Hebrews 4


As the Christian rest is to be obtained by faith, we should

beware of unbelief lest we lose it, as the Hebrews did theirs,


The reason why they were not brought into the rest promised to

them, 2.

The rest promised to the Hebrews was a type of that promised to

Christians, 3-10.

Into this rest we should earnestly labour to enter, 11.

A description of the word of God, 12, 13.

Jesus is our sympathetic High Priest, 15.

Through him we have confidence to come to God, 16.


Verse 1. Let us therefore fear] Seeing the Israelites lost

the rest of Canaan, through obstinacy and unbelief, let us be

afraid lest we come short of the heavenly rest, through the same


Should seem to come short of it.] Lest any of us should

actually come short of it; i.e. miss it. See the note on the

verb δοκειν, to seem, Lu 8:18. What the apostle had said

before, relative to the rest, might be considered as an allegory;

here he explains and applies that allegory, showing that Canaan

was a type of the grand privileges of the Gospel of Christ, and of

the glorious eternity to which they lead.

Come short] The verb υστερειν is applied here metaphorically;

it is an allusion, of which there are many in this epistle, to the

races in the Grecian games: he that came short was he who was any

distance, no matter how small, behind the winner. Will it avail

any of us how near we get to heaven, if the door be shut before we

arrive? How dreadful the thought, to have only missed being

eternally saved! To run well, and yet to permit the devil, the

world, or the flesh, to hinder in the few last steps! Reader,

watch and be sober.

Verse 2. For unto us was the Gospel preached] καιγαρεσμεν

ευηγγελισμενοι. For we also have received good tidings as well as

they. They had a gracious promise of entering into an earthly

rest; we have a gracious promise of entering into a heavenly rest.

God gave them every requisite advantage; he has done the same to

us. Moses and the elders spoke the word of God plainly and

forcibly to them: Christ and his apostles have done the same to

us. They might have persevered; so may we: they disbelieved,

disobeyed, and fell: and so may we.

But the word preached did not profit them] αλλουκωφελησενο

λογοςτηςακοηςεκεινους. But the word of hearing did not profit

them. The word and promise to which the apostle most probably

refers is that in De 1:20, 21:

Ye are come unto to the mountain of the Amorites, which the Lord

our God doth give unto to us. Behold, the Lord thy God hath set

the land before thee; go up and possess it, as the Lord God of thy

fathers hath said unto thee: fear not. Many exhortations they had

to the following effect: Arise, that we may go up against them;

for we have seen the land, and, behold, it is very good: and are

ye still? Be not slothful to go, and to enter to possess the

land; for God hath given it into your hands; a place where there

is no want of any thing that is in the earth; Jud 18:9, 10.

But instead of attending to the word of the Lord by Moses, the

whole congregation murmured against him and Aaron, and said one to

another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt;

Nu 14:2, 4. But they were dastardly through all their

generations. They spoke evil of the pleasant land, and did not

give credence to his word. Their minds had been debased by their

Egyptian bondage, and they scarcely ever arose to a state of

mental nobility.

Not being mixed with faith in them that heard] There are several

various readings in this verse, and some of them important. The

principal are on the word συγκεκραμενος, mixed; which in the

common text refers to ολογος, the word mixed; but, in ABCD and

several others, it is συγκεκραμενους, referring to, and agreeing

with, εκεινους, and may be thus translated: The word of hearing

did not profit them, they not being mixed with those who heard it

by faith. That is, they were not of the same spirit with Joshua

and Caleb. There are other variations, but of less importance;

but the common text seems best.

The word συγκεκραμενος, mixed, is peculiarly expressive; it is a

metaphor taken from the nutrition of the human body by mixing the

aliment taken into the stomach with the saliva and gastric juice,

in consequence of which it is concocted, digested, reduced into

chyle, which, absorbed by the lacteal vessels, and thrown into the

blood, becomes the means of increasing and supporting the body,

all the solids and fluids being thus generated; so that on this

process, properly performed, depend (under God) strength, health,

and life itself. Should the most nutritive aliment be received

into the stomach, if not mixed with the above juices, it would be

rather the means of death than of life; or, in the words of the

apostle, it would not profit, because not thus mixed. Faith in

the word preached, in reference to that God who sent it, is the

grand means of its becoming the power of God to the salvation of

the soul. It is not likely that he who does not credit a

threatening, when he comes to hear it, will be deterred by it from

repeating the sin against which it is levelled; nor can he derive

comfort from a promise who does not believe it as a pledge of

God's veracity and goodness. Faith, therefore, must be mixed with

all that we hear, in order to make the word of God effectual to

our salvation.

This very use of the word, and its explanation, we may find in

Maximus Tyrius, in his description of health, Dissert. x., page

101. "Health," says he, it is a certain disposition υγρωνκαι


καλωςηυποφυσεωςαπμοσθεισωντεξνικως, which consists in a

proper mixture together of the wet and the dry, the cold and the

hot, either by an artificial process, or by the skilful economy of


Verse 3. For we which have believed do enter into rest] The

great spiritual blessings, the forerunners of eternal glory, which

were all typified by that earthly rest or felicity promised to the

ancient Israelites, we Christians do, by believing in Christ

Jesus, actually possess. We have peace of conscience, and joy in

the Holy Ghost; are saved from the guilt and power of sin; and

thus enjoy an inward rest.

But this is a rest differing from the seventh day's rest, or

Sabbath, which was the original type of Canaan, the blessings of

the Gospel, and eternal glory; seeing God said, concerning the

unbelieving Israelites in the wilderness, I have sworn in my wrath

that they shall not enter into my rest, notwithstanding the works

of creation were finished, and the seventh day's rest was

instituted from the foundation of the world; consequently the

Israelites had entered into that rest before the oath was sworn.

See Macknight.

We who believe, οιπιστευσαντες, is omitted by Chrysostom, and

some few MSS. And instead of εισερχομεθαγαρ, for we do enter,

AC, several others, with the Vulgate and Coptic, read εισερχωμεθα

ουν, therefore let us enter; and thus it answers to φωβηθωμεν

ουν, therefore let us fear, Heb 4:1; but this reading cannot

well stand unless οιπιστευσαντες be omitted, which is acknowledged

to be genuine by every MS. and version of note and importance. The

meaning appears to be this: We Jews, who have believed in Christ,

do actually possess that rest-state of happiness in God, produced

by peace of conscience and joy in the Holy Ghost-which was

typified by the happiness and comfort to be enjoyed by the

believing Hebrews, in the possession of the promised land. See


From the foundation of the world.] The foundation of the world,

καταβοληκοσμου, means the completion of the work of creation in

six days. In those days was the world, i.e. the whole system of

mundane things, begun and perfected; and this appears to be the

sense of the expression in this place.

Verse 4. For he spake in a certain place] This certain place

or somewhere, που, is probably Ge 2:2; and refers to the

completion of the work of creation, and the setting apart the

seventh day as a day of rest for man, and a type of everlasting

felicity. See the notes on "Ge 2:1", &c.,

and see here "Heb 2:6".

Verse 5. And in this place again] In the ninety-fifth Psalm,

already quoted, Ps 95:3, 4. This was a second rest which

the Lord promised to the believing, obedient seed of Abraham; and

as it was spoken of in the days of David, when the Jews actually

possessed this long promised Canaan, therefore it is evident that

that was not the rest which God intended, as the next verse shows.

Verse 6. It remaineth that some must enter therein] Why our

translators put in the word must here I cannot even conjecture. I

hope it was not to serve a system, as some have since used it:

"Some must go to heaven, for so is the doctrine of the decree; and

there must be certain persons infallibly brought thither as a

reward to Christ for his sufferings; and in this the will of man

and free agency can have no part," &c, &c. Now, supposing that

even all this was true, yet it does not exist either positively or

by implication in the text. The words επειουναπολειπεταιτινας

εισελθεινειςαυτην, literally translated, are as follows: Seeing

then it remaineth for some to enter into it; or, Whereas therefore

it remaineth that some enter into it, which is Dr. Owen's

translation, and they to whom it was first preached (οιπροτερον

ευαγγελισθεντες, they to whom the promise was given; they who

first received the good tidings; i.e., the Israelites, to whom

was given the promise of entering into the rest of Canaan) did not

enter in because of their unbelief; and the promise still

continued to be repeated even in the days of David; therefore,

some other rest must be intended.

Verse 7. He limiteth a certain day] The term day signifies not

only time in general, but also present time, and a particular

space. Day here seems to have the same meaning as rest in some

other parts of this verse. The day or time of rest relative to

the ancient Jews being over and past, and a long time having

elapsed between God's displeasure shown to the disobedient Jews in

the wilderness and the days of David, and the true rest not having

been enjoyed, God in his mercy has instituted another day-has

given another dispensation of mercy and goodness by Christ Jesus;

and now it may be said, as formerly, To-day, if ye will hear his

voice, harden not your hearts. God speaks now as he spoke before;

his voice is in the Gospel as it was in the law. Believe, love,

obey, and ye shall enter into this rest.

Verse 8. For if Jesus had given them rest] It is truly

surprising that our translators should have rendered the ιησους of

the text Jesus, and not Joshua, who is most clearly intended.

They must have known that the Yehoshua of the Hebrew, which

we write Joshua, is everywhere rendered ιησους, Jesus, by the

Septuagint; and it is their reading which the apostle follows. It

is true the Septuagint generally write ιησουςναυη, or υιοςναυη,

Jesus Nave, or Jesus, son of Nave, for it is thus they translate

Yehoshua ben Nun, Joshua the son of Nun; and this is

sufficient to distinguish it from Jesus, son of David. But as

Joshua, the captain general of Israel, is above intended, the word

should have been written Joshua, and not Jesus. One MS., merely

to prevent the wrong application of the name, has ιησουςοτου

ναυη, Jesus the son of Nave. Theodoret has the same in his

comment, and one Syriac version has it in the text. It is Joshua

in Coverdale's Testament, 1535; in Tindal's 1548; in that edited

by Edmund Becke, 1549; in Richard Cardmarden's, Rouen, 1565;

several modern translators, Wesley, Macknight, Wakefield, &c.,

read Joshua, as does our own in the margin. What a pity it had not

been in the text, as all the smaller Bibles have no marginal

readings, and many simple people are bewildered with the


The apostle shows that, although Joshua did bring the children

of Israel into the promised land, yet this could not be the

intended rest, because long after this time the Holy Spirit, by

David, speaks of this rest; the apostle, therefore, concludes,

Verse 9. There, remaineth therefore a rest to the people of

God.] It was not, 1. The rest of the Sabbath; it was not, 2. The

rest in the promised land, for the psalmist wrote long after the

days of Joshua; therefore there is another rest, a state of

blessedness, for the people of God; and this is the Gospel, the

blessings it procures and communicates, and the eternal glory

which it prepares for, and has promised to, genuine believers.

There are two words in this chapter which we indifferently

translate rest, καταπαυσις and σαββατισμος. the first

signifying a cessation from labour, so that the weary body is

rested and refreshed; the second meaning, not only a rest from

labour, but a religious rest; sabbatismus, a rest of a sacred

kind, of which both soul and body partake. This is true, whether

we understand the rest as referring to Gospel blessings, or to

eternal felicity, or to both.

Verse 10. For he that is entered into his rest] The man who

has believed in Christ Jesus has entered into his rest; the state

of happiness which he has provided, and which is the forerunner of

eternal glory.

Hath ceased from his own works] No longer depends on the

observance of Mosaic rites and ceremonies for his justification

and final happiness. He rests from all these works of the law as

fully as God has rested from his works of creation.

Those who restrain the word rest to the signification of eternal

glory, say, that ceasing from our own works relates to the

sufferings, tribulations, afflictions, &c., of this life; as in

Re 14:13.

I understand it as including both.

In speaking of the Sabbath, as typifying a state of blessedness

in the other world, the apostle follows the opinions of the Jews

of his own and after times. The phrase shabbath

illaah, veshabbath tethaah, the sabbath above, and the sabbath

below, is common among the Jewish writers; and they think that

where the plural number is used, as in Le 19:30:

Ye shall keep my Sabbaths, that the lower and higher sabbaths are

intended, and that the one is prefigured by the other. See many

examples in Schoettgen.

Verse 11. Let us labour therefore] The word σπουδασωμεν

implies every exertion of body and mind which can be made in

reference to the subject. Rebus aliis omissis, hoc agamus; All

things else omitted, this one thing let us do. We receive grace,

improve grace, retain grace, that we may obtain eternal glory.

Lest any man fall] Lest he fall off from the grace of God, from

the Gospel and its blessings, and perish everlastingly. This is

the meaning of the apostle, who never supposed that a man might

not make final shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience, as

long as he was in a state of probation.

Verse 12. For the word of God is quick, and powerful]

Commentators are greatly divided concerning the meaning of the

phrase 'ολογοςτοςθεου, the word of God; some supposing the

whole of Divine revelation to be intended; others, the doctrine of

the Gospel faithfully preached; others, the mind of God or the

Divine intellect; and others, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is thus

denominated in Joh 1:1, &c., and Re 19:13; the only places in

which he is thus incontestably characterized in the New Testament.

The disputed text, 1Jo 5:7, I leave at present out of the

question. In the introduction to this epistle I have produced

sufficient evidence to make it very probable that St. Paul was the

author of this epistle. In this sentiment the most eminent

scholars and critics are now agreed. That Jesus Christ, the

eternal, uncreated WORD, is not meant here, is more than probable

from this consideration, that St. Paul, in no part of his thirteen

acknowledged epistles, ever thus denominates our blessed Lord; nor

is he thus denominated by any other of the New Testament writers

except St. John. Dr. Owen has endeavoured to prove the contrary,

but I believe to no man's conviction who was able to examine and

judge of the subject. He has not been able to find more than two

texts which even appeared to look his way. The first is, Lu 1:2:

Us, which-were eye witnesses, and ministers τουλογου, of the

word; where it is evident the whole of our Lord's ministry is

intended. The second is, Ac 20:32:

I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace; where nothing

but the gracious doctrine of salvation by faith, the influence of

the Divine Spirit, &c., &c., can be meant: nor is there any

legitimate mode of construction with which I am acquainted, by

which the words in either place can be personally applied to our

Lord. That the phrase was applied to denominate the second

subsistence in the glorious Trinity, by Philo and the rabbinical

writers, I have already proved in my notes on John 1., where such

observations are alone applicable.

Calmet, who had read all that either the ancients or moderns

have said on this subject, and who does not think that Jesus

Christ is here intended, speaks thus: "None of the properties

mentioned here can be denied to the Son of God, the eternal Word;

he sees all things, knows all things, penetrates all things, and

can do all things. He is the ruler of the heart, and can turn it

where he pleases. He enlightens the soul, and calls it gently and

efficaciously, when and how he wills. Finally, he punishes in the

most exemplary manner the insults offered to his Father and

himself by infidels, unbelievers, and the wicked in general. But

it does not appear that the Divine Logos is here intended, 1.

Because St. Paul does not use that term to express the Son of God.

2. Because the conjunction γαρ, for, shows that this verse is an

inference drawn from the preceding, where the subject in question

is concerning the eternal rest, and the means by which it is to be

obtained. It is therefore more natural to explain the term of the

word, order, and will of God, for the Hebrews represent the

revelation of God as an active being, living, all-powerful,

illumined, executing vengeance, discerning and penetrating all

things. Thus Wisd. 16:26: 'Thy children, O Lord, know that it is

not the growing of fruits that nourisheth man, but that it is thy

word that preserveth them that put their trust in thee.' See

De 8:3. That is, the sacred Scriptures point out and appoint all

the means of life. Again, speaking of the Hebrews who were bitten

with the fiery serpents, the same writer says, Wisd. 16:12: 'For it

was neither herb nor mollifying plaster that restored them to

health, but thy word, O Lord, which healeth all things;' i.e.

which describes and prescribes the means of healing. And it is

very likely that the purpose of God, sending the destroying angel

to slay the firstborn in Egypt is intended by the same expression,

Wisd. 18:15, 16: 'Thine almighty word leaped down from heaven out

of thy royal throne, as a fierce man of war into a land of

destruction, and brought thine unfeigned commandment as a sharp

sword, and, standing up, filled all things with death.' This

however may be applied to the eternal Logos, or uncreated Word.

"And this mode of speech is exactly conformable to that of the

Prophet Isaiah, Isa 55:10, 11, where to the word of God, spoken

by his prophets, the same kind of powers are attributed as those

mentioned here by the apostle: For as the rain cometh down and the

snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the

earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to

the sower, and bread to the eater; so shall my WORD BE that GOETH

FORTH OUT OF MY MOUTH: it shall not return unto me void; but it

shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the

thing whereto I sent it. The centurion seems to speak a similar

language, Lu 7:7:

But say in a word, (αλλαειπελογω, speak to thy word,) and

my servant shall be healed." This is the sum of what this very

able commentator says on the subject.

In Dr. Dodd's collections we find the following:-

"The word of God, which promises to the faithful, an entrance

into God's rest in David's time, and now to us, is not a thing

which died or was forgotten as soon as it was uttered, but it

continues one and the same to all generations; it is ζων, quick

or living. So Isaiah says: The word of our God shall stand for

ever; Isa 40:8. Compare Isa 51:6; 55:11;

1Esdras 4:38; Joh 3:34; 1Pe 1:23.

And powerful, ενργης, efficacious, active; sufficient, if it be

not actually hindered, to produce its effects; effectual, Phm 1:6.

See 2Co 10:4; 1Th 2:13.

And sharper than any two-edged sword; τομωτεροςυπερ, more cutting

than. The word of God penetrates deeper into a man than any

sword; it enters into the soul and spirit, into all our

sensations, passions, appetites, nay, to our very thoughts; and

sits as judge of the most secret intentions, contrivances, and

sentiments of the heart. Phocylides has an expression very

similar to our author, where he says, of reason, 'that it is a

weapon which penetrates deeper into a man than a sword.'

See also Isa 40:4; Eph 6:17; Re 1:16; 2:16.

"Piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit.-When

the soul is thus distinguished from the spirit, by the former is

meant that inferior faculty by which we think of and desire what

concerns our present being and welfare. By spirit is meant a

superior power by which we prefer future things to present, by

which we are directed to pursue truth and right above all things,

and even to despise what is agreeable to our present state, if it

stand in competition with, or is prejudicial to, our future

happiness. See 1Th 5:23. Some have thought that by the

expression before us is implied that the word of God is able to

bring death, as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira; for, say

they, if the soul and spirit, or the joints and marrow are

separated one from another, it is impossible that life can remain.

But perhaps the meaning of the latter clause may rather be: 'It

can divide the joints and divide the marrow; i.e. enter

irresistibly into the soul, and produce some sentiment which

perhaps it would not willingly have received; and sometimes

discover and punish secret, as well as open wickedness.' Mr.

Pierce observes that our author has been evidently arguing from a

tremendous judgment of God upon the ancient Israelites, the

ancestors of those to whom this epistle is directed; and in this

verse, to press upon them that care and diligence he had been

recommending, he sets before them the efficacy and virtue of the

word of God, connecting this verse with the former by a for in the

beginning of it; and therefore it is natural to suppose that what

he says of the word of God may have a relation to somewhat

remarkable in that sore punishment of which he had been speaking,

particularly to the destruction of the people by lightning, or

fire from heaven.

See Le 10:1-5; Nu 11:1-3; 16:35; Ps 78:21.

All the expressions in this view will receive an additional force,

for nothing is more quick and living, more powerful and

irresistible, sharp and piercing, than lightning. If this idea

be admitted, the meaning of the last clause in this verse will be,

'That the word of God is a judge, to censure and punish the evil

thoughts and intents of the heart.' And this brings the matter

home to the exhortation with which our author began, Heb 3:12, 13;

for under whatever disguise they might conceal themselves,

yet, from such tremendous judgments as God executed upon their

fathers, they might learn to judge as Moses did, Nu 32:23:

If ye will not do so, ye have sinned against the Lord; and be sure

your sin will find you out." See Hammond, Whitby, Sykes, and


Mr. Wesley's note on this verse is expressed with his usual

precision and accuracy:-

"For the word of God-preached, Heb 4:2, and armed with

threatenings, Heb 4:3,

is living and powerful-attended with the power of the living God,

and conveying either life or death to the hearers; sharper than

any two-edged sword-penetrating the heart more than this does the

body; piercing quite through, and laying open, the soul and

spirit, joints and marrow-the inmost recesses of the mind, which

the apostle beautifully and strongly expresses by this heap of

figurative words; and is a discerner, not only of the thoughts,

but also of the intentions."

The law, and the word of God in general, is repeatedly compared

to a two-edged sword among the Jewish writers,

chereb shetey piphiyoth, the sword with the two mouths. By this

sword the man himself lives, and by it he destroys his enemies.

This is implied in its two edges. See also Schoettgen.

Is a discerner of the thoughts] καικριτικοςενθυμησεωνκαι

ευνοιωνκαρδιας. Is a critic of the propensities and suggestions

of the heart. How many have felt this property of God's word

where it has been faithfully preached! How often has it happened

that a man has seen the whole of his own character, and some of

the most private transactions of his life, held up as it were to

public view by the preacher; and yet the parties absolutely

unknown to each other! Some, thus exhibited, have even supposed

that their neighbours must have privately informed the preacher of

their character and conduct; but it was the word of God, which, by

the direction and energy of the Divine Spirit, thus searched them

out, was a critical examiner of the propensities and suggestions

of their hearts, and had pursued them through all their public

haunts and private ways. Every genuine minister of the Gospel has

witnessed such effects as these under his ministry in repeated


But while this effect of the word or true doctrine of God is

acknowledged, let it not be supposed that it, of itself can

produce such effects. The word of God is compared to a hammer

that breaks the rock in pieces, Jer 23:29;

but will a hammer break a stone unless it is applied by the skill

and strength of some powerful agent? It is here compared to a

two-edged sword; but will a sword cut or pierce to the dividing

of joints and marrow, or separation of soul and spirit, unless

some hand push and direct it? Surely, no. Nor can even the words

and doctrine of God produce any effect but as directed by the

experienced teacher, and applied by the Spirit of God. It is an

instrument the most apt for the accomplishing of its work; but it

will do nothing, can do nothing, but as used by the heavenly

workman. To this is the reference in the next verse.

Verse 13. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest]

God, from whom this word comes, and by whom it has all its

efficacy, is infinitely wise. He well knew how to construct his

word, so as to suit it to the state of all hearts; and he has

given it that infinite fulness of meaning, so as to suit it to all

cases. And so infinite is he in his knowledge, and so omnipresent

is he, that the whole creation is constantly exposed to his view;

nor is there a creature of the affections, mind, or imagination,

that is not constantly under his eye. He marks every rising

thought, every budding desire; and such as these are supposed to

be the creatures to which the apostle particularly refers, and

which are called, in the preceding verse, the propensities and

suggestions of the heart.

But all things are naked and opened] πανταδεγυμνακαι

τετραχηλισμενα. It has been supposed that the phraseology here is

sacrificial, the apostle referring to the case, of slaying and

preparing a victim to be offered to God. 1. It is slain; 2. It

is flayed, so it is naked; 3. It is cut open, so that all the

intestines are exposed to view; 4. It is carefully inspected by

the priest, to see that all is sound before any part is offered to

him who has prohibited all imperfect and diseased offerings; and,

5. It is divided exactly into two equal parts, by being split down

the chine from the nose to the rump; and so exactly was this

performed, that the spinal marrow was cloven down the centre, one

half lying in the divided cavity of each side of the backbone.

This is probably the metaphor in 2Ti 2:15, where see the note.

But there is reason to suspect that this is not the metaphor

here. The verb τραχηλιζω, from which the apostle's τετραχηλισμενα

comes, signifies to have the neck bent back so as to expose the

face to full view, that every feature might be seen; and this was

often done with criminals, in order that they might be the better

recognized and ascertained. To this custom Pliny refers in the

very elegant and important panegyric which he delivered on the

Emperor Trajan, about A. D. 103, when the emperor had made him

consul; where, speaking of the great attention which Trajan paid

to the public morals, and the care he took to extirpate informers,

&c., he says: Nihil tamen gratius, nihil saeculo dignius, quam

quod contigit desuper intueri delatorum supina ora, retortasque

cervices. Agnoscebamus et fruebamur, cum velut piaculares

publicae sollicitudinis victimae, supra sanguinem noxiorum ad

lenta supplicia gravioresque poenas ducerentur. Plin. Paneg.,

cap. 34. "There is nothing, however, in this age which affects us

more pleasingly, nothing more deservedly, than to behold from

above the supine faces and reverted necks of the informers. We

thus knew them, and were gratified when, as expiatory victims of

the public disquietude, they were led away to lingering

punishments, and sufferings more terrible than even the blood of

the guilty."

The term was also used to describe the action of wrestlers who,

when they could, got their hand under the chin of their

antagonists, and thus, by bending both the head and neck, could

the more easily give them a fall; this stratagem is sometimes seen

in ancient monuments. But some suppose that it refers to the

custom of dragging them by the neck. Diogenes the philosopher,

observing one who had been victor in the Olympic games often

fixing his eyes upon a courtezan, said, in allusion to this

custom: ιδεκριοναρειμανιονωςυποτουτυχοντοςκορασιου

τραχηλιζεται. "See how this mighty champion (martial ram) is

drawn by the neck by a common girl." See Stanley, page 305.

With whom we have to do.] προςονημινολογος. To whom we

must give an account. He is our Judge, and is well qualified to

be so, as all our hearts and actions are naked and open to him.

This is the true meaning of λογος in this place; and it is used

in precisely the same meaning in Mt 12:36; 18:23; Lu 16:2.

Ro 14:12:

So then every one of us λογοςδωσει, shall give an account of

himself to God. And Heb 13:17:

They watch for your souls, ωςλογοναποδωσοντες, as those who must

give account. We translate the words, With whom we have to do; of

which, though the phraseology is obsolete, yet the meaning is

nearly the same. To whom a worde to us, is the rendering of

my old MS. and Wiclif. Of whom we speake, is the version of our

other early translators.

Verse 14. Seeing then that we have a great high priest] It is

contended, and very properly, that the particle ουν, which we

translate seeing, as if what followed was an immediate inference

from what the apostle had been speaking, should be translated now;

for the apostle, though he had before mentioned Christ as the High

Priest of our profession, Heb 3:1,

and as the High Priest who made reconciliation for the sins of the

people, Heb 2:17, does not attempt to prove this in any of

the preceding chapters, but now enters upon that point, and

discusses it at great length to the end of chap. 10.

After all, it is possible that this may be a resumption of the

discourse from Heb 3:6; the rest of that chapter, and the

preceding thirteen verses of this, being considered as a

parenthesis. These parts left out, the discourse runs on with

perfect connection. It is very likely that the words, here, are

spoken to meet an objection of those Jews who wished the

Christians of Palestine to apostatize: "You have no tabernacle-no

temple-no high priest-no sacrifice for sin. Without these there

can be no religion; return therefore to us, who have the perfect

temple service appointed-by God." To these he answers: We have a

High Priest who is passed into the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God;

therefore let us hold fast our profession. See on Heb 3:1, to

which this verse seems immediately to refer.

Three things the apostle professes to prove in this epistle:-

1. That Christ is greater than the angels.

2. That he is greater than Moses.

3. That he is greater than Aaron, and all high priests.

The two former arguments, with their applications and

illustrations, he has already despatched; and now he enters on the

third. See the preface to this epistle.

The apostle states, 1. That we have a high priest. 2. That this

high priest is Jesus, the Son of God; not a son or descendant of

Aaron, nor coming in that way, but in a more transcendent line.

3. Aaron and his successors could only pass into the holy of

holies, and that once a year; but our High Priest has passed into

the heavens, of which that was only the type. There is an

allusion here to the high priest going into the holy of holies on

the great day of atonement. 1. He left the congregation of the

people. 2. He passed through the veil into the holy place, and

was not seen even by the priests. 3. He entered through the

second veil into the holy of holies, where was the symbol of the

majesty of God. Jesus, our High Priest, 1. Left the people at

large. 2. He left his disciples by ascending up through the

visible heavens, the clouds, as a veil, screening him from their

sight. 3. Having passed through these veils, he went immediately

to be our Intercessor: thus he passed ουρανους, the visible or

ethereal heavens, into the presence of the Divine Majesty; through

the heavens, διεληλυθοτατουςουρανους, and the empyreum, or

heaven of heavens.

Verse 15. For we have not a high priest] To the objection,

"Your High Priest, if entered into the heavens, can have no

participation with you, and no sympathy for you, because out of

the reach of human feelings and infirmities," he answers: ουγαρ

εχομεναπχιερεαμηδυναμενονσυμπαθησαιταιςασθενειαιςημων. We

have not a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness.

Though he be the Son of God, as to his human nature, and equal in

his Divine nature with God; yet, having partaken of human nature,

and having submitted to all its trials and distresses, and being

in all points tempted like as we are, without feeling or

consenting to sin; he is able to succour them that are tempted.

See Heb 2:18, and the note there.

The words καταπαντακαθομοιοτητα might be translated, in all

points according to the likeness, i.e. as far as his human

nature could bear affinity to ours; for, though he had a perfect

human body and human soul, yet that body was perfectly tempered;

it was free from all morbid action, and consequently from all

irregular movements. His mind, or human soul, being free from

all sin, being every way perfect, could feel no irregular temper,

nothing that was inconsistent with infinite purity. In all these

respects he was different from us; and cannot, as man, sympathize

with us in any feelings of this kind: but, as God, he has provided

support for the body under all its trials and infirmities, and for

the soul he has provided an atonement and purifying sacrifice; so

that he cleanses the heart from all unrighteousness, and fills the

soul with his Holy Spirit, and makes it his own temple and

continual habitation. He took our flesh and blood, a human body

and a human soul, and lived a human life. Here was the likeness

of sinful flesh, Ro 8:5;

and by thus assuming human nature, he was completely qualified to

make an atonement for the sins of the world.

Verse 16. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of

grace] The allusion to the high priest, and his office on the day

of atonement, is here kept up. The approach mentioned here is to

the kapporeth, ιλαστηριον, the propitiatory or

mercy-seat. This was the covering of the ark of the testimony or

covenant, at each end of which was a cherub, and between them the

shechinah, or symbol of the Divine Majesty, which appeared to, and

conversed with, the high priest. Here the apostle shows the great

superiority of the privileges of the new testament above those of

the old; for there the high priest only, and he with fear and

trembling, was permitted to approach; and that not without the

blood of the victim; and if in any thing he transgressed, he might

expect to be struck with death. The throne of grace in heaven

answers to this propitiatory, but to this ALL may approach who

feel their need of salvation; and they may approach μετα

παρρησιας, with freedom, confidence, liberty of speech, in

opposition to the fear and trembling of the Jewish high priest.

Here, nothing is to be feared, provided the heart be right with

God, truly sincere, and trusting alone in the sacrificial blood.

That we may obtain mercy] ιναλαβωμενελεον. That we may take

mercy-that we may receive the pardon of all our sins; there is

mercy for the taking. As Jesus Christ tasted death for every man,

so every man may go to that propitiatory, and take the mercy that

is suited to his degree of guilt.

And find grace] Mercy refers to the pardon of sin, and being

brought into the favour of God. Grace is that by which the soul

is supported after it has received this mercy, and by which it is

purified from all unrighteousness, and upheld in all trials and

difficulties, and enabled to prove faithful unto death.

To help in time of need.] ειςευκαιρονβοηθειαν. For a

seasonable support; that is, support when necessary, and as

necessary, and in due proportion to the necessity. The word

βονθεια is properly rendered assistance, help, or support; but it

is an assistance in consequence of the earnest cry of the person

in distress, for the word signifies to run at the cry, θεινεις

βοην, or επιβοηνθειν. So, even at the throne of grace, or

great propitiatory, no help can be expected where there is no cry,

and where there is no cry there is no felt necessity; for he that

feels he is perishing will cry aloud for help, and to such a cry

the compassionate High Priest will run; and the time of need is

the time in which God will show mercy; nor will he ever delay it

when it is necessary. We are not to cry to-day to be helped

to-morrow, or at some indefinite time, or at the hour of death.

We are to call for mercy and grace when we need them; and we are

to expect to receive them when we call. This is a part of our

liberty or boldness; we come up to the throne, and we call

aloud for mercy, and God hears and dispenses the blessing we need.

That this exhortation of the apostle may not be lost on us, let

us consider:-

1. That there is a throne of grace, i.e. a propitiatory, the

place where God and man are to meet.

2. That this propitiatory or mercy-seat is sprinkled with the

atoning blood of that Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the


3. That we must come up, προσερχωμεθα, to this throne; and this

implies faith in the efficacy of the sacrifice.

4. That we must call aloud on God for his mercy, if we expect

him to run to our assistance.

5. That we must feel our spiritual necessities, in order to our

calling with fervency and earnestness.

6. That calling thus we shall infallibly get what we want; for

in Christ Jesus, as a sacrificial offering, God is ever well

pleased; and he is also well pleased with all who take refuge in

the atonement which he has made.

7. That thus coming, feeling, and calling, we may have the

utmost confidence; for we have boldness, liberty of access,

freedom of speech; may plead with our Maker without fear; and

expect all that heaven has to bestow; because Jesus, who died,

sitteth upon the throne! Hallelujah! the Lord God Omnipotent


8. All these are reasons why we should persevere.

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