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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Hebrews 3

CHAP. 3. Having set forth the dignity of the person of Christ and the greatness of His condescension in taking our nature, the author exhorts the Hebrews to an earnest consideration (Gr.) of Jesus, the Apostle and Priest of the new economy, whom they, moreover, had accepted as their Apostle and Priest. The grounds of this exhortation are that Christ was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as was Moses, and that He is as superior to Moses as the son is to a servant, as the founder of an economy is to the economy Itself, to which economy we really belong only if we are stedfast and true (Hebrews 3:6).

Verse 1

Hebrews 3:1. Holy brethren. No mere complimentary title, but descriptive of the blessed brotherhood to which Christ and all who believe belong.

Partakers of, partners in a ‘calling’ that comes from heaven and leads to it, besides giving the tastes and spirit appropriate to our destiny (John 3:31; Matthew 3:2; Philippians 3:20), servants, therefore, and workers under a new and divine economy.

Christ Jesus. The true reading is Jesus simply, with special reference to His human nature and His connection with ourselves (see Hebrews 6:20, Hebrews 7:22, Hebrews 11:4; Exodus 3:10-15). He was sent from God, as was Moses, and He was Priest also, with Aaron’s office and dignity a thought expanded later (Hebrews 4:14, Hebrews 10:22). This Apostle and Priest the Hebrews had acknowledged as their own (of our profession, or confession rather), and it became them to be faithful as confessors to Him they had in this double office accepted. It is probable that the expression, ‘Apostle and Priest of our confession,’ means even more than ‘sent by God and accepted by us.’ When the high priest went into the holy place on the day of Atonement, he was called the apostle, the messenger of the nation whom he represented, and for whom as priest he pleaded. So Christ has entered into the holy place as our accepted Messenger and Priest. To reject Him now is a double insult.

Verse 2

Hebrews 3:2. Who was faithful; rather, consider Him, he being faithful in that He is faithful. His faithfulness is the quality we are to contemplate, a fresh reason why we should trust Him and be faithful too. . . . The sphere of the service of Moses was a restricted economy the house of Israel. Christ’s is a wider economy, and includes all things. The maker must be greater than the work, and He that made all things must be Divine. Moses was part of the economy, the house in which he served. The economy, moreover, was a rough outline only a shadowy intimation of the higher economy of grace. Christ was faithful over His house as Son that house His own (see on Hebrews 3:6), and the completed universal kingdom to which the old type gave witness. And all this is ours the house, the kingdom if we remain faithful and stedfast (Hebrews 3:1-6).

Verse 3

Hebrews 3:3. Builded. The word implies gathering or making the materials, putting them together, and furnishing the whole, even appointing the servants doing all that is necessary for completing ‘the house’ as a home. Even Moses, therefore, is regarded as part of the house which God prepared.

Verse 5

Hebrews 3:5. In all his house, i.e God’s house.

Fox a testimony, i.e his work was preparatory, testifying as He did to things that were afterwards to be revealed (chap. Hebrews 1:2).

As a servant. The word for servant in this verse, which is often applied in O. T. to Moses, includes all the work that naturally falls to an attendant on another, even what is most confidential.

Verse 6

Hebrews 3:6. His own house; rather, perhaps, His, i.e God’s house, the contrast being between a servant ‘in the house’ and a son ‘ over it.’ The Greek, however, may mean that while the house is God’s, it is also emphatically ‘the Son’s,’ whereas over His ( i.e God’s) house means that it is Christ’s only by implication, i.e because He is over the house and is Son.

Whose house ( i.e God’s, or by emphasis or by implication Christ’s) are we, i.e (as the absence of the article shows) of whose house part, not all of it are we provided, if so be that (a strong particle) we hold fast the confidence as shown in speech and acts (not ‘boldness,’ which is too much a description of outward manner or profession only); and the ground, the matter of exultation (blended joy and boasting) which hope supplies. As the blessings are even still largely future, hope even more than faith is the requisite grace.

Verse 7

Hebrews 3:7. Wherefore. Since it is only the giving up of your hope that can rob you of this blessedness, . . . beware of unbelief (a connection that unites the ‘wherefore’ with Hebrews 3:12); or lest you harden your hearts (a connection that unites the ‘wherefore’ with Hebrews 3:8). The former explanation gives a good sense, and the length of the parenthesis is no objection (see Hebrews 7:20-22; Hebrews 12:18-24, where we have similar examples); but perhaps the second explanation is simpler, and commends itself to Delitzsch and others. It is also adopted in the Authorised Version.

As the Holy Ghost saith. The quotation is from the ninety-fifth Psalm, which in the Hebrew has no author’s name, but in the Greek Version is ascribed to David, as it is in Hebrews 4:7.

If ye will hear quite misleads; if ye hear (literally, if you shall have heard).

Today equals, with the whole phrase, whenever He speaks, whenever you hear His voice.

Verse 8

Hebrews 3:8. As in the day of provocation; like as in the day of temptation in the wilderness. These clauses probably refer to two distinct occasions. The two words which are here translated ‘provocation’ and ‘temptation’ are in the Hebrew proper names, ‘Meribah’ (strife) and ‘Massah’ (temptation). On the first occasion (Exodus 17:1-7) the place is said to have been called Massah and Meribah, which the LXX. renders ‘temptation’ and ‘provocation.’ The second similar temptation occurred towards the close of the forty years, and is recorded in Numbers 20:1-13. Their wanderings began and ended in tempting and proving God; forty years long did their unbelief last. Not for single acts were they finally condemned, but for settled habits and a fixed character.

Verse 9

Hebrews 3:9. When; rather ‘where,’ a common meaning of the Greek word.

Tempted me, proved me. The true reading is, ‘tempted me in’ (or by) ‘proving’ [me]. Strong passion is some excuse for sin. When men tempt God to try how far they may go, and how much He will bear, there is a shamelessness in their state of heart that is without excuse.

And saw my works. Either the punishment God inflicted, which failed to lead them to repentance (as the word is used in Psalms 64:10; Isaiah 5:12), or my mighty works, punishment in part, but chiefly mercy, and disregarding both they became the more guilty.

Verse 10

Hebrews 3:10. I was grieved is somewhat feeble; displeased, offended, deeply pained, is nearer the thought. The word means properly what is a burden, physical or mental, ‘grieved’ being etymologically good (comp. ‘it lay heavy on Him’). In some forms of the word it means what presses into the flesh and inflicts wounds.

That generation is the common Greek text, and it is the reading of the LXX.

This generation is the reading of the revised text. The Hebrew is simply ‘with the generation.’ The author has no doubt purposely inserted ‘this’ to show that he regards the passage as applying to the Jewish people generally, the living race of his time, as the word ‘always’ is added to the Hebrew in the following clause, being found, however, also in the LXX., and implied in the present tense of the verb in this place.

Have not Known, or did not know. The Greek may describe a historical fact that preceded the erring in their hearts, or it may sum up their character, as in the Authorised Version: they have not known or understood the true nature and blessedness of the ways in which I would have had them to go (see Exodus 18:20).

Verse 11

Hebrews 3:11. So; rather ‘as,’ though without much difference in meaning: the acts corresponded to the punishment is the meaning of ‘as;’ the punishment corresponded to the acts is the meaning of so. The former is the common meaning of the Greek.

Verse 12

Hebrews 3:12. Lest there be. The peculiar expression of the original implies that the writer’s fear lest there should be, is blended with the feeling that there will somehow be, an evil heart of unbelief. His interest in them, and what he knows of their tendencies, make his fear preponderate, and it is only kindness to them to tell them what he fears.

An evil heart of unbelief is not a heart made evil by unbelief, but a heart of which the essence is that it does not believe. The two qualities, evil and unbelief, are closely connected, and each produces the other.

In departing; literally, ‘in apostatizing.’

From the living God; not the idols of the heathen, but the God of Israel, who is known emphatically by this name (Isaiah 37:4), and who is now the God of the Christian Church, its Defender and Judge (see Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 10:31; Hebrews 12:22).

Verse 13

Hebrews 3:13. Exhort one another. The verb is very frequent in the Acts and in Paul’s Epistles, and occurs four times in this Epistle. Both here and in Hebrews 13:16 (where it is said in the Authorised Version that Christians are to exhort one another in psalms and hymns) mutual exhortation is implied; but the Greek is literally ‘exhort yourselves,’ and part of the idea is that the exhorter should have himself also as a hearer, even when he has no other. The word ‘exhort,’ moreover, includes all the kinds of help, consolation, encouragement, rebuke, which the Christian life needs.

While as long as ‘the today ’ is called sounded in your hearing, so long as the warning lasts, and the need for it, let there be circumspection and wariness.

Look to it (Hebrews 3:12) that no one from among you (as well as your fathers, Hebrews 3:9) fall into unbelief.

Another interpretation of ‘while today is called’ is, ‘while the Psalm continues to be read;’ so some eminent commentators (de Wette, Bengel, etc.); but this does not agree with the use which is made of the words in Hebrews 4:7, nor does it give an appropriate sense to ‘is called.’ The words may mean while the day of grace lasts, the time during which we hear the Gospel and are warned of the danger of apostasy. This meaning does not practically differ from the one already given, ‘while today is sounded in your ears,’ and is supported by a similar comment on the ‘day of salvation’ made by Paul (2 Corinthians 6:2).

The deceitfulness of sin. All sin has this quality (comp. Romans 7:9; Romans 7:11), and especially the sin of unbelief, which is the sin of this context. Unlike the violation of purely moral precepts, it excites small disturbance in the conscience, and yet most effectively hardens the heart by making the most impressive truths powerless over the feelings.

Verse 14

Hebrews 3:14. We are made partaken; rather, ‘we are become,’ i.e we are now what we were not originally. The words describe a present character and an acquired character.

If, that is, we hold fast the beginning of our confidence the confidence we have begun to exercise

firm unto the end; not our former confidence (1 Timothy 5:12), not the principle of our confidence, the essence of it, but the beginning of it... to the end. On this condition we are partakers of Christ, united with Him (John 15:4; John 17:23), ‘even as He is united with us’ (chap. Hebrews 2:14). This use of the word translated ‘confidence’ is found only in 2 Corinthians 9:4; 2 Corinthians 11:17, and in this place. The Fathers generally regard it as meaning the beginning of what is our subsistence, our life, or even the beginning of what is the subsistence of Christ in us. The word is found, however, in Hellenistic writers and is now well known in the sense of confidence.

Verse 15

Hebrews 3:15. While it is said. The connection of this verse with the preceding is difficult. Out of many interpretations the most consistent is that adopted by Ebrard, Alford, and others. We must hold fast if we would be partakers of Christ, as is implied in the warning (in that it is said): Today if ye hear his voice, etc.

Verses 16-19

Hebrews 3:16-19. The argument of these verses has been variously interpreted, and the varieties are seen in the difference of the translation. The Authorised Version translates ‘ some. . . howbeit not all;’ the Revised translates ‘ who. . . ? nay, did not all.’ Most of the ancient commentators, and many of the modem, adopt the translation ‘ some ’ in Hebrews 3:16, even when they translate ‘ with whom ’ as a question in Hebrews 3:17; forms though they be of the same word, but with difference of accent. Bengel, Alford, and many more translate ‘ who ’ and ‘with whom’ as questions in both cases. They hold that it contributes to the force of the argument to affirm that all perished. But on the whole the Authorised seems the preferable rendering; for (1) the facts rather require the statement that not all perished. Besides Caleb and Joshua, all the children who were under twenty years of age when they left Egypt, and the women and the Levites, were exceptions. (2) The N. Test. comment favours it also, for in 1 Corinthians 10:5 it is expressly said that it was ‘with the greater part of them’ (or, ‘with very many of them’) ‘God was not well pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness;’ and again and again it is said in the same context that some of them were idolaters, and some of them tempted, and some of them murmured (Hebrews 3:7-10); while the appeal to these facts (the limited extent of the ruin, not the universality of it) is used in that passage for the same purpose of warning as here; and (3) the argument is better enforced by the translation of the Authorised than by the proposed change. ‘Beware, for all perish,’ may seem impressive; but it is more impressive still to say, as is said in 1 Corinthians 10:0, ‘Most perished,’ and perished through unbelief; those who were spared were only the minority, and they were spared because they were not guilty of the disobedience of the greater part of the nation. Blended fear and hope is the warning most likely to impress and encourage; nor was there danger of the Hebrews reading the lesson so as to foster delusion when it is so carefully intimated that men must perish wherever there is unbelief.

Whose carcasses literally limbs, suggesting, perhaps, the gradual decay of the nation’s strength one falling here, another there, till they were strewn all over the wilderness.

Verse 18

Hebrews 3:18. Believed not, or disbelieved, is the sense rather than disobeyed. The word ‘unbelief,’ in Hebrews 3:19, may be used alike of those who have or have not heard the truth; the word, in Hebrews 3:18, of those only who have heard the Gospel and will not be persuaded to accept. The word in Hebrews 3:18 means also to disobey as well as to disbelieve, and here the two ideas are combined; they did not obey the command that bade them to believe. Unbelief is as much disobedience as the breaking of any other Divine law. See John 3:46, where both words are used and are translated ‘believe;’ 1 Peter 2:7-8, where both are used, and are translated ‘believe’ and ‘be disobedient’ respectively; and Acts 14:2; Acts 19:9, where the word is the same as in Hebrews 3:17, rendered ‘disobedient,’ and is yet translated in both places, in the Authorised Version, ‘unbelief.’ It is no doubt true, however, that the Israelites were disobedient and rebellious (see Deuteronomy 1:26, etc.); but even when they are thus described, their acts of disobedience were generally owing to disbelief of Divine announcements. So it is in this Epistle. The Hebrews were not tempted to disobey what they regarded as a Divine command, but to doubt and disbelieve the divineness of the commands they had been obeying. Their dancer was not so much inconsistency in not obeying what they believed, as the rejection of the Gospel itself.

They shall not enter into my rest; see on Hebrews 4:1.

Verse 19

Hebrews 3:19. So; literally ‘And’ [we see], i.e from these facts.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Hebrews 3". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.