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Jamieson, Fausset & Brown :: Commentary on Hebrews 1

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The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews

Commentary by A. R. FAUSSET



      The writer, though not inscribing his name, was well known to those addressed ( Hbr 13:19 ). For proofs of Paul being the author, see my Introduction. In the Pauline method, the statement of subject and the division are put before the discussion; and at the close, the practical follows the doctrinal portion. The ardor of Spirit in this Epistle, as in First John, bursting forth at once into the subject (without prefatory inscription of name and greeting), the more effectively strikes the hearers. The date must have been while the temple was yet standing, before its destruction, A.D. 70; some time before the martyrdom of Peter, who mentions this Epistle of Paul ( 2Pe 3:15, 16 ); at a time when many of the first hearers of the Lord were dead.

      1. at sundry times--Greek, "in many portions." All was not revealed to each one prophet; but one received one portion of revelation, and another another. To Noah the quarter of the world to which Messiah should belong was revealed; to Abraham, the nation; to Jacob, the tribe; to David and Isaiah, the family; to Micah, the town of nativity; to Daniel, the exact time; to Malachi, the coming of His forerunner, and His second advent; through Jonah, His burial and resurrection; through Isaiah and Hosea, His resurrection. Each only knew in part; but when that which was perfect came in Messiah, that which was in part was done away ( 1Cr 13:12 ).
      in divers manners--for example, internal suggestions, audible voices, the Urim and Thummim, dreams, and visions. "In one way He was seen by Abraham, in another by Moses, in another by Elias, and in another by Micah; Isaiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel, beheld different forms" [THEODORET]. (Compare Num 12:6-8 ). The Old Testament revelations were fragmentary in substance, and manifold in form; the very multitude of prophets shows that they prophesied only in part. In Christ, the revelation of God is full, not in shifting hues of separated color, but Himself the pure light, uniting in His one person the whole spectrum ( Hbr 1:3 ).
      spake--the expression usual for a Jew to employ in addressing Jews. So Matthew, a Jew writing especially for Jews, quotes Scripture, not by the formula, "It is written," but "said," &c.
      in time past--From Malachi, the last of the Old Testament prophets, for four hundred years, there had arisen no prophet, in order that the Son might be the more an object of expectation [BENGEL]. As God (the Father) is introduced as having spoken here; so God the Son, Hbr 2:3; God the Holy Ghost, Hbr 3:7.
      the fathers--the Jewish fathers. The Jews of former days ( 1Cr 10:1 ).
      by--Greek, "in." A mortal king speaks by his ambassador, not (as the King of kings) in his ambassador. The Son is the last and highest manifestation of God ( Mat 21:34, 37 ); not merely a measure, as in the prophets, but the fulness of the Spirit of God dwelling in Him bodily ( Jhn 1:16 3:34 Col 2:9 ). Thus he answers the Jewish objection drawn from their prophets. Jesus is the end of all prophecy ( Rev 19:10 ), and of the law of Moses ( Jhn 1:17 5:46 ).

      2. in these last days--In the oldest manuscripts the Greek is. "At the last part of these days." The Rabbins divided the whole of time into "this age," or "world," and "the age to come" ( Hbr 2:5 6:5 ). The days of Messiah were the transition period or "last part of these days" (in contrast to "in times past"), the close of the existing dispensation, and beginning of the final dispensation of which Christ's second coming shall be the crowning consummation.
      by his Son--Greek, "IN (His) Son" ( Jhn 14:10 ). The true "Prophet" of God. "His majesty is set forth: (1) Absolutely by the very name "Son," and by three glorious predicates, "whom He hath appointed," "by whom He made the worlds," "who sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;" thus His course is described from the beginning of all things till he reached the goal ( Hbr 1:2, 3 ). (2) Relatively, in comparison with the angels, Hbr 1:4; the confirmation of this follows, and the very name "Son" is proved at Hbr 1:5; the "heirship," Hbr 1:6-9; the "making the worlds," Hbr 1:10-12; the "sitting at the right hand" of God, Hbr 1:13, 14." His being made heir follows His sonship, and preceded His making the worlds ( Pro 8:22, 23 Eph 3:11 ). As the first begotten, He is heir of the universe ( Hbr 1:6 ), which He made instrumentally, Hbr 11:3, where "by the Word of God" answers to "by whom"' (the Son of God) here ( Jhn 1:3 ). Christ was "appointed" (in God's eternal counsel) to creation as an office; and the universe so created was assigned to Him as a kingdom. He is "heir of all things" by right of creation, and especially by right of redemption. The promise to Abraham that he should be heir of the world had its fulfilment, and will have it still more fully, in Christ ( Rom 4:13 Gal 3:16 4:7 ).
      worlds--the inferior and the superior worlds ( Col 1:16 ). Literally, "ages" with all things and persons belonging to them; the universe, including all space and ages of time, and all material and spiritual existences. The Greek implies, He not only appointed His Son heir of all things before creation, but He also (better than "also He") made by Him the worlds.

      3. Who being--by pre-existent and essential being.
      brightness of his glory--Greek, the effulgence of His glory. "Light of (from) light" [Nicene Creed]. "Who is so senseless as to doubt concerning the eternal being of the Son? For when has one seen light without effulgence?" [ATHANASIUS, Against Arius, Orations, 2]. "The sun is never seen without effulgence, nor the Father without the Son" [THEOPHYLACT]. It is because He is the brightness, &c., and because He upholds, &c., that He sat down on the right hand, &c. It was a return to His divine glory ( Jhn 6:62 17:5; compare Wisdom 7:25, 26, where similar things are said of wisdom).
      express image--"impress." But veiled in the flesh.

The Sun of God in glory beams
    Too bright for us to scan;
But we can face the light that streams
    For the mild Son of man. ( 2Cr 3:18 )

      of his person--Greek, "of His substantial essence"; "hypostasis."
      upholding all things--Greek, "the universe." Compare Col 1:15, 17, 20, which enumerates the three facts in the same order as here.
      by the word--Therefore the Son of God is a Person; for He has the word [BENGEL]. His word is God's word ( Hbr 11:3 ).
      of his power--"The word" is the utterance which comes from His (the Son's) power, and gives expression to it.
      by himself--omitted in the oldest manuscripts.
      purged--Greek, "made purification of. . . sins," namely, in His atonement, which graciously covers the guilt of sin. "Our" is omitted in the oldest manuscripts. Sin was the great uncleanness in God's sight, of which He has effected the purgation by His sacrifice [ALFORD]. Our nature, as guilt-laden, could not, without our great High Priest's blood of atonement sprinkling the heavenly mercy seat, come into immediate contact with God. EBRARD says, "The mediation between man and God, who was present in the Most Holy Place, was revealed in three forms: (1) In sacrifices (typical propitiations for guilt); (2) In the priesthood (the agents of those sacrifices); (3) In the Levitical laws of purity (Levitical purity being attained by sacrifice positively, by avoidance of Levitical pollution negatively, the people being thus enabled to come into the presence of God without dying, Deu 5:26 )" ( Lev 16:1-34 ).
      sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high--fulfilling Psa 110:1. This sitting of the Son at God's fight hand was by the act of the Father ( Hbr 8:1 Eph 1:20 ); it is never used of His pre-existing state co-equal with the Father, but always of His exalted state as Son of man after His sufferings, and as Mediator for man in the presence of God ( Rom 8:34 ): a relation towards God and us about to come to an end when its object has been accomplished ( 1Cr 15:28 ).

      4. Being made. . . better--by His exaltation by the Father ( Hbr 1:3, 13 ): in contrast to His being "made lower than the angels" ( Hbr 2:9 ). "Better," that is, superior to. As "being" ( Hbr 1:3 ) expresses His essential being so "being made" ( Hbr 7:26 ) marks what He became in His assumed manhood ( Phl 2:6-9 ). Paul shows that His humbled form (at which the Jews might stumble) is no objection to His divine Messiahship. As the law was given by the ministration of angels and Moses, it was inferior to the Gospel given by the divine Son, who both is ( Hbr 1:4-14 ) as God, and has been made, as the exalted Son of man ( Hbr 2:5-18 ), much better than the angels. The manifestations of God by angels (and even by the angel of the covenant) at different times in the Old Testament, did not bring man and God into personal union, as the manifestation of God in human flesh does.
      by inheritance obtained--He always had the thing itself, namely, Sonship; but He "obtained by inheritance," according to the promise of the Father, the name "Son," whereby He is made known to men and angels. He is "the Son of God" is a sense far exalted above that in which angels are called "sons of God" ( Job 1:6 38:7 ). "The fulness of the glory of the peculiar name "the Son of God," is unattainable by human speech or thought. All appellations are but fragments of its glory beams united in it as in a central sun, Rev 19:12. A name that no than knew but He Himself."

      5. For--substantiating His having "obtained a more excellent name than the angels."
      unto which--A frequent argument in this Epistle is derived from the silence of Scripture ( Hbr 1:13 Hbr 2:16 7:3, 14 ) [BENGEL].
      this day have I begotten thee-- ( Psa 2:7 ). Fulfilled at the resurrection of Jesus, whereby the Father "declared," that is, made manifest His divine Sonship, heretofore veiled by His humiliation ( Act 13:33 Rom 1:4 ). Christ has a fourfold right to the title "Son of God"; (1) By generation, as begotten of God; (2) By commission, as sent by God; (3) By resurrection, as "the first-begotten of the dead" (compare Luk 20:36 Rom 1:4 Rev 1:5 ); (4) By actual possession, as heir of all [BISHOP PEARSON]. The Psalm here quoted applied primarily in a less full sense to Solomon, of whom God promised by Nathan to David. "I will be his father and he shall be my son." But as the whole theocracy was of Messianic import, the triumph of David over Hadadezer and neighboring kings ( 2Sa 8:1-18 Psa 2:2, 3, 9-12 ) is a type of God's ultimately subduing all enemies under His Son, whom He sets (Hebrew, "anointed," Psa 2:6 ) on His "holy hill of Zion," as King of the Jews and of the whole earth. the antitype to Solomon, son of David. The "I" in Greek is emphatic; I the Everlasting Father have begotten Thee this day, that is, on this day, the day of Thy being manifested as My Son, "the first-begotten of the dead" ( Col 1:18 Rev 1:5 ). when Thou hast ransomed and opened heaven to Thy people. He had been always Son, but now first was manifested as such in His once humbled, now exalted manhood united to His Godhead. ALFORD refers "this day" to the eternal generation of the Son: the day in which the Son was begotten by the Father is an everlasting to-day: there never was a yesterday or past time to Him, nor a to-morrow or future time: "Nothing there is to come, and nothing past, but an eternal NOW doth ever last" ( Pro 30:4 Jhn 10:30, 38 16:28 17:8 ). The communication of the divine essence in its fulness, involves eternal generation; for the divine essence has no beginning. But the context refers to a definite point of time, namely, that of His having entered on the inheritance ( Hbr 1:4 ). The "bringing the first-begotten into the world" ( Hbr 1:6 ), is not subsequent, as ALFORD thinks, to Hbr 1:5, but anterior to it (compare Act 2:30-35 ).

      6. And--Greek, "But." Not only this proves His superiority, BUT a more decisive proof is Psa 97:7, which shows that not only at His resurrection, but also in prospect of His being brought into the world (compare Hbr 9:11 10:5 ) as man, in His incarnation, nativity ( Luk 2:9-14 ), temptation ( Mat 4:10, 11 ), resurrection ( Mat 28:2 ), and future second advent in glory, angels were designed by God to be subject to Him. Compare 1Ti 3:16, "seen of angels"; God manifesting Messiah as one to be gazed at with adoring love by heavenly intelligences ( Eph 3:10 2Th 1:9, 10 1Pe 3:22 ). The fullest realization of His Lordship shall be at His second coming ( Psa 97:7 1Cr 15:24, 25 Phl 2:9 ). "Worship Him all ye gods" ("gods," that is, exalted beings, as angels), refers to God; but it was universally admitted among the Hebrews that God would dwell, in a peculiar sense, in Messiah (so as to be in the Talmud phrase, "capable of being pointed to with the finger"); and so what was said of God was true of, and to be fulfilled in, Messiah. KIMCHI says that the ninety-third through the hundred first Psalms contain in them the mystery of Messiah. God ruled the theocracy in and through Him.
      the world--subject to Christ ( Hbr 2:5 ). As "the first-begotten" He has the rights of primogeniture ( Rom 8:29 ); Col 1:15, 16, 18 ). In Deu 32:43, the Septuagint has, "Let all the angels of God worship Him," words not now found in the Hebrew. This passage of the Septuagint may have been in Paul's mind as to the form, but the substance is taken from Psa 97:7. The type David, in the Psa 89:27 (quoted in Hbr 1:5 ), is called "God's first-born, higher than the kings of the earth"; so the antitypical first-begotten, the son of David, is to be worshipped by all inferior lords, such as angels ("gods," Psa 97:7 ); for He is "King of kings and Lord of lords" ( Rev 19:16 ). In the Greek, "again" is transposed; but this does not oblige us, as ALFORD thinks, to translate, "when He again shall have introduced," &c., namely, at Christ's second coming; for there is no previous mention of a first bringing in; and "again" is often used in quotations, not to be joined with the verb, but parenthetically ("that I may again quote Scripture"). English Version is correct (compare Mat 5:33; Greek, Jhn 12:39 ).

      7. of--The Greek is rather, "In reference TO the angels."
      spirits--or "winds": Who employeth His angels as the winds, His ministers as the lightnings; or, He maketh His angelic ministers the directing powers of winds and flames, when these latter are required to perform His will. "Commissions them to assume the agency or form of flames for His purposes" [ALFORD]. English Version, "maketh His angels spirits," means, He maketh them of a subtle, incorporeal nature, swift as the wind. So Psa 18:10, "a cherub. . . the wings of the wind." Hbr 1:14, "ministering spirits," favors English Version here. As "spirits" implies the wind-like velocity and subtle nature of the cherubim, so "flame of fire" expresses the burning devotion and intense all-consuming zeal of the adoring seraphim (meaning "burning), Isa 6:1. The translation, "maketh winds His messengers, and a flame of fire His ministers (!)," is plainly wrong. In the Psa 104:3, 4, the subject in each clause comes first, and the attribute predicated of it second; so the Greek article here marks "angels" and "ministers" as the subjects, and "winds" and "flame of fire," predicates, Schemoth Rabba says, "God is called God of Zebaoth (the heavenly hosts), because He does what He pleases with His angels. When He pleases, He makes them to sit ( Jdg 6:11 ); at other times to stand ( Isa 6:2 ); at times to resemble women ( Zec 5:9 ); at other times to resemble men ( Gen 18:2 ); at times He makes them 'spirits'; at times, fire." "Maketh" implies that, however exalted, they are but creatures, whereas the Son is the Creator ( Hbr 1:10 ): not begotten from everlasting, nor to be worshipped, as the Son ( Rev 14:7 22:8, 9 ).

      8. O God--the Greek has the article to mark emphasis ( Psa 45:6, 7 ).
      for ever. . . righteousness--Everlasting duration and righteousness go together ( Psa 45:2 89:14 ).
      a sceptre of righteousness--literally, "a rod of rectitude," or "straightforwardness." The oldest manuscripts prefix "and" (compare Est 4:11 ).

      9. iniquity--"unnrighteousness." Some oldest manuscripts read, "lawlessness."
      therefore--because God loves righteousness and hates iniquity.
      God. . . thy God--JEROME, AUGUSTINE, and others translate Psa 45:7, "O God, Thy God, hath anointed thee," whereby Christ is addressed as God. This is probably the true translation of the Hebrew there, and also of the Greek of Hebrews here; for it is likely the Son is addressed, "O God," as in Hbr 1:8. The anointing here meant is not that at His baptism, when He solemnly entered on His ministry for us; but that with the "oil of gladness," or "exulting joy" (which denotes a triumph, and follows as the consequence of His manifested love of righteousness and hatred of iniquity), wherewith, after His triumphant completion of His work, He has been anointed by the Father above His fellows (not only above us, His fellow men, the adopted members of God's family, whom "He is not ashamed to call His brethren," but above the angels, fellow partakers in part with Him, though infinitely His inferiors, in the glories, holiness, and joys of heaven; "sons of God," and angel "messengers," though subordinate to the divine Angel--"Messenger of the covenant"). Thus He is antitype to Solomon, "chosen of all David's many sons to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel," even as His father David was chosen before all the house of his father's sons. The image is drawn from the custom of anointing guests at feasts ( Psa 23:5 ); or rather of anointing kings: not until His ascension did He assume the kingdom as Son of man. A fuller accomplishment is yet to be, when He shall be VISIBLY the anointed King over the whole earth (set by the Father) on His holy hill of Zion, Psa 2:6, 8. So David, His type, was first anointed at Bethlehem ( 1Sa 16:13 Psa 89:20 ); and yet again at Hebron, first over Judah ( 2Sa 2:4 ), then over all Israel ( 2Sa 5:3 ); not till the death of Saul did he enter on his actual kingdom; as it was not till after Christ's death that the Father set Him at His right hand far above all principalities ( Eph 1:20, 21 ). The forty-fifth Psa in its first meaning was addressed to Solomon; but the Holy Spirit inspired the writer to use language which in its fulness can only apply to the antitypical Solomon, the true Royal Head of the theocracy.

      10. And--In another passage ( Psa 102:25-27 ) He says.
      in the beginning--English Version, Psa 102:25, "of old": Hebrew, "before," "aforetime." The Septuagint, "in the beginning" (as in Gen 1:1 ) answers by contrast to the end implied in "They shall perish," &c. The Greek order here (not in the Septuagint) is, "Thou in the beginning, O Lord," which throws the "Lord" into emphasis. "Christ is preached even in passages where many might contend that the Father was principally intended" [BENGEL].
      laid the foundation of--"firmly founded" is included in the idea of the Greek.
      heavens--plural: not merely one, but manifold, and including various orders of heavenly intelligences ( Eph 4:10 ).
      works of thine hands--the heavens, as a woven veil or curtain spread out.

      11. They--The earth and the heavens in their present state and form "shall perish" ( Hbr 12:26, 27 2Pe 3:13 ). "Perish" does not mean annihilation; just as it did not mean so in the case of "the world that being overflowed with water, perished" under Noah ( 2Pe 3:6 ). The covenant of the possession of the earth was renewed with Noah and his seed on the renovated earth. So it shall be after the perishing by fire ( 2Pe 3:12, 13 ).
      remainest--through (so the Greek) all changes.
      as. . . a garment-- ( Isa 51:6 ).

      12. vesture--Greek, "an enwrapping cloak."
      fold them up--So the Septuagint, Psa 102:26; but the Hebrew, "change them." The Spirit, by Paul, treats the Hebrew of the Old Testament, with independence of handling, presenting the divine truth in various aspects; sometimes as here sanctioning the Septuagint (compare Isa 34:4 Rev 6:14 ); sometimes the Hebrew; sometimes varying from both.
      changed--as one lays aside a garment to put on another.
      thou art the same-- ( Isa 46:4 Mal 3:6 ). The same in nature, therefore in covenant faithfulness to Thy people.
      shall not fail--Hebrew, "shall not end." Israel, in the Babylonian captivity, in the hundred second Psalm, casts her hopes of deliverance on Messiah, the unchanging covenant God of Israel.

      13. Quotation from Psa 110:1. The image is taken from the custom of conquerors putting the feet on the necks of the conquered ( Jos 10:24, 25 ).

      14. ministering spirits--referring to Hbr 1:7, "spirits. . . ministers." They are incorporeal spirits, as God is, but ministering to Him as inferiors.
      sent forth--present participle: "being sent forth" continually, as their regular service in all ages.
      to minister--Greek, "unto (that is, 'for') ministry."
      for them--Greek, "on account of the." Angels are sent forth on ministrations to God and Christ, not primarily to men, though for the good of "those who are about to inherit salvation" (so the Greek): the elect, who believe, or shall believe, for whom all things, angels included, work together for good ( Rom 8:28 ). Angels' ministrations are not properly rendered to men, since the latter have no power of commanding them, though their ministrations to God are often directed to the good of men. So the superiority of the Son of God to angels is shown. They "all," how ever various their ranks, "minister"; He is ministered to. They "stand" ( Luk 1:19 ) before God, or are "sent forth" to execute the divine commands on behalf of them whom He pleases to save; He "sits on the right hand of the Majesty on high" ( Hbr 1:3, 13 ). He rules; they serve.

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