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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Hebrews 3

Verse 1

Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;

As Moses especially was the prophet by whom 'God in time past spake to the Fathers' (Hebrews 1:1), being mediator of the law, Paul shows that, great as was Moses, the Son of God is greater. Ebrard, 'The angel of the covenant came in the name of God before Israel; Moses in the name of Israel before God; 'whereas the high priest came both in the name of God (bearing the name JEHOVAH on his forehead) before Israel, and in the name of Israel (bearing the name of the twelve tribes on his breast) before God (Exodus 28:9-29; Exodus 28:36-38). Now Christ is above the angels (Hebrews 1:1-14; Hebrews 2:1-18), because:

(1) as Son of God He is higher; and

(2) as Son of man, because manhood, though for a time lower than angels, is in Him exalted above them to the lordship of "the world to come," since He is at once Messenger of God to men, and atoning Priest-Representative of men before God (Hebrews 2:17-18).

Parallel with this argument as to His superiority to angels (Hebrews 1:4) runs that which follows as to His superiority to Moses (Hebrews 3:3):

(1) Because as Son over the house He is above the servant in the house (Hebrews 3:5-6), just as the angels were shown to be but ministering spirits (Hebrews 1:14), whereas He is the Son (Hebrews 3:7-8).

(2) Because the bringing of Israel into the promised rest, not finished by Moses, is accomplished by Him (Hebrews 4:1-11) through His being not merely leader and lawgiver as Moses, but also propitiatory High Priest (Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 5:10).

Wherefore, [ Hothen (G3606)] - 'Whence;' i:e., Seeing we have such a sympathizing Helper, you ought to 'contemplate attentively,' fix your mind on Him, so as to profit by the contemplation (Hebrews 12:2). [ Katanoeesate (G2657), often used by Luke, Paul's companion (Luke 12:24; Luke 12:27).]

Brethren - in Christ the common bond of union.

Partakers (Hebrews 3:14; Hebrews 6:4).

Heavenly calling - coming from heaven, and leading to heaven. Philippians 3:14, "the high calling;" Greek, 'the calling above.'

The Apostle and High Priest of our profession. One Greek article to both: 'Him who is at once Apostle and High Priest'-Apostle, as Ambassador (higher than "angel" - messenger) sent by the Father (John 20:21), pleading the cause of God with us; High Priest, as pleading our cause with God. Both His Apostleship and High Priesthood are comprehended in the one title, Mediator (Bengel). Though "Apostle" is nowhere else applied to Christ, it is appropriate in addressing Hebrews, who used the term of delegates sent by the High Priest to collect the temple tribute from Jews in foreign countries, even as Christ was the Father's Delegate to this world, far off from Him (Matthew 21:37). As what applies to Him applies also to His people, the twelve are designated His apostles, even as He is the Father's. He is not designated here "angel," in order to distinguish His nature from that of angels mentioned before, through He is "the Angel of the Covenant." The 'legate of the church' (Sheliach Tsibbur) offered up prayers in the synagogue in the name of and for all. So Jesus, "the Apostle of our profession," is delegated to intercede for the Church before the Father. "Of our profession" marks that it is not of the legal ritual, but of our Christian faith, that He is the High Priest. Paul compares Him as an Apostle to Moses, as High Priest to Aaron. He alone combines both offices which those two brothers held apart. "Profession" corresponds to God having spoken to us by His Son, as Apostle and High Priest. What God proclaims we 'confess.'

Verse 2

Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.

He first notes the resemblance between Moses and Christ, to conciliate the Hebrew Christians, who still entertained a very high opinion of Moses; he afterward brings forward Christ's superiority.

Who was, [ onta (G5607)] - 'being.' He still is faithful, as our mediating High Priest, to the trust God has assigned Him (Hebrews 2:17). So Moses in God's house (Numbers 12:7).

Appointed - `made Him' HIGH PRIEST: so Hebrews 5:5; 1 Samuel 12:6, margin; Acts 2:36: so the Greek fathers. Not as Ambrose and the Latins, 'created Him' - i:e., as man, in His incarnation. Moses' likeness to Messiah was foretold by himself (Deuteronomy 18:15). Other prophets only explained Moses, who was therefore their superior: Christ was like Moses, yet superior.

Verse 3

For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.

For - the reason why they should 'consider' attentively "Christ" (Hebrews 3:1), highly as they regard Moses.

Was, [ eexiootai (G515)] - has been.'

Counted worthy of more glory - by God, when He exalted Him to His own right land. The Hebrew Christians admitted this (Hebrews 1:13).

Builded the house. 'More honour than the house hath he who constructed it' [ kataskeuasas (G2680)], instead of "builded," marks that the building meant is not literal, but spiritual-the Church both of the Old and New Testaments; and that the building of such a house includes all the preparations of Providence and grace made to furnish it with 'living stones,' and 'servants.' Compare Exodus 1:21. He who founds a family is said to build it [ baanah (H1129), whence ben (H1121), 'a son']. As Christ the Founder (1 Corinthians 3:9; 1 Peter 2:5) is greater than the house so constructed, including the servants, He is greater also than Moses, who was but a "servant." Glory results from honour.

Verse 4

For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God.

Some one must be the founder of every house: Moses was not the founder, but a portion of the house (but He who established all things, and therefore the spiritual house, is God). Christ, being instrumentally the Founder of all things, must be the Founder of the house, so greater than Moses.

Verse 5

And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after;

Faithful In all his house - i:e., in all God's house (Hebrews 3:4).

Servant. Not here [ doulos (G1401)] 'slave,' but [ therapoon (G2324)] 'a ministering attendant:' free and spontaneous (John 8:36; John 15:15); marking Moses' high office toward God, though inferior to Christ. Christ was a servant (Philippians 2:7); but He was also the Son, Lord, and Heir of all things. Not so Moses. Christ's service was assumed for the economy of salvation; Moses' was so naturally. Moses' service could not exceed human bounds: Christ's ministry was unique, capable of being fulfilled by God the Son alone.

For a testimony ... - that he might, in his typical institutions give 'testimony' to Israel 'of the things' of the gospel 'which were to be spoken afterward' by Christ (Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 9:8; Hebrews 9:23; Hebrews 10:1).

Verse 6

But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

But Christ - was and is faithful (Hebrews 3:2).

As a Son over his own house - rather, 'over His (God's, Hebrews 3:4) house;' therefore (as the inference from His being one with God) over His own house. So Hebrews 10:21, "having an High Priest over the house of God." Christ enters His Father's house as Master (OVER it), but Moses as servant (IN it, Hebrews 3:2; Hebrews 3:5) (Chrysostom). 'An ambassador in the king's absence is distinguished-in the king's presence he falls back into the multitude' (Bengel).

Whose house are we - Paul and His Hebrew readers. So A B C. But Delta f, Vulgate, Lucifer, 'which house.'

The rejoicing, [ to (G3588) kaucheema (G2745)] - the matter of rejoicing.

Of the hope - of our hope Since all our good things lie in hope we ought so to hold it fast as already to Of the hope - of our hope. Since all our good things lie in hope, we ought so to hold it fast as already to rejoice, as though our hopes were realized (Chrysostom).

Firm unto the end. Omitted in B and Lucifer. Supported by 'Aleph (') A C Delta, Vulgate, f.

Verse 7

Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,

etc. Exhortation, from Psalms 95:1-11, not through unbelief to lose share in the spiritual house.

Wherefore - Seeing we are the house of God if we hold fast our confidence, etc. (Hebrews 3:6.) Jesus is "faithful;" be not ye unfaithful (Hebrews 3:5; Hebrews 3:12). The sentence beginning with "Wherefore," interrupted by the parenthetical confirmation from Psalms 95:1-11, is completed at Hebrews 3:12, "Take heed," etc.

Holy Spirit saith - by the inspired Psalmist: the words of the latter are the words of God Himself.

Today - at length: in David's day, as contrasted with the days of Moses in the wilderness, and the whole time since, during which they rebelled against God's voice (Hebrews 3:8). Each fresh time that the psalm is used in public worship, "today" will mean the particular day when used.

Hear - obediently.

His voice - of grace.

Verse 8

Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:

Harden not your hearts. This here only is used of man's act: usually of God's (Romans 9:18). When man is the agent, the phrase usually is "harden his neck," or 'back' (Nehemiah 9:17).

Provocation ... temptation - Massah-meribah, margin, 'tentation ... chiding,' or 'strife' (Exodus 17:1-7). Both names refer to the one murmuring of the people against the Lord at Rephidim for want of water. The first offence is the most severely reproved, as it is apt to produce manymore. Numbers 20:1-13 and Deuteronomy 33:8 mention a second, similar, in the wilderness of Sin, near Kadesh, also called Meribah.

In the day - according to the day, of, etc.

Verse 9

When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.

When, [ Hou (G3739)] - 'Where;' namely, in the wilderness.

Your fathers. The authority of the ancients is not conclusive (Bengel).

Tempted me, proved me. 'Aleph (') A B Delta f read [ en (G1722) dokimasia (G1381a) for edokimasan (G1381) (C)] 'tempted (me) in the way of testing' - i:e., putting (me) to the proof whether I was able and willing to relieve them, not believing that I am so.

Saw my works forty years - they saw, without being led to repentance, my works in affording miraculous help, also in executing vengeance, forty years. The "forty years," joined in the Hebrew and the Septuagint, and Hebrews 3:17, with "I was grieved," is here joined with they "saw." Both are true: during the same 40 years that they were tempting God by unbelief, God was being grieved. The lesson to the Hebrew Christians is, their "to day" is to last only between the first preaching of the Gospel and Jerusalem's impending overthrow-namely, FORTY YEARS; exactly the number of years of Israel's sojourn in the wilderness, until, the full measure of guilt having been filled up, all the rebels were overthrown.

Verse 10

Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.

Grieved, [ prosoochthisa (G4360)] - literally, burdened, 'displeased.' Compare "walk contrary," Leviticus 26:24; Leviticus 26:28.

That generation - "that" (C) implies estrangement. But A 'Aleph (') B Delta Vulgate, read 'this.'

Said - "grieved" at their first offence. Subsequently, when they hardened their heart in unbelief, He sware in His wrath (Hebrews 3:11): an ascending gradation (cf. Hebrews 3:17-18).

And they have not known, [ autoi (G846) de (G1161)] - they perceived I was displeased with them, 'yet these very persons' did not a whit the more wish to know my ways (Bengel): cf. "but they," Psalms 106:43.

Not known my ways - practically and believingly; the "ways" in which I would have had them go, to reach my rest (Exodus 18:20).

Verse 11

So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)

So [ hoos (G5613)] - 'As in conformity with the fact that.'

I sware - the oath of God preceded the forty years.

Not, [ ei (G1487)] - 'if they shall enter, etc. (God do so to me, and more also)' (2 Samuel 3:35). Greek, Mark 8:12,

My rest - Canaan, primarily, their rest after wandering in the wilderness: still, even in it, they never fully enjoyed rest; therefore the threat 'extended further than the exclusion of the unbelieving from the literal land of rest; the rest promised to the believing in its full blessedness was, and is, yet future. Compare Psalms 25:13; Psalms 37:9; Psalms 37:11; Psalms 37:22; Psalms 37:29, and Christ's beatitude, Matthew 5:5.

Verse 12

Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.

Take heed. To be joined with "Wherefore," Hebrews 3:7.

Lest there be, [ estai (G2071)] - 'lest there shall be;' lest there be, as I fear there is; it is not merely a possible contingency, there is ground for thinking it will be so.

In any - `in any one of you.' Not merely all ought to be on their guard, but to be so concerned for each one as not to suffer any to perish through their negligence (Calvin).

Heart. The heart is not to be trusted. Compare Hebrews 3:10.

Unbelief - faithlessness. Christ is faithful; therefore, saith Paul to the Hebrews, we ought not to be faithless, as our fathers were under Moses.

Departing - apostatizing. The opposite of "come unto" Him (Hebrews 4:16). God punishes apostates in kind. He departs from them-the worst of woes (Hosea 9:12).

The living God - the exclusive characteristic of the God of Israel, not like the lifeless gods of the pagan; therefore One whose threats are awful realities. To apostatize from Christ is to apostatize from the living God (Hebrews 2:3).

Verse 13

But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

One another, [ heautous (G1438)] - 'yourselves; let each exhort himself and his neighbour.

Daily, [ kath' (G2596) hekasteen (G1538) heemeran (G2250)] - 'on each day.'

While it is called Today - while the "Today" of grace lasts (Luke 4:21): before the day of judgment at Christ's coming (Hebrews 10:25; Hebrews 10:37). Tomorrow is the day 'when idle men work and fools repent. Tomorrow is Satan's today; he cares not what good resolutions you form, if only you fix them for tomorrow.

Lest any of you. The "you" is emphatic, as distinguished from "your fathers" (Hebrews 3:9). 'That from among you no one (B Delta f. But 'Aleph (') A C H, Vulgate, "no one from among you") be hardened' (Hebrews 3:8).

Deceitfulness - causing you to 'err in your heart.'

Sin - unbelief.

Verse 14

For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;

For ... Enforcing the warning, Hebrews 3:12.

Parkers of Christ (cf. Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 3:6). So "partakers of the Holy Spirit" (Hebrews 6:4).

Hold, [ kataschoomen (G2722)] - 'hold fast.'

The beginning of our confidence, [ hupostaseoos (G5287)] - the substantial confidence of faith which we have begun (Hebrews 6:11; Hebrews 12:2). A Christian, so long as he is not made perfect, considers himself a beginner (Bengel).

Unto the end - the coming of Christ (Hebrews 12:2).

Verse 15

While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.

While it is said, Today, [ En (G1722) to (G3588) legesthai (G3004)] - During its being said, "Today

... hear his voice." Connect with Hebrews 3:13, "exhort one another," etc.; Hebrews 3:14 being a parenthesis. 'It rests with yourselves that the 95th Psalm be not a mere invitation, but also an actual enjoyment.'

Verse 16

For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.

For some - rather, interrogatively, 'For WHO was it that, when they had heard (referring to "if ye will hear," Hebrews 3:15), did provoke (God)?' It might have been objected, that the great blessings which Paul had said Christians enjoy ensure them against apostasy. Nay, he replies, Were not they who were shut out from the Canaan rest the very persons, all of them, who came out of Egypt by God's mighty arm under Moses? Ye need to take heed against unbelief: for, was it not because of unbelief that all our fathers were excluded? (Ezekiel 2:3.) "Some," and "not all" (namely, not those under twenty years old, the women, the Levites, Numbers 1:47, Joshua, and Caleb), would be a faint statement of his argument, when his object is to show the universality of the evil. Not merely some, but all the Israelites; for the solitary exceptions, Joshua and Caleb, are hardly to be taken into account in so general a statement (Numbers 26:64-65). So Hebrews 3:17-18 are interrogative:

(1) The beginning of the provocation, soon a fter the departure from Egypt, is marked in Hebrews 3:16;

(2) The 40 years of it in the wilderness, Hebrews 3:17;

(3) The denial of entrance into the land of rest, Hebrews 3:18. Note, cf. 1 Corinthians 10:5.

Howbeit - `Nay (why need I put the question), was it not all that came (Paul does not say, were led: for they soon ceased to follow God's leading) out of Egypt?' (Exodus 17:1-2.)

By Moses - as their leader.

Verse 17

But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?

But, [ De (G1161)] - 'Moreover;' not in contrast to Hebrews 3:16, but carrying out the same thought.

Carcases - `limbs;' their bodies wasted away limb from limb. [Psalms 141:7, koola (G2966) are the larger limbs; melee, the smaller.]

Verse 18

And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?

To them that believed not, [ tois (G3588) apeitheesasin (G544)] - 'to them that disobeyed:' practical unbelief (Deuteronomy 1:26).

Verse 19

So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

They could not enter - though desiring it.

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Hebrews 3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.