Home First
Table of


Chapter 4:14 - 6:12

The High-priesthood of Christ (4:14-16)

Heb 4:14-16
(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.
(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.
(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.

This is resuming from Heb. 2:17
Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 

Having dealt with the relation of the Son of Man (Heb. 3:1 Jesus) to Moses and Joshua; and with the relation of the promise which declares man’s destiny to the people of God under the Old and New Dispensations, the writer now returns to the central thought of the High-priesthood, and prepares for the full discussion of it in the following chapters (5-10:18). Briefly, he shows:
we have a High-priest who has Himself entered the rest of God (v. 14)
who can perfectly sympathize with us (v. 15)
so that we can ourselves draw near to God, with whom He is (v. 16)

Greek Text according to G.R. Berry
Having therefore a high priest great [who] has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, we should hold fast the confession.  For not have we a high priest not able to sympathize with our infirmities, but [who] has been tempted in all things according to [our] likeness, apart from sin.  We should come therefore with boldness to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and grace may find for opportune help.

Translation of the Greek text by Westcott
Having therefore a great High-priest, Who hath passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us cling to our confession:  for we have not a High-priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but one that hath been tempted in all points like as we are, apart from sin.  Let us therefore come with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.

Heavenly High Priest  (4:4-16)

Next Section

4:14 - Having therefore a high priest
Compare 10:19; 12:1.    The words point back to Heb. 2:17; 3:1. The fear of final failure, the consciousness of weakness and partial failure, turn the thoughts again to the Mediator.

Our High-priest, our Apostle, has done more than Aaron or Moses prefigured.  He has entered into the rest which He foreshewed, so that He can also bring His people into it. He is seated at the right hand of God. But meanwhile man has his part to do; and as we strive to secure the promised rest we must cling firmly to the confession in which lies the assurance of success.

The simple fact that we have a High-priest is stated first  (having therefore a High-priest )
And then His character and position are described: 
Great in His essential Nature (Heb. 1:1)
One Who hath passed through the heavens,
And so come before the very Presence of God. 
The epithet great does not go to complete the notion of High-priest, but characterizes his dignity. Compare Heb. 10:21; (13:20).

Great high priest 
Emphasizing Christ's priestly character to Jewish readers, as superior to that of the Levitical priests. He is holding up the ideal priesthood.

The phrase points out the superiority of Christ over the Jewish high-priest and over the Jewish mediator. He has passed not through the veil only but through the heavens up to the very throne of God (compare Heb. 9:24; 1:3), and entered into the royal rest of God.

Passed into the heavens  -  dieleeluthota tous ouranous 
Render it as: "passed through the heavens."  Through, and up to the throne of God of which he wields the power, and is thus able to fulfill for his followers the divine promise of rest.
(from Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

Christ not merely ascended up to heaven in the language of space, but transcended the limitations of space. Thus we say that He ‘entered into heaven’ and yet is ‘above the heavens.

Jesus the Son of God
The name "Jesus" applied to the high priest is forcible as recalling the historical, human person, who was tempted like his brethren. We are thus prepared for what is said in Heb 4:15 concerning his sympathizing character.

The two titles (Jesus and Son of God) are placed side by side in order to suggest the two natures of the Lord which include the assurance of sympathy and power.  For the use of Jesus see 2:9; and for the Son of God see 6:6; 7:3; 10:29. And for the combination of the two see Acts 9:20; I Thess. 1:10; I John 1:7;4:15;5:5.

We should hold fast the confession
Let us cling to our faith in Him, Whom we openly confess, as truly human, truly divine. 

(Heb 4:14) Let us hold fast our profession
Grasping and clinging to that to which we attach ourselves
(Heb. 10:23) Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering
Holding firmly that which is already completely in our possession.

Compare Heb. 6:18.  "we...have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us".   Thus the words imply danger and incite to effort.

For confession compare Heb. 3:1; 10:23; I Tim. 6:12.

The writer everywhere insists on the duty of the public confession of the faith. The crisis claimed not simply private conviction but a clear declaration of belief openly in the face of men. Comp. I John 4:2

Confesseth'   Openly and boldly acknowledges the Person of the Incarnate Saviour and not only the fact of the Incarnation. Comp. I John 2:23. 

The question here is not of inner faith
but of outward confession.
Faith, if it is real,
must declare itself.
Active love
must be connected with a distinct recognition of its source.

The First Epistle of John Page 141 Westcott.


We have not an high priest who cannot ... 
What ever may be thought to the contrary; whatever contrary conclusion may be drawn from the character of the Levitical priests, or from Christ's exalted dignity and purity. 

The apostle calls for effort,  and he encourages it.  By the negative form of the sentence he recognizes the presence of an objection which he meets by anticipation.  The divine glory of Christ might have seemed to interpose a barrier between Him and His people. But on the contrary, the perfectness of His sympathy is the ground for clinging to the faith which answers to our needs.  He is as near to us as the human high-priests (nay, nearer than they) whose humanity inspired the Jewish worshippers with confidence. For we have not a High-priest such as cannot be touched……but one that hath been tempted….

Touched with the feeling  -  sumpatheesai
It is feeling it by reason of a common experience "with" (sun)  human beings.

The verb occurs in Symmachus study of Job 2:11, and in classical writers from Socrates downwards.  

It expresses not simply the compassion of one who regards suffering from without, 
but the feeling of one who enters into the suffering and makes it his own.

So Christ is touched with the feeling of our weaknesses, which are for us the occasions of sins, as knowing them, though not with the feeling of the sins themselves.  

Such weaknesses can be characterized by the circumstances of the Lord’s life:
natural weariness,
the feeling of desertion,
shrinking from pain (contrast the singular infirmity Heb. 7:28 ). 

From temptations through such weaknesses the Hebrew Christians were suffering. Compare Heb. 5:2; 7:28; 11:34.

Infirmities  -  astheneiais
Not "sufferings," but "weaknesses," moral and physical, which predispose to sin and facilitate it.

Has been tempted
The power of Christ’s sympathy is expressed negatively and positively.  He is not such as to be unable to sympathize: nay rather He has been tried in all respects after our likeness, and therefore He must sympathize from His own experience.

Tempted in everything as we (are), sin excepted. The words are capable of two distinct interpretations. 

(1)  They may simply describe the issue of the Lord’s temptation, so far as He endured all without the least stain of sin (Heb. 7:26). 
(2)  Or they may describe a limitation of His temptation. Man’s temptations come in many cases from previous sin. Such temptations had necessarily no place in Christ. 

Without sin  -  chooris hamartias 
This, of course, implies that he was not led into sin by temptation, and also that no temptation aroused in him sin already present and dormant.  It is not meant that temptation arising from sin external from himself was not applied to him.
(from Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

He was tempted as we are, sharing our human nature, yet with this exception, that there was no sin in Him to become the spring of trial.

We may represent the truth to ourselves best by saying that Christ assumed humanity under the conditions of life belonging to man fallen, though not with sinful prompting from within. Compare Heb. 2:18.

He was himself tried with all the afflictions and troubles that are incident to our nature in its fallen state:  and this not only that he might be able to satisfy for us,  but to sympathize with us.  

He is a sinless high priest: 
He was in all things tempted as we are, yet without sin.
He was tempted by Satan, but he came off without sin.
He was tried severely by the Father
It pleased the Lord to bruise him;
and yet he sinned not,
either in thought,
in word, 
or in deed.

He had done no violence, neither was there any deceit in his mouth. He was holy, harmless, and undefiled; 
(Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)

Let us come therefore

The vision of the High-priest 
Who is not Priest only, but King. 
Who is not only Son of God but Son of man, 
suggests the conclusion that believers, clinging to their confession, can and must use the infinite privileges which their Lord has gained for them.

The minds of writer and readers were full of the imagery of the Levitical system, and of the ceremonial of the High-priestly atonement;  and the form of the exhortation suggests the grandeur of the position in which the believer is placed as compared with that of the Hebrew.

Let us therefore, trusting the divine power and the human sympathy of ‘Jesus the Son of God,’ draw near, as priests ourselves in fellowship with our High-priest, - and not remain standing afar off as the congregation of Israel, - to the throne of grace, no symbolic mercy-seat, but the very center of divine sovereignty and love….’

We should come (proserchomai) - the word occurs here for the first time in the Epistle (compare Heb. 7:25; 10:1,22; 11:6). It is used in the LXX, for the priestly approach to God in service:

 Lev. 21:17 'Say to Aaron, be the man who he may of thy family, throughout your generations, who hath any blemish about him, he shall not come near to present the gifts of his God.'
Lev. 21:21 'No person of the seed of Aaron the priest, who hath any blemish about him, shall come near to offer the sacrifices of thy God. Because he hath a blemish he shall not come near to offer the gifts of God.'
Lev. 22:3 '...say unto them, What man soever of your seed, throughout your generations, shall come near to the holy things which the children of Israel may dedicate to the Lord, and have any uncleanness upon him, that person shall be cut off from Me. I am the Lord your God;'

That right of priestly approach is now extended to all Christians. Comp. Rev. 1:6;5:10 (20:6); I Pet. 2:5,9.

With boldness
The Syr. Pesh. Gives, as elsewhere, ‘with eye (face) open.’ So Acts 2:29; 4:29,31; 28:31. 
Paul uses with boldness Eph. 6:19; Phil. 1:20; Col. 2:15. 
The phrase is perhaps used here in the primary sense, ‘giving utterance to every thought and feeling and wish,’ though the word boldness is used more generally elsewhere in the epistle: Heb. 3:6; 10:19,35.

Unto the throne of grace  -  too thronoo tees charitos
"Throne of grace" expresses grace as the gift of divine power.
The phrase is to be compared with throne of His glory (Matt. 19:28; 25:31; I Sam. 2:8; Jer. 14:21; 17:12).
Each case seems to express that which is shown in a position of sovereign power. Thus the ‘throne of grace’ is that revelation of God’s Presence in which His grace is shown in royal majesty. Of this revelation the glory over the mercy-seat was a faint symbol. On this ‘throne of grace’ Christ Himself is seated.

That we may receive mercy, and grace
The twofold aim corresponds with the twofold necessity of life. 
Man needs mercy for past failure, and grace for present and future work. There is also a difference as to the mode of attainment in each case.

Mercy eleos for past sins is to be ‘taken’ as it is extended to man in his weakness;
Grace charin for future work is to be ‘sought’ by man according to his necessity.

To help in time of need  -  eis eukairon boeetheian 
Literally,  "for seasonable help, or help in good time;"

Some translate:  "before it is too late;  while there is still time to seek God's rest."
Others translate:  "when it is needed; or, before temptation leads to sin."
From Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft
A throne is the seat of a sovereign; a throne of grace is designed to represent a sovereign seated to dispense mercy and pardon. The illustration or comparison here may have been derived from the temple service. In that service God is represented as seated in the most holy place on the mercy seat. The high priest approaches that seat or throne of the divine majesty with the blood of the atonement to make intercession for the people, and to plead for pardon.  That scene was emblematic of heaven. God is seated on a throne of mercy. The great High Priest, having shed his own blood to make expiation, is represented as approaching God and pleading for the pardon of people. To a God willing to show mercy he comes with the merits of a sacrifice sufficient for all, and pleads for their salvation. We may, therefore, come with boldness and look for pardon. We come not depending on our own merits, but we come where a sufficient sacrifice has been offered for human guilt; and where we are assured that God is merciful. We may, therefore, come without hesitancy, or trembling, and ask for all the mercy that we need.

If people are not pardoned, and if we fall into sin and ruin, we alone are to blame. 

There is A GOD.
There is A REDEEMER.
It is always accessible. 
He is always ready to pardon. 
He is the Great High Priest of people.

He is always interceding. His merits may always be pleaded as the ground of our salvation. Why then, O why, should any remain unforgiven and perish? 

The Sinless High Priest  (5:1-3)

Next Section
Previous Section

In the last two chapters the writer of the Epistle has shown the general superiority of ‘Jesus’, the Founder of the New Covenant, over Moses and Joshua; and, further, that the divine promise partially fulfilled by the occupation of Canaan still awaits its complete and absolute fulfillment. He is thus brought back to the thought of Christ’s High-priesthood, in virtue of which humanity finds access to the Presence of God, ‘His rest,’ pursuing in detail the line of argument suggested in Heb. 2:17,18 and resumed in Heb. 4:14-16.

In this section the Apostle deals with the general conception of Christ’s High-priesthood. 

This major section consists of three parts. 

(Heb. 5:1-10) The characteristics of a High-priest fulfilled in Christ 
The writer first briefly characterizes the work and the qualifications of a High-priest; and shows that the qualifications are possessed by Christ in ideal perfection, and that He completes the (theocratic) type of the Aaronic High-priest by adding to it the features of the (natural) type of the High-priesthood of Melchizedek 
(Heb. 5:11-Ch 6) Progress through patient effort the condition of the knowledge of Christian mysteries
Then follows a hortatory passage in which the duty of continuous and patient effort is enforced as the condition of right knowledge of the Christian revelation 
(Heb. Ch 7) The characteristics of Christ as absolute High-priest shadowed forth by Melchizedek
Having thus prepared the way for a fuller exposition of the truth with which he is engaged, the writer unfolds through the image of Melchizedek a view of the absolute High-priesthood of Christ 

Heb 5:1-3

Heb 5:1-3
(1) For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:
(2) Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.
(3) And by reason hereof  he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.


 For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also beset by weakness. Because of this he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins.

Greek Text according to G.R. Berry

For every high priest from among men being taken for men is constituted in things relating to God, that he may offer both gifts, and sacrifices for sins; to exercise forbearance being able with those being ignorant and erring, since also himself is encompassed with infirmity; and on account of this [infirmity] he ought, even as for the people, so also for himself. to offer for sins.

Translation of the Greek text by Westcott

For every High-priest, being taken from among men, is appointed for men in the things that pertain to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins;  being able to bear gently with the ignorant and erring, since he also himself is compassed with infirmity, and by reason thereof is bound, as for the people so also for himself, to offer for sins. 

5:1     The general purpose of the institution of the High-priesthood
(Copyright (c)1966, 1968, 1975, 1983 by the United Bible Societies)

The Hebrew Christians were not familiar with Christ under the aspect of a high priest. They did not understand the application of the title and office to Him.  

They could not infer it from His early life, since 
He was not of the lineage of Aaron, 
nor from His ministry,  since
He claimed no special privilege of access to the temple, 
performed no priestly functions, 
and contradicted the whole Jewish conception of the priesthood.

Every high priest  -  pas archiereus -  Every Levitical high priest

This section follows naturally from that which precedes.  The perfect sympathy of our High-priest (Heb. 4:15) satisfies one of the conditions which are necessarily attached to the office universally.  On the ground of this fundamental correspondence between Christ’s Nature and the High-priesthood, the writer precedes to develop the idea of the High-priesthood before he applies it to Christ.  The every is explanatory and not directly argumentative; and the Mosaic system is treated as embodying the general conception (for);  but even so the type of Melchizedek’s priesthood is not to be forgotten.

Taken  -  lambanomenos     "being taken," or "since he is taken:"
The point is that the high priest's efficiency for people depends on his being taken from among the people.

The human origin of the High-priest is marked as a ground of the fitness of his appointment. A High-priest being himself man can act for men:   compare Exodus 28:1  (from among the children of Israel).   He is ‘of men’  and  ‘on behalf of men’ (for their service),  and in the original these two phrases correspond emphatically.

The present participle (being taken) suggests the continuity of the relation  (Heb. 5:4  being called).  
Syriac:  Every high-priest  that is from men.

Is ordained  -  kathistatai   "Constituted" or "is appointed"
This word is the ordinary word for authoritative appointment to an office:  compare Heb. 7:28; 8:3; (Titus 1:5); Luke 12:14.

For men  -  huper anthroopoon   "On behalf of"

In things pertaining to God  -  ta pros ton Theon
As respects his relation to God.  Compare Heb. 2:17

That he may offer  -  hina prosferee
Literally, "to bring to  (the altar)."  Compare Matt 5:23.
That appears to mark in each case the direct and immediate end, while  for to offer  of Heb. 8:3 indicates the more remote result aimed at or reached.  See Heb. 2:17; I Thess. 2:16; 2 Thess. 2:11; 3:9; I Cor. 9:18; 2 Cor. 8:6; Rom. 1:11; 4:16; 7:4; 11:11; 15:16; Phil. 1:10; Eph. 1:17.

The Greek word here is commonly used in the LXX for the  ‘offering’  of sacrifices and gifts,  and it is so used very frequently in this Epistle (19 times). It also occurs in  Matt. 5:23; 8:4; John 16:2; Acts 7:42; 21:26. Compare  to offer up of Heb. 7:27. This usage of  to offer up  appears to be Hellenistic and not Classical Greek.

Gifts ... sacrifices  -  doora ... thusias 
doora  "offerings generally"
thusias "bloody" sacrifices. 
The distinction, however, is not constantly observed. Thus we find, thusiai of unbloody offerings in Gen 4:3,5; Lev 2:1; Num 5:15:  and doora, of bloody offerings in Gen 4:4; Lev 1:2,8,10.

Both can be used comprehensively to describe offerings of all kinds, bloody and unbloody: Heb. 8:4 (comp. Heb. 11:4). The same offering indeed could be called, under different aspects, a ‘gift’ and a ‘sacrifice.’

But when ‘gifts’ and ‘sacrifices’ are distinguished
'Gifts' mark the Meal Offering
and 'Sacrifices' mark the Bloody Offerings
Compare Heb. 8:3; 9:9

In this narrower sense the ‘sacrifice’ naturally precedes the ‘offering’ (compare Psalms xl. (6), c.x. 5). 
It is possible that the transposition is made in order to emphasize the thought that man needs an appointed Mediator even to bring his gifts to God. 

The particular reference is to the offerings of the High-priest on the Day of Atonement, ‘the Day’ (Joma) as it is called in the Talmud, which concentrated all the ideas of sacrifice and worship, as the High-priest concentrated all the ideas of personal service (Lev. 16; Num. 29).

For sins  -  huper hamartioon 
In this the priest's efficiency is especially called out,  and he who has not genuine compassion for the sinful cannot do this efficiently.

The clause is to be joined with sacrifices (sacrifices for sins) and not with he may offer as referring to both nouns. The two ideas of Eucharistic and expiatory offerings are distinctly marked. 

(from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1996 by Biblesoft)

The doora, or gifts, mentioned here by the apostle, included every kind of eucharistic offering.
The thusiais, sacrifices,  included victims of every sort, or animals whose lives were to be offered in sacrifice, and their blood poured out before God, as an atonement for sins. The high priest was the mediator between God and the people; and it was his office, when the people had brought these gifts and sacrifices, to offer them to God in their behalf. The people could not legitimately offer their own offerings, they must be all brought to the priest, and he alone could present them to God. 

As we have a high priest over the house of God, to offer all our gifts and His own sacrifice, therefore we may come with boldness to the throne of grace.

Additional Note on Heb 5:1

The Pre-Christian Priesthood

Man is born religious: born to recognize the action of unseen powers about him and to seek for a harmonious relation with them, conceived of personally .  
(According to Taylor, Primitive Culture, i. 378:   No non-religious tribe is actually found or known to  have existed.)

This thought is conveyed in the Mosaic record of Creation, by the statement that it was the purpose of God to ‘make man in His image after His likeness’ (Gen. 1:27); that is,  to endow man with faculties by which he might attain to a divine fellowship, and finally share in the divine rest (Heb. 4:9).

Even if man had not sinned he would have needed the discipline of life, supported by divine help, to reach this destiny. 

As it is, the consciousness of sin, variously realized,  hinders the present approach to God (the unseen power).  However the unseen may be realized,  there is in men a shrinking from it.

Some means of approach to the unseen power therefore must be provided that a harmony may be established;  and man naturally looks for some one through whom this access shall be gained. The provision of this access was the work of the priest.

It was then briefly the part of the priest to establish a connection of man with God, and secondarily of man with man.

The priest brings man to God  (the unseen power);  and he brings God to man.

So it is that the conception which we form of priesthood shapes our whole view of religion (Heb. 7:12).

These thoughts are of universal application, and find manifold embodiments in the experience of mankind.

Of these manifold embodiments we must take account in our endeavor to grasp the full meaning of the Christian Dispensation.

The special training of the Jewish people in one part, the most intelligible part indeed, but yet only one part, of the universal training of humanity for the accomplishment of the divine purpose of creation.

In considering the conception of the pre-Christian priesthood we must therefore notice the priesthood of the Nations (the natural priesthood), and the priesthood of the People (the theocratic priesthood).

The Priesthood of the Nations     (The Natural Priesthood.)

The conception of priesthood in its most general form is recognized universally:  it belongs to the constitution of man.  The facts of ethnic religions enable us to see the elements which were taken up and purified in Judaism.

1.   Types of natural priesthood
In many cases the idea of priesthood is most rude, imperfect and unworthy – perhaps by degradation – but it exists.  It may be that the agent seeks to coerce or to propitiate hostile powers; or to honor friendly powers.  But the essential idea is the same: he seeks to establish a harmony between those whom he represents and the unseen.  The mediating person is marked out variously according to circumstances, either
(1) by superior station, or 
(2) by superior knowledge.
(1)  The chief types of priest in the former case are
(a) the head of the family: the father;
The family priesthood was very widely spread. Examples occur in all early history.
(b) the head of the race: the king.
The kingly priesthood was recognized in the great early civilized states: Egypt; Assyria; Greece; Rome.   The form of this royal priesthood was retained even when the royal government was overthrown.
(2) The second class is represented by the ‘medicine-man’: 
(a) the sorcerer: 
(b) the guardian of an oracular shrine.
The ‘oracular’ type of priesthood was dominant among the Arabian tribes, who had no central government. Notice Balaam (Num. 22). Gradually the office was delegated to a caste or a class, which exercised more or less power. In classical Greece the power of the priesthood was exceptionally small.
2.   Examples of natural priesthood in the Old Testament
There are many traces of this ‘natural’ priesthood in the Old Testament, both (1) before and (2) after ‘the Law.’
Natural priesthood in the Old Testament before the Law
(a) The Patriarchs
Gen. 8:20
Gen. 13:4
Gen. 26:25
Gen. 35:1
Compare Job 1:5
(b) Melchizedek Gen. 14:18
(c) Jethro  Ex. 18:1,12
Compare Ex. 19:22
Natural priesthood in the Old Testament after the Law
(a) The Judges
Jud. 6:19
Jud. 13:19
Jud. 17:5
[I Sam. 7:9 (Samuel); comp. 7:1 (Eleazar)
(b) The Kings
I Sam. 13:9 – 14:34,35
2 Sam. 6:13 – 24:25 (I Chron. 21:26)
      Comp. 23:16
I Kings 9:25 (2 Chron. 8:12)
2 Kings 16:12 (com. 2 Chron. 26:16)
       Comp. Jer. 30:21


The Priesthood of the People     (The Theocratic Priesthood)

(1) Jewish Monotheism
All monotheistic (one God) religions derive their origin from Abraham.
In the Scriptures of the Old Testament no stress is laid upon abstract opinion as to the being of God in Himself. The character of God and the relation of man to God is made known through action.
The essential element of belief in one God is brought out in the history of Abraham. It lies in personal trust in Him, and not in thought about Him.
So again Moses enforces the belief in one God not as a new truth, but as the inspiration and support of personal and social duty.
Conduct, character, is the one end of the Mosaic system.
The heathen – the Canaanite nations specially – are punished not for false belief but the vile actions: Deut. 12:31; Lev. 18:24.
The fact of monotheistic belief is recognized in others (cf. Gen. 20:2); and if God took Israel for His peculiar people, it was not as ‘a national God’ (of limited sovereignty), but as the God of the whole earth: Ex. 19:4; Deut. 10:14.
The legislation of Israel has then this moral purpose. God moves among His people to guide them to their end. So it came to pass that the religious development of the Jews was against their nature; while the religious development of the Gentiles was an expression of their nature .
In the fulfillment of this discipline God manifested Himself to the people in different ways, by prophets, kings, priests. 
The prophet spoke in the name of God: the king became the representative of the divine action: the priest expressed the idea of the fellowship of God and man.
The work of the priesthood was specially directed to the thoughts of sin: consecration: holiness.
(2) Organization of the Jewish priesthood
We notice stages in the organization of the priesthood.
The whole people: 
Ex. 19:6. See also Num. 16:3
Ex. 30:11-16
(Korah: sons of Reuben)
(atonement for each)
Compare Rev. 1:6; 5:10; 20::6; I Pet. 2:5,9
Then Levi
Representatives: Num. 3:9,12 (instead of all the firstborn)
Their consecration: Numbers 8:5.
Notice: sprinkling (contrast Lev. 8:6 of priests); 
cleansing (comp. Lev. 14:8 of the leper; Deut. 21:12 of woman captive).
bullock for burnt-offering   (comp. .Lev. 1:3);
for sin-offering   (comp. Lev. 4:3,14).
Their dedication to God
‘children of Israel’ lay their hands upon them    (comp. Lev. 1:4).
Their resignation by God to the priest’s service
as ‘waved’ before the Lord (of a gift resigned by God to priests): comp. Num. 18:6.
Offering of victims
the Levites laying hands upon them.
The separation of Aaron and his sons
Their consecration: Lev. 8; Ex. 29
Washing Ex. 40: 12; Lev. 16:4; and contrast Ex. 30:19; 40: 31
Robing Comp. Ex. 28:40
Anointing of Aaron V. 30; Ex. 28:41; 30:30; 40:15; Lev. 10:7
A threefold sacrifice a bullock and two rams
Application of the blood to Aaron and his sons: ear, hand, foot. Comp. Lev. 14:14
Sprinkling of the anointing oil and blood on Aaron and his sons and upon their garments. Ex. 29:21.
In each case people, tribe, family, as representatives, were taken by the free choice of God, and not in virtue of any natural privilege of position; Num. 16:7; 18:7; Ex. 28:1; I Sam. 2:28.
The High-priest Ex. 29:5-7; Num. 20:26-28
(3) The priestly duties
General description: Deut. 33:8; I Sam. 2:28
Teaching and administering the Law
Deut. 17:8 (a ‘judge” also recognized); Lev. 10:10; Ezek. 44:23; Mal. 2:7; Hos. 4:6; Amos 2:6-8.
Notice the use of the ‘lot’: Lev. 16L8; comp. Num. 26:55; Josh. 7:14; I Sam. 10:17; 14:41; Prov. 16:33.
Ministering the ceremonies
(a) To prepare the shew-bread:    Lev. 24:5.
(b) To burn incense:    Ex. 30:7; 2 Chron. 26:16; Num. 16:40.
(c) To offer sacrifice: specially to sprinkle the blood;    Lev. 1:5; v. 16.
Num. 6:22. Comp. Lev. 9:22
No necessity for laborious study, but for scrupulous care.
(4) Political position of priests
The priests occupied a subordinate political position till the time of the Maccabees, with rare exceptions (2 Kings 11:1). Eli was the only Judge from among them; and there were few priest-prophets. They were the ordinary ministers of the divine blessing with ‘a self-denying ordinance.’
The Levites are commonly classed with ‘the poor’: a body without inheritance in an agricultural state: Deut. 10:8; 12:12,18; 14:29; 16:11,14; 26:11. Compare Gen. 49:5.
Jerusalem not one of the forty-eight Levitical cities (Josh. 21:41); so that priests were strangers in the place of their service.
Contrast the position of the Brahmins; Magicians (hdt. 1. Pg. 101,132); Chaldeans (Diod. 2:29); Egyptian priests (Hdt. 2:35).
(5) The idea of the Theocracy embodied in the High-Priest
The High-priest was the representative of the whole people: he took their names upon his shoulders and upon his heart: Ex. 28:12,29.
The same offering was made for his sins of ignorance as for the sins of the congregation: Lev. 4:3,13.
He bore upon his head the words which marked the consecration of the nation, and that in relation to their failures: Ex. 28:36; comp. Num. 18:1.
In his person once in the year the people entered into the Presence of God.


Have compassion  -  metriopathein
Originally of the rational regulation of the natural passions, as opposed to the Stoic [apatheia],  which involved the crushing out of the passions.  It was often used, in later Greek, of moderating anger.  It is not identical with sumpatheesai (Heb 4:15),  but signifies "to be moderate or tender" in judgment toward another's errors.  Here it denotes a state of feeling toward the ignorant and erring which is neither too severe nor too tolerant.  The high priest must not be betrayed into irritation at sin and ignorance, neither must he be weakly indulgent.

To exercise forbearance, to feel gently towards, to bear gently with. (Syriac).  To make himself humble and suffer with.  The proper idea of  to exercise forbearance  is that of a temperate feeling  (of sorrow and pain and anger ) as contrasted with the impassability of the Stoics.

The capacity for calm and gentle judgment fits him for the fulfillment of his office in behalf of his fellow men. He offers sacrifices as one ‘able to bear gently’  with the ignorant and erring.

The ignorant  -  tois agnoousin
Compare agnoeematoon  "ignorances,"  (Heb 9:7, and Num 15:22-31),  where the distinction is drawn between sins of ignorance and sins of presumption.  Atonement for sins of ignorance was required by the Levitical law as a means of educating the moral perception,  and of showing that sin and defilement might exist unsuspected: that God saw evil where men did not, and that His test of purity was stricter than theirs.

Out of the way
Not deliberately and determinately erring, but deluded through the fraud of Satan and their own carnal frailty.
(from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

In the Mosaic Law no special moral qualifications are prescribed for the priests.  Here the essential qualification which lies in their humanity is brought out.  Their work was not and could not be purely external and mechanical even if it seemed to be so superficially.  Within certain limits they had to decide upon the character of the facts in regard to which offerings were made.

The compound description may either indicate

the source (ignorance) and the issue (going astray) of sin;
or it may describe sinners, so far as they come into consideration here, under two main aspects. 
Sins of Ignorance  and  Sins of Presumption
Willful, deliberate sin does not fall within the writer’s scope, nor indeed within the scope of the Levitical Law.  Such sin required in the first instance the manifestation of a sterner judgment.
Compare Num. 15:22-31.

In Heb. 4:15 our High-priest is described as one able to sympathize with our infirmities,  while here he generally is required to exercise forbearance…with those being ignorant and erring.
The one source of transgression, 
The other his relation to the transgressor.  

For that he himself also is compassed with infirmity  -  epei kai autos perikeitai astheneian 
Sympathy belongs to the high priestly office, and grows out of the sense of personal infirmity.  The verb is graphic: "has infirmity lying round him." Compare Heb 12:1,  of the "encompassing" (perikeimenon) cloud of witnesses. Astheneian - the "moral" weakness which makes men capable of sin. This is denied in the case of Christ. See Heb 7:28.
(from Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)


And on account of this  -  And by reason thereof,  i.e. of the weakness.  

In the case of the human High-priest weakness actually issued in sin.  In this respect the parallel with Christ fails.  But it has been seen (Heb. 4:15) that a sense of the power of the temptation and not the being overpowered by it is the true ground of sympathy. Compare Heb. 7:27.

He ought  -  ofeilei  -  It is his duty, growing out of the fact of his own infirmity.

The high priest was bound in the very nature of things, in virtue of his constitution and of his office.  He must obtain purity for himself before he can intercede for others. Compare Heb. 2:17.

The ceremonies of the Day of Atonement are still foremost in the writer’s thoughts (Lev. 16).  Philo regards the daily meal-offering as the offering for the priest (Lev. 6:20),  as the lamb was the offering for the people.

To offer….for sins
The constant use of the singular in the sense of  ‘sin-offering’  (Heb. 10:6,8; 13:11 for sin and LXX.)  seems to show that here for sins is to be taken generally,  while to offer is absolute as in Luke 5:14.  

Because the high priest a sinner; an imperfect man. "As for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins."  To make an expiation for sins.  He needed the same atonement; he offered the sacrifice for himself  which he offered for others; Lev 9:7.  The same thing is true of  ministers of religion now.  They come before God feeling that they have need of the benefit of the same atonement which they preach to others; they plead the merits of the same blood for their own salvation which they show to be indispensable for the salvation of others.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)
Higher Order  -  Melchisedec  (5:4-6)

Next Section
Previous Section

A second qualification for the High-priesthood lies in the divine call. 

He must be man, and
He must be called by God.

The fact of human sinfulness naturally leads to this complementary thought. Of himself a man could not presume to take upon him such an office. He could not draw near to God being himself sinful: still less could he draw near to God to intercede for others. At the most he could only indicate in action the desire for fellowship with God.

Heb 5:4-6

Heb 5:4-6
(4)  And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.
(5)   So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.
(6)   As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

Greek Text according to G.R. Berry

And not to himself anyone takes the honour, but he being called by god, even as also Aaron.  Thus also the Christ not himself did glorify to become a high priest; but he who said to him, Son my art thou, I today have begotten thee.  Even as also in another [place] he says, Thou [art] a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedec.

Translation of the Greek text by Westcott

And no one taketh the honour to himself, but being called of God, even as was Aaron. So Christ also glorified not Himself to become High-priest, but He that spake unto Him, Thou art My Son, I have today begotten Thee:-  Even as He saith also in another place.  Thou art a priest for ever, After the order of Melchizedek:


To himself...takes...
The idea of bold presumption does not lie in the phrase itself  (Luke 19:12),  but in the context.   The unusual form not to himself anyone  corresponds with  not himself  (v. 5) which follows.

The honour… the office
So  the honour  is used of the High-priest-hood by Josephus: e.g. Antt. 3:8, i. 

"...God appeared to Moses, and enjoined him to bestow the high priesthood upon Aaron his  brother, as upon him that best of them all deserved to obtain that honor, on account of his virtue."
(Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews Chap. 3 sect. 8)

He that is called  -  kaloumenos
The King James Version follows the Textus Receptusho kaloumenos.  The article should be omitted. Render it: "but being called by God (he taketh it), as did Aaron."
(from Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

But being called  (as called)  he taketh it (takes  is to be supplied from the preceding  takes to himself).  The word being called  (compare Heb. 11:8)  is specially used for the  ‘call’  to the Christian Faith:  Heb. 9:15 (especially by Paul and Peter in their writings).

(Heb 9:15  "And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance."  KJV)

Even as also Aaron    Exodus 28:1; Numbers 16-18. 
Even Aaron himself,  though specially marked out before (Ex. 16:33), did not assume the office without a definite call.  Aaron is the divine type of the High-priest, as the Tabernacle is of ritual service.  
He is mentioned in the New Testament here and Heb. 7:11; 9:4; (Lk. 1:5; Acts 7:40).

From the time of Herod the succession to the High-priesthood became irregular and arbitrary and not confined to the line of Aaron  (Jos. Antt. 15:2,4; 20.9).  

"...for being cautious how he made any illustrious person the high priest of God, he sent for an obscure priest out of Babylon, whose name was Ananelus, and bestowed the high priesthood upon him."
(Josephus Antiquities Chap. 15 Sec. 2.4)
"About this time king Agrippa gave the  high priesthood to Ismael, who was the son of Fabi."
(Josephus Antiquities Chap. 15 Sec. 20.9

Therefore the writer goes back to the divine ideal.  The notoriousness of the High-priestly corruption at the time could not fail to give point to the language of the Epistle.

Schoettgen quotes from Bammidbar R. c. 18: Moses said  [to Korah and his companions]:  "If Aaron my brother had taken the priesthood to himself ye would have done well to rise against him; but in truth God gave it to him, whose is the greatness and the power and the glory. Whosoever therefore rises against Aaron, does he not rise against God?" (Wunsche, P. 441).


Having characterized the office and qualifications of a High-priest generally, the writer now goes on to show that

(vv. 5-8)  Christ satisfied the qualifications for High Priest
(vv. 9,10)  Christ fulfils the office of High Priest

The proof is given in an inverted form.

(5,6) The divine appointment of Christ is established first
(7,8) and then His power of sympathy
(9,10) and lastly His office is described

This inversion, in an elaborate parallelism, is perfectly natural, and removes the appearance of formality.

Thus also the Christ   -  So Christ (the Christ ) also
The title of the office emphasizes the idea of the perfect obedience of the Lord even in the fullness of His appointed work.  It is not said that ‘Jesus’ glorified not Himself,  but ‘the Christ,’  the appointed Redeemer,  glorified not Himself.      Comp. Heb. 3:14;6:1;9:14,28;11:26 (the Christ); and Heb.3:6; 9:11,24 (But Christ).

Not himself did glorify to become
This fuller phrase,  in place of the simple repetition of the words used before,  ‘took not to Himself the honour,’ gives a distinct prominence to the general character of Christ’s work.  ‘He glorified not Himself so as  (in the assertion of this dignity)  to become High-priest.’  

Christ, as sinless man, could approach God for Himself; 
but He waited for His Father’s appointment that He might approach God as Son of man for sinful humanity.
Compare John 8:54,42; Acts 3:13.

The High-priesthood,  the right of mediation for humanity,  was a  ‘glory’  to  ‘the Son of man.’
Compare John 17:5.

But he that said unto him,  Thou art my Son ... 
He did not glorify himself,  but God who styled him  "son"  glorified him.
"Thou art my Son"  is introduced thus in close connection with the call to the priesthood,  in recognition of the fact that the priesthood of Christ had its basis in His Sonship.  "Christ's priestly vocation ceases to be an accident in his history, and becomes an essential characteristic of his position as Son: sonship, christhood, priestliness, inseparably interwoven" (Bruce).
(from Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

But His Father glorified Him, that He should be made High-priest,  even He that spake unto Him… 
(Psalms 2:7   'I proclaim the decree of the Lord;  to me the Lord said:  Thou art my Son, this day I have begotten thee.LXX)

In connection with the quotation from Ps. 2:7  it must be observed that the LXX translation of Ps.110:3  gives a thought closely akin to it:  ‘With thee shall be the government; in the day of thy power – in the splendors of thy Holies from the womb: before the morning star I begot thee.’ Ps. 110:3 LXX


The divine appointment of Christ is exhibited in two passages of the Psalms in which the Lord who declares Him also to be  ‘High-priest after the order of Melchizedek.’

Ps 2:7
I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
Ps 110:4
The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.

 These two quotations from Psalms 2:7; Psalms 110:4 
establish the source of the Lord’s sovereign dignity as ‘Son,’ 
and mark the particular form in which this dignity has been realized. 
They correspond in fact to the two ideas 
did glorify 
and to become a high priest.

The first passage which has been already quoted (Heb. 1:5) refers the glory of the Risen Christ, the exalted Son of man, to the Father. 

This glory is not exactly defined,  but the position of sonship includes every special honour,  kingly or priestly.   He to whom this had been given could not be said to ‘glorify himself.’

The second quotation  (Ps. 110:4)  defines the particular application of the first.
The kingly priesthood of Melchizedek was promised to Christ. 
Such a priesthood naturally belongs to the exalted Son.

Even also
The absolute declaration of the Sonship of Christ found a special application in these words of another Psalm. 
The definite office of Priesthood is a partial interpretation of the glory of the Son. ‘The Father glorified the Son to become High-priest, even as in fact (also) He expressly declares.’  This glorifying was not a matter of general deduction only but definitely foreshown.

Thou art a priest forever
According to this verse Christ is prophetically pointed out in Ps 110 as an eternal priest, independent of fleshly descent, a king, and superior in dignity to the Levitical priests.

Christ is a Priest forever, because He has no successor, nor any need of a successor.  His High-priestly Sacrifice. His High-priestly Entrance ‘with His own blood’ into heaven,  to the present of God,  are ‘eternal’ acts, raised beyond all limits of time.    Compare Heb. 9:12,14; 13:20.
Here therefore there is no possibility of repetition, as in the Levitical sacrifices. In Christ, all is ‘one act at once,’ while for men the virtue of Christ’s sacrifice is applied in time.

According to the order  -  kata teen taxin 
According to the rank which Melchizedek held. Almost = "like."  ( see also Heb 7)

Psalm 110 describes the Divine Saviour under three aspects as:


(Ps 110:1-3)
(1) The LORD said to my Lord,
"Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool." 
(2) The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion.
Rule in the midst of Your enemies! 
(3) Your people shall be volunteers 
In the day of Your power;
In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning,
You have the dew of Your youth.    NKJV


(Ps 110:4)

The LORD has sworn 
And will not relent,
"You are a priest forever 
According to the order of Melchizedek.   NKJV


(Ps 110:5-7)

(5) The Lord is at Your right hand;
He shall execute kings in the day of His wrath. 
(6) He shall judge among the nations,
He shall fill the places with dead bodies,
He shall execute the heads of many countries. 
(7) He shall drink of the brook by the wayside;
Therefore He shall lift up the head.   NKJV
Samuel was Priest and Prophet
David was King and Prophet
But Jesus is King, Priest and Prophet

It is quoted in the New Testament to illustrate three distinct points in the Lord’s Person. 

His Lordship and victory

Matt. 21:42-45
(42)  Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David.
(43)  He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying,
(44)  The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool?
(45)  If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?   KJV
I Cor. 15:25
For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.   KJV
Heb 10:12
But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;

His Exaltation at the right hand of God           

Acts 2:34
For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,   KJV
Heb 1:13
But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?   KJV
And this phrase underlies the many references to Christ’s ‘sitting’ (Matt. 16:64) and  taking His seat  (Mark 16:19 sat )  at the right hand of God.

His Priesthood              

v. 10 and in Heb. 6,7
According to the order of Melchisedec (forever
Syriac: After the likeness (cf. Heb. 7:15 according to the similitude)- 
after the order
to occupy the same position
as priest at once and king. 

Primasius enumerates three main points in which the High-priesthood of Christ was, like that of Melchizedek, contrasted with the High-priesthood of Aaron:

(1) Melchizedek did not offer for the fulfillment of legal sacrifices, sacrifices of bulls and goats (these were intermediary, until the true sacrifice was offered); 
but Melchizedek offered bread and wine, answering to Christ’s Body and Blood. Animal offerings have ceased: Christ's offering is eternal.   (Gen 14:18)
(2) Melchizedek combined the kingly with the priestly dignity: he was anointed not with oil but with the Holy Spirit.
(3) Melchizedek appeared once: so Christ offered Himself once.

Cecumenius, in almost the same form, marks the following points of resemblance in Melchizedek to Christ.

(1)  Melchizedek’s priest-hood was connected with the kingly office, and 
(2) It was not made dependent on any fleshly descent, or limited by conditions of time.

Melchizedek had no recorded ancestry and no privileged line of descendants.
He represented a non-Jewish, a universal priest-hood.
In relation to the Priesthood he occupies the position which Abraham occupies in relation to the Covenant.

The Chaldee paraphrase of the verse (referring it to David) is remarkable:
The Lord has determined that thou shalt be set Prince over the world to come, for thy desert, because thou art an innocent king.'

Perfect High Priest  (5:7-10) 

Next Section
Previous Section

Heb 5:7-10
(7)   Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;
(8)   Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
(9)   And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;
(10) Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.

Greek Text according to G.R. Berry

Who in the days of his flesh both supplications and entreaties to him who [was] able to save him from death, with crying strong and tears having offered, and having been heard in that [he] feared; though being a son, he learned, from the things which he suffered, obedience; and having been perfected became to those that obey him all, author of salvation eternal; having been saluted by God [as] high priest according to the order of Melchisedec.

Translation of the Greek text by Westcott

Who, in His days of flesh (or in the days of His flesh) having offered up, with strong crying and tears, prayers and supplications unto Him that was able to save Him out of death, and having been heard for His godly fear, 8 though He was Son yet learned obedience by the things which He suffered; 9 and having been made perfect He became to all that obey Him the cause of eternal salvation, 10 being addressed by God as High-priest after the order of Melchizedek.

The complicated sentence is divided into two main propositions by the two finite verbs

(1) who……having offered, and having been heard…he learned…
(2) and having been perfected became.
The first sentence describes the divine discipline through which Christ was perfected in His human nature:
The second, the efficacy of the work which He was fitted to accomplish in His perfected humanity

If the words are arranged in a tabular form their symmetrical structure is at once evident:

(7) In His days of flesh,
having offered up,
with strong crying and tears,
prayers and supplications
unto Him that was able to save
Him out of death,
In His days of flesh,
having offered up,
with strong crying and tears,
prayers and supplications
unto Him that was able to save
Him out of death,

And having been heard

For His godly fear,
(8) though He was Son, yet
learned obedience
by the things which He suffered:
(9) and, having been made perfect,
He became to all them that obey Him, 
the cause of eternal salvation.
(10) being addressed by God, 
as High-priest 
after the order of Melchizedek.

Christ – the Son,  the priest after the order of Melchizedek –  has been shown to have fulfilled one condition of true High-priesthood by His divine appointment:  He is now shown to have fulfilled the other, as having learnt through actual experience the uttermost needs of human weakness.


He is now to show that Christ was under training for the priesthood, and describes the process of training.

Who  -  hos 
Nominative to  emathen  "learned,"  Heb 5:8, to which all the participles are preparatory.

The relative goes back to the main subject of  v. 5,  Christ,  who has been more fully described in the two intervening verses.  Here there is no difficulty. Compare 2 Thess. 2:9; I Pet. 4:11. 
In Heb. 3:6 the ambiguity is greater,  but there  whose i s to be referred to God and not to Christ. Compare v. 11.

In the days of his flesh  -  en tais heemerais tees sarkos autou  -  During his mortal life.

Syriac: When He was clothed with flesh.
The pronoun may be taken either with  

of his flesh  or
in the days of His flesh  or
in His days of flesh

The general meaning of the phrase is well given by Theodoret as describing ‘the time when He had a mortal body’

Flesh’  here describes not that which is essential to true humanity  (Luke 24:39),  but the general conditions of humanity in the present life:  Gal. 2:20; Phil. 1:22,24; I Pet. 4:2. 
Compare I Cor. 15:50; and (perhaps) Heb. 10:20.

We can indeed form no clear conception of ‘immortal,’ ‘incorruptible’ flesh; but the phrase represents to us the continuance under new conditions of all that belongs to the perfection of our nature.

The words  in the days of his  stand in contrast with having been perfected.   It is not said or implied that the conflict of Christ continued in the same form throughout His earthly life. A contrast is drawn between the period of His preparation for the fullness of His Priestly work, and the period of His accomplishment of it after His ‘consummation.’

The days    The use of the term  ‘days’  for  ‘time’ or  ‘seasons’ seems to suggest the thought of the changing circumstances of life (comp. Matt. 28:20). Compare also Heb. 10:32; 1:2.

When he had offered up prayers and supplications  -  deeeseis te kai hiketeerias prosenengkas

Deeeseis "special definite requests"
hiketeerias is properly an adjective,
 "pertaining to"  or 
" fit for suppliants,"  with rabdous, "staves"  or  elaias  "olive-branches".
The olive-branch bound round with wool was held forth by a suppliant in token of his character as such.

Perhaps the use of the ritual word (having offered) of the Lord’s prayers on earth points to the true sacrificial character of spiritual service: Compare Heb. 8:15.

Having…..having been heard…. These participles have been interpreted as

preparatory to he learned (‘after He had offered….He learnt’), or 
as explanatory and confirmatory of it  (‘in that He offered…He learnt’).

Usage and the gradual development of the thought favour the first view.  The ‘obedience’ of Christ was slowly fashioned through prayer,  which was answered for His reverent devotion.

Both supplications and entreaties….

The first word supplications  The general term for a definite request (e.g. James 5:16).
Expressed completely in words
The second word entreaties Describes the supplication of one in need of protection or help in some overwhelming calamity  (properly an olive branch entwined with wool borne by suppliants).
Suggests the posture and external form and emblems of entreaty (compare Mark 14:35).

The two words are combined in Job 41:3 ‘Will he speak to thee with entreaties – with soothing supplications?’ LXX.

Unto him that was able to save him from death  -  pros ton dunamenon soozein auton ek hanatou 
Construe with  "prayers and supplications,"  not with  "offered." 
"To save him from death"   may mean to deliver him

from "the fear of death,"  or
from "the anguish of death," or
from "remaining a prey to death."

In either case, the statement connects itself with the thought of Christ's real humanity.  He was under the pressure of a sore human need which required divine help,  thus showing that he was like unto his brethren.  He appealed to one who could answer his prayer.  The purport of the prayer is not stated.   It is at least suggested by Matt 26:39.

To him able…  The clause has been taken with both  supplications  and  entreaties,  but the general structure of the sentence,  which appears to mark each element in the supplication separately,  points to the connection with the participle  (having offered).  The prayers of the Son were directed Godward, each thought was laid open in the sight of Him who was able to save out of death.

Matt 26:38-39
(38)  Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
(39)  And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.      KJV

To save ... from death ...   to save out of death
Syriac,  To quicken him from death. 
The phrase covers two distinct ideas

‘to save from physical death so that it should be escaped,’
‘to bring safe out of death into a new life.’ 

In the first sense the prayer recorded in John 12:27 was not granted, that it might be granted in the second.

To save from   does not necessarily imply that that is actually realized out of which deliverance is granted (comp. 2 Cor. 1:10),  though it does so commonly (John 12:27).   In  to save from  (James 5:20; Jude 5)  the dominant thought is of the peril in which the sufferer is immersed  (contrast  will preserve for    2 Tim. 4:18).

With crying strong… 
The passage finds a striking illustration in a Jewish saying: ‘There are three kinds of prayers each loftier than the preceding:   prayer,  crying, and  tears.  Prayer is made in silence: crying with raised voice; but tears overcome all things [‘there is no door through which tears do not pass’]  (Synopsis Sohar ap. Schoettgen ad loc.)

There can be little doubt that the writer refers to the scene at Gethsemane; but the mention of these details of  ‘the loud cry’  ‘and tears’  (John 11:35; Luke 19:41),  no less than the general scope of the passage,  suggests the application of the words to other prayers and times of peculiar trial in the Lord’s life. Compare John 11:33; 12:27; (Matt. 27:46,50).

There is a tradition that originally the High-priest on the Day of Atonement, when he offered the prayer for forgiveness in the Holy of Holies,   uttered the name of God with a loud voice so that it could be heard far off. Comp. Maimon, ap. Delitzsch, Hebr. Ii. P. 471 (E. Tr.).

Crying…   The loud cry of deeply-stirred feeling

of joyful surprise Mt. 25:5
of partisan applause Acts 23:9
of grief Rev. 21:4 (not Rev. 14:18)
of anger Eph. 4:31

Compare Ps. 22:24 (LXX:  "for He hath not slighted, nor abhorred the prayer of the distressed; nor turned away His face from me: but hearkened to me when I cried to Him.")  and see also crying  in Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:15.

The question has been asked:  for what did Christ pray?  Perhaps it is best to answer generally,  for the victory over death,  the fruit of sin.  This was the end of His work,  and to this end every part of it contributed.  Under this aspect the conditional prayers for His own deliverance  (Matt. 26:39 and parallels; John 12:27)  become intelligible.  And the due connection is established between the prayer at the Agony,  and the High-priestly prayer which preceded it.

And was heard in that he feared  -  kai eisakoustheis apo tees eulabeias 
Render it:  "was heard on account of his godly fear."   
The verb eulabeisthai,  "to act cautiously, beware, fear".   The image in the word is that of "a cautious taking hold" Lambanein  and "careful and respectful handling:"  hence, piety of a  "devout and circumspect" character, as that of Christ, who in His prayer took account of all things, not only his own desire, but his Father's will. 
Eulabeia  is ascribed to Christ as a human trait, see Heb 12:28. 

He was heard, for his prayer was answered, whatever it may have been. God was able to save him from death altogether.  He did not do this.  
He was able to sustain him under the anguish of death, and to give him strength to suffer the Father's will:   this He did.
He was also able to deliver him from death by resurrection:  this He did.
It is not impossible that both these may be combined in the statement "he was heard."

Having been heard in that feared  -  having been heard for His godly fear. 
The Syriac  transfers the words from this clause to the next, learnt obedience from fear and the suffering which He bore. 
True prayer  –   the prayer which must be answered  –  is the personal recognition and acceptance of the divine will (John 14:7).  It follows that the hearing of prayer,  which teaches obedience,

is not so much the granting of a specific petition,  which is assumed by the petitioner to be the way to the end desired,
but the assurance that what is granted does most effectively lead to the end.

Thus we are taught that Christ learnt that every detail of His Life and Passion contributed to the accomplishment of the work which He came to fulfill, and so He was most perfectly ‘heard for His godly fear’ (feared).  Marks that careful and watchful reverence which pays regard to every circumstance in that with which it has to deal. It may therefore degenerate into a timid and unworthy anxiety ; but more commonly it expresses reverent and thoughtful shrinking from over-boldness,  which is compatible with true courage:

Here the word in its noblest sense is singularly appropriate.  Prayer is heard as it is  ‘according to God’s will’ 
(I John 5:14),  and Christ by His  feared  perfectly realized that submission which is obedience on one side and fellowship on the other.


Though he were a Son  -  kaiper oon huios 
For "were" render "was."  His training for the priesthood involved suffering, even though he was a son. 
Connect with emathen  "learned,"  not with the preceding clause, which would mean that his position as a son did not exempt him from the obligation to godly fear, which is true as a fact (see Heb 5:7),  but is not the point of emphasis here.

The clause has been taken with the words

which precede (‘being heard not as Son but for His godly fear’),  
and with those which follow  (‘though Son went through the discipline of suffering to obedience’). 

The latter connection is most in accordance with the whole scope of the passage.

Though Son and therefore endowed with right of access  for Himself to the Father,  being of one essence with the Father,
For man’s sake,  as man,  He won the right of access for humanity

In one sense it is true that the idea of Sonship suggests that of obedience;  but the nature of Christ’s Sonship at first sight seems to exclude the though that He should learn obedience through suffering.

For  "though"  see Heb. 7:5; 12:17; Phil. 3:4; 2 Pet. 1:12.

In v. 5 the title ‘Son’ has been used of the Sonship of the exalted Christ in His twofold nature. 
Here it is used of the eternal, divine relation of the Son to the Father. 
There is a similar transition from one aspect to the other of the unchanged Personality of the Lord in Heb. 1:1-4. 

The Incarnation itself corresponds with and implies (if we may so speak ) an immanent Sonship in the Divine Nature. Thus, though it may be true that the title  Son  is used of the Lord predominantly (at least) in connection with the Incarnation, that of necessity carries our thoughts further. Compare John 5:19.

John 5:19
Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.   KJV

Learned he obedience  -  emathen teen hupakoeen 
Omit "he," since the subject of emathen   "learned"  is hos   "who,"  (Heb 5:7).

Jesus did not have to learn to obey,  ( see John 8:29); 
but he required the special discipline of a severe human experience as a training for his office as a high priest who could be touched with the feeling of human infirmities.
He did not need to be disciplined out of any inclination to disobedience; 
but, as Alford puts it, "the special course of submission by which he became perfected as our high priest was gone through in time, and was a matter of acquirement and practice." 

This is no more strange than his growth in wisdom, Luke 2:52.
Growth in experience was an essential part of his humanity.

The spirit of obedience is realized through trials, seen at least to minister to good. 
Sufferings in this sense may be said to teach obedience as they confirm it and call it out actively.
The Lord ‘learned obedience through the things which He suffered,’

Not as if the lesson were forced upon Him by the necessity of suffering, for the learning of obedience does not imply the conquest of disobedience as actual, 
But as making His own perfectly,  through insight into the Father’s will,  that self-surrender which was required,  even to death upon the cross  (comp. Phil. 2:8).

Phil 2:8
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.  KJV

The Lord’s manhood was (negatively) sinless and (positively) perfect, that is perfect relatively at every stage; and therefore He truly advanced by ‘learning’   (Luke 2:52; 40 advanced ),  while the powers of His human Nature grew step by step in a perfect union with the divine in His one Person. 

When we think of Jesus the man, we must look at two different concepts:

(1) Jesus was a man born as a human with all of the traits of humanity, so even though He was born without sin as we (humanity) are not, for we are born in sin as the Scripture stats.  He could be tempted as all humanity is tempted, but He never failed His Father as we have.
(2) Jesus is also the living Word of God, the creative force that created all that we know and have understanding.  God was in Christ, and the Bible states that He was the express image of His father as He told His disciples.

So when we  look at Jesus, we must consider both of these points to gain clear understanding of what is going on at that moment. 

By the things which he suffered  -  af hoon epathen 
Or "from" the things, etc.  Note the word-play, emathen - epathen
So Croesus, addressing Cyrus, says: ta de moi patheemata , [eonta] acharista , [matheemata] gegonen
"my sufferings, though painful, have proved to be lessons"  (Herodotus 1:207): 
So Sophocles "Trach." 142, [meet'] [ekmathois] [pathousa],  "mayest thou not learn by suffering."
(from Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

Obedience in all its completeness, the obedience which answers to the idea.  It is not said that the Lord ‘learned to obey.’  The word  ‘obedience’  contains a reference to the occasion of sin.  

Man’s fall was due to disobedience: 
Man's restoration comes through obedience. 

Compare Rom. 5:19 (For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.  KJV).


Christ, it has been seen, satisfies the conditions of High-priesthood. 
He has received divine appointment: 
He is inspired with the completest sympathy.
But His High-priesthood goes immeasurably beyond that of the Levitical system in its efficacy.
As He is in His humanity superior to Moses (Heb. 3:1)
so He is superior to Aaron. 
The one fact has been affirmed directly (Heb. 3:5):
the other fact is shown in a type (Melchizedek). 

And being made perfect  -  kai teleiootheis
Compare Heb 2:10.  
The fundamental idea in  teleioun  is the bringing of a person or thing to the goal fixed by God.   Compare Heb 7:11,19; 9:9; 10:1,14; 11:40; 12:23. 
Here of Christ's having reached the end which was contemplated in his divinely-appointed discipline for the priesthood.  The consummation was attained in his death,  Phil 2:8:  his obedience extended even unto death.

And this superiority is further shown in the action of Christ as High-priest. The Levitical High-priest entered into the Holy of Holies through the blood of goats and calves, but Christ through His own blood to the presence of God Himself (compare Heb. 9:11). Yet further, the reference to Ps. 110 necessarily includes the thought of the Royal priesthood which is developed afterwards.
Heb 9:11-12
11When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. 12He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. NIV

The Vulgate has:  et consummatus…..
The Syriac has:  and thus was perfected issue of Christ’s work is complete.   Compare Heb. 2:10

This perfection was seen

on the one side in the complete fulfillment of man’s destiny by Christ through absolute self-sacrifice,
and on the other in His exaltation to the right hand of God, which was in the divine order its due consequence.

Compare Heb. 2:9 on account of the suffering.   Phil. 2:9. 
Thus the word, which carries with it the conception of Christ’s complete preparation for the execution of His priestly office, suggests the contrast between His priestly action and that of Aaron.

The author of eternal salvation  -  aitios sooteerias aiooniou 
Aitios, an adjective, "causing."  Compare "captain of salvation," Heb 2:10. 
The phrase sooteeria aioonios,  "eternal salvation". 
Septuagint,  Isa. 15:17.  A salvation of which all the conditions, attainments, privileges, and rewards transcend the conditions and limitations of time.

Became… in the fulfillment of what we conceive of as a natural law
It is said  ‘became’  and not  ‘becomes’  or  ‘is,’  because on the divine side and in the eternal order the issue of Christ’s work is complete

The cause of eternal salvation.   In Heb. 2:10 the word corresponding to  author  is  leader.

There (Heb 2:10) the thought was of Christ going before the ‘many sons’ with whom He unites Himself. 
Here the thought is of that which He alone does for them. 
There He is the great Leader who identifies Himself with His people:
Here He is the High-priest who offers Himself as an effectual sacrifice on their behalf.

Of salvation eternal.] This spiritual, eternal, divine deliverance answers to the external and temporal deliverance which Moses wrought. The phrase is not found elsewhere in the New Testament.

Unto all them that obey him  -  pasin tois hupakouousin autoo

"Obey" points to  "obedience,"  Heb 5:8
"Salvation" points to  "save," Heb 5:7

If the captain of salvation must learn obedience, so must his followers. Compare 2 Thess 1:8.
(from Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

Gentiles as well as Jews. Compare John 1:7. 
In this connection continuous active obedience is the sign of real faith (contrast Heb. 4:3 who believed ).  The obedience of the believers to Christ answers to the obedience of the Son to the Father.  By obedience fellowship is made complete.


Called of God  -  prosagoreutheis hupo tou Theou
Render it:  "since he was addressed or saluted by God." 
God recognized and saluted him as that which he had become by passing through and completing his earthly discipline. 

The title  (High-priest ) is involved in the words of Psalms 110:4  and v. 1  taken together;  compare Heb. 6:20. 
A royal priesthood is there combined with admission to the immediate Presence of God (sit….at my right hand ), which was the peculiar privilege of the High-priest. At the same time the peculiar character of this priesthood (after the order of Melchizedek ) includes the pledge of its eternal efficacy (eternal salvation). Compare Heb. 7:16.

Prosagoreuein    "to address"   expresses the formal and solemn ascription of the title to Him to whom it belongs (‘addressed as,’ ‘styled’ )

Progress in patient effort

The general view which has been given of the Divine High-priest, of His office and of His qualifications, of His power of sympathy and of His direct appointment by God, leads naturally to a consideration of the obligations which this revelation imposes upon those to whom it is made. The highest truth is not to be mastered at once, nor without serious and continuous effort. 

It can only be grasped in virtue of a corresponding growth in those to whom it is addressed. There is always, in the case of those who have learnt somewhat, the danger of resting in their attainment, which is a fatal relapse (I Cor 13:11  "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me."  NIV).  Yet we are encouraged by past experience to hold our hope firmly; and the promise of God remains sure beyond the possibility of failure.

These general thoughts are unfolded in four sections. 

(1) (5:11-14) Stationariness in religious life and its consequences.
The mention of Melchizedek calls up the difficulties connected with his priesthood which the Hebrews were not prepared to meet. They had become stationary and therefore had lost the power of receiving higher teaching
(2) (6:1-8) The duty of Christian progress: the perils of relapse
Such a condition illustrates the paramount duty of Christian progress, and the perils of relapse .
(3) (6:9-12) Words of hope and encouragement
At the same time the frank recognition of danger does not exclude the consolation of hope .
(4) (6:13-20) The certainty of the divine promises
And though God requires patience from men, His promise can never fail .

It is of deep interest to observe that here for the second time the writer pauses when the subject of Christ’s priestly work rises before him. He announced this subject in Heb. 2:17, and directly turned aside from it to enforce the lessons of Israel’s failure. He returned to the subject in Heb. 4:14, and, after a fuller exposition of its outlines, he now again interrupts his argument to insist on the strenuous labor which believers must under-take that they may rightly enter into it.

Stationariness in religious life and its consequences   (Heb. 5:11-14)

The life of faith is like the natural life. It has appropriate support in its different stages. Healthy growth enables us to appropriate that which we could not have received at an earlier stage. But this general law carries with it grave consequences:

(a) (vv. 11,12) The period of first discipleship may be misused, as by the Hebrews, so that we remain still mere ‘babes’ when it is past
(b) (vv. 13,14) And so when the time comes for mature instruction we may be unprepared to apprehend it
Elementary Teaching  (5:11 - 13)

Next Section
Previous Section

Heb 5:11-12
(11)  Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.
(12)  For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
(13)  For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.

Greek Text according to G.R. Berry

Concerning whom [is] much our discourse and difficult in interpretation to speak, since sluggish ye have become in hearing.  For truly [when ye] ought to be teachers because of the time, again need ye have of [one] to teach you what [are] the elements of the beginning of the oracles of God, and have become need having of milk, and not of solid food;  for everyone that partakes of milk [is] unskilled in [the] word of righteousness , for an infant he is; 

Translation of the Greek text by Westcott

Of whom (which) we have many things to say and hard of interpretation since ye are become dull in your hearing.  For when ye ought to be teachers by reason of the time, ye again have need that some one teach you the elements of the first principles of the oracles of God; and ye are become in need of milk, (and) not of solid food.  For every one that partaketh of milk is without experience in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 


From this point the comparison of Christ with Melchizedek would naturally be developed; but the author digresses into a complaint of the imperfect spiritual attainment of his readers, and a remonstrance and admonition extending to the end of Heb 6.

The difficulty of unfolding the truth of Christ’s High-priestly office typified in Melchizedek is due to the spiritual state of the Hebrews. They are still babes when they ought to have advanced to ripe intelligence.

The character of the complaint seems to indicate clearly that the Epistle could not have been addressed to a large body as a whole, but to some section of it (compare Heb. 13:17) consisting, as it appears, of men in the same general circumstances of age, position and opinion.

Of whom  -  peri hou
Render it: "concerning which." 
Not Melchizedek, but the topic that Christ is a priest after the order of Melchizedek, a topic to which great importance is attached. Can it be imagined that the discussion of such a topic would appeal to a Gentile audience as a reason for not relapsing into paganism?

Westcott says:

The relative is ambiguous. It may mean 
concerning which, i.e. the High-priestly dignity of Christ, or 
concerning whom

In the latter case the antecedent may be Christ or Melchizedek (Peshitta about this Melchizedek) or (as a complex subject) Christ a High-priest after the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 6:20; compare who of 5:7).

The reference to Melchizedek simply appears to be too limited. Although Melchizedek is afterwards spoken of in detail (Heb. 7:1), the mysteries to which the apostle refers do not lie properly in his person, but in Him whom he foreshadowed; and, again, the reference to Christ generally is too vague. Hence it seems best to interpret the  whom of Christ as typified by Melchizedek, or of Melchizedek as a type of Christ.

Christ’s Priesthood and Sacrifice is the main and most difficult subject of the Epistle; and this is foreshadowed in Melchizedek, whose significance was overlooked by the Jewish interpreters (e.g. Bereshith R.). In regard to the general sense it makes no difference whether the whom be neuter or masculine (with this reference), but the neuter is less in the style of the Epistle.

We have many things to say  -  polus heemin ho logos 
Literally, "the discourse is abundant unto us." 
"We" refers to the writer himself.

It will be observed that, while the writer of the Epistle recognizes the difficulty of his theme, he declares no less plainly that he must deal with it. He speaks of  the discourse,  the teaching (discourse), which (he implies) it is his duty and his purpose to deliver. There is no indication that the fulfillment of his design is contingent on those whom he addresses. His part must be done, however hard it may be to do it. In this respect he identifies himself with the society which he represents (our).

Hard to be uttered  -  dusermeeneutos legein 
Literally, "hard of interpretation to speak." 
The King James Version entirely misses the idea of interpretation.  
The English Revised Version (1881) better: "hard of interpretation." 

Hard of interpretation:  hard for a writer to express, so that it will be fully understood.  The difficulty of the interpreter lies in the small capacity of his audience. The addition of to speak, which corresponds with the image in in hearing, shows decisively, as is otherwise most natural, that the difficulty is considered with regard to him who has to make the exposition and not to those who have to receive it.

Ye are dull of hearing  -  noothroi gegonate tais akoais 
Render it: "ye have grown dull in your hearing." 
For akoee = "hearing."  The verb implies a deterioration on the hearers' part. 

Since sluggish ye have become in hearing.  The difficulty of which the apostle has spoken came from the fault of the Hebrews. They had become less quick in understanding and not more quick according to a natural and healthy development.

As yet however, this dullness had not extended to action through such an issue was not far off (comp. Heb. 6:12; also 2 Pet. 2:20).

Schmidt, "Synon.," says it is best represented by the German nohlen  "to dawdle." 
It occurs mostly in later Greek, although Plato uses it much in the same sense as here. 
"When they have to face study they are stupid  ( noothroi ) and cannot remember." "
Sometimes = "low, mean, obscure." So in Proverbs, but in Sirach "slack, slow."
(from Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)


When for the time ye ought to be teachers  -  ofeilontes einai didaskaloi dia ton chronon
Render it:  "for when ye ought to be teachers by reason of the time."  The King James Version entirely obscures the true meaning, which is that, because of the time during which the readers have been under instruction, they ought to be able to instruct others.

The fault of the Hebrews is clearly defined.  When by reason of the time  –  because they had been Christians so long,  -  

they ought to have been teachers, but
they were themselves in need of elementary teaching.

Again palin 
Not with "teach you," as the King James Version, but with "ye have need." The position of the word is emphatic. Again ye have need of being taught the very rudiments of divine truth which ye were taught long ago.

Ye have need again that some one teach you the elements
The  what  is ambiguous.  It may be treated as an interrogative: ‘that one teach you what are the rudiments…’,  or as the indefinite pronoun.  In spite of the ancient authority such as Vulgate, Syr. Orig., for the first rendering, the second seems to be preferable (comp. I Thess. 4:9). 

The phrase  the elements of the beginning of the oracles of God  is very remarkable. 
Even  ‘the beginning,’  the simplest fruitful presentation of the Gospel,  is complex.  The divine message includes from the first distinct elements which require to grow together. It is one, not as monotonous, but in virtue of a vital unity.

The first principles of the oracles  -  ta stoicheia tees archees toon logioon
Literally, "the rudiments of the beginning of the oracles." 
The phrase  stoicheia tees archees   is = "primary elements." 
Logion  is a diminutive, meaning  strictly a "brief" utterance,  and used both in Classical and Biblical Greek of "divine" utterances.  

Philo   uses it of the Old Testament prophecies, and his treatise on the Ten Commandments is entitled  peri toon deka  logioon.
Septuagint   it is often generally - "the word  or  words of the Lord," see Num. 24:16; Deut. 33:9; Ps. 11:6; 17:30, etc. 
Polycarp   It was used of the sayings of Jesus.   From the time of Philo, of any sacred writing, whether discourse or narrative.  (see Polycarp, "Ad Phil." vii.)

The beginning of the oracles of God’  corresponds with  ‘the beginning of Christ’ (Heb. 6:1). 
Of the beginning is not in either place to be separated from the genitive which follows as if it could have one adjectival sense,  ‘the first elements,’ ‘the first teaching.’

The elements…] the rudiments, the first, simplest, elements of which anything consists: ‘the alphabet’ of a subject. The word occurs elsewhere in the New Testament of the material elements of the universe: 2 Pet. 3:10,12; and metaphorically: Gal. 4:3,9; Col. 2:8,20.

Gal 4:3
Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:
Gal 4:9
But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?

Of the oracles of God….] Rom. 3:2 Compare I Pet. 4:11; Acts 7:38. The phrase might refer to the new revelation given by Christ to His apostles (compare Heb. 1:2); but it seems more natural to refer it to the collected writings of the Old Testament which the Hebrew Christians failed to understand and so, through mistaken loyalty to the past, were in danger of apostasy.

And are become  -  kai gegonate 
As in Heb 5:11, implying degeneracy.  The time was when you needed the strong meat of the word.

Need of having…..] The change of expression from need having is most significant. 
Need having  describes the simple fact:  this phrase points out a fact which is the result of degeneracy.  The Hebrews had through their own neglect become young children again.

Milk  -  galaktos
Compare 1 Cor 3:2.  Answering to "rudiments."

In Rabbinic language young students were called ‘sucklings’. See Schoettgen on I Pet. 2:2. Comp. I Cor. 3:2, Isa. 28:9.'

Strong meat  -  stereas trofees 
Literally, "solid meat." 
More advanced doctrinal teaching. The explanation of the Melchizedek priesthood to which the writer was about to pass involved 

the exhibition for the first time of the opposition of the New Testament economy of salvation to that of the old,
and of the imperfection and abrogation of the Old Testament priesthood. 

To apprehend this consequence of New Testament revelation required alert and matured minds.  This is why he pauses to dwell on the sluggish mental and spiritual condition of his readers.

There has been much discussion as to what should be understood by these terms respectively (Of milk….of solid food.).  The early commentators generally supposed that 

‘milk’ the food of young converts, was the teachings on ‘the Lord’s:
'solid food’ was the more mysterious teaching on:

Westcott suggests the true explanation lies in Heb. 6:1.
The respective topics of the two stages of teaching are not spoken of as more or less essential or important.

‘milk’ That which corresponds with the ‘milk’ is in fact ‘the foundation.’  for the Young believer
'solid food’ That which corresponds with 'solid food' is in fact 'the structure.' for the Mature believer

The ‘milk’ and ‘solid food’ are appropriate to different periods of growth. The older Christian ought to be able to assimilate fresh and harder truths.


The consequences of the fault of the Hebrews are indicated by the statement of a general law. Each age has its proper food. But spiritual maturity comes through discipline and not through years only.

Useth  -  metechoon
Render it:  "partakes of."

The argument would have been clearer if the terms of the sentence had been inverted: 

For every one that is inexperienced….- as you show yourselves to be is fed with milk….’ 

But the writer prefers to suggest the fact that his readers are actually living in the most rudimentary stage of faith, ‘partaking of milk,’ and so condemning themselves of unfitness for deeper instruction.

Unskillful  -  apeiros 
Render it:  "unskilled or inexperienced."

In the word of righteousness  -  logou dikaiosunees
The genitive dikaiosunees , "of righteousness"  is combined in the New Testament with


The writer's thought was the word spoken by the Son (Heb 1:2);  the salvation which at first was spoken by the Lord (Heb 2:3).

That the Hebrews had brought themselves to this diet, is according to the figure a mere infant, and necessarily ignorant of the teachings and the problems of life.  Such a one therefore could not but be  without experience of the word of righteousness,  unprepared by past training to enter upon the discussion of the larger problems of Christian thought.

The absence of the definite articles shows that the main conception of the phrase lies in the character and not in the concrete realization  of the ‘word’.  It is not ‘the word of righteousness,’ the full exposition of the Christian Faith (2 Cor. 3:9), but teaching such as belongs to it, ‘teaching of righteousness,’ teaching which deals at once with the one source of righteousness in Christ, and the means by which man is enabled to be made partaker of it. The doctrine of Christ’s priestly work is based upon these conceptions, which belong to the ‘solid food’ of the mature believer.
Full-Grown Men  (5:14)

Next Section
Previous Section

Heb 5:14
But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

Greek Text according to G.R. Berry

...but for [the] fully grown is solid food, who on account of habit the senses exercised have for distinguishing good both and evil

Translation of the Greek text by Westcott

But solid food is for full-grown men, even those who in virtue of their state have their senses exercised to discern good and evil. 


Strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age  -   teleioon de estin hee sterea trofee
Render it: "solid food is for full-grown men." 

Milk is the food of babes; and he who is fed on milk – whether it be in the due order of nature or by lack of reasonable growth – is a babe. But solid food is for full-grown men.

The contrast between  babes  and  full-grown men  occurs again in Ephesians 4:13-16:
Eph 3:13-16
(13) until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 
(14) Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 
15) Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 
(16) From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.    NIV

See also I Corinthians 14:20
1 Cor 14:20
Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.  NIV

A man is said to be  fully grown  who has reached

the full maturity of his powers,
the full possession of his rights, 
his full age (teleioon)

As compared with the child, the full-grown man is fully grown 

(compare I Cor. 13:10; Gal. 4:3)

As compared with the fresh uninstructed convert, the disciplined and experienced Christian is  fully grown.
(I Cor. 14:20;2:6; Eph. 4:13; Phil. 3:15; Col. 1:28; 4:1`2; James 1:4).

There is also an ideal completeness answering to man’s constitution

in his power of self-control (James 3:2), 
in his love for his fellows (Matt. 5:48; compare Matt. 19:21). 

He is absolutely  fully grown  in whom each human faculty and gift has found a harmonious development and use, who has fulfilled the destiny of man by attaining the likeness of God  (Gen. 1:26).

In the same manner any object is  fully grown  which completely satisfies its ideal, so that all the constituent elements are found in it in perfect efficiency  (I John 4:18  perfect love.  James 1:4,17; compare Rom. 12:2).  
Law is framed for the guidance of man in the attainment of his proper end:  the perfect law therefore is  ‘the law of freedom,’ which completely corresponds with the unhindered fulfillment of his duty (James 1:25).

The Levitical Tabernacle was designed to represent,  under the conditions of earth,  the dwelling of God among men, offering a revelation of God and a way of approach to God: the heavenly Tabernacle through which Christ’s work is accomplished is ‘the greater and more perfect Tabernacle’ (Heb. 9:11), the divine archetype of the transitory copy.

The spiritual maturity of which the apostle speaks is the result of careful exercise. It belongs to those who have their senses  –  their different organs of spiritual perception  –  trained, in virtue of their moral state gained by long experience.

By reason of use  -  dia teen hexin 
For "use" render "habit."  It is the condition produced by past exercise.  Habit  expresses not the  process  but the result, the condition which has been produced by past exercise and not the separate acts following one on another.

By reason of  -  on account of  -   habit.  The state in which they are is the ground and pledge of the discipline of their powers.

Their senses  -  ta aistheeteeria
Organs of perception;  perceptive faculties of the mind. 
In the Septuagint see Jer 4:19 Macc. 2:22.

The discernment of ‘good and evil’ is here regarded in relation to the proper food of the soul, the discrimination of that which contributes to its due strengthening. The mature Christian has already gained the power which he can at once apply, a the occasion arises. This power comes through the discipline of use which shapes a stable character.

Good and evil
Vincent suggests:  Not moral good and evil,  but wholesome  (good)  and corrupt  (evil) doctrine. The implication is that the readers' condition is such as to prevent them from making this distinction.
(from Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

The duty of Christian progress: the perils of relapse  (6:1-8)

The apostle bases a general exhortation on the view which he has given of the spiritual degeneracy of the Hebrews (remembering that even though this was written to Christian Jews at Jerusalem around 70 AD, this still can be applied to the Christian Church today with its many problems of  lack of maturity). 
He first:

1.  (vv. 1-3) Enforces the duty of progress, both positively and negatively, and accepts the obligation for himself.
2.  (vv. 4-8) Then portrays the perils of relapse, pointing out the impossibility (from the human side) of repeating the past, and appealing to the stern teaching of nature.
Duty of Progress  (6:1-3)

Next Section
Previous Section

Heb 6:1-3
(1)  Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
(2)   Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
(3)   And this will we do, if God permit.

Greek Text according to G.R. Berry

Wherefore, having left the of the beginning of the Christ discourse, to the full growth we should go on; not again a foundation laying of repentance from dead works, and faith in God, of washings of [the] doctrine, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of [the] dead, and of judgment eternal; and this will we do, if indeed permit God.

Translation of the Greek text by Westcott

Wherefore leaving the word of the beginning of Christ (or the Christ, the Messiah), let us be borne on to perfection, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith upon God, of teaching (or a teaching) of baptisms and laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead and of eternal judgment.  And this will we do if God permit.

The succession of thoughts is simple and natural.

(v. 1)
(vv. 1,2)
(v. 3)
The general principle is first stated, with a clear enunciation of what must be done
And what must not be done
And then the writer accepts the consequence as decisive for his own teaching.

A question has been raised whether these verses contain an exhortation to the Hebrews or a declaration of the writer’s own purpose. The two ideas seem to be inseparable. 

1.  If the readers are to strain forward to a higher knowledge the writer must lead them. 
2.  If the writer is to aim at the exposition of deeper truth it must be with the conviction that his readers will endeavor to follow him. 

The words  having left  and  full grown  take their appropriate meanings in each case:

Thus he first identifies himself with those whom he addresses (we should go on)
And afterwards he indicates his own purpose definitely  (will we do

Vincent has:

Observe that 
"wherefore" is connected with the rebuke in Heb 5:11-12
"rebuke" is directly connected with the announcement of the doctrine of the Melchizedek priesthood of Christ .

The course of thought is as follows:  "Christ is a priest after the order of Melchizedek (Heb 5:10).  There is much to be said on this subject, and it is hard to explain, because you have become dull, and need elementary teaching,  whereas,  by reason of your long Christian standing,  you ought to be teachers yourselves (Heb 5:11-12).  For you all recognize the principle that baby food is for babes, and solid food only for men, whose powers have been trained by solid food only for men,  whose powers have been trained by habitual exercise (Heb 5:13-14).  Wherefore, in order that you may be aroused from your sluggishness and have your perceptions brought up to the matured condition which befits men in Christ, and in order that I may, at the same time, complete the development of my theme,  I propose that we together move forward to completion: I to the full exposition of the subject of Christ's high priesthood, and you to that maturity of discernment which becomes you. This will require us both to leave the rudimentary stage of teaching concerning Christ."

(from Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)


Leaving the principles of the doctrines of Christ  -  afentes ton tees archees tou Christou logon
Literally, "leaving the word of the beginning concerning Christ." 
Afentes  "leaving  or  dismissing"

does not imply ceasing to believe in elementary truths  or  to regard them as unimportant, 
but leaving them "as a builder leaves his foundation in erecting his building" (Bruce). 

"The word of the beginning of Christ"  is  "the rudiments of the beginning,"   Heb 5:12; 
That rudimentary view of Christ's person and office which unfolds into the doctrine of his priesthood. Up to this point the writer has shown only that the permanent elements of the old covenant remain and are exalted in Christ. The more difficult point, which it will require matured perception to grasp,  is that Christ's priesthood involves the entire abolition of the old covenant.

It is characteristic of the tone of the Epistle that the exhortation to progress is based directly on the stern criticism with precedes  (wherefore).  It is assumed that the position of inferiority occupied by the readers of the Epistle is not to be acquiesced in. The fact that they do for the moment hold it is an overwhelming reason for effort.

The necessary condition of progress is a ‘giving up.’   We hold what we have as a preparation for something more. At the same time all that is surrendered is incorporated in that which is afterwards gained.
The word  having left  has the sense of  ‘leaving’ 

In relation to the Hebrews   -  as applied to those who advance to a deeper knowledge
In relation to the writer  -  as applied to those who pass to a new subject.

Both senses are perfectly natural, and there is no confusion in the double application of the word. 
Compare Phil. 3:12-15

Phil 3:12-15Phil 3:12-15
(12)  Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 
(13)  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 
(14)  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 
(15)  All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.     NIV

In the remarkable phrase  the of the beginning of the Christ discourse  (Greek Text according to G.R. Berry),   is ‘the fundamental explanation of the fulfillment of the Messianic promises in Jesus of Nazareth.’ 

Let us go on unto perfection  -  epi teen teleioteeta feroometha
Literally,  "let us be borne on to completeness." 
The completeness is viewed as pertaining to both the writer and the readers.  He proposes to fully develop his theme: they are exhorted to strive for that full Christian manhood which will fit them to receive the fully-developed discussion.

The form of this positive charge is remarkable.  The thought is not primarily of personal effort, ‘let us go on,’  ‘ let us press’,  but of personnel surrender to an active influence. The power is working  (compare Heb. 1:3  and upholding all things):  we have only to yield ourselves to it  (compare Acts 27:15,17).

At the same time the influence and the surrender are continuous (we should go on) , and not (under this aspect) concentrated in one momentary crisis.  The goal of this forward movement is ‘perfection’,  that is for the readers the full maturity of spiritual growth,  and for the writer the teaching which corresponds with maturity. 
Compare John 3:12.

The writer does not  mean to say that his readers must build higher without having secured their foundation.  He assumes that the recognition of the paramount duty of progress will constrain them to do this at once in order that they may duly advance.

Not laying again the foundation  -  mee palin themelion kataballomenoi
Not explanatory of "leaving," etc. The following words, describing the elements of the foundation, - repentance, baptisms, etc. - simply illustrate in a general way the proposal to proceed to the exposition of the doctrine of Christ's priesthood.  The illustrative proposition is that:

A building is not completed by lingering at the foundation; 
And so Christian maturity is not to be attained by going back to subjects which belong to the earliest stage of Christian instruction.

He purposely selects for his illustration things which belong to the very initiation of Christian life.

The different elements in the ‘foundation’ appear to be distinguished in three groups:

1.  Repentance and Faith "Inward"
2.  Baptism and Laying on of hands "Outward"
3.  Resurrection and Judgment "Upward"

The history of the Acts shows how intimately each of these articles was involved in the first teaching of the Apostles: see Acts 2:38; 4:2,33;8:16.

Acts 2:38-39
(38) Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 
(39) The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-for all whom the Lord our God will call."    NIV
Acts 4:1-2
(1) The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people
(2) They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.     NIV
Acts 4:33-34
(33) With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all
(34) There were no needy persons    NIV
Acts 8:16-17
(16) because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus
(17) Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.     NIV

Repentance and Faith are not treated as abstract subjects of debate, but as personal attributes.  Each has its supreme object in human life

From dead works
Towards God
The Negative side
The Positive side

So it is that they are combined together in the first proclamation of the Gospel by Christ, Mark 1:15, and practically in the first proclamation of the Gospel by the Apostles, Acts 2:38. Compare Acts 20:21.
The old must be abandoned, the new must be grasped.

Dead works  -  nekroon ergoon 
Not sinful works in the ordinary sense of the term, but works without the element of life which comes through faith in the living God.  There is a sharp opposition,   therefore,  between dead works and faith.  They are contraries.  This truth must be one of the very first things expounded to a Jew embracing Christ.
(from Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

(James 2:17,26) Faith   is spoken of as  ‘dead’  when it is unfruitful in deed
(Rom. 7:8) Sin   is said to be ‘dead’ when it is not called into activity
(Rom. 8:10) The body   is already ‘dead’ as carrying in it the doom of death: it has lost the power of abiding continuance

Once more, men are said to be ‘dead’ in relation to sin in three ways:

1.  Dead unto sin
(…dead indeed unto sin..) 
when their connection with the principle of sin is broken de facto (v, 2  we who died)  
and they use de jure the power of the new life.
2.  Dead by transgressions and sins
as deprived of true life through the manifold instrumentality of sin
(in offences and sins   Ephesians 2:1,5)
3.  Dead in transgressions
as abiding in them and devoid of the capacity for real action 
(in offences   Colossians 2:13)

Compare also Matt. 8:22; Luke 9:60; 15:24,32; John 5:25; Eph. 5:14.

From the analogy of these usage’s it is possible to give a precise sense to the phrase ‘dead works’.  Dead works are not vaguely sins which lead to death,  but works devoid of that element which makes them truly works.  They have the  form  but not  the vital power  of works. There is but one spring of life,  and all which does not flow from it is ‘dead’.  All acts of a man in himself,  separated from God,  are ‘dead works’ (compare John 15:4). The first step in faith is to give up the selfish life which dead works represent.

Here the phrase has necessarily a special application.  The writer of the Epistle is thinking,  as it seems,  of all the works corresponding with the Levitical system,  not in their original institution,  but in their actual relation to the Gospel as established in the Christian society.  By the work of Christ, who fulfilled, and by fulfilling annulled, the Law, the element of life was withdrawn from these which had (so to speak) a provisional,  and only a provisional, vitality.  They became ‘dead works’.

Dead works’ present the essential character of the works in themselves.
Works of law’ present them in relation to an ideal, unattainable, standard. 
It follows therefore that ‘Repentance from dead works’ expresses that complete change of mind – of spiritual attitude – which leads the believer to abandon these works and seek some other support for life.


Doctrine of baptisms  -  baptismoon didacheen
There is a difference of reading:  
didacheen  - Westcott and Hort, Weiss
  -  Tischendorf, Revisers' Text of the New Testament. 
If the latter, the arrangement may be

(a) two distinct genitives "of teaching"  and  "of baptisms"
(b) didachees dependent on baptismoon "baptisms accompanied with teaching"
(c) didachees governing baptismoon  "teaching of baptisms."

The unusual order is probably to be explained by the emphasis gained for the characteristic contents of the teaching by placing of  washings first.  If  of doctrine  were placed first, this would appear to be coordinate with  of repentance  and  faith  rather than the elements which it includes.

The progress in the subjects of teaching is significant.  It reaches from the first scene of the Christian life to the last, as it is made known to us.  The two types of divine ordinances (baptism  and  laying on of hands) correspond broadly to the two characteristics of the Christian’s temper already noticed. 

Baptism -  marks the passage from an old state to a new
(the gift of life by the action of the Holy Spirit)
Laying on of Hands -  marks the arming for the fulfillment of the new service
(the endowment for the work of life by the gift of the Holy Spirit)

It appears to be of great importance to keep in close connection the  ‘ordination’  of the Christian priest, as corresponding provisions for the impartment of strength required for the fulfillment of the two essential forms of service.

The plural and the peculiar form seems to be used to include Christian Baptism with other lustral rites. The ‘teachings’ would naturally be directed to show their essential difference. Compare Acts 19:3,4 ; John 3:25 about purification

The meaning here is "lustral rites in general," and may include the baptism of John and Christian baptism. The teaching would cover all such rites, their relations and comparative significance, and it would be necessary in the case of a Jewish convert to Christianity who might not perceive, for example, any difference between Jewish lustrations and Christian baptism.

And of laying on of hands
‘The laying on of hands’ is the expressive symbol of a solemn blessing (Matt. 19:13), of the restoration or communication of strength for a definite work. The significance of the act is clearly marked in healings in the Gospels: Mk. 6:5 (compare 16:18); 8:23; Luke 4:40; 13:13.

It was regarded as natural by those who sought for help: Matt. 9:18 (comp. Mk. 5:23); Mk. 7:32. Compare also Acts 28:8.   In the record of the Acts ‘laying on of hands” appears as:

1. (Acts 8:17; 19:6) Confirmation  The complement of Baptism, the outward rite through which the gift of the Holy Spirit was normally made
2. (Acts 6:6) Ordination The form of the appointment of ‘the Seven” 
3. (Acts 13:3) Ordination The mode of separation for a special work

In the Epistles to Timothy it is used of ‘ordination’ and attributed

to ‘the presbytery’  (I Tim. 4:14; comp. 2 Tim. 1:6)
to Timothy himself  (I Tim. 5:22)
to Paul  (2 Tim. 1:6; comp. I Tim. 4:14)

Eternal judgment.  Both  resurrection  and  future judgment  were Jewish tenets requiring exposition to Jewish converts as regarded their relations to the same doctrines as taught by Christianity.  The resurrection of Christ as involving the resurrection of believers would,  of itself,  change the whole aspect of the doctrine of resurrection as held by a Jew. 

This doctrine was

denied by the Sadducees (Mark 12:18; Acts 23:8),  
ridiculed by philosophers; Acts 17:32
clearly taught by the Saviour, (John 5:28-29)

By the resurrection of the dead, however,  in the New Testament,  there is more intended than the resurrection of the "body."  The question about the resurrection included the whole inquiry about the future state, or whether man would live at all in the future world; compare the notes on Matt 22:23; Acts 23:6.  This is one of the most important subjects that can come before the human mind, and one on which man has felt more perplexity than any other. The belief of the resurrection of the dead is an elementary article in the system of Christianity.  It lies at the foundation of all our hopes. Christianity is designed to prepare us for a future state; and one of the first things, therefore, in the preparation, is to "assure" us there is a future state, and to tell us what it is. It is, moreover, a unique doctrine of Christianity. The belief of the resurrection is found in no other system of religion, nor is there a ray of light shed upon the future condition of man by any other scheme of philosophy or religion.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

Eternal Judgment
The phrase ‘eternal judgment’ may be compared with ‘eternal sin’ (Mark 3:29 eternal judgment).  Judgment describes the sentence and not the process. Compare John 9:39 note; Matt. 7:2; Acts 24:25; and contrast Heb. 9:27; 10:27 (judgment).

That there will be a judgment whose consequences will be eternal. It does not mean, of course, that the process of the judgment will be eternal, or that the judgment day will continue forever; but that the results or consequences of the decision of that day will continue for ever. There will be no appeal from the sentence, nor will there be any reversal of the judgment then pronounced. What is decided then will be determined forever. The approval of the righteous will fix their state eternally in heaven, and in like manner the condemnation of the wicked will fix their doom forever in hell. This doctrine was one of the earliest that was taught by the Saviour and his apostles, and is inculcated in the New Testament perhaps with more frequency than any other; see Matt 25; Acts 17:31. That the consequences or results of the judgment will be "eternal," is abundantly affirmed; see Matt 25:46; John 5:29; 2 Thess 1:9; Mark 9:45,48.       (from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)


And this will we do
The fulfillment of the Apostle’s purpose is not made in any way to depend on the condition of those whom he addresses.  His message has to be delivered.  Compare Ezekiel 2:5;  and contrast we should go on  in Heb. 6:1.

If God permit  -  eanper epitrepee ho Theos 
Pagan parallels are:  "if the gods will" (toon theoon thelontoon),  "the gods permitting"  (theoon epitrepontoon) and  "if the gods desire"  (theoon boulomenoon).

An ominous hint is conveyed that the spiritual dullness of the readers

prevent the writer from developing his theme 
prevent the readers from receiving his higher instruction

The issue is dependent on the power which God may impart to his teaching,  but his efforts may be thwarted by the impossibility of repentance on their part.  No such impossibility is imposed by God,  but it may reside in a moral condition which precludes the efficient action of the agencies which work for repentance,  so that God cannot permit the desired consequence to follow the word of teaching.
(from Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

Gift of Life  (6:4-8)

Next Section
Previous Section

Heb 6:4-6
(4)  For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
(5)  And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
(6)   If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
(7)  For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:
(8)  But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.

Greek Text according to G.R. Berry

For [it is] impossible, those once enlightened, and [who] tasted of the gift heavenly, and partakers became of [the] Spirit Holy, and [the] good tasted of God word and [the] works of power of [the] to come age,  and [who] fell away, again to renew to repentance, crucifying for themselves [as they do] the Son of God, and exposing [him] publicly.  For ground which drank the upon it often coming rain, and produces herbage fit for those for sake of whom also it is tilled, partakes of blessing from God;  but [that] bring forth thorns and thistles [is] rejected and a curse near to, of which the end [is] for burning.

Translation of the Greek text by Westcott

For in the case of those who were once for all enlightened, having both tasted of the heavenly gift and been made partakers of the Holy Spirit,  and who tasted the good word of God and the powers of a world to come,  and fell away, it is impossible again to renew them to repentance, seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.  For land that drinketh the rain that cometh oft upon it and then bringeth forth herb meet for them for whose sake it is also tilled, receiveth blessing from God;  but if it beareth thorns and thistles it is rejected and nigh unto a curse; whose end is for burning.

New International Version (NIV)

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.   Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.  But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned. 

The Apostle has given expression to a general charge in which he has joined his readers with himself (enlightened), but he makes one limitation to the efficacy of the work which he proposes.  He cannot do again what has been done once for all.  He cannot offer a fresh Gospel able to change the whole aspect of life and through, if the one Gospel has been received and afterwards rejected (vv. 4-6). Nature itself teaches that the divine gifts must be used fruitfully: they carry with them an inevitable responsibility (vv. 7,8).

The necessity of progress lies in the very nature of things. There can be no repetition of the beginning. The preacher cannot again renew to ‘repentance’, a complete change of the intellectual, moral, spiritual state. He must go on to the completion of his work. Those who fall away from the Faith, of which they have felt the power (of the Holy Spirit baptism), are as men who crucify ‘the Son of God afresh.’

Matt 12:31-32
(31)  And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 
(32)  Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.    NIV


For as touching those who were once enlightened…..it is impossible to renew them…
"It is indeed necessary,"  the Apostle seems to say,  "that I should add this reserve ‘if God will,’ for there is only one fatal obstacle to the fulfillment of my work."
It is impossible for man to renew to repentance those who have fallen from the Faith  (remember this is not talking about a Christian who makes a mistake and asks God to forgive him, but this is talking about a Jew who has seen the light of the glorious gospel of Christ and who turns his back on Christ to go back to the Law and discounts his experience with God).

The For [it is] impossible at the head of the sentence is singularly impressive.
This description of apostates is closely parallel with that given in the Apostolical Constitutions (vol. 6:18,2) of ‘godless, impenitent leaders of heresy’.

Those who were once enlightened  -  tous hapax footisthentas
Render it:  "once for all enlightened." 
Hapax is frequent in the epistle. Compare Heb 9:7,26-28; 10:2; 12:26-27. 
Indicating that the enlightenment ought to have sufficed to prevent them from falling away; not that it does not admit of repetition.   "Enlightened,"  through the revelation of God in Christ,  the true light,  and through the power of the Spirit. 

Footizein  "enlightened":

The Septuagint  is usually "to teach  or  instruct;"
see Ps. 118:130; 2 Kings 12:2; 17:27
Compare in the New Testament: John 1:9; Eph 1:18; 3:9; Heb 10:32
Chrysostom Entitled his 59th Homily, addressed to candidates for baptism, pros tous mellontas footizesthai, "to those who are about to be enlightened";  
and justified this name for baptism by this passage and Heb 10:32
The Peshitta Translates this passage, "who have once (for all) descended to baptism."
The Vulgate Has  eos qui semel illuminati sunt.  The object is placed before the verb in order to fix attention upon the variety and greatness of the gifts which have been received and cast away.  The enumeration of these abandoned blessings prepares for the statement of the impossibility of restoring them.
Erasmus Gives the correct explanation:  "Who once for all have left the darkness of their former life, having been enlightened by the gospel teaching." 

The word  'enlightened'  occurs again in Hebrews 10:32 having been enlightened.  The illumination both here and there is referred to the decisive moment when the light was apprehended in its glory (contrast Eph. 1:18  being enlightened).  Compare John 1:9; 2 Tim. 1:10; Eph. 3:9; (Rev. 21:23); 2 Cor. 4:4,6 (radiancy).

Inwardly  this crisis of illumination was marked by a reception of the knowledge of the truth (Heb. 10:26); and Outwardly  by the admission to Christian fellowship. 
Hence radiancy  and  enlightened  were commonly applied to Baptism from the time of Justin (ref. Apol. 1. Pg. 61,65; comp. Dial. C. 122) downwards.

Tasted of the heavenly gift  -  geusamenous tees dooreas tees epouraniou 
For geusamenous, "tasted,"  compare Heb 2:9. 
The meaning is,  "have consciously partaken of." 
Compare 1 Peter 2:3, and  "eateth,"  John 6:56.
The heavenly gift is the Holy Spirit. It is true that this is distinctly specified in the next clause, but the two clauses belong together.

Who tasted of the gift, the heavenly gift, the gift of the divine life brought by Christ and in Him: John 4:10. Compare Rom. 5:15,17; 8:32; 2 Cor. 9:15. 

John 4:10
Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."    NIV
John 4:13-14
Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."  NIV
Acts 2:38-39
Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-for all whom the Lord our God will call."   NIV
Acts 11:16-17
Then I remembered what the Lord had said: `John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'  So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?"    NIV

The gift is described as  ‘heavenly’  
Not in the sense that it comes from heaven  (even though it does),  
Or has the character of heaven,  
But that it is realized in heaven.   It belongs to a higher sphere of existence than earth.

(NOTE: The number and variety of explanations of  "the heavenly gift" are many: the Lord's Supper; regeneration in general, as distinguished from the special communication of the Spirit in baptism; persuasion of eternal life; righteousness; forgiveness of sins; peace which results from forgiveness; faith; the gospel; the heavenly light which produces the enlightenment; the abundant grace of Christianity.)

Partakers of the Holy Ghost  -  metochous pneumatos hagiou 
"Heavenly gift" emphasizes the "heavenly quality" of the gift. 
"The Holy Ghost" is the gift itself which possesses the heavenly quality.
(from Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

This twofold blessing describes

First the conscious possession of the principle of life
That which the believer has personally in himself:
Then the sense of fellowship in a vaster life
That which he has by partaking in something which has a far wider action

For gift see John 4:10. The word is used in the New testament only of spiritual gifts (? Rom. 5:17), and especially of the gift of the Holy Spirit


The fact of illumination including the two elements of

the communication of the divine  (personal)  life and 
the participation in the divine  (social)  life

is followed by the fact of individual apprehension of the beauty of the message of God and of the manifestations of the higher life.

The Christian life has been realized not only in its essential beginnings but in the fullness of its power. Both the blessings which are now put forward have become the objects of direct experience in their essential completeness (tasted….word….works of power).

The good word of God  -  kalon Theou reema
The gospel of Christ as preached.  Compare Heb 2:3. 
To "the word" are attached

"life" (Acts 5:20)
"spirit and life" (John 6:63)
"salvation" (Acts 11:14)
"cleansing" (Eph 5:26)
"the importation of the Spirit" (John 3:34; Acts 5:32; 10:44; Eph 6:17; Heb 2:4)

That of which experience was made was not the whole message of the Gospel , (the word of God), but some special utterance (of God word), such as that which marks the confession of faith, apprehended in its true character as an utterance of God: Rom. 10:8; Eph. 5:26; comp. Heb. 1:3; John 6:68.

Powers of the world to come  -  dunameis mellontos aioonos
Not foretastes of heavenly bliss. "The world to come" is the world of men under the new order which is to enter with the fulfillment of Christ's work. These powers are characteristic of that period, and in so far as that dispensation is inaugurated here and now, they assert and manifest themselves.
(from Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

Powers of a future age - powers, so to speak, of another world.

The age to come, which is not found elsewhere, serves also to fix attention on the character of the ‘age’ as one hitherto unrealized,  as distinguished from the conception of any particular future order  (comp. Eph. 2:7: Heb. 2:5 the habitable world which is to come).

It is significant that in the enumeration of the divine gifts received by those who are conceived as afterwards falling away there is no one which passes out of the individual.  All are gifts of power, of personal endowment.  There is no gift of love.  Under this aspect light falls upon the passage from Matt. 7:22;  I Cor. 13:1.

Matt 7:22-23
(22)  Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 
(23)  Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'      NIV

1 Cor 13:1
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.     NIV

Ezek 3:20
Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.    KJV

In this connection it will be noticed that it was the presence of love among the Hebrews which inspired the Apostle with confidence (Heb. 6:10).

The correlation of the four participles  (enlightened  -  and tasted  -  becametasted) i s by no means clear. 
Nor are the conjunctions decisive (and tasted  -  and partakers became  -  and good tasted….). 
The  "and" may:

(1) Introduce a new and distinct clause closely connected with enlightened and in a sense subordinate to it (who were once enlightened – 
and so tasted….and were made….)
(2) or it may be taken in connection with the and…..and…..which follow, so that the three clauses and tasted…..and partakers became…..and good tasted….., are coordinate with enlightened and explanatory of it  (who were once illuminated – 
having both tasted…and been made partakers…and tasted….)
(3) or it may be taken with the and which immediately follows, so that and tasted…and partakers…..became form the twofold explanation of enlightened while and tasted is an independent clause (who were once illuminated – 
having both tasted….and been made partakers….-and who tasted…..)

The choice between the three constructions will be decided by individual feeling as to the symmetry of expression and thought. On the whole the third arrangement seems to bring out most distinctly two fundamental aspects of the reception of the Christian Faith:

Illumination in respect to the divine action, and 
Experience in respect to the human appropriation.

The believer is illuminated by

The conscious sense of the gift of life, and 
Participation in the Spirit

The believer gains an individual sense of

The beauty (the intellectual grandeur) of revelation, and 
The powers of the new Order

The believer has been

(1) Illuminated (in regard of the divine action) in two respects
(a) By the consciousness of the reception of the gift of life (partakers became of Spirit)
(b) By participation in the power of a wider life (partakers became of Spirit Holy)
(2) And he has tasted (in regard of the individual experience)
(a) The beauty (intellectual grandeur) of revelation (good of God word)
(b) The spiritual powers of the new order (and works of power of to come age)


If they shall fall away  -  kai parapesontas
Literally,  "and having fallen away." 
Compare pesee, "fall,"  (Heb 4:11).  
Parapiptein  -  "to deviate, turn aside." Compare the Septuagint, Ezek 14:13; 15:8.

The catalogue of privileges is closed by the statement of apostasy:  those who were once for all enlightened….and fell away…. Each part of the picture is presented in its past completeness. Compare I John 2:19.

1 John 2:19
They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.  NIV

To renew them again  -  palin anakainizein

Again to renew to repentance again to renew them to repentance.  The use of the active voice limits the strict application of the words to human agency.  This is all that comes within the range of the writer’s argument.  And further the present (to renew) suggests continual effort.  Some divine work then may be equivalent to this renewing though not identical with it (Matt. 19:26). The change in such a case would not be a new birth, but a raising from the dead.

The end of this renewal is repenting, a complete change of mind consequent upon the apprehension of the true moral nature of things.  It follows necessarily that in this large sense there can be no second repenting (compare 6:1).  There may be,  through the gift of God,  a corresponding change,  a regaining of the lost view with the consequent restoration of the fullness of life,  but this is different from the freshness of the vision through which the life is first realized.  The popular idea of repentance,  by which it is limited to sorrow for the past,  has tended to obscure the thought here.

Seeing they crucify to themselves ... afresh  -  anastaurountas heautois
In the Roman Classical use of the word,  has only the meaning "up:" to nail "up" on the cross.
Here in the sense of "anew,"  an idea for which Classical writers had no occasion in connection with crucifying.
(from Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

Put him to an open shame  -  paradeigmatizontas
Occurs only here in the New Testament. Rarely in the Septuagint. Compare Num 25:4, "hang them up." 
From para  "beside,"   deiknunai  "to show or point out." 
To put something alongside of a thing by way of commending it to imitation or avoidance. 
"To make an example of;" thence, "to expose to public disgrace." 
Deigma  "example,"   Jude 7. 
Deigmatizein  "to make a public show or example,"   Matt 1:19; Col 2:15

The two words express the main idea under different aspects

The first (crucifying) marks specially the wrong done to Jesus Christ
The second (exposing publicly) the effect which is produced upon others in deterring them from the Faith

It is through faithlessness, by clinging to selfish prepossessions instead of yielding to divine guidance, that the Jews first crucified Jesus who is the Christ of God. Those who fall away practically repeat the act as often as their unbelief is shown, and by the notoriety of their apostasy put Him to open shame. 

How many times have we seen "great" ministers who had a following of millions, fall into sin and be exposed to the world.  This hurts both them and their ministry, but this also hurts others who might have believed their message and so turn their back on Jesus, who is the only hope of their salvation.  We weep for both the minister who failed God, and for those who have rejected Christ because of that failure.

Perhaps there is the further thought in the image of crucifixion that Christ dwells in the believer. To fall away from the faith is therefore to slay Him. Contrast Gal. 6:12-16.

Gal 6:12-16
(12)  Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. 
(13)  Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh. 
(14)  May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 
(15)  Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. 
(16)  Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God. 

The Son of God
The use of the title indicates the greatness and enormity of the offence. Compare Heb. 10:29; 4:14


The inevitableness of the punishment illustrated by a familiar fact of nature.

The earth  -  gee 
"The land."  Personified. Compare automatee hee gee  "the land of itself," Mark 4:28, see note.

Which drinketh in  -  hee piousa
Appropriates the heavenly gift of rain,  the richness of which is indicated by  "that cometh oft upon it."

To borrow an image from another form of God’s works – land that in the season drank the rain of His gift.
For the tense compare Heb. 9:2; Rom. 9:30; Phil. 3:12.

The harvest is prepared not by one gift of heaven,  but by many. The  Greek word  upon it  gives not only the idea of  ‘reaching to’  but adds also that of  extending over. Compare James 5:17; Mk. 4:26; Rev. 3:10. 

And produces
And then bringeth forth,  as the natural and proper fruit.  The personal word gives force and vividness to the application of the image. Compare James 1:15.

Herbs  -  botaneen
Grass, fodder.

Meet for them by whom it is dressed  -  eutheton ekeinois di' hous kai geoorgeitai
For eutheton, literally, "well placed,"  thence,  "fit or appropriate," see Luke 9:62; 14:35. 
Geoorgein, "to till the ground."  Render it: "tilled."  "Dress" is properly "to trim."  
The natural result of the ground's receiving and absorbing the rains is fruitfulness, which redounds to the benefit of those who cultivate it.

The laborious culture of the soil seems to be contrasted with its spontaneous fruitfulness.  In its truest state, as fulfilling the divine purpose, it meets (so to speak) man’s efforts for the service of man. Those ‘for whom’ it is cultivated are not the tillers themselves only,  nor yet the owners,  but men at large.
It is easy to see an allusion to the human field tilled for God’s glory: I Cor. 3:9.

Receiveth blessing from God  -  metalambanei eulogias apo tou Theou 
Render it: "partaketh of blessing."
The blessing is increased fruitfulness. Compare Matt 13:12; John 15:2.

Shares in blessing which is of wider range. This blessing may best be supposed to lie in increased fruitfulness: John 15:2.


But that which beareth thorns and briers  -  ekferousa de akanthas kai tribolous
Render it:  "but if it (the ground that receives the rain) bear thorns and thistles," etc. 
Akanthai,  "thorns,"  from [akee],  "a point." 
Tribolos,  from treis,  "three"  and belos,  "a dart";  having three darts or points.
A ball with sharp iron spikes, on three of which it rested, while the fourth projected upward, was called  tribulus  or tribolus,  or  caltrop.  These were scattered over the ground by Roman soldiers in order to impede the enemy's cavalry.  A kind of thorn or thistle,  a "land-caltrop", was called tribulus

Is rejected  -  adokimos 
Literally, "unapproved." See the note on "reprobate," Rom 1:28,

Whose end is to be burned  -   hees to telos eis kausin
Hees   "whose, of which,"  may be referred to  "cursing" - the end of which cursing: but better to the main subject, gee   "the land." 
Telos  is  "consummation"  rather than "termination." 
Eis kausin  -  literally, "unto burning."  Compare the Septuagint, Isa 40:16.  
The consummation of the cursed land is burning.  Compare John 15:6. 
The field of thorns and thistles is burned over and abandoned to barrenness.

Whose end  (i.e. the end of the land)  is for burning.  The rhythm of the whole sentence shows that the relative looks back to the main and not to the last antecedent.  The image here appears to represent utter desolation as of a land destroyed by volcanic forces. Compare Deut. 29:23.

The warning found a typical fulfillment in the overthrow of Jerusalem and the old Theocracy. 

The judgment on the land,  fruitful only for ill,   is given in three stages:

1. It is rejected such land cannot any longer be reckoned as land for fruitful service.
2. It is nigh unto a curse it presents the outward features of the curse (Gen. 3:17), whence the near presence of the curse is inferred.
3.  Its end is burning ‘rejected (Lat. Reproba) is found elsewhere in the New Testament only in Paul’s works: e.g. I Cor. 9:27; 2 Cor. 13:5.

The here is not of  "purification" by fire,  but of total destruction without possibility of redemption.  This illustration is meant to illustrate the end of the person who has tasted and experienced the knowledge and gifts of God through Jesus Christ, and chooses, knowingly and willfully, to turn away from that knowledge.

Nigh unto cursing  -  kataras engus
Enhancing the idea of "rejected."    It is exposed to the peril of abandonment to perpetual barrenness.  Compare Galatians 3:10.

The law of human life, the condemnation which follows from the neglect of blessings, is illustrated by an example from nature.  The Parables of the Lord and the usage of the prophets suggest this method of enforcing truth.  We spontaneously attribute will and responsibility ( drank, produces, of blessing partakes), even to the earth.  We look for certain results from certain general conditions;  and not only so but we regard certain results as naturally appropriate to certain objects. Comp. Mark 4:28 ( of itself ): Rom. 8:19.  The comparison between processes of agriculture and moral training is common in all literature.

Words of hope and encouragement  (6:9-12)

We Are Persuaded  (6:9-12)

Previous Section

The spiritual dullness and sluggishness of the Hebrews had not yet checked their active exercise of Christian love. In this the Apostle found the assurance of better things (6:9,10). And he grounded upon it his desire for a corresponding development of hope through long-suffering faith (6:11,12).
Thus in this brief section we have a view of:

(a) the Apostle’s confidence (6:9,10) The Apostle guards himself against the supposition that he classes the Hebrews among those who had ‘fallen away’. The presence of active love among them was a sure sign that God had not left them.
(b) the Apostle’s wish (6:11,12) The activity of practical love among the Hebrews fills the Apostle with the desire that the spirit from which this springs may find a wider work among them in the strengthening of hope and faith, through which alone the divine promises can be realized.
Heb 6:9-12
(9)    But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.
(10)  For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
(11) And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:
(12)  That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Greek Text according to G.R. Berry
But we are persuaded concerning you, beloved, better things, and [things] connected with salvation, if even thus we speak. For not unrighteous [is] God to forget your work and the labour of love which ye did shew to his name, having served to the saints and [still] serving. But we desire each of you the same to shew diligence to the full assurance of the hope unto [the] end; that not sluggish ye be, but imitators of those who through faith and long patience inherit the promises.

Translation of the Greek text by Westcott
But we are persuaded of you, beloved, better things and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak; for God is not unrighteous to forget your work and your love, which ye shewed toward His name in that ye ministered to the saints and still do minister. And we desire that each one of you may shew the same zeal that ye may attain unto the fullness of hope even to the end; in order that ye may not become sluggish, but imitators of them that through faith and long-suffering inherit the promises.

Heb 6:9-12  NIV
(9)   Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case-things that accompany salvation.
(10) God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.
(11) We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure.
(12) We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. 

The Apostle’s confidence


But we are persuaded……beloved…
But the writer refuses to believe that his readers will incur such a fate.
The order of the words is most significant

First   " but we are persuaded", which suggests a past conflict of feeling issuing in a settled judgment. Then follows the pronoun (concerning you ), which at once separates the Hebrews from the apostates (those who left Christ) who had been just described.
Then  " beloved"  (agapeetoia) a unique title of deep affection.

Better things and connected with salvation….] There are but two issues: a better and a worse. The comparative is not used for the positive, but plainly suggests the contrast (cf. Heb. 7:7; 11:40). For the word (better things ), which is characteristic of the Epistle, see Heb. 1:4 note.

We are persuaded  -  pepeismetha 
We are firmly convinced. The verb indicates a past hesitation overcome.

Better things  -  ta kreissona
The article gives a collective force,  the better  "state of things,"  the going on unto perfection (Heb 6:1). 

That accompany salvation  -  echomena sooterias
Echesthai  with a genitive is a common Greek idiom meaning  "to hold oneself to"  a person or thing;  hence, to be closely joined to it.  He is persuaded that they will give heed to all things which attend the work of salvation and will enjoy all that attaches to a saved condition.
(from Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)


For not unrighteous
The active exercise of love, which is itself a sign of the divine presence, carries with it the assurance of a divine reward. The deed and the result are regarded from the human side as cause and effect, service and reward, while essentially the one includes the other. The thought is of character shown in life, and not of any special works which have a merit of their own. The ‘reward’ is the power of more perfect service (v. 7).

The claim (so to speak) on God’s righteousness (comp. Rom. 3:5) is not an assertion of merit.  Its ground lies in a perfect trust in His Nature and Will as revealed to men within and without.  He is alike righteous when He rewards and when He punishes. 

The reward of God is the inherent issue of action (I John 1:9; Mark 9:41); and without Himself it is valueless (Matt. 20:14 go ).

I John 1:9   (Westcott)
How then, it may be asked, can consequences be done away?  If sin is something which clings to us in this way, how can it be ‘effaced’?  The answer is that the same attributes of God which lead to the punishment of the unrepentant lead to the forgiveness and cleaning of the penitent.  He meets frank confession with free blessing…..’

The sense of God’s righteousness is indeed a necessary condition of faith: Heb. 11:6.

To forget
Compare Lk. 12:6.  The thought is perfectly general, and must not be limited either to the past or to the future. We necessarily present the relation of God to men in terms of  man’s experience.

Your work and labor of love  -  tou ergou humoon kai tees agapees
Render it: "your work and the love which ye showed," etc.  The energy of life in its unity (contrast Heb. 10:24), of which love was the inspiration.

He is encouraged in this confidence by the fact that they are still as formerly engaged in Christian ministries.  The nature of ‘the work’ of the Hebrews is described in Heb. 10:32-34.

Heb 10:32-34
(32) Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. 
(33) Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated
(34) You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.   NIV

Which ye have shewed toward his name  -  hees enedeixasthe eis to onoma autou
The verb means, strictly, to show something in oneself; or  to show oneself in something. Similar praise is bestowed in Heb 10:32.  They have shown both love and work toward God's name.

The love was directed to God’s name, to God as He was made known in Christ, and so found its objects in those who were His children. The tense seems to point to some well known occasion.  The ‘name’ (compare Heb. 13:15) is specially mentioned  (rather than ‘towards Him’)  because the sonship of  believers is included in it; and the Hebrews had satisfied the claim on Christian love which lay in that common tie.

Having served to the saints…   See Heb. 10:32. Compare Rom. 15:25.

The thought is of service to
Christians as Christians Heb. 13:24 (3:1)
and not to
Christians as men. 
Love of the brethren (Heb. 13:1) is crowned at last by love (2 Pet. 1:7).

The Apostle’s wish


We desire  -  epithumoumen
Strongly, earnestly. Compare Matt 13:17; Luke 22:15. 
The manifestations just mentioned make the writer desire that they may exhibit more of the spirit which animates their beneficent works.

Action alone is not sufficient, nor can it be sustained without the inspiration of hope.
The word of strong personal – even passionate – desire, coveting (But we desire), is expressive of the intense longing of the writer.   Compare I Pet. 1:12; (I Tim. 3:1).

Each  -  hekaston 
He is concerned, not only for the body of believers, but for each individual member

The desire is individual
The expression of confidence is general  (v. 9)

In this way the force of  but we desire  is strengthened.  The writer’s wish goes beyond the general character of the body, or the perfection of some of the members of it.

The same to shew diligence 
The desire of the writer is that the Hebrews (who were Christians) should show the same zeal in other directions as they showed in works of love. 

To the full assurance of hope unto the end  -  pros teen pleeroforian tees elpidos achri telous
That is, we desire that each of you exhibit the same diligence to develop your hope,  which is in danger of failing,  into full assurance, unto the end of the present season of trial with its happy consummation. Compare Rom 8:24. It is practically the same whether we translate "full development" or "full assurance."  The two meanings coalesce. Hope develops into full assurance.

Their hope was chilled

It was essential that this should be rekindled ‘in regard to,’ ‘with a view to securingthe fullness of hope even to the end.

The word  full assurance is always taken passively in the New Testament. (‘fullness’ not ‘fulfilling’); and it seems better to understand it here of the full development  of hope than of the  full assurance  of hope (I Thess. 1:5).

Such zeal issuing in such growing hope must be exercised until the end of the present period of trial and discipline.

That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Slothful  -  noothroi
Or "sluggish," as you will become if you lose hope.

Followers  -  mimeetai
Render it: "imitators."

That not sluggish ye be, but imitators  -   The object of the Apostle’s desire was that the Hebrews might avoid an imminent peril, and strive after a great ideal.  If hope failed to have her perfect work the dullness which had already come over their powers of spiritual intelligence would extend to the whole of life  (5:11, sluggish….in hearing).

In this one definite respect they had ‘become’ dull  (5:11, to have become):  the danger was lest they should ‘become’ dull absolutely  (that not sluggish ye…). On the other hand if hope were kindled they would be enabled to imitate the heroes of faith (which the writer speaks of later on in Book 2 of Hebrews Chapter 11).

Faith and patience  -  pisteoos kai makrothumias
For "patience" render "longsuffering." 
Faith and longsuffering go together. Faith does not win its inheritance without persevering endurance; 
hence, longsuffering is not only presented as an independent quality, but is predicated of faith.

The model of Christian effort is offered by those who through the exercise of the characteristic graces of faith and long-suffering are even now realizing in a true sense the promises of God.

Faith is the essential principle through which the blessing is gained
Long-suffering marks the circumstance under which faith has to be maintained

The two graces of patience and faith are combined in Revelation 13:10 (14:12); James 1:3; 2 Thess. 1:4.

Inherit  -  kleeronomountoon
Notice the present participle, "are inheriting."  Their present faith and perseverance are now making for their final inheritance. Compare Eph 1:14.

So God bears with men who fail to fulfill His will (Rom. 2:4;9:22; I Tim. 1:16; I Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 3:15 of our Lord ); and in their place men seek to imitate His long-suffering: I Thess. 5:14; Gal. 5:22; Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12; 2 Tim. 4:2; James 5:7.

Believers even now enter on their inheritance (Heb. 4:3),  and with them the saints of old time enjoy the fulfillment of that for which they looked (Heb. 12:22).

These many promises are gathered up in the one promise of that salvation which Christ wrought and which awaits its complete accomplishment: v. 17; 9:15; 10:36; 11:39.

With this brings the end of Book one of Hebrews.  Be sure to read Book two of Hebrews to get the full picture. 

Paul the Learner.

(End of Book One)


Home First
Table of