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Vincent's Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent, [1886], at

Hebrews Chapter 12

Hebrews 12:1

heb 12:1

Therefore (τοιγαροῦν)

An emphatic particle, strongly affirming the facts on which the following exhortation is based.

We also are compassed (καὶ ἡμεῖς)

According to this the sense would be, those described in ch. 11 were compassed with a cloud of witnesses, and we also are so compassed. Wrong. The we also should be construed with let us run. "Therefore let us also (as they did) run our appointed race with patience."

Seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses (τοσοῦτον ἔχοντες περικείμενον ἡμῖν νέφος μαρτύρων)

Lit. having so great a cloud of witnesses lying around us. Νέφος cloud, N.T.o , means a great mass of cloud covering the entire visible space of the heavens, and therefore without definite form, or a single large mass in which definite outlines are not emphasized or distinguished. It thus differs from νεφέλη, which is a detached and sharply outlined cloud. Νέφος is therefore more appropriate to the author's image, which is that of a vast encompassing and overhanging mass. The use of cloud for a mass of living beings is familiar in poetry. Thus Homer, a cloud of footmen (Il. xxiii. 138): of Trojans (Il. xvi. 66). Themistocles, addressing the Athenians, says of the host of Xerxes, "we have had the fortune to save both ourselves and Greece by repelling so great a cloud of men" (Hdt. viii. 109). Spenser, F. Q. i. 1, 23:

"A cloud of cumbrous gnattes doe him molest."

Milton, Par. L. i. 340:

"A pitchy cloud of locusts."

Witnesses (μαρτύρων) does not mean spectators, but those who have born witness to the truth, as those enumerated in ch. 11. Yet the idea of spectators is implied, and is really the principal idea. The writer's picture is that of an arena in which the Christians whom he addresses are contending in a race, while the vast host of the heroes of faith who, after having born witness to the truth, have entered into their heavenly rests watches the contest from the encircling tiers of the arena, compassing and overhanging it like a cloud, filled with lively interest and sympathy, and lending heavenly aid. How striking the contrast of this conception with that of Kaulbach's familiar "Battle of the Huns," in which the slain warriors are depicted rising from the field and renewing the fight in the upper air with aggravated fury.

Weight (ὄγκον)

N.T.o , olxx. Lit. bulk, mass. Often in Class. Sometimes metaphorically of a person, dignity, importance, pretension: of a writer's style, loftiness, majesty, impressiveness. Rend. "encumbrance," according to the figure of the racer who puts away everything which may hinder his running. So the readers are exhorted to lay aside every worldly hindrance or embarrassment to their Christian career.

And the sin which doth so easily beset (καὶ τὴν εὐπερίστατον ἁμαρτίαν)

Καὶ adds to the general encumbrance a specific encumbrance or hindrance. Ἑυπερίστατος N.T.o , olxx, oClass. From εὐ readily, deftly, cleverly, and περιΐ̀στασθαι to place itself round. Hence, of a sin which readily or easily encircles and entangles the Christian runner, like a long, loose robe clinging to his limbs. Beset is a good rendering, meaning to surround. In earlier English especially of surrounding crowns, etc., with jewels. So Gower, Conf. Am. i. 127.

"With golde and riche stones beset."

Shakespeare, Two Gent. V. v. 3:

"The thicket is beset; he cannot 'scape."

The sin may be any evil propensity. The sin of unbelief naturally suggests itself here.

With patience (δἰ ὑπομονῆς)

Ὑπομονὴ includes both passive endurance and active persistence. See on Pe2 1:6, and see on Jam 5:7. For this use of δἰ with, see on Heb 9:11.

The race (τὸν ἀγῶνα)

Instead of a specific word for race (δρόμος), the general term contest is used. For προκείμενον set before, see on Heb 6:18.

Hebrews 12:2

heb 12:2

Looking (ἀφορῶντες)

Only here and Phi 2:28. In lxx see 4 Macc. 17:10. Looking away from everything which may distract. Comp. Phi 3:13, Phi 3:14, and ἀπέβλεπεν he had respect, lit. looked away, Heb 11:26. Wetstein cites Arrian, Epictet. ii. 19, 29: εἰς τὸν Θεὸν ἀφορῶντες ἐν παντὶ μικρῷ καὶ μεγάλῳ looking away unto God in everything small and great.


Having presented a long catalogue of witnesses under the old covenant, he now presents Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, and the supreme witness. See Rev 1:5; Rev 3:14; Ti1 6:13.

The author and finisher of our faith (τὸν τῆς πίστεως ἀρχηγὸν καὶ τελειωτὴν)

The A.V. is misleading, and narrows the scope of the passage. For author, rend. leader or captain, and see on Heb 2:10. For finisher, rend. perfecter. For our faith, rend. faith or the faith. Not our Christian faith, but faith absolutely, as exhibited in the whole range of believers from Abel to Christ. Christ cannot be called the author or originator of faith, since the faith here treated existed and worked before Christ. Christ is the leader or captain of faith, in that he is the perfecter of faith. In himself he furnished the perfect development, the supreme example of faith, and in virtue of this he is the leader of the whole believing host in all time. Notice the recurrence of the favorite idea of perfecting. Comp. Heb 2:10; Heb 5:9; Heb 6:1; Heb 7:11, Heb 7:19, Heb 7:28; Heb 9:9; Heb 10:1, Heb 10:14; Heb 11:40. Τελειωτής perfecter, N.T.o, olxx, oClass.

For the joy that was set before him (ἀντὶ τῆς προκειμένης αὐτῷ χαρᾶς)

Ἁντὶ in its usual sense, in exchange for. Προκειμένης lying before, present. The joy was the full, divine beatitude of his preincarnate life in the bosom of the Father; the glory which he had with God before the world was. In exchange for this he accepted the cross and the blame. The contrast is designed between the struggle which, for the present, is alone set before the readers (Heb 12:1), and the joy which was already present to Christ. The heroic character of his faith appears in his renouncing a joy already in possession in exchange for shame and death. The passage thus falls in with Phi 2:6-8.

The cross (σταυρὸν)

Comp. Phi 2:8. olxx. Originally an upright stake or pale. Σταυροῦν to drive down a stake; to crucify. Comp. the use of ξύλον wood or tree for the cross, Act 5:30; Act 10:39; Pe1 2:24. See on Luk 23:31.

The shame (αἰσχύνης)

Attendant upon a malefactor's death.

Is set down, etc.

See Heb 1:3, Heb 1:13; Heb 8:1; Heb 10:12. Notice the tenses: endured, aorist, completed: hath sat down, perfect, he remains seated and reigning.

Hebrews 12:3

heb 12:3

For consider (ἀναλογίσασθε γὰρ)

Γὰρ for introduces the reason for the exhortation to look unto Jesus. Look unto him, for a comparison with him will show you how much more he had to endure than you have. Ἁναλογίζεσθαι N.T.o. Comp. 3 Macc. 7:7. It means to reckon up; to consider in the way of comparison.

Contradiction of sinners (ὑπὸ τῶν ἁμαρτωλῶν ἀντιλογίαν)

Contradiction or gainsaying. See on Heb 6:16, and comp. Heb 7:7. See on gainsaying, Jde 1:11. Of sinners, ὑπὸ by, at the hands of.

Against himself (εἰς ἑαυτοὺς)

According to this text we should render "against themselves." Comp. Num 16:38. The explanation will then be that Christ endured the gainsaying of sinners, who, in opposing him, were enemies of their own souls. The reading ἑαυτοὺς however, is doubtful, and both Tischendorf and Weiss read ἑαυτὸν himself, which I prefer.

Lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds (ἵνα μὴ κάμητε ταῖς ψυχαῖς ὑμῶν ἐκλυόμενοι)

Rend. "that ye be not weary, fainting in your minds." Ἐκλύειν is to loosen, hence, to relax, exhaust. So often in lxx. See Deu 20:3; Jdg 8:15; Sa1 14:28. Comp. Mat 15:32; Mar 8:3; Gal 6:9.

Hebrews 12:4

heb 12:4

Unto blood (μέχρις αἵματος)

Your strife against sin has not entailed the shedding of your blood, as did that of many of the O.T. worthies, and of Jesus himself. See Heb 11:35, Heb 11:37. Of Jesus it is said, Phi 2:8, "he became obedient to the extent of death (μέχρι θανάτου). Comp. 2 Macc. 13:14.

Striving against sin (πρὸς τὴν ἁμαρτίαν ἀνταγωνιζόμενοι)

The verb N.T.o. lxx, 4 Macc. 17:14. Sin is personified.

Hebrews 12:5

heb 12:5

Ye have forgotten (ἐκλέλησθε)

N.T.o. Common in Class., olxx. The simple verb λανθάνειν means to escape notice; to be unseen or unknown. Middle and passive, to let a thing escape; forget. Some render interrogatively, "have ye forgotten?"

Speaketh unto you (ὑμῖν διαλέγεται)

The verb always in the sense of mutual converse or discussion. See Mar 9:34; Act 17:2; Act 18:19. Rend. "reasoneth with you."

My son, etc.

From Pro 3:11, Pro 3:12. Comp. Job 5:17.

Despise not (μὴ ὀλιγώρει)

N.T.o. lxx only in this passage. Quite often in Class. It means to make little of (ὀλίγος).

Chastening (παιδείας)

Mostly in Hebrews. See on Eph 6:4, and see on Ti2 3:16.

Hebrews 12:6

heb 12:6

He chasteneth (παιδεύει)

See on Luk 23:16.

Scourgeth (μαστιγοῖ)

Not very common, but found in all the four Gospels. Hebrews only here. Quite often in lxx.

Receiveth (παραδέχεται)

Admits to filial privileges: acknowledges as his own. Of receiving the word of God, Mar 4:20; of receiving delegates from a body, Act 15:4; of adopting or approving customs, Act 16:21.

Hebrews 12:7

heb 12:7

If ye endure chastening (εἰς παιδείαν ὑπομένετε)

Rend. "it is for chastening that ye endure." A.V. follows the reading of T. R. εἰ if. Do not faint at affliction. Its purpose is disciplinary. Παιδεία is here the end or result of discipline. In Heb 12:5 it is the process.

God dealeth with you as with sons (ὡς υἱοῖς ὑμῖν προσφέρεται ὁ θεὸς)

The verb means to bring to: often to bring an offering to the altar, as Mat 5:23, Mat 5:24; Mat 8:4. In the passive voice with the dative, to be born toward one; hence, to attack, assail, deal with, behave toward. See Thucyd. i. 140; Eurip. Cycl. 176; Hdt. vii. 6. The afflictive dealing of God with you is an evidence that you are sons.

What son is he whom the father, etc. (τίς υἰὸς)

Some interpreters render, "who is a son whom the father?" etc. That is, no one is a son who is without paternal chastening. The A.V. is better. The idea expressed by the other rendering appears in the next verse.

Hebrews 12:8

heb 12:8

Of which all are partakers (ἧς μετοχοι γεγόνασι πάντες)

Rend. "of which all have been made partakers." For μέτοχοι partakers see on Heb 3:14. All, that is, all sons of God.

Bastards (νόθοι)

N.T.o. See Wisd. 4:3. They might think that they would not suffer if they were really God's sons; whereas the reverse is the case. If they did not suffer, they would not be God's sons.

Hebrews 12:9

heb 12:9

Furthermore (εἷτα)

Everywhere else in N.T. this particle marks a succession of time or incident. See Mar 4:17; Mar 8:25; Luk 8:12; Co1 15:5, Co1 15:7. Here it introduces a new phase of the subject under discussion.

Fathers of our flesh (τοὺς μὲν τῆς σαρκὸς ἡμῶν πατέρας)

Up to this point the suffering of Christians has been explained by God's fatherly relation to them. Now the emphatic point is that their fathers, with whom God is compared, were only earthly, human parents. The phrase πατέρας τῆς σαρκὸς N.T.o , but kindred expressions are found Rom 4:1, Rom 9:3; Gal 4:29; Heb 2:14.

Which corrected (παιδευτὰς)

Lit. "we have had fathers of our flesh as chasteners." Only here and Rom 2:20. In lxx, Sir. 37:19; Hos 5:2; 4 Macc. 5:34; 9:6.

Shall we not much rather be in subjection (οὐ πολὺ μάλλον ὑποταγησόμεθα)

The comparison is between the respect paid to a fallible, human parent, which may grow out of the natural relation, or may be due to fear, and the complete subjection to the divine Father.

To the Father of spirits (τῷ πατρὶ τῶν πνευμάτων)

Contrasted with fathers of the flesh. Their relation to us is limited; his is universal. They are related to us on the fleshly side; he is the creator of our essential life. Our relation to him is on the side of our eternal being. Comp. Joh 4:23, Joh 4:24; Zac 12:1; Isa 57:16. The phrase N.T.o. Comp. lxx, Num 16:22; Num 27:16; Rev 22:6. Clement of Rome styles God the benefactor (εὐεργέτης) of spirits, the creator and overseer (κτίστης, ἐπίσκοπος) of every spirit, and the Lord (δεσπότης) of spirits. Ad Corinth. lix, lxiv.

And live (καὶ ζήσομεν)

Have true life; not limited to the future life. Comp. Joh 5:26; Joh 6:57; Jo1 5:11; Rev 11:11; Act 16:28; Rom 6:11; Rom 14:8; Jo1 4:9, and see on living God, Heb 3:12.

Hebrews 12:10

heb 12:10

Much difficulty and confusion have attached to the interpretation of this verse, growing out of: (a) the relations of the several clauses; (b) the meaning of for a few days, and how much is covered by it. The difficulties have been aggravated by the determination of commentators to treat the verse by itself, confining the relation of its clauses within its own limits, attempting to throw them into pairs, in which attempt none of them have succeeded, and entirely overlooking relations to the preceding verse.

For a few days (πρὸς ὀλίγας ἡμέρας)

This clause is directly related to be in subjection to the father of spirits and live, and points a contrast. On the one hand, subjection to the Father of spirits, the source of all life, has an eternal significance. Subjection to his fatherly discipline means, not only the everlasting life of the future, but present life, eternal in quality, developed even while the discipline is in progress. Subjection to the Father of spirits and life go together. On the other hand, the discipline of the human father is brief in duration, and its significance is confined to the present life. In other words, the offset to for a few days is in Heb 12:9. To read for a few days into the two latter clauses of the verse which describes the heavenly discipline, and to say that both the chastening of the earthly and of the heavenly father are of brief duration, is to introduce abruptly into a sharp contrast between the two disciplines a point of resemblance. The dominant idea in πρὸς is not mere duration, but duration as related to significance: that is to say, "for a few days" means, during just that space of time in which the chastisement had force and meaning. See, for instances, Luk 8:13; Joh 5:35; Th1 2:17; Co2 7:8. The few days can scarcely refer to the whole lifetime, since, even from the ancient point of view of the continuance of parental authority, parental discipline is not applied throughout the lifetime. It signifies rather the brief period of childhood and youth.

After their own pleasure (κατὰ τὸ δοκοῦν αὐτοῖς)

Better, as seemed good to them. The αὐτοῖς has a slightly emphatic force, as contrasted with a higher intelligence. The thought links itself with παιδευτὰς in Heb 12:9, and is explained by as seemed good to them, and is placed in contrast with subjection to the Father of spirits. The human parents were shortsighted, fallible, sometimes moved by passion rather than by sound judgment, and, therefore, often mistaken in their disciplinary methods. What seemed good to them was not always best for us. No such possibility of error attaches to the Father of spirits.

But he for our profit (ὁ δὲ ἐπὶ τὸ συμφέρον)

The contrast is with what is implied in as seemed good to them. The human parent may not have dealt with us to our profit. Συμφέρειν means to bring together: to collect or contribute in order to help: hence, to help or be profitable. Often impersonally, συμφέρει it is expedient, as Mat 5:29; Mat 18:6; Joh 11:50. The neuter participle, as here, advantage, profit, Co1 12:7; Co2 12:1. There is a backward reference to live, Heb 12:9, the result of subjection to the Father of spirits; and this is expanded and defined in the final clause, namely:

That we might be partakers of his holiness (εἰς το μεταλαβεῖν τῆς ἁγιότητος αὐτοῦ)

Lit. unto the partaking of his holiness. Ἑις marks the final purpose of chastening. Holiness is life. Shall we not be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For, in contrast with the temporary, faultful chastening of the human parent, which, at best, prepares for work and success in time and in worldly things, his chastening results in holiness and eternal life.

Hebrews 12:11

heb 12:11

No chastening for the present seemeth (πᾶσα μὲν παιδεία πρὸς μὲν τὸ παρὸν οὐ δοκεῖ)

Lit. all chastening - doth not seem. Πᾶσα of all sorts, divine and human. The A.V., by joining οὐ not to πᾶσα all, and rendering no chastisement, weakens the emphasis on the idea every kind of chastisement. Πρὸς μὲν τὸ παρὸν for the present. For the force of πρὸς see on Heb 12:10. Not merely during the present, but for the present regarded as the time in which its application is necessary and salutary. Μὲν indicates that the suffering present is to be offset by a fruitful future - but (δὲ) afterward.

To be joyous but grievous (χαρᾶς εἶναι ἀλλὰ λύπης)

Lit. to be of joy but of grief.

It yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness (καρπὸν εἰρηνικὸν ἀποδίδωσιν δικαιοσύνης)

Perhaps with a suggestion of recompense for the long-suffering and waiting, since ἀποδιδόναι often signifies "to give back." The phrase ἀποδιδόναι καρπὸν only here and Rev 22:2. Καρπὸν fruit with διδόναι to give, Mat 13:8; Mar 4:8 : with ποιεῖν to make or produce, often in Synoptic Gospels, as Mat 3:8, Mat 3:10; Mat 7:17; Luk 3:8; Luk 6:43, etc.: with φέρειν to bear, always and only in John, Joh 12:24; Joh 15:2, Joh 15:4, Joh 15:5, Joh 15:8, Joh 15:16 : with βλαστάνειν to bring forth, Jam 5:18. Ἑιρηνικός peaceable, in N.T. Only here and Jam 3:17, as an epithet of wisdom. Quite often in lxx of men, the heart, especially of words and sacrifices. The phrase καρπός εἰρηνικός peaceable fruit (omit the), N.T.o , olxx. The phrase fruit of righteousness, Phi 1:11; Jam 3:18, and lxx, Pro 3:9; Pro 11:30; Pro 13:2; Amo 6:13 : comp. Psa 1:3; Psa 57:11. The genitive of righteousness is explicative or appositional; fruit which consists in righteousness or is righteousness.

Unto them which are exercised thereby (τοῖς δἰ αὐτῆς γεγυμνασμένοις)

Who have been subjected to the severe discipline of suffering, and have patiently undergone it. For the verb see on Ti1 4:7. Rend. "it yieldeth peaceable fruit unto them that have been exercised thereby, even the fruit of righteousness." This preserves the Greek order, and puts righteousness in its proper, emphatic position.

Hebrews 12:12

heb 12:12

Wherefore (διὸ)

Because chastening is thus necessary, and serves for wholesome discipline, and issues in holiness.

Lift up (ἀνορθώσατε)

Found in Luk 13:13; Act 15:16 (citn). Occasionally in lxx. It signifies to set up, make, erect. In O.T. to establish, as a throne (Sa2 7:13, Sa2 7:16); a house (Sa2 7:26; Ch1 17:24); to raise up one who is down (Psa 145:9; Sir. 11:12). In Act 15:16, to build anew. By medical writers, to straighten; to set dislocated parts of the body. See Luk 13:13. The translation here should be more general: not lift up, which is inappropriate to paralyzed knees, but set right; brace. As falling in with the thought of this passage, comp. the lxx of Psalm 17:35, which, for the A.V. "thy gentleness hath made me great," gives "thy discipline hath established me or set me up." See also Psa 19:8.

The hands which hang down (τὰς παρειμένας χεῖρας)

Rend. the slackened or weakened hands. Comp. Isa 35:3; Sir. 25:23; Sa2 4:1. The verb παριέναι (only here and Luk 11:42) originally means to let pass, disregard, neglect; thence to relax, loosen. See Clem. Rom. Ad Corinth. xxxiv, who associates it with νωθρὸς slothful (comp. Heb 5:11).

And the feeble knees (καὶ τὰ παραλελυμένα γόνατα)

For feeble rend. palsied. See on Luk 5:18.

Hebrews 12:13

heb 12:13

Make straight paths for your feet (τροχιὰς ὀρθὰς ποιεῖτε τοῖς ποσὶν ὑμῶν)

After the lxx of Pro 4:26. The corresponding Hebrew means to tear, to cut into: hence to cut through as a path; to make firm or plain. Ὁρθός N.T. Only here and Act 14:10; commonly straight or upright, but also right, safe, happy. Comp. Pro 8:6; Pro 15:14; Pro 21:8. here, not in the sense of straight as distinguished from crooked, but more generally, right, plain, by implication even or smooth. Τροχιά N.T.o is literally a wheel-track (τροχός a wheel). Very rare in profane Greek. Τοῖς ποσὶν ὑμῶν "for your feet," not with. That is, exert yourselves to make the course clear for yourselves and your fellow Christians, so that there be no stumbling and laming.

That which is lame (τὸ χωλὸν)

Χωλός lame, halting, only in Synoptic Gospels and Acts. Mostly in the literal sense. Proverbial in Isa 33:23. Metaphorically here, and partly Mat 18:8; Mar 9:45. The verb χωλαίνειν to be lame or to make lame (not in N.T.) is used metaphorically in lxx, Psa 18:45; Kg1 18:21, where the A.V. "how long halt ye between two opinions" is ἕως πότε ὐμεῖς χωλανεῖτε ἐπ' ἀμφοτέραις ταῖς ἰγνύαις how long do ye go lame on both your hams? Τὸ χωλὸν here signifies the lame part or limb.

Be turned out of the way (ἐκτραπῇ)

Rend. "be put out of joint." The A.V. is according to the more usual meaning of the verb, which, in N.T., is confined, with this exception, to the Pastoral Epistles. See Ti1 1:6; Ti1 5:15; Ti2 4:4. lxx only Amo 5:8. But it is also used by medical writers in the passive, with the meaning to be wrenched or dislocated. There is nothing strange in the use of this word in a medical sense by our writer, whose work bears the stamp of Alexandria. The Greeks received their knowledge of surgery from the Egyptians, and mural paintings and documents, and even hieroglyphic symbols, prove that that people had attained remarkable proficiency in the science. Herodotus (ch. iii. 131) mentions a medical school at Cyrene in Africa, and says that the pupils of that school were regarded as the second best physicians in all Greece. At the time of Galen (163 a.d.) the medical school of Alexandria was the most famous in the world, and Galen himself studied there. Celsus (first half of the first century a.d.), in the 7th book of his treatise De Artibius, treats of surgical operations according to the views of the Alexandrian schools. The commonly accepted rendering of the A.V., besides giving a conception which is very tame, presents two incongruities: the association of going astray with lameness, and of healing with straying. The other rendering gives a lively and consistent image. Make the paths smooth and even, so that the lame limb be not dislocated by stones or pitfalls. Do everything to avoid aggravating the weakness of a fellow-Christian. Rather try to heal it. Τὸ χωλὸν may refer either to an individual or to a section of the church which is weak and vacillating.

Hebrews 12:14

heb 12:14

Follow peace (εἰρήνην διώκετε)

Comp. lxx, Psalm 23:14, and Rom 14:19; Pe1 3:11. The verb is used of the pursuit of moral and spiritual ends, Rom 9:30, Rom 9:31; Rom 12:13; Co1 14:1; Phi 3:12, Phi 3:14; Th1 5:15; Ti1 6:11; Ti2 2:22.

Holiness (ἁγιασμόν)

See on Rom 6:19.

Hebrews 12:15

heb 12:15

Looking diligently (ἐπισκοποῦντες)

A.V. gives diligently as the force of ἐπὶ; but ἐπὶ signifies direction rather than intensity. The idea is exercising oversight. Only here and Pe1 5:2.

Fail of (ὑστερῶν ἀπὸ)

Rend. "fall back from," implying a previous attainment. The present participle marks something in progress: "lest any one be falling back."

Root of bitterness (ῥίζα πικρίας)

From lxx, Deu 29:18. A bad man in the church. Ῥίζα of a person, 1 Macc. 1:10.

Springing up (ἄνω φύουσα)

The participle pictures the springing up in progress; the root gradually revealing its pernicious character.

Trouble (ἐνοχλῇ)

Only here and Luk 6:18, see note.

Many be defiled (μιανθῶσιν οἱ πολλοί)

Rend. "the many": the majority of the church. For the verb see on Joh 18:28.

Hebrews 12:16

heb 12:16

Fornicator (πόρνος)

In the literal sense, as always in N.T.

Profane person (βέβηλος)

See on Ti1 1:9.

As Esau

Only the epithet profane is applied to Esau, not fornicator.

For one morsel of meat (ἀντὶ βρώσεως μιᾶς)

Βρῶσις, lit. the act of eating, as Co1 8:4, Rom 14:17 : "one eating of meat." Sometimes corrosion, as Mat 6:19. Sometimes of that which is eaten, Joh 6:27, Joh 6:55.

Sold (ἀπέδετο)

The word occurs in the narrative of Gen 25:31, Gen 25:33, lxx. In N.T. often of discharging an obligation; paying back. To sell, Act 5:8; Act 7:9.

His birthright (τὰ πρωτοτοκία)

N.T.o, oClass. In this form only in the later Greek translations of the O.T. Πρωτοτοκεῖον, a very few times, almost all in this narrative.

Hebrews 12:17

heb 12:17

He found no place of repentance (μετανοίας γὰρ τόπον οὐχ εὗρεν)

The phrase place of repentance N.T.o. This does not mean that Esau was rendered incapable of repentance, which is clearly contradicted by what follows; nor that he was not able to persuade Isaac to change his mind and to recall the blessing already bestowed on Jacob and give it to him. This is unnatural, forced, and highly improbable. The words place of repentance mean an opportunity to repair by repenting. He found no way to reverse by repentance what he had done. The penalty could not be reversed in the nature of the case. This is clear from Isaac's words, Gen 27:33.

Sought it carefully (ἐκζητήσας)

See on Pe1 1:10. Comp. Heb 11:6. See also on questionings, Ti1 1:4.

Hebrews 12:18

heb 12:18

Following this allusion to Esau, and perhaps suggested by it, is a passage setting forth the privileges of the Christian birthright and of Christian citizenship in contrast with those under the old covenant.

The mount that might be touched and that burned with fire (ψηλαφωμένῳ καὶ κεκαυμένῳ πυρὶ)

Ὄρει mount is omitted by the best texts, but should be understood. Ψηλαφᾶν is rare in N.T. and lxx; fairly frequent in Class. Radically, it is akin to ψᾶν, to rub, wipe; hence feeling on the surface, as Gen 27:12, Gen 27:21, Gen 27:22, lxx: a touch which communicates only a superficial effect. It need not imply contact with an object at all, but simply the movement of the hands feeling after something. Hence often of the groping of the blind, as Deu 28:29; Isa 59:10; Job 5:14. Appropriate here as indicating mere superficial contact. The present participle that is being touched, means simply that the mountain was something material and tangible. The A.V. which might be touched, although not literally correct, conveys the true sense.

That burned with fire (κεκαυμένῳ πυρὶ)

See Exo 19:18; Deu 4:11; Deu 5:4; Deu 9:15. The participle is passive, set on fire; kindled with fire: not attributive of πυρὶ, enkindled fire.

Blackness, darkness, tempest (γνόφῳ, ζόφῳ, θυέλλῃ)

Γνόφος (N.T.o) and ζόφος (elsewhere only 2 Peter and Jude) belong to the same family. As distinguished from σκότος darkness that conceals, as opposed to light, these words signify half-darkness, gloom, nebulousness; as the darkness of evening or the gathering gloom of death. It is a darkness which does not entirely conceal color. Thus δνόφος, the earlier and poetic form of γνόφος, is used by Homer of water which appears dark against the underlying rock, or is tinged by mire. Γνόφος and σκότος appear together, Exo 10:22; Exo 14:20; Deu 4:11; Deu 5:22. Γνόφος alone, Exo 20:21. Ζόφος only in the later version of Symmachus. See on Joh 1:5. Θύελλα N.T.o , from θύειν to boil or foam. It is a brief, violent, sudden, destructive blast, sometimes working upward and carrying objects into the upper air; hence found with ἀείρειν to lift and ἀναρπάζειν to snatch up (see Hom. Od. xx. 63). It may also come from above and dash down to the ground (Hom. Il. xii. 253). Sometimes it indicates the mere force of the wind, as ἀνέμοιο θύελλα (Hom. Od. xii. 409; Il. vi. 346).

Hebrews 12:19

heb 12:19

Sound of a trumpet (σάλπιγγος ἤχῳ)

See Exo 19:16, Exo 19:19; Exo 20:18. Ηχος a noise, almost entirely in Luke and Acts. See Luk 4:37; Act 2:2; comp. lxx, Sa1 14:19. Of the roar of the waves, Luk 21:25; comp. lxx, Psalm 64:7; 76:17. A rumor or report, see on Luk 4:37, and comp. lxx, Sa1 4:16; Psa 9:6. It does not occur in the O.T. narrative of the giving of the law, where we have φωνή voice; see lxx, Exo 19:13, Exo 19:16, Exo 19:19; Exo 20:18. For φωνή σάλπιγγος voice of a trumpet in N.T., see Rev 1:10; Rev 4:1; Rev 8:13. Σάλπιγξ is a war-trumpet.

Voice of words (φωνῇ ῥημάτων)

See Exo 19:19; Deu 4:12; Deu 5:22, Deu 5:24, Deu 5:26.

Entreated (παρῃτήσαντο)

See on Ti1 4:7.

Be spoken to them any more (προστεθῆναι αὐτοῖς)

Lit. be added. See on Luk 3:19; see on Luk 20:11; see on Act 12:3. To them refers to the hearers, not to the things heard. Rend. "that no word more should be spoken unto them." Comp. Exo 20:19; Deu 5:25; Deu 18:16.

Hebrews 12:20

heb 12:20

That which was commanded (τὸ διαστελλόμενον)

See on Mar 7:36; see on Act 15:24.

Touch (θίγῃ)

Elsewhere in N.T. only Heb 11:28 and Col 2:21. lxx only Exo 19:12. It implies a touching or grasping which affects the object (comp. Heb 12:18 on ψηλαφᾶν). In Class. often of touching or handling some sacred object which may be desecrated by the one who lays hands on it. See Soph. Philoct. 667; Oed. Tyr. 891, 899. So here, the touch of the mountain was profanation.

Shall be stoned (λιθοβολήσεται)

Found in Matthew, Luke, and Acts. In lxx see Exo 19:13. Comp. ἐλιθάσθησαν, Heb 11:37. The correct text omits or thrust through with a dart.

Hebrews 12:21

heb 12:21

The sight (τὸ φανταζόμενον)

N.T.o. lxx, Wisd. 6:16; Sir. 31:5. Rend. "the appearance": that which was made to appear.

I exceedingly fear and quake (ἐκφοβός εἰμι καὶ ἔντρομος)

Lit. I am frightened away (or out) and trembling. Ἑκφοβός only here and Mar 9:6. Comp. lxx, Deu 9:19. Ἔντρομος, only Act 7:32; Act 16:29. Rare in lxx.

Hebrews 12:22

heb 12:22

The heavenly Jerusalem

See on Gal 4:26. The spiritual mountain and city where God dwells and reigns. Comp. Dante Inf. i. 128:

"Quivi e la sua cittade, e l'alto seggio."

Comp. Psa 2:6; Psa 48:2, Psa 48:3; Psa 50:2; Psa 78:68; Psa 110:2; Isa 18:7; Joe 2:32; Mic 4:1, Mic 4:2; Amo 1:2.

To an innumerable company of angels (μυριάσιν ἀγγέλων)

On this whole passage (Heb 12:22-24) it is to be observed that it is arranged in a series of clauses connected by καὶ. Accordingly μυριάσιν to myriads or tens of thousands stands by itself, and πανηγύρει festal assembly goes with ἀγγέλων angels. Μυριάς (see Luk 12:1; Act 19:19; Rev 5:11; quite often in lxx) is strictly the number ten thousand. In the plural, an innumerable multitude. So A.V. here. Rend. "to an innumerable multitude," placing a comma after μυριάσιν, and connecting of angels with the next clause. This use of μυριάσιν without a qualifying genitive is justified by numerous examples. See Gen 24:60; Deu 32:30; Deu 33:2; Sa1 18:7, Sa1 18:8; Psa 90:7; Sol 5:10; Dan 7:10; Dan 11:12; Sir. 47:6; 2 Macc. 8:20; Jde 1:14. Χιλιάδες thousands is used in the same way. See Isaiah 70:22; Dan 7:10.

Hebrews 12:23

heb 12:23

To the general assembly (πανηγύρει)

Const. with ἀγγέλων of angels, with comma after angels. Rend. "to a festal assembly of angels." This and the next clause show what the myriads consist of, - a host of angels and redeemed men. Πανήγυρις, N.T.o , is a gathering to celebrate a solemnity, as public games, etc.: a public, festal assembly. Frequently joined with ἑορτή feast. See Eze 47:11; Hos 2:11; Hos 9:5. The verb πανηγυρίζειν to celebrate or attend a public festival, to keep holiday, occurs occasionally in Class.: not in N.T.: lxx once, Isa 66:10. The festal assembly of angels maintains the contrast between the old and the new dispensation. The host of angels through whose ministration the law was given (see on Heb 2:2, and see on Gal 3:19) officiated at a scene of terror. Christian believers are now introduced to a festal host, surrounding the exalted Son of man, who has purged away sins, and is enthroned at God's right hand (Heb 1:3).

And church of the first-born which are written in heaven (καὶ ἐκκλησίᾳ πρωτοτόκων ἀπογεγραμμένων ἐν οὐρανοῖς)

This forms a distinct clause; "and to the church," etc. For ἐκκλησία assembly or church, see on Mat 16:18; see on Th1 1:1. The "myriads" embrace not only angels, but redeemed men, enrolled as citizens of the heavenly commonwealth, and entitled to the rights and privileges of first-born sons. Πρωτότοκος first-born is applied mostly to Christ in N.T. See Rom 8:29; Col 1:15, Col 1:18; Heb 1:6; Rev 1:5. Comp. Heb 11:28, and Luk 2:7. Properly applied to Christians by virtue of their union with Christ, "the first-born of all creation," "the first-born from the dead," as sharing his sonship and heirship. See Rom 8:14-17, Rom 8:29. The word also points to Christians as the true Israel of God. The analogy is suggested with the first-born of Israel, to whom peculiar sanctity attached, and whose consecration to himself God enjoined (Exo 13:1, Exo 13:11-16); and with the further application of the term first-born to Israel as a people, Exo 4:22. The way was thus prepared for its application to the Messiah. There seems, moreover, to be a clear reference to the case of Esau (Heb 12:16). Esau was the first-born of the twin sons of Isaac (Gen 25:25). He sold his birthright (πρωτοτοκία), and thus forfeited the privilege of the first-born. The assembly to which Christian believers are introduced is composed of those who have not thus parted with their birthright, but have retained the privileges of the first-born. The phrase "church of the first-born" includes all who have possessed and retained their heavenly birthright, living or dead, of both dispensations: the whole Israel of God, although it is quite likely that the Christian church may have been most prominent in the writer's thought.

Which are written in heaven (ἀπογεγραμμένων ἐν οὐρανοῖς)

Ἁπογράφειν, only here and Luk 2:1, Luk 2:3, Luk 2:5, means to write off or copy; to enter in a register the names, property, and income of men. Hence, ἀπογραφή an enrollment. See on Luk 2:1, Luk 2:2. Here, inscribed as members of the heavenly commonwealth; citizens of heaven; Phi 4:3; Rev 3:5; Rev 13:8, etc. See for the image, Exo 32:32; Psa 69:28; Isa 4:3; Dan 12:1; Luk 10:20.

To God the judge of all (κριτῇ θεῷ πάντων)

Rend. "a judge who is God of all." Comp. Dan 7:9 ff. God of all his first-born, of those whom he chastens, of all who are in filial relations with him under both covenants, and who, therefore, need not fear to draw near to him as judge.

Spirits of just men made perfect (πνεύμασι δικαίων)

The departed spirits of the righteous of both dispensations, who have completed their course after having undergone their earthly discipline. Notice again the idea of τελείωσις, not attained under the old covenant, but only through the work of Christ, the benefits of which the disembodied saints of the O.T. share with departed Christian believers. Comp. Heb 11:40.

Hebrews 12:24

heb 12:24

The mediator of the new covenant (διαθήκης νέας μεσίτῃ)

See Heb 7:22; Heb 8:6, Heb 8:8, Heb 8:9, Heb 8:10; Heb 9:15. For covenant, see on Heb 9:6 ff. For the new covenant, rend. a new covenant. Νέα new, only here applied to the covenant in N.T. The word elsewhere is καινή. For the distinction, see on Mat 26:29. It is better not to press the distinction, since νεός, in certain cases, clearly has the sense of quality rather than of time, as Co1 5:7; Col 3:10, and probably here, where to confine the sense to recent would seem to limit it unduly. In the light of all that the writer has said respecting the better quality of the Christian covenant, superseding the old, outworn, insufficient covenant, he may naturally be supposed to have had in mind something besides its mere recentness. Moreover, all through the contrast from Heb 12:18, the thought of earlier and later is not once touched, but only that of inferior and better; repellency and invitation; terrors and delights; fear and confidence. Note that the privilege of approaching the Mediator in person is emphasized.

Blood of sprinkling (αἵματι ῥαντισμοῦ)

Ῥαντισμός sprinkling only here and Pe1 1:2, see note. The phrase blood of sprinkling N.T.o. olxx, where we find ὕδωρ ῥαντισμοῦ water of sprinkling, Num 19:9, Num 19:13, Num 19:20, Num 19:21. For the verb ῥαντίζειν to sprinkle, see on Heb 9:13. The mention of blood naturally follows that of a covenant, since no covenant is ratified without blood (Heb 9:16). The phrase is sufficiently explained by Heb 9:16-22.

Speaketh better things (κρεῖττον λαλοῦντι)

For "better things" rend. "better." The blood is personified, and its voice is contrasted with that of Abel, whose blood cried from the ground for vengeance upon his murderer (Gen 4:10). The voice of Christ's blood calls for mercy and forgiveness.

Than that of Abel (παρὰ τὸν Ἄβελ)

Rend. "than Abel." Comp. Heb 11:4, where Abel himself speaks.

Hebrews 12:25

heb 12:25

See - refuse (βλέπετε - παραιτήσησθε)

For βλέπετε see see on Heb 3:12. For παραιτήσησθε refuse, see on Ti1 4:7.

Him that speaketh (τὸν λαλοῦντα)

Through his blood. Rend. "that is speaking," the participle denoting something that is going on.

They (ἐκεῖνοι)

The people of the Exodus. See Heb 4:2. The words from for if they to the end of the verse are parenthetical.

That spake on earth (ἐπὶ γῆς τὸν χρηματίζοντα)

For spake rend. warned, and see on Heb 8:5. Ἑπὶ upon earth should not be construed with refused nor warned, but with the whole clause. "If on earth they escaped not, refusing him that warned."

If we turn away (ἀποστρεφομενοι)

Lit. turning away. The present participle, possibly with reference to the relapse into Judaism as already in progress.

From him that speaketh from heaven (τὸν ἀπ' οὐρανῶν)

Lit. from him from the heavens. Supply as A.V. that speaketh Ὁ ἀπ' οὐρανοῦ or οὐρανῶν does not occur in N.T. elsewhere. Wherever ἀπ' οὐρ. appears, some act or thing is always named which proceeds from heaven. See Mat 24:29; Mar 8:11; Luk 9:54; Luk 17:29; Luk 21:11; Luk 22:43; Joh 6:38; Th1 1:7. The speaker from heaven is still God, but speaking through his Son. The thought connects itself with that of Christ carrying his blood into the heavenly sanctuary, from which he exerts his power on behalf of men. See Heb 9:12, Heb 9:24. This will be the clearer if we throw out the idea of Christ presenting his blood to an angry God as a propitiation, and interceding with him to pardon sin. See note on Heb 7:26.

Hebrews 12:26

heb 12:26

Whose voice (οὗ ἡ φωνὴ)

Connect, after the parenthesis, with speaketh better, etc., Heb 12:24.

Shook (ἐσάλευσεν)

See on Luk 21:26, and comp. σάλος tossing or swell of the sea, Luk 21:25. See Jdg 5:4; Psa 113:7.

He hath promised (ἐπήγγελται)

See Hag 2:6. The quotation is adapted from lxx, which reads: "Yet once will I shake the heaven and the earth and the sea and the dry land." The Hebrew for "yet once" reads "yet a little while." In Haggai's prophecy, he comforts the people for their sorrow that the second temple is so inferior to the first, predicting that Jehovah will move heaven and earth and sea and land, and will fill the house with his glory; and the glory of the latter house shall exceed that of the former. The discipline begun on Sinai will then have its consummation. This shaking of heaven and earth was typified by the material shaking at Sinai. The shaking predicted by the prophet is applied by our writer to the downfall of worldly powers before the kingdom of Christ, Heb 12:28; comp Heb 1:8, and see Zechariah 14.

Hebrews 12:27

heb 12:27

This word "yet once more" (τὸ δέ Ἔτι ἅπαξ)

Attention is called to this phrase as specially significant, because it indicates that the shaking prophesied by Haggai is to be final. It is to precede the new heaven and the new earth. Isa 65:17; Isa 66:22; Pe2 3:13; Rev 21:1.

Signifieth (δηλοῖ)

From δῆλος manifest, evident. To make manifest to the mind. Used of indications which lead the mind to conclusions about the origin or character of things. See Thucyd. i. 3; Aesch. Pers. 518. Comp. Co1 3:13; Heb 9:8; Pe1 1:11. Appropriate to prophetic revelations.

The removing (τὴν μετάθεσιν)

See on Heb 7:12. For the thought comp. Jo1 2:17; Co1 7:31.

As of things that are made (ὡς πεποιημένων)

Made indeed by God, who also makes the new heaven and the new earth (Isa 65:17; Isa 66:22), but made to pass away.

That the things which cannot be shaken may remain (ἵνα μείνῃ τὰ μὴ σαλευόμενα)

Whether we consider the things which are shaken, the old heavens and earth which pass away, or the new heaven and earth which cannot be shaken, both are πεποιημένα made by God. The writer perceives this, and therefore adds to as of things that are made a clause stating that they were made (by God himself) to pass away. Accordingly, ἵνα in order that is to be connected with πεποιημένων, after which the comma should be removed. Rend. "the removal of things made in order that they might await the things which are not shaken." Μένειν is used in this sense, await, Act 20:5, Act 20:23, and often in Class.

Hebrews 12:28

heb 12:28

Receiving a kingdom (βασιλείαν παραλαμβάνοντες)

The participle gives no note of time, but simply indicates the fact that Christians as such receive. The compounded preposition παρὰ adds to the idea of receiving that of transmission or communication. They receive from God. See Dan 7:18. Βασιλεία in the sense of the kingdom of Christ, in this epistle only here and Heb 1:8 (citn.). See on Mat 3:2; see on Luk 6:20.

Let us have grace (ἔχωμεν χάριν)

For grace rend. thankfulness. See Luk 17:9; Ti1 1:12; Ti2 1:3. Comp. Psa 50:23.

Acceptably (εὐαρέστως)

N.T.o, olxx. Ἑυαρεστεῖν to be well pleasing, Heb 11:5, Heb 11:6; Heb 13:16. For the adjective εὐάρεστος well-pleasing, see on Tit 2:9.

With reverence (μετὰ εὐλαβίας)

Rend. "with pious care." Reverence is translated from T. R. αἰδοῦς (see on Ti1 2:9). See on Heb 5:7; see on Heb 11:7.

Fear (δέους)

N.T.o. See 2 Macc. 3:17, 30; 12:22; 13:16; 15:23. Its fundamental idea is timid apprehension of danger; while φόβος is the terror which seizes one when the danger appears. Schmidt (Synon. 139, 10) illustrates happily. In a primitive forest an undefined sense of possible danger possesses one, and makes his heart beat quickly at every rustle of a leaf. This is δέος. When the voice and tread of a wild beast are distinctly heard close at hand, the δέος becomes φόβος. The phrase "with pious care and fear" is not explanatory of acceptably. These are to accompany (μετὰ) acceptable service. They do not imply a cringing or slavish feeling, but grow out of the warning in Heb 12:25, which runs through the two following verses, and implies that the catastrophe of Heb 12:27 will be final, leaving no more opportunity to retrieve the refusal of God's invitation to the privileges of the new covenant, or the relapse into the superseded economy of Judaism.

Hebrews 12:29

heb 12:29

For our God is a consuming fire (καὶ γὰρ ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν πῦρ καταναλίσκον)

See Exo 24:17; Deu 4:24; Deu 9:3; Mal 3:2; Mal 4:1. The verb N.T.o, a few times in lxx. Often in Class., especially Xenophon. Originally to use up, spend, lavish, as property: thence to consume as with fire. The simple verb ἀναλίσκειν to expend occurs Luk 9:54; Gal 5:15; Th2 2:8. Ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν is not our God as compared with the God of the Jews. He is the God of both covenants (see Heb 1:1, Heb 1:2, and notes); but though now revealed in Jesus Christ, and offering all the privileges of the new covenant (Heb 12:22-24), his anger burns against those who reject these privileges.

Hebrews 12:21

heb 12:21

Make you perfect (καταρτίσαι ὑμᾶς)

The verb is aptly chosen, since the readers are addressed as a body - the flock of Christ. The prayer is for the complete mutual adjustment of all the members of the flock into a perfected whole, fitted to do the perfect will of God. See on Pe1 5:10, and comp. Ti2 3:17, note; Co1 1:10, note; Co2 13:11, note. Ignatius uses the word of the church's being joined (κατηρτισμένοι) in common subjection to the Bishops and the Presbytery (Eph. ii), and of himself as one composed or settled into union (εἰς ἕνωσιν), that is, avoiding division in the church (Philad. viii); and again to the (Smyr. i) "I have perceived that ye are settled or compacted in faith immovable, being, as it were, nailed on the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ in flesh and in spirit."

In every good work (ἐν παντὶ ἀγαθῷ)

A.V. follows T.R. ἔργῳ work. Rend. "in every good thing."

To do his will (εἰς τὸ ποιῆσαι τὸ θέλημα αὐτοῦ)

To the end that you do, etc.

Working in you (ποιῶν ἐν ἡμῖν)

Rend. "in us." A.V. follows T.R. ὑμῖν you. For "working" rend. "doing." The word plays on ποιῆσαι to do. "Make you perfect to do his will, he doing in us what is well-pleasing in his sight."

That which is well-pleasing in his sight (τὸ αὐάρεστον ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ)

Comp. Eph 5:10. The phrase N.T.o. Ἑυάρεστον usually with the simple dative, as Rom 12:1; Rom 14:8; Eph 5:10; Phi 4:18. Comp. Jo1 3:22.

Next: Hebrews Chapter 13