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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Hebrews 13

 

 

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Verse 1-2

Hebrews 13:1-2. In this concluding chapter we find fresh instances of that divine wisdom wherewith the apostle was influenced in writing this epistle; improving still more the doctrines he had advanced to practical purposes; in which he gives all ministers of Christ an instructive example of the order and method proper to be pursued in teaching Christianity; first to declare the great doctrines of it, and then to improve them to promote holiness. And they will be mistaken who propose to themselves any other method, and those most of all who think one part of it is sufficient without the other.

Let brotherly love continue — Or abide constant. Love is the fountain and foundation of all moral and religious duties which Christians owe to each other and to all men, and therefore it is here placed at the head of them all. Several of the fruits of this love are touched on in the following verses. It is justly observed by Diodati, that this exhortation was peculiarly suitable to the converted Jews, as the prejudices of many of them against their Gentile brethren were so strong that they were ready to disown them with abhorrence. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers — The apostle chiefly means those of their Christian brethren who were travelling from place to place at their own cost to preach the gospel. Thus St. John speaks of some who went forth for the sake of Christ, taking nothing of the Gentiles, to whom they preached, 3 John 1:7. Add to this, the church being then under great persecution in sundry places, many Christians were obliged to leave their own habitations and countries, and to flee for safety to other parts where they were strangers. Such as these the apostle recommends to the love and charity of those to whom he wrote. For thereby some — For instance, Abraham and Lot; have entertained angels unawares — So may an unknown guest, even now, be of more worth than he appears, and may have angels attending him, though unseen.


Verse 3

Hebrews 13:3. Remember — In your prayers and by your help; them that are in bonds — Thrown into prison for the sake of Christ, as if you yourselves were bound with them — Seeing ye are members one of another; and them which suffer adversity των κακουχουμενων, who are ill-treated, or afflicted with evil; as being yourselves also in the body — And consequently liable to similar sufferings.


Verse 4

Hebrews 13:4. Marriage is honourable in, or for, all sorts of persons, clergy as well as laity, though the Romanists teach otherwise; and the bed undefiled — Consistent with the highest purity. For who can imagine that God would make any thing morally evil absolutely necessary for the support of the human race in future generations? But whoremongers and adulterers God will judge — That is, punish, and frequently does so in a very awful manner, even in the present world; though they frequently escape punishment from men. The distinction between these two characters, whoremongers and adulterers, is well known to be this: that the former are single persons who have unlawful converse with one another, and the latter are those who are both, or at least one of them, in a married state. The sin of the first is fornication, of the other adultery; although the word πορνεια, fornication, may sometimes be used to denote any uncleanness, and so to comprise adultery also.


Verse 5-6

Hebrews 13:5-6. From particular duties the apostle proceeds to one which is more general, relating to our whole course of walking with God. Let your conversation — Greek, τροπος, your behaviour, or manner of living; be without covetousness αφιλαργυρος, without the love of money; or an inordinate desire of, and endeavour after, more of this world’s goods than you have, or than God is pleased to give you, proceeding from an undue esteem of them, and attachment to them. See on Colossians 3:5; 1 Timothy 6:6-10. And be content with such things as ye have — And which God affords you by his providence in a lawful way. The original expression, τοις παρουσιν, is, with the things that are present. Endeavour to bring your mind down to your circumstances, be they what they may. “The apostle did not mean by this to preclude the Hebrews, or any person, from using lawful means for bettering their circumstances; but that, having used such means, they were to be contented, although God did not make them successful.” For he — Rather, he himself, namely, God, who hath all the stores of nature at his command, and who owns the relation of a Father to us; hath said — To all believers, in saying it to Jacob, Joshua, and Solomon, (see the margin,) I will never leave thee nor forsake thee — The many negative particles, and their position in the original, render this passage extremely emphatical and beautiful. Doddridge renders it, I will not, I will not leave thee; I will never, never, never forsake thee; words from which all God’s people (his love to them being the same in all ages) may take a just encouragement in all the difficulties to which they may be exposed. So that we may boldly say ωστε θαρρουντας ημας λεγειν, taking courage, we may say, with the psalmist, The Lord is my helper — He is my helper, whose wisdom, power, and goodness are boundless; I will not fear what man shall do unto me — However subtle, mighty, or malicious he may be. God’s promises to Jacob, Joshua, David, &c., and their expressions of trust in God, being applied by the apostle to the believing Hebrews, teach us that God’s promises to individuals, and their exercises of faith and trust built thereon, are recorded in Scripture for the encouragement of the people of God in every age.


Verse 7

Hebrews 13:7. Remember them who have the rule over you των ηγουμενων υμων, or, who are, or rather, were, the guides of you, namely, formerly; who have spoken — Or, who spake; unto you the word of God — Remember who they were, and your obligations to them; and though all your intercourse with them is for the present cut off, do not, however, forget their instructions and their examples. Bishop Lloyd (see his funeral sermon for Bishop Wilkins) thinks this may refer to James the brother of John, and to James, commonly called the first bishop of Jerusalem, both of whom had been put to death there before this epistle was written; whose faith follow — Embrace by faith the same doctrines, precepts, and promises of the gospel which they embraced; and let your faith be assured, lively, and operative as theirs was, purifying your hearts, and rendering your lives fruitful to the glory of God; considering the end την εκβασιν, the issue, of their conversation — The happy end they made; the blessed manner in which they quitted life; the ground of that support which they experienced in their latest moments from the truths they had taught you; the heroic resolution with which they were animated to meet even martyrdom itself in that sacred cause; and let the remembrance of these things engage you to retain their faith, and courageously to follow their steps.


Verse 8-9

Hebrews 13:8-9. Men may die, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever — From everlasting to everlasting: the same in his person and offices, in his love and power, in his truth and grace; the same object of faith; and the same in all respects, to all believers, in all ages; and therefore be steadfast in the faith and hope of the gospel: and be not carried about with divers, ποικιλαις, various, and strange doctrines — Doctrines inconsistent with each other, and differing from that one faith in our one unchangeable Lord, and strange to the ears and hearts of all that abide in him. For it is a good thing — Of great importance to our own peace of mind, to the glory of God, and the edification of others; it is honourable, pleasant, and profitable, for the heart to be established — In the faith and hope of the gospel; with grace — The influence of the Divine Spirit received through Christ; not with meats — With Jewish ceremonies of any kind, which indeed can never establish the heart; and which have not profited — To the purifying of the conscience from guilt, or increasing their holiness; them that have been occupied therein — How exact and scrupulous soever they have been in observing them.


Verse 10

Hebrews 13:10. We have an altar — That is, a sacrifice upon an altar, namely, Christ, who was sacrificed on the altar of the cross, who also is the only Christian altar, to which we bring all our sacrifices and services. The apostle, having set forth the only way of the establishment of the heart in faith and holiness, and the uselessness of all distinctions of meats for that purpose, here declares the foundation of all this; for whereas the ground of all distinction of meats and other ceremonies among the Jews was the altar in the tabernacle, with its nature, use, and services, he lets them know that Christians have an altar, and services quite of another kind than those which arose from the altar of old, such as he describes Hebrews 13:13-16. This seems to be the direct design of the apostle in this place, and a proper analysis of his words. Whereof they have no right to eat — To partake of the benefits which we receive therefrom; who serve the tabernacle — Who adhere to the Mosaic law, or who maintain the necessity, and continue the observance, of the Jewish ceremonies and worship. For this in effect was to deny Christ to be come in the flesh, and to have offered himself a sacrifice on the cross.


Verse 11

Hebrews 13:11. For, &c. — As if he had said, This was shown figuratively in the law; for the bodies of those beasts whose blood is brought — On the day of atonement; into the sanctuary — The holy of holies; by the high-priest, for sin — To make expiation of it; are burned without the camp — See Leviticus 4:12; and therefore no part of them could be eaten by the priest or people; so they who, under the gospel, adhere to that way of worship, cannot partake of Christ, who is the truth signified by that type. In other words, according to their own law, the sin-offerings were wholly consumed, and no Jew ever ate thereof. But Christ was a sin-offering; therefore they cannot feed upon him as we do. This is explained more at large by Macknight, thus: “This law, concerning the bodies of the animals whose blood the high-priest carried into the holy places, we have Leviticus 16:27. The same law is given concerning all the proper sin- offerings, Leviticus 6:30; from which it appears that neither the priest, who offered the sin-offerings, nor the people, for whom they offered them, were to eat of them. Wherefore, if the eating of the burnt-offerings and peace-offerings was permitted, to show that the offerers were at peace with God, as their political Ruler, it may fairly be presumed that the prohibition to eat any part of the bodies of animals whose blood was brought into the holy places as an atonement, was intended to make the Israelites sensible that their sins against God, as moral Governor of the world, were not pardoned through these atonements; not even by the sacrifices which were offered by the high-priest on the tenth of the seventh month, which, like the rest, were to be wholly burned. Unless this was the intention of the law, the apostle could not, from that prohibition, have argued with truth that they who worshipped in the tabernacles with the sin- offerings, had no right to eat of the Christian altar. Whereas if, by forbidding the priests and people to eat the sin-offerings, the law declared that their offences against God, as moral Governor of the world, were not pardoned thereby, it was in effect a declaration, as the apostle affirms, that they had no right to eat of the Christian altar; that is, to share in the pardon which Christ hath procured for sinners by his death, who trusted in the Levitical sacrifices for pardon and acceptance with God.”


Verses 12-14

Hebrews 13:12-14. Wherefore Jesus also — Who was typified by these sin- offerings; that he might sanctify — Might make atonement for, and consecrate to God; the people — His church, the spiritual Israel of God; with his own blood — Carried into the heavenly sanctuary, and presented before the throne of God as a sin-offering; suffered without the gate — Of Jerusalem, as the bodies of the sin-offerings were burned without the camp of Israel in the wilderness, signifying hereby that those carnal Jews, who still adhered to the Mosaical way of worship, had no interest in, nor communion with Christ, nor partook of the benefits of his atonement. The Israelites having cities to live in at the time our Lord suffered, the expression, without the gate, was of the same import as without the camp in the wilderness. Wherefore criminals, being regarded as unclean, were always put to death without the gates of their cities. Let us, &c. — As if he had said, And this consideration, as it shows it to be our duty to leave the Jewish sacrifices, so it should undoubtedly engage us willingly to suffer all extremities in his cause; Let us therefore break through all attachments, and go forth unto him without the camp — The terrestrial Jerusalem; the Jewish Church, with its ceremonious services; let us cleave to him and his doctrine, and openly profess ourselves his disciples; bearing his reproach — Patiently enduring all manner of shame, obloquy, and contempt, and whatever other suffering may await us, for his sake. And we have the more reason to do this; for here we have no continuing city — No settled condition, no lasting place of abode; all things here are but for a moment; and the interests of this mortal life, as they are very uncertain, and of short duration, so they are very trivial, when compared with those that relate to eternity. It is thought by some, that in this the apostle had the destruction of Jerusalem in his eyes which happened about seven or eight years after this epistle was written; but we seek one to come — Namely, the city of the living God; a city prepared for us, and promised to us, as the place of our everlasting abode.


Verse 15-16

Hebrews 13:15-16. Having mentioned the altar, the apostle now proceeds to speak of the sacrifice. By him therefore — Our great High-Priest, though persecuted by our unbelieving brethren, and exposed to many sufferings; let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually — For surely we have continual reason, having before us a prospect of such unutterable felicity and glory; that is, the fruit of our lips — It is generally granted that this expression is taken from Hosea, where the same duty is called the calves, or sacrifices, of our lips; for the sense is the same, and praise to God is intended in both places. But to do good, &c. — As if he had said, But while we present this verbal tribute, let us remember that another yet more substantial sacrifice is required, namely, to do good to our fellow- creatures, and that in every way in our power, to their souls as well as to their bodies, supplying, as we have ability, both their spiritual and temporal wants; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased — As his inspired servants have abundantly testified. Indeed they have been always more pleasing to him than any victims which, in the neglect of these, could be brought to his altar.


Verse 17

Hebrews 13:17. Obey them that have the rule over you — The expression, τοις ηγουμενοις, implies also, that lead or guide you, namely, in truth and holiness; and submit yourselves — To them with a becoming respect, even though their office should render it sometimes necessary for them to reprove you for some instances of misconduct, or to urge you to duties which you are averse to perform. Give up to them, not your conscience or judgment, but your own will, in all things purely indifferent; for they watch for your souls — With all zeal and diligence they guard and caution you against all danger; as they that must give an account — To the great Shepherd for every part of their behaviour toward you. Chrysostom says, he never read these words of the apostle without trembling, though he often preached several times in a day. How vigilant then ought every pastor to be, how careful of every soul committed to his charge; that they may do it — May watch over you; with joy and not with grief — Greek, μη στεναζοντες, not groaning, under discouragement and grief on account of the little success of their ministry among you; for that is — Or would be; unprofitable for you — Both, here and hereafter; for besides discouraging your guides, it would displease the Lord Jesus, and preclude or endanger your eternal salvation. “He is not a good shepherd, who does not either rejoice over his flock or groan for them. The groans of other creatures are heard: how much more shall these come up into the ears of God! Whoever answers this character of a Christian pastor, may undoubtedly demand this obedience.” — Wesley.


Verse 18-19

Hebrews 13:18-19. Pray for us — For our freedom and success in preaching the gospel, (see the margin,) and our deliverance from the enemies of the faith; for — Though our enemies may meanly insinuate the contrary, and though the doctrine inculcated in this epistle may not be pleasing to some of you; we trust we have a good conscience — Have acted, and continue to act, conscientiously before God, his people, and all men, and have executed our trust faithfully, declaring the whole counsel of God; willingθελοντες, desiring, and resolving; in all things — Or among all men, as εν πασι may signify, among the Jews as well as among the Gentiles; to live honestly — Or rather, to behave ourselves well, or honourably, as the original expression signifies; that is, always to act in the most fair and reputable manner, according to the obligations of our sacred profession and office, though this should be attended with the sacrifice of every thing. I beseech you the rather to pray earnestly for me, that I may be restored to you the sooner — From this confinement, and may have it in my power to render you those services, which have been and still are prevented by this unjust imprisonment.


Verse 20-21

Hebrews 13:20-21. Now, &c. — Having desired them to pray for him, he now addresses a prayer to God for them, and therewith gives a solemn close to the whole epistle. And a glorious prayer it is, including the whole mystery of divine grace, and that both with respect to its original, and the way of its communication; and therefore including the whole of this epistle, especially as far as it is doctrinal, and applying the benefit of all that he had instructed them in to themselves. The prayer includes, 1st, A title given to God suited to the request made. 2d, The work ascribed to him suitable to that title. 3d, The blessings prayed for. 4th, A doxology, with a solemn close of the whole. The title assigned to God, or the name by which he calls upon him is, the God of peace — All things being brought by sin into a state of disorder, confusion, and enmity, there was no source left from whence peace could be derived, but in the nature and will of God. Hence the apostle, when about to represent God in this character, begins by observing, All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:18. God alone is the Author of all peace to fallen man, whether the peace which we have with himself, or that in our own souls; whether peace between angels and men, or between Jews and Gentiles: it is all from him, the God of pardoning mercy and renewing grace. That brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus — On whom the iniquities of us all, and the chastisement necessary to procure our peace, were laid; and who was raised from the dead to manifest that the atonement which he had made was accepted, and that God was now in him reconciling us to himself; and as a further proof of this, bringing him from the dead to be the great Shepherd of the sheep — To gather, defend, feed, and save them; yea, and to give unto them eternal life, John 10:28. This title, the great Shepherd of the sheep, is given to Christ here, because he was foretold under that character, (Ezekiel 34:23,) because he took to himself the title of the good Shepherd, (John 10:11,) and because all who are employed in feeding the flock are but inferior shepherds under him. Through the blood of the everlasting covenant — Namely, the covenant of grace, in its last dispensation, termed everlasting, both in opposition to the covenant made at Sinai, which was but for a time, and accordingly was now removed, and because the effects of it are not temporary benefits, but everlasting mercies of grace and glory. It is not quite certain whether this clause should be connected with what goes before, or what follows. If it is connected with what goes before, the meaning is, either that God brought back our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, on account of his having shed his blood to procure the everlasting covenant: or that the Lord Jesus became the great Shepherd and Saviour of the sheep, by shedding his blood to procure and ratify the everlasting covenant. This latter sense seems to be supported by Acts 20:28, where Christ is said to have purchased the church with his own blood. But if the clause is connected with what follows, the meaning is, May God make you perfect in every good work, through the assistance of his Spirit, promised in the everlasting covenant, procured and ratified by his blood.

Make you perfect καταρτισαι υμας, an expression similar to that used Ephesians 4:12 : for the perfecting of the saints, or the rendering them complete in the various branches of true Christianity, namely, (as is there observed,) in the knowledge of all the doctrines, the possession of all the graces, the enjoyment of all the privileges, the performance of all the duties belonging to true Christianity. But the last particular is what is here chiefly intended, the expression being, May he make you perfect in every good work, implying the apostle’s desire that they might omit no good work which it was in their power to perform, and that they should do every one in the most perfect manner; namely, according to God’s will as their rule, from love to him as their principle, with an eye to his glory as their end. Working in you that — Internal holiness and conformity to the divine image; which is well pleasing in his sight — Which he approves of, and takes complacency in; through the doctrine, the merits, and the Spirit of Jesus Christ. To whom be glory for ever and ever — Here eternal glory is ascribed to Christ, as it is likewise 2 Peter 3:18, and Revelation 5:13, in terms exactly similar to those in which it is ascribed to God, even the Father, Philippians 4:20; 1 Timothy 1:17; 2 Timothy 4:18; a manifest proof of Christ’s Deity, divine adoration and worship being due to God alone.


Verses 22-25

Hebrews 13:22-25. I beseech you, brethren — He subjoins this tender address to his epistle to caution them against losing, through negligence or prejudice, the benefit they might otherwise derive from it; suffer the word of exhortation — Or, consolation, (for the word παρακλησις signifies either,) addressed to you in this letter, which is contained in few words — Considering the copiousness of the subject. Know ye — That is, I give you the joy of knowing; that our brother Timothy — Whose zeal for me had for a while made him a partner in my confinement; is set at liberty; with whom, if he return to me shortly, I will see you — Will pay you a visit. From this it is evident that the apostle, when he wrote this, was set at liberty. They of Italy salute you — The salutations from the Christians of Italy show that the writer of this letter was either in Italy, or had some of the brethren of Italy with him when he wrote it; which agrees with the supposition that Paul was the author of it. For he had been two years a prisoner at Rome, but had now obtained his liberty, (Hebrews 13:23,) by means, as is supposed, of the persons he had converted in the emperor’s family, Philippians 4:22. Grace be with you all — St. Paul’s usual benediction. God apply it to our hearts!

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Hebrews 13:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/hebrews-13.html. 1857.


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