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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Hebrews 5

 

 

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Verse 1

2. Real qualities of high priesthood exhibited in Christ, Hebrews 5:1-10.

1. For—St. Paul had introduced Jesus as high priest in Hebrews 4:14-16; he now proceeds to show what the qualities of a high priest are, (Hebrews 5:1-4,) and that those qualities belong pre-eminently to Christ, Hebrews 5:5-10.

Every high priest—In regard to the Jewish high priest consult our note, Matthew 26:3. The meaning is, that being taken from… men, he acts for men; a man stands for men in sacerdotal duties toward God.

Gifts and sacrifices—Strictly, gifts would be any presentation made to God, and sacrifices would be slain animals, but the two ideas fused into each other in practice.


Verse 2

2. Who can have compassion—The reason that the sinner should be represented by a man; the need of a humanly sympathizing representative. Priest and sinner should have a common ground.

Compassion—A medium word, not signifying either deep passion or unfeelingness, but considerateness.

Ignorant—Complete moral ignorance, from the first wholly involuntary, excuses guilt; but there is little of human moral ignorance which is not in some way guiltily incurred, and so is measurably responsible. Hence there were sins of ignorance, as well as sins of immediate knowledge, which needed atonement.

Out of the way— Literally, the wandering, the knowing deviators from the true path, with no ignorance to plead.

Compassed with infirmity—Susceptible to sin, and encircled with tempting excitements to his susceptibilities.


Verse 3

3. By reason hereof—That, is, of this infirmity.

He ought… for himself to offer—Although these susceptibilities are not in themselves sins, yet so sure is the presumption that even the high priest has in course of the year incurred guilt that he needs to offer, also, for himself. Herein the true High Priest surpasses the Aaronic line, in that he is without sin, (Hebrews 4:15,) and needs not atonement.


Verse 4

4. Taketh… unto himself—Who-so, like the sons of Korah or like King Uzziah, assumes the office without divine warrant, is a usurper. The rabbies say that “Moses said to Korah and his associates, ‘If Aaron my brother took the priesthood to himself, you made insurrection against him rightly; but truly God gave it to him.’”

Called of God, as was Aaron— Aaron, first in the long line of high priests, was elected by the divine Voice. Exodus 28:1; Exodus 29:4; Leviticus 8:1, etc.; Numbers 3:10, and Numbers 3:16-18. Until the time of Herod the line remained almost unbroken; but by him the office was unlawfully bestowed, and finally ceased just before the destruction of Jerusalem, after continuing through nearly sixteen centuries. Its divine perpetuity was fixed by our great High Priest.


Verse 5

5. So also—In Hebrews 5:5-10 it is now shown that Christ fulfilled the outline of the high priest sketched in Hebrews 5:1-4. First the writer shows that he fulfills Hebrews 5:4, and thence moves backward to Hebrews 5:1. First, Christ was no usurper.

Glorified not himself—The glory of this divine office was shed upon him by his divine Father.

But he—The nominative to glorified him understood. It was the divine Being who, in Psalms 2:7, declared him Son and King, and who in Psalms 110:4, pronounced him Priest, who conferred the honour of this high priesthood.


Verse 6

6. After the order of Melchizedek—Christ was no descendant of Aaron, and so could be no high priest in the hereditary Jewish line. High priest he can be only by an origination high, at least, as Aaron’s own origination at first was. For this the inspired precedent is found in the most memorable words of Psalms 110:4, (a psalm quoted as Messianic by the Messiah himself, Matthew 22:44,) where the Messiah is addressed by God as priest, not in the line of Aaron, but after the order of Melchizedek. And here first occurs the name of that primeval and typical priest-king, which figures largely in our author’s future argument.


Verse 7

7. From the pinnacle of the Messiah’s exaltation our author now descends at once to the scene of his deepest agony in the garden of Gethsemane. He shows, with touches of deep pathos, that the woes there endured were a filial suffering undergone to give him a complete fitness for conferring salvation upon all obedient to him. His purpose is to show that this deep descent is the source and condition of his subsequent ascent as exalted giver of salvation to us.

In the days of his flesh—As he is now in the days of his resurrection glory, on the throne of his divine royalty.

Prayers… supplications… crying… tears—As profound in the depths of his sorrows then as exalted in the heights of his glory now. Evidently the scene of Gethsemane is here depicted, not with verbal quotation from either of the evangelists, but with something of the freshness of an original. It is not Luke here quoting himself, but Paul quoting what his attendant Luke narrates, and more.

Heard in that he feared—A phrase ambiguous both in the Greek and the English. It may mean that he was heard in regard to the point about which he feared; or that he was heard because he submissively and reverently feared as a Son. This last is the more probable meaning, inasmuch as the word is ordinarily used to signify a reverent and holy fear. But the statement that he was heard, indicates that the object for which he prayed was granted. It was not, indeed, granted if fear of physical death were the motive, and rescue from it the object for which he prayed. It was granted, if, as we think, he prayed for a divine support to buoy him up above a fearful breakdown under the forces bearing upon him, and which, but for that divine support, might have taken place. Then he was heard, and divine sustaining strength was granted him, impersonated in the consoling angel. See our notes, Matthew 26:37-39. And by the death from which he was saved according to his prayer, we do not understand his mere bodily death, (from which, indeed, he was not saved,) but a fulness of woe at the depth and mystery of which his soul was “amazed.” And this, too, was the “cup” which he prayed might so “pass” from him as that not only he might not drink it, in which sense it did not pass from him, but that he might not drink it to its bottomless depths, in which sense it did pass from him. In the bottomless depths of that death and of that “cup” were destruction to himself and failure of his work and of his future. And his prayer and perfect submission were the means by which, through divine strength imparted, he was saved from failure and won immortal victory.


Verse 8

8. The last touch that perfects the divinized man to be the Saviour of suffering men is, that he acquires experience from his own suffering.

Though… a Son—And, therefore, we might suppose, above all suffering.

Learned he obedience… things… suffered—Some of the ancient commentators were scandalized at this statement. “What! was he not obedient before he suffered?” Certainly, but not with a suffering obedience. It was an additional obedience he learned when he suffered; which he could not be conscious of, or exhibit as model to others, without the suffering. The old Greek writers abounded in various forms of the maxim that suffering is a source of wisdom. Trial is both the school and the test of virtue; not only proving, but creating, depth and power of character. The most tried saints on earth will be the highest saints in heaven; and he who will be Lord of them all will have been of all the deepest sufferer.


Verse 9

9. Made perfect—An incomplete Saviour would he have been without Gethsemane and the cross. And from this deep perfecting springs all his glory and power to save.

Obey him—Mark the accord between his obedience in last verse and the obey in this. He was perfected by his obedience to God, they by their obedience, after the sure model, to him.


Verse 10

10. Called—Addressed, saluted; namely, by Jehovah, in the inspired Messianic Psalms 110. See notes on Hebrews 5:6, and on Hebrews 6:20.


Verse 11

3. Parenthetic rebuke for dulness, and liability to apostasy, encouragement, Hebrews 5:11 to Hebrews 6:20.

11. Of whom—Our author, after Pauline fashion, suspends his discourse to make a digression, and will return to the point at Hebrews 7:1. The passage is in Paul’s most severe and magisterial style of rebuke; almost equal to 1 Corinthians 4:18-21. He charges the Hebrews with unappreciative slowness and infantile incapacity, (10-14;) he invites them, by God’s permission, with himself, to leave the elements and go on to completeness, (Hebrews 6:1-3;) warning them, (4-8,) that for those who have heretofore fallen from a high spiritual Christianity, no repentance is possible. Changing, then, to a more cheering tone, he is persuaded that they are not of that apostate class, (9-12,) and lays before them God’s oath-bound assurance that he will save the persevering believer, ending by bringing us back to where he began his admonishing digression, namely, at Melchizedek, 13-20.

Of whom—Concerning whom—namely, Melchizedek; but Melchizedek in his typical relations to Christ.

Hard to be uttered—Rather, difficult for you to interpret when uttered.

Are—Rather, have become; namely, under the influence of your aversion to the suffering Messiah. That error narrowed their views, so that the grand mysteries of the eternal priesthood were excluded. To hitch at a given error is to prevent all progress in truth and to render people dull of hearing: that is, torpid and slow in their receptive powers. The Greek word for dull seems to be compounded of ωθεω, to move, with νη a prefix negative, and, therefore, signifies immobile, unmovable by the stirring truths of religion, and so unready to learn new truths, and to gain new Christian life and activity.


Verse 12

12. For the time—Since you were converted. It was about thirty years since the Jerusalem Church was reconstructed after the Sauline dispersion. The words here may refer to this period of the life of the entire Church, or to the length of the time since the individual conversions of those addressed. If they were not as old Christians as the “old disciple Mnason,” (Acts 21:16,) who entertained Paul, still they were old enough to be beyond “spiritual babyhood.”

Ought to be teachers—For every Christian, however humble, if his heart and head be full of religion, may have occasion to be a teacher.

First principles—The elementary letters, the ABC.

Oracles of God—The revelations made in Christianity to men. St. Paul’s own words in Romans 3:2, where see note.

Need of milk—A humiliating representation of their childishness in spiritual truths. Similar is Paul’s expression in 1 Corinthians 3:2.


Verse 13

13. Every one that useth milk—The milk, or first principles, are indicated by specimens, in Hebrews 6:1-2.

Is a babe—Spiritually ignorant and weak.


Verse 14

14. Strong meat belongeth… full age—The strong meat comes after Hebrews 7:1, and consists in starting from Melchizedek, and evolving the whole priesthood of Christ as based in the Old Testament, and superstructured in the New.

Good and evil—In religious doctrine.

Here we may note that,

1. These elements, though depreciated in rank as compared with further and higher truths, are of the very first importance. They are to commencement of spiritual life what milk is to early bodily life.

2. Our apostle identifies advancement in Christian knowledge as one with advancement in Christian life. Low attainments in Christian knowledge, arising from want of interest in Christian truth, is one with a feeble, infantile Christian life. Deep interest in Christian verities, arising from their vivifying and controlling power, is identified with Christian vitality, integrity, and activity. 3. The apostle does not recognise, in the present passage, this perfection of Christian life as being attained at a spring. He does seem to presuppose that, ordinarily, powerful Christian character is progressively attained by study, experience, and growth.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Hebrews 5:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/hebrews-5.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, December 14th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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