Hebrews 13:2
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
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(2) To entertain strangers.—Hospitality to Christian brethren at a distance from their homes is especially intended (1Peter 4:9): this was one manifestation of the “love of the brethren” (Hebrews 13:1). The prominence assigned to this duty in the exhortations of the Epistles of the New Testament was faithfully reflected in the practice of the early Church.

Thereby some have entertained angels unawares.—See Genesis 18, 19. The Greek word for “angels”—messengers—of itself would serve to remind these Christians that, though the strangers whom they welcomed were but men, they might be special messengers of God. Clement of Rome, in his Epistle to the Corinthians (A.D. 95), appeals to the same examples (and also to Rahab): “For his faith and hospitality a son was given to Abraham in his old age. For his hospitality and godliness Lot was saved from Sodom.”

13:1-6 The design of Christ in giving himself for us, is, that he may purchase to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works; and true religion is the strongest bond of friendship. Here are earnest exhortations to several Christian duties, especially contentment. The sin opposed to this grace and duty is covetousness, an over-eager desire for the wealth of this world, with envy of those who have more than ourselves. Having treasures in heaven, we may be content with mean things here. Those who cannot be so, would not be content though God raised their condition. Adam was in paradise, yet not contented; some angels in heaven were not contented; but the apostle Paul, though abased and empty, had learned in every state, in any state, to be content. Christians have reason to be contented with their present lot. This promise contains the sum and substance of all the promises; I will never, no, never leave thee, no, never forsake thee. In the original there are no less than five negatives put together, to confirm the promise: the true believer shall have the gracious presence of God with him, in life, at death, and for ever. Men can do nothing against God, and God can make all that men do against his people, to turn to their good.Be not forgetful to entertain strangers - On the duty of hospitality, see a full explanation in the notes on Romans 12:13.

For thereby some have entertained angels unawares - Without knowing that they were angels. As Abraham (Genesis 18:2 ff), and Lot did; Genesis 19. The motive here urged for doing it is, that by entertaining the stranger we may perhaps be honored with the presence of those whose society will be to us an honor and a blessing. It is not well for us to miss the opportunity of the presence, the conversation, and the prayers of the good. The influence of such guests in a family is worth more than it costs to entertain them. If there is danger that we may sometimes receive those of an opposite character. yet it is not wise on account of such possible danger, to lose the opportunity of entertaining those whose presence would be a blessing. Many a parent owes the conversion of a child to the influence of a pious stranger in his family; and the hope that this may occur, or that our own souls may be blessed, should make us ready, at all proper times, to welcome the feet of the stranger to our doors. Many a man, if, he had been accosted as Abraham was at the door of his tent by strangers, would have turned them rudely away; many a one in the situation of Lot would have sent the unknown guests rudely from his door; but who can estimate what would have been the results of such a course on the destiny of those good people and their families? For a great number of instances in which the pagan were supposed to have entertained the gods, though unknown to them, see Wetstein in loc.


Heb 13:1-25. Exhortation to Various Graces, Especially Constancy in Faith, Following Jesus amidst Reproaches. Conclusion, with Pieces of Intelligence and Salutations.

1. brotherly love—a distinct special manifestation of "charity" or "love" (2Pe 1:7). The Church of Jerusalem, to which in part this Epistle was addressed, was distinguished by this grace, we know from Acts (compare Heb 6:10; 10:32-34; 12:12, 13).

continue—Charity will itself continue. See that it continue with you.

The next duty suitable to Christ’s kingdom, is hospitality to Christian strangers.

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; be neither ignorant nor unmindful: by which charge they are bound strongly and always not to have this out of mind, though it may be out of hand; and the negative confirms the positive duty, removing hinderances, and enjoining it strictly, that they have a love and desire to the duty, bearing affection to the person of a Christian brother though a stranger, unknown and brought by Providence to them, Matthew 22:39 25:35; and to the work of being an host, of entertaining such Christians; xenov signifying an host as well as a stranger or guest. It is a love to be an hospitable person that is here required, Titus 1:8; (such was Gaius to Paul and the church, Romans 16:23); importing a kind, courteous reception of Christians into their houses, being harbourless, which Christ promiseth them, Luke 18:29 1 Timothy 5:10; a free and cheerful provision for their necessary refreshing, Genesis 18:4-6; with a careful furtherance and assistance of them in the work of God, and helping them to persevere in the same, 3Jo 1:6-8.

For thereby some have entertained angels unawares; the advantage that accrues to such hosts of the Christian church and its members is great; for in the exercise of this duty, Abraham and Lot, being strangers, and waiting to entertain such, received angels into their tabernacle and house, Genesis 18:2,3, and had sweet discoveries of God in the Messiah made to them; were delivered by them from judgment, as Lot, Genesis 19:10,15-17. And now the general guard of angels goeth along with the saints, and are entertained in them, who never come without a blessing, they attending them in their way, defending them against evil spirits, and offensive ones and places where they are, though their ministry be little observed or acknowledged as it ought, Hebrews 1:14. Not only angels, but Christ himself accompanieth his pilgrim members, and is entertained, fed, comforted, and lodged in and with them, Matthew 10:40-42 25:34-36; and for this will he reward them in both worlds. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers,.... By whom are meant, not unconverted men, who are strangers to God and Christ, and the covenants of promise; nor saints, who are as pilgrims and strangers in this world; but such as are of another country, and are unknown; and even though wicked men, they are not excluded; though such as are obliged to quit their own country for righteousness sake are chiefly designed; all strangers in distress are meant, and hospitality is to be exercised towards them; which lies negatively in doing nothing to distress them, and positively in providing food, raiment, lodging, &c. for them, and in comforting, counselling, and directing them in all matters in which they may stand in need thereof: and that this is a duty, appears from the light of nature, and practices of the Heathens, Acts 28:2, from the express law of God, Deuteronomy 10:19 and many others made in favour of strangers, binding on the Jews; from the sundry exhortations to it in the New Testament, Romans 12:13 and from the exhortation here not to forget it; and from the great regard which Christ will show to such as mind it, and his disregard to others at the last day: the persons who are to exercise it are not only the ministers of the Gospel, who should be given to hospitality; but all the saints, even the meaner sort are not exempted, but should use it according to their ability; though it is chiefly binding on those that are rich. And this should not be forgot, but pursued and followed after; it should be frequently performed; men should be given, and used to it; it should be done without grudging, and in a friendly and loving manner:

for thereby some have entertained angels unawares; as Abraham, Genesis 18:1, he knew them not to be angels at first; they appeared as men, and he treated them as such; but they were angels, yea, one of them was Jehovah himself; and hereby he received many favours, Genesis 18:10, and Lot, Genesis 19:1 who knew not that they were angels he took into his house; but they were, and he was delivered by them from the burning of Sodom; yea, some have unawares, this way, entertained Christ himself, Luke 24:15 and indeed, entertaining of his members is entertaining him, Matthew 25:38. It is an observation of a Jewish writer (r) upon the first of these instances;

"from hence we learn (says he) how great is the strength (or virtue) of the reception of travellers (or hospitality), as the Rabbins of blessed memory say, greater is , "hospitality", than the reception of the face of the Shechinah.''

And this is said to be one of the six things which a man enjoys the fruit of in this world, and for which there remains a reward in the world to come (s).

(r) R. Abraham Seba in Tzeror Hammor, fol. 18, 4. (s) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 127. 1.

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
Hebrews 13:2. Exhortation to hospitality. Comp. Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8. Owing to the hatred of the Jews towards the Christians, and the almost entire absence of public places of entertainment, hospitality towards fellow-Christians on their journeys became, for the Palestinians also, an urgent necessity.

διὰ ταύτης γὰρ ἔκαθόν τινες ξενίσαντες ἀγγέλους] Enforcement of the command uttered, by calling attention to the high honour[123] which, by the exercise of this virtue, accrued to single remote ancestors of the Jewish people; for by the manifestation of hospitality some have unwittingly entertained angels. The author was certainly, in connection with this statement, thinking specially of Abraham and Lot (Genesis 18:19). We have, moreover, to compare the declaration of the Lord, Matthew 25:44-45, according to which he who entertains one of His people, entertains the Lord Himself.

The ἜΛΑΘΟΝ, written in accordance with genuine Greek praxis, but not occurring elsewhere in the N. T., forms a paronomasia with ἘΠΙΛΑΝΘΆΝΕΣΘΕ.

[123] Comp. Philo, de Abrah. p. 366 (with Mangey, II. p. 17 f.): Ἐγὼ δὲ οὐκ αἶδα τίνα ὑπερβολὴν εὐδαιμονίας καὶ μακαριότητος εἶναι φῶ περὶ τὴν οἰκίαν, ἐν ᾖ καταχθῆναι καὶ ξενίων λαχεῖν ὑπίμειναν ἄγγελοι πρὸς ἀνθρώτους, ἱεραὶ καὶ θεῖαι φὑσεις, ὑποδιάκονοι καὶ ὕπαρχοι τοῦ πρώτου Θεοῦ διʼ ὦν σἷα πρισβευτῶν ὅσα ἄν θελήσῃ τῷ γένει ἡμῶν προθεσπίσαι, διαγγέλλει.

Hebrews 13:2-3. Summons to two particular forms of expression of the general virtue, Hebrews 13:1.2. to entertain strangers] The hospitality of Christians (what Julian calls ἡ περὶ ξένους φιλανθρωπία) was naturally exercised chiefly towards the brethren. The absence of places of public entertainment except in the larger towns, and the constant interchange of letters and messages between Christian communities—a happy practice which also prevailed among the Jewish Synagogues—made “hospitality” a very necessary and blessed practice. St Peter tells Christians to be hospitable to one another ungrudgingly, and unmurmuringly, though it must sometimes have been burdensome (1 Peter 4:9; comp. Romans 12:13; Titus 1:8; 1 Timothy 3:2). We find similar exhortations in the Talmud (Berachoth f. 63. 2; Shabbath f. 27. 1). Lucian (De Mort. Peregr. 16) and the Emperor Julian (Ep. 49) notice the unwonted kindness and hospitality of Christians.

have entertained angels unawares] Abraham (Genesis 18:2-22. Lot (Genesis 19:1-2). Manoah (Jdg 13:2-14). Gideon (Jdg 6:11-20). Our Lord taught that we may even entertain Him—the King of Angels—unawares. “I was a stranger, and ye took Me in” (Matthew 25:35-40). There is an allusion to this “entertaining of angels” in Philo, De Abrahamo (Opp. ii. 17). The classic verb rendered “unawares” (elathon) is not found elsewhere in the N.T. in this sense, and forms a happy paronomasia with “forget not.”Hebrews 13:2. Μὴ ἐπιλανθάνεσθε, do not forget) although you have been spoiled of your goods. It is easy to forget such a duty, Hebrews 13:16 : so μιμνήσκεσθε, μνημονεύετε, remember, Hebrews 13:3; Hebrews 13:7.—ἔλαθον ξενίσαντες, have entertained unawares) for λαθόντες ἐξένισαν. A Hypallage[90] frequent with the Greeks. Comp. Chrysost. de Sacerd., p. 427. Hereby he obviates the distrust usually felt towards unknown strangers.—τινἐς, some) Abraham, Lot: Genesis 18:2; Genesis 19:1.—αγγέλους, angels) So an unknown guest is often more worthy than he appears, and has angels for his attendants, although they are not seen. Actions are estimated according to what a man does, not merely according to what he thinks he does. Matthew 25:40; Matthew 25:45.

[90] See Append. A transposition of words, whereby we say of one what ought to be said of another.—ED.Verse 2. - Be not forgetful to entertain strangers (or, of hospitality): for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Allusions to this duty are frequent in the Epistles; its exercise would be of especial importance, in those days of persecution, towards scattered and destitute brethren as well as towards missionaries, though it by no means appears that it was meant to be confined to "them that are of the household of faith." Possibly some of the wavering Hebrew Christians might be becoming less ready to open their doors to the persecuted from fear of "reproach" in Jewish circles. The allusion of the latter part of the verse is evidently to Abraham and Lot (Genesis 18. and 19.). At any time the visits even of our fellow-men may be to us as visits of angels, as being messengers of God's purposes for good when least expected. And especially to be noted are our Lord's own words, "He that receiveth you receiveth me," etc., and "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matthew 25:40). Be not forgetful to entertain strangers (τῆς φιλοξενίας μὴ ἐπιλανθάνεσθε)

Lit. be not forgetful of hospitality. Φιλοξενία only here and Romans 12:13. olxx. Φιλόξενος hospitable, 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8; 1 Peter 4:9. The rendering of Rev. to show love unto strangers, is affected. On the injunction comp. Romans 12:13; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8; 1 Peter 4:9, and see Clem. Rom. Ad Corinth. x., xi., xii. The virtue of hospitality is not distinctively Christian. It appears with the very beginnings of history, largely as the result of nomadic conditions. It was peculiarly an Oriental virtue. In the Egyptian Book of the Dead, commendatory judgment is awarded to him who has fed the hungry and clothed the naked. The O.T. abounds in illustrations, and the practice of hospitality among the Arabs and Bedoueen is familiar through the writings of travelers in the East. Great stress was laid on the duty by the Greeks, as appears constantly in Homer and elsewhere. Hospitality was regarded as a religious duty. The stranger was held to be under the special protection of Zeus, who was called ξένιος, the God of the stranger. The Romans regarded any violation of the rites of hospitality as impiety. Cicero says: "It seems to me eminently becoming that the homes of distinguished men should be open to distinguished guests, and that it is an honor to the Republic that foreigners should not lack this kind of liberality in our city" (De Off. ii.18).

Have entertained angels unawares (ἔλαθόν τινες ξεσίσαντες ἀγγέλους)

The Greek idiom is, "were not apparent as entertaining angels." The verb ἔλαθον were concealed represents the adverb unawares. For similar instances see Mark 14:8; Acts 12:16; Aristoph. Wasps, 517; Hdt. i. 44; Hom. Il. xiii. 273. Ξενίζειν to receive as a guest, mostly in Acts. In lxx only in the apocryphal books. In later Greek, to surprise with a novelty; passive, to be surprised or shocked. So 1 Peter 4:4, 1 Peter 4:12; comp. 2 Ep. of Clem. of Rome (so called), xvii.: To be a stranger or to be strange, once in N.T., Acts 17:20. Ξενισμός amazement, perplexity, not in N.T. lxx, Proverbs 15:17. Comp. Ignatius, Ephesians 19.The allusion to the unconscious entertainment of angels is probably to Genesis 18, 19, but the idea was familiar in Greek literature. The Greeks thought that any stranger might be a God in disguise. See Hom. Od. i. 96 ff.; iii.-329-370; xvii. 485. Comp. also the beautiful story of Baucis and Philemon as related by Ovid (Metam. viii. 626-724). The thought appears in our Lord's words, Matthew 25:34-46.

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