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Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 4

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

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Verses 1-10

The promise of entering into the rest of God not only still remains in force, but applies specially to us Christians

Hebrews 4:1-10

1Let us therefore fear, lest [perchance], a promise being left us [there remaining a promise] of entering into his rest, any [one] of you should [may] seem to [have] come short of it. 2For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them [For we have had the glad announcement just as did also they]: but the word preached [the word of their hearing] did not profit them, not being mixed1 with faith in them3 [not having united itself by faith with them] that heard it. For we which [who] believe do enter2 into rest [according] as he [hath] said, As I have sworn [swore ὤμοσα] in my wrath, if they shall [they shall not] enter into my rest: although the 4 [his] works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake [hath] spoken] in a certain place [somewhere, πού] of the seventh day on this wise [thus], And God did rest [on] the seventh day from all his works. 5And in this place again, If they shall [They shall not] enter into my rest. 6Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must [for some to] enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached [who formerly received the glad promise] entered not in because of unbelief [disobedience]; 7 Again he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To-day, after so long a time; as it is said, To-day [he again fixeth a certain day, To-day, saying, through David so long a time afterward (as hath been said before),3 To-day] if ye will [om. will] hear his voice, harden not your hearts. 8For if Jesus [Joshua] had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken [be speaking] of another day. 9There remaineth therefore a rest [a Sabbath rest] for the people of God. 10For he that is [om. is] entered into his rest, hath [also himself] ceased [rested] from his own [om. own works] [just] as God did from his [own, ἰδίων].

[Hebrews 4:1.—φιβηθῶμεν οὖν, Aor. Pass., in middle sense. Let us fear, therefore,—μή ποτε, lest perchance, test haply,—καταλειπ. ἐπαγ, there remaining a promise, not ἀπολειπ, “there remaining as a logical consequence,” but “there remaining being left, as a historical fact, the promise riot having been exhausted with the ancients—as the author proceeds to develop from the Psalm.

Hebrews 4:2.—καὶ γὰρ ἐσμεν εὐ., the emphasis rests on the verb, not, as in Eng. ver., on the pronoun. For we have had the glad tidings, etc. The rendering, “unto us was the Gospel preached,” is unfortunate, marring, and even obscuring the thought.—καθάπερ κάκεῖνοι, just according as also they.—ὁ λόγος τῆς�, the word of their hearing=the word which they heard.—μὴ συγκεκ, not having mixed itself, i.e., united itself.

Hebrews 4:3.—καθὼς εἴρηκεν, according as he hath said,—εἰ ἐλεύσονται, should be rendered, as Hebrews 3:11, “they shall not enter,” a familiar Hebraism=if they shall enter then my word will fall to the ground, or some such suppressed clause.—καί τοι τῶν ἔργων γεν.—gen. absolute, and that you see his [viz., God’s] works being accomplished=although his works were accomplished, and thus his rest established.

Hebrews 4:6.—οἰ πρότερον εὐαγγελισθ. they who formerly received the glad tidings, viz., the promise of the rest.—ἀπείθειαν, disobedience, not unbelief (ἀπιστίαν).

Hebrews 4:7.—πάλιν ὁρίζει, dependent on ἐπεί, since it remains, etc., he again fixes, appoints, not as Eng. ver. beginning a new sentence—λέγων μετὰ τόν χρονον=saying so long a time after—καθὼς προείρηται, as has been said before, viz., in the former chapter.

Hebrews 4:8.—Ιησοῦς, Joshua (not Jesus),—οὐκ ἄν—ἐλάλει, he would not be speaking, not, “he would not have spoken.”

Hebrews 4:9.—σαββατισμός, not merely a rest (as Eng. ver.), but with reference to the rest of God on the seventh day, at the close of creation, a Sabbath rest, a Sabbatism.—K.].


Hebrews 4:1. Let us fear, therefore—come short of it.—The chapter—not entirely clear in its exact line of thought—opens with a passage whose import has been matter of much controversy. Expositors, however, are now nearly unanimous in holding that the Gen. καταλειπ. ἐπαγ., cannot, in the absence of the article, depend on ὑστερηκέναι (Cramer, Ernesti), and also that καταλείπειν, while sometimes, indeed, signifying neglect, disregard (Acts 6:2; Bar 4:1), yet here, as shown partly by the absence of the article, partly by the passive form of the Participle, but chiefly by the usage of Hebrews 4:6; Hebrews 4:9, cannot be so rendered, but only, to be remaining. And we can hardly fail to perceive that this expression points back, on the one hand indeed, to the definite promise, but on the other, still by the absence of the article, indicates a designed indefiniteness, or a very general mode of conceiving it. This view is confirmed by the fact that the author subsequently understands the expression, τακάπανσίς μον. (Hebrews 3:11), here αὐτοῦ,—not, in the sense of the Psalm, of the rest which God has promised and designs to give, but of the rest which belongs properly to God. This rest into which believers are destined to enter, is thus still to be distinguished from the rest which God has actually given to His people by the possession of the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 12:9). Since this idea of the expression in question is not the original sense of the passage in the Psalm, but only the author’s own interpretation of it, he proceeds to give a proof of the substantial correctness of his explanation. This, therefore, is not, as yet, at this passage, to be presupposed with the readers of the Epistle. In fact, also, the author deduces from the fate of the Israelites in the desert, not that which many interpreters introduce into it, viz., that the Divine promise, because it remains unfulfilled, is yet existing. For it might have been objected, that the promise was in fact subsequently fulfilled to the descendants of those who perished in the wilderness when they entered Canaan under Joshua. The inference from that is rather that we have need to fear; to this he exhorts us, for he has shown that the reverse side of the Divine promise, the no less positively uttered and oath-sanctioned threat of God, that His people, of that time, should not enter into His rest, was fulfilled in all of them, and that in consequence of unbelief. Hic nobis commendatur timor non qui fidei certitudinem excutiat, sed tantam incutiat solicitudinem ne securi torpeamus (Calvin).

Against what, therefore, are we now to be on our guard? What are we to fear? and to what are we, in true fear, to direct our anxious care, in order that that which we fear may be averted and not come upon us? We are to beware of resembling the Israelites by our unbelief in the Word of God, which is proclaimed to us. We are to fear the wrath of God, which within the sphere of even the chosen people has still displayed its judicial terrors upon all unbelievers. And our common fear should direct itself to the point (φοβηθῶμεν οὗν) that, while there exists a promise of entering into His rest, no individual one among you may be found to have come too late (μήποτε δοκῇ τις ἐξ ὑμῶν ὑστερηκέναι). Δοκῇ is so conspicuous in its position, that it cannot possibly be regarded as superfluous, (Mich., Carpz., Abresch), and the gravity and earnestness of the connection, which presently calls out the most solemn exhortations, and startling pictures of the fate of apostates, demands a very cautious admission of the view which resolves it into the softening videatur (=may seem) of elegant discourse (Oec., Theoph., Thol., Lün.). 4 On the other hand, we can scarcely regard it as of intensifying import=lest there be even an appearance that this or that one has remained behind (Pareus, regarded approvingly by Del.). We must regard it as expressing the appearance of an actual condition, as it presents itself to the opinion and estimate of others, and must conceive the condition as that of that substantial lingering behind, which results in inevitable exclusion. It is doubtless grammatically possible to take δοκῇ as the leading term, expressing the individual’s personal opinion, and ὑστερηκέναι as denoting a too late arrival in respect of time, the whole then=may think he has arrived too late—(Schöttg., Baumg., Schultz, Wahl, Bretschn., Steng., Paul., Ebrard). But with this accords neither the moral condition of the readers, nor the connection of the passage, which, attached by φοβηθῶμεν οὖν to the preceding chapter, cannot possibly be introducing a consolatory address to persons troubled by an extraordinary illusion regarding their salvation, or a warning against their indulgence of this illusion, (as if we had the comforting words μή οὖν φοβηθῶμεν, let us not then fear, instead of the words of warning, let us therefore fear lest). The passage rather opens with the admonition and summons, based on the preceding glance at the fate of ancient Israel, that they should resolutely and earnestly avoid the threatening danger that any member of the church—while God’s invitation, full of gracious promises, is addressed to him—should by guilty delay, springing from unbelief in the word of invitation, make it necessary that he be regarded as having been left behind on his way to the promised goal. The rendering of Grotius, ne cui vestrum libeat (that it may not seem best to any one, may not be the pleasure of any one of you), is inconsistent with the Inf. Perf., and with the construction, which would have required the Dat.

Hebrews 4:2. For we have had the joyful message—in them that heard it. Καθάπερ (precisely according as) found elsewhere in the New Testament only with Paul, denotes, in its classical use, relations of entire equality. Εὐαγγελίζεσθαι is also used, Luke 7:22; Luke 16:16, passively, as here, of those to whom glad tidings are announced. The Subst. εὐαγγέλιον is not found in our epistle, and with Luke only Acts 15:7; Acts 20:24. The λόγος τῆς�, which at Sir 41:23, denotes what is received by tradition, and at 1 Thessalonians 2:3, is applied to the New Testament preached word, is very significant for the Word of God made known by proclamation to the people of God of all times, Exodus 19:5; Isaiah 28:9; Jeremiah 49:14, and corresponds particularly to the Heb. שְׁמוָּעה Isaiah 52:7; Isaiah 53:1 (Romans 10:14-17)=that which is announced, news, tidings, connected sometimes with the Gen. of the subject matter, 2 Samuel 4:4, sometines with that of the bearer of the tidings, Isaiah 53:1, The Dat. τοῖς� is expressly employed to indicate that the πίστις indispensable to the right and efficient influence of the word was wanting to them that had heard the word, and that for this reason it had not united itself with those for whom it was otherwise adapted, and for whom it was destined of God. This Dat. would be with the very old and well attested reading of the Acc. Plur. of συγκεκ., totally unintelligible. For to put upon ἀκούειν the sense of obey is a purely desperate make-shift, and the rendering “because they did not associate themselves by faith with those who obeyed,” viz: Joshua and Caleb (Œc., Phot., Hammond, Cram., etc.), is totally alien from the use made of this history in the previous chapter. Bleek, therefore, reads ἀκοὑσμασιν after Theodoret, with whom, however, ἀκουσθεῖασιν is probably to be read, as conjectured by his teacher Theodore of Mops., on the authority of the Vulg.=“since they did not unite themselves by faith with the words which they had heard.” The Nom., as indicated by the Peshito—the oldest version of the New Testament—is thus to be preferred with Erasm., Böhme, De W., Thol., Lun., Del. The opinion of Ebr., however, which I followed in my comment., that the passage contains no repetition of the truth previously dwelt upon, viz., that the word was proclaimed in vain to the Jews on account of their subjective unbelief, but presents rather the reverse side of the truth, viz: the impotence of the Old Testament word itself, and thus shows the word proclaimed by Moses as declaring the promise, indeed, along with the conditions of its fulfilment, yet possessing no power, like the word of the New Testament (Hebrews 4:12) to penetrate into the marrow and core of the inner life, and by such admixture identify itself thoroughly with the hearer—this assumption, I say, anticipates the following discussion, introduces a meaning into the words outside of their obvious and natural import, and depends also on Ebrard’s false interpretation of Hebrews 4:1. If we construct τῇ πίστει with the nom. συγκεκραμένος, mixed with faith, then it were better to regard τοῖς� as Dat. of reference=in respect to, as often in cases where the Gen. would be liable to misconception (Win., Lun.), than with De Wette, as Dativus commodi, or as the Dat. of the agent for ὑπό with Gen. (as by Luther until 1527)=“not being blended with faith by them (=ὑπὸ τῶν) that heard it.” It accords better, however, with the actual relations of faith alike to the word and to the hearers to connect τοῖς� closely with συγκεκρ. and take τῇ πίστει as Dat. of means (Schlicht., Thol.,) etc.

Hebrews 4:3. For we are entering into rest as they that have believed, etc.—The γάρ for stands in logical connection, not with a part, but with the entire statements of the preceding verse. It is best explained by taking εἰσερχόμεθα, not as present for a somewhat general and indeterminate future”=“we are to enter,” (Bl., De W., Thol.); or as marking that which we may with certainty anticipate (Lun.), and the Aor. Part. οἱ πιστεύσαντες (with the majority) of those who have established the genuineness of their faith; but rather by explaining the Part of those simply who have believed, who have exercised faith, and of course have thus far attested it, Acts 4:32; Acts 11:21; Acts 19:2; Romans 13:11, and the verb εἰσερ. therefore, in its proper present sense of those who are actually entering into rest, (Del). We, the church of the believers, the author would say, are as such travelling on the way to the rest which God has established since the foundation of the world, but which the Israelites did not attain. Ebrard erroneously takes the ἔργα “works finished” of Hebrews 4:3, as contrasted with faith, and as denoting human performances, the works of the law, in contrast with which the true way of salvation, that of faith, was to be revealed. But the term can refer only to the works of God (Hebrews 4:4; Hebrews 4:10), which stand as accomplished since the foundation of the world, and since which, therefore, there is existing a Rest of God. Although (καίτοι) this is the case, still, according to the declaration of God, Psalms 95:11, the Israelites who were called thereto, did not enter into it. Luther, following the erroneous rendering of the Vulgate et quidem (and indeed), connected the clause commencing with καίτοι with the following εἴρηκεν, leaving the γάρ after εἴρηκεν wholly, unregarded. Schlicht., Carpz., etc., make the Gen. also depend on κατάπαυσιν=the rest of works which were accomplished, etc., a construction which would require τῶν repeated after ἔργων (τῶν ἔργων τῶν�, etc.). And Calv., Bez., Limb., Cram., Böhm., Bisp., explain thus; “namely,” (or perhaps although) into a rest which followed upon the completion of the works of creation: a thought that would certainly have been expressed in different phraseology.

Hebrews 4:4. For he hath said in a certain place.—And in this place again.—We are not to supply, as subject of εἴρηκεν, ἡ γραφή (Böhm., Bisp., etc.), notwithstanding that in the citation itself God is spoken of in the third person. For the same subject must be supplied to both citations, and in the latter (Hebrews 4:5) the μου shows that God must be regarded as the subject. Here also it again becomes evident that God is He who is conceived as the one who speaks in Scripture. [I doubt if Moll’s reason for rejecting ἡ γραφή as subject of εἴρηκεν, drawn from the citation Hebrews 4:4, or the implied one for making God the subject, as drawn from the citation of Hebrews 4:5, is, either of them, decisive. They are both given as simple citations, and would both, therefore, naturally stand in precisely their present form, whether we were to conceive “The Scripture,” or “God” speaking in the Scripture, as the subject of the verb. And the application of the passage to the author’s purpose would, I conceive, be equally answered, whichever subject we assume. Still, with Moll, I prefer ὁ θεός as subject.—K.].—Since the passage, Genesis 2:2, is so entirely familiar, που cannot possibly imply any uncertainty on the part of the author regarding the source of the citation; and from this we may draw a certain inference regarding the που in Hebrews 2:6. The two passages of Scripture thus quoted in connection, bring out the idea that there is from the commencement of things a Rest of God, into which men could and were to enter, but into which the Israelites have not entered; yet that by this the entrance into the Rest of God cannot be sealed and made impossible for all times and all men, since the exclusion of the Israelites was but a manifestation of the wrath of God upon the unbelieving.

Hebrews 4:6. Since, therefore, it remains open that some are to enter in, etc.—The comparison of the two passages leads to the conclusion, not precisely, that the entrance is still remaining and reserved for some persons—which would have demanded καταλείπεται—but that such an entrance is left free, left over, remains open (ἀπολείπεται, Hebrews 10:26), [“not having been previously exhausted.” Alf.], and that, on account of this state of the case, God in His grace and faithfulness, after the well-known falling away of those who were called in the time of Moses, again characteristically fixes (ὁρίζει) a day, ‘to-day,’ in which, after the lapse of so long a period, He, through David, repeats the summons of invitation, which had formerly been proclaimed by Moses. As the Sept. ascribes the Psalm in question to David, and here we have not ἑν τῷ Δαυίδ, but ἐν Δαυίδ (taking David personally), we are not here, although the Book of Psalms may, as a whole, be regarded as belonging to David (Acts 4:25), to take the words as applying to the book. For ἐν Δαυίδ would properly, in referring to a passage of Holy Scripture, mean “in the passage of Scripture that treats of David,” as ἐν. Ἠλίᾳ, Romans 11:2.—Schlicht., Stengel, etc., connect the first σήμερον with λέγων. Others, more recently Lün. and Del., regard it as a part of the quotation, which, commencing emphatically, for this reason, after an interposed clause, repeats the same word. The majority, with Calv., Bez., Grot., take it as in apposition with ἡμέραν.5

Hebrews 4:8. For if Joshua had brought them to their rest, etc.—The μετά ταῦτα, corresponding to μετὰ τοσοῦτον χρόνον of the preceding verse, belongs to ἐλάλει scil. ὁ θεός. But the Imperf. with ἄν is not to be rendered, “He would have spoken” (Luth., Bez.), which would have required ἐλάλησεν ἄν, but “he would be speaking.” The fact that God, after the introduction of the people into the Promised Land, speaks of a day in which His voice summons to an entrance into His rest, proves not only that the Rest of God, which has existed since the creation, is not identical with the rest proclaimed to the people by Moses, and secured for them under Joshua, but that this entire proceeding with the Israelites is simply to be regarded as figurative, and as having its fulfilment through Christ in the New Testament economy. In the later books of Scripture, Ezra, Nehem., Chron., Joshua, instead of the earlier וְהוֹשׁוּעַ, is named יֵשׁוּעַ whence the writing Ἰησοῦς of the Sept., of Joseph., and the Acts 7:45.—Καταπαύειν here in its classical transitive sense to cause to rest, to bring to rest, as Exodus 33:14; Deuteronomy 3:20; Deuteronomy 5:33; Psalms 85:3; Acts 14:18.

Hebrews 4:9. There remaineth therefore a Sabbath rest, etc.—The particle ἅρα (rarely commencing a, sentence in prose), now introduces the conclusion to which the preceding statements have led the way; not only is there a Rest of God existing from the close of the creation, and reaching on to eternity, and not only is a participation in this rest appointed to the people of God, but the entrance into it is actually secured to the people of God. This rest is a σαββατισμός=α Sabbath festal celebration (from σαββατίζειν, Exodus 16:30, as ἑορτασμός from ἑορτάζειν). The term (found also in Plut. de superstitione, 3) is all the more natural, inasmuch as already at Hebrews 4:4, reference is made to that rest of God after the creation of the world, which lay at the basis of the institution of the Sabbath, as the rest of humanity, and in that, apart from any Rabbinical explanations, even at 2Ma 15:1, the Sabbath is called ἡ τῆς καταπαύσεως ἡμέρα. The ὁ εἰσελθών, he who entered in, is certainly not the people (Schultz), but either Christ, as indicated by the Aor., κατέπαυσευ, rested (Alting, Starck. Owen, Valck., Ebr., Alf.), or (with the majority of expositors, among them Bleek, Lün., Del.), inasmuch as nothing in the context points immediately and personally to Christ, the person, whoever he may be, that has reached the goal. It thus assigns the reason why the rest in question is called a Sabbatism. The Aor. is then explained as a reminiscence from the citation in Hebrews 4:4. [The question is a difficult one to settle. On the one hand, the historical κατέπαυσεν, rested, more naturally points back to some single historical event, as the entrance of Christ into His rest, and the emphatic καὶ αὐτός, also he himself, giving, as Alford remarks, dignity to the subject which we should scarcely expect if it refer to any individual man, would suggest the same idea, while it is certainly pertinent to introduce Christ as the great Leader and Institutor of the rest of the New Testament people of God, by finishing and resting from His own works. But, on the other hand, there does not seem, as supposed by Alford, any antithesis in this passage between Christ and Joshua; the specific object of the verse seems to be simply to explain why the writer has changed the term κατάπαυσις into σαββατισμός, and the καὶ αὐτός, therefore seems entirely natural as explaining why the rest of the people of God is like the rest of God Himself, a Sabbatism; and the reference also of the subsequent ἐκείνη ἡ κατάπαυσις, that rest, is entirely pertinent, in view of the author’s declaration that a Sabbatic rest awaits the people of God, and equally so in whichever way we understand the present verse. And as a positive argument against Alford’s interpretation, we may urge Moll’s suggestion, that nothing in the context points directly to Christ. The passage seems simply thrown in to account for the substitution of the term σαββατισμός for κατάπαυσις; for this there is no need of any reference to Christ, and had the author intended it, it would seem almost certain that he would have made his intention more obvious. I incline to the opinion of the majority, which refers it to individual members of the Church. The Part. εἰσελθών, is then used like ἀποθανών, Romans 6:7, although for the fin. verb we should certainly here, as there, prefer the Perf. But the Aor. may be explained partly as by De Wette, as a reminiscence from Hebrews 4:4, partly, perhaps, from the preference of the Greeks for the form of the Aor., whenever they could use it, to the clumsier and less euphonious Perfect.—K.].


1. In the Holy Scripture we hear the voice of God and the language of the Holy Spirit, so that we are to gain by this, not an external knowledge of natural things and historical events, but a spiritual understanding of them, in order to a right estimate of their relation to the kingdom of God. Precisely for this reason we must acquaint ourselves rightly with the Holy Scriptures, that we may be able correctly to understand their language, to give heed to their intimations, to make use of their hints, and to make the fitting application of their statements and explanations. For the sacred Scripture not merely throws upon all things and relations the light of revelation, but also in that light interprets itself, and thus becomes profitable for the things mentioned 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

2. The Rest which God promises and gives to His people, is no other than the rest which God Himself has and enjoys. The creation and destination of man to be the image of God, contains the ground of the fact, that man can find rest only in God, and the grace of God renders possible even to fallen man the fulfilment of his destination. But the condition of entering into the rest of God, is faith; and this condition is the same for the different degrees of man’s participation in that rest which God, since the creation of the world, until the completion of the world’s history, repeatedly proffers to man, and holds open for his entrance.

3. “At every stage of the revelation of His grace to sinners, God proffers to them His whole salvation. Under every veil which He has thrown over His truth in the years of childhood, it lay entire, and even at that time believers could receive every thing from God. But since God does not perfect individuals apart from the whole, the general unbelief of those to whom He had proffered His salvation (notwithstanding that some few believed) at every successive stage, held back perfection. But no rejection of Divine grace, on the part of men, can hinder or restrain its ever increasingly glorious unfolding; but rather, as the sun from the bosom of night, so from the unbelief of men does it shine forth all the more clearly to the honor and praise of God. Thus also, of necessity, their spurning of the true rest of God, which had been proffered to the Israelites, led to the fact that they, under Joshua in Canaan, only entered into an earthly rest, in every respect unsatisfactory, perpetually interrupted, by which their longing after the true rest was rather awakened than satisfied. And thus the entrance into the rest of God, still awaits the people of the Lord; the celebration of the eternal Sabbath, after the second creation, of which that of the earthly Sabbath is but the type.” Von Gerlach.

4. The labor from which the believer is yet to rest cannot, on account of the constitution of the world, and on account of the nature of actual human life, be separated from the idea of the pain and toil of our earthly pilgrimage; yet it is by no means to be limited to this. We must rather extend our thought to the labor of the Christian vocation, since this is designated in the text as that which is peculiar to Him, standing in the relation of an image and copy to the creative activity of God. “The struggle against sin, the pursuit of holiness, the striving after perfection (τελειότης), constancy in sufferings, all vigorous endeavor in holding fast to faith and hope, even under the most adverse circumstances; all the toilsome activity of self-denying, self-sacrificing love; all the labors, connected not unfrequently with great disquiet and anxiety, for the spiritual welfare of the entire Church and of its individual members; all these are the ‘works’ (ἔργα) of believers, from which they are yet to rest in the heavenly city of God” (Riehm).

5. As an eternal and blessed Sabbath celebration, this rest cannot be a cessation of all activity. This would correspond neither to the idea involved in the rest of God, nor to the promise of a personal progressive life of the children of the resurrection in the kingdom of glory. Moreover, the perfect consciousness of blessedness in the certainty of personal perfection in no way excludes an active attestation of this consciousness. The same holds true of the participation of the blessed in the approval and pleasure with which God looks upon the world of perfection as brought into a state of perfect conformity to His will. At all events, there is such an activity of the perfected in eternity as that which Thom. Aquinas designates as videre, amare et laudare, and August. (de Civit. Dei, 20, 30) thus describes: “Ipse (Deus) finis erit desideriorum nostrorum qui sine fine videbitur, sine fastidio amabitur, sine defatigatione laudabitur.” But is God to be the sole object of this activity? and is this activity itself to be regarded as susceptible of no development and advancement for the reason that it is an activity of those who are perfected? This would by no means essentially follow from Augustine’s answer to the question, What the blessed will do in their eternal life: In sæcula sæculorum laudabunt te (in Psalms 83:0). For praise, if it is not to be a mere empty sound, must consist in real acts of praise, with a definite meaning and substance. But this concrete substance, if it is not to degenerate into tautology and battology, must be susceptible of a development, and appear as the product of an activity of definite persons, whose inward feelings, experiences and thoughts it expresses. And in the case of these persons, again, we can conceive of the removal neither of that creaturely element by which they stand distinguished from God, nor of that special human quality that distinguishes them from angels; nor any more of that individuality which produces those special characteristics in the actual personal life of the perfected which involve alike the continuity of consciousness, the identity of the person that had died with the person that has risen; the possibility of reunion, and the possibility of retribution. On this double foundation of the permanent creatureliness, and of the individual personality of the glorified and perfected, we may base a well-founded conviction that there is in the life of the blessed an infinitude of relations and points of contact, which, in ceaseless and reciprocal influence, enlarge and enrich their common bliss and perfection. For we may with just as little propriety assume, on the part of the glorified, an activity without result, as a round of empty and unsubstantial adoration, or a mere idle and fruitless contemplation of God. Also, Rothe, in his Ethics (II. § 474) has admirably shown how we may conceive of work without the attendant idea of labor, i.e, work accompanied by strenuous exertion; and Tholuck, in some weighty and suggestive intimations, has shown the mixture of truth and falsehood in the declaration of Lessing: “If the eternal Father held Truth in His right hand, and the search for it in His left, and I were required to choose, I would clasp His knee and say: Father, the left!” Inasmuch, however, as we have on this point no positive statements of Scripture, and are liable to transfer our human conceptions to the scenes and relations of the future world, it will be well to heed the warning of Stier (1, 85): “If thus deeply looking into eternity, we are blinded by the overpowering splendor, and turn back again to the thought that such Sabbath rest is surely not to be conceived as devoid of working and activity, we are undoubtedly right to this extent, that the rest of God is indeed at the same time an eternal life of infinite power. But we must still be on our guard against allowing our weakness to mingle the earthly with the heavenly, and even in the attained city of God itself, to open a long-extended chaussee-prospect of ‘infinite perfection;’ rather will we strive with all the power of the spirit for a presentiment of that true rest, of that perfected satisfaction and completeness which has inherited all in God, and for which nothing more remains to be attained in eternity.” This is all the more advisable as the feeling of a real satisfaction in our true rest in God must exist in the most diverse stages of creaturely development. Only we must not, with the earlier ecclesiastical teachers (e. g., John Gerhard, Loci Theol., T. XX., p. 408), allow ourselves to infer from this that that deficiency in extent of the saints’ knowledge of God, which, along with its perfection in quality, the very finiteness of their nature imposes upon the blessed, will, by the final judgment, be fixed and bound down to a definite limit, which will forever preclude all further development. For the unbounded and unrestricted activity of a creature within the limits that belong to and determine its peculiar organization—an activity that can never be conceived as without result—is something entirely different from a striving and aspiring beyond these limits. This, Dante himself, in the words cited by Tholuck (Paradiso, 3, 73 ff.), has not sufficiently regarded:

“For if we yielded to our higher wish,
Then should we come in conflict with that will
Which destined us to this our lower sphere.”
6. It is a confused and perplexing use of language that speaks of gradations of blessedness. The idea of blessedness excludes distinctions of degree and relations of quantity. But doubtless there are degrees of participation in the rest of God. For, first, there is the peace, which the believer, as being justified, on the ground of his reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ possesses and tastes (Romans 5:1), and which includes a devotion—constant and unvexed by the vicissitudes of life—to the will of God in His dispensations, and a confident hope of future blessedness and glory. Then, from this, we are to distinguish the rest of those who, as having fallen asleep in Christ, freed from the toils and sorrows of this earthly life (Revelation 14:13; Revelation 21:4), are with Christ (Philippians 1:23); and from this again we distinguish that Sabbatic rest which commences only at the second coming of Christ, and the accompanying renovation of the world, and which is realized only when the whole people of God have entered into eternal rest in and with God, and in which all the ransomed are at home forever-more (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Within each of these three grades, however, is preserved inviolate not merely the specific quality of humanity as such, in contradistinction from the angelic nature and relation, but also the concrete individuality, previously referred to, of each person. This has been sometimes erroneously conceived as forming an intrinsic distinction in the degree of blessedness itself. The opinion of Swedenborg, that men may once have been angels, has no where the slightest support.

7. From the nature of the rest of God it follows that for the people of God, so long as they are still on their pilgrimage to the final goal, it must of necessity be in the future; for he who has entered into this, rests from his works in like manner as God did from His. In behalf of the view that a day which is entirely Sabbath will close the world’s work, Del. adduces from Sanhedrin 97 a, the following passage: “As the seventh year furnishes a festal time of a year’s duration for a period of seven years, so the world enjoys, for a period of seven thousand years, a festal season of a thousand years;” but remarks, then, that, as shown by Revelation 20:7 ff., this final temporal millennium is not as yet the final Sabbath, although it has become customary in the Church to regard this temporal season of triumph and rest to the Church as ἡ ἑβδόμη (the seventh day), and the blessed eternity as ἡ ὀγδόη (the eighth); that this octave of the blissful eternity is nothing else than the eternal duration of the final Sabbath, which realizes itself only at the point where the history of time is merged into a blissful eternity. Similarly it is said in a Rabb. treatise on Psalms 92:1 (Elijahu Rabba, c. 2): “We mean the Sabbath which puts a stop to the sin reigning in the world—the seventh day of the world, upon which, as post-Sabbatic, follows the future world, in which forever and ever there is no more death, no more sin, and no more punishment of sin; but pure delight in the wisdom and knowledge of God.”

8. Into this future Sabbath rest, however, they alone enter who believe in the word of invitation which has reached them, and livingly unite themselves with this, by faith. “Faith is, as it were, the dynamical medium by which objective truth assimilates itself to the believing man” (Thol.). “As food it must nourish, must go into the blood and unite itself with the body. If the word is to benefit, it must, like the nutritive element of food, be transformed by faith, into the spirit, sense and will of man, that the whole man may become as the word is, and requires, i.e, holy, upright, chaste and pious” (Hedinger, Ed. of the N. Test., with explanatory remarks, 1704).—“There are two sorts of words in the Scripture; the one affects me not, concerns me not; the other concerns me; and upon that which appertains to me I can boldly venture, and plant myself upon it, as on a solid rock.—Of this none may be in doubt, that to him also the Gospel is preached. Thus, then, I believe the word, i.e, that it concerns me also—that I also have a share in the Gospel, and in the New Testament, and I venture my all upon the word, even though it were to cost a hundred thousand lives” (Luther’s Sermons on the First Book of Moses, Walch, Part 3, p. 9).


The salutary fear of believers: 1, to what it refers; 2, whence it comes; 3, what it produces. In the souls of believers, fear and hope dwell in inseparable connection; for, 1, they trust implicitly to the word of God, as well in His threatenings as in His promises; 2, they have, perpetually before their eyes the blissful goal of their calling, and the examples of those who have fallen on the way; 3, they have a living consciousness of their own frailty, and of the Divine faithfulness.—Wherein consists the blessing of true and living faith? 1, It brings us into union with the word of God; 2, it protects us from the wrath of God; 3. it leads us into the rest of God.—At what does the preaching of the wrath of God aim? It aims, 1, to awaken the secure; 2, to warn the light-minded; 3, to urge on the sluggish.—The entrance into the rest of God may be neglected, inasmuch as, 1, God earnestly invites, indeed, to this entrance, but He compels no man to walk upon the right path; 2, the entrance stands for a long time open, but the period of grace comes finally to an end; 3, the entrance is sure to the people of God, but unbelief separates again many from the people of God.—What is the best consolation amidst the troubles of our earthly pilgrimage? 1, The encouragement of the word of God; 2, the fellowship of the people of God; 3, the prospect of the rest of God.—The fault lies not in God if any one attains not an entrance into the rest of God; inasmuch as, 1, God has established such a rest since the completion of the creation of the world; 2, God has, by the word of the Gospel, given to us all a sure promise and invitation; 3, God has prepared for us, in Jesus, the reliable leader for our entrance into this rest.—To what are we laid under obligation by God’s proffers of His grace? 1, to the heeding of a season of grace; 2, to a use of the means of grace.—The faith which we profess, we have also to live: 1, what binds us to this duty? 2, what hinders us in it? 3, what aids us to victory?—How do we stand with respect to the rest of the seventh day? 1. Do we respect it as a holy ordinance? 2. Do we understand it in its salutary import? 3. Do we use it according to the Divine will and purpose?—How we must surely overcome the disquiet and danger of the world; 1, by confidence in the promises; 2, by obedience to the ordinances; 3, by submission to the leadings of God.—The right union of labor, rest, and festal gladness in the life of the Christian.

Luther (Pref. to John Spangenberg’s coll. of Sermons, Walch XI 4:376):—In truth thou canst not read the Scripture too much: and what thou readest, thou canst not read too well; and what thou readest well, thou canst not too well understand; and what thou understandest well, thou canst not too well teach; and what thou teachest well, thou canst not too well live (Domestic Sermons, Walch XIII. 1336).—The preaching of faith is such a preaching as demands ever to be exercised and put in practice.—That I may come to the point of rising above every thing, of contemning sin and death, and of gladly venturing myself in all confidence upon the promise of God, I must have the Spirit and power of God, as also perpetual exercise and experience.

Starke:—Away slavish fear! but filial fear must be present, that we walk therein, and so work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12).—Not only must none remain behind for himself, but each one must also see to it, so far as the grace of God shall render it possible for him, that if others remain behind, he, by hearty exhortation, and his own good example, incite them to the course, and thus take them along with him.—Pilgrim, it is high time, if thou wouldst yet enter into the rest of God. Therefore hasten, and see to it, that thou do not come short of this blessedness.—Were there on the part of God an unconditional decree of human salvation, and were men, by virtue of this decree, unable to fall from the state of grace, and incur the loss of salvation, the holy men of God would not have been so zealous to warn believers against backsliding, and to exhort them to perseverance (2 Peter 3:17).—What avails it to listen to so many hundred sermons when we believe not, and receive no benefit? Mark! the word of God which thou hearest must flow into thine inmost soul, and must there give thee the full sap and nourishment of life, if it is to avail to thee for salvation (1 Thessalonians 2:13).—The promises of God avail nothing to unbelievers. These must die without consolation, and perish eternally (Isaiah 40:1).—The Gospel is, indeed, the power of God unto salvation, but it compels none to believe; but man retains his free-will to give place or not to the grace which knocks at the door of his heart.—Thou thinkest that it is very easy to come into heaven; but believe me, nothing common or unclean can enter thither. Unless thou art cleansed by faith, and art become a new creature, thou wilt not enter therein.—The repose of believers consists in this, 1, that we find all the works of God good, and are satisfied with these in the kingdom of nature and of grace; 2, that to that which God has devoted to us for our salvation, we desire to add nothing of our own, neither works of sin, nor even works of the law.—O how often are the first last, and the last first! Lord, Thy judgments are incomprehensible, and unsearchable Thy ways.—How highly should we respect the Psalms of David, since the Spirit of God has spoken by him!—To-day, since we hear the voice of Christ, let us obediently follow it; else we deserve that He withdraw from us His grace (John 12:35).—God would at all times, have all men enter into His rest.—Nothing of all which the holy men of God have written is in vain; what we do not understand, testifies of our weakness and imperfection.—Beloved, let us not be impatient over the turmoil of sin, the assaults of the devil, the pains of our vocation, and our other burdens. For such is the character of our present life. In heaven we shall have peace from all these (Psalms 90:10; Revelation 14:13).—O how deep is our concern, not only in the eternal rest itself, but also in that constant faith and obedience, without which that rest can never be attained.

Berlenburger Bible:—Promise is God’s passport, which He gives us for our journey. He who throws away the promise, robs himself of aid.—We would fain be saved without employing the means.—The seed of all errors lies by nature in every one.—Because thou doest nothing, thou doest abundance of evil, and failest to accomplish thy duty.—The word in itself depends, indeed, in its power not upon my acceptance, since it is still powerful, but outside of me it avails me nothing.—All the works of God tend toward rest. But the time which is previously to elapse must not appear too long to us; but we must be assured that as God has brought us upon this way, He will also aid us to the end.—The work of creation is an image and foreshadowing of all the ways of God, clear to the end. The long extended time shows the long-suffering of God, and is given by God that we may recognize His goodness; but men readily abuse it to the indulgence of their sloth.—If God works in thee, thou art in rest; but if thou workest thyself, and in selfishness, thou hast nothing but disquietude.

Laurentius:—The life of believers is nothing but a journey into eternal rest.—We may hear much of eternal life, and still be excluded from it.—The rest of believers in this life is imperfect.—To the times which are noted in the sacred Scripture we must give special heed.

Rambach:—Each person of the sacred Trinity has, as it were, his special Sabbath and day of rest. The Father rested on the seventh day from the work of creation. The Son rested in the sepulchre from the work of redemption. The Holy Spirit will rest at last from the work of sanctification, viz., then, when He shall have no more sin to do away.

Steinhofer:—Glory is reserved for us until our entrance into His eternal kingdom. It beams upon us from His throne, and will become manifest to us in His coming. In the meantime if we yield ourselves to His guidance, and hasten to the goal, He will infallibly bring us thither. We look merely to His heart and His hand; we remain tranquil; we let our Leader care for us, and willingly follow Him, upon that way in which He has not only preceded us and opened the path, but on which He is now also leading us, from step to step, by His power and grace, and will continue to lead us, until, at the last step, attaining complete deliverance and salvation, we also pass into the same glory, where we shall behold the brightness of God in the face of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and be invested with this glory.

Rieger:—Every one should stand in fear and just distrust of his own heart, in order that to him the visible and eternal may not speedily sink into insignificance, the way that leads to it become disagreeable, his striving after the treasure be enfeebled, and he be tempted to turn back into Egypt. That must be and become true in my heart, which is true, and as it is true in the Word of God.—The promise on the part of God is so sincere, the faith which trusts to it is something so tenacious, that we may with these venture boldly forth for an entrance into rest.—Who is there whom God cannot, by a thousand means, make to feel that he has been driven from the place of rest?—Who is there who has yielded to the heavenly calling, that does not find himself, after his abandonment of the world, in a wilderness of temptation? In whom arises not the sigh: Lord Jesus may I soon inquire for my rest?—No man’s progress is stopped by a previously formed decree of God; but it was the unbelief that showed itself on the way, that woke the wrath of God, and led Him to swear that they should not enter into His rest.—The purpose of God extends far. All ages, all nations that are successively born, are comprehended in it. Thus it bears with patience many a generation, and lo, that which was not accomplished in the fathers is to be attained in the children. God has prepared nothing in vain. It is His will that His house be full. No period of the world but contributes to the assemblage of His elect.

Von Bogatzky:—Labor, works and suffering belong to the divine arrangement, or to the way upon which we enter into rest. But it is faith alone, which lays hold of Christ, and in Him already here, and thus also yonder, finds eternal rest. Although eternal rest and blessedness are a gift of grace, they still demand all industry and diligence, power and strength, in order to our attaining them, because there are many enemies that would circumvent us of this rest, and hinder our entrance into it.—We evince our industry in entering into His rest, 1, if we studiously hear His voice, and are obedient to Him; 2, if we accompany the word with prayer; 3, if we actively prove our faith by love; 4, if we rightly employ the present time of grace, nay, the present day, the present hour; 6, if in all struggle, strife, conflict and suffering, we are always watchful and on our guard against our enemies, crucify the wicked flesh, as our most immediate enemy, and when heavier sufferings and assaults press in, do not yield to despair.

Stier:—As the promise stands remaining to us, so also stands good for us, in the strictest sense, the warning against wrath.—The to-day which is appointed to faith as an accepted time and day of salvation, after all the ways of Israel, which ended at last in the blinding and hardening of the majority of the people, at last clearly manifests itself as the gracious season of the New Covenant, in which the voice of God may be heard as never before.—The word of the Sabbatic rest! an inexhaustible consolation, with which ah! how many weary pilgrims, fainting combatants, sluggish laborers, have again and again armed themselves anew with strength and courage! A word of the Spirit which breathes upon the inner man, and refreshes with the powers of the world to come! A brightly glittering star of hope, guiding out of all darkness, back upon the right path!—By how much greater and more glorious the work of the redemption and restoration of fallen man, in whose fall the world is destroyed, than the work of the first creation, by so much more glorious is the second Sabbath of God in Christ, than the first Sabbath of Paradise.

Von Gerlach:—In the oath that unbelievers shall not enter in is involved for believers the promise that they by faith shall enter in.

Hedinger:—Hearing must be accompanied by faith; faith must be accompanied by perseverance.

Heubner:—The unconverted will doubtless wish, immediately after death, even then speedily to procure for themselves an entrance into bliss, but too late; late-comers are not waited for.—The threat as well as the promise is conditional. All earthly rest is imperfect; the true rest comes afterward.—For him who seeks his rest here, the future world will bring unrest.—The rest of God promised to the Christian consists—1, in perfect freedom from all that disturbs, oppresses, obstructs, weakens, and pains the Christian here below: a. from outward disquiet of the world, of the body, and of evil men: b. from internal disquiet on account of his corruption and weakness; 2, in the blissful and undisturbed enjoyment of the grace and love of God; his soul then rests in God, after whom it was pining; he is then united with God through Christ in vision, enjoyment and feeling; 3, in the possession and blessed enjoyment of the good which his struggles have achieved, and in the perfectly free, never wearying, never exhausting prosecution of the new work that is assigned to us.—The Rest of God, the heavenly Sabbath, is to us a pattern and a goal; reminding us that, in the week of our present life, we accomplish our daily work, in order hereafter to attain to the heavenly Sabbath.

Fricke:—Every Sabbath is a beckoning to the Rest of God, and an attestation of it.

[Owen:—The failing of men through their unbelief doth no way cause the promises of God to fail or cease.—Men by their unbelief may disappoint themselves of their expectation, but cannot bereave God of His faithfulness.—The promise made unto Abraham did contain the substance of the Gospel.—The Gospel is no new doctrine, no new law; it was preached unto the people of old.—The Gospel is that which was from the beginning (1 John 1:1). It is the first great original transaction of God with sinners from the foundation of the world.—God hath not appointed to save men whether they will or no; nor is the word of promise a means suited unto any such end or purpose.—The great mystery of useful and profitable believing consists in the mixing or incorporating of truth and faith in the souls or minds of believers.—It is the proper description of an unbeliever, that “he doth not receive the things of the Spirit of God,” 1 Corinthians 2:14—Faith makes the soul in love with spiritual things: love engages all their affections into their proper exercise about them, and fills the mind continually with thoughtfulness about them, and desires after them; and this mightily helps on the spiritual mixture of faith and the word.—The people of God as such have work to do, and labor incumbent on them.—Rest and labor are correlates; the one supposeth the other. Many important truths lie deep and secret in the Scripture, and stand in need of a very diligent search and hard digging in their investigation and for their finding out.—There is no true rest for the souls of men, but only in Jesus Christ by the Gospel].


Hebrews 4:2; Hebrews 4:2.—Instead of the Nom. Sing., συγκεκραμένος which is found in 5 minusc. 17, 31, 37, 41,114, the Acc, Plur., in the form συγκεκρασμένους, is found in A. B. C. D.* M. 23, 25, and in the form συγκεκεραμένους (also with double μ), in D*** E. I, K. 4, 6, 10. Moreover the Copt., Æth., Arm., and most of the versions have the Acc. But it scarcely yields any sense. The Nom. has the authority of the Peshito, Vulg., Ital., and of the Cod. Sin. in the form συγκεκερασμένος.

Hebrews 4:3; Hebrews 4:3.—Instead of εἰσερχώμεθα οὖν we are to read with Sin. A. C. εἰσερχόμέθα γάρ. The following οἱπιστεύσαντες is also inconsistent with the hortatory subjunctive.

Hebrews 4:3; Hebrews 4:3.—Instead of εἴρηται, read with Sin. A. C. D.* E.,* 17, 23, 31, προείρηται.

[4][With a writer of a different description, Moll’s objection to this interpretation might have more weight: in the case of our author it seems to be of very questionable validity. It should be borne in mind that the very characteristic and distinguishing feature of our epistle is the utmost possible cogency of reasoning, and stern and terrible force of appeal, couched in, (we might almost say), the utmost possible smoothness and flowing grace of diction. An earnestness of thought and sentiment that never for a moment relaxes itself, moves on pari passu with a majestic stateliness, and a classic grace of style, that never for a moment forgets its urbanity, and never allows its even repose to break forth into passionate vehemence of expression. In such a style the occurrence of an elegant and even softening term like δοκῆ in the sense here given to it, could scarcely be matter of surprise or objection.—K.].

[5][To see the difference between the two explanations, the reader must first correct the English version, which is here exceedingly unfortunate. First, Hebrews 4:6-7 must be closely united, not more than a comma being placed after unbelief. Then the comma must be struck out after again, Hebrews 4:7, and this word connected closely with ὁρίζει he again limits or fixes. Again the phrase “as it is said,” must be corrected first by a right translation of the Perf. has been said, and then by substituting the proper critical reading, προείρηται, has been said before (referring to the previous citation, Hebrews 3:0 Hebrews 4:7-15); and finally the phrase “after so long a time” must be put in its proper construction with “saying” (λέγων). We then render either thus: “Since, then, it still remains that some, etc.—on account of disobedience, he again fixes a certain day (viz.) ‘to-day,’ saying in David so long a time after” (i.e., so long a time after the original promise=the long interval between Moses and David) “to-day if ye hear His voice.” etc., or thus: he again fixes a certain day: “to-day”—saying in David so long a time afterward—“to-day if ye hear,” etc. In the former case “to-day” is taken in apposition with ἡμέραν, “a certain day, viz., to-day.” and so Calvin, Beza, Grotius, Bleek, De Wette, Moll, Bib. Union. In the latter “to-day” emphatically and somewhat abruptly commences the quotation, and then, after an intervening clause, is emphatically repeated. So Lünemann, Delitzsch, and decidedly Alford. The order of the words σήμερον ἐν Λαυεὶδ λέγων I think is in favor of the latter view. With the former the author would, I think, have more naturally written λέγων ἑν Λαυείδ.—K.].

Verses 11-13

The peculiar and extraordinary nature of the word of God should deter us from resisting it

Hebrews 4:11-13

11Let us labor [strive zealously, σπουδάσωμεν] therefore, to enter into that rest, lest any man [any one] fall after the same example of unbelief [disobedience, ἀπειθείας]. 12For the word of God is quick [living], and powerful [effective, energetic, ἐνεργής], and sharper than any two-edged sword [and], piercing [through] even to the dividing asunder of soul6 and spirit, and of the joints [of both joints] and marrow, and is a discerner of [sits in judgment on, κριτικός] the thoughts [reflections] and intents 13 [thoughts] of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened [laid bare] unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

[Hebrews 4:11.—Σπουδάσωμεν, let us strive zealously, 2 Peter 1:10, “give diligence.” Here Alf., earnestly strive; Bib. Un., endeavor, perhaps not quite strong enough. De Wette, streben; Moll, ernstlich trachten.—ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ—πεσεῖν. Eng. ver., fall after; Vulg., Luth., Del., Alf., Bib. Un., etc., fall into; Moll, fall in the like, etc.; De Wette, fall, as a like example. All but the second (Vulg. etc.) take πεσεῖν, absolutely of perishing, against which Alf., after Lün., urges its unemphatic position, but to which we may reply, that this springs from a desire to give a special emphasis to ἀπειθείας. Grammatically, πεσεῖν ἐν, for πεσεῖν εἰς, fall into, is doubtless admissible: but “fall in,” or “into an example,” is harsh, and “to fall into the same example,” harsher still. I prefer taking with Eng. ver. and Moll, πεσεῖν, absolutely, of perishing, and I believe the expression to be a pregnant one, for “experience a like fall with that of those after whose disobedience you thus pattern;” the “pattern” not looking forward to the effect of their fall on others—which seems not at all in the author’s sphere of thought—but backward to the effect of the fall of their fathers upon them.—τῆς�, disobedience, not unbelief, ἀπιστίας.

Hebrews 4:12.—Ζῶν γάρ, for living, placed emphatically at the beginning.—ἐνεργής, working, operative, effective.—τομώτερος ὐπέρ, more cutting beyond, a double comparative.—διικνούμενος, coming through, piercing through.—ἁρμῶν τε καὶ μυελῶν, both joints and marrow; with the omission of the τε after ψυχῆς, these words become naturally an explanatory apposition to ψυχῆς καὶ πνεύματος.—κριτικὸς.: Eng. ver., Bib. Un., discerner; Alf., judger, or discerner; De Wette, Richter; Lün., zu beurtheilen oder zu richten befühigt; Moll, richterlich.—ἐνθυμήσεων καὶ ἐννοιῶν, not, thoughts and intents, but reflections, or sentiments, emotions, affections, and ideas, thoughts, the former looking more to the moral and emotional, the latter to the intellectual nature.—K.].


Hebrews 4:11. Let us therefore strive earnestly to enter—example of disobedience.—The fact stated in Hebrews 4:1, and subsequently unfolded, that there not only is a true rest for the people of God, consisting in a participation of the rest of God Himself, but that we Christians are invited to it by a word of promise, and have in Jesus our true Leader, leads now, according to our understanding of Hebrews 4:1, either to the resumption of the exhortation which it contains, or to a new exhortation to earnest and zealous striving for an entrance into that rest (ἐκείνη, that, marking the specific rest just described). Whoever intermits this striving will fall on the way, and will furnish precisely such an example of disobedience, alike in his conduct and his destiny, as did the nation of Israel, in their march through the desert. Instead of παράδειγμα, in familiar use with the earlier Attic writers, but wanting in the N. Test., we have here, as at 2 Peter 2:6, ὑπόδειγυα. Both words denote, sometimes copy, sometimes pattern. The ἐν is not=per (Wolf, Strig., etc.), or propter (Carpz.), but denotes state or condition, the being in (Bl., De W., Bisp., Del.). With this coincides substantially the view of Thol. that it corresponds with the Dat. modi, indicating the way and manner in which the fact as a whole presents itself (Bernhardy, Synt. 100), i.e., fall, and in his fall present the same example of disobedience as the Fathers. Πέσῃ is thus taken absolutely, a construction which, since Chrysostom has been given to it by most interpreters, though with an unwarranted reference to the use of the word, Hebrews 3:17, they restrict it to mere perishing (exclusive of the idea of sinning). Lönemann (followed by Alford) maintains that the position of πέση forbids our taking it here thus absolutely. But his view is untenable, and all the more so as his own explanation of the idea accords substantially with that given by us. He is right, however, in remarking that the translation of Luther, after the Vulg.: “that no one fall into the same example of unbelief,” is not, as by and since Bleek, to be rejected on grammatical grounds. For πίπτεινἐν is as good Greek as πίπτειν είς, only that it connects with the idea of falling into, that of subsequently remaining in. Del. adds still further examples from the Hellenistic, Psalms 35:8; Psalms 141:10; Ezekiel 27:27.

Hebrews 4:12. For the word of God is living—two-edged sword.—Many distinguished Christian fathers, and, among recent expositors, Biesenthal even yet, regard the λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ here as the hypostatical or personal word of God; but as our Epistle nowhere else speaks of the personal Logos,—although it must certainly be supposed to have aided in preparing the way for that designation,—it is generally understood of the word of God as spoken and as recorded in the Scriptures. Under this view some (Schlicht., Mich., Abresch, Böhm., etc.) restrict it to the threatening and heart-piercing word of the O. Test., while others (Camero, Grot., Ebr., etc.) apply it te the Gospel of the N. T. Ebrard so regards it, even with reference to the fact that the Old Testament word remained exterior, and, as it were, a thing foreign to man. There is no ground, however, for such limitations; nor is there, on the other hand, any more ground for that wide and vague generalizing of the term which, with Bez., Schultz, Bisp., etc., would include in it the whole range of the Divine threatenings and promises, and strip the passage entirely of its local coloring. It is clear from the context that the passage is designed to justify and enforce the preceding warning (Hebrews 4:1), terminating emphatically and designedly with its suggestive ἀπειθείας. To do this, the writer brings out the characteristic nature of the word of God. That which God says (Lün.) is, as a product of the Divine activity, infinitely different from every human word. But it appears here in reference to no specific subject-matter whatever, but in reference merely to this single and peculiar feature, that it has proceeded from God, and has the form of the Logos. This is indicated by the properties which are immediately ascribed to it. As a word of God, it is living (ζῶν), Acts 7:38; 1 Peter 1:23; having life in itself, while again the like appellation is given to God, from whom it comes, Hebrews 3:12; Hebrews 10:31. Ebrard interpolates into the thought a contrast with the dead law; while Schlichting and Abresch unwarrantably restrict its import to imperishable duration, and Carpz., equally unwarrantably, to its capacity to nourish the life of the soul. But the inner life of the word reveals itself in actual operation. Hence, it is called ἐνεργής, proving itself operative and efficient; and since it lay within the scope of the author to unfold this feature of the word’s peculiar character, it is called, “sharper than any two-edged sword.” Such a sword, which, as δίστομος, or double-mouthed, ‘devours’ on both sides, issues, according to Revelation 19:15, from the mouth of the Logos. Ὑπέρ stands after a comparative, Luke 16:8; Judges 11:25, as παρά, Hebrews 1:4. In similar terms, Philo repeatedly speaks of the Logos.7

Hebrews 4:12. And piercing through—feelings and thoughts of the heart.—These expressions subserve the same purpose as the preceding, viz., to characterize the word of God as such. A union of the word of the Gospel, or even of the Hypostatical Logos, with the inner life of believers, is not indicated by a single feature of the picture. It simply presents to us the word of God in its proper and peculiar character, as penetrating through every outward and enveloping fold, into the inmost being of man, and thus competent to exercise judicial supervision (κριτικός not κρίτης) over those ἐνθυμήσεις and ἔννοιαι, which, as sources of human action, have their sphere of operation in the heart. The word exercises its judicial functions as well in the realm of thought, purpose and resolution, as in that of affection, inclination and passion; for it penetrates so deeply as to effect the work of separation (μερισμός) in the province of soul and spirit, and that in their natural (though not necessarily, as maintained by Del., sensuous and corporeal) life of emotion and sensibility. For ἁρμοί τε καὶ μυελοί form doubtless a figurative expression for the collective and deeper elements of man’s inner nature (as, in the same way, μυελός is found at Eurip. Hippol., 255, and Themist. Orat., 32, p. 357), and were here naturally suggested by the comparison of the “word” with a sword. And we can scarcely apply the language to the separating of the soul from the spirit, or of both from the joints and marrow of the body (Böhme, Del.); or to the penetrating of the word clear to the most secret place where soul and spirit are separated (Schlicht., who, although ἄχρι is not repeated, does not make ἁρμῶν τε καὶ μύελῶν, dependent on μερισμοῦ, but coördinates them with it). The separation is rather described as taking place in these designated spheres themselves, the word, like a sword, cleaving soul, cleaving spirit. Hofm. (Schriftb., I., 259) assumes a very harsh and indefensible inversion, making ψυχῆς καὶ πνεύματος depend on ἁρμῶν τε καὶ μυελῶν=alike the joints and marrow of the inner life. It is a more natural construction (with Lün., Alf., etc.), to take ἁρμῶν τε καὶ μυελῶν, connected as they are by τε καὶ into closely united parts of one whole, as subordinate to ψυχῆς καὶ πνεύματος, thus=soul and spirit, alike Joints and marrow [i.e., joints and marrow of soul and of spirit]. To assume (with Calv., Bez., etc.) a coördination of the two sets of words, as corresponding and similarly divided pairs, is forbidden by the absence of the τε in the first, pair; and the order of the words themselves (ψυχῆς, preceding πνεύματος) forbids our assuming, with Delitzsch, an advance from the πνεῦμα, as the primary and proper seat of gracious influences, through the more outward ψυχή to the strictly material and bodily portion of our nature.

Hebrews 4:13. And there is no creature that is not manifest, etc.—At the first glance, the language looks like a continuance of the description of the λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ; and hence many expositors who do not adopt the hypostatical view regarding the word, still refer the repeated αὐτοῦ, and the ὅν to λόγος. But although John 12:48 ascribes to the word a judicial function at the final judgment, and Proverbs 3:16 ascribe hands to wisdom, yet still here alike the mention of eyes, and the Hellenistic ἐνώπιον corresponding to the Heb. לִפְנֵי, indicate that the subject passes over from the word to God Himself. This transition is all the more natural, in that the attributes, previously ascribed to the word, point collectively to its origin from God, and to the power of God prevailing in it. But we are particularly forced to this construction from the final clause πρὸς ο͂ν ἡμῖν ὁ λόγος. This were an impotent, superfluous and purely objectless addition if it meant nothing but: “of whom we are speaking,”=περὶ οὗ ἡυῖν ὁ λόγος, Hebrews 5:11 (Luth., Grot., Schlicht., Strig., etc.), whether we refer the sentence to ‘God’ or to His ‘word.’ Nor does it mean properly: “to whom we have to give an account” (Pesh., Chrys., Primas., etc.); but more exactly: “with whom we stand in relation,” i.e, of accountability (Calv., Beng., Bl., and the later intpp.). No special emphasis rests on ἡμῖν, and, at all events, none strong enough to support the interpretation which Ebrard, on the strength of it, gives to the passage. The rendering proposed in Reuter’s Rep., 1857, p. Hebrews 27: “to whom [viz., God) the word is for us,” i.e., “to whom the word is to lead us,” is far-fetched and artificial. Before God, then, there is no creature, ἀφανής, i.e., invisible and untransparent; rather (δέ for ἀλλά, as Hebrews 2:6) are all creatures, γυμνά, stript of all natural and artificial covering; and τετραχηλισμένα, with neck bent back, so as to give a full view of the face. The archæological explanations drawn from ancient usages, either in gladiatorial combats, or in the treatment of criminals, or in animal sacrifices, are either unnatural, or superfluous. The explanation of κτίσις, as opus hominis quia id est velut creatura hominis (Grot., Carpz.), is decidedly to be rejected. [τετραχηλισμένα (Hesych., πεφανερωμένα) has been explained from the usage of athletes in grasping by the neck or throat their antagonist, and prostrating him on his back, so that he lies open and prostrate; or from the practice of bending back the necks of malefactors—who would naturally bow their heads—so that all may see their shame; or, from throwing back the necks of animals in sacrifices, in order to lay them bare to the knife of the slaughterer. The first seems objectionable, as giving to τραχηλίζειν, a meaning, i.e., of laying prostrate and bare, which is merely incidental to, and inferential from its proper force, “seize by the neck, throttle.” The second, from the fact that, though a Roman custom, there is no evidence that it was expressed by the Greek word τραχηλι̇ζειν. The third, also, is liable to the objection, that, though the usage was familiar to the Greeks, there is no evidence that this word was employed to designate it. The latter view is adopted by Lün.; the second by Bleek, De Wette, etc. Alford insists on the frequency of the occurrence of the word in Philo (especially “in a passage cast so much in Philo’s mode of rhetorical expression”), (who uses it uniformly in the sense of laying prostrate, generally metaphorically), and would thence interpret it here “as signifying entire prostration and subjugation under the eye of God.” Words worth renders: “bare and laid open to the neck, throat and back-bone;” and adds: “The metaphor is from sacrificial victims first flayed naked, and then dissected and laid open by the anatomical knife of the sacrificing Priest, so that all the inner texture, the nerves and sinews, and arteries of the body were exposed to view.”—K].


1. “The word searches out in our hearts the eternity which hitherto lay buried under a multitude of fancies and imaginations of the heart, and was too feeble to come forth of itself. It creates a spiritual understanding, which consists in true and substantial ideas. It furnishes an answer to the objections which distrust, fear, impatience, unbelief, awaken in our bosoms. It teaches us that there are within us two hostile wills; one from truth, the other from imagination; one from God, the other from ourselves. It separates the desires springing from imperfect education, from misunderstanding of the letter of the law, and those that spring from an uncleansed conscience and habitual desire, and it so judges and uncovers all deception, that nothing is hidden from it. Thus this word is a genuine auxiliary to the attainment of rest.” (Hahn, priest in Echterdingen).
2. The word is the essential means of revealing the true and living God, inasmuch as He in His essence is Spirit (John 4:24); and since speaking appears in this connection as an essential living utterance of God, its product, the word, must contain in itself, and express, the peculiarity of the divine life. Precisely for this reason, the same qualities are applied to the Word of Revelation as to the hypostatical Logos, and interpreters could easily question whether our text spoke of the former or the latter. At all events this passage belongs, as already recognized by Olshausen (Opuscula, p. 125); Köstlin, (Joh. Lehrbegr., p. 376) Dorner, (Christology I. 100) to those Biblical declarations which explain and prepare the way for the origin of the mode of expression in the prologue of the Gospel of John. For if Christ is conceived, not merely as the mediator of the creation, the redemption, and perfection of the world, but also as mediator of the whole revelation of God; if again the word is the essential means of this revelation, and if, finally, the personal mediator muse, in such a relation, be conceived of as of like nature with God, as demanded by the expressions ἀπαὐγασμα τῆς δόξης καὶ χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ, Hebrews 1:3, and εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ�, πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως (Colossians 1:15), it becomes then entirely natural to characterize the Son of God, not merely as being the substance of the announced word, but as the eternal and personal Word, by the appellation of Logos.

3. Although expressions are found in Philo, regarding the cutting and penetrating sharpness of the “word,” which are similar to those used here, we are still not to go back to Philo for the explanation of our passage, but rather to conceptions and expressions of the Old Testament which Philo’s philosophical speculations not unfrequently obscure and misinterpret. The Word of God is specially compared (Isaiah 49:2) with a sharp sword, and Isaiah 11:4 speaks of the rod of His mouth, which will smite the earth, and of the breath of His lips which will slay the wicked. For this same reason similar figures are found at Ephesians 6:17; 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 1:16; Revelation 2:12; Revelation 19:15. The judicial power of the word, which is spirit and life (John 6:63; Acts 7:38); is mentioned, also John 12:48;, as at Wis 16:12, its healing, and at Sir 43:26, its all-creating and sustaining power. We might also, perhaps, be reminded of the expressions at Wis 18:15; ὁ πἀντοδύναμός σου λόγος—=ξίφος ὀξὺ τὴν�.

4. Since πνεῦμα (spirit) in our passage denotes a constituent element of human nature, and is distinguished from ψυχή (soul) the trichotomical view of the nature of man is here expressed, which is found also 1 Thessalonians 5:23; while Matthew 6:25; James 2:26 point undeniably to that of a dichotomy. But this indicates no contradiction in the Holy Scriptures itself, but simply authorizes both forms of representation. Regarding the contrast of the Scriptural dichotomy with a false trichotomy and in like manner of the Scriptural trichotomy with a false dichotomy, see Del., System of Biblical Psychology, Leipz. 1855, p. 64 ff; Olshausen, Opusc. Theol. p. 152, and Lutz, Biblical Dogmatic, p. 76; Von Rudloff, The Doctrine of Man, Leipz. 1858; and G. Von Zezschwitz, Classic Greek, and the Spirit of the Biblical Language, Leipz. 1859; p. 34 ff. In the latter work it is well said p. 60 that the Scripture speaks dichotomically in respect of the parts, trichotomically, of the living reality, but maintaining everywhere the fundamental unity of the human essence. It is entirely false to refer with G. L. Hahn, (Theol. of the New Testament, 1 vol., Leipz. 1854, p. 415) the πνεῦμα in our passage to the Spirit of God. According to the view of this scholar, it would be here said, that the Word of God is not despised with impunity, inasmuch as it is able to penetrate into the inmost recesses of human nature, where the soul, the central seat of life, receives from the spirit its contributions and nourishment. Granting, then, that the word is able to separate the soul from the spirit, this means, according to him, nothing else than that the Word of God has power to procure for man the eternal death of the soul. But the Spirit is here evidently a constituent element of human nature, which, in its origin, comes immediately from God, and belongs, in its nature, to the immaterial super-sensuous world. In it is involved the continued existence of man, and his entrance after death into the invisible world. The ψυχή (soul) is in this connection the central, and as it were aggregating point of human life, which is touched immediately by bodily impressions, but which also receives into itself the influences proceeding from the πνεῦμα. (Riehm, II. 672 ff.).


He who would attain to the desired goal must not merely give heed to the Word of God, but must strive earnestly to enter into the Rest of God.—What we hare in the Word of God, we best ascertain from its agency and its influence.—The character of the Word of God corresponds as well to its origin as to its object.—God judges in His word, 1, in order to save; 2, the whole world; 3, not merely the walk, but also the heart.—When is our striving a blessed one?—1, When it is directed to the attainment of the Rest of God;—2, when it is directed in accordance with the Word of God; 3, when it comes from a heart which has a living consciousness of its responsibility to God.—What is the nature of that God with whom we have to do?—Does the earnestness with which God desires our salvation find an answering earnestness in our striving after His approval?—To the magnitude of that which God has bestowed upon us, corresponds the weight of our responsibility, and the heaviness of His judgment.

Starke:—Without rest we were the most miserable of all creatures, and it were better for us that we had never been born, than that we remained in eternal unrest. Therefore, take courage, vigorously onward, be active in the struggle, joyful in the course, that we may lay hold of the jewel of rest (1 Timothy 6:12).—The Gospel is the means which God employs for our salvation. If then, it is to make living men out of dead ones, it must itself be living.—God’s Word has God’s power.—Observest thou not how it arouses thy conscience and rebukes thee?—God evinces His power in the works of faith and of salvation, no otherwise than through His word, and it also proves itself mighty in those who will not obey the truth, since it becomes to them a savor of death unto death, (1 Corinthians 1:24; 2 Corinthians 10:4-5; Romans 1:16; Psalms 19:8.)—The law is a sharp sword, which pierces into the soul of a transgressor (Galatians 3:10); but the Gospel is still sharper in its convicting power; it is able to soften the hardest heart, and to cut it asunder through the preaching of Christ, (Acts 2:37; Acts 16:14; Acts 16:32; Acts 26:27-28).—As the word is of divine authority, it is also a perfect, clear, and sure rule of faith.—The power of the word of God evinces itself in this, that without compulsion or external power, it draws hearts to itself, brings them out of the power of the devil, of sin, and of death, into obedience, and brings them to eternal, divine freedom, righteousness and life.—Our heart has frequently been smitten, we know not how or whence. Frequently we hear a whispering, without any sensible emotion. Then again it happens that we hear the same small voice, and taste in it a power, and receive from it a wisdom, that fills us with wonder, (Acts 24:25).—Thoughts are not free from accountability; hearest thou not that they have their judge?—If thou goest about with evil trick and artifices, although they are choked down in the heart, and bear no fruit, they will still be revealed and judged to thine eternal shame, (1 Corinthians 4:5).

Berlenburger Bible:—He who will not hear the voice of God cannot possibly attain to the Rest of God, and although there may be found some who have said that they enjoy rest, they have still only a transitory and self-procured rest; but not a rest in God.—Many thousands have lost their rest because they did not put forth their utmost power in entering into it, (Luke 13:24).—Where unbelief puts itself in the way of the word, there the living word proves its power, so as to disclose the condition of the man.—The living Word of God cuts so deep into the soul that the false blood of selfishness, as it were, issues forth, and of necessity, betrays itself.—None is so upright toward thee—of that be assured—as this word.

Laurentius:—With the regenerate the spirit must have sway: the body must be subject to the soul, but the soul to the spirit.—From God nothing is hidden, neither the wickedness of the unconverted, nor the secret desire of believers. He knows and sees all better than we ourselves.

Rambach:—Those greatly err who hold the Word of God to be a dead letter; yet the law cannot make alive, for this is an honor which belongs alone to the Gospel.

Von Bogatzky:—None can have any excuse for remaining dead and inanimate, or sluggish and inactive; because the word is living and powerful.—With the sword of the Spirit must all our enemies be smitten, and not hinder us from entering into the heavenly Canaan.—We have not to do with mere men who formerly wrote the word, and who now preach it; no, we have to do with God Himself, the Judge of all flesh.—The more exalted is the person who speaks to us, the more reverently do we receive the word and obey it.

Rieger:—There arises in the heart, particularly if during many years it has not remained totally estranged from, and indifferent to, the proffers of God, an incredible blending of good and evil, of truth and falsehood, of earthly-mindedness, and occasional longing after something better, of inclination to the obedience of faith, and temptation to depart from the living God. If these remain always blended with each other, then the man always remains hidden from himself, now inclined to be influenced and yield to right persuasion, and now again timid, trembling before the temptation to cast away his confidence. With this he sinks at one time into fear, without exertion, and acts as if nothing more were to be accomplished; and at another plunges into self-confident endeavors in exertion without fear, without thought of the power of unbelief, from both of which only the call and drawing of God can set us free. From such a labyrinth there would be no escape without this judicial and serving power of the divine word, which must divide asunder for us faith and unbelief in their deepest roots, and their inmost and most vital tendencies.

Stier:—The unbeliever already has his judge in the heard but despised word, and his judgment in his heart and conscience.—He who in the deepest, indestructible original foundation of the fallen man, still attests by the voice of conscience His right and His truth, is the same one who now speaks by the word of His grace unto and into the conscience.

Von Gerlach:—All that is here said of the word, that is, of the revelation of God generally, holds in the highest degree of the independent, personal, eternal Word which was with the Father, and has appeared among us in the flesh; every individual word of God is an emanation from the eternal Word.—The greater the compassionate grace which God bestows upon us in Christ, the mightier the power of His all-healing and restoring love, so much the more fearful is the responsibility, if we nevertheless despise His word.

Heubner:—The Word penetrates even through the thickest bulwarks of prejudice, of illusion, and into the hardest and grossest hearts; it seizes upon the inmost being, the very vital principle of man.—How often has the declaration of the Bible assailed and completely penetrated the hardened and the transgressor, or a promise awakened the sluggish and the timid.—The power of the word comes from God who has created both the word and the human soul. Even the simplicity of the word strengthens its power.—God knows alike true and wavering faith.

Hahn:—We cannot believe and yet remain idle.—The word will at once render us cheerful, and will help us on if we deal with it honestly and do not weaken its power.—Many would gladly go into rest, but they do not lift up a foot in the right direction.

Fricke:—The goal toward which we tend is indeed rest, but the way is toil and labor.


Hebrews 4:12; Hebrews 4:12.—The τε after ψυχῆς is to be expunged according to Sin. A. B. C. H. L., 3, 73.

[7][The following passages from Philo (cited by Lün.), are among the striking evidences that our author, while totally free from the mystical and allegorizing fancies of Philo, could yet have hardly been unacquainted or unfamiliar with his writings: Qui rerum divinarum hæres, p. 499. Εἶτ’ ἐπιλέγει · Λιεῖλεν αὐτὰ μέσα (Genesis 15:10) τὸ τίς οὐ προσθείς, ἵνα τὸν� · ὅς, εἰς τὴν ὀξυτάτην�, διαιρῶν οὐδέποτε λήγει τὰ αἰσθητὰ πάντα · ἐπειδὰν δὲ μέχρι τῶν�, πάλιν� … Ἕκαστου οὖν τῶν τριῶν διεῖλε μέσον, τὴν μὲν ψυχὴν εἰς λογικὸν καὶ ἄλογον, τὸν δὲ λόγον εἰς αληθές τε καὶ ψεῦδος, τὴν δὲ αἴσθησιν εἰς καταληπτικἠν φαντασίαν καὶ�. Again de Cherubim, p. 112 f. Philo finds in the φλογίνη ῥομφαία, flaming sword, Genesis 3:24, a symbol of the Logos, and then remarks in reference to Abraham: οὐχ ὁρᾷς ὅτι καὶ Ἀβαραὰμ ὁ σοφὸς, ἡνίκα ἤρξατο κατὰ θεὸν μετρείς πάντα καὶ μηδὲν�, λαμβάνει τῆς φλογίνης ῥομφαίας μίμημα, πῦρ καὶ μάχαιραν (Genesis 22:6), διελεῖν καὶ καταφλέξαι τὸ θνητὸν�̓ ἑαυτοῦ γλιχόμενος, ἵνα γυμνῆ τῇ διανοίᾳ μετάρσιος πρὸς τὸν θεὸυ�. In the first passage, Philo speaks of “God dividing (cutting) all the natures of bodies and of things in succession, which seem to have been fitted and united together, with His word, which is the divider (cutter) of all things, which being whetted to the keenest edge, never ceases dividing all things which are perceptible to sense,” etc. In the others he says that “Abraham, when he began to measure all things, according to God—takes a likeness of the flaming sword (i.e., of the Divine Logos), to wit, fire and a sword (μάχαιρα), seeking to sever and burn away the mortal part from himself, in order that with his naked intelligence he might soar and fly up to God.—K.].

Verses 14-16

Exaltation of Jesus Christ above Aaron and his high-priestly successors
The exaltation of Jesus Christ, as the High-Priest who has passed through the heavens, furnishes a basis for the exhortation to the maintenance of the Christian confession

Hebrews 4:14-16

14Seeing, then, that we have a great high priest, that is [has] passed into [through] the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession [confession, ὁμολογίας]. 15For we have not a high priest which [who] cannot be touched with the feeling of [sympathize with] our infirmities; but was [has been] in all points tempted8 like as we are, yet without sin [apart from sin]. 16Let us therefore come boldly [approach with confidence] to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy,9 and find grace to help in time of need [for seasonable succor].


Hebrews 4:14. Since, therefore, we have a great high priest, etc.—Delitzsch, disconnecting the οὖν from the ἔχοντες�., and carrying it over to the κρατῶμεν, makes the ἐχον. ἄρχ. here incidental, and regards the οὖν with κρατῶμεν as deducing from the words immediately preceding the duty of steadfast perseverance [so Alf.]. But the position of οὖν between ἔχοντες and ἀρχιερέα, shows that, looking back to the entire previous discussion, in which Jesus has been not merely styled ἀρχιερεύς, Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 3:1 (Thol., De W.), but also been set forth in His personal elevation and majesty (Lün.), the author is drawing the conclusion that we possess in Jesus not merely a Prophet and Messenger of God, legislator, and Leader, like Moses and Joshua, but a High-priest who, precisely on account of this character, can, as άρχηγὸς τῆς σωτηρίας, conduct into the Sabbath rest (σαββατισμός). The epithet μέγας points at once to that elevation of this High-Priest above Aaron and his successors, which is unfolded in this section; for the opinion of John Cappell, Braun, Ramb., Mich., etc., that the epithet μέγας only serves to give to the combination μεγ. ἀρχ. the meaning of high-priest, is entirely without foundation. Philo had previously called the Divine Logos μέγ. ἀρχ. (I., 654 Ed. Mang.). That the author’s special point here is the majesty of this Christian High-Priest, is clear from the two appended descriptive clauses, of which the former tells us that this High-Priest has accomplished His course, in order that, exalted above all created existences (Hebrews 7:26; Ephesians 4:10), He might receive the Place belonging to Him upon the throne of the majesty of God, Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 1:13; while the other connects immediately with His special designation as High-Priest the mention of His Divine Sonship, which explains this elevation (Hebrews 1:1; Hebrews 1:5; Hebrews 6:6; Hebrews 7:3; Hebrews 10:29). The rendering: “who has gone to heaven” (Pesh., Luth., Calv., Ernesti, etc.) is erroneous [as also that of the Eng. version, “who has passed into the heavens”]; and no less erroneous is the opinion of Wolf and Böhme, that the appended τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ θεοῦ is intended to distinguish Jesus from Joshua.

Hebrews 4:14. Let us hold fast our confession.—The circumstance that not merely such a High-Priest as the above exists, but that we already stand in a definite historical relation to Him, whereby He is our High-Priest, forms the ground of the exhortation to the holding fast, Hebrews 6:18; Colossians 2:19; 2 Timothy 2:15 (κρατῶμεν not to be explained as by Tittman, lay hold of), of our confession, viz., our entire Christian profession, not merely our confession of Christ as our High-Priest (Storr).

Hebrews 4:15. For we have not an high priest—infirmities.—The author is not here giving the ground of the exhortation which has already found its reason in the ἔχοντες οὖν�., but proceeds to elucidate still further the declaration of Christ’s High-Priesthood which follows from the preceding discussion, by anticipating and setting aside the thought which might arise that a Messiah who had come from God, and who had gone to God, might perhaps indeed have taken upon Himself the human mode of life, but could scarcely have assumed our entire human nature to the extent of an actual sympathy with our weaknesses and our temptations. An actual joint endurance (συμπάσχειν, Romans 8:17; 1 Corinthians 12:26) of these sufferings is here not intended. The writer simply affirms a sympathy, a fellow-feeling, (συμπαθεῖν, Hebrews 10:34); through which compassion shows itself in emotional participation, and in hearty sympathy with the condition of those into whose circumstances, perils and modes of feeling we are enabled to enter. The ἄσθένειαι are not merely sufferings (Chrys., etc.), but our outward and inward infirmities.

But one who has been tempted—Without Sin.—The δέ stands hero as Hebrews 2:6; Hebrews 4:13, so that the adversative clause contains, at the same time, a heightening and a carrying forward of the thought. Καθ̓ ὁμοιότητα sc. ἡμῶν is stronger than ὁμοίως, Christ’s likeness to us in respect of being tempted extends to every relation with a single, far-reaching exception,—an exception that, in fact, modifies the relation of likeness at every point, viz., apart from sin (χωρὶς ἁμαρτίας). This cannot mean, “except in sin,” in all other things beside (Capp., Storr, etc.); for in that case κατὰ πάντα must have been united immediately with χωρίς, and ἁμαρτίας must have had the definite article. The view of Œcum., Schlicht., and Dindorf, to wit, without having stained His sufferings by sin, is unnatural. The common explanation, viz., without His temptation leading Him to sin, is too narrow. The participation of Jesus in every form of human suffering—the actual stirring of His emotions, His complete fellow-feeling with our weaknesses, the reality of His actual temptation,—all have taken place without one single sinful emotion, and without ever finding in Him, as their condition, or point of contact, a single slumbering element of sin. Every thing took place with Him “separately from sin.” The sinlessness of the Divine Logos in Philo, (Ed. Mang. I., 562 ff.).

Hebrews 4:16. Let us therefore approach—of grace.—Since we possess in Jesus Christ a High-Priest who is not merely exalted, but also sympathizing and tried, and who thus has not merely the external position and power, not merely the internal inclinations and volitions, but every possible requisite form of qualification and fitness to be our Saviour, with this the previous train of thought, with its naturally accompanying exhortations, is brought to a sort of temporary, and, as it were, preliminary close. The “throne of grace” is neither Christ (Gerh., Seb. Schmidt, Carpz., etc.), nor the throne of Christ (Primas., Schlicht.), but the throne of God. The expression, however, is not intended to suggest the throne which arose upon the lid of the ark of the covenant (Bisp. after the earlier interpp.), but the throne of God in heaven, which at Hebrews 8:1 is called θρόνος τῆς μεγαλωσύνης, and here θρόνος τῆς χάριτος, the throne of grace, because from it there descends to us the grace which is wrought through Christ the Son, enthroned at the right hand of God. There is no occasion for interpreting it as the throne which stands upon grace, Isaiah 16:5; comp. Psalms 89:15 (Del.), but rather, as that upon which grace is enthroned. The coming or drawing near to this throne, designated by προσέρχεσθαι with an obvious reference to the approach of the Levitically clean to the sanctuary (Leviticus 22:3), or of the priest to the altar (Leviticus 21:17), is to be with the bold and joyous confidence (παῤῥησίας) which gives to itself the corresponding expression (Hebrews 3:6), and rests upon the assurance of reconciliation with God.

That we may obtain mercy, etc.—The object of coming to the throne of grace, which in the Old Testament was made possible by the Levitical sacrifice, in the New, by the sacrificial death of Christ, but in both cases finds the impulse to its realization in the faith of those who stand in need of succor, is the attainment of ἔλεος (mercy) and χάρις (grace). It is equally unwarrantable (with Lün.) to reject all distinction between these two terms, and with Bisp., to refer the ἔλεος (mercy) to forgiveness of sins and deliverance from suffering, and the χάρις (grace) on the contrary, to the communication of the higher gifts of grace. For ἔλεος (pity, mercy) always involves a more especial reference to wretchedness, which touches the heart; whether consisting in outward misfortune, suffering, punishment, or inward corruption, guilt and sin, while χάρις (grace), on the contrary, looks rather to a mere self-determined and kindly inclination toward those who have neither right nor claim to it. To restrict the words εἰς εὔκαιρον βοήθειαν to the then still existing season of grace, with a reference back to Hebrews 3:13 (Bl., De W., Lün.), would indeed be preferable to the wholly vague and indefinite interpretation, “so often as we need help;” yet such a limitation is still less appropriate than (with Thol. and Del.) in reference to Hebrews 2:18, to refer it to our weaknesses and need of succor in temptations.


We must not merely believe what is announced to us of Jesus in the Holy Scripture, but also confess what we have in this great, and in every respect perfected Mediator of salvation.—This confession presents itself, indeed, in separate acts, but the confession itself is a united and distinct whole; and the holding fast to this, as the confession of the Christian Church, presupposes in the members of the Church, a vitality, power, and fidelity of personal faith, which should ever be cherished, and by which again, our joyful access to the throne of grace is secured under the most painful trials.

2. The passing of Jesus through the heavens is not here presented as a parallel with the official and solemn passing of the Jewish High-priest through the holy place, into the Holy of holies.—Rather the return of the High-priest Jesus, who, as such, has already made His perfect sacrifice by the offering up of His life upon the cross—His actual return, as Son of man, to the Father, is, in our passage, as an extra ordinary token of His incomparable majesty, placed in parallel with His Divine Sonship; whereby the whole person of the God-man is exalted above all finite beings and localities, and freed from the limitations of time and place, has been brought into full and unrestricted participation in the Divine majesty and glory.—The Lutheran Dogmatic has for this reason drawn from our passage a capital proof of its doctrine of the ubiquity of Christ.

3. A contrast of the strongest kind appears in thus setting over against each other the exaltation of the God-man above every thing created, and His actual participation in human sufferings and fortunes. This participation is of a two-fold character; the one is a sympathizing and ever-enduring compassion, in respect to our needs, in a loving sensibility and fellow-feeling with our sufferings; the other is the sinless sharing, during his earthly life, not only of our susceptibility to suffering, but also of our liability to temptation. Both are a testimony of the perfection of Jesus, and a foundation of our confidence in His help, which we, for this reason, have to implore in our time of need. Upon this rests, in great part. the importance of the experiences obtained by Jesus in His human life, in regard to the character of human sufferings and temptations. “As former of the world, the Logos of God knew doubtless what sort of a creature we are; but, clothed with our flesh, He became acquainted with human weakness from diversified and comprehensive experience. His Divine, preexistent knowledge, came to learn that which springs from personal trial.”—In these words of Cyrill of Alexandria, cited by Del., comes out rather the importance of these experiences, for the development of the personal consciousness and life of Jesus Christ, which has been touched on elsewhere in our Epistle; the object here aimed at, is the quickening of Christian steadfastness and fidelity, by pointing to His capability, not merely to understand our condition, but by virtue of His permanent connection with our nature, in which He has Himself been once tempted, even now, in His exalted condition, to take livingly to heart our state of need and of struggle.

4. The opinion defended by Menken, Collenbusch, Irving, that Jesus Christ was exempt, indeed, from actual sin, but not, in His nature, from inherited sin, has, lying at its basis, the endeavor to bring into clear light the reality of His humanity, the historical character of His temptations, and the greatness of His moral power and dignity. But it consists in a false explanation of the phrase, “conceived of the Holy Spirit,” in which certainly the phrase, “born of the Virgin Mary,” finds its supplementary and correlated truth, and it involves a dangerous confounding of the actual nature of fallen humanity with the God-created human nature which the Son of God assumed in order to redeem and sanctify humanity. This confusion again, has its ground in an inability rightly to distinguish in the human bosom the possibility of sinning, and the reality of temptation, from the commencement of sinful emotion in the affections (compare Ullmann, The Sinlessness of Jesus, 6th Ed., p. 151 ff., and Schaff, The Person of Christ, p. 51 ff.).


The duty of fidelity to our profession: a. in its ultimate ground; b. in its exercise; c. in its blessing.—Whence arises the joyfulness of our approach to the throne of grace? 1, from the certainly of our reconciliation with God through the great High-Priest, Jesus, the Son of God; 2, from the experience of the sympathy which Jesus has with our weaknesses, as one who has Himself been tempted; 3, from faith in the power of Jesus for timely succor, inasmuch as He has gone sinless through temptation, and victorious through the heavens.—What most powerfully consoles us in our struggles? 1, the testimony in regard to the great High-Priest, Jesus, if we can jointly confess it; 2, a survey of the temptations which Jesus has endured without sin, if we recognize therein His sympathy and His strength; 3, our sure and confident approach to the throne of grace in our need of help.—It is not enough that we hear of the great High-Priest, Jesus. We must also, 1, confess Jesus in faith as the Son of God; 2, comfort ourselves in our temptations with His example; 3, seek and find from His grace timely succor in our weaknesses.

Starke:—Take heed that thou do not fall off from the confession of Christ; for He is a mighty Lord, who can easily punish this thy wickedness; but He is also compassionate and sympathizing, since thou always findest with Him grace, compassion, and succor. Wilt thou then deprive thyself of such blessedness? There are times when compassion and grace are peculiarly needful for us: in our first repentance, when we feel within ourselves nothing but sin, wrath and curse; in our conflict with spiritual foes; in all forms of trouble, and at the final judgment.—Joyfulness of heart and of conscience render prayer mighty with God. But if we are to attain such gladness we must stand in the state of faith, and of a true conversion (Romans 5:2; Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 3:12).—Our approach to the throne of God depends upon compassion and grace; these we must take by the hand of our faith which reaches forth after them; and we must find them as a great treasure, which, indeed, has been already obtained, but must still be sought by believing prayer.—We need at all times the compassion and grace of God; for the sake of these we must seek without intermission the throne of grace; but we feel at one time more than at another, our destitution, the assaults of our enemies, the sorrows of this world; for which reasons we must at such times preëminently draw near with reverence to the throne of grace.

Berlenburger Bible:—We have a great High-Priest who consecrates the internal foundation for a holy temple in the Lord, and exercises in all respects His priesthood within us, as He has also outwardly exercised it for us.—A weak faith which confesses itself to be weak, is always dearer to God than a strong faith which regards itself as strong, and is not.—Christ, in all the assaults upon us, is assaulted along with us.—Wrath and judgment are abundantly evident of themselves, and frighten the heart away from God. But grace and love are disclosed only through the Spirit of Christ, who then also works perpetually to this end, that we may learn to have a good conscience toward God, and this through the single perfect Mediator and High-Priest, who again has so won back love, that we can now find a throne of grace in the heart of God, provided only that we knock thereat, and make our supplications in the name of Christ.—Taking, finding, receiving, are all that are of value here, and not any personal work or merit.

Laurentius:—Believers still have weaknesses, but Christ sympathizes with believers in respect to their weaknesses.—We must, 1, draw near, since by remaining at a distance from God, and by not being willing to draw near to Him, we could not possibly obtain succor. we must, 2, draw near to the throne of grace, since it is through grace alone that man obtains help, not through works. We must, 3, draw near with joyfulness, since to have begun to believe, and still be always inclined to doubt, is equivalent to doubting whether God is truthful, whether He is compassionate, whether He is Almighty; and he that doubteth must not think that he shall receive anything from the Lord (James 1:6-7).

Rambach:—The recognition of the glory of Jesus Christ, and in particular of His High-priestly office, is the most excellent preservative against apostasy.

Von Bogatzky:—Our sins must surely be great, and a great abomination, since so great an High-Priest was obliged to expiate them by the sacrifice of His own life. But man would fain make his sin insignificant and small, and is full of excuse, security, and impenitence, and he thus denies Christ as the great High-Priest, and His great propitiatory sacrifice.

Steinhofer:—With a disconsolate heart, bewailing its misery, feeling nothing but corruption, one may yet summon a confident spirit to come to Jesus. The sinner may address Him. Before the throne of grace that has been sprinkled with blood, the sinner may present his cause, his whole burden of anxiety.—We may only come to the throne of grace, as we are, and of our condition present what we feel, and ask for what we need.—It is simply the result of the same pride with which Satan has poisoned us, if we refuse to throw ourselves upon mere compassion, and in this, let ourselves be looked upon precisely as we are.

Rieger:—Sympathy carries us through, and obtains for us that which else a bold claim upon pity might deprive us of. Compassion reaches down the deepest into our misery, and is, as it were, the nearest thing for us to receive or lay hold of. Led by this, we always find, more and surer grace for opportune help in every time of need.

Von Gerlach:—We are tempted by sin and to sin. Christ was tempted in both senses, without sin.—As His kingly office has respect to the annihilation of the dominion of sin, death and the devil, and the restoration of men to the glorious freedom of the children of God, so His priestly office has respect to the doing away of that separation of men from God, which sin has occasioned, and the reëstablishment of their intimate fellowship with Him. The former is preëminently a glorifying of God’s omnipotence; the latter preëminently a glorifying of God’s love, in the work of redemption.

Stier:—For that in thee which still loves to sin, thou shalt find no comfort and no sympathy, but hostility even unto blood, even unto death. But for the new man in thee, who is a member of Christ, and feels and suffers sin with pain, it is to thee truly a great consolation, that He, thy Lord and Head, has felt and suffered it also.—In our perpetual drawing near lies the whole secret of our struggle unto certain victory; in the neglect of this, in indolent and distrustful standing aloof, lies our whole danger of destruction.—Provided that prayer persists and becomes earnest seeking, we cannot fail to find grace at the throne of grace, where nothing else is to be sought and found.

Heubner:—Christ, as a son, had a right to take upon Himself the creature. As a son, He was an eternal propitiator; God looked upon Him from eternity as the ground of our salvation, and in Him loves from eternity our fallen humanity as reconciled in Him. As son, He remains propitiator through eternity; His propitiation holds good forever, because, through the Son, it is grounded in the nature of God. Were the atonement to lose its efficacy, the Son must cease to have efficacy with the Father, and this is impossible.—In Jesus Christ there is a wondrous union of loftiest elevation and condescending sympathy.—Both the temptations and the sinlessness of Jesus inspire confidence in the heart.

Stein:—The freer we feel ourselves from evil, the more painfully must temptations touch us.

Fricke:—Having and holding, belong together.

Gerok:—The lovely paths which open themselves to the Christian from the mount of the ascension: 1. downwards toward earth; a. a field of labor for our faith; b. a place of blessing for our exalted Saviour. 2. Upwards toward heaven; a. a gate of grace for daily joyful approach; b. an opened door of heaven for future blissful entrance.


Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 4:15.—The lect. rec. πεπειρασμένον is attested by Sin. A. B. D. E., and is to be retained against the reading πεπειραμένον received by Mill, Bengel, Matthäi, and recommended by Griesbach, which would properly mean, “who has made trial of, expertus.”

[9] Hebrews 4:16.—The form ἔλεος, preferred by Lachm. and Tisch. instead of ἔλεον, has the sanction of Sin. A. B. C.* D.* K. 17, 71.

[Hebrews 4:14.—διελήλυθότα τοὺς οὐράνους, having passed through (not as in Eng. ver. into) the heavens: though of course either might be said.—τῆς ὁμολογίας, our confession.

Hebrews 4:15.—συμπαθ. ταῖς�, to sympathize with our weaknesses.—κατὰ πάντα, as to all things, in all things,—καθ’ ὀμοιότητα, according to or after our similitude,=just as we are tempted.—χωρὶς ἁμαρτὶας, apart, or separately from sin; tempted in all things, just as men are tempted, but still totally free from sin.

Hebrews 4:16.—μετὰ παῤῥησίας, Eng. ver. boldly: De Wette, Del., Moll, mit Freudigkeit=with joyfulness: Lün., mit Zuversicht=with confidence, as also Del. at 3, 6, nearly, viz.: joyous, unhesitating, confidence; Alf., confidence.—εἰς εὔκαιρον βοήθειαν, for seasonable succor.—K.].

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Hebrews 4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/hebrews-4.html. 1857-84.
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