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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Hebrews 12

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

Hebrews 12:1. By a bold but rhetorical figure, the apostle, in the beginning of this chapter, represents the patriarchs, judges, kings, prophets, and righteous men, whose faith he had celebrated in the preceding chapter, after having finished their own labours, combats, and sufferings with honour, as standing round and looking on the believing Hebrews while running the Christian race. He therefore exhorts them to exert themselves strenuously in the presence of such spectators. But, above all, to fix their attention on Jesus, whom also he represents as looking on, because his graces, virtues, and sufferings were far more remarkable, and far more worthy of imitation than those of the ancients, whose great actions he had celebrated. Wherefore seeing we also — Or even we. The apostle joins himself with these Hebrews, not only the better to insinuate the exhortation into their minds thereby, but also to intimate, that the strongest believers stand in need of the encouragement here given; are compassed about — Like combatants in the Grecian games; with so great a cloud — So great a multitude; of witnesses — Of the power of faith; even of all the saints of the Old Testament, who, as it were, stand looking on us in our striving, running, wrestling, and fighting; encouraging us in our duty, and ready to bear witness to our success with their applauses. Let us lay aside every weight — As all who run a race take care to do; let us throw off whatever weighs us down, or damps the vigour of our souls, especially all worldly afflictions and delights; all worldly hopes, fears, cares, and friendships; whatever would encumber us in running, would impede our progress, or draw us from our duty; and the sin which doth so easily beset us — Namely, the slavish fear of men, or of any loss or suffering that may befall us; or the sin of our constitution, the sin of our education, or that of our profession. The original expression is, literally, the sin which stands conveniently around us, or the well-circumstanced sin; which is well adapted to our circumstances and inclinations; consequently is easily committed; let us run with patience — And perseverance, as the word υπομονη also signifies; the race — Of Christian experience, duty, and suffering; that is set before us — And is necessary to be run by us before we can obtain the prize.


Verse 2

Hebrews 12:2. Looking αφορωντες, literally, looking off, from all other things; unto Jesus — As the wounded Israelites looked to the brazen serpent. Our crucified Lord was prefigured by the lifting up of this; our guilt by the stings of the fiery serpents; and our faith by their looking up to the miraculous remedy; the author and finisher of our faith — Who called us out to this strenuous yet glorious enterprise, who animates us by his example, and supports us by his grace, till the season comes in which he shall bestow upon us the promised crown; or who begins it in us, carries it on, and perfects it. Who for the joy that was set before him — Namely, that of bringing many sons unto glory; or, who, in consideration of that glory and dignity his human nature should be advanced to, as a reward of his labours and sufferings, and of that satisfaction and pleasure he should take in the happiness of his members, procured for them by his incarnation, life, and death; patiently and willingly endured the cross — The ignominious and painful death of crucifixion, with all the torture and misery connected therewith; despising the shame — Not accounting the disgrace which attended his sufferings so great an evil as for fear thereof to neglect the prosecution of his great and glorious design. He did not faint because of it; he regarded it not, in comparison of the blessed and glorious effect of his sufferings, which was always in his eye. And is set down, &c. — Where there is fulness of joy for evermore. See on Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 8:1.


Verse 3-4

Hebrews 12:3-4. For consider him — Draw the comparison and think; the Lord bore all this, and shall his servants bear nothing? If he suffered, if he endured such things, why should not we do so also? If he, though so great, so excellent, so infinitely exalted above us; yet endured such contradiction of sinners — Such grievous things, both in words and deeds, from his enemies; against himself — Ought not we to do so too, if called to it? Consider this; lest ye be wearied — By the greatness and length of your trials and sufferings; and faint in your minds — Lest your hearts should fail you, and you should draw back, partially or totally, from the profession of the gospel. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood — Your sufferings are far short of those which Christ endured. He grants that they had met with many sufferings already, but their enemies had been so restrained that they had not proceeded to take their lives, or to inflict wounds and bruises upon their bodies. By which the apostle intimates two things: 1st, That those who are engaged in the profession of the gospel have no security that they shall not be called to the utmost and last sufferings, by laying down their lives on account of it; and 2d, That whatever befalls us on this side martyrdom, is to be looked on as a fruit of divine tenderness and mercy. Striving against sin — Or against violent and injurious persons, and in opposing men’s wicked practices, and your own sinful inclinations, lusts, and passions.


Verses 5-8

Hebrews 12:5-8. And ye have forgotten, &c. — As if he had said, If you faint it will appear you have forgotten, the exhortation — Wherein God speaks to you with the utmost tenderness; as unto his own dear children, saying, My son, despise not thou — Do not slight or make light of; the chastening of the Lord — Do not impute it to chance or to second causes, but see and revere the hand of God in it; account it a great mercy, and improve it; nor faint, and sink, when thou art rebuked of him — But endure it patiently and fruitfully, avoiding the extremes of proud insensibility and entire dejection. For — All such dispensations spring from love; therefore neither despise them nor faint under them; whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth — Or correcteth for their faults, in order to their amendment; and that he may try, exercise, and thereby increase their faith, hope, love, resignation, patience, meekness, and other graces; and that he may purify them by such fires, as gold and silver are purged in the furnace from their dross. And scourgeth — With seeming severity; every son whom he receiveth — Into his peculiar favour. See note on Proverbs 3:11-12, &c. If ye endure, &c. — If God correct you, and cause you to endure chastening, he dealeth with you as wise and affectionate parents deal with their beloved sons; for what son is he whom the father — Namely, the person who performs the duty of a father; chasteneth not — More or less? There are scarce any children who do not sometimes need correction, and no wise and good parent will always forbear it. But if ye be without chastisement — “If ye pass your lives without experiencing sickness of any kind, or worldly losses, or affliction in your families, or death of children, or injuries from your neighbours, or any of the other troubles to which the children of God are exposed, certainly you are treated by your heavenly Father as bastards, and not as sons.” Ye are not owned by God for his children.


Verses 9-11

Hebrews 12:9-11. Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh — Natural parents, from whom we derived our bodies and mortal lives; which corrected us — For our faults; and we gave them reverence — Submitted patiently and quietly to their discipline, neither despising nor fainting under their correction; and shall we not much rather — From the strictest principles of filial duty; be in subjection — Submit with reverence and meekness; unto the Father of spirits — Who has regenerated our souls; and live — And thereby at length obtain eternal life, as a reward of our patience and obedience. “Here the apostle seems to have had Deuteronomy 21:18 in his eye, where the son that was disobedient to his father was ordered to be put to death. This is one of the many instances in which the apostle conveys the most forcible reason in a single word.” By distinguishing between the fathers of our flesh, and the Father of our spirits, the apostle seems to teach us that we derive only our flesh from our parents, but our spirits from God. See Ecclesiastes 12:7; Isaiah 57:16; Zechariah 12:1. For they verily for a few days — During our nonage, (so our corrections shall last only during our abode in this world, and how few are even all our days here!) chastened us after their own pleasure — As they thought good, though frequently they erred therein, either by too much indulgence or severity; but he — God, always, unquestionably; for our profit — That our corrupt inclinations might be more and more purged out, and a heavenly, divine nature more and more implanted in us; that we might be partakers of his holiness — That is, of himself, his glorious image, and heavenly divine nature. Now no chastening — Whether from God or man; for the present — That is, at the time it is inflicted; seemeth to be joyous, but grievous — Is not cause of joy, but of sorrow, to the person chastised; nevertheless afterward — Not indeed of its own nature, but being blessed and sanctified by God; it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness — That holiness and reformation which gives peace of conscience; to them who are exercised thereby — That receive the exercise as from God, and improve it according to his will. See on Isaiah 32:17.


Verses 12-14

Hebrews 12:12-14. Wherefore — Since afflictions are so beneficial; lift up the hands — Whether your own or your brethren’s; which hang down — Unable to continue the combat; shake off discouragement, sloth, and indolence, and exert yourselves in your spiritual warfare, and in the performance of your duty; and strengthen, by faith and prayer, the feeble knees — Unable to continue the race. And make straight paths for your own feet — And for those of others; remove every hinderance, every offence out of the way; lest that which is lame — Those who are weak and feeble among you; be turned out of the way — Of truth and duty; but let it rather be healed — Let them rather be delivered from their fears and dejections, and be confirmed in their Christian course. Follow peace with all men — As much as in you lieth; do not willingly or unnecessarily give offence to any, and be not easily offended with others; bear and forbear, for the sake of peace and mutual love; and holiness — Internal and external, holiness of heart and life; the mind of Christ, and a conformity to God; without which — How ready soever men may be to flatter themselves with vain expectations; no man shall see the Lord — It being his unalterable decree to exclude those who live and die under the defilement of sin, from the sight of himself in the celestial world, for which their unholy tempers and vile affections render them altogether unfit; only the pure in heart shall or can see God, Matthew 5:8. We must be like him, if we would see him as he is, 1 John 3:2.


Verse 15-16

Hebrews 12:15-16. Looking diligently — With the greatest attention, watchfulness, and care, for yourselves and each other; for Christ hath ordained that the members of the same church or society should mutually watch over one another, and the whole body over all the members, to their mutual edification; lest any man fail of the grace of God — That is, come short of it, or do not obtain it, as the same verb is rendered, Romans 3:23. It means also to be deficient in any thing, Matthew 19:20; sometimes to come behind, 1 Corinthians 1-7; and sometimes to be destitute, Hebrews 11:37; which different senses of the expression are nearly allied to each other, and seem all to be here included; lest any root of bitterness springing up, trouble you — The apostle here alludes to Deuteronomy 29:18, Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away from the Lord, lest there should be a root that beareth gall and wormwood; and he primarily intends, lest there be any person whose heart is inclined to apostacy from the gospel. He may mean, however, also, lest any evil disposition, such as covetousness, ambition, anger, malice, envy, revenge, should spring up in any person or number of persons, and destroy the peace and harmony of the Christian society. In general, any corruption, either in doctrine or practice, is a root of bitterness, which, springing up, would trouble others, and might defile many. See note on Deuteronomy 29:18. Lest there be any fornicator — Lest any, not following after universal holiness, should be suffered to fall even into gross sin, particularly that of fornication, a sin which is most directly and particularly opposed to that holiness which the apostle has been exhorting the believing Hebrews to press after, as an attainment without which they should not see the Lord; or profane person — One who treats sacred things with contempt, or who despiseth or makes light of spiritual blessings; who neglects God’s worship, speaks irreverently of him, and of his word and ordinances; and who, in the whole of his behaviour, shows that he has no just sense of God and his attributes, or of religion, and therefore is ranked among the most flagitious sinners, 1 Timothy 1:9. As Esau — “We do not read that Esau was a fornicator, nor does the apostle say that he was addicted to that vice. By putting a comma after the word fornicator, and by connecting the words, or profane person, with what follows, Esau will be called only a profane person: this he showed himself to be by selling his birthright for a mess of pottage. It is true, Jacob proposed to him to sell these, not, however, as taking advantage of his necessity, but,” as Macknight thinks, “because he had heard him on former occasions speak contemptuously of his birthrights. For what else could put it into Jacob’s mind to make the proposition? Therefore, when, instead of going into his father’s tent, where he might have got food, Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage, he showed the greatest profanity; for in the family of Abraham the birthright entitled the eldest son to spiritual as well as temporal privileges; he had a right to the priesthood, Exodus 19:22; and to a double portion, Deuteronomy 21:17; and was lord over his brethren, Genesis 27:29; Genesis 27:37; Genesis 49:3. Further, in that family the firstborn, as the root of the people of God, conveyed to his posterity all the blessings promised in the covenant: such as a right to possess the land of Canaan, and to be the father of him in whom all nations were to be blessed, and to explain and confirm these promises to his children in his dying blessing to them, of which we have a remarkable example in Jacob, Genesis 49.” See note on Genesis 25:29-34.


Verse 17

Hebrews 12:17. For — As if he had said, Beware of profaneness, because Esau was punished for it, and so will you be if you fall into it; ye know how that afterward — After the blessing had been bestowed on Jacob, Genesis 27:30. This afterward was probably not less than forty or fifty years after; for he sold his birthright when he was young, and now, when he wished to recover the blessing, Isaac was about one hundred and forty years old: so long, it seems, he lived in his sin, without any proper sense of it, or repentance for it. Things went prosperously with him in the world, and he did not consider what he had done, or what would be the end of it. But falling now into a new distress, he was filled with perplexity. And so it is with all secure sinners: while things go prosperously with them they can continue without remorse, but sooner or later their iniquity will find them out. When he would have inherited the blessing — The patriarchal blessing, of which he esteemed himself the presumptive heir, and which he knew not that he had virtually renounced by selling his birthright. For the apostle here distinguishes between the birthright and the blessing: he sold his birthright, but would have inherited the blessing. And herein he was a type of the unbelieving Jews at that time; for they adhered to the outward things of the blessing, to the rejection of him who was the whole life, soul, and power of it. The meaning is, when he would have obtained what had been given to his younger brother, he was rejected — Namely, by his father; for he found no place of repentance — Could by no means induce his father to alter his mind; though he sought it — Namely, the blessing, or the repentance of his father; (with either of which expressions the pronoun αυτην, it, with equal propriety agrees;) carefully with tears — For, instead of repenting, his father confirmed the blessing of Jacob, Genesis 27:33. Esau had discovered a great readiness to part with his birthright and all that was annexed to it by divine institution, not considering, it seems, what it was significant of as to matters spiritual and heavenly. Hence he put so little value upon it, as to give it up for one morsel of meat. And afterward, regardless of what he had done, after the power of his present temptation was over, it is said he did eat and drink, and rose up and went his way, as a man utterly unconcerned about what had taken place; whereon the Holy Ghost adds that censure, Thus Esau despised his birthright. He did not only sell it, but despised it. But he is represented on this occasion as being under great amazement, as if he had little thought to fall into such a condition. And thus, at one time or other, it will happen to all profane persons who refuse the mercy and privileges of the gospel; they shall, sooner or later, fall into a state of dreadful surprise. Then shall they see and feel the horrible consequence of that conduct, and of those sins, which before they made nothing of.


Verse 18-19

Hebrews 12:18-19. For, &c. — As if he had said, Take heed of apostatizing from Christianity to Judaism again, because of the great privileges you enjoy by the gospel above what your fathers enjoyed by the law: which privileges contain a strong reason why you should attend to these exhortations and cautions; ye — Who are proselyted to Christianity; are not come unto the mount that might — Or could; be touched — That is, of an earthly, material, or tangible nature; but which the people were prohibited to approach, and much more to touch. And that burned with fire — Unto the midst of heaven, (Deuteronomy 4:11,) to show that God is a consuming fire to the impenitent; and to blackness and darkness — An emblem of the obscurity of the Mosaic dispensation; and to tempest — Josephus tells us, (Antiq., lib. 3. c. 5,) that at the giving of the law strong winds came down, and manifested the presence of God. “Perhaps,” says Macknight, “this prefigured what happened when the new law, the gospel, was given. For, previous to the descent of the Holy Ghost, there came a sound from heaven as of a mighty rushing wind: and the sound of a trumpet — Formed, without doubt, by the ministry of angels, and which at length waxed exceeding loud, (Exodus 19:18-19,) preparatory to the voice of words — That is, the ten commandments, written afterward on the two tables of stone. For (all other noises, as of thunder, the trumpet, &c., ceasing) God caused a loud voice, speaking those ten commandments articulately in their own language, to be heard by the whole congregation, men, women, and children, in the station wherein they were placed at the foot of the mount; and this voice was so great and terrible that the people were not able to bear it: for although they were terrified with the dreadful appearances on the mount, yet was it this speaking of God that utterly overwhelmed them. See Deuteronomy 5:22. Which they that heard — Namely, the whole assembly or congregation, strongly impressed with the holiness and power of their Lawgiver and Judge, and being exceedingly terrified; entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more — Or that the word or speaking of God to them should not be continued. The verb παρητησαντο, here rendered entreated, is twice translated to refuse, Hebrews 12:25. The meaning is, they deprecated the hearing of the word in that manner any more, which they did doubtless by their officers and elders, who both themselves being terrified, and observing the dread of the whole congregation, made request for themselves and the rest to Moses; and because they did it with a good intention, out of reverence for the majesty of God, without any design of declining obedience, it was accepted.


Verse 20-21

Hebrews 12:20-21. For they could not endure that which was commanded — That is, either, 1st, The law itself, so strict and holy, and promulged amidst such terrors seen and heard: or, 2d, The sense is, they could not bear to hear the following charge, or endure the terror which seized them when they heard those words proclaimed, And if even a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, &c. And so terrible was the sight — That manifestation of the divine presence, that even Moses — (Notwithstanding his office as a mediator, his great sanctity, and his having been frequently admitted to a very near intercourse with God, who had often spoken to him as a man speaketh to his friend;) said, I exceedingly fear and quake — This circumstance is not recorded in the history: but seeing the apostle mentions it here in this letter to the Hebrews as a thing known to them, it seems probable that they had it from tradition, or that it was recorded in some Jewish writing then extant. At other times Moses acted as a mediator between God and the people; but while the ten commandments were pronounced amidst blackness, darkness, and tempest, preceded by the sound of the trumpet waxing louder and louder, Moses stood as one of the hearers, Exodus 19:25; Exodus 20:19.


Verse 22

Hebrews 12:22. But ye — Who believe in Christ, by your embracing Christianity; are come unto mount Sion — Are admitted to the communion of the church of Christ, with its privileges and blessings. Or, ye are come to a dispensation the reverse of all these terrors, even to the mild and gentle discoveries which God makes of himself in the new covenant. For what the apostle intends is evidently to describe that state whereunto believers are called by the gospel: and it is that alone which he opposes to the state of the church under the Old Testament. For to suppose that it is the heavenly future state which he intends, is, as Dr. Owen justly observes, “utterly to destroy the force of his argument and exhortation. For they are built solely on the pre-eminence of the gospel state to that under the law,” and not on the pre-eminence of heaven above the state of the church on earth, whether Jewish or Christian, which none could question. Unto the city of the living God — That holy and happy society or community, of which true believers are citizens, Ephesians 2:19; Philippians 3:20; in which God himself dwells, and which is governed by him; the heavenly Jerusalem — Termed, (Galatians 4:26,) the Jerusalem above; so called because it has its original from heaven, and the members thereof have their conversation in heaven, and tend thither, and its most perfect state will be there. All these glorious titles belong to the New Testament church. To an innumerable company of angels — To join with them in the service of God, typified by the cherubs in the temple. The Greek is, to myriads of angels. A myriad is ten thousand; and when it is used in the plural number, it signifies an innumerable company, as we here render it. Possibly he speaks with an allusion to the angels that attended the presence of God in the giving of the law, whereof the psalmist says, The chariots of God are twenty thousand, &c.


Verse 23-24

Hebrews 12:23-24. To the general assembly — To the Christian Church, consisting of the whole number of true believers spread over all the world. The word πανηγυρις, here used, properly signifies a stated convention, upon some joyful and festival occasion: particularly it is applied to the concourse at the Olympic games; in which view it presents a very elegant and lively opposition to the case of the Israelites, who were struck with a general terror when they were convened before mount Sinai. And church of the firstborn — The whole body of true believers, consisting of converted Jews and Gentiles. The saints are called the firstborn, because under the law the firstborn were peculiarly appropriated to God, and heirs of a double honour and inheritance: and the saints are in a special manner devoted to God, are made his children by a gratuitous adoption, and entitled to the heavenly inheritance. Therefore they are said (Revelation 14:4) to be redeemed from among men, the first-fruits to God and the Lamb, being the most excellent of mankind, as the first-fruits were judged to be the best of the harvest. Which are written in heaven — The firstborn of Israel were enrolled by Moses in catalogues kept on earth, but these are registered in heaven as citizens of the New Jerusalem, and entitled to all the privileges and immunities of the church of God, whether militant or triumphant. See note on Philippians 3:23, and Philippians 4:3. And to God the Judge of all — Instead of standing afar off, as your fathers did at Sinai, you are allowed to draw near to God as to a friend and father, and to have intercourse and communion with him, who, as Judge of all, will reward you with a crown of glory, and inflict on your persecutors condign punishment. And to the spirits of just, or righteous, men made perfect — Namely, the spirits of the saints in paradise, with whom the saints on earth have communion by faith, hope, and love, and make up one body with them. These are said to be made perfect, because, being justified before God, and fully sanctified in their natures, they are completely holy; and being freed from all the infirmities of the body, are perfected in a much higher sense than any who are still on earth. Hence it is evident, says Whitby, “that the souls of just men are not reduced by death to a state of insensibility; for, can a soul that reasons and perceives good things be made perfect by perceiving nothing at all? Can a spirit, which here enjoyed the pleasures of a good conscience, of a life of faith, of communion with God, and the comforts of the Holy Ghost, be advanced to perfection by a total deprivation of all those satisfactions and enjoyments?” And to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant — Far exceeding that established with Israel of old by the mediation of Moses, a covenant founded on better promises, and ratified with unspeakably greater solemnity. And to the blood of sprinkling — To all the virtue of Christ’s precious blood shed for you, whereby you are sprinkled from an evil conscience. This blood of sprinkling was the foundation of our Lord’s mediatorial office. The expression is used in allusion both to the sprinkling of the Israelites with blood, when the covenant was made at Sinai, and to the sprinkling of the blood of the sin-offerings before the veil and on the mercy-seat. For the former sprinkling typified the efficacy of Christ’s blood in procuring the new covenant, and the latter its efficacy in procuring the pardon of sin, acceptance with God, his renewing Spirit, and all the other blessings of the gospel, for all them who believe in him with their hearts unto righteousness. That speaketh better things than the blood of Abel — For whereas Abel’s blood called for vengeance upon him that wickedly shed it, the blood of Jesus obtained mercy and salvation for his malicious and cruel murderers. This is the general interpretation of the clause. But Dr. Whitby, and some others, by the blood of Abel, understand not his own blood, which called for vengeance on his murderer, (see Genesis 4:10,) but the blood of the sacrifice which he offered in faith, of which God testified his acceptance, and by which, it is said, he being dead yet speaketh; understanding the sense to be, that the blood, or sacrifice, of Christ speaks, or procures, better things than Abel’s sacrifice, his procuring acceptance for himself alone, but Christ’s meriting it for all believers; his only declaring himself righteous, but Christ’s interceding to God for the justification of all men. But, as Doddridge observes, there is a harshness not easily to be paralleled in calling the blood of Abel’s sacrifice his blood. The other interpretation, therefore, seems preferable, as referring to the gentle and gracious character of Christ, and the blessings, instead of vengeance, drawn down by his blood. “There seems, throughout this whole period, to be a reference to the manifestation God made of himself upon mount Sion, as being milder than that upon mount Sinai. And the heavenly society with which Christians are incorporated is considered as resembling the former (that is, mount Sion) in those circumstances in which it was more amiable than the latter. Sion was the city of God. In the temple, which stood there, cherubim were the ornaments of the walls, both in the holy and most holy place, to signify the presence of angels. There was a general assembly and congregation of the priests, which were substituted instead of the firstborn, of whose names catalogues were kept. There was God, as the supreme Judge of controversies, giving forth his oracles. The high-priest was the mediator between God and Israel, (comp. Luke 1:8-10,) and the blood of sprinkling was daily used.” — Doddridge.


Verse 25

Hebrews 12:25. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh — (He alludes to his having just said that his blood speaketh;) namely, Christ, who speaks to you in the gospel, and by his Spirit and messengers, and whose speaking, even now, is a prelude to the final scene. In this command the apostle has respect to the double solemn charge given by God to his church to hear and obey his Son: the first, Deuteronomy 18:15; Deuteronomy 18:19, The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet, unto him ye shall hearken, &c. A charge intended to prepare the church for their duty in the proper season. The other charge was given immediately from heaven, Matthew 17:5; This is my beloved Son, hear ye him. This is the foundation of all gospel faith and obedience, and the formal reason of the condemnation of all unbelievers. God hath commanded all men to hear; that is, to believe and obey his Son Jesus Christ. Hence he hath given command to others to preach the gospel to all individuals. They who believe them believe in Christ; and they who believe in Christ, through him, believe in God, (1 Peter 1:21,) so that their faith is ultimately resolved into the authority of God himself. And in like manner, they who refuse them, who hear them not, do thereby refuse Christ himself; and, by so doing, reject the authority of God, who hath given this command to hear him, and hath taken on himself to require it when it is neglected. For if they escaped not divine vengeance, who refused him that spake — Greek, χρηματιζοντα, literally, that gave forth oracles; (namely, Moses, who delivered the law by inspiration of God;) on earth — Who received his message on earth, and delivered it only from mount Sinai, and whose oracles and doctrines were but earthly and carnal, in comparison of Christ’s; much more shall we not escape — Still greater vengeance; if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven — Who received his message in the bosom of the Father, came down from heaven to deliver it to us, and now addresses us not only in the solemn discourses which he uttered in the days of his flesh, sealed with his blood, and confirmed by his resurrection and ascension; but speaks to us from heaven by his Spirit in his apostles, evangelists, and other faithful ministers, and (he might have added) manifests that he does so by the mighty signs and wonders which he enables many of them to perform; and by the success he gives to the word of his grace which proceeds from their lips. See on Hebrews 2:2-3; Hebrews 10:28.


Verse 26-27

Hebrews 12:26-27. Whose voice — Namely, Christ’s, who appeared to Moses at the bush, gave the law, and conducted Israel through the wilderness; see on Exodus 3:2; Isaiah 63:9; 1 Corinthians 10:9; then shook the earth — When, at the giving of the law, he spoke from Sinai, and the whole mount quaked greatly, Exodus 19:18; but now — In the gospel times; he hath promised — Or declared, saying, (Haggai 2:6,) Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven — Meaning, probably, the abolition of the civil and ecclesiastical constitution of the Jews, with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, Matthew 24:29; John 4:21; John 4:23; and even the overthrow of the heathen idolatry, John 16:11, and the propagation of the gospel throughout the world: changes which, in the nature of things, could not take place without great commotions, and the shaking of governments and nations. Dreadful commotions and wars preceded the coming of Christ in the flesh, of which see on Haggai 2:6 : but the shakings here intended must be those consequent on his so coming, and productive of the events now referred to. They may, however, look forward even to Christ’s second coming, and the final consummation of all things. For this word, Yet once more — Or once for all, not only signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken — The total subversion of the Jewish commonwealth and church, with the ordinances of Moses; as of things that are made — Namely, by human hands; or constituted or appointed only for a time; (the verb ποιειν, here used, frequently meaning to constitute or appoint, as chap. Hebrews 3:2; Mark 3:14, in both which passages it is translated to appoint, as it is also in many other places;) that those things which cannot be shaken — A dispensation to be changed no more; may remain — Fixed on a perpetual basis; even that eternal kingdom of righteousness and peace which God hath established by his Son Jesus Christ. This inference the apostle rightly draws from the expression, yet once more. For, as it implies that God would make but one alteration more in the religious worship of the world, it certainly follows that the form to be substituted in the room of the things to be shaken or removed, shall be permanent. The gospel, therefore, will remain to the end of the world, as the only form of religion acceptable to God. And then, as the words also imply, the heaven and the earth shall themselves be removed, as things made and intended only to endure for a time; and those things which cannot be shaken, the new heaven and the new earth, shall remain, to be the inheritance of God’s people for ever, Revelation 21:1, &c.


Verse 28-29

Hebrews 12:28-29. Wherefore we — Who believe in Christ; receiving — Or having received, through the gospel; a kingdom which cannot be moved — A dispensation (frequently called the kingdom of God) which shall never be changed, but shall remain to the end of time, (2 Corinthians 3:11,) and which opens before us an assured and bright prospect of a reign in eternal glory; let us have grace — Let us ask and receive it. “As grace is so freely offered to us, let us not be so wanting to ourselves as to fall short of it.” So Dr. Doddridge paraphrases the clause, and adds in a note, “This” (namely, that grace is freely offered) “is strongly intimated in the words of the exhortation, else there could be no room for it. And this oblique intimation, in which it is, as it were, taken for granted that we may certainly have grace if we take proper methods for obtaining it, appears to me peculiarly affecting.” εχωμεν χαριν may be properly rendered, let us hold fast grace; for it is as necessary to retain it as it is to obtain it; and this we may do as well as the other; whereby we may have both inclination and power to serve God acceptably ευαρεστως, in a manner well pleasing to him, making his will the sole rule of our conduct, of our tempers, words, and works, and his glory the end thereof, and from a principle of love to him, endeavouring to glorify him in our body and spirit which are his; with reverence ΄ετα αιδους, literally, with shame, or modesty, arising from a deep sense of our unworthiness; and godly fear — A tender, jealous fear of offending God, arising from a sense of his gracious majesty. For our God — In the strictness of his justice, and the purity of his holiness; is a consuming fire — Though he manifests himself in the gospel with the beams of such mild majesty, he is still possessed of that tremendous power which was so awfully displayed at mount Sinai, and will break forth as a consuming fire against all those that presumptuously violate his laws and despise his gospel. See Deuteronomy 4:23-24, a passage which the apostle had now in his eye, where Moses, giving the Lord this appellation, reminded the Israelites of the fire which came forth from him to destroy Korah and his company, Numbers 16:35. Wherefore, by adopting his words, the apostle brought the same instance of vengeance to the remembrance of the Hebrews, that they might be deterred from apostacy, disobedience, and all irreverence in the worship of God: who, though he appears so full of mercy in the gospel, is as much determined to punish the rebellious as ever.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/hebrews-12.html. 1857.


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