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Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 4

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

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Verse 1

Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.

Let us therefore fear - not with slavish terror, but godly "fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). Since so many have fallen, we have cause to fear (Hebrews 3:17-19).

Being left us - still remaining to us after the others have, by neglect, lost it. Or, though the earthly rest has been entered, the promise of the heavenly still remains.

His rest - God's heavenly rest, of which Canaan is the type. "Today" continues, during which is the danger of failing to reach the rest. "Today," rightly used, terminates in the rest which, when once obtained, is never lost (Revelation 3:12). A foretaste of the rest is given in the inward rest which the believer's soul has in Christ (Matthew 11:28-29).

Should seem to come short of it, [ hustereekenai (G5302)] - 'to be come too late, when the "today" is gone (Hebrews 12:15; Luke 13:25): 'to have come short of it.' The word "seem" mitigates the expression, though not lessening the reality (Bengel). Lest there should be any semblance of falling short.

Verse 2

For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

Gospel preached ... unto them - in type: the earthly Canaan, wherein they failed to realize perfect rest, suggesting that they should look beyond to the heavenly rest, to which faith is the avenue, and from which unbelief excludes, as it did from the earthly Canaan.

The word preached, [ ho (G3588) logos (G3056) tees (G3588) akoees (G189)] - 'the word of hearing:' the word heard by them.

Not being mixed with faith in them that heard. [So f, Syriac, and Lucifer, sungkekramenos: 'Aleph ('), sungkekerasmenos (G4786)]. 'As the word did not unite with the hearers in faith. The word heard being the food which, as the bread of life (John 6:33), must pass into flesh and blood, through man's appropriating it in faith. Hearing alone is of as little value as undigested food in a bad stomach (Tholuck). [A B C Delta, Vulgate, sungkekerasmenous (G4786)]. 'Unmingled as they were (Greek accusative, agreeing with "them") in faith with its hearers;' i:e. with its believing, obedient hearers, as Caleb and Joshua. So "hear" means 'obey,' Hebrews 4:7. The disobedient, instead of being blended in 'the same body,' separated themselves as Korah: a tacit reproof to like separatists from the Christian assembling together (Hebrews 10:25; Jude 1:19).

Verse 3

For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.

For - Justifying his assertion of the need of "faith," Hebrews 4:2. 'Aleph (') A C read [ oun (G3767)] 'therefore.'

We which have believed - we who at Christ's coming shall be found to have believed.

Do enter - i:e., are to enter. So B Delta f and Lucifer. A C read 'let us enter.' Into rest - `into the [ teen (G3588)] rest' promised in the 95th Psalm.

As he said - God's saying that unbelief excludes, implies that belief gains an entrance. What, however, Paul mainly here dwells on in the quotation is, that the promised "rest" has not yet been entered into. At Hebrews 4:11 he again, as in Hebrews 3:12-19 already, takes up faith as the indispensable qualification.

Although ... Although God finished His works and entered His rest from creation long before Moses' time, yet under that leader another rest was promised, which most fell short of through unbelief; and although the rest in Canaan was subsequently attained under Joshua, yet long after, in David's days, God, in the 95th Psalm, still speaks of the rest of God as not yet attained. THEREFORE there must' be a rest still future-namely, that which 'remaineth for the people of God' in heaven (Hebrews 4:3-9), when they shall rest from their works, as God did from His (Hebrews 4:10). Paul shows that by "my rest" God means a future rest, not for Himself, but for us.

Finished, [ geneethentoon (G1096)] - 'brought into existence.'

Verse 4

For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.

He spake - God (Genesis 2:2).

God did rest the seventh day - a rest not ending with the seventh day, but beginning then, and still continuing, into which believers enter. God's rest is not a rest necessitated by fatigue, nor consisting in idleness, but that upholding and governing of which creation was the beginning (Alford). Hence, Moses records the end of each of the first six days, but not of the seventh. 'The day of rest' for the Sabbath is taken from 2Ma 15:1 [ hee (G3588) tees (G3588) katapauseoos (G2663) heemera (G2250)].

From all his works - Hebrew, Genesis 2:2, 'from all His work.' God's 'work' was one, comprehending, however, many "works."

Verse 5

And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest.

In this place. In this Psalm, again, it is implied that the rest was even still future.

Verse 6

Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief:

It remaineth - still to be realized.

Some must enter. The denial of entrance to unbelievers is a virtual promise of entrance to believers. God wishes not His rest to be empty, but furnished with guests (Luke 14:23).

They to whom it was first preached entered not - `they who first (in Moses' time) had the Gospel preached to them;' namely, in type, note, Hebrews 4:2.

Unbelief, [ apeitheian (G543)] - rather, 'disobedience' (note Hebrews 3:18).

Verse 7

Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Again - Anew the promise recurs. Greek order, 'He limiteth a certain day, "Today."' Here Paul interrupts the quotation by, 'In (the Psalm of) David, saying, After so long a time' (after 500 years' possession of Canaan); and resumes it by, 'as it has been said before (so 'Aleph (') A C Delta f, before, namely, Hebrews 3:7; Hebrews 3:15), Today, if ye hear His voice, etc. (Alford.)

Verse 8

For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.

Answer to the possible objection to his reasoning-namely, that those brought into Canaan by Joshua (so "Jesus," Acts 7:45) did enter the rest of God. If the rest of God meant Canaan, God would not, after their entrance into that land, have spoken of another (future) day of entering the rest.

Therefore - because God 'speaks of another day' (note, Hebrews 4:8).

Verse 9

There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.

Remaineth - still to be realized by the "some (who) must enter therein" (Hebrews 4:6); i:e., "the people of God," the true Israel, who enter into God's rest ("my rest," Hebrews 4:3). God's rest was a 'sabbatism' (Greek): so also will ours be (margin): a home for the exile, a mansion for the pilgrim, a Sabbath for the workman weary of the world's week-day toil. In time there are many Sabbaths; but then there shall be one perfect and eternal. [The "rest," Hebrews 4:8, is katepausen (G2664); Hebrew, noach (H5146); rest from weariness, as the ark rested on Ararat after its tossings; as Israel, under Joshua, rested from war in Canaan. Anesis (G425) (2 Thessalonians 1:7), relaxation from afflictions. Anapausis (G372) "rest" given by Jesus now (Matthew 11:28): but the "rest," Hebrews 4:9, is the nobler (Hebrew) 'Sabbath' rest; literally, cessation from work finished (Hebrews 4:4), as God rested (Revelation 14:13; Revelation 16:17). The two ideas combined give the perfect view of the heavenly Sabbath. Rest from weariness, sorrow, and sin; and rest in the completion of God's new creation (Revelation 21:5). The renovated creation shall share in it; nothing there will be to break the Sabbath of eternity: the Triune God shall rejoice in the work of His hands (Zephaniah 3:17).] Moses, the representative of the law, could not lead Israel into Canaan: the law leads us to Christ; there its office ceases: it is Jesus, the antitype of Joshua, who leads us into the heavenly rest. This verse indirectly establishes the obligation of the Sabbath; for the type continues until the antitype supersedes it: so legal sacrifices continued until the great antitypical sacrifice superseded it. As then the antitypical Sabbath rest will not be until Christ comes to usher us into it, the typical earthly Sabbath must continue until then. The Jews call the future rest the 'day which is all Sabbath.'

Verse 10

For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.

For - Justifying Hebrews 4:9.

He that is entered - whosoever once enters.

His rest - God's rest, prepared by God for His people (Estius). Rather, the man's rest; that assigned to him by God.

Hath ceased, [ katepausen (G2664), akin to katapausis (G2663)] (Hebrews 4:3). The aorist is indefinite, 'rests.' The past tense implies the certainty of it, as also that in this life a kind of foretaste in Christ is already given (Grotius) (Jeremiah 6:16).

From his own works - even from those that were good and suitable previously. Labour was followed by rest even in paradise (Genesis 2:3; Genesis 2:15). The work and subsequent rest of God are the archetype to which we should be conformed if we would be supremely happy. The argument is, He who once enters rest, rests from labours; but God's people have not yet rested from them: therefore they have not yet entered the rest; so it must be still future. Alford, 'He that entered into his (Isaiah 11:10; Matthew 25:21; Matthew 25:23) rest (namely, Jesus, our Forerunner, Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 6:20, in contrast to Joshua the type, who did not bring God's people into the heavenly rest), He Himself (emphatic) rested from His works (Hebrews 4:4), as God (did) from His own [ idion (G2398)] works.' The argument, though generally applying to anyone who has entered his rest, probably alludes to Jesus in particular, the antitypical Joshua, who, having entered His rest at the Ascension, has ceased from His earthly work of redemption, as God on the seventh day rested from physical creation. Not that He has ceased to carry on redemption-nay, He upholds it by His mediation-but He has ceased from those portions of it which constitute the foundation: the sacrifice has been once for all accomplished. Compare as to God's creation, once for all completed and rested from, but now still upheld (note, Hebrews 4:4; 1 Peter 4:1-2).

Verse 11

Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

Let us ... therefore - seeing such a promise is before us.

Labour, [ spoudasoomen (G4704)] - 'strive diligently.'

That rest - still future and so glorious. Or (cf. Hebrews 4:10), 'that rest into which Christ has entered before' (Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 6:20).

Fall - with the soul; not merely the body, as the rebel Israelites fell (Hebrews 3:17).

After the same example - `lest any fall into [ en (G1722): in the sphere of] such disobedience [practical unbelief: apeitheias (G543)] as they gave a sample of' (Grotius) The Jews say, 'the parents are a sign (warning) to the son.'

Verse 12

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

For. Such diligent striving (Hebrews 4:11) is incumbent, FOR we have to do with a God whose "Word," whereby we shall be judged, is heart-searching, and whose eyes are all-seeing (Hebrews 4:13). The qualities attributed to the word of God show that it is regarded in its JUDICIAL power, whereby it doomed the disobedient Israelites to exclusion from Canaan, and shall exclude unbelieving Christians from the heavenly rest. The written Word is not the prominent thought, though the passage is often so quoted. Still the Word of God (the same as that preached, Hebrews 4:2), in the broadest sense, is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17), with double edge-one edge convicting and converting believers (Hebrews 4:2), the other for condemning and destroying unbelievers (Hebrews 4:14). Revelation 19:15 similarly represents the Word's judicial power as a sharp sword going out of Christ's mouth to smite the nations (cf. Revelation 2:12; Revelation 2:16). The same word which saves the faithful (Hebrews 4:2) destroys the disobedient (2 Corinthians 2:15-16). The personal Word is not here meant: He is not the sword, but has it. Compare Joshua 5:13; appropriately Joshua is referred to, Hebrews 4:8.

Quick, [ zoon (G2198)] - 'living:' having living power, as 'the rod of the mouth and the breath of the lips,' with which 'the living God shall smite the earth.'

Powerful, [ energees (G1756)] - not only living, but energetically efficacious.

Sharper, [ tomooteros (G5114)] - 'more cutting.'

Two-edged - sharpened at both edge and back. 'It judges all that is in the heart, for there it passes through, at once punishing (unbelievers) and searching' (both believers and unbelievers) (Chrysostom). Philo similarly, 'God passed between the parts of Abraham's sacrifice (Genesis 15:17) as a "burning lamp," with His Word, the cutter of all things: which sword, sharpened to the utmost, never ceases to divide all sensible things, and even things not perceptible to sense or physically divisible, but perceptible and divisible by Word.' Paul's early training in the Greek schools of Tarsus and the Hebrew schools at Jerusalem accounts for his acquaintance with Philo's thoughts, which were current among learned Jews everywhere, though Philo belonged to Alexandria. Addressing Jews, he by the Spirit sanctions what was true in their current literature, as he similarly did in addressing Gentiles (Acts 17:28). [Traducianists rightly maintain that man's psychical nature ( psuchee (G5590), soul), moral and intellectual, is transmitted from father to son: original sin would not be, if the soul with its sinful bias were directly created by God. Creationists are right as to the pneuma (G4151), that it is not derived by descent, but created at birth (John 1:13; John 3:6; James 1:18; 1 John 3:9; 1 John 5:1; 1 John 5:18-19)].

Piercing, [ diiknoumenos (G1338)] - 'coming through.'

Soul and spirit - i:e., reaching through even to the separation of the animal soul, the lower part of man's incorporeal nature, the seat of animal desires (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:14); 'the natural (animal-souled) man [Jude 1:19, "sensual," psuchikoi (G5591)]; from the spirit (the higher part, receptive of the Spirit of God, allying man to heavenly being).

And of the joints and marrow - rather [ achri (G891): reaching even TO], 'both [ te (G5037) kai (G2532)] the joints (so as to divide them) and marrow.' Christ "knows what is in man" (John 2:25): so His word reaches even to the intimate knowledge of man's hidden feelings and thoughts, dividing - i:e., distinguishing what is spiritual from what is animal in him, the spirit from the soul: so Proverbs 20:27: cf. its effect on Lydia, Acts 16:14; and the woman of Samaria, John 4:29. As the knife of the Levitical priest reached to dividing parts closely united, as the joints, and penetrated to the innermost parts, as the marrows [ mueloon (G3452)], so the word of God divides man's closely-joined immaterial parts, soul and spirit, and penetrates to the innermost recesses of both. In 'Aleph (') A B C H f, Vulgate, there is no 'both' [ te (G5037)] before "soul and spirit," as there is in the clause 'both the joints and,' etc.: which makes the latter clause explanatory of the former. "Joints" (metaphorical) answers to "the dividing asunder;" 'marrows,' to "soul and spirit" (especially the latter. It divides soul from spirit, and so reaches the "joints," and pierces so as to reach even the inmost recesses (the 'marrows') of soul and spirit alike. Soul, as well as spirit, is laid bare and "naked" before God (cf. Hebrews 4:13). 'Moses forms the soul, Christ the spirit. The soul draws with it the body; the spirit draws with it both soul and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23) (Bengel). The Word's dividing and far penetrating power has both a punitive and a healing effect.

Discerner, [ kritikos (G2924)] - 'capable of judging.' The thoughts - `the sentiments.'

Intents, [ ennoion (G1771), from en (G1722) and nous (G3563)] - 'mental cogitations.' [As enthumeeseis (G1761), from thumos (G2372) (animus), 'refers to the sentiments, feelings, and passions, so ennoiai (G1771) refers to the intellect.]

Verse 13

Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

Creature - visible or invisible.

In his (God's) sight (Hebrews 4:12).

Opened, [ tetracheelismena (G5136)] - 'thrown on the back, so as to have the neck laid bare,' as a victim with neck exposed for sacrifice. The perfect tense implies this is our continuous state in relation to God. 'Show, O man, shame and fear toward thy God, for no veil, no twisting, bending, colouring, or disguise can cover practical unbelief' ('disobedience,' Hebrews 4:11).

Verse 14

Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.

Seeing then ... - resuming Hebrews 2:17.

Great - as being 'the Son of God, higher than the heavens' (Hebrews 7:26): the archetype and antitype of the legal high priest.

Passed into the heavens, [ dieleeluthota (G1330) tous (G3588) ouranous (G3772)] - 'passed through the heavens;' namely, those which come between us and God, the aerial heaven, and that above the latter containing the heavenly bodies, the sun, moon, etc. These heavens were the veil which our High Priest passed through into the heaven of heavens, the immediate presence of God; just as the Levitical high priest passed through the veil into the holy of holies. Neither Moses nor even Joshua could bring us into this rest; but Jesus, our Forerunner, already spiritually, hereafter in actual presence, body, soul, and spirit, brings His people into the heavenly rest.

Jesus the antitypical Joshua (Hebrews 4:8) Jesus - the antitypical Joshua (Hebrews 4:8).

Hold fast - the opposite of "let ... slip" (Hebrews 2:1) and "fall away" (Hebrews 6:6). As the genitive follows, it is, ' let us take hold of our profession;' i:e., of faith and hope, the subjects of our profession [ kratoomen (G2902) tees (G3588) homologias (G3671)]. The accusative follows when the sense is "hold fast" (Tittmann).

Verse 15

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

For - The motive to 'holding our profession' (Hebrews 4:14); namely, the sympathy and help we may expect from our High Priest. Though "great" (Hebrews 4:14), He is not above caring for us; nay, being in all points one with us as to manhood, sin only excepted, He sympathizes with us in every temptation. Though exalted to the highest heavens, He has changed His place, not His nature and office, toward us; His condition, not His affection. Compare Matthew 26:38, "watch with me," showing His desire in His day of suffering for the sympathy of those whom He loved: so He now gives His suffering people His sympathy. Compare Aaron, bearing the names of the twelve tribes in the breastplate of judgment on his heart, when he entered into the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually (Exodus 28:29).

Cannot be touched with the feeling of, [ sumpatheesai (G4834)] - 'cannot sympathize with our weaknesses,' physical and moral; not sin, but liability to its assaults. He, though sinless, can sympathize with sinners; His understanding more acutely perceived the forms of temptation than we; His will repelled them as instantaneously as fire does water cast into it. He experimentally knew what power was needed to overcome. He is capable of sympathizing, for He was at the same time tempted without sin, and yet truly tempted (Bengel). In Him alone is an example suited to men of every character and under all circumstances. In sympathy he adapts Himself to each, as if He had not merely taken man's nature in general, but the special nature of that single individual.

Like as we are, [ kath' (G2596) homoioteeta (G3665)] - 'according to (our) similitude.'

Without sin, [ chooris (G5565)] - 'separate from sin' (Hebrews 7:26). [If aneu (G427) had been used, sin would have been regarded as the object absent from Christ, the subject; but chooris (G5565) implies that Christ, the subject, is regarded separate from sin, the object (Tittmann).] Throughout his temptations, in their origin, process, and result, sin had nothing in Him (Alford).

Verse 16

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Come - rather [as proserchoometha (G4334)], 'approach,' ' draw near.'

Boldly, [ meta (G3326) parreesias (G3954)] - 'with confidence,' 'freedom of speech' (Ephesians 6:19).

The throne of grace. God's throne is become so to us, through the mediation of our High Priest at God's right hand (Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 12:2). Pleading Jesus' meritorious death, we shall always find God on a throne of grace. Contrast Job's complaint and Elihu's (Job 23:3-8; Job 33:23-28).

Obtain, [ laboomen (G2983)] - 'receive.'

Mercy. 'Compassion,' by its derivation (fellow-feeling from community of suffering), corresponds to the character of our High Priest (Hebrews 4:15).

Find grace - corresponding to "throne of grace." Mercy refers to the remission of sins; grace, to the bestowal of spiritual gifts (Estius). Compare "Come unto me ... and I will give you rest" (the rest received on first believing). "Take my yoke on you ... and ye shall find rest" (the continuing rest found in daily submitting to Christ's easy yoke. The former answers to 'receive mercy,' the latter to "find grace;" Matthew 11:28-29). In first receiving, we are wholly passive: after having received mercy, our will in finding grace is more active.

Help (cf. Hebrews 2:18).

In time of need, [ eis (G1519) eukairon (G2121)] - 'seasonably:' before we are overwhelmed by temptations, when we most need it; such as is suitable to the thee, persons, and end designed (Psalms 104:27). A supply of grace is in store for believers against all exigencies; but they are only supplied with it according as the need arises. Compare "in due time." Romans 5:6.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Hebrews 4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/hebrews-4.html. 1871-8.
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