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Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Hebrews 1

 

 

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Verse 1

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

Paul, though not inscribing his name, was well known to those addressed (Hebrews 13:19 : see 'Introduction'). In the Pauline method the statement of subject and the division are put before the discussion; at the close, the practical follows the doctrinal portion. The ardour of spirit, as in 1 John, bursting at once into the subject, without prefatory inscription of name and greeting, more effectively strikes the hearers. The date must have been before the temple's destruction, 70 AD some time before the martyrdom of Peter, who mentions this letter of Paul (2 Peter 3:15-16) when many of the first hearers of the Lord were dead.

At sundry times , [ polumeroos (Greek #4181)] - 'in many portions.' All was not revealed to each prophet: one received one portion of revelation, another another. To Noah, the quarter of the world to which Messiah should belong was revealed; to Abraham, the nation; to Jacob, the tribe; to David and Isaiah, the family; to Micah, the town; to Daniel, the exact time; to Malachi, the coming of His forerunner; through Jonah, His burial and resurrection, etc. Each only knew in part; Messiah combined and realized all (1 Corinthians 13:12).

In divers manners - e.g., internal suggestion, audible voices, Urim and Thummim, dreams, etc. 'In one way He was seen by Abraham, in another by Moses, in another by Elias, in another by Micah, Isaiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel' (Theodoret) (cf. Numbers 12:6-8). The Old Testament revelations were fragmentary in substance, manifold in form: the very multitude of prophets shows they prophesied only in part. In Christ the revelation of God is not in separated colours: He, the pure light, unites in His one person the whole spectrum (Hebrews 1:3).

Spake - the expression usual for a Jew in addressing Jews. So Matthew, a Jew writing for Jews, quotes, not by the formula. "It is written," but "said," etc.

In time past. From Malachi, the last Old Testament prophet, for 400 years, there had arisen no prophet, that the Son might be the more an object of expectation (Bengel). As God (the Father) is introduced as having spoken here, so God the Son, Hebrews 2:3; God the Holy Spirit, Hebrews 3:7.

The fathers - the Jews of former days (1 Corinthians 10:1).

By - Greek, 'IN.' A mortal king speaks by, the King of kings IN, His ambassador. The Son is the last and highest manifestation of God (Matthew 21:34; Matthew 21:37): not merely a measure, as in the prophets, but the fullness of the Spirit of God dwelt in Him bodily (John 1:16; John 3:34; Colossians 2:9). If the Jews boast of their prophets, Jesus is the end of all prophecy (Revelation 19:10), and of the law (John 1:17; John 5:46).


Verse 2

Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

In these last days. In 'Aleph (') A B Delta [ ep' (Greek #1909) eschatou (Greek #2078)], 'at the last part of these days.' The rabbis divided time into 'this age' and the 'age to come' (Hebrews 2:5; Hebrews 6:5). The days of Messiah were the transition period, or 'last part of these days' (in contrast to "in time past," Hebrews 1:1); the close of the existing, and beginning of the final, dispensation; of which Christ's second coming shall be the consummation.

By his Son - Greek, 'IN (His) Son' (John 14:10): the true 'prophet' of God. 'His majesty is set forth:

(1) Absolutely, by "Son," and by three glorious predicates, "whom He hath appointed," "by whom also He made the worlds," "who ... sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." Thus His course is described from the beginning of all things down to the goal (Hebrews 1:2-3).

(2) Relatively, in comparison with the angels, Hebrews 1:4 : the confirmation follows; the name "Son" is proved at Hebrews 1:5; the "heirship," Hebrews 1:6-9; the "making the worlds," Hebrews 1:10-12; the "sitting at the right hand" of God, Hebrews 1:13-14.'

His heirship follows His sonship, and preceded His making the worlds (Proverbs 8:22-23; Ephesians 3:11). As the first begotten, He is heir of the universe (Hebrews 1:6), which He made instrumentally, Hebrews 11:3, where "by the word of God" answers to "by whom" (the Son of God) here (John 1:3). Christ was "appointed" (in God's eternal counsel) to creation as an office; the universe so created was assigned to Him as a kingdom. He is "heir of all things" by right of creation, and especially by redemption. The promise to Abraham, that he should be heir of the world, had its fulfillment, and will have it more fully, in Christ (Romans 4:13; Galatians 3:16; Galatians 4:7).

Worlds - the inferior and the superior (Colossians 1:16): [ aioonas (Greek #165)] ages, with all things and persons belonging to them: the universe, including all space and ages, and all material and spiritual existences. He not only appointed His Son heir of all things before creation, but He also (better than "also He") made by Him the worlds.


Verse 3

Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

Who being - by pre-existent and essential being.

Brightness of his glory , [ apaugasma (Greek #541)] - the effulgence of His glory. 'Light of (from) light' ('Nicene Creed'). 'The sun is never seen without effulgence, nor the Father without the Son' (Theophylact). It is because He is the brightness, etc., and because He upholds, etc., that He sat down on the right hand, etc. It was a return to His divine glory (John 6:62; John 17:5 : cf. 'Wisdom,' 7: 25,26). Express image - character: 'impress.' But veiled in the flesh.

`The Son of God in glory beams Too bright for us to scan; But we can face the light that streams From the mild Son of man.'

Of his person , [ hupostaseoos (Greek #5287)] - 'of His substantial essence.'

Upholding all things , [ ta (Greek #3588) panta (Greek #3956)] - 'the universe.' Colossians 1:15; Colossians 1:17; Colossians 1:20 enumerates the three facts in the same order.

By the word - therefore the Son of God is a Person; for He has the word (Bengel). His word is God's word (Hebrews 11:3).

Of his power. "The word" is the utterance which comes from His (the Son's) power, and gives expression to it.

By himself. So Delta f. Omitted in 'Aleph (') A B, Vulgate.

Purged , [ katharismon (Greek #2512) poieesamenos (Greek #4160)] - 'made purification of our sins.' His atonement covers the guilt of sin. "Our" is omitted in 'Aleph (') A B Delta, Vulgate. Sin was uncleanness before God: His sacrifice purges it away (Hebrews 9:13-14). Our nature, guilt-laden, could not, without our great High Priest's blood of atonement sprinkling the heavenly mercy-seat, come into contact with God. Ebrard, 'The mediation between man and God, present in the most holy place, was revealed in three forms:

(1) In sacrifices (typical propitiations for guilt);

(2) In the priesthood (the agents of them);

(3) In the Levitical laws of purity (attained by sacrifice positively, by avoidance of ceremonial pollution negatively, the people being thus admitted into the presence of God without dying) (Leviticus 16:1-34; Deuteronomy 5:26).

Sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high - fulfilling Psalms 110:1. This sitting of the Son at God's right hand was by the act of the Father (Hebrews 8:1; Ephesians 1:20): it never expresses His pre-existing state co-equal with the Father, but always His exalted state as Son of man after His sufferings, Mediator for man in the presence of God (Romans 8:34): a relation toward God and us about to end when its object shall have been accomplished (1 Corinthians 15:28).


Verse 4

Being made so much better than the angels as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

Being made so much better - by His exaltation by the Father (Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 1:13); in contrast to His being "made ... lower than the angels" (Hebrews 2:9). "Better," i:e., superior to. As "being" (Hebrews 1:3) expresses His essential being, so "being made" (Hebrews 7:26) marks what He became in His assumed manhood (Philippians 2:6-9). His humbled form (at which the Jews stumble) is no objection to His divine Messiahship. As the law was given by the ministration of angels and Moses, it was inferior to the Gospel given by the Divine Son, who both is (Hebrews 1:4-14) as God, and has been made, as the exalted Son of man (Hebrews 2:5-18), much better than the angels. The manifestations of God by angels (and even by the Angel of the covenant) at different times in the Old Testament, did not bring man and God into personal union, as the manifestation of God in human flesh does.

By inheritance obtained. He always had the thing itself, sonship; but He 'obtained by inheritance,' according to the Father's promise, the name "Son," whereby He is made known to men and angels. He is "the Son of God" in a sense far above that in which angels are "sons of God" (Job 1:6; Job 38:7). 'The full glory of the special name, "the Son of God," is unattainable by human thought. All appellations are but fragments of its glory-beams united in it as in a central sun' (Revelation 19:12) (Delitzsch).


Verse 5

For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?

For. Substantiating Hebrews 1:4.

Unto which. A frequent argument is derived from the silence of Scripture (Hebrews 1:13; Hebrews 2:16; Hebrews 7:3; Hebrews 7:14).

This day have I begotten thee (Psalms 2:7). Fulfilled at Christ's resurrection, whereby the Father "declared" His Divine Sonship, heretofore veiled by His humiliation (Acts 13:33; Romans 1:4). Christ has a fourfold right to be "Son of God":

(1) By generation, begotten of God;

(2) By commission, sent by God;

(3) By resurrection, "the first-begotten of the dead" (cf. Luke 20:36; Revelation 1:5);

(4) By actual possession, as heir of all (Dr. Pearson).

The Psalm (Psalms 2:1-12; Psalms 89:26-27) applied primarily to Solomon, of whom God promised by Nathan to David, "I will be his Father, and he shall be my son." But as the whole theocracy was of Messianic import, the triumph of David over Hadadezer and neighbouring kings (2 Samuel 8:1-18) typically foreshows God's ultimately subduing all enemies under His Son, whom He sets (Hebrew, anointed, Psalms 2:6) on His "holy hill of Zion," as King of the Jews and of the whole earth, the antitype to Solomon, son of David. "I [ egoo (Greek #1473): emphatic: the Everlasting Father] have begotten thee this day," the day of thy being manifested as My Son, "the first-begotten of the dead" (Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5). He had been always Son, but now first was manifested as such in His once humbled, now exalted, manhood united to His Godhead. Not, here, the eternal generation of the Son: The everlasting today in which the Son was begotten by the Father (Proverbs 30:4; John 10:30; John 10:38; John 16:28; John 17:8). The communication of the full divine essence involves eternal generation; for the divine essence has no beginning. But a definite point of time is here implied-namely, that of is having entered on the inheritance (Hebrews 1:4). The 'bringing the first-begotten into the world' (Hebrews 1:6) is not subsequent, as Alford thinks, to Hebrews 1:5. but anterior (cf. Acts 2:30-35).


Verse 6

And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.

And , [ De (Greek #1161)] - 'But.' Not only this, BUT a more decisive proof is Psalms 97:7, which shows that not only at His resurrection, but also in His being brought into the world (cf. Hebrews 9:11; Hebrews 10:5), in His incarnation (Luke 2:9-14), temptation (Matthew 4:10-11), resurrection (Matthew 28:2), and second advent in glory, angels were designed by God to be subject to Him. Compare 1 Timothy 3:16, "seen of angels:" God manifesting Messiah to be gazed at with adoring love by heavenly intelligences (Ephesians 3:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10; 1 Peter 3:22). His Lordship shall be most fully manifested at His second coming (1 Corinthians 15:24-25; Philippians 2:9). "Worship Him all ye gods" (Psalms 97:7) - i:e., exalted beings; Septuagint, 'angels'), refers to God; but the Hebrews generally acknowledged that God would dwell, peculiarly, in Messiah (so as to be, in the Talmud phrase, 'capable of being pointed to with the finger'); so what was said of God was true of Messiah. The 97th Psalm describes such a kingdom as shall be the rejoicing of all nations-namely, those to be called by Christ. Kimchi says that Psalms 93:1-5 d to 101st contain in them the mystery of Messiah. God ruled the theocracy in and through him.

The (habitable) world , [ teen (Greek #3588) oikoumeneen (Greek #3625)] - subject to Christ (Hebrews 2:5). As "the first-begotten," He has the rights of primogeniture (Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15-16; Colossians 1:18). In Deuteronomy 32:43, the Septuagint have [ proskuneesatoosan (Greek #4352) autoo (Greek #846) pantes (Greek #3956) angeloi (Greek #32)] "Let all the angels of God worship Him;" words not now in the Hebrew. The Septuagint may have been in Paul's mind as to the form, but the substance is from Psalms 97:7. The type, David, in Psalms 89:27 (Hebrews 1:5), is called God's, "first-born, higher than the kings of the earth:" so the antitypical first-begotten, the Son of David, is to be worshipped by all inferior lords, as angels ("gods," Psalms 97:7); for He is "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Revelation 19:16). The Greek "again" is transposed; not necessarily (cf. margin), 'When He again shall have introduced,' etc.-namely, at Christ's second coming; for there is no previous mention of a first bringing in: "again" is often used in quotations, and may be parenthetical ('that I may again quote Scripture') (cf. Matthew 5:33; Greek, John 12:39). Still the Second Advent is included in the 'bringing in,' accompanied with angels' worship of Messiah: to it Psalms 97:1-12 chiefly refers (Matthew 24:29-30; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8). His being brought into the WORLD [ oikoumenee (Greek #3625)] as the theater of His power mainly applies to His Second Advent (Wahl). 'When He shall again bring the First-begotten into the world, He shall be deemed worthy of not less honour, for He saith, "Let all the angels," etc. The former bringing in, though not expressed, is implied in Hebrews 1:2; Hebrews 1:5.


Verse 7

And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.

Of , [ pros (Greek #4314) tous (Greek #3588) angelous (Greek #32)] - 'in reference TO the angels.'

Spirits - or 'winds.' Who employeth His angels as the winds. His ministers as the lightnings; or, He maketh His angelic ministers the directing powers of winds and flames, when these are required to perform His will. The English version, "maketh His angels spirits," means, He maketh them subtle, incorporeal, swift as the wind. So Psalms 18:10, "a cherub ... the wings of the wind." Hebrews 1:14, "ministering spirits," favours the English version. As "spirits" implies the wind-like velocity and subtle nature of the cherubim, so "flame of fire" expresses the burning all-consuming devotion of the adoring seraphim (meaning 'burning') (Isaiah 6:1). The translation, 'maketh winds His messengers, and a flame of fire His ministers(!),' is wrong. In Psalms 104:3-4 the subject in each clause comes first, and the attribute predicated of it second; so the article marks "angels" and "ministers" as the subjects, and 'winds' and "flame of fire," predicates [ tous (Greek #3588) angelous (Greek #32) ... autou (Greek #846) pneumata (Greek #4151), ... tous (Greek #3588) leitourgous (Greek #3011) autou (Greek #846) puros (Greek #4442) floga (Greek #5395)]. Sh


Verse 8

But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.

O God , [ Ho (Greek #3588) Theos (Greek #2316)]. Grotius, 'God is Thy throne' - i:e., God will establish Thy throne. But nowhere is God said to be Christ's throne. Heaven, angels, and the righteous are termed God's throne; but Christ sits at God's right hand. The Hebrews, having no vocative form, use the nominative for it. So Targum on Psalms 45:1-17, and Aquila. Judges and angels (plural) are called '


Verse 9

Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

Iniquity , [ adikian (Greek #93)] - 'unrighteousness.' So 'Aleph (') read 'lawlessness' [ anomian (Greek #458)].

Therefore - because God loves righteousness and hates iniquity.

God, even thy God. Jerome, Augustine etc., translate (Psalms 45:7) 'O God, thy God hath anointed thee,' whereby Christ is addressed as God. This probably the Hebrew there means, and also the Greek here: it is likely the Son is addressed "O God," as in Hebrews 1:8. The anointing meant is not that at His baptism, when He solemnly entered on His ministry for us; but that with the "oil of gladness" or 'exulting joy' (triumph, the consequence of His manifested love of righteousness and hatred of iniquity), wherewith, after His triumphant completion of His work, He has been anointed by the Father "above His fellows" (not only above us, the adopted members of God's family, whom 'He is not ashamed to call His brethren;' but above the angels, partakers with Him, though infinitely His inferiors, in the holiness and joys of heaven; "sons of God," and angel - "messengers," though subordinate to the Divine Angel - "Messenger of the covenant").

Thus He is antitype to Solomon, 'chosen of all David's sons to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel,' even as his father David was chosen before all the house of his father's sons. The image is from the custom of anointing guests at feasts (Psalms 23:5); or rather of anointing kings: not until His ascension did He assume the kingdom as Son of man. A fuller accomplishment is yet to be, when He shall be VISIBLY the anointed king over the whole earth (set by the Father) on His holy hill of Zion (Psalms 2:6; Psalms 2:8). So David, His type, was first anointed at Bethlehem (1 Samuel 16:13; Psalms 89:20); again at Hebron, first over Judah (2 Samuel 2:4), then over all Israel (2 Samuel 5:3): not until Saul's death did he enter on his actual kingdom; as not until after Christ's death the Father "set Him at His own right hand ... far above all principality" (Ephesians 1:20-21). The 45th psalm in its first meaning was addressed to Solomon; but the Holy Spirit inspired the writer to use language applying in its fullness to the antitypical Solomon, the true Read of the theocracy.


Verse 10

And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands:

And. In another passage He says, in the beginning. The Septuagint (as in Genesis 1:1) answers by contrast to the end implied in "they shall perish," etc. The English version, 'of old:' Hebrew, 'aforetime.' Greek order here (not in Septuagint) is, 'Thou in the beginning, Lord,' which throws "Lord" into emphasis. 'Christ is preached even in passages where many might contend that the Father was principally intended' (Bengel).

Laid the foundation of , [ ethemelioosas (Greek #2311)] - 'firmly.'

Heavens - plural: manifold, including various orders of heavenly intelligences (Ephesians 4:10).

Works of thine hands - the heavens, as a hand-woven curtain spread out (Psalms 104:2).


Verse 11

They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment;

They. The earth and the heavens in their present form "shall perish" (Hebrews 12:26-27): not annihilation; as in the case of "the world that ... being over-flowed with water, perished" (2 Peter 3:6). The covenant of the possession of the earth was renewed with Noah and his seed on the renovated earth. So it shall be after the perishing by fire (2 Peter 3:12-13).

Remainest - through [ diameneis (Greek #1265)] all changes.

As doth a garment (Isaiah 51:6).


Verse 12

And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.

Vesture , [ peribolaion (Greek #4018)] - 'an enwrapping cloak.'

Fold them up. Septuagint, Psalms 102:26 [ helixeis (Greek #1667)]; but Hebrew, 'change them.' The Spirit, by Paul, treats the Old Testament with independence of handling, presenting the divine truth in various aspects; sometimes sanctioning Septuagint (cf. Isaiah 34:4; Revelation 6:14); sometimes the Hebrew; sometimes varying from both.

Changed - as one lays aside a garment to put on another.

Thou art the same (Isaiah 46:4; Malachi 3:6). The same in nature, therefore in covenant faithfulness to thy people.

Shall not fail - Hebrew, 'end.' Israel in Babylon, in Psalms 102:1-28, casts her hopes of deliverance on Messiah, Israel's unchanging covenant-God.


Verse 13

But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?

(Psalms 110:1) The image is from conquerors putting the feet on the necks of the conquered (Joshua 10:24-25).


Verse 14

Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

Ministering spirits - Hebrews 1:7, "spirits, and his ministers" Incorporeal spirits, as God, but ministering to Him as inferiors.

Sent forth , [ apostellomena (Greek #649)] - 'being sent forth' continually, as their regular service in all ages.

To minister , [ eis (Greek #1519) diakonian (Greek #1248)] - 'unto (i:e., for) ministry.'

For them , [ dia (Greek #1223) tous (Greek #3588)] - 'for the sake of them,' etc. Angels are sent forth on ministrations to God and Christ, not primarily to men, though for the good of 'those who are about to inherit salvation' [ mellontas (Greek #3195) kleeronomein (Greek #2816) sooteerian (Greek #4991)]: the elect, for whom all things, angels included, work together for good (Romans 8:28). Angels' ministrations are not properly to men, since the latter cannot command them, though their ministrations to God are often for the good of men. So the superiority of the Son of God to angels is shown. They "all," however various their ranks, minister; He is ministered to. They "stand" (Luke 1:19) before God, or are "sent forth" to execute His commands on behalf of them whom He pleases to save; He sits "on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 1:13). He rules; they serve.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Hebrews 1:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/hebrews-1.html. 1871-8.

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