubles, and shall live in God’s favour a spiritual and holy life; by faith — See on Romans 1:17; namely, as long as he retains that gift of God. In this passage the prophet, as well as the apostle, speaks of the efficacy of faith to support and comfort a man under temptations and afflictions in such a manner, that he neither faints in the combat, nor withdraws from it. But if any man — The words any man are not in the original, and certainly are not necessary to be here supplied. The Greek, και εαν υποστειληται, are, and, or but, if he (who lived by faith) draw back — If he make shipwreck of his faith, and cease to believe and rely on God’s promises; or if, by reason of sufferings and temptations, he cease to exercise faith in Christ, and in the truths and promises of the gospel, and in consequence thereof renounce his profession of Christ, and withdrew himself from communion with other professors; my soul shall have — Or rather, hath, (the word being in the present tense,) no pleasure in him — That is, I withdraw my favour from him, nay, and cast him off in my displeasure. But we are not — But I am persuaded that the persons to whom I address my letter, together with myself and my fellow-labourers; are not of the number of those that draw back unto perdition — Like him who backslides and apostatizes, as mentioned in the preceding verse; but of them that believe — That continue in the faith grounded and settled; to the saving of the soul — To the attaining of final eternal salvation.

10:32-39 Many and various afflictions united against the early Christians, and they had a great conflict. The Christian spirit is not a selfish spirit; it puts us upon pitying others, visiting them, helping them, and pleading for them. All things here are but shadows. The happiness of the saints in heaven will last for ever; enemies can never take it away as earthly goods. This will make rich amends for all we may lose and suffer here. The greatest part of the saints' happiness, as yet, is in promise. It is a trial of the patience of Christians, to be content to live after their work is done, and to stay for their reward till God's time to give it is come. He will soon come to them at death, to end all their sufferings, and to give them a crown of life. The Christian's present conflict may be sharp, but will be soon over. God never is pleased with the formal profession and outward duties and services of such as do not persevere; but he beholds them with great displeasure. And those who have been kept faithful in great trails for the time past, have reason to hope for the same grace to help them still to live by faith, till they receive the end of their faith and patience, even the salvation of their souls. Living by faith, and dying in faith, our souls are safe for ever.Now the just shall live by faith - This is a part of the quotation from Habakkuk Hab 2:3-4, which was probably commenced in the previous verse; see the passage fully explained in the notes on Romans 1:17. The meaning in the connection in which it stands here, in accordance with the sense in which it was used by Habakkuk, is, that the righteous should live by "continued confidence" in God. They should pass their lives not in doubt, and fear, and trembling apprehension, but in the exercise of a calm trust in God. In this sense it accords with the scope of what the apostle is here saying. He is exhorting the Christians whom he addressed, to perseverance in their religion even in the midst of many persecutions. To encourage this he says, that it was a great principle that the just, that is, all the pious, ought to live in the constant exercise of "faith in God." They should not confide in their own merits, works, or strength. They should exercise constant reliance on their Maker, and he would keep them even unto eternal life. The sense is, that a persevering confidence or belief in the Lord will preserve us amidst all the trials and calamities to which we are exposed.

But if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him - This also is a quotation from Habakkuk 2:4, but from the Septuagint, not from the Hebrew. "Why" the authors of the Septuagint thus translated the passage, it is impossible now to say. The Hebrew is rendered in the common version, "Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him;" or more literally, "Behold the scornful; his mind shall not be happy" (Stuart); or as Gesenius renders it, "See, he whose soul is unbelieving shall, on this account, be unhappy." The sentiment there is, that the scorner or unbeliever in that day would be unhappy, or would not prosper - לה ישרה lo' yaasharaah. The apostle has retained the general sense of the passage, and the idea which he expresses is, that the unbeliever, or he who renounces his religion, will incur the divine displeasure. He will be a man exposed to the divine wrath; a man on whom God cannot look but with disapprobation. By this solemn consideration, therefore, the apostle urges on them the importance of perseverance, and the guilt and danger of apostasy from the Christian faith. If such a case should occur, no matter what might have been the former condition, and no matter what love or zeal might have been evinced, yet such an apostasy would expose the individual to the certain wrath of God. His former love could not save him, any more than the former obedience of the angels saved them from the horrors of eternal chains and darkness, or than the holiness in which Adam was created saved him and his posterity from the calamities which his apostasy incurred.

38. just—The oldest manuscripts and Vulgate read, "my just man." God is the speaker: "He who is just in My sight." Bengel translates, "The just shall live by my faith": answering to the Hebrew, Hab 2:4; literally, "the just shall live by the faith of Him," namely, Christ, the final subject of "the vision," who "will not lie," that is, disappoint. Here not merely the first beginning, as in Ga 3:11, but the continuance, of the spiritual life of the justified man is referred to, as opposed to declension and apostasy. As the justified man receives his first spiritual life by faith, so it is by faith that he shall continue to live (Lu 4:4). The faith meant here is that fully developed living trust in the unseen (Heb 11:1) Saviour, which can keep men steadfast amidst persecutions and temptations (Heb 10:34-36).

but—Greek, "and."

if any man draw back—So the Greek admits: though it might also be translated, as Alford approves, "if he (the just man) draw back." Even so, it would not disprove the final perseverance of saints. For "the just man" in this latter clause would mean one seemingly, and in part really, though not savingly, "just" or justified: as in Eze 18:24, 26. In the Hebrew, this latter half of the verse stands first, and is, "Behold, his soul which is lifted up, is not upright in him." Habakkuk states the cause of drawing back: a soul lifted up, and in self-inflated unbelief setting itself up against God. Paul, by the Spirit, states the effect, it draws back. Also, what in Habakkuk is, "His soul is not upright in him," is in Paul, "My soul shall have no pleasure in him." Habakkuk states the cause, Paul the effect: He who is not right in his own soul, does not stand right with God; God has no pleasure in him. Bengel translates Habakkuk, "His soul is not upright in respect to him," namely, Christ, the subject of "the vision," that is, Christ has no pleasure in him (compare Heb 12:25). Every flower in spring is not a fruit in autumn.

These are, as the former, the words of the Prophet Habakkuk, Habakkuk 2:4, enforcing the former duty pressed from the gain of perseverance, and the loss by withdrawing, when Christ shall come. They are used by this apostle Paul to several purposes, as to prove, that righteousness is only obtained by faith from God, and not by man’s own works, Romans 1:17 Galatians 3:11; that whoever is righteous by faith, shall live for ever, by holding that righteousness in faith, as here.

Now the just shall live by faith; the justified, according to the terms of the new covenant, who hath obtained the righteousness of God in Christ by believing, and is renewed and sanctified by the Spirit, shall really, spiritually, happily, eternally live; and no end shall be to that life of his, till it be perfected by Christ in glory. And this he shall live by a real and spiritual assent to the gospel, and reliance on God’s promises in it, especially by an affiance to Christ, God-man, as the Lord their Righteousness, by which we have him ours, and so we live. This faith increased, continued in, and held fast amidst all reproaches, sufferings, and persecutions; by this only is the life, due to righteousness, made sure to sinners, drawing from Christ daily, and making real and present the fulness of it promised to and hoped for by it, Mark 13:13 John 6:47 Galatians 2:20 Colossians 3:4.

But if any man draw back: see Habakkuk 2:4, where hlme translated here uposteilhtai, is variously rendered, as, elated like a bubble, lifted up; making pride and unbelief to be the sins threatened there; and the proper sense of the word here used, is, for fear, or sloth, to withdraw, or leave their understanding: so that the meaning in both amounts to this: If any, out of the pride of their heart, will not depend on Christ’s righteousness, as the Jews would not, or, out of fear and sluggishness, will not hold out, but withdraw themselves, in time of persecution, from their faith and confidence in Christ, professed; shrinking through fear, or losing it through sloth, or forsaking it by treachery, either gradually or totally, confiding in themselves, and so despising God; reject him, and draw away from him.

My soul shall have no pleasure in him; God himself will be so far from taking any pleasure or delight in such a soul, or vouchsafe it any joy or life, that his very soul abhors it, is highly displeased with its sin, and abominates its person. In his displeasure is misery, death, and eternal perdition: see Deu 32:15,18-21.

Now the just shall live by faith,.... The "just" man is one not in appearance only, but in reality; not by his obedience to the law, but by the obedience of Christ; and he is evidently so by the Spirit, and by faith: and he is one, who lives soberly and righteously; and the life he lives, and shall live, at present, is, not eternal life; for though he shall live that life, yet this is not intended; for it is a living by faith that is spoken of, and as antecedent to the coming of Christ; but a spiritual life is meant, a life of justification in Christ, a life of communion with Christ, and a life of holiness from Christ, with peace, joy, and comfort through him: and the manner of this just man's living is "by faith"; not upon his faith, but upon Christ, the object of it; and by "his faith", as in Habakkuk 2:4 his own, and not another's; or by the faith of Christ: the Syriac version here renders it, "by the faith of myself"; that is, by the faith of Christ, who speaks, and who is the author and object of faith: the Alexandrian copy and the Vulgate Latin version read, "my just man shall live by faith"; and this life is to be now, in the mean while, until Christ comes, and because he will certainly come:

but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. The Hebrew word used in Habakkuk 2:4 and which, by the Septuagint there, and by the apostle here, is translated by and rendered "draw back", according to R. David Kimchi (c) signifies, pride and haughtiness of heart; and, according to R. Sol. Jarchi (d) it signifies impudence; R. Moses Kimchi (e) takes it to be the same with which is used for a tower, or fortified place; and thinks it designs one who betakes himself to such a place for safety from the enemy, and seeks not to God for deliverance: so that such a person seems to be designed, who swells with pride and confidence in his own righteousness; who betakes himself to some fortress of his own for safety; who withdraws from the assembly of the saints, through fear of reproach and persecution; who withholds the truth, shuns to declare it, or maintain a profession of it; plays the hypocrite, and deals deceitfully in religious things; and, in short, it may intend one, who finally and totally apostatizes from the doctrine of faith, and the profession of it: and in such persons God has no pleasure, never had, nor never will have; but, on the contrary, they are abominable to him, and will lie under his sore displeasure, and feel the keen resentments of it; such stand opposed to the just man, that lives by faith, walks humbly with God, in a dependence, not on his own righteousness, but on the righteousness of Christ, in which he is safe from condemnation, and secure of the divine favour; for drawing back is not supposed of the just man, but of any man, as we, with the Ethiopic version, rightly supply; and is to be understood of anyone of the external professors of religion, who forsake the assembling of the saints, Hebrews 10:25 and is denied of the truly righteous in the following words.

(c) In Hab. ii. 4. (d) In ib. (e) Apud R. David Kimchi in ibid. & in Sepher Shorashim, rad.

{12} Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.

(12) He commends the excellency of a sure faith by the effect, because it is the only way to life, which sentence he sets forth and amplifies by contrast.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Hebrews 10:38. Continuation of the citation, yet so that the author adduces the two clauses of Habakkuk 2:4 in inverted order. For in the O. T. passage the words read: ἐὰν ὑποστείληται, οὐκ εὐδοκεῖ ἡ ψυχή μου ἐν αὐτῷ· ὁ δὲ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεώς μου [ὁ δὲ δίκαιός μου ἐκ πίστεως] ζήσεται. The transposition is intentional, in order to avoid the supplying of the subject ὁ ἐρχόμενος to ὑποστείληται.

ὁ δὲ δίκαιός μου ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται] my (of God, not of Christ: Riehm, Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbr. p. 621, Obs.) righteous one (the devout man belonging to me), however, shall live by faith. ἐκ πίστεως, namely, is, in the sense of the author of the epistle, to be referred to ζήσεται. To conjoin it here, too, as Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11, with δίκαιος (so Baumgarten, Schulz, Böhme, Kuinoel, Klee, Stengel, al.), is inadmissible, because, according to the connection, the design is not to state by what any one becomes δίκαιος, but by what he will obtain the ἐπαγγελία, or, what is the same thing, the ζωὴ αἰώνιος. The notion of the πίστις here closely attaches itself to the Hebrew אמוּנָה. The meaning, in harmony with the conception prevailing elsewhere in the Epistle to the Hebrews, divergent from that of Paul, is the believing, faithfully enduring trust in God and His promises. The second member, καὶ ἐὰν ὑποστείληται κ.τ.λ., has been misunderstood by the LXX. In the Hebrew: הִנֵּה עֻפְּלַה לֹא־יָשְׁרָה נַפְשׁוֹ בֹּו, behold, lifted up, not upright is his (sc. the Chaldean’s) soul in him.

ἐὰν ὑποστείληται] if so be that he with faint heart draws back. Comp. Galatians 2:12. In the application: if he becomes lukewarm in Christianity, and apostatizes from the same. ὑποστείληται does not stand impersonally; nor have we, with Grotius, Maier, and others, to supply τίς, or, with de Wette, Winer, Gramm., 7 Aufl. p. 487 (less decidedly, 5 Aufl. p. 427), and Buttmann, Gramm. des neutest. Sprachgebr. p. 117, to supplement from the foregoing ὁ δίκαιος the general idea ἄνθρωπος as subject. The subject is still the foregoing ὁ δίκαιός μου. This is, moreover, placed beyond doubt, since δίκαιος above is not to be taken in the narrower Pauline sense, but in the general sense of the devout man; he, however, who is in this sense δίκαιος, ceases by the ὑποστέλλεσθαι, to be a δίκαιος.

ἡ ψυχή μου] μου has reference to God, not to Christ (Oecumenius, as likewise, but with hesitation, Theophylact, as more recently Riehm, l.c.), still less to the author of the epistle (Calvin: perinde accipiendum est, ac si ex suo sensu apostolus proferret hanc sententiam. Neque enim illi propositum fuit exacte recitare prophetae verba, sed duntaxat locum notare, ut ad propriorem intuitum invitaret lectores).

38. Now the just shall live by faith] The true reading here (though not in the Hebrew) perhaps is, “But my righteous one shall live by faith” (as in א, A, K), and this is all the more probable because the “my” is omitted by St Paul, and therefore might be omitted here by the copyists. In D, as in some mss. of the LXX., “my” is found after “faith.” In the original Hebrew the passage seems to mean “But the righteous shall live by his fidelity.” On the deeper meaning read into the verse by St Paul see my Life of St Paul, i. 369. The Rabbis said that Habakkuk had compressed into this one rule the 365 negative and 248 positive precepts of the Law.

but if any man draw back] The introduction of the words “any man” by the A.V. is wholly unwarrantable, and at first sight looks as if it were due to dogmatic bias and a desire to insinuate the Calvinistic doctrine of the “indefectibility of grace.” But throughout this Epistle there is not a word which countenances the dogma of “final perseverance.” The true rendering is “And ‘if he draw back My soul approveth him not;’ ” i.e. “if my just man draw back” (comp. Ezekiel 18:24, “when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness).” The verb implies that shrinking from a course once begun which is used of St Peter in Galatians 2:12. It means, primarily, “to strike or shorten sail,” and then to withdraw or hold back (comp. Acts 20:20; Acts 20:27). This quotation follows the LXX. in here diverging very widely from the Hebrew of Habakkuk 2:4, which has “Behold his (the Chaldean’s) soul in him is puffed up, it is not humble (lit. ‘level’); but the righteous shall live by his faithfulness.” All that we have seen of previous quotations shews us how free was the use made, by way of illustration, of Scripture language. Practically the writer here applies the language of the old Prophet, not in its primary sense, but to express his own conceptions (Calvin). On the possible defection of “the righteous” see Article 16 of our Church.

Hebrews 10:38. Ὁ δὲ) The apostle transposes the halves of the verse, and so, by adding the following verse, makes a very suitable Chiasmus. For the things opposed to each other are repeated: faith unto life, drawing back: drawing back, faith unto life, Hebrews 10:38-39. The particle δὲ, but, forms an antithesis to the slothful.—δίκαιος, just) See Romans 1:17, note.—ἐκ πίστεως, by faith) LXX., ἐκ πίστεως μου, or in the same sense, μου ἐκ πίστεως, by my faith. Comp. the pronoun in like manner prefixed, 1 Corinthians 11:24; John 6:54; John 9:10; Heb. in the faith of Him, namely, who was Seen, i.e. of Christ, who will not fail (disappoint[68]): an elegant antithesis. I refer the text of the New Testament to the Heb. as far as it can be done.—καὶ) and; for but. Elegantly: for both halves of the verse flow from the same holy affection (feeling).—ἐὰν ὑποστείληται) The Heb., I think, may be thus interpreted: Lo, if a soul draw itself back, the soul of that man (of him, namely, who draws himself back) is not right (nor pleasing) with regard to Him (namely, who was seen [the subject of the prophet’s vision] or promised); but the just, in the faith of that (viz. promise), shall live. Comp. Mark 16:16. The word עפלה is a metaphor, taken from those who hide themselves in dark caves. See Sam. Petiti var. lect., c. 13.

[68] Referring to the Ἐὰν ὑστερήσῃ, said of the vision in Habakkuk 2:3-4.—ED.

Hebrews 10:38Now the just shall live by faith (ὁ δὲ δίκαιός (μου) ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται)

Cited by Paul, Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11. In the original prophecy the just man is contrasted with the haughty Chaldaean invaders, who are puffed up and not upright. Through his steadfast obedience to God he shall be kept alive in the time of confusion and destruction.

But if any man draw back (καὶ ἐὰν ὑποοτείληται)

Omit if any man. Rend. "and if he draw back," that is, the just man. The possibility of the lapse of even the just is assumed. See on Hebrews 6:4-6. The verb only here, Acts 20:20, Acts 20:27; Galatians 2:12. See on Acts 20:20. Rare in lxx.

Shall have no pleasure (οὐκ εὐδοκεῖ)

Rend. "hath no pleasure." "If he draw back - in him," not in the Hebrew, which reads, "behold, puffed up within him is his soul, it is not upright." The clauses of the lxx are transposed here.

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