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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Hebrews 12

 

 

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Verse 1

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

We also - as well as those, Hebrews 12:11.

Are compassed about - `have so great a cloud (a numberless multitude above us, like a cloud, "holy and pellucid," Clemens Alexandrinus) of witnesses surrounding us:' an image from a 'race,' well understood even in Palestine from its contact with the Graeco-Macedonian empire and its national games. The "witnesses" answer to the spectators pressing round to see the competitors for the prize (Philippians 3:14). Those 'witnessed of' (Hebrews 11:5; Hebrews 11:39) become in turn "witnesses" in a twofold way:

(1) Attesting by their own case the faithfulness of God to His people (Hebrews 6:12), some of them martyrs;

(2) Witnessing our struggle of faith.

This second sense, though agreeing with the image, is not positively and directly sustained by Scripture. It gives vividness to the image: as the crowd of spectators gave additional spirit to the combatants, so the cloud of witnesses, who have themselves been in the same contest, ought to increase our earnestness, testifying, as they do, to God's faithfulness.

Weight , [Hebrew, kabeed (Hebrew #3515), 'rich:' Genesis 13:2 is, literally, weighty] - as corporeal unwieldiness was, through disciplinary diet, laid aside by candidates for the prize, so carnal and worldly lusts, and all, from without or within, that would impede the heavenly runner, are the spiritual weight to be laid aside. [ Ongkon (Greek #3591)] 'Encumbrance,' superfluous weight: the lust of the flesh, lust of the eye, and pride of life: even harmless and otherwise useful things which would retard us (Mark 9:42-48; Mark 10:50 : cf. Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:9-10).

The sin which doth so easily beset (stands around) us , [ teen (Greek #3588) euperistaton (Greek #2139) hamartian (Greek #266)] - sinful propensity (Luther), 'which always so clings to us:' 'surrounding us, ever present and ready' (Wahl): not primarily "the sin," etc., but sin in general, with special reference to 'apostasy,' against which he already warned them-the besetting sin of the Hebrews, UNBELIEF, to which they might gradually give way.

With patience , [ di' (Greek #1223) hupomonees (Greek #5281)] - 'in persevering endurance' (Hebrews 10:36 : cf. 1 Corinthians 9:24-25).


Verse 2

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Looking unto , [ aforoontes (Greek #872)] - 'from afar' (note, Hebrews 11:26); fixing the eyes upon Jesus seated on the throne of God.

Author - `Prince-leader.' [ Archeegon (Greek #747)] "Captain (of salvation)," Hebrews 2:10; "Prince (of life)," Acts 3:15. Going before us as Originator of our faith, and the Leaner whose matchless example we are to follow always. The examples of faith in Hebrews 11:1-40 are to be followed only so far as they followed Christ (Hebrews 11:26; Hebrews 13:8 : cf. 1 Corinthians 11:1). On His "faith," cf. Hebrews 2:13; Hebrews 3:2.

Finisher , [ teleioteen (Greek #5051)] - 'perfecter' (Hebrews 11:40).

Of our faith - Greek, 'of the faith,' including both His faith (as exhibited in what follows) and ours. He fulfilled the ideal of faith, and so, both as a vicarious offering and an example, He is the object of faith.

For the joy that was set before him - namely, of presently after sitting down at the right hand of the throne of God as a Prince and Saviour, to give repentance and remission of sins. The coming joy disarmed of its sting the present pain.

Cross ... shame - the great stumblingblock to the Hebrews. 'Despised' - i:e., disregarded.


Verse 3

For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

For - justifying his exhortation, "Looking unto Jesus."

Consider , [ analogisasthe (Greek #357)] - by comparison with yourselves. Contradiction - unbelief: every kind of opposition (Acts 28:19).

Sinners. Sin assails us. Not sin, but sinners, contradicted Christ (Bengel).

Be wearied and faint , [ kameete (Greek #2577) ... ekluomenoi (Greek #1590)] - 'lest ye weary fainting,' etc. Compare Isaiah 49:4-5, a specimen of Jesus' not being wearied out by the contradiction and strange unbelief of those among whom He laboured, preaching and exhibiting miracles by His inherent power, as none else could do.


Verse 4

Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

Not yet resisted unto blood - image from pugilism, as from a race; both taken from the national Greek games. Ye have suffered the loss of goods, and been a gazing-stock both by reproaches and afflictions (Hebrews 10:33-34 : ye have not shed your blood, note, Hebrews 13:7). 'The athlete who hath seen his own blood, and though cast down by his opponent, does not let his spirits be cast down, who, as often as he falls, rises the more determined, goes to the encounter with great hope' (Seneca).

Against sin - personified as an adversary; whether within, leading you to spare your blood, or in your adversaries, leading them to shed it, if they cannot, through your faithfulness, induce you to apostatize.


Verse 5

And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:

Forgotten , [ ekleleesthe (Greek #1585)] - utterly (cf. Hebrews 12:15-17): some had utterly forgotten God's word. His exhortation ought to have more effect on you than the cheers of the spectators have on the competitors in the games.

Which , [ heetis (Greek #3748)] - 'such as:' 'the which.'

Speaketh unto you , [ dialegetai (Greek #1256)] - as in a dialogue: God's loving condescension (cf. Isaiah 1:18).

Despise not , [ oligorei (Greek #3643)] - 'do not hold of little account.' Betraying contumacious unbelief (Hebrews 3:12), as "faint" implies a broken-down, desponding spirit. "Chastening" [discipline: paideia (Greek #3809)] is to be borne with "subjection" (Hebrews 12:9); 'rebuke' [more severe: elengchomenos (Greek #1651)], with endurance (Hebrews 12:7). 'Some in adversity kick against God's will, others despond: neither is to be done by the child of God. Such adverse things occur only by the decree of God in kindness-namely, to remove defilements adhering to the believer, and to exercise patience' (Grotius).


Verse 6

For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

(Revelation 3:19) and [ de (Greek #1161)] - 'yea, and: an additional circumstance.

Scourgeth - which draws forth "blood" (Hebrews 12:4).

Receiveth - accepts as a son "in whom He delighteth" (Proverbs 3:12).


Verse 7

If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

In Hebrews 12:7-8 the need of "chastening;" in Hebrews 12:9 the duty of those to whom it is administered.

If. 'Aleph (') A Delta f, Vulgate, read [ eis (Greek #1519) for ei (Greek #1487)] 'With a view to chastening (i:e., since God's chastisement is with a view to disciplinary amelioration), endure patiently.'

Dealeth with you , [ prosferetai (Greek #4374)] - 'beareth Himself toward you' in the very act of chastening.

What son is he - in ordinary life? Much more God as to His sons (Isaiah 48:10; Acts 14:22). The most eminent saints were the most afflicted. God leads them by a way they know not (Isaiah 42:16). We too much look at trial by itself, instead of in connection with the whole plan of our salvation; as if a traveler were to complain of the roughness of one turn, without considering that it led him into green pastures, on the direct road to the city of habitation. The New Testament alone uses the Greek 'education' [ paideia (Greek #3809)] to express 'discipline' of a child by a wise father.


Verse 8

But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. If ye be without , [ chooris (Greek #5565)] - wishing to be removed from it.

All - all sons: all the worthies in Hebrews 11:1-40 : all the witnesses, Hebrews 12:1.

Are , [ gegonasin (Greek #1096)] - 'have been made partakers.'

Then are ye bastards - of whose education their fathers take no care; whereas every right-minded father is concerned for the moral well-being of his legitimate son. 'Since, then, not to be chastised is a mark of bastardy, we ought to rejoice in chastisement, as a mark of our genuine sonship' (Chrysostom).


Verse 9

Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

Fathers of our flesh which corrected us , [ tous (Greek #3588) pateras (Greek #3962) paideutas (Greek #3810)] - 'we had the fathers of our flesh as correctors.'

Father of spirits - contrasted with fathers of our flesh. 'Generation by men is carnal, by God spiritual.' As "Father of spirits," He is both the Originator and the Providential, Gracious Sustainer of animal and spiritual life. Compare "and LIVE" - namely, spiritually and eternally: not die, the penalty of filial insubordination (Deuteronomy 21:18; Deuteronomy 5:10, end; 2 Peter 1:4). God is a Spirit, and the Creator of spirits like Himself; men are but flesh, and the progenitors of flesh (John 3:6). Jesus, our pattern, "learned obedience" experimentally by suffering (Hebrews 5:8).


Verse 10

For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

Wherein the chastisement of our heavenly Father is preferable to that of earthly fathers.

For a few days , [ pros (Greek #4314) oligas (Greek #3641) heemeras (Greek #2250)] - with a view to our well-being in the few days of earthly life.

After their own pleasure , [ kata (Greek #2596) to (Greek #3588) dokoun (Greek #1380) autois (Greek #846)] - 'according to what seemed fit to themselves.' Their rule of chastening is their own often-erring judgment or caprice. The two defects of human education are: (1) An undue view to the interests of our short earthly term of days;

(2) The absence in parents of our heavenly Father's unerring wisdom.

'They err at one time in severity, at another in indulgence (1 Samuel 3:13; Ephesians 6:4), and do not so much chasten as THINK they chasten' (Bengel).

That we might be partakers of his holiness - holy as He is holy (John 15:2; 1 Peter 1:15-16). To become holy like God is to be educated for passing eternity with God (Hebrews 12:14; 2 Peter 1:4). So 'partaking of God's holiness' contrasts with the "few days" of this life for which earthly fathers generally educate their sons.


Verse 11

Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

Joyous, but grievous - Greek, 'matter of joy ... of grief.' The objection that chastening is grievous is anticipated. It only 'seems' so to those being chastened, whose judgments are confused by present pain. Its ultimate fruit amply compensates for temporary pain. The real object of chastening is not that fathers find pleasure in children's pain. Gratified wishes would often be real curses (Psalms 106:15).

Afterward - the time often when God works.

Fruit of righteousness. Righteousness (springing from faith) is the fruit which chastening, the tree, yields (Philippians 1:11). "Peaceable" (cf. Isaiah 32:17; Isaiah 33:20-21; Isaiah 57:2); in contrast to the conflict by which it is won. As the olive garland, emblem of peace as well as victory, was put on the victor's brow in the games.

Exercised thereby - as athletes trained for a contest. Chastisement is the exercise to give experience, and make the spiritual combatant victorious (Romans 5:3). 'Happy the servant for whose improvement his Lord is earnest, with whom He deigns to be angry, whom He does not deceive by dissembling admonition' (Tertullian, 'De Pat.' 100: 11).


Verse 12

Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;

He addresses them as runners, pugilists, warriors (Chrysostom).

Wherefore - resumed from Hebrews 12:1.

Lift up , [ anorthoosate (Greek #461), 'erect']. In Isaiah 35:3-4, it is, "Strengthen ye the weak hands." The hand is the symbol of strength.

Feeble , [ paralelumena (Greek #3886)] - 'paralyzed:' used only by Luke, Paul's companion. The exhortation has three parts: the first relates to ourselves, Hebrews 12:12-13; the second, to others, Hebrews 12:14, "peace with all men;" the third, to God, "holiness, without which," etc.: the first is referred to in Hebrews 12:15, "lest any man fail of the grace of God;" the second, in "lest any root of bitterness," etc.; the third in Hebrews 12:16, "Lest there be any ... profane person," etc. This threefold relation often occurs in Paul's letters. Note, Titus 2:12. The Greek active, not the middle, requires the sense, Lift up not only your own hands and knees, but also those of your brethren (cf. Hebrews 12:15).


Verse 13

And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.

From Proverbs 4:26, Septuagint, 'Mike straight paths for thy feet;' i:e., a straight road to joy and grace (Hebrews 12:1-2; Hebrews 12:15). Cease to "halt" (as the "lame") between Judaism and Christianity (Bengel). "Paths" [ trochias (Greek #5163)] - 'wheel tracks.' Let your walk be so firm and unanimous in the right direction, that a plain "highway" may be established for those who follow you (Isaiah 35:8) (Alford).

That which is lame - those "weak in the faith" (Romans 14:1), having Judaizing prejudices.

Be turned out of the way (Proverbs 4:27) - and so missing the way, lose the prize (Hebrews 12:1).

Rather be healed. Proper exercise contributes to health; walking straight onward in the right way tends to healing.


Verse 14

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:

Follow peace with all - with the brethren especially (Romans 14:19), that so the "lame" among them be not "turned out of the way" (Hebrews 12:13), and that no one of them "fail of the grace of God" (Hebrews 12:15).

Holiness , [ hagiasmon (Greek #38): 'sanctification'] - distinct from God's "holiness" [ hagiotees (Greek #41)] (Hebrews 12:10), which is absolute, and which we are to put on, becoming "holy as He is holy," by sanctification. While 'following peace with all men,' we are not so to please them as to make God's will and our sanctification secondary: this latter must be our first aim (Galatians 1:10).

Without [ chooris (G5565): apart from] which no man shall see the Lord - as a son; in heavenly glory (Revelation 22:3-4). In the East, none but great favourites are admitted to see the king (cf. 2 Samuel 14:24). The Lord being pure, none but the pure shall see him (Matthew 5:8). Without holiness in them, they could not enjoy Him who is holiness itself (Zechariah 14:20; 1 John 3:2-3; Ephesians 5:5). Contrast Hebrews 12:16 (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:3). All (Matthew 24:30; Revelation 1:7) shall see the Lord as a Judge; not as their lasting portion, which is meant here. [ Opsetai (Greek #3700) does not denote the mere action of seeing, but the seer's state of mind to which the object is presented: so in Matthew 5:8, they shall truly comprehend God (Tittmann).] None but the holy could appreciate the holy God: none else, therefore, shall abide in His presence. 'The bad shall only see Him as Son of man (cf. Revelation 1:13 with 7; and Matthew 24:30; Acts 1:11; Acts 17:31): it will be in the glory in which He shall judge, not in the lowliness in which He was judged. His form as God, wherein He is equal to the Father, without doubt the ungodly shall not see; for only "the pure in heart shall see God"' (Augustine). 'He shall come to judge, who stood before a judge: in the form in which He was judged, that they may see Him whom they pierced: He who was before hidden shall come manifested in power: He shall condemn the real culprits, who was Himself falsely made a culprit.'


Verse 15

Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;

Lest any man fail , [ husteron (Greek #5305)] - 'lest any (namely, through sloth in running) failing (falling short) of the grace of God ... trouble you.' The image is from travelers, one of whom lags behind, and so never reaches the end of the labourious journey (Chrysostom).

Root of bitterness. A bitter root might possibly bring forth sweet fruits; a root whose essence is "bitterness," never could. Paul refers to Deuteronomy 29:18. [Bleek infers from enochlee (Greek #1776) of Alexandrine manuscript being here, not encholee of Vatican manuscript, that Paul used the Alexandrine text of the Septuagint (cf. Acts 8:23).] Every person (cf. Hebrews 12:16) and every principle so radically corrupt as to spread corruption around.

Many , [ hoi (Greek #3588) polloi (Greek #4183)] - 'the many;' i:e., the whole congregation. So long as it is under the earth it cannot be remedied, but when it 'springs up,' it must be dealt with boldly. Still remember the caution (Matthew 13:26-30) as to rooting out persons. No such danger can arise in rooting out bad principles.


Verse 16

Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.

Fornicator (Hebrews 13:4; 1 Corinthians 10:8).

Or profane. Fornication is nearly akin to gluttony, Esau's sin. He profanely cast away his spiritual privilege for the gratification of his palate. Genesis 25:34 graphically portrays his reckless, self-indulgent levity. An example well fitted to strike horror into those Hebrews, whosoever, like Esau, were only sons of Isaac according to the flesh (Bengel).

For one morsel. The smallness of the inducement aggravates the guilt of casting away eternity for a trifle, so far is it from being a claim for mercy (cf. Genesis 3:6). One act has often the greatest power for good or for evil. So the cases of Reuben and Saul, for evil (Genesis 49:4; 1 Chronicles 5:1; 1 Samuel 13:12-14); for good, Abraham and Phinehas (Genesis 12:1, etc.; Genesis 15:5-6; Numbers 25:6-15).

His birthright - his own (so 'Aleph (') A C read, intensifying the suicidal guilt of the act) rights of primogeniture [ ta (Greek #3588) proototokia (Greek #4415) heautou (Greek #1438) for autou (Greek #846) in C Delta], involving the privilege of being ancestor of the promised seed, and heir of the promises in Him. The Hebrews had, as Christians, the spiritual rights of primogeniture (cf. Hebrews 12:23): they must exercise holy self-control, if they wish not, like Esau, to forfeit them.


Verse 17

For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.

Afterward , [ kai (Greek #2532)] - 'even afterward.' He despised his birthright; accordingly also he was despised, when he wished to have the blessing. As in the believer's case, so in the unbeliever's, there is an "afterward" coming, when the believer shall look on his past griefs, and the unbeliever on his past joys, in a very different light from that in which they were respectively viewed at the time. Compare "nevertheless afterward," etc., Hebrews 12:11, with it here. Compare "the cool of the day," Genesis 3:8, with Genesis 3:6.

When he would - wished to have. 'He that will not when he may, when he will, shall have nay' (Proverbs 1:24-30; Luke 13:28; Luke 13:34-35; Luke 19:42; Luke 19:44).

He was rejected , [ apedokimasthee (Greek #593), 'as reprobate'] - not as to every blessing; only that which would have followed the primogeniture.

He found no place of repentance. The cause put for the effect, "repentance" for the object which Esau aimed at-namely, the change of his father's bestowal of the chief blessing on Jacob. Had he sought real repentance with tears, he would have found it (Matthew 7:7). But he did not find it, because this was not what he sought. What proves his tears were not those of one seeking repentance is, immediately after he was foiled in his desire, he resolved to murder Jacob! He shed tears, not for sin, but for suffering the penalty of it. His were tears of vain remorse, not repentance. 'Before, he might have had the blessing without tears; afterward, however many he shed, he was rejected. The most hardened shed tears at times; when they repent not then, they hardly ever do afterward' (Bengel). Alford, 'He found no way, by repenting, to repair' (i:e., to regain the lost blessing). 'No place for changing HIS FATHER'S mind' is a harsh interpretation. The "repentance" sought is Esau's own; but referring to the real object he sought, namely, the reversal of his forfeiture of the blessing. Profane despisers cast away grace, and, when overtaken by judgment, seek repentance (i:e., in their view of it, escape from the penalty of their sin), but in vain. Compare "afterward," Matthew 25:11-12. Tears are no proof of real repentance (1 Samuel 24:16-17 : contrast Psalms 56:8).

It - the blessing, the real object of Esau, though ostensibly seeking "repentance."


Verse 18

For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest,

For - The fact that we are not under the law, but under the glorious privileges of the Gospel is why especially the Hebrew Christians should 'look diligently,' etc. (Hebrews 12:15-16).

Are not come , [ proseleeluthate (Greek #4334)] - 'have not come near to.' Alluding to Deuteronomy 4:11, "Ye came near

... and the mountain burned with fire ... clouds, and thick darkness." 'In your coming near unto God, it has not been to,' etc.

The mount. 'Aleph (') A C, Vulgate, omit "the mount." "The mount" must be supplied from Hebrews 12:22.

That might be touched - palpable and material. Moses alone was allowed to touch it (Exodus 19:12-13). The Hebrews drew near to the material Sinai with material bodies; we to the spiritual mount in the spirit. The "darkness" was that of the clouds hanging round the mount; the "tempest" accompanied the thunder.


Verse 19

And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more:

Trumpet - to rouse attention, and herald God's approach (Exodus 19:16).

Entreated that the word should not be spoken , [ prostetheenai (Greek #4369)] - 'that speech should not be added to them;' not that they refused the Word of God, but they wished that God should not Himself speak, but employ Moses as His mediating spokesman. "The voice of words" was the decalogue, spoken by God-a voice issued forth without any form being seen: after which "He added no more" (Deuteronomy 5:22).


Verse 20

(For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart:

That which was commanded , [ to (Greek #3588) diastellomenon (Greek #1291)] - namely, 'the (stern) interdict.'

And ... - `Even if a beast (much more a man) touch,' etc.

Or thrust through with a dart. Omitted in 'Aleph (') A C Delta f, Vulgate. The full interdict (Exodus 19:12-13) is abbreviated; the beast alone being put for 'whether man or beast:' the stoning, which applies to human offenders, alone being specified; the beast's punishment-namely, the being thrust through with a dart-being understood.


Verse 21

And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)

The sight , [ to (Greek #3588) fantazomenon (Greek #5324)] - the vision of God's majesty.

Quake , [ entromos (Greek #1790)] - 'I am in trembling:' "fear" affected his mind; 'trembling' his body. Moses in Exodus does not use these words. But Paul, by inspiration, supplies (cf. Acts 20:35; 2 Timothy 3:8) this detail. Deuteronomy 9:19, Septuagint, has like words of Moses, after breaking the two tables, through fear of God's anger at the people's sin in making the golden calves. He similarly 'feared' in hearing the ten commandments spoken by Yahweh.


Verse 22

But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,

Are come , [ proseleeluthate (Greek #4334)] - 'have come near unto' (cf. Deuteronomy 4:11). Not merely ye shall, but ye have already come.

Mount Sion - antitypical Sion, of which the spiritual church (whose first foundation was laid in literal Zion, John 12:15; 1 Peter 2:6) is the earnest, and of which the restored literal Jerusalem shall be the earthly representative, to be succeeded by the everlasting "new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven" (Revelation 21:2-27 : cf. Hebrews 11:10). To an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church. After the city of God, mention of its citizens follows. Believers being like the angels (Job 1:6; Job 38:7), "sons of God," adopted into God's great and blessed family, are their 'equals' (Luke 20:36). For the full manifestation of this we pray (Matthew 6:10). The English version is opposed:

(1) By "and" beginning each new member of the whole sentence;

(2) "General assembly and church" form a tautology;

(3) "General assembly," or 'festal (jubilant) full assembly' (such as the celebrated Olympic games, with joyous singing, etc.), applies better to the angels, ever hymning God's praises, than to the Church, of which a considerable part is militant on earth.

Translate, 'To myriads (ten thousands, cf. Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalms 68:17; Daniel 7:10; Jude 1:14; namely), the festal assembly of angels, and the church of the first-born.' Angels and saints together constitute the ten thousands. Compare "all angels," "all nations" (Matthew 25:31-32). Messiah is pre-eminently "the First-born," or "First-begotten" (Hebrews 1:6): all believers become so by adoption. Compare the type, Numbers 3:12; Numbers 3:45; Numbers 3:50. As the kingly and priestly succession was in the first-born, and Israel was God's "first-born" (Exodus 4:22 : cf. Exodus 13:2; Exodus 19:6), a "kingdom of priests" to God (Exodus 19:6), so believers (Revelation 1:6).


Verse 23

To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

Written in heaven - enrolled as citizens there. All who at the coming of "God the Judge of all" (which clause naturally follows) shall be found "written" in the Lamb's book of life (Revelation 21:27). Though fighting the good fight on earth, still, in your destiny and life of faith, which substantiates things hoped for, ye are already members of the heavenly citizenship. Alford wrongly restricts 'the church of the first-born written in heaven' to those militant on earth; rather, all who at the Judge's coming shall be found written in heaven (the true patent of heavenly nobility; contrast "written in the earth," Jeremiah 17:13, and Esau's profane sale of his birthright, Hebrews 12:16); believers from the beginning to the end of the world form one church, to which the Hebrews were already come. The first-born of Israel were "written" in a roll (Numbers 3:40).

The spirits or just men made perfect - at the resurrection, when the "JUDGE" shall appear, and perfect believers' bliss by uniting the glorified body with the spirit: the New Testament hope (Romans 8:20-23; 1 Thessalonians 4:16). The place of this clause after "the JUDGE OF ALL" is my objection to Alford's explanation, the souls of the just in their separate state perfected. Compare (note) Hebrews 11:39-40 : those heretofore spirits, but now to be perfected by being clothed upon with the body. Still, "spirits of just men made perfect" may favour the reference to the spirits in their separate state, whose perfecting by earthly trials is completed. In no other passage are the just said to be perfected before the resurrection and the completion of the number of the elect (Revelation 6:11); therefore, 'spirits of the just' may be used to express the just whose predominant element in their perfected state shall be Spirit. So spirit is used of a man in the body under the influence of the Spirit, not the flesh (John 3:6). In the resurrection bodies of the saints the spirit shall preponderate over the animal soul (note, 1 Corinthians 15:44). Others think Christ at His ascension carried the redeemed church from the paradise of Sheol or Hades to the paradise of the third or highest heaven (Matthew 27:52-53; Romans 10:6-7; Ephesians 4:9; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 Peter 3:20).


Verse 24

And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

New - not the usual [ kainee (Greek #2537)]: the Christian covenant (Hebrews 9:15): new, as different from, and superseding the old; but [ neas (Greek #3501] recent, having the freshness of youth, as opposed to age. The mention of Jesus, the Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), Himself perfected through sufferings in His resurrection and ascension (Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 5:9), is suggested by the mention of "the just made perfect" at their resurrection (cf. Hebrews 7:22). "Jesus" stands here as the person realized as our loving Friend; not merely in His official character as the Christ.

And to the blood of sprinkling - enumerated distinct from "Jesus." Bengel argues: His blood was entirely 'poured out' by various ways. His bloody sweat, the crown of thorns, the scourging, the nails, and after death the spear, just as the blood was entirely poured out and extravasated from the animal sacrifices. It was incorruptible (1 Peter 1:18-19). No scripture states it was again put into the Lord's body. At His ascension, as our High Priest, He entered the heavenly holiest 'BY His own blood' (not after shedding his blood, nor with the blood in His body, but), carrying it separately (cf. the type, Hebrews 9:7; Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 9:25; Hebrews 13:11): not merely by the efficacy of His blood, but 'by His own proper blood' (Hebrews 9:12): not MATERIAL blood, but "the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot unto God" (Hebrews 9:14). So in Hebrews 10:29, the Son of God and the blood of the covenant wherewith (the professor) was sanctified are separate.

Also in Hebrews 13:12; Hebrews 13:20; also cf. Hebrews 10:19 with Hebrews 10:21. So in the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 11:24-26) the body and blood are separately represented. The blood itself continues still in heaven before God, the perpetual ransom-price of 'the eternal covenant' (Hebrews 13:20). Once for all Christ sprinkled the blood peculiarly for us at his ascension (Hebrews 9:12). But it is called "the blood of sprinkling" on account also of its continued use in heaven, and in the consciences of the saints on earth (Isaiah 52:15; Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 10:22). This sprinkling is analogous to the sprinkled blood of the Passover. Compare Revelation 5:6, "In the midst of the throne, a Lamb, as it had been slain." His glorified body does not require circulation of blood. His blood introduced into heaven took away the dragon's right to accuse. Thus Rome's theory of concomitancy of the blood with the body, the excuse for giving only the bread to the laity, falls to the ground. The mention of "the blood of sprinkling" naturally follows the mention of the "covenant," which could not be consecrated without blood (Hebrews 9:18; Hebrews 9:22).

Speaketh better things than that of Abel - namely, than the sprinkling ['Aleph (') A C Delta read the article masculine, ton (not to), which refers to "sprinkling," not to "blood," neuter] of blood by Abel in his sacrifice spake. This comparison between two things of the same kind (namely, Christ's sacrifice and Abel's), is more natural than between two things different in kind and in results (namely, Christ's sacrifice and Abel's own blood (Alford) which was not a sacrifice at all) (cf. Hebrews 11:4; (Genesis 4:4). This accords with the whole letter (Hebrews 12:18-22), which is to show the superiority of Christ's New Testament sacrifice to the Old Testament sacrifices (of which Abel's is the first; it, moreover, was testified to by God as acceptable above Cain's) (cf. Hebrews 9:1-28; Hebrews 10:1-39.) "Better" implies superiority to something good; but Abel's own blood was not at all good for the purpose efficaciously done by Christ's blood, nay, it cried for vengeance (cf. Magee, 'Atonement'). This is the objection to Bengel's view, that "the blood of Abel" is put for all the blood shed on earth crying for vengeance, and increasing the other cries raised by sin, counteracted by Christ's blood calmly speaking in heaven for us, and from heaven to us. To deny that Christ's atonement is a propitiation overthrows Christ's priesthood, makes the Mosaic sacrifices an unmeaning mummery, and Cain's sacrifice as good as that of Abel.


Verse 25

See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:

Refuse not - through unbelief. As the blood of sprinkling speaks to God for us (Hebrews 12:24), so God also speaks to us (Hebrews 1:1-2). His word now preludes the last 'shaking' of all things, Hebrews 12:27. The same word which is heard in the Gospel from heaven will shake heaven and earth, Hebrews 12:26.

Who refused him , [ paraiteesamenoi (Greek #3868), without hoi (Greek #3588)] - 'declining as they did.' Their submissive entreaty that the word should not be spoken by God anymore (Hebrews 12:19), covered over refractory hearts, as their subsequent deeds showed (Hebrews 3:16).

That spake , [ ton (Greek #3588) chreematizonta (Greek #5537)] - with oracular warnings His divine will.

If we turn away , [ hoi (Greek #3588) apostrefomenoi (Greek #654)] - 'we who turn away;' greater refractoriness than "refused" or 'declined.'

Him that speaketh from heaven - God, by His Son in the Gospel, speaking from His heavenly throne. Hence, Christ's frequent mention of 'the kingdom of the heavens' (Greek, Matthew 4:17). In giving the law, God spake on earth (namely, Mount Sinai) by angels (Hebrews 2:2 : cf. Hebrews 1:2). In Exodus 20:22, "I talked with you from heaven;" not the highest heavens (as here), but the visible heavens, the clouds, are meant, out of which God proclaimed the law.


Verse 26

Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.

Then shook - when He gave the law.

Now - under the Gospel.

Promised. His coming to break up the present order of things is to the ungodly a terror, to the godly a Promised. His coming to break up the present order of things is to the ungodly a terror, to the godly a promise, the fulfillment of which they look for with joyful hope.

Yet once more - Notes, Haggai 2:6; Haggai 2:21-22, both which passages are condensed into one here. The shaking began at His first coming: it will be completed at His second coming, prodigies in nature accompanying the overthrow of all kingdoms that oppose the Messiah. [`owd 'achat ma`at hiy'] 'It is yet one little' - i:e., a single brief space until the series of movements begins, ending in Messiah's advent. Not merely the earth, as at the Sinaitic covenant, but heaven also, is to be shaken. The two advents of the Messiah are regarded as one, the complete shaking belonging to the second, of which the presage was given in the shakings at the first; the convulsions connected with the overthrow of Jerusalem shadowing forth those about to be at the overthrow of all the God-opposed kingdoms by the coming Messiah.


Verse 27

And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.

This word, Yet once more - So Paul, by the Spirit, sanctions the Septuagint [ eti (Greek #2089) hapax (Greek #530)] (Haggai 2:6), giving an additional feature to the Hebrew (English version), not merely that it shall be in a little while, but that it is to be "once more." The stress is on "ONCE." Once for all and forever. 'In saying "once more," the Spirit implies that something else shall be which is to remain, no more to be changed, for the once is inclusive - i:e., not many times' (Estius).

Those things that are shaken - heaven and earth. As the shaking is to be total, so shall the removal be, making way for the better things that are unremovable. Compare the Jewish economy (type of the present order of things) giving way to the new and abiding covenant, the forerunner of the everlasting state.

As of things that are made - namely, of this present visible creation (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:1 and Hebrews 9:11), 'made with hands ... of this creation' - i:e., things so made at creation that they would not remain of themselves. The new abiding heaven and earth are also made, but of a higher nature than material creation, and partaking of the divine nature of Him who is not made: so, as linked with the uncreated God, they are not of the same class as the things made. The things made in the former sense do not remain; the things of the new heaven and earth, like the uncreated God, "shall REMAIN before God" (Isaiah 66:22). The spirit, the seed of the new being, not only of the believer's soul, but also of the future body, is an uncreated and immortal principle.


Verse 28

Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:

Receiving - as we do, in sure hope, also in possession of the Spirit, the first-fruits (Romans 8:23; Ephesians 1:13). Let us have grace , [ echoomen (Greek #2192) charin (Greek #5485)] - 'thankfulness' (Alford after Chrysostom). But:

(1) this, though classical Greek, is not Paul's phraseology.

(2) 'To God' would then have been added.

(3) "Whereby we may serve God" suits "grace" (i:e., the work of the Spirit, producing faith exhibited in serving God), but does not suit 'thankfulness.'

Acceptably , [ euarestos (Greek #2101)] - 'well-pleasingly.'

Reverence and godly fear , [so C, aidous (Greek #127) kai (Greek #2532) eulabeias (Greek #2124): but 'Aleph (') A C Delta, eulabeias (Greek #2124) kai (Greek #2532) deous (G1189a)] - 'reverent caution' (note, Hebrews 5:7 : lest we should offend God, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity) 'and fear' (lest we should bring destruction on ourselves).


Verse 29

For our God is a consuming fire.

[ Kai (Greek #2532) gar (Greek #1063)] 'For even;' 'For also:' an additional incentive to diligence. From Deuteronomy 4:24.

Our God - in whom we hope, is also to be feared. He is love, yet He has also wrath against sin (Hebrews 10:27; Hebrews 10:31).

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/hebrews-12.html. 1871-8.

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Tuesday, January 28th, 2020
the Third Week after Epiphany
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