Hebrews 3:16
For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.
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(16) For.—The connecting link is the thought of “the provocation.” A slight change in the accentuation of the first Greek word effects a complete change in the sense: For who when they had heard did provoke? Nay, was it not all that came out of Egypt through Moses? Those who were disobedient were the people whom God, through Moses, had but now delivered from bondage! The two exceptions (Numbers 14:30) are left out of account in the presence of the multitude of rebels. There can be little doubt that the above translation (now generally received) presents the true meaning of the verse. It will be remembered that the oldest MSS. give no evidence on such points as accentuation, and therefore leave our judgment free. In modern times Bengel was the first to point out the true form of the Greek word; but one of the ancient versions (the Peschito-Syriac), and at least three of the Greek Fathers, are found to give the same interpretation. It will be seen at once that, with this arrangement of the words, the present verse is similar in structure to the two following.

Hebrews 3:16. For some, &c. — As if he had said, You have need to attend; be watchful and circumspect. For some — Yea, many; when they had heard — The voice of God in giving the law, and the various instructions which God granted them in the wilderness; did provoke — Literally, bitterly provoke, that is, God, whose voice they heard. By this consideration the apostle enforces his exhortation; when the people, says he, of old heard the voice of God in that dispensation of his law and grace which was suited to their condition, some of them provoked God; and whereas those also may do so who hear his voice in the dispensation of the gospel, it concerns all that hear it to take care that they be not disobedient; for, under every dispensation, dreadful is the consequence of abused mercy. Howbeit, not all that came out of Egypt — In the preceding discourse the apostle had expressed the sin and punishment of the people indefinitely, so as to appear at first view to include the whole generation in the wilderness; but here he makes an exception, which may refer to three sorts of persons. First, Those who were under twenty years of age in the second year after their coming out of Egypt, and who were not numbered in the wilderness of Sinai. See Numbers 1:1; Numbers 1:3. For of those that were then numbered, there was not a man left save Caleb and Joshua, but they all died, because of their provocation. Secondly, the tribe of Levi; for the threatening and oath of God was only against them that were numbered, and Moses was expressly commanded not to number the Levites; although it is much to be feared that the generality of this tribe also provoked and fell. Thirdly, Caleb and Joshua are excepted; and indeed seem here to be principally intended. Now the apostle thus expresses the limitation of his former general assertion, that he might enforce his exhortation by the example of them who believed and obeyed the voice of God, and therefore entered into his rest; as well as of those who provoked, and therefore were prohibited from entering it. So that he draws his argument not only from the severity of God, which at the first view seems to be only set forth, but also from his implied faithfulness and mercy.

3:14-19 The saints' privilege is, they are made partakers of Christ, that is, of the Spirit, the nature, graces, righteousness, and life of Christ; they are interested in all Christ is, in all he has done, or will do. The same spirit with which Christians set out in the ways of God, they should maintain unto the end. Perseverance in faith is the best evidence of the sincerity of our faith. Hearing the word often is a means of salvation, yet, if not hearkened to, it will expose more to the Divine wrath. The happiness of being partakers of Christ and his complete salvation, and the fear of God's wrath and eternal misery, should stir us up to persevere in the life of obedient faith. Let us beware of trusting to outward privileges or professions, and pray to be numbered with the true believers who enter heaven, when all others fail because of unbelief. As our obedience follows according to the power of our faith, so our sins and want of care are according to the prevailing of unbelief in us.For some - Some of the Hebrews who came out of Egypt. The truth was that a large proportion of them rebelled against God, and provoked him to indignation. It is somewhat remarkable that though "all" the Hebrews seem to have joined in the provocation - except a very small number - Paul should have used language which would seem to imply that the number which rebelled was comparatively small. Another version, therefore, has been given to this passage by some of the most eminent critics, consisting merely in a change in the punctuation, by which a different view is given of the whole sentence. According to this, it would be a question, and would mean, "But who were they who when they had heard did provoke? Were they not all indeed who came out of Egypt under Moses? And with whom was He angry for 40 years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness?" This version was adopted by Chrysostom, Theodoret, and others of the Fathers; and is adopted by Rosenmuller, Clarke, Stuart, Pyle, and some others. In favor of it, it may be alleged:

(1) that the Greek will bear it, all the change required being in the punctuation;

(2) that it avoids the difficulty which exists in the other interpretation of supposing the apostle to imply that but few of them rebelled, when the truth was that it was nearly all;

(3) it thus accords with the remainder of the exhortation, which consists in a series of questions; and,

(4) it agrees with the scope and design of the whole.

The object was not to state that it was not all who came out of Egypt that rebelled, or that the number was small, but that the great body of them rebelled and fell in the wilderness, and that Christians should be admonished by their example. These reasons seem to be so strong as to make it probable that this is the true construction, and the sense then will be, "For who were they that having heard did provoke? Were they not all who came out of Egypt under Moses?"

When they had heard - Had heard God speaking to them, and giving them his commands.

Did provoke - Provoked him to anger; or their conduct was such as was suited to produce indignation; see the note on Hebrews 3:8.

Howbeit - Αλλά Alla. "But." This particle "in a series of questions, and standing at the head of a question, means "but, further." It serves to connect, and give intensity to the interrogation" - Stuart. Paul means to ask with emphasis whether the great mass of those who came out of Egypt did not apostatize? At the same time he means to intimate that there is no security that they who have witnessed - remarkable manifestations of the greatness of God, and who have partaken of extraordinary mercies, will not apostatize and perish. As the Hebrews, who heard God speak from Mount Sinai, revolted and perished, so it is possible that they who witness the mercies of God in redemption, may be in danger of abusing all those mercies, and of perishing. By the example, therefore, of the disobedient Israelites, he would admonish professed Christians of their danger.

Not all ... - According to the interpretation proposed above, "Were they not all who came out of Egypt?" Or "did not all who came out of Egypt?" The word "all" here is not to be taken in the strict sense, It is often used to denote the great body; a large proportion; or vast multitudes. Thus, it is used in Matthew 3:5, "Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan." So in John 3:26, "The same baptizeth, and all people came to him." So Philippians 2:21, "For all seek their own;" 2 Corinthians 3:2, "Ye are our epistle, known and read of all men." "In fact" there were two exceptions - and but two - of the adults who came out of Egypt - Caleb and Joshua; Numbers 14:30. All the others complained against the Lord, and were prohibited from entering the promised land. Of the great multitudes who came out of Egypt, and who murmured, the exception was so small that the apostle had no scruple in saying in general that they were all rebellious.

16. For some—rather interrogatively, "For WHO was it that, when they had heard (referring to 'if ye will hear,' Heb 3:15), did provoke (God)?" The "For" implies, Ye need to take heed against unbelief: for, was it not because of unbelief that all our fathers were excluded (Eze 2:3)? "Some," and "not all," would be a faint way of putting his argument, when his object is to show the universality of the evil. Not merely some, but all the Israelites, for the solitary exceptions, Joshua and Caleb, are hardly to be taken into account in so general a statement. So Heb 3:17, 18, are interrogative: (1) the beginning of the provocation, soon after the departure from Egypt, is marked in Heb 3:16; (2) the forty years of it in the wilderness, Heb 3:17; (3) the denial of entrance into the land of rest, Heb 3:18. Compare Note, see on [2545]1Co 10:5, "with the majority of them God was displeased."

howbeit—"Nay (why need I put the question?), was it not all that came out of Egypt?" (Ex 17:1, 2).

by Moses—by the instrumentality of Moses as their leader.

For some, when they had heard, did provoke: this is a rational enforcement of the former duty pressed; it being as possible for them to provoke Christ as others, they should look to it, and not harden their hearts; for the greater some, the most of the congregation of Israel, imbittered God’s Spirit by their unbelief and hardness of heart; though Christ spake to them from heaven, as never was before done, and daily by Moses they were hearing counsels by which they might live, yet provoked they him, and would not believe.

Howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses: this rightly interprets the psalmist, and sets a better example of their fathers for them to follow. Let Caleb and Joshua, believers, and obedient to God, be your patterns to imitate. He aggravates the disobedience of the one, and the obedience of the other. They all had equally a clear exemption and deliverance from the place of bondage, and that by Moses, by whom God wrought such miracles as might command faith from any; yet these some, by murmuring and striving with the Redeemer, provoked him: how great is their sin! How suitable and pleasing the obedience of the others to him!

For some, when, they had heard,.... The Arabic version adds, "his voice"; the law on Mount Sinai; the voice of words, with the voices and thunderings that attended it; the book of the covenant read; the whole system of laws and ordinances delivered to Moses, and by him to them; and also the Gospel, for that was preached to the Israelites in the wilderness, and heard by them; as appears from Hebrews 4:2 and which seems chiefly intended: and yet some of the hearers of it

did provoke; not only Moses, to speak unadvisedly with his lips; but they provoked Jehovah himself, and the angel of his presence, and his Holy Spirit, by their idolatry, ingratitude, and unbelief: and the aggravation of their sin is, that they did it when they had heard the Gospel, and while they were hearing it; which shows that the Gospel may be heard to no advantage; as when it is heard in a careless and indifferent manner; when it makes no impression, takes no place, and has no root; when the world and the things of it are the great concern of the mind, while hearing it; when it is not attended with the power and Spirit of God; when it is not received in love, nor mixed with faith, nor put in practice: and hence the Gospel heard, comes to be an aggravation of men's condemnation:

howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses; that is, they did not all provoke, but some did; which is another aggravation of their sin; they were just come out of Egyptian bondage; brought out of it by the Lord, with the mighty and outstretched arm of his power; and yet they provoked him: and this was done by Moses; by the hand of Moses, as the Syriac version renders it; by his means, by him as an instrument; and yet they provoked him: but however all did not, yet these were but few; it seems only Caleb and Joshua, out of six hundred thousand; God will have a few to serve him in the worst of times.

For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.
Hebrews 3:16. τίνες γὰρ ἀκούσαντες παρεπίκραναν: “For who were they who after hearing provoked?” He proceeds further to enforce his warning that confidence begun is not enough, by showing that they who provoked God and fell in the wilderness had begun a life of faith and begun it well. For the answer to his question is “Nay did not all who came out of Egypt with Moses?” They were not exceptional sinners who fell away, but all who came out of Egypt, the whole mass of the gloriously rescued people whose faith had carried them through between the threatening walls of water and over whom Miriam sang her triumphal ode. ἀλλά adds force to the answer, as if it were said, It is asked who provoked, as though it were some only, but was it not all? πάντες, for it is needless excepting Joshua and Caleb.

16. some, when they had heard, did provoke] Rattier, “Who (τίνες) when they heard, embittered (Him)”? This is the reading of the Peshito. It would have been absurd to use the word “some” of 600,000 with only two exceptions, Numbers 14:38; Joshua 14:8-9.

howbeit not all] Rather, “Nay! was it not all?” (i.e. all except Caleb and Joshua). It is true that the rendering is not free from difficulty, since there seems to be no exact parallel to this use of ἀλλ' οὐ. But it involves less harshness than the other.

Hebrews 3:16. Τίνες, who) Many write τινὲς, some; but the argument of the apostle is thus rendered somewhat feeble: τινὲς, ἀλλʼ οὐ πάντες, some, but not all, is rather a general expression concerning the Provocation, ch. Hebrews 4:6; Exodus 17:2. Τίνες is plainly interrogative, as ch. Hebrews 1:5; Hebrews 1:13, and at the same time a very weighty Anaphora,[26] τίνες, τίσι, τίσι Hebrews 3:16-18; and there are brought under our notice in these three verses, 1. The beginning of the Provocation, soon after the departure from Egypt; 2. The forty troublesome years in the wilderness; 3. The refusal of the entrance into the land of rest. Ἀλλʼ οὐ is used, Hebrews 3:16, as εἰ μὴ, Hebrews 3:18; for neither is properly interrogative, but both stand under the interrogative word, τίνες. That the power of the particle may be more clearly seen, suppose some one to say, ἦσαν ἄνθρωποι παραπικραίνοντες, ἀλλʼ οὐχ οὗτοι οἱ ἐξελθόντες, There were men who provoked, but not those that went out. The apostle denies that, and therefore says, τίνες ἦσαν, ἀλλʼ οὐχ οὖτοι; who were they, but these?—i.e. these were the very persons. There are similar particles in Luke, τίς, ἀλλʼ οὐχὶ, Luke 17:7-8; and in Paul, τίς, ἢ οὐχὶ καὶ, κ.τ.λ., 1 Thessalonians 2:19. Πάντες, in this passage, is none else but, merely those, a meaning of the word πᾶς which Raphelius, at Jam 1:17, beautifully explains, ex Ariano. Germ.: Diejenige, die eine Erbitterung angerichtet haben, wer waren sie? es warenlauter solche Leute, die von Egypten ausgegangen waren durch Mosen. These are not in this passage said to have been led out, but to have come out. They had already the pledge of Divine assistance, and had followed the Divine guidance; but their future progress did not correspond to that excellent beginning (comp. Hebrews 3:14). Chrysostom evidently reads τίνες: τίνων μἐμνηταί φησι σκληρυνθέντων; who, says he, have been mentioned as being hardened; where σκληρυθέντες (comp. Hebrews 3:15) are the same as παραπικράναντες.—ἀκούσαντες, after having heard) Hebrews 3:15.—παρεπίκραναν, provoked) the Lord, namely, by chiding with Moses, Exodus 17:2.—διὰ Μωϋσέως, by Moses) whose words, when they heard them, they should have obeyed.

[26] The frequent repetition of the same word in beginnings.—ED.

Verses 16-19. - For who, when they heard, provoked? Nay, did not all those who came out of Egypt by Moses. That both these clauses are interrogative, and not as taken in the A.V., is now the prevalent view. The reasons for thus understanding them are

(1) the analogy of the two following verses, both of which are interrogative, and in the first of which a question is similarly answered by putting another; and

(2) the sense required. If the clauses were assertions, they could only be meant to express that the provocation was not universal, inasmuch as Joshua and Caleb (and it might be some few others) remained faithful. But to say this is unnecessary and irrelevant to the argument, the drift of which is to warn by "the example of unbelief;" and could τινὲς ("some") possibly be used to denote the whole congregation with the exception of so few? It is to be observed, too, that the ἀλλ οὐ at the beginning of the second clause is a proper Greek expression (equivalent to "nay") in the case of one question being answered by another (cf. Luke 17:7, 8). This verse, then (γὰρ retaining its usual sense of "for"), begins a proof, put in the form of a series of questions, of the preceding implied proposition, viz. that the retention of Christian privilege is dependent on perseverance, and that the privilege may be forfeited. In order to show this fully, the history of Numbers 14, referred to in the warning of the psalm, is examined in connection with the successive expressions of the warning; and it thus appears that all who came out of Egypt by Moses (the small exception of the faithful spies being disregarded) provoked God, and so forfeited their privilege, and that the cause of their failure was sin, disobedience, and, at the root of all, unbelief. The conclusion is obvious that, as their example is held out in the psalm as a warning to us, we may, all or any of us, similarly forfeit our higher calling. That the psalm is a warning to us, the rest it points to being the rest won for us by Christ, is more fully shown in the following chapter. We observe how the leading words in Psalm 95. are taken in succession in the three successive verses - παραπικρασμός in ver. 16, προσώχθισα in ver. 17, ὤμοσα in ver. 18 - and how answers to the three questions suggested by these words are found in Numbers 14. - to the first, in vers. 2, 10, etc., "all the children of Israel," "all the congregation;" to the second, in vers. 29-34, with citation of the words used; to the third, in vers. 21-24. It is to be observed, further, that it is not simply ἀπιστία, but its exhibition in actual sin and disobedience (τοῖς ἀμαρτήσασι τοῖς ἀπειθήσασι), that is spoken of as calling forth the Divine wrath and the Divine oath. The second of the above words implies more titan "believed not" (as in the A.V.); ἀπειθεῖν differs from ἀπιστεῖν in implying disobedience or contumacy. And this view of the case of the Israelites agrees entirely with the historical record, where an actual rebellion is spoken of a refusal to go on with the work they had been called to. It suits also the application to the case of the Hebrew Christians, among whom (as has been said) it was not only wavering of faith, but, as its consequence, remissness in moral duty and in the facing of trial, of which the writer of the Epistle had perceived symptoms, and on the ground of which he warns them to take heed lest growing indifference should be hardened into apostasy. But in both instances, as faith is the root of all virtue, so want of it was the cause, and again the growing result, of moral decadence. And so the argument is summed up in the concluding verse, And we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

Hebrews 3:16For some, when they had heard, did provoke (τίνες γὰρ ἀκούσαντες παρεπίκραναν)

Rend. who, when they heard, did provoke? The interrogative τίνες calls special attention to those who provoked God. The writer would say, "My warning against apostasy is not superfluous or irrelevant: for, consider: who were they that provoked God? They were those who had fairly begun their journey to Canaan, as you have begun your Christian course. They provoked God, so may you.

Howbeit not all (ἀλλ' οὐ πάντες)

Wrong. The interrogation should be continued. Who were they? But (ἀλλ') why do I ask? Were they not all who came out of Egypt by Moses? They were so numerous that they practically constituted the whole generation of the exodus. So far from its being true that a good ending necessarily follows a good beginning, a whole generation of God's chosen people failed to reach the Land of Promise because they provoked God.

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