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Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 2

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

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Verse 1

Danger of Neglecting Jesus’ Teaching

Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.

Throughout Hebrews, Paul emphasizes the importance of Jesus and His teaching, pausing periodically to stress an important point and to make an appeal to his readers for action. His readers are in danger of apostasy—of leaving Jesus and His teaching and returning to their past way of living, worshiping, and acting. He warns them not to let the teaching slip away and exhorts them to remain faithful to Jesus by holding to the word they have heard.

Therefore: The word "Therefore" connects verses 1-4 of chapter two with everything taught in chapter one. This word is also translated "For this reason" (NASV) and "in view of this" (New American Bible). His reference is to the truths taught in chapter one, referring to Jesus as the Son of God and to Jesus’ teaching providing the good news of salvation.

we ought to give the more earnest heed: Paul uses the pronoun "we" to include himself and all other Christians. The word "ought" (dei) denotes something "is necessary" (Thayer 126). The action that is necessary is "to give the more earnest" (perissoteroso) heed, that is, to give heed to "a greater degree" (Thayer 506) or to "give more excessive heed" (Dods 258). The word "heed" (prosecho) means "to be attentive" (Thayer 546). Paul’s message is not only to give heed but to give "earnest heed."

to the things which we have heard: Holding on to "the things" refers to holding on to the truths given in chapter one regarding the superiority of Jesus to the prophets and angels and the New Testament’s being superior to the Old Testament. The term "heard" involves more than merely hearing something; it involves learning. Thayer defines the word "heard" (akouo) as "to get by hearing, learn" (23).

Christians must give a greater degree of attention to the things they have learned from hearing God’s word. One of the greatest problems causing divisions among Christians today is their not desiring to hold to the truths found in God’s word. Oftentimes they slip away from the truth by establishing their belief in what the Bible does not say instead of what the Bible does say; therefore, just as with the Hebrew Christians, we today must give more attention to the things we have heard from the scriptures. Robert Milligan concludes the following about the "things which we have heard": "By these are meant simply the facts, precepts, promises, warnings, and threatening of the Gospel" (85).

lest at any time we should let them slip: Slipping away from Jesus’ teaching is what these Hebrew Christians are in danger of doing. Vincent is correct in saying "Drifting is a mark of death: giving heed, of life" (393). Paul wants all Christians to understand they can "slip" (pararreo) away from Jesus and from salvation. The word "slip" (pararreo) suggests to "be carried past" (Thayer 485) or to "drift away" (Westcott and Hort 141); therefore, Christians must give great attention to the Lord’s directives (the teaching found in the New Testament) to insure they do not allow themselves to be carried past His instructions.

This idea of slipping away from the Lord is a metaphor "of being swept along past the sure anchorage which is within reach" (Robertson 342). Paul depicts the Christian life as a person who is on a river with the possibility of floating away. There is no danger as long as a Christian puts forth the effort and remains close to the shores of safety (Jesus Christ); however, if he folds his arms and gives in to the natural currents of sin, he will naturally float away from safety. In our Christian life, God has graciously provided salvation to every person through the gospel, but it is up to each individual Christian to work out his or her salvation. The Apostle Peter warns, "save yourselves from this untoward generation" (Acts 2:40). One saves himself or herself by taking heed to the "things which (they) have heard" from the scriptures. Jesus promises he who receives His word will receive Him, saying, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me" (John 13:20). The Apostle John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, warns:

Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds (2 John 1:9-10).

As Christians, we must never allow anything to come between us and Jesus. "No calamity, influence, force, or circumstance should be tolerated that weakens us with reference to the hope of salvation" (Wycliffe 1410). Paul’s message here is that if we neglect the teaching "heard" (the New Testament teaching), we will lose the benefit (salvation) Jesus provides through His death. Man is responsible for his own actions regarding salvation. Jesus makes it clear that man does not enter into heaven by drifting along; he has personal responsibilities, and he must do his part. Jesus says, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in and shall not be able" (Luke 13:24). The safety of salvation is obtained by men and women doing their part in accepting the call of Jesus. The Apostle Peter’s encouragement to Christians to add to their faith the seven Christian graces (virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity) concludes by saying that man must remember the teachings of the scriptures:

Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth (2 Peter 1:10-12).

Verse 2

For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward;

For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast: The phrase "the word spoken by angels" has direct reference to the Old Testament law. There is no doubt that God used angels to deliver the Old Testament messages, and the obedience of these instructions was essential. Moses writes of the Lord’s bringing His law accompanied by thousands of angels:

The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them (Deuteronomy 33:2).

The Apostle Paul also writes to the Galatians about the law having come through the angels:

Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator (Galatians 3:19).

The word "steadfast" (bebaios) suggests the angels’ words are "stable" or "firm" (Thayer 99); that is, the angels’ words are valid and therefore unchallengeable (Thayer 99).

The word "if" does not indicate that Paul doubts if the angels’ words are stable. He is making a statement of fact, meaning "since" the words spoken by angels are steadfast. The Old Testament, delivered by angels and prophets, was firm; it was true; it had to be obeyed by God’s people who lived before Jesus came giving His new law.

and every transgression and disobedience: Paul speaks of "transgression and disobedience" committed by those during Old Testament times. The term "transgression" (parabasis), meaning "a stepping over the line" (Vincent 394), refers to a definite sin, a "transgression of a positive command" (Dods 259). Paul speaks of sins committed by the children of Israel when they neglected to hear and obey God’s commands. The people actually heard the commands, they understood the commands, but they stepped over the line by doing more than God instructed. Oftentimes one will commit a sin ("transgression") doing more than God’s instructs but claims that his or her actions are done to glorify God; therefore, they mistakenly expect God to be pleased with their actions. As an example of one "stepping over the line," we recall the mistakes of King Saul. The Lord instructed the prophet Samuel to tell King Saul what He wanted him to do. The instructions were simple; King Saul was to go into battle with Amalek and destroy everything; nothing was to remain. The instructions were really God’s commands:

Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass (1 Samuel 15:3).

With these instructions and with God’s protection, King Saul fought Amalek. With God’s help, there was no doubt of victory; however, even though King Saul understood that the Lord’s command was to "destroy all," he did not obey. He decided to keep some of the flock to offer as a sacrifice to God:

But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them:

but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly (1 Samuel 15:9).

King Saul honestly thought he was pleasing God; he felt he was obeying God’s instructions. His actions, however, made the Lord regret having appointed him as Israel’s first king. God looked upon King Saul’s actions as evil, even though he intended to worship Him. King Saul "crossed the line" by doing more than God instructed. Regarding King Saul’s transgression of His word, the Lord God says:

It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the Lord all night. … And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the Lord: I have performed the commandment of the Lord. And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear? And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed. … Wherefore then didst thou not obey the voice of the LORD, but didst fly upon the spoil, and didst evil in the sight of the LORD? And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal. And Samuel said, Hath they LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams (1 Samuel 15:11; 1 Samuel 15:13-15; 1 Samuel 15:19-22).

The term "disobedience" (parakoe), just as the word "transgression," refers to sins, suggesting one who has developed an "unwillingness to hear" (Thayer 484). This term refers to "neglect(ing) to obey" (Dods 259). These Hebrew Christians are nearing apostasy, not because they are ignorant of Jesus or His teaching but because they are unwilling to hear and obey. Instead of obeying the instructions of God, they are ignoring His laws. They are not "crossing the line" or doing more than God instructs as is suggested by the word "transgression." Instead, they are not doing enough; they refuse to do what the Lord tells them to do. They are doing nothing less than those who refuse to accept Stephen’s teaching as he is about to be stoned to death; they refuse to hear and obey. The scripture says, "Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord" (Acts 7:57). Vincent points out that "it is noticeable how often in O.T. obedience is described as hearing, and disobedience as refusing to hear" (394). As an example, notice the Lord’s instructions to Moses after the children of Israel started complaining about the lack of water to drink in Marah. Moses approached the Lord with their criticisms. The Lord showed him a tree, which when he cast into the waters, made the waters sweet. The Lord tells Moses:

If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee (Exodus 15:26).

While in the wilderness of Sinai, Moses went up into the mountain and was told by God to tell the children of Israel to hear and obey His instructions:

Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me about all people: for all the earth is mine….And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD (Exodus 19:5; Exodus 19:8).

After the death of Moses, the Lord called on Joshua to lead the Israelites into the land of Canaan. The Lord’s instruction to Joshua was to tell the Israelites to obey and not rebel against any of His commandments:

Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success (Joshua 1:7-8).

The Israelites understood this commandment:

Whoever rebels against your orders and disobeys your words, whatever you command, shall be put to death. Only be strong and courageous. (Joshua 1:18 NRSV).

At times, the Israelites would obey God’s instructions and, at other times they, just as the Hebrew Christians are doing, would transgress by refusing to hear (obedience implied) the Lord’s words:

They are turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, which refused to hear my words; and they went after other gods to serve them: the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant which I made with their fathers… And they came in, and possessed it; but they obeyed not thy voice, neither walked in thy law; they have done nothing of all that thou commandest them to do: therefore thou hast caused all this evil to come upon them (Jeremiah 11:10; Jeremiah 32:23).

received a just recompense of reward: The term "received" (lambano) means "to experience" (Thayer 371). One should keep in mind that Paul is writing about the Israelites’ transgressing and disobeying God’s instructions delivered by angels and prophets. Because of their sins, they experienced a "just recompense of reward." The word "just" (endikos) is found only here and in Romans 3:8 where Paul says, "And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? Whose damnation is just." In both places Paul uses the term "just" to refer to a righteous (Thayer 214) "recompense of reward" (misthapodosia), referring to a punishment as a "payment of wages due" (Thayer 415). The reward they experienced was not excessive punishment. God is a just God, and He invokes a just punishment on those who refuse to obey His laws. The ones living under the Old Testament law, who disobeyed God’s laws resulting "from neglecting to hear (and) from letting things drift by" (Vincent 394) were righteously punished by God. The Apostle Paul will write more about the Israelites’ sins and punishments later in this book:

For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief (3:16-19).

Verse 3

How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;

How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation: Paul asks a rhetorical question, demanding a negative answer. Since those under the Old Testament law were righteously punished for disobeying the Lord, those under the New Testament can expect the same result: there is no way to escape if the salvation ushered in by Jesus is neglected. In verse 3, Paul stops referring to those of the Old Testament and begins talking about Christians under the New Testament. He uses the pronoun "we," thus including himself and all other Christians, that is: "We, to whom God has spoken by his Son, and who, therefore, have so much the more reason for giving heed" (Vincent 394). Paul says, how shall "we" (Christians) "escape" (ekpheugo) or "flee" (Thayer 200) from God’s punishment "if we neglect so great salvation"? The word "neglect" does not mean to reject totally; instead, the word "neglect" (ameleo) means "to be careless of" and refers to those who carelessly "drift past" (Vincent 395) the salvation offered by God’s grace (see verse 1). Christians are here warned not to be careless in their behavior, not to allow themselves to drift slowly away from Jesus. The salvation (soteria) of man is the main theme of the New Testament; those who neglect this salvation will not escape the final judgment; they will give account of their wicked deeds. Milligan shows the importance of man’s obeying all the commandments of God:

A strict observance of all the commandments and ordinances of God, is therefore indispensable, not as a means of procuring salvation, but as a condition of enjoying what Christ has himself freely purchased for us with his own blood (90).

Jesus speaks of those who neglect the call of salvation in His parable of the marriage feast in Matthew 22:1-14. Before telling this parable, Jesus points out that this illustration is similar to the kingdom of heaven. He says, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son" (Matthew 22:2). In this parable, Jesus tells of a king who prepares a great feast and invites all to come to the wedding; however, many refuse to accept the invitation—some are simply not prepared; therefore, the king says, "Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 22:13). Jesus’ illustration proves that punishment is in store for Christians who neglect the Lord’s call to salvation.

Paul often writes letters warning Christians of the coming judgment. In writing to the church in Rome regarding Christians’ giving account for their actions, he says:

But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil; of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honor, and peace, to every man that worketh good; to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:…we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God (Romans 2:5-10; Romans 14:10-12).

In writing his second recorded letter to the church in Corinth, Paul clearly explains the action that will take place on the day of judgment:

Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:9-10).

Paul’s writings and warning of the coming judgment echo the teaching of Jesus:

Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:28-29).

Later, in His personal ministry, Jesus pictures the coming judgment as a great separation where the righteous are put on His right side and the wicked on His left. Once this separation takes place, those on the left hand are punished and those on the right hand are saved:

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: … Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:31-34; Matthew 25:41).

In Paul’s message to the Hebrew Christians, he warns them not to neglect the salvation offered in the New Testament. Dods explains that the main problem with some of the Hebrew Christians is their accepting the trustworthiness of the words spoken by Jesus:

It was the trustworthiness of the new revelation of salvation which the Hebrews were beginning to question. The law had proved its validity by punishing transgressors but the majesty and certainty of the recent proclamation were doubtful. Therefore the writer insists that it is "very great," and illustrates its trustworthiness by adducing these three features: (1) its original proclamation by the Lord, (2) its confirmation by those who heard Him, (3) its miraculous certification by God (259-260).

which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord: It is important for Christians to understand that the Lord is the ultimate source of all revelation; therefore, they must be aware that the salvation of the New Testament, which some are on the verge of neglecting, was not first proclaimed by the Old Testament prophets or the angels sent to minister but by the Lord Jesus, Himself. Therefore, the "salvation" Paul speaks of is the "salvation" first spoken by Jesus Himself in the New Testament. Paul is emphasizing to the Hebrew Christians that since they realize God’s people in the Old Testament (who received His instructions from prophets and angels) were justly punished for their sins, they must understand that they, too, will be punished for sins if they neglect the salvation offered by Jesus Christ.

and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him: The word "confirmed" (bebaioo), coming from the same Greek root word translated "steadfast" in verse 2, indicates "to make firm, establish (or) make sure" (Thayer 99). The good news of salvation from sins is established by firsthand witnesses, that is, by the apostles who heard Jesus teach (verse 1). All the Hebrew Christians did not necessarily hear Jesus speak personally; however, the Apostle Paul did. In writing to the church of Galatia, Paul says, "But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:11-12). Paul and the other apostles were witnesses of the salvation by Jesus Christ; however, the importance of this salvation is so significant that God gave other sources of proof (signs, wonders, miracles, gifts of the Holy Spirit) as Paul mentions in verse 4.

Verse 4

God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

God also bearing them witness: God also "bearing them witness" (sunepimartureo) means "to attest together with; to join in bearing witness, to unite in adding testimony" (Thayer 603). The additional testimony regarding the salvation offered by Jesus that Paul now speaks of comes from God, Himself. The message comes from God even when it is penned or verbally spoken by inspired men. God is with inspired men of the New Testament, just as He was with Moses in the Old Testament as stated in Exodus 33:14: The Lord says, "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest."

both with signs and wonders: The first additional witness is "signs (semeion) and wonders (teras)," which are almost always found together in the New Testament. As a unit these two terms suggest a phenomenon, referring to "miracles and wonders by which God authenticates the men sent by him, or by which men prove that the cause they are pleading is God’s" (Thayer 573).

and with divers miracles: The second additional witness is "divers miracles." The word "divers" (poikilos) means "various" (Thayer 527), and the word "miracles" (dunamis) is defined as "the power of performing miracles" (Thayer 159). Thus, we understand that Paul is not referring to different individual miracles; instead he is saying that those who are given the ability to perform different miracles are witnesses of Jesus Christ.

and gifts of the Holy Ghost: The word "gifts" (merismos) suggests "a distribution" (Thayer 400) of the "Holy Ghost" (hagios). The plural word "gifts" does not refer to the Holy Ghost Himself; instead it refers to the various miraculous gifts the Holy Ghost imparts, as Paul writes about in his first recorded letter to the Corinthians:

Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Sprit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Sprit, dividing to every man severally as he will (1 Corinthians 12:3-11).

according to his own will: The expression, "according to his own will," refers to God’s will. The gifts of the Holy Ghost are distributed to individuals according to God’s choice. Dods says that Paul adds "according to his (God’s) will" as a way to show the witnesses chosen are the result of Divine intention:

The clause is added to enforce the writer’s contention that all the Charismata with which his readers were familiar were not mere fruits of excitement or in any way casual, but were the result of a Divine intention to bear witness to the truth of the gospel (261).

Restoration of Man’s Dominance Over
the World Restored Through Jesus

Verse 6

But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him?

But one in a certain place testified: Even though Paul has taught about the greatness of Jesus, he now speaks of the greatness of man as testified by Jesus. Here in verse 6, Paul is speaking of Jesus; however he does not call His name as the one who has "testified" (diamarturomai), meaning to "solemnly affirm" (Thayer 139). Paul is not suggesting he does not know that Jesus is the one who testified; instead, he speaks rhetorically, assuming his readers know for certain that Jesus gives this testimony; thus, he has no reason to call Him by name.

What is man, that thou art mindful of him: The word "mindful" (mimnesko) is defined as "to remind" (Thayer 415). Who is it that God is reminded of? The term "man" found in this verse refers to mankind in general, and not to Jesus personally, as some people assert. Milligan points out that it is the human race that is under consideration:

It is God’s care for the human race, as such, and not for any one person in particular, which so much excites the wonder and admiration of the psalmist. When he looked upon the heavens as the work of God’s fingers, and thought of the moon and the stars which he (God) had created, he was amazed that a Being so exalted, so excellent, and so glorious, should ever condescend to think of man and to supply his numerous wants (99).

or the son of man that thou visitest him: This clause, as in the previous clause, refers to the human race. The words "son of man" (huios anthropou) in this clause is equivalent to the word "man" (anthropos) in the previous clause, meaning mankind. The term "visitest" (episkeptomai) indicates "to look upon in order to help or to benefit, i.q. to look after, have a care for, provide for" (Thayer 242). Milligan further says:

The word visit, according to Hebrew usage, means to manifest one’s self to another, for the purpose of either blessings (Genesis 1:1; Exodus 3:16) or punishing (Job 35:15; Psalms 89:32). In this connection, both the words, visit and remember, are used in a favorable sense, indicating God’s special care over man, in that he provides for him, and, as Christ says, numbers even the hairs of his head. (Matthew 10:10.) (99).

Verse 7

Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands:

Thou madest him a little lower than the angels: The words "madest…lower" (elattoo) means "to make less or inferior" (Thayer 202); however, the term "little" suggests mankind is made lower than the angels for a limited time. The Emphatic Diaglott, containing the Original Greek Text, gives the interlinear word-for-word English translation, saying, "Thou didst make him for a little while inferior to Angels; thou didst crown him with Glory and Honor" (730).

thou crownedst him with glory and honour: The word "crownedst" (stephanoo) means "to adorn, to honor" (Thayer 588). The words "glory" and "honour" are nearly synonymous terms, often found together to emphasize the superior position of the one spoken of (man in this context). The word "glory" (doxa) actually indicates that man was created in "a most glorious condition (or) most exalted state" (Thayer 156); and "honour" (time) refers to man, as "one who outranks others, pre-eminence" (Thayer 624). Milligan, therefore, is correct when he says:

Together, they express royal dignity; and in this instance, they indicate the fullness of the regal power and authority which God has bestowed, not on the first or on the second Adam merely, but on the race; or rather, on the loyal portion of it. By a decree as immutable as the laws of gravitation, God has ordained that man shall inherit the Earth and have dominion over it (100).

The sense in which man is in such a superior position is clearly stated in Paul’s next clause:

and didst set him over the works of thy hands: This clause is rejected by many writers because it is omitted from some manuscripts. It is, however, found in the Codex Sinaiticus and the inclusion of this clause does no harm to the context. To "set" (kathistemi) means "to place, put" (Thayer 314). Paul’s emphasis is that man is created by God for the purpose of being in a supreme position over all the rest of His creation.

Verse 8

Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.

Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet: This clause, linked to the previous one, "didst set him over the works of thy hands," is a Hebrew parallelism and is used to strengthen the point (as the psalmist does in Psalms 8) that man was created to be superior to the rest in the universe. The key term of this phrase is "all things," for the "all things" refers to "an absolutely universal subjection, so that everything obstructive of man’s ’glory’ may be subdued" (Dods 263).

For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him: The second sentence of this verse, beginning with the word "For," is to explain and reemphasize the first sentence. The phrase "that is not put under him" means "unsubjected to him" (Vincent 398). It is man, not angels, being spoken of in this verse; and it is on this earth that man is supreme, not in the world to come (heaven). In Psalms 8, to which Paul alludes, the psalmist makes this fact clear. He first says in verse 6, "Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet"; and then immediately he, as a way of explaining what he means, says in verses 7 and 8: "All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas." Milligan supports this view as he elegantly states:

It is to this world as it was, as it is, and especially as it will be hereafter, that both the Psalmist and the Apostle have reference. When God had renovated the Earth and filled it, as a vast storehouse, with all that was necessary for the well-being and happiness of its intended sovereign, he said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the Earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the Earth, So God created man in his own image; in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the Earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the Earth." (Genesis 1:26-28.) This is the perpetual decree of Jehovah with respect to the domain and the dominion of man (101-102).

Thus, we see that man was created with glory and honor to rule the earth; however, because of his sins, he forfeited his rights. After man sinned, Satan took control of the earth, and the earth is no longer as comfortable as before sin entered. Man is to be punished for his sin; therefore, it is recorded:

And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return (Genesis 3:17-19).

Paul continues his thoughts by saying:

But now we see not yet all things put under him: Paul says that because of sin "all things" are "not yet put under" man. Man did not remain in the exalted position, as God intended, because he submitted to Satan’s temptation; however, even though Satan won that battle, he did not win the war with God. God’s plan of having man supreme of the earth will succeed in His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus became man and defeated Satan. Vincent says, "But this ideal is not yet a reality. We see not yet all things subjected to him, but we do see the germinal fulfillment of the prophecy in Jesus’ life, suffering, and death" (399). Man will never rule the earth as it was originally planned; however, he will regain dominion and he will overcome evil by being allowed to enter into heaven (the new heaven and the new earth):

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son (Revelation 21:1-7).

Verse 9

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

But we see Jesus: Paul makes a sudden transition from "man" to "Jesus." This is the first time in this letter that Paul uses the human name, Jesus. "In this epistle that name usually furnishes the key to the argument of the passage in which it occurs" (Vincent 399). The contrast should be noted. In verse 8, Paul says, "But now we see not yet all things put under him," that is, under man; however, now, specifically referring to Jesus, Paul shows the development is in progress that will have Jesus as Lord over all. It also shows that Jesus became man; therefore, God’s original plan of having man as supreme over the earth and all that is therein will still take place through Jesus. Later in this chapter, Paul says, "Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people’ (2:17).

who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death: The expression that Jesus "was made a little lower than the angels" means the same as His being "made under the law," as Paul writes in Galatians 4:4. Benny Cryer, writing on Galatians 4:4, accurately points out that since Jesus was born under and lived during the time the Old Testament law was in effect, it was necessary for Him to obey the laws of the Old Testament:

Jesus’ birth takes place while the law is still in effect. He is obliged to keep the law perfectly. For example, He goes to the synagogue on Saturday because the Sabbath is to be kept holy (Luke 4:16). He not only keeps the law He is under, he fulfils it (Matthew 5:17-18). In these last two phrases "made" is used in the sense of born (95).

Jesus was made lower than the angels, in that He became human for the purpose of being able to suffer death for the sins of mankind. Paul says:

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds (12:2-3).

crowned with glory and honour: As just noted, Jesus was made lower than the angels that He might suffer death; Paul furthers this thought by showing Jesus was "crowned with glory and honour" in His "suffering of death." The best explanation of Jesus’ being "crowned with glory and honour" is to read other similar letters written by Paul:

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).

Jesus died, arose, and ascended to heaven, leaving no doubt that he is now Lord of the universe; therefore, He rules the earth and all that is in it.

that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man: "Grace" (charis) means "kindness which bestows upon one what he has not deserved" (Thayer 666). Jesus died for man’s sin as an expression of God’s grace. He died, not out of wrath, but because of God’s love for man. Paul says:

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life (Romans 5:8-10).

Jesus is superior to the angels because He willingly "taste(d) death for every man," that is, He experienced death; He suffered death for every man. Jesus died for man and ascended to the Father; therefore, He became man’s entrance to heaven. The Apostle Peter warns all Christians to add to their faith the seven Christian graces (virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity) and promises that if they add these traits to their lives they will never fall. Instead of falling away into sin, they have the promise of life eternal:

Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:10-11).

Paul emphasizes in verses 5-9 that God originally intended for this world to belong to man; and even though man sinned and, therefore, forfeited his exalted position, it is still God’s purpose to redeem the world for the benefit of His children. Furthermore, Paul proves that man’s redemption will not come through angels, nor through the laws delivered by the angels, but through Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Paul presents the same proof to the church at Rome:

For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all (Romans 4:13-16).

Verse 10

Why Jesus Became Man and Dwelt Among Us

For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things: Paul’s purpose, beginning with verse 10 and going through the end of this chapter, is to prove "it became," that is, it was proper for Jesus to suffer on the cross for man’s sins and that His death and resurrection were part of God’s scheme of redemption. The phrase, "For whom are all things, and by whom are all things," means for whose sake all things exist. God, the Father, is the ultimate, final cause of all things. Everything in creation was created by God and for God’s purpose.

in bringing many sons unto glory: The participle "bringing" refers to the pronoun "him" or to Jesus. Likewise, the word "many" "is not used with any reference to the population of the world, or to the proportion of the saved, but to the one Son already celebrated. It was God’s purpose not only to have one Son in glory, but to bring many to be partakers with Him" (Dods 265). As it was proper for God to create the universe, it was also proper for Him to devise a plan through His Son, Jesus, to redeem man from sin and to bring many sons unto glory. Milligan, therefore, is correct when he says:

As it became God to adapt means to ends in the works of creation, so also it becomes him to do the same in the works of providence and redemption. When he resolved to bring many sons unto glory, there was then imposed on him (if I may say it with reverence) a moral necessity, deep and profound as his own nature, to qualify Jesus for the great work that was before him: and this, it seems, could be done only by means of his incarnation, sufferings, and death (107-108).

As heirs of salvation, Christians are pictured as being within God’s family. Christians are called God’s "sons" in this verse, and in the next verse they are referred to as Jesus’ "brethren." Paul’s purpose here is to prove that God’s family, "many sons," will be brought to glory, that is, heaven.

to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings: Jesus is the "captain" (archegos), meaning He is "the author" (Thayer 77). Dods explains that "one of the chief points in the epistle is that the Saviour is also archegos (captain). The word is commonly used of founders of tribes, rulers and commanders, persons who begin anything" (265). Paul’s message is that Jesus, as the founder of salvation, is made "perfect" (teleioo), meaning "to bring to the end proposed" (Thayer 619). When Jesus died on the cross, the plan of redemption for man was made "perfect," meaning that man’s redemption is wanting in nothing. Jesus paid the ultimate price for man’s redemption. This perfecting of Jesus refers to His "glory and honor" mentioned in verse 9. Jesus’ being made "perfect" through sufferings does not suggest He was ever imperfect, as the Jews thought. Vincent ties Jesus’ perfection to His sorrow and pain:

"To make perfect" does not imply moral imperfection in Jesus, but only the consummation of that human experience of sorrow and pain through which he must pass in order to become the leader of his people’s salvation (402).

Many of the Jews actually viewed Jesus’ suffering and death as their proof that He could not have been the long-awaited Messiah. They had misunderstood the Old Testament prophecies regarding the Messiah’s coming. They honestly believed that He would come and abide with them forever, citing passages of the Psalms prophesying of the coming of the Messiah. For example, the psalmist writes:

In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth.…His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed….His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me….It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah.

….The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek (Psalms 72:7; Psalms 72:17; Psalms 89:36-37; Psalms 110:4).

Because of passages such as these, the Jews became confused when Jesus, speaking of His coming crucifixion, tells them "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32); therefore, they responded to Jesus’ statement saying, "We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?" (John 12:34). It is necessary now for the Apostle Paul to try to clear up their confusion.

Verse 11

For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,

For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: The message here is unity between Jesus and Christians. "He that sanctifieth" refers to Jesus and "they who are sanctified" are the "many sons," that is, all Christians mentioned in verse 10. In the Old Testament, those who were sanctified were set apart to God; likewise here in verse 11, Paul uses a similar idea regarding Christians’ being sanctified as being united with Jesus. Vincent says, "Sanctification is the path to glorification" (402). Man’s sanctification is effected through the death of Jesus Christ. Paul says, "For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (10:14). Likewise, in writing to Christians in Corinth, Paul says, "But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30). Those who are "sanctified" (Christians), Paul says, "are all of one," meaning all Christians are of God, our Father; therefore, "are all of one" refers to Paul’s statement in verse 10: "for whom are all things, and by whom are all things."

for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren: Through Jesus’ death, God sanctifies mankind; and through His death, man is allowed to enter into God’s family; therefore, Paul states Jesus is not ashamed to call those He leads to salvation His "brethren."

Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.

Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren: This statement is a quote from David’s prayer in which he expresses his thankfulness for God’s answering his prayers during the severe trials he faced; therefore, he says, "I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee" (Psalms 22:22). To "declare" (apaggello) means Jesus (just as David) would "make known openly (or) proclaim" something (Thayer 53). The pronoun "I" refers to our Brother, Jesus; "thy" refers to God, our Father; and "brethren" refers to the "many sons," that is, Christians mentioned in verse 10. The original statement of Psalms 22 refers to David; however, these words have a double reference and are also applied to Jesus. Paul proves the close family-type relationship between Jesus and His brethren (Christians).

in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee: The word "church" (ekklesia) means "an assembly" (Thayer 196). In the Jewish sense, it refers to the assembly of the nation of Israel; however, here the term "church" has reference to the assembly of the united body of believers who are under the mediatorial reign of Jesus Christ. Vincent says Paul has reference to "his brethren in the worshipping assembly" (403). Bloomfield agrees, "The term ekklesia (church wmb) signifies properly, in the Jewish sense, ’the assembly of the nation congregated at Jerusalem;’ but in the Christian sense, as here, the assembly of the faithful, which forms the Church Universal" (476).

The pronoun "I" in this verse, and from the context of this passage, obviously has reference to Jesus. Therefore, there is some confusion regarding the implication that Jesus is represented as being "in the midst of the church" and saying that he will "sing praise." In what way can Jesus sing praise "in the midst of the church" when the church had not been established during His earthly ministry? Dods says, "This is one particular form in which His brotherhood manifests itself. For the passages cited not merely affirm the brotherhood, but also exhibit its reality in the participation by the Messiah of human conditions" (266). In short, Jesus is obviously present when Christians worship God. Not only is He present, He is also participating in the worship. When Christians sing praises to God, Jesus is singing with us. We are brothers of Jesus. We are united as a family and together we sing praises to God.

Verse 13

And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.

And again, I will put my trust in him: Paul’s words here come from the Old Testament; however, it is a point of debate as to which Old Testament passage is under consideration. Some believe Paul refers to 2 Samuel 22:3: "The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence." Others think Paul more than likely refers to Psalms 18:2: "The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower."

The most important point is not where the quote originated but the point Paul is making: in the Old Testament, Jesus (the coming Messiah) is prophesied to be a man, to have the attributes of man, and as a man to feel the need to depend upon and trust in God.

And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me: This clause originates from the teaching of Isaiah:

And I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion (Isaiah 8:17-18).

It is common for Paul to quote Old Testament prophets and then to apply the principles of the Old Testament teaching to Jesus, the church, and Christians today. In this verse, Paul quotes David’s and Isaiah’s teaching as a type and antitype. Milligan correctly explains:

How can words which in their first intention have a clear reference to Isaiah and his children be applied to Christ and his disciples? The proper answer to this question is to be found in the typical relations which Isaiah and his children sustained to Christ and the children of God. As every divinely appointed high-priest under the Theocracy represented Christ in his priestly office; and as every king of the royal line of David represented him in his kingly office; so also did every true prophet represent him to some extent in his prophetical office. And whatever, therefore, was said of Isaiah and his sons, as types, has reference also to Christ and the children which God has given him, as antitypes (114).

Verse 14

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same: Paul continues his thoughts about the unity between Jesus and Christians. Continuing with his tender tone, Paul refers to the Hebrews as the "children," that is, the children of God, Christians, who are human beings made of flesh and blood. The Greek text suggests a better rendering would be "blood and flesh" instead of "flesh and blood" and refers to "human nature in contrast with God" (Vincent 404). When Jesus willingly left heaven to come to earth to save man, He "took part of the same," that is, because man was mortal, He became mortal; because man was "flesh," He became flesh. As man was born of woman, Jesus was born of woman. Speaking of the virgin Mary, the angel of the Lord tells Joseph:

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us (Matthew 1:21-23).

Jesus’ being "partakers" (koinoneo) of flesh and blood means He became "a sharer" or "a partner" (Thayer 351) with man, being made flesh and blood like man.

Since man is flesh and blood, Paul says Jesus "likewise took part" (metecho), meaning to "partake" (Thayer 407); however, "likewise" does not mean " ’in like manner,’ but ’in absolutely the same manner’ " (Dods 267). Paul’s point here is that Jesus and Christians became one by Jesus’ becoming man; by Jesus taking part with "flesh and blood." The expression "flesh and blood" is a synecdoche referring to the whole human nature of man. Jesus became man in every way. In writing to the church at Philippi, Paul says:

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:6-8).

Kendrick writes regarding the future and present state of the Hebrew Christians:

Christ saw in these future heirs of salvation brethren and children of God, and hastened to put himself into the position which would enable him to realize this ideal picture. Its touching beauty lies in the fact that the author disguises, holds in the background, the depraved, guilty, rebellious character of the objects of redemption. Jesus dies not for apostates, but for sons; not for aliens, but for brethren. His compassionate love already invests them with the character to which it is eventually to bring them. There is a double logic—that of the head and that of the heart; that of fact and that of feeling. The one sees in men enemies whom Christ intends to convert into friends, children, brethren, and for whom he therefore assumes human nature; the other sees in men by anticipation, brethren, children, friends, and for who, therefore, because they are human, he assumes human nature. In the one case, he dies for them as they are; in the other case, he dies for them as they are to be (40).

that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil: "Death is the devil’s realm, for he is the author of sin" (Robertson 349). Jesus, reproving the Jews for their boastful attitudes, says, "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it" (John 8:44). Even though death was the devil’s territory, Jesus won a victory over death. Paul writes to the church in Rome about reconciliation by Christ:

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:12-21).

Victory over death is a matter of prophecy. Isaiah writes, "He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it" (25:8). Hosea prophesies the same promise, saying, "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes" (13:14). The prophet Daniel writes:

And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever (12:2-3).

Jesus became man in every way that He might destroy the devil through His death. To "destroy" (katargeo) does not suggest the devil no longer exists but that the devil was "rendered idle, unemployed, inactive, inoperative" (Thayer 336). Jesus, through His death, removed the "power" (kratos) or "dominion" (Thayer 359) of the devil who has power over death. The term "death" (thanatos), as found here, means "the death of the body, i.e. that separation of the soul from the body by which the life on earth is ended" (Thayer 282). Death originally came to man as the punishment for sin. After Adam was created and placed in the Garden of Eden, Moses writes:

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die (Genesis 2:16-17).

Since Jesus, however, had no sin of His own when He died on the cross, the devil had no power over Him. He was not bound as all others who have sinned are bound. Even in death, Jesus was still in control and picked up the keys of hell and death and arose after three days. Speaking of Jesus and His triumph over death, John, the Revelator, writes:

And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death (Revelation 1:17-18).

Verse 15

And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

And deliver them: The term "deliver" (apallasso) indicates that one is "set free" (Thayer 53) from bondage; however, Paul does not mean all people will be delivered from bondage. The ones set free are "the sons" (verse 10); "those who are sanctified" (verse 11); the "brethren" (verse 12); the "children" of God (verse 13); those who "are partakers of flesh and blood" (verse 14); that is, Christians, the children of God are delivered.

who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage: The "bondage" from which Paul says Christians are delivered is not death, for we must all die (9:27), but the "fear of death." The word "fear" refers to the "apprehensions" of death (Arndt and Gingrich 871). Job refers to "death" as "the king of terrors" (18:14). Man generally fears death, as Milligan states: (1) Because of the pain, misery, and dissolution which attend it; (2) because of the darkness and corruption of the grave which follow it; (3) because of the uncertainty of their condition and destiny beyond it. It is the terminus of our probationary state, beyond which there is no place for repentance. The man who passes this solemn bourn, in union, communion, and fellowship with God, will die no more. (Luke 20:36.) But for those who are then disloyal and unholy, there remains nothing but the horrors and torments of the second death (Revelation 20:14-15) (120).

The fear of death is one of the most noticeable features of the Old Testament. Death is the great dread and terror of the human race. The scholarly Dods explains the fear of death:

Life, in short, with sin unaccounted for, and with death viewed as the punishment of sin to look forward to, is a douleia ("bondage" wmb) unworthy of God’s sons. This indeed is expressly stated in verse 15. The douleia which contradicts the idea of sonship and prevents men from entering upon their destiny of dominion over all things is occasioned by their fear of death as that which implies rejection by God (268).

Up until the time that men acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, they have "all their lifetime" been "subject to bondage" of death. Through this unfaltering faith in Christ Jesus, they are no longer "subject to bondage." The words "subject to" (enochos) suggest to be "bound, under obligation (or) liable" (Thayer 217), and the word "bondage" (douleia) means "slavery" (Thayer 157). This "bondage" or "slavery" characterized the lives of those under the Old Testament. However, now, Paul is emphasizing that, by the grace of God (verse 9), His children must no longer fear death; that is, they are no longer slaves to the fear of death because Jesus "taste(d) death for every man" (verse 9). Jesus assures His followers that He is the only way to the Father for He says "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). Since a Christian’s faith in Jesus delivers him from sin, he does not fear death, as Paul so boldly states:

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).

In another letter written to the Corinthians, Paul explains why there is no need to fear death: "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (2 Corinthians 5:1). No wonder the psalmist writes the beautiful and comforting words of the Psalms 23 :

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Paul indicates clearly his attitude about the death of a Christian when he says, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). Thus, Jesus’ victory over death and Satan comforts those who are in the Lord. They no longer have to fear death because God’s children know that even though they will die they will also rise to live with the Lord in the eternal home of heaven. Death should no longer be looked upon as a dreaded sign of separation from the grace of God; instead it should be viewed as a step in the eternal salvation of man’s soul, as the entrance into life eternal. Paul encourages the Thessalonians not to be ignorant of the events following death:

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

From Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, we learn that because Jesus rose from the dead, death can no longer hold its former terror for the one who trusts in Jesus. By Jesus’ resurrection, He is able to deliver man from the bondage of the "fear of death." There is no reason to fear death because God’s children will rise again to live with the Lord in heaven.

Verse 16

For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.

For verily he took not on him the nature of angels: The word "verily" (depon) means "doubtless, as is well-known" (Vincent 406). The Greek text does not include the words "the nature"; thus, the New International Version has a more accurate rendering: "For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants." In verses 5-15, Paul proves Jesus did not come to the earth as an angel, but instead became man; however, in verse 16, he changes thoughts to emphasize that Jesus did not come to the earth to help or save angels from their sins; instead, He came to help and save mankind from sins.

but he took on him the seed of Abraham: Instead of coming to help save angels from their sins, Jesus "took on him the seed of Abraham." The phrase "took on him" is used in the sense of helping. Jesus helps man to overcome the fear of death. It is true that Jesus became man by being born of the virgin Mary through the lineage of Abraham. Matthew says: "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham" (1:1). He concludes in verse 17, "So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations." On the other hand, Paul’s intent in this verse is not the fact that Jesus was born of the seed of Abraham. It is not that Jesus "took on him" (Himself) something, but that He lays hold upon another to rescue or to help him. Paul gives an example of a time when the Lord rescued man when he says, "Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord" (8:9).

Verse 17

Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren: The words "all things" broaden Paul’s message to include not only the incarnation and death of Jesus but also the traits of the living High Priest. The word "behooved" (opheilo) means "to be under obligation, bound by duty or necessity, to do something" (Thayer 469). Jesus assumed the position of High Priest and became One who helps man to overcome sin. Jesus loved man to the point that He felt an obligation to become man and experience poverty, temptation, violence, and death:

God’s design for man’s salvation consisted of sending a representative man who could do for man what man had been unable to do for himself – live an acceptable life before God. Because Jesus was this chosen and well-beloved Servant of the Father, and in order to carry out this divine mission, He became in every respect like His human brethren, though without sin (Fudge 33).

that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God: The only way for Jesus to be like His brethren was for Him to become a human being. Jesus became man that He might be a High Priest who is "merciful" (eleemon), ("compassionate," Vincent 407) and "faithful" (pistos) (trustworthy). Vincent says:

Having shown that Christ delivers from the fear of death by nullifying the accusing power of sin, he now shows that he does this in his capacity of high priest, for which office it was necessary that he should be made like unto his human brethren (407-408).

As man, Jesus lived a sinless life; therefore, He became a perfect High Priest who could be "merciful" to man and "faithful" in all things pertaining to God. The two adjectives, "merciful" (eleemon) and "faithful" (pistos) are the principal characteristics in the function of the High Priest. Later in this Hebrew letter, Paul writes extensively about the High Priest:

For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins. And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, today have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedec. Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchizedek (5:1-10).

to make reconciliation for the sins of the people: Jesus, as a sinless man, could make "reconciliation" (ilaskomai) for man’s sins, that is, He could "expiate" or "make propitiation for" (Thayer 301) the sins of mankind. He died to cleanse man from his sins. Matthew, speaking of the virgin Mary, says:

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us (1:21-23).

Verse 18

For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted: Jesus had the same experiences as man. As man is tempted, Jesus was more tempted. Jesus "suffered being tempted." Jesus "suffered" (pascho) refers to His "experiences" (afflictions) (Thayer 494). Paul is referring to "evils upon (Jesus) in order to prove his character and the steadfastness of his faith" (Thayer 498).

he is able to succour them that are tempted: By saying Jesus "is able to succour them that are tempted," Paul is referring to the fact that Jesus willingly became man, enduring temptation that He might be able to succor man. The term "succour" (boetheo) means Jesus might be able "to help" (Thayer 104) Christians who are tempted. Since Jesus became man and was tempted as man, He can now sympathize and deliver man from his temptations and sins. Jesus’ power to help man is due, not only to His deity as God’s Son but also to His humanity without which He could not sympathize with us. Jesus became a son of man that all Christians may be the sons of God. He took our place by dying in our place, for our sins, that we might enjoy the life and blessings that He enjoys in heaven. Paul emphasizes Jesus’ likeness to man again when he says, "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (4:15).

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Hebrews 2". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/hebrews-2.html. 1993-2022.
 
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