(3:1-4:13) Having, therefore, this High Priest over the house of God—a faithful Son exalted above Moses the faithful servant—let us by faithfulness make sure our calling to be God’s sons; that we may not, like those who through their disobedience in the wilderness provoked the Lord, be excluded from the promised rest.
Holy brethren.—United in one brotherhood in virtue of a common sonship (Hebrews 2:10) and of a common brotherhood (Hebrews 2:11) with Jesus, Him “that sanctifieth” (Hebrews 2:11).
Partakers.—Through Him who “took part” of our earthly nature (Hebrews 2:14) we are partakers of a “heavenly calling” (Hebrews 2:10) as God’s sons.
The Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.—The best MSS. omit “Christ”; and it is impossible not to feel how fitly the personal name “Jesus” is used after the later verses of Hebrews 2. Here only is the name Apostle directly given to our Lord; but the thought is present in Hebrews 2:3, and in the many passages in which Jesus designates Himself as the Sent of God, using the word from which Apostle is derived (John 3:17; John 5:36, et al.; especially John 17:18; John 20:21). There is very little difference between Apostle and Prophet, thus applied; but the one brings into relief the mission, the other the office and position. Each presents a thought complementary of that contained in high priest: “as Apostle Jesus pleads the cause of God with us; as High Priest He pleads our cause with God” (Bengel). The next verse renders it probable that the two terms contain a reference to the special mission of Moses and the priesthood of Aaron; our Christian confession looks to One mediator.
Appointed him.—Literally, made Him, an expression which some ancient (Ambrose and other Latin fathers,—apparently also Athanasius) and many modern writers have understood as relating to the creation of the human nature of our Lord. It is probable, however, that 1 Samuel 12:6 is in the writer’s mind. “It is the Lord that made Moses and Aaron, and that brought your fathers up out of the land of Egypt.” As there Samuel speaks of the raising up of Moses and Aaron, constituted by God deliverers of the people; so here our thought must rest on Him who constituted Jesus “Apostle and High Priest.”
As also Moses.—These words, which give the key to the following verses, are quoted from Numbers 12:7, where Moses is placed in contrast with prophets in Israel to whom the Lord will make Himself known by vision or dream. “My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth.” The “house” or household is God’s. people Israel. To others will God reveal Himself in various ways in regard to the many parts of the house, the many concerns of the household. Throughout the whole house Moses was the recipient of the divine commands, and was faithful—“faithful” (as one of the Targums paraphrases), “as chief of the chiefs of my court.”
Inasmuch as.—That is, in proportion as: the glory attained by Jesus exceeds the glory of Moses, as the honour due to the builder of the house exceeds that possessed by the house itself. It is not said that Jesus is the Builder; but the relation in which He stands to the Builder of the house is compared with that of Moses to the house. (See Hebrews 3:5-6.) “Builded” is not a happy word here (especially if we consider the sense in which “house” is used), but it is not easy to find a suitable rendering. The meaning is, He who prepared or formed the house, with all its necessary parts and arrangements.
If we hold fast the confidence.—Better, If we hold the boldness and the glorying of our hope firm unto the end. Faithful to his practical purpose, the writer adds to the words “whose house are we” the indispensable condition. The “house” exists (“are we”), to it belong all who possess the Christian “hope;” but for assured and final appropriation of the promise there must be steadfastness “unto the end.” This exhortation differs from that in Hebrews 2:1-4, in that it more distinctly implies that those who are addressed have a possession which they may lose. The Christian “hope,” that aspect of faith which is turned towards the future, is naturally often in the writer’s thoughts. The words associated are very striking: hope gives us boldness (see 2 Corinthians 3:12), and of this hope we make our boast. “Boldness” is spoken of again (in Hebrews 4:16; Hebrews 10:19; Hebrews 10:35): properly meaning “freedom of speech,” it denotes the confident, bold feelings and demeanour which connect themselves with the free utterance of thought.
Whether the marks of parenthesis here introduced in our ordinary Bibles (not inserted by the translators of 1611) express the true connection of the verses is a question very hard to decide, and one that does not admit of full discussion here. It is very possible that the writer (like St. Paul in Romans 15:3; Romans 15:21; 1 Corinthians 1:31) may have merged his own exhortation in that which the quotation supplies (Hebrews 3:8); and the objection that Hebrews 3:12 would naturally in that case have been introduced by some connective word is shown to be groundless by such passages as Hebrews 8:13; Hebrews 10:23; Hebrews 12:7; Hebrews 12:25. On the other hand, if we connect “Wherefore,” in this verse, with “Take heed” in Hebrews 3:12, we have greater regularity of structure—a strong argument in this Epistle. It seems unlikely, moreover, that the writer (whose tenderness of tone and sympathy are so manifest in his words of warning) would at this stage adopt as his own the stringent and general exhortation, “harden not your hearts:” the spirit of Hebrews 3:12 (“lest haply there shall be in any one of you”) is altogether different. On the whole, therefore, it seems best to consider Hebrews 3:7 (“To-day . . .”) to Hebrews 3:11 (“. . . my rest”) as a pure quotation, enforcing the warning that follows.
Psalms 95, the latter part of which (Hebrews 3:7-11) is here cited, is in the LXX. ascribed to David, but is probably of later date. (As to Hebrews 4:7, see the Note.) In most important respects the words of the quotation agree with the Greek version, and with the Hebrew text. The chief exceptions will be noted as they occur.
To day if ye will hear his voice.—Rather, To-day if ye shall hear (literally, shall have heard) His voice. The Greek will not allow the sense in which the words are naturally taken by the English reader, “if ye are willing to hear.” The meaning of the Hebrew words is either—(1) “To-day, oh that ye would hearken to (that is, obey) His voice!” or, (2) “To-day if ye hearken to His voice.” The “voice” is that which speaks in the following verses. As the words stand before us, the Psalmist does not formally complete the sentence here commenced (“if ye shall hear . . .”). He introduces the divine words of warning, but adds none in his own person. The entreaty “Harden not your hearts” is at once the utterance of the divine voice and the expression of his own urgent prayer. Other passages in which the hardening of the heart is spoken of as the work of man himself are Exodus 9:34; 1 Samuel 6:6; Proverbs 28:14.
And they have not known my ways.—Better, yet they took not knowledge of My ways. Although throughout the forty years He had shown to them their disobedience and His displeasure, yet the warning and discipline were fruitless. They gained no knowledge of His ways. It is very important to observe this explicit reference to the close, as well as the beginning of the forty years. (See Hebrews 3:8.)
Into my rest.—Into the land where Jehovah shall give rest to His people and shall dwell with them. (See Deuteronomy 12:9; 1 Kings 8:56; Psalm 132:14; Isaiah 66:1; 1 Chronicles 6:31; 2 Chronicles 6:41.)
In departing.—Better, in falling away from a Living God. The heart of unbelief will manifest its evil in apostasy. The Greek word apistia stands in direct contrast to “faithful” (pistos), Hebrews 3:2, and combines the ideas of “unbelief” and “faithlessness.” He whose words they have heard is a living God, ever watchful in warning and entreaty (Hebrews 3:8), but also in the sure punishment of the faithless (Hebrews 3:11; Hebrews 10:31).
Whose carcases.—Literally, limbs. The word is taken from the Greek version of Numbers 14:29; and seems intended to convey the thought of bodies falling limb from limb in the wilderness.