Hebrews 6:13
For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself,
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(13) The connection seems to be this: “You, like them, have promises—promises to which God has given all possible certainty; you, like them, can attain the fulfilment only through faith and patient waiting.”

For when God made promise.—It is better to follow the words literally, For when to Abraham God had made promise. Abraham is chosen for special mention as the most illustrious example of those who “inherit the promises” (comp. John 8:58); also because (1) the assurance given to him was confirmed by oath; and (2) in it lay included the promise of the Christ. The promises made to Abraham were essentially one, with various parts progressively fulfilled. It seems likely that, though the next verse is quoted from Genesis 22:17, the writer also has in mind (“had promised”) Genesis 12:3, and especially Genesis 15.

Hebrews 6:13-15. For when God made promise, &c. — As if he had said, And it appears that this is the way to partake of mercies promised, because Abraham was obliged to exercise faith and long-suffering before he obtained the accomplishment of the promise made to him. The promise here referred to, is that which God made to Abraham after he had laid Isaac on the altar, Genesis 22:16-17. For on no other occasion did God confirm any promise to Abraham with an oath. To Abraham — Whose spiritual as well as natural seed you believing Hebrews are, and therefore shall partake of the same promises and blessings which were ensured to him. Because he could swear by no greater person, he sware by himself — By his own sacred and divine name; saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee — And all believers in thee; and multiplying I will multiply thee — Both thy natural and thy spiritual seed. The apostle quotes only the first words of the oath; but his reasoning is founded on the whole; and particularly on the promise, (Genesis 22:18,) And in thy seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed. They shall be blessed by having their faith counted to them for righteousness, through thy seed, Christ. And so after he had patiently endured Μακροθυμησας, after he had waited, or suffered long: he waited about thirty years before Isaac was born, after he was promised; he obtained the promise — Here, by a usual figure of speech, the promise is put for the thing promised. “In the birth of Isaac, Abraham obtained the beginning of the accomplishment of God’s promise concerning his numerous natural progeny. Moreover, as the birth of Isaac was brought about supernaturally by the divine power, it was both a proof and a pledge of the accomplishment of the promise concerning the birth of his numerous spiritual seed. Wherefore, in the birth of Isaac, Abraham may truly be said to have obtained the accomplishment of the promise concerning his numerous spiritual seed likewise. In any other sense, Abraham did not obtain the accomplishment of that promise.”

6:11-20 The hope here meant, is a sure looking for good things promised, through those promises, with love, desire, and valuing of them. Hope has its degrees, as faith also. The promise of blessedness God has made to believers, is from God's eternal purpose, settled between the eternal Father, Son, and Spirit. These promises of God may safely be depended upon; for here we have two things which cannot change, the counsel and the oath of God, in which it is not possible for God to lie; it would be contrary to his nature as well as to his will. And as He cannot lie; the destruction of the unbeliever, and the salvation of the believer, are alike certain. Here observe, those to whom God has given full security of happiness, have a title to the promises by inheritance. The consolations of God are strong enough to support his people under their heaviest trials. Here is a refuge for all sinners who flee to the mercy of God, through the redemption of Christ, according to the covenant of grace, laying aside all other confidences. We are in this world as a ship at sea, tossed up and down, and in danger of being cast away. We need an anchor to keep us sure and steady. Gospel hope is our anchor in the storms of this world. It is sure and stedfast, or it could not keep us so. The free grace of God, the merits and mediation of Christ, and the powerful influences of his Spirit, are the grounds of this hope, and so it is a stedfast hope. Christ is the object and ground of the believer's hope. Let us therefore set our affections on things above, and wait patiently for his appearance, when we shall certainly appear with him in glory.For when God made promise to Abraham - That he would bless him, and multiply his seed as the stars of heaven; Genesis 22:16-17. The object of introducing this example here is, to encourage those to whom the apostle was writing to persevere in the Christian life, This he does by showing that God had given the highest possible assurance of his purpose to bless his people, by an oath. Reference is made to Abraham in this argument, probably, for two reasons:

(1) To show the nature of the evidence which Christians have that they will be saved, or the ground of encouragement - being the same as that made to Abraham, and depending, as in his case, on the promise of God; and,

(2) because the "example" of Abraham was just in point. He had persevered. He had relied firmly and solely on the promise of God. He did this when appearances were much against the fulfillment of the promise, and he thus showed the advantage of perseverance and fidelity in the cause of God.

Because he could swear by no greater - There is no being greater than God. In taking an oath among people it is always implied that the appeal is to one of superior power, who is able to punish for its infraction. But this could not occur in the case of God himself. There was no greater being than himself, and the oath, therefore, was by his own existence.

He sware by himself - Genesis 22:16. "By myself have I sworn;" compare Isaiah 45:23. In an oath of this kind God pledges his veracity; declares that the event shall be as certain as his existence; and secures it by all the perfections of his nature. The usual form of the oath is, "As I live, saith the Lord;" see Numbers 14:21, Numbers 14:28; Ezekiel 33:11.

13. For—confirming the reasonableness of resting on "the promises" as infallibly sure, resting as they do on God's oath, by the instance of Abraham. "He now gives consolation, by the oath of God's grace, to those whom, in the second, third, and fourth chapters, he had warned by the oath of God's 'wrath.' The oath of wrath did not primarily extend its force beyond the wilderness; but the oath of grace is in force for ever" [Bengel]. For when God made promise to Abraham: for is a confirmation by instance, that faith and patience had made some to inherit the promises, as Abraham, and what was influencing of him in the exercising them, viz. God’s promise and oath. God Almighty, who was as able to perform as to make a promise, Genesis 17:1, having made a promise to Abraham the father of believers, that he wonld communicate some temporal and spiritual good, which by it he gave him a right to, and bound himself to perform, which summarily was Christ the Redeemer to be of his seed, and Isaac his immediate seed to be a type of him; this promise at the offering up of his son Isaac God confirms to him by oath.

Because he could swear by no greater: an oath is to be made by the greatest, who is able to make good all, and to judge after his will; by nothing under or beneath God must there be any swearing.

He sware by himself, as the best and greatest, Jehovah himself confirming that which was evident and certain by that which was most so: a strange condescension of God the Son, the Angel of the covenant, to a creature, to lift up his hand to eternity, and to lay it on the altar of his infinite and unchangeable being, to pawn and pledge his Deity, that he might give the highest assurance; and is willing that it shall be forfeited and lost, if Abraham fall short of what he hath promised to him: see the oath, Genesis 22:15-18; an oath confirming the covenant of grace to all believers as firmly as to Abraham.

For when God made promise to Abraham,.... The apostle proposes Abraham as a pattern, because he was the father of these Hebrews, and of all believers; and because they were interested in the promise made to him, and had a right to the same blessing with him; and because he was remarkable for his faith and patience: the promise made to him is not that in Genesis 12:1 nor that in Genesis 15:1 but that in Genesis 22:16 for that only had an oath annexed to it: and this was made by Jesus Christ, there called the Angel of the Lord, and here God; and who is truly and properly so; and than whom there is none greater; and who elsewhere, as here, is said to swear by himself, Isaiah 45:23 as follows:

because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself; swearing is ascribed to a divine person after the manner of men, and in condescension to them; and who is never introduced swearing, but in matters of moment and of great importance; the note of Philo the Jew (n) on the passage in Genesis 22:16 from whence the following words are cited, is worthy of observation, being very near the apostle's words;

"well does he (God) confirm the promise with an oath, and with an oath that becomes God; for you see that God does not swear by another, for nothing is better than himself, but by himself, who is the best of all; but some have suggested as if it was inconvenient to swear, for an oath is taken for the sake of faith; but God alone is faithful, &c.''

(n) Leg. Allegor. l. 2. p. 98.

{7} For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself,

(7) Another encouragement, to push them onward because the hope of the inheritance is certain, if we continue to the end, for God has not only promised it, but also promised it with an oath.

Hebrews 6:13-15. Proof of the general truth that stedfast endurance leads to the possession of the promised blessing, from the special instance of Abraham. Calvin: exemplum Abrahae adducitur, non quia unicum sit, sed quia prae aliis illustre.

τῷ γὰρ Ἀβραὰμ ἐπαγγειλάμενος ὁ θεός] for when God had given promise to Abraham. ἐπαγγειλάμενος we have, with de Wette, to take as in point of time anterior to ὤμοσεν. It has reference to the promises which God had already, Genesis 12:7; Genesis 17:5-6; Genesis 18:18, imparted to Abraham, and which were then, Genesis 22:16-18, not merely repeated to him by God, and confirmed by an oath, but likewise, in part at least, were fulfilled (see at Hebrews 6:15).

ἐπεὶ κατʼ οὐδενὸς κ.τ.λ.] because there was no greater or higher (οὐδενός, masculine, not, as Hofmann supposes, neuter), by whom He could swear, He sware by Himself. Relation of the words, LXX. Genesis 22:16 : κατʼ ἐμαυτοῦ ὤμοσα, λέγει κύριος, with the reason for this form of declaration inserted. Comp. Philo, Legg. allegor. 3:98 E (with Mangey, I. p. 127), where, with regard to the same passage of Scripture, it is said: εὖ καὶ τῷ ὂρκῳ βεβαιώσας τὴν ὑπόσχεσιν, καὶ ὅρκῳ θεοπρεπεῖ. Ὁρᾷς γὰρ ὅτι οὐ καθʼ ἑτέρου ὀμνύει θεός

οὐδὲν γὰρ αὐτοῦ κρεῖττον

ἀλλὰ καθʼ ἑαυτοῦ, ὃς ἐστι πάντων ἄριστος.

Hebrews 6:13-20. Reasons for diligently cultivating hope and exercising patience, thus becoming imitators of those who have patiently waited for the fulfilment of the promises, the reasons being that God has made the failure of the promises impossible, and that already Jesus has passed within the veil as our forerunner.

13. For when God] The “for” implies “and you may feel absolute confidence about the promises; for,” &c.

made promise to Abraham] Abraham is here only selected as “the father of the faithful” (Romans 4:13); and not as the sole example of persevering constancy, but as an example specially illustrious (Calvin).

because he could swear by no greater] In the Jewish treatise Berachoth (f. 32.1) Moses is introduced as saying to God, “Hadst thou sworn by Heaven and Earth, I should have said They will perish, and therefore so may Thy oath; but as Thou hast sworn by Thy great name, that oath shall endure for ever.”

he sware by himself] “By myself have I sworn” (Genesis 22:16). “God sweareth not by another,” says Philo, in a passage of which this may be a reminiscence—“for nothing is superior to Himself—but by Himself, Who is best of all” (De Leg, Alleg. iii. 72). There are other passages in Philo which recall the reasoning of this clause (Opp. i. 622, ii. 39).

Hebrews 6:13. Κατʼ οὐδενὸς, by none) This epistle abounds in comparisons: here we are informed that no comparison [none to be compared with God] was to be found.—ὤμοσε, He swore) He now affords consolation by the oath of God’s grace, to those whom, in ch. 3 and 4, he had admonished by the oath of God’s wrath, although indeed the oath of His wrath did not extend its force beyond the wilderness for ever; for David and Paul bring down nothing of that oath to their own times: but the oath of grace is in force for ever.

Verses 13-15. - For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, having patiently endured, he obtained the promise. Abraham - the ancestor of the Hebrews, the first recipient of the promises, the father of the faithful - is now appropriately adduced as an example. He (Genesis 22:16), as is the case with you (Psalm 110.), was assured of his inheritance by the Divine oath; and so he obtained it, but only through "faith and patience." You have the like assurance, but attended with the like conditions. And then this Divine oath, the significance of which is set forth in vers. 16-18, is made a link of connection between the hortatory section (Hebrews 5:11-6:20) and the coming argument about Melchizedek. This is one instance of the artistic way in which, throughout the Epistle, the interposed hortatory passages are so turned as to connect the divided sections of the argument. But what is said about Abraham (vers. 13, 14, 15) has been variously understood. It is connected with ver. 12 thus: "Be ye followers of them who inherit the promises through faith and patience: for God, in his promise to Abraham, swore by himself in confirmation of it; and so (καὶ ὀὔτω) through patience he obtained the promise. Be it here observed that μακροθυμήσας in ver. 15 ("having patiently endured," A.V.) corresponds with διὰ μακροθυμίας in ver. 12, and expresses essentially the same idea. The aorist participle μακροθυμήσας does not in itself imply that the patience was previous to the obtaining; it expresses only that by patiently enduring he obtained. Observe also that καὶ οὔτω (cf. Acts 7:8; Acts 27:44; Acts 28:14) denotes the consequence from what has been previously stated; i.e. that μακροθυμήσας ἐπέτυχε followed from the Divine oath ensuring the fulfillment of the promise. Both his eventually obtaining and his patience in awaiting fulfillment were in consequence of the assuring oath. But then how and when did Abraham himself obtain the promise? Not even the temporal fulfillment in the multiplication of his seed and the inheritance of the Promised Land, much less the spiritual fulfillment in Christ, was during his own life. Both he could but see "afar off." In respect to the latter it is expressly said (Hebrews 11:13, 39) that the patriarchs did not receive the promises - μὴ λαβόντες τὰς ἐπογγελίας: οὐκ ἐκομίσαντο τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν. What, then, is meant by μακροθυμήσας ἐπέτυχε? Bleek understands the time of the oath (Genesis 22.), when the promise was irrevocably assured, to have been the time of obtaining. But more than this is suggested by the phrase, ἐπέτυχε τῆς ἐπαγγελίας (cf. Hebrews 11:33), as well as by καὶ οὔτω, viz. the actual attainment of the blessing assured to him by oath. There are two other ways of explaining:

(1) to identify Abraham with his seed, in whom, though not in his own person, he may be conceived to have obtained, - of which view it may be significant that πληθυνῶ τὸ σπέρμα σου of the LXX. (Genesis 22:17) is changed in the Epistle to πληθννῶ σε:

(2) to regard Abraham, still alive in the unseen world, as himself enjoying the fulfillment of the ancient promise. So Delitzsch, who, dwelling on the thought that nothing less than the blessing of Abraham extended to the whole world (cf. κληρονόμος τοῦ κόσμου, Romans 4:13) can be regarded as complete fulfill-merit, says, "God's oath-sealed word of promise is now fulfilled in Christ, and Abraham, while living on in the unseen world, is conscious of and enjoys that fulfillment, and so may be said to have "obtained the promise." This view derives some support from Hebrews 11:13-16, where the longings of the pilgrim patriarchs is so beautifully represented as reaching to a heavenly fulfillment. On the other hand, the aorist ἐπέτυχε is against it, and hence view

(1) may be accepted as a sufficient explanation of the expression (see below, or Hebrews 11:39). With regard to the general drift, it is obvious how μακροθυμία, as well as πίστις, in respect to the promise first made to him "in Charran," is strikingly displayed in Abraham's recorded life. Hebrews 6:13Illustration of the long-suffering of faith by the example of Abraham. The necessity for emphasizing this element of faith lay in the growing discouragement of the Jewish Christians at the long delay of Christ's second coming. Comp. ch. 11. Abraham became a sojourner in the land of the promise, looking for the heavenly city (Hebrews 11:9, Hebrews 11:10). All the instances cited in that chapter illustrate the long outlook of faith, involving patient waiting and endurance. The example of Abraham shows, first, that the promise of God is sure.

Because he could swear by no greater (ἐπεὶ κατ' οὐδενὸς εἶχεν μείζονος ὀμόσαι)

Lit. since he had (the power) to swear by no one greater.

By himself (καθ' ἑαυτοῦ)

Comp. Genesis 22:16. N.T.o , but see lxx, Amos 6:8.

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