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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Hebrews 1

 

 

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Verse 1

Hebrews 1:1. God, &c. — After the manner of the best writers, the apostle begins this most instructive epistle with proposing the subjects of which he is about to discourse; namely, four important facts, on which the authority of the gospel, as a revelation from God, is built; and which, if well established, should induce unbelievers, whether Jews or Gentiles, to renounce their infidelity and embrace the gospel. Of these facts, the first is, that the same God, who gave the former revelations to the fathers of the Jewish nation, hath in these last days given the gospel to all mankind. This the apostle mentions first of all, to show the agreement of the gospel with the former revelations. For if there were any real opposition between the Jewish and Christian revelations, the authority of one or of both of them would be destroyed; whereas these revelations agreeing in all things, they mutually explain and support each other. Thus in this verse; God, who at sundry times — The creation was revealed in the time of Adam; the last judgment in the time of Enoch; the coming of the Messiah in the time of Abraham, and the following patriarchs; the offices he should sustain, and the process he should go through in accomplishing man’s redemption, in the time of Moses, of David, of Isaiah, and the other prophets; and so at various times more explicit knowledge was given. But the word πολυμερως rather signifies in sundry parts, parcels, or degrees, in opposition to a complete revelation; or the gradual discovery of the mind and will of God, by communications, one after another, as the church could bear the light of them. Thus to Adam, victory over the grand enemy of mankind by the Seed of the woman, was promised: to Abraham, that all mankind should be blessed in him and his seed: to Jacob, that the promised Seed of the woman and of Abraham should be a peaceful Prince, unto whom the gathering of the people should be: by Moses, that he should be an extraordinary Prophet, the disobeying of whom would be punished with certain destruction: by David, that he should be a Priest of a higher order than that of Aaron, and a King in Zion, whose dominion should extend from sea to sea, yea, to the ends of the earth, Psalms 72:1; Psalms 72:8 : by Isaiah, that he should be the Child born, the Son given, and yet the mighty God, of the increase of whose government and peace there should be no end; that he should go through great scenes of suffering, (chap. 53.,) but should expiate sin, and conquer death: by Jeremiah, that he should be the Lord our righteousness: by Ezekiel, the one Shepherd of God’s people, Ezekiel 34:23 : by Zechariah, that he should build the spiritual temple, bear the glory, and be a Priest upon his throne; from whence, according to Joel, he should pour out his Spirit in an extraordinary measure upon his disciples: by Haggai and Malachi, that he should come to the temple, built after the return from Babylon, and that awful judgments should follow his coming upon such as rejected him. If (says Dr. Owen) we consider the whole progress of divine revelation from the beginning of the world, we shall find that it comprehends four principal parts or degrees, with such as were subservient to them. The first, made to Adam, was the principle of faith and obedience to the antediluvian fathers, and to this were subservient all the consequent particular revelations before the flood. The second, to Noah after the flood, contained the renewal of the covenant, and establishment of the church in his family, whereunto were subservient the revelations made to Melchizedec (Genesis 14:19) and others, before the calling of Abraham. The third, to Abraham, implied a peculiar restriction of the promise to his seed, and a fuller illustration of the nature of it confirmed in the revelations made to Isaac, Jacob, and others of their posterity. The fourth, to Moses, comprehended the giving of the law, and erection of the Jewish Church in the wilderness; to which was principally subservient the revelation made to David, which was peculiarly designed to perfect the Old Testament worship. To which we may add the revelations made to Solomon, and the prophets in their respective days; particularly those who, before and during the captivity, pleaded with the people about their defection by scandalous sins and false worship: and Ezra, with the prophets that assisted in the reformation of the church after its return from Babylon, who in an eminent manner excited the people to expect the Messiah. These were the principal parts and degrees of divine revelation, from the foundation of the world to the coming of Christ, at least until his forerunner, John the Baptist. And by thus reminding the Hebrews, that the will of God was not formerly revealed to his church all at once, by Moses or any other, but by several parts and degrees, by new additions of light, as in his infinite wisdom he saw meet, the apostle clearly convinces them of their mistake in obstinately adhering to the Mosaic institutions. It is as if he had said, Consider the way whereby God revealed his will to the church hitherto. Hath it not been by parts and degrees? Hath he at any time shut up the progress of revelation? Hath he not always kept the church in expectation of new discoveries of his will? Did he ever declare that he would add no more to what he had commanded; or make no alteration in what he had instituted? So far from it, that Moses, when he had finished all his work in the Lord’s house, told the people God would raise up another prophet like unto him, that is, who should reveal new laws and institutions as he had done, whom they were to hear and obey on the penalty of utter extermination, Deuteronomy 18:15, &c. But in opposition to this gradual revelation, the apostle intimates that now, by Jesus the Messiah, the Lord had begun and finished the whole revelation of his will, according to their own hopes and expectations.

And in divers manners — By dreams, visions, audible voices, the appearances of angels, of the Lord in a human form, by Urim and Thummim, and the immediate inspiration of his Spirit, 2 Peter 1:21; 1 Peter 1:11. Or, the expression, divers manners, may refer to the different ways in which the prophets communicated the different revelations which they received to the fathers. They did it in types and figures, significant actions, and dark sayings, as well as in plain language: whereas the gospel revelation was spoken by Christ and his apostles in one manner only, namely, in plain language; and to this one entire and perfect revelation the various, partial, imperfect revelations made before are opposed. Spake in time past παλαι, of old, or anciently. The word, taken absolutely, comprises the whole space of time from the giving of the first promise to the end of the Old Testament revelations. Taken as relating to the Jews, it includes the ages intervening between the giving of the law and the death of the last prophet, Malachi, namely, the space of twenty-one jubilees, or near one thousand one hundred years, after which, as the Jews confess, the Spirit of prophecy was taken from Israel. The word spake is put for every kind of divine communication: unto the fathers — The ancestors of the Jewish nation; by the prophets — The mention of whom is a virtual declaration that the apostle received the whole Old Testament as of divine authority, and was not about to advance any doctrine in contradiction to it. Indeed, as he was writing to the Hebrews, many of whom were prejudiced against him as a person who departed from Moses and the prophets, it was an instance of great wisdom in him to signify, at the very beginning of his epistle, that he believed the revelations given by them of old. Thus, by removing one great cause of prejudice from those to whom he wrote, he would open the way for their receiving the doctrines contained in his epistle, a summary of which we have in the two next verses.


Verse 2

Hebrews 1:2. Hath in these last days — Namely, the last of the Jewish Church and state, which were then drawing to their final abolition. Or the times of the Messiah may be intended, as 2 Timothy 3:1. Here we have the second fact of which the apostle proposed to discourse, namely, that the person by whom God hath revealed the gospel is his Son, appearing in the human nature; a person far superior to the highest creatures, even a person properly divine; from which it is reasonable to infer, that the revelation made by him to mankind is more perfect than that made to the Jews by angels, and that the dispensation founded thereon is a better and more permanent dispensation than the law. In saying, God hath spoken to us, the apostle chiefly intends the members of the Jewish Church. The Jews of those times were very apt to think if they had lived in the days of the former prophets, and had heard them deliver their message from God, they would have received it with cheerful obedience. Their only unhappiness, as they thought, was, that they were born out of due time, as to prophetical revelations, Matthew 23:30. Now the apostle, aware of this prejudice, informs them that God, in the revelation of the gospel, had spoken to themselves what they so much desired; and that if they did not attend to this word, they must needs be self-condemned. Besides that, the care and love which God had manifested toward them, in speaking to them in this immediate manner, requiring the most indisputable obedience, especially considering how far this mode excelled what he had before used toward their fathers. For this revelation, by the Son of God, is more perfect than any preceding one, because, 1st, It is more clear, even respecting things formerly revealed; as, for instance, God’s spiritual nature, (John 4:24,) and some of his attributes, particularly his love; the fall and depravity of man; his redemption; the person, offices, and work of the Redeemer; the salvation that is through him, particularly as it is future and eternal; that it is attained by faith, the fruits of which, and the spirituality of God’s law, are set in a clearer point of view in the gospel than formerly. 2d, More full, giving us explicit information of things hardly intimated before, as the abolition of the Jewish dispensation, the temporary rejection of their nation because of their unbelief, a general and solemn judgment; that the consequences of it will be eternal; that the heavens and the earth shall be destroyed, and a new heaven and new earth shall be prepared for the habitation of the righteous. So that whereas the former dispensations might be compared to starlight, or moonshine, this last revelation is called the day-spring from on high visiting us, (Luke 1:78-79,) and the Sun of righteousness arising upon us: and no wonder, considering that the messenger of this new covenant is the Son of God, to whom God’s will was known not by dreams, visions, voices, &c., or in any of the ways before mentioned, but, as St. John speaks, he was in the bosom of the Father; that is, was intimately and perfectly acquainted with his eternal mind and counsels, being his wisdom, word, and truth, and therefore fully qualified to give mankind a revelation every way perfect and complete.

Whom he hath appointed heir of all things — That is, of the whole creation; of all creatures, visible and invisible, which were all made for him, as well as by him, Colossians 1:16. The apostle’s grand design throughout this epistle being to engage the Hebrews to constancy and perseverance in their attachment to the gospel, with its fundamental doctrines, he takes his main argument for that purpose from its immediate author, the promised Messiah, the Son of God. Him, therefore, in this chapter he describes at large, declaring what he is absolutely, in his person and offices; and comparatively, with respect to other ministerial revealers of the mind and will of God, principally insisting on his excellence and pre- eminence above angels. After the name of Son, his inheritance is mentioned. God appointed him the heir long before he made the worlds, Ephesians 3:11; Proverbs 8:22. Crellius, a noted Socinian, with whom some other Socinians have agreed, allowed that Christ hath the highest dominion and empire over men and angels. But still they would persuade us that all this was spoken of him as a mere man, as the son of Mary. But how a mere man, or mere creature, should have this empire over all men and angels, and all creatures in the universe, or even should know them all, and have power over death, is as impossible to understand as the mystery of the incarnation, or that of the Trinity. But to guard us against this error, the inspired writers have taken care to inform us that he existed before he was born of Mary; before Abraham, John 8:58; before all things, Colossians 1:17; that he was loved by the Father, and had glory with him before the foundation of the world, John 17:5; John 17:24. Nay, and, as the apostle here asserts, that the worlds were made by him. It is true, the word αιωνας, here used by the apostle, may be rendered ages, or dispensations; yet in Hebrews 11:3, it must mean, as it is rendered, worlds. And we know, from John 1:2-3; John 1:10; Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 3:9; 1 Corinthians 8:6, and Hebrews 1:10 of this chapter, that the Son of God did in fact make the worlds; and agreeably to the apostle’s words here, (God hath spoken unto us by his Son, by whom he made the worlds,) in their plain and literal meaning, he was the Son of God when the worlds were made by him. Accordingly, He, without whom was not any thing made that was made, is called the only-begotten of the Father, John 1:1-14, where see the notes. Therefore, the Son, as the Son, was before all worlds: and his glory reaches from everlasting to everlasting, though God spake by him to us only in these last days. This is the third fact of which the apostle proposes to discourse, namely, that the Author of the gospel, in consequence of his having made the worlds, is Heir, or Lord, and Governor of all. And although, after becoming man, he died, yet, being raised from the dead, he had the government of the world restored to him in the human nature. To the faithful, this is a source of the greatest consolation; because if the world is governed by their Master, he certainly hath power to protect and bless them; and every thing befalling them will issue in good to them. Besides, being the Judge as well as the Ruler of the world, he hath authority to acquit them at the judgment, and power to reward them for all the evils they have suffered on his account. This, that the author of the gospel is the Son of God, is the main hinge on which all the apostle’s subsequent arguments throughout the epistle turn, and this bears the stress of all his inferences; and, therefore, having mentioned it, he proceeds immediately to that description of him which gives evidence to all he deduces from this consideration.


Verse 3

Hebrews 1:3. Who being the brightness απαυγασμα, the effulgence, or out-beaming, or splendour; of his — The Father’s; glory — In Scripture, the glory of God signifies the perfections of God. See Romans 1:23; and in and by the Son of God, the glorious nature and attributes of the Father have shone forth probably to angels, at least to men; as on mount Sinai, when his voice shook the earth, (Hebrews 12:26,) in the tabernacle and temple. Compare Exodus 24:10 with John 1:18, and 1 Timothy 6:16. The divine glory, which was manifested to Isaiah in the vision recorded Isaiah 6:1-4, is expressly said, John 12:41, to have been the glory of Christ. This glory indeed was veiled in flesh when he became incarnate, yet he still possessed it, and it shone forth, in some degree, on many occasions, especially at his transfiguration, and even in his whole ministry; infinite wisdom manifesting itself in his discourses; almighty power in his miracles; unspeakable love in his benevolent actions; and holiness unparalleled in his spirit and conduct daily. So that he was fitly denominated the Holy One of God. And the express image — Stamp or delineation; of his person — Or substance, as υποστασεως signifies. That is, he is one who has the whole nature of God in him, as he is his eternal Son; and declares and represents, in a most conspicuous manner, the divine properties to our faith and contemplation as incarnate: whatever the Father is, is exhibited in the Son as a seal in the stamp on wax. For the word χαρακτηρ, here rendered express image, properly signifies an image made by engraving, such as that on a seal; also the image which the seal makes on wax by impression. Phavorinus says, it is διατυπωσις δηλουσα την υποστασιν, a form, or draught, manifesting the substance whence it was taken. And the word υποστασις, rendered person, he says, is ουσια μετα των ιδιωματων, the substance with the properties. So that the clause here, according to him, is a draught manifesting, or exhibiting the substance and properties of God. “According to the Greek commentators on the place,” says Whitby, “it is the same with our Lord’s being in the form of God before he took our nature on him.” See on Philippians 2:6; Colossians 1:15, where this is explained at large. And upholding φερων, sustaining, or preserving and governing; all things — Visible and invisible. This expression is parallel to 1 Colossians 1:17, τα παντα εν αυτω συνεστηκε, by him all things consist. According to Pierce, the meaning of both passages is, that as the Son gave being to all things, so he maintains them in being. By the word of his power — That is, by his powerful word: in the same divine manner in which all things were created; for he only spake, and they were done. When he had by himself — By the sacrifice of himself, (Hebrews 9:26,) without any Mosaic rites or ceremonies; purged our sins — καθαρισμον ποιησαμενος, having effected a purification of them, or made atonement to satisfy the demands of divine justice. In order to which it was necessary he should for a time divest himself of his glory. This is the fourth fact treated of in this epistle, namely, that the Author of the gospel laid down his life a sacrifice for sin; of which, when offered, God declared his acceptance, by setting Jesus at his own right hand. The gospel, therefore, hath a priesthood and sacrifice more efficacious than the priesthood and sacrifices of the law taken together. For an expiation made by a person so great in himself, and so dear to God as his own Son, and made by the appointment of God, could not but be acceptable to him; consequently it must be a sure foundation for that hope of pardon, by which the gospel encourages sinners to repent. Sat down — The Jewish priests stood while they ministered: Christ’s being said to sit down, therefore, denotes the consummation of his sacrifice: on the right hand of the Majesty — Of God; on high — In the highest heavens. The apostle’s meaning is, that our Lord, after his ascension, was invested in the human nature with that visible glory and power which he enjoyed with God before the world, as mentioned by himself, John 17:5. Our Lord’s sitting down at the right hand of God is affirmed in this epistle no less than five different times, because it presupposes his resurrection from the dead, and implies his being put in possession of the highest authority in heaven, under the Father. Consequently it is a clear proof that he is really the Son of God. It must be observed, that in this chapter the apostle describes Christ’s glory chiefly as he is the Son of God; afterward, Hebrews 2:6, &c., the glory of the man Christ Jesus. He speaks indeed briefly of the former before his humiliation, but copiously after his exaltation; as from hence the glory he had from eternity began to be evidently seen. Both his purging our sins, and sitting on the right hand of God, are largely treated of in the seven following chapters.


Verses 4-6

Hebrews 1:4-6. Being made — Rather being; (for the word made is not implied in the original expression, γενομενος;) so much better — Higher; than the angels — As the Jews gloried exceedingly in the law of Moses, on account of its being delivered by the ministry of angels, the apostle proves, by passages from the Jewish Scriptures, that the Son is superior in nature and dignity to all the angelical hosts. How much more then may we glory in the gospel, which was given, not by the ministry of angels, but by the very Son of God. As he hath by inheritance obtained — Greek, κεκληρονομηκην, he hath inherited; a more excellent name than they — Namely, the name of Son; a name which he is said to inherit, because he really is God’s Son, and that in a sense in which no creature, man or angel, is his Song of Solomon 1 st, Not by adoption, regeneration, or title, as patriarchs, prophets, or any other saints might be his sons: for he is distinguished from all these, Mark 12:6. 2d, Not by the resurrection merely, by which the saints will hereafter be manifested to be the sons of God, Luke 20:36. For he was distinguished from Moses and Elias on the mount of transfiguration, who had both entered the immortal state, Matthew 17:6. 3d, Not by creation, as Adam was, (Luke 3:38,) and angels are God’s sons; for he is here represented as having a right to the name of Son by inheritance, which the angels have not. Hence he is termed the only- begotten of the Father; an expression which excludes from that honourable relation angels, and all other beings whatever. For unto which of the angels — Although sometimes termed in Scripture the sons of God, because created by him; said he at any time, Thou art my Son — God of God, Light of Light, the eternal Word of the eternal Father; this day have I begotten thee — Namely, in and from eternity; which, by its unalterable permanency of duration, is one continued unsuccessive day. See the note on Psalms 2:7. “It is true, because the angel said to his mother, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God; some contend that these words, Thou art my Son, &c.; are a prediction of our Lord’s miraculous conception. But on that supposition the argument taken from the name falls: for instead of proving Jesus superior to angels, his miraculous conception does not make him superior to Adam, who was as much the immediate work of God as Christ’s human nature was the immediate work of the Holy Ghost. Besides, he is said (John 3:17) to have been the Son of God before he was sent into the world;” and Hebrews 1:2 of this chapter, when the worlds were made by him. See Macknight.

And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son — I will own myself to be his Father, and him to be my Son, by eminent tokens of my peculiar love. “The former clause relates to his natural Sonship by an eternal inconceivable generation, the other to his Father’s acknowledgment and treatment of him as his incarnate Son: indeed this promise related immediately to Solomon, but in a far higher sense to the Messiah; applied to whom, it hath a very different meaning from what it had when applied to Solomon.” — Wesley. Understood of the Messiah, it is a prediction that God would, in the most public manner, declare Jesus his Son by voices from heaven uttered on different occasions, and by the descent of the Holy Ghost on him after his baptism, and by his resurrection from the dead. Whereas the same promise spoken concerning Solomon, means only that he was to be the object of God’s especial affection and care. Accordingly it was so explained in the revelation to David himself, 1 Chronicles 22:9; I will give him rest from all his enemies round about. And again — That is, in another passage of Scripture; when he bringeth in the first-begotten — Him who is before all creatures, Proverbs 8:24-25; more excellent than all, Genesis 49:3; and Heir or Lord of all, Psalms 2:6; Psalms 2:8. The appellation first-begotten includes that of Son, together with the rights of primogeniture, which the first-begotten Son of God enjoys, in a manner not communicable to any creature; into the world — Namely, at his incarnation; he, God, saith, Let all the angels of God worship him — So much higher was he, when in his lowest estate, than the highest angel! “In the Hebrew text it is cal Elohim, which in our Bibles is rendered all ye gods. But the expression is elliptical, and may be supplied as the writer of this epistle hath done; all ye angels of God — In the 97th Psalm, whence it is commonly thought this quotation is made, the establishment of the kingdom of Christ is foretold, together with its happy influence in destroying idolatry. Because, in a few instances, the word Elohim, gods, denotes idols, this clause is translated by some, Worship him, all ye idols. But how can idols, most of whom are nonentities, worship the Son?”


Verses 7-9

Hebrews 1:7-9. Of the angels — Speaking of them; he — David; saith, Who maketh — Or rather, who made; his angels spirits, &c. — That is, the greatest thing said of angels is, that they are beings not clogged with flesh, and who are zealous and active in the service of God like flames of fire. The expressions intimate not only their office, but also their nature, which is very excellent; the metaphor being taken from the most swift, subtle, and efficacious things on earth; but, nevertheless, infinitely below the majesty of the Son. For unto the Son he saith — Of him the psalmist speaks in more exalted language, expressive of his sovereign, universal, and everlasting dominion, saying, Thy throne — That is, thy reign, which the word throne implies; O God, is for ever and ever — These words are quoted from the 45th Psalm, which, in the opinion of “some commentators, was composed concerning Solomon’s marriage with Pharaoh’s daughter. But could Solomon, with any propriety, be addressed by the title of God? Or could it be said of him that his kingdom, which lasted only forty years, was eternal? It was not even eternal in his posterity; and with respect to his loving righteousness, and hating wickedness, it but ill applies to one who, in his old age, became an encourager of idolatry, through the influence of women. This Psalm, therefore, is applicable only to Christ. Further, Solomon’s marriage with Pharaoh’s daughter being expressly condemned as contrary to the law, (1 Kings 11:2,) to suppose that this Psalm was composed in honour of that event, is certainly an ill-founded imagination. The rabbins, in their commentaries, affirm that it was written wholly concerning the Messiah. Accordingly, they translate the title of the Psalm as we do, A Song of Loves: the LXX., ωδη υπερ του αγαπητου, a song concerning the Beloved: a title justly given to the Messiah, whom God, by voices from heaven, declared his beloved Son.” — Macknight. Pierce says, “They who imagine this Psalm is an epithalamium upon Solomon’s marrying Pharaoh’s daughter, must suppose that it is here foretold that Solomon was to have a numerous progeny by her, whom he should set up for princes up and down the world, by one of whom he should be succeeded, 1 Kings 11:16, Instead of thy father shall be thy children, when thou mayest make princes in all the earth. But this cannot be true; for besides that we read not of any children Solomon had by Pharaoh’s daughter, it is certain that Rehoboam, who succeeded him, was the son of Naamah, an Ammonitess, 2 Chronicles 12:13. And so far was he from being able to set his sons to rule over other countries, that it was with great difficulty his successors kept two tribes of the twelve steadfast to them. The whole tenor of the Psalm directs us plainly to understand it of some excellent prince, who was highly favoured of God, and not of such a degenerate one as Solomon became, God also having testified his displeasure against him. Further, how unlikely is it that Hebrews 1:2 should be understood of Solomon? Nothing could be more suitably said of Christ than what we there meet with: Grace is poured into thy lips, therefore God hath blessed thee for ever: but was such language fit to be used concerning a man who became a most notorious idolater? Was not the promise conditional that was made to Solomon of blessedness, and had he not forfeited it by breaking the condition? The last verse of the Psalm seems also very unlikely to belong to Solomon: I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations; therefore shall the people praise thee for ever and ever. Certainly a greater than Solomon is here: and the primitive Christians were much in the right, who universally agreed in applying the Psalm to Christ, and him only.” See notes on Psalms 45.

A sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom — That is, thy reign, of which the sceptre is the ensign, is full of justice and equity. Or, thy government is exercised for maintaining truth and righteousness in the world. Thou hast loved righteousness, &c. — Thou art infinitely pure and holy; therefore God — Who, as thou art Mediator, is thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness — With the Holy Ghost, the fountain of joy; above thy fellows — Above all the children of men. For God gave not the Spirit by measure unto him, John 3:34. In other words, God bestowed on him, as a prophet, priest, and king, endowments, whereby he excelled all his associates (as μετοχοι signifies) in those offices. “Anciently, kings, priests, and prophets were consecrated to their several offices by the ceremony of solemn unction with perfumed oil, called in the Psalm the oil of gladness, because it occasioned great joy, both to the person anointed, and to those who were present at the ceremony. Wherefore the Son, being appointed of God to the high offices of universal King, Priest, and Prophet among men, he is called, by way of eminence, the Lord’s Messiah, Christ, or Anointed One. But the oil with which God anointed or consecrated him to these offices was not any material oil, nor was the unction external, but internal, with the Holy Ghost. We may therefore understand the Psalm as a prediction of the descent of the Holy Ghost on Jesus at his baptism, whereby was signified God’s giving him the Spirit without measure.”


Verses 10-12

Hebrews 1:10-12. And thou, Lord, in the beginning, &c. — These words, with those contained in the two following verses, are quoted from Psalms 102:25-27, where they are evidently spoken of the God of Israel, the living and true God. “Some have thought they are here addressed to the Father, and not to the Son. But, as the former passages are directed to the Son, it is reasonable to suppose this is so likewise: especially as it would not have been to the apostle’s purpose to quote it here, if it had been addressed to the Father. By affirming that these words were spoken to the Son, the apostle confuted the opinion of those Jews who held that the angels assisted in making this mundane system; an error which was afterward maintained by some heretics in the Christian Church. They — Permanent as they seem, and though firmly founded; shall at length perish — Of the perishing of the earth and aerial heavens, Peter speaks, 2 Peter 3:10-13, where he also foretels that there shall be new heavens and a new earth, formed for the habitation of the righteous, after the old creation is destroyed. But thou remainest διαμενεις, continuest in undecaying glory; as a vesture περιβολαιον, a mantle, upper garment, or cloak; shalt thou fold them up — With infinite ease; and they shall be changed — Into new heavens and a new earth; or thou shalt remove them out of their place, and introduce a new scene of things with as much ease as a prince lays aside one robe and puts on another. But thou art eternally the same, and thy years shall not fail — Through everlasting ages, nor can thy perfections admit any possible diminution.


Verse 13

Hebrews 1:13. But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit thou, &c. — In this interrogation a vehement negation is included; He said not at any time to any of the angels, as he said to his Son in the human nature, Psalms 110:1. Sit thou on my right hand — Reign thou over the universe; till, &c. — He never spake these words, or the like, concerning them; there is no testimony to that purpose recorded in the whole book of God, the only means of such knowledge, and rule of our faith in such things. Our Lord (Matthew 22:43) spake of it to the Pharisees as a thing certain, and allowed by all the Jewish doctors, that David wrote the cxth Psalm (from which this quotation is made) by inspiration of the Spirit, concerning Christ. This passage, therefore, is rightly applied to Christ by the writer of this epistle. See note on Psalms 110:1. I make thine enemies thy footstool — The eastern princes used to tread on the necks of their vanquished enemies, in token of their utter subjection, Joshua 10:24. And some of the more haughty ones, in mounting their horses, used their enemies as a footstool. This passage, therefore, is a prediction of the entire conquest of evil angels and wicked men, Christ’s enemies. Are they not all ministering spirits, &c. — The apostle having proved the pre- eminence of the Son, as Mediator of the new covenant, above all the angels, from the attributes of honour and glory that are ascribed to him in the Scripture, that he might not appear to argue merely in a negative manner, from what is not said concerning them, he adds here such a description of their natures and office, or employment as shows that indeed no such thing can be rightly affirmed concerning them, as he had before manifested to be spoken and recorded concerning the Son: 1st, As to their nature, they are πνευματα, spirits, or spiritual substances; not qualities, or natural faculties, as the Sadducees imagined: and 2d, As to their offices, they are πνευματα λειτουργικα, ministering spirits. So they are termed Psalms 103:21. Bless the Lord all ye his hosts, λειτουργοι αυτου, ye ministers of his that do his pleasure. And how they execute their office we here learn. They are εις διακονιαν αποστελλομενα, sent forth unto a ministry: δια τους μελλοντας κληρονομειν σωτηριαν, on account, or for the sake of those that shall be heirs of salvation — Perhaps this is said in allusion to the Hebrew name of angels, which properly signifies messengers. The word all is here emphatical, denoting that even the highest orders of angels, dominions, thrones, principalities, and powers bow the knee and are subject to Jesus; ministering in the affairs of the world according to his direction. But although the Scriptures speak of all the angels as thus ministering, the word all does not imply that every individual angel is actually employed in this way, but that every one is subject to be so employed. It must be observed also, that the expression is not, sent forth to minister to, but δια, for — Or on account of; them who shall be heirs of salvation. And herein the harmony subsisting between both parts of God’s family is still preserved. As in the service of the church the ministers thereof do not, properly speaking, minister to man, but to the Lord in the behalf of men, (Acts 13:2,) so is it with these spirits also; they are sent forth to minister for the good of men, but properly it is the Lord to whom they minister. His servants they are, not ours: rather, they are our fellow-servants. As all the servants of a king, though otherwise they greatly differ, agree in this, that they are all servants to the same person. Wherefore this passage affords no ground for believing that every heir of salvation has a guardian angel assigned him. Of the ministry of angels for the benefit of the heirs of salvation we have many examples both in the Old and in the New Testament.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Hebrews 1:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/hebrews-1.html. 1857.


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