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Song of Solomon
Hebrews 12 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)
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Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset
, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of
faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Looking unto the Author and Finisher of our faith
, as in
Perfecter of the faith
of faith - faith's
Captain and Completer),
Jesus; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The idea is not, as implied in the A.V. and understood by Chrysostom and other ancients, that Jesus first inspires and then brings to its complete result the individual Christian's faith ("quod caepit in nobis consummabit"), but (as implied in the word
, and suiting the context better) that he is the Leader of the whole army of faith, whose standard we are to follow, and whoso own completed victory is the enabling cause as well as the earnest of our own. It is no valid objection to this view that he could not have been a Leader in this sense to the faithful ones before his coming, referred to in the last chapter; for, as has been before observed (see on "the reproach of Christ,"
), he is regarded as the Head and Leader, in all ages, of the faithful; and in virtue of his future warfare for mankind the saints of old endured and triumphed: - and certainly Christians, to whom the exhortation is addressed, may look to him in an obvious sense as their Captain to be followed. Nor, again, is there difficulty - apart from that of the whole mystery of the Incarnation - in his being presented to us as himself an example of triumphant faith. For he is elsewhere spoken of as having so "emptied himself" of his Divine glory as to have become like unto us in all things, sin except; and thus to have been sustained during his human life by faith in the unseen, as we are. His addresses to the Father (see especially
.) are strikingly significant in this regard. The expression, "for the joy," etc. (
ἀντὶ τῆς προκειμένης αὐτῷ
), does not mean, as some take it, "instead
the joy which he might have had on earth" (such e.g. as was offered to him by the tempter), but, as is evident from the word
, "as set against,
for the sake of, future joy" (cf.
, ver. 16). Such looking forward to joy with the Father and the redeemed after triumph is expressed in the great intercessory prayer-above referred to (
John 17:5, 13, 22, 23, 24, 26
). It may be here observed that anticipation of reward hereafter is among legitimate human motives to a good life. It may be said, indeed, that the highest virtue consists in doing what is right simply because it is right - in fulfilling God's will, whatever may come of it to ourselves; but the hope of a final happy issue comes properly, and indeed inevitably, in as an inspiring and sustaining motive. Aspiration after Happiness is a God-given instinct of humanity, necessary for keeping up the life of virtue. There may be some so in love with virtue as to be capable of persevering in lifelong self-denial, though without any faith in a life to come. But human nature in general certainly requires this further incentive, and Christian faith supplies it. Nor are those who thus work with a view to future joy to be accused of selfish motives, as though they balanced only a greater against a smaller gain. To the true Christian the grand inspiring principle is still the love of God and of his neighbor, and of goodness for its own sake, though the hope of an eternal reward supports and cheers him mightily. Nor, again, is the joy looked forward to a selfish joy. It is the joy of sharing in the triumph of eternal righteousness in company with all the redeemed, whose salvation, no less than his own, he desires and strives for. And, further, with regard to his own individual joy, what is it but the joy of attaining the end of his being, the perfection God meant him for, and to which it is his duty to aspire? Hence Christ would not have been a perfect Example to man had he not been represented as looking forward to "the joy that was set before him."
For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
For consider him that hath endured such contradiction of sinners against himself
of the sinners against him
lest ye be weary fainting in your souls.
("contradiction"), though strictly applicable to verbal gainsaying, and thus especially suggesting to our minds the blasphemies and false accusations against Christ, includes opposition of all kinds. It is used in the LXX. for "rebellion" (Hebrew,
2 Samuel 22:41
. (Instead of
) there is weighty manuscript authority for
, equivalent to "against
) "Lest ye be weary," etc., keeps in view the idea of getting tired in a race, the word
("faint") being used primarily for corporeal, and figuratively for mental, lassitude (cf.
ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ
Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.
Ye have net yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.
Here (as in
1 Corinthians 9:26
) there is a transition of thought from a race to a combat. Your trials have not yet reached the point of dying in the good fight of faith, as has been the case with some of your brethren before you, who have followed their Leader to the end (cf.
And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
Verses 5, 6.
And ye have forgotten
have ye forgotten?
the exhortation which speaketh unto you
in the way of fatherly remonstrance)
as unto children, My son
, etc. This verse introduces a further motive for persevering under prolonged trial, viz. our being assured in Holy Writ of its beneficial purpose as
The quotation is from
Proverbs 3:11, 12
, as it is in the LXX. We observe that the word "faint" (
) is the same as was used in ver. 3. In the seventh and following verses this scriptural admonition is applied and commented on.
For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
Verses 7, 8.
For chastening ye endure
It is for chastening that ye endure.
εἰς παιδείαν ὑπομένετε
, supported by almost the whole weight of manuscripts (including all the uncials that contain the text), of ancient versions, and commentators (Theophylact being the only certain exception), is decidedly to be accepted instead of the
εἰ παιδείαν ὑπομένετε
(equivalent to "if ye endure chastening") of the Textus Receptus. Moreover, it is required for the sense of the passage in regard to the proper meaning of the verb
("endure"), which is to "submit to," or "endure patiently," not simply "to undergo." For to say, "if ye endure chastisement patiently, God dealeth with you as sons," has no meaning; our being treated as sons depends, not on the way we take our chastisement, but on our being chastised at all. The use of the preposition
to express purpose is common in this Epistle (cf.
): and the essential sense of
is discipline or education. The drift is the same, whether we take
as an indicative or an imperative. Thus the next clause of the verse follows suitably:
God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is there
who is a son
whom his father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastening, whereof all
(i.e. all God's children, with reference to
have been made partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons
(ye are not your father's real children whom he cares for as such).
But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected
, and we gave
reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
urthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us
we once had
we used to have
the fathers of our flesh as chasteners
and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
This introduces an
argument. We are reminded of the days of our youth, while we were under parental discipline, and bore with it submissively: much more should we submit to the discipline of our heavenly Father, to whom we are as children under training all our life long! Commentators differ as to what is exactly meant by the contrast between "the fathers of
and "the Father
)." Some (among moderns Delitzsch) find here a support to the theory of creationism as against traducianism;
that the soul of each individual, as distinct from the body, is a new creation, not transmitted from the parents. This view would have more to go on than it has, were we justified in implying
spirits," in opposition
flesh," preceding). But
seems evidently meant to be understood generally; and the expression (suggested probably by
and Numbers 27:16, "The God of the spirits of all flesh") need imply only that, though God is the original Author of flesh as well as spirit, yet the latter, whether in man or otherwise existing, has in a peculiar sense its parentage from him (cf.
, "The LORD GOD formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul;" also
, "The Spirit of the LORD hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life"). Our earthly parents transmit to us our carnal existence; our spiritual part, in whatever mysterious way derived or inspired, is duo to our Divine parentage; and it is in respect of this that we are God's children and accountable to him. But, as has been intimated above, it is not human spirits only that are here in the writer's view. God is the Father of all "the spirits," whether in the flesh or not; all are of Divine parentage, for God himself is Spirit -
Πνεῦμα ὁ Θεός
). Chrysostom explains thus:
Τῷ πατρὶ τῶν πνευμὰτων ἤτοι
τῶν χαρισμάτων λέγει, ἤτοι τῶν εὐχῶν ψυχῶν ἤτοι τῶν ἀσωμάτων δυνάμεων
For they verily for a few days chastened
after their own pleasure; but he for
might be partakers of his holiness.
For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.
argument is thus continued. The discipline of our earthly fathers was "for a few days,"
during our childhood only, since which we have been left to ourselves; and even then not necessarily for our greatest advantage; it was only as seemed good to them (
τὸ δοκοῦν αὐτοῖς
); it might be injudicious, or even capricious. But our heavenly Father's discipline we may trust to be always good for us, and with a definite final purpose. Though there is here no distinctly expressed antithesis to the "few days" of ordinary parental chastisement, yet one is implied in the last clause; for if God's purpose in chastening us is to make us partakers of his own holiness, we may conclude that the discipline will be continued till the end be attained; and thus also a further reason is implied why Christians should not "faint" under even lifelong trials.
Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
Now no chastening seemeth for the present to be joyous, but grievous
not of joy
but of grief
nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them which have been exercised thereby.
This is a general statement with respect to all chastening, though the expression of its result at the end of the verse is suggested by the thought of Divine chastening, to which alone it is certainly, and in the full sense of the words, applicable. "
righteousness" is a genitive of apposition;
is the peaceable fruit yielded by
. And the word here surely denotes actual righteousness in ourselves; not merely justification in what is called the forensic sense: the proper effect of chastening is to make us good, and so at peace with our own conscience and with God. It is by no means thus implied that we can be accepted and so have peace
on the ground
of our own imperfect righteousness; only that it is in the fruits of faith perfected by discipline that we may "know that we are of the truth, and assure our hearts before him" (cf.
, "The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace;" also
, "And the work of righteousness shall be peace").
Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;
Wherefore lift up
the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees
the relaxed hands and the loosened or enfeebled knees
). The word
is used only by St. Luke elsewhere in the New Testament, and with reference to persons paralyzed (
Luke 5:18, 24
). The form of the exhortation is taken from
Ἰσχύσατε χεῖρες ἀνειμέναι καὶ γόνατα
. The figure of the palaestra is thus again brought into view, with reference both to boxing and running.
And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.
And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but that it rather be healed.
The ideas in this verse correspond to, and may be suggested by, those that follow in Isaiah the passage above referred to. For there too the prophet goes on to speak, among other things, of the lame leaping, and of a way of holiness along which none should err. But the words themselves are suggested by
Αοτὸς δὲ ὀρθὰς
ποιήσει τὰς τροχιάς σου
(LXX.), the verb
having been previously used for turning out of the way. It is observable that the words,
, etc., are arranged so as to form an hexameter line. This may have been unintentional, but it is at any rate effective. Delitzsch remarks on it. "The duty to which the writer urges, his, readers is courageous self-recovery m Gods strength. The tone and language are elevated accordingly, and ver. 12 is like a trumpet-blast. It need not surprise us, then, if our author here turns poet, and proceeds in heroic measures." With regard to the purport of this verse, we observe that, while the figure of running is still continued, a new idea is introduced - that of pursuing a straight course with a view to others who are to follow on the same track. "That which is lame (
)" denotes the weak and wavering brethren - the
, such as are referred to in
1 Corinthians 8
. The expression well suits (specially those among the Hebrew Christians who halted between two opinions - between the Church and the synagogue (cf.
1 Kings 18:21
Ἕως πότε ὑμεῖς χωλανεῖτε
επ ἀμφοτέραις ταῖς ἰγνύαις
;). The strong in faith ought to desire and aim at the
of such lame ones,
their being strengthened in the faith, rather than expose them to the risk of apostasy by any wavering of their own.
Follow peace with all
, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
Follow peace with all
(i.e. as required by the context, with all the brethren; cf.
without which no man shall see the Lord.
Here the figure is dropped, and two cautions given, peculiarly needed, we may suppose, by the community addressed. The exhortation to "peace with all" reminds of the tone of St. Paul's admonitions both in Romans and in 1 Corinthians, where he so strongly warns against dissensions and party spirit, and enjoins tolerance and mutual allowance with regard to the weaker brethren. The word
("sanctification") need not be limited (as by Chrysostom) to the idea of
; the general thought implied may be (as expressed by Limborch, quoted by Alford), "
, dum pact studeat, nimis slits obsequendi studio quidquam contra sanctimonism Christianam delinquat;" but the special allusion to
in ver. 16 (as also in
) is evidence that
was especially in the writer's mind, with definite reference to which the word
is used in
1 Thessalonians 4:3
. The frequent and earnest warnings against fornication in St. Paul's Epistles are enough to show how slow even some in the Church were to recognize the strict code of Christian morality, unknown to the heathen world, and by the Jews very imperfectly recognized, in this regard; and the case of
1 Corinthians 5
. illustrates how easily such vice might creep into and infect a Christian community without general reprobation. Hence probably the special warning here.
Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble
, and thereby many be defiled;
Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God
fall short of it; or,
being here followed by
, the idea may be rather that of falling back from it);
lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many
(or, according to the more probable reading,
the general community)
In this, the usual rendering of the verse,
is supplied, so as to make
any one that fails." But this is not necessary; the verb
("trouble you") may be common both to the first
, thus: "Lest any one failing... lest any root... trouble
The sentence may have been broken off after its first clause in order to bring in the appropriate quotation from
, which in our A.V. runs thus: "Lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood." The Vatican text of the LXX. has
Μήτις ἐστὶν ἐν ὑμῖν ῤίζα ἄνω
φύουσα ἐν χολῇ καὶ πικρίᾳ
: the Alexandrian, which seems to be followed here, has
Μήτις ἐστὶν ἐν ὑμῖν δίζα πικοίας ἄνω φύουσα ἐκογλῆ
. The reference in the speech of Moses is to the future possibility of any "man, or we man, or family, or tribe" turning from the LORD to go and serve the gods of the nations, and so involving, not only themselves, but even the whole people in a curse. The figure is that of a plant being allowed to grow of such a nature at its root as to bear bitter and pernicious fruit. There is no special allusion in the word "bitterness" to disturbance of "peace" by dissensions; for this is not the idea in the original passage, nor is it carried out in the following verses of the Epistle. (Cf.
, "Thou art in the gall of bitterness (
εἰς χολὴν πικρίας
any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.
Verses 16, 17.
Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited
desired to inherit)
the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.
The word "fornicator" is to be understood literally, not figuratively (as Ebrard) of spiritual fornication (see
, ver. 14).
("profane") denotes one outside the sphere of sanctity, and so debarred from sacred privileges. Esau is appropriately adduced as a notable instance in the Old Testament of a person thus profane, and especially, in the way of warning, of one who lost irrecoverably the privileges which in his profaneness he had scorned. It is immaterial whether Esau himself is intended to be designated as a fornicator (
) as well as profane (
). The essential moral of his history is this: being the firstborn of Israel, and so the primary inheritor of the promises made to Abraham, he set no store by the privilege, and so lost it irretrievably. In early life he so lightly esteemed his birthright as the eldest born (carrying with it, as is supposed, in the patriarchal age, the priesthood of the family, and in his case, as might be presumed, the custody and transmission of the promises) that he parted with it for the gratification of a passing appetite. His words on that occasion expressed the limit of his aims and interests: "Behold, I am at the point to die: and what profit shall this birthright do to me?" Later in life he nevertheless presented himself to claim the blessing of the firstborn from his dying father, but found that he had been forestalled. It does not appear that he had meanwhile changed his mode of life or made amends for his former carelessness; still, he felt now that he had lost something worth having, and was grieved exceedingly. But not even his "great and exceeding bitter cry" availed then to recover what was forfeited. And so neither he nor his seed had part or lot in the Abrahamic promises: the time of opportunity was gone forever. There is some doubt with regard to the latter part of ver. 17,
as to whether "it" (
) in "he sought it" refers to "repentance" (
) or to "the blessing" (
as to what "place of repentance" means. If "it" refers to "repentance," it is difficult to see how Esau's own repentance can be meant; for not only does seeking repentance with tears seem in itself to imply the capability of it, but also the "great and exceeding bitter cry" to which allusion is made was, not because he could not himself repent, but because he could not get the blessing. Hence, if "it" refers to "repentance," it must be repentance,
change of mind, in Isaac that is meant, or rather in God, against whose will Isaac could not go; cf. "God is not a man... that he should repent" (
). Of such change of mind and purpose it may be meant that Esau found no place. This seems to be the view of many modern interpreters, though not of Bengel, De Wette, Bleek, Hofmann, Delitzsch, Alford, or of Luther, Calvin, Grotius, or any of the Greek Fathers. Against it is the consideration that such is not the more obvious meaning of "he found no place of repentance," taken by itself, especially as
is always elsewhere in the New Testament (though not always in the LXX.) used for a person's change of mind with respect to his own misdoings (cf.
6:6). Difficulty on this ground is removed if, taking the clause, "for he found no place of repentance," as parenthetical, we refer
, preceding. This is by no means a forced construction of the sentence, and it is supported (as above intimated) by the fact that in Genesis it is the blessing itself that Esau is expressly said to have craved in his "great and exceeding bitter cry:" "Hast thou but one blessing, my father? bless me,
me also, O my father. And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept." Thus we may render either, "When he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected; for he found no place of repentance [
of change of mind in the bestower of the blessing], though he sought it [
such change of mind] with tears;" or, "When he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected (for he found no place of repentance), though he sought it [i.e. the blessing] with tears." If, the latter rendering being adopted, Esau's own repentance be intended, the idea maybe, either that there was no place left in which even a real repentance could avail, or that of a real repentance he had become incapable; for his tears might be those only of vexation and remorse, not expressing any more appreciation than before of the birthright in its religious aspect. Ebrard's remark, that his conduct as related in
, shows "a changed heart," and hence a true repentance, is not to the point. For all that there appears is that he had got over his angry feeling towards his brother; it is by no means implied - rather the contrary - that he would have preferred his destiny to his own, or that his views of life had risen above thoughts of worldly prosperity. We observe, further, that nothing is implied one way or the other as to Esau's own salvation; it is only the privilege of being the patriarch of the chosen seed that he is said to have thus irrecoverably forfeited. But his example is adduced as a warning to Christians with regard to their still more precious inheritance, which does involve their own eternal prospects. The warning to them is similar to those of
, etc., and
, etc., to the effect that sacred privileges, if persistently slighted, may be lost beyond recovery. And if the passage before us seems to imply, according to one view of it, what the former ones were found not to do, the possible inefficacy of a true repentance, however late, - we may say that, even if this is implied of Esau with respect to his lost blessing, it is not therefore necessarily implied of Christians with respect to their personal salvation; or that, if it is implied of them, it is not till their probation in this life is over that a "place of repentance" in this sense can for them be found no more (cf. the parable of the ten virgins (
, etc.); also
, etc.). One of Dr. Newman's Parochial Sermons ("Life the Season of Repentance," vol. 6. 'Sermon' 2) strikingly sets forth this view. See also 'Christian Year' (Second Sunday in Lent), with the appended note: "Esau's probation, as far as his birthright was concerned, was quite over when he uttered the cry in the text. His despondency, therefore, is not parallel to anything on this side the grave."
For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.
For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest,
- There follows now, both for encouragement and for warning, a grand contrast between the Mosaic and Christian dispensations, founded on the phenomena that accompanied the giving of the Law. To Mount Sinai, with its repelling terrors, is opposed an ideal picture of Mount Zion and the heavenly Jerusalem, expressive of the communion of saints in Christ. And then at ver. 25 (as previously in
.) the tone of encouragement changes again to one of warning, the very excess of privilege being made the measure of the guilt of slighting it.
For ye are not come unto a mount that might be touched, and that burned, with fire, and unto blackness and darkness and tempest.
The allusion is to the Israelites approaching Mount Sinai when the Law was given (see
, whence still more than from
. the whole description is taken, "And ye came near [
, the same word as is used supra,
], and stood under the mountain"). Though the word "mount" in the Received Text has the support of no ancient authority, it must be understood, whether or not originally written. For it comes after
in the passage of Deuteronomy which is evidently referred to, the following words, "blackness, darkness, tempest" (
σκότος γνόφος θύελλα
), being also found there. And otherwise we should have to translate, "a touched [i.e. palpable] and kindled fire;" but "touched" (
) is not suitable to
; and we should also lose the evidently intended contrast between the two mountains of Sinai and Zion, which appears in ver. 22. Neither may we trans- late, as some would do, "a mountain that might be touched, and kindled fire;" for the original passage in Deuteronomy has "and the mountain burned with fire (
τὸ ὄρος ἐκαίετο πυρὶ
)." The participle
(literally, that was touched), rather than
, may be used here, although on the occasion referred to all were forbidden to touch the mountain, by way of bringing more distinctly into view the actual Sinai, which was touched at other times, and which Moses both touched and ascended. If so, the main purpose of the word is to contrast the local and palpable mountain of the Law with the ideal Mount Zion which is afterwards spoken cf. Or, the verb
may here carry with it its common sense of groping after, as in the dark (cf.
Καὶ ἔση ψηλαφῶν μεσημβρίας ὡσεὶ
ψηλαφήσαι ὁ τυφλὸς ἐν τῷ σκότει
), with reference to the cloudy darkness about Sinai, and in contrast with the clear unclouded vision of Zion.
And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which
they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more:
And the sound of a trumpet
and the voice of words
which voice they that heard entreated that no word should be spoken to them more
; cf. ver. 25 and
for they could not endure that which was commanded
If even a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned
; "or thrust through with a dart" is an interpolation in the text from the passage in Exodus):
and so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake
, to which
is added in the text. This saying of Moses was really uttered afterwards, when he was descending from the mount, and became aware of the sin of the golden calf. It was called forth by the people's sin, but was due to the alarming character of the preceding phenomena, of
, that which was being revealed or manifested. Mention of it is added here to show that the general fear extended even to Moses, the mediator). This whole account, thus powerfully condensed from Exodus and Deuteronomy, presents a vivid picture of the terrors of the Mosaic revelation. God was, indeed, revealed to man, but still as unseen and unapproachable, terrible in his wrath against sin, and surrounded by sounds and sights of fear. But now mark the serene and glorious contrast.
(For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart:
And so terrible was the sight,
Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)
But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
But ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.
Here, as in
, Zion and Jerusalem, ideally regarded, are contrasted with Sinai. The foundation of the conception is in the Old Testament. When David at length won the citadel of Zion, and placed the ark upon it, it was a sort of primary and typical fulfillment of the promise of rest, seen afar off by the patriarchs and from the wilderness.
, which was sung on that occasion, expresses the idea of the King of glory being at length enthroned there, and his people of clean hands and pure hearts being admitted to stand in the holy place before him (cf. "This is my rest forever: here will I dwell,"
). In the Psalms generally the holy hill of Zion continues to be viewed as the LORD'S immovable abode, where he is surrounded by thousands of angels, and whence he succors his people (cf.
48; 68; 125; 132; etc.). Then by the prophets it is further idealized as the scene and center of Messianic blessings (cf.
; 25:13; 33; 35; 46:13;
; to which many other passages might be added). Compare also the visions, in the latter chapters of Ezekiel, of the ideal city and temple of the future age. Lastly, in the Apocalypse the seer has visions of "Mount Zion" (14.), and "the holy city, new Jerusalem" (21.), with the presence there of God and the Lamb, and with myriads of angels, and innumerable multitudes of saints redeemed. If, in the passage before us, a distinction is to be made between "Mount Zion" and "the heavenly Jerusalem," it may be that the former represents the Church below, the latter the heavenly regions, though both are blent together in one grand picture of the communion of saints. For so in
. the hundred and forty-four thousand on Mount Zion seem distinct from the singers and harpers round the throne, whose song is heard from heaven and learnt by those below; while the picture of the holy city in
. is one entirely heavenly, representing there the final consummation rather than any present state of things.
And to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and Church of the Firstborn
and to myriads
the general assembly of angels
and the Church of the Firstborn
which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of a new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel
). Of the several ways of translating the beginning of the above passage, the best seems to be to take
by itself as including both the angels and the Church of the Firstborn, and to connect
with "angels" only. "Myriads" is a well-known expression for the LORD'S attendant hosts (cf.
, which throughout the passage connects the different objects approached, comes between
, not between
, and the application of both
would seem an unmeaning redundancy. The word
, which in classical Greek denotes properly the assembly of a whole nation for a festival, is peculiarly appropriate to the angels, whether regarded (as in the Old Testament) as ministering round the throne or as congregated to rejoice over man's redemption. "The Church of the Firstborn" seems to denote the Church militant rather than the Church triumphant; for
is elsewhere used for the Church on earth (so also in the Old Testament; cf.
, expresses the idea of being enrolled in the books of heaven rather than being already there (cf.
the "spirits of the perfected" are mentioned afterwards as a class distinct. The word
may be suggested here by the firstborn of Israel, who were specially hallowed to the Lord (
), and numbered as such by Moses (
), or perhaps still more by the birthright (
) spoken of above as forfeited by Esau. God's elect may be called his firstborn as being hallowed to him and heirs of his promises (cf.
," Israel is my son,
my firstborn;" and
, "Ephraim is my firstborn"). They thus correspond to the hundred and forty-four thousand of
, standing on Mount Zion, being "redeemed from the earth," and having "the Father's Name written on their foreheads;" seen distinct from, and yet in communion with, the saints in bliss, whose voices are heard above. Between them and the spirits of the perfected is interposed, "God the Judge of all;" and this appropriately, since before him the saints on earth must appear ere they join the ranks of the perfected: the former look up to him from below; the latter have already passed before him to the rest assigned them.
("perfected") expresses, as elsewhere in the Epistle, full accomplishment of an and or purpose with regard to things or persons (cf.
Hebrews 7:19, 28
Hebrews 10:1, 14
); the word is used here of those whose warfare is accomplished, and who have attained the rest of God. Their "spirits" only are spoken of, because the "perfect consummation and bliss both in body and soul" is still to come. In the mean while, with respect to the issue of their earthly course, they have been already perfected (cf.
, "They rest from their labors"). Corresponding to the Lamb in Revelation, there is seen next Jesus the Mediator, through whom is the approach of the whole company to the Judge of all, and the accomplishment to the perfected. The "
covenant" is, of course, meant to be contrasted with the old one before Mount Sinai, under which there was no such approach or accomplishment. Then "the blood of sprinkling" has reference to that wherewith the old covenant was ratified (
). The blood shed by Christ on earth for atonement is conceived as carried by him with himself into the holy place on high (cf.
), to be forever "
blood of sprinkling for effectual cleansing. And this blood "speaketh better things than Abel." His blood cried from the ground for vengeance, with the accusing voice of primeval sin; Christ's speaks only of reconciliation and peace. Some commentators (Bengel in the first place, whom Delitzsch follows)see in this contrast between Sinai and Zion a distinct parallelism between vers. 18, 19 and vers. 22-24; seven objects of approach in one case being supposed to be set against seven in the other, More obvious is the correspondence of the successive clauses of vers. 22-24 to the general ideas connected with the giving of the Law. The two pictures may be contrasted thus -
The Old Covenant.
Sinai, a palpable earthly mountain, surrounded by gloom and storm.
The angels through whom the Law was given (cf.
), unseen by men, but operating in the winds and in the fire (cf.
Israel congregated under the mountain, afraid, and forbidden to touch it.
The LORD, unapproachable, shrouded in darkness or revealed in fire.
Moses, himself afraid, and winning through his mediation no access for the people.
The blood sprinkled on the people to ratify the old covenant, but which could not cleanse the conscience.
The sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, inspiring fear.
The New Covenant.
Zion, radiant with light and crowned with the city of God.
Festal choirs of assembled angels.
The accepted Church of the Firstborn, with free approach to the holiest of all.
The Judge of all, without his terrors, accessible, and awarding rest to the perfected.
The Divine availing Mediator.
The ever-cleansing blood of complete atonement.
The voice of that cleansing blood, speaking of peace and pardon.
Such is the vision by the contemplation of which the inspired writer would arouse his readers, amid their trials and waverings, to realize the things that are eternal. He would have them pierce with the eye of faith beyond this visible scene into the world invisible, which is no less real. If they were perplexed and disheartened by what they found around them - by the opposition of the world and the fewness of the faithful - he bids them associate themselves in thought with those countless multitudes who were on their side. The picture is, indeed, in some respects, ideal; for the actual Church on earth does not come up to the idea of the "Church of the Firstborn;" but it is presented according to God's purpose for his people, and it rests with us to make it a present reality to ourselves.
To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than
See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more
, if we turn away from him that
See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not, refusing him that spake
; the word here used is not
, as before, but
, expressive of a Divine admonition or warning. In the passive it is translated "warned of God," "admonished of God,"
Matthew 2:12, 22
ἐχρηματίσθη ὑπὸ ἀγγέλου ἁγίου
on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh
Here the warning begins. "Him that speaketh (
)," is suggested by
in the preceding verse. But the subject is changed: it is God, not the "blood of sprinkling," that is now regarded as speaking to us from heaven. It was God also that warned on earth; not, as some take it, Moses, whom the word
does not suit: of him it is said,
). The allusion is to the voice heard from the earthly Sinai, which the people entreated (
παρητήσαντο ( τηε
same word as is used here) should be heard no more. But they escaped not the hearing of that voice, or the consequences of disregarding its warning (cf.
Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.
Whose voice then shook the earth
, "The whole mount quaked greatly," though there the LXX. has
: but cf.
, "The earth trembled," and
, "Tremble, thou earth," etc., with reference to the phenomena at Sinai; also
Habakkuk 3:6, 10
but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.
The prophecy referred to is
Haggai 2:6, 7
, "Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; and I will shake all nations, and the Desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts." Again, ver. 21, "I will shake the heavens and the earth" (cf. lea. 2:19, 21). The prophecy was uttered with reference to the second temple, the glory of which was to be greater than the glory of the first, in that it should be the scene of the LORD'S final revelation of himself to his people. Its first fulfillment is rightly seen in Christ's first coming (cf.
, "And in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts;" and
Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple"). But the language used points evidently, even in itself, to a further fulfillment; nor do readers need to be reminded here of the pregnant and far-reaching sense of all Messianic prophecy. "Illustre est testimonium Psalm Newtoni ad Dan. p. 91:
vixque in omni V.T. aliquod de Christo extat vaticinium
secundum ejus ad-ventum respiciat"
(Bengel). The ultimate reference is what is seen dimly afar off in so many of the prophetic visions - the final dissolution of the whole present order of things, to be succeeded by the kingdom of eternal righteousness (cf.
, etc.). By the heaven that is to be shaken in that great day is meant, of course, not the eternal abode of God, but that which is created and visible (
, ver. 27). This final shaking is set against the local and typical shaking of Mount Sinai in two points of contrast - its extending to the whole creation, and its being once for all (
); and from the latter expression the removing of the things thus finally shaken is in the next verse inferred. This inference, though not following necessarily from the expression itself, is involved in the general drift of Haggai's prophecy, taken in connection with other cognate ones, in which an entirely new and heavenly order is pictured as rising over the ruins of the old (cf.
, referred to in
2 Peter 3:7, 10, 13
, "new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."
, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that have been made, that those things which are not shaken may remain. Wherefore, receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken
(observe the present participle,
already belong to this kingdom, which exists now behind the veil of this visible scene, and will survive its catastrophe; observe also that the phrase,
, corresponds with
Καὶ παραλήψονται τὴν βασιλσίαν ἅγιοι
implies an actual share in the royalty of the kingdom; cf.
let as have grace
; the usual meaning of
is "to be thankful," or "to give thanks," as in
1 Timothy 1:12
2 Timothy 1:3
whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire.
This last verse is from
, where the Israelites are being warned of the danger of forgetting the covenant of the LORD their God. The LORD'S nature is not changed: he is still a consuming fire against evil, as he declared himself from Sinai; and if We scorn the present dispensation of grace, the day of judgment will still be to us a day of terror (cf.
Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
For our God
a consuming fire.
Courtesy of Open Bible
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