Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.
Heb 2:1-18. Danger of Neglecting So Great Salvation, First Spoken by Christ; to Whom, Not to Angels, the New Dispensation Was Subjected; though He Was for a Time Humbled below the Angels: This Humiliation Took Place by Divine Necessity for Our Salvation.
1. Therefore—Because Christ the Mediator of the new covenant is so far (Heb 1:5-14) above all angels, the mediators of the old covenant.
the more earnest—Greek, "the more abundantly."
heard—spoken by God (Heb 1:1); and by the Lord (Heb 2:3).
let them slip—literally "flow past them" (Heb 4:1).
For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward;
2. (Compare Heb 2:3.) Argument a fortiori.
spoken by angels—the Mosaic law spoken by the ministration of angels (De 33:2; Ps 68:17; Ac 7:53; Ga 3:19). When it is said, Ex 20:1, "God spake," it is meant He spake by angels as His mouthpiece, or at least angels repeating in unison with His voice the words of the Decalogue; whereas the Gospel was first spoken by the Lord alone.
was steadfast—Greek, "was made steadfast," or "confirmed": was enforced by penalties on those violating it.
transgression—by doing evil; literally, overstepping its bounds: a positive violation of it.
disobedience—by neglecting to do good: a negative violation of it.
How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;
3. we—who have received the message of salvation so clearly delivered to us (compare Heb 12:25).
so great salvation—embodied in Jesus, whose very name means "salvation," including not only deliverance from foes and from death, and the grant of temporal blessings (which the law promised to the obedient), but also grace of the Spirit, forgiveness of sins, and the promise of heaven, glory, and eternal life (Heb 2:10).
which—"inasmuch as it is a salvation which began," &c.
spoken by the Lord—as the instrument of proclaiming it. Not as the law, spoken by the instrumentality of angels (Heb 2:2). Both law and Gospel came from God; the difference here referred to lay in the instrumentality by which each respectively was promulgated (compare Heb 2:5). Angels recognize Him as "the Lord" (Mt 28:6; Lu 2:11).
confirmed unto us—not by penalties, as the law was confirmed, but by spiritual gifts (Heb 2:4).
by them that heard him—(Compare Lu 1:2). Though Paul had a special and independent revelation of Christ (Ga 1:16, 17, 19), yet he classes himself with those Jews whom he addresses, "unto us"; for like them in many particulars (for example, the agony in Gethsemane, Heb 5:7), he was dependent for autoptic information on the twelve apostles. So the discourses of Jesus, for example, the Sermon on the Mount, and the first proclamation of the Gospel kingdom by the Lord (Mt 4:17), he could only know by the report of the Twelve: so the saying, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Ac 20:35). Paul mentions what they had heard, rather than what they had seen, conformably with what he began with, Heb 1:1, 2, "spake … spoken." Appropriately also in his Epistles to Gentiles, he dwells on his independent call to the apostleship of the Gentiles; in his Epistle to the Hebrews, he appeals to the apostles who had been long with the Lord (compare Ac 1:21; 10:41): so in his sermon to the Jews in Antioch of Pisidia (Ac 13:31); and "he only appeals to the testimony of these apostles in a general way, in order that he may bring the Hebrews to the Lord alone" [Bengel], not to become partisans of particular apostles, as Peter, the apostle of the circumcision, and James, the bishop of Jerusalem. This verse implies that the Hebrews of the churches of Palestine and Syria (or those of them dispersed in Asia Minor [Bengel], 1Pe 1:1, or in Alexandria) were primarily addressed in this Epistle; for of none so well could it be said, the Gospel was confirmed to them by the immediate hearers of the Lord: the past tense, "was confirmed," implies some little time had elapsed since this testification by eye-witnesses.
God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?
4. them—rather, "God also [as well as Christ, Heb 2:3] bearing witness to it," &c., joining in attestation of it."
signs and wonders—performed by Christ and His apostles. "Signs" and miracles, or other facts regarded as proofs of a divine mission; "wonders" are miracles viewed as prodigies, causing astonishment (Ac 2:22, 33); "powers" are miracles viewed as evidences of superhuman power.
divers miracles—Greek, "varied (miraculous) powers" (2Co 12:12) granted to the apostles after the ascension.
gifts, &c.—Greek, "distributions." The gift of the Holy Spirit was given to Christ without measure (Joh 3:34), but to us it is distributed in various measures and operations (Ro 12:3, 6, &c.; 1Co 12:4-11).
according to his own will—God's free and sovereign will, assigning one gift of the Spirit to one, another to another (Ac 5:32; Eph 1:5).
For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.
5. For—confirming the assertion, Heb 2:2, 3, that the new covenant was spoken by One higher than the mediators of the old covenant, namely, angels. Translate in the Greek order, to bring out the proper emphasis, "Not the angels hath He," &c.
the world to come—implying, He has subjected to angels the existing world, the Old Testament dispensation (then still partly existing as to its framework), Heb 2:2, the political kingdom of the earth (Da 4:13; 10:13, 20, 21; 12:1), and the natural elements (Re 9:11; 16:4). and even individuals (Mt 18:10). "The world to come" is the new dispensation brought in by Christ, beginning in grace here, to be completed in glory hereafter. It is called "to come," or "about to be," as at the time of its being subjected to Christ by the divine decree, it was as yet a thing of the future, and is still so to us, in respect to its full consummation. In respect to the subjecting of all things to Christ in fulfilment of Ps 8:1-9, the realization is still "to come." Regarded from the Old Testament standpoint, which looks prophetically forward to the New Testament (and the Jewish priesthood and Old Testament ritual were in force then when Paul wrote, and continued till their forcible abrogation by the destruction of Jerusalem), it is "the world to come"; Paul, as addressing Jews, appropriately calls it so, according to their conventional way of viewing it. We, like them, still pray, "Thy kingdom come"; for its manifestation in glory is yet future. "This world" is used in contrast to express the present fallen condition of the world (Eph 2:2). Believers belong not to this present world course, but by faith rise in spirit to "the world to come," making it a present, though internal. reality. Still, in the present world, natural and social, angels are mediately rulers under God in some sense: not so in the coming world: man in it, and the Son of man, man's Head, are to be supreme. Hence greater reverence was paid to angels by men in the Old Testament than is permitted in the New Testament. For man's nature is exalted in Christ now, so that angels are our "fellow servants" (Re 22:9). In their ministrations they stand on a different footing from that on which they stood towards us in the Old Testament. We are "brethren" of Christ in a nearness not enjoyed even by angels (Heb 2:10-12, 16).
But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?
6. But—It is not to angels the Gospel kingdom is subject, BUT …
one … testified—the usual way of quoting Scripture to readers familiar with it. Ps 8:5-7 praises Jehovah for exalting MAN, so as to subject all the works of God on earth to him: this dignity having been lost by the first Adam, is realized only in Christ the Son of man, the Representative Man and Head of our redeemed race. Thus Paul proves that it is to MAN, not to angels, that God has subjected the "world to come." In Heb 2:6-8, MAN is spoken of in general ("him … him … his); then at Heb 2:9, first Jesus is introduced as fulfilling, as man, all the conditions of the prophecy, and passing through death Himself; and so consequently bringing us men, His "brethren," to "glory and honor."
What, &c.—How insignificant in himself, yet how exalted by God's grace! (Compare Ps 144:3). The Hebrew, "Enosh" and "Ben-Adam," express "man" and "Son of man" in his weakness: "Son of man" is here used of any and every child of man: unlike, seemingly, the lord of creation, such as he was originally (Ge 1:1-2:25), and such as he is designed to be (Ps 8:1-9), and such as he actually is by title and shall hereafter more fully be in the person of, and in union with, Jesus, pre-eminently the Son of man (Heb 2:9).
art mindful—as of one absent.
visitest—lookest after him, as one present.
Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands:
7. a little—not as Bengel, "a little time."
than the angels—Hebrew, "than God," "Elohim," that is, the abstract qualities of God, such as angels possess in an inferior form; namely, heavenly, spiritual, incorporeal natures. Man, in his original creation, was set next beneath them. So the man Jesus, though Lord of angels, when He emptied Himself of the externals of His Divinity (see on Php 2:6, 7), was in His human nature "a little lower than the angels"; though this is not the primary reference here, but man in general.
crownedst him with glory and honour—as the appointed kingly vicegerent of God over this earth (Ge 1:1-2:25).
and didst set him over the works of thy hands—omitted in some of the oldest manuscripts; but read by others and by oldest versions: so Ps 8:6, "Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands."
Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.
8. (1Co 15:27.)
For in that—that is, "For in that" God saith in the eighth Psalm, "He put the all things (so the Greek, the all things just mentioned) in subjection under him (man), He left nothing … As no limitation occurs in the sacred writing, the "all things" must include heavenly, as well as earthly things (compare 1Co 3:21, 22).
But now—As things now are, we see not yet the all things put under man.
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
9. But—We see not man as yet exercising lordship over all things, "but rather, Him who was made a little lower than the angels (compare Lu 22:43), we behold (by faith: a different Greek verb from that for 'we see,' Heb 2:8, which expresses the impression which our eyes passively receive from objects around us; whereas, 'we behold,' or 'look at,' implies the direction and intention of one deliberately regarding something which he tries to see: so Heb 3:19; 10:25, Greek), namely, Jesus, on account of His suffering of death, crowned," &c. He is already crowned, though unseen by us, save by faith; hereafter all things shall be subjected to Him visibly and fully. The ground of His exaltation is "on accoumt of His having suffered death" (Heb 2:10; Php 2:8, 9).
that he by the grace of God—(Tit 2:11; 3:4). The reading of Origen, "That He without God" (laying aside His Divinity; or, for every being save God: or perhaps alluding to His having been temporarily "forsaken," as the Sin-bearer, by the Father on the cross), is not supported by the manuscripts. The "that," &c., is connected with "crowned with glory," &c., thus: His exaltation after sufferings is the perfecting or consummation of His work (Heb 2:10) for us: without it His death would have been ineffectual; with it, and from it, flows the result that His tasting of death is available for (in behalf of, for the good of) every man. He is crowned as the Head in heaven of our common humanity, presenting His blood as the all-prevailing plea for us. This coronation above makes His death applicable for every individual man (observe the singular; not merely "for all men"), Heb 4:14; 9:24; 1Jo 2:2. "Taste death" implies His personal experimental undergoing of death: death of the body, and death (spiritually) of the soul, in His being forsaken of the Father. "As a physician first tastes his medicines to encourage his sick patient to take them, so Christ, when all men feared death, in order to persuade them to be bold in meeting it, tasted it Himself, though He had no need" [Chrysostom]. (Heb 2:14, 15).
For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
10. For—giving a reason why "the grace of God" required that Jesus "should taste death."
it became him—The whole plan was (not only not derogatory to, but) highly becoming God, though unbelief considers it a disgrace [Bengel]. An answer to the Jews, and Hebrew Christians, whosoever, through impatience at the delay in the promised advent of Christ's glory, were in danger of apostasy, stumbling at Christ crucified. The Jerusalem Christians especially were liable to this danger. This scheme of redemption was altogether such a one as harmonizes with the love, justice, and wisdom of God.
for whom—God the Father (Ro 11:36; 1Co 8:6; Re 4:11). In Col 1:16 the same is said of Christ.
all things—Greek, "the universe of things," "the all things." He uses for "God," the periphrasis, "Him for whom … by whom are all things," to mark the becomingness of Christ's suffering as the way to His being "perfected" as "Captain of our salvation," seeing that His is the way that pleased Him whose will and whose glory are the end of all things, and by whose operation all things exist.
in bringing—The Greek is past, "having brought as He did," namely, in His electing purpose (compare "ye are sons," namely, in His purpose, Ga 4:6; Eph 1:4), a purpose which is accomplished in Jesus being "perfected through sufferings."
many—(Mt 20:28). "The Church" (Heb 2:12), "the general assembly" (Heb 12:23).
sons—no longer children as under the Old Testament law, but sons by adoption.
unto glory—to share Christ's "glory" (Heb 2:9; compare Heb 2:7; Joh 17:10, 22, 24; Ro 8:21). Sonship, holiness (Heb 2:11), and glory, are inseparably joined. "Suffering," "salvation," and "glory," in Paul's writings, often go together (2Ti 2:10). Salvation presupposes destruction, deliverance from which for us required Christ's "sufferings."
to make … perfect—"to consummate"; to bring to consummated glory through sufferings, as the appointed avenue to it. "He who suffers for another, not only benefits him, but becomes himself the brighter and more perfect" [Chrysostom]. Bringing to the end of troubles, and to the goal full of glory: a metaphor from the contests in the public games. Compare "It is finished," Lu 24:26; Joh 19:30. I prefer, with Calvin, understanding, "to make perfect as a completed sacrifice": legal and official, not moral, perfection is meant: "to consecrate" (so the same Greek is translated Heb 7:28; compare Margin) by the finished expiation of His death, as our perfect High Priest, and so our "Captain of salvation" (Lu 13:32). This agrees with Heb 2:11, "He that sanctifieth," that is, consecrates them by Himself being made a consecrated offering for them. So Heb 10:14, 29; Joh 17:19: by the perfecting of His consecration for them in His death, He perfects their consecration, and so throws open access to glory (Heb 10:19-21; Heb 5:9; 9:9 accord with this sense).
captain of, &c.—literally, Prince-leader: as Joshua, not Moses, led the people into the Holy Land, so will our Joshua, or Jesus, lead us into the heavenly inheritance (Ac 13:39). The same Greek is in Heb 12:2, "Author of our faith." Ac 3:15, "Prince of life" (Ac 5:31). Preceding others by His example, as well as the originator of our salvation.
For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,
11. he that sanctifieth—Christ who once for all consecrates His people to God (Jude 1, bringing them nigh to Him as the consequence) and everlasting glory, by having consecrated Himself for them in His being made "perfect (as their expiatory sacrifice) through sufferings" (Heb 2:10; Heb 10:10, 14, 29; Joh 17:17, 19). God in His electing love, by Christ's finished work, perfectly sanctifies them to God's service and to heaven once for all: then they are progressively sanctified by the transforming Spirit "Sanctification is glory working in embryo; glory is sanctification come to the birth, and manifested" [Alford].
they who are sanctified—Greek, "they that are being sanctified" (compare the use of "sanctified," 1Co 7:14).
of one—Father, God: not in the sense wherein He is Father of all beings, as angels; for these are excluded by the argument (Heb 2:16); but as He is Father of His spiritual human sons, Christ the Head and elder Brother, and His believing people, the members of the body and family. Thus, this and the following verses are meant to justify his having said, "many sons" (Heb 2:10). "Of one" is not "of one father Adam," or "Abraham," as Bengel and others suppose. For the Saviour's participation in the lowness of our humanity is not mentioned till Heb 2:14, and then as a consequence of what precedes. Moreover, "Sons of God" is, in Scripture usage, the dignity obtained by our union with Christ; and our brotherhood with Him flows from God being His and our Father. Christ's Sonship (by generation) in relation to God is reflected in the sonship (by adoption) of His brethren.
he is not ashamed—though being the Son of God, since they have now by adoption obtained a like dignity, so that His majesty is not compromised by brotherhood with them (compare Heb 11:16). It is a striking feature in Christianity that it unites such amazing contrasts as "our brother and our God" [Tholuck]. "God makes of sons of men sons of God, because God hath made of the Son of God the Son of man" [St. Augustine on Psalm 2].
Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.
12. (Ps 22:22.) Messiah declares the name of the Father, not known fully as Christ's Father, and therefore their Father, till after His crucifixion (Joh 20:17), among His brethren ("the Church," that is, the congregation), that they in turn may praise Him (Ps 22:23). At Ps 22:22, which begins with Christ's cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" and details minutely His sorrows, passes from Christ's sufferings to His triumph, prefigured by the same in the experience of David.
will I sing—as leader of the choir (Ps 8:2).
And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.
13. I will put my trust in him—from the Septuagint, Isa 8:17, which immediately precedes the next quotation, "Behold, I and the children," &c. The only objection is the following words, "and again," usually introduce a new quotation, whereas these two are parts of one and the same passage. However, this objection is not valid, as the two clauses express distinct ideas; "I will put my trust in Him" expresses His filial confidence in God as His Father, to whom He flees from His sufferings, and is not disappointed; which His believing brethren imitate, trusting solely in the Father through Christ, and not in their own merits. "Christ exhibited this "trust," not for Himself, for He and the Father are one, but for His own people" (Heb 2:16). Each fresh aid given Him assured Him, as it does them, of aid for the future, until the complete victory was obtained over death and hell Php 1:16 [Bengel].
Behold I and the children, &c.—(Isa 8:18). "Sons" (Heb 2:10), "brethren" (Heb 2:12), and "children," imply His right and property in them from everlasting. He speaks of them as "children" of God, though not yet in being, yet considered as such in His purpose, and presents them before God the Father, who has given Him them, to be glorified with Himself. Isaiah (meaning "salvation of Jehovah") typically represented Messiah, who is at once Father and Son, Isaiah and Immanuel (Isa 9:6). He expresses his resolve to rely, he and his children, not like Ahaz and the Jews on the Assyrian king, against the confederacy of Pekah of Israel, and Rezin of Syria, but on Jehovah; and then foretells the deliverance of Judah by God, in language which finds its antitypical full realization only in the far greater deliverance wrought by Messiah. Christ, the antitypical Prophet, similarly, instead of the human confidences of His age, Himself, and with Him God the Father's children (who are therefore His children, and so antitypical to Isaiah's children, though here regarded as His "brethren," compare Isa 9:6; "Father" and "His seed," Isa 53:10) led by Him, trust wholly in God for salvation. The official words and acts of all the prophets find their antitype in the Great Prophet (Re 19:10), just as His kingly office is antitypical to that of the theocratic kings; and His priestly office to the types and rites of the Aaronic priesthood.
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
14. He who has thus been shown to be the "Captain (Greek, 'Leader') of salvation" to the "many sons," by trusting and suffering like them, must therefore become man like them, in order that His death may be efficacious for them [Alford].
the children—before mentioned (Heb 2:13); those existing in His eternal purpose, though not in actual being.
are partakers of—literally, "have (in His purpose) been partakers" all in common.
flesh and blood—Greek oldest manuscripts have "blood and flesh." The inner and more important element, the blood, as the more immediate vehicle of the soul, stands before the more palpable element, the flesh; also, with reference to Christ's blood-shedding with a view to which He entered into community with our corporeal life. "The life of the flesh is in the blood; it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul" (Le 17:11, 14).
also—Greek, "in a somewhat similar manner"; not altogether in a like manner. For He, unlike them, was conceived and born not in sin (Heb 4:15). But mainly "in like manner"; not in mere semblance of a body, as the Docetæ heretics taught.
took part of—participated in. The forfeited inheritance (according to Jewish law) was ransomed by the nearest of kin; so Jesus became our nearest of kin by His assumed humanity, in order to be our Redeemer.
that through death—which He could not have undergone as God but only by becoming man. Not by Almighty power but by His death (so the Greek) He overcame death. "Jesus suffering death overcame; Satan wielding death succumbed" [Bengel]. As David cut off the head of Goliath with the giant's own sword wherewith the latter was wont to win his victories. Coming to redeem mankind, Christ made Himself a sort of hook to destroy the devil; for in Him there was His humanity to attract the devourer to Him, His divinity to pierce him, apparent weakness to provoke, hidden power to transfix the hungry ravisher. The Latin epigram says, Mors mortis morti mortem nisi morte tu lisset, Æternæ vitæ janua clausa foret. "Had not death by death borne to death the death of Death, the gate of eternal life would have been closed".
destroy—literally, "render powerless"; deprive of all power to hurt His people. "That thou mightest still the enemy and avenger" (Ps 8:2). The same Greek verb is used in 2Ti 1:10, "abolished death." There is no more death for believers. Christ plants in them an undying seed, the germ of heavenly immortality, though believers have to pass through natural death.
power—Satan is "strong" (Mt 12:29).
of death—implying that death itself is a power which, though originally foreign to human nature, now reigns over it (Ro 5:12; 6:9). The power which death has Satan wields. The author of sin is the author of its consequences. Compare "power of the enemy" (Lu 10:19). Satan has acquired over man (by God's law, Ge 2:17; Ro 6:23) the power of death by man's sin, death being the executioner of sin, and man being Satan's "lawful captive." Jesus, by dying, has made the dying His own (Ro 14:9), and has taken the prey from the mighty. Death's power was manifest; he who wielded that power, lurking beneath it, is here expressed, namely, Satan. Wisdom 2:24, "By the envy of the devil, death entered into the world."
And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
15. fear of death—even before they had experienced its actual power.
all their lifetime—Such a life can hardly be called life.
subject to bondage—literally, "subjects of bondage"; not merely liable to it, but enthralled in it (compare Ro 8:15; Ga 5:1). Contrast with this bondage, the glory of the "sons" (Heb 2:10). "Bondage" is defined by Aristotle, "The living not as one chooses"; "liberty," "the living as one chooses." Christ by delivering us from the curse of God against our sin, has taken from death all that made it formidable. Death, viewed apart from Christ, can only fill with horror, if the sinner dares to think.
For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.
16. For verily—Greek, "For as we all know"; "For as you will doubtless grant." Paul probably alludes to Isa 41:8; Jer 31:32, Septuagint, from which all Jews would know well that the fact here stated as to Messiah was what the prophets had led them to expect.
took not on him, &c.—rather, "It is not angels that He is helping (the present tense implies duration); but it is the seed of Abraham that He is helping." The verb is literally, to help by taking one by the hand, as in Heb 8:9, "When I took them by the hand," &c. Thus it answers to "succor," Heb 2:18, and "deliver," Heb 2:15. "Not angels," who have no flesh and blood, but "the children," who have "flesh and blood," He takes hold of to help by "Himself taking part of the same" (Heb 2:14). Whatever effect Christ's work may have on angels, He is not taking hold to help them by suffering in their nature to deliver them from death, as in our case.
the seed of Abraham—He views Christ's redemption (in compliment to the Hebrews whom he is addressing, and as enough for his present purpose) with reference to Abraham's seed, the Jewish nation, primarily; not that he excludes the Gentiles (Heb 2:9, "for every man"), who, when believers, are the seed of Abraham spiritually (compare Heb 2:12; Ps 22:22, 25, 27), but direct reference to them (such as is in Ro 4:11, 12, 16; Ga 3:7, 14, 28, 29) would be out of place in his present argument. It is the same argument for Jesus being the Christ which Matthew, writing his Gospel for the Hebrews, uses, tracing the genealogy of Jesus from Abraham, the father of the Jews, and the one to whom the promises were given, on which the Jews especially prided themselves (compare Ro 9:4, 5).
Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
17. Wherefore—Greek, "Whence." Found in Paul's speech, Ac 26:19.
in all things—which are incidental to manhood, the being born, nourished, growing up, suffering. Sin is not, in the original constitution of man, a necessary attendant of manhood, so He had no sin.
it behooved him—by moral necessity, considering what the justice and love of God required of Him as Mediator (compare Heb 5:3), the office which He had voluntarily undertaken in order to "help" man (Heb 2:16).
his brethren—(Heb 2:11); "the seed of Abraham" (Heb 2:16), and so also the spiritual seed, His elect out of all mankind.
be, &c.—rather as Greek, "that He might become High Priest"; He was called so, when He was "made perfect by the things which He suffered" (Heb 2:10; Heb 5:8-10). He was actually made so, when He entered within the veil, from which last flows His ever continuing intercession as Priest for us. The death, as man, must first be, in order that the bringing in of the blood into the heavenly Holy Place might follow, in which consisted the expiation as High Priest.
merciful—to "the people" deserving wrath by "sins." Mercy is a prime requisite in a priest, since his office is to help the wretched and raise the fallen: such mercy is most likely to be found in one who has a fellow-feeling with the afflicted, having been so once Himself (Heb 4:15); not that the Son of God needed to be taught by suffering to be merciful, but that in order to save us He needed to take our manhood with all its sorrows, thereby qualifying Himself, by experimental suffering with us, to be our sympathizing High Priest, and assuring us of His entire fellow-feeling with us in every sorrow. So in the main Calvin remarks here.
faithful—true to God (Heb 3:5, 6) and to man (Heb 10:23) in the mediatorial office which He has undertaken.
high priest—which Moses was not, though "faithful" (Heb 2:1-18). Nowhere, except in Ps 110:4; Zec 6:13, and in this Epistle, is Christ expressly called a priest. In this Epistle alone His priesthood is professedly discussed; whence it is evident how necessary is this book of the New Testament. In Ps 110:1-7, and Zec 6:13, there is added mention of the kingdom of Christ, which elsewhere is spoken of without the priesthood, and that frequently. On the cross, whereon as Priest He offered the sacrifice, He had the title "King" inscribed over Him [Bengel].
to make reconciliation for the sins—rather as Greek, "to propitiate (in respect to) the sins"; "to expiate the sins." Strictly divine justice is "propitiated"; but God's love is as much from everlasting as His justice; therefore, lest Christ's sacrifice, or its typical forerunners, the legal sacrifices, should be thought to be antecedent to God's grace and love, neither are said in the Old or New Testament to have propitiated God; otherwise Christ's sacrifices might have been thought to have first induced God to love and pity man, instead of (as the fact really is) His love having originated Christ's sacrifice, whereby divine justice and divine love are harmonized. The sinner is brought by that sacrifice into God's favor, which by sin he had forfeited; hence his right prayer is, "God be propitiated (so the Greek) to me who am a sinner" (Lu 18:13). Sins bring death and "the fear of death" (Heb 2:15). He had no sin Himself, and "made reconciliation for the iniquity" of all others (Da 9:24).
of the people—"the seed of Abraham" (Heb 2:16); the literal Israel first, and then (in the design of God), through Israel, the believing Gentiles, the spiritual Israel (1Pe 2:10).
For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.
18. For—explanation of how His being made like His brethren in all things has made Him a merciful and faithful High Priest for us (Heb 2:17).
in that—rather as Greek, "wherein He suffered Himself; having been tempted, He is able to succor them that are being tempted" in the same temptation; and as "He was tempted (tried and afflicted) in all points," He is able (by the power of sympathy) to succor us in all possible temptations and trials incidental to man (Heb 4:16; 5:2). He is the antitypical Solomon, having for every grain of Abraham's seed (which were to be as the sand for number), "largeness of heart even as the sand that is on the seashore" (1Ki 4:29). "Not only as God He knows our trials, but also as man He knows them by experimental feeling."