Hebrews 2:15
And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
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(15) Deliver them who through fear of death . . . .—This verse brings into relief the former misery and the present freedom. We may well suppose these words to have been prompted by the intense sympathy of the writer with the persecuted and tempted Christians whom he addresses. He writes throughout as one who never forgets their need of sympathetic help, and who knows well the power of the motives, the allurements and the threats, employed to lead them into apostasy. The crushing power of the “fear of death” over those who had not grasped the truth that, in Christ, life and immortality are brought to light, perhaps no thought of ours can reach.

2:14-18 The angels fell, and remained without hope or help. Christ never designed to be the Saviour of the fallen angels, therefore he did not take their nature; and the nature of angels could not be an atoning sacrifice for the sin of man. Here is a price paid, enough for all, and suitable to all, for it was in our nature. Here the wonderful love of God appeared, that, when Christ knew what he must suffer in our nature, and how he must die in it, yet he readily took it upon him. And this atonement made way for his people's deliverance from Satan's bondage, and for the pardon of their sins through faith. Let those who dread death, and strive to get the better of their terrors, no longer attempt to outbrave or to stifle them, no longer grow careless or wicked through despair. Let them not expect help from the world, or human devices; but let them seek pardon, peace, grace, and a lively hope of heaven, by faith in Him who died and rose again, that thus they may rise above the fear of death. The remembrance of his own sorrows and temptations, makes Christ mindful of the trials of his people, and ready to help them. He is ready and willing to succour those who are tempted, and seek him. He became man, and was tempted, that he might be every way qualified to succour his people, seeing that he had passed through the same temptations himself, but continued perfectly free from sin. Then let not the afflicted and tempted despond, or give place to Satan, as if temptations made it wrong for them to come to the Lord in prayer. Not soul ever perished under temptation, that cried unto the Lord from real alarm at its danger, with faith and expectation of relief. This is our duty upon our first being surprised by temptations, and would stop their progress, which is our wisdom.And deliver them - Not all of them "in fact," though the way is open for all. This deliverance relates:

(1) to the dread of death. He came to free them from that.

(2) from death itself - that is, ultimately to bring them to a world where death shall be unknown. The dread of death may be removed by the work of Christ, and they who had been subject to constant alarms on account of it may be brought to look on it with calmness and peace; and ultimately they will be brought to a world where it will be wholly unknown. The dread of death is taken away, or they are delivered from that, because:

(a) the cause of that dread - to wit, sin, is removed; see the notes at 1 Corinthians 15:54-55.

(b) Because they are enabled to look to the world beyond with triumphant joy.

Death conducts them to heaven. A Christian has nothing to fear in death; nothing beyond the grave. In no part of the universe has he any thing to dread, for God is his friend, and he will be his Protector everywhere. On the dying bed; in the grave; on the way up to the judgment; at the solemn tribunal; and in the eternal world, he is under the eye and the protection of his Saviour - and of what should he be afraid?

Who through fear of death - From the dread of dying - that is, whenever they think of it, and they think of it "so often" as to make them slaves of that fear. This obviously means the natural dread of dying, and not particularly the fear of punishment beyond. It is that indeed which often gives its principal terror to the dread of death, but still the apostle refers here evidently to natural death - as an object which people fear. All men have, by nature, this dread of dying - and perhaps some of the inferior creation have it also. It is certain that it exists in the heart of every man, and that God has implanted it there for some wise purpose. There is the dread:

(1) of the dying pang, or pain.

(2) Of the darkness and gloom of mind that attends it.

(3) of the unknown world beyond - the "evil that we know not of."

(4) of the chilliness, and loneliness, and darkness of the grave.

(5) of the solemn trial at the bar of God.

(6) of the condemnation which awaits the guilty - the apprehension of future wo. There is no other evil that we fear so much as we do death - and there is nothing more clear than that God intended that we should have a dread of dying.

The reasons why he designed this are equally clear:


15. fear of death—even before they had experienced its actual power.

all their lifetime—Such a life can hardly be called life.

subject to bondage—literally, "subjects of bondage"; not merely liable to it, but enthralled in it (compare Ro 8:15; Ga 5:1). Contrast with this bondage, the glory of the "sons" (Heb 2:10). "Bondage" is defined by Aristotle, "The living not as one chooses"; "liberty," "the living as one chooses." Christ by delivering us from the curse of God against our sin, has taken from death all that made it formidable. Death, viewed apart from Christ, can only fill with horror, if the sinner dares to think.

The effect of the former destruction of the devil is laid down in this verse, viz. the children’s freedom from the fear of death, to which, being slaves to the devil, they were once in bondage.

And deliver them; he, by breaking and disannulling the devil’s power, doth really, fully, and justly exempt them from the concomitant evil.

Who through fear of death; a painful and wasting horror, working the saddest apprehensions and tumultuous workings of soul, from its apprehended danger of death spiritual, temporal, and eternal, when the wrath of God doth not only dissolve the natural frame, but makes an everlasting separation from himself, shutting them up with the worst company, in the worst place and state that is possible for the human mind to imagine, and that for ever, Job 18:11,14 24:17 Psalm 55:4,5 Psa 73:19 88:14-18.

Were all their lifetime subject to bondage: when they come to the exercise of the reasonable life of man, and under convictions of sin, then these terrors arise, and never leave affrighting or tormenting them, but make them pass as many deaths as moments, as is evident in Cain and Judas; for they are enslaved, and in such a state of drudgery and vassalage to the devil, the most cruel tyrant, by their own guilt, and so are justly, invincibly, and miserably held in it. Christ by his death rescueth them from this woeful, intolerable vassalage to the devil and hell, and brings them into the glorious liberty of the children of God, Romans 8:21 Colossians 1:12,13.

And deliver them, who through fear of death,.... This is another end of Christ's assuming human nature, and dying in it, and thereby destroying Satan, that he might save some out of his hands:

who were all their lifetime subject to bondage; meaning chiefly God's elect among the Jews; for though all men are in a state of bondage to the lusts of the flesh, and are Satan's captives; yet this describes more particularly the state of the Jews, under the law of Moses, which gendered unto bondage; which they being guilty of the breach of, and seeing the danger they were exposed to on that account, were subject, bound, and held fast in and under a spirit of bondage: and that "through fear of death"; through fear of a corporeal death; through fear of chastisements and afflictions, the forerunners of death, and what sometimes bring it on; and through fear of death itself, as a disunion of soul and body, and as a penal evil; and through fear of what follows it, an awful judgment: and this the Jews especially were in fear of, from their frequent violations of the precepts, both of the moral, and of the ceremonial law, which threatened with death; and this they lived in a continual fear of, because they were daily transgressing, which brought on them a spirit of bondage unto fear: and, as Philo the Jew (o) observes, nothing more brings the mind into bondage than the fear of death: and many these, even all the chosen ones among them, Christ delivered, or saved from sin, from Satan, from the law, and its curses, from death corporeal, as a penal evil, and from death eternal; even from all enemies and dangers, and brought them into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

(o) Quod omnis Probus Liber, p. 868.

And deliver them who through fear of {a} death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

(a) By (death) you must understand here, that death which is joined with the wrath of God, as it must be if it is without Christ, and there can be nothing devised that is more miserable.

Hebrews 2:15. Καί] consecutive: and in consequence thereof.

ἀπαλλάξῃ] stands absolutely: might set free, deliver. Without warrant do Grotius, Wolf, and others supplement τοῦ φόβου or τοῦ φόβου θανάτου.

Τούτους] does not go back to τὰ παιδία (Böhme, Kuinoel), but serves for the bringing into relief of the following ὅσοι, and τούτους ὅσοι κ.τ.λ. is a periphrasis of the unredeemed humanity; the thought is not merely of the Israelites (Akersloot, Rambach, Braun, Woerner), and still less merely of the Gentiles (Peirce).

φόβῳ θανάτου] out of fear of death, causal definition to διὰ παντὸς τοῦ ζῆν ἔνοχοι ἦσαν δουλείας.

διὰ παντὸς τοῦ ζῆν] throughout the whole life. The infinitive is employed, by virtue of the addition παντός, entirely as a substantive (διὰ πάσης τῆς ζωῆς). This practice is more rare than the coupling of the infinitive with the mere preposition and article. Yet this very infinitive ζῆν is found exactly so used, as Bleek remarks, with Aesch. Dial. Hebrews 3:4 (ὥσπερ εἰς ἔτερον ζῆν ἐπιθανούμενος); Ignat. Ep. ad Trall. 9 (οὗ χωρὶς τὸ ἀληθινὸν ζῆν οὐκ ἔχομεν), ad Ephes. 3 (καὶ γὰρ Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς τὸ ἀδιάκριτον ἡμῶν ζῆν).

ἔνοχοι ἦσαν δουλείας] belongs together; were held in bondage, had become subject to bondage. We have not to construe ἔνοχοι ἦσαν with φόβῳ θανάτου, and δουλείας with ἀπαλλάξῃ (Abresch, Dindorf, Böhme). For against this the position of the words is decisive. On the thought, comp. Romans 8:15.

15. them who] Lit. “those, as many as,” i.e. “all who.”

through fear of death] This was felt, as we see from the O.T., far more intensely under the old than under the new dispensation. Dr Robertson Smith quotes from the Midrash Tanchuma, “In this life death never suffers man to be glad.” See Numbers 17:13; Numbers 18:5; Psalms 6, 30, &c., and Isaiah 38:10-20, &c. In heathen and savage lands the whole of life is often overshadowed by the terror of death, which thus becomes a veritable “bondage.” Philo quotes a line of Euripides to shew that a man who has no fear of death can never be a slave. But, through Christ’s death, death has become to the Christian the gate of glory. It is remarkable that in this verse the writer introduces a whole range of conceptions which he not only leaves without further development, but to which he does not ever allude again. They seem to lie aside from the main current of his views.

Hebrews 2:15. Ἀπαλλάξῃ) might deliver from the devil, who had the power of death.—τούτους, these) A demonstrative with relation to what precedes.—φόβῳ, through fear) even before they experienced the power itself, for that followed; concerning fear, comp. ch. Hebrews 12:19-20; Exodus 19:21-22; 2 Samuel 6:9.—θανάτου, of death) Sudden deaths were inflicted, in the time of Moses and afterwards, even on unwary transgressors.—διὰ παντὸς, through all) This is an antithesis to for a little, Hebrews 2:9. There are many ages, and these coming one after another, of the brethren.—τοῦ ζῇν, life) That kind of life was not life.—δουλείας, to bondage) The antithesis is, sons unto glory. Paul brings out the same antithesis, Romans 8:15-16. Politicians define liberty to be τὸ ζῇν ὡς βούλεταί τις, living as we choose; slavery to be τὸ ζῇν μὴ ὡς βόυλεται, to live not as we choose.

Hebrews 2:15Deliver (ἀπαλλάξῃ)

Only here in Hebrews, and besides, only Luke 12:58; Acts 19:12. Tolerably often in lxx. Very common in Class. Used here absolutely, not with δουλείας bondage, reading deliver from bondage.

Subject to bondage (ἔνοχοι δουλείας)

Ἔνοχοι from ἐν in and ἔχειν to hold. Lit. holden of bondage. See on James 2:10. Comp. the verb ἐσέξειν, Mark 6:19 (note), and Galatians 5:1. Δουλεία bondage only in Hebrews and Paul.

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