Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS Commentary by A. R. Faussett
Canonicity and authorship.—Clement of Rome, at the end of the first century (A.D), copiously uses it, adopting its words just as he does those of the other books of the New Testament; not indeed giving to either the term "Scripture," which he reserves for the Old Testament (the canon of the New Testament not yet having been formally established), but certainly not ranking it below the other New Testament acknowledged Epistles. As our Epistle claims authority on the part of the writer, Clement's adoption of extracts from it is virtually sanctioning its authority, and this in the apostolic age. Justin Martyr quotes it as divinely authoritative, to establish the titles "apostle," as well as "angel," as applied to the Son of God. Clement of Alexandria refers it expressly to Paul, on the authority of Pantænus, chief of the Catechetical school in Alexandria, in the middle of the second century, saying, that as Jesus is termed in it the "apostle" sent to the Hebrews, Paul, through humility, does not in it call himself apostle of the Hebrews, being apostle to the Gentiles. Clement also says that Paul, as the Hebrews were prejudiced against him, prudently omitted to put forward his name in the beginning; also, that it was originally written in Hebrew for the Hebrews, and that Luke translated it into Greek for the Greeks, whence the style is similar to that of Acts. He, however, quotes frequently the words of the existing Greek Epistle as Paul's words. Origen similarly quotes it as Paul's Epistle. However, in his Homilies, he regards the style as distinct from that of Paul, and as "more Grecian," but the thoughts as the apostle's; adding that the "ancients who have handed down the tradition of its Pauline authorship, must have had good reason for doing so, though God alone knows the certainty who was the actual writer" (that is, probably "transcriber" of the apostle's thoughts). In the African Church, in the beginning of the third century, Tertullian ascribes it to Barnabas. Irenæus, bishop of Lyons, is mentioned in Eusebius, as quoting from this Epistle, though without expressly referring it to Paul. About the same period, Caius, the presbyter, in the Church of Rome, mentions only thirteen Epistles of Paul, whereas, if the Epistle to the Hebrews were included, there would be fourteen. So the canon fragment of the end of the second century, or beginning of the third, published by Muratori, apparently omits mentioning it. And so the Latin Church did not recognize it as Paul's till a considerable time after the beginning of the third century. Thus, also, Novatian of Rome, Cyprian of Carthage, and Victorinus, also of the Latin Church. But in the fourth century, Hilary of Poitiers (A.D. 368), Lucifer of Cagliari (A.D. 371), Ambrose of Milan (A.D. 397) and other Latins, quote it as Paul's; and the fifth Council of Carthage (A.D. 419) formally reckons it among his fourteen Epistles.
As to the similarity of its style to that of Luke's writings, this is due to his having been so long the companion of Paul. Chrysostom, comparing Luke and Mark, says, "Each imitated his teacher: Luke imitated Paul flowing along with more than river fulness; but Mark imitated Peter, who studied brevity of style." Besides, there is a greater predominance of Jewish feeling and familiarity with the peculiarities of the Jewish schools apparent in this Epistle than in Luke's writings. There is no clear evidence for attributing the authorship to him, or to Apollos, whom Alford upholds as the author. The grounds alleged for the latter view are its supposed Alexandrian phraseology and modes of thought. But these are such as any Palestinian Jew might have used; and Paul, from his Hebræo-Hellenistic education at Jerusalem and Tarsus, would be familiar with Philo's modes of thought, which are not, as some think, necessarily all derived from his Alexandrian, but also from his Jewish, education. It would be unlikely that the Alexandrian Church should have so undoubtingly asserted the Pauline authorship, if Apollos, their own countryman, had really been the author. The eloquence of its style and rhetoric, a characteristic of Apollos' at Corinth, whereas Paul there spoke in words unadorned by man's wisdom, are doubtless designedly adapted to the minds of those whom Paul in this Epistle addresses. To the Greek Corinthians, who were in danger of idolizing human eloquence and wisdom, he writes in an unadorned style, in order to fix their attention more wholly on the Gospel itself. But the Hebrews were in no such danger. And his Hebræo-Grecian education would enable him to write in a style attractive to the Hebrews at Alexandria, where Greek philosophy had been blended with Judaism. The Septuagint translation framed at Alexandria had formed a connecting link between the latter and the former; and it is remarkable that all the quotations from the Old Testament, excepting two (Heb 10:30; 13:5), are taken from the Septuagint. The fact that the peculiarities of the Septuagint are interwoven into the argument proves that the Greek Epistle is an original, not a translation; had the original been Hebrew, the quotations would have been from the Hebrew Old Testament. The same conclusion follows from the plays on similarly sounding words in the Greek, and alliterations, and rhythmically constructed periods. Calvin observes, If the Epistle had been written in Hebrew, Heb 9:15-17 would lose all its point, which consists in the play upon the double meaning of the Greek "diathece," a "covenant," or a "testament," whereas the Hebrew "berith" means only "covenant."
Internal evidence favors the Pauline authorship. Thus the topic so fully handled in this Epistle, that Christianity is superior to Judaism, inasmuch as the reality exceeds the type which gives place to it, is a favorite one with Paul (compare 2Co 3:6-18; Ga 3:23-25; 4:1-9, 21-31, wherein the allegorical mode of interpretation appears in its divinely sanctioned application—a mode pushed to an unwarrantable excess in the Alexandrian school). So the Divine Son appears in Heb 1:3, &c., as in other Epistles of Paul (Php 2:6; Col 1:15-20), as the Image, or manifestation of the Deity. His lowering of Himself for man's sake similarly, compare Heb 2:9, with 2Co 8:9; Php 2:7, 8. Also His final exaltation, compare Heb 2:8; 10:13; 12:2, with 1Co 15:25, 27. The word "Mediator" is peculiar to Paul alone, compare Heb 8:6, with Ga 3:19, 20. Christ's death is represented as the sacrifice for sin prefigured by the Jewish sacrifices, compare Ro 3:22-26; 1Co 5:7, with Heb 7:1-10:39. The phrase, "God of Peace," is peculiar to Paul, compare Heb 13:20; Ro 15:33; 1Th 5:23. Also, compare Heb 2:4, Margin, 1Co 12:4. Justification, or "righteousness by faith." appears in Heb 11:7; 10:38, as in Ro 1:17; 4:22; 5:1; Ga 3:11; Php 3:9. The word of God is the "sword of the Spirit," compare Heb 4:12, with Eph 6:17. Inexperienced Christians are children needing milk, that is, instruction in the elements, whereas riper Christians, as full-grown men, require strong meat, compare Heb 5:12, 13; 6:1, with 1Co 3:1, 2; 14:20 Ga 4:9; Col 3:14. Salvation is represented as a boldness of access to God by Christ, compare Heb 10:19, with Ro 5:2; Eph 2:18; 3:12. Afflictions are a fight, Heb 10:32; compare Php 1:30; Col 2:1. The Christian life is a race, Heb 12:1; compare 1Co 9:24; Php 3:12-14. The Jewish ritual is a service, Ro 9:4; compare Heb 9:1, 6. Compare "subject to bondage," Heb 2:15, with Ga 5:1. Other characteristics of Paul's style appear in this Epistle; namely, a propensity "to go off at a word" and enter on a long parenthesis suggested by that word, a fondness for play upon words of similar sound, and a disposition to repeat some favorite word. Frequent appeals to the Old Testament, and quotations linked by "and again," compare Heb 1:5; 2:12, 13, with Ro 15:9-12. Also quotations in a peculiar application, compare Heb 2:8, with 1Co 15:27; Eph 1:22. Also the same passage quoted in a form not agreeing with the Septuagint, and with the addition "saith the Lord," not found in the Hebrew, in Heb 10:30; Ro 12:19.
The supposed Alexandrian (which are rather Philon-like) characteristics of the Epistle are probably due to the fact that the Hebrews were generally then imbued with the Alexandrian modes of thought of Philo, &c., and Paul, without coloring or altering Gospel truth "to the Jews, became (in style) as a Jew, that he might win the Jews" (1Co 9:20). This will account for its being recognized as Paul's Epistle in the Alexandrian and Jerusalem churches unanimously, to the Hebrews of whom probably it was addressed. Not one Greek father ascribes the Epistle to any but Paul, whereas in the Western and Latin churches, which it did not reach for some time, it was for long doubted, owing to its anonymous form, and generally less distinctively Pauline style. Their reason for not accepting it as Paul's, or indeed as canonical, for the first three centuries, was negative, insufficient evidence for it, not positive evidence against it. The positive evidence is generally for its Pauline origin. In the Latin churches, owing to their distance from the churches to whom belonged the Hebrews addressed, there was no generally received tradition on the subject. The Epistle was in fact but little known at all, whence we find it is not mentioned at all in the Canon of Muratori. When at last, in the fourth century, the Latins found that it was received as Pauline and canonical on good grounds in the Greek churches, they universally acknowledged it as such.
The personal notices all favor its Pauline authorship, namely, his intention to visit those addressed, shortly, along with Timothy, styled "our brother," Heb 13:23; his being then in prison, Heb 13:19; his formerly having been imprisoned in Palestine, according to English Version reading, Heb 10:34; the salutations transmitted to them from believers of Italy, Heb 13:24. A reason for not prefixing the name may be the rhetorical character of the Epistle which led the author to waive the usual form of epistolary address.
Design.—His aim is to show the superiority of Christianity over Judaism, in that it was introduced by one far higher than the angels or Moses, through whom the Jews received the law, and in that its priesthood and sacrifices are far less perfecting as to salvation than those of Christ; that He is the substance of which the former are but the shadow, and that the type necessarily gives place to the antitype; and that now we no longer are kept at a comparative distance as under the law, but have freedom of access through the opened veil, that is, Christ's flesh; hence he warns them of the danger of apostasy, to which Jewish converts were tempted, when they saw Christians persecuted, while Judaism was tolerated by the Roman authorities. He infers the obligations to a life of faith, of which, even in the less perfect Old Testament dispensation, the Jewish history contained bright examples. He concludes in the usual Pauline mode, with practical exhortations and pious prayers for them.
His mode of address is in it hortatory rather than commanding, just as we might have expected from Paul addressing the Jews. He does not write to the rulers of the Jewish Christians, for in fact there was no exclusively Jewish Church; and his Epistle, though primarily addressed to the Palestinian Jews, was intended to include the Hebrews of all adjoining churches. He inculcates obedience and respect in relation to their rulers (Heb 13:7, 17, 24); a tacit obviating of the objection that he was by writing this Epistle interfering with the prerogative of Peter the apostle of the circumcision, and James the bishop of Jerusalem. Hence arises his gentle and delicate mode of dealing with them (Heb 13:22). So far from being surprised at discrepancy of style between an Epistle to Hebrews and Epistles to Gentile Christians, it is just what we should expect. The Holy Spirit guided him to choose means best suited to the nature of the ends aimed at. Wordsworth notices a peculiar Pauline Greek construction, Ro 12:9, literally, "Let your love be without dissimulation, ye abhorring … evil, cleaving to … good," which is found nowhere else save Heb 13:5, literally, "Let your conversation be without covetousness, ye being content with," &c. (a noun singular feminine nominative absolute, suddenly passing into a participle masculine nominative plural absolute). So in quoting Old Testament Scripture, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews quotes it as a Jew writing to Jews would, "God spoke to our fathers," not, "it is written." So Heb 13:18, "We trust we have a good conscience" is an altogether Pauline sentiment (Ac 23:1; 24:16; 2Co 1:12; 4:2; 2Ti 1:3). Though he has not prefixed his name, he has given at the close his universal token to identify him, namely, his apostolic salutation, "Grace be with you all"; this "salutation with his own hand" he declared (2Th 3:17, 18) to be "his token in every Epistle": so 1Co 16:21, 23; Col 4:18. The same prayer of greeting closes every one of his Epistles, and is not found in any one of the Epistles of the other apostles written in Paul's lifetime; but it is found in the last book of the New Testament Revelation, and subsequently in the Epistle of Clement of Rome. This proves that, by whomsoever the body of the Epistle was committed to writing (whether a mere amanuensis writing by dictation, or a companion of Paul by the Spirit's gift of interpreting tongues, 1Co 12:10, transfusing Paul's Spirit-taught sentiments into his own Spirit-guided diction), Paul at the close sets his seal to the whole as really his, and sanctioned by him as such. The churches of the East, and Jerusalem, their center, to which quarter it was first sent, received it as Paul's from the earliest times according to Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem (A.D. 349). Jerome, though bringing with him from Rome the prejudices of the Latins against the Epistle to the Hebrews, aggravated, doubtless, by its seeming sanction of the Novatian heresy (Heb 6:4-6), was constrained by the force of facts to receive it as Paul's, on the almost unanimous testimony of all Greek Christians from the earliest times; and was probably the main instrument in correcting the past error of Rome in rejecting it. The testimony of the Alexandrian Church is peculiarly valuable, for it was founded by Mark, who was with Paul at Rome in his first confinement, when this Epistle seems to have been written (Col 4:10), and who possibly was the bearer of this Epistle, at the same time visiting Colosse on the way to Jerusalem (where Mark's mother lived), and thence to Alexandria. Moreover, 2Pe 3:15, 16, written shortly before Peter's death, and like his first Epistle written by him, "the apostle of the circumcision," to the "Hebrew" Christians dispersed in the East, says, "As our beloved brother Paul hath written unto you" (2Pe 3:15), that is, to the Hebrews; also the words added, "As also in all his Epistles" (2Pe 3:16), distinguish the Epistle to the Hebrews from the rest; then he further speaks of it as on a level with "other Scriptures," thus asserting at once its Pauline authorship and divine inspiration. An interesting illustration of the power of Christian faith and love; Peter, who had been openly rebuked by Paul (Ga 2:7-14), fully adopted what Paul wrote; there was no difference in the Gospel of the apostle of the circumcision and that of the apostle of the uncircumcision. It strikingly shows God's sovereignty that He chose as the instrument to confirm the Hebrews, Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles (Ro 11:13); and on the other hand, Peter to open the Gospel door to the Gentiles (Ac 10:1, &c.), though being the apostle of the Jews; thus perfect unity reigns amidst the diversity of agencies.
Rome, in the person of Clement of Rome, originally received this Epistle. Then followed a period in which it ceased to be received by the Roman churches. Then, in the fourth century, Rome retracted her error. A plain proof she is not unchangeable or infallible. As far as Rome is concerned, the Epistle to the Hebrews was not only lost for three centuries, but never would have been recovered at all but for the Eastern churches; it is therefore a happy thing for Christendom that Rome is not the Catholic Church.
It plainly was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, which would have been mentioned in the Epistle had that event gone before, compare Heb 13:10; and probably to churches in which the Jewish members were the more numerous, as those in Judea, and perhaps Alexandria. In the latter city were the greatest number of resident Jews next to Jerusalem. In Leontopolis, in Egypt, was another temple, with the arrangements of which, Wieseler thinks the notices in this Epistle more nearly corresponded than with those in Jerusalem. It was from Alexandria that the Epistle appears first to have come to the knowledge of Christendom. Moreover, "the Epistle to the Alexandrians," mentioned in the Canon of Muratori, may possibly be this Epistle to the Hebrews. He addresses the Jews as peculiarly "the people of God" (Heb 2:17; 4:9; 13:12), "the seed of Abraham," that is, as the primary stock on which Gentile believers are grafted, to which Ro 11:16-24 corresponds; but he urges them to come out of the carnal earthly Jerusalem and to realize their spiritual union to "the heavenly Jerusalem" (Heb 12:18-23; 13:13).
The use of Greek rather than Hebrew is doubtless due to the Epistle being intended, not merely for the Hebrew, but for the Hellenistic Jew converts, not only in Palestine, but elsewhere; a view confirmed by the use of the Septuagint. Bengel thinks, probably (compare 2Pe 3:15, 16, explained above), the Jews primarily, though not exclusively, addressed, were those who had left Jerusalem on account of the war and were settled in Asia Minor.
The notion of its having been originally in Hebrew arose probably from its Hebrew tone, method, and topics. It is reckoned among the Epistles, not at first generally acknowledged, along with James, Second Peter, Second and Third John, Jude, and Revelation. A beautiful link exists between these Epistles and the universally acknowledged Epistles. Hebrews unites the ordinances of Leviticus with their antitypical Gospel fulfilment. James is the link between the highest doctrines of Christianity and the universal law of moral duty—a commentary on the Sermon on the Mount—harmonizing the decalogue law of Moses, and the revelation to Job and Elias, with the Christian law of liberty. Second Peter links the teaching of Peter with that of Paul. Jude links the earliest unwritten to the latest written Revelation. The two shorter Epistles to John, like Philemon, apply Christianity to the minute details of the Christian life, showing that Christianity can sanctify all earthly relations.
Heb 1:1-14. The Highest of All Revelations Is Given Us Now in the Son of God, Who Is Greater than the Angels, and Who, Having Completed Redemption, Sits Enthroned at God's Right Hand.
The writer, though not inscribing his name, was well known to those addressed (Heb 13:19). For proofs of Paul being the author, see my Introduction. In the Pauline method, the statement of subject and the division are put before the discussion; and at the close, the practical follows the doctrinal portion. The ardor of Spirit in this Epistle, as in First John, bursting forth at once into the subject (without prefatory inscription of name and greeting), the more effectively strikes the hearers. The date must have been while the temple was yet standing, before its destruction, A.D. 70; some time before the martyrdom of Peter, who mentions this Epistle of Paul (2Pe 3:15, 16); at a time when many of the first hearers of the Lord were dead.
1. at sundry times—Greek, "in many portions." All was not revealed to each one prophet; but one received one portion of revelation, and another another. To Noah the quarter of the world to which Messiah should belong was revealed; to Abraham, the nation; to Jacob, the tribe; to David and Isaiah, the family; to Micah, the town of nativity; to Daniel, the exact time; to Malachi, the coming of His forerunner, and His second advent; through Jonah, His burial and resurrection; through Isaiah and Hosea, His resurrection. Each only knew in part; but when that which was perfect came in Messiah, that which was in part was done away (1Co 13:12).
in divers manners—for example, internal suggestions, audible voices, the Urim and Thummim, dreams, and visions. "In one way He was seen by Abraham, in another by Moses, in another by Elias, and in another by Micah; Isaiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel, beheld different forms" [Theodoret]. (Compare Nu 12:6-8). The Old Testament revelations were fragmentary in substance, and manifold in form; the very multitude of prophets shows that they prophesied only in part. In Christ, the revelation of God is full, not in shifting hues of separated color, but Himself the pure light, uniting in His one person the whole spectrum (Heb 1:3).
spake—the expression usual for a Jew to employ in addressing Jews. So Matthew, a Jew writing especially for Jews, quotes Scripture, not by the formula, "It is written," but "said," &c.
Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
2. in these last days—In the oldest manuscripts the Greek is. "At the last part of these days." The Rabbins divided the whole of time into "this age," or "world," and "the age to come" (Heb 2:5; 6:5). The days of Messiah were the transition period or "last part of these days" (in contrast to "in times past"), the close of the existing dispensation, and beginning of the final dispensation of which Christ's second coming shall be the crowning consummation.
by his Son—Greek, "IN (His) Son" (Joh 14:10). The true "Prophet" of God. "His majesty is set forth: (1) Absolutely by the very name "Son," and by three glorious predicates, "whom He hath appointed," "by whom He made the worlds," "who sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;" thus His course is described from the beginning of all things till he reached the goal (Heb 1:2, 3). (2) Relatively, in comparison with the angels, Heb 1:4; the confirmation of this follows, and the very name "Son" is proved at Heb 1:5; the "heirship," Heb 1:6-9; the "making the worlds," Heb 1:10-12; the "sitting at the right hand" of God, Heb 1:13, 14." His being made heir follows His sonship, and preceded His making the worlds (Pr 8:22, 23; Eph 3:11). As the first begotten, He is heir of the universe (Heb 1:6), which He made instrumentally, Heb 11:3, where "by the Word of God" answers to "by whom"' (the Son of God) here (Joh 1:3). Christ was "appointed" (in God's eternal counsel) to creation as an office; and the universe so created was assigned to Him as a kingdom. He is "heir of all things" by right of creation, and especially by right of redemption. The promise to Abraham that he should be heir of the world had its fulfilment, and will have it still more fully, in Christ (Ro 4:13; Ga 3:16; 4:7).
worlds—the inferior and the superior worlds (Col 1:16). Literally, "ages" with all things and persons belonging to them; the universe, including all space and ages of time, and all material and spiritual existences. The Greek implies, He not only appointed His Son heir of all things before creation, but He also (better than "also He") made by Him the worlds.
Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
3. Who being—by pre-existent and essential being.
brightness of his glory—Greek, the effulgence of His glory. "Light of (from) light" [Nicene Creed]. "Who is so senseless as to doubt concerning the eternal being of the Son? For when has one seen light without effulgence?" [Athanasius, Against Arius, Orations, 2]. "The sun is never seen without effulgence, nor the Father without the Son" [Theophylact]. It is because He is the brightness, &c., and because He upholds, &c., that He sat down on the right hand, &c. It was a return to His divine glory (Joh 6:62; 17:5; compare Wisdom 7:25, 26, where similar things are said of wisdom).
express image—"impress." But veiled in the flesh.
The Sun of God in glory beams
Too bright for us to scan;
But we can face the light that streams
For the mild Son of man.
of his person—Greek, "of His substantial essence"; "hypostasis."
upholding all things—Greek, "the universe." Compare Col 1:15, 17, 20, which enumerates the three facts in the same order as here.
by the word—Therefore the Son of God is a Person; for He has the word [Bengel]. His word is God's word (Heb 11:3).
of his power—"The word" is the utterance which comes from His (the Son's) power, and gives expression to it.
by himself—omitted in the oldest manuscripts.
purged—Greek, "made purification of … sins," namely, in His atonement, which graciously covers the guilt of sin. "Our" is omitted in the oldest manuscripts. Sin was the great uncleanness in God's sight, of which He has effected the purgation by His sacrifice [Alford]. Our nature, as guilt-laden, could not, without our great High Priest's blood of atonement sprinkling the heavenly mercy seat, come into immediate contact with God. Ebrard says, "The mediation between man and God, who was present in the Most Holy Place, was revealed in three forms: (1) In sacrifices (typical propitiations for guilt); (2) In the priesthood (the agents of those sacrifices); (3) In the Levitical laws of purity (Levitical purity being attained by sacrifice positively, by avoidance of Levitical pollution negatively, the people being thus enabled to come into the presence of God without dying, De 5:26)" (Le 16:1-34).
sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high—fulfilling Ps 110:1. This sitting of the Son at God's fight hand was by the act of the Father (Heb 8:1; Eph 1:20); it is never used of His pre-existing state co-equal with the Father, but always of His exalted state as Son of man after His sufferings, and as Mediator for man in the presence of God (Ro 8:34): a relation towards God and us about to come to an end when its object has been accomplished (1Co 15:28).
Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
4. Being made … better—by His exaltation by the Father (Heb 1:3, 13): in contrast to His being "made lower than the angels" (Heb 2:9). "Better," that is, superior to. As "being" (Heb 1:3) expresses His essential being so "being made" (Heb 7:26) marks what He became in His assumed manhood (Php 2:6-9). Paul shows that His humbled form (at which the Jews might stumble) is no objection to His divine Messiahship. As the law was given by the ministration of angels and Moses, it was inferior to the Gospel given by the divine Son, who both is (Heb 1:4-14) as God, and has been made, as the exalted Son of man (Heb 2:5-18), much better than the angels. The manifestations of God by angels (and even by the angel of the covenant) at different times in the Old Testament, did not bring man and God into personal union, as the manifestation of God in human flesh does.
by inheritance obtained—He always had the thing itself, namely, Sonship; but He "obtained by inheritance," according to the promise of the Father, the name "Son," whereby He is made known to men and angels. He is "the Son of God" is a sense far exalted above that in which angels are called "sons of God" (Job 1:6; 38:7). "The fulness of the glory of the peculiar name "the Son of God," is unattainable by human speech or thought. All appellations are but fragments of its glory beams united in it as in a central sun, Re 19:12. A name that no than knew but He Himself."
For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?
5. For—substantiating His having "obtained a more excellent name than the angels."
unto which—A frequent argument in this Epistle is derived from the silence of Scripture (Heb 1:13; Heb 2:16; 7:3, 14) [Bengel].
this day have I begotten thee—(Ps 2:7). Fulfilled at the resurrection of Jesus, whereby the Father "declared," that is, made manifest His divine Sonship, heretofore veiled by His humiliation (Ac 13:33; Ro 1:4). Christ has a fourfold right to the title "Son of God"; (1) By generation, as begotten of God; (2) By commission, as sent by God; (3) By resurrection, as "the first-begotten of the dead" (compare Lu 20:36; Ro 1:4; Re 1:5); (4) By actual possession, as heir of all [Bishop Pearson]. The Psalm here quoted applied primarily in a less full sense to Solomon, of whom God promised by Nathan to David. "I will be his father and he shall be my son." But as the whole theocracy was of Messianic import, the triumph of David over Hadadezer and neighboring kings (2Sa 8:1-18; Ps 2:2, 3, 9-12) is a type of God's ultimately subduing all enemies under His Son, whom He sets (Hebrew, "anointed," Ps 2:6) on His "holy hill of Zion," as King of the Jews and of the whole earth. the antitype to Solomon, son of David. The "I" in Greek is emphatic; I the Everlasting Father have begotten Thee this day, that is, on this day, the day of Thy being manifested as My Son, "the first-begotten of the dead" (Col 1:18; Re 1:5). when Thou hast ransomed and opened heaven to Thy people. He had been always Son, but now first was manifested as such in His once humbled, now exalted manhood united to His Godhead. Alford refers "this day" to the eternal generation of the Son: the day in which the Son was begotten by the Father is an everlasting to-day: there never was a yesterday or past time to Him, nor a to-morrow or future time: "Nothing there is to come, and nothing past, but an eternal NOW doth ever last" (Pr 30:4; Joh 10:30, 38; 16:28; 17:8). The communication of the divine essence in its fulness, involves eternal generation; for the divine essence has no beginning. But the context refers to a definite point of time, namely, that of His having entered on the inheritance (Heb 1:4). The "bringing the first-begotten into the world" (Heb 1:6), is not subsequent, as Alford thinks, to Heb 1:5, but anterior to it (compare Ac 2:30-35).
And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.
6. And—Greek, "But." Not only this proves His superiority, BUT a more decisive proof is Ps 97:7, which shows that not only at His resurrection, but also in prospect of His being brought into the world (compare Heb 9:11; 10:5) as man, in His incarnation, nativity (Lu 2:9-14), temptation (Mt 4:10, 11), resurrection (Mt 28:2), and future second advent in glory, angels were designed by God to be subject to Him. Compare 1Ti 3:16, "seen of angels"; God manifesting Messiah as one to be gazed at with adoring love by heavenly intelligences (Eph 3:10; 2Th 1:9, 10; 1Pe 3:22). The fullest realization of His Lordship shall be at His second coming (Ps 97:7; 1Co 15:24, 25; Php 2:9). "Worship Him all ye gods" ("gods," that is, exalted beings, as angels), refers to God; but it was universally admitted among the Hebrews that God would dwell, in a peculiar sense, in Messiah (so as to be in the Talmud phrase, "capable of being pointed to with the finger"); and so what was said of God was true of, and to be fulfilled in, Messiah. Kimchi says that the ninety-third through the hundred first Psalms contain in them the mystery of Messiah. God ruled the theocracy in and through Him.
the world—subject to Christ (Heb 2:5). As "the first-begotten" He has the rights of primogeniture (Ro 8:29); Col 1:15, 16, 18). In De 32:43, the Septuagint has, "Let all the angels of God worship Him," words not now found in the Hebrew. This passage of the Septuagint may have been in Paul's mind as to the form, but the substance is taken from Ps 97:7. The type David, in the Ps 89:27 (quoted in Heb 1:5), is called "God's first-born, higher than the kings of the earth"; so the antitypical first-begotten, the son of David, is to be worshipped by all inferior lords, such as angels ("gods," Ps 97:7); for He is "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Re 19:16). In the Greek, "again" is transposed; but this does not oblige us, as Alford thinks, to translate, "when He again shall have introduced," &c., namely, at Christ's second coming; for there is no previous mention of a first bringing in; and "again" is often used in quotations, not to be joined with the verb, but parenthetically ("that I may again quote Scripture"). English Version is correct (compare Mt 5:33; Greek, Joh 12:39).
And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.
7. of—The Greek is rather, "In reference TO the angels."
spirits—or "winds": Who employeth His angels as the winds, His ministers as the lightnings; or, He maketh His angelic ministers the directing powers of winds and flames, when these latter are required to perform His will. "Commissions them to assume the agency or form of flames for His purposes" [Alford]. English Version, "maketh His angels spirits," means, He maketh them of a subtle, incorporeal nature, swift as the wind. So Ps 18:10, "a cherub … the wings of the wind." Heb 1:14, "ministering spirits," favors English Version here. As "spirits" implies the wind-like velocity and subtle nature of the cherubim, so "flame of fire" expresses the burning devotion and intense all-consuming zeal of the adoring seraphim (meaning "burning), Isa 6:1. The translation, "maketh winds His messengers, and a flame of fire His ministers (!)," is plainly wrong. In the Ps 104:3, 4, the subject in each clause comes first, and the attribute predicated of it second; so the Greek article here marks "angels" and "ministers" as the subjects, and "winds" and "flame of fire," predicates, Schemoth Rabba says, "God is called God of Zebaoth (the heavenly hosts), because He does what He pleases with His angels. When He pleases, He makes them to sit (Jud 6:11); at other times to stand (Isa 6:2); at times to resemble women (Zec 5:9); at other times to resemble men (Ge 18:2); at times He makes them 'spirits'; at times, fire." "Maketh" implies that, however exalted, they are but creatures, whereas the Son is the Creator (Heb 1:10): not begotten from everlasting, nor to be worshipped, as the Son (Re 14:7; 22:8, 9).
But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.
8. O God—the Greek has the article to mark emphasis (Ps 45:6, 7).
for ever … righteousness—Everlasting duration and righteousness go together (Ps 45:2; 89:14).
a sceptre of righteousness—literally, "a rod of rectitude," or "straightforwardness." The oldest manuscripts prefix "and" (compare Es 4:11).
Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
9. iniquity—"unnrighteousness." Some oldest manuscripts read, "lawlessness."
therefore—because God loves righteousness and hates iniquity.
God … thy God—Jerome, Augustine, and others translate Ps 45:7, "O God, Thy God, hath anointed thee," whereby Christ is addressed as God. This is probably the true translation of the Hebrew there, and also of the Greek of Hebrews here; for it is likely the Son is addressed, "O God," as in Heb 1:8. The anointing here meant is not that at His baptism, when He solemnly entered on His ministry for us; but that with the "oil of gladness," or "exulting joy" (which denotes a triumph, and follows as the consequence of His manifested love of righteousness and hatred of iniquity), wherewith, after His triumphant completion of His work, He has been anointed by the Father above His fellows (not only above us, His fellow men, the adopted members of God's family, whom "He is not ashamed to call His brethren," but above the angels, fellow partakers in part with Him, though infinitely His inferiors, in the glories, holiness, and joys of heaven; "sons of God," and angel "messengers," though subordinate to the divine Angel—"Messenger of the covenant"). Thus He is antitype to Solomon, "chosen of all David's many sons to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel," even as His father David was chosen before all the house of his father's sons. The image is drawn from the custom of anointing guests at feasts (Ps 23:5); or rather of anointing kings: not until His ascension did He assume the kingdom as Son of man. A fuller accomplishment is yet to be, when He shall be VISIBLY the anointed King over the whole earth (set by the Father) on His holy hill of Zion, Ps 2:6, 8. So David, His type, was first anointed at Bethlehem (1Sa 16:13; Ps 89:20); and yet again at Hebron, first over Judah (2Sa 2:4), then over all Israel (2Sa 5:3); not till the death of Saul did he enter on his actual kingdom; as it was not till after Christ's death that the Father set Him at His right hand far above all principalities (Eph 1:20, 21). The forty-fifth Psalm in its first meaning was addressed to Solomon; but the Holy Spirit inspired the writer to use language which in its fulness can only apply to the antitypical Solomon, the true Royal Head of the theocracy.
And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands:
10. And—In another passage (Ps 102:25-27) He says.
in the beginning—English Version, Ps 102:25, "of old": Hebrew, "before," "aforetime." The Septuagint, "in the beginning" (as in Ge 1:1) answers by contrast to the end implied in "They shall perish," &c. The Greek order here (not in the Septuagint) is, "Thou in the beginning, O Lord," which throws the "Lord" into emphasis. "Christ is preached even in passages where many might contend that the Father was principally intended" [Bengel].
laid the foundation of—"firmly founded" is included in the idea of the Greek.
heavens—plural: not merely one, but manifold, and including various orders of heavenly intelligences (Eph 4:10).
works of thine hands—the heavens, as a woven veil or curtain spread out.
They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment;
11. They—The earth and the heavens in their present state and form "shall perish" (Heb 12:26, 27; 2Pe 3:13). "Perish" does not mean annihilation; just as it did not mean so in the case of "the world that being overflowed with water, perished" under Noah (2Pe 3:6). The covenant of the possession of the earth was renewed with Noah and his seed on the renovated earth. So it shall be after the perishing by fire (2Pe 3:12, 13).
remainest—through (so the Greek) all changes.
as … a garment—(Isa 51:6).
And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.
12. vesture—Greek, "an enwrapping cloak."
fold them up—So the Septuagint, Ps 102:26; but the Hebrew, "change them." The Spirit, by Paul, treats the Hebrew of the Old Testament, with independence of handling, presenting the divine truth in various aspects; sometimes as here sanctioning the Septuagint (compare Isa 34:4; Re 6:14); sometimes the Hebrew; sometimes varying from both.
changed—as one lays aside a garment to put on another.
thou art the same—(Isa 46:4; Mal 3:6). The same in nature, therefore in covenant faithfulness to Thy people.
shall not fail—Hebrew, "shall not end." Israel, in the Babylonian captivity, in the hundred second Psalm, casts her hopes of deliverance on Messiah, the unchanging covenant God of Israel.
But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?
13. Quotation from Ps 110:1. The image is taken from the custom of conquerors putting the feet on the necks of the conquered (Jos 10:24, 25).
Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?
14. ministering spirits—referring to Heb 1:7, "spirits … ministers." They are incorporeal spirits, as God is, but ministering to Him as inferiors.
sent forth—present participle: "being sent forth" continually, as their regular service in all ages.
to minister—Greek, "unto (that is, 'for') ministry."
for them—Greek, "on account of the." Angels are sent forth on ministrations to God and Christ, not primarily to men, though for the good of "those who are about to inherit salvation" (so the Greek): the elect, who believe, or shall believe, for whom all things, angels included, work together for good (Ro 8:28). Angels' ministrations are not properly rendered to men, since the latter have no power of commanding them, though their ministrations to God are often directed to the good of men. So the superiority of the Son of God to angels is shown. They "all," how ever various their ranks, "minister"; He is ministered to. They "stand" (Lu 1:19) before God, or are "sent forth" to execute the divine commands on behalf of them whom He pleases to save; He "sits on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb 1:3, 13). He rules; they serve.