Hebrews 5:8
Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
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(8) Though he were a Son.—These words may be connected with what precedes (implying that He was heard for His reverent fear, not because, in the preeminent sense, He was God’s Son); but they are still more closely joined with the following sentence, “Though He was a Son, He learnt His obedience by the things which He suffered.” “The disposition of obedience Jesus possessed before He suffered, but the proof that this disposition existed must be shown in deed; this progress from the disposition to the deed of obedience is a practical learning of the virtue of obedience” (Lünemann). The suffering recorded in Hebrews 5:7 is regarded as the culmination of His life of suffering.

Hebrews 5:8. Though he were a son — And so, one would have supposed, might have been exempted from suffering; this is interposed, lest any should be offended at all these instances of human weakness; yet learned he obedience, &c. — Yea, although he was such a son as has been before described, even that Son of God, who had glory with his Father before all worlds. It was no singular thing for a son, or child of God by adoption, to be chastised, to suffer, and thereby to be instructed to obedience. He therefore speaks not of him as a son in such a way, or in any way in which a mere creature might be God’s son, but as he was his Son in a peculiar sense, his only-begotten Son, who was in the beginning with God, and was God, John 1:1; John 1:14 : that He should do and suffer the things here spoken of, was indeed marvellous. Therefore it is said, he did and suffered them although he was a Son. Which words imply both the necessity of his doing and suffering what is here ascribed to him, and his love, that when, on his own account no such thing was required, or in any respect needful, yet that he would submit to this condition for our sakes. But what is the obedience here intended? To this it may be answered, the word υπακοη, so rendered, means an obediential attendance to, or compliance with, the commands of another, when they are heard, and thereby known. This obedience in Christ was two-fold: 1st, General, in the whole course of his life. Every thing he did was not only right and holy as to the matter of it, but as to the form and manner of it; it was obediential: he did all things, because it was the will of God that he should do them; and this his obedience to God was the life and beauty of the holiness, even of Christ himself. This, however, is not chiefly meant here, but rather, 2d, That peculiar compliance with the Father’s will, whereby he became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. For this commandment had he received of the Father, that he should lay down his life for his people, and which he did in the way of obedience, saying, A body hast thou prepared me; lo! I come to do thy will, by offering up that body, Hebrews 10:5; Hebrews 10:9. But how did he learn this obedience? It must be observed, 1st, The word μανθανω, here used, signifies to learn as a disciple, with an humble, willing subjection to, and a ready reception of, the instruction given. 2d, It is said he learned obedience, not he learned to obey, which will give us light in the meaning of the passage. He did not learn that to be his duty which he knew not before, or did not consider; nor was he impelled to, or instructed, or directed in the various acts of the obedience required, as we are often taught by chastisements. But, 3d, He learned obedience by experiencing it, as a man learns the taste of meat by eating it. Thus he was said to taste of death, or to experience what was in it by undergoing it. The obedience he learned was a submission to undergo great, hard, and terrible things, accompanied with patience under them, and faith for deliverance from them. This he could have no experience of but by suffering the things he was to undergo, and by the exercise of appropriate graces while suffering. Thus he learned or experienced in himself, what difficulty obedience is attended with. And, 4th, This way of his learning it is what is so useful to us, and so full of consolation. For if he had only known obedience, though never so perfectly, in theory merely, what relief could have accrued to us from it? How could it have been a spring in him of suitable compassion toward us? But now, having fully experienced the nature of that special obedience which is yielded to God in a suffering condition, what difficulty it is attended with, what opposition is made to it, how great an exercise of grace is required, &c., he is disposed to support and succour us in this our obedience and sufferings. See Dr. Owen.

5:1-10 The High Priest must be a man, a partaker of our nature. This shows that man had sinned. For God would not suffer sinful man to come to him alone. But every one is welcome to God, that comes to him by this High Priest; and as we value acceptance with God, and pardon, we must apply by faith to this our great High Priest Christ Jesus, who can intercede for those that are out of the way of truth, duty, and happiness; one who has tenderness to lead them back from the by-paths of error, sin, and misery. Those only can expect assistance from God, and acceptance with him, and his presence and blessing on them and their services, that are called of God. This is applied to Christ. In the days of his flesh, Christ made himself subject to death: he hungered: he was a tempted, suffering, dying Jesus. Christ set an example, not only to pray, but to be fervent in prayer. How many dry prayers, how few wetted with tears, do we offer up to God! He was strengthened to support the immense weight of suffering laid upon him. There is no real deliverance from death but to be carried through it. He was raised and exalted, and to him was given the power of saving all sinners to the uttermost, who come unto God through him. Christ has left us an example that we should learn humble obedience to the will of God, by all our afflictions. We need affliction, to teach us submission. His obedience in our nature encourages our attempts to obey, and for us to expect support and comfort under all the temptations and sufferings to which we are exposed. Being made perfect for this great work, he is become the Author of eternal salvation to all that obey him. But are we of that number?Though he were a Son - Though the Son of God. Though he sustained this exalted rank, and was conscious of it, yet he was willing to learn experimentally what is meant by obedience in the midst of sufferings.

Yet learned he obedience - That is, he learned experimentally and practically. It cannot be supposed that he did not "know" what obedience was; or that he was "indisposed" to obey God before he suffered; or that he had, as we have, perversities of nature leading to rebellion which required to be subdued by suffering, but that he was willing to "test" the power of obedience in sufferings; to become personally and practically acquainted with the nature of such obedience in the midst of protracted woes; compare note on Philippians 2:8. The "object" here is, to show how well suited the Lord Jesus was to be a Saviour for mankind; and the argument is, that he has set us an example, and has shown that the most perfect obedience may be manifested in the deepest sorrows of the body and the soul. Hence, learn that one of the objects of affliction is to lead us "to obey God." In prosperity we forget it. We become self-confident and rebellious. "Then" God lays his hand upon us; breaks up our plans; crushes our hopes; takes away our health, and teaches us that we "must" be submissive to his will. Some of the most valuable lessons of obedience are learned in the furnace of affliction; and many of the most submissive children of the Almighty have been made so as the result of protracted woes.

8. Though He WAS (so it ought to be translated: a positive admitted fact: not a mere supposition as were would imply) God's divine Son (whence, even in His agony, He so lovingly and often cried, Father, Mt 26:39), yet He learned His (so the Greek) obedience, not from His Sonship, but from His sufferings. As the Son, He was always obedient to the Father's will; but the special obedience needed to qualify Him as our High Priest, He learned experimentally in practical suffering. Compare Php 2:6-8, "equal with God, but … took upon Him the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death," &c. He was obedient already before His passion, but He stooped to a still more humiliating and trying form of obedience then. The Greek adage is, "Pathemata mathemata," "sufferings, disciplinings." Praying and obeying, as in Christ's case, ought to go hand in hand. He fulfilled his type in the end; for though he were God the Son incarnate, in a nearer and more excellent relation to the Father than any angel, or any high priest among men his types, being all servants to his Father and him; God’s Son by eternal generation as to his Deity, by conception from the Holy Ghost by the virgin as to his humanity, who for his worth might have been exempted from such burdens; yet did God teach him (not as if he wanted it at any time) by what he imposed and commanded him, and he learnt by what he did agree and covenant to perform, active obedience to God’s will, fulfilling all righteousness, being for his person, and doing for his work to a tittle what God required from him; but especially passive obedience, by his experience knowing what it meant, freely subjecting himself to his state of humiliation, Philippians 2:6-8, enduring all the indignities and sufferings for sinners from his birth to his death, even the most vile and cursed. This the Father enjoined and commanded him, and he did obey it: read Isaiah 53:1-12. He who offered prayers for himself, as a high priest offered himself a sacrifice for us, as ours. By this did he finish his Father’s will entirely, experimentally, feelingly, knowing how difficult patience under the cross is, and how to pity us under all our sufferings.

Though he were a Son,.... The Son of God, as the Vulgate Latin version reads; not by creation, nor by adoption, nor by office, but by nature, being the only begotten of the Father, having the same nature and perfections with him:

yet learned he obedience; not to his parents, or civil magistrates, though that is true; nor merely to the precepts of the law, which he did; but unto death: through sufferings he became obedient to death, even the death of the cross: and this he learnt; not that he was ignorant of the nature of it; nor was he destitute of an obedient disposition to it; but the meaning is, he had an experience of it, and effected it; and which was voluntary, and done in our room and stead; and is the rule and the measure of our righteousness before God: and this he learned,

by the things which he suffered; from men, from devils, and from the justice of God. Christ's sonship did not exempt him from obedience and sufferings; this shows the dignity of Christ's person, that he is the Son of God, not as Mediator, for as such he is a servant; and it would be no wonder that he should learn obedience as a servant; and this shows also the great humility and condescension of Christ in obeying and suffering for us; though so great a person; and likewise the vile nature of sin, and the strictness of divine justice: and we may learn from hence, not to expect to be exempted from sufferings on account of sonship; nor to conclude we are not sons, because we suffer; and that afflictions are instructive, and by them experience is learned.

Though he were a Son, yet {i} learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;

(i) He learned in deed what it is to have a Father, whom a man must obey.

Hebrews 5:8. Καίπερ ὢν υἱός] belongs together. With Heinrichs and others, to construe καίπερ with ἔμαθεν, and in this way to enclose Hebrews 5:8 within a parenthesis, is forbidden by the grammar, since καίπερ is never combined with a tempus finitum. καίπερ ὢν υἱός, however, is to be connected neither, by virtue of an hyperbaton, with δεήσειςπροσενέγκας, which Photius (in Oecumenius) and Clarius consider permissible, but which is already shown to be impossible by means of the addition καὶ εἰσακουσθεὶς ἀπὸ τῆς εὐλαβείας, nor yet with καὶ εἰσακουσθεὶς ἀπὸ τῆς εὐλαβείας itself (Chrysostom, Theophylact). For against the latter καίπερ is decisive, according to which the property of Sonship is insisted on as something in consequence of which the main statement might appear strange; it is not, however, strange, but, on the contrary, congruent with nature, if any one is heard by the Father on account of his sonship. καίπερ ὢν υἱός belongs, therefore, to ἔμαθεν ἀφʼ ὧν ἔπαθεν τὴν ὑπακοήν, and serves to bring the same into relief by way of contrast. Notwithstanding the fact that Christ was a Son, He learned from suffering (learned, in that He suffered) obedience, resignation to the will of the Father. Comp. Php 2:6-8.

The article before ὑπακοήν marks the definite virtue of obedience. The article here cannot denote, as Hofmann will maintain (Schriftbew. II. 1, p. 72, 2 Aufl.), the obedience “already present,” or the obedience “in which Jesus stood.” For, on the one hand, there must then have been previous mention of the obedience of Jesus, which is not the case; and then, on the other hand, we cannot any longer predicate the learning of a virtue of one in whom this virtue is already present. But altogether, that which Hofmann brings out as the import of Hebrews 5:8 is a wonderful Quid pro quo. Instead of recognising, to wit, in Hebrews 5:7-8 the sharply and clearly defined leading statement: ὃς ἐν ταῖς ὃ μέραις τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦἔμαθεντὴν ὑπακοήν in itself, and in its simply confirmatory relation to οὐχ ἑαυτὸν ἐδόξασεν, Hebrews 5:5, Hofmann will have the stress to be laid upon the subsidiary defining note ἀφʼ ὧν ἔπαθεν, and then, moreover, make the whole weight of the words: καίπερ ὢν υἱός, fall upon that same ἀφʼ ὧν ἔπαθεν! In this way the thought expressed in Hebrews 5:8 is, forsooth: that Jesus afterwards (!) suffered that (!) for the averting of which He had made entreaty. The special point is not that He learnt anything as Son, nor that He learnt obedience (?!). He did not learn to obey, but the obedience in which He stood, He now (!) or in a new manner (!) so learnt, as it should there (!) be exercised, where (!) it was a question (!) of suffering. And this is to be taken as the meaning, in spite of the fact—apart from all other arbitrary assumptions—that we have ἀφʼ ὧν ἔπαθεν written, and not even ἐν οἷς ἔπαθεν, which at least must be expected as a support for such an exposition as that?

ἔμαθεν] The disposition of obedience Christ possessed even before the suffering. But this needed, in order to become vouched for, to be tested in action. And this continued development of the disposition of obedience into the act of obedience is nothing else than a practical learning of the virtue of obedience.

ἀπό with μανθάνειν, as Matthew 24:32; Matthew 11:29, denoting the starting-point.

ἀφʼ ὧν ἔπαθεν] well-known attraction in place of ἀπʼ ἐκείνων ἅ ἔπαθεν.

The combination ἔμαθενἔπαθεν is also of frequent occurrence with the classic writers and with Philo. Comp. Herod. i. 207: τὰ δέ μοι παθήματα, ἐόντα ἀχάριστα, μαθήματα γέγονεν; Soph. Trach. 142 f.: ὡς δʼ ἐγὼ θυμοφθαρῶ, μήτʼ ἐκμάθοις παθοῦσα; Xenoph. Cyrop. iii. 1. 17: πάθημα ἄρα τῆς ψνχῆς σὺ λέγεις εἶναι τὴν σωφροσύνην, ὥσπερ λύπην, οὐ μάθημα; Philo, de speciall. legg. 6 (with Mangey, II. p. 340): ἵνʼ ἐκ τοῦ παθεῖν μάθῃ. Many other instances in Wetstein.

Hebrews 5:8. καίπερ ὢν υἱὸς ἔμαθεν ἀφʼ ὧν ἔπαθε τὴν ὑπακοήν [having been heard …] although He was a son He learned obedience from the things He suffered. The result of his being heard was therefore that he suffered, but in the suffering He learned obedience, perfect unison with the will of God for the salvation of men so that He became a perfected Priest. He learned obedience καίπερ ὢν υἱός: “this is stated to obviate the very idea of assumption on his part” (Davidson). Perhaps, therefore, we should translate, with a reference to Hebrews 5:5, “although He was Son”. Although Son and therefore possessed of Divine love and in sympathy with the Divine purpose, He had yet to learn that perfect submission which is only acquired by obeying in painful, terrifying circumstances. He made deeper and deeper experience of what obedience is and costs. And the particular obedience [τὴν ὑπακ.] which was required of Him in the days of His flesh was that which at once gave Him perfect entrance into the Divine love and human need. It is when the child is told to do something which pains him, and which he shrinks from, that he learns obedience, learns to submit to another will. And the things which Christ suffered in obeying God’s will taught Him perfect submission and at the same time perfect devotedness to man. On this obedience, see Robertson Smith in Expositor for 1881, p. 424. καίπερ is often joined with the participle to emphasise its concessive use [see Burton, 437], as in Diod. Sic., iii. 17, οὗτος ὁ βίος καίπερ ὢν παράδοξος. ἔμαθεν ἀφʼ ὧν ἔπαθε, a common form of attraction and also a common proverbial saying, of which Wetstein gives a number of instances; Herodot. i. 207; Æsch., Agam., 177, πάθει μάθος, Demosth., 1232 τοὺς μετὰ τὸ παθεῖν μανθάνοντας. Carpzov also quotes several from Philo, as from the De Somn., ὁ παθὼν ἀκριβῶς ἔμαθεν, and De Profug., 25. ἔμαθον μὲν ὃ ἔπαθον. see also Blass, Gram., p. 299 E. Tr.

8. Though he were a Son] Rather, “Son though He was,” so that it might have been thought that there would be no need for the great sacrifice; no need for His learning obedience from suffering.

yet learned he obedience] Perhaps rather “His obedience. The stress is not on His “learning” (of course as a man), but the whole expression is taken together, “He learnt from the things which He suffered,” in other words “He bowed to the experience of absolute submission.” “The things which He suffered” refer not only to the Agony and the Cross, but to the whole of the Saviour’s life. Some of the Fathers stumbled at this expression. Theodoret calls it hyperbolical; St Chrysostom is surprised at it; Theophylact goes so far as to say that here Paul (for he accepts the traditional authorship) “for the benefit of his hearers used such accommodation as obviously to say some unreasonable things.” All such remarks would have been obviated if these fathers had borne in mind that, as St Paul says, Christ “counted not equality with God a thing at which to grasp” (Php 2:6). Meanwhile passages like these, of which there are several in this Epistle, are valuable as proving how completely the co-equal and co-eternal Son “emptied Himself of His glory.” Against the irreverent reverence of the Apollinarian heresy (which denied Christ’s perfect manhood) and the Monothelite heresy (which denied His possession of a human will), this passage, and the earlier chapters of St Luke are the best bulwark. The human soul of Christ’s perfect manhood “learned” just as His human body grew (Luke 2:52). On this learning of “obedience” see Isaiah 50:5, “I was not rebellious.” Php 2:8, “Being found in fashion as a man he became obedient unto death.” The paronomasia “he learnt [emathen) from what He suffered (epathen)” is one of the commonest in Greek literature. For the use of paronomasia in St Paul see my Life of St Paul, i. 628.

Hebrews 5:8. Καίπερ ὢν ὑιὸς, though He was a Son) This paragraph, in the days, etc. has two parts. The first is, in the days—obedience by the things which He suffered; the second, and being made perfect—of eternal. The first part speaks of things very humble; for death and to be in horror, and, although the horror of it be removed, to die, and to learn obedience from such suffering, may appear somewhat servile: wherefore, by this clause, although He was a Son, precaution is taken, that nothing said in that part, before and after, should be a stumbling-block to any. The second part is altogether joyful and glorious, and he insinuates (implies) that we must repeat from Hebrews 5:5, because He was the Son: comp. ch. Hebrews 7:28, at the end. In His agony in Geth-semane He so sweetly, so frequently, appealed to the Father, Matthew 26:39, etc.: and from this fact we have the clearest confirmation of the truth that Jesus was not the Son of God merely because He rose from the dead, and not previously.—ἔμαθεν, He learned) The word learning put before the word suffering, elegantly points to Christ learning with the utmost readiness and willingness. He learned obedience whilst He began to suffer, whilst He set Himself to drink the cup. The word to learn implies a kind of beginning, and the making perfect corresponds to this beginning, of which we shall afterwards speak. There is a pleasant paronomasia[31] in ἜΜΑΘΕΝ ἈΦʼ ὯΝ ἜΠΑΘΕ. He also had experience of the adage, ΠΑΘΉΜΑΤΑ ΜΑΘΉΜΑΤΑ [sufferings, the means of learning]. Christ alone fortified [secured] the path of obedience in a way consonant to the will of the Father. Obedience may be performed without prayers.[32]—ἀφʼ ών) So ΜΑΘΕῖΝ ἈΠῸ, Matthew 24:32.—ΤῊΝ ὙΠΑΚΟῊΝ, obedience) That kind of humble obedience which is shown in suffering and dying. Php 2:8, note. He says to the Father, as Thou wilt.—εἰσακουσθεὶς, and ὙΠΑΚΟΉΝ, are conjugates. The Father hearkened to the Son, and the Son to the Father. In like manner Christ obeyed the Father;[33] we obey Christ; see the following verse.

[31] See Append.

[32] But Christ joined both prayers and obedience: and this is the Father’s will.—ED.

[33] Equivalent to hearkened to, so as to obey, obedio, Th. ob audio.—ED.

Hebrews 5:8Though he were a Son (καίπερ ὣν υἱὸς)

For were rend. was. His training for the priesthood involved suffering, even though he was a son. Connect with ἔμαθεν learned, not with the preceding clause, which would mean that his position as a son did not exempt him from the obligation to godly fear, which is true as a fact (see Hebrews 5:7), but is not the point of emphasis here.

Learned he obedience (ἔμαθεν τὴν ὑπακοήν)

Omit he, since the subject of ἔμαθεν learned is ὃς who, Hebrews 5:7. Jesus did not have to learn to obey, see John 8:29; but he required the special discipline of a severe human experience as a training for his office as a high priest who could be touched with the feeling of human infirmities. He did not need to be disciplined out of any inclination to disobedience; but, as Alford puts it, "the special course of submission by which he became perfected as our high priest was gone through in time, and was a matter of acquirement and practice." This is no more strange than his growth in wisdom, Luke 2:52. Growth in experience was an essential part of his humanity.

By the things which he suffered (ἀφ' ὧν ἔπαθεν)

Or from the things, etc. Note the word-play, ἔμαθεν ἔπαθεν. So Croesus, addressing Cyrus, says, τὰ δέ μοι παθήματα, ἐόντα ἀχάριστα, μαθήματα γέγονεν, "my sufferings, though painful, have proved to be lessons" (Hdt. i.:207): so Soph. Trach. 142, μήτ' ἐκμάθοις παθοῦσα "mayst thou not learn by suffering."

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