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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Hebrews 3

 

 

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Verse 1

1. Wherefore—In view of the development of Christ as sent from the bosom of the Eternal, (see note Hebrews 1:3,) and emerging on earth as our Apostle and propitiator, thus far portrayed.

Holy brethren— Nowhere else is the epithet holy thus applied to brethren, although brethren is several times used in this epistle without the epithet. Probably holy is here used slightly in the Old Testament sense of the word, (see note on 1 Corinthians 7:14,) because the writer is about to parallel their position under Christ with their old position as Hebrews under Moses.

They are the holy under the new dispensation, as Israel was under the old.

Calling—See notes on 1 Corinthians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 7:20. The calling, here, is used very much in the sense of 1 Corinthians 7:20, to denote the permanent state resulting from permanent obedience to the call, and which has solidified into the correlative profession soon named.

Heavenly—As coming directly from heaven through our divine Apostle. Hebrews 12:25.

Consider—Steadily contemplate and study. You have had him introductorily presented in his twofold offices in the first two chapters. Let us now fully and steadily analyze his nature in each office.

Apostle—One sent, a legate. So John 20:21, “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” The twelve were the human apostles of Christ; Christ was the divine Apostle of God. He alone, as sent Son, speaks to us as antithesis to the whole body of prophets, (Hebrews 1:1-2;) nay, he is an outbeaming radiation sent from the divine Essence, (Hebrews 1:3;) he thence took part of our flesh, (Hebrews 1:14.) And

High Priest— Briefly unfolded in Hebrews 1:14-14, (as Apostle is in Hebrews 1:1-13,) and fully developed in Hebrews 4:14 to Hebrews 10:18. As God’s Apostle or Legate, Christ is super-angelic representative of God on earth; he is ruling administrator over the incoming dispensation, Hebrews 2:5-8; he is the glorious Messiah. And as humanized Sufferer (Hebrews 2:9-18) he is our High Priest. Our “Hebrews” here addressed rejoiced in the grandeur of the divine Apostle, the glorious Messiah, but were shrinking almost to apostasy from the degradation of the High Priest, the suffering Messiah. Our St. Paul will now so unfold both as to confirm their view of the grandeur of the exaltation, and reconstruct their view of the equal grandeur and pathos of the humiliation.

Of our profession—Or, rather, confession. Not simply as one we confess; for the word embraces all the truths and beings we confess as Christians; our whole confession of faith; Jesus Christ being the central figure and object in that confession and faith.

Christ Jesus—Words signify anointed or Messiah Saviour.


Verses 1-6

II. THE SON AS DIVINE APOSTLE FULLY CONTEMPLATED, Hebrews 3:1 to Hebrews 4:13.

1. Superior as Son to Moses, who was only servant, Hebrews 3:1-6.

Having, in the first two chapters, summarily presented the Son as Apostle, beaming forth from the fountain of divinity and becoming incarnate High Priest, St. Paul now proceeds to a more full consideration of him first as Apostle.


Verse 2

2. Faithful—Perfectly and absolutely true to all his trusts as legate.

Appointed—Literally, made. Allusion is here had to 1 Samuel 12:6, where it is said, “the Lord that advanced (Gr. Septuagint, made) Moses and Aaron.” The word, as here applied to Christ, should not be rendered created, as by Alford, but constituted, including, doubtless, his being brought into incarnate existence, not merely his appointment to his legation.

As also Moses—This image of a house is suggested by Numbers 12:7 : “My servant Moses… is faithful in all mine house.” The word house symbolizes the dispensation, or theocratic kingdom. Here is an analogy between Moses and Christ; they are similar in faithfulness, yet there is a great superiority on one side.

House—In this whole passage (Hebrews 3:2-6) the Greek word for house includes not only the building or material structure, but all the furnishings, family and servants, it contains to make it a complete establishment. And so the word builded, in the following verses, includes not merely the architecture, but the complete establishing, of the house and its contents.

His—Many commentators refer here, as in Hebrews 3:6, to God; but a more natural construction refers them to Moses and to Christ. Each of these divine legates had, under God, (Hebrews 3:4,) his own house; yet successively, under Moses and Christ, the house is the same one house, and Christ, as Son, is underlying proprietor even of the house of Moses, who is but servant or steward.


Verse 3

3. This man—Here, as in Hebrews 3:4, the italics show that the word man is not in the Greek, but is supplied by the translators. The writer uses only the pronoun this one.

Builded—Founded, erected, furnished, and filled it with family and domestics. See note on Hebrews 3:2.

Than the house—Moses was, as servant, (Hebrews 3:5,) part of the house; Christ, as Son, was, under God, instrumental builder, heir, and proprietor. Hence his more glory.


Verse 4

4. Every house—And, therefore, this house—has its special builder. And this divine house-building of the two dispensations is like all others, and pre-eminently so, under the divine all-builder, God. As apostles, neither is independent, both being under, as well as from, a divine Founder, by whom both are appointed. The whole structure is established by God supreme. This attribution of all to God, which perplexes Delitzsch, is in Paul’s style. See 2 Corinthians 1:21, with our note.


Verse 5

5. Was faithful—Against the Marcionites, who renounced Moses and the old dispensation, our author is generous and just to Moses. He depreciates not him; he only exalts Christ. The Hebrews are not shocked by any repudiation of their great founder; they are only pointed to a greater.

As a servant—Not a slave, but a steward, superior to the family domestics, yet subordinate to the Son.

Things… spoken after—Namely, the revelations made in the after, or gospel, dispensation. It was the office of Moses to establish a dispensation which should be a testimony, a witness, a memento of future things to be done and spoken after his dispensation was past. Hence, he is prior in time but subordinate in position and purpose. And our gospel dispensation verifies itself by his testimony.


Verse 6

6. But—After this conceded tribute to Moses we next have Christ’s superiority. Moses was in, Christ is over, the house. Own expresses an emphasis not in the Greek; the same pronoun for his is used of Moses (Hebrews 3:5) and of Christ here.

Whose—Referring to Christ. For having established under this striking image of house Christ’s superiority as proprietor of the dispensations, our apostle makes a beautiful transition from this divine proprietorship to the solemn warning against apostasy from Christ, which now follows. We—The writer and his Hebrew Christian brethren. They are now part of the house; they will be permanent part, if. For it is clear that the writer assumes that they are now in possession of a true confidence and rejoicing, which they have only to hold fast. The whole of the remainder of the chapter assumes that they are now true Christians; the exhortation is, to stay just as they are: the great fear is that they will not, but that they will apostatize and finally perish.

Confidence—Greek, free, bold utterance; of which the inward foundation is confidence of faith and feeling.

Rejoicing—Or, exultation. Confidence is the firm, solid assurance; rejoicing is the joyful hope and glorying built on that solid foundation.

Firm—With unmovableness. End of our probationary life. At that end all danger is at an end. We then cannot fall. For though we still be free agents, intrinsically able to choose wrong in the blessed paradise, there is no wrong to choose. Our hearts will be so attuned with the heart of the holy Christ that an unholy emotion cannot enter. Our spirits, filled with the blessed Spirit, can give no entrance to an unholy thought. We are no longer “prisoners of hope,” but prisoners of everlasting joy. We are immovable parts of Christ’s eternal house. The clause unto the end, has been rejected, as being really inserted here from Hebrews 3:14. Delitzsch thinks our apostle would not use the phrase twice. Unreasonably, for it is truly an emphatic repetition, a repetition of what is really the point of the whole epistle. It is retained by the best authorities; by Tischendorf in the fourth edition of his Testament.


Verse 7

a. Israel’s failure to attain God’s rest portrayed as warning, Hebrews 3:7-11.

7. Wherefore—In view of the fact that your forming a part of Christ’s eternal house depends on your hold fast.

Holy Ghost saith—In Psalms 95:7-11. Our author assumes that what the psalm says, the Holy Ghost saith; that is, the psalm is inspired.

As—The so corresponding to this as is implied at Hebrews 3:12, before. Take heed. The Holy Ghost in the ancient psalm utters all the reproofs of 7-11, so (Hebrews 3:12,) do you take heed. See our note on Hebrews 3:12. The warning to the old Mosaic era of the house (Hebrews 3:2) is still sounding from the Holy Ghost in your ears.

Today— Since you have been so little attentive in past days, let this be the day to hear his, God’s, voice.


Verses 7-13

2. Dread warnings against disobedience to the Son, like the Jews’ disobedience to Moses, Hebrews 3:7 to Hebrews 4:13.

As Christ stands parallel to Moses, so our Christian Hebrews stand parallel to ancient Israel, and so must take warning by Israel’s fatal example.


Verse 8

8. Provocation… temptation—In Exodus 17:7, at the smiting of the rock to bring water for the murmuring people, it is said that Moses “called the name of the place Massah, [temptation,] and Meribah, [bitterness,] because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us or not.” The word provocation, here, is the Septuagint translation of Meribah, and temptation of Massah.

Wilderness—Of Zin.


Verse 9

9. Tempted… proved—Made trial—ascertained.

Forty years—The perversity of the people at Meribah was at the beginning of this forty years. In the psalm the forty years is in the following verse, measuring the time in which I was grieved. Our author, in thought, measures the same period, though he varies the phrase. It was, also, forty years between the crucifixion and the destruction of Jerusalem and the overthrow of the Jewish race. The period had nearly expired when this epistle was written.


Verse 10

10. That generation—Of the forty years.

Heart—Note, Romans 10:10.

Not known—Not merely a passive ignorance, but a positive ignoring, a refusing to know.

My waysMy works, in Hebrews 3:9, were the divine miracles and revelations; my ways, here, are the Lord’s righteous dealings with free-agents. They had so ignored God’s ways and modes of government as to act as if there were no God.


Verse 11

11. I sware—Made an affirmation, to be held as sure and firm as the divine existence. So Numbers 14:21, “As truly as I live;” and Numbers 14:28-29, “As truly as I live… your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness.”

My rest— To the Israelites the words meant a failure to attain Canaan; with the deeper implications underlying of a death under the divine wrath. To the spiritual Israel the literal Canaan had no significance except as a type of the eternal rest.


Verse 12

b. Application of Israel’s sad example in warning to you, Hebrews 3:12-15.

12. Take heed—To be connected immediately with the as of Hebrews 3:7, where see note. As the Holy Ghost gave the warnings of Hebrews 3:7-12, so, in accordance therewith, do you take heed of apostatizing as your fathers apostatized and perished.

In any of youYou, emphatic; in… you, as in the lost apostates of old. And our author assumes that to apostatize from Christ is not merely to relapse into a harmless Judaism; it is to fall into sin and death.

Heart of unbelief—For unbelief of divine truth springs from all evil temper. If men’s hearts were right, their belief would be right. The drunkard will not believe the truths of temperance doctrines because he loves ardent spirits. The knave will not believe the precepts of conscience because he loves the gains of fraud. The atheist rejects God because he dislikes God. Note on John 3:18-21. And so the Hebrew was liable to relapse from Christ from disgust at the sufferings and lowliness of Christ.

In departing—The unbelief would result in, be exerted in, nay, consist in, departing. The evil heart, the unbelief, and the departing, all fuse into each other and become one.

Living God—The Old Testament phrase to distinguish Jehovah from the unliving idols. But our author boldly assumes that the living God has deserted old Judaism, and is in and with the Christian Church. To desert Christ is to desert the living God.


Verse 13

13. Exhort one another—Literal Greek, exhort yourselves. Be an entire, collective, self-exhorting Church. Let a man exhort himself, and each one exhort the other, and all exhort all. In this time of trial and dismay, mutual encouragement was the common duty.

Daily—For each day has its danger and needs its warning and its cheer.

Called to-day—As long as we live to use the word to-day. Note, John 9:4. While our probationary day lasts, and earnestly before the hastening night comes.

Any of you—For the Church’s exhortation of itself should not be solely collective. Each individual soul is infinitely important.

Hardened—Become spiritually insensible and hard.

Deceitfulness of sin—Sin, the hardener and deadener of the soul, is a deceiver. It masks its own ugliness with false beauty. It cheats us with false appearances of goodness. It entangles with sophistries. The pure heart needs constant warning and watching against its deceptions. To the wavering Hebrew the deceitfulness of sin suggested that to adhere to a crucified Messiah was disgraceful; that the old temple worship was honourable; that it was more profitable and advantageous to agree with the popular religion and renounce Jesus.


Verse 14

14. Are made—Both in the English and the Greek the verb assumes a standpoint beyond the end; that is, at the judgment day, and is, therefore, expressively indicative of the future.

The beginning of our confidence— Our commencement of Christian life. To begin, do well, and then fail, is to lose all the reward of our previous righteousness.

The end—Of our day of probation.


Verse 15

15. WhileHebrews 3:14-15 are, it is to be noted, a single sentence. While refers to hold steadfast in Hebrews 3:14. We finally partake Christ if we hold steadfast, or persevere while the to-day of warning and probation lasts.


Verse 16

c. Was it not the unbelievers who failed of that rest? Then let us fear, Hebrews 3:16 to Hebrews 4:2.

This paragraph is a series of questions impressing upon the Hebrews the fact that the underlying cause of Israel’s destruction in the wilderness was one—unbelief. Hebrews 3:19. This furnishes basis for an inferential exhortation against apostasy by this same unbelief, commencing with the therefore of Hebrews 4:1, and extending to Hebrews 4:16.


Verse 16

16. Some—It is a query (depending on the Greek accent upon the Greek word for some) whether this verse is affirmation or question. If it be an affirmation, the meaning then is, some provoked, but not all. But the provokers, in fact, were all with an exceptional two—Caleb and Joshua, Nor does the train of thought require a depreciation of the practically all into a some. On the contrary, the force of our author’s strain of warning here is increased rather by emphasizing the all, and overlooking the exceptions. The obvious interpretation, therefore, is to bring the verse into interrogative form, in accordance with the series of five interrogations, of which this verse contains two. Read thus: For who, when they heard, did provoke? Was it not all that came out of Egypt by Moses? The for, then, refers to the danger implied in the if of Hebrews 3:14; the danger of failing, as the mass of Israel did, of attaining rest in Christ. The for, therefore, introduces the whole drift of the following interrogations.

The series of questions argues that it was the provokers, the all, who sinned, and who believed not, that were the subjects of God’s grief, of his destructive judgment, and his menacing oath. The whole history shows, then, that perdition arises from unbelief as concludingly asserted in Hebrews 3:19.


Verse 17

17. Carcasses—Literal Greek, limbs, meaning the skeleton bones, as of the spine, legs, and arms. In the dry climate of the East the strewn bones of corpses usually remain long undecayed, a memento of death.


Verse 19

19. So we see—Conclusion from the whole history, deeply bearing on our own case.

Unbelief—Want, not merely of intellectual acknowledgment of the divine facts, but want of fidelity of heart and the spirit of obedience to God, and harmony with his divine and glorious purposes. Full, hearty accord with God would have made Israel great and glorious, a divine, triumphant theocracy, thrilling the world with the greatness and glory of Jehovah. As it was, Israel barely lived along until the Messiah came and chose another, a spiritual, Israel, in Israel’s place. To that spiritual Israel our author now addresses the warning not to fail by like unbelief.

This chapter ought to have closed at close of Hebrews 4:2.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Hebrews 3:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/hebrews-3.html. 1874-1909.

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