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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies
Hebrews 12



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Verse 1

Therefore ( τοιγαροῦν )

An emphatic particle, strongly affirming the facts on which the following exhortation is based.

We also are compassed ( καὶ ἡμεῖς )

According to this the sense would be, those described in ch. 11 were compassed with a cloud of witnesses, and we also are so compassed. Wrong. The we also should be construed with let us run. “Therefore let us also (as they did) run our appointed race with patience.”

Seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses ( τοσοῦτον ἔχοντες περικείμενον ἡμῖν νέφος μαρτύρων )

Lit. having so great a cloud of witnesses lying around us. Νέφος cloudN.T.omeans a great mass of cloud covering the entire visible space of the heavens, and therefore without definite form, or a single large mass in which definite outlines are not emphasized or distinguished. It thus differs from νεφέλη , which is a detached and sharply outlined cloud. Νέφος is therefore more appropriate to the author's image, which is that of a vast encompassing and overhanging mass. The use of cloud for a mass of living beings is familiar in poetry. Thus Homer, a cloud of footmen (Il. xxiii. 138): of Trojans (Il. xvi. 66). Themistocles, addressing the Athenians, says of the host of Xerxes, “we have had the fortune to save both ourselves and Greece by repelling so great a cloud of men ” (Hdt. viii. 109). Spenser, F. Q. i. 1,23:

“A cloud of cumbrous gnattes doe him molest.”

Milton, Par. L. i. 340:

“A pitchy cloud of locusts.”

Witnesses ( μαρτύρων ) does not mean spectators, but those who have born witness to the truth, as those enumerated in ch. 11. Yet the idea of spectators is implied, and is really the principal idea. The writer's picture is that of an arena in which the Christians whom he addresses are contending in a race, while the vast host of the heroes of faith who, after having born witness to the truth, have entered into their heavenly rests watches the contest from the encircling tiers of the arena, compassing and overhanging it like a cloud, filled with lively interest and sympathy, and lending heavenly aid. How striking the contrast of this conception with that of Kaulbach's familiar “Battle of the Huns,” in which the slain warriors are depicted rising from the field and renewing the fight in the upper air with aggravated fury.

Weight ( ὄγκον )

N.T.oolxx. Lit. bulk, mass. Often in Class. Sometimes metaphorically of a person, dignity, importance, pretension: of a writer's style, loftiness, majesty, impressiveness. Rend. “encumbrance,” according to the figure of the racer who puts away everything which may hinder his running. So the readers are exhorted to lay aside every worldly hindrance or embarrassment to their Christian career.

And the sin which doth so easily beset ( καὶ τὴν εὐπερίστατον ἁμαρτίαν )

Καὶ adds to the general encumbrance a specific encumbrance or hindrance. Ἑυπερίστατος N.T.oolxx, oClass. From εὐ readilydeftly, cleverly, and περιΐ̀στασθαι toplace itself round. Hence, of a sin which readily or easily encircles and entangles the Christian runner, like a long, loose robe clinging to his limbs. Beset is a good rendering, meaning to surround. In earlier English especially of surrounding crowns, etc., with jewels. So Gower, Conf. Am. i. 127.

“With golde and riche stones beset.”

Shakespeare, Two Gent. V. v. 3:

“The thicket is beset; he cannot 'scape.”

The sin may be any evil propensity. The sin of unbelief naturally suggests itself here.

With patience ( δἰ ὑπομονῆς )

Ὑπομονὴ includes both passive endurance and active persistence. See on 2 Peter 1:6, and see on James 5:7. For this use of δἰ withsee on Hebrews 9:11.

The race ( τὸν ἀγῶνα )

Instead of a specific word for race ( δρόμος ), the general term contest is used. For προκείμενον setbefore, see on Hebrews 6:18.

Verse 2

Looking ( ἀφορῶντες )

Only here and Philemon 2:28. In lxx see 4Macc. 17:10. Looking away from everything which may distract. Comp. Philemon 3:13, Philemon 3:14, and ἀπέβλεπεν hehad respect, lit. looked away, Hebrews 11:26. Wetstein cites Arrian, Epictet. ii. 19,29: εἰς τὸν Θεὸν ἀφορῶντες ἐν παντὶ μικρῷ καὶ μεγάλῳ lookingaway unto God in everything small and great.


Having presented a long catalogue of witnesses under the old covenant, he now presents Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, and the supreme witness. See Revelation 1:5; Revelation 3:14; 1 Timothy 6:13.

The author and finisher of our faith ( τὸν τῆς πίστεως ἀρχηγὸν καὶ τελειωτὴν )

The A.V. is misleading, and narrows the scope of the passage. For author, rend. leader or captain, and see on Hebrews 2:10. For finisher, rend. perfecter. For our faith, rend. faith or the faith. Not our Christian faith, but faith absolutely, as exhibited in the whole range of believers from Abel to Christ. Christ cannot be called the author or originator of faith, since the faith here treated existed and worked before Christ. Christ is the leader or captain of faith, in that he is the perfecter of faith. In himself he furnished the perfect development, the supreme example of faith, and in virtue of this he is the leader of the whole believing host in all time. Notice the recurrence of the favorite idea of perfecting. Comp. Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 5:9; Hebrews 6:1; Hebrews 7:11, Hebrews 7:19, Hebrews 7:28; Hebrews 9:9; Hebrews 10:1, Hebrews 10:14; Hebrews 11:40. Τελειωτής perfecterN.T.oolxx, oClass.

For the joy that was set before him ( ἀντὶ τῆς προκειμένης αὐτῷ χαρᾶς )

Ἁντὶ in its usual sense, in exchange for. Προκειμένης lyingbefore, present. The joy was the full, divine beatitude of his preincarnate life in the bosom of the Father; the glory which he had with God before the world was. In exchange for this he accepted the cross and the blame. The contrast is designed between the struggle which, for the present, is alone set before the readers (Hebrews 12:1), and the joy which was already present to Christ. The heroic character of his faith appears in his renouncing a joy already in possession in exchange for shame and death. The passage thus falls in with Philemon 2:6-8.

The cross ( σταυρὸν )

Comp. Philemon 2:8. olxx. Originally an upright stake or pale. Σταυροῦν todrive down a stake; to crucify. Comp. the use of ξύλον woodor tree for the cross, Acts 5:30; Acts 10:39; 1 Peter 2:24. See on Luke 23:31.

The shame ( αἰσχύνης )

Attendant upon a malefactor's death.

Is set down, etc.

See Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 1:13; Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 10:12. Notice the tenses: endured, aorist, completed: hath sat down, perfect, he remains seated and reigning.

Verse 3

For consider ( ἀναλογίσασθε γὰρ )

Γὰρ forintroduces the reason for the exhortation to look unto Jesus. Look unto him, for a comparison with him will show you how much more he had to endure than you have. Ἁναλογίζεσθαι N.T.oComp. Hebrews href="/desk/?q=heb+6:16&sr=1">Hebrews 6:16, and comp. Hebrews 7:7. See on gainsaying, Judges 1:11. Of sinners, ὑπὸ byat the hands of.

Against himself ( εἰς ἑαυτοὺς )

According to this text we should render “against themselves.” Comp. Numbers 16:38. The explanation will then be that Christ endured the gainsaying of sinners, who, in opposing him, were enemies of their own souls. The reading ἑαυτοὺς however, is doubtful, and both Tischendorf and Weiss read ἑαυτὸν himselfwhich I prefer.

Lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds ( ἵνα μὴ κάμητε ταῖς ψυχαῖς ὑμῶν ἐκλυόμενοι )

Rend. “that ye be not weary, fainting in your minds.” Ἐκλύειν is to loosen, hence, to relax, exhaust. So often in lxx. See Deuteronomy 20:3; Judges 8:15; 1 Samuel 14:28. Comp. Matthew 15:32; Mark 8:3; Galatians 6:9.

Verse 4

Unto blood ( μέχρις αἵματος )

Your strife against sin has not entailed the shedding of your blood, as did that of many of the O.T. worthies, and of Jesus himself. See Hebrews 11:35, Hebrews 11:37. Of Jesus it is said, Philemon 2:8, “he became obedient to the extent of death ( μέχρι θανάτου ). Comp. 2 Maccabees 13:14.

Striving against sin ( πρὸς τὴν ἁμαρτίαν ἀνταγωνιζόμενοι )

The verb N.T.olxx, 4Macc. 17:14. Sin is personified.

Verse 5

Ye have forgotten ( ἐκλέλησθε )

N.T.oCommon in Class., olxx. The simple verb λανθάνειν means to escape notice; to be unseen or unknown. Middle and passive, to let a thing escape; forget. Some render interrogatively, “have ye forgotten?”

Speaketh unto you ( ὑμῖν διαλέγεται )

The verb always in the sense of mutual converse or discussion. See Mark 9:34; Acts 17:2; Acts 18:19. Rend. “reasoneth with you.”

My son, etc.

From Proverbs 3:11, Proverbs 3:12. Comp. Job 5:17.

Despise not ( μὴ ὀλιγώρει )

N.T.olxx only in this passage. Quite often in Class. It means to make little of ( ὀλίγος ).

Chastening ( παιδείας )

Mostly in Hebrews. See on Ephesians 6:4, and see on 2 Timothy 3:16.

Verse 6

He chasteneth ( παιδεύει )

See on Luke 23:16.

Scourgeth ( μαστιγοῖ )

Not very common, but found in all the four Gospels. Hebrews only here. Quite often in lxx.

Receiveth ( παραδέχεται )

Admits to filial privileges: acknowledges as his own. Of receiving the word of God, Mark 4:20; of receiving delegates from a body, Acts 15:4; of adopting or approving customs, Acts 16:21.

Verse 7

If ye endure chastening ( εἰς παιδείαν ὑπομένετε )

Rend. “it is for chastening that ye endure.” A.V. follows the reading of T. R. εἰ ifDo not faint at affliction. Its purpose is disciplinary. Παιδεία is here the end or result of discipline. In Hebrews 12:5it is the process.

God dealeth with you as with sons ( ὡς υἱοῖς ὑμῖν προσφέρεται ὁ θεὸς )

The verb means to bring to: often to bring an offering to the altar, as Matthew 5:23, Matthew 5:24; Matthew 8:4. In the passive voice with the dative, to be born toward one; hence, to attack, assail, deal with, behave toward. See Thucyd. i. 140; Eurip. Cycl. 176; Hdt. vii. 6. The afflictive dealing of God with you is an evidence that you are sons.

What son is he whom the father, etc. ( τίς υἰὸς )

Some interpreters render, “who is a son whom the father?” etc. That is, no one is a son who is without paternal chastening. The A.V. is better. The idea expressed by the other rendering appears in the next verse.

Verse 8

Of which all are partakers ( ἧς μετοχοι γεγόνασι πάντες )

Rend. “of which all have been made partakers.” For μέτοχοι partakerssee on Hebrews 3:14. All, that is, all sons of God.

Bastards ( νόθοι )

N.T.oSee Wisd. 4:3. They might think that they would not suffer if they were really God's sons; whereas the reverse is the case. If they did not suffer, they would not be God's sons.

Verse 9

Furthermore ( εἷτα )

Everywhere else in N.T. this particle marks a succession of time or incident. See Mark 4:17; Mark 8:25; Luke 8:12; 1 Corinthians 15:5, 1 Corinthians 15:7. Here it introduces a new phase of the subject under discussion.

Fathers of our flesh ( τοὺς μὲν τῆς σαρκὸς ἡμῶν πατέρας )

Up to this point the suffering of Christians has been explained by God's fatherly relation to them. Now the emphatic point is that their fathers, with whom God is compared, were only earthly, human parents. The phrase πατέρας τῆς σαρκὸς N.T.obut kindred expressions are found Romans 4:1, Romans 9:3; Galatians 4:29; Hebrews 2:14.

Which corrected ( παιδευτὰς )

Lit. “we have had fathers of our flesh as chasteners.” Only here and Romans 2:20. In lxx, Hosea href="/desk/?q=ho+5:2&sr=1">Hosea 5:2; 4Macc. 5:34; 9:6.

Shall we not much rather be in subjection ( οὐ πολὺ μάλλον ὑποταγησόμεθα )

The comparison is between the respect paid to a fallible, human parent, which may grow out of the natural relation, or may be due to fear, and the complete subjection to the divine Father.

To the Father of spirits ( τῷ πατρὶ τῶν πνευμάτων )

Contrasted with fathers of the flesh. Their relation to us is limited; his is universal. They are related to us on the fleshly side; he is the creator of our essential life. Our relation to him is on the side of our eternal being. Comp. John 4:23, John 4:24; Zechariah 12:1; Isaiah 57:16. The phrase N.T.oComp. lxx, Numbers 16:22; Numbers 27:16; Revelation 22:6. Clement of Rome styles God the benefactor ( εὐεργέτης ) of spirits, the creator and overseer ( κτίστης, ἐπίσκοπος ) of every spirit, and the Lord ( δεσπότης ) of spirits. Ad Corinth. lix, lxiv.

And live ( καὶ ζήσομεν )

Have true life; not limited to the future life. Comp. John 5:26; John 6:57; 1 John 5:11; Revelation 11:11; Acts 16:28; Romans 6:11; Romans 14:8; 1 John 4:9, and see on living God, Hebrews 3:12.

Verse 10

d Much difficulty and confusion have attached to the interpretation of this verse, growing out of: (a) the relations of the several clauses; (b) the meaning of for a few days, and how much is covered by it. The difficulties have been aggravated by the determination of commentators to treat the verse by itself, confining the relation of its clauses within its own limits, attempting to throw them into pairs, in which attempt none of them have succeeded, and entirely overlooking relations to the preceding verse.

For a few days ( πρὸς ὀλίγας ἡμέρας )

This clause is directly related to be in subjection to the father of spirits and live, and points a contrast. On the one hand, subjection to the Father of spirits, the source of all life, has an eternal significance. Subjection to his fatherly discipline means, not only the everlasting life of the future, but present life, eternal in quality, developed even while the discipline is in progress. Subjection to the Father of spirits and life go together. On the other hand, the discipline of the human father is brief in duration, and its significance is confined to the present life. In other words, the offset to for a few days is in Hebrews 12:9. To read for a few days into the two latter clauses of the verse which describes the heavenly discipline, and to say that both the chastening of the earthly and of the heavenly father are of brief duration, is to introduce abruptly into a sharp contrast between the two disciplines a point of resemblance. The dominant idea in πρὸς is not mere duration, but duration as related to significance: that is to say, “for a few days” means, during just that space of time in which the chastisement had force and meaning. See, for instances, Luke 8:13; John 5:35; 1 Thessalonians 2:17; 2 Corinthians 7:8. The few days can scarcely refer to the whole lifetime, since, even from the ancient point of view of the continuance of parental authority, parental discipline is not applied throughout the lifetime. It signifies rather the brief period of childhood and youth.

After their own pleasure ( κατὰ τὸ δοκοῦν αὐτοῖς )

Better, as seemed good to them. The αὐτοῖς has a slightly emphatic force, as contrasted with a higher intelligence. The thought links itself with παιδευτὰς in Hebrews 12:9, and is explained by as seemed good to them, and is placed in contrast with subjection to the Father of spirits. The human parents were shortsighted, fallible, sometimes moved by passion rather than by sound judgment, and, therefore, often mistaken in their disciplinary methods. What seemed good to them was not always best for us. No such possibility of error attaches to the Father of spirits.

But he for our profit ( ὁ δὲ ἐπὶ τὸ συμφέρον )

The contrast is with what is implied in as seemed good to them. The human parent may not have dealt with us to our profit. Συμφέρειν means to bring together: to collect or contribute in order to help: hence, to help or be profitable. Often impersonally, συμφέρει itis expedient, as Matthew 5:29; Matthew 18:6; John 11:50. The neuter participle, as here, advantage, profit, 1 Corinthians 12:7; 2 Corinthians 12:1. There is a backward reference to live, Hebrews 12:9, the result of subjection to the Father of spirits; and this is expanded and defined in the final clause, namely:

That we might be partakers of his holiness ( εἰς το μεταλαβεῖν τῆς ἁγιότητος αὐτοῦ )

Lit. unto the partaking of his holiness. Ἑις marks the final purpose of chastening. Holiness is life. Shall we not be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For, in contrast with the temporary, faultful chastening of the human parent, which, at best, prepares for work and success in time and in worldly things, his chastening results in holiness and eternal life.

Verse 11

No chastening for the present seemeth ( πᾶσα μὲν παιδεία πρὸς μὲν τὸ παρὸν οὐ δοκεῖ )

Lit. all chastening - doth not seem. Πᾶσα ofall sorts, divine and human. The A.V., by joining οὐ notto πᾶσα alland rendering no chastisement, weakens the emphasis on the idea every kind of chastisement. Πρὸς μὲν τὸ παρὸν forthe present. For the force of πρὸς see on Hebrews 12:10. Not merely during the present, but for the present regarded as the time in which its application is necessary and salutary. Μὲν indicates that the suffering present is to be offset by a fruitful future - but ( δὲ ) afterward.

To be joyous but grievous ( χαρᾶς εἶναι ἀλλὰ λύπης )

Lit. to be of joy but of grief.

It yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness ( καρπὸν εἰρηνικὸν ἀποδίδωσιν δικαιοσύνης )

Perhaps with a suggestion of recompense for the long-suffering and waiting, since ἀποδιδόναι often signifies “to give back.” The phrase ἀποδιδόναι καρπὸν only here and Revelation 22:2. Καρπὸν fruitwith διδόναι togive, Matthew 13:8; Mark 4:8: with ποιεῖν tomake or produce, often in Synoptic Gospels, as Matthew 3:8, Matthew 3:10; Matthew 7:17; Luke 3:8; Luke 6:43, etc.: with φέρειν tobear, always and only in John, John 12:24; John 15:2, John 15:4, John 15:5, John 15:8, John 15:16: with βλαστάνειν tobring forth, James 5:18. Ἑιρηνικός peaceablein N.T. Only here and James 3:17, as an epithet of wisdom. Quite often in lxx of men, the heart, especially of words and sacrifices. The phrase καρπός εἰρηνικός peaceablefruit (omit the ), N.T.oolxx. The phrase fruit of righteousness, Philemon 1:11; James 3:18, and lxx, Proverbs 3:9; Proverbs 11:30; Proverbs 13:2; Amos 6:13: comp. Psalm 1:3; Psalm 57:11. The genitive of righteousness is explicative or appositional; fruit which consists in righteousness or is righteousness.

Unto them which are exercised thereby ( τοῖς δἰ αὐτῆς γεγυμνασμένοις )

Who have been subjected to the severe discipline of suffering, and have patiently undergone it. For the verb see on 1 Timothy 4:7. Rend. “it yieldeth peaceable fruit unto them that have been exercised thereby, even the fruit of righteousness.” This preserves the Greek order, and puts righteousness in its proper, emphatic position.

Verse 12

Wherefore ( διὸ )

Because chastening is thus necessary, and serves for wholesome discipline, and issues in holiness.

Lift up ( ἀνορθώσατε )

Found in Luke 13:13; Acts 15:16(citn). Occasionally in lxx. It signifies to set up, make, erect. In O.T. to establish, as a throne (2 Samuel 7:13, 2 Samuel 7:16); a house (2 Samuel 7:26; 1 Chronicles 17:24); to raise up one who is down (Psalm 145:9; Acts href="/desk/?q=ac+15:16&sr=1">Acts 15:16, to build anew. By medical writers, to straighten; to set dislocated parts of the body. See Luke 13:13. The translation here should be more general: not lift up, which is inappropriate to paralyzed knees, but set right; brace. As falling in with the thought of this passage, comp. the lxx of Psalm href="/desk/?q=ps+19:8&sr=1">Psalm 19:8.

The hands which hang down ( τὰς παρειμένας χεῖρας )

Rend. the slackened or weakened hands. Comp. Isaiah 35:3; 2Samuel href="/desk/?q=2sa+4:1&sr=1">2 Samuel 4:1. The verb παριέναι (only here and Luke 11:42) originally means to let pass, disregard, neglect; thence to relax, loosen. See Clem. Rom. Ad Corinth. xxxiv, who associates it with νωθρὸς slothful(comp. Hebrews 5:11).

And the feeble knees ( καὶ τὰ παραλελυμένα γόνατα )

For feeble rend. palsied. See on Luke 5:18.

Verse 13

Make straight paths for your feet ( τροχιὰς ὀρθὰς ποιεῖτε τοῖς ποσὶν ὑμῶν )

After the lxx of Proverbs 4:26. The corresponding Hebrew means to tear, to cut into: hence to cut through as a path; to make firm or plain. Ὁρθός N.T. Only here and Acts 14:10; commonly straight or upright, but also right, safe, happy. Comp. Proverbs 8:6; Proverbs 15:14; Proverbs 21:8. here, not in the sense of straight as distinguished from crooked, but more generally, right, plain, by implication even or smooth. Τροχιά N.T.ois literally a wheel-track ( τροχός awheel ). Very rare in profane Greek. Τοῖς ποσὶν ὑμῶν for your feet,” not with. That is, exert yourselves to make the course clear for yourselves and your fellow Christians, so that there be no stumbling and laming.

That which is lame ( τὸ χωλὸν )

Χωλός lamehalting, only in Synoptic Gospels and Acts. Mostly in the literal sense. Proverbial in Isaiah 33:23. Metaphorically here, and partly Matthew 18:8; Mark 9:45. The verb χωλαίνειν tobe lame or to make lame (not in N.T.) is used metaphorically in lxx, Psalm 18:45; 1 Kings 18:21, where the A.V. “how long halt ye between two opinions” is ἕως πότε ὐμεῖς χωλανεῖτε ἐπ ' ἀμφοτέραις ταῖς ἰγνύαις howlong do ye go lame on both your hams? Τὸ χωλὸν here signifies the lame part or limb.

Be turned out of the way ( ἐκτραπῇ )

Rend. “be put out of joint.” The A.V. is according to the more usual meaning of the verb, which, in N.T., is confined, with this exception, to the Pastoral Epistles. See 1 Timothy 1:6; 1 Timothy 5:15; 2 Timothy 4:4. lxx only Amos 5:8. But it is also used by medical writers in the passive, with the meaning to be wrenched or dislocated. There is nothing strange in the use of this word in a medical sense by our writer, whose work bears the stamp of Alexandria. The Greeks received their knowledge of surgery from the Egyptians, and mural paintings and documents, and even hieroglyphic symbols, prove that that people had attained remarkable proficiency in the science. Herodotus (ch. iii. 131) mentions a medical school at Cyrene in Africa, and says that the pupils of that school were regarded as the second best physicians in all Greece. At the time of Galen (163 a.d.) the medical school of Alexandria was the most famous in the world, and Galen himself studied there. Celsus (first half of the first century a.d.), in the 7th book of his treatise De Artibius, treats of surgical operations according to the views of the Alexandrian schools. The commonly accepted rendering of the A.V., besides giving a conception which is very tame, presents two incongruities: the association of going astray with lameness, and of healing with straying. The other rendering gives a lively and consistent image. Make the paths smooth and even, so that the lame limb be not dislocated by stones or pitfalls. Do everything to avoid aggravating the weakness of a fellow-Christian. Rather try to heal it. Τὸ χωλὸν may refer either to an individual or to a section of the church which is weak and vacillating.

Verse 14

Follow peace ( εἰρήνην διώκετε )

Comp. lxx, Romans href="/desk/?q=ro+14:19&sr=1">Romans 14:19; 1 Peter 3:11. The verb is used of the pursuit of moral and spiritual ends, Romans 9:30, Romans 9:31; Romans 12:13; 1 Corinthians 14:1; Philemon 3:12, Philemon 3:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22.

Holiness ( ἁγιασμόν )

See on Romans 6:19.

Verse 15

Looking diligently ( ἐπισκοποῦντες )

A.V. gives diligently as the force of ἐπὶ ; but ἐπὶ signifies direction rather than intensity. The idea is exercising oversight. Only here and 1 Peter 5:2.

Fail of ( ὑστερῶν ἀπὸ )

Rend. “fall back from,” implying a previous attainment. The present participle marks something in progress: “lest any one be falling back.”

Root of bitterness ( ῥίζα πικρίας )

From lxx, Deuteronomy 29:18. A bad man in the church. Ῥίζα ofa person, Luke href="/desk/?q=lu+6:18&sr=1">Luke 6:18, see note.

Many be defiled ( μιανθῶσιν οἱ πολλοί )

Rend. “the many”: the majority of the church. For the verb see on John 18:28.

Verse 16

Fornicator ( πόρνος )

In the literal sense, as always in N.T.

Profane person ( βέβηλος )

See on 1 Timothy 1:9.

As Esau

Only the epithet profane is applied to Esau, not fornicator.

For one morsel of meat ( ἀντὶ βρώσεως μιᾶς )

Βρῶσις , lit. the act of eating, as 1 Corinthians 8:4, Romans 14:17: “one eating of meat.” Sometimes corrosion, as Matthew 6:19. Sometimes of that which is eaten, John 6:27, John 6:55.

Sold ( ἀπέδετο )

The word occurs in the narrative of Genesis 25:31, Genesis 25:33, lxx. In N.T. often of discharging an obligation; paying back. To sell, Acts 5:8; Acts 7:9.

His birthright ( τὰ πρωτοτοκία )

N.T.ooClass. In this form only in the later Greek translations of the O.T. Πρωτοτοκεῖον , a very few times, almost all in this narrative.

Verse 17

He found no place of repentance ( μετανοίας γὰρ τόπον οὐχ εὗρεν )

The phrase place of repentance N.T.oThis does not mean that Esau was rendered incapable of repentance, which is clearly contradicted by what follows; nor that he was not able to persuade Isaac to change his mind and to recall the blessing already bestowed on Jacob and give it to him. This is unnatural, forced, and highly improbable. The words place of repentance mean an opportunity to repair by repenting. He found no way to reverse by repentance what he had done. The penalty could not be reversed in the nature of the case. This is clear from Isaac's words, Genesis 27:33.

Sought it carefully ( ἐκζητήσας )

See on 1 Peter 1:10. Comp. Hebrews 11:6. See also on questionings, 1 Timothy 1:4.

Verse 18

d Following this allusion to Esau, and perhaps suggested by it, is a passage setting forth the privileges of the Christian birthright and of Christian citizenship in contrast with those under the old covenant.

The mount that might be touched and that burned with fire ( ψηλαφωμένῳ καὶ κεκαυμένῳ πυρὶ )

Ὄρει mountis omitted by the best texts, but should be understood. Ψηλαφᾶν is rare in N.T. and lxx; fairly frequent in Class. Radically, it is akin to ψᾶν , to rub, wipe; hence feeling on the surface, as Genesis 27:12, Genesis 27:21, Genesis 27:22, lxx: a touch which communicates only a superficial effect. It need not imply contact with an object at all, but simply the movement of the hands feeling after something. Hence often of the groping of the blind, as Deuteronomy 28:29; Isaiah 59:10; Job 5:14. Appropriate here as indicating mere superficial contact. The present participle that is being touched, means simply that the mountain was something material and tangible. The A.V. which might be touched, although not literally correct, conveys the true sense.

That burned with fire ( κεκαυμένῳ πυρὶ )

See Exodus 19:18; Deuteronomy 4:11; Deuteronomy 5:4; Deuteronomy 9:15. The participle is passive, set on fire; kindled with fire: not attributive of πυρὶ , enkindled fire.

Blackness, darkness, tempest ( γνόφῳ, ζόφῳ, θυέλλῃ )

Γνόφος (N.T.o) and ζόφος (elsewhere only 2Peter and Jude) belong to the same family. As distinguished from σκότος darknessthat conceals, as opposed to light, these words signify half-darkness, gloom, nebulousness; as the darkness of evening or the gathering gloom of death. It is a darkness which does not entirely conceal color. Thus δνόφος , the earlier and poetic form of γνόφος , is used by Homer of water which appears dark against the underlying rock, or is tinged by mire. Γνόφος and σκότος appear together, Exodus 10:22; Exodus 14:20; Deuteronomy 4:11; Deuteronomy 5:22. Γνόφος alone, Exodus 20:21. Ζόφος only in the later version of Symmachus. See on John 1:5. Θύελλα N.T.ofrom θύειν toboil or foam. It is a brief, violent, sudden, destructive blast, sometimes working upward and carrying objects into the upper air; hence found with ἀείρειν tolift and ἀναρπάζειν tosnatch up (see Hom. Od. xx. 63). It may also come from above and dash down to the ground (Hom. Il. xii. 253). Sometimes it indicates the mere force of the wind, as ἀνέμοιο θύελλα (Hom. Od. xii. 409; Il. vi. 346).

Verse 19

Sound of a trumpet ( σάλπιγγος ἤχῳ )

See Exodus 19:16, Exodus 19:19; Exodus 20:18. Ηχος a noise, almost entirely in Luke and Acts. See Luke 4:37; Acts 2:2; comp. lxx, 1 Samuel 14:19. Of the roar of the waves, Luke 21:25; comp. lxx, 76:17. A rumor or report, see on Luke href="/desk/?q=lu+4:37&sr=1">Luke 4:37, and comp. lxx, 1 Samuel 4:16; Psalm 9:6. It does not occur in the O.T. narrative of the giving of the law, where we have φωνή voicesee lxx, Exodus 19:13, Exodus 19:16, Exodus 19:19; Exodus 20:18. For φωνή σάλπιγγος voiceof a trumpet in N.T., see Revelation 1:10; Revelation 4:1; Revelation 8:13. Σάλπιγξ is a war-trumpet.

Voice of words ( φωνῇ ῥημάτων )

See Exodus 19:19; Deuteronomy 4:12; Deuteronomy 5:22, Deuteronomy 5:24, Deuteronomy 5:26.

Entreated ( παρῃτήσαντο )

See on 1 Timothy 4:7.

Be spoken to them any more ( προστεθῆναι αὐτοῖς )

Lit. be added. See on Luke 3:19; see on Luke 20:11; see on Acts 12:3. To them refers to the hearers, not to the things heard. Rend. “that no word more should be spoken unto them.” Comp. Exodus 20:19; Deuteronomy 5:25; Deuteronomy 18:16.

Verse 20

That which was commanded ( τὸ διαστελλόμενον )

See on Mark 7:36; see on Acts 15:24.

Touch ( θίγῃ )

Elsewhere in N.T. only Hebrews 11:28and Colossians 2:21. lxx only Exodus 19:12. It implies a touching or grasping which affects the object (comp. Hebrews 12:18on ψηλαφᾶν ). In Class. often of touching or handling some sacred object which may be desecrated by the one who lays hands on it. See Soph. Philoct. 667; Oed. Tyr. 891,899. So here, the touch of the mountain was profanation.

Shall be stoned ( λιθοβολήσεται )

Found in Matthew, Luke, and Acts. In lxx see Exodus 19:13. Comp. ἐλιθάσθησαν , Hebrews 11:37. The correct text omits or thrust through with a dart.

Verse 21

The sight ( τὸ φανταζόμενον )

N.T.olxx, Wisd. 6:16; Mark href="/desk/?q=mr+9:6&sr=1">Mark 9:6. Comp. lxx, Deuteronomy 9:19. Ἔντρομος , only Acts 7:32; Acts 16:29. Rare in lxx.

Verse 21

The sight ( τὸ φανταζόμενον )

N.T.olxx, Wisd. 6:16; Mark href="/desk/?q=mr+9:6&sr=1">Mark 9:6. Comp. lxx, Deuteronomy 9:19. Ἔντρομος , only Acts 7:32; Acts 16:29. Rare in lxx.

Verse 22

The heavenly Jerusalem

See on Galatians 4:26. The spiritual mountain and city where God dwells and reigns. Comp. Dante Inf. i. 128:

“Quivi e la sua cittade, e l'alto seggio.”

Comp. Psalm 2:6; Psalm 48:2, Psalm 48:3; Psalm 50:2; Psalm 78:68; Psalm 110:2; Isaiah 18:7; Joel 2:32; Micah 4:1, Micah 4:2; Amos 1:2.

To an innumerable company of angels ( μυριάσιν ἀγγέλων )

On this whole passage (Hebrews 12:22-24) it is to be observed that it is arranged in a series of clauses connected by καὶ . Accordingly μυριάσιν tomyriads or tens of thousands stands by itself, and πανηγύρει festalassembly goes with ἀγγέλων angels Μυριάς (see Luke 12:1; Acts 19:19; Revelation 5:11; quite often in lxx) is strictly the number ten thousand. In the plural, an innumerable multitude. So A.V. here. Rend. “to an innumerable multitude,” placing a comma after μυριάσιν , and connecting of angels with the next clause. This use of μυριάσιν without a qualifying genitive is justified by numerous examples. See Genesis 24:60; Deuteronomy 32:30; Deuteronomy 33:2; 1 Samuel 18:7, 1 Samuel 18:8; Psalm 90:7; Song of Solomon 5:10; Daniel 7:10; Daniel 11:12; 2 Maccabees 8:20; Judges href="/desk/?q=jud+1:14&sr=1">Judges 1:14. Χιλιάδες thousandsis used in the same way. See Daniel href="/desk/?q=da+7:10&sr=1">Daniel 7:10.

Verse 23

To the general assembly ( πανηγύρει )

Const. with ἀγγέλων ofangels, with comma after angels. Rend. “to a festal assembly of angels.” This and the next clause show what the myriads consist of, - a host of angels and redeemed men. Πανήγυρις , N.T.ois a gathering to celebrate a solemnity, as public games, etc.: a public, festal assembly. Frequently joined with ἑορτή feast. See Ezekiel 47:11; Hosea 2:11; Hosea 9:5. The verb πανηγυρίζειν tocelebrate or attend a public festival, to keep holiday, occurs occasionally in Class.: not in N.T.: lxx once, Isaiah 66:10. The festal assembly of angels maintains the contrast between the old and the new dispensation. The host of angels through whose ministration the law was given (see on Hebrews 2:2, and see on Galatians 3:19) officiated at a scene of terror. Christian believers are now introduced to a festal host, surrounding the exalted Son of man, who has purged away sins, and is enthroned at God's right hand (Hebrews 1:3).

And church of the first-born which are written in heaven ( καὶ ἐκκλησίᾳ πρωτοτόκων ἀπογεγραμμένων ἐν οὐρανοῖς )

This forms a distinct clause; “and to the church,” etc. For ἐκκλησία assemblyor church, see on Matthew 16:18; see on 1 Thessalonians 1:1. The “myriads” embrace not only angels, but redeemed men, enrolled as citizens of the heavenly commonwealth, and entitled to the rights and privileges of first-born sons. Πρωτότοκος first-bornis applied mostly to Christ in N.T. See Romans 8:29; Colossians 1:15, Colossians 1:18; Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 1:5. Comp. Hebrews 11:28, and Luke 2:7. Properly applied to Christians by virtue of their union with Christ, “the first-born of all creation,” “the first-born from the dead,” as sharing his sonship and heirship. See Romans 8:14-17, Romans 8:29. The word also points to Christians as the true Israel of God. The analogy is suggested with the first-born of Israel, to whom peculiar sanctity attached, and whose consecration to himself God enjoined (Exodus 13:1, Exodus 13:11-16); and with the further application of the term first-born to Israel as a people, Exodus 4:22. The way was thus prepared for its application to the Messiah. There seems, moreover, to be a clear reference to the case of Esau (Hebrews 12:16). Esau was the first-born of the twin sons of Isaac (Genesis 25:25). He sold his birthright ( πρωτοτοκία ), and thus forfeited the privilege of the first-born. The assembly to which Christian believers are introduced is composed of those who have not thus parted with their birthright, but have retained the privileges of the first-born. The phrase “church of the first-born” includes all who have possessed and retained their heavenly birthright, living or dead, of both dispensations: the whole Israel of God, although it is quite likely that the Christian church may have been most prominent in the writer's thought.

Which are written in heaven ( ἀπογεγραμμένων ἐν οὐρανοῖς )

Ἁπογράφειν , only here and Luke 2:1, Luke 2:3, Luke 2:5, means to write off or copy; to enter in a register the names, property, and income of men. Hence, ἀπογραφή anenrollment. See on Luke 2:1, Luke 2:2. Here, inscribed as members of the heavenly commonwealth; citizens of heaven; Philemon 4:3; Revelation 3:5; Revelation 13:8, etc. See for the image, Exodus 32:32; Psalm 69:28; Isaiah 4:3; Daniel 12:1; Luke 10:20.

To God the judge of all ( κριτῇ θεῷ πάντων )

Rend. “a judge who is God of all.” Comp. Daniel 7:9ff. God of all his first-born, of those whom he chastens, of all who are in filial relations with him under both covenants, and who, therefore, need not fear to draw near to him as judge.

Spirits of just men made perfect ( πνεύμασι δικαίων )

The departed spirits of the righteous of both dispensations, who have completed their course after having undergone their earthly discipline. Notice again the idea of τελείωσις , not attained under the old covenant, but only through the work of Christ, the benefits of which the disembodied saints of the O.T. share with departed Christian believers. Comp. Hebrews 11:40.

Verse 24

The mediator of the new covenant ( διαθήκης νέας μεσίτῃ )

See Hebrews 7:22; Hebrews 8:6, Hebrews 8:8, Hebrews 8:9, Hebrews 8:10; Hebrews 9:15. For covenant, see on Hebrews 9:6ff. For the new covenant, rend. a new covenant. Νέα newonly here applied to the covenant in N.T. The word elsewhere is καινή . For the distinction, see on Matthew 26:29. It is better not to press the distinction, since νεός , in certain cases, clearly has the sense of quality rather than of time, as 1 Corinthians 5:7; Colossians 3:10, and probably here, where to confine the sense to recent would seem to limit it unduly. In the light of all that the writer has said respecting the better quality of the Christian covenant, superseding the old, outworn, insufficient covenant, he may naturally be supposed to have had in mind something besides its mere recentness. Moreover, all through the contrast from Hebrews 12:18, the thought of earlier and later is not once touched, but only that of inferior and better; repellency and invitation; terrors and delights; fear and confidence. Note that the privilege of approaching the Mediator in person is emphasized.

Blood of sprinkling ( αἵματι ῥαντισμοῦ )

Ῥαντισμός sprinklingonly here and 1 Peter 1:2, see note. The phrase blood of sprinkling N.T.oolxx, where we find ὕδωρ ῥαντισμοῦ waterof sprinkling, Numbers 19:9, Numbers 19:13, Numbers 19:20, Numbers 19:21. For the verb ῥαντίζειν tosprinkle, see on Hebrews 9:13. The mention of blood naturally follows that of a covenant, since no covenant is ratified without blood (Hebrews 9:16). The phrase is sufficiently explained by Hebrews 9:16-22.

Speaketh better things ( κρεῖττον λαλοῦντι )

For “better things” rend. “better.” The blood is personified, and its voice is contrasted with that of Abel, whose blood cried from the ground for vengeance upon his murderer (Genesis 4:10). The voice of Christ's blood calls for mercy and forgiveness.

Than that of Abel ( παρὰ τὸν Ἄβελ )

Rend. “than Abel.” Comp. Hebrews 11:4, where Abel himself speaks.

Verse 25

See - refuse ( βλέπετε - παραιτήσησθε )

For βλέπετε seesee on Hebrews 3:12. For παραιτήσησθε refusesee on 1 Timothy 4:7.

Him that speaketh ( τὸν λαλοῦντα )

Through his blood. Rend. “that is speaking,” the participle denoting something that is going on.

They ( ἐκεῖνοι )

The people of the Exodus. See Hebrews 4:2. The words from for if they to the end of the verse are parenthetical.

That spake on earth ( ἐπὶ γῆς τὸν χρηματίζοντα )

For spake rend. warned, and see on Hebrews 8:5. Ἑπὶ uponearth should not be construed with refused nor warned, but with the whole clause. “If on earth they escaped not, refusing him that warned.”

If we turn away ( ἀποστρεφομενοι )

Lit. turning away. The present participle, possibly with reference to the relapse into Judaism as already in progress.

From him that speaketh from heaven ( τὸν ἀπ ' οὐρανῶν )

Lit. from him from the heavens. Supply as A.V. that speaketh Ὁ ἀπ ' οὐρανοῦ or οὐρανῶν does not occur in N.T. elsewhere. Wherever ἀπ ' οὐρ . appears, some act or thing is always named which proceeds from heaven. See Matthew 24:29; Mark 8:11; Luke 9:54; Luke 17:29; Luke 21:11; Luke 22:43; John 6:38; 1 Thessalonians 1:7. The speaker from heaven is still God, but speaking through his Son. The thought connects itself with that of Christ carrying his blood into the heavenly sanctuary, from which he exerts his power on behalf of men. See Hebrews 9:12, Hebrews 9:24. This will be the clearer if we throw out the idea of Christ presenting his blood to an angry God as a propitiation, and interceding with him to pardon sin. See note on Hebrews 7:26.

Verse 26

Whose voice ( οὗ ἡ φωνὴ )

Connect, after the parenthesis, with speaketh better, etc., Hebrews 12:24.

Shook ( ἐσάλευσεν )

See on Luke 21:26, and comp. σάλος tossingor swell of the sea, Luke 21:25. See Judges 5:4; Psalm 113:7.

He hath promised ( ἐπήγγελται )

See Haggai 2:6. The quotation is adapted from lxx, which reads: “Yet once will I shake the heaven and the earth and the sea and the dry land.” The Hebrew for “yet once” reads “yet a little while.” In Haggai's prophecy, he comforts the people for their sorrow that the second temple is so inferior to the first, predicting that Jehovah will move heaven and earth and sea and land, and will fill the house with his glory; and the glory of the latter house shall exceed that of the former. The discipline begun on Sinai will then have its consummation. This shaking of heaven and earth was typified by the material shaking at Sinai. The shaking predicted by the prophet is applied by our writer to the downfall of worldly powers before the kingdom of Christ, Hebrews 12:28; comp Hebrews 1:8, and see Zechariah 14.

Verse 27

This word “yet once more” ( τὸ δέ Ἔτι ἅπαξ )

Attention is called to this phrase as specially significant, because it indicates that the shaking prophesied by Haggai is to be final. It is to precede the new heaven and the new earth. Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1.

Signifieth ( δηλοῖ )

From δῆλος manifestevident. To make manifest to the mind. Used of indications which lead the mind to conclusions about the origin or character of things. See Thucyd. i. 3; Aesch. Pers. 518. Comp. 1 Corinthians 3:13; Hebrews 9:8; 1 Peter 1:11. Appropriate to prophetic revelations.

The removing ( τὴν μετάθεσιν )

See on Hebrews 7:12. For the thought comp. 1 John 2:17; 1 Corinthians 7:31.

As of things that are made ( ὡς πεποιημένων )

Made indeed by God, who also makes the new heaven and the new earth (Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22), but made to pass away.

That the things which cannot be shaken may remain ( ἵνα μείνῃ τὰ μὴ σαλευόμενα )

Whether we consider the things which are shaken, the old heavens and earth which pass away, or the new heaven and earth which cannot be shaken, both are πεποιημένα madeby God. The writer perceives this, and therefore adds to as of things that are made a clause stating that they were made (by God himself) to pass away. Accordingly, ἵνα inorder that is to be connected with πεποιημένων , after which the comma should be removed. Rend. “the removal of things made in order that they might await the things which are not shaken.” Μένειν is used in this sense, await, Acts 20:5, Acts 20:23, and often in Class.

Verse 28

Receiving a kingdom ( βασιλείαν παραλαμβάνοντες )

The participle gives no note of time, but simply indicates the fact that Christians as such receive. The compounded preposition παρὰ adds to the idea of receiving that of transmission or communication. They receive from God. See Daniel 7:18. Βασιλεία in the sense of the kingdom of Christ, in this epistle only here and Hebrews 1:8(citn.). See on Matthew 3:2; see on Luke 6:20.

Let us have grace ( ἔχωμεν χάριν )

For grace rend. thankfulness. See Luke 17:9; 1 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 1:3. Comp. Psalm 50:23.

Acceptably ( εὐαρέστως )

N.T.oolxx. Ἑυαρεστεῖν tobe well pleasing, Hebrews 11:5, Hebrews 11:6; Hebrews 13:16. For the adjective εὐάρεστος well-pleasingsee on Titus 2:9.

With reverence ( μετὰ εὐλαβίας )

Rend. “with pious care.” Reverence is translated from T. R. αἰδοῦς (see on 1 Timothy 2:9). See on Hebrews 5:7; see on Hebrews 11:7.

Fear ( δέους )

N.T.oSee 12:22; 13:16; 15:23. Its fundamental idea is timid apprehension of danger; while φόβος is the terror which seizes one when the danger appears. Schmidt (Synon. 139,10) illustrates happily. In a primitive forest an undefined sense of possible danger possesses one, and makes his heart beat quickly at every rustle of a leaf. This is δέος . When the voice and tread of a wild beast are distinctly heard close at hand, the δέος becomes φόβος . The phrase “with pious care and fear” is not explanatory of acceptably. These are to accompany ( μετὰ ) acceptable service. They do not imply a cringing or slavish feeling, but grow out of the warning in Hebrews href="/desk/?q=heb+12:25&sr=1">Hebrews 12:25, which runs through the two following verses, and implies that the catastrophe of Hebrews 12:27will be final, leaving no more opportunity to retrieve the refusal of God's invitation to the privileges of the new covenant, or the relapse into the superseded economy of Judaism.

Verse 29

For our God is a consuming fire ( καὶ γὰρ ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν πῦρ καταναλίσκον )

See Exodus 24:17; Deuteronomy 4:24; Deuteronomy 9:3; Malachi 3:2; Malachi 4:1. The verb N.T.oa few times in lxx. Often in Class., especially Xenophon. Originally to use up, spend, lavish, as property: thence to consume as with fire. The simple verb ἀναλίσκειν toexpend occurs Luke 9:54; Galatians 5:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:8. Ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν is not our God as compared with the God of the Jews. He is the God of both covenants (see Hebrews 1:1, Hebrews 1:2, and notes); but though now revealed in Jesus Christ, and offering all the privileges of the new covenant (Hebrews 12:22-24), his anger burns against those who reject these privileges.


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Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Hebrews 12:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

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