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Bible Commentaries

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Hebrews 13


Analysis Of The Chapter

The closing chapter Hebrews 13:0 of this Epistle is made up almost entirely of exhortations to the performance of various practical duties. The exhortations relate to the following points: brotherly love, Hebrews 13:1; hospitality, Hebrews 13:2; sympathy with those in bonds, Hebrews 13:3; fidelity in the marriage relation, Hebrews 13:4; contentment, Hebrews 13:5-6; submission to those in authority, Hebrews 13:7-8; stability in the doctrines of religion, Hebrews 13:9-15; benevolence, Hebrews 13:16; obedience to those entrusted with office, Hebrews 13:17; and special prayer for him who wrote this Epistle, Hebrews 13:18-19. The Epistle then closes with a beautiful and impressive benediction, Hebrews 13:20-21; with an entreaty that they would receive with favor what had been written, Hebrews 13:22; with the grateful announcement that Timothy, in whom they doubtless felt a great interest, was set at liberty, Hebrews 13:23; and with a salutation to all the saints, Hebrews 13:24-25.

Verse 1

Let brotherly love continue - Implying that it now existed among them. The apostle had no occasion to reprove them for the want of it, as he had in regard to some to whom he wrote, but he aims merely to impress on them the importance of this virtue, and to caution them against the danger of allowing it ever to be interrupted; see the notes on John 13:34.

Verse 2

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers - On the duty of hospitality, see a full explanation in the notes on Romans 12:13.

For thereby some have entertained angels unawares - Without knowing that they were angels. As Abraham (Genesis 18:2 ff), and Lot did; Genesis 19:0. The motive here urged for doing it is, that by entertaining the stranger we may perhaps be honored with the presence of those whose society will be to us an honor and a blessing. It is not well for us to miss the opportunity of the presence, the conversation, and the prayers of the good. The influence of such guests in a family is worth more than it costs to entertain them. If there is danger that we may sometimes receive those of an opposite character. yet it is not wise on account of such possible danger, to lose the opportunity of entertaining those whose presence would be a blessing. Many a parent owes the conversion of a child to the influence of a pious stranger in his family; and the hope that this may occur, or that our own souls may be blessed, should make us ready, at all proper times, to welcome the feet of the stranger to our doors. Many a man, if, he had been accosted as Abraham was at the door of his tent by strangers, would have turned them rudely away; many a one in the situation of Lot would have sent the unknown guests rudely from his door; but who can estimate what would have been the results of such a course on the destiny of those good people and their families? For a great number of instances in which the pagan were supposed to have entertained the gods, though unknown to them, see Wetstein in loc.

Verse 3

Remember them that are in bonds - All who are “bound;” whether prisoners of war; captives in dungeons; those detained in custody for trial; those who are imprisoned for righteousness’ sake, or those held in slavery. The word used here will include all instances where “bonds, shackles, chains were ever used.” Perhaps there is an immediate allusion to their fellow-Christians who were suffering imprisonment on account of their religion, of whom there were doubtless many at that time, but the “principle” will apply to every case of those who are imprisoned or oppressed. The word “remember” implies more than that we are merely to “think” of them; compare Exodus 20:8; Ecclesiastes 12:1. It means that we are to remember them “with appropriate sympathy;” or as we should wish others to remember us if we were in their circumstances. That is, we are

(1)To feel deep compassion for them;

(2)We are to remember them in our prayers;

(3)We are to remember them, as far as practicable, with aid for their relief.

Christianity teaches us to sympathize with all the oppressed, the suffering, and the sad; and there are more of this class than we commonly suppose, and they have stronger claims on our sympathy than we commonly realize. In America there are not far from ten thousand confined in prison - the father separated from his children; the husband from his wife; the brother from his sister; and all cut off from the living world. Their fare is coarse, and their couches hard, and the ties which bound them to the living world are rudely snapped asunder. Many of them are in solitary dungeons; all of them are sad and melancholy men. True, they are there for crime; but they are men - they are our brothers. They have still the feelings of our common humanity, and many of them feel their separation from wife, and children, and home, as keenly as we would.

That God who has mercifully made our lot different from theirs, has commanded us to sympathize with them - and we should sympathize all the more when we remember that but for his restraining grace we should have been in the same condition. There are in this land of “liberty” also nearly three millions who are held in the hard bondage of slavery. There is the father, the mother, the child, the brother, the sister. They are held as property; liable to be sold; having no right to the avails of their own labor; exposed to the danger of having the tenderest ties sundered at the will of their master; shut out from the privilege of reading the Word of God; fed on coarse fare; living in wretched hovels; and often subjected to the painful inflictions of the lash at the caprice of a passionate driver. Wives and daughters are made the victims of degrading sensuality without the power of resistance or redress; the security of home is unknown; and they are dependent on the will of another man whether they shall or shall not worship their Creator. We should remember them, and sympathize with them as if they were our fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, or sons and daughters.

Though of different colour, yet the same blood flows in their veins as in ours Acts 17:26; they are bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. By nature they have the same right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” which we and our children have, and to deprive them of that right is as unjust as it would be to deprive us and ours of it. They have a claim on our sympathy, for they are our brethren. They need it, for they are poor and helpless. They should have it, for the same God who has kept us from that hard lot has commanded us to remember them. That kind remembrance of them should be shown in every practicable way. By prayer; by plans contemplating their freedom; by efforts to send them the gospel; by diffusing abroad the principles of liberty and of the rights of man, by using our influence to arouse the public mind in their behalf, we should endeavor to relieve those who are in bonds, and to hasten the time when “the oppressed shall go free.” On this subject, see the notes on Isaiah 58:6.

As bound with them - There is great force and beauty in this expression. Religion teaches us to identify ourselves with all who are oppressed, and to feel what they suffer as if we endured it ourselves. Infidelity and atheism are cold and distant. They stand aloof from the oppressed and the sad. But Christianity unites all hearts in one; binds us to all the race, and reveals to us in the case of each one oppressed and injured, a brother.

And them which suffer adversity - The word used here refers properly to those who are maltreated, or who are injured by others. It does not properly refer to those who merely experience calamity.

As being ourselves also in the body - As being yourselves exposed to persecution and suffering, and liable to be injured. That is, do to them as you would wish them to do to you if you were the sufferer. When we see an oppressed and injured man, we should remember that it is possible that we may be in the same circumstances, and that then we shall need and desire the sympathy of others.

Verse 4

Marriage is honorable in all - The object here is to state that “honor” is to be shown to the marriage relation. It is not to be undervalued by the pretence of the superior purity of a state of celibacy, as if marriage were improper for any class of people or any condition of life; and it should not be dishonored by any violation of the marriage contract. The course of things has shown that there was abundant reason for the apostle to assert with emphasis, that “marriage was an honorable condition of life.” There has been a constant effort made to show that celibacy was a more holy state; that there was something in marriage that rendered it “dishonorable” for those who are in the ministry, and for those of either sex who would be eminently pure. This sentiment has been the cause of more abomination in the world than any other single opinion claiming to have a religious sanction. It is one of the supports on which the Papal system rests, and has been one of the principal upholders of all the corruptions in monasteries and nunneries. The apostle asserts, without any restriction or qualification, that marriage is honorable in all; and this proves that it is lawful for the ministers of religion to marry, and that the whole doctrine of the superior purity of a state of celibacy is false; see this subject examined in the notes on 1 Corinthians 7:0.

And the bed undefiled - Fidelity to the marriage vow.

But whore mongers and adulterers God will judge - All licentiousness of life, and all violations of the marriage covenant, will be severely punished by God; see the notes on 1 Corinthians 6:9. The sins here referred to prevailed everywhere, and hence, there was the more propriety for the frequent and solemn injunctions to avoid them which we find in the Scriptures.

Verse 5

Let your conversation - Your “conduct” - for so the word “conversation” is used in the Scriptures; notes, Philippians 1:27.

Be without covetousness - Ephesians 5:3 note; Colossians 3:5 note.

And be content with such things as ye have - see the Philippians 4:11-12 notes; Matthew 6:25-34 notes. The particular reason here given for contentment is, that God has promised never to leave his people. Compare with this the beautiful argument of the Saviour in Matthew 6:25 ff.

For he hath said - That is, God has said.

I will never leave thee nor forsake thee - see Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:5; 1 Chronicles 28:20. Substantially the same expression is found in each of those places, and all of them contain the principle on which the apostle here relies, that God will not forsake his people.

Verse 6

So that we may boldly say - Without any hesitation or doubt, In all times of perplexity and threatening want; in all times when we scarcely know whence the supplies for our necessities are to come, we may put our trust in God, and be assured that he will not leave us to suffer. In the facts which occur under the providential dealings, there is a ground for confidence on this subject which is not always exercised even by good people. It remains yet to be shown that they who exercise simple trust in God for the supply of their wants are ever forsaken; compare Psalms 37:25.

The Lord is my helper - Substantially this sentiment is found in Psalms 27:1, and Psalms 118:6. The apostle does not adduce it as a quotation, but as language which a true Christian may employ. The sentiment is beautiful and full of consolation. What can we fear if we have the assurance that the Lord is on our side, and that he will help us? Man can do no more to us than he permits, and of course no more than will be for our own good; and under whatever trials we may be placed, we need be under no painful apprehensions, for God will be our protector and our friend.

Verse 7

Remember them which have the rule over you - Margin, “are the guides.” The word used here means properly “leaders, guides, directors.” It is often applied to military commanders. Here it means teachers - appointed to lead or guide them to eternal life. It does not refer to them so much as rulers or governors, as teachers, or guides. In Hebrews 13:17, however, it is used in the former sense. The duty here enjoined is that of remembering them; that is, remembering their counsel; their instructions; their example.

Who have spoken to you the word of God - Preachers; either apostles or others. Respect is to be shown to the ministerial office, by whomsoever it is borne.

Whose faith follow - That is, imitate; see the notes on Hebrews 6:12.

Considering the end of their conversation - Of their conduct; of their manner of life. The word rendered here “the end” - ἔκβασις ekbasis - occurs only here and in 1 Corinthians 10:13, where it is rendered “a way of escape.” It properly means, “a going out, an egress,” and is hence spoken of as a going out from life, or of an exit from the world - “death.” This is probably the meaning here. It does not mean, as our translation would seem to imply, that Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever, was the aim or end for which they lived - for the Greek will not bear that construction; but it means that they were attentively to contemplate the end or the issue of the conduct of those holy teachers - the close or going out of all that they did; to wit, in a peaceful death. Their faith sustained them. They were enabled to persevere in a Christian course, and did not faint or fail. There is allusion, doubtless, to those who had been their religious instructors, and who had died in the faith of the gospel, either by persecution or by an ordinary death, and the apostle points to them as examples of that to which he would exhort those whom he addressed - of perseverance in the faith until death. Thus explained, this verse does not refer to the duty of Christians toward living teachers, but toward those who are dead. Their duty toward living teachers is enforced in Hebrews 13:17. The sentiment here is, that the proper remembrance of those now deceased who were once our spiritual instructors and guides, should be allowed to have an important influence in inducing us to lead a holy life. We should remember them with affection and gratitude; we should recall the truths which they taught, and the exhortations which they addressed to us; we should cherish with kind affection the memory of all that they did for our welfare, and we should not forget the effect of the truths which they taught in sustaining their own souls when they died.

Verse 8

Jesus Christ the same yesterday ... - As this stands in our common translation, it conveys an idea which is not in the original. It would seem to mean that Jesus Christ, the unchangeable Saviour, was the end or aim of the conduct of those referred to, or that they lived to imitate and glorify him. But this is by no means the meaning in the original. There it stands as an absolute proposition, that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever;” that is, that he is unchangeable. The evident design of this independent proposition here is, to encourage them to persevere by showing that their Saviour was always the same; that he who had sustained his people in former times, was the same still, and would be the same forever. The argument here, therefore, for perseverance is founded on the “immutability” of the Redeemer. If he were fickle, vacillating, changing in his character and plans; if today he aids his people, and tomorrow will forsake them; if at one time he loves the virtuous, and at another equally loves the vicious; if he formed a plan yesterday which he has abandoned today; or if he is ever to be a different being from what he is now, there would be no encouragement to effort. Who would know what to depend on? Who would know what to expect tomorrow? For who could have any certainty that he could ever please a capricious or a vacillating being? Who could know how to shape his conduct if the principles of the divine administration were not always the same? At the same time, also, that this passage furnishes the strongest argument for fidelity and perseverance, it is an irrefragable proof of the divinity of the Saviour. It asserts immutability - sameness in the past, the present, and to all eternity but of whom can this be affirmed but God? It would not be possible to conceive of a declaration which would more strongly assert immutability than this.

Verse 9

Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines - That is, they should have settled and fixed points of belief, and not yield to every new opinion which was started. The apostle does not exhort them to adhere to an opinion merely because they had before held it, or because it was an old opinion, nor does he forbid their following the leadings of truth though they might be required to abandon what they had before held; but he cautions them against that vacillating spirit, and that easy credulity, which would lead them to yield to any novelty, and to embrace an opinion because it was new or strange. Probably the principal reference here is to the Judaizing teachers, and to their various doctrines about their ceremonial observances and traditions. But the exhortation is applicable to Christians at all times. A religious opinion, once embraced on what was regarded a good evidence, or in which we have been trained, should not be abandoned for slight causes. Truth indeed should always be followed, but it should be only after careful inquiry.

For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace - This is the proper foundation of adherence to the truth. The heart should be established with the love of God, with pure religion, and then we shall love the truth, and love it in the right manner. If it is the head merely which is convinced, the consequence is bigotry, pride, narrowmindedness. If the belief of the truth has its seat in the heart, it will be accompanied with charity, kindness, good-will to all people. In such a belief of the truth it is a good thing to have the heart established. It will produce:

(1)Firmness and stability of character;

(2)Charity and kindness to others;

(3)Consolation and support in trials and temptations.

When a man is thrown into trials and temptations, he ought to have some settled principles on which he can rely; some fixed points of belief that will sustain his soul.

Not with meats - The meaning is, that it is better to have the heart established with grace, or with the principles of pure religion, than with the most accurate knowledge of the rules of distinguishing the clean from the unclean among the various articles of food. Many such rules were found in the Law of Moses, and many more had been added by the refinements of Jewish rulers and by tradition. To distinguish and remember all these, required no small amount of knowledge, and the Jewish teachers, doubtless, prided themselves much on it. Paul says that it would be much better to have the principles of grace in the heart than all this knowledge; to have the mind settled on the great truths of religion than to be able to make the most accurate and learned distinctions in this matter. The same remark may be made about a great many other points besides the Jewish distinctions respecting meats. The principle is, that it is better to have the heart established in the grace of God than to have the most accurate knowledge of the distinctions which are made on useless or unimportant subjects of religion. This observation would extend to many of the shibboleths of party; to many of the metaphysical distinctions in a hair-splitting theology; to many of the points of controversy which divide the Christian world.

Which have not profited ... - Which have been of no real benefit to their souls; see the notes on 1 Corinthians 8:8.

Verse 10

We have an altar - We who are Christians. The Jews had an altar on which their sacrifices were offered which was regarded as sacred, and of the benefit of which no others might partake. The design of the apostle is to show that the same thing substantially, so far as “privilege” and “sanctifying influence” were concerned, was enjoyed by Christians. The “altar” to which he here refers is evidently the cross on which the great sacrifice was made.

Whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle - A part of the meat offered in sacrifice among the Jews became the property of the priests and Levites, and they had, by the Law, a right to this as a part of their support; see Leviticus 6:25-26; Numbers 18:9-10. But the apostle says that there is a higher and more valuable sacrifice of which they have no right to partake while they remain in the service of the “tabernacle” or temple; that is, while they remain Jews. The participation in the great Christian sacrifice appertained only to those who were the friends of the Redeemer, and however much they might value themselves on the privilege of partaking of the sacrifices offered under the Jewish Law, that of partaking of the great sacrifice made by the Son of God was much greater.

Which serve the tabernacle - notes, Hebrews 9:2-3. The Jewish priests and Levites.

Verse 11

For the bodies of those beasts ... - The word rendered here “for” - γὰρ gar - would be here more properly rendered “moreover.” Stuart. The apostle is not urging a reason for what he had said in the previous verse, but is suggesting a new consideration to excite those whom he addressed to fidelity and perseverance. In the previous verse the consideration was, that Christians are permitted to partake of the benefits of a higher and more perfect sacrifice than the Jews were, and therefore should not relapse into that religion. In this verse the consideration is, that the bodies of the beasts that were burnt were taken without the camp, and that in like manner the Lord Jesus suffered without the gate of Jerusalem, and that we should be willing to go out with him to that sacrifice, whatever reproach or shame it might be attended with.

Whose blood is brought into the sanctuary - ; see the notes on Hebrews 9:7, Hebrews 9:12. “Are burned without the camp;” Leviticus 4:12, Leviticus 4:21; Leviticus 16:27. The “camp” here refers to the time when the Israelites were in the wilderness, and lived in encampments. The same custom was observed after the temple was built by conveying the body of the animal slain for a sin-offering on the great day of atonement beyond the walls of Jerusalem to be consumed there. “Whatever,” says Grotius, “was not lawful to be done in the camp, afterward was not lawful to be done in the city.”

Verse 12

Wherefore, Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood - That there might be a conformity between his death for sin and the sacrifices which typified it. It is implied here that it was voluntary on the part of Jesus that he suffered out of the city; that is, it was so ordered by Providence that it should be so. This was secured by his being put to death as the result of a judicial trial, and not by popular tumult; see the notes on Isaiah 53:8. If he had been killed in a tumult, it is possible that it might have been done as in other cases (compare the case of Zacharias son of Barachias, Matthew 23:35), even at the altar. As he was subjected, however, to a judicial process, his death was effected with more deliberation, and in the usual form. Hence, he was conducted out of the city, because no criminal was executed within the walls of Jerusalem.

Without the gate - Without the gate of Jerusalem; John 19:17-18. The place where he was put to death was called Golgotha, the place of a skull, and hence, the Latin word which we commonly use in speaking of it, Calvary, Luke 23:33; compare notes on Matthew 27:33. Calvary, as it is now shown, is within the walls of Jerusalem, but there is no reason to believe that this is the place where the Lord Jesus was crucified, for that was outside of the walls of the city. The precise direction from the city is not designated by the sacred writers, nor are there any historical records, or traditional marks by which it can now be known where the exact place was. All that we know on the subject from the New Testament is, that the name was Golgotha; that the place of the crucifixion and sepulchre were near each other; that they were without the gate and nigh to the city, and that they were in a frequented spot; John 19:20. “This would favor the conclusion that the place was probably upon a great road leading from one of the gates: and such a spot would only be found upon the western or northern sides of the city, on the roads leading toward Joppa or Damascus.” See the question about the place of the crucifixion examined at length in Robinson’s Bibli. Research., vol. ii. pp. 69-80, and Bibliotheca Sacra, No. 1.

Verse 13

Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp - As if we were going forth with him when he was led away to be crucified. He was put to death as a malefactor. He was the object of contempt and scorn. He was held up to derision, and was taunted and reviled on his way to the place of death, and even on the cross. To be identified with him there; to follow him; to sympathize with him; to be regarded as his friend, would have subjected one to similar shame and reproach. The meaning here is, that we should be willing to regard ourselves as identified with the Lord Jesus, and to bear the same shame and reproaches which he did. When he was led away amidst scoffing and reviling to be put to death, would we, if we had been there, been willing to be regarded as his followers, and to have gone out with him as his avowed disciples and friends? Alas, how many are there who profess to love him when religion subjects them to no reproach, who would have shrunk from following him to Calvary!

Bearing his reproach - Sympathizing with him; or bearing such reproach as he did; see 1 Peter 4:13; compare Hebrews 12:2 note; Philippians 3:10 note; Colossians 1:24 note.

Verse 14

For here we have no continuing city ... - We do not regard this as our final home, or our fixed abode, and we should be willing to bear reproaches during the little time that we are to remain here; compare notes, Hebrews 11:10, Hebrews 11:13-14. If, therefore, in consequence of our professed attachment to the Saviour, we should be driven away from our habitations, and compelled to wander, we should be willing to submit to it, for our permanent home is not here, but in heaven. The object of the writer seems to be to comfort the Hebrew Christians on the supposition that they would be driven by persecution from the city of Jerusalem, and doomed to wander as exiles. He tells them that their Lord was led from that city to be put to death, and they should be willing to go forth also; that their permanent home was not Jerusalem, but heaven, and they should be willing in view of that blessed abode to be exiled from the city where they dwelt, and made wanderers in the earth.

Verse 15

By him, therefore - The Jews approached God by the blood of the sacrifice and by the ministry of their high priest. The exhortation of the apostle here is founded on the general course of argument in the Epistle “In view of all the considerations presented respecting the Christian High Priest - his dignity, purity, and love; his sacrifice and his intercession, let us persevere in offering through him praise to God.” That is, let us persevere in adherence to our religion.

The sacrifice of praise - For all the mercies of redemption. The Jews, says Rosenmuller (Alte u. neue Morgenland, in loc.), had a species of offerings which they called “peace-offerings, or friendship-offerings.” They were designed not to produce peace or friendship with God, but to preserve it. Burnt-offerings, sin-offerings, and trespass-offerings, were all on account of transgression, and were designed to remove transgression. But in their peace-offerings, the offerer was regarded as one who stood in the relation of a friend with God, and the oblation was a sign of thankful acknowledgment for favors received. or they were connected with vows in order that further blessings might be obtained, or they were brought voluntarily as a means to continue themselves in the friendship and favor of God; Leviticus 7:11-12; compare Jenning’s Jew. Ant. i. 335.

That is, the fruit of our lips - The phrase “fruit of the lips.” is a Hebraism, meaning what the lips produce; that is, words; compare Proverbs 18:20; Hosea 14:2.

Giving thanks to his name - To God; the name of one being often put for the person himself. “Praise” now is one of the great duties of the redeemed. It will be their employment forever.

Verse 16

But to do good, and to communicate, forget not - To communicate or impart to others; that is, to share with them what we have. The Greek word means having in common with others. The meaning is, that they were to show liberality to those who were in want, and were to take special pains not to forget this duty. We are prone to think constantly of our own interests, and there is great danger of forgetting the duty which we owe to the poor and the needy. On the duty here enjoined, see the notes on Galatians 6:10.

For with such sacrifices God is well pleased - He is pleased with the sacrifices of prayer and of praise; with the offerings of a broken and a contrite heart: but he is especially pleased with the religion which leads us to do good to others. This was eminently the religion of his Son, the Lord Jesus; and to this all true religion prompts. The word “sacrifices” here is not taken in a strict sense, as denoting what is offered as an expiation for sin, or in the sense that we are by doing good to attempt to make atonement for our transgressions, but in the general sense of an offering made to God. God is pleased with this:

(1)Because it shows in us a right state of heart;

(2)Because it accords with his own nature. He does good continually, and he is pleased with all who evince the same spirit.

Verse 17

Obey them that have the rule over you - Margin, guide; see notes on Hebrews 13:7. The reference here is to their religious teachers, and not to civil rulers. They were to show them proper respect, and to submit to their authority in the church, so far as it was administered in accordance with the precepts of the Saviour. The obligation to obedience does not, of course, extend to anything which is wrong in itself, or which would be a violation of conscience. The doctrine is, that subordination is necessary to the welfare of the church, and that there ought to be a disposition to yield all proper obedience to those who are set over us in the Lord; compare notes on 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13.

And submit yourselves - That is, to all which they enjoin that is lawful and right. There are in relation to a society:

(1)Those things which God has positively commanded - which are always to be obeyed.

(2)Many things which have been agreed on by the society as needful for its welfare - and these are to be submitted to unless they violate the rights of conscience; and

(3)Many things which are in themselves a matter of no express divine command, and of no formal enactment by the community. They are matters of convenience; things that tend to the order and harmony of the community, and of the propriety of these, “rulers” in the church and elsewhere should be allowed to judge, and we should submit to them patiently.

Hence, in the church we are to submit to all the proper regulations for conducting public worship; for the promotion of religion; and for the administration of discipline.

For they watch for your souls - They have no selfish aim in this. They do not seek “to lord it over God’s heritage.” It is for your own good that they do this, and you should therefore submit to these arrangements. And this shows also the true principle on which authority should be exercised in a church. It should be in such a way as to promote the salvation of the people; and all the arrangements should be with that end. The measures adopted, therefore, and the obedience enjoined, should not be arbitrary, oppressive, or severe, but should be such as will really promote salvation.

As they that must give account - To God. The ministers of religion must give account to God for their fidelity. For all that they teach, and for every measure which they adopt, they must soon be called into judgment. There is, therefore, the best security that under the influence of this solemn truth they will pursue only that course which will be for your good.

That they may do it with joy, and not with grief - Greek μὴ στενάζοντες mē stenazontes - not sighing, or groaning; as they would who had been unsuccessful. The meaning is, that they should so obey, that when their teachers came to give up their account they need not do it with sorrow over their perverseness and disobedience.

For this is unprofitable for you - That is, their giving up their account in that manner - as unsuccessful in their efforts to save you - would not be of advantage to you, but would be highly injurious. This is a strong mode of expressing the idea that it must be attended with eminent peril to their souls to have their religious teachers go and give an account against them. As they would wish, therefore, to avoid that, they should render to them all proper honor and obedience.

Verse 18

Pray for us - This is a request which the apostle often makes in his own behalf, and in behalf of his fellow laborers in the gospel; see 1 Thessalonians 5:25. notes, Ephesians 6:18-19.

For we trust we have a good conscience ... - see the notes on Acts 24:16. The apostle here appeals to the uprightness of his Christian life as a reason why he might claim their sympathy. He was conscious of an aim to do good; he sought the welfare of the church; and having this aim he felt that he might appeal to the sympathy of all Christians in his behalf. It is only when we aim to do right, and to maintain a good conscience, that we can with propriety ask the prayers of others, or claim their sympathy. And if we are “willing in all things to live honestly,” we may expect the sympathy, the prayers, and the affections of all good people.

Verse 19

That I may be restored to you the sooner - It is here clearly implied that the writer was deterred from visiting them by some adverse circumstances over which he had no control. This might be either by imprisonment, or sickness, or the want of a convenient opportunity of reaching them. The probability is, judging particularly from the statement in Hebrews 13:23, that he was then a prisoner, and that his detention was on that account; see Introduction, section 4 (6). The language here is such as Paul would use on the supposition that he was then a prisoner at Rome, and this is a slight circumstance going to show the probability that the Epistle was composed by him.

Verse 20

Now the God of peace - God who is the Author, or the source of peace; notes, 1 Thessalonians 5:23. The word “peace” in the New Testament is used to denote every kind of blessing or happiness. It is opposed to all that would disturb or trouble the mind, and may refer, therefore, to reconciliation with God; to a quiet conscience; to the evidence of pardoned sin; to health and prosperity, and to the hope of heaven; see the notes on John 14:27.

That brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus - Acts 2:32 note; 1 Corinthians 15:15 note. It is only by the fact of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus that we have peace, for it is only by him that we have the prospect of an admission into heaven.

That great Shepherd of the sheep - notes, John 10:1, John 10:14. The idea here is, that it is through the tender care of that great Shepherd that true happiness is bestowed on the people of God.

Through the blood of the everlasting covenant - The blood shed to ratify the everlasting covenant that God makes with his people; notes, Hebrews 9:14-23. This phrase, in the original, is not connected, as it is in our translation, with his being raised from the dead, nor should it be so rendered, for what can be the sense of “raising Christ from the dead by the blood of the covenant?” In the Greek it is, “the God of peace, who brought again from the dead the shepherd of the sheep, great by the blood of the everlasting covenant, our Lord Jesus,” etc. The meaning is, that he was made or constituted the great Shepherd of the sheep - the great Lord and ruler of his people, by that blood. That which makes him so eminently distinguished; that by which he was made superior to all others who ever ruled over the people of God, was the fact that he offered the blood by which the eternal covenant was ratified. It is called everlasting or eternal, because:

(1)It was formed in the councils of eternity, or has been an eternal plan in the divine mind; and,

(2)Because it is to continue forever. Through such a covenant God can bestow permanent and solid “peace” on his people, for it lays the foundation of the assurance of eternal happiness.

Verse 21

Make you perfect - The apostle here does not affirm that they were then perfect, or that they would be in this life. The word used here - καταρτιζω katartizō - means to make fully ready; to put in full order; to make complete. The meaning here is, that Paul prayed that God would fully endow them with whatever grace was necessary to do his will and to keep his commandments; see the word explained in the notes on Hebrews 11:3. It is an appropriate prayer to be offered at all times, and by all who love the church, that God would make all his people perfectly qualified to do all his will.

Working in you - Margin, “Doing.” The idea here is, that the only hope that they would do the will of God was, that he would, by his own agency, cause them to do what was well-pleasing in his sight; compare notes on Philippians 2:12. It is not from any expectation that man would do it himself.

Through Jesus Christ - The idea is, that God does not directly, and by his own immediate agency, convert and sanctify the heart, but it is through the gospel of Christ, and all good influences on the soul must be expected through the Saviour.

To whom be glory forever and ever - That is, to Christ; for so the connection evidently demands. It is not uncommon for the apostle Paul to introduce doxologies in this way in the midst of a letter; see the notes, Romans 9:5. It was common among the Jews, as it is now in the writings and conversation of the Muslims, when the name of God was mentioned to accompany it with an expression of praise.

Verse 22

Suffer the word of exhortation - Referring to the arguments and counsels in this whole Epistle, which is in fact a practical exhortation to perseverance in adhering to the Christian religion amidst all the temptations which existed to apostasy.

For I have written a letter unto you in few words - This does not mean that this Epistle is short compared with the others that the author had written, for most of the Epistles of Paul are shorter than this. But it means, that it was brief compared with the importance and difficulty of the subjects of which he had treated. The topics introduced would have allowed a much more extended discussion; but in handling them he had made use of as few words as possible. No one can deny this who considers the sententious manner of this Epistle. As an illustration of this, perhaps we may remark that it is easy to expand the thoughts of this Epistle into ample volumes of exposition, and that in fact it is difficult to give an explanation of it without a commentary that shall greatly surpass in extent the text. None can doubt, also, that the author of this Epistle could have himself greatly expanded the thoughts and the Illustrations if he had chosen. It is with reference to such considerations, probably, that he says that the Epistle was brief.

Verse 23

Know ye that our brother Timothy is set at liberty - Or, is sent away. So it is rendered by Prof. Stuart and others. On the meaning of this, and its importance in determining who was the author of the Epistle, see the Introduction section 3, (5) 4, and Prof. Stuart’s Introduction, section 19. This is a strong circumstance showing that Paul was the author of the Epistle, for from the first acquaintance of Timothy with Paul he is represented as his constant companion, and spoken of as a brother; 2 Corinthians 1:1 note; Philippians 1:1 note; Colossians 1:1 note; Philippians 1:0 note. There is no other one of the apostles who would so naturally have used this term respecting Timothy, and this kind mention is made of him here because he was so dear to the heart of the writer, and because he felt that they to whom he wrote would also feel an interest in his circumstances. As to the meaning of the word rendered “set at liberty” - ἀπολελυμένον apolelumenon - there has been much difference of opinion whether it means “set at liberty from confinement,” or, “sent away on some message to some other place.” That the latter is the meaning of the expression appears probable from these considerations.

(1) The connection seems to demand it. The writer speaks of him as if he were now away, and as if he hoped that he might soon return. “With whom, if he come shortly, I will see you.” This is language which would be used rather of one who had been sent on some embassy than of one who was just released from prison. At all events, he was at this time away, and there was some expectation that he might soon return. But on the supposition that the expression relates to release from imprisonment, there would be an entire incongruity in the language. It is not, as we should then suppose, “our brother Timothy is now released from prison, and therefore I will come soon with him and see you;” but, “our brother Timothy is now sent away, and if he return soon I will come with him to you.”

(2) In Philippians 2:19, Philippians 2:23, Paul, then a prisoner at Rome, speaks of the hope which he entertained that he would be able to send Timothy to them as soon as he should know how it would go with him. He designed to retain him until that point was settled, as his presence with him would be important until then, and then to send him to give consolation to the Philippians, and to look into the condition of the church. Now the passage before us agrees well with the supposition that that event had occurred - that Paul had ascertained with sufficient clearness that he would be released, so that he might be permitted yet to visit the Hebrew Christians, that he had sent Timothy to Philippi and was waiting for his return; that as soon as he should return he would be prepared to visit them; and that in the mean time while Timothy was absent, he wrote to them this Epistle.

(3) The supposition agrees well with the meaning of the word used here - ἀπολύω apoluō. It denotes properly, to let loose from: to loosen; to unbind; to release; to let go free; to put away or divorce; to dismiss simply, or let go, or send away; see Matthew 14:15, Matthew 14:22-23; Matthew 15:32, Matthew 15:39; Luke 9:12, et al.; compare Robinson’s Lexicon and Stuart’s Introduction, section 19. The meaning, then, I take to be this, that Timothy was then sent away on some important embassage; that the apostle expected his speedy return; and that then he trusted that he would be able with him to visit those to whom this Epistle was written.

Verse 24

Salute all them - see the notes on Romans 16:3 ff. It was customary for the apostle Paul to close his epistles with an affectionate salutation.

That have the rule over you - notes, Hebrews 13:7, Hebrews 13:17. None are mentioned by name, as is usual in the Epistles of Paul. The cause of this omission is unknown. “And all the saints.” The common name given to Christians in the Scriptures; see the notes on Romans 1:7.

They of Italy salute you - The saints or Christians in Italy. Showing that the writer of the Epistle was then in Italy. He was probably in Rome; see the introduction, section 4.

Verse 25

Grace be with you all - notes, Romans 16:20, Romans 16:24.

The subscription at the close of the Epistle “written to the Hebrews from Italy by Timothy,” like the other subscriptions, is of no authority; see notes at the end of 1 Cor. It is demonstrably erroneous here, for it is expressly said by the author of the Epistle that at the time he wrote it, Timothy was absent; Hebrews 13:23. In regard to the time and place of writing it, see the Introduction, section 4.

At the close of this exposition, it is not improper to refer the reader to the remarks on its design at the end of the introduction, section 6. Having passed through the exposition, we may see more clearly the importance of the views there presented. There is no book of the New Testament more important than this, and of course none whose want would be more perceptible in the canon of the Scriptures. Every reader of the Old Testament needs such a guide as this Epistle, written by some one who had an intimate acquaintance from childhood with the Jewish system; who had all the advantages of the most able and faithful instruction, and who was under the influence of inspiration, to make us acquainted with the true nature of those institutions Nothing was more important than to settle the principles in regard to the nature of the Jewish economy; to show what was typical, and how those institutions were the means of introducing a far more perfect system - the system of the Christian religion.

If we have right feelings, we shall have sincere gratitude to God that he caused the Christian religion to be prefigured by a system in itself so magnificent and grand as that of the Jewish, and higher gratitude for that sublime system of religion of which the Jewish, with all its splendor, was only the shadow. There was much that was beautiful, cheering, and sublime in the Jewish system. There was much that was grand and awful in the giving of the Law, and much that was imposing in its ceremonies. In its palmy and pure days, it was incomparably the purest and noblest system of religion then on earth. It taught the knowledge of the one true God; inculcated a pure system of morals; preserved the record of the truth on the earth, and held up constantly before man the hope of a better system still in days to come. But it was expensive, burdensome, precise in its prescriptions, and wearisome in its ceremonies; Acts 15:10. It was adapted to one people - a people who occupied a small territory, and who could conveniently assemble at the central place of their worship three times in a year. It was not a system adapted to the whole world, nor was it designed for the whole world. When the Saviour came, therefore, to introduce whom was the design of the Jewish economy, it ceased as a matter of course. The Jewish altars were soon thrown down; the temple was razed to the ground, and the city of their solemnities was destroyed. The religion of the Hebrews passed away to be revived no more in its splendor and power, and it has never lived since, except as an empty form.

This Epistle teaches us why it passed away, and why it can never he restored. It is the true key with which to unlock the Old Testament; and with these views, we may remark in conclusion, that he who would understand the Bible thoroughly should make himself familiar with this Epistle; that the canon of Scripture would be incomplete without it; and that, to one who wishes to understand the Revelation which God has given, there is no portion of the volume whose loss would be a more irreparable calamity than that of the Epistle to the Hebrews.

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Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Hebrews 13". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.