Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;
Heb 3:1-19. The Son of God Greater than Moses, Wherefore Unbelief towards Him Will Incur a Heavier Punishment than Befell Unbelieving Israel in the Wilderness.
As Moses especially was the prophet by whom "God in times past spake to the fathers," being the mediator of the law, Paul deems it necessary now to show that, great as was Moses, the Son of God is greater. Ebrard in Alford remarks, The angel of the covenant came in the name of God before Israel; Moses in the name of Israel before God; whereas the high priest came both in the name of God (bearing the name Jehovah on his forehead) before Israel, and in the name of Israel (bearing the names of the twelve tribes on his breast) before God (Ex 28:9-29, 36, 38). Now Christ is above the angels, according to the first and second chapters because (1) as Son of God He is higher; and (2) because manhood, though originally lower than angels, is in Him exalted above them to the lordship of "the world to come," inasmuch as He is at once Messenger of God to men, and also atoning Priest-Representative of men before God (Heb 2:17, 18). Parallel with this line of argument as to His superiority to angels (Heb 1:4) runs that which here follows as to His superiority to Moses (Heb 3:3): (1) because as Son over the house; He is above the servant in the house (Heb 3:5, 6), just as the angels were shown to be but ministering (serving) spirits (Heb 1:14), whereas He is the Son (Heb 3:7, 8); (2) because the bringing of Israel into the promised rest, which was not finished by Moses, is accomplished by Him (Heb 4:1-11), through His being not merely a leader and lawgiver as Moses, but also a propitiatory High Priest (Heb 4:14; 5:10).
1. Wherefore—Greek, "Whence," that is, seeing we have such a sympathizing Helper you ought to "consider attentively," "contemplate"; fix your eyes and mind on Him with a view to profiting by the contemplation (Heb 12:2). The Greek word is often used by Luke, Paul's companion (Lu 12:24, 27).
brethren—in Christ, the common bond of union.
partakers—"of the Holy Ghost."
heavenly calling—coming to us from heaven, and leading us to heaven whence it comes. Php 3:14, "the high calling"; Greek "the calling above," that is, heavenly.
the Apostle and High Priest of our profession—There is but one Greek article to both nouns, "Him who is at once Apostle and High Priest"—Apostle, as Ambassador (a higher designation than "angel"-messenger) sent by the Father (Joh 20:21), pleading the cause of God with us; High Priest, as pleading our cause with God. Both His Apostleship and High Priesthood are comprehended in the one title, Mediator [Bengel]. Though the title "Apostle" is nowhere else applied to Christ, it is appropriate here in addressing Hebrews, who used the term of the delegates sent by the high priest to collect the temple tribute from Jews resident in foreign countries, even as Christ was Delegate of the Father to this world far off from Him (Mt 21:37). Hence as what applies to Him, applies also to His people, the Twelve are designated His apostles, even as He is the Father's (Joh 20:21). It was desirable to avoid designating Him here "angel," in order to distinguish His nature from that of angels mentioned before, though he is "the Angel of the Covenant." The "legate of the Church" (Sheliach Tsibbur) offered up the prayers in the synagogue in the name of all, and for all. So Jesus, "the Apostle of our profession," is delegated to intercede for the Church before the Father. The words "of our profession," mark that it is not of the legal ritual, but of our Christian faith, that He is the High Priest. Paul compares Him as an Apostle to Moses; as High Priest to Aaron. He alone holds both offices combined, and in a more eminent degree than either, which those two brothers held apart.
profession—"confession," corresponds to God having spoken to us by His Son, sent as Apostle and High Priest. What God proclaims we confess.
Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.
2. He first notes the feature of resemblance between Moses and Christ, in order to conciliate the Hebrew Christians whom He addressed, and who still entertained a very high opinion of Moses; he afterwards brings forward Christ's superiority to Moses.
Who was faithful—The Greek implies also that He still is faithful, namely, as our mediating High Priest, faithful to the trust God has assigned Him (Heb 2:17). So Moses in God's house (Nu 12:7).
appointed him—"made Him" High Priest; to be supplied from the preceding context. Greek, "made"; so in Heb 5:5; 1Sa 12:6, Margin; Ac 2:36; so the Greek fathers. Not as Alford, with Ambrose and the Latins, "created Him," that is, as man, in His incarnation. The likeness of Moses to Messiah was foretold by Moses himself (De 18:15). Other prophets only explained Moses, who was in this respect superior to them; but Christ was like Moses, yet superior.
For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.
3. For—assigning the reason why they should "consider" attentively "Christ" (Heb 3:1), highly as they regard Moses who resembled Him in faithfulness (Heb 3:2).
was—Greek, "has been."
counted worthy of more glory—by God, when He exalted Him to His own right hand. The Hebrew Christians admitted the fact (Heb 1:13).
builded the house—Greek, "inasmuch as He hath more honor than the house, who prepared it," or "established it" [Alford]. The Greek verb is used purposely instead of "builded," in order to mark that the building meant is not a literal, but a spiritual house: the Church both of the Old Testament and New Testament; and that the building of such a house includes all the preparations of providence and grace needed to furnish it with "living stones" and fitting "servants." Thus, as Christ the Founder and Establisher (in Old Testament as well as the New Testament) is greater than the house so established, including the servants, He is greater also than Moses, who was but a "servant." Moses, as a servant, is a portion of the house, and less than the house; Christ, as the Instrumental Creator of all things, must be God, and so greater than the house of which Moses was but a part. Glory is the result of honor.
For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God.
4. Someone must be the establisher of every house; Moses was not the establisher of the house, but a portion of it (but He who established all things, and therefore the spiritual house in question, is God). Christ, as being instrumentally the Establisher of all things, must be the Establisher of the house, and so greater than Moses.
And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after;
5. faithful in all his house—that is in all God's house (Heb 3:4).
servant—not here the Greek for "slave," but "a ministering attendant"; marking the high office of Moses towards God, though inferior to Christ, a kind of steward.
for a testimony of, &c.—in order that he might in his typical institutions give "testimony" to Israel "of the things" of the Gospel "which were to be spoken afterwards" by Christ (Heb 8:5; 9:8, 23; 10:1).
But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.
6. But Christ—was and is faithful (Heb 3:2).
as a son over his own house—rather, "over His (God's, Heb 3:4) house"; and therefore, as the inference from His being one with God, over His own house. So Heb 10:21, "having an High Priest over the house of God." Christ enters His Father's house as the Master [OVER it], but Moses as a servant [IN it, Heb 3:2, 5] [Chrysostom]. An ambassador in the absence of the king is very distinguished—in the presence of the king he falls back into the multitude [Bengel].
whose house are we—Paul and his Hebrew readers. One old manuscript, with Vulgate and Lucifer, reads, "which house"; but the weightiest manuscripts support English Version reading.
the rejoicing—rather, "the matter of rejoicing."
of the hope—"of our hope." Since all our good things lie in hopes, we ought so to hold fast our hopes as already to rejoice, as though our hopes were realized [Chrysostom].
firm unto the end—omitted in Lucifer and Ambrose, and in one oldest manuscript, but supported by most oldest manuscripts.
Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,
7-11. Exhortation from Ps 95:7-11, not through unbelief to lose participation in the spiritual house. Seeing that we are the house of God if we hold fast our confidence … (Heb 3:6). Jesus is "faithful," be not ye unfaithful (Heb 3:2, 12). The sentence beginning with "wherefore," interrupted by the parenthesis confirming the argument from Ps 95:7-11, is completed at Heb 3:12, "Take heed," &c.
Holy Ghost saith—by the inspired Psalmist; so that the words of the latter are the words of God Himself.
To-day—at length; in David's day, as contrasted with the days of Moses in the wilderness, and the whole time since then, during which they had been rebellious against God's voice; as for instance, in the wilderness (Heb 3:8). The Psalm, each fresh time when used in public worship, by "to-day," will mean the particular day when it was, or is, used.
his voice—of grace.
Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
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."
When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.
9. When—rather, "Where," namely, in the wilderness.
your fathers—The authority of the ancients is not conclusive [Bengel].
tempted me, proved me—The oldest manuscripts read, "tempted (Me) in the way of testing," that is, putting (Me) to the proof whether I was able and willing to relieve them, not believing that I am so.
saw my works forty years—They saw, without being led thereby to repentance, My works of power partly in affording miraculous help, partly in executing vengeance, forty years. The "forty years" joined in the Hebrew and Septuagint, and below, Heb 3:17, with "I was grieved," is here joined with "they saw." Both are true; for, during the same forty years that they were tempting God by unbelief, notwithstanding their seeing God's miraculous works, God was being grieved. The lesson intended to be hinted to the Hebrew Christians is, their "to-day" is to last only between the first preaching of the Gospel and Jerusalem's impending overthrow, namely, FORTY YEARS; exactly the number of years of Israel's sojourn in the wilderness, until the full measure of their guilt having been filled up all the rebels were overthrown.
Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.
10. grieved—displeased. Compare "walk contrary," Le 26:24, 28.
that generation—"that" implies alienation and estrangement. But the oldest manuscripts read, "this."
said—"grieved," or "displeased," at their first offense. Subsequently when they hardened their heart in unbelief still more, He sware in His wrath (Heb 3:11); an ascending gradation (compare Heb 3:17, 18).
and they have not known—Greek, "But these very persons," &c. They perceived I was displeased with them, yet they, the same persons, did not a whit the more wish to know my ways [Bengel]; compare "but they," Ps 106:43.
not known my ways—not known practically and believingly the ways in which I would have had them go, so as to reach My rest (Ex 18:20).
So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)
11. So—literally, "as."
I sware—Bengel remarks the oath of God preceded the forty years.
not—literally, "If they shall enter … (God do so to me and more also)," 2Sa 3:35. The Greek is the same, Mr 8:12.
my rest—Canaan, primarily, their rest after wandering in the wilderness: still, even when in it, they never fully enjoyed rest; whence it followed that the threat extended farther than the exclusion of the unbelieving from the literal land of rest, and that the rest promised to the believing in its full blessedness was, and is, yet future: Ps 25:13; 37:9, 11, 22, 29, and Christ's own beatitude (Mt 5:5) all accord with this, Heb 3:9.
Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
12. Take heed—to be joined with "wherefore," Heb 3:7.
lest there be—Greek (indicative), "lest there shall be"; lest there be, as I fear there is; implying that it is not merely a possible contingency, but that there is ground for thinking it will be so.
in any—"in any one of you." Not merely ought all in general be on their guard, but they ought to be so concerned for the safety of each one member, as not to suffer any one to perish through their negligence [Calvin].
heart—The heart is not to be trusted. Compare Heb 3:10, "They do always err in their heart."
unbelief—faithlessness. Christ is faithful; therefore, saith Paul to the Hebrews, we ought not to be faithless as our fathers were under Moses.
departing—apostatizing. The opposite of "come unto" Him (Heb 4:16). God punishes such apostates in kind. He departs from them—the worst of woes.
the living God—real: the distinctive characteristic of the God of Israel, not like the lifeless gods of the heathen; therefore One whose threats are awful realities. To apostatize from Christ is to apostatize from the living God (Heb 2:3).
But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
13. one another—Greek, "yourselves"; let each exhort himself and his neighbor.
daily—Greek, "on each day," or "day by day."
while it is called To-day—while the "to-day" lasts (the day of grace, Lu 4:21, before the coming of the day of glory and judgment at Christ's coming, Heb 10:25, 37). To-morrow is the day when idle men work, and fools repent. To-morrow is Satan's to-day; he cares not what good resolutions you form, if only you fix them for to-morrow.
lest … of you—The "you" is emphatic, as distinguished from "your fathers" (Heb 3:9). "That from among you no one (so the Greek order is in some of the oldest manuscripts) be hardened" (Heb 3:8).
deceitfulness—causing you to "err in your heart."
For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;
14. For, &c.—enforcing the warning, Heb 3:12.
partakers of Christ—(Compare Heb 3:1, 6). So "partakers of the Holy Ghost" (Heb 6:4).
hold—Greek, "hold fast."
the beginning of our confidence—that is, the confidence (literally, substantial, solid confidence) of faith which we have begun (Heb 6:11; 12:2). A Christian so long as he is not made perfect, considers himself as a beginner [Bengel].
unto the end—unto the coming of Christ (Heb 12:2).
While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.
15. While it is said—connected with Heb 3:13, "exhort one another … while it is said, To-day": Heb 3:14, "for we are made partakers," &c., being a parenthesis. "It entirely depends on yourselves that the invitation of the ninety-fifth Psalm be not a mere invitation, but also an actual enjoyment." Alford translates, "Since (that is, 'for') it is said," &c., regarding Heb 3:15 as a proof that we must "hold … confidence … unto the end," in order to be "partakers of Christ."
For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.
16. For some—rather interrogatively, "For WHO was it that, when they had heard (referring to 'if ye will hear,' Heb 3:15), did provoke (God)?" The "For" implies, Ye need to take heed against unbelief: for, was it not because of unbelief that all our fathers were excluded (Eze 2:3)? "Some," and "not all," would be a faint way of putting his argument, when his object is to show the universality of the evil. Not merely some, but all the Israelites, for the solitary exceptions, Joshua and Caleb, are hardly to be taken into account in so general a statement. So Heb 3:17, 18, are interrogative: (1) the beginning of the provocation, soon after the departure from Egypt, is marked in Heb 3:16; (2) the forty years of it in the wilderness, Heb 3:17; (3) the denial of entrance into the land of rest, Heb 3:18. Compare Note, see on 1Co 10:5, "with the majority of them God was displeased."
howbeit—"Nay (why need I put the question?), was it not all that came out of Egypt?" (Ex 17:1, 2).
by Moses—by the instrumentality of Moses as their leader.
But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?
17. But—Translate, "Moreover," as it is not in contrast to Heb 3:16, but carrying out the same thought.
corpses—literally, "limbs," implying that their bodies fell limb from limb.
And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?
18. to them that believed not—rather as Greek, "to them that disobeyed." Practical unbelief (De 1:26).
So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
19. they could not enter—though desiring it.