Hebrews 3:8
Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
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3:7-13 Days of temptation are often days of provocation. But to provoke God, when he is letting us see that we entirely depend and live upon him, is a provocation indeed. The hardening of the heart is the spring of all other sins. The sins of others, especially of our relations, should be warnings to us. All sin, especially sin committed by God's professing, privileged people, not only provokes God, but it grieves him. God is loth to destroy any in, or for their sin; he waits long to be gracious to them. But sin, long persisted in, will make God's wrath discover itself in destroying the impenitent; there is no resting under the wrath of God. Take heed: all who would get safe to heaven must look about them; if once we allow ourselves to distrust God, we may soon desert him. Let those that think they stand, take heed lest they fall. Since to-morrow is not ours, we must make the best improvement of this day. And there are none, even the strongest of the flock, who do not need help of other Christians. Neither are there any so low and despised, but the care of their standing in the faith, and of their safety, belongs to all. Sin has so many ways and colours, that we need more eyes than ours own. Sin appears fair, but is vile; it appears pleasant, but is destructive; it promises much, but performs nothing. The deceitfulness of sin hardens the soul; one sin allowed makes way for another; and every act of sin confirms the habit. Let every one beware of sin.Harden not your hearts - Do not render the heart insensible to the divine voice and admonition. A hard heart is that where the conscience is seared and insensible; where truth makes no impression; where no religious effect is produced by afflictions; where preaching is listened to without interest; and where the mind is unaffected by the appeals of friends. The idea here is, that a refusal to listen to the voice of God is connected with a hardening of the heart. It is in two ways:

(1) The very refusal to do this tends to harden it. And,

(2) in order to resist the appeals of God, people must resort to the means of "voluntarily" hardening the heart. This they do by setting themselves against the truth; by the excuses which they offer for not becoming Christians: by plunging into sin in order to avoid serious impressions; and by direct resistance of the Holy Spirit. No inconsiderable part of the efforts of sinners consists in endeavoring to produce insensibility in their minds to the truth and the appeals of God.

As in the provocation - Literally, "in the embittering" - ἐν τῶ παραπικρασμῶ en tō parapikrasmō. Then it means what embitters or provokes the mind - as disobedience. Here it refers to what they did to "embitter" the mind of God against them; that is to the course of conduct which was adopted to provoke him to wrath.

In the day of temptation - In the time of temptation - the word "day" being used here, as it is often, to denote an indefinite period, or "time" in general. The word "temptation" here refers to the various provocations by which they "tried" the patience of God. They rebelled against him; they did what put the divine patience and forbearance to a trial. It does not mean that they tempted God to do evil, but that his long-suffering was "tried" by their sins.

In the wilderness - The desert through which they passed. The word "wilderness" in the Scriptures commonly means a "desert;" see the notes at Matthew 3:1. "One provocation was in demanding bread at Sin; a second for want of water at Massah or Meribah; a third time at Sinai with the golden calf; a fourth time at Taberah for want of flesh; a fifth time at Kadesh when they refused to go up into Canaan, and the oath came that they should die in the wilderness. A like refusal may prevent us from entering into rest." - Dr. John P. Wilson, Manuscript Notes.

Harden not you hearts,.... There is a natural hardness of the heart; the heart of man is like a stone, destitute of spiritual life, motion, and activity; it is senseless, stupid, impenitent, stubborn, and inflexible, on which no impressions can be made, but by powerful grace: and there is an acquired, habitual, and voluntary hardness of heart, to which men arrive by various steps; as entertaining pleasing thoughts of sin; an actual commission of it, with frequency, till it becomes customary, and so habitual; an extenuation or justification of it, and so they become hardened against all reproofs and sermons, and to all afflictions and judgments; are insensible and past feeling, and openly declare for sin, and glory in it: and there is a hardness which God's people are liable to, and should guard against; and which is brought on by a neglect of private and public worship, and by keeping bad company, and through the ill examples of others, and by giving way to lesser sins; for all sin is of an hardening nature:

as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness; the Jews provoked God in the wilderness by their unbelief, murmurings, ingratitude, and idolatry; and they tempted him there by distrusting his power and goodness; hence one of the places in which they murmured against him was called Massah and Meribah, Exodus 17:7 and it is an aggravation of their sin, that it was in the wilderness, after they had been just brought out of bondage into liberty, and had lately had such an instance of the power and goodness of God, in bringing them through the Red sea; and where they could have no human supplies, and therefore should have been entirely dependent on God, and trust in him.

Harden not your hearts, as in the {g} provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:

(g) In the day that they troubled the Lord, or struggled with him.

Harden not (μὴ σκληρύνητε)

In N.T. mostly in this epistle. Comp. Acts 19:9; Romans 9:18, see note. The group of kindred words consists of σκληρός hard (see on Matthew 25:24; see on Jde 1:14); σκλψρότης hardness (Romans 2:5); σκληρύνειν to harden (Acts 19:9; Romans 9:18); and the compounds σκληροκαρδία hardness of heart (Matthew 19:8; Mark 10:5), and σκληροτράχηλος stiff-necked (Acts 7:5). All occur in lxx, with the addition of σκληρῶς hardly, painfully (not in N.T.).

In the provocation (ἐν τῷ παραπικρασμῷ)

Only here and Hebrews 3:15. In lxx only Psalm 94:8. The verb παραπικραίνεινto provoke, only in Hebrews 3:16. Often in lxx. The simple verb πικραίνειν to make bitter, Colossians 3:19; Revelation 8:11; Revelation 10:9, Revelation 10:10. From πικρός bitter, pungent: hence to stir up to bitterness, to irritate. Comp. lxx Ezekiel 2:4.

In the day (κατὰ τὴν ἡμέραν)

Κατὰ in a temporal sense, as Acts 12:1; Acts 19:23; Acts 27:27. Comp. κατ' ἀρχάς in the beginning, Hebrews 1:10.

Of temptation (τοῦ πειρασμοῦ)

Rend. "of the temptation," referring to a definite event, the murmuring against Moses at Rephidim on account of the lack of water, Exodus 17:1-7. In that passage the lxx gives for the two proper names Massah and Meribah, πειρασμὸς temptation, which is correct, and λοιδόρησις railing or reviling, which is loose, since Meribah signifies strife. In Psalm 94, lxx renders Meribah παραπικρασμός provocation, which is inexact, and Massah πειρασμὸς temptation, which is correct.

8. Harden not your hearts—This phrase here only is used of man's own act; usually of God's act (Ro 9:18). When man is spoken of as the agent in hardening, the phrase usually is, "harden his neck," or "back" (Ne 9:17).

provocation … temptation—"Massah-meribah," translated in Margin "tentation … chiding," or "strife" (Ex 17:1-7). Both names seem to refer to that one event, the murmuring of the people against the Lord at Rephidim for want of water. The first offense especially ought to be guarded against, and is the most severely reproved, as it is apt to produce many more. Nu 20:1-13 and De 33:8 mention a second similar occasion in the wilderness of Sin, near Kadesh, also called Meribah.

in the day—Greek, "according to the day of."

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, Exodus 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? Exodus 17:2-9, on which account the place was called Massah and Meribah. See 1 Corinthians 10:4 (note), 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, Exodus 32:10. After the law was given they were commanded to go directly to Canaan, and take possession of the promised land, Deuteronomy 1:6, Deuteronomy 1:7 : 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, Numbers 10:33, till they came to Taberah, Numbers 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, Numbers 11:33; this place was called Kibroth-hattaavah, because there they buried the people who lusted. From Kibroth-hattaavah they went to Hazeroth, Numbers 11:35, and from thence into the wilderness of Paran, Numbers 12:16, to a place called Kadesh, Numbers 13:26. Their journey from Horeb to Kadesh is thus described by Moses, Deuteronomy 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, Deuteronomy 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, Numbers 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, Numbers 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, Numbers 14:20; Deuteronomy 1:34, Deuteronomy 1:35; 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, Deuteronomy 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, Deuteronomy 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," Deuteronomy 32:51. See Dr. Macknight.

3:8 As in the provocation - When Israel provoked me by their strife and murmurings. In the day of temptation - When at the same time they tempted me, by distrusting my power and goodness. Exod 17:7. 3:8 Harden not your hearts. To harden the heart is to reach such a state that God's voice makes no impression.

As in the provocation. The Hebrew of the Psalm says Like Meribah. The meaning is Harden not your hearts as our fathers did at Meribah. See the account in Ex 17:1-7. See also Nu 27:14, where Kadesh Meribah is named. Both may be referred to.

In the day of temptation in the wilderness. Day of trial.

Hebrews 3:7
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