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1. God The divine name is not thus placed at the beginning of this epistle in the Greek. The first words are the two Greek adverbs, rendered sundry times and divers manners, πολυμερως και πολυτροπως . Each of these Greek words begins with a pol; and Delitzsch asks whether this is accidental, or whether the epistle does thus begin intentionally, with a hint of Paul’s own name.
Sundry times and in divers manners More literally: In many parts and by many methods. The words describe the fragmentary character of the old revelations, in depreciatory comparison with the unity of revelation by the Son. There is no Greek word answering to times. In many parts, indicates that truth came by piecemeal through a succession of ages.
Divers manners Sometimes by visions and dreams, sometimes by word of mouth, by the declaration of angels, by the impulsive inspiration of prophets, by types and symbols. These were all, however, as but lamps and candles before the coming of the sun.
In time past Παλαι , in the olden time, anciently; including the whole period of inferior revelation before the coming of the Son.
The fathers The Hebrew ancestry, who heard the ancient revelations.
By the prophets Including the inspired mediums of either or all these methods of revelation, at whose head was Moses.
I. TRANSCENDENCE OF THE SON AS GLORIOUS APOSTLE AND AS SUFFERING HIGH PRIEST OF THE NEW AGE, INTRODUCTIVELY PRESENTED, Hebrews 1:1 to Hebrews 2:18.
1. Transcendence of the Son as divine Apostle of our Age, Hebrews 1:1-4.
WITH a most impressive grandeur does our author open upon his readers the full affirmation of the divine origination of the Son, preparatory to unfolding the true glory of his humiliation. If his Alexandrian audience glory in asserting the Son’s divinity, he can re-assert that same on the highest key.
2. These last days The English gives accurately the general sense of the peculiar phrase, επ ’ εσχατου των ημερων τουτων , the ultimatum or finality of these days. We take it that επ ’ εσχατου , at the finality, is the true antithesis to time past, or of old; and that of these… days defines the finality as consisting of these Messianic, in contrast to the old prophetic, days. So Delitzsch defines the phrase as signifying “for our author here, as for Peter, (1 Peter 1:20,) that ‘last time’ which he viewed as already begun, and as in process of unfolding itself before his eyes.”
His Son Greek, a son. The old seers were but prophets; this last is no less than a son. But inferentially, as the prophets were his prophets, so the son is no less than his Son. And how lofty a being, how infinitely superior to the prophets of old is this Son, Paul proceeds to unfold. Render the whole sentence thus: In many parts and by many methods God, having spoken to the fathers in the olden time by the prophets, has in the finality, consisting of these days, spoken unto us by a Son. There is in the sentence an elegant antithesis, consisting of a series of neatly adjusted contrastive terms. Compare remarks on Paul’s rhythmical passages in our vol. iii, p. 287, and our note on Romans 1:1. Perhaps there is not another as finely rounded a period in this epistle as this introductory one.
In the sublime three descriptive clauses that follow, the writer goes deeper and deeper at each step, if we may so express it, back into eternity. He traces his predicates regressively. First, the Son’s heirship of all things; preceded by his creation of all things; and that preceded by his inmost emanative identity with the divine Essence. The predicate phrase, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, is based upon, by whom also he made the worlds; and that upon the being and upholding of Hebrews 1:3, all furnishing a description of the infinite superiority of the eternal Son.
And, undoubtedly, we must here avail ourselves of the important distinction between “the order of nature” and “the order of time.” One eternal may, in the order of nature, precede another eternal. An eternal cause eternally precedes an eternal effect, as an eternal Father precedes an eternal Son. God’s eternal nature and person precede in order his foreknowledge, as his foreknowledge precedes his predeterminations. So the heirship of Christ, if eternal, is preceded by his creation of the worlds, which means not merely the production of planets and earths, but the eternal self-revelation of God in production of creature existence. And this creation is preceded by God’s self-expression in the eternal Word; or, as it is otherwise mentally conceived, the generation by the Father of the Son.
We are now prepared to answer the questions here aroused before the commentators, When did the Son become heir of all things? And what are the all things of which he became heir? To the first question the answer has been made by many annotators that his heirship took place at the resurrection and ascension. And undoubtedly it did take place, for the divine-human Son, at that time; but that was only an objectivizing of the eternal heirship of the Logos of John and the Son of our present writer. More erroneous is the answer of some commentators, that it was an heirship in God’s eternal purpose, as if the Logos by whom (John 1:3) every thing became existent which has become, were not eternal Son, and, if Son, then heir. The back-ground of the divine Essence becomes manifest through the Word resulting in creation; which is existence different from the divine Being.
Heir Not simply lord, possessor, (which would be true of the Father,) but derived possessor, as Son of a Father, though a Father that never dies.
All things Not only earth, planets, suns, fixed stars, and nebulae, but all the real universe of which these are but external glimpses perceptible to our little optics. Were we endowed with an additional number of senses, vast additional volumes of God’s created universe would open before our perceptions and our knowledge.
Worlds All the mundane systems of which the universe ever consisted. As between the two terms, cosmos, frame-world, and aeon, time-world, the latter is here used. So that the term worlds, here, first suggests systems successive in time, and then by secondary implication, takes in their space-filling or frame-work character, if such they have. So, also, is the same word used at Hebrews 11:3. That this is the meaning is absolutely proved by ver.
3. Brightness… glory The relation of the Father to the Son is indicated as that of an essential glory to a brightness, or forth-beaming radiation. Hence the Nicene Creed styles the Son, “Light of light,” ( φως εκ φωτος , literally, light out from light,) and pronounces the Father and Son to be of one substance, “consubstantial,” as light and light are one. Stuart asks if the sun and the rays proceeding from him are “consubstantial?” The reply is, that the body of the sun is material, whereas the glory, the pure “light,” is the very essence of God, and its radiations being also luminosity, are consubstantial with it. In place of the dark, material, central body of the sun, issuing its rays, is the central divine Essence, which, in the Miltonic phrase, is “dark with excessive bright,” yet unfolding its visible effulgence in the Son.
Brightness The Greek thus rendered is απαυγασμα , which may signify either, 1. A ray actually darting forth from the glory or luminosity; 2. A bright spot shed upon a surface upon which it alights; or, 3. A light-form; being the shape assumed by the collected beams in combination: a second emanative luminosity repeating the first luminosity. That this last is the meaning here is clear from such phrases as, (Colossians 1:4,) “image of the invisible God;” (Philippians 2:5,) “form of God,” on which passages see notes. This emanative nature of the απαυγασμα is ground for the use of the terms Son, Word, and, in the present epistle, Apostle. Hebrews 3:1, where see note.
Express image The image, here, is literally the figure or letters made upon a surface by a stamp. Hence, the relation between the Father and Son is here indicated by that between the stamp and the impress it fixes. This illustration, of course, touches only the two points of derivation and oneness.
Person More properly, substance; same word as in Hebrews 11:1, where see note. The eternal Son is the express image of the Father’s basis-reality, his essential being. The one is God permanent, and the other is God emanant.
Upholding As the ineffable Essence is the background, so the Word is its revelation in executive action. This Word is the eternal medium between the Essence and all external creations, both in bringing and maintaining them in existence.
Word of his power A more energetic phrase than “his powerful word,” as it is sometimes rendered.
The emphasis is on his power, and its word is its expression in act. The Socinian explanation, referring it to the “Gospel,” is entirely out of place. As executive of the divine essential God, the Word is “the plastic Power” by which all the natural and typical forms of things in nature are shaped and endowed with properties and powers; and, assuming humanity, the Word becomes the shaping agent of all the primary realities of the moral realm. In the former he is incarnated as immanent deity in the material world; in the latter he is incarnated as immanent deity in the material body of a human person. Mr. Bushnell somewhere says, in effect, it is no more impossible for God to be incarnated in Christ than for him to be in-worlded in the cosmos. As Word, the divine Apostle is Lord of nature; as Son, he is King of nations and Head of the Church.
Purged… sat Transition now from the Son’s pre-existent state and being, to his incarnate manifestation and doings. Thus far the Son has been an emanation, an eternal apostle; now he becomes not only incarnate apostle, but HIGH PRIEST, Hebrews 3:1. Purged, more literally, having wrought a purification; that is, a purifying by his atonement as our priest. That purification is wrought by him potentially, once for all; it is actually appropriated in the individual by act of faith.
By himself And not, as symbolically under the old dispensation, by victims and sacrifices.
Right hand Note on Romans 8:34 and Acts 7:55. The image, derived, doubtless, from Psalms 110:0, alludes to the Oriental custom by which a prince or premier, or other most exalted subject, sits at the right side of the throne. The phrase is never applied to the pre-existent Son, but always implies his incarnation and his exaltation in his glorified humanity.
On high Greek, ‘ Εν ‘ υψηλοις , in high regions, the third heavens. On the heavens, see our note on 2 Corinthians 12:2. On relative locality of Father and Son, note, Acts 7:55-56.
4. Being made Rather, having become; a state which had a commencement, as the being of Hebrews 1:3 is a state without commencement. This being made, takes place in the incarnate exaltation, as the made a little lower than the angels, of Hebrews 2:9, takes place in the incarnate humiliation.
By inheritance From an undying Father.
Name Rather, dignity embraced in the name of Son. It was by power of his eternal inheritance (Hebrews 1:2) as Son that he passed through the humiliation of the incarnation, and attained an incarnate exaltation above angelic rank.
2. Proof of this transcendence from Old Testament texts, Hebrews 1:5-14.
5. For To prove this superiority of the eternal Son over the angels, our author now quotes six texts from the Old Testament. The modern interpreter, especially of the rationalistic type, finds not a little difficulty in applying these passages to Christ. But if, as in our Introduction we have indicated, the very purpose of our inspired apostle is to take the Alexandrian interpreters at their own word, and confirm all their brightest ascriptions and descriptions of the eternal Word, and affirm them of Christ, and thence show with what a glory even his humiliations are thereby irradiated, little difficulty need be felt in the interpretations here given. Says Delitzsch, “This epistle forms a link between the later Pauline epistles and the writings of John, and excels all others in the New Testament in the abundance of what cannot be merely accidental resemblances to Alexandrine modes of thought and expression. To us, indeed, it seems indisputable that the Jewish theology of the last few centuries before Christ, in Palestine, and more especially in Alexandria, did manifest many foregleams of that fuller light which was thrown on divine things in general, and on the triune nature of the Godhead in particular, by the great evangelical facts of redemption; nor can the admission that so it was prove a stumbling block to any but those who think that the long chain of divine preparations for the coming of Christ, on which the whole outward and inward history of Israel is strung, must have been broken off abruptly with the last book of the Old Testament canon. Is it, then, possible that the Book of Wisdom (Hebrews 7:26) should speak of the Sophia as απαυγασμα φωτος αιδιου a beaming forth of the eternal light (Philo, De Cherub) of God as αρχετυπος αυγη , archetypal splendour; and now our author of Him who was manifested in Jesus as απαυγασμα της δοξης αυτου , without these several terms having any internal historical connexion?”
At any time Though angels are incidentally called sons, this is not their permanent name as significant of their nature. No one angel is ever mentioned or addressed as Son.
Thou Quoted from Psalm ii, where see notes. The psalm was applied by the Jewish commentators to the Messiah as well as by the Jerusalem Church. Acts 4:25.
This day As addressed by the Author to a human Son, anointed to be king in Zion, the phrase is of course temporal. It means “This day [it stands true that] I have [from eternity] begotten thee.” Even here, therefore, it does not mean that the exaltation and anointing are identical in time with the begetting. And this seems to refute those who in its higher application to Christ refer the begetting to his resurrection or to his incarnation.
6. And As the last verse touches the coronation of the eternal Son, so this verse describes his induction into the rule of the world.
Again Understood by our translators and by many commentators as correlated to the again of the last verse, as introducing a superadded quotation. Others make it qualify bringeth in; as if reading, when he again bringeth in; as referring to some second being, brought in after a first. Alford and Delitzsch refer it to the second advent; very arbitrarily, for it needs some previous mention of the first advent to make it allowable. If a second bringing into the inhabited world is to be supposed, then we should refer it to his resurrection, which was the time of a return and of exaltation, closing the period of his humiliation. See note on Matthew 28:18. Then all power in heaven and in earth was given unto him. So Ephesians 1:19-20: “He raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named,” etc. Then, of course, was fulfilled the requirement on all supernal powers to do him homage. But to describe the second advent as a bringing of the Son into the world is entirely unbiblical.
First-begotten Because eternally begotten. For even if God has been eternally engaged in creating, still the Son is in order of nature first. And when the Son is called first-begotten, it is implied both that his being begotten is prior in order and superior in nature; for creation and formation are in a lower sense figured as generation. And it is as first-begotten that he is, by the divine primogeniture, heir. Hebrews 1:1. So he is firstborn of every creature, Colossians 1:15; firstborn among earthly rulers, Psalms 89:27; firstborn from the dead, Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5. Here the term stands alone, and it alludes to the this day, that is, primordially, have I begotten thee, (of the last verse,) as God manifest, prior to and above all created things.
World Not cosmos, or frame-world, nor aeon, or time-world; but oikoumene, the inhabited earth.
He [God] saith Quoted, perhaps, from Psalms 97:7, which reads in the Septuagint, “Worship him, all his angels.” Yet the precise words are found in the Septuagint in Deuteronomy 32:43, which the Jewish doctors held also Messianic. Indeed, Delitzsch maintains that in the Old Testament, Jehovah, when described as coming, manifestive, administering the affairs of the world, implies Jehovah, the Word, the Son, the ultimate Messiah. The words in Deuteronomy are in the Seventy, but not in the Hebrew. They may, indeed, be supposed to have been in the Hebrew copy used by the Septuagint translators, but dropped out from other copies. They may have been transferred from the psalm, being, perhaps, an essentially accurate reading in some copy of the Septuagint, and even in the copy used by our author. More probably the addition to the Septuagint of Deuteronomy 32:42 is made up from Isaiah 44:33, Psalm 117:7, and Psalms 29:1, springing probably from the liturgical use in the Jewish synagogue of the song of Moses, that is, its use in the chanting of the song in the public worship. Our author, therefore, even if quoting a superaddition to the song, quotes a superaddition acknowledged by his readers, and really made up of inspired words. All the psalms from 93 to 150 were by the Jews held predictive of the Messiah. Psalms 97:0 is an expansion of our author’s words in Hebrews 1:2, appointed heir of all things.
This quotation is an expansion, also, of Psalms 2:7-12, which all confess, who confess any Messiah, to be Messianic. It describes the firstborn, the eternal Son, as God manifest, ruling over nature and overruling all things to the highest ultimate moral good. And when, by the Father, he is thus installed over all, the very highest intelligences are required to do him homage.
In our English version, as in the Hebrew, Psalms 97:7 reads, “Worship him, all ye gods;” and the connexion indicates the idea that the heathen deities are to submit to Jehovah. In accordance with the idea that behind the idol there is a demon, the Jewish Church preferred to extend the term to include all supernaturals. Stuart shows that elohim (gods) is a term repeatedly rendered in the Septuagint by angel, as Job 20:15; Psalms 8:6; Psalms 137:1. The writer of Hebrews does the same in Hebrews 2:7, in quoting Psalms 8:6, as he does in this present verse.
7. And We have here (Hebrews 1:7-9) another contrast between angels and the Son. The former are but natural instruments, the latter is God, ruling in righteousness, forever.
Spirits Rather, winds; and thus we have the parallelism, maketh his angels winds, and his servants a flame of fire. Angels are so made that they may transform themselves into, and serve the work of, winds, and of lightning flashes or atmospheric blazes. Our author’s exact words are found in the Alexandrian Septuagint. The Hebrew at first seems to have a slightly different sense. Psalms 104:4. In that psalm, Hebrews 1:3 says, “who maketh the clouds his chariot,” and hence some infer that this cited verse should read, he maketh the winds his messengers, which would exclude any reference to literal angels. But, in fact, in the verse cited, the Hebrew reverses the order of the words of Hebrews 1:3, and reads, maketh his angels winds, which is the true rendering. Alford gives quotations from Schottgen and Wetstein showing that our author gives the meaning as held by the Jewish Church. Schemoth Rabba, § 25, fol. 123, 3, says, “God is called God of hosts, because he does with his angels whatsoever he wills. Whensoever he wills he makes them sitting; (Judges 6:11;) sometimes he makes them standing; (Isaiah 6:2;) sometimes he makes them similar to women; (Zechariah 5:9;) sometimes to men; (Genesis 18:2;) sometimes he makes them winds, (Psalms 104:4,) the citation of the present verse. Sometimes fire, ibidem.”
8. Saith Quoted from Psalms 45:6-7, generally held to be a Messianic psalm. See in vol. v, O.T., of this series. It is addressed not so much to the pre-existent Word as to the incarnate Son, tracing the character of his rule in the earth, with his Messianic exaltation in consequence.
Thy throne, O God That the vocative here agrees with both Greek and Hebrew, see notes.
Sceptre of righteousness The rule of the Mediator is in itself right; it is the origin and securer of the moral quality in the progress of the world; and it is pledge that the right shall prevail in the final destinies of men. Physical nature in itself is necessitated, and destitute of justice and mercy. The normal processes of necessary causes, by the law of the Father as God of nature, are all relentless and regardless of the gracious. It is from the presence and sway of the blessed Mediator, under grace of the Father, that the power of mercy and peace is felt in earthly things.
9. God, even thy God Some excellent commentators make this also vocative, and read, therefore, O God, thy God hath anointed thee. See Dr. H. So Augustine, as quoted by Alford: “O thou God, thy God hath anointed thee. God is anointed by God.”
Anointed… oil of gladness Reference is here had to anointing, not to the office of king, but to a triumphal anointing in consequence of merit and victory. The head was customarily anointed at festivals. Deuteronomy 28:40; Psalms 23:5; Psalms 92:10; Matthew 6:17.
Above thy fellows As the anointing is not to office, so the fellows are not, as some understand, other kings, but the angels. They are not, indeed, ever said to be anointed, but it is in this very fact of the unction being bestowed on him that he is distinguished as above them.
10. And Quoted from Psalms 102:26-28, where see notes. Though this psalm is within the Messianic number, there is nothing in its contents which limits it to him. We are at liberty, indeed, whether applied to the Trinity or to the Son, to see that our author intends it to be an expansion of his own words in Hebrews 1:2, by whom also he made the worlds. It is to the Logos, the executive Maker of the worlds, that in accordance with the mind of the Church he applies them.
In the beginning Literal Greek, κατ ’ αρχας , at beginnings. At the various commencements, whether of different things in the same world, or of serial worlds in succession. Less solemn and aboriginal than St. John’s εν αρχη , “In the beginning was the Word.” For even if a scientist maintains that matter is chronologically eternal, still in the order of nature and truth God, the Word, is back of it. It is dependent and phenomenal: He is independent, unconditioned, and absolute. If creation, or creations, be eternal in series, it is because He eternally and freely creates.
Laid the foundation It is not illegitimate for modern science to read into these words the definite facts comprehensively embraced in them. By the divine Word, the author of order in chaos, the work of order, whatever it was, was performed. If that chaos was a nebula, there was nothing in the mere nebula itself by which it could frame itself into an intellective system. If it condensed and hardened, without some regulative mind it would harden into an unintelligent solidity. It required an indwelling Mind, a divine Logos, to translate the unintelligent mass into intelligent forms. As easily could a pile of type lying in pi form themselves into a poem without a forming mind, as a pile of matter frame itself into a cosmos without the formative Logos. No atheistic philosophy, whether of Hume or Herbert Spencer, has been able to bridge this chasm.
Foundation Geology reveals such “foundation” in the primitive rocks, and in the strata of successive ages.
Heavens The atmospheric expanse; and we may add, as speaking optically from our earth-centre, the firmament and the starry heavens.
Works of thine hands Spoken anthropomorphically, that is, under momentary conception, as if God were an infinite man; which abstracting away from him all imperfection, and adding all perfection, we rightfully do. Weak-minded pseudo-philosophers raise a great protest against such anthropomorphism, showing a sudden sensitiveness at our degrading God a God in whom they themselves do not believe. And yet Mr. Spencer, who leads in this outcry against anthropomorphizing “the Absolute,” thinks he elevates him by denying to him the attribute of intelligence. A better philosopher, Sir Isaac Newton, says, (at the close of his “Optics,”) that the entire universe, including all material things from the planets down to animal bodies, the organs of sense and motion, and the instinct of brutes and insects, “can be the effect of nothing else than the wisdom and skill of a powerful everliving Agent, who, being in all places, is more able by his will to move the bodies within his boundless, uniform sensorium, (of space,) and thereby to form and reform the parts of the universe, than we are by our will to move the parts of our own bodies.” In his “Principia” he says: “It is confessed that God supreme exists necessarily. By the same necessity he is always and everywhere. Whence he is all similar to himself all eye, all ear, all brain; all perceptive, intellective, and active force; but in a manner not at all human or corporeal, but in a mode to us unknown.” Liber iii, De Mundi Systemate.
That acute Christian philosopher, Tayler Lewis, rebuking the squeamish avoidance of anthropomorphisms by later Jewish writers, as Philo and the Rabbis, shows that the divine mind is truly competent to see things as man sees them, and to realize the human feeling. If God knows how things appear to our human thought he must be able to see them not only as he absolutely sees them, but as we finitely see them; that is, he thinks our thoughts. “May not God come actually into the human sphere and the human finity? May he not, if it pleases him, tabernacle in the human mind, knowing things as we know them, feeling them as we feel them? For, unless he thus knows them as we know them, feels them as we feel them, there would be a knowledge unknown to him as it really is that is, as it exists in our mind.” And yet, Moses, who uses the strongest anthropomorphisms, (and we may add, Newton, as in the above quotation,) “knew that God was infinite as well as Spinoza” knew it.
10-12 . If the reader compare these views of this passage with John 1:1-14; Colossians 1:15, and onwards; Philippians 2:6; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 1 Corinthians 10:4; 1Co 15:47 ; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 8:9, he will reasonably infer that the author of Hebrews agrees with John and Paul in his views of the exalted nature of the Son, or Logos, in his pre-existent being. Having thus traced the heirship and creatorship of the Son, he now penetrates even more deeply into his essential relations to the divine Essence.
11. They shall perish They shall change from one form or system to another, the old form disappearing. Compare Isaiah 34:4; Isaiah 5:6; Isaiah 6:11; 2 Peter 3:12-13; Revelation 20:11. Science assumes matter to be indestructible; higher truth holds it to be in itself phenomenal, and indestructible only as it is sustained by underlying divine power.
Thou remainest The Greek word expressively means, thou art permanent through; that is, through all the changes of phenomena and systems.
12. As a vesture By a figure of great majesty in this verse God is an infinite Person, and the universe is his immense raiment. As a person takes off, folds up, and throws aside when old, his garments, so God deals with phenomenal things. But, contrastively, the person remains the same, and of God’s person the years shall not fail; they shall roll forever onward.
13. Sit on my right hand Words applicable to Christ’s exaltation at his ascension. See notes on Hebrews 1:3; Matthew 28:18.
Until During the interval between that ascension and the completion of the work of his second coming.
Make… footstool Note on Acts 2:35. This is to be being accomplished during the present dispensation, and fully accomplished at the final judgment.
14. They The angels in contrast with the Son. He is enthroned at God’s right hand; they are perpetual servants.
All Even to the highest rank. Even Gabriel ministered to Daniel.
Ministering Liturgical; that is, performing a public and sacred service. For the liturgia (whence our liturgy) was originally in Athens a public service rendered by wealthy citizens to the public at their own expense; thence the term designated the sacred ministrations of the Jewish priesthood in the temple. The angels are liturgical spirits performing God’s public ministrations. The angels are not menials or secular servants; they are sacred servitors. They do not carry on the processes of mere physical nature.
Spirits In contrast with human, corporeal, ministers.
Sent forth Passive participle in the continuous present, being ever sent forth. Whence sent forth, may appear from our closing note on Hebrews 1:3.
For Not to. Their service is rendered to God in behalf of men. And not for all men, but specially for heirs; or, rather, those who are about to be heirs; heirs not only in expectation but in possession; that is, who will in due time come into a realized inheritance of salvation. Notes on Matthew 18:10, and Ephesians 2:2.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Hebrews 1". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28