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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Hebrews 2

 

 

Verses 1-4

Hebrews 2:1-4. For the first time the writer discloses the practical aim which gives force and meaning to his theological argument. Christian men ought to realise the grandeur of their calling, and to hold fast to the message which was not delivered by angels like the Jewish Law (cf. Acts 7:53, Galatians 3:19), but by the Son Himself. A suggestive image is spoiled by the insertion of "from them" in Hebrews 2:1. By forgetting the directions given them the readers may drift away from their true course, and by so doing will expose themselves to dreadful danger. For if the Law, as the history of Israel shows us, avenged itself on those who disobeyed it, there will be even worse punishment for Christian men if they are faithless to that message of which the Law was only a shadow. It is true that the writer and those whom he addresses had heard this message only from the apostles, but those human teachers had received it from the Lord Himself, and their words had been Divinely attested by varied acts of miracle, wrought in the power of the Holy Spirit.


Verses 1-18

Hebrews 1:5 to Hebrews 2:18. The Son is Superior to the Angels.—For this theme the way has been prepared in the closing words of Hebrews 1:14. The section may possibly be directed against angel-worship, which in some churches, as we know from Colossians, was encroaching on the faith in Christ. More probably the writer's aim is simply to enforce the supremacy of Christ as compared with even the highest of created beings. In Hebrews 1:5-14 he collects a number of Scripture texts which illustrate the relative worth of Christ and the angels. These texts are interpreted by the allegorical method—i.e. they are taken not in their historical meaning, but as symbolic utterances which have to be spiritually discerned. Two quotations (Hebrews 1:5), the former taken from Psalms 2:7, the latter from 2 Samuel 7:14, which declare Christ to be the Son are followed by another, apparently taken from the LXX version of the Song of Moses (cf. Psalms 97:7), in which the angels are commanded to worship Him. This command (Hebrews 1:6) is referred to some moment in eternity when God first revealed His Son to the assembled hosts of heaven. In the quotations given in Hebrews 1:7-12, taken from Psalms 104:4; Psalms 45:6 f., Psalms 102:25-27; Psalms 110:1, a special aspect of the contrast with the angels is emphasized—viz. that the angels are subject to change, while the Son remains the same for ever. This idea is obtained by supposing Psalms 104:4 to mean "at will Thou changest the forms of the angels, making them now winds, now flames." Against this text, which tells how the angels assume the shapes of variable elements, are set others which describe the Son as always supreme and steadfast. The final quotation (Hebrews 1:13) has been used already in Hebrews 1:3, and is taken from the passage (Psalms 110:1-4) which determines the whole thought of the epistle. Christ as the Son is throned at God's right hand, while the angels, as their name implies, are only servants, inferior in some sense to God's earthly saints, to whose welfare they minister.


Verses 5-18

Hebrews 2:5-18. Resuming his argument, the writer deals with the objection that Christ cannot be ranked above the angels in view of His earthly humiliation. This objection is answered by conclusions drawn from Psalms 8:4-6*. Christ was indeed made lower than the angels, but for the purpose that He should rise to the sovereign place. Only by His suffering and death could He be fitted for His supreme work as High Priest and Saviour. The angels had no authority over that higher world of which the writer is to speak in this epistle. Scripture points rather to a "son of man" who will control all things; and by "all things" is meant the future heavenly world as well as the present (Hebrews 2:5 f.). But in this very assertion of the dignity of Christ (for He is the "man" whom the Ps. foretells) reference is made to a temporary humiliation. The words "for a little while lower than the angels" (mg.) are explained when we turn to the gospel history. For a little time Jesus was subjected to our human lot, but His suffering of death was only the prelude to His exaltation. It was evidence of the grace of God, who by this means made salvation possible for all men.

Hebrews 2:9. This verse is difficult, owing to the condensation within a single sentence of several ideas: (a) Christ's earthly life and sufferings were necessary to His exaltation; (b) this exaltation was due to His adding the attribute of Saviour to His other attributes; (c) His death, therefore, was at once a crowning honour bestowed on Himself and a proof of God's goodness to all men.

That Jesus had to suffer and die was fully in keeping with the wisdom of God; for if He was to lead the way to salvation for the suffering race of mankind, He needed Himself to suffer, and thus to be fitted perfectly for His task (Hebrews 2:10). A parenthesis follows (Hebrews 2:11-13), in which it is shown by Scripture (Psalms 22:22, Isaiah 8:17 f.) that in spite of their low estate men are the brethren of Christ, sons of the same Father. But God's human children are subject to limitations of flesh and blood, and in order to save them Christ had to make Himself one with them (Hebrews 2:14). He died their death that He might overcome the devil, who has power to inflict death on men as the penalty of their sins; and thus He saved men not from death only, but from that overhanging dread of it which took all joy and freedom out of their lives (Hebrews 2:15). If Jesus had set Himself to be Redeemer of angels ("take hold of," i.e. in order to rescue), it would not have been necessary for Him so to humiliate Himself. But since His work was on behalf of His earthly brethren, the way He chose was the only possible one, and we are not to marvel at it. He had to submit Himself to the mortal lot of men that so He might represent them before God with a full sense of their needs and infirmities. Tried Himself by a life of suffering, He is able to succour those who are tried likewise (Hebrews 2:16 ff.).

These verses prepare the way for the subject which is to occupy the central portion of the epistle. It is by acting as our High Priest that Christ achieves our salvation; and His earthly life was meant to fit Him for this His characteristic work.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Hebrews 2:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/hebrews-2.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 26th, 2019
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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