Hebrews 12:9
Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(9) Furthermore we have had fathers.—Rather, Furthermore we had the fathers of our flesh as chasteners (i.e., to chasten us). The thought of the former verses has been, “He chastens as a lather.” From likeness we here pass to contrast. The contrast drawn is between our natural parents and “the Father of spirits” (comp. Numbers 16:22; Numbers 27:16; Zechariah 12:1)—the Creator of all spirits, who is the Giver of life to all, who knows the spirit which He has made (see Psalm 94:9-10) and can discipline it by His chastening.

And live.—Since the life of the spirit subsists only in union with Him.

Hebrews 12:9-11. Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh — Natural parents, from whom we derived our bodies and mortal lives; which corrected us — For our faults; and we gave them reverence — Submitted patiently and quietly to their discipline, neither despising nor fainting under their correction; and shall we not much rather — From the strictest principles of filial duty; be in subjection — Submit with reverence and meekness; unto the Father of spirits — Who has regenerated our souls; and live — And thereby at length obtain eternal life, as a reward of our patience and obedience. “Here the apostle seems to have had Deuteronomy 21:18 in his eye, where the son that was disobedient to his father was ordered to be put to death. This is one of the many instances in which the apostle conveys the most forcible reason in a single word.” By distinguishing between the fathers of our flesh, and the Father of our spirits, the apostle seems to teach us that we derive only our flesh from our parents, but our spirits from God. See Ecclesiastes 12:7; Isaiah 57:16; Zechariah 12:1. For they verily for a few days — During our nonage, (so our corrections shall last only during our abode in this world, and how few are even all our days here!) chastened us after their own pleasure — As they thought good, though frequently they erred therein, either by too much indulgence or severity; but he — God, always, unquestionably; for our profit — That our corrupt inclinations might be more and more purged out, and a heavenly, divine nature more and more implanted in us; that we might be partakers of his holiness — That is, of himself, his glorious image, and heavenly divine nature. Now no chastening — Whether from God or man; for the present — That is, at the time it is inflicted; seemeth to be joyous, but grievous — Is not cause of joy, but of sorrow, to the person chastised; nevertheless afterward — Not indeed of its own nature, but being blessed and sanctified by God; it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness — That holiness and reformation which gives peace of conscience; to them who are exercised thereby — That receive the exercise as from God, and improve it according to his will. See on Isaiah 32:17. 12:1-11 The persevering obedience of faith in Christ, was the race set before the Hebrews, wherein they must either win the crown of glory, or have everlasting misery for their portion; and it is set before us. By the sin that does so easily beset us, understand that sin to which we are most prone, or to which we are most exposed, from habit, age, or circumstances. This is a most important exhortation; for while a man's darling sin, be it what it will, remains unsubdued, it will hinder him from running the Christian race, as it takes from him every motive for running, and gives power to every discouragement. When weary and faint in their minds, let them recollect that the holy Jesus suffered, to save them from eternal misery. By stedfastly looking to Jesus, their thoughts would strengthen holy affections, and keep under their carnal desires. Let us then frequently consider him. What are our little trials to his agonies, or even to our deserts? What are they to the sufferings of many others? There is a proneness in believers to grow weary, and to faint under trials and afflictions; this is from the imperfection of grace and the remains of corruption. Christians should not faint under their trials. Though their enemies and persecutors may be instruments to inflict sufferings, yet they are Divine chastisements; their heavenly Father has his hand in all, and his wise end to answer by all. They must not make light of afflictions, and be without feeling under them, for they are the hand and rod of God, and are his rebukes for sin. They must not despond and sink under trials, nor fret and repine, but bear up with faith and patience. God may let others alone in their sins, but he will correct sin in his own children. In this he acts as becomes a father. Our earthly parents sometimes may chasten us, to gratify their passion, rather than to reform our manners. But the Father of our souls never willingly grieves nor afflicts his children. It is always for our profit. Our whole life here is a state of childhood, and imperfect as to spiritual things; therefore we must submit to the discipline of such a state. When we come to a perfect state, we shall be fully reconciled to all God's chastisement of us now. God's correction is not condemnation; the chastening may be borne with patience, and greatly promote holiness. Let us then learn to consider the afflictions brought on us by the malice of men, as corrections sent by our wise and gracious Father, for our spiritual good.Furthermore - As an additional consideration to induce us to receive chastisement with submission. The argument in this verse is derived from the difference in the spirit and design with which we are corrected by God and by an earthly parent. In God everything is without any intermingling of passion or any improper feeling. In an earthly parent there is often much that is the result of hasty emotion, of an irascible temper, perhaps of the mere love of power. There is much that is inflicted without due reflection, and that produces only pain in the bosom of the parent himself in the recollection. Yet with all this imperfection of parental government, we were patient and unmurmuring. How much more should we submit to one whose paternal discipline is caused by no excited feeling; by no love of power; by no want of reflection, and which never furnishes occasion for regret!

Fathers of our flesh - Earthly fathers; those from whom we have derived our being here. They are contrasted here with God, who is called "the Father of spirits," not because the father does not sustain the paternal relation to the soul as well as the body, but to designate the nature of the dominion over us. The dominion of God is what pertains to a spiritual kingdom, having more direct reference to the discipline of the soul, and being designed to prepare us for the spiritual world; that of the earthly father pertains primarily to our condition here, and the discipline is designed to subdue our unruly passions, to teach us to restrain our appetites, to inculcate maxims of health and prosperity, and to prevent those things which would impede our happiness in the present world. See, however, many curious instances of the manner in which these phrases were used by the Jewish writers, collected by Wetstein.

We gave them reverence - We submitted to them; honored them; loved them. Painful at the time as correction may have been, yet when we have fully understood the design of it, we have loved them the more. The effect of such discipline, properly administered, is to produce real veneration for a parent - for he who in a timely and appropriate manner restrains his child is the only one who will secure ultimate reverence and respect.

Shall we not much rather be in subjection - Since God's government is so much more perfect; since he has so much better right to control us; and since his administration is free from all the defects which attend parental discipline on earth, there is a much higher reason for bowing with submission and reverence to him.

The Father of spirits - Thus, in Numbers 16:22, God is called "the God of the spirits of all flesh;" so also Numbers 27:16; compare Job 33:4. The idea seems to be that, as the soul is the most important part of man, this name is given to God by way of eminence, or he is eminently and supremely our Father. It was his to create the immortal part, and to that spirit which is never to die he sustains the relation of Father. The earthly father is parent to the man as mortal; God is the Father of man as immortal. God is himself a spirit. Angels and human souls, therefore, may be represented as especially his offspring. It is the highest designation which could be given to God to say that he is at the head of the universe of mind; not implying that he is not also at the head of the material universe, but designing to bring into view this high characteristic of the Almighty, that all created minds throughout the universe sustain to him the relation of children. To this Great Being we should, therefore, more cheerfully subject ourselves than to an earthly parent.

And live - Meaning that his fatherly chastisements are adapted to secure our spiritual life. He corrects us that he may promote our final happiness, and his inflictions are the means of saving us from eternal death.

9. fathers … which corrected us—rather as Greek, "We had the fathers of our flesh as correctors."

subjection—See the punishment of insubordination, De 21:18.

Father of spirits—contrasted with "the fathers of our flesh." "Generation by men is carnal, by God is spiritual" [Bengel]. As "Father of spirits," He is both the Originator, and the Providential and Gracious Sustainer, at once of animal and spiritual life. Compare "and LIVE," namely, spiritually; also Heb 12:10, "that we might be partakers of His holiness" (2Pe 1:4). God is a spirit Himself, and the Creator of spirits like Himself, in contrast to men who are flesh, and the progenitors of flesh (Joh 3:6). Jesus our pattern "learned obedience" experimentally by suffering (Heb 5:8).

and live—and so, thereby live spiritually and eternally.

Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us: he enforceth the duty of not despising nor fainting under the Lord’s chastening, from the consideration of his being our Father, and better than any earthly one, and from his goodness in that relation, and therefore we ought to submit to it: We have had our natural parents, as we are children, and who were the subordinate cause of our being as to our bodies, Hebrews 7:5,10, and they were instructors and correctors of us, made use of the rod as well as the word for our nurture; they have whipped and chastised us, putting us to smart and pain, 2 Samuel 7:14 Proverbs 22:15.

And we gave them reverence; enetrepomeya, imports a turning of bowels and spirits within them towards their fathers, covered with shame and blushing for their faults, and afraid to look them, when offended, in the face; reverencing them chastening, and submitting to the penalty, so as to reform and turn from the faults for which they were corrected.

Shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits? The expostulation shows the vehemency of the argument more than a simple position. It is the highest reason, of all right we must and ought (being as much our privilege as duty) to deny ourselves, and be in in that subjection, the free and willing subordination of our spirits to God, as the rod calls for it, receiving the correction, reforming under it, and resigning our souls to him who is the Creator of them as to their natural and spiritual being, and the Sovereign, Guardian, Protector, and Disposer of them; men nor angels have any power over them, but this Father of them only, and his great work and concern is about them, Genesis 2:7 Numbers 27:16 Ecclesiastes 12:7 Zechariah 12:1.

And live; by his chastening of our spirits, our immortal souls, John 3:6 Romans 8:5,6, he is furnishing them with more spiritual life, whereby they are enabled to live and move wholly to God, from grace to glory. He makes them live more the life of God, which God in flesh lived on earth, Galatians 2:20 Ephesians 4:18 Philippians 1:21 1 Peter 4:6 1Jo 3:9. This chastening promotes this honourable life as an instrument and means in God’s hand, and advanceth it daily, till it is perfected in eternal life, Acts 14:22 Romans 5:3-5 8:18 2 Corinthians 4:17,18 Jas 1:12 Judges 1:22. Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh,.... Earthly parents; who are so called, because they are the immediate causes and instruments of the generation of their children, and of their fleshly bodies and worldly beings; and to distinguish them from the Father of spirits: and this shows, that they have not the spirit or soul from them, only the flesh or body, and which is frail and corrupt; and therefore goes by this name.

Which corrected us; early, and at proper seasons, in love, and for instruction, and to prevent ruin, and death:

and we gave them reverence; by submitting to their correction, and hearkening to it; by taking shame to themselves, and acknowledging the offence committed; by retaining the same affection for them; and, by a carefulness not to offend for the future.

Shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live? that is, to God, who is so called; not because he is the Creator of angels, who are spirits; but because he is the Creator of the souls of men; the soul is the more noble and excellent part of man: it bears a resemblance to God; it is, the life of man, and is immortal; it is exceeding precious, and the redemption of it; this was at first immediately created by God; and he still continues to create souls, which he preserves in their being, and has the power of saving and destroying them. Besides, God may be so called, because he is the author and donor of all spiritual gifts, and particularly of regenerating grace; it is he who renews a right spirit in them, and puts a new spirit into them: now such ought to be in "subjection" to him; not only as creatures to a Creator, and as subjects to their prince: but as children to a father, and particularly to him, as and when correcting; they should bow to his sovereignty, resign to his will, be humble under his mighty hand, be still and quiet, and bear all patiently; the advantage arising from such a subjection is life: "and live"; or "that ye may live"; or "and ye shall live": more comfortably, and more to the glory of God, in communion and fellowship with him here, and in heaven to all eternity.

{6} Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

(6) Thirdly, if all men yield this right to fathers, to whom next after God we owe this life, that they may rightfully correct their children, shall we not be much more subject to our Father, who is the author of spiritual and everlasting life?

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Hebrews 12:9-10, a second argument follows. The readers must not become disheartened at the sufferings imposed upon them. For not only is there to be seen, in the fact of their having to struggle with afflictions, the manifestation that God treats them as His children; it is, moreover, the heavenly Father who visits them with this chastening, and that for the very reason that He has their own highest good in view.

εἶτα] then, further, deinde. Not to be taken as an interrogative particle, with Alberti, Raphel, Heinrichs, and others. For otherwise the discourse would have proceeded in the second half of the verse with καὶ οὐ πολὺ μᾶλλον, instead of the mere οὐ πολὺ μᾶλλον. Ingeniously, but without constraining reason, does Reiche (Commentar. crit. p. 121) conjecture εἴ τε instead of εἶτα, while quite unsuitably Hofmann will comprehend εἶτα with the closing words of Hebrews 12:8.

τοὺς τῆς σαρκὸς ἡμῶν πατέρας] fathers of our flesh, i.e. our bodily, earthly fathers.

εἴχομεν παιδευτὰς καὶ ἐνετρεπόμεθα] we had as chasteners, and heeded them, i.e. we gave heed when we had them as chasteners. Inasmuch as the author is addressing grown-up persons, the imperfects characterize the period of the bygone youth (we used to give heed). The combining of ἐντρέπεσθαι, however, with the accusative of the object is in later Greek style the ordinary one. With the earlier authors the genitive is used.

The absolute statement εἶταἐεντρεπόμεθα takes the place of a hypothetical premiss (comp. Hebrews 10:28 f.; 1 Corinthians 7:18; 1 Corinthians 7:21, al.), and the whole verse contains an argument a minore ad majus.

οὐ πολὺ μᾶλλον ὑποταγησόμεθα τῷ πατρὶ τῶν πνευμάτων καὶ ζήσομεν;] shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and (i.e. so that we in consequence thereof) live? By ὁ πατὴρ τῶν πνευμάτων naturally God is meant. With Hammond, to think of Christ, is forbidden by the connection (comp. Hebrews 12:7). To the Father of spirits, i.e. God, who is Father in regard to the higher spiritual domain of life. That God, as the Creator of all things, is the Final Cause also of the bodily life of man, is a fact not excluded by the expression; only that which is the main thing as concerns God’s fatherly relation is here emphasized. ὁ πατὴρ τῶν πνευμάτων does not designate God as Creator of the souls, in the sense of Creatianism as opposed to Traducianism (Calvin, Estius, Justinian, Beza, Jac. Cappellus, Drusius, Carpzov, Delitzsch, Riehm, Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbr. p. 678; Kurtz, al.). Nor as the One who makes provision for our souls (Morus, Dindorf, Kuinoel, Böhme, and others). Just as little is πνεύματα to be understood of the angels (Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact: ἢ τῶν ἀσωμάτων δυνάμεων), or the gifts of the Spirit (Theodoret: πατέρα πνενμάτων τὸν πνευματικὸν πατέρα κέκληκεν ὡς τῶν πνευματικῶν χαρισμάτων πηγήν. Comp. Chrysostom, Oecumenius, and Theophylact). It is possible there was present to the mind of the author the characterization of God, LXX. Numbers 16:22; Numbers 27:16, as a θεὸς τῶν πνευμάτων καὶ πάσης σαρκός.

καὶ ζήσομεν] Declaration of the result of this obedience, in the form of a parallel arrangement. ζῆν of the enjoyment of the everlasting life of bliss, as Hebrews 10:38; Romans 8:13, and frequently.Hebrews 12:9. With εἶτα a fresh phase of the argument is introduced. [Raphel in loc. is of opinion that εἶτα here as frequently in the classics is “nota interrogantis cum vehementia et quasi indignatione quadam”; but it gives a better construction if we take it in the sense of “further” as in 1 Corinthians 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:7, and Mark 4:28, πρῶτον χόρτον, εἶτα στάχυν, εἶτα πλήρης σῖτος.] The argument is, “the fathers of our flesh we used to have as trainers, and we had them in reverence; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of our spirits and live?” The article before πνευμάτων makes it probable that there is no reference to angels but only an antithesis to τῆς σαρκὸς ἡμῶν. The position of the two words σαρκός and πνευμάτων confirms this. καὶ ζήσομεν is unexpected, and is inserted to balance καὶ ἐνετρεπόμεθα [on this verb see Anz. p. 269] in the rhythm of the sentence. The thought is that only by subjection to the Father of our spirit can we have life. Delitzsch maintains that this verse strongly favours the theory of Creationism and quotes Hugo de S. Victore, “Nota diligenter hanc authoritatem, per quam manifeste probatur, quod animae non sunt ex traduce sicut caro”. It is safer to say with Davidson, “It is as a spirit, or on his spiritual side, that man enters into close relation with God; and this leads to the conception that God is more especially the Author of man’s spirit, or Author of man on his spiritual side, and to designations such as those in Numbers 16:22”. Modern science scouts Creationism; although if Wallace’s idea of the evolution of man be accepted it might find encouragement.9. unto the Father of spirits] God might be called “the Father of the spirits,” as having created Angels and Spirits; but more probably the meaning is “the Father of our spirits,” as in Numbers 16:22, “the God of the spirits of all flesh.” God made our bodies and our souls, but our spirits are in a yet closer relation to Him (Job 12:10; Job 32:8; Job 33:4; Ecclesiastes 12:7; Zechariah 12:1; Isaiah 42:5, &c.). If it meant “the Author of spiritual gifts,” the expression would be far-fetched and would be no contrast to “the father of our flesh.” Here and in Hebrews 7:10 theologians have introduced the purely verbal, meaningless, and insoluble dispute about Creationism and Traducianism—i.e. as to whether God separately creates the soul of each one of us, or whether we derive it through our parents by hereditary descent from Adam.Hebrews 12:9. Εἶτα) then. A particle, which follows the argument that had been laid down, and urges still further the hearer. See note on Chrysost. περὶ ἱερως., p. 462.—τοὺς μὲν τῆς σαρκὸς ἡμῶν πατέρας, the fathers indeed of our flesh) An antithesis to τῷ πατρὶ τῶν πιευμάτων, to the Father of spirits. Generation by men is carnal; by GOD, is spiritual. Here the propagation of the soul by parents is not denied, even as by mentioning spirits it is not denied that our flesh, i.e. our nature, is formed by GOD.—εἴχομεν) we had, we endured with equanimity, in early life.—καὶ ἐνετρεπόμεθα) The fruit of discipline is to be turned to virtue and practice. Eustathius observes in Homer, ἐντρέπεσθαι, τὸ ἐπιστρέφεσθαι, μετα βάλλεσθαι; but also the LXX. have ἐντρέπεσθαι for נכנע, 2 Chronicles 7:14; 2 Chronicles 12:7; 2 Chronicles 12:12; 2 Chronicles 30:11; 2 Chronicles 36:12, etc.—τῷ Πατρὶ τῶν πνευμάτων, to the Father of spirits) An exquisite title; comp. πνεύμασι, to the spirits, Hebrews 12:23. So LXX. Κύριος ὁ Θεὸς τῶν πνευμάτων, the Lord God of the spirits, Numbers 27:16, also Numbers 26:22.—καὶ ζήσομεν, and we shall live) in the spiritual and everlasting life. This is explained in the following verse. Often spirit and life are mentioned together: καὶ, and, has the consecutive (consequential) power (and therefore, and so), as just before καὶ ἐνετρεπόμεθα, and we reverenced.Verse 9. - Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us (more correctly, we once had, or, we used to have, the fathers of our flesh as chasteners), and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? This introduces an à fortiori argument. We are reminded of the days of our youth, while we were under parental discipline, and bore with it submissively: much more should we submit to the discipline of our heavenly Father, to whom we are as children under training all our life long! Commentators differ as to what is exactly meant by the contrast between "the fathers of our flesh" and "the Father of spirits (τῶν πνευμάτων)." Some (among moderns Delitzsch) find here a support to the theory of creationism as against traducianism; i.e. that the soul of each individual, as distinct from the body, is a new creation, not transmitted from the parents. This view would have more to go on than it has, were we justified in implying ἡμῶν after πνευμάτων ("our spirits," in opposition to "our flesh," preceding). But τῶν πνευμάτων seems evidently meant to be understood generally; and the expression (suggested probably by Numbers 16:22 and Numbers 27:16, "The God of the spirits of all flesh") need imply only that, though God is the original Author of flesh as well as spirit, yet the latter, whether in man or otherwise existing, has in a peculiar sense its parentage from him (cf. Genesis 2:7, "The LORD GOD formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul;" also Job 33:4, "The Spirit of the LORD hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life"). Our earthly parents transmit to us our carnal existence; our spiritual part, in whatever mysterious way derived or inspired, is duo to our Divine parentage; and it is in respect of this that we are God's children and accountable to him. But, as has been intimated above, it is not human spirits only that are here in the writer's view. God is the Father of all "the spirits," whether in the flesh or not; all are of Divine parentage, for God himself is Spirit - Πνεῦμα ὁ Θεός (John 4:24). Chrysostom explains thus: Τῷ πατρὶ τῶν πνευμὰτων ἤτοι τῶν χαρισμάτων λέγει, ἤτοι τῶν εὐχῶν ψυχῶν ἤτοι τῶν ἀσωμάτων δυνάμεων Furthermore (εἷτα)

Everywhere else in N.T. this particle marks a succession of time or incident. See Mark 4:17; Mark 8:25; Luke 8:12; 1 Corinthians 15:5, 1 Corinthians 15:7. Here it introduces a new phase of the subject under discussion.

Fathers of our flesh (τοὺς μὲν τῆς σαρκὸς ἡμῶν πατέρας)

Up to this point the suffering of Christians has been explained by God's fatherly relation to them. Now the emphatic point is that their fathers, with whom God is compared, were only earthly, human parents. The phrase πατέρας τῆς σαρκὸς N.T.o , but kindred expressions are found Romans 4:1, Romans 9:3; Galatians 4:29; Hebrews 2:14.

Which corrected (παιδευτὰς)

Lit. "we have had fathers of our flesh as chasteners." Only here and Romans 2:20. In lxx, Sir. 37:19; Hosea 5:2; 4 Macc. 5:34; 9:6.

Shall we not much rather be in subjection (οὐ πολὺ μάλλον ὑποταγησόμεθα)

The comparison is between the respect paid to a fallible, human parent, which may grow out of the natural relation, or may be due to fear, and the complete subjection to the divine Father.

To the Father of spirits (τῷ πατρὶ τῶν πνευμάτων)

Contrasted with fathers of the flesh. Their relation to us is limited; his is universal. They are related to us on the fleshly side; he is the creator of our essential life. Our relation to him is on the side of our eternal being. Comp. John 4:23, John 4:24; Zechariah 12:1; Isaiah 57:16. The phrase N.T.o. Comp. lxx, Numbers 16:22; Numbers 27:16; Revelation 22:6. Clement of Rome styles God the benefactor (εὐεργέτης) of spirits, the creator and overseer (κτίστης, ἐπίσκοπος) of every spirit, and the Lord (δεσπότης) of spirits. Ad 1 Corinthians 59, lxiv.

And live (καὶ ζήσομεν)

Have true life; not limited to the future life. Comp. John 5:26; John 6:57; 1 John 5:11; Revelation 11:11; Acts 16:28; Romans 6:11; Romans 14:8; 1 John 4:9, and see on living God, Hebrews 3:12.

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