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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Hebrews 4

Verse 1

Let us fear therefore (ποβητωμεν ουνphobēthōmen oun). First aorist passive volitive subjunctive of ποβεομαιphobeomai to be afraid. There is no break in the argument on Psalm 95:1-11. This is a poor chapter division. The Israelites perished because of disbelief. We today face a real peril.

Lest haply (μη ποτεmē pote) Here with the present subjunctive (δοκειdokei), but future indicative in Hebrews 3:12, after the verb of fearing. For the optative see 2 Timothy 2:25.

A promise being left
(καταλειπομενης επαγγελιαςkataleipomenēs epaggelias). Genitive absolute of the present passive participle of καταλειπωkataleipō to leave behind. God‘s promise still holds good for us in spite of the failure of the Israelites.

Should seem to have come short of it
(δοκει υστερηκεναιdokei husterēkenai). Perfect active infinitive of υστερεωhustereō old verb from υστεροςhusteros (comparative of root υδud like our out, outer, outermost), to be too late, to fail to reach the goal as here, common in the N.T. (Hebrews 11:37; Hebrews 12:15).

Verse 2

For indeed we have had good tidings preached unto us (και γαρ εσμεν ευηγγελισμενοι εσμενkai gar esmen euēggelismenoi esmen). Periphrastic perfect passive indicative of ευαγγελιζωeuaggelizō (from ευαγγελιονeuaggelion good news, glad tidings) to bring good news, used here in its original sense as in Hebrews 4:6 of the Israelites (ευαγγελιστεντεςeuaggelisthentes first aorist passive participle).

Even as also they (καταπερ κακεινοιkathaper kakeinoi). See Hebrews 4:6. We have the promise of rest as the Israelites had. The parallel holds as to the promise, the privilege, the penalty.

The word of hearing
(ο λογος της ακοηςho logos tēs akoēs). As in 1 Thessalonians 2:13. Genitive ακοηςakoēs describing λογοςlogos the word marked by hearing (the word heard).

Because they were not united by faith with them that heard
(μη συνκεκερασμενους τηι πιστει τοις ακουσασινmē sunkekerasmenous tēi pistei tois akousasin). ΜηMē the usual negative of the participle. A very difficult phrase. The text is uncertain whether the participle (perfect passive of συνκεραννυμιsunkerannumi old verb to mix together) ends in -οςos agreeing with λογοςlogos or -ουςous agreeing with εκεινουςekeinous (them). Taking it in -ουςous the translation is correct. ΠιστειPistei is in the instrumental case and τοις ακουσασινtois akousasin in the associative instrumental after συνsun f0).

Verse 3

Do enter (εισερχομεταeiserchometha). Emphatic futuristic present middle indicative of εισερχομαιeiserchomai We are sure to enter in, we who believe.

He hath said (ειρηκενeirēken). Perfect active indicative for the permanent value of God‘s word as in Hebrews 1:13; Hebrews 4:4; Hebrews 10:9, Hebrews 10:13; Hebrews 13:5; Acts 13:34. God has spoken. That is enough for us. So he quotes again what he has in Hebrews 4:11 from Psalm 95:1-11.

Although the works were finished
(καιτοι των εργων γενητεντωνkaitoi tōn ergōn genēthentōn). Genitive absolute with concessive use of the participle. Old particle, in N.T. only here and Acts 14:17 (with verb).

From the foundation of the world
(απο καταβολης κοσμουapo katabolēs kosmou). ΚαταβοληKatabolē late word from καταβαλλωkataballō usually laying the foundation of a house in the literal sense. In the N.T. usually with αποapo (Matthew 25:44) or προpro (John 17:24) about the foundation of the world.

Verse 4

Somewhere on this wise (που ουτωςpou houtōs). See Hebrews 2:6 for που τιςpou tis for a like indefinite allusion to an Old Testament quotation. Here it is Genesis 2:2 (cf. Exodus 20:11; Exodus 31:17). Moffatt notes that Philo quotes Genesis 2:2 with the same “literary mannerism.”

Rested (κατεπαυσενkatepausen). First aorist active indicative of καταπαυωkatapauō intransitive here, but transitive in Hebrews 4:8. It is not, of course, absolute rest from all creative activity as Jesus shows in John 5:17. But the seventh day of God‘s rest was still going on (clearly not a twenty-four hour day).

Verse 5

And in this place again (και εν τουτωι παλινkai en toutōi palin). The passage already quoted in Hebrews 4:3; Hebrews 3:11.

Verse 6

It remaineth (απολειπεταιapoleipetai). Present passive indicative of απολειπωapoleipō old verb to leave behind, to remain over. So again in Hebrews 4:9; Hebrews 10:26. Here the infinitive clause (τινας εισελτειν εις αυτηνtinas eiselthein eis autēn) is the subject of απολειπεταιapoleipetai This left-over promise is not repeated, though not utilized by the Israelites under Moses nor in the highest sense by Joshua and David.

Failed to enter in (ουκ εισηλτονouk eisēlthon). “Did not enter in” (second aorist active indicative of εισερχομαιeiserchomai). It is a rabbinical argument all along here, but the author is writing to Jews.

Verse 7

He again defineth a certain day (παλιν τινα οριζει ημερανpalin tina horizei hēmeran). Present active indicative of οριζωhorizō old verb to set a limit (οροςhoros horizon) as in Acts 17:26; Romans 1:4.

In David (εν Δαυειδen Daueid). Attributing the Psalm to David or in the Psalter at any rate.

Hath been before said
(προειρηταιproeirētai). Perfect passive indicative referring to the quotation in Hebrews 3:7, Hebrews 3:15.

After so long a time
(μετα τοσουτον χρονονmeta tosouton chronon). The time between Joshua and David.

Verse 8

Joshua (ΙησουςIēsous). The Greek form is Jesus. Condition of the second class (determined as unfulfilled) with ειei and aorist indicative in the condition and ανan with the imperfect in the conclusion.

He would not have spoken (ουκ ελαλειouk elalei). Wrong translation, “he would not speak” (be speaking), in the passage in David. Imperfect tense, not aorist.

Verse 9

A sabbath rest (σαββατισμοςsabbatismos). Late word from σαββατιζωsabbatizō (Exodus 16:30) to keep the Sabbath, apparently coined by the author (a doubtful passage in Plutarch). Here it is parallel with καταπαυσιςkatapausis (cf. Revelation 14:13).

For the people of God (τωι λαωι του τεουtōi laōi tou theou). Dative case of blessed personal interest to the true Israel (Galatians 6:16).

Verse 10

As God did from his (ωσπερ απο των ιδιων ο τεοςhōsper apo tōn idiōn ho theos). It is not cessation of work, but rather of the weariness and pain in toil. The writer pictures salvation as God‘s rest which man is to share and God will have perfect satisfaction when man is in harmony with him (Dods).

Verse 11

Let us therefore give diligence (σπουδασωμεν ουνspoudasōmen oun). Volitive subjunctive aorist of σπουδαζωspoudazō old verb to hasten (2 Timothy 4:9), to be eager and alert (1 Thessalonians 2:17). The exhortation has a warning like that in Hebrews 4:1.

That no man fall (ινα μη πεσηιhina mē pesēi). Negative purpose with ινα μηhina mē and the second aorist active subjunctive of πιπτωpiptō to fall.

After the same example of disobedience
(εν τωι αυτωι υποδειγματι της απειτειαςen tōi autōi hupodeigmati tēs apeitheias). The unbelief is like that seen in the Israelites (Hebrews 3:12, Hebrews 3:18; Hebrews 4:2). υποδειγμαHupodeigma is a late word from υποδεικνυμιhupodeiknumi (Matthew 3:7) and means a copy (John 13:15; James 5:10). The Israelites set a terrible example and it is so easy to copy the bad examples.

Verse 12

The word of God (ο λογος του τεουho logos tou theou). That just quoted about the promise of rest and God‘s rest, but true of any real word of God.

Living (ζωνzōn). Cf. the Living God (Hebrews 3:12). In Philo and the Book of Wisdom the Logos of God is personified, but still more in John 1:1-18 where Jesus is pictured as the Logos on a par with God. “Our author is using Philonic language rather than Philonic ideas” (Moffatt). See John 6:63: “The words which I have spoken are spirit and are life.”

(ενεργηςenergēs). Energetic, powerful (John 1:12; Philippians 3:21; Colossians 1:29).

(τομωτεροςtomōteros). Comparative of τομοςtomos cutting (from τεμνωtemnō to cut), late adjective, here only in the N.T.

(υπερhuper). Often so after a comparative (Luke 16:8; 2 Corinthians 12:13).

(διστομονdistomon). “Two-mouthed” (δι στομαdi -,χιπος stoma), double-mouthed like a river (Polybius), branching ways (Sophocles), applied to sword (διικνουμενοςxiphos) by Homer and Euripides.

(διικνεομαιdiiknoumenos). Present middle participle of αχρι μερισμουdiikneomai old verb to go through, here only in N.T.

Even to the dividing
(μεριζωachri merismou). Old word from μεροςmerizō (πσυχης και πνευματοςmeros part), to partition.

Of soul and spirit
(αρμων τε και μυελωνpsuchēs kai pneumatos). As in 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 1 Corinthians 15:45, but not an argument for trichotomy. Psychology is constantly changing its terminology.

Of both joints and marrow
(αρωharmōn te kai muelōn). From αρμοςarō to join, comes Μυελοςharmos old word, here only in the N.T. μυωMuelos (from κριτικοςmuō to shut), old word, here only in N.T. This surgeon goes into and through the joints and marrow, not cleaving between them.

Quick to discern
(ικοςkritikos). Verbal adjective in -κρινωikos from εντυμησεων και εννοιων καρδιαςkrinō skilled in judging, as the surgeon has to be and able to decide on the instant what to do. So God‘s word like his eye sees the secret lurking doubt and unbelief “of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (enthumēseōn kai ennoiōn kardias). The surgeon carries a bright and powerful light for every dark crevice and a sharp knife for the removal of all the pus revealed by the light. It is a powerful picture here drawn.

Verse 13

That is not manifest (απανηςaphanēs). Old adjective (αa privative and παινωphainō to show), here only in the N.T. God‘s microscope can lay bare the smallest microbe of doubt and sin.

Naked (γυμναgumna). Both soul and body are naked to the eye of God.

Laid open
(τετραχηλισμεναtetrachēlismena). Perfect passive participle of τραχηλιζωtrachēlizō late verb to bend back the neck (τραχηλοςtrachēlos Matthew 18:6) as the surgeon does for operating, here only in N.T. See Romans 16:4 for the peril of risking one‘s neck (τραχηλον υποτιτεναιtrachēlon hupotithenai). God‘s eyes see all the facts in our inmost hearts. There are no mental reservations from God.

With whom we have to do
(προς ον ημιν ο λογοςpros hon hēmin ho logos). “With whom the matter or account for us is.” There is a slight play here on λογοςlogos of Hebrews 4:12. Surely every servant of Christ today needs to gaze into this revealing mirror and be honest with himself and God.

Verse 14

A great high priest (αρχιερεα μεγανarchierea megan). The author now takes up the main argument of the Epistle, already alluded to in Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 2:17.; Hebrews 3:1, the priestly work of Jesus as superior to that of the Levitical line (4:14-12:3). Jesus is superior to the prophets (Hebrews 1:1-3), to angels (1:4-2:18), to Moses (3:1-4:13), he has already shown. Here he only terms Jesus “great” as high priest (a frequent adjective with high priest in Philo) but the superiority comes out as he proceeds.

Who hath passed through the heavens (διεληλυτοτα τους ουρανουςdielēluthota tous ouranous). Perfect active participle of διερχομαιdierchomai state of completion. Jesus has passed through the upper heavens up to the throne of God (Hebrews 1:3) where he performs his function as our high priest. This idea will be developed later (Hebrews 6:19.; Hebrews 7:26-28; Hebrews 9:11., and Hebrews 9:24.).

Jesus the Son of God
(Ιησουν τον υιον του τεουIēsoun ton huion tou theou). The human name linked with his deity, clinching the argument already made (1:1-4:13).

Let us hold fast our confession
(κρατωμεν της ομολογιαςkratōmen tēs homologias). Present active volitive subjunctive of κρατεωkrateō old verb (from κρατοςkratos power), with genitive to cling to tenaciously as here and Hebrews 6:18 and also with the accusative (2 Thessalonians 2:15; Colossians 2:19). “Let us keep on holding fast.” This keynote runs all through the Epistle, the exhortation to the Jewish Christians to hold on to the confession (Hebrews 3:1) of Christ already made. Before making the five points of Christ‘s superior priestly work (better priest than Aaron, 5:1-7:25; under a better covenant, Hebrews 8:1-13; in a better sanctuary, Hebrews 9:1-12; offering a better sacrifice, 9:13-10:18; based on better promises, 10:19-12:3), the author gives a double exhortation (Hebrews 4:14-16) like that in Hebrews 2:1-4 to hold fast to the high priest (Hebrews 4:14.) and to make use of him (Hebrews 4:16).

Verse 15

That cannot be touched with the feeling (μη δυναμενον συνπατησαιmē dunamenon sunpathēsai). “Not able to sympathize with.” First aorist passive infinitive of συνπατεωsunpatheō late compound verb from the late adjective συνπατοςsunpathos (Romans 12:15), both from συνπασχωsunpaschō to suffer with (1 Corinthians 12:26; Romans 8:17), occurring in Aristotle and Plutarch, in N.T. only in Hebrews (here and Hebrews 10:34).

One that hath been tempted (πεπειρασμενονpepeirasmenon). Perfect passive participle of πειραζωpeirazō as already shown in Hebrews 2:17.

Without sin
(χωρις αμαρτιαςchōris hamartias). This is the outstanding difference that must never be overlooked in considering the actual humanity of Jesus. He did not yield to sin. But more than this is true. There was no latent sin in Jesus to be stirred by temptation and no habits of sin to be overcome. But he did have “weaknesses” (αστενειαιastheneiai) common to our human nature (hunger, thirst, weariness, etc.). Satan used his strongest weapons against Jesus, did it repeatedly, and failed. Jesus remained “undefiled” (αμιαντοςamiantos) in a world of sin (John 8:46). This is our ground of hope, the sinlessness of Jesus and his real sympathy.

Verse 16

Let us therefore draw near (προσερχωμετα ουνproserchōmetha oun). Present active middle volitive subjunctive of προσερχομαιproserchomai “Let us keep on coming to” our high priest, this sympathizing and great high priest. Instead of deserting him, let us make daily use of him. This verb in Hebrews means reverent approach for worship (Hebrews 7:25; Hebrews 10:1, Hebrews 10:22; Hebrews 11:6).

Unto the throne of grace (τωι τρονωι της χαριτοςtōi thronōi tēs charitos). This old word (τρονοςthronos) we have taken into English, the seat of kings and of God and so of Christ (Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 1:8), but marked by grace because Jesus is there (Matthew 19:28). Hence we should come “with boldness” (μετα παρρησιαςmeta parrēsias). Telling Jesus the whole story of our shortcomings.

That we may receive mercy
(ινα λαβωμεν ελεοςhina labōmen eleos). Purpose clause with ιναhina and second aorist active subjunctive of λαμβανωlambanō

And find grace
(και χαριν ευρωμενkai charin heurōmen). Second aorist active subjunctive of ευρισκωheuriskō We are sure to gain both of these aims because Jesus is our high priest on the throne.

To help us in time of need
(εις ευκαιρον βοητειανeis eukairon boētheian). οητειαBoētheia is old word (from βοητεωboētheō Hebrews 2:18 which see), in N.T. only here and Acts 27:17. ΕυκαιροςEukairos is an old word also (ευeu well, καιροςkairos opportunity), only here in N.T. “For well-timed help,” “for help in the nick of time,” before too late.

Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright © Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Hebrews 4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.