Hebrews 3


Jesus is the High Priest of our profession, 1.

And is counted worthy of more honour than Moses, as the Son

Israelites did, and were excluded from the earthly rest in

Canaan, 7-11.

We should be on our guard against unbelief, 12.

And exhort each other, lest we be hardened through the

deceitfulness of sin; and we should hold fast the beginning of

our confidence to the end, and not provoke God as the

Israelites did, and who were destroyed in the wilderness,


They were promised the earthly rest, but did not enter because

of unbelief, 18,19.


Verse 1. Holy brethren] Persons consecrated to God, as the

word literally implies, and called, in consequence, to be holy in

heart, holy in life, and useful in the world. The Israelites are

often called a holy people, saints, &c., because consecrated to

God, and because they were bound by their profession to be holy;

and yet these appellations are given to them in numberless

instances where they were very unholy. The not attending to this

circumstance, and the not discerning between actual positive

holiness, and the call to it, as the consecration of the persons,

has led many commentators and preachers into destructive mistakes.

Antinomianism has had its origin here: and as it was found that

many persons were called saints, who, in many respects, were

miserable sinners, hence it has been inferred that they were

called saints in reference to a holiness which they had in

another; and hence the Antinomian imputation of Christ's

righteousness to unholy believers, whose hearts were abominable

before God, and whose lives were a scandal to the Gospel. Let,

therefore, a due distinction be made between persons by their

profession holy, i.e. consecrated to God; and persons who are

faithful to that profession, and are both inwardly and outwardly

holy. They are not all Israel who are of Israel: a man, by a

literal circumcision, may be a Jew outwardly; but the circumcision

of the heart by the Spirit makes a man a Jew inwardly. A man may

be a Christian in profession, and not such in heart; and those who

pretend that, although they are unholy in themselves, they are

reputed holy in Christ, because his righteousness is imputed to

them, most awfully deceive their own souls.

Dr. Owen has spoken well on the necessity of personal holiness

against the Antinomians of his day. "If a man be not made holy he

cannot enter into the kingdom of God. It is this that makes them

meet for the inheritance of the saints in light; as without it

they are not meet for their duty, so are they not capable of their

reward. Yea, heaven itself, in the true light and notion of it,

is undesirable to an unsanctified person. Such a one neither can

nor would enjoy God if he might. In a word, there is no one thing

required of the sons of God that an unsanctified person can do,

and no one thing promised unto them that he can enjoy.

"There is surely then a woful mistake in the world. If Christ

sanctify all whom he saves, many will appear to have been mistaken

in their expectations at another day. It is grown amongst us

almost an abhorrency to all flesh to say, the Church of God is to

be holy. What! though God has promised that it should be so; that

Christ has undertaken to make it so? What! if it be required to

be so? What! if all the duties of it be rejected of God, if it be

not so? It is all one, if men be baptized, whether they will or

not, and outwardly profess the name of Christ, though not one of

them be truly sanctified, yet they are, it is said, the Church of

Christ. Why then let them be so; but what are they the better for

it? Are their persons or their services therefore accepted with

God? Are they related or united to Christ? Are they under his

conduct unto glory? Are they meet for the inheritance of the

saints in light? Not at all: not all nor any of these things do

they obtain thereby. What is it then that they get by the furious

contest which they make for the reputation of this privilege?

Only this: that, satisfying their minds by it, resting if not

priding themselves in it, they obtain many advantages to stifle

all convictions of their condition, and so perish unavoidably. A

sad success, and for ever to be bewailed! Yet is there nothing at

all at this day more contended for in this world than that Christ

might be thought to be a captain of salvation to them, unto whom

he is not a sanctifier; that he may have an unholy Church, a dead

body. These things tend neither to the glory of Christ, nor to

the good of the souls of men. Let none then deceive themselves;

sanctification is a qualification indispensably necessary to them

who will be under the conduct of the Lord Christ unto salvation;

he leads none to heaven but whom he sanctifies on earth. The holy

God will not receive unholy persons. This living head will not

admit of dead members, nor bring men into possession of a glory

which they neither love nor like."

Heavenly calling] The Israelites had an earthly calling; they

were called out of Egypt to go into the promised land: Christians

have a heavenly calling; they are invited to leave the bondage of

sin, and go to the kingdom of God. These were made partakers of

this calling; they had already embraced the Gospel, and were

brought into a state of salvation.

Apostle and High Priest of our profession] Among the Jews the

high priest was considered to be also the apostle of God; and it

is in conformity to this notion that the apostle speaks. And he

exhorts the Hebrews to consider Jesus Christ to be both their High

Priest and Apostle; and to expect these offices to be henceforth

fulfilled by him, and by him alone. This was the fullest

intimation that the Mosaic economy was at an end, and the

priesthood changed. By τηςομολογιαςημων, our profession, or

that confession of ours, the apostle undoubtedly means the

Christian religion. Jesus was the Apostle of the Father, and has

given to mankind the new covenant; and we are to consider the

whole system of Christianity as coming immediately from him.

Every system of religion must have a priest and a prophet; the one

to declare the will of God, the other to minister in holy things.

Moses was the apostle under the old testament, and Aaron the

priest. When Moses was removed, the prophets succeeded him; and

the sons of Aaron were the priests after the death of their

father. This system is now annulled; and Jesus is the Prophet who

declares the Father's will, and he is the Priest who ministers in

the things pertaining to God, see Heb 2:17; as he makes

atonement for the sins of the people, and is the Mediator between

God and man.

Verse 2. Who was faithful to him] In Nu 12:7, God gives this

testimony to Moses: My servant Moses-is faithful in all my house;

and to this testimony the apostle alludes. House not only means

the place where a family dwells, but also the family itself. The

whole congregation of Israel was the house or family of God, and

God is represented as dwelling among them; and Moses was his

steward, and was faithful in the discharge of his office; strictly

enforcing the Divine rights; zealously maintaining God's honour;

carefully delivering the mind and will of God to the people;

proclaiming his promises, and denouncing his judgments, with the

most inflexible integrity, though often at the risk of his life.

Jesus Christ has his house-the whole great family of mankind, for

all of whom he offered his sacrificial blood to God; and the

Christian Church, which is especially his own household, is

composed of his own children and servants, among and in whom he

lives and constantly resides. He has been faithful to the trust

reposed in him as the apostle of God; he has faithfully proclaimed

the will of the Most High; vindicated the Divine honour against

the corrupters of God's worship; testified against them at the

continual hazard of his life; and, at last, not only died as a

victim to cancel sin, but also as a martyr to his faithfulness.

Christ's faithfulness, says Leigh, consists in this: "That he has

as fully revealed unto us the doctrine of the Gospel, as Moses did

that of the law; and that he hath faithfully performed and

fulfilled all the types of himself and all the things signified by

Moses' ceremonies, as Moses hath faithfully and distinctly set

them down."

But there is a sense given to the word neeman, Nu 12:7,

which we translate faithful, by several of the Jewish writers,

which is well worthy of note: it signifies, say they, "one to whom

secrets are confided, with the utmost confidence of their being

safely and conscientiously kept." The secret of God was with

Moses, but all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge were in

Christ. Life and immortality were comparatively secrets till

Christ revealed and illustrated them, and even the Divine nature

was but little known, and especially the Divine philanthropy, till

Jesus Christ came; and it was Jesus alone who declared that GOD

whom no man had ever seen. Moses received the secrets of God, and

faithfully taught them to the people; Jesus revealed the whole

will of God to mankind. Moses was thus faithful to a small part

of mankind, viz. the Jewish people; but in this sense Jesus was

faithful to all mankind: for he was the light to enlighten the

Gentiles, and the glory of his people Israel.

Verse 3. For this man was counted] As Jesus Christ, in the

character of apostle and high priest, is here intended, the word

apostle, or this person or personage, should have been supplied,

if any, instead of man. Indeed, the pronoun ουτος should have

been translated this person, and this would have referred

immediately to Jesus Christ, Heb 3:1.

More glory than Moses] We have already seen that the apostle's

design is to prove that Jesus Christ is higher than the angels,

higher than Moses, and higher than Aaron. That he is higher than

the angels has been already proved; that he is higher than Moses

he is now proving.

He who hath builded the house] There can be no doubt that a man

who builds a house for his own accommodation is more honourable

than the house itself; but the house here intended is the Church

of God. This Church, here called a house or family, is built by

Christ; he is the Head, Governor, Soul and Life of it; he must

therefore be greater than Moses, who was only a member and officer

in that Church, who never put a stone in this spiritual building

but was even himself put in it by the great Architect. Moses was

in this house, and faithful in this house; but the house was the

house of God, and builded and governed by Christ.

Verse 4. For every house is builded by some man] The literal

sense is plain enough: "Every structure plainly implies an,

architect, and an end for which it was formed. The architect may

be employed by him for whose use the house is intended; but the

efficient cause of the erection is that which is here to he

regarded." The word house, here, is still taken in a metaphorical

sense as above, it signifies family or Church. Now the general

meaning of the words, taken in this sense, is: "Every family has

an author, and a head or governor. Man may found families, civil

and religious communities, and be the head of these; but God alone

is the Head, Author, and Governor, of all the families of the

earth; he is the Governor of the universe. But the apostle has a

more restricted meaning in the words ταπαντα, all these things;

and as he has been treating of the Jewish and Christian Churches,

so he appears to have them in view here. Who could found the

Jewish and Christian Church but God? Who could support, govern,

influence, and defend them, but himself? Communities or

societies, whether religious or civil, may be founded by man; but

God alone can build his own Church. Now as all these things could

be builded only by God, so he must be God who has built all these

things. But as Jesus is the Founder of the Church, and the Head

of it, the word GOD seems here to be applied to him; and several

eminent scholars and critics bring this very text as a proof of

the supreme Deity of Christ: and the apostle's argument seems to

require this; for, as he is proving that Christ is preferred

before Moses because he built this house, which Moses could not

do, where he to be understood as intimating that this house was

built by another, viz. the Father, his whole argument would fall

to the ground; and for all this, Moses might be equal, yea,

superior to Christ. On this ground Dr. Owen properly concludes:

"This then is that which the apostle intends to declare; namely,

the ground and reason whence it is that the house was or could be,

in that glorious manner, built by Christ, even because he is GOD,

and so able to effect it; and by this effect of his power, he is

manifested so to be."

Verse 5. As a servant] The fidelity of Moses was the fidelity

of a servant; he was not the framer of that Church or house; he

was employed, under God, to arrange and order it: he was steward

to the Builder and Owner.

For a testimony of those things] Every ordinance under the law

was typical; every thing bore a testimony to the things which were

to be spoken after; i.e. to Jesus Christ, his suffering, death,

and the glory which should follow; and to his Gospel in all its

parts. The faithfulness of Moses consisted in his scrupulous

attention to every ordinance of God; his framing every thing

according to the pattern showed him by the Lord; and his referring

all to that Christ of whom he spoke as the prophet who should come

after him, and should be raised up from among themselves; whom

they should attentively hear and obey, on pain of being cut off

from being the people of the Lord. Hence our Lord told the Jews,

Joh 5:46:

If ye had believed Moses, ye would have believed me, for he wrote

of me; "namely;" says Dr. Macknight, "in the figures, but

especially in the prophecies, of the law, where the Gospel

dispensation, the coming of its Author, and his character as

Messiah, are all described with a precision which adds the

greatest lustre of evidence to Jesus and to his Gospel."

Verse 6. But Christ as a Son over his own house] Moses was

faithful as a servant IN the house; Jesus was faithful, as the

first-born Son, OVER the house of which he is the Heir and

Governor. Here, then, is the conclusion of the argument in

reference to Christ's superiority over Moses. Moses did not found

the house or family, Christ did; Moses was but in the house, or

one of the family, Christ was over the house as its Ruler; Moses

was but servant in the house, Christ was the Son and Heir; Moses

was in the house of another, Christ in his own house.

It is well known to every learned reader that the pronoun αυτου,

without an aspirate, signifies his simply; and that with the

aspirate, αυτου, it signifies his own: the word being in this

form a contraction, not uncommon, of εαυτου. If we read αυτου

without the aspirate, then his must refer to God, Heb 3:4.

But Christ as a Son over his (that is, God's) house: if we read

αυτου, with the aspirate, as some editions do, then what is spoken

refers to Christ; and the words above convey the same sense as

those words, Ac 20:28:

Feed the Church of God, which he hath purchased with his own

blood. Some editions read the word thus; and it is evident that

the edition which our translators used had the word αυτου, his

own, and not αυτου, his. The Spanish and London Polyglots have

the same reading. From the most ancient MSS. we can get no help

to determine which is to be preferred, as they are generally

written without accents. The two first editions of the Greek

Testament, that of Complutum, 1514, and that of Erasmus, 1516,

have αυτου, his; and they are followed by most other editions: but

the celebrated edition of Robert Stephens, 1550, has αυτου, his

own. The reading is certainly important; but it belongs to one of

those difficulties in criticism which, if the context or

collateral evidence do not satisfactorily solve it, must remain in

doubt; and every reader is at liberty to adopt which reading he

thinks best.

Whose house are we] We Christians are his Church and family;

he is our Father, Governor, and Head.

If we hold fast the confidence] We are now his Church, and

shall continue to be such, and be acknowledged by him IF we

maintain our Christian profession, τηνπαρρησιαν, that liberty of

access to God, which we now have, and the rejoicing of the hope,

i.e. of eternal life, which we shall receive at the resurrection

of the dead. The word παρρησια, which is here translated

confidence, and which signifies freedom of speech, liberty of

access, &c., seems to be used here to distinguish an important

Christian privilege. Under the old testament no man was permitted

to approach to God: even the very mountain on which God published

his laws must not be touched by man nor beast; and only the high

priest was permitted to enter the holy of holies, and that only

once a year, on the great day of atonement; and even then he must

have the blood of the victim to propitiate the Divine justice.

Under the Christian dispensation the way to the holiest is now

laid open; and we have παρρησιαν, liberty of access, even to the

holiest, by the blood of Jesus. Having such access unto God, by

such a Mediator, we may obtain all that grace which is necessary

to fit us for eternal glory; and, having the witness of his Spirit

in our heart, we have a well grounded hope of endless felicity,

and exult in the enjoyment of that hope. But IF we retain not the

grace, we shall not inherit the glory.

Verse 7. Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, Today] These words

are quoted from Ps 95:7; and as they were written by David, and

attributed here to the Holy Ghost, it proves that David wrote, by

the inspiration of God's Holy Spirit. As these words were

originally a warning to the Israelites not to provoke God, lest

they should be excluded from that rest which he had promised them,

the apostle uses them here to persuade the Christians in Palestine

to hold fast their religious privileges, and, the grace they had

received, lest they should come short of that state of future

glory which Christ had prepared for them. The words strongly

imply, as indeed does the whole epistle, the possibility of

falling from the grace of God, and perishing everlastingly; and

without this supposition these words, and all such like, which

make more than two-thirds of the whole of Divine revelation, would

have neither sense nor meaning. Why should God entreat man to

receive his mercy, if he have rendered this impossible? Why

should he exhort a believer to persevere, if it be impossible for

him to fall away? What contemptible quibbling have men used to

maintain a false and dangerous tenet against the whole tenor of

the word of God! Angels fell-Adam fell-Solomon fell-and

multitudes of believers have fallen, and, for aught we know, rose

no more; and yet we are told that we cannot finally lose the

benefits of our conversion! Satan preached this doctrine to our

first parents; they believed him, sinned, and fell; and brought a

whole world to ruin!

Verse 8. Harden not your hearts] Which ye will infallibly do,

if ye will not hear his voice.

Provocation] παραπικρασμος. From παρα, signifying intensity,

and πικραινω, to make bitter; the exasperation, or bitter

provocation. "The Israelites provoked God first in the wilderness

of Sin, (Pelusium,) when they murmured for want of bread, and had

the manna given them, Ex 16:4. From the wilderness of Sin they

journeyed to Rephidim, where they provoked God a second time for

want of water, and insolently saying, Is the Lord God among us or

not? Ex 17:2-9,

on which account the place was called Massah and Meribah. See

"1Co 10:4", note 1. From Rephidim they went into the wilderness of

Sinai, where they received the law, in the beginning of the third

year from their coming out of Egypt. Here they provoked God

again, by making the golden calf, Ex 32:10. After the law was

given they were commanded to go directly to Canaan, and take

possession of the promised land, De 1:6, 7:

God spake unto us in Horeb, saying, Ye have dwelt long enough in

this mount: turn you, and take your journey, and go to the mount

of the Amorites, and unto all the places nigh thereunto, in the

plain, in the hills, and in the vales, and in the south, and by

the seaside, to the land if the Canaanites, and unto Lebanon, and

unto the great river, the river Euphrates. The Israelites, having

received this order, departed from Horeb, and went forward three

days' journey, Nu 10:33, till they came to Taberah, Nu 11:3,

where they provoked God the fourth time, by murmuring for want of

flesh to eat; and for that sin were smitten with a very great

plague, Nu 11:33;

this place was called Kibroth-hattaavah, because there they buried

the people who lusted. From Kibroth-hattaavah they went to

Hazeroth, Nu 11:35,

and from thence into the wilderness of Paran, Nu 12:16, to a

place called Kadesh, Nu 13:26. Their journey from Horeb to

Kadesh is thus described by Moses, De 1:19-21:

And when we departed from Horeb, we went through all that great

and terrible wilderness, which you saw by the way of the mountain

of the Amorites, as the Lord our God commanded us; and, we came to

Kadesh-barnea. And I said unto you, Ye are come unto the mountain

of the Amorites, which the Lord our God doth give unto us. Behold,

the Lord thy God hath set the land before thee; go up and possess

it. But the people proposed to Moses to send spies, to bring them

an account of the land, and of its inhabitants, De 1:22. These

after forty days returned to Kadesh; and, except Caleb and Joshua,

they all agreed in bringing an evil report of the land,

Nu 13:25-32; whereby the people were so discouraged that they

refused to go up, and proposed to make a captain, and return into

Egypt, Nu 14:4. Wherefore, having thus shown an absolute

disbelief of God's promises, and an utter distrust of his power,

he sware that not one of that generation should enter Canaan,

except Caleb and Joshua, but should all die in the wilderness,

Nu 14:20; De 1:34, 35;

and ordered them to turn, and get into the wilderness, by the way

of the Red Sea. In that wilderness the Israelites, as Moses

informs us, sojourned thirty-eight years, De 2:14:

And the space in which we came from Kadesh-barnea, until we were

come over the brook Zereb, was thirty and eight years; until all

the generation of the men of war were wasted out from among the

host, as the Lord sware unto them. Wherefore, although the

Israelites provoked God to wrath in the wilderness, from the day

they came out of the land of Egypt until their arrival in Canaan,

as Moses told them, De 9:7, their greatest provocation, the

provocation in which they showed the greatest degree of evil

disposition, undoubtedly was their refusing to go into Canaan from

Kadesh. It was therefore very properly termed the bitter

provocation and the day of temptation, by way of eminence; and

justly brought on them the oath of God, excluding them from his

rest in Canaan. To distinguish this from the provocation at

Rephidim, it is called Meribah-Kadesh," De 32:51.

See Dr. Macknight.

Verse 9. When your fathers tempted me] It would be better to

translate ου where than when, as the Vulgate has done in its

ubi; and this translation has been followed by Wiclif, Coverdale,

Tindal, and our first translators in general. In my old MS. Bible

the 7th, 8th, and 9th verses stand thus:- Heb 3:7-9

Wherefore as the Holy Gost seith, to-day gif yhe han herde his

voyce: nye yhe herden ghour hertis as in wrath-thinge, after the

day of temptacioun in desert. Where ghoure fadris temptiden me:

provyden and saiden my werkis. Wherefore fourtye yeere I was

offendid or wrothe to this generatoun.

In behalf of this translation, Dr. Macknight very properly

argues: "The word WHEN implies that, at the time of the bitter

provocation, the Israelites had seen God's works forty years;

contrary to the history, which shows that the bitter provocation

happened, in the beginning of the third year after the Exodus:

whereas the translation where, as well as the matter of fact,

represents God as saying, by David, that the Israelites tempted

God in the wilderness during forty years, notwithstanding all that

time they had seen God's miracles."

Verse 10. Wherefore I was grieved] God represents himself as

the Father of this great Jewish family, for whose comfort and

support he had made every necessary provision, and to whom he had

given every proof of tenderness and fatherly affection; and

because, they disobeyed him, and walked in that way in which they

could not but be miserable, therefore he represents himself as

grieved and exceedingly displeased with them.

They do alway err in their hearts] Their affections are set on

earthly things, and they do not acknowledge my ways to be

right-holy, just, and good. They are radically evil; and they are

evil, continually. They have every proof, of my power and

goodness, and lay nothing to heart. They might have been saved,

but they would not. God was grieved on this account. Now, can we

suppose that it would have grieved him if, by a decree of his own,

he had rendered their salvation impossible?

Verse 11. So I sware in my wrath] God's grief at their

continued disobedience became wrath at their final impenitence,

and therefore he excluded them from the promised rest.

Verse 12. Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you]

Take warning by those disobedient Israelites; they were brought

out of the house of bondage, and had the fullest promise of a land

of prosperity and rest. By their disobedience they came short of

it, and fell in the wilderness. Ye have been brought from the

bondage of sin, and have a most gracious promise of an everlasting

inheritance among the saints in light; through unbelief and

disobedience they lost their rest, through the same ye may lose

yours. An evil heart of unbelief will head away from the living

God. What was possible in their case, is possible in yours. The

apostle shows here five degrees of apostasy: 1. Consenting to sin,

being deceived by its solicitations. 2. Hardness of heart, through

giving way to sin. 3. Unbelief in consequence of this hardness

which leads them to call even the truth of the Gospel in question.

4. This unbelief causing them to speak evil of the Gospel, and

the provision God has made for the salvation of their souls. 5.

Apostasy itself, or falling off from the living God; and thus

extinguishing all the light that was in them, and finally grieving

the Spirit of God, so that he takes his flight, and leaves them to

a seared conscience and reprobate mind. See Leigh. He who begins

to give the least way to sin is in danger of final apostasy; the

best remedy against this is to get the evil heart removed, as one

murderer in the house is more to be dreaded than ten without.

Verse 13. But exhort one another daily] This supposes a state

of chose Church fellowship, without which they could not have had

access to each other.

While it is called to-day] Use time while you have: it, for by

and by there will be no more present time; all will be future; all

will be eternity. Daily signifies time continued. To-day, all

present time. Your fathers said: Let us make ourselves a captain,

and return back unto Egypt, Nu 14:4.

Thus they exhorted each other to depart from the living God. Be

ye warned by their example; let not that unbelieving heart be in

you that was in them; exhort each other daily to cleave to the

living God; lest, if ye, do not, ye, like them, may be hardened

through the deceitfulness of sin.

Verse 14. For we are made partakers of Christ] Having believed

in Christ as the promised Messiah, and embraced the whole

Christian system, they were consequently made partakers of all its

benefits in this life, and entitled to the fulfilment of all its

exceeding great and precious promises relative to the glories of

the eternal world. The former they actually possessed, the latter

they could have only in case of their perseverance; therefore the

apostle says, If we hold fast the beginning of our confidence

steadfast unto the end, i.e. of our life. For our participation

of glory depends on our continuing steadfast in the faith, to the

end of our Christian race.

The word υποστασις, which we here translate confidence, from

υπο, under, and ιστημι, to place or stand, signifies

properly a basis or foundation; that on which something else is

builded, and by which it is supported. Their faith in Christ

Jesus was this hypostasis or foundation; on that all their peace,

comfort, and salvation were builded. If this were not held fast

to the end, Christ, in his saving influences, could not be held

fast; and no Christ, no heaven. He who has Christ in him, has the

well-founded hope of glory; and he who is found in the great day

with Christ in his heart, will have an abundant entrance into

eternal glory.

Verse 15. While it is said, To-day] You may see the necessity

of perseverance from the saying, "Today, if ye will hear his

voice," therefore harden not your hearts-do not neglect so great a

salvation; hold fast what ye have obtained, and let no man take

your crown. See on Heb 3:7-9, and Heb 3:12.

Verse 16. For some, when they had heard, did provoke] There is

a various reading here, which consists merely in the different

placing of an accent, and yet gives the whole passage a different

turn:-τινες, from τις, who, if read with the accent on the

epsilon, τινες, is the plural indefinite, and signifies some, as

in our translation; if read with the accent on the iota, τινες, it

has an interrogative meaning; and, according to this, the whole

clause, τινεςγαρακουσαντεςπαρεπικραναν: But who were those

hearers who did bitterly provoke? αλλοςπαντεςοιεξελθοντεςεξ

αιγυπτουδιαμωσεως; Were they not all they who came out of the

land of Egypt by Moses? Or, the whole clause may be read with one

interrogation: But who were those hearers that did bitterly

provoke, but all those who came out of Egypt by Moses? This mode

of reading is followed by some editions, and by Chrysostom and

Theodoret, and by several learned moderns. It is more likely

that this is the true reading, as all that follows to the end of

the 18th verse is a series of interrogations.

Should it be said that all did not provoke, for Joshua and Caleb

are expressly excepted; I answer, that the term all may be with

great propriety used, when out of many hundreds of thousands only

two persons were found who continued faithful. To these also we

may add the priests and the whole tribe of Levi, who, it is very

likely, did not provoke; for, as Dr. Macknight very properly

remarks, they were not of the number of those who were to fight

their way into Canaan, being entirely devoted to the service of

the sanctuary. See Nu 1:3, 45, and Nu 1:49. And therefore what

remained of them after forty years, no doubt, entered Canaan; for

it appears from Nu 34:17, and Jos 24:33,

that Eleazar, the son of Aaron, was one of those who did take

possession of Canaan. Should it be still said our version appears

to be most proper, because all did not provoke; it may be

answered, that the common reading, τινες, some, is too contracted

in its meaning to comprehend the hundreds of thousands who did


Verse 17. But with whom was he grieved forty years?] I believe

it was Surenhusius who first observed that "the apostle, in using

the term forty years, elegantly alludes to the space of time which

had elapsed since the ascension of our Lord till the time in which

this epistle was written, which was about forty years." But this

does not exactly agree with what appears to be the exact date of

this epistle. However, God had now been a long time provoked by

that race rejecting the manifested Messiah, as he was by the

conduct of their forefathers in the wilderness; and as that

provocation was punished by a very signal judgment, so they might

expect this to be punished also. The analogy was perfect in the

crimes, and it might reasonably be expected to be so in the

punishment. And was not the destruction of Jerusalem a proof of

the heinous nature of their crimes, and of the justice of God's

outpoured wrath?

Whose carcasses fell] ωντακωλαεπεσεν. Whose members fell;

for τακωλα properly signifies the members of the body, and here

may be an allusion to the scattered, bleached bones of this

people, that were a long time apparent in the wilderness,

continuing there as a proof of their crimes, and of the judgments

of God.

Verse 18. To whom sware he] God never acts by any kind of

caprice; whenever he pours out his judgments, there are the most

positive reasons to vindicate his conduct.

Those whose carcasses fell in the wilderness were they who had

sinned. And those who did not enter into his rest were those who

believed not. God is represented here as swearing that they

should not enter in, in order to show the determinate nature of

his purpose, the reason on which it was founded, and the height of

the aggravation which occasioned it.

Verse 19. So we see that they could not enter in] It was no

decree of God that prevented them, it was no want of necessary

strength to enable them, it was through no deficiency of Divine

counsel to instruct them; all these they had in abundance: but

they chose to sin, and would not believe. Unbelief produced

disobedience, and disobedience produced hardness of heart and

blindness of mind; and all these drew down the judgments of God,

and wrath came upon them to the uttermost.

1. THIS whole chapter, as the epistle in general, reads a most

awful lesson against backsliders, triflers, and loiterers in the

way of salvation. Every believer in Christ is in danger of

apostasy, while any remains of the evil heart of unbelief are

found in him. God has promised to purify the heart; and the blood

of Christ cleanses from all sin. It is therefore the highest

wisdom of genuine Christians to look to God for the complete

purification of their souls; this they cannot have too soon, and

for this they cannot be too much in earnest.

2. No man should defer his salvation to any future time. If God

speaks to-day, it is to-day that he should be heard and

obeyed. To defer reconciliation to God to any future period, is

the most reprehensible and destructive presumption. It supposes

that God will indulge us in our sensual propensities, and cause

his mercy to tarry for us till we have consummated our iniquitous

purposes. It shows that we prefer, at least for the present, the

devil to Christ, sin to holiness, and earth to heaven. And can we

suppose that God will be thus mocked? Can we suppose that it can

at all consistent with his mercy to extend forgiveness to such

abominable provocation? What a man sows that shall he reap. If

he sows to the flesh, he shall of the flesh reap corruption.

Reader, it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the

living God.

3. Unbelief has generally been considered the most damning of

all sins. I wish those who make this assertion would condescend

to explain themselves. What is this unbelief that damns and ruins

mankind? Their not permitting their minds to be persuaded of the

truths which God speaks. απιστια, from α, negative, and

πιστις, faith, signifies faithless or to be without faith.

And this is an effect from another cause. In Heb 4:11, these

very people are said to have fallen through unbelief; but there

the word is απειθεια, from α, negative, and πειθω, to persuade.

They heard the Divine instructions, they saw God's stupendous

miracles; but they would not suffer themselves to be persuaded,

that he who said and did such things would perform those other

things which he had either threatened or promised: hence they had

no faith, because they were unpersuaded; and their unbelief was

the effect of their unpersuaded or unpersuadable mind. And their

minds were not persuaded of God's truth, because they had ears

open only to the dictates of the flesh; see on Heb 4:2. Here

then is the damning sin, the not inferring, from what God has said

and done, that he will do those other things which he has either

threatened or promised. And how few are there who are not

committing this sin daily! Reader, dost thou in this state dream

of heaven? Awake out of sleep!

4. Where there are so many snares and dangers it is impossible

to be too watchful and circumspect. Satan, as a roaring lion, as a

subtle serpent, or in the guise of an angel of light, is

momentarily going about seeking whom he may deceive, blind, and

devour; and, when it is considered that the human heart, till

entirely renewed, is on his side, it is a miracle of mercy that

any soul escapes perdition: no man is safe any longer than he

maintains the spirit of watchfulness and prayer; and to maintain

such a spirit, he has need of all the means of grace. He who

neglects any of them which the mercy of God has placed in his

power, tempts the devil to tempt him. As a preventive of

backsliding and apostasy, the apostle recommends mutual

exhortation. No Christian should live for himself alone; he

should consider his fellow Christian as a member of the same body,

and feel for him accordingly, and have, succour, and protect him.

When this is carefully attended to in religious society, Satan

finds it very difficult to make an inroad on the Church; but when

coldness, distance, and a want of brotherly love take place, Satan

can attack each singly, and, by successive victories over

individuals, soon make an easy conquest of the whole.

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