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Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies
Hebrews 5



Other Authors
Verse 1

Every high priest ( πᾶς ἀρχιερεὺς )

Every Levitical high priest. Αρχιερεὺς oP.

Taken ( λαμβανόμενος )

Rend. being taken, or since he is taken: not who is taken. The point is that the high priest's efficiency for men depends on his being taken from among men.

Is ordained ( καθίσταται )

Constituted priest. See on Titus 1:5.

For men ( ὑπὲρ ἀνθρώπων )

On behalf of men.

In things pertaining to God ( τὰ πρὸς τὸν θεόν )

As respects his relation to God. See on Hebrews 2:17.

That he may offer ( ἵνα προσφέρῃ )

Προσφέρειν , lit. to bring to (the altar ). Comp. Matthew 5:23. oP., who, however, has the kindred noun προσφορὰ offeringVery often in lxx; nineteen times in Hebrews, and always, with one exception (Hebrews 12:7), in the technical sense, as here.

Gifts - sacrifices ( δῶρα - θυσίας )

Δῶρα offeringsgenerally: θυσίας bloodysacrifices. The distinction, however, is not constantly observed. Thus, θυσὶαι , of unbloody offerings, Genesis 4:3, Genesis 4:5; Leviticus 2:1; Numbers 5:15; δῶρα , of bloody offerings, Genesis 4:4; Leviticus 1:2, Leviticus 1:3, Leviticus 1:10.

For sins ( ὑπὲρ ἁμαρτιῶν )

In this the priest's efficiency is especially called out, and he who has not genuine compassion for the sinful cannot do this efficiently. Hence the words which follow.

Verse 2

Have compassion ( μετιοπαθεῖν )

N.T.oolxx. oClass. Originally of the rational regulation of the natural passions, as opposed to the Stoic ἀπάθεια , which involved the crushing out of the passions. Often, in later Greek, of moderating anger. It is not identical with συνπαθῆσαι (Hebrews 4:5), but signifies to be moderate or tender in judgment toward another's errors. Here it denotes a state of feeling toward the ignorant and erring which is neither too severe nor too tolerant. The high priest must not be betrayed into irritation at sin and ignorance, neither must he be weakly indulgent.

The ignorant ( τοῖς ἀγνοοῦσι )

Comp. ἀγνοημάτων ignorances Hebrews 9:7, and Numbers 15:22-31, where the distinction is drawn between sins of ignorance and sins of presumption. Atonement for sins of ignorance was required by the Levitical law as a means of educating the moral perception, and of showing that sin and defilement might exist unsuspected: that God saw evil where men did not, and that his test of purity was stricter than theirs.

For that he himself also is compassed with infirmity ( ἐπεὶ καὶ αὐτὸς περίκειται ἀσθένειαν )

Sympathy belongs to the high-priestly office, and grows out of the sense of personal infirmity. The verb is graphic: has infirmity lying round him. Comp. Hebrews 12:1, of the encompassing ( περικείμενον ) cloud of witnesses. Ἀσθένειαν the moral weakness which makes men capable of sin. This is denied in the case of Christ. See Hebrews 7:28.

Verse 3

He ought ( ὀφείλει )

It is his duty, growing out of the fact of his own infirmity.

Verse 4

d The high priest must be divinely called. One thus compassed with infirmity would shrink from such an office unless called to it by God.

He that is called ( καλούμενος )

The A.V. follows T.R., ὁ καλούμενος . The article should be omitted. Rend. but being called by God (he taketh it ), as did Aaron.

Verse 5

Did not glorify himself to be made high priest

Ἐδόξασεν glorifiedis general, and is more specifically defined by γενηθῆναι ἀρχιερέα tobe made high priest.

But he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, etc.

Supply glorified him. He did not glorify himself, but God who styled him “son” glorified him. Thou art my Son is introduced thus in close connection with the call to the priesthood, in recognition of the fact that the priesthood of Christ had its basis in his sonship. “Christ's priestly vocation ceases to be an accident in his history, and becomes an essential characteristic of his position as Son: sonship, christhood, priestliness, inseparably interwoven” (Bruce).

Verse 6

Thou art a priest forever, etc.

According to this verse Christ is prophetically pointed out in Psalm 110:1-7as an eternal priest, independent of fleshly descent, a king, and superior in dignity to the Levitical priests.

According to the order ( κατὰ τὴν τάξιν )

According to the rank which Melchisedec held. Almost = like. For Melchisedec see ch. 7.

Verse 7

d He is now to show that Christ was under training for the priesthood, and describes the process of training.

Who ( ὃς )

Nominative to ἔμαθεν learned Hebrews 5:8, to which all the participles are preparatory.

In the days of his flesh ( ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις τῆς σαρκὸς αὐτοῦ )

During his mortal life.

When he had offered up prayers and supplications ( δεὴσεις τε καὶ ἱκετηρίας προσενέγκας )

Δεήσεις specialdefinite requests: ἱκετηρίας , N.T.ois properly an adjective, pertaining to or fit for suppliants, with ῥάβδους stavesor ἐλαίας olive-branchesunderstood. The olive-branch bound round with wool was held forth by a suppliant in token of his character as such. The phrase προσφέρειν δεήσεις N.T.oUnto him that was able to save him from death ( πρὸς τὸν δυνάμενον σώζειν αὐτὸν ἐκ θανάτου )

Const. with prayers and supplications, not with offered. To save him from death may mean to deliver him from the fear of death, from the anguish of death, or from remaining a prey to death. In either case, the statement connects itself with the thought of Christ's real humanity. He was under the pressure of a sore human need which required divine help, thus showing that he was like unto his brethren. He appealed to one who could answer his prayer. The purport of the prayer is not stated. It is at least suggested by Matthew 26:39.

And was heard in that he feared ( καὶ εἰσακουσεὶς ἀπὸ τῆς εὐλαβείας )

Rend. was heard on account of his godly fear. Ἐυλάβεια only here and Hebrews 12:28. The verb εὐλαβεῖσθαι toact cautiously, beware, fear, only Hebrews 11:7. The image in the word is that of a cautious taking hold ( λαμβάνειν ) and careful and respectful handling: hence piety of a devout and circumspect character, as that of Christ, who in his prayer took account of all things, not only his own desire, but his Father's will. Ευλάβεια is ascribed to Christ as a human trait, see Hebrews 12:28. He was heard, for his prayer was answered, whatever it may have been. God was able to save him from death altogether. He did not do this. He was able to sustain him under the anguish of death, and to give him strength to suffer the Father's will: he was also able to deliver him from death by resurrection: both these he did. It is not impossible that both these may be combined in the statement he was heard.

Verse 8

Though he were a Son ( καίπερ ὣν υἱὸς )

For were rend. was. His training for the priesthood involved suffering, even though he was a son. Connect with ἔμαθεν learnednot with the preceding clause, which would mean that his position as a son did not exempt him from the obligation to godly fear, which is true as a fact (see Hebrews 5:7), but is not the point of emphasis here.

Learned he obedience ( ἔμαθεν τὴν ὑπακοήν )

Omit he, since the subject of ἔμαθεν learnedis ὃς who Hebrews 5:7. Jesus did not have to learn to obey, see John 8:29; but he required the special discipline of a severe human experience as a training for his office as a high priest who could be touched with the feeling of human infirmities. He did not need to be disciplined out of any inclination to disobedience; but, as Alford puts it, “the special course of submission by which he became perfected as our high priest was gone through in time, and was a matter of acquirement and practice.” This is no more strange than his growth in wisdom, Luke 2:52. Growth in experience was an essential part of his humanity.

By the things which he suffered ( ἀφ ' ὧν ἔπαθεν )

Or from the things, etc. Note the word-play, ἔμαθεν ἔπαθεν . So Croesus, addressing Cyrus, says, τὰ δέ μοι παθήματα, ἐόντα ἀχάριστα, μαθήματα γέγονεν, “my sufferings, though painful, have proved to be lessons ” (Hdt. i. 207): so Soph. Trach. 142, μήτ ' ἐκμάθοις παθοῦσα “mayst thou not learn by suffering.”

Verse 9

And being made perfect ( καὶ τελεωθεὶς )

Comp. Hebrews 2:10. The fundamental idea in τελειοῦν is the bringing of a person or thing to the goal fixed by God. Comp. Hebrews 7:11, Hebrews 7:19; Hebrews 9:9; Hebrews 10:1, Hebrews 10:14; Hebrews 11:40; Hebrews 12:23. Here of Christ's having reached the end which was contemplated in his divinely-appointed discipline for the priesthood. The consummation was attained in his death, Philemon 2:8; his obedience extended even unto death.

The author of eternal salvation ( αἴτιος σωτηρίας αἰωνίου )

Ἀίτιος , N.T.oan adjective, causing. Comp. captain of salvation, Hebrews 2:10. The phrase σωτηρία αὀώνιος eternalsalvation N.T.obut see lxx, Hebrews href="/desk/?q=heb+5:8&sr=1">Hebrews 5:8, and salvation to save, Hebrews 5:7. If the captain of salvation must learn obedience, so must his followers. Comp. 2 Thessalonians 1:8.

Verse 10

Called of God ( προσαγορευθεὶς )

Rend. since he was addressed or saluted by God. God recognized and saluted him as that which he had become by passing through and completing his earthly discipline. Προσαγοεύειν toaddress N.T.oA few times in lxx.

Verse 11

d From this point the comparison of Christ with Melchisedec would naturally be developed; but the author digresses into a complaint of the imperfect spiritual attainment of his readers, and a remonstrance and admonition extending to the end of ch. 6.

Of whom ( περὶ οὗ )

Rend. concerning which. Not Melchisedec, but the topic that Christ is a priest after the order of Melchisedec, a topic to which great importance is attached. Can it be imagined that the discussion of such a topic would appeal to a Gentile audience as a reason for not relapsing into paganism?

We have many things to say ( πολὺς ἡμῖν ὁ λόγος )

Lit. the discourse is abundant unto us. We refers to the writer himself.

Hard to be uttered ( δυσερμήνευτος λέγειν )

Lit. hard of interpretation to speak. The A.V. entirely misses the idea of interpretation. Rev. better, hard of interpretation. Δυσερμήνευτος N.T.oolxx. oClass.

Ye are dull of hearing ( νωθροὶ γεγόνατε ταῖς ἀκοαῖς )

Rend. ye have grown dull in your hearing. For ἀκοὴ hearingsee on 2 Timothy 4:3. The verb implies a deterioration on the hearers' part. Νωθροὶ only here and Hebrews 6:12. From νη notand ὠθεῖν topush. Hence slow, sluggish. Mostly in later Greek, although Plato uses it much in the same sense as here. “When they have to face study they are stupid ( νωθροί ) and cannot remember.” Theaet. 144 B. In lxx, Proverbs 22:29; Sirach 4:29; 11:12. Sometimes = low, mean, obscure. So in Proverbs, but in Sirach slack, slow.

Verse 12

When for the time ye ought to be teachers ( ὀφείλοντες εἶναι διδάσκαλοι διὰ τὸν χρόνον )

Rend. for when ye ought to be teachers by reason of the time. A.V. entirely obscures the true meaning, which is that, because of the time during which the readers have been under instruction, they ought to be able to instruct others.

Again ( πάλιν )

Not with teach you, as A.V., but with ye have need. The position of the word is emphatic. Again ye have need of being taught the very rudiments of divine truth which ye were taught long ago.

Which be ( τινὰ )

A.V. takes the pronoun as interrogative ( τίνα ). Better indefinite as subject of διδάσκειν teachRend. “ye have need that some one teach you.”

The first principles of the oracles ( τα, στοιχεῖα τῆς ἀρχῆς τῶν λογίων )

Lit. the rudiments of the beginning of the oracles. The phrase στοιχεῖα τῆς ἀρχῆς N.T.oIt is = primary elements. For στοιχεῖα see on Galatians 4:3. λόγιον is a diminutive, meaning strictly a brief utterance, and used both in classical and biblical Greek of divine utterances. In Class. of prose oracles. Philo uses it of the O.T. prophecies, and his treatise on the Ten Commandments is entitled περὶ τῶν δέκα λογίων . In lxx often generally - “the word or words of the Lord,” see Numbers 24:16; Deuteronomy 33:9; Psalm 12:6; Psalm 18:30, etc. It was used of the sayings of Jesus, see Polycarp, Ad Phil. vii. From the time of Philo, of any sacred writing, whether discourse or narrative. Papias and Irenaeus have τὰ κυριακὰ λόγια dominicaloracles. The meaning here is the O.T. sayings, especially those pointing to Christ.

And are become ( καὶ γεγόνατε )

As in Hebrews 5:11, implying degeneracy. The time was when you needed the strong meat of the word.

Milk ( γάλακτος )

Comp. 1 Corinthians 3:2. Answering to rudiments.

Strong meat ( στερεὰς τροφῆς )

Lit. solid meat. See on steadfast, 1 Peter 5:9. More advanced doctrinal teaching. The explanation of the Melchisedec priesthood to which the writer was about to pass involved the exhibition for the first time of the opposition of the N.T. economy of salvation to that of the old, and of the imperfection and abrogation of the O.T. priesthood. To apprehend this consequence of N.T. revelation required alert and matured minds. This is why he pauses to dwell on the sluggish mental and spiritual condition of his readers.

Verse 13

Useth ( μετέχων )

Rend. partakes of. See on Hebrews 1:9; see on Hebrews 2:14; see on Hebrews 3:1, Hebrews 3:14.

Unskilful ( ἄπειρος )

N.T.oRend. unskilled or inexperienced.

In the word of righteousness ( λόγου δικαιοσύνης )

The phrase N.T.oThe genitive δικαιοσύνης ofrighteousness is combined in N.T. with way, God, gift, instruments, servants, law, ministration, fruit and fruits, ministers, hope, breastplate, crown, king, preacher. It is a mistake to attempt to give the phrase here a concrete meaning. It signifies simply a word of normally right character. It is not = the Christian revelation, which would require the article. Probably, however, in the foreground of the writer's thought was the word spoken by the Son (Hebrews 1:2); the salvation which at first was spoken by the Lord (Hebrews 2:3).

A babe ( νήπιος )

See on Romans 2:20; see on 1 Corinthians 3:1; see on Ephesians 4:14.

Verse 14

Strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age ( τελείων δέ ἐστιν ἡ στερεὰ τροφή )

This rendering is clumsy. Rend. solid food is for full-grown men. For τελείων full-grownsee on 1 Corinthians 2:6. Often by Paul, as here, in contrast with νήπιοι immatureChristians. See 1 Corinthians 2:6; 1 Corinthians 3:1; 1 Corinthians 13:11; Ephesians 4:4. Paul has the verb νηπιάζειν tobe a child in 1 Corinthians 14:20.

By reason of use ( διὰ τὴν ἕξιν )

For use rend. habitude. N.T.oIt is the condition produced by past exercise. Not the process as A.V., but the result.

Their senses ( τὰ αἰσθητήρια )

N.T.oOrgans of perception; perceptive faculties of the mind. In lxx see Jeremiah 4:19; 4Macc. 2:22.

Exercised ( γεγυμνασμένα )

See on 2 Peter 2:14, and see on 1 Timothy 4:7.

Good and evil

Not moral good and evil, but wholesome and corrupt doctrine. The implication is that the readers' condition is such as to prevent them from making this distinction.


Copyright Statement
The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Hebrews 5:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

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