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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies
Hebrews 2



Verse 1

Therefore ( διὰ τοῦτο )

Because you have received a revelation superior to that of the old dispensation, and given to you through one who is superior to the angels.

To give the more earnest heed ( περισσοτέρως προσέξειν )

Lit. to give heed more abundantly. Προσέχειν togive heed, lit. to hold (the mind ) to. oP. The full phrase in Job 7:17. Mostly in Luke, Acts, and the Pastorals. See on 1 Timothy 1:4. Περισσοτέρως moreabundantly, in Hebrews only here and Hebrews 13:19; elsewhere only in Paul.

To the things which we have heard ( τοῖς ἀκουσθεῖσιν )

Lit. to the things which were heard, that is, from the messengers of the gospel. Comp. the phrase ὁ λόγος τῆς ἀκοῆς theword of hearing, Hebrews 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:13. Ἐυαγγέλιον gospeldoes not occur in the Epistle, and εὐαγγελίζεσθαι toproclaim good tidings, only twice.

We should let them slip ( παραρυῶμεν )

Rend. should drift past them. N.T.oFrom παρὰ byand ῥεῖν toflow. Of the snow slipping off from the soldiers' bodies, Xen. Anab. iv. 4,11: of a ring slipping from the finger, Plut. Amat. 754: see also lxx, Proverbs 3:21, and Symmachus's rendering of Proverbs 4:21, “let not my words flow past ( παραρρυησάτωσαν ) before thine eyes.” The idea is in sharp contrast with giving earnest heed. Lapse from truth and goodness is more often the result of inattention than of design. Drifting is a mark of death: giving heed, of life. The log drifts with the tide: the ship breasts the adverse waves, because some one is giving earnest heed.

Verse 2

The word spoken by angels ( ὁ δι ἀγγέλλων λαληθεὶς λόγος )

The Mosaic legislation which was conveyed through the mediation of angels. Comp. Deuteronomy 33:2; Acts 7:38, Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19, on which see note. The agency of angels indicates the limitations of the legal dispensation; its character as a dispensation of the flesh. Hence its importance in this discussion. The abolition of the old limitations is the emancipation of man from subordination to the angels. The O.T. is made to furnish proof that such subordination is inconsistent with man's ultimate destiny to sovereignty over all creation.

Was steadfast ( ἐγένετο βέβαιος )

Rend. proved sure: realized itself in the event as securely founded in the divine holiness, and eternal in its principles and obligations. Comp. Matthew 5:18.

Transgression and disobedience ( παράβασις καὶ παρακοὴ )

Παράβασις is a stepping over the line; the violation of a positive divine enactment. See on Romans 2:23. Παρακοὴ only in Paul and Hebrews, is a disobedience which results from neglecting to hear; from letting things drift by. It is noticeable how often in O.T. obedience is described as hearing, and disobedience as refusing to hear. See Exodus 15:26; Exodus 19:5, Exodus 19:8; Exodus 23:22; Joshua 1:18; Isaiah 28:12; Isaiah 30:9; Jeremiah 11:10; Jeremiah 32:23; Jeremiah 35:16. Comp. Acts 7:57.

A just recompense of reward ( ἔνδικον μισθατοδοσίαν )

Ἔνδικος justonly here and Romans 3:8. olxx, quite frequent in Class., but mainly in poetry. The meaning is substantially the same as δίκαιος as it appears in the familiar phrase δίκαιός εἰμι with the infinitive: thus, δίκαιός εἰμι κολάζειν Iam right to punish, that is, I have a right, etc., right or justice being regarded as working within a definite circle. Μισθαποδοσία recompenseonly in Hebrews. Comp. Hebrews 10:35; Hebrews 11:26. olxx, oClass., where the word is, μισθοδοσία . From μισθός wagesand ἀποδιδόναι topay off or discharge. The reference is, primarily, to the punishments suffered by the Israelites in the wilderness. Comp. Hebrews 3:16; Hebrews 10:28; 1 Corinthians 10:5, 1 Corinthians 10:6.

Verse 3

How shall we escape ( πῶς ἡμεῖς ἐκφευξόμεθα )

The rhetorical question expressing denial. We is emphatic. We, to whom God has spoken by his Son, and who, therefore, have so much the more reason for giving heed. Ἐκφευξόμεθα lit. flee out from. The English escape conveys the same idea, but contains a picture which is not in the Greek word, namely, to slip out of one's cape, ex cappa and so get away. Comp. French In Italian we have scappare “to escape,” and also incappare “to fall into a snare,” and incappuciare “to wrap up in a hood or cape; to mask.”

If we neglect ( ἀμελήσαντες )

Lit. having neglected. Rare in N.T., oP. Comp. Matthew 22:5; 1 Timothy 4:14. The thought falls in with drift past, Hebrews 2:1.

Salvation ( σωτηρίαν )

Characterizing the new dispensation, as the word (Hebrews 2:2) characterizes the old. Not the teaching or word of salvation, but the salvation itself which is the gift of the gospel, to be obtained by purification from sin through the agency of the Son (Hebrews 1:3).

Which ( ἥτις )

Explanatory. A salvation which may be described as one which was first spoken by the Lord, etc.

At the first began to be spoken ( ἀρχὴν λαβοῦσα )

Lit. having taken beginning to be spoken. Rend. which, having at the first been spoken. The phrase N.T.oBy the Lord ( διὰ τοῦ κυρίου )

Const. with ἀρχὴν λαβοῦσα , not with λαλεῖσθαι . It is the beginning, not the speaking which is emphasized.

Was confirmed ( ἐβεβαιώθη )

It was sure ( βέβαιος ) even as was the word spoken by angels (Hebrews 2:2), and it was confirmed, proved to be real, by the testimony of ear-witnesses.

By them that heard ( ὑπὸ τῶν ἀκουσάντων )

We heard it (Hebrews 2:1) from those who heard, the immediate followers of the Lord. The writer thus puts himself in the second generation of Christians. They are not said to have heard the gospel directly from the Lord. Paul, on the other hand, claims that he received the gospel directly from Christ (Galatians 1:11).

Verse 4

God also bearing them witness ( συνεπιμαρτυροῦντος τοῦ θεοῦ )

The verb N.T.o σύν alongwith other witnesses: ἐπὶ giving additional testimony: μαρτυρεῖν tobear witness.

With signs and wonders ( σημείοις τε καὶ τέρασιν )

A very common combination in N.T. See Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22; John 4:48; Acts 2:43; 2 Corinthians 12:11, etc. See on Matthew 24:24.

Divers miracles ( ποικίλαις δυνάμεσιν )

Rend. powers. No doubt these include miracles, see Acts 2:22; 2 Corinthians 12:12; but powers signifies, not the miraculous manifestations, as signs and wonders, but the miraculous energies of God as displayed in his various forms of witness.

Gifts ( μερισμοῖς )

Rend. distributions or impartations.

Of the Holy Ghost

The genitive is objective: distributions of the one gift of the Holy Spirit in different measure and in different ways. Comp. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.

According to his will ( κατὰ τὴν αὐτοῦ θέλησιν )

Θέλησις willing:his act of will. N.T.oConst. with distributions. The Spirit was imparted and distributed as God willed. The hortatory digression ends here. The subject of the Son's superiority to the angels is resumed.

Verse 5

d The writer's object is to show that the salvation, the new order of things inaugurated by Christ, is in pursuance of the original purpose of creation, to wit, that universal dominion was to pertain to man, and not to angels. The great salvation means lordship of the world to be. This purpose is carried out in Christ, who, in becoming man, became temporarily subject to the earthly dispensation of which angels were the administrators. This was in order that he might acquire universal lordship as man. Being now exalted above angels, he does away with the angelic administration, and, in the world to come, will carry humanity with him to the position of universal lordship. This thought is developed by means of Psalm 8:1-9. Having set Christ above the angels, the writer must reconcile that claim with the historical fact of Christ's humiliation in his incarnate state. The Psalm presents a paradox in the antithesis of lower than the angels and all things under his feet. From the Psalm is drawn the statement of a temporary subordination of Christ to angels, followed by his permanent exaltation over them.

Hath - put in subjection ( ὑπέταξεν )

The word suggests an economy; not merely subjecting the angels, but arranging or marshaling them under a new order. See 1 Corinthians 15:27, 1 Corinthians 15:28; Ephesians 1:22; Philemon 3:21.

The world to come ( τὴν οἰκουμένην τὴν μέλλουσαν )

See on Hebrews 1:2. For ἡ οἰκουμένη theinhabited (land or country ) see on Luke 2:1. The world to come means the new order of things inaugurated by the sacrifice of Christ.

Verse 6

In a certain place ( πού )

Only here and Hebrews 4:4, signifying indefinite quotation. It does not mean that the writer is ignorant of the author or of the place, but assumes that the readers know it, and that it is a matter of no moment who said it or where it is written.

Testified ( διεμαρτυράτο )

Mostly in Luke and Acts. Only here in Hebrews. In Paul only in 1st Thessalonians. See on 1 Thessalonians 2:12. It implies a solemn, earnest testimony.

What is man

The Hebrew interrogation, מָה, what, what kind of, implies “how small or insignificant ” compared with the array of the heavenly bodies; not “how great is man.”

The son of man

Hebrew son of Adam, with a reference to his earthly nature as formed out of the dust. Very often in Ezekiel as a form of address to the prophet, lxx, υἱὲ ἀνθρώπου sonof man. The direct reference of these words cannot be to the Messiah, yet one is reminded that the Son of man was Christ's own title for himself.

Visitest ( ἐπισκέπτῃ )

The primary sense of the verb is to look upon; hence, to look after or inspect; to visit in order to inspect or help. Similarly the Latin visere means both to look at and to visit. An ἐπίσκοπος is an overlooker, and ἐπισκοπὴ is visitation. The verb only here in Hebrews, oP., very often in lxx. See on Matthew 25:36. Here in the sense of graciously and helpfully regarding; caring for.

Thou madest him a little lower than the angels ( ἠλάττωσας )

Rend. thou didst for some little time make him lower than the angels. Ἐλαττοῦν to make less or inferior, only here, Hebrews 2:9, and John 3:30. Often in lxx (principally Sirach). Βραχύ τι , the Hebrew as A.V. a little; of degree. The lxx translators interpreted it, apparently, of time, “for some little time.” Although there is precedent for both meanings in both Class. and N.T., the idea of time better suits the whole line of thought, and would probably, as Robertson Smith observes, have appeared to a Greek reader the more natural interpretation. For this sense see Isaiah 57:17; Acts 5:34. He who has been described as superior to the angels, was, for a short time, on the same plane with man, and identified with an economy which was under the administration of angels. This temporary subordination to angels was followed by permanent elevation over them. Παρ ' ἀγγέλους . The Hebrew is מֵאֱלֹהִים, than God. Elohim is used in a wide sense in O.T.: see, for instance, Psalm 82:6, where God addresses the judges by that titles and declares that he himself called them to their office and gave them their name and dignity. Comp. John 10:34and Psalm 29:1, lxx υἱοὶ θεοῦ sonsof God, A.V. mighty. The lxx translators understand it, not as representing the personal God, but that which is divine, in which sense it would be appropriate to angels as having divine qualities.

Verse 8

For ( γὰρ )

Explanatory. Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet, that is to say, nothing is excepted.

That is not put under him ( αὐτῷ ἀνυπότακτον )

Lit. “unsubjected to him.” The adjective only here and 1 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:6. But this ideal is not yet a reality. We see not yet all things subjected to him, but we do see the germinal fulfillment of the prophecy in Jesus' life, suffering, and death.

Verse 9

Jesus - made a little lower, etc.

Repeated from Hebrews 2:7. To be subordinated to the angels is the same as being “made under the law,” Galatians 4:4. In that chapter Paul shows that the law under which the church in its state of pupilage was kept (Galatians 3:23; Galatians 4:3) was instituted through the mediation of angels (Galatians 3:19). Then, as interchangeable with under the law, Paul has “enslaved under the elements ( ὑπὸ τὰ στοιχεῖα ) of the world” (Galatians 4:3, Galatians 4:9). These elements are elemental forces or spirits, as appears from a correct interpretation of Colossians 2:8, Colossians 2:20. The subjection to elemental spirits is only another form of subjection to the angels of the law, and our author uses this doctrine to show the mutable nature of angels in contrast with the immutable perfection of the Son (see Hebrews 1:7, Hebrews 1:8). This accords with the Epistle to the Colossians which deals with the heresy of angel-worship, and in which the worship of angels is represented as connected with the service of elemental or cosmic forces. Very striking is Colossians 2:15. When the bond of the law was rendered void in Christ's crucifixion, that ministry of angels which waited on the giving of the law was set aside by God ( ἀπεκδύσαμενος ) having stripped off, revealing Christ as the head of every principality and power. God made a show or display of them ( ἐδειγμάτισεν ) as subordinate and subject to Christ. He thus boldly ( ἐν παρρησίᾳ ), by a bold stroke, put his own chosen ministers in subjection before the eyes of the world. See on Colossians 2:15. The use of the human name, Jesus, at this point, is significant. In this epistle that name usually furnishes the key to the argument of the passage in which it occurs. See Hebrews 3:1; Hebrews 6:20; Hebrews 12:2.

For the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor ( διὰ τὸ πάθημα τοῦ θανάτου δόξῃ καὶ τιμῇ ἐστεφανωμένον )

The usual interpretation connects for the suffering of death with made lower than the angels, meaning that Jesus was subordinated to the angels for the suffering of death. But for the suffering of death should be connected with crowned, etc. Δια should be rendered because of. Jesus was crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death. Christ's exaltation and preeminence over the angels was won through humiliation and death. For crowned, see on 2 Timothy 2:5. Exaltation was the logical result of Christ's humiliation (comp. Philemon 2:9), not simply its recompense (comp. Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11; Luke 18:14). He was glorified in humiliation. “The humiliation is only the glory not yet begun.”

By the grace of God ( χάριτι θεοῦ )

God manifested his grace in giving Christ the opportunity of tasting death for every man, and so abolishing death as a curse. The same thought of glory in humiliation is expressed in John 1:14. To be called to the office of “apostle and high-priest of our confession” (Hebrews 3:1), an office which involved personal humiliation and death, was to be “crowned with glory and honor,” and was a signal token of God's favor. Note John 12:23, John 12:28; John 13:31, John 13:32, in which Jesus speaks of his approaching passion as itself his glorification. Comp. Hebrews 3:3. It was desirable to show to Jews who were tempted to stumble at the doctrine of a crucified Messiah (Galatians 3:13), that there was a glory in humiliation.

Should taste death ( γεύσηται θανάτου )

The phrase is found several times in the Gospels, as Matthew 16:28; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27; John 8:52. See on Luke 9:27; see on John 8:52.

The following statement justifies the bold assertion of Hebrews 2:9. With a view to the recoil of Jewish readers from the thought of a suffering Messiah (1 Corinthians 1:23), the writer will show that Jesus' suffering and death were according to the divine fitness of things.

Verse 10

It became ( ἔπρεπεν )

Not logical necessity ( δεῖ , Hebrews 2:1), nor obligation growing out of circumstances ( ὤφειλεν , Hebrews 2:17), but an inner fitness in God's dealing. Dr. Robertson Smith observes: “The whole course of nature and grace must find its explanation in God; and not merely in an abstract divine arbitrium, but in that which befits the divine nature.”

For whom - by whom ( δι ' ὅν - δι ' οὗ )

For whom, that is, for whose sake all things exist. God is the final cause of all things. This is not = εἰς αὐτὸν τὰ πάντα untowhom are all things, Romans 11:36; which signifies that all things have their realization in God; while this means that all things have their reason in God. By whom, through whose agency, all things came into being. On διὰ applied to God, see on Hebrews 1:2. These two emphasize the idea of fitness. It was becoming even to a God who is the beginning and the end of all things.

In bringing many sons unto glory ( πολλοὺς υἱοὺς εἰς δόξαν ἀγαγόντα )

Const. bringing with him; not with captain, which would mean “to perfect the captain, etc., as one who led many sons, etc.” Αγαγόντα is not to be explained who had brought, or after he had brought, with a reference to the O.T. saints, “he had brought many O.T. sons of God unto glory”; but rather, bringing as he did, or in bringing, as A.V. Many sons, since their leader himself was a son. Unto glory, in accordance with the glory with which he himself had been crowned (Hebrews 2:9). The glory is not distinguished from the salvation immediately following. For the combination salvation and glory see 2 Timothy 2:10; Revelation 19:1.

To make perfect ( τελειῶσαι )

Lit. to carry to the goal or consummation. The “perfecting” of Jesus corresponds to his being “crowned with glory and honor,” although it is not a mere synonym for that phrase; for the writer conceives the perfecting not as an act but as a process. “To make perfect” does not imply moral imperfection in Jesus, but only the consummation of that human experience of sorrow and pain through which he must pass in order to become the leader of his people's salvation.

The captain of their salvation ( τὸν ἀρχηγὸν τῆς σωτηρίας αὐτῶν )

Comp. Acts 5:31. Ἀρχηγὸς captainquite frequent in lxx and Class. Rev. renders author, which misses the fact that the Son precedes the saved on the path to glory. The idea is rather leader, and is fairly expressed by captain.

Verse 11

d In order to bring many sons unto glory, Christ assumes to them the relation of brother.

He that sanctifieth ( ὁ ἁγιάζων )

Sanctification is the path to glorification. Comp. Hebrews 10:14.

Of one ( ἐξ ἑνὸς )

Probably God, although the phrase may signify of one piece, or of one whole. Jesus and his people alike have God for their father. Therefore they are brethren, and Christ, notwithstanding his superior dignity, is not ashamed to call them by that name.

Verse 12

d This acknowledgment as brethren the writer represents as prophetically announced by Messiah in Psalm 22:22. The Psalm is the utterance of a sufferer crying to God for help in the midst of enemies. The Psalmist declares that God has answered his prayer, and that he will give public thanks therefore.

Unto my brethren ( τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς μου )

His brethren in the worshipping assembly. This is applied by our writer to the human brotherhood at large, and Christ is represented as identifying himself with them in thanksgiving.

Will I sing praise unto thee ( ὑμνήσω σε )

Rare in N.T. Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26; Acts 16:25. Lit. hymn thee. Often in the Greek liturgies.

Verse 13

I will put my trust, etc.

Isaiah 8:17, Isaiah 8:18. The passage occurs in an invective against the people's folly in trusting to any help but God's during the Syro-Israelitish war under Ahaz. The prophet is commanded to denounce those who trusted to soothsayers and not to God, and to bind and seal God's testimony to the righteous party who maintained their confidence in him - a party comprising the disciples of Isaiah, and in whom lies the prophet's hope for the future of Israel. Isaiah declares his own faith in God, and announces that he and his children have been appointed as living symbols of the divine will, so that there is no need of applying to necromancers. The names of the children are Shear-jashub a remnant shall return, and Maher-shalal-hash-baz haste-spoil-hurry-prey. These names will teach Israel that Assyria will spoil Damascus and Samaria; and that, in the midst of foreign invasion, God will still be with Judah, and will make a nation of the remnant which the war shall leave. The prophet and his children are thus omens of the nation's fortunes. The children were babes at this time, and “the only unity which existed among them was that which exists between every father and his children, and that which resulted from their belonging to the same prophetic household and all bearing symbolic names (without knowledge of the fact on the part of the children).” Our writer ignores the historical sense of the words, takes a part of a sentence and puts a messianic meaning into it, inferring from it the oneness of Jesus and his people, and the necessity of his assuming their nature in order to be one with them. He treats the two parts of the passage separately, emphasizing in the first part Messiah's trust in God in common with his human brethren, and inserting ἐγὼ Iinto the lxx text in order to call special attention to the speaker as Messiah. In the second part, he expresses the readiness of himself and his children to carry out God's will.

Verse 14

The children ( τὰ παιδία )

Children of men, the subjects of Christ's redemption.

Are partakers of flesh and blood ( κεκοινώνηκεν αἵματος καὶ σαρκός )

For κεκοινώνηκεν see on Romans 12:13. For flesh and blood the correct text reads blood and flesh. In rabbinical writers a standing phrase for human nature in contrast with God.

Likewise ( παραπλησίως )

Rend. in like manner. N.T.oExpressing general similarity. He took his place alongside ( παρὰ ) and near ( πλησιός ): near by.

Took part ( μετέσχεν )

The verb only in Hebrews and Paul. The distinction between it and κεκοινώνηκεν werepartakers is correctly stated by Westcott; the latter marking the characteristic sharing of the common fleshly nature as it pertains to the human race at large, and the former signifying the unique fact of the incarnation as a voluntary acceptance of humanity.

He might destroy ( καταργήσῃ )

Rend. bring to nought. See on cumbereth, Luke 13:7, and make of none effect, Romans 3:3. The word occurs 27 times in N.T., and is rendered in 17 different ways in A.V.

Him that had the power of death ( τὸν τὸ κράτος ἔχοντα τοῦ θανάτου )

Not power over death, but sovereignty or dominion of death, a sovereignty of which death is the realm. Comp. Romans 5:21, “Sin reigned in death.”

That is the devil

An explanation has been sought in the Jewish doctrine which identified Satan with Sammaël, the angel of death, who, according to the later Jews, tempted Eve. This is fanciful, and has no value, to say nothing of the fact that Michael and not Sammaël was the angel of death to the Israelites. The O.T. nowhere identifies Satan with the serpent in Eden. That identification is found in Wisd. 2:24, and is adopted Revelation 12:9. The devil has not power to inflict death, nor is death, as such, done away by the bringing of the devil to nought. The sense of the passage is that Satan's dominion in the region of death is seen in the existence and power of the fear of death as the penalty of sin (comp. through fear of death, Hebrews 2:15). The fear of death as implying rejection by God is distinctly to be seen in O.T. It appears in the utterances of many of the Psalmists. There is a consciousness of the lack of a pledge that God will not, in any special case, rise up against one. Along with this goes the conception of Satan as the accuser, see Zechariah 3:1-10. This idea may possibly give coloring to this passage. Even before death the accuser exercises sway, and keeps God's people in bondage so long as they are oppressed with the fear of death as indicating the lack of full acceptance with God. How strongly this argument would appeal to Hebrew readers of the Epistle is clear from rabbinical theology, which often speaks of the fear of death, and the accuser as a constant companion of man's life. Jesus assumes the mortal flesh and blood which are subject to this bondage. He proves himself to be both exempt from the fear of death and victorious over the accuser. He never lost his sense of oneness with God, so that death was not to him a sign of separation from God's grace. It was a step in his appointed career; a means ( διὰ τοῦ θανάτου ) whereby he accomplished his vocation as Savior. His human brethren share his exemption from the bondage of the fear of death, and of the accusing power of Satan. “He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life.” “Whether we live or die we are the Lord's.”

Verse 15

Deliver ( ἀπαλλάξῃ )

Only here in Hebrews, and besides, only Luke 12:58; Acts 19:12. Tolerably often in lxx. Very common in Class. Used here absolutely, not with δουλείας bondagereading deliver from bondage.

Subject to bondage ( ἔνοχοι δουλείας )

Ἔνοχοι from ἐν inand ἔχειν tohold. Lit. holden of bondage. See on James 2:10. Comp. the verb ἐσέξειν , Mark 6:19(note), and Galatians 5:1. Δουλεία bondageonly in Hebrews and Paul.

Verse 16

Verily ( δήπου )

N.T.oDoubtless, as is well known.

Took not on him ( οὑ ἐπιλαμβάνεται )

Rend. he doth not take hold. Comp. Matthew 14:31; Mark 8:23; Acts 18:17. Absolutely, in the sense of help, Psalm href="/desk/?q=ps+105:6&sr=1">Psalm 105:6; Isaiah 41:8, and comp. Galatians 3:29. The O.T. name is selected because the writer is addressing Jews. The entire statement in Hebrews 2:16, Hebrews 2:17is not a mere repetition of Hebrews 2:14, Hebrews 2:15. It carries out the line of thought and adds to it, while at the same time it presents a parallel argument to that in Hebrews 2:14, Hebrews 2:15. Thus: Hebrews 2:14, Hebrews 2:15, Christ took part of flesh and blood that he might deliver the children of God from the fear of death and the accusations of Satan: Hebrews 2:16, Hebrews 2:17, Christ takes hold of the seed of Abraham, the church of God, and is made like unto his brethren, tempted as they are, in order that he may be a faithful high priest, making reconciliation for sin, thus doing away with the fear of death, and enabling his people to draw near to God with boldness. Comp. Hebrews 4:15, Hebrews 4:16. Christ gives that peculiar help the necessity of which was exhibited in the O.T. economy under which the original seed of Abraham lived. The fear of death, arising from the consciousness of sin, could be relieved only by the intervention of the priest who stood between God and the sinner, and made reconciliation for sin. Jesus steps into the place of the high priest, and perfectly fulfills the priestly office. By his actual participation in the sorrows and temptations of humanity he is fitted to be a true sympathizer with human infirmity and temptation (Hebrews 5:2), a merciful and faithful high priest, making reconciliation for sin, and thus abolishing the fear of death.

Verse 17

Wherefore ( ὅθεν )

oP. Often in Hebrews.

In all things to be made like unto his brethren ( κατὰ πάντα τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς ὁμοιωθῆναι )

Comp. Philemon 2:7, ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος havingbecome in the likeness of men. Likeness is asserted without qualification. There was a complete and real likeness to humanity, a likeness which was closest just where the traces of the curse of sin were most apparent - in poverty, temptation, and violent and unmerited death.

It behooved ( ὤφειλεν )

Indicating an obligation growing out of the position which Christ assumed: something which he owed to his position as the helper of his people.

That he might be a merciful and faithful high priest ( ἵνα ἐλεήμων γένηται καὶ πιστὸς ἀρχιερεὺς )

Rend. that he might be compassionate, and so (in consequence of being compassionate), a faithful high priest. The keynote of the Epistle, the high-priesthood of Christ, which is intimated in Hebrews 1:3, is here for the first time distinctly struck. Having shown that Christ delivers from the fear of death by nullifying the accusing power of sin, he now shows that he does this in his capacity of high priest, for which office it was necessary that he should be made like unto his human brethren. In the O.T. economy, the fear of death was especially connected with the approach to God of an impure worshipper (see Numbers 18:3, Numbers 18:5). This fear was mitigated or removed by the intervention of the Levitical priest, since it was the special charge of the priest so to discharge the service of the tabernacle that there might be no outbreak of divine wrath on the children of Israel (Numbers 18:5). Γένηται mightshow himself to be, or prove to be. The idea of compassion as an attribute of priests is not found in the O.T. On the contrary, the fault of the priests was their frequent lack of sympathy with the people (see Hosea 4:4-9). In the later Jewish history, and in N.T. times, the priestly aristocracy of the Sadducees was notoriously unfeeling and cruel. The idea of a compassionate and faithful high priest would appeal powerfully to Jewish readers, who knew the deficiency of the Aaronic priesthood in that particular. Πιστὸς faithfulas an attribute of a priest, appears in 1 Samuel 2:35. The idea there is fidelity. He will do all that is in God's mind. Comp. Hebrews 3:2. This implies trustworthiness. The idea here is, faithful in filling out the true ideal of the priesthood (Hebrews 5:1, Hebrews 5:2), by being not a mere ceremonialist but a compassionate man.

In things pertaining to God ( τὰ πρὸς τὸν θεόν )

Comp. Romans 15:17. A technical phrase in Jewish liturgical language to denote the functions of worship. Const. with a faithful high priest, not with compassionate.

To make reconciliation ( εἰς τὸ ἱλάσκεθαι )

See on propitiation, Romans 3:25. The verb only here and Luke 18:13.

Verse 18

In that he himself hath suffered being tempted ( ἐν ᾧ γὰρ πέπονθεν αὐτὸς πειρασθείς )

Rend. for having himself been tempted in that which he suffered. The emphasis is on having been tempted. Christ is the succored of the tempted because he has himself been tempted. Ἐν ᾧ is not inasmuch as, but means in that which. Ἐν ᾧ πέπονθεν qualifies πειρασθείς , explaining in what the temptation consisted, namely, in suffering.


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The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Hebrews 2:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 26th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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