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Bible Commentaries

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Hebrews 3



Other Authors
Verse 1

Hebrews 3:1. ὅθεν, “wherefore,” if through Jesus God has spoken His final and saving word (Hebrews 1:1), thus becoming the Apostle of God, and if the high priest I speak of is so sympathetic and faithful that for the sake of cleansing the people He became man and suffered, then “consider, etc.”. The πιστός of Hebrews 3:17 strikes the keynote of this paragraph. Here for the first time the writer designates his readers, and he does so in a form peculiar to himself (the reading in 1 Thessalonians 5:27 being doubtful) ἀδελφοὶ ἅγιοι, “Christian brethren,” literally “brethren consecrated,” separated from the world and dedicated to God. Bleek quotes from Primasius: “Fratres eos vocat tam carne quam spiritu qui ex eodem genere erant”. But there is no reason to assign to ἀδελφοὶ any other meaning than its usual N.T. sense of “fellow-Christians,” cf. Matthew 23:8. But there is further significance in the additional κλήσεως ἐπουρανίου μέτοχοι, “partakers of a heavenly calling” (cf. οἱ κεκλημένοι τῆς αἰωνίου κληρονομίας, Hebrews 9:15) suggested by the latent comparison in the writer’s mind between the Israelites called to earthly advantages, a land, etc., and his readers whose hopes were fixed on things above. “In the word ‘heavenly’ there is struck for the first time, in words at least, an antithesis of great importance in the Epistle, that of this world and heaven, in other words, that of the merely material and transient, and the ideal and abiding. The things of the world are material, unreal, transient: those of heaven are ideal, true, eternal. Heaven is the world of realities, of things themselves (Hebrews 9:23) of which the things here are but ‘copies’ ” (Davidson). κατανοήσατε, “consider,” “bring your mind to bear upon,” “observe so as to see the significance,” as in Luke 12:24, κατανοήσατε τοὺς κόρακας, though it is sometimes, as in Acts 11:6; Acts 27:39, used in its classical sense “perceive”. A “confession” does not always involve that its significance is seen. Consider then τὸνἰησοῦν “the Apostle and high priest of our confession, Jesus,” the single article brackets the two designations and Bengel gives their sense: “ τὸν ἀποστ. eum qui Dei causam apud nos agit. τὸν ἀρχ. qui causam nostram apud Deum agit”. These two functions embrace not the whole of Christ’s work, but all that He did on earth (cf. Hebrews 1:1-4). The frequent use of ἀποστέλλειν by our Lord to denote the Father’s mission of the Son authorises the present application of ἀπόστολος. It is through Him God has spoken (Hebrews 1:1). Moses is never called ἀπόστολος (a word indeed which occurs only once in LXX) though in Exodus 3:10 God says ἀποστείλω σε πρὸς φαραώ. Schoettgen quotes passages from the Talmud in which the high priest is termed the Apostle or messenger of God and of the Sanhedrim, but this is here irrelevant. καὶ ἀρχιερέα, a title which, as applicable to Jesus, the writer explains in chaps. 5–8. τῆς ὁμολογίας ἡμῶν, “of our confession,” or, whom we, in distinction from men of other faiths, confess; chiefly no doubt in distinction from the non-Christian Jews. ὁμολογία, as the etymology shows, means “of one speech with,” hence that in which men agree as their common creed, their confession, see ref. As Peake remarks: “If this means profession of faith, then ‘the readers already confess Jesus as high priest, and this is not a truth taught them in this Epistle for the first time’.” [Carpzov quotes from Philo (De Somn.): μὲν δὴ μέγας ἀρχιερεὺς τῆς ὁμολογίας, but here another sense is intended.] ἰησοῦν is added to preclude the possibility of error. ἰησοῦς occurs in this Epistle nine times by itself, thrice with χριστός.

Verses 1-13

Hebrews 3:1 to Hebrews 4:13.—Chapters 3 and 4 as far as Hebrews 3:13, form one paragraph. The purpose of the writer in this passage, as in the whole Epistle, is to encourage his readers in their allegiance to Christ and to save them from apostacy by exhibiting Christ as the final mediator. This purpose he has in the first two chapters sought to achieve by comparing Christ with those who previously mediated between God and man,—the prophets who spoke to the fathers, and the angels who mediated the law and were supposed even to regulate nature. He now proceeds to compare Jesus with him round whose name gathered all that revelation and legislation in which the Jew trusted. Moses was the ideal mediator, faithful in all God’s house. Underlying even the priesthood of Aaron was the word of God to Moses. And yet, free channel of God’s will as Moses had been, he was but a servant and in the nature of things could not so perfectly sympathise with and interpret the will of Him whose house and affairs he administered as the Son who Himself was lord of the house.

He therefore bids his readers encourage themselves by the consideration of His trustworthiness, His competence to accomplish all God’s will with them and bring them to their appointed rest. But this suggests to him the memorable breakdown of faith in the wilderness generation of Israelites. And he forthwith strengthens his admonition to trust Christ by adding the warning which was so legibly written in the fate of those who left Egypt under the leadership of Moses, but whose faith failed through the greatness of the way. It was not owing to any incompetence or faithlessness in Moses that they died in the wilderness and failed to reach the promised land. It was “because of their unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19). Moses was faithful in all God’s house, in everything required for the guidance and government of God’s people and for the fulfilment of all God’s purpose with them: but even with the most trustworthy leader much depends on the follower, and entrance to the fulness of God’s blessing may be barred by the unbelief of those who have heard the promise. The promise was not mixed with faith in them to whom it came. But what of those who were led in by Joshua? Even they did not enter into God’s rest. That is certain, for long after Joshua’s time God renewed His promise, saying “To-day if ye hear His voice, harden not your hearts”. Entrance into the land, then, did not exhaust the promise of God; there remains over and above that entrance, a rest for the people of God, for “without us,” i.e., without the revelation of Christ the fathers were not perfect, their best blessings, such as their land, being but types of better things to come. Therefore let us give diligence to enter into that rest, for the word of God’s promise is searching; and, by offering us the best things in fellowship with God, it discloses our real disposition and affinities.

The passage falls into two parts, the former (Hebrews 3:1-6) exhibiting the trustworthiness of Christ, the latter (Hebrews 3:7 to Hebrews 4:13) emphasising the unbelief and doom of the wilderness generation.

Verse 2

Hebrews 3:2. The characteristic, or particular, qualification of Jesus which is to hold their attention is His trustworthiness or fidelity. πιστὸν ὄντα might be rendered “as being faithful”. The fidelity here in view, though indirectly to men and encouraging them to trust, is directly to Him who made Him, sc., Apostle and High Priest. τῷ ποιήσαντι αὐτόν. The objection urged by Bleek, Lünemann and Alford that ποιεῖν can mean “appoint” only when followed by two accusatives is not valid. The second accusative may be understood; and in 1 Samuel 12:6 we find κύριος ποιήσας τὸν ΄ωυσῆν καὶ τὸν ἀαρών, words which may have been in the writer’s mind. The Arian translation, “to Him that created Him,” is out of place. Appointment to office finds its correlative in faithfulness, creation scarcely suggests that idea. The fidelity of Jesus is illustrated not by incidents from His life nor by the crowning proof given in His death, nor is it argued from the admitted perfections of His character, but in accordance with the plan of the Epistle it is merely compared to that of Moses, and its superiority is implied in the superiority of the Son to the servant. He was faithful “as also Moses in all His house,” this being the crowning instance of fidelity testified to by God Himself, θεράπων μου ΄ωυσῆς ἐν ὅλῳ τῷ οἴκῳ μου πιστός εστι (Numbers 12:7), where the context throws the emphasis on ὅλῳ. “The ‘house of God’ is the organised society in which He dwells” (Westcott), cf. 1 Timothy 3:15. Weiss says that the words ἐν ὅλῳ τῷ οἴκῳ αὐτοῦ “necessarily belong” to πιστὸν ὄντα. This is questionable, because the writer’s point is that Jesus is faithful not “in” but “over” the house of God (Hebrews 3:6).

Hebrews 3:3. The reason is now assigned why Jesus and His fidelity should eclipse in their consideration that of Moses. The reason is that “this man” ( οὗτος, “the person who is the subject of our consideration”) “has been and is deemed worthy of greater glory (‘amplioris gloriae,’ Vulg. πλείονος, qualitative as in Hebrews 11:4) than Moses, in proportion as he that built the house has more honour than the house.” The genitive follows the comparative πλείονα. The “greater glory” is seen in the more important place occupied by Him in the fulfilment of God’s purpose of salvation. This glory of Jesus is as much greater than that of Moses, as the cause is greater than the effect, the builder than the house. [The principle is stated by Philo (De Plant., c. 16. In Wendland’s ed., ii. 147) κτησάμενος τὸ κτῆμα τοῦ κτήματος ἀμείνων καὶ τὸ πεποιηκὸς τοῦ γεγονότος, and by Menander and other comic poets as quoted by Justin (Apol., i. 20) μείζονα τὸν δημιουργὸν τοῦ σκευαζομένου. Weiss, however, is of opinion that it is not a general principle that is being stated, but that τοῦ οἴκου refers directly to the house of God.] κατασκευάσας includes all that belongs to the completion of a house, from its inception and plan in the mind of the architect to its building and furnishing and filling with a household. Originally the word means to equip or furnish, κατασκευάζειν τὴν οἰκίαν τοῖς σκεύεσιν, Diog. L. Hebrews 3:14. So συμπόσιον κατασ. Plato, Rep., 363 C. σκεύεσιν ἰδίοις τὴν ναῦν κατεσκεύασα, Demosth., Polyc., 1208. Thence, like our word “furnish” or “prepare,” it took the wider meaning of “making” or “building” or “providing”. Thus the shipbuilder κατασκ. the ship; the mason κατασ. the tower. So in Hebrews 11:7 κατεσκεύασε κιβωτόν, cf. 1 Peter 3:20. (Further, see Stephanus and Bleek). In the present verse it has its most comprehensive meaning, and includes the planning, building, and filling of the house with furniture and with a household. The household is more directly in view than the house. The argument involves that Jesus is identified with the builder of the house, while Moses is considered a part of the house. It is the Son (who in those last Days has spoken God’s word to men through the lips of Jesus), who in former times also fulfilled God’s purpose by building His house and creating for Him a people. And lest the readers of the epistle should object that Moses was as much the builder of the old as Jesus of the new, the writer lifts their mind from the management of the system or Church to the creation of it.

Verse 4

Hebrews 3:4. πᾶς γὰρ οἶκοςθεός. “For every house is built by someone, but he that built all is God.” Over and above the right conduct of the house there is a builder. No house, no religious system, grows of itself; it has a cause in the will of one who is greater than it. There is a “someone” at the root of all that appears in history. And He who planned and brought into being πάντα, “all,” whether old or new, is God. The present development of this divine house as well as its past condition and equipment is of God. And Christ, the Son, naturally and perfectly representing God or the builder, and by whose agency God created all things (Hebrews 1:2) is therefore worthy of more honour than Moses. The argument is not so much elliptical as incomplete, waiting to be supplemented by the following verses in which the relation of Jesus to God and the relation of Moses to the house are exhibited. “It is argued that a household must be established by a householder; now God established the universe, and therefore he is the supreme householder of the universal household or Church of God, and in that household Jesus, as His perfect representative, is entitled to receive glory corresponding” (Rendall).

Verse 5

Hebrews 3:5. καὶ ΄ωϋσῆς.… Another reason for expecting to find fidelity in Jesus and for ascribing to Him greater glory. Moses was faithful as a servant in the house ( ἐν), Christ as a Son over ( ἐπὶ) his house. θεράπων denotes a free servant in an honourable position and is the word applied to Moses in Numbers 12:7. [“Apud Homerum nomen est non servile sed ministros significat voluntarios, nec raro de viris dicitur nobili genere natis” (Stephanus). It is especially used of those who serve the gods. See Pindar Olymp. iii. 29.] Both the fidelity and the inferior position of Moses are indicated in the words which occur like a refrain in Exodus: “According to all that the Lord commanded, so did he”. Nothing was left to his own initiative; he had to be instructed and commanded; but all that was entrusted to him, he executed with absolute exactness. The crowning proof of his fidelity was given in the extraordinary scene (Exodus 37), where Moses refused to be “made a great nation” in room of Israel. He is said to have been faithful εἰς μαρτύριον τῶν λαληθησομένων. The meaning is, the testimony to his faithfulness which God had pronounced was the guarantee of the trustworthiness of the report he gave of what the Lord afterwards spoke to him. This meaning seems to be determined by the context in Numbers 12. “My servant Moses … is faithful in all my house. I will speak to him mouth to mouth, apparently and not in dark speeches.” Grotius says “ut pronuntiaret populo ea quae Deus ei dicenda quoquo tempore mandabat”. Bleek and Davidson refer the μαρτύριον to Moses not to God. “He was a servant for a testimony, i.e., to bear testimony of those things which were to be spoken, i.e., from time to time revealed. Reference might be made to Barnabas viii. 3, εἰς μαρτ. τῶν φυλῶν. The meaning advocated by Calvin, Delitzsch, Westcott and others is attractive. They understand the words as referring to the things which were to be spoken by Christ, and that the whole of Moses’ work was for a testimony of those things. Thus Westcott translates “for a testimony of the things which should be spoken by God through the prophets and finally through Christ”. This gives a fine range to the words, but the context in Numbers is decisively against it. The idea seems to be that Moses being but a θεράπων needed a testimonial to his fidelity that the people might trust him; and also that he had no initiative but could only report to the people the words that God might speak to him. In contrast to this position of Moses, χριστὸς ὡς υἱὸς ἐπὶ τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ, Christ’s fidelity was that of “a Son over his house”. It was not the fidelity which exactly performs what another commands and faithfully enters into and fulfils His will. It is the fidelity of one who himself is possessed by the same love and conceives the same purposes as the Father. The interests of the house and the family are the Son’s interests. “We are His house” and in Christ we see that the interests of God and man, of the Father and the family are one. [Grotius quotes the jurisconsults: “etiam vivente patre filium quodam modo dominum esse rerum paternarum”.] But this house so faithfully administered by the Son Himself is the body of Christian people, οὗ οἶκός ἐσμεν ἡμεῖς, we are those on whom this fidelity is spent. The relative finds its antecedent in αὐτοῦ. The “house of God” is, in the Gospels, the Temple; but in 1 Peter 4:17 and 1 Timothy 3:15 it has the same meaning as here, the people or Church of God. “Whose house are we,” but with a condition ἐὰν τὴν παρρησίανκατάσχωμεν, “if we shall have held fast our confidence and the glorying of our hope firm to the end”. For, as throughout the Epistle, so here, all turns on perseverance, παρρησία originally “frank speech,” hence the boldness which prompts it. Cf. Hebrews 4:16, Hebrews 10:19; Hebrews 10:35; so in Paul and John. καύχημα, not as the form of the word might indicate, “the object of boasting,” but the disposition as in 1 Corinthians 5:6 : οὐ καλὸν τὸ καύχημα ὑμῶν and 2 Corinthians 5:12 : ἀφορμὴν διδόντες ὑμῖν καυχήματος. [Cf. the interchange of βρῶσις and βρῶμα in John 4:32; John 4:34, and Jannaris, Hist. Gk. Gram., 1021 and 1155.] Whether ἐλπίδος belongs to both substantives is doubtful. The Christian’s hope of a heavenly inheritance (Hebrews 3:1), of perfected fellowship with God, should be so sure that it confidently proclaims itself, and instead of being shamefaced glories in the future it anticipates. And this attitude must be maintained μέχρι τέλους βεβαίαν, until difficulty and trial are past and hope has become possession. βεβαίαν In agreement with the remoter substantive, which might give some colour to the idea that the expression was lifted from Hebrews 3:14 and inserted here; but Bleek shows by several instances that the construction is legitimate.

Verses 7-13

διὸ, “wherefore,” since it is only by holding fast our confidence to the end, that we continue to be the house of Christ and enjoy His faithful oversight, cf. Hebrews 3:14. διὸ was probably intended to be immediately followed by βλέπετε (Hebrews 3:12) “wherefore take heed,” but a quotation is introduced from Psalms 95 which powerfully enforces the βλέπετε. Or it may be that διὸ connects with μὴ σκληρύνητε, but the judicious bracketing of the quotation by the A.V. is to be preferred. The quotation is introduced by words which lend weight to it, καθὼς λέγει τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον, a form of citation not found elsewhere in exactly the same terms, but in Hebrews 10:15 we find the similar form μαρτυρεῖ δὲ ἡμῖν τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγ. Cf. also Hebrews 9:8. Agabus uses it of his own words (Acts 21:11). In 1 Timothy 4:1 we have τὸ δὲ πνεῦμα ῥητῶς λέγει cf. Revelation 2-3. “It is a characteristic of the Epistle that the words of Holy Scripture are referred to the Divine Author, not to the human instrument” (Westcott). The Psalm (95) is ascribed to David in Hebrews 4:7 as in the LXX it is called αἶνος ᾠδῆς τῷ δαυίδ, although in the Hebrew it is not so ascribed. The quotation contains Hebrews 3:7-11.

σήμερον, “to-day” is in the first instance, the “to-day” present to the writer of the psalm, and expresses the thought that God’s offers had not been withdrawn although rejected by those to whom they had long ago been made. But Delitzsch adduces passages which show that σήμερον in this psalm was understood by the synagogue to refer to the second great day of redemption. “The history of redemption knows but of two great turning points, that of the first covenant and that of the new” (Davidson). And what the writer to the Hebrews fears is that the second announcement of promise may be disregarded as the first. Force is lent to his fears by the fact that the forty years of the Messiah’s waiting from 30–70 A.D., when Jerusalem was to be destroyed, were fast running out. The fate of the exasperating Israelites in the wilderness received an ominous significance in presence of the obduracy of the generation which had heard the voice of Christ Himself.

ἐὰν τῆς φωνῆς αὐτοῦ ἀκούσητε, “if ye shall hear His voice” (R.V., Vaughan); not “if ye will hearken to His voice.” The sense is, “If God should be pleased, after so much inattention on our part, to speak again, see that ye give heed to Him”.

Verse 8

Hebrews 3:8. μὴ σκληρύνητε, the prohibitory subjunctive, v. Burton, p. 162. “The figure is from the stiffening by cold or disease, of what ought to be supple and pliable” (Vaughan). [The verb occurs first in Hippocrates, cf. Anz. 342.] It is ascribed to τὸν τράχηλον (Deuteronomy 10:16), τὸν νῶτον (2 Kings 17:14), τὴν καρδίαν (Exodus 4:21), τὸ πνεῦμα (Deuteronomy 2:30). Sometimes the hardening is referred to the man, sometimes it is God who inflicts the hardening as a punishment. Here the possible hardening is spoken of as if the human subject could prevent it. τὰς καρδίας, the whole inner man. ὡς ἐν τῷἐρήμῳ. This stands in the psalm as the translation of the Hebrew which might be rendered: [“Harden not your hearts] as at Meribah, as on the day of Massah in the wilderness,” Meribah being represented by παραπικρασμός and Massah by πειρασμός. The tempting of God by Israel in the wilderness is recorded in Exodus 17:1-7, where the place is called “Massah and Meribah”. This occurred in the first year of the wanderings. παραπικρασμός is found only in this psalm (although παραπικραίνειν is frequent) its place being taken by λοιδόρησις in Exodus 17:7 and by ἀντιλογία in Numbers 20:12. It means “embitterment,” “exacerbation,” “exasperation”, κατὰ τὴν ἡμέραν is rendered by the Vulgate “secundum diem,” rightly. It means “after the manner of the day”. Westcott, however, prefers the temporal sense.

Verse 9

Hebrews 3:9. οὗ ἐπείρασάν με …, “where your fathers tempted me,” i.e., in the wilderness. Others take οὗ as = “with which,” attracted into genitive by πειρασμοῦ. ἐν δοκιμασίᾳ, “in putting me to the proof”. καὶ εἶδονἔτη, “and saw my works forty years,” the wonders of mercy and of judgment. In the psalm τεσσ. ἔτη are joined to προσώχθισα, διὸ being omitted. The same connection is adopted in Hebrews 3:17.

Verse 10

Hebrews 3:10. διὸ προσώχθισα, “wherefore I was greatly displeased”. In the psalm the Hebrew verb means “I loathed,” elsewhere in the LXX it translates verbs meaning “I am disgusted with,” “I spue out,” “I abhor,” cf. Leviticus 26:30, [from ὄχθη a bank, as if from a river chafing with its banks; or related to ἄχθος and ἄχθομαι as if “burdened”.]

αὐτοὶ δὲ.… The insertion of αὐτοὶ δὲ shows that this clause is not under εἶπον, but is joined with the preceding προσώχθ. “I was highly displeased,—but yet they did not recognise my ways.”

Verse 11

Hebrews 3:11. ὡς ὤμοσα. “As I sware,” i.e., justifying my oath to exclude them from the land. εἰ εἰσελεύσονται, the common form of oath with εἰ which supposes that some such words as “God do so to me and more also” have preceded the “if”. The oath quoted in Psalms 95 is recorded in Numbers 14:21-23. εἰς τὴν κατάπαυσίν μου, “into my rest,” primarily, the rest in Canaan, but see on chap. 4.

Verse 12

Hebrews 3:12. βλέπετε ἀδελφοὶ μή ποτε.… “Take heed lest haply” as in Hebrews 12:25, Colossians 2:8, for the more classical ὁρᾶτε μὴ. It is here followed by a future indicative as sometimes in classics. ἔν τινι ὑμῶν, the individualising, as in Hebrews 3:13 indicates the writer’s earnestness, whether, as Bleek supposes, it means that the whole Christian community of the place is to be watchful for the individual, may be doubted; although this idea is confirmed by the παρακαλεῖτε ἑαυτοὺς of Hebrews 3:13. What they are to be on their guard against is the emergence of καρδία πονηρὰ ἀπιστίας ἐνζῶντος, a wicked heart of unbelief manifesting itself in departing from Him who is a living God. ἀπιστίας is the genitive of quality = a bad, unbelieving heart; whether the wickedness proceeds from the unbelief, or the unbelief from the wickedness, is not determined. Although, from the next verse it might be gathered that unbelief is considered the result of allowed sin: i.e., it is when the heart is hardened through sin, it becomes unbelieving, so that the psychological order might be stated thus: sin, a deceived mind, a hardened heart, unbelief, apostasy. The main idea in the writer’s mind is that unbelief in God’s renewed offer of salvation is accompanied by and means apostasy from the living God. In the O.T. Jehovah is called “the living God” in contrast to lifeless impotent idols, and the designation is suggestive of His power to observe, visit, judge and succour His people. In this Epistle it occurs, Hebrews 9:14, Hebrews 10:31, Hebrews 12:22. To object that the apostasy of Jews from Christianity could not be called “apostacy from God” is to mistake. The very point the writer wishes to make is just this: Remember that to apostatize from Christ in whom you have found God, is to apostatize from God. It is one of the ominous facts of Christian experience that any falling away from high attainment sinks us much deeper than our original starting point.

Verse 13

Hebrews 3:13. To avoid this, παρακαλεῖ τε ἑαυτοὺς καθʼ ἑκάστην ἡμέραν, “Exhort one another daily”. ἑαυτούς is equivalent to ἀλλήλους, see Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13. ἄχρις οὗ τὸ σήμερον καλεῖται, “as long as that period endures which can be called ‘to-day’ ”. ἄχρις denotes a point up to which something is done; hence, the term during which something is done as here. τὸ σήμερον = the word “to-day”. Bengel says, “Dum Psalmus iste auditur et legitur”; but this is less likely. The meaning is, So long as opportunity is given to hear God’s call. ἵνα μὴἁμαρτίας, “lest any of you be rendered rebellious through sin’s deceit”; perhaps the meaning would be better brought out by translating “lest any of you be rendered rebellious by sin’s deceit”. [On sin’s deceit cf. “Nemo repente pessimus evasit”; and the striking motto to the 35th chap. of The Fortunes of Nigel.] Sin in heart or life blinds a man to the significance and attractiveness of God’s offer.

Verse 14

Hebrews 3:14. μέτοχοι γὰρ.… In Hebrews 3:6 the writer had adduced as the reason of his warning ( βλέπετε) that participation in the salvation of Christ depended on continuance in the confident expectation that their heavenly calling would be fulfilled; and so impressed is he with the difficulty of thus continuing that he now returns to the same thought, and once again assigns the same reason for his warning: “For we are become partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence firm to the end”. Delitzsch, Rendall, Bruce and others understand by μέτοχοι, “partners” or “fellows” of Christ, as if the faithful were not only the house of Christ (Hebrews 3:6) but shared His joy in the house. It may be objected that μέτοχοι in this Epistle (Hebrews 2:14, Hebrews 3:1, Hebrews 5:13, Hebrews 6:4, Hebrews 7:13, Hebrews 12:8) is regularly used of participators in something, not of participators with someone. In Hebrews 1:9, however, it is not so used. The idea of participating with Christ finds frequent expression in Scripture. See Matthew 25:21; Revelation 3:21. τοῦ χριστοῦ, the article may link this mention of Christ’s name with that in Hebrews 3:6; and, if so, μέτοχοι will naturally refer to companionship with Christ in His house. This companionship we have entered into and continue to enjoy [ γεγόναμεν] on the same condition as above (Hebrews 3:6) ἐάνπερ τὴν ἀρχὴν … “if at least we maintain the beginning of our confidence firm to the end”. ὑποστάσεως is used by LXX twenty times and represents twelve different Hebrew words [Hatch in Essays in Bibl. Greek says eighteen times representing fifteen different words, but cf. Concordance]. In Ruth 1:12, Psalms 39:8, Ezekiel 19:5 it means “ground of hope” [its primary meaning being that on which anything is based], hence it takes the sense, “hope” or “confidence”. Bleek gives examples of its use in later Greek, Polyb., iv. 50, οἱ δὲ ῥόδιοι θεωροῦντες τὴν τῶν βυζαντίων ὑπόστασιν, so vi. 55 of Horatius guarding the bridge. It also occurs in the sense of “fortitude,” bearing up against pain, υ. Diod. Sic., De Virt., p. 557, and Josephus, Ant., xviii. 1. Confidence the Hebrews already possessed [ ἀρχὴν]; their test was its maintenance to the end [ τέλους], i.e., till it was beyond trial, finally triumphant, in Christ’s presence.

Verse 15

Hebrews 3:15. ἐν τῷ λέγεσθαι.… “While it is said to-day, etc.” The construction of these words is debated. Bleek, Delitzsch, von Soden and others construe them with what follows, beginning at this point a fresh paragraph. The meaning would thus be: “Since it is said, ‘To-day if ye hear his voice, harden not, etc.,’ who are meant, who were they who heard and provoked?” This is inviting but the γὰρ of Hebrews 3:16 is decidedly against it. Davidson connects ἐν τῷ λεγ. with what immediately precedes: “ ‘if we hold fast … unto the end, while it is said,’ i.e., not during the time that it is said, but in the presence and consciousness of the saying, Harden not, etc.… with this divine warning always in the ears”. Similarly Weiss. Westcott connects the words with Hebrews 3:13, making 14 parenthetical. Either of these constructions is feasible. It is also possible to let the sentence stand by itself as introductory to what follows, taking μὴ σκληρ. as directly addressed to the Hebrews, not as merely completing the quotation: “While it is being said To-day if ye hear His voice, harden not your hearts as in the provocation”. The λέγεσθαι thus contains only the clause ending with ἀκούσητε.

Verse 16

Hebrews 3:16. τίνες γὰρ ἀκούσαντες παρεπίκραναν: “For who were they who after hearing provoked?” He proceeds further to enforce his warning that confidence begun is not enough, by showing that they who provoked God and fell in the wilderness had begun a life of faith and begun it well. For the answer to his question is “Nay did not all who came out of Egypt with Moses?” They were not exceptional sinners who fell away, but all who came out of Egypt, the whole mass of the gloriously rescued people whose faith had carried them through between the threatening walls of water and over whom Miriam sang her triumphal ode. ἀλλά adds force to the answer, as if it were said, It is asked who provoked, as though it were some only, but was it not all? πάντες, for it is needless excepting Joshua and Caleb.

Verse 17

Hebrews 3:17. τίσι δὲ προσώχθισε.… “And with whom was He angry forty years?” taking up the next clause of the Psalms 5:10. Again the question is answered by another “Was it not with them that sinned?” [ ἁμαρτήσασιν: “This is the only form of the aorist participle in N.T. In the moods the form of ἥμαρτον is always used except Matthew 18:15, Luke 17:4, ἁμαρτήσῃ: Romans 6:15.” Westcott, cf. Blass, p. 43.] It was not caprice on God’s part, nor inability to carry them to the promised land. It was because they sinned [see esp. Numbers 32:23] that their “carcases fell in the wilderness”. ὦν τὰ κῶλα ἔπεσεν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ. These words are taken from Numbers 14:29; Numbers 14:32, where God utters the doom of the wilderness generation. f1κῶλον, a limb or member of the body [Æsch., Prom., 81; Soph., O.C., 19, etc.]; hence a clause of a sentence (and in English, the point which marks it). Used by the LXX to translate פֶּגֶר, cadaver. Setting out from Egypt with the utmost confidence, they left their bones in the desert in unnamed and forgotten graves; not because of their weakness nor because God had failed them but because of their sin.

Verse 18

Hebrews 3:18. τίσι δὲ ὤμοσε.… “And to whom swore He that they should not enter into His rest, but to them that obeyed not?” The real cause of their exclusion from the rest prepared for them was their disobedience. Cf. especially the scene recorded in Numbers 14. where Moses declares that as ἀπειθοῦντες κυρίῳ they were excluded from the land. At the root of their disobedience was unbelief.

Verse 19

Hebrews 3:19. They did not believe God could bring them into the promised land in the face of powerful opposition and so they would not attempt its conquest when commanded to go forward. They were rendered weak by their unbelief. This is pointed out in the concluding words καὶ βλέπομεν … where the emphasis is on οὐκ ἠδυνήθησαν, they were not able to enter in, the reason being given in the words διʼ ἀπιστίαν. The application to the Hebrew Christians was sufficiently obvious. They were in danger of shrinking from further conflict and so losing all they had won. They had begun well but were now being weakened and prevented from completing their victory; and this weakness was the result of their not trusting God and their leader.


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Bibliography Information
Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Hebrews 3:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, July 23rd, 2017
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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