Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 1

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New TestamentRobertson's Word Pictures

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Verse 1

God (ο θεος). This Epistle begins like Genesis and the Fourth Gospel with God, who is the Author of the old revelation in the prophets and of the new in his Son. Verses Hebrews 1:1-3 are a proemium (Delitzsch) or introduction to the whole Epistle. The periodic structure of the sentence (Hebrews 1:1-4) reminds one of Luke 1:1-4; Romans 1:1-7; 1 John 1:1-4. The sentence could have concluded with εν υιω in verse Hebrews 1:2, but by means of three relatives (ον, δι' ου, ος) the author presents the Son as "the exact counterpart of God" (Moffatt).

Of old time (παλα). "Long ago" as in Matthew 11:21.

Having spoken (λαλησας). First aorist active participle of λαλεω, originally chattering of birds, then used of the highest form of speech as here.

Unto the fathers (τοις πατρασιν). Dative case. The Old Testament worthies in general without "our" or "your" as in John 6:58; John 7:22; Romans 9:5.

In the prophets (εν τοις προφηταις). As the quickening power of their life (Westcott). So Hebrews 4:7.

By divers portions (πολυμερως). "In many portions." Adverb from late adjective πολυμερης (in papyri), both in Vettius Valens, here only in N.T., but in Wisdom 7:22 and Josephus (Ant. VIII, 3, 9). The Old Testament revelation came at different times and in various stages, a progressive revelation of God to men.

In divers manners (πολυτροπως). "In many ways." Adverb from old adjective πολυτροπος, in Philo, only here in N.T. The two adverbs together are "a sonorous hendiadys for 'variously'" (Moffatt) as Chrysostom (διαφορως). God spoke by dream, by direct voice, by signs, in different ways to different men (Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, etc.).

Verse 2

At the end of these days (επ' εσχατου των ημερων τουτων). In contrast with παλα above.

Hath spoken (ελαλησεν). First aorist indicative of λαλεω, the same verb as above, "did speak" in a final and full revelation.

In his Son (εν υιω). In sharp contrast to εν τοις προφηταις. "The Old Testament slopes upward to Christ" (J. R. Sampey). No article or pronoun here with the preposition εν, giving the absolute sense of "Son." Here the idea is not merely what Jesus said, but what he is (Dods), God's Son who reveals the Father (John 1:18). "The revelation was a son-revelation" (Vincent).

Hath appointed (εθηκεν). First aorist (kappa aorist) active of τιθημ, a timeless aorist.

Heir of all things (κληρονομον παντων). See Mark 12:6 for ο κληρονομος in Christ's parable, perhaps an allusion here to this parable (Moffatt). The idea of sonship easily passes into that of heirship (Galatians 4:7; Romans 8:17). See the claim of Christ in Matthew 11:27; Matthew 28:18 even before the Ascension.

Through whom (δι' ου). The Son as Heir is also the Intermediate Agent (δια) in the work of creation as we have it in Colossians 1:16; John 1:3.

The worlds (τους αιωνας). "The ages" (secula, Vulgate). See Hebrews 11:3 also where τους αιωνασ=τον κοσμον (the world) or the universe like τα παντα (the all things) in Hebrews 1:3; Romans 11:36; Colossians 1:16. The original sense of αιων (from αε, always) occurs in Hebrews 5:20, but here "by metonomy of the container for the contained" (Thayer) for "the worlds" (the universe) as in LXX, Philo, Josephus.

Verse 3

Being (ων). Absolute and timeless existence (present active participle of ειμ) in contrast with γενομενος in verse Hebrews 1:4 like ην in John 1:1 (in contrast with εγενετο in Hebrews 1:14) and like υπαρχων and γενομενος in Philippians 2:6.

The effulgence of his glory (απαυγασμα της δοξης). The word απαυγασμα, late substantive from απαυγαζω, to emit brightness (αυγη, αυγαζω in 2 Corinthians 4:4), here only in the N.T., but in Wisdom 7:26 and in Philo. It can mean either reflected brightness, refulgence (Calvin, Thayer) or effulgence (ray from an original light body) as the Greek fathers hold. Both senses are true of Christ in his relation to God as Jesus shows in plain language in John 12:45; John 14:9. "The writer is using metaphors which had already been applied to Wisdom and the Logos" (Moffatt). The meaning "effulgence" suits the context better, though it gives the idea of eternal generation of the Son (John 1:1), the term Father applied to God necessarily involving Son. See this same metaphor in 2 Corinthians 4:6.

The very image of his substance (χαρακτηρ της υποστασεως). Χαρακτηρ is an old word from χαρασσω, to cut, to scratch, to mark. It first was the agent (note ending =τηρ) or tool that did the marking, then the mark or impress made, the exact reproduction, a meaning clearly expressed by χαραγμα (Acts 17:29; Revelation 13:16). Menander had already used (Moffatt) χαρακτηρ in the sense of our "character." The word occurs in the inscriptions for "person" as well as for "exact reproduction" of a person. The word υποστασις for the being or essence of God "is a philosophical rather than a religious term" (Moffatt). Etymologically it is the sediment or foundation under a building (for instance). In Hebrews 11:1 ψποστασις is like the "title-deed" idea found in the papyri. Athanasius rightly used Hebrews 1:1-4 in his controversy with Arius. Paul in Philippians 2:5-11 pictures the real and eternal deity of Christ free from the philosophical language here employed. But even Paul's simpler phrase μορφη θεου (the form of God) has difficulties of its own. The use of Λογος in John 1:1-18 is parallel to Hebrews 1:1-4.

And upholding (φερων τε). Present active participle of φερω closely connected with ων (being) by τε and like Colossians 1:17 in idea. The newer science as expounded by Eddington and Jeans is in harmony with the spiritual and personal conception of creation here presented.

By the word of his power (τω ρηματ της δυναμεως αυτου). Instrumental case of ρημα (word). See Hebrews 11:3 for ρηματ θεου (by the word of God) as the explanation of creation like Genesis, but here αυτου refers to God's Son as in Hebrews 1:2.

Purification of sins (καθαρισμον των αμαρτιων). Καθαρισμος is from καθαριζω, to cleanse (Matthew 8:3; Hebrews 9:14), here only in Hebrews, but in same sense of cleansing from sins, 2 Peter 1:9; Job 7:21. Note middle participle ποιησαμενος like ευραμενος in Hebrews 9:12. This is the first mention of the priestly work of Christ, the keynote of this Epistle.

Sat down (εκαθισεν). First aorist active of καθιζω, "took his seat," a formal and dignified act.

Of the Majesty on high (της μεγαλοσυνης εν υψηλοις). Late word from μεγας, only in LXX (Deuteronomy 32:3; 2 Samuel 7:23, etc.), Aristeas, Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 8:1; Judges 1:25. Christ resumed his original dignity and glory (John 17:5). The phrase εν υψηλοις occurs in the Psalms (Psalms 93:4), here only in N.T., elsewhere εν υψιστοις in the highest (Matthew 21:9; Luke 2:14) or εν τοις επουρανιοις in the heavenlies (Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 1:20). Jesus is here pictured as King (Prophet and Priest also) Messiah seated at the right hand of God.

Verse 4

Having become (γενομενος). Second aorist middle participle of γινομα. In contrast with on in verse Hebrews 1:3.

By so much (τοσουτω). Instrumental case of τοσουτος correlative with οσω (as) with comparative in both clauses (κρειττων, better, comparative of κρατυς, διαφορωτερον, more excellent, comparative of διαφορος).

Than the angels (των αγγελων). Ablative of comparison after κρειττων, as often.

Than they (παρ' αυτους). Instead of the ablative αυτων here the preposition παρα (along, by the side of) with the accusative occurs, another common idiom as in Hebrews 3:3; Hebrews 9:23. Διαφορος only in Hebrews in N.T. except Romans 12:6.

Hath inherited (κεκληρονομηκεν). Perfect active indicative of κληρονομεω (from κληρονομος, heir, verse Hebrews 1:2), and still inherits it, the name (ονομα, oriental sense of rank) of "Son" which is superior to prophets as already shown (Hebrews 1:2) and also to angels (Hebrews 1:4-2) as he now proceeds to prove. Jesus is superior to angels as God's Son, his deity (Hebrews 1:4-2). The author proves it from Scripture (Hebrews 1:4-14).

Verse 5

Unto which (Τιν). "To which individual angel." As a class angels are called sons of God (Elohim) (Psalms 29:1), but no single angel is called God's Son like the Messiah in Psalms 2:7. Dods takes "have I begotten thee" (γεγεννηκα σε, perfect active indicative of γενναω) to refer to the resurrection and ascension while others refer it to the incarnation.

And again (κα παλιν). This quotation is from 2 Samuel 7:14. Note the use of εις in the predicate with the sense of "as" like the Hebrew (LXX idiom), not preserved in the English. See Matthew 19:5; Luke 2:34. Like Old English "to" or "for." See 2 Corinthians 6:18; Revelation 21:7 for the same passage applied to relation between God and Christians while here it is treated as Messianic.

Verse 6

And when he again bringeth in (οταν δε παλιν εισαγαγη). Indefinite temporal clause with οταν and second aorist active subjunctive of εισαγω. If παλιν is taken with εισαγαγη, the reference is to the Second Coming as in Hebrews 9:28. If παλιν merely introduces another quotation (Psalms 97:7) parallel to κα παλιν in verse Hebrews 1:5, the reference is to the incarnation when the angels did worship the Child Jesus (Luke 2:13). There is no way to decide certainly about it.

The first-born (τον πρωτοτοκον). See Psalms 89:28. For this compound adjective applied to Christ in relation to the universe see Colossians 1:15, to other men, Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:18, to the other children of Mary, Luke 2:7; here it is used absolutely.

The world (την οικουμενην). "The inhabited earth." See Acts 17:6.

Let worship (προσκυνησατωσαν). Imperative first aorist active third plural of προσκυνεω, here in the full sense of worship, not mere reverence or courtesy. This quotation is from the LXX of Deuteronomy 32:43, but is not in the Hebrew, though most of the LXX MSS. (except F) have υιο θεου, but the substance does occur also in Psalms 97:7 with ο αγγελο αυτου.

Verse 7

Of the angels (προς τους αγγελους). "With reference to" (προς) as in Luke 20:9. So "of the Son" in verse Hebrews 1:8. Note μεν here and δε in verse Hebrews 1:8 in carefully balanced contrast. The quotation is from Psalms 104:4.

Winds (πνευματα). "Spirits" the word also means. The meaning (note article with αγγελους, not with πνευματα) apparently is one that can reduce angels to the elemental forces of wind and fire (Moffatt).

A flame of fire (πυρος φλογα). Predicate accusative of φλοξ, old word, in N.T. only here and Luke 16:24. Lunemann holds that the Hebrew here is wrongly rendered and means that God makes the wind his messengers (not angels) and flaming fire his servants. That is all true, but that is not the point of this passage. Preachers also are sometimes like a wind-storm or a fire.

Verse 8

O God (ο θεος). This quotation (the fifth) is from Psalms 45:7. A Hebrew nuptial ode (επιθαλαμιυμ) for a king treated here as Messianic. It is not certain whether ο θεος is here the vocative (address with the nominative form as in John 20:28 with the Messiah termed θεος as is possible, John 1:18) or ο θεος is nominative (subject or predicate) with εστιν (is) understood: "God is thy throne" or "Thy throne is God." Either makes good sense.

Sceptre (ραβδος). Old word for walking-stick, staff (Hebrews 11:21).

Verse 9

Hath anointed thee (εχρισεν σε). First aorist active indicative of χριω, to anoint, from which verb the verbal Χριστος (Anointed One) comes. See Christ's use of εχρισεν in Luke 4:18 from Isaiah 66:1.

With the oil of gladness (ελαιον αγαλλιασεως). Accusative case with εχρισεν (second accusative besides σε). Perhaps the festive anointing on occasions of joy (Hebrews 12:2). See Luke 1:44.

Fellows (μετοχους). Old word from μετεχω, partners, sharers, in N.T. only in Hebrews save Luke 5:7. Note παρα with accusative here, beside, beyond, above (by comparison, extending beyond).

Verse 10

Lord (Κυριε). In the LXX, not in the Hebrew. Quotation (the sixth) from Psalms 102:26-28 through verses Hebrews 1:10-12. Note emphatic position of συ here at the beginning as in verses Hebrews 1:11-12 (συ δε). This Messianic Psalm pictures the Son in his Creative work and in his final triumph.

Hast laid the foundation (εθεμελιωσας). First aorist active of θεμελιοω, old verb from θεμελιος (foundation) for which see Colossians 1:23.

Verse 11

They (αυτο). The heavens (ουρανο).

Shall perish (απολουντα). Future middle of απολλυμ. Modern scientists no longer postulate the eternal existence of the heavenly bodies.

But thou continuest (συ δε διαμενεις). This is what matters most, the eternal existence of God's Son as Creator and Preserver of the universe (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:14).

Shall wax old (παλαιωθησοντα). First future passive indicative of παλαιοω, from παλαιος, for which see Luke 12:33; Hebrews 8:13.

Verse 12

A mantle (περιβολαιον). Old word for covering from παριβαλλω, to fling around, as a veil in 1 Corinthians 11:15, nowhere else in N.T.

Shalt thou roll up (ελιξεις). Future active of ελισσω, late form for ειλισσω, in N.T. only here and Revelation 6:14, to fold together.

As a garment (ως ιματιον). LXX repeats from Hebrews 1:11.

They shall be changed (αλλαγησοντα). Second future passive of αλλασσω, old verb, to change.

Shall not fail (ουκ εκλειψουσιν). Future active of εκλειπω, to leave out, to fail, used of the sun in Luke 23:45. "Nature is at his mercy, not he at nature's" (Moffatt).

Verse 13

Hath he said (ειρηκεν). Perfect active common use of the perfect for permanent record. This seventh quotation is proof of the Son's superiority as the Son of God (his deity) to angels and is from Psalms 110:1, a Messianic Psalm frequently quoted in Hebrews.

Sit thou (καθου). Second person singular imperative middle of καθημα, to sit, for the longer form καθησο, as in Matthew 22:44; James 2:3.

On my right hand (εκ δεξιων μου). "From my right." See Hebrews 1:3 for εν δεξια "at the right hand."

Till I make (εως αν θω). Indefinite temporal clause about the future with εως and the second aorist active subjunctive of τιθημ with αν (often not used), a regular and common idiom. Quoted also in Luke 20:43. For the pleonasm in υποδιον and των ποδων (objective genitive) see Matthew 5:35.

Verse 14

Ministering spirits (λειτουργικα πνευματα). Thayer says that λειτουργικος was not found in profane authors, but it occurs in the papyri for "work tax" (money in place of service) and for religious service also. The word is made from λειτουργια (Luke 1:23; Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 9:21).

Sent forth (αποστελλομενα). Present passive participle of αποστελλω, sent forth repeatedly, from time to time as occasion requires.

For the sake of (δια). With the accusative, the usual causal meaning of δια.

That shall inherit (τους μελλοντας κληρονομειν). "That are going to inherit," common idiom of μελλω (present active participle) with the infinitive (present active here), "destined to inherit" (Matthew 11:14).

Salvation (σωτηριαν). Here used of the final salvation in its consummation. Only here in the N.T. do we have "inherent salvation," but see Hebrews 6:12; Hebrews 12:17. We do not have here the doctrine of special guardian angels for each of us, but simply the fact that angels are used for our good. "And if so, may we not be aided, inspired, guided by a cloud of witnesses--not witnesses only, but helpers, agents like ourselves of the immanent God?" (Sir Oliver Lodge, The Hibbert Journal, Jan., 1903, p. 223).

Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Hebrews 1". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.