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Wednesday, July 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 4

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

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Verses 1-16

IV 1-10 Rest of Heaven promised to the Faithful— The antitypal rest promised to the Hebrews remains. Warning changes to exhortation. 1. Note the use of the first person plural: ’Let us fear’. If we are unfaithful we have everything to fear; if we are faithful, the rest or repose which Chanaan prefigured lies open before us. The generation of the Exodus missed the promised repose through their own fault and if we miss, it will also be through our own fault. 936a

2. The word which they heard did not profit. the Israelites either because it did not mix by faith with the persons who heard it (s???e?e?asµ????); or because they did not mix by faith with those who like Josue and Caleb (rightly) heard it (s???e?e?asµ?????). The two readings are almost equally attested. The DV follows a Vg reading (later adopted in the Clementine edition) which gives a confused sense. Read therefore: ’But the word of hearing did not profit them since it was not united with faith in those who heard’. Lack of faith frustrated the word of hearing.

3-5. These verses say in effect that God’s rest on the seventh day, Genesis 2:2, is the image not only of the weekly Sabbath, but of the temporal rest of Chanaan, and especially of the eternal rest to which men are invited after the labours of life. Unbelief excludes from it.

6-8. Therefore, since God’s rest is open to men, and the generation of the Exodus missed it through unbelief, God fixes (limiteth) a day, which in David he calls ’To-day’, so long after the conquest of Chanaan. Whether St Paul wishes to quote David himself in citing Ps 94 or merely designates the Davidic collection by the name , David’ may be doubtful, but certainly he dates the Psalm as Davidic or post-Davidic, for his purpose is to show that the rest of Chanaan is not the rest which God promised in an inspired poem composed such a long time after the conquest of Chanaan by Josue (Grecized Jesus, 8).

9. Therefore, he concludes ’a sabbatismos remains for the people of God’. Tile Gk sabbatismos is found nowhere else in the whole Greek Bible. It means not merely rest but the observance or enjoyment of rest. 10. It is ceasing from work like the Creator, and the Apostle at least implies that it is the reward of works (cf.Apoc 14:13, so familiar from the Daily Requiem epistle), and that it is participation in God’s happiness.

11-13 Concluslon— This little finale really deserves to be called a peroration. It eloquently insists that every effort must be made to enter into that rest, which is equivalent to saying that every means must be taken to avoid the fate of the incredulous Israelites. They fell by resisting the word of God. We may fall in the same way. The qualities of the word of God, 12, 13, are such that there is no escape from its imperious authority, no hope of shirking our responsibility towards it. The word or logos is so boldly personified that some commentators have even identified it with the personal Logos. The context is against this view, but the word of God’s revelation is so authoritative as to be ultimately interchangeable with God who speaks it. ’Living’ stands at the head of the list of its attributes, that is, the word of God is full of power to act with living force; it is effectual in attaining its purpose; more trenchant than any two-edged sword—as the short double-edged machaera is a cutting rather than a stabbing instrument, our equivalent phrase would be ’as keen as a razor cutting fine and deep’. The subtle thoroughness of its dissection is expressed by saying that it reaches as far as dividing sensitive soul from thinking spirit (µe??sµó?, active verbal), and no closely knit joint, no hidden marrow of the bones is left untouched by it. This elaborate metaphor reveals in God’s word an allsearching power which becomes even more ’personal’ when the word is presented as a ’discerner’ (???te?ó?) of thoughts and intentions of the heart, a veritable judge of how one thinks and how one is minded, how one stands in regard to thought and feeling. The ’heart’ is sometimes regarded as the seat of thought, but more often of man’s moral life, cf.Matthew 15:17-20.

13. Here the word finally identifies itself with God’s all-seeing knowledge, or rather he takes the place of his word: Nothing created is invisible to him, cf. Ps 138; all things discover themselves and stand bare (tet?a?ð??sµ??a) before his eyes. It seems that the second metaphor is taken from the bending back and baring of the necks of animals for the sacrificial stroke of the knife. The literal meaning of t?a?ð?í?e? is to act with or on the neck—hence various usages of the term in the language of horse-riding, wrestling and sacrifice. All the ancient versions, like the Vg, make the participle a reinforcing synonym of the preceding adjective ??µ??, ’naked’. Hence, ’all things are naked and open to his eyes’ is quite good. The final phrase ’To whom our speech (?ó???) is ’may be rendered ’about whom we are

speaking’, but clearly it means: ’To whom our account is’, i.e. to whom we must render an account of ourselves’.

IV 14-VII 28 The Superiority of Christ’s Priesthood— Up to this the comparison between Christ and the angels and also between Christ and Moses has been personal. From this forward the comparison will be one of priesthood and priestly ministries, as between the Aaronic and Christian priesthood. Here, therefore, the sacerdotal theology of Heb begins.

IV 14-V 10 Christ’s High Priesthood— 14-16. A characteristic introduction (cf. 10:19; also 2 Corinthians 3:12) leads us to the thesis. It is a brief and gripping exhortation to confidence. The three basic ideas of the exhortation are: We have a Pontiff who has gone through to the place of repose, thoroughly sympathetic with our weaknesses, permanently established as a Mediator beside the throne of grace. Note the following: ’Great high-priest (cf. ’great priest’, 10-21)—this is a title of double grandeur once given to Simon Machabeus, 1 Mac 13:42. Passed into the heavens’ links on to the sabbatismos and suggests future developments regarding the Holy of Holies. Jesus, whose divine sonship has already appeared five times unequivocally, is here called straight out and emphatically ’the Son of God’. The religion which has such a priest, in such a sanctuary—the very Son of God—is a religion to which we must hold on. The difficulties must not discourage us.

15. He is greatly capable of compassionating our infirmities, for, remaining sinless, he has nevertheless gone through every generic experience of human suffering We should note that the sinlessness which sets him apart from us does not diminish his fellow-feeling for us, but makes it greater and purer, because absolutely free from all egoism. 16. Again we meet a key-word ’Let us go’ (approach). This movement of access to God in worship pervades our Epistle, cf. 7:25; 10:1, 22; 11:6; 12:18, 22. In a very elegant phrase we are assured that at the throne of God’s grace we shall find mercy and obtain grace (an elegant chiasmus in Greek) in the form of help suited to each time and circumstance.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on Hebrews 4". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/hebrews-4.html. 1951.
 
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