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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Hebrews 4

 

 

Verses 1-13

Hebrews 4:1-13 continues the exposition of Psalms 95. The writer has already dealt with the warning contained therein; now he shows that this very warning implies a promise. In declaring that His rest is withheld from those who had proved unworthy of it, God would have us know that it is still in store. The fulfilment of that promise which had been offered in vain to ancient Israel is reserved for the people of Christ.

Hebrews 4:1 f. Transition from warning to promise. The warning of the psalm is one that directly concerns ourselves, for, since the Israelites under Moses were forbidden to enter into the promised rest, it is still waiting, and we Christians may possess it, if we do not fail as they did. The message which came to them has come also to us. They heard it, but missed the blessing which it proclaimed, for they were lacking in the faith which alone could assimilate it.

Hebrews 4:1. should seem is better translated "should be found."

Hebrews 4:2. they were not united: with this translation the meaning is that the great mass of the people did not share the faith of such believing souls as Joshua and Caleb. Another and simpler rendering is preferable: "it was not blended with faith in those who heard"—i.e. the words of the message did not meet with that responsive faith which alone could make them effectual.

Hebrews 4:3-10. In contrast with unbelieving Israel we have accepted the message, and are therefore the true heirs of the promised rest. For when God spoke in the psalm of a rest which He had prepared and which Israel had forfeited, He did not merely signify the rest in the promised land. He spoke of a rest which had existed ever since the creation of the world (Hebrews 4:3). The words of the psalm have to be taken in conjunction with those other words in Gen. which tell how God rested after His works were finished. This rest of His has continued ever since, and He desires that His people should share it with Him (Hebrews 4:4 f.). His original purpose was, as we may gather from the psalm, that Israel should inherit His rest. It was waiting for them, and they had the opportunity to enter into it, but they missed it through their disobedience. He therefore issued a second call many centuries afterwards, for the psalm which proclaims it dates from a time long subsequent to the days of the wilderness. The rest is again offered in the psalm as something which is still open, waiting for men "to-day" if they will listen to God's voice (Hebrews 4:6 f.). It is plain that this rest, offered a second time, when Israel was in full possession of the land of Canaan, cannot have been the mere earthly settlement which was secured under Joshua. It is a rest not yet attained and still open to God's people, the eternal Sabbath-rest of God (Hebrews 4:8 f.). Indeed there is no other sense in which we can properly speak of entering into rest. A perfect rest implies that a man has completed his earthly labours, and shares with God in the rest of eternity (Hebrews 4:10). "Sabbath-rest" (Hebrews 4:9) sums up in one expressive word the idea which is developed in Hebrews 4:10. God's work of creation was crowned and completed by the Sabbath on which He entered, and which will endure for eternity. He has purposed that our lives, too, should be consummated by fellowship with Him in His Sabbath-rest. Against the idea here presented may be placed that of John 5:17 : "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work."

In a closing passage (Hebrews 4:11 ff.) the writer again dwells on the danger that his readers, like Israel, may lose the future rest. God's word has promised it, but that same word is sharp to detect even the first hidden motions towards disobedience. It is like a sword that can pierce into the secret recesses of the heart and separate thoughts and desires that seem inextricably bound together. There can be no deceiving of God, in whose sight our inmost purposes are laid bare.

Hebrews 4:12. the word of God: God is represented in the OT as acting through His word (cf. Genesis 1:3, etc., Isaiah 55:11). Thus the word of God is here conceived as a living and almost personal power.—soul and spirit, etc.: i.e. the ultimate springs of life, where all issues seem to be confused together.

Hebrews 4:13. laid open: in Greek a peculiarly vivid word, which suggests the throwing back of the head of the victim, so as to expose the neck to the sacrificial knife.


Verses 14-16

Hebrews 4:14-16. A short passage which sums up the pre vious argument, and prepares the way for the ensuing discussion of the high-priestly work of Christ. The readers are exhorted to be steadfast in the faith they have professed, knowing that they have a High Priest who ascended through the lower heavens into the very presence of God. And though He is so exalted He is in full sympathy with men, for He has endured our life of temptation, while remaining sinless. He is near to God and at the same time our brother man; so we can confidently make our approach to God through Him, and seek His forgiveness and His grace to help our needs.

Hebrews 4:14. through the heavens: according to Jewish conceptions there were seven heavens, the highest of which was the dwelling-place of God Himself (cf. "the third heaven," 2 Corinthians 12:2).

 


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

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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