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Analysis Of The Chapter
The main object of Hebrews 2:0 is, to show that we should attend diligently to the things which were spoken by the Lord Jesus, and not suffer them to glide away from us. The apostle seems to have supposed that some might be inclined to disregard what was spoken by one of so humble appearance as the Lord Jesus; and that they would urge that the Old Testament had been given by the interposition of angels, and was therefore more worthy of attention. To meet this, he shows that important objects were accomplished by his becoming a man; and that even as a man, power and dignity had been conferred on him superior to that of the angels. In illustration of these points, the chapter contains the following subjects:
(1) An exhortation not to suffer the things which had been spoken to slip from the mind - or in other words, to attend to them diligently and carefully. The argument is, that if what was spoken by the angels under the old dispensation claimed attention, much more should that be regarded which was spoken by the Son of God; Hebrews 2:1-4.
(2) Jesus had been honored, as incarnate, in such a way as to show that he had a right to be heard, and that what he said should receive the profound attention of people; Hebrews 2:5-9. The world to come had not been put under the angels as it had been under him Hebrews 2:5; the general principle had been stated in the Scriptures that all things were put under man Hebrews 2:7-8, but this was fulfilled only in the Lord Jesus, who had been made a little lower than the angels, and when so made crowned with glory and honor; Hebrews 2:9. His appearance as a man, therefore, was in no way inconsistent with what had been said of his dignity, or his claim to be heard.
(3) The apostle then proceeds to show why he became a man, and why, though he was so exalted, he was subjected to so severe sufferings: and with this the chapter closes; Hebrews 2:10-18. It was because this was “proper” from the relation which he sustained to man. The argument is, that the Redeemer and his people were identified; that he did not come to save “angels,” and that, therefore, there was a propriety in his assuming the nature of man, and being subjected to trials like those whom he came to save. In all things it behoved him to be made like his brethren, in order to redeem them, and in order to set them an example, and show them how to suffer. The humiliation, therefore, of the Redeemer; the fact that he appeared as a man, and that he was a sufferer, so far from being a reason why he should not be “heard,” was rather an additional reason why we should attend to what he said. He had a claim to the right of being heard not only from his original dignity, but from the friendship which he has evinced for us in taking upon himself our nature, and suffering in our behalf.
Therefore - Greek “On account of this” - Δια τοῦτο Dia touto - that is, on account of the exalted dignity and rank of the Messiah as stated in the previous chapter. The sense is: “Since Christ, the author of the new dispensation, is so far exalted above the prophets, and even the angels, we ought to give the more earnest attention to all that has been spoken.”
We ought - It is suitable or proper (Greek δεὶ dei) that we should attend to those things. When the Son of God speaks to people, every consideration makes it appropriate that we should attend to what is spoken.
To give the more earnest heed. - To give the more strict attention.
To the things which we have heard. - Whether directly from the Lord Jesus, or from his apostles. It is possible that some of those to whom the apostle was writing had heard the Lord Jesus himself preach the gospel: others had heard the same truths declared by the apostles.
Lest at any time. - We ought to attend to those things at all times. We ought never to forget them; never to be indifferent to them. We are sometimes interested in them, and then we feel indifferent to them; sometimes at leisure to attend to them, and then the cares of the world, or a heaviness and dullness of mind, or a cold and languid state of the affections, renders us indifferent to them, and they are suffered to pass out of the mind without concern. Paul says, that this ought never to be done. At no time should we be indifferent to those things. They are always important to us, and we should never be in a state of mind when they would be uninteresting. At all times; in all places; and in every situation of life, we should feel that the truths of religion are of more importance to us than all other truths, and nothing should be suffered to efface their image from the heart.
We should let them slip. - Margin, “Run out as leaking vessels.” Tyndale renders this, “lest we be spilt.” The expression here has given rise to much discussion as to its meaning; and has been very differently translated. Doddridge renders it, “lest we let them flow out of our minds.” Prof. Stuart, “lest at any time we should slight them.” Whitby: “that they may not entirely slip out of our memories.” The word used here - παραῤῥυέω pararrueō - occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The Septuagint translators have used the word only once. Proverbs 3:21. “Son, do not pass by (μὴ παραῤῥυῇς mē pararruēs but keep my counsel;” that is, do not pass by my advice by neglect, or suffer it to be disregarded. The word means, according to Passow, to flow by, to flow over; and then to go by, to fall, to go away. It is used to mean to flow near, to flow by - as of a river; to glide away, to escape - as from the mind, that is, to forget; and to glide along - as a thief does by stealth. See Robinson’s Lexicon. The Syriac and Arabic translators have rendered it: “that we may not fall.” After all that has been said on the meaning of the word here (compare Stuart in loc.), it seems to me that the true sense of the expression is that of flowing, or gliding by - as a river; and that the meaning here is, that we should be very cautious that the important truths spoken by the Redeemer and his apostles should not be suffered to “glide by” us without attention, or without profit. We should not allow them to be like a stream that glides on by us without benefiting us; that is, we should endeavor to secure and retain them as our own. The truth taught, is that there is great danger, now that the true system of religion has been revealed, that it will not profit us, but that we shall lose all the benefit of it. This danger may arise from many sources - some of which are the following:
(1) We may not feel that the truths revealed are important - and before their importance is felt, they may be beyond our reach. So we are often deceived in regard to the importance of objects - and before we perceive their value they are irrecoverably gone. So it is often with time, and with the opportunities of obtaining an education, or of accomplishing any object which is of value. The opportunity is gone before we perceive its importance. So the young suffer the most important period of life to glide away before they perceive its value, and the opportunity of making much of their talents is lost because they did not embrace the suitable opportunities.
(2) By being engrossed in business. We feel that that is now the most important thing. That claims all our attention. We have no time to pray, to read the Bible, to think of religion, for the cares of the world engross all the time - and the opportunities of salvation glide insensibly away, until it is too late.
(3) By being attracted by the pleasures of life. We attend to them now, and are drawn along from one to another, until religion is suffered to glide away with all its hopes and consolations, and we perceive, too late, that we have let the opportunity of salvation slip forever. Allured by those pleasures, the young neglect it; and new pleasures starting up in future life carry on the delusion, until every favorable opportunity for salvation has passed away.
(4) We suffer favorable opportunities to pass by without improving them. Youth is by far the best time, as it is the most appropriate time, to become a Christian - and yet how easy is it to allow that period to slip away without becoming interested in the Saviour! One day glides on after another, and one week, and one month, one year passes away after another - like a gently-flowing stream - until all the precious time of youth has gone, and we are still not Christians. So a revival of religion is a favorable time - and yet many suffer this to pass by without becoming interested in it. Others are converted, and the heavenly influences descend all around us, but we are unaffected, and the season so full of happy and heavenly influences is gone - to return no more.
(5) We let the favorable season slip, because we design to attend to it at some future period of life. So youth defers it to manhood - manhood to old age - old age to a death-bed - and then neglects it - until the whole of life has glided away, and the soul is not saved. Paul knew man. He knew how prone he was to let the things of religion slip out of the mind - and hence, the earnestness of his caution that we should give heed to the subject now - lest the opportunity of salvation should soon glide away. When once passed, it can never be recalled. Hence, learn:
(1) The truths of religion will not benefit us unless we give heed to them. It will not save us that the Lord Jesus has come and spoken to people, unless we are disposed to listen. It will not benefit us that the sun shines, unless we open our eyes. Books will not benefit us, unless we read them; medicine, unless we take it; nor will the fruits of the earth sustain our lives, however rich and abundant they may be, if we disregard and neglect them. So with the truths of religion. There is truth enough to save the world - but the world disregards and despises it.
(2) It needs not great sins to destroy the soul. Simple “neglect” will do it as certainly as atrocious crimes. Every person has a sinful heart that will destroy him unless he makes an effort to be saved; and it is not merely the great sinner, therefore, who is in danger. It is the man who “neglects” his soul - whether a moral or an immoral man - a daughter of amiableness, or a daughter of vanity and vice.
For if the word spoken by angels - The revelation in the Old Testament. It was indeed given by Yahweh, but it was the common opinion of the Hebrews that it was by the ministry of angels; see Acts 7:38, Acts 7:53 notes, and Galatians 3:19 note, where this point is fully considered. As Paul was discoursing here of the superiority of the Redeemer to the angels, it was to the point to refer to the fact that the Law had been given by the ministry of angels.
Was steadfast - Was firm - βέβαιος bebaios; settled - established. It was not vacillating and fluctuating. It determined what crime was, and it was firm in its punishment. It did not yield to circumstances; but if not obeyed in all respects, it denounced punishment. The idea here is not that everything was “fulfilled,” but it is that the Law so given could not be violated with impunity. It was not safe to violate it, but it took notice of the slightest failure to yield perfect obedience to its demands.
And every transgression - Literally, “going beyond, passing by.” It means every instance of “disregarding” the Law.
And disobedience. - Every instance of “not hearing” the Law - παρακοὴ parakoē - and hence, every instance of disobeying it. The word here stands opposite to “hearing” it, or attending to it - and the sense of the whole is, that the slightest infraction of the Law was sure to be punished. It made no provision for indulgence in sin; it demanded prompt, implicit, and entire obedience. “Received a just recompense of reward.” Was strictly punished. Subjected to equal retribution. This was the character of the Law. It threatened punishment for each and every offence, and made no allowance for transgression in any form; compare Numbers 15:30-31.
How shall we escape - How shall we escape the just recompense due to transgressors? What way is there of being saved from punishment, if we suffer the great salvation to be neglected, and do not embrace its offers? The sense is, that there is no other way of salvation, and the neglect of this will be followed by certain destruction. why it will, the apostle proceeds to show, by stating that this plan of salvation was proclaimed first by the Lord himself, and had been confirmed by the most decided and amazing miracles.
If we neglect - It is not merely if we commit great sins. Not, if we are murderers, adulterers, thieves, infidels, atheists, scoffers. It is, if we merely “neglect” this salvation - if we do not embrace it - if we suffer it to pass unimproved. “Neglect” is enough to ruin a man. A man who is in business need not commit forgery or robbery to ruin himself; he has only to “neglect” his business, and his ruin is certain. A man who is lying on a bed of sickness, need not cut his throat to destroy himself; he has only to “neglect” the means of restoration, and he will be ruined. A man floating in a skiff above Niagara, need not move an oar or make an effort to destroy himself; he has only to “neglect” using the oar at the proper time, and he will certainly be carried over the cataract. Most of the calamities of life are caused by simple “neglect.” By neglect of education children grow up in ignorance; by neglect a farm grows up to weeds and briars; by neglect a house goes to decay; by neglect of sowing, a man will have no harvest; by neglect of reaping, the harvest would rot in the fields. No worldly interest can prosper where there is neglect; and why may it not be so in religion? There is nothing in earthly affairs that is valuable that will not be ruined if it is not attended to - and why may it not be so with the concerns of the soul? Let no one infer, therefore, that because he is not a drunkard, or an adulterer, or a murderer, that, therefore, he will be saved. Such an inference would be as irrational as it would be for a man to infer that because he is not a murderer his farm will produce a harvest, or that because he is not an adulterer therefore his merchandise will take care of itself. Salvation would be worth nothing if it cost no effort - and there will be no salvation where no effort is put forth.
So great salvation - . Salvation from sin and from hell. It is called “great” because:
(1) Its author is great. This is perhaps the main idea in this passage. It “began to be spoken by the Lord;” it had for its author the Son of God, who is so much superior to the angels; whom the angels were required to worship Hebrews 1:6; who is expressly called God Hebrews 1:8; who made all things, and who is eternal; Hebrews 1:10-12. A system of salvation promulgated by him “must” be of infinite importance, and have a claim to the attention of man.
(2) It is “great” because it saves from great sins. It is adapted to deliver from all sins, no matter how aggravated. No one is saved who feels that his sins are small, or that they are of no consequence. Each one sees his sins to be black and aggravated, and each one who enters heaven, will go there feeling and confessing that it is a great salvation which has brought such a sinner there. Besides, this salvation delivers from all sin - no matter how gross and aggravated. The adulterer, the murderer, the blasphemer, may come and be saved, and the salvation which redeems such sinners from eternal ruin is “great.”
(3) It is great because it saves from great dangers. The danger of an eternal hell besets the path of each one. All do not see it; and all will not believe it when told of it. But this danger hovers over the path of every mortal. The danger of an eternal hell! Salvation from everlasting burnings! Deliverance from unending ruin! Surely that salvation must be great which shall save from such a doom! If that salvation is neglected, that danger still hangs over each and every man. The gospel did not create that danger - it came to deliver from it. Whether the gospel be true or false, each man is by nature exposed to eternal death - just as each one is exposed to temporal death whether the doctrine of the immortality of the soul and of the resurrection be true or false. The gospel comes to provide a remedy for dangers and woes - it does not create them; it comes to deliver people from great dangers - not to plunge them into them. “Back of the gospel,” and before it was preached at all, people were in danger of everlasting punishment, and that system which came to proclaim deliverance from such a danger, is great.
(4) The salvation itself is great in heaven. It exalts people to infinite honors, and places on their heads an eternal crown. Heaven with all its glories is offered to us; and such a deliverance, and such an elevation to eternal honors, deserves to be called great. If that is neglected, there is no other salvation; and man must be inevitably destroyed.
(5) It is “great” because it was effected by infinite displays of power, and wisdom, and love. It was procured by the incarnation and humiliation of the Son of God. It was accomplished amidst great sufferings and self-denials. It was attended with great miracles. The tempest was stilled, and the deaf were made to hear, and the blind to see, and the dead were raised, and the sun was darkened, and the rocks were rent. The whole series of wonders connected with the incarnation and death of the Lord Jesus, was such as the world had not seen elsewhere, and such as was suited to hold the race in mute admiration and astonishment. If this be so, then religion is no trifle. It is not a matter of little importance whether we embrace it or not. It is the most momentous of all the concerns that pertain to man; and has a claim on his attention which nothing else can have. Yet the mass of people live in the “neglect” of it. It is not that they are professedly atheists, or deists, or that they are immoral or profane; it is not that they oppose it, and ridicule it, and despise it; it is that they simply “neglect” it. They pass it by. They attend to other things. They are busy with their pleasures, or in their counting-houses, in their workshops, or on their farms; they are engaged in politics, or in bookmaking, and they “neglect” religion now as a thing of small importance - proposing to attend to it hereafter, as if they acted on the principle that everything else was to be attended to before religion.
Which at the first - Greek “Which received the beginning of being spoken.” The meaning is correctly expressed in our translation. Christ “began” to preach the gospel; the apostles followed him. John prepared the way; but the Saviour was properly the first preacher of the gospel.
By the Lord - By the Lord Jesus; see notes on Acts 1:24.
And was confirmed unto us ... - They who heard him preach, that is, the apostles, were witnesses of what he said, and certified us of its truth. When the apostle here says “us,” he means the church at large. Christians were assured of the truth of what the Lord Jesus spake by the testimony of the apostles; or the apostles communicated it to those who had not heard him in such a manner as to leave no room for doubt.
God also bearing them witness - By miracles. Giving them the sanction of his authority, or showing that they were sent by him. No man can work a miracle by his own power. When the dead are raised, the deaf made to hear and the blind to see by a word, it is the power of God alone that does it. He thus becomes a “witness” to the divine appointment of him by whose instrumentality the miracle is performed; or furnishes an attestation that what he says is true; see notes on Acts 14:3.
With signs and wonders. - These words are usually connected in the New Testament. The word rendered “signs” - σημεῖον sēmeion - means any miraculous event that is suited to show that what had been predicted by a prophet would certainly take place; see Matthew 12:38; compare note on Isaiah 7:11. A “wonder” - τέρας teras - denotes a portent, or prodigy - something that is suited to excite wonder or amazement - and hence, a miracle. The words together refer to the various miracles which were performed by the Lord Jesus and his apostles, designed to confirm the truth of the Christian religion.
And with divers miracles. - Various miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, etc. The miracles were not of one class merely, but were various, so that all pretence of deception should be taken away.
And gifts of the Holy Ghost. - Margin, “Distributions.” The various influences of the Holy Spirit enabling them to speak different languages, and to perform works beyond the power of man; see notes on 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.
According to his will - As he chose. He acted as a sovereign in this. He gave them where he pleased, and imparted them in such measure as he chose. The sense of this whole passage is, “The gospel has been promulgated to man in a solemn manner. It was first published by the Lord of glory himself. It was confirmed by the most impressive and solemn miracles. It is undoubtedly a revelation from heaven; was given in more solemn circumstances than the Law of Moses, and its threatenings are more to be dreaded than those of the Law. Beware, therefore, how you trifle with it, or disregard it. It cannot be neglected with safety; its neglect or rejection must be attended with condemnation.”
For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection - In this verse the apostle returns to the subject which he had been discussing in Hebrews 1:1-14 - the superiority of the Messiah to the angels. From that subject he had been diverted Hebrews 2:1-4, by showing them what must be the consequences of defection from Christianity, and the danger of neglecting it. Having shown that, he now proceeds with the discussion, and shows that an honor had been conferred on the Lord Jesus which had never been bestowed on the angels - to wit, the “supremacy over this world.” This he does by proving from the Old Testament that such a dominion was given to “man” Hebrews 2:6-8, and that this dominion was in fact exercised by the Lord Jesus; Hebrews 2:9. At the same time, he meets an objection which a Jew would be likely to make. It is, that Jesus appeared to be far inferior to the angels. He was a man of a humble condition. He was poor, and despised. He had none of the external honor which was shown to Moses - the founder of the Jewish economy; none of the apparent honor which belonged to angelic beings. This implied objection he removes by showing the reason why he became so. It was proper, since he came to redeem man, that he should be a man, and not take on himself the nature of angels; and for the same reason it was proper that he should be subjected to sufferings, and be made a man of sorrows; Hebrews 2:10-17. The remark of the apostle in the verse before us is, that God had never put the world in subjection to the angels as he had to the Lord Jesus. They had no jurisdiction over it; they were mere ministering spirits; but the world had been put under the dominion of the Lord Jesus.
The world to come - The word rendered here “world” - οἰκουμένη oikoumenē - means properly the “inhabited,” or “inhabitable” world; see Matthew 24:14; Luke 2:1; Luke 4:5; Luke 21:26 (Greek); Acts 11:28; Acts 17:6, Acts 17:31; Acts 19:27; Acts 24:5; Romans 10:18; Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 3:10; Revelation 12:9; Revelation 16:14 - in all which places, but one, it is rendered “world.” It occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. The proper meaning is the world or earth considered as inhabitable - and here the jurisdiction refers to the control over man, or the dwellers on the earth. The phrase “the world to come,” occurs not unfrequently in the New Testament; compare Eph 2:7; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Hebrews 6:5. The same phrase “the world to come,” צולם ‛owlaam הבּא habaa' - occurs often in the Jewish writings. According to Buxtorf (Lexicon Ch. Talm. Rab.) it means, as some suppose, “the world which is to exist after this world is destroyed, and after the resurrection of the dead, when souls shall be again united to their bodies.” By others it is supposed to mean “the days of the Messiah, when he shall reign on the earth.” To me it seems to be clear that the phrase here means, “the world under the Messiah” - the world, age, or dispensation which was to succeed the Jewish, and which was familiarly known to them as “the world to come;” and the idea is, that that world, or age, was placed under the jurisdiction of the Christ, and not of the angels. This point the apostle proceeds to make out; compare notes on Isaiah 2:2.
Whereof we speak - . “Of which I am writing;” that is, of the Christian religion, or the reign of the Messiah.
But one in a certain place testified - The apostle was writing to those who were supposed to be familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures, and where it would be necessary only to make a reference in general without mentioning the name. The place which is quoted here is Psalms 8:4-6. The “argument” of the apostle is this, that there stood in the sacred Scriptures a declaration that “all things were placed under the control and jurisdiction of man,” but that that had not yet been accomplished. It was not true (Hebrews 2:8) that all things were subject to him, and the complete truth of that declaration would be found only in the jurisdiction conferred on the Messiah - the man by way of eminence - the incarnate Son of God. It would not occur to anyone probably in reading the Psalm that the verse here quoted had any reference to the Messiah. It seems to relate to the dominion which God had given man over his works in this lower world, or to the fact that he was made lord over all things.
That dominion is apparent, to a considerable extent, everywhere, and is a standing proof of the truth of what is recorded in Genesis 1:26, that God originally gave dominion to man over the creatures on earth, since it is only by this supposition that it can be accounted for that the horse, and the elephant, and the ox, and even the panther and the lion, are subject to the control of man. The argument of Paul seems to be this: Originally this control was given to man. It was absolute and entire. All things were subject to him, and all obeyed. Man was made a little lower than the angels, and was the undisputed lord of this lower world. He was in a state of innocence. But he rebelled, and this dominion has been in some measure lost. It is found complete only in the “second man the Lord from heaven” 1 Corinthians 15:47, the Lord Jesus to whom this control is absolutely given. He comes up to the complete idea of man - man as he was in innocence, and man as he was described by the Psalmist, as having been made a little lower than the angels, and having entire dominion over the world.
Much difficulty has been felt by commentators in regard to this passage, and to the principle on which it is quoted. The above seems to me to be what is most probably true. There are two other methods by which an attempt has been made to explain it. One is, that Paul uses the words here by way of “allusion,” or “accommodation” (Doddridge), as words that will express his meaning, without designing to say that the Psalm originally had any reference to the Messiah. Most of the later commentators accord with this opinion. The other opinion is, that David originally referred to the Messiah - that he was deeply and gratefully affected in view of the honor that God had conferred on him; and that in looking down by faith on the posterity that God had promised him (see 2 Samuel 7:16), he saw one among his own descendants to whom God would give this wide dominion, and expresses himself in the elevated language of praise. This opinion is defended by Prof. Stuart; see his Commentary on Hebrews, Excursus IX.
(That the grand and ultimate reference, in Psalms 8:1-9, is to the person of the Messiah, none can reasonably doubt. Both our Lord and his apostles have affirmed it; Matthew 21:15-16; 1 Corinthians 15:27; Ephesians 1:22. Add to these, the place before us, where - as the quotation is introduced “in the midst of an argument, and by way of proof” - the idea of “accommodation” is inconsistent with the wisdom and honesty of the apostles, and therefore inadmissible. The opposite extreme, however, of “sole and original” reference to the Messiah is not so certain. There is a more obvious and primary reference, which at once strikes the reader of the Psalm, and which, therefore, should not be rejected, until disproved. The conjecture, which a learned author mentioned above, has made, regarding the course of thought in the Psalmist’s mind, supposing him to have been occupied with the contemplation of the covenant, as recorded in 2 Samuel 7:0 and of that illustrious descendant, who should be the Son of God, and on whom should be conferred universal empire - at the very time in which he composed the Psalm - is ingenious, but not satisfactory.
The least objectionable view is that of primary and secondary, or prophetic reference. This relieves us from the necessity of setting aside the obvious sense of the original place, and, at the same time, preserves the more exalted sense, which our Lord and his apostles have attached to it, and the Spirit of course intended to convey. And in order to preserve this last sense, it is not necessary to ascertain what was the course of feeling in the Psalmist’s mind, or whether “he” really had the Messiah in view, since the prophets, on many occasions, might be ignorant of the full import of the words which the Holy Ghost dictated to them. This view, moreover, is all that the necessity of the case demands. It suits the apostle’s argument, since the great and prophetic reference is to the Messiah. It presents, also, a complete πληρωσις plērōsis of Psalms 8:1-9, which it is allowed on all hands the primary reference alone could not do. It is sufficiently clear that such universal dominion belongs not to man, in his present fallen state. Even if it be allowed that the contemplation of David regarded “man as innocent, as he was when created,” yet absolutely universal dominion did not belong to Adam. Christ alone is Lord of all. Creation animate and inanimate is subject to him.
Here then we have what has been well styled: “the safe middle point, the μέτρον ἀριστὸν metron ariston, between the two extremes of supposing this, and such like passages, to belong only to the Messiah, or only to him concerning whom they were first spoken.” This middle point has been ably defended by Dr. Middleton. “Indeed.” says he, “on no other hypothesis can we avoid one of two great difficulties; for else we must assert that the multitudes of applications made by Christ and his apostles are fanciful and unauthorized, and wholly inadequate to prove the points for which they are cited; or, on the other band, we must believe that the obvious and natural sense of such passages was never intended, and that it is a mere illusion. Of Psalms 8:1-9 the primary import is so certain that it could not be mistaken.” The only objection to this double reference, worthy of being noticed, is connected with the clause, Ἠλαττωσας αὐτον βραχύτι παρ ̓ ἀγγελους Ēlattōsas auton brachuti par angelous, which, it is affirmed, must possess two senses, not only different, but opposite and contradictory.
In its primary application to man, the idea is plainly that of exaltation and honor. Such was the dignity of man that he was made “but a little” lower than the angels; on the other hand, the secondary, or prophetic application, gives to the language the sense of humiliation or depression. For, considering the original dignity of Christ, the being made lower than the angels, cannot otherwise be regarded. But may not the clause, in both applications, have the idea of exaltation attached to it? If so, the objection is at once met. And that this is the case has, we think, been satisfactorily made out. “What,” asks Prof. Stuart “is his (Paul’s) design?” To prove that Christ in his human nature is exalted above angels. How does he undertake to prove this? First by showing that this nature is made but little inferior to that of the angels, and next that it has been exalted to the empire of the world.” This note has been extended to such length, because it involves a “principle” applicable to a multitude of passages. On the whole, it may be observed in reference to all these cases of quotation, that the mind of the pious and humble reader will not be greatly distressed by any difficulties connected with their application, but will ever rest satisfied with the assertion and authority of people, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.)
What is man ... - What is there in man that entitles him to so much notice? Why has God conferred on him so signal honors? Why has he placed him over the works of his hands? He seems so insignificant; his life is so much like a vapor; he so soon disappears, that the question may well be asked why this extraordinary dominion is given him? He is so sinful also, and so unworthy; so much unlike God, and so passionate and revengeful; is so prone to abuse his dominion, that it may well be asked why God has given it to him? Who would suppose that God would give such a dominion over his creatures to one who was so prone to abuse it as man has shown himself to be? He is so feeble, also, compared with other creatures - even of those which are made subject to him - that the question may well be asked why God has conceded it to him? Such question may be asked when we contemplate man as he is. But similar questions may be asked, if, as was probably the case, the Psalm here be supposed to have had reference to man “as he was created.”
Why was one so feeble, and so comparatively without strength, placed over this lower world, and the earth made subject to his control? Why is it that when the heavens are so vast and glorious Psalms 8:3, God has taken such notice of man? Of what consequence can he be amidst works so wonderful? “When I look on the heavens and survey their greatness and their glory,” is the sentiment of David, “why is it that man has attracted so much notice, and that he has not been wholly overlooked in the vastness of the works of the Almighty? Why is it that instead of this he has been exalted to so much dignity and honor?” This question, thus considered, strikes us with more force now than it could have struck David. Let anyone sit down and contemplate the heavens as they are disclosed by the discoveries of modern astronomy, and he may well ask the question, “What is man that he should have attracted the attention of God, and been the object of so much care?”
The same question would not have been inappropriate to David if the Psalm be supposed to have had reference originally to the Messiah, and if he was speaking of himself particularly as the ancestor of the Messiah. “What is man; what am I; what can any of my descendants be, who must be of mortal frame, that this dominion should be given him? Why should anyone of a race so feeble, so ignorant, so imperfect, be exalted to such honor?” We may ask the question here, and it may be asked in heaven with pertinency and with power, ‘Why was man so honored as to be united to the Godhead? Why did the Deity appear in the human form? What was there in man that should entitle him to this honor of being united to the Divinity, and of being thus exalted above the angels?’ The wonder is not yet solved; and we may well suppose that the angelic ranks look with amazement - but without envy - on the fact that “man,” by his union with the Deity in the person of the Lord Jesus, has been raised above them in rank and in glory. “Or the son of man.” This phrase means the same as “man,” and is used merely to give variety to the mode of expression. Such a change or variety in words and phrases, when the same thing is intended, occurs constantly in Hebrew poetry. The name “son of man” is often given to Christ to denote his intimate connection with our race, and the interest which he felt in us, and is the common term which the Saviour uses when speaking of himself. Here it means “man,” and maybe applied to human nature everywhere - and therefore to human nature in the person of the Messiah.
That thou visitest him - That thou shouldst regard him or treat him with so much honor. Why is he the object of so much interest to the Divine Mind?
Thou madest him a little lower than the angels - Margin, “A little while inferior to.” The Greek may here mean a little inferior in rank, or inferior for a little time. But the probable meaning is, that it refers to inferiority of rank. Such is its obvious sense in Psalms 8:1-9, from which this is quoted. The meaning is, that God had made man but little inferior to the angels in rank. He was inferior, but still God had exalted him almost to their rank. Feeble, and weak, and dying as he was, God had exalted him, and had given him a dominion and a rank almost like that of the angels. The wonder of the Psalmist is, that God had given to human nature so much honor - a wonder that is not at all diminished when we think of the honor done to man by his connection with the divine nature in the person of the Lord Jesus. If in contemplating the race as it appears; if when we look at the dominion of man over the lower world, we are amazed that God has bestowed so much honor on our nature, how much more should we wonder that he has honored man by his connection with the divinity. Paul applies this to the Lord Jesus. His object is to show that he is superior to the angels. In doing this he shows that he had a nature given him in itself but little inferior to the angels, and then that that had been exalted to a rank and dominion far above theirs. That such honor should be put on “man” is what is suited to excite amazement, and well may one continue to ask why it has been done? When we survey the heavens, and contemplate their glories, and think of the exalted rank of other beings, we may well inquire why has such honor been conferred on man?
Thou crownedst him with glory and honor. - That is, with exalted honor. Glory and honor here are nearly synonymous. The meaning is, that elevated honor had been conferred on human nature. A most exalted and extended dominion had been given to “man,” which showed that God had greatly honored him. This appeared eminently in the person of the Lord Jesus, “the exalted Man,” to whom this dominion was given in the widest extent.
And didst set him over ... - “Man” has been placed over the other works of God:
(1)By the original appointment Genesis 1:26;
(2)Man at large - though fallen, sinful, feeble, dying;
(3)Man, eminently in the person of the Lord Jesus, in whom human nature has received its chief exaltation. This is what is particularly in the eye of the apostle - and the language of the Psalm will accurately express this exaltation.
Thou hast put all things in subjection ... - Psalms 8:6. That is, all things are put under the control of man, or thou hast given him dominion over all things.
For in that he put all in subjection - The meaning of this is, that the “fair interpretation” of the passage in the Psalm is, that the dominion of “man,” or of human nature over the earth, was to be absolute and total. Nothing was to be excepted. But this is not now the fact in regard to man in general, and can be true only of human nature in the person of the Lord Jesus. There the dominion is absolute and universal.” The point of the argument of the apostle may be this. It was the original appointment Genesis 1:26 that man should have dominion over this lower world, and be its absolute lord and sovereign. Had he continued in innocence, this dominion would have been entire and perpetual. But he fell, and we do not now see him exerting this dominion. What is said of the dominion of man can be true only of human nature in the person of the Lord Jesus, and there it is completely fulfilled.
But now we see not yet all things put under him - That is, “It is not now true that all things are subject to the control of man. There is indeed a general dominion over the works of God, and over the inferior creation. But the control is not universal. A large part of the animal creation rebels, and is brought into subjection only with difficulty. The elements are not entirely under his control; the tempest and the ocean rage; the pestilence conveys death through city and hamlet; the dominion of man is a broken dominion. His government is an imperfect government. The world is not yet put wholly under his dominion, but enough has been done to constitute a pledge that it will yet be done. It will be fully accomplished only in him who sustains our nature, and to whom dominion is given over the worlds.”
But we see Jesus - We do not see that mankind has the extended dominion of which the Psalmist speaks elsewhere. But we see the fulfillment of it in Jesus, who was crowned with glory and honor, and who has received a dominion that is superior to that of the angels. The point of this is, not that he suffered, and not that he tasted death for every man; but that “on account of this,” or “as a reward” for thus suffering, he was crowned with glory and honor, and that he thus fulfilled all that David Psalms 8:1-9 had said of the dignity and honor of man. The object of the apostle is, to show that he was “exalted,” and in order to this he shows why it was - to wit, because he had suffered death to redeem man; compare Philippians 2:8-9.
Who was made a little lower than the angels. - That is, as a man, or when on earth. His assumed rank was inferior to that of the angels. He took upon himself not the nature of angels Hebrews 2:16, but the nature of man. The apostle is probably here answering some implied objections to the rank which it was claimed that the Lord Jesus had, or which might be urged to the views which he was defending. These objections were mainly two. First, that Jesus was a man; and secondly, that he suffered and died. If that was the fact, it was natural to ask how he could be superior to the angels? How could he have had the rank which was claimed for him? This he answers by showing first, that his condition as a man was “voluntarily” assumed - “he was made lower than the angels;” and secondly, by showing that as a consequence of his sufferings and death, he was immediately crowned with glory and honor. This state of humiliation became him in the great work which he had undertaken, and he was immediately exalted to universal dominion, and as Mediator was raised to a rank far above the angels.
For the suffering of death. - Margin, “By.” The meaning of the preposition rendered here “for” (διὰ dia, here governing the accusative) is, “on account of;” that is, Jesus on account of the sufferings of death, or in virtue of that, was crowned with glory and honor. His crowning was the result of his condescension and sufferings; see notes, Philippians 2:8-9. It does not here mean, as our translation would seem to imply, that he was made a little lower than the angels in order to suffer death, but that as a reward for having suffered death he was raised up to the right hand of God.
Crowned with glory and honor. - That is, at the right hand of God. He was raised up to heaven; Acts 2:33; Mark 16:19. The meaning is, that he was crowned with the highest honor on account of his sufferings; compare Philippians 2:8-9; Hebrews 12:2; Hebrews 5:7-9; Ephesians 1:20-23.
That he - . Or rather, “since he by the grace of God tasted death for every man.” The sense is, that after he had thus tasted death, and as a consequence of it, he was thus exalted. The word rendered here “that” - ὅπως hopōs - means usually and properly “that, so that, in order that, to the end that,” etc. But it may also mean “when, after that, after;” see the notes at Acts 3:19. This is the interpretation which is given by Prof. Stuart (in loc.), and this interpretation seems to be demanded by the connection. The general interpretation of the passage has been different. According to that, the sense is, “We see Jesus, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, so as that, by the grace of God, he might taste of death for every man;” see Robinson’s Lexicon on the word ὅπως hopōs, and Doddridge on the place. But it is natural to ask when Jesus was thus crowned with glory and honor? It was not before the crucifixion - for he was then poor and despised. The connection seems to require us to understand this of the glory to which he was exalted in heaven, and this was after his death, and could not be in order that he might taste of death. I am disposed, therefore, to regard this as teaching that the Lord Jesus was exalted to heaven in virtue of the atonement which he had made, and this accords with Philippians 2:8-9, and Hebrews 12:2. It accords both with “the fact” in the case, and with the design of the apostle in the argument before us.
By the grace of God - By the favor of God, or by his benevolent purpose toward people. It was not by any claim which man had, but was by his special favor.
Should taste death - Should die; or should experience death; see Matthew 16:28. Death seems to be represented as something bitter and unpalatable - something unpleasant - as an object may be to the taste. Or the language may be taken from a cup - since to experience calamity and sorrow is often represented as drinking a cup of woes; Psalms 11:6; Psalms 73:10; Psalms 75:8; Isaiah 51:17; Matthew 20:22; Matthew 26:39.
For every man - For all - Ὑπὲρ παντὸς Huper pantos - for each and all - whether Jew or Gentile, bond or free, high or low, elect or non-elect. How could words affirm more clearly that the atonement made by the Lord Jesus was unlimited in its nature and design? How can we express that idea in more clear or intelligible language? That this refers to the atonement is evident - for it says that he “tasted death” for them. The friends of the doctrine of general atonement do not desire any other than Scripture language in which to express their belief. It expresses it exactly - without any need of modification or explanation. The advocates of the doctrine of limited atonement cannot thus use Scripture language to express their belief. They cannot incorporate it with their creeds that the Lord Jesus “tasted death for every man.” They are compelled to modify it, to limit it, to explain it, in order to prevent error and misconception. But that system cannot be true which requires people to shape and modify the plain language of the Bible in order to keep people from error! compare the notes at 2 Corinthians 5:14, where this point is considered at length.
(With the author’s views on the doctrine of atonement we accord in the main; yet are here tempted to ask if the advocates of universal atonement would not be under the like necessity, of explaining, modifying, or “extending,” such passages as limit, or seem to limit, the atonement of Christ; and if in framing a creed, the advantage would not lie about equal on either side? Neither party would be contented to set down in it those scriptures which seemed least favorable to themselves without note or explanation. If this remark appears unjust, in as much as the universalist could admit into his creed, that “Christ laid down his life for the sheep,” though at the same time he believed further, that he laid it down not for them only, nay, not for them in any special sense “more than for others;” let it be observed that the limitation could just as well admit into his, that “Christ tasted death for every man,” or for all people, (Υπερ παντος Huper pantos) though he might believe further, not for all specially, not for all efficaciously, or with Prof. Stuart on the place, not for all universally, but “for all without distinction” that is, both Jew and Gentile. It is indeed difficult to say on which side explanation would be most needed.
In the case of the limited passage it would require to be observed first, that the atonement extended further than it intimated, and besides, that there was no special reference to the parties specified, the sheep, namely. There would be required, in truth, both extension and limitation, that is, if a creed were to be made, or a full view of opinion given. They seem to come nearest the truth on this subject, who deny neither the general nor special aspect of the atonement. On the one hand there is a large class of “universal passages,” which cannot be satisfactorily explained on any other principle than what regards the atonement as a great remedial plan, that rendered it consistent with the divine honor, to extend mercy to guilty people at large, and which would have been equally requisite had there been an intention to save one, or millions; numbers indeed not forming any part of the question. On the other hand, there is a large class of “special” texts, which cannot be explained without admitting, that while this atonement has reference to all, “yet God in providing it had a special design to save his people by it;” see the whole subject fully discussed, on the author’s note referred to above, and in the supplementary note, on the same passages, which contains a digest of the more recent controversies on the point.)
Hence, learn Hebrews 2:6-9, from the incarnation of the Son of God, and his exaltation to heaven, what an honor has been conferred on human nature. When we look on the weakness and sinfulness of our race, we may well ask, what is man that God should honor him or regard him? He is the creature of a day. He is feeble and dying. He is lost and degraded. Compared with the universe at large, he is a speck, an atom. He has done nothing to deserve the divine favor or notice, and when we look at the race at large we can do it only with sentiments of the deepest humiliation and mortification. But when we looker human nature in the person of the Lord Jesus, we see it honored there to a degree that is commensurate with all our desires, and that fills us with wonder. We feel that it is an honor to human nature - that it has done much to elevate man - when we look on such a man as Howard or Washington. But how much more has that nature been honored in the person of the Lord Jesus!
(1) What an honor to us it was that he should take our nature into intimate union with himself - passing by the angelic hosts, and becoming a man!
(2) What an honor it was that human nature there was so pure and holy; that “man” - everywhere else so degraded and vile - “could” be seen to be noble, and pure, and godlike!
(3) What an honor it was that the divinity should speak to people in connection with human nature, and perform such wonderful works - that the pure precepts of religion should come forth from human lips - the great doctrines of eternal life be uttered by “a man,” and that from human hands should go forth power to heal the sick and to raise the dead!
(4) What an honor to man it was that the atonement for sin should be made in his own nature, and that the universe should be attracted to that scene where one in our form, and with flesh and blood like our own, should perform that great work.
(5) What an honor it is to man that his own nature is exalted far above all heavens! That one in our form sits on the throne of the universe! That adoring angels fall prostrate before him! That to him is intrusted all power in heaven and on earth!
(6) What an honor to man that one in his nature should be appointed to judge the worlds! That one in our own form, and with a nature like ours, shall sit on the throne of judgment and pronounce the final doom on angels and human beings! Those assembled millions shall be constrained to bow before him, and receive their eternal doom from his hands! That prince and potentate - the illustrious dead of all past times, and the mighty men who are yet to live, shall all appear before him, and all receive from him there the sentence of their final destiny! I see, therefore, the most honor done to my nature as a man, not in the deeds of proud conquerors; not in the lives of sages and philanthropists; not in those who have carried their investigations farthest into the obscurities of matter and of mind; not in the splendid orators, poets, and historians of other times, or that now live - much as I may admire them, or feel it an honor to belong to a race which has produced such illustrious men - but in the fact that the Son of God has chosen a body like my own in which to dwell; in the inexpressible loveliness evinced in his pure morals, his benevolence, his blameless life; in the great deeds that he performed on earth; in the fact that it was this form that was chosen in which to make atonement for sin; in the honors that now cluster around him in heaven, and the glories that shall attend him when he shall come to judge the world.
“Princes to his imperial name.
Bend their bright scepters down;
Dominions, thrones, and powers rejoice,
To see him wear the crown.
“Archangels sound his lofty praise.
Through every heavenly street,
And lay their highest honors down,
Submissive at his feet.
“Those soft, those blessed feet of his,
That once rude iron tore -
High on a throne of light they stand,
And all the saints adore.
“His head, the dear, majestic head,
That cruel thorns did wound -
See - what immortal glories shine,
And circle it around!
“This is the Man, th’ exalted Man,
Whom we, unseen, adore;
But when our eyes behold his face,
Our hearts shall love him more.”
For it became him - There was a fitness or propriety in it; it was such an arrangement as became God to make, in redeeming many, that the great agent by whom it was accomplished, should be made complete in all respects by sufferings. The apostle evidently means by this to meet an objection that might be offered by a Jew to the doctrine which he had been stating - an objection drawn from the fact that Jesus was a man of sorrows, and that his life was a life of affliction. This he meets by stating that there was a “fitness” and “propriety” in that fact. There was a reason for it - a reason drawn from the plan and character of God. It was fit, in the nature of the case, that he should be qualified to be “a complete” or “perfect Saviour” - a Saviour just adapted to the purpose undertaken, by sufferings. The “reasons” of this fitness, the apostle does not state. The amount of it probably was, that it became him as a Being of infinite benevolence; as one who wished to provide a perfect system of redemption, to subject his Son to such sufferings as should completely qualify him to be a Saviour for all people. This subjection to his humble condition, and to his many woes, made him such a Saviour as man needed, and qualified him fully for his work. There was a propriety that he who should redeem the suffering and the lost should partake of their nature; identify himself with them; and share their woes, and the consequences of their sins.
For whom are all things - With respect to whose glory the whole universe was made; and with respect to whom the whole arrangement for salvation has been formed. The phrase is synonymous with “the Supreme Ruler;” and the idea is, that it became the Sovereign of the universe to provide a perfect scheme of salvation - even though it involved the humiliation and death of his own Son.
And by whom are all things - By whose agency everything is made. As it was by his agency, therefore, that the plan of salvation was entered into, there was a “fitness” that it should be perfect. It was not the work of fate or chance, and there was a propriety that the whole plan should bear the mark of the infinite wisdom of its Author.
In bringing many sons unto glory - To heaven. This was the plan - it was to bring many to heaven who should be regarded and treated as his sons. It was not a plan to save a few - but to save many. Hence, learn:
(1) That the plan was full of benevolence.
(2) No representation of the gospel should ever be made which will leave the impression that only a few, or a small part of the whole race, will be saved. There is no such representation in the Bible, and it should not be made. God intends, taking the whole race together, to save a large part of the human family. Few in ages that are past, it is true, may have been saved; few now are his friends and are traveling to heaven; but there are to be brighter days on earth. The period is to arrive when the gospel shall spread over all lands, and during that long period of the millennium, innumerable millions will be brought under its saving power, and be admitted to heaven. All exhibitions of the gospel are wrong which represent it as narrow in its design; narrow in its offer; and narrow in its result.
To make the captain of their salvation - The Lord Jesus, who is represented as the leader or commander of the army of the redeemed - “the sacramental host of God’s elect.” The word “captain” we apply now to an inferior officer - the commander of a “company” of soldiers. The Greek word - ἀρχηγὸς archēgos - is a more general term, and denotes, properly, the author or source of anything; then a leader, chief prince. In Acts 3:15, it is rendered “prince” - “and killed the prince of life.” So in Acts 5:31. “Him hath God exalted to be a prince and a Saviour.” In Hebrews 12:2, it is rendered “author.” “Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith;” compare the notes at that place.
Perfect through sufferings - Complete by means of sufferings; that is, to render him wholly qualified for his work, so that he should be a Saviour just adapted to redeem man. This does not mean that he was sinful before and was made holy by his sufferings; nor that he was not in all respects a perfect man before; but it means, that by his sufferings he was made “wholly suited” to be a Saviour of people; and that, therefore, the fact of his being a suffering man was no evidence, as a Jew might have urged, that he was not the Son of God. There was a “completeness,” a “filling up,” of all which was necessary to his character as a Saviour, by the sufferings which he endured. We are made morally “better” by afflictions, if we receive them in a right manner - for we are sinful, and need to be purified in the furnace of affliction; Christ was not made “better,” for he was before perfectly holy, but he was completely endowed for the work which he came to do, by his sorrows. Nor does this mean here precisely that he was exalted to heaven as a “reward” for his sufferings, or that he was raised up to glory as a consequence of them - which was true in itself - but that he was rendered “complete” or “fully qualified” to be a Saviour by his sorrows. Thus, he was rendered complete:
- Because his suffering in all the forms that flesh is liable to, made him an example to all his people who shall pass through trials. They have before them a perfect model to show them how to bear afflictions. Had this not occurred, he could not have been regarded as a “complete” or “perfect” Saviour - that is, such a Saviour as we need.
(2)He is able to sympathize with them, and to succour them in their temptations, Hebrews 2:18.
(3)By his sufferings an atonement was made for sin. He would have been an “imperfect” Saviour - if the name “Saviour” could have been given to him at all - if he had not died to make an atonement for transgression. To render him “complete” as a Saviour, it was necessary that he should suffer and die; and when he hung on the cross in the agonies of death, he could appropriately say, “it is “finished.” The work is complete. All has been done that could be required to be done; and man may now have the assurance that he has a perfect Saviour, perfect not only in moral character - but perfect in his work, and in his adaptedness to the condition of people;” compare Hebrews 5:8-9. See the note at Luke 13:32.
For both he that sanctifieth - This refers, evidently, to the Lord Jesus. The object is to show that there was such a union between him and those for whom he died, as to make it necessary that he should partake of the same nature, or that he should be a suffering man; Hebrews 2:14. He undertook to redeem and sanctify them. He called them brethren. He identified them with himself. There was, in the great work of redemption, a oneness between him and them, and hence, it was necessary that he should assume their nature - and the fact, therefore, that he appeared as a suffering “man,” does not at all militate with the doctrine that he had a more exalted nature, and was even above the angels. Prof. Stuart endeavors to prove that the word “sanctify” here is used in the sense of, “to make expiation” or “atonement,” and that the meaning is, “he who maketh expiation, and they for whom expiation is made.”
Bloomfield gives the same sense to the word, as also does Rosenmuller. That the word may have such a signification it would be presumptuous in anyone to doubt, after the view which such people have taken of it; but it may be doubted whether this idea is necessary here. The word “sanctify” is a general term, meaning to make holy or pure; to consecrate, set apart, devote to God; to regard as holy, or to hallow. Applied to the Saviour here, it may be used in this general sense - that he consecrated, or devoted himself to God - as eminently “the consecrated” or “holy one” - the Messiah (compare the note at John 17:19); applied to his people, it may mean that they in like manner were the consecrated, the holy, the pure, on earth. There is a richness and fulness in the word when so understood which there is not when it is limited to the idea of expiation; and it seems to me that it is to be taken in its richest and fullest sense, and that the meaning is, “the great consecrated Messiah - the Holy One of God - and his consecrated and holy followers, are all of one.” “All of one.”
Of one family; spirit; Father; nature. Either of these significations will suit the connection, and some such idea must be understood. The meaning is, that they were united, or partook of something in common, so as to constitute a oneness, or a brotherhood; and that since this was the case, there was a propriety in his taking their nature. It does not mean that they were originally of one nature or family; but that it was understood in the writings of the prophets that the Messiah should partake of the nature of his people, and that, “therefore,” though he was more exalted than the angels, there was a propriety that he should appear in the human form; compare John 17:21.
For which cause - That is, because he is thus united with them, or has undertaken their redemption.
He is not ashamed - As it might be supposed that one so exalted and pure would be. It might have been anticipated that the Son of God would refuse to give the name “brethren” to those who were so humble, and sunken and degraded as those whom he came to redeem. But he is willing to be ranked with them, and to be regarded as one of their family.
To call them brethren - To acknowledge himself as of the same family, and to speak of them as his brothers. That is, “he is so represented as speaking of them in the prophecies respecting the Messiah” - for this interpretation the argument of the apostle demands. It was material for him to show that he was so represented in the Old Testament. This he does in the following verses.
Saying - This passage is found in Psalms 22:22. The whole of that Psalm has been commonly referred to the Messiah; and in regard to such a reference there is less difficulty than attends most of the other portions of the Old Testament that are usually supposed to relate to him. The following verses of the Psalm are applied to him, or to transactions connected with him, in the New Testament, Hebrews 2:1, Hebrews 2:8,Hebrews 2:18; and the whole Psalm is so strikingly descriptive of his condition and sufferings, that there can be no reasonable doubt that it had an original reference to him. There is much in the Psalm that cannot be well applied to David; there is nothing which cannot be applied to the Messiah; and the proof seems to be clear that Paul quoted this passage in accordance with the original sense of the Psalm. The point of the quotation here is not that he would “declare the name” of God - but that he gave the name brethren to those whom he addressed.
I will declare thy name - I will make thee known. The word “name” is used, as it often is, to denote God himself. The meaning is, that it would be a part of the Messiah’s work to make known to his disciples the character and perfections of God - or to make them acquainted with God. He performed this. In his parting prayer John 17:6, he says, “I have manifested thy name unto the men whom thou gavest me out of the world.” And again, Heb 2:26, “And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it.”
Unto my brethren - The point of the quotation is in this. He spoke of them as “brethren.” Paul is showing that he was not ashamed to call them such. As he was reasoning with those who had been “Jews,” and as it was necessary as a part of his argument to show that what he maintained respecting the Messiah was found in the Old Testament, he makes his appeal to that, and shows that the Redeemer is represented as addressing his people as “brethren.” It would have been easy to appeal to “facts,” and to have shown that the Redeemer used that term familiarly in addressing his disciples, (compare Matthew 12:48-49; Matthew 25:40; Matthew 28:10; Luke 8:21; John 20:17), but that would not have been pertinent to his object. It is full proof to us, however, that the prediction in the Psalm was literally fulfilled.
In the midst of the church - That is, in the assembly of my brethren. The point of the proof urged by the apostle lies in the first part of the quotation. This latter part seems to have been adduced because it might assist their memory to have the whole verse quoted; or because it contained an interesting truth respecting the Redeemer - though not precisely a “proof” of what he was urging; or because it “implied” substantially the same truth as the former member. It shows that he was united with his church; that he was one of them; and that he mingled with them as among brethren.
Will I sing praise - That the Redeemer united with his disciples in singing praise, we may suppose to have been in the highest degree probable - though, I believe, but a single case is mentioned - that at the close of the Supper which he instituted to commemorate his death; Matthew 26:30. This, therefore, proves what the apostle intended - that the Messiah was among them as his brethren - that he spoke to them as such - and mingled in their devotions as one of their number.
And again - That is, it is said in another place, or language is used of the Messiah in another place, indicating the confidence which he put in God, and showing that he partook of the feelings of the children of God, and regarded himself as one of them.
I will put my trust in him - I will confide in God; implying:
(1) A sense of dependence on God; and,
(2) Confidence in him. It is with reference to the former idea that the apostle seems to use it here - as denoting a condition where there was felt to be need of divine aid. His object is to show that he took part with his people, and regarded them as brethren - and the purpose of this quotation seems to be to show that he was in such a situation as to make an expression of dependence proper. He was one with his people, and shared their “dependence” and their piety - using language which showed that he was identified with them, and could mingle with the tenderest sympathy in all their feelings. It is not certain from what place this passage is quoted. In Psalms 18:2, and the corresponding passage in 2 Samuel 22:3, the Hebrew is אחסה־בּו echacah bow - “I will trust in him;” but this Psalm has never been regarded as having any reference to the Messiah, even by the Jews, and it is difficult to see how it could be considered as having any relation to him. Most critics, therefore, as Rosenmuller, Calvin, Koppe, Bloomfield, Stuart, etc., regard the passage as taken from Isaiah 8:17. The reasons for this are:
(1)That the words are the same in the Septuagint as in the Epistle to the Hebrews;
(2)The apostle quotes the next verse immediately as applicable to the Messiah;
(3)No other place occurs where the same expression is found.
The Hebrew in Isaiah 8:17, is וקוּיתי־לו weqiwweytiy-low - “I will wait for him,” or I will trust in him - rendered by the Septuagint πεποιθὼς ἔσομαι ἐπ ̓αὐτῶ pepoithōs esomai ep' autō - the same phrase precisely as is used by Paul - and there can be no doubt that he meant to quote it here. The sense in Isaiah is, that he had closed his message to the people; he had been directed to seal up the testimony; he had exhorted the nation to repent, but he had done it in vain; and he had now nothing to do but to put his trust in the Lord, and commit the whole cause to him. His only hope was in God; and he calmly and confidently committed his cause to him. Paul evidently designs to refer this to the Messiah; and the sense as applied to him is, “The Messiah in using this language expresses himself as a man. It is people who exercise dependence on God; and by the use of this language he speaks as one who had the nature of man, and who expressed the feelings of the pious, and showed that he was one of them, and that he regarded them as brethren.” There is not much difficulty in the “argument” on the passage; for it is seen that in such language he must speak as “a man,” or as one having human nature; but the main difficulty is on the question how this and the verse following can be applied to the Messiah? In the prophecy, they seem to refer solely to Isaiah, and to be expressive of his feelings alone - the feelings of a man who saw little encouragement in his work, and who having done all that he could do, at last put his sole trust in God. In regard to this difficult, and yet unsettled question, the reader may consult my Introduction to Isaiah, section 7. The following remarks may serve in part to remove the difficulty.
(1) The passage in Isaiah Isaiah 8:17-18, occurs “in the midst” of a number of predictions relating to the Messiah - preceded and followed by passages that had an ultimate reference undoubtedly to him; see Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 8:8; Isaiah 9:1-7, and the notes at those passages.
(2) The language, if used of Isaiah, would as accurately and fitly express the feelings and the condition of the Redeemer. There was such a remarkable similarity in the circumstances that the same language would express the condition of both. Both had delivered a solemn message to people; both had come to exhort them to turn to God, and to put their trust in him and both with the same result. The nation had disregarded them alike, and now their only hope was to confide in God, and the language used here would express the feelings of both - “I will trust in God. I will put confidence in him, and look to him.”
(3) There can be little doubt that in the time of Paul this passage was regarded by the Jews as applicable to the Messiah. This is evident, because:
- Paul would not have so quoted it as a “proof text” unless it would be admitted to have such a reference by those to whom he wrote; and,
(b)Because in Romans 9:32-33, it is evident that the passage in Isaiah 8:14, is regarded as having reference to the Messiah, and as being so admitted by the Jews. It is true that this may be considered merely as an argument “ad hominem” - or an argument from what was admitted by those with whom he was reasoning, without vouching for the precise accuracy of the manner in which the passage was applied - but that method of argument is admitted elsewhere, and why should we not expect to find the sacred writers reasoning as other people do, and especially as was common in their own times?
(Yet the integrity of the apostle would seem to demand, that he argue not only “ex concessis,” but “ex veris.” We cannot suppose for a moment, that the sacred writers (whatever others might do), would take advantage of erroneous admissions. We would rather expect them to correct these. Proceed upon them, they could not; see the supplementary note on Hebrews 1:5. Without the help of this defense, what the author has otherwise alleged here, is enough to vindicate the use the apostle has made of the passage; see also the note on Hebrews 2:6.)
The apostle is showing them that according to “their own Scriptures,” and in accordance with principles which they themselves admitted, it was necessary that the Messiah should be a man and a sufferer; that he should be identified with his people, and be able to use language which would express that condition. In doing this, it is not remarkable that he should apply to him language which “they” admitted to belong to him, and which would accurately describe his condition.
(4) It is not necessary to suppose that the passage in Isaiah had an original and primary reference to the Messiah. It is evident from the whole passage that it had not. There was a “primary” reference to Isaiah himself, and to his children as being emblems of certain truths. But still, there was a strong “resemblance,” in certain respects, between his feelings and condition and those of the Messiah. There was such a resemblance that the one would not unaptly symbolize the other. There was such a resemblance that the mind - probably of the prophet himself, and of the people - would look forward to the more remote but similar event - the coming and the circumstances of the Messiah. So strong was this resemblance, and so much did the expressions of the prophet here agree with his declarations elsewhere pertaining to the Messiah, that in the course of time they came to be regarded as relating to him in a very important sense, and as destined to have their complete fulfillment when he should come. As such they seem to have been used in the time of Paul; and no one can prove that the application was improper. Who can demonstrate that God did not “intend” that those transactions referred to by Isaiah should be designed as symbols of what would occur in the time of the Redeemer? They were certainly symbolical actions - for they are expressly so said to have been by Isaiah himself Isaiah 8:18, and none can demonstrate that they might not have had an ultimate reference to the Redeemer.
And again - In another verse, or in another declaration; to wit, Isaiah 8:18.
Behold I and the children which God hath given me - This is only a part of the passage in Isaiah, and seems to have been partially quoted because the “point” of the quotation consisted in the fact that he sustained to them somewhat of the relation of a parent toward his children - as having the same “nature,” and being identified with them in interest and feeling. As it is used by Isaiah, it means that he and his children were “for signs and emblems” to the people of his time - to communicate and confirm the will of God, and to be pledges of the divine favor and protection; see the notes at the passage in Isaiah. As applied to the Messiah, it means that he unstained to his people a relation so intimate that they could be addressed and regarded as his children. They were of one family; one nature. He became one of them, and had in them all the interest which a father has in his sons. He had, therefore, a nature like ours; and though he was exalted above the angels, yet his relation to man was like the most tender and intimate earthly connections, showing that he took part in the same nature with them. The “point” is, that he was a man; that since those who were to be redeemed partook of flesh and blood, he also took part of the same Hebrews 2:14, and thus identified himself with them.
Forasmuch then - Since; or because.
As the children - Those who were to become the adopted children of God; or who were to sustain that relation to him.
Are partakers of flesh and blood - Have a human and not an angelic nature. Since they are men, he became a man. There was a fitness or propriety that he should partake of their nature; see the 1 Corinthians 15:50 note; Matthew 16:17 note.
He also himself, ... - He also became a man, or partook of the same nature with them; see the notes at John 1:14.
That through death - By dying. It is implied here:
(1)That the work which he undertook of destroying him that had the power of death, was to be accomplished by “his own dying;” and,
(2)That in order to this, it was necessary that he should be a man. An angel does not die, and therefore he did not take on him the nature of angels; and the Son of God in his divine nature could not die, and therefore he assumed a form in which he could die - that of a man. In that nature the Son of God could taste of death; and thus he could destroy him that had the power of death.
He might destroy - That he might “subdue,” or that he might overcome him, and “destroy” his dominion. The word “destroy” here is not used in the sense of “closing life,” or of “killing,” but in the sense of bringing into subjection, or crushing his power. This is the work which the Lord Jesus came to perform - to destroy the kingdom of Satan in the world, and to set up another kingdom in its place. This was understood by Satan to be his object: see the Matthew 8:29 note; Mark 1:24 note.
That had the power of death - I understand this as meaning that the devil was the cause of death in this world. He was the means of its introduction, and of its long and melancholy reign. This does not “affirm” anything of his power of inflicting death in particular instances - whatever may be true on that point - but that “death” was a part of his dominion; that he introduced it; that he seduced man from God, and led on the train of woes which result in death. He also made it terrible. Instead of being regarded as falling asleep, or being looked on without alarm, it becomes under him the means of terror and distress. What “power” Satan may have in inflicting death in particular instances no one can tell. The Jewish Rabbis speak much of Sammael, “the angel of death” - מלאך המות mal'aak hamuwt - who they supposed had the control of life, and was the great messenger employed in closing it.
The Scriptures, it is believed, are silent on that point. But that Satan was the means of introducing “death into the world, and all our woe,” no one can doubt; and over the whole subject, therefore, he may be said to have had power. To “destroy” that dominion: to rescue man; to restore him to life; to place him in a world where death is unknown; to introduce a state of things where “not another one would ever die,” was the great purpose for which the Redeemer came. What a noble object! What enterprise in the universe has been so grand and noble as this! Surely an undertaking that contemplates the annihilation of death; that designs to bring this dark dominion to an end, is full of benevolence, and commends itself to every man as worthy of his profound attention and gratitude. What woes are caused by death in this world! They are seen everywhere. The earth is “arched with graves.” In almost every dwelling death has been doing his work of misery. The palace cannot exclude him; and he comes unbidden into the cottage. He finds his way to the dwelling of ice in which the Esquimaux and the Greenlander live; to the tent of the Bedouin Arab, and the wandering Tartar; to the wigwam of the Indian, and to the harem of the Turk; to the splendid mansion of the rich, as well as to the abode of the poor. That reign of death has now extended near 6,000 years, and will travel on to future times - meeting each generation, and consigning the young, the vigorous, the lovely, and the pure, to dust. Shall that gloomy reign continue forever? Is there no way to arrest it? Is there no place where death can be excluded? Yes: heaven - and the object of the Redeemer is to bring us there.
And deliver them - Not all of them “in fact,” though the way is open for all. This deliverance relates:
(1) To the dread of death. He came to free them from that.
(2) From death itself - that is, ultimately to bring them to a world where death shall be unknown. The dread of death may be removed by the work of Christ, and they who had been subject to constant alarms on account of it may be brought to look on it with calmness and peace; and ultimately they will be brought to a world where it will be wholly unknown. The dread of death is taken away, or they are delivered from that, because:
(a)The cause of that dread - to wit, sin, is removed; see the notes at 1 Corinthians 15:54-55.
- Because they are enabled to look to the world beyond with triumphant joy.
Death conducts them to heaven. A Christian has nothing to fear in death; nothing beyond the grave. In no part of the universe has he any thing to dread, for God is his friend, and he will be his Protector everywhere. On the dying bed; in the grave; on the way up to the judgment; at the solemn tribunal; and in the eternal world, he is under the eye and the protection of his Saviour - and of what should he be afraid?
Who through fear of death - From the dread of dying - that is, whenever they think of it, and they think of it “so often” as to make them slaves of that fear. This obviously means the natural dread of dying, and not particularly the fear of punishment beyond. It is that indeed which often gives its principal terror to the dread of death, but still the apostle refers here evidently to natural death - as an object which people fear. All men have, by nature, this dread of dying - and perhaps some of the inferior creation have it also. It is certain that it exists in the heart of every man, and that God has implanted it there for some wise purpose. There is the dread:
(1)Of the dying pang, or pain.
- Of the darkness and gloom of mind that attends it.
(3)Of the unknown world beyond - the “evil that we know not of.”
(4)Of the chilliness, and loneliness, and darkness of the grave.
(5)Of the solemn trial at the bar of God.
(6)Of the condemnation which awaits the guilty - the apprehension of future wo. There is no other evil that we fear so much as we do death - and there is nothing more clear than that God intended that we should have a dread of dying.
The reasons why he designed this are equally clear:
- One may have been to lead people to prepare for it - which otherwise they would neglect.
(2)Another, to “deter them from committing self-murder” - where nothing else would deter them.
Facts have shown that it was necessary that there should be some strong principle in the human bosom to prevent this crime - and even the dread of death does not always do it. So sick do people become of the life that God gave them; so weary of the world; so overwhelmed with calamity; so oppressed with disappointment and cares, that they lay violent hands on themselves, and rush unbidden into the awful presence of their Creator. This would occur more frequently by far than it now does, if it were not for the salutary fear of death which God has implanted in every bosom. The feelings of the human heart; on this subject were never more accurately or graphically drawn than in the celebrated Soliloquy of Hamlet:
- To die; - to sleep -
No more; - and by a sleep, to say we end.
The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks.
That flesh is heir to, - ‘tis a consummation.
Devoutly to be wished. To die - to sleep -
To sleep: - perchance to dream; - ay, there’s the rub;
For in that deep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: - there’s the respect.
That makes calamity of so long a life:
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns.
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make.
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life;
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourne.
No traveler returns, puzzles the will;
And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution.
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought;
And enterprises of great pith and moment.
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.
God planned that man should be deterred from rushing uncalled into His awful presence, by this salutary dread of death - and his implanting this feeling in the human heart is one of the most striking and conclusive proofs of a moral government over the world. This instinctive dread of death can be overcome only by religion - and then man does not need it to reconcile him to life. He becomes submissive to trials. He is willing to bear all that is laid on him. He resigns himself to the dispensations of Providence, and feels that life, even in affliction, is the gift of God, and is a valuable endowment. He now dreads “self-murder” as a crime of deep dye, and religion restrains him and keeps him by a more mild and salutary restraint than the dread of death. The man who has true religion is willing to live or to die; he feels that life is the gift of God, and that he will take it away in the best time and manner; and feeling this, he is willing to leave all in his hands. We may remark:
(1) How much do we owe to religion! It is the only thing that will effectually take away the dread of death, and yet secure this point - to make man willing to live in all the circumstances where God may place him. It is possible that philosophy or stoicism may remove to a great extent the dread of death - but then it will be likely to make man willing to take his life if he is placed in trying circumstances. Such an effect it had on Cato in Utica; and such an effect it had on Hume, who maintained that suicide was lawful, and that to turn a current of blood from its accustomed channel was of no more consequence than to change the course of any other fluid!
(2) In what a sad condition is the sinner! There are thousands who never think of death with composure, and who all their life long are subject to bondage through the fear of it. They never think of it if they can avoid it; and when it is forced upon them, it fills them with alarm. They attempt to drive the thought away. They travel; they plunge into business; they occupy the mind with trifles; they drown their fears in the intoxicating bowl: but all this tends only to make death more terrific and awful when the reality comes. If man were wise, he would seek an interest in that religion which, if it did nothing else, would deliver him from the dread of death; and the influence of the gospel in this respect, if it exerted no other, is worth to a man all the sacrifices and self-denials which it would ever require.
All their life-time subject to bondage - Slaves of fear; in a depressed and miserable condition, like slaves under a master. They have no freedom; no comfort; no peace. From this miserable state Christ comes to deliver man. Religion enables him to look calmly on death and the judgment, and to feel that all will be well.
For verily - Truly.
He took not on him the nature of angels - Margin, “He taketh not hold of angels, but of the seed of Abraham he taketh hold.” The word used here - ἐπιλαμβάνεται epilambanetai - means, to take hold upon; to seize; to surprise; to take hold with a view to detain for oneself. Robinson. Then it means to take hold of one as by the hand - with a view to aid, conduct, or succour; Mark 8:23; Acts 23:19. It is rendered “took,” Mark 8:23; Luke 9:47; Luke 14:4; Acts 9:27; Acts 17:19; Acts 18:17; Acts 21:30, Acts 21:33; Acts 23:19; Hebrews 8:9; “caught,” Matthew 14:31; Acts 16:19; “take hold,” Luke 20:20, Luke 20:26; “lay hold,” and “laid hold,” Luke 23:26; 1 Timothy 6:12. The general idea is that of seizing upon, or laying hold of anyone - no matter what the object is - whether to aid, or to drag to punishment, or simply to conduct. Here it means to lay hold with reference to “aid,” or “help;” and the meaning is, that he did not seize the nature of angels, or take it to himself with reference to rendering “them” aid, but he assumed the nature of man - in order to aid “him.” He undertook the work of human redemption, and consequently it was necessary for him to be man.
But he took on him the seed of Abraham - He came to help the descendants of Abraham, and consequently, since they were men, he became a man. Writing to Jews, it was not unnatural for the apostle to refer particularly to them as the descendants of Abraham, though this does not exclude the idea that he died for the whole human race. It was true that he came to render aid to the descendants of Abraham, but it was also true that he died for all. The fact that I love one of my children, and that I make provision for his education, and tell him so, does not exclude the idea that I love the others also - and that I may make to them a similar appeal when it shall be proper.
Wherefore in all things - In respect to his body; his soul; his rank and character. There was a propriety that he should be like them, and should partake of their nature. The meaning is, that there was a fitness that nothing should be wanting in him in reference to the innocent propensities and sympathies of human nature.
It behoved him - It became him; or there was a fitness and propriety in it. The reason why it was proper, the apostle proceeds to state.
Like unto his brethren - Like unto those who sustained to him the relation of brethren; particularly as he undertook to redeem the descendants of Abraham, and as he was a descendant of Abraham himself, there was a propriety that he should be like them. He calls them brethren; and it was proper that he should show that he regarded them as such by assuming their nature.
That he might be a merciful and faithful high priest -
(1) That he might be “merciful;” that is, compassionate. That he might know how to pity us in our infirmities and trials, by having a nature like our own.
(2) That he might be “faithful;” that is, perform with fidelity all the functions pertaining to the office of high priest. The idea is, that it was needful that he should become a man; that he should experience as we do the infirmities and trials of life, and that by being a man, and partaking of all that pertained to man except his sins, he might feel how necessary it was that there should be “fidelity” in the office of high priest. Here was a race of sinners and sufferers. They were exposed to the wrath of God. They were liable to everlasting punishment. The judgment impended over the race, and the day of vengeance hastened on. “All now depended on the great high priest.” All their hope Was in his “fidelity” to the great office which he had undertaken. If he were faithful, all would be safe; if he were unfaithful, all would be lost. Hence, the necessity that he should enter fully into the feelings, fears, and dangers of man; that he should become one of the race and be identified with them, so that he might be qualified to perform with faithfulness the great trust committed to him.
High priest - The Jewish high priest was the successor of Aaron, and was at the head of the ministers of religion among the Jews. He was set apart with solemn ceremonies - clad in his sacred vestments - and anointed with oil; Exodus 29:5-9; Leviticus 8:2. He was by his office the general judge of all that pertained to religion, and even of the judicial affairs of the Jewish nation; Deuteronomy 17:8-12; Deuteronomy 19:17; Deuteronomy 21:5; Deuteronomy 33:9-10. He only had the privilege of entering the most holy place once a year, on the great day of expiation, to make atonement for the sins of the whole people; Leviticus 16:2, etc. He was the oracle of truth - so that when clothed in his proper vestments, and having on the Urim and Thummim, he made known the will of God in regard to future events. The Lord Jesus became in the Christian dispensation what the Jewish high priest was in the old; and an important object of this Epistle is to show that he far surpassed the Jewish high priest, and in what respects the Jewish high priest was designed to typify the Redeemer. Paul, therefore, early introduces the subject, and shows that the Lord Jesus came to perform the functions of that sacred office, and that he was eminently endowed for it.
In things pertaining to God - In offering sacrifice; or in services of a religious nature. The great purpose was to offer sacrifice, and make intercession; and the idea is, that Jesus took on himself our nature that he might sympathize with us; that thus he might be faithful to the great trust committed to him - the redemption of the world. Had he been unfaithful, all would have been lost, and the world would have sunk down to wo.
To make reconciliation - By his death as a sacrifice. The word used here - ἱλάσκομαι hilaskomai - occurs but in one other place in the New Testament Luke 18:13, where it is rendered “God be merciful to me a sinner;” that is, reconciled to me. The noun (ἱλασμός hilasmos - “propitiation”) is used in 1Jo 2:2; 1 John 4:10. The word here means properly to “appease,” to reconcile, to conciliate; and hence, to “propitiate” as to “sins;” that is, to propitiate God in reference to sins, or to render him propitious. The Son of God became a man, that he might so fully enter into the feelings of the people as to be faithful, and that he might be qualified as a high priest to perform the great work of rendering God propitious in regard to sins. How he did this, is fully shown in the subsequent parts of the Epistle.
For in that he himself ... - “Because” he has suffered, he is able to sympathize with sufferers.
Being tempted - Or, being “tried.” The Greek word used here is more general in its meaning than the English word “tempted.” It means to “put to the proof;” to try the nature or character of; and this may be done either:
(1)By subjecting a person to “afflictions” or “sufferings” that his true character may be tried - that it may be seen whether he has sincere piety and love to God; or.
(2)By allowing one to fall into “temptation,” properly so called - where some strong inducement to evil is presented to the mind, and where it becomes thus a “trial” of virtue.
The Saviour was subjected to both these in as severe a form as was ever presented to people. His sufferings surpassed all others; and the temptations of Satan (see Matthew 4:0) were presented in the most alluring form in which he could exhibit them. Being “proved” or “tried” in both these respects, he showed that he had a strength of virtue which could bear all that could ever occur to seduce him from attachment to God; and at the same time to make him a perfect model for those who should be tried in the same manner.
He is able to succour ... - This does not mean that he would not have had “power” to assist others if he had not gone through these sufferings, but that he is now qualified to sympathize with them from the fact that he has endured like trials.
“He knows what sore temptations mean,
For he has felt the same.”
The idea is, that one who has himself been called to suffer is able to sympathize with those who suffer; one who has been tempted, is able to sympathize with those who are tempted in like manner. One who has been sick is qualified to sympathize with the sick; one who has lost a child, can sympathize with him who follows his beloved son or daughter to the grave; one who has had some strong temptation to sin urged upon himself can sympathize with those who are now tempted; one who has never been sick, or who has never buried a friend, or been tempted, is poorly qualified to impart consolation in such scenes. Hence, it is that ministers of the gospel are often - like their Master - much persecuted and afflicted, that they may be able to assist others. Hence, they are called to part with the children of their love; or to endure long and painful sicknesses, or to pass through scenes of poverty and want, that they may sympathize with the most humble and afflicted of their flock. And they should be willing to endure all this; because:
(1)Thus they are like their Master (compare Colossians 1:24; Philippians 3:10); and,
(2)They are thus enabled to be far more extensively useful.
Many a minister owes a large part of his usefulness to the fact that he has been much afflicted; and for those afflictions, therefore, he should unfeignedly thank God. The idea which is here expressed by the apostle - that one is enabled to sympathize with others from having himself suffered, was long since beautifully expressed by Virgil:
“Me quoque per multos similis fortuna labores,
Jactatam, hac demum voluit consistere terra.
Non ignara mali, miseris succurrere disco.
Aeneid I. 628.
“For I myself like you have been distressed,
Till heaven afforded me this place of rest:
Like you, an alien in a land unknown,
I learn to pity woes so like my own.
Jesus is thus able to alleviate the sufferer. In all our temptations and trials let us remember:
(1) That he suffered more - infinitely more - than we can do, and that in all our sorrows we shall never reach what he endured. We enter no region of trial where he has not gone beyond us; we tread no dark and gloomy way where he has not gone before us.
(2) That he is to us “a brother,” for he “is not ashamed to call us brethren.” He had a nature like ours; he condescended to appear as one of our race, with all the innocent propensities and passions of a man. What matchless condescension! And what an honor for us to be permitted to address him as an “older brother,” and to know that he feels a deep sympathy in our woes!
(3) Let us then, in all times of affliction, look to him. Go not, suffering Christian, to philosophy; attempt not to deaden your feelings by the art of the Stoic; but go at once to the Saviour - the great, sympathizing High Priest, who is able to succour you - and rest your burdens on him.
“His heart is made of tenderness,
His soul is filled with love.
“Touch’d with a sympathy within,
He knows our feeble frame;
He knows what sore temptations mean,
For he has felt the same.
“Then let our humble faith address.
His mercy and his power;
We shall obtain delivering grace,
In every trying hour.”
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Hebrews 2". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19