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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies
Hebrews 4

 

 

Verse 1

Being left ( καταλειπομένης )

Still remaining: not being neglected. It is not a reason for fearing that is given, but a circumstance connected with the thing to be avoided. As there is now left a promise, let us fear. Being left announces the thought which is afterward emphasized, and on which the whole treatment of the subject turns - that God's original promise of rest remains unchanged, and still holds good. Such being the case, he who doubts the promise itself, or thinks that it is too late for him to enjoy its fulfillment, runs a risk.

Should seem to come short ( δοκῇ ὑστερηκέναι )

According to this rendering, the meaning is that one must avoid the appearance of having failed to enter into the rest; the perfect tense ( ὑστερηκέναι ) placing the reader at the parousia, when judgment will be pronounced. This is forced, tame, and irrelevant to the previous discussion. Rend. lest any one of you think he has come too late for it. This accords with the previous admonitions against unbelief. For one to think that he has come too late to inherit the promise is to disbelieve an immutable promise of God. Hence the writer may well say, “Since this promise remains, let us fear to distrust it.” Ὑστερεῖν is to be behind; to come late; to come short; hence, to suffer need, as Philemon 4:12; of material deficiency, Luke 15:14; John 2:3; of moral and spiritual shortcoming, Romans 3:23; 1 Corinthians 8:8; Hebrews 12:15.


Verse 2

For unto us was the gospel preached ( καὶ γὰρ ἐσμεν εὐηγγελισμένοι )

Lit. we have had good tidings proclaimed to us. The translation of the A.V. is unfortunate, since it conveys the technical and conventional idea of preaching the gospel, which is entirely out of place here. The reference is to the special announcement of the rest of God; the glad tidings that God has provided a rest for his people. This announcement was made to the fathers, and signified to them the promise of the rest in Canaan. It has been proclaimed to us, and to us is the announcement of the heavenly rest. The emphasis is on the entire statement, “we have had the good tidings proclaimed to us,” rather than on we as contrasted with they.

The word preached ( ὁ λόγος τῆς ἀκοῆς )

Lit. the word of the message. See on 1 Thessalonians 2:13.

Not being mixed with faith in them that heard it ( μὴ συνκεκερασμένους τῇ πίστει τοῖς ἀκούσασιν )

Rend. because not incorporated by faith in them that heard. A body of obedient hearers with whom the erring Israelites were not incorporated would be an idea foreign to the discussion. Moreover, in Hebrews 3:16, the writer has declared that there were practically no believing hearers. He says that although the good tidings were announced to them, they did not profit them. The word did not profit them because it (the word) was not assimilated by faith in those that heard. They did not make the promise of rest their own. Their history was marked by continual renewals and rejections of the promise.


Verse 3

For we which have believed do enter into rest ( εἰσερχόμεθα γὰρ εἰς τὴν κατάπαυσιν οἱ πιστεύσαντες )

I say by faith, for, we believers, who embraced the Christian faith when it was offered to us (note the aorist participle), do enter into the rest. Ἐισερχόμεθα categorical; not are entering or are on the way to, but entering into the rest is a fact which characterizes us as believers.

As he said ( καθὼς εἴρηκεν )

We enter in accordance with the saying which follows.

As I have sworn - if they shall enter

The statement is somewhat obscure. The meaning is, we (who believed) enter into rest in accordance with God's declaration that they (who did not believe) should not enter. The point is faith as the condition of entering into the rest.

Although the works were finished ( καίτοι τῶν ἔργων γενηθέντων )

This is an awkward and indirect way of saying, “these unbelievers did not enter into God's rest, although he had provided that rest into which they might have entered.” The providing of the rest is implied in the completion of God's works. The writer assumes the readers' acquaintance with the narrative of the creation in Genesis.


Verse 4

d What was implied in the preceding verse is now stated.

Did rest from all his works ( κατέπαυσεν - ἀπὸ πάντων τῶν ἔργων αὐτοῦ )

The verb only in Hebrews and Acts 14:18. Works, plural, following lxx. The Hebrew has work.


Verse 5

In this place ( ἐν τούτῳ )

The passage already cited, Hebrews 4:3. It is cited again to show that the rest was not entered into.


Verse 6

d The rest was not appropriated by those under Moses, nor, in the full sense, by those under Joshua, nor in David's time.

It remaineth that some must enter therein ( ἀπολείπεται τινὰς εἰσελθεῖν εἰς αὐτήν )

Ἀπολείπεται “remains over from past times.” The promise has not been appropriated. It must be appropriated in accordance with God's provision. The rest was not provided for nothing. God's provision of a rest implies and involves that some enter into it. But the appropriation is yet in the future. It remains that some enter in.

They to whom it was first preached ( οἱ πρότερον εὐαγγελισθέντες )

Lit. they who were first the subjects of the announcement of the glad tidings. It is desirable to avoid the word preached. See on Hebrews 4:2. The Israelites under Moses and Joshua are meant.

Because of unbelief ( δι ' ἀπείθειαν )

Rend. for unbelief, disobedience. Comp. Hebrews 3:18. Ἀπείθεια disobedienceis the active manifestation of ἀπιστία unbeliefi0.


Verse 7

Again he limiteth a certain day ( πάλιν τινὰ ὁρίζει ἡμέραν )

For limiteth rend. defineth. For the verb see on declared, Romans 1:4. The meaning is, he gives another opportunity of securing the rest, and calls the period in which the opportunity is offered today.

In David

The date of the composition of Psalm 95:1-11is uncertain. In lxx (94) it is called a Psalm of David. In the words in David the writer may adopt the lxx title, or may mean simply in the Psalms. In the Hebrew the Psalm has no inscription.

After so long a time ( μετὰ τοσοῦτον χρόνον )

The time between Joshua and David. After this long interval he renews the promise in the Psalm.

As it is said ( καθῶς προείρηται )

Rend. as it hath been before said; referring to the citations, Hebrews 3:7, Hebrews 3:8, Hebrews 3:15.


Verse 8

d But it might be said that under Joshua the people did enter into the promised rest. He therefore shows that Israel's rest in Canaan did not fulfill the divine ideal of the rest.

Jesus ( Ἰησοῦς )

Rend. Joshua, and see on Matthew 1:21.

After this ( μετὰ ταῦτα )

After the entrance into Canaan under Joshua.


Verse 9

There remaineth therefore a rest ( ἄρα ἀπολείπεται σαββατισμὸς )

Remaineth, since in the days of neither Moses, Joshua, or David was the rest appropriated. He passes over the fact that the rest had not been entered into at any later period of Israel's history. Man's portion in the divine rest inaugurated at creation has never been really appropriated: but it still remaineth. This statement is justified by the new word for “rest” which enters at this point, σαββατισμὸς instead of κατάπαυσις , N.T.oolxx, oClass., signifies a keeping Sabbath. The Sabbath rest points back to God's original rest, and marks the ideal rest - the rest of perfect adjustment of all things to God, such as ensued upon the completion of his creative work, when he pronounced all things good. This falls in with the ground-thought of the Epistle, the restoration of all things to God's archetype. The sin and unbelief of Israel were incompatible with that rest. It must remain unappropriated until harmony with God is restored. The Sabbath-rest is the consummation of the new creation in Christ, through whose priestly mediation reconciliation with God will come to pass.

For the people of God ( τῷ λαῷ τοῦ θεοῦ )

For the phrase see Romans 9:25; Romans 11:1; 1 Peter 2:10. and comp. Israel of God, Galatians 6:16. The true Israel, who inherit the promise by faith in Christ.


Verse 10

d Only in such a Sabbath-rest is found the counterpart of God's rest on the seventh day.

For he that is entered into his rest ( ὁ γὰρ εἰσελθὼν εἱς τὴν κατάπαυσιν αὐτοῦ )

Whoever has once entered. His, God's. The aorist marks the completeness of the appropriation - once and for all.

He also hath ceased from his own works ( καὶ αὐτος κατέπαυσεν ἀπὸ τῶν ἔργων αὐτοῦ )

Omit own. The statement is a general proposition: any one who has entered into God's rest has ceased from his works.

As God did from his ( ὤσπερ ἀπὸ τῶν ἰδίων ὁ θεός )

Rend. as God (did ) from his own. Ἰδίων ownsignifies more than mere possession. Rather, works peculiarly his own, thus hinting at the perfect nature of the original works of creation as corresponding with God's nature and bearing his impress. The blessing of the Sabbath-rest is thus put as a cessation from labors. The basis of the conception is Jewish, the rest of the Sabbath being conceived as mere abstinence from labor, and not according to Christ's conception of the Sabbath, as a season of refreshment and beneficent activity, Mark 2:27; John 5:17. Our writer's conception is not the rabbinical conception of cessation of work, but rather of the cessation of the weariness and pain which accompany human labor. Comp. Revelation 14:13; Revelation 21:4; Luke 11:7; Luke 18:5; Galatians 6:17.


Verse 11

d This promise of rest carries with it a special responsibility for the people of God.

Let us labor therefore ( σπουδάσωμεν οὖν )

For the verb, see on Ephesians 4:3. Give diligence, not hasten, which is the primary meaning.

That rest ( ἐκείνην τὴν κατάπαυσιν )

The Sabbath-rest of God, instituted at creation, promised to the fathers, forfeited by their unbelief, remaining to us on the condition of faith.

Lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief ( ἵνα μὴ ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ τις ὑποδείγματι πέσῃ τῆς ἀπειθείας )

Πέσῃ fallis to be taken absolutely; not, fall into the same example. Υ̓πόδειγμα examplemostly in Hebrews. Rejected as unclassical by the Attic rhetoricians. Originally a sign which suggests something: a partial suggestion as distinct from a complete expression. See Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 9:23. Thus Christ's washing of the disciples' feet (John 13:15) was a typical suggestion of the whole field and duty of ministry. See on 1 Peter 2:6. It is not easy to give the exact force of ἐν inStrictly speaking, the “example of disobedience” is conceived as that in which the falling takes place. The fall is viewed in the sphere of example. Comp. 1Corinthians href="/desk/?q=1co+2:7&sr=1">1 Corinthians 2:7. Rend. that no man fall in the same example of disobedience: the same as that in which they fell.


Verse 12

d The exhortation is enforced by reference to the character of the revelation which sets forth the rest of God. The message of God which promises the rest and urges to seek it, is no dead, formal precept, but is instinct with living energy.

The word of God ( ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ )

That which God speaks through any medium. The primary reference is to God's declarations concerning his rest. The fathers explained it of the personal Word as in the Fourth Gospel. But in the Epistle there is no approach to any definite use of λόγος with reference to Christ, not even in the description of his relation to God in Hebrews 1:1-14, where, if anywhere, it might have been expected. In Hebrews 6:5and Hebrews 11:3we find ῥῆμα . Everywhere in the Epistle Christ appears as the Son, not as the Word. In this passage, the following predicates, ἐνεργὴς, τομώτερος, κριτικὸς , would hardly be applied to the Logos, and in Hebrews 4:14he is styled Jesus the Son of God.

Quick and powerful ( ζῶν καὶ ἐνεργὴς )

Note the emphatic position of ζῶν livingLiving is the word of God, since it is the word of “the living God” (Hebrews 3:12). Living in its essence. For ἐνεργὴς activeenergizing, and kindred words, see on John 1:12; see on Philemon 3:21; see on Colossians 1:29; see on Philemon 1:6. Manifesting itself actively in the world and in men's hearts. Comp. 1 Peter 1:23.

Sharper than any two-edged sword ( τομώτερος ὑπὲρ πᾶσαν μάχαιραν δίστομον )

Τομώτερος sharperfrom τέμνειν tocut, N.T.oolxx. The word of God has an incisive and penetrating quality. It lays bare self-delusions and moral sophisms. For the comparison of the word of God or of men to a sword, see Psalm 57:4; Psalm 59:7; Psalm 64:3; Ephesians 6:17. Philo calls his Logos ὁ τομεύς thecutter, as cutting chaos into distinct things, and so creating a kosmos. Ὑπὲρ thanis literally, above. Πᾶσαν anyis every. Δίσμοτον only here and Revelation 1:16; Revelation 2:12, lit. two-mouthed. In lxx always of a sword. See Judges 3:16; Psalm 149:6; Proverbs 5:4; Colossians 900); of rivers with two mouths (Polyb. xxxiv. 10,5). Στόμα mouthof the edge of a sword, Luke href="/desk/?q=lu+21:24&sr=1">Luke 21:24; Hebrews 11:34. Often in lxx, as Genesis 34:26; Joshua 10:28, Joshua 10:33, Joshua 10:35, Joshua 10:37, Joshua 10:39; Judges 1:8. So occasionally in Class., as Homer, Il. xv. 389. Κατεσθίειν or κατέσθειν todevour is used of the sword, Deuteronomy 32:42; 2 Samuel 2:26; Isaiah 31:8; Jeremiah 2:30, etc. Μάχαιρα swordin Class. a dirk or dagger: rarely, a carving knife; later, a bent sword or sabre as contrasted with a straight, thrusting sword, ξίφος (not in N.T. but occasionally in lxx). Ῥομφαία , Luke 2:35(see note), elsewhere only in Revelation, very often in lxx, is a large broadsword. In lxx of Goliath's sword, 1 Samuel 17:51

Piercing ( διΐκνούμενος )

Lit. coming through. N.T.oEven to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and of the joints and marrow ( ἄρχι μερισμοῦ ψυχῆς καὶ πνεύματος ἁρμῶν τε καὶ μυελῶν )

Μερισμὸς dividingonly here and Hebrews 2:4, is not to be understood of dividing soul from spirit or joints from marrow. Soul and spirit cannot be said to be separated in any such sense as this, and joints and marrow are not in contact with each other. Μερισμὸς is the act of division; not the point or line of division. Joints and marrow are not to be taken in a literal and material sense. In rendering, construe soul, spirit, joints, marrow, as all dependent on dividing. Joints and marrow ( ἁρμῶν, μυελῶν, N.T.o) are to be taken figuratively as joints and marrow of soul and spirit. This figurative sense is exemplified in classical usage, as Eurip. Hippol. 255, “to form moderate friendships, and not πρὸς ἄρκον μυελὸν ψυχῆς to the deep marrow of the soul.” The conception of depth applied to the soul is on the same figurative line. See Aesch. Agam. 778; Eurip. Bacch. 203. Attempts to explain on any psychological basis are futile. The form of expression is poetical, and signifies that the word penetrates to the inmost recesses of our spiritual being as a sword cuts through the joints and marrow of the body. The separation is not of one part from another, but operates in each department of the spiritual nature. The expression is expanded and defined by the next clause.

A discerner ( κριτικὸς )

N.T.oolxx. The word carries on the thought of dividing. From κρίνειν todivide or separate, which runs into the sense of judge, the usual meaning in N.T., judgment involving the sifting out and analysis of evidence. In κριτικὸς the ideas of discrimination and judgment are blended. Vulg. discretor.

Of the thoughts and intents of the heart ( ἐνθυμήσεων καὶ ἐννοιῶν καρδίας )

The A.V. is loose and inaccurate. Ἐνθύμησις rare in N.T. See Matthew 9:4; Acts 17:29. Comp. ἐνθυμεῖσθαι , Matthew 1:20; Matthew 9:4. In every instance, both of the noun and of the verb, the sense is pondering or thinking out. Rend. the reflections. Ἔννοια only here and 1 Peter 4:1. It is the definite conception which follows ἐνθύμησις Rend. conceptions.


Verse 13

d From the word of God the writer proceeds to God himself as cognizant of all things; thus giving a second ground for the exhortation of Hebrews 4:11.

Creature ( κτίσις )

See on Romans 8:19; see on 2 Corinthians 5:17; see on Colossians 1:15. Here in the sense of thing created.

Opened ( τετραχηλισμένα )

N.T.oolxx. Only later Greek. Evidently connected with τράχηλος neckthroat. The exact metaphor, however, it is impossible to determine. The following are the principal explanations proposed: taken by the throat, as an athlete grasps an adversary; exposed, as a malefactor's neck is bent back, and his face exposed to the spectators; or, as the necks of victims at the altar are drawn back and exposed to the knife. The idea at the root seems to be the bending back of the neck, and the last explanation, better than any other, suits the previous figure of the sword. The custom of drawing back the victim's neck for sacrifice is familiar to all classical students. See Hom. Il. i. 459; ii. 422; Pindar, Ol. xiii. 114. The victim's throat bared to the sacrificial knife is a powerful figure of the complete exposure of all created intelligence to the eye of him whose word is as a two-edged sword.

With whom we have to do ( πρὸς ὃν ἡμῖν ὁ λόγος )

Rend. with whom is our reckoning; that is to whom we have to give account.


Verse 14

d Hebrews 2:17, Hebrews 2:18is now resumed. This and the following verse more naturally form the conclusion of the preceding section than the introduction to the following one.

Great high priest ( μέγαν )

Emphasizing Christ's priestly character to Jewish readers, as superior to that of the Levitical priests. He is holding up the ideal priesthood.

Passed into the heavens ( διεληλυθότα τοὺς οὐρανούς )

Rend. “passed through the heavens.” Through, and up to the throne of God of which he wields the power, and is thus able to fulfill for his followers the divine promise of rest.

Jesus the Son of God

The name Jesus applied to the high priest is forcible as recalling the historical, human person, who was tempted like his brethren. We are thus prepared for what is said in Hebrews 4:15concerning his sympathizing character.


Verse 15

We have not an high priest who cannot, etc.

Whatever may be thought to the contrary; whatever contrary conclusion may be drawn from the character of the Levitical priests, or from Christ's exalted dignity and purity.

Touched with the feeling ( συνπαθῆσαι )

Only here and Hebrews 10:34. This is more than knowledge of human infirmity. It is feeling it by reason of a common experience with ( σύν ) men.

Infirmities ( ἀσθενείαις )

Not sufferings, but weaknesses, moral and physical, which predispose to sin and facilitate it.

Like as we are ( καθ ' ὁμοιότητα )

Lit. according to likeness. Ἡμῶν ofus or our is to be understood, or, as some, ἡμῖν , according to his likeness to us.

Without sin ( χωρὶς ἁμαρτίας )

This, of course, implies that he was not led into sin by temptation, and also that no temptation aroused in him sin already present and dormant. It is not meant that temptation arising from sin external to himself was not applied to him.


Verse 16

Come - unto ( προσερχώμεθα )

oP., often in Hebrews, and commonly in the same sense as here - approach to God through the O.T. sacrifices or the sacrifice of Christ. Paul's word προσαγωγή accessexpresses the same idea. See Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 3:12. The phrase come boldly expresses a thought which the Epistle emphasizes - that Christianity is the religion of free access to God. Comp. 2 Corinthians 3:12, 2 Corinthians 3:13.

Unto the throne of grace ( τῷ θρόνῳ τῆς χάριτος )

The phrase N.T.oThrone of glory, Matthew 19:28; Matthew 25:31: of majesty, Hebrews 8:1. In Revelation throne occurs over forty times, either the throne, or his throne, or throne of God. Once throne of the beast, Revelation 16:10. Throne of grace expresses grace as the gift of divine power.

Mercy - grace ( ἔλεος - χάριν )

Mercy for past sins; grace for future work, trial, and resistance to temptation.

To help in time of need ( εἰς εὔκαιρον βοήθειαν )

Lit. for seasonable help, or help in good time; before it is too late; while there is still time to seek God's rest. Others, however, explain, when it is needed; or, before temptation leads to sin.

 


Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Hebrews 4:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/hebrews-4.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

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Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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