Hebrews 1:8 MEANING

Hebrews 1:8
(8) Unto.--Rather, of. The connection with Hebrews 1:7 is so close ("Whereas of the angels He saith . . . of the Son He saith"), that we must not vary the rendering of the preposition. The passage which follows is taken from Psalm 45:6-7. As the words stand in the ordinary Greek text, they agree exactly with the LXX.; but certain alterations of reading are required by the best evidence. After the words "for ever and ever" and must be restored, and in the following clause the and a must change places. The latter change is of moment only as it affects the former. Were the words in all other respects cited with perfect exactness, the introduction of and would probably indicate that the writer intended to split up the quotation into two parts, each significant for his purpose. (Comp. Hebrews 2:13.) As, however, we note other minor changes, the insertion of the connecting word is probably accidental. A third reading is of much greater importance. At the close of the verse the two oldest of our Greek MSS. agree in reading "His kingdom:" to this we will return afterwards.

We have every reason to believe that the application of Psalms 45 which is here made was fully received by the ancient Jews; thus in the Targum on the Psalm Hebrews 1:7 is taken as a direct address to the King Messiah. Hence the readers of this Epistle would at once recognise the argument which the words contain. It is strongly maintained by some that the Psalm (like Psalms 110, see below, on Hebrews 1:13) is altogether prophetic, the promised Messiah alone being in the Psalmist's thought. There appear to be insuperable objections to this view, from particular expressions used (in the later verses especially), and from the general structure and colouring of the Psalm. It is in every way more probable that the second Psalm (see Note on Hebrews 1:5), rather than Psalms 110, represents the class to which Psalms 45 belongs. Originally writing in celebration of the marriage of a king of David's line (we know not whom, but many of the arguments urged against the possible reference to Solomon have no great weight), the inspired Psalmist uses words which bear their full meaning only when applied to that Son of David of whose kingdom there shall be no end. The promises made to David (2 Samuel 7) are before the writer's mind in the first verses of the Psalm. The king appointed by God is His representative to God's people; his cause is that of truth and righteousness; his dominion will continually advance. It is at this moment that, with the promise of a divine sonship (Psalms 2) in his thought, he suddenly addresses the sing as Elohim (Hebrews 1:7), a divine king who receives from God the reward of righteousness (Hebrews 1:8). There are in the Old Testament examples of the use of Elohim which diminish the difficulty of its application to an earthly king (such as Psalm 82:1; Psalm 95:3; 1 Samuel 28:13; Exodus 7:1); but it must still be acknowledged that the passage stands alone. This difficulty, however, relates only to the primary application. As the higher and true reference of the words became revealed, all earthly limitations disappeared; the Christian readers of the Psalm recognised in the Messiah of whom it speaks a King who is God.

The reading "His kingdom" has seemed to require a different rendering of the words in the first part of the verse: God is Thy throne for ever and ever. This rendering, however, will suit either reading of the Greek, and is equally admissible as a rendering of the Hebrew. Nor is it really inconsistent with the position in which the verse here stands: in contrast with the ministry of angels is set, on this view, not indeed a direct address to the Son as God, but the sovereign rule which the Son receives from God. The objections raised against it are: (1) such an expression as "God is Thy throne" is contrary to the analogy of Scripture language; (2) the ordinary rendering has the support of almost all ancient authority, Jewish writers and ancient versions being apparently united in its favour. The former argument is not very strong in face of Psalm 90:1, and similar passages; but the latter is so weighty that we hesitate to accept the change, helpful as it would be in making clear the original and typical reference of Hebrews 1:7. It should be said that the reading "His kingdom" is not inconsistent with the ordinary translation of the preceding words; for a sudden transition from "Thy throne, O God" to "His kingdom" is in full accordance with the usage of Hebrew poetry. (See Psalm 43:4; Psalm 67:5-6; Psalm 104:4-6, et al.) There are other renderings which would require discussion if we were concerned with the Hebrew text of the Psalm: the two given above are the only possible translations of the Greek.

A sceptre . . .--Rather, the sceptre of uprightness is a sceptre of Thy (or, His) kingdom. Righteousness itself (so to speak, the very ideal of righteous government) bears sway in Thy kingdom.

Verses 8-13. - Two more quotations from the psalms with reference to the SON adduced in contrast. Verses 8, 9. - But unto the Son he saith. The preposition here translated "unto" is πρὸς, as in ver. 7, there translated "of." As is evident from its use in ver. 7, it does not imply of necessity that the persons spoken of are addressed in the quotations, though it is so in this second case. The force of the preposition itself need only be "in reference to." The first quotation is from Psalm 45:6, 7. The psalm was evidently written originally as an epithalamium on the occasion of the marriage of some king of Israel to some foreign princess. The general and probable opinion is that the king was Solomon. His marriage with Pharaoh's daughter may have been the occasion. The view taken by some (as Hengstenberg), that the psalm had no original reference to an actual marriage, being purely a Messianic prophecy, is inconsistent both with its own contents and with the analogy of other Messianic psalms (see what was said on this head with reference to Psalm 2.). Those who enter into the view of Messianic prophecy that has been given above, will have no difficulty in perceiving the justness of the application of this psalm to Christ, notwithstanding its primary import. Like Psalm 2, it presents (in parts at least) an ideal picture, suggested only and imperfectly realized by the temporary type; an ideal of which we find the germ in 2 Samuel 7, and the amplification in later prophecy. Further, the title, "For the precentor" (" To the chief musician," A.V.), shows that the psalm was used in the temple services, and thus, whatever might be the occasion of its composition, was understood by the Jews of old as having an ulterior meaning. Further, there is possibly (as Delitzsch points out) a reference to the psalm as Messianic in Isaiah 61:1-3, where "the Servant of Jehovah," "the Anointed," gives the "oil of gladness" for mourning; and in Isaiah 9:5, where the words of the psalm," God" (ver. 6) and "mighty" (ver. 3) are compounded for a designation of the Messiah; also in Zechariah 12:8, where it is prophesied that in the latter days" the house of David" shall be "as God." The Messianic interpretation is undoubtedly ancient. The Chaldee paraphrast (on ver. 3) writes, "Thy beauty, O King Messiah, is greater than that of the sons of men." Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever. Attempts have been made to evade the conclusion that the king is here addressed as "God,"

(1) by taking the clause as a parenthetic address to God himself;

(2) by regarding" God" as appended to "throne," or as the predicate of the sentence; i.e. translating either "Thy throne of God is," etc. (according to the sense of 1 Chronicles 29:23, "Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD as king"), or "Thy throne is God [i.e. Divine] for ever and ever." As to

(1), the context repudiates it. As to

(2), it is a question whether the Hebrew is patient of the supposed construction. At any rate, "God" is understood as a vocative in the LXX. as well as in the Epistle, in which the LXX. is quoted (for the use of the nominative form, ὁ Θεὸς, in a vocative sense, cf. Luke 18:11, 13; Matthew 27:29; Mark 9:25; Luke 8:54; Luke 12:32);' and in the Chaldee paraphrase, and all ancient versions, it is understood so also. Probably no other interpretation would have been thought of but for the difficulty of supposing an earthly king to be thus addressed. It is to be observed, however, that the other rendering would express essentially the same idea, and be sufficient for the argument. In either case the throne of the SON is represented as God's throne, and eternal. The only difference is that the vocative rendering makes more marked and manifest the ideal view of his subject taken by the psalmist. For it is most unlikely that a bard of the sanctuary, a worshipper of the jealous God of Israel, would have so apostrophized any earthly king except as prefiguring "a greater than Solomon" to come. It is true that kings are elsewhere called "gods" in the plural (as in Psalm 82:6, referred to by our Lord, John 10:35); but the solemn addressing of an individual king by this title is (if the vocative rendering be correct) peculiar to this psalm. The passage (1 Samuel 28:13) adduced in abatement of the significance of the title, where the apparition of Samuel is described by the witch of Endor as "Elohim ascending out of the earth," is not a parallel case. The word "Elohim" has a comprehensive meaning, depending on context for its precise significance. If vocatively used in a solemn address to a king sitting upon an everlasting throne, it surely implies the assigning of Divine honors to the king so addressed. In this case still more is implied than in Psalm 2, where the King is spoken of as God's Son, enthroned on Zion, the Son being here addressed as himself "Elohim." It may be that the inspiring Spirit suggested language to the psalmist beyond his own comprehension at the time of utterance (see 1 Peter 1:10, 11). It may be added that the ultimate Messianic reference of the expression is confirmed by Isaiah 9:6, where the title El-Gibber ("Mighty God," A.V.) distinctly used of God himself in Isaiah 10:21 (cf. Deuteronomy 10:17; Jeremiah 32:18; Nehemiah 9:32; Psalm 24:8), is applied to the Messiah. A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of thy kingdom. In this and the following clause is expressed the important idea that the ideal throne of the SON is founded on righteousness, whence comes also his peculiar unction with "the oil of gladness." Only so far as Solomon or other theocratic kings exemplified the Divine righteousness, did they approach the ideal position assigned to the Son. cf. the latter part of ver. 14 in the original promise, 2 Samuel 7, and especially 2 Samuel 23:3, etc., in the "last words of David." Observe also the prominence of the idea in Psalm 72. and in later prophecy (cf. Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 11:2, etc.). Therefore, God, even thy God. The first "God" here may be again in the vocative, as in the preceding verse, or it may be as the A.V. takes it (cf. Psalm 43:4; Psalm 50:7). Hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. The primary reference is, not to the king's coronation (as in Psalm 89:20), but to unction as symbolical of blessing and joy, connected with the custom of anointing the head at feasts (cf. Deuteronomy 28:40; Psalm 23:5; Psalm 92:10; Song of Solomon 1:12; Matthew 6:17). "Thy fellows," in its original reference, seems most naturally to mean "thy associates in royalty," "other kings;" cf. Psalm 79:27, "I will make him my Firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth." Or it might mean the companions of the bridegroom, the παρανύμφιοι. The latter reference lends itself readily to the fulfillment in Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church, whose παρανύμφιοι the redeemed are; themselves also being, after their measure, χριστοί (cf. 1 John 2:20, 27). But they are also made "kings and priests unto God" by Christ (Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:10); so that either of the supposed original references may be shown to be typical, if it be thought necessary to find a definite fulfillment of all the details of the address to the theocratic king. The view that in the fulfillment the angels are to be understood as Christ's μετόχοι is inadmissible. There is nothing in the psalm to suggest the thought of them, nor does the way in which they are contrasted with the SON in this chapter admit of their being here spoken of as his μετόχοι. Men, in the next chapter, are so spoken of.

1:4-14 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.But unto the Son, he saith,.... What he does not to angels, and which sets him infinitely above them; which shows him to be a Prince and King, and not a servant, or minister; and which even ascribes deity to him:

thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: this, with what follows in this verse, and the next, is taken out of Psalm 45:6 which psalm is not spoken of Solomon, to whom many things in it will not agree; he was not fairer than other men; nor was he a warrior; nor was his throne for ever and ever; and much less a divine person, and the object of worship; but the Messiah, and so the ancient Jews understand it: the Targum applies it to him, and mentions him by name in Hebrews 1:2 and some of their modern writers (z) affirm it is said of the Messiah; though Aben Ezra seems doubtful about it, saying, it is spoken concerning David, or Messiah his Son, whose name is so, Ezekiel 37:25. Deity is here ascribed to the Son of God; he is expressly called God; for the words will not bear to be rendered, "thy throne is the throne of God, or thy throne is God"; or be supplied thus, "God shall establish thy throne": nor are the words an apostrophe to the father, but are spoken to the king, the subject of the psalm, who is distinguished from God the Father, being blessed and anointed by him; and this is put out of all doubt by the apostle, who says they are addressed "to the Son", who is not a created God, nor God by office, but by nature; for though the word "Elohim" is sometimes used of those who are not gods by nature; yet being here used absolutely, and the attributes of eternity, and most perfect righteousness, being ascribed to the person so called, prove him to be the true God; and this is the reason why his throne is everlasting, and his sceptre righteous, and why he should be worshipped, served, and obeyed. Dominion and duration of it are given to him; his throne denotes his kingly power, and government; which is general, over angels, good and bad; over men, righteous and wicked, even the greatest among them, the kings and princes of the earth: and special, over his church and people; and which is administered by his Spirit and grace in the hearts of his saints; and by his word and ordinances in his churches; and by his powerful protection of them from their enemies; and will be in a glorious manner in the latter day, and in heaven to all eternity; for his throne is for ever, and on it he will sit for ever: his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; he will have no successor in it, nor can his government be subverted; and though he will deliver up the kingdom to the Father, it will not cease.

A sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom; the sceptre is an ensign of royalty; and a sceptre of righteousness, or rightness, is expressive of the justice of government; the Syriac version renders it, "a sceptre stretched out"; which is a sceptre of mercy, as the instance of Ahasuerus stretching out his sceptre to Esther shows; and such is the Gospel of Christ, which holds forth and declares the mercy, grace, and love of God to men through Christ; and which may be called a sceptre of righteousness, since it reveals and directs to the righteousness of Christ, and encourages to works of righteousness; but here it designs the righteous administration of Christ's kingly office; for just and true are, have been, and ever will be his ways, as King of saints.

(z) Kimchi & R. Sol. ben Melech in loc. & R. Abraham Seba, Tzeror Hammor, fol. 49. 2.

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