But that which bears thorns and briers is rejected, and is near to cursing; whose end is to be burned.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)But that which beareth.—Rather, But if it bear thorns and briars it is rejected. We are told that the presence of briars (i.e., caltrops) is a sure evidence of a poor soil, on which labour will be wasted. The words are partially a quotation from Genesis 3:18. The change of translation here is important; if that very land, which has drunk in the abundant rain and has received careful culture still prove unfruitful, it is rejected. Man can do no more; and the curse of God is “near”; its end is “for burning.” The explanation of the last words is probably found in Deuteronomy 29:23, which speaks of the land of Sodom which God overthrew, which “is brimstone and salt and burning.” The connection between these two verses and the preceding passages is obvious. In the case of the apostates there described, man is helpless; God’s curse is near. But, as Chrysostom says, in this very word there is mercy; “the end” is not yet come.
And is nigh unto cursing - Is given over to execration, or is abandoned as useless. The word "cursing" means devoting to destruction. The sense is not that the owner would curse it "in words," or imprecate a curse on it, as a man does who uses profane language, but the language is taken here from the more common use of the word "curse" - as meaning to devote to destruction. So the land would be regarded by the farmer. It would be valueless, and would be given up to be overrun with fire.
Whose end is to be burned - Referring to the land. The allusion here is to the common practice among the Oriental and Roman agriculturists of burning bad and barren lands. An illustration of this is afforded by Pliny. "There are some who burn the stubble on the field, chiefly upon the authority of Virgil; the principal reason for which is, that they may burn the seeds of weeds;" Nat. Hist. xviii. 30. The authority of Virgil, to which Pliny refers, may be found in Georg. i.:84:
"Saepe etiam steriles incendere profuit agros,
Atque levem stipulam ciepitantibus urere flammis."
"It is often useful to set fire to barren lands, and burn the light stubble in crackling flames." The purpose of burning land in this way was to render it available for useful purposes; or to destroy noxious weeds, and thorns, and underbrush. But the object of the apostle requires him to refer merely to the "fact" of the burning, and to make use of it as an illustration of an act of punishment. So, Paul says, it would be in the dealings of God with his people. If after all attempts to secure holy living, and to keep them in the paths of salvation, they should evince none of the spirit of piety, all that could be done would be to abandon them to destruction as such a field is overrun with fire. It is not supposed that a true Christian will fall away and be lost, but we may remark.
(1) that there are many professed Christians who seem to be in danger of such ruin. They resist all attempts to produce in them the fruits of good living as really as some pieces of ground do to secure a harvest. Corrupt desires, pride, envy, uncharitableness, covetousness, and vanity are as certainly seen in their lives as thorns and briars are on a bad soil. Such briars and thorns you may cut down again and again; you may strike the plow deep and seem to tear away all their roots; you may sow the ground with the choicest grain, but soon the briars and the thorns will again appear, and be as troublesome as ever. No pains will subdue them, or secure a harvest. So with many a professed Christian. He may be taught, admonished, rebuked, and afflicted, but all will not do. There is essential and unsubdued perverseness in his soul, and despite all the attempts to make him a holy man, the same bad passions are continually breaking out anew.
(2) such professing Christians are "nigh unto cursing." They are about to be abandoned forever. Unsanctified and wicked in their hearts, there is nothing else which can be done for them, and they must be lost. What a thought! A professing Christian "nigh unto cursing!" A man, the efforts for, whose salvation are about to cease forever, and who is to he given over as incorrigible and hopeless! For such a man - in the church or out of it - we should have compassion. We have some compassion for an ox which is so stubborn that he will not work - and which is to be put to death; for a horse which is so fractious that he cannot be broken, and which is to be killed; for cattle which are so unruly that they cannot be restrained, and which are only to be fattened for the slaughter; and even for a field which is desolate and barren, and which is given up to be overrun with briars and thorns; but how much more should we pity a man all the efforts for whose salvation fail, and who is soon to be abandoned to everlasting destruction!
rejected—after having been tested; so the Greek implies. Reprobate … rejected by the Lord.
nigh unto cursing—on the verge of being given up to its own barrenness by the just curse of God. This "nigh" softens the severity of the previous "It is impossible," &c. (Heb 6:4, 6). The ground is not yet actually cursed.
whose—"of which (land) the end is unto burning," namely, with the consuming fire of the last judgment; as the land of Sodom was given to "brimstone, salt, and burning" (De 29:23); so as to the ungodly (Mt 3:10, 12; 7:19; 13:30; Joh 15:6; 2Pe 3:10). Jerusalem, which had so resisted the grace of Christ, was then nigh unto cursing, and in a few years was burned. Compare Mt 22:7, "burned up their city" an earnest of a like fate to all wilful abusers of God's grace (Heb 10:26, 27).But that which beareth thorns and briers: de but, introduceth the state and end of a sinful apostate, that ill earth, showered upon as well as the good; the unregenerate soul, that had gospel dews and spiritual rain by the word and ordinances dropped down on it from heaven; yet bringeth forth, or out of it, not herbs or fruits fit for its owner or dresser, but briers, thorns, and thistles: so apostates, under all enlightenings and tasting of these supernatural dews of the Spirit, bring forth from a stony, unregenerate soul, nothing but corruptions and evils, their rooted lusts thrust out and sprung together with their common gifts, Luke 8:7,13,14; the words and deeds of whom are pernicious, dishonouring God and hurting men, as unbelief, hypocrisy, apostacy, described, 2 Peter 2:1-3,12,14,18-22 Jude 1:4,8,10,12,16,19.
Is rejected; adokimov it is refuse land neglected by the owner, he takes no care of it; such are these apostates, of a reprobate mind, approving evil, rejecting good, and are so rejected of God, who withdraws his spiritual dews and ordinances, and the concurrence of his Spirit with them, as unworthy of them, and useless as to any good fruit to be produced there.
And is nigh unto cursing; such are looked upon as the mountains of Gilboa, accursed, 2 Samuel 1:21; and to be dealt with by the owner as the fruitless fig tree by Christ, Matthew 21:19 Mark 11:21. So these apostates are under the curse, 2 Peter 2:14 delivered up judicially by Christ to blindness of mind, and hardness of heart, and even to Satan himself, as the unbelieving Jews were, John 12:40, and those apostates, 1 Timothy 1:19,20.
Whose end is to be burned; the end of briers and thorns is the fire, they are to be burnt up by it; and this will be the final issue with apostates, to be destroyed by a Christ whom they have rejected, with eternal fire Hebrews 10:27 12:29 Matthew 3:12 25:41 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9.
rejected; as such men are, both by the church, and by God himself; or "reprobate", as they are concerning the faith, and to every good work; and are given up by God to a reprobate mind: and is "nigh unto cursing"; and such men are cursed already by the law, being under its sentence of curse and condemnation; and are nigh to the execution of it; referring either to the destruction of Jerusalem, which was near at hand; or to the final judgment, when they shall hear, Go, ye cursed:But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Hebrews 6:8. The contrast.
Ἐκφέρουσα] as to its signification not different from the preceding τίκτουσα. Without justification by usage is it supposed by Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact, Cornelius a Lapide, Grotius, Wittich, Valckenaer, Klee, and Bloomfield, that the word is to be taken in malam partem, namely, in the sense: “Ejicere quasi abortus.”
ἀκάνθας καὶ τριβόλους] Thorns and thistles. Proverbial designation of rankly springing weeds and wild growth. Comp. Genesis 3:18; Hosea 10:8 (קו̇ץ וְדַרְדַּר); Matthew 7:16.
ἀδόκιμος] sc. ἐστίν, it fails to stand the test, is rejected, namely, in the judgment of God, as is self-evident from the ἀπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ in the preceding clause. Wrongly, therefore, Hofmann: it is unworthy to be treated as arable land.
καὶ κατάρας ἐγγύς] and near to the curse, i.e. not: devoted to the execration of men (Hofmann), but exposed to the peril of being abandoned by God to everlasting barrenness and desolation. Enhancement of ἀδόκιμος. At the same time, however, there is to be found in ἐγγύς a softening of the expression, manifestly with a reference to the fact that it is not yet too late for the readers to combat their lustings after defection, and to return fully into the right way (comp. Hebrews 6:9 ff.). Chrysostom: Βαβαί, πόσην ἔχει παραμυθίαν ὁ λόγος. Κατάρας γὰρ εἶπεν ἐγγύς, οὐ κατάρα· ὁ δὲ μηδέπω εἰς τὴν κατάραν ἐμπεσὼν ἀλλʼ ἐγγὺς γενόμενος καὶ μακρὰν γενέσθαι δυνήσεται.
ἧς τὸ τέλος εἰς καῦσιν] sc. ἐστίν, and its ultimate fate issues in burning. ἧς is referred by Camerarius, Abresch, Heinrichs, Stuart, Bleek, to κατάρας; but more correctly by Chrysostom, Theophylact, Luther, Seb. Schmidt, Bengel, Carpzov, Schulz, Böhme, Kuinoel, Stengel, Bisping, Delitzsch, Riehm (Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbr. p. 773), Alford, Maier, Kurtz, Ewald, Woerner, and the majority, to the main subject; in such wise that the relative is to be complemented by γῆς, ἐκφερούσης ἀκάνθας καὶ τριβόλους. In connection therewith, however, to take εἶναι εἰς, with Carpzov, Böhme, Kuinoel, Ebrard, Bisping, Maier, and others, as a Hebraism (הָיָה לְ), is inadmissible. See Winer, Gramm., 7 Aufl. p. 173.
The understanding, moreover, of a burning of the field, or of its produce, in order that the land may be improved, as that which is intended by καῦσις (Schlichting, Bloomfield, and others), is forbidden by the connection, since no other than the divine punitive judgment bursting in upon it has to be described. What is meant is the burning up of the field itself by fire and brimstone coming down from heaven; by which, e.g., the soil of Sodom and Gomorrha was rendered for ever incapable of tillage (Bleek, Tholuck, Ebrard, Alford, Maier, Moll, al.). Comp. Genesis 19:24; Deuteronomy 29:23; also Hebrews 10:27 : πυρὸς ζῆλος ἐσθίειν μέλλοντος τοὺς ὑπεναντίους.Hebrews 6:8. ἐκφέρουσα δὲ … “but if it brings forth thorns and thistles it is rejected and nigh unto a curse and its end is burning”. The other alternative, which corresponds to the possible state of the Hebrews, is here introduced. With all its advantages, the land may prove disappointing, may not stand the sole test (ἀδόκιμος) of land, its production of a harvest. ἀκάνθας καὶ τριβ. frequently conjoined in LXX, Genesis 3:17, Hosea 10:8, and expressive of useless and noxious products. [τρίβολος, frequently τριβελής, three pointed, and originally meaning a caltrop]. ἀδόκιμος is used under the influence of the personal reference rather than of the figure. κατάρας ἐγγύς with a reference to Genesis 3:18 ἐπικατάρατος ἡ γῆ, and suggested by the εὐλογίας of the previous verse. Wetstein quotes from Aristides the expression κατάρας ἐγγύς, and from the ἐγγύς Chrys. and Theophyl. conclude, rightly, that the curse is not yet in action. ὁ γὰρ ἐγγὺς κατάρας δυνήσεται καὶ μακρὰν γενέσθαι. ἧς τὸ τέλος. What is the antecedent? γῆ, say the Geeek commentaries, Bengel, Riehm, Delitzsch, Lünemann, Alford; κατάρας, say Stuart, Bleek, Weiss, von Soden. The former seems distinctly preferable. Cf. Php 3:19, ὧν τὸ τέλος ἀπώλεια. But here it is εἰς καῦσιν instead of καῦσις “for burning,” it serves for nothing else, and is thus contrasted with the use served by the productive land. The burning has with an excess of literality been ascribed to the soil itself, and therefore the example of Sodom and Gomorrah has been adduced. But Grotius is right who finds a metonymy: “de terra dicitur quod proprie iis rebus convenit quae terrae superstant”. Reference may be made to Philo, De Agric. c. 4: ἐπικαύσω καὶ τὰς ῥίζας αὐτῶν ἐφιεῖσʼ ἄχρι τῶν ὑστάτων τῆς γῆς φλογὸς ῥιπήν. Cf. John 15:6. Certainly it points not to a remedial measure, but to a final destructive judgment.
Hebrews 6:9-12, sudden transition, characteristic of the author, from searching warning to affectionate encouragement. “Startled almost by his own picture” he hastens to assure the Hebrews that he is convinced it does not represent their present condition. On the contrary he recognises in their loving care of Christ’s people a service God cannot overlook and which involves “salvation”. They have only to abound in hope as already they are rich in love, and they will no longer be slothful and inanimate but will reproduce in their lives the faith and endurance which have brought others into the enjoyment of the promised and eternal blessing.8. that which beareth thorns] Rather, “if it bear thorns” (Isaiah 5:6; Proverbs 24:31). This neglected land resembles converts who have fallen away.
rejected] The same word, in another metaphor, occurs in Jeremiah 6:30.
nigh unto cursing] Lit, “near a curse.” Doubtless there is a reference to Genesis 3:18. St Chrysostom sees in this expression a sign of mercy, because he only says “near a curse.” “He who has not yet fallen into a curse, but has got near it, will also be able to get afar from it;” so that we ought, he says, to cut up and burn the thorns, and then we shall be approved. And he might have added that the older “curse” of the land to which he refers, was by God’s mercy over-ruled into a blessing.
whose end is to be burned] Lit., “whose end is for burning.” Comp. Isaiah 44:15, “that it may be for burning.” It is probably a mistake to imagine that there is any reference to the supposed advantage of burning the surface of the soil (Virg. Georg. 1. 84 sqq.; Pliny, H. N. xviii. 39, 72), for we find no traces of such a procedure among the Jews. More probably the reference is to land like the Vale of Siddim, or “Burnt Phrygia,” or “the Solfatara,”—like that described in Genesis 19:24; Deuteronomy 29:23. Comp. Hebrews 10:27. And such a land Judea itself became within a very few years of this time, because the Jews would not “break up their fallow ground,” but still continued “to sow among thorns.” Obviously the “whose” refers to the “land,” not to the “curse.”Hebrews 6:8. Ἐκφέρουσα, bearing) This also coheres with πιοῦσα, drinking.—ἀκάνθας καὶ τριβόλους, thorns and briars) entirely, or at least chiefly.—ἀδόκιμος, rejected) so that it may be left uncultivated.—κατάρας ἐγγὺς, nigh to cursing) so that it may be overwhelmed with all evil.—ἧς) viz. γῆς, of which land.—εἰς καῦσιν, for burning) These words in this passage are expressive of great ἀποτομία, severity. Supply βλέπει or ἔρχεται; comp. LXX., Proverbs 14:12-13; Proverbs 16:25; or ἐστὶ, comp. LXX., Isaiah 44:15, ἵνα ᾖ ἀνθρώπος εἰς καῦσιν. The same ellipse is found at Hebrews 6:16, πέρας εἰς βεβαίωσιν. Fire is the punishment of the Jews, Matthew 22:7, and of their land. A prophetical stricture a very few years before that the city Jerusalem was burnt. Those of the Jews were the most desperate, who resisted the faith in the city and around it.
Wrong. As given in A.V. the illustration throws no light on the subject. It puts the contrast as between two kinds of soil, the one well-watered and fertile, the other unwatered and sterile. This would illustrate the contrast between those who have and those who have not enjoyed gospel privileges. On the contrary the contrast is between two classes of Christians under equally favorable conditions, out of which they develop opposite results. Rend. but if it (the ground that receives the rain) bear thorns and thistles, etc. Ἄκανθαι thorns, from ἀκή a point. Τρίβολος, from τρεῖς three and βέλος a dart; having three darts or points. A ball with sharp iron spikes, on three of which it rested, while the fourth projected upward, was called tribulus or tribolus, or caltrop. These were scattered over the ground by Roman soldiers in order to impede the enemy's cavalry. A kind of thorn or thistle, a land-caltrop, was called tribulus. So Virgil,
"Subit aspera silva,
Is rejected (ἀδόκιμος)
Lit. unapproved. See on reprobate, Romans 1:28.
Nigh unto cursing (κατάρας ἐγγύς)
See on Galatians 3:10. Enhancing the idea of rejected. It is exposed to the peril of abandonment to perpetual barrenness.
Whose end is to be burned (ἧς τὸ τέλος εἰς καῦσιν)
Ἧς whose, of which, may be referred to cursing - the end of which cursing: but better to the main subject, γῆ the land. Τέλος is consummation rather than termination. Ἐις καῦσιν, lit. unto burning. Comp. lxx, Isaiah 40:16. The consummation of the cursed land is burning. Comp. John 15:6. The field of thorns and thistles is burned over and abandoned to barrenness.
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