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Friday, July 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 10

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

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Verse 1

1. For Referring to the repeated declarations reigning through Hebrews 9:24-28, that Christ has made a decisive, perfecting atonement, once for all.

Shadow A dim representation.

Good things to come That is, to come in this our Messianic dispensation. See notes on Hebrews 2:5; Hebrews 6:5; Hebrews 9:11.

Image of the things That is, image, consisting of the things; the form filled with the substance. For though the good things of the present dispensation look forward to a higher completion hereafter, yet in Christ and his atonement it possesses the shape and substance of that future glory.

Year by year The yearly offering on the great day of atonement.

Continually Without interruption of the annual rite.

Perfect Pure from the guilt and power of sin; right before God; fit for heaven.

Verses 1-18

3. Our high priesthood is all-sufficient animal blood being intrinsically worthless for pardon of sin is antitypical, and is replaced by the all-sufficient self-offered blood, Hebrews 10:1-18.

a. As animal blood is intrinsically worthless for our justification, Hebrews 10:1-4 .

This worthlessness of the animal sacrifices does not imply that pardon was not granted by God, and peace of conscience produced by them for the offerer. It is simply meant that those blessings did not ensue from any real value in the things themselves; that their nature had no availing power; and that they could have been enjoined by God only as indexes to a sacrifice of such transcendent intrinsic value as to be true basis of such results.

Verse 2

2. Ceased to be offered Had the law been able by a finished act, once for all, as Christ has performed, to finish men for glory, the continuity of the sacrifices would have been unnecessary. Their very continuous repetition, therefore, is the very demonstration of their inferiority.

Verse 3

3. But these sacrifices, so far from being an abolition of sins, are a reminder and remembrance of sins, every year; namely, on the day of atonement.

Verse 4

4. For Reason why they do not abolish sin. The death of an animal is no real atonement for the sins of a man. There is no rational adequacy in the case. A sacrifice of a higher nature is demanded.

Verse 5

b. So the decisive atonement is made by Christ’s submission to the demands for Hebrews 2:5-18 .

5. Wherefore In consequence of this demand for an adequate sacrifice.

He The great unnamed, yet well-known.

Cometh into the world The words of Psalms 40:6-8 are adduced as illustrating the spirit and pure purpose of the Messiah’s entrance into our sublunary world. The psalm was probably written by David at the period when the troubles with Saul had terminated, and he was about to assume the open royalty. By experience he had learned that richest offerings were less acceptable to Jehovah than profound obedience to the divine commands. Submissively, therefore, he had waited the divine will; submissively he is now ready to come to the throne, there to perform the divine purposes. Our author sees in him a permanent type, and here, at least, a parallel, of the Son of God entering on his mediatorial office in our world. Perowne elegantly thus versifies the passage of the psalm:

“In sacrifice and offering thou hast no delight,

Mine ears hast thou opened,

Burnt-offering and sin-offering hast thou not required.

Then said I, ‘Lo, I come,

In the roll of the book it is prescribed to me:

To do thy pleasure, O my God, I delight;

Yea, thy law is in my inmost heart.’”

Sacrifice… not It was by an obedient heart and penitent soul that even under the Old Testament the sacrifice was made available. The offering was not the substitute of devout feeling, but the outward symbol and expression of it. When David wrote this, he doubtless knew that Samuel had lately said to Saul, “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?”

A body hast thou prepared me The Hebrew, as given by Perowne, is, “Mine ears hast thou opened.” More literally, Ears hast thou dug out for me. That is, thou hast framed me with a hearing ear-passage; so that I am a creature able to listen and obey. This the Septuagint version translated, or rather paraphrased, as quoted here by our author, a body hast thou fitted (or constructed) for me; namely, to be an obedient creature to thee. The ultimate thought is precisely the same: thou hast organized me for responsible obedience. The Hebrew makes God frame an ear-passage in order to the creature’s obedience; the Septuagint makes him frame the whole body for such obedience. The Hebrew puts a part for the whole; the Septuagint puts the whole. Such a whole, namely, a whole body, was truly framed for David at birth, and still more eminently for Christ at the incarnation. The Seventy thought that the mention of ears alone was too little intelligible, and so they explained, boldly but correctly, by substituting body.

It is often assumed that our author quotes the words as proof or at least illustration of the incarnation. That is not quite clearly the case. If, however, David’s obedient approach into the kingdom is type of Messiah’s coming into the world, then his being divinely framed with a physique for an obedient free-agent is a very fair illustration of Messiah’s incarnation.

Some critics hold that the words came into the Septuagint by a copyist’s mistake. They suppose that in the word for ears, ΩΤΙΑ , the letters ΤΙ were miswritten Μ ; and that the last letter of the preceding word, which was a C = C , was repeated so as to make C ΩΜΑ , body. This is, to say the least, ingenious. Supposing it to be a mis-writing, still, if found in the current Septuagint of the apostles’ day, our writer would properly quote as his text stood. But the above explanation of the translation by the Seventy makes the supposition as unnecessary as it is unprovable.

Verse 7

7. In the volume of the book Note, Matthew 1:1. The book may be the Pentateuch. David had been already anointed king by Samuel; and he doubtless understood that Jacob’s dying prophecy predicting that the royalty should be in Judah’s line, was now being fulfilled in him. In obedience to the prediction of the book, he has now come to do Jehovah’s will upon the throne, as Saul did not.

Verses 8-9

8, 9. Now for our author’s application of the passage quoted. He argues that the psalmist, first, (Hebrews 10:9,) depreciates sacrifices and offerings; and, second, exalts willing obedience; and then (Hebrews 10:10) infers that by that obedient will our atonement was wrought.

Verse 10

10. By the which will The will, namely, of Hebrews 10:9, the will of the Father, with which the will of the Son identifies itself.

Body This may be a reference to the body of Hebrews 10:5, and then the incarnation is illustratively read by our author into that clause. We prefer to refer both this term and the phrase cometh into the world, to the incarnation.

Our apostle now completes his argumentative section with two reiterations, yet with variation, of his conclusion, to impress the sum total on the minds of his readers. Hebrews 10:11-18. The former of the two, comparing our High Priest with the Levitical, concludes with his triumphant and divine enthronement on high. The latter gives a description of his sanctifying work in the Church below, completing our full remission, and rendering further offering for sin forever unnecessary. The former leaves the Redeemer enthroned in heaven until the final consummation; the latter traces the events of his heavenly sway on earth, preparing that consummation.

Verse 11

11. Every priest A balance of authorities reads here, Every high priest. Alford prefers this reading on the ground that it involves a difficulty, and so would not be introduced by a copyist. The difficulty is, that the high priest did not sacrifice daily, but only annually, on the day of atonement. This difficulty Alford evades by maintaining that the priests were really all agents, through whom the high priest performed all the sacrifices. Delitzsch rejects Alford’s evasion, and decides that the reading, high priest, is a mere copyist’s correction of this text drawn from Hebrews 5:1; Hebrews 8:3 and Hebrews 9:25.

Verse 13

13. Expecting Awaiting the promised time, according to <19B001>Psalms 110:1. This process of bringing all in subjection to Christ is, we hold, now in historical progress, and will be completed by the work of the judgment-day at the second advent, according to 1 Corinthians 15:24-28, where see notes.

Verse 14

14. Perfected for ever… sanctified He has once, fully and forever, potentially and conditionally, perfected all; but the full reality takes effect only in those who are sanctified through faith in him.

Verse 15

15. And now our writer clenches his argument by recalling the picture of the new dispensation quoted in Hebrews 8:8-13.

The Holy Ghost The inspirer of the psalm.

After… had said before This quotation from the Old Testament is so obscured both by the translation and the division into verses that we translate it thus: For after having (by way of announcement) said, “This is the covenant which I will covenant with them after those days,” the Lord saith, (superadds,) “I will put my laws into their hearts,” etc.

Verse 16

16. This A comparison will show that our author requotes with verbal variations but essential sameness.

Verse 17

17. Will I remember no more Implying that an atonement is made never needing to be repeated; that a potential, perfect salvation is conditionally wrought out for every man; and that the justification is complete, needing no new sacrifice to give it perfection. There is, as said next verse, no more offering for sin, because the efficacy of the one offering made is perpetual and ever availing.

The argument is now closed. By Christ’s atonement the old ritual is superseded. A new and more glorious dispensation is inaugurated. Nothing now remains but an unfolding of the awful consequences of apostatizing from that dispensation, and the glory of an adhering faith. This unfolding occupies the remainder of the epistle.

Verse 19



1. ADMONITORY Having such a High Priest, beware of unbelief tending to apostasy and death, Hebrews 10:19-39.

19. Having In 19-22 we have a somewhat varied typical structure. Since the true atonement, Christians are a new Israel, and their divine privileges are sketched as parallel, yet superior, to those of the old Israel. The parallel in detail may be tabulated as follows:

Us, the new Israel the old Israel.

Our immediate access to God Israel’s temple access. The gracious Presence The holiest.

By blood of Jesus By animal sacrifices. Through his flesh Through the temple veil. Our High Priest The Jewish high priest.

In this our new temple, the house of God, we have a high priest, Jesus; under him an entrance even to the holiest, or gracious divine Presence; by sacrifice, namely, his shed blood; through the veil, his crucified flesh.

Therefore As a deduction from the entire previous argument. This full hortatory and personal deduction occupies the remainder of the epistle.

Boldness Both of heart and utterance. This boldness of heart is founded on our confidence in our mighty and royal High Priest. It pours itself forth in great freedom of utterance, namely, of prayer, of thanksgiving, and of profession and testimony to the world.

To enter Literally, of entrance; like Israel’s entrance before God into the sanctuary. But the new Israel enters with its high priest, even to the holiest. The holiest into which Christ entered is, indeed, the highest heaven, (Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 9:24;) but in the present parallelism the divine Presence to which the Christian, through the atonement, has access, is, though locally different, yet spiritually identical with that.

Blood The most real antitype to the blood of the animal victims offered when, on the great day of atonement, the Jewish high priest entered the holiest.

Verse 20

20. New and living way The route by which the Jewish high priest entered the holiest was through two veils; ours is through the living, yet dying, way, the flesh, the crucified body of Jesus. Christ affirms, (John 14:6,) “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” The crucifixion of that flesh was the lifting of that veil, as the shedding of his blood was the attendant sacrifice. This living way was also new. The Greek word for new, is applied to any thing fresh and novel. The new access was a fresh institution, arising after the old had faded and truly vanished.

Verse 21

21. House of God The new temple, embracing primarily the entire new structure of salvation through the atonement, of which the temple and its ritual were typical. Hence this new temple, in its full physical significance, embraces earth, the firmament, and the highest heaven; the entire scene and structure of the divine history.

Verse 22

22. Having so magnificent an access as stated in 19-21, our author now, in the following three verses, exhorts us with a let us thrice presented: namely, let us draw near, let us hold fast, and let us consider one another. The first regards our free access to God; the second, our firmness in profession; the third, our use of the communion of saints in maintaining the previous two, namely, our gracious access and our firm profession. The first let us is, let us gladly draw near. God in his holy place may be freely and boldly approached; who will not hasten to draw near? And so in this verse we have a delightful picture of the adorer in this new temple sweetly approaching a loving God. Heart, conscience, and body are all pure.

A true heart True in its freedom from all insincerity or wavering; true in its fidelity and firmness.

Full assurance Not only firmness, but exultant and aggressive assurance. The temple imagery is beautifully preserved throughout. It was by blood sprinkled upon them that the priests entered before God; that sprinkled blood implying their purification by atonement.

Exodus 29:21; Leviticus 8:30. And Aaron and his sons washed their hands and feet in the brazen laver. Exodus 30:20; Exodus 40:30-32.

On the great day of atonement the high priest washed his whole body with water. Leviticus 16:4.

Evil conscience As we say, “a guilty conscience;” that is, a personal consciousness of being guilty.

Bodies washed It is unexegetical, with Alford and others, to find here a distinct allusion to baptism. The thought is not of a material body, literally washed with water, any more than of a material heart, literally sprinkled with blood; or any more than the house of God (Hebrews 10:21) is a material house. The heart is here spiritually sprinkled, as the image of interior purity; the body, spiritually washed, is the image of external rectitude of life. This verse, both in the Greek and the English, is a fine specimen of rhythm.

It is a very important fact that our author ascribes this privilege of immediate access to every Christian. Each for himself approaches to, and communes with, God. No human substitute stands in his place before God, or stands in God’s place before him. No one offers a sacrifice for him, and he, offers no literal sacrifice for himself. The one priest is Christ, and the one sacrifice is that of himself, once for all.

The apostles, the ministers of the New Testament, as not performing sacrifice and as not being substitutes, are not priests. Yet all the leading institutions of the Old Testament Church have a modified continuity in the New. The high priesthood has its eternal continuity in Christ. The predictive sacrifices are shadowed in the commemorative Lord’s supper. Circumcision is represented by baptism; the sabbath by “the Lord’s day.” And so the priesthood of the Old Testament has its representative in the ministry, namely, the apostle, the bishop, the elder, and the deacon, of the New. While no form of government is prescribed in the New Testament with Levitical precision, and large freedom is left to the Church to frame its own organization, there are nevertheless forms, sanctioned by “the New Testament and the example of the primitive Church,” which are truly preferable, the absence of which, though not an invalidation, is yet a defect in a church organization.

Verse 23

23. Let us hold fast As we have a new and immeasurably superior access to the holiest, let us firmly maintain the confession, (rather, than, as in our translation, profession.) There must be no relapse to the old.

For Encouraging assurance, if we are firm on our part there will be no failure on God’s part. It is God who has promised, and he will be faithful.

Verse 24

24. The third let us; it embraces our availing ourselves of Christian fellowship in maintaining our Christian fidelity.

Consider one another Realize each other’s value for mutual incitement unto love as a Christian affection, and good works as a Christian conduct. So far our author touches upon the mutual Christian aids between individuals. Every man may in personal intercourse encourage, inspire, and strengthen his fellow. Next verse specifies the collective aids.

Verse 25

25. Assembling of yourselves together This plainly refers to voluntary meetings of Christians for mutual Christian inspiration and encouragement. Assuming, as we here do, that Jerusalem is the city to whose Christian people this epistle was addressed, not long before the destruction by Titus, we catch a brief glimpse of the interior of city and Church. The Greek word here, επισυναγωγη , episynagogue, can hardly be other than a Christian synagogue, Note, James 2:2. The assemblies remind us of the early meetings of the pentecostal Church (Acts 2:42-47) “from house to house,” for mutual aid in Christian life. The warm, central heart of the Church, now as then, maintains its collective vitality by frequent assembling together. But outside that central living heart is a number of loose hangers-on, whose manner is that of forsaking, through lukewarmness, negligence, or fear of persecution, or dread of popular contempt. They were once converted; were once themselves a part of the central live heart; but they have gradually receded to the outskirts of the Church, and are probable candidates for apostasy.

Exhorting The efficient means in their assemblies for maintaining the Christian life. This expressive word blends the ideas of calling forth, admonishing, arousing, and consoling; and for each of these various strains there would be those in that day of trial whose case made demand.

The day These words are addressed to that Jerusalem whose destruction Jesus so fully predicted in Matthew 24:25, on which chapters see our notes. The word day is not here to be limited to a literal period of twenty-four hours.

Ye see… approaching Lunemann, who belongs to the class of interpreters who maintain that the apostles held the second advent to be about to occur in their own day, says, that both writer and reader “beheld the advent as approaching in the Jewish war, indicated by disturbances and commotions which had already commenced.” How the indications of the Jewish war should imply the second advent to be approaching, he does not explain. They did indicate, as Christ predicted, the downfall of Jerusalem; but the incorrectness of assuming that our Lord confounded the destruction of Jerusalem with his own second advent we trust we have shown in our notes on his great prediction. Eusebius informs us, that the Christians, rightly interpreting our Lord’s words not as predicting the end of the world but the destruction of the city, fled to Pella, and so escaped. They did flee, not to escape Christ’s second coming, but to escape the Roman armies.

See note on Matthew 24:16. Of the various signs by which these Jerusalem Christians could see the day approaching, see an enumeration in our notes upon Mark 13:7-9. But while this passage is properly applied, not to the second advent, but to the destruction of the city to which it is addressed, it is none the less absurd to apply passages addressed to localities far distant from Jerusalem to the same event. We hold it entirely inadmissible to apply 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 to the destruction of Jerusalem. Thessalonica was in Europe, Jerusalem in Asia. That neither Christ nor his apostles taught that the second advent would be in their own day, see supplementary note at close of Matthew 25:0.

Verse 26

26. If we sin The word sin here is to be taken as in a continuous or general present tense. The meaning is, If from saints we become sinners; that is, by total apostasy. See note on 1 John 3:10.

Wilfully Against clear light and knowledge, usually preceded by forsaking the assembly. How flagrant and conscious the return to sin is here supposed, is indicated by the fearful language of Hebrews 10:29.

Knowledge Says Lunemann, “This επιγνωσις of the absolute truth embraces, in addition to an acquaintance with it through the understanding, also its internal power through experience and life.” It was not necessarily a one atrocious sin for which the Hebrews are so terribly condemned, for they may have apostatized by slow degrees and continuous small sins; but the special facts are, the clearness of their knowledge and the reality of their Christian experience. Our author here utters no denial that there may be Hebrews in excusable ignorance of Christ, who are perfected and saved in their own dispensation by the very Redeemer they know not. It is the man who renounces and denounces the very Christ whose redeeming love he had experienced, whose damnation is thus irrevocable and final.

Remaineth no more sacrifice Rejecting this one Christ, there is no other Christ for him. There is but one atonement, and no salvation but by that one. If the apostate revert to the Levitical sacrifices, the blood of bulls and of goats avails nothing. All this is not quite saying that the apostate cannot return from his apostasy, and still avail himself of the one sacrifice: but for the persistent apostate there remains no more sacrifice for sins.

Verse 27

27. But there remains, persistently and forever, a certain fearful looking for. The word certain implies a peculiar but indescribable awfulness in the looking for.

Fearful Not only terrible to us contemplating it, but including fear in the apostate’s heart. So fully has divine truth once pervaded his conscience that he can never be truly at ease. He may become the greatest, but he will seldom be the tranquillest, infidel in town.

Looking for A term suggested, perhaps, by the expectation of Jerusalem’s doom as predicted by Jesus; an expectation very typical of the presentiment of doom in the conscience of the apostate.

Fiery indignation Literally, a fervor of fire which will devour; where commentators think that fire is personified as having an earnestness and as devouring. It is the living fire of divine retribution that will devour or consume the adversaries, as Jerusalem was consumed.

Verse 28

28. An argument from less, Moses, to greater, the Son.

Despised Nullified, reduced it to nothing. The illustration is taken from Deuteronomy 17:2-7, where it is enacted that if an Israelite “hath gone and served other gods,” as “sun or moon,” Israel should “stone them with stones,” as apostates from Jehovah, “at the mouth of two or three witnesses.” Such an apostate has not only sinned, but has wholly rejected Moses’s law.

Without mercy There was no expiating sacrifice, no executive pardon.

Verse 29

29. How much sorer punishment As much sorer as the revealing Son was superior to the revealing Moses. The same argumentative aggravation as in Hebrews 2:3, derived from the greatness of the Son, then just unfolded.

Trodden under foot By nothing less than most guilty apostasy. The intensity of the language implies the flagrancy of the sin.

Blood of the covenant That blood which inaugurates and consecrates the new covenant, as the blood of calves and goats did the old “testament,” (Hebrews 9:20.)

He was sanctified The expedients adopted to avoid the fact that the apostate was once truly sanctified are worthy of compassion. Lightfoot makes he refer to Christ, who was sanctified by his own blood! “It is worthy of remark,” says Alford, “how Calvin evades the deep truth contained in the words he was sanctified: ‘Very unworthy is it to profane the blood of Christ, which is the source of our sanctification: this do they who depart from the faith:’ thus making he was sanctified into we may be sanctified.”

An unholy thing Literally, a common thing; as if the blood of the Redeemer was no more than ordinary matter. So 1 Corinthians 11:29, “Not discerning the Lord’s body.” Justin Martyr says, in Greek of the Communion, “We receive these elements, not as common bread or common drink.” So Acts 10:14-15: “Call not thou common,” where see note.

Done despite Insulted. Bloomfield says, that in every known instance this verb has a person for its object; and hence he infers the personality of the Spirit from this passage.

Spirit of grace As either coming to us from God’s grace, or as dispensing his grace upon us.

Verse 30

30. How terrible this punishment we can realize when we realize who is its denouncer and author God. We who have read truly know the speaker.

Vengeance… me An allusion to, but not exact quotation from, Deuteronomy 32:35: “To me belongeth vengeance and recompense.”

But the words agree exactly with Romans 12:19, an indication that either our author very minutely quotes Paul or is himself Paul: for the notion that the passage is a proverbial phrase then in use is arbitrary.

Again Deuteronomy 32:36.

Judge Either to avenge or punish his people or Church.

Verse 31

31. Fall into the hands David, in 2 Samuel 24:14, preferred to fall rather into the hands of God than of man. The divine hands are a place of safety for the righteous; of terrible woe for the apostate and the transgressor.

Verse 32

32. Call to remembrance Our author now inspires them to well doing by their own past noble example.

Illuminated By the gospel of Christ shining into your hearts.

Fight A palestric term; an athletic combat or series of combats. A struggle with, or consisting of, afflictions.

Verse 33

33. Made a gazing stock Literally, theatrized; that is, exposed to shame, as if a spectacle in a public theatre.

Reproaches Affecting their reputations.

Afflictions Affecting their persons and goods.

Companions Sympathizers and associates of despised and persecuted Christians.

Verse 34

34. Me in my bonds The more authoritative reading is, Ye had compassion on the imprisoned Christians.

Spoiling of your goods Ebrard applies the words to that disinheriting which even now takes place when a Jew becomes a Christian.

Ye have Ye even now have in reversion the better substance.

Enduring Not transient, like the earthly goods and the earthly city.

Verse 35

35. Therefore Inasmuch as these noble antecedents show you to be heirs of a heavenly inheritance, do not cast away your trust and boldness, and so wane into apostasy. This true heroic confidence, based on faith and good works, and basis of glorious hopes, (note Hebrews 11:1,) has a final reward appended to it.

Verse 36

36. Patience A retention of a true confidence.

Promise Of the final salvation underlying their rescue from the approaching doom of their city and state.

Verse 37

37. For Illustrating his meaning by free quotations of Habakkuk 2:3-4, mostly according to the Septuagint. The prophet is in vision auspicating the coming of destruction upon the Chaldean, as our author is anticipating the coming of the Roman for the destruction of Jerusalem.

Will not tarry Though now seeming to delay.

Verse 38

38. Live by faith The Christian believers shall be the true survivors. Yet underlying this, in both the prophet and our author, is the divine truth that by the same faith the faithful is acceptable to God, and so heir not only of the temporal but the eternal salvation, Note on Hebrews 11:13-15.

But Our author has made the sentence before the but in the prophet, and that after, exchange places.

Draw back Or, draw down; that is, in shrinking back, or apostatizing. The words any man, as the Italics show, are not in the Greek, but are interpolated by our translators very improperly; for the proper subject of draw back is the just who live by faith. The just shall live by faith: but if he draw back my soul, etc.

Verse 39

39. But, etc. See note on Hebrews 6:9.

Saving of the soul The Greek word may signify either soul or life. It signifies here, truly, soul; yet so as to include the fact, that for these Hebrews the saving of the soul was exemplified and made visible in the rescue of their lives from the doom of the city. For here, as in the entire next chapter, faith and its rewards are exhibited with a doubleness, as implying a heavenly and invisible salvation within the earthly and visible.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Hebrews 10". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/hebrews-10.html. 1874-1909.
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