Adam Clarke Commentary
Exhortations to hospitality to Strangers, Hebrews 13:1, Hebrews 13:2. Kindness to those in bonds, Hebrews 13:3. Concerning marriage, Hebrews 13:4. Against covetousness, Hebrews 13:5, Hebrews 13:6. How they should imitate their teachers, Hebrews 13:7, Hebrews 13:8. To avoid strange doctrines, Hebrews 13:9. Of the Jewish sin-offerings, Hebrews 13:10, Hebrews 13:11. Jesus suffered without the gate, and we should openly confess him and bear his reproach, Hebrews 13:12, Hebrews 13:13. Here we have no permanent residence; and while we live should devote ourselves to God, and live to do good, Hebrews 13:14-16. We should obey them that have the rule over us, Hebrews 13:17. The apostle exhorts them to pray for him, that he might be restored to them the sooner, Hebrews 13:18, Hebrews 13:19. Commends them to God in a very solemn prayer, Hebrews 13:20, Hebrews 13:21. Entreats them to bear the word of exhortation, mentions Timothy, and concludes with the apostolical benediction, Hebrews 13:22-25.
Let brotherly love continue - Be all of one heart and one soul.
Feel for, comfort, and support each other; and remember that he who professes to love God should love his brother also. They had this brotherly love among them; they should take care to retain it. As God is remarkable for his φιλανθρωπια, philanthropy, or love to man, so should they be for φιλαδελφια, or love to each other. See the note on Titus 3:4.
To entertain stranger's - In those early times, when there were scarcely any public inns or houses of entertainment, it was an office of charity and mercy to receive, lodge, and entertain travelers; and this is what the apostle particularly recommends.
Entertained angels - Abraham and Lot are the persons particularly referred to. Their history, the angels whom they entertained, not knowing them to be such, and the good they derived from exercising their hospitality on these occasions, are well known; and have been particularly referred to in the notes on Genesis 18:3; (note); Genesis 19:2; (note).
Remember them that are in bonds - He appears to refer to those Christian's who were suffering imprisonment for the testimony of Jesus.
As bound with them - Feel for them as you would wish others to feel for you were you in their circumstances, knowing that, being in the body, you are liable to the same evils, and may be called to suffer in the same way for the same cause.
Marriage is honorable in all - Let this state be highly esteemed as one of God's own instituting, and as highly calculated to produce the best interests of mankind. This may have been said against the opinions of the Essenes, called Therapeutae, who held marriage in little repute, and totally abstained from it themselves as a state of comparative imperfection. At the same time it shows the absurdity of the popish tenet, that marriage in the clergy is both dishonorable and sinful; which is, in fact, in opposition to the apostle, who says marriage is honorable in All; and to the institution of God, which evidently designed that every male and female should be united in this holy bond; and to nature, which in every part of the habitable world has produced men and women in due proportion to each other.
The bed undefiled - Every man cleaving to his own wife, and every wife cleaving to her own husband, because God will judge, i.e. punish, all fornicators and adulterers.
Instead of δε but, γαρ, for, is the reading of AD*, one other, with the Vulgate, Coptic, and one of the Itala; it more forcibly expresses the reason of the prohibition: Let the bed be undefiled, For whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.
Let your conversation - That is, the whole tenor of your conduct, τροπος, the manner of your life, or rather the disposition of your hearts in reference to all your secular transactions; for in this sense the original is used by the best Greek writers.
Be without covetousness - Desire nothing more than what God has given you; and especially covet nothing which the Divine Providence has given to another man, for this is the very spirit of robbery.
Content with such things as ye have - Αρκουμενοι τοις παρουσιν· Being satisfied with present things. In one of the sentences of Phocylides we have a sentiment in nearly the same words as that of the apostle: Αρκεισθαι παρεουσι, και αλλοτριων απεχεσθαι· Be content with present things, and abstain from others. The covetous man is ever running out into futurity with insatiable desires after secular good; and, if this disposition be not checked, it increases as the subject of it increases in years. Covetousness is the vice of old age.
I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee - These words were, in sum, spoken to Joshua, Joshua 1:5; : "As I was with Moses, so will I be with thee; I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee." They were spoken also by David to Solomon, 1 Chronicles 28:20; : "David said to Solomon his son, Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed; for the Lord God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee." The apostle, in referring to the same promises, feels authorized to strengthen the expressions, as the Christian dispensation affords more consolation and confidence in matters of this kind than the old covenant did. The words are peculiarly emphatic: Ου μη σε ανω, ουδ ' ου μη σε εγκαταλιπω . There are no less than five negatives in this short sentence, and these connected with two verbs and one pronoun twice repeated. To give a literal translation is scarcely possible; it would run in this way: "No, I will not leave thee; no, neither will I not utterly forsake thee." Those who understand the genius of the Greek language, and look at the manner in which these negatives are placed in the sentence, will perceive at once how much the meaning is strengthened by them, and to what an emphatic and energetic affirmative they amount.
This promise is made to those who are patiently bearing affliction or persecution for Christ's sake; and may be applied to any faithful soul in affliction, temptation, or adversity of any kind. Trust in the Lord with thy whole heart, and never lean to thy own understanding; for he hath said, "No, I will never leave thee; not I: I will never, never cast thee off."
So that we may boldly say - We, in such circumstances, while cleaving to the Lord, may confidently apply to ourselves what God spake to Joshua and to Solomon; and what he spake to David, "The Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man can do." God is omnipotent, man's power is limited; howsoever strong he may be, he can do nothing against the Almighty.
Remember them which have the rule over you - This clause should be translated, Remember your guides, των ἡγουμενων, who have spoken unto you the doctrine of God. Theodoret's note on this verse is very judicious: "He intends the saints who were dead, Stephen the first martyr, James the brother of John, and James called the Just. And there were many others who were taken off by the Jewish rage. 'Consider these, (said he), and, observing their example, imitate their faith.'" This remembrance of the dead saints, with admiration of their virtues, and a desire to imitate them, is, says Dr. Macknight, the only worship which is due to them from the living.
Considering the end of their conversation - Ὡν αναθεωρουντες την εκβασιν της αναστροφης· "The issue of whose course of life most carefully consider." They lived to get good and do good; they were faithful to their God and his cause; they suffered persecution; and for the testimony of Jesus died a violent death. God never left them; no, he never forsook them; so that they were happy in their afflictions, and glorious in their death. Carefully consider this; act as they did; keep the faith, and God will keep you.
Jesus Christ the same yesterday - In all past times there was no way to the holiest but through the blood of Jesus, either actually shed, or significantly typified. To-day - he is the lamb newly slain, and continues to appear in the presence of God for us. For ever - to the conclusion of time, he will be the way, the truth, and the life, none coming to the Father but through him; and throughout eternity, εις τους αιωνας, it will appear that all glorified human spirits owe their salvation to his infinite merit. This Jesus was thus witnessed of by your guides, who are already departed to glory. Remember Him; remember them; and take heed to yourselves.
Be not carried about - Μη περιφερεσθε· Be not whirled about. But ABCD, and almost every other MS. of importance, with the Syriac, Coptic, Arabic, Vulgate, and several of the Greek fathers, have μη παραφερεσθε, be not carried away, which is undoubtedly the true reading, and signifies here, do not apostatize; permit not yourselves to be carried off from Christ and his doctrine.
Divers and strange doctrines - Διδαχαις, ποικιλαις· Variegated doctrines; those that blended the law and the Gospel, and brought in the Levitical sacrifices and institutions in order to perfect the Christian system. Remember the old covenant is abolished; the new alone is in force.
Strange doctrines, διδαχαις ξεναις, foreign doctrines; such as have no apostolical authority to recommend them.
That the heart be established with grace - It is well to have the heart, the mind, and conscience, fully satisfied with the truth and efficacy of the Gospel; for so the word χαρις should be understood here, which is put in opposition to βρωμασιν, meats, signifying here the Levitical institutions, and especially its sacrifices, these being emphatically termed meats, because the offerers were permitted to feast upon them after the blood had been poured out before the Lord. See Leviticus 7:15; Deuteronomy 12:6, Deuteronomy 12:7.
Which have not profited them - Because they neither took away guilt, cleansed the heart, nor gave power over sin.
We have an altar - The altar is here put for the sacrifice on the altar; the Christian altar is the Christian sacrifice, which is Christ Jesus, with all the benefits of his passion and death. To these privileges they had no right who continued to offer the Levitical sacrifices, and to trust in them for remission of sins.
For the bodies of those beasts - Though in making covenants, and in some victims offered according to the law, the flesh of the sacrifice was eaten by the offerers; yet the flesh of the sin-offering might no man eat: when the blood was sprinkled before the holy place to make an atonement for their souls, the skins, flesh, entrails, etc., were carried without the camp, and there entirely consumed by fire; and this entire consumption, according to the opinion of some, was intended to show that sin was not pardoned by such offerings. For, as eating the other sacrifices intimated they were made partakers of the benefits procured by those sacrifices, so, not being permitted to eat of the sin-offering proved that they had no benefit from it, and that they must look to the Christ, whose sacrifice is pointed out, that they might receive that real pardon of sin which the shedding of his blood could alone procure. While, therefore, they continued offering those sacrifices, and refused to acknowledge the Christ, they had no right to any of the blessings procured by him, and it is evident they could have no benefit from their own.
That he might sanctify the people - That he might consecrate them to God, and make an atonement for their sins, he suffered without the gate at Jerusalem, as the sin-offering was consumed without the camp when the tabernacle abode in the wilderness. Perhaps all this was typical of the abolition of the Jewish sacrifices, and the termination of the whole Levitical system of worship. He left the city, denounced its final destruction, and abandoned it to its fate; and suffered without the gate to bring the Gentiles to God.
Let us go forth therefore unto him - Let us leave this city and system, devoted to destruction, and take refuge in Jesus alone, bearing his reproach-being willing to be accounted the refuse of all things, and the worst of men, for his sake who bore the contradiction of sinners against himself, and was put to death as a malefactor.
For here have we no continuing city - Here is an elegant and forcible allusion to the approaching destruction of Jerusalem. The Jerusalem that was below was about to be burnt with fire, and erased to the ground; the Jerusalem that was from above was that alone which could be considered to be μενουσαν, permanent. The words seem to say: "Arise, and depart; for this is not your rest: it is polluted:" About seven or eight years after this, Jerusalem was wholly destroyed.
By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise - He has now fulfilled all vision and prophecy, has offered the last bloody sacrifice which God will ever accept; and as he is the gift of God's love to the world, let us through him offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, this being the substitute for all the Levitical sacrifices.
The Jews allowed that, in the time of the Messiah, all sacrifices, except the sacrifice of praise, should cease. To this maxim the apostle appears to allude; and, understood in this way, his words are much more forcible. In Vayikra Rabba, sect. 9, fol. 153, and Rabbi Tanchum, fol. 55: "Rabbi Phineas, Rabbi Levi, and Rabbi Jochanan, from the authority of Rabbi Menachem of Galilee, said, In the time of the Messiah all sacrifice shall cease, except the sacrifice of praise." This was, in effect, quoting the authority of one of their own maxims, that now was the time of the Messiah; that Jesus was that Messiah; that the Jewish sacrificial system was now abolished; and that no sacrifice would now be accepted of God, except the sacrifice of praise for the gift of his Son.
That is, the fruit of our lips - This expression is probably borrowed from Hosea 14:2, in the version of the Septuagint, καρπον χειλεων which in the Hebrew text is שפתינו פרים parim sephatheinu, "the heifers of our lips." This may refer primarily to the sacrifices, heifers, calves, etc., which they had vowed to God; so that the calves of their lips were the sacrifices which they had promised. But how could the Septuagint translate פרים parim, calves, by καρπον, fruit? Very easily, if they had in their copy פרי peri, the mem being omitted; and thus the word would be literally fruit, and not calves. This reading, however, is not found in any of the MSS. hitherto collated.
But to do good and to communicate - These are continual sacrifices which God requires, and which will spring from a sense of God's love in Christ Jesus. Praise to God for his unspeakable gift, and acts of kindness to men for God's sake. No reliance, even on the infinitely meritorious sacrifice of Christ, can be acceptable in the sight of God if a man have not love and charity towards his neighbor. Praise, prayer, and thanksgiving to God, with works of charity and mercy to man, are the sacrifices which every genuine follower of Christ must offer: and they are the proofs that a man belongs to Christ; and he who does not bear these fruits gives full evidence, whatever his creed may be, that he is no Christian.
Obey them that have the rule over you - Obey your leaders, τοις ἡγουμενοις . He is not fit to rule who is not capable of guiding. See on Hebrews 13:7, (note). In the former verse the apostle exhorts them to remember those who had been their leaders, and to imitate their faith; in this he exhorts them to obey the leaders they now had, and to submit to their authority in all matters of doctrine and discipline, on the ground that they watched for their souls, and should have to give an account of their conduct to God. If this conduct were improper, they must give in their report before the great tribunal with grief; but in it must be given: if holy and pure, they would give it in with joy. It is an awful consideration that many pastors, who had loved their flocks as their own souls, shall be obliged to accuse them before God for either having rejected or neglected the great salvation.
Pray for us - Even the success of apostles depended, in a certain way, on the prayers of the Church. Few Christian congregations feel, as they ought, that it is their bounden duty to pray for the success of the Gospel, both among themselves and in the world. The Church is weak, dark, poor, and imperfect, because it prays little.
We trust we have a good conscience - We are persuaded that we have a conscience that not only acquits us of all fraud and sinister design, but assures us that in simplicity and godly sincerity we have labored to promote the welfare of you and of all mankind.
To live honestly - Εν πασι καλως θελοντες αναστρεφεσθαι· Willing in all things to conduct ourselves well - to behave with decency and propriety.
The rather to do this - That is, pray for us, that, being enabled to complete the work which God has given us here to do, we may be the sooner enabled to visit you. It is evident, from this, that the people to whom this epistle was written knew well who was the author of it; nor does there appear, in any place, any design in the writer to conceal his name, and how the epistle came to lack a name it is impossible to say. I have sometimes thought that a part of the beginning might have been lost, as it not only begins without a name, but begins very abruptly.
Now the God of peace - We have often seen that peace among the Hebrews signifies prosperity of every kind. The God of peace is the same as the God of all blessedness, who has at his disposal all temporal and eternal good; who loves mankind, and has provided them a complete salvation.
Brought again from the dead our Lord - As our Lord's sacrificial death is considered as an atonement offered to the Divine justice, God's acceptance of it as an atonement is signified by his raising the human nature of Christ from the dead; and hence this raising of Christ is, with the utmost propriety, attributed to God the Father, as this proves his acceptance of the sacrificial offering.
That great Shepherd of the sheep - This is a title of our blessed Lord, given to him by the prophets; so Isaiah 40:11; He shall feed his flock like a shepherd; He shall gather the lambs with his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those which are with young: and Ezekiel 34:23; I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them; even my servant David, (i.e. the beloved, viz. Jesus), and he shall feed them, and be their shepherd: and Zechariah 13:7; Awake, O sword, against my shepherd - smite the shepherd, and the flock shall be scattered. In all these places the term shepherd is allowed to belong to our blessed Lord; and he appropriates it to himself, John 10:11, by calling himself the good Shepherd, who, lays down his life for the sheep.
Through the blood of the everlasting covenant - Some understand this in the following way, that "God brought back our Lord from the dead on account of his having shed his blood to procure the everlasting covenant." Others, that the Lord Jesus became the great Shepherd and Savior of the sheep by shedding his blood to procure and ratify the everlasting covenant." The sense, however, will appear much plainer if we connect this with the following verse: "Now the God of peace, who brought again from the dead, our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, make you, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, perfect in every good work to do his will." The Christian system is termed the everlasting covenant, to distinguish it from the temporary covenant made with the Israelites at Mount Sinai; and to show that it is the last dispensation of grace to the world, and shall endure to the end of time.
Make you perfect - Καταρτισια ὑμας· Put you completely in joint. See the note on 2 Corinthians 13:9, where the meaning of the original word is largely considered. From the following terms we see what the apostle meant by the perfection for which he prays. They were to do the will of God in every good work, from God working in them that which is well pleasing in his sight.
Suffer the word of exhortation - Bear the word or doctrine of this exhortation. This seems to be an epithet of this whole epistle: and as the apostle had in it shown the insufficiency of the Levitical system to atone for sin and save the soul; and had proved that it was the design of God that it should be abolished; and had proved also that it was now abolished by the coming of Christ, whom he had shown to be a greater priest than Aaron, higher than all the angels, the only Son of God as to his human nature, and the Creator, Governor, and Judge of all; and that their city was shortly to be destroyed; he might suppose that they would feel prejudiced against him, and thus lose the benefit of his kind intentions toward them; therefore he entreats them to bear the exhortation which, notwithstanding the great extent of the subject, he had included in a short compass.
I have written a letter unto you in few words - Perhaps it would be better to translate δια βραχεων επεστειλα ὑμιν, I have written to you briefly, as επιστελλειν often signifies simply to write, and this appears to be its meaning here.
Know ye that our brother Timothy - The word ἡμων, our, which is supplied by our translators, is very probably genuine, as it is found in ACD*, ten others, the Syriac, Erpen's Arabic, the Coptic, Armenian, Slavonic, and Vulgate.
Is set at liberty - Απολελυμενον· Is sent away; for there is no evidence that Timothy had been imprisoned. It is probable that the apostle refers here to his being sent into Macedonia, Philemon 2:19-24, in order that he might bring the apostle an account of the affairs of the Church in that country. In none of St. Paul's epistles, written during his confinement in Rome, does he give any intimation of Timothy's imprisonment, although it appears from Philemon 1:1; Colossians 1:1; Philemon 1:1; that he was with Paul during the greatest part of the time.
With whom, if he come shortly, I will see you - Therefore Paul himself, or the writer of this epistle, was now at liberty, as he had the disposal of his person and time in his own power. Some suppose that Timothy did actually visit Paul about this time, and that both together visited the Churches in Judea.
Salute all them that have the rule over you - Salute all your leaders or guides, τους ἡγουμενους ὑμων . See on Hebrews 13:7; (note) and Hebrews 13:17; (note).
And all the saints - All the Christians; for this is the general meaning of the term in most parts of St. Paul's writings. But a Christian was then a saint, i.e. by profession a holy person; and most of the primitive Christians were actually such. But in process of time the term was applied to all that bore the Christian name; as elect, holy people, sanctified, etc., were to the nation of the Jews, when both their piety and morality were at a very low ebb.
They of Italy salute you - Therefore it is most likely that the writer of this epistle was then in some part of Italy, from which he had not as yet removed after his being released from prison. By they of Italy probably the apostle means the Jew's there who had embraced the Christian faith. These salutations show what a brotherly feeling existed in every part of the Christian Church; even those who had not seen each other yet loved one another, and felt deeply interested for each other's welfare.
Grace be with you all - May the Divine favor ever rest upon you and among you; and may you receive, from that source of all good, whatsoever is calculated to make you wise, holy, useful, and happy! And may you be enabled to persevere in the truth to the end of your lives! Amen. May it be so! May God seal the prayer by giving the blessings!
The subscriptions to this epistle are, as in other cases, various and contradictory.
The Versions are as follow: -
The Epistle to the Hebrews was written from Roman Italy, and sent by the hand of Timothy. - Syriac.
Vulgate nothing, in the present printed copies.
It was written from Italy by Timothy: with the assistance of God, disposing every thing right, the fourteen epistles of the blessed Paul are completed, according to the copy from which they have been transcribed.
May the Lord extend his benedictions to us. Amen. - Arabic.
The Epistle to the Hebrews is completed. The end. - Aethiopic.
Written in Italy, and sent by Timothy. - Coptic.
The Manuscripts, and ancient editions taken from MSS., are not more to be relied on.
To the Hebrews, written from Rome. - Codex Alexandrinus.
The epistles of Saint Paul the apostle arc finished. - Colophon, at the end of this epistle; in one of the first printed Bibles; and in an ancient MS. of the Vulgate in my own collection.
The end of the Epistle to the Hebrews. - Greek Text of the Complutensian Edition.
The Epistle of the blessed Paul to the Hebrews is finished. - Latin Text of ditto.
To the Hebrews. - The Epistle of Paul the apostle to the Hebrews. - The Epistle to the Hebrews, written from Italy. - From Athens. - From Italy by Timothy. - Written in the Hebrew tongue, etc. - Various MSS.
Written to the Hebrews from Italy by Timothy. - Common Greek Text.
That it was neither written from Athens, nor in the Hebrew tongue, is more than probable; and that it was not sent by Timothy, is evident from Hebrews 13:23. For the author, time, place, and people to whom sent, see the Introduction.
Monday, February 27th, 2017
the Last Week after Epiphany
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