Hebrews 5:7 MEANING

Hebrews 5:7
(7, 8) Who in the days of his flesh . . .--It will be observed that, of the two essential conditions mentioned in Hebrews 5:2 and Hebrews 5:4, the latter is first taken up in its application to Christ (Hebrews 5:5-6). This verse and the next correspond to the general thought of Hebrews 5:1-2, so far as it is applicable to "Him who knew no sin."

The following rendering will, it is believed, best show the meaning of these two important verses, and the connection of the several parts: Who, in the days of His flesh, having with a strong cry and tears offered up prayers and supplications unto Him that was able to save Him out of death, and having been heard for His reverent fear, though He was a son, yet learned obedience by the things which He suffered. The most noticeable change of rendering occurs at the close of the seventh verse; here the interpretation given by all the Greek Fathers, followed in most of our English versions (and in the margin of the Authorised itself), certainly deserves the preference over that which, through the influence of Calvin and Beza, found its way into the Genevan Testament, and hence into the Bishops' Bible and the translation of 1611. The word rendered "reverent fear" occurs in but one other place in the New Testament (Hebrews 12:28); but the kindred verb and adjective are found in Hebrews 11:7; Luke 2:25; Acts 2:5; Acts 8:2. It properly denotes, not terror, but a cautious foreseeing fear, opposed alike to rashness and to cowardice: the adjective, which is always rendered "devout," is fully explained in the Notes on Acts 2:5. No word could be more suitable where the relation of the Son of Man to His "God and Father" is expressed and it would be very difficult to find any other word which should be suitable to this relation and yet contain no implication of sin to be acknowledged with humility and shame. The object of the "prayers and supplications" thus heard and answered is implied in the words "unto Him that was able to save Him out of death." Not "from death:" the Greek words may have that meaning, but it is not their most natural sense, as a comparison of other passages would show. The prayer, we are persuaded, was not that death might be averted, but that there might be granted deliverance out of death. This prayer was answered: His death was the beginning of His glory (Hebrews 2:9). It may indeed be asked, Could such a prayer be offered by One who knew "the glory that should follow" His sufferings? In a matter so far beyond our reasoning it is most reverent to point to the mystery of another prayer (Matthew 26:39) offered by Him who had often taught His disciples that He must be put to death (Matthew 16:21). Mark the striking correspondence between the petition thus understood and St. Peter's quotation of Psalm 16:10 (Acts 2:24). Some of the expressions in this verse would lead us to believe that the writer's thought is resting on the Agony in the Garden; but the "strong cry" brings before us the Crucifixion (Matthew 27:46; Matthew 27:50), and the words of Psalm 22:1 lie very near the thought of this verse. It does not seem necessary to decide--we may doubt whether it is possible, and whether both should not be included. The opening words, "in the days of His flesh" (comp. Hebrews 2:14; John 1:14; 1 Peter 3:18), would certainly seem to favour this latter view. The word "offered" must not be lightly passed over. Of frequent occurrence in this Epistle, in every case except one (which is not at all in point) it has a sacrificial sense; it seems certain, therefore, that these prayers--a token of His suffering, an example of His reverent fear--are included in the sacrifice which comprised His whole life and death.

Verses 7, 8. - Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up (rather, when he offered up) prayers and supplications to him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered. Here (according to the view taken above of the chiastic structure of the passage) we have the account of how Christ fulfilled the human requirements of a High Priest, referred to in vers. 2, 3. This main intention of vers. 7, 8 must be kept in mind for a proper understanding of them. Christ is in them regarded, not as executing his priestly office, but as being prepared and consecrated for it. His eternal priesthood is conceived as entered on after the human experience which is the subject of these verses (cf. καὶ τελειώθεις ἐγένετο (ver. 9), and what was said under ver. 5). With regard to the participial aorists, προσενέγκας αἰσακουσθείς, it is a misapprehension of their proper force to regard them as denoting a time previous to that of ἔμαθεν in ver. 8; as if the meaning were - having in Gethsemane "offered," etc., and "been heard," he afterwards "learnt obedience" on the cross. All they express is that in offering, etc., and being heard, he learned obedience. The idea of subsequent time does not come in till ver. 9; "and being perfected," after thus learning obedience, "he became," etc. Thus the only question with regard to time in vers. 7, 8 is whether they have reference to the agony in the garden only, or both to the agony and the cross. That they refer mainly, if not exclusively, to the agony is evident from the expressions used, corresponding so closely with the Gospel history. The view presented is, as in the Gospels, of some intense inward struggle, outwardly manifested, and expressing itself in repeated prayers (observe the plural, δεήσεις καὶ ἱκετηρίας) aloud for deliverance. It is true that the Gospels, as we have them now, do not mention tears; but these too are quite in keeping with the bloody sweat specified by St. Luke, and Epiphanius states that the original copies of Luke 22:43, 44 contained the verb ἔκλαυσε. Some interpreters would identify the κραυγή ἰσχυρά of ver. 7 with the "loud voice (φωνή μεγάλη)" from the cross (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34; Luke 23:46). But there is nothing to suggest this; the "strong crying and tears" evidently denote the manner of the "prayers and supplications;" and the thrice-repeated prayer in the garden recorded by the evangelists may be well conceived to have been thus loudly uttered, so as to be heard by the three disciples, a stone's cast distant, before sleep overcame them. "In cruce clamasse dicitur; lachrymasse non dicitur. Utrum horum respicit locum Gethsemane" (Bengel). What, then, as seen in the light of these verses, was the meaning of the "prayer and supplications" in the garden of Gethsemane? The expression, τὸν δυνάμενον σώζειν αὐτὸν ἐκ θανάτου, corresponding with πάντα δυνατά σοι of Mark 14:36, confirms the view that the "cup" which he prayed might pass from him, was the death before him, and that the purport of his prayer was, not to be raised from death after undergoing it, but to be saved from undergoing it. Such is the ordinary meaning of σώζειν ἐκ θανάτου in reference to one still alive (cf. Psalm 33:19; James 5:20). It does not indeed positively follow that, because he prayed to One who was able in this sense to save him, his prayer was that he might be in this sense saved. It is, however, the natural inference. But, if so, two difficulties present themselves.

(1) How was such a prayer consistent with his distinct knowledge that death must be undergone, and his late strong rebuke to Peter for venturing to dissuade him from it?

(2) How can he be said to have been heard (εἰσακουσθείς), since he was not saved from death in the sense intended? To the first of these questions the answer is that the prayer expressed, not the deliberate desire of his Divine will, but only the inevitable shrinking of the human will from such an ordeal as was before him. As man, he experienced this shrinking to the full, and as man he craved deliverance, though with entire submission to the will of the Father. His human will did not oppose itself to the Divine will: it conformed itself in the end entirely to it; but this according to the necessary conditions of humanity, through the power of prayer. Had it not been so with him, his participation in human nature would have been incomplete; he would not have been such as to be "touched with a feeling of our infirmities, being in all things tempted like as we are;" nor would he have stood forth for ever as the great Example to mankind. St. John, who so deeply enters into and interprets the mind of Christ, records an utterance before the agony which anticipates its meaning (John 12): "The hour is come" (ver. 23); and then (ver. 27), "Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour [cf. σώζειν ἐκ θανάτου]; but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy Name." The "hour" was that of the drinking of the cup (cf. Mark 14:35, "And prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him"). "Father, save me from this hour" was the human craving of the agony; but still, "Father, glorify thy Name" was the essence of the prayer; and perfect submission to the Divine will was the outcome of it, after this troubling of his human soul. The mystery surrounding the whole subject of the Divine and human in Christ remains still. What was said with regard to it about the temptation in the wilderness (Hebrews 4:15) is applicable also here. If it be further asked how it was that Christ, in his humanity, so shrank from the "cup" before him, seeing that mere men have been found to face death calmly in its most appalling forms, the answer may be found in the consideration of what this cup implied. It was more than physical death, more than physical pain, more than any sorrow that falls to the lot of man. Such expressions as Ἤρξατο λυπεῖσθαι καὶ ἀδημονεῖν... περίλυπος ἐστὶν ἡ ψυχή μου ἕως θανάτου (Matthew 26:37, 38); Ἤρξατο ἐκθαμβεῖσθαι καὶ ἀδημονεῖν (Mark 14:33); Γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωυίᾳ ἐκτενεστερον προσηύχετο (Luke 22:44); the bloody sweat, and the cry of "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" - convey in themselves the impression of a mysterious ordeal, beyond what we can fathom, undergone by the atoning Savior in that "hour" of the "power of darkness." Of the second difficulty mentioned above, as to how Christ was "heard," not having been saved "from death" in the apparent sense of his prayer, the solution may be that the prayer, conditioned as it was by εἰ δυνατὸν, was most truly answered by the angel sent to strengthen him, and the power thenceforth given him to "endure the cross, despising the shame." "Mortem ex qua Pater cum liberare posset, ne moreretur, tamen subiit, voluntati Patris obediens: ab horrore plane liberatus est per exauditionem Exauditus est, non ut ne biberet calicem, sed ut jam sine ullo horrore biberet: unde etiam per angelum corroboratus est" (Bengel). The example to us thus becomes the more apparent. For we, too, praying legitimately for release from excessive trial, may have our prayer best answered by grace given to endure the trial, and by "a happy issue" out of it; as was the case with Christ. For his bitter passion was made the path to eternal glory; and thus in the Resurrection too his prayer was answered. The exact meaning of εἰσακουσθεὶς ἀπὸ τῆς εὐλαβείας is not easy to determine. It is taken by a large proportion of commentators to mean "deliverance from his fear;" εἰσακουσθεὶς ἀπὸ being supposed to be a constructio praegnans in the sense of "heard so as to be delivered," and εὐλαβεία to denote the dread experienced in Gethsemane. So the old Italian Versions, and Ambrose, "exauditus a metu;" so Bengel, "ab hrr-rore liberatus per exauditlonem." This interpretation is upheld by Beza, Grotius, Tholuck, Hofmann, Ebrard, and many others; some of whom, less tenably (as Calvin, Hammond, Jackson), understand εὐλαβεία as meaning, not the fear felt, but the thing feted: "ab eo quod timebat" (Calvin). The objections to this view are

(1) the doubtfulness of the constructio praegnans (the instances adduced - ἐπήκουσέ μου εἰς πλατυσμόν, Psalm 118:5; ἐρραντισμένοι... ἀπὸ συνειδήσεας πονηρᾶς, Hebrews 10:22 - are not parallel); and

(2) the sense assigned to εὐλαβεία, since εὐλαβεῖσθαι and its derivatives, when used to express fear, denote usually, not a shrinking, but a wary or cautious fear, and commonly carry with them (in this Epistle and St. Luke especially) the idea of piety. Thus in Hebrews 11:7, of Noah, εὐλαβηθεὶς κατεσκεύασε κιβωτὸν: Hebrews 12:28, μετ αἰδοῦς καὶ εὐλαβεαίς: and in Luke 2:25; Acts 2:5; Acts 8:2; Acts 22:12, εὐλαβής is synonymous with εὐσεβής. The rendering hence preferred by many, having the authority of Chrysostom, and among moderns of Lunemann, Bleek, Delitzsch, Alford, and others, is that of the Vulgate, "exauditus pro sua reverentia." So Vigilius, "propter timorem;" the A.V.," heard in that he feared," or, as in the margin, "heard for his piety;" and in the recent revision, "for his godly fear;" which is the A.V.'s rendering of εὐλαβεία in Hebrews 12:28. The objection to the use of ἀπὸ to express the cause of his being heard is met by reference to the frequent usage of St. Luke, whose language most resembles that of our Epistle. Thus: ἀπὸ τοῦ ὄχλου (Luke 19:3); ἀπὸ τῆς χαρᾶς (Luke 24:41 and Acts 12:14); ἀπὸ τοῦ ὕπνου (Acts 20:9); ἀπὸ τῆς δόξης (Acts 22:11). The phrase, thus understood, brings out the more markedly the thoroughly human conditions to which Christ was subjected. It was not in right of his sonship that he was heard. He won his hearing by his human piety; though he was SON, and as such knew that his Father heard him always (John 11:42), he learnt humanly his lesson of obedience. In the expression, καίπερ ὤν υἱὸς, Son is surely meant in the peculiar sense in which it has all along been applied to Christ, expressing more than that his relation to God was that of any son to a father, and thus we perceive the full force of καίπερ. It is true that it was not till after the Resurrection that he attained his exalted position as SON (see under Hebrews 1:5 and Hebrews 5:5); but still he was all along the Son, in virtue of his origin as well as of his destiny. Cf. ἐλάλησεν ἡμῖν ἐν υἱῷ (Hebrews 1:9). Ων υἱὸς does not indeed, in itself, express that he was the Second Person of the Trinity (this application of the word υἱὸς being nowhere found in the Epistle); but it implies that, even in his state of humiliation, he was more than man; for there would be nothing very extraordinary, so as to justify καίπερ, in the case of an ordinary son learning obedience to his father through suffering. Recurring now to the question raised under ver. 3, whether the high priest's obligation to offer in the first place for himself had any counterpart in the case of Christ, we may perceive such a counterpart in the agony, as above regarded. For, although for himself Christ needed no atonement, yet the "prayers and supplications" were offered in his own behalf, being due to his own entire participation in the conditions of humanity; the whole "agony and bloody sweat" were part of his own preparation and consecration for executing the office of a High Priest for others, and, like the Aaronic priest's offering for himself, they were the sign and evidence of his being one μετριοπαθεῖν δυνάμενος. Thus (χωρὶς ἀμαρτίας being all along understood) they answered truly to the preparatory part of Aaron's original consecration (Leviticus 8:14 - 9:15), or to the high priest's own offering, before his offering for the people and entering behind the veil, on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 14:6). It may be (though not necessarily so) that the word προσενέγκας in ver. 7, corresponding with προσφέρειν in ver. 3, is intended to suggest this analogy.

5:1-10 The High Priest must be a man, a partaker of our nature. This shows that man had sinned. For God would not suffer sinful man to come to him alone. But every one is welcome to God, that comes to him by this High Priest; and as we value acceptance with God, and pardon, we must apply by faith to this our great High Priest Christ Jesus, who can intercede for those that are out of the way of truth, duty, and happiness; one who has tenderness to lead them back from the by-paths of error, sin, and misery. Those only can expect assistance from God, and acceptance with him, and his presence and blessing on them and their services, that are called of God. This is applied to Christ. In the days of his flesh, Christ made himself subject to death: he hungered: he was a tempted, suffering, dying Jesus. Christ set an example, not only to pray, but to be fervent in prayer. How many dry prayers, how few wetted with tears, do we offer up to God! He was strengthened to support the immense weight of suffering laid upon him. There is no real deliverance from death but to be carried through it. He was raised and exalted, and to him was given the power of saving all sinners to the uttermost, who come unto God through him. Christ has left us an example that we should learn humble obedience to the will of God, by all our afflictions. We need affliction, to teach us submission. His obedience in our nature encourages our attempts to obey, and for us to expect support and comfort under all the temptations and sufferings to which we are exposed. Being made perfect for this great work, he is become the Author of eternal salvation to all that obey him. But are we of that number?Who in the days of his flesh,.... Or "of his humanity", as the Arabic version renders it; or "when he was clothed with flesh", as the Syriac version; in the time of his humiliation, when he was attended with the sinless infirmities of the flesh, or human nature; it may take in the whole course of his life on earth, especially the latter part of it: it is not to be concluded from hence, that he has not flesh now, or is not in the flesh; for it is certain that he had flesh after his resurrection; only now he is free from all the infirmities of the flesh, the pains, and sorrows, and griefs of it, which he endured when here on earth:

when he had offered up prayers and supplications; as he often did in many parts of his life, particularly in the garden, and upon the cross, when he offered up himself: and as the days of Christ's flesh were filled up with prayers and supplications, so should ours be also: the word for "supplications" signifies branches of olive trees, covered with wool (d); which such as sued for peace carried in their hands, and so came to signify supplications for peace: the manner in which these were offered up by Christ was

with strong crying and tears; with a most vehement outcry, with a loud voice, as when on the cross; and though there is no mention of his tears at that time, or when in the garden, no doubt but he shed them: all that Christ did, and said, are not written; some things were received by tradition, and by inspiration; Christ wept at other times, and why not at these? and there are some circumstances in his prayers which intimate as much, Matthew 26:38 which shows the weight of sin, of sorrow, and of punishment, that lay upon him, and the weakness of the human nature, considered in itself: and it may be observed to our comfort, that as Christ's crying and tears were confined to the days of his flesh, or to the time of his life here on earth, so shall ours be also. Mention is made of , "strong prayers" (e), in Jewish writings. The person to whom Christ offered his prayers is described in the following words,

unto him that was able to save him from death; from a corporeal death, as he could, but that it was otherwise determined; or rather to raise him from the dead, to deliver him from the state of the dead, from the power of death, and the grave, as he did; and so the Syriac version renders it, "to quicken him from death"; to restore him from death to life:

and was heard in that he feared; or "by fear"; by God, who was the object of his fear, and who is called the fear of Isaac, Genesis 31:42 he was always heard by him, and so he was in the garden, and on the cross; and was carried through his sufferings, and was delivered from the fear of death, and was saved from the dominion and power of it, being raised from the dead by his Father: or "he was heard because of his fear", or "reverence"; either because of the dignity and reverence of his person, in which he was had by God; or because of his reverence of his Father.

(d) Harpocration. Lex. p. 152. Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. sect. 5. c. 3.((e) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 37. 4.

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