Hebrews 1

1 God, having spoken many times and in many ways in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
2 has in these last times spoken unto us by his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the ages;
3 who being the brightness of his glory and the express image of his substance and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
4 being made so much better than the angels, as he has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
5 For unto which of the angels did he say at any time, Thou art my Son, this day I have begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?
6 And again, when he brought in the firstbegotten into the world, he said, And let all the angels of God worship him.
7 And of the angels he said, Who makes his angels spirits and his ministers a flame of fire.
8 But unto the Son he said, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a rod of equity is the sceptre of thy kingdom.
9 Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore, God, even thy God, has anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
10 And Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands:
11 they shall perish; but thou dost remain; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment;
12 and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed; but thou art the same, and thy years shall never fail.
13 But to which of the angels did he say at any time, Sit on my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool?
14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth in service for the love of those who are the heirs of saving health?

Hebrews 1 Commentary

Chapter 1

This epistle shows Christ as the end, foundation, body, and truth of the figures of the law, which of themselves were no virtue for the soul. The great truth set forth in this epistle is that Jesus of Nazareth is the true God. The unconverted Jews used many arguments to draw their converted brethren from the Christian faith. They represented the law of Moses as superior to the Christian dispensation, and spoke against every thing connected with the Saviour. The apostle, therefore, shows the superiority of Jesus of Nazareth, as the Son of God, and the benefits from his sufferings and death as the sacrifice for sin, so that the Christian religion is much more excellent and perfect than that of Moses. And the principal design seems to be, to bring the converted Hebrews forward in the knowledge of the gospel, and thus to establish them in the Christian faith, and to prevent their turning from it, against which they are earnestly warned. But while it contains many things suitable to the Hebrews of early times, it also contains many which can never cease to interest the church of God; for the knowledge of Jesus Christ is the very marrow and kernel of all the Scriptures. The ceremonial law is full of Christ, and all the gospel is full of Christ; the blessed lines of both Testaments meet in Him; and how they both agree and sweetly unite in Jesus Christ, is the chief object of the epistle to the Hebrews to discover.

The surpassing dignity of the Son of God in his Divine person, and in his creating and mediatorial work. (1-3) And in his superiority to all the holy angels. (4-14)

Verses 1-3 God spake to his ancient people at sundry times, through successive generations, and in divers manners, as he thought proper; sometimes by personal directions, sometimes by dreams, sometimes by visions, sometimes by Divine influences on the minds of the prophets. The gospel revelation is excellent above the former; in that it is a revelation which God has made by his Son. In beholding the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Lord Jesus Christ, we behold the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Father, ( John 14:7 ) ; the fulness of the Godhead dwells, not typically, or in a figure, but really, in him. When, on the fall of man, the world was breaking to pieces under the wrath and curse of God, the Son of God, undertaking the work of redemption, sustained it by his almighty power and goodness. From the glory of the person and office of Christ, we proceed to the glory of his grace. The glory of His person and nature, gave to his sufferings such merit as was a full satisfaction to the honour of God, who suffered an infinite injury and affront by the sins of men. We never can be thankful enough that God has in so many ways, and with such increasing clearness, spoken to us fallen sinners concerning salvation. That he should by himself cleanse us from our sins is a wonder of love beyond our utmost powers of admiration, gratitude, and praise.

Verses 4-14 Many Jews had a superstitious or idolatrous respect for angels, because they had received the law and other tidings of the Divine will by their ministry. They looked upon them as mediators between God and men, and some went so far as to pay them a kind of religious homage or worship. Thus it was necessary that the apostle should insist, not only on Christ's being the Creator of all things, and therefore of angels themselves, but as being the risen and exalted Messiah in human nature, to whom angels, authorities, and powers are made subject. To prove this, several passages are brought from the Old Testament. On comparing what God there says of the angels, with what he says to Christ, the inferiority of the angels to Christ plainly appears. Here is the office of the angels; they are God's ministers or servants, to do his pleasure. But, how much greater things are said of Christ by the Father! And let us own and honour him as God; for if he had not been God, he had never done the Mediator's work, and had never worn the Mediator's crown. It is declared how Christ was qualified for the office of Mediator, and how he was confirmed in it: he has the name Messiah from his being anointed. Only as Man he has his fellows, and as anointed with the Holy Spirit; but he is above all prophets, priests, and kings, that ever were employed in the service of God on earth. Another passage of Scripture, Ps. 102:25-27 , is recited, in which the Almighty power of the Lord Jesus Christ is declared, both in creating the world and in changing it. Christ will fold up this world as a garment, not to be abused any longer, not to be used as it has been. As a sovereign, when his garments of state are folded and put away, is a sovereign still, so our Lord, when he has laid aside the earth and heavens like a vesture, shall be still the same. Let us not then set our hearts upon that which is not what we take it to be, and will not be what it now is. Sin has made a great change in the world for the worse, and Christ will make a great change in it for the better. Let the thoughts of this make us watchful, diligent, and desirous of that better world. The Saviour has done much to make all men his friends, yet he has enemies. But they shall be made his footstool, by humble submission, or by utter destruction. Christ shall go on conquering and to conquer. The most exalted angels are but ministering spirits, mere servants of Christ, to execute his commands. The saints, at present, are heirs, not yet come into possession. The angels minister to them in opposing the malice and power of evil spirits, in protecting and keeping their bodies, instructing and comforting their souls, under Christ and the Holy Ghost. Angels shall gather all the saints together at the last day, when all whose hearts and hopes are set upon perishing treasures and fading glories, will be driven from Christ's presence into everlasting misery.

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO HEBREWS

That this epistle was written very early appears from hence, that it was imitated by Clement of Rome, in his epistle to the Corinthians, who took whole sentences out of it; and therefore it could not be a new work, as Eusebius {a} observes: it has been denied to be authentic by some heretics, as the Marcionites and Arians, but has been generally received as such by the orthodox: some indeed doubted of it, because it was not received by the Roman church, as an epistle of the Apostle Paul {b}; though others, who have thought it was not his, as Origen, yet looked upon it as genuine {c}. It has been ascribed to different persons, as to Barnabas, to Apollos, to Luke the Evangelist, and to Clement of Rome, but without any just reason. Clement of Alexandria, a very ancient writer, asserts it to be the Apostle Paul's {d}; and his name stands in the title of it, in all R. Stephens's exemplars, and in all Beza's copies, excepting one, and so it does in the Vulgate Latin and Arabic versions; and that it is his, is highly probable from the agreement there is between this, and other epistles of his; compare Heb 1:2,3 with Col 1:15,16 and Heb 5:12-14 with 1Co 3:1,2 and Heb 12:1 with 1Co 9:24 and Heb 13:7,17 with 1Th 5:11,12, and Heb 13:9 with Eph 4:14 and Heb 13:18 with 2Co 1:12 and Heb 13:20 with \Ro 15:13 16:20 1Th 5:23\ and many other places; and also from the order and method of it, first treating of doctrines, and then proceeding to practical exhortations, which is the common form of Paul's epistles: to which may be added various circumstances; as that it was written from Italy, where Paul was a prisoner; and the mention the author of it makes of his bonds, and of Timothy, as well known unto him, who was Paul's companion; besides, the token of his epistles appears in this, namely, his usual salutation to the churches; see Heb 13:23-25. But above all, the testimony of the Apostle Peter is greatly in favour of its being his, 2Pe 3:15,16 from whence it clearly appears, that the Apostle Paul did write an epistle to the Hebrews; for to them Peter wrote; see 1Pe 1:1, 2Pe 3:1 and what epistle could it be but this? and what Peter refers to is to be found in it; see Heb 10:25,36,37 and which is written with great wisdom; in none of Paul's epistles is there a greater discovery of his knowledge of divine mysteries than in this; and in it also are things hard to be understood, Heb 5:11. The common objections to its being his are, its not bearing his name, the diversity of its style, and the author of it seeming to be not an apostle, but a disciple of the apostle's: as to his not setting his name to it, the reasons might be, because he was the apostle of the Gentiles, and not so much of the Jews; and because of the prejudice of the Jews against him, both believers, and unbelievers; wherefore had his name been to it, it might have prevented the usefulness of it to the one, and have stirred up the rage of the other: as to the difference of style, different subjects require a different style; and yet in many things there is a likeness, as before observed: and as to the author's not being an apostle, which is concluded from Heb 2:3 the word "us" there is to be understood of the believing Hebrews, the disciples of the apostle, and not inclusive of the author, by a figurative way of speaking often used by Paul; and besides, the apostle received a confirmation of the Gospel from Ananias, who might have been an hearer of Christ, though he was at first taught it by Christ himself; add to this, that whoever was the writer of it, it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, and when several of the apostles were living, and therefore he could never design by those words to put himself in a succeeding generation. The persons to whom this epistle was written were Hebrews, or Jews; so called, as some think, from the name of Abraham, the father of them; or, as others, from his passing over the river Euphrates, when he came out of Chaldea into Palestine. So Abram the Hebrew, in Ge 14:13 is by the Septuagint rendered, perathv, "one that passes over", taking it to come from the word rbe, which signifies to "pass over"; with this compare Jos 24:3 and this is the opinion of some of the Jewish Rabbins {e}; though it seems rather that they were called so from Heber, who lived at the time of the confusion of languages; see Ge 10:21, Nu 24:24. And this is the sense of many Jewish writers, ancient and modern, of Josephus {f}, of Jonathan ben Uzziel {g}, of R. Nehemiah {h}, of Aben Ezra {i}, and Kimchi {k}, and others; \\see Gill on "2Co 11:22"\\. And these were the Hebrews that dwelt in the land of Judea, and particularly at Jerusalem; nor were they the unbelieving inhabitants of those parts, but believers in Christ, who were embodied in a Gospel church state, It was a tradition of the ancients {l}, that this epistle was written originally in Hebrew, and was translated into Greek, either by Luke the Evangelist, or by Clement of Rome. But for this there is no foundation; no Hebrew copy can be produced; Munster's edition of it in Hebrew is a translation from the Greek, in which it was, no doubt, originally written, that being the common language, and well known to the Jews; and which appears from the citations in it out of the Old Testament, which are made, not from the Hebrew text, but from the Greek version; and besides, had it been written in Hebrew, the writer would not have interpreted the Hebrew words, Melchizedek and Salem, as he does, in Heb 7:1,2. The time of its writing was before the destruction of Jerusalem, which in this book is signified by the coming of the Lord, and the day approaching; and after Timothy was released from prison, and some time within the two years of his own imprisonment at Rome; when he hoped for a release, as his epistles to the Philippians and to Philemon show. Dr. Lightfoot places it in the year 62, and in the eighth of Nero. And the occasion and design of it is, to set forth the superior excellency of Christ to angels and men, to Moses, to Joshua, to Aaron, and his sons, and the preferableness of his priesthood and sacrifice to the Levitical priesthood and its sacrifices; to teach the Hebrews the true knowledge of the mysteries of their law; to point out to them the design, use, and abrogation of its ceremonies; and to prepare them for what afflictions and persecutions they would be called to endure for Christ; and to exhort them to perseverance, and to strengthen them against apostasy, as well as to instruct them in the various duties of religion.

{a} Eccl. Hist. l. 3. c. 38. {b} lb. c. 3. & l. 6. c. 20. {c} Eccl. Hist. l. 6. c. 25. {d} Ib. c. 14. {e} Bereshit Rabba, sect. 42. fol. 37. 3. Jarchi in Gen. x. 21. & xiv. 13. {f} Antiqu. l. 1. c. 6. sect. 4. {g} Targum in Gen. x. 21. {h} Bereshit Rabba, sect. 42. fol. 37. 3. {i} In Gen. x. 21. & in Jonam, 1. 9. {k} Sepher Shorashim, rad. rbe {l} Euseb. Eccl. Hist. l. 6. c. 14. Hieronymi Catalog. Script. Eccl. sect. 15. fol. 91. Tom. 1.

\\INTRODUCTION TO HEBREWS 1\\

The intention of this epistle being to demonstrate the superior excellency of the Gospel revelation to the legal one, the apostle begins with the divine author of it, in which they both agree, and observes that in other things they differ. The revelation under the law was made in times past, the Gospel revelation in these last days; the former was made to the Jewish fathers that were of old, the latter to the then present apostles; the one was made at sundry times, and in divers manners, the other was made at once, and in one way; the one was made by the prophets of the Lord, the other by his own son, Heb 1:1,2 and therefore the latter must be the more excellent; in proof of which the author enlarges on the character of the Son of God, with respect to his person, office, and glory; showing that he is heir of all things, the Maker of the worlds, of the same nature and glory with his Father; is omnipotent, and upholds all things by the word of his power; is the High Priest of his people, who has made satisfaction for their sins, and purged them from them, and is now at the right hand of God, Heb 1:2,3 He goes on to prove that he is more excellent than the angels, by a variety of arguments, and these supported by testimonies from the Scriptures; as that he has a more excellent name than any of them, being called the Son of God, Heb 1:4,5 which is proved from Ps 2:7, 2Sa 7:12-16 that he is the object of the worship of angels, Heb 1:6 which is required of them, Ps 97:7 that he is their Maker and Creator, Heb 1:7 which appears from Ps 104:4 that he has an everlasting kingdom, is a righteous King, and is richly anointed above his fellows, Heb 1:8,9 which is the sense of some passages in Ps 45:6,7 and that he is the founder and former of the heavens, and of the earth, and will endure when they shall not, Heb 1:10-12 which is confirmed by testimonies out of Ps 102:25-27 that he sits at the right hand of God, where none of the angels were ever admitted, Heb 1:13 as is clear from Ps 110:1-7 and besides, the angels, as they are ministers made by him, they are sent out from him to wait on his people, the heirs of salvation, and minister to them, and therefore he must be greater than they, Heb 1:14.

Hebrews 1 Commentaries

The Jubilee Bible

(from the Scriptures of the Reformation)

edited by Russell M. Stendal

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