Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 44: Hebrews, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
Hebrews Chapter 12:1-3
1. Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
1. Proinde nos quoque quum tanta circumdati simus nube testium, deposito omni onere et peccato quod nos circumstat, per patientiam curramus proposito nobis certamine;
2. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
2. Intuentes in principem et perfectorem fidei Iesum, qui pro guidio sibi proposito, pertulit crucem, ignominia contempta, et in dextera throni Dei consedit:
3. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
3. Ac reputate quis hic fuerit qui tantam in se sustinuit ab impiis contradictionem, ut ne fatigemini animabus vestris soluti.
1. Wherefore, seeing we also, etc. This conclusion is, as it were, an epilogue to the former chapter, by which he shows the end for which he gave a catalogue of the saints who excelled in faith under the Law, even that every one should be prepared to imitate them; and he calls a large multitude metaphorically a cloud, for he sets what is dense in opposition to what is thinly scattered. 242 Had they been a few in number, yet they ought to have roused us by their example; but as they were a vast throng, they ought more powerfully to stimulate us.
He says that we are so surrounded by this dense throng, that wherever we turn our eyes many examples of faith immediately meet us. The word witnesses I do not take in a general sense, as though he called them the martyrs of God, and I apply it to the case before us, as though he had said that faith is sufficiently proved by their testimony, so that no doubt ought to be entertained; for the virtues of the saints are so many testimonies to confirm us, that we, relying on them as our guides and associates, ought to go onward to God with more alacrity.
Let us lay aside every weight, or every burden, etc. As he refers to the likeness of a race, he bids us to be lightly equipped; for nothing more prevents haste than to be encumbered with burdens. Now there are various burdens which delay and impede our spiritual course, such as the love of this present life, the pleasures of the world, the lusts of the flesh, worldly cares, riches also and honors, and other things of this kind. Whosoever, then, would run in the course prescribed by Christ, must first disentangle himself from all these impediments, for we are already of ourselves more tardy than we ought to be, so no other causes of delay should be added.
We are not however bidden to cast away riches or other blessings of this life, except so far as they retard our course for Satan by these as by toils retains and impedes us.
Now, the metaphor of a race is often to be found in Scripture; but here it means not any kind of race, but a running contest, which is wont to call forth the greatest exertions. The import of what is said then is, that we are engaged in a contest, even in a race the most celebrated, that many witnesses stand around us, that the Son of God is the umpire who invites and exhorts us to secure the prize, and that therefore it would be most disgraceful for us to grow weary or inactive in the midst of our course. And at the same time the holy men whom he mentioned, are not only witnesses, but have been associates in the same race, who have beforehand shown the way to us; and yet he preferred calling them witnesses rather than runners, in order to intimate that they are not rivals, seeking to snatch from us the prize, but approves to applaud and hail our victory; and Christ also is not only the umpire, but also extends his hand to us, and supplies us with strength and energy; in short, he prepares and fits us to enter on our course, and by his power leads us on to the end of the race.
And the sin which does so easily beset us, or, stand around us, etc. This is the heaviest burden that impedes us. And he says that we are entangled, in order that we may know, that no one is fit to run except he has stripped off all toils and snares. He speaks not of outward, or, as they say, of actual sin, but of the very fountain, even concupiscence or lust, which so possesses every part of us, that we feel that we are on every side held by its snares. 243
Let us run with patience, etc. By this word patience, we are ever reminded of what the Apostle meant to be mainly regarded in faith, even that we are in spirit to seek the kingdom of God, which is invisible to the flesh, and exceeds all that our minds can comprehend; for they who are occupied in meditating on this kingdom can easily disregard all earthly things. He thus could not more effectually withdraw the Jews from their ceremonies, than by calling their attention to the real exercises of faith, by which they might learn that Christ’s kingdom is spiritual, and far superior to the elements of the world.
2. Who for the joy that was set before him, etc. Though the expression in Latin is somewhat ambiguous, yet according to the words in Greek the Apostle’s meaning is quite clear; for he intimates, that though it was free to Christ to exempt himself from all trouble and to lead a happy life, abounding in all good things, he yet underwent a death that was bitter, and in every way ignominious. For the expression, for joy, is the same as, instead of joy; and joy includes every kind of enjoyment. And he says, set before him, because the power of availing himself of this joy was possessed by Christ, had it so pleased him. At the same time if any one thinks that the preposition ἀντὶ denotes the final cause, I do not much object; then the meaning would be, that Christ refused not the death of the cross, because he saw its blessed issue. I still prefer the former exposition. 244
But he commends to us the patience of Christ on two accounts, because he endured a most bitter death, and because he despised shame. He then mentions the glorious end of his death, that the faithful might know that all the evils which they may endure will end in their salvation and glory, provided they follow Christ. So also says James, “Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and ye know the end.” (Jas 5:11.) Then the Apostle means that the end of our sufferings will be the same with those of Christ, according to what is said by Paul, “If we suffer with him, we shall also reign together.” (Ro 8:17.)
3. For consider him, etc. He enforces his exhortation by comparing Christ with us; for if the Son of God, whom it behaves all to adore, willingly underwent such severe conflicts, who of us should dare to refuse to submit with him to the same? For this one thought alone ought to be sufficient to conquer all temptations, that is, when we know that we are companions or associates of the Son of God, and that he, who was so far above us, willingly came down to our condition, in order that he might animate us by his own example; yea, it is thus that we gather courage, which would otherwise melt away, and turn as it were into despair.
Hebrews Chapter 12:4-8
4. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.
4. Nondum ad sanguinem restitistis adversus peccatum certando.
5. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
5. Et obliti estic exhortationis quae vobis tanquam filiis loquitur, Fili mi, ne disciplinam Domini negligas, et ne deficias dum ab eo argueris:
6. For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
6. Quem enim diligit Dominus castigat, flegallat omnem filium quem suscipit.
7. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
7. Si disciplinam sustinetis, Deus tanquam filiis offeertur: quis enim est filius quem pater non castiget?
8. But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
8. Quod si disciplinae expertes estis, cujus participes sunt omnes, spurii igitur estis, non filii.
4. Ye have not yet, resisted unto blood, etc. He proceeds farther, for he reminds us, that even when the ungodly persecute us for Christ’s sake, we are then contending against sin. Into this contest Christ could not enter, for he was pure and free from all sin; in this respect, however, we are unlike him, for sin always dwells in us, and afflictions serve to subdue and put it to flight.
In the first place we know that all the evils which are in the world, and especially death, proceed from sin; but this is not what the Apostle treats of; he only teaches us, that the persecutions which we endure for the Gospel’s sake, are on another account useful to us, even because they are remedies to destroy sin; for in this way God keeps us under the yoke of his discipline, lest our flesh should become wanton; he sometimes also thus checks the impetuous, and sometimes punishes our sins, that we may in future be more cautious. Whether then he applies remedies to our sins, or anticipates us before we sin, he thus exercises us in the conflict with sin, referred to by the Apostle. With this honor indeed the Son of God favors us, that he by no means regards what we suffer for his Gospel as a punishment for sin. It behooves us still to acknowledge what we hear from the Apostle in this place, that we so plead and defend the cause of Christ against the ungodly, that at the same time we are carrying on war with sin, our intestine enemy. Thus God’s grace towards us is twofold — the remedies he applies to heal our vices, he employs for the purpose of defending his gospel. 245
But let us bear in mind whom he is here addressing, even those who had joyfully suffered the loss of their goods and had endured many reproaches; and yet he charges them with sloth, because they were fainting half way in the contest, and were not going on strenuously to the end. There is therefore no reason for us to ask a discharge from the Lord, whatever service we may have performed; for Christ will have no discharged soldiers, but those who have conquered death itself.
5. And ye have forgotten, etc. I read the words as a question; for he asks, whether they had forgotten, intimating that it was not yet time to forget. But he enters here on the doctrine, that it is useful and needful for us to be disciplined by the cross; and he refers to the testimony of Solomon, which includes two parts; the first is, that we are not to reject the Lord’s correction; and in the second the reason is given, because the Lord loves those whom he chastises. 246 But as Solomon thus begins, my “Son”, the Apostle reminds us that we ought to be allured by so sweet and kind a word, as that this exhortation should wholly penetrate into our hearts. 247
Now Solomon’s argument is this: — If the scourges of God testify his love towards us, it is a shame that they should be regarded with dislike or hatred. For they who bear not to be chastised by God for their own salvation, yea, who reject a proof of his paternal kindness, must be extremely ungrateful.
6. For whom the Lord loveth, etc. This seems not to be a wellfounded reason; for God visits the elect as well as the reprobate indiscriminately, and his scourges manifest his wrath oftener than his love; and so the Scripture speaks, and experience confirms. But yet it is no wonder that when the godly are addressed, the effect of chastisements which they feel, is alone referred to. For however severe and angry a judge God may show himself towards the reprobate, whenever he punishes them; yet he has no other end in view as to the elect, but to promote their salvation; it is a demonstration of his paternal love. Besides, the reprobate, as they know not that they are governed by God’s hand, for the most part think that afflictions come by chance. As when a perverse youth, leaving his father’s house, wanders far away and becomes exhausted with hunger, cold, and other evils, he indeed suffers a just punishment for his folly, and learns by his sufferings the benefit of being obedient and submissive to his father, but yet he does not acknowledge this as a paternal chastisement; so is the case with the ungodly, who having in a manner removed themselves from God and his family, do not understand that God’s hand reaches to them.
Let us then remember that the taste of God’s love towards us cannot be had by us under chastisements, except we be fully persuaded that they are fatherly scourges by which he chastises us for our sins. No such thing can occur to the minds of the reprobate, for they are like fugitives. It may also be added, that judgment must begin at God’s house; though, then, he may strike aliens and domestics alike, he yet so puts forth his hand as to the latter as to show that they are the objects of his peculiar care. But the previous one is the true solution, even that every one who knows and is persuaded that he is chastised by God, must immediately be led to this thought, that he is chastised because he is loved by God. For when the faithful see that God interposes in their punishment, they perceive a sure pledge of his love, for unless he loved them he would not be solicitous about their salvation. Hence the Apostle concludes that God is offered as a Father to all who endure correction. For they who kick like restive horses, or obstinately resist, do not belong to this class of men. In a word, then, he teaches us that God’s corrections are then only paternal, when we obediently submit to him. 248
7. For what son is he, etc. He reasons from the common practice of men, that it is by no means right or meet that God’s children should be exempt from the discipline of the cross; for if no one is to be found among us, at least no prudent man and of a sound judgment, who does not correct his children — for without discipline they cannot be led to a right conduct — how much less will God neglect so necessary a remedy, who is the best and the wisest Father?
If any one raises an objection, and says that corrections of this kind cease among men as soon as children arrive at manhood: to this I answer, that as long as we live we are with regard to God no more than children, and that this is the reason why the rod should ever be applied to our backs. Hence the Apostle justly infers, that all who seek exemption from the cross do as it were withdraw themselves from the number of his children.
It hence follows that the benefit of adoption is not valued by us as it ought to be, and that the grace of God is wholly rejected when we seek to withdraw ourselves from his scourges; and this is what all they do who bear not their afflictions with patience. But why does he call those who refuse correction bastards rather than aliens? Even because he was addressing those who were members of the Church, and were on this account the children of God. He therefore intimates that the profession of Christ would be false and deceitful if they withdrew themselves from the discipline of the Father, and that they would thus become bastards, and be no more children. 249
Hebrews Chapter 12:9-11
9. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
9. Quum carnis nostrae patres habueerimus castigatores et reveriti simus illos, annon multo magic sujjiciemur patri spirituum et vivemus?
10. For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.
10. Et illi quidem ad paucos dies pro suo arbitratu nos castigarunt; hic vero ad utilitatem, ut nobis impertiat sanctimoniam suam.
11. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
11. Porro omnis castigation in praesens non videtur gaudii esse sed tristitiae; in posterum tamen fructum pacatum justitiae affert exercitatis.
9. Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh, etc. This comparison has several parts: the first is, that if we showed so much reverence to the fathers from whom we have descended according to the flesh, as to submit to their discipline, much more honor is due to God who is our spiritual Father; another is, that the discipline which fathers use as to their children is only useful for the present life, but that God looks farther, having in view to prepare us for an eternal life; and the third is, that men chastise their children as it seems good to them, but that God regulates his discipline in the best manner, and with perfect wisdom, so that there is nothing in it but what is duly ordered. He then, in the first place, makes this difference between God and men, that they are the fathers of the flesh, but he of the spirit; and on this difference he enlarges by comparing the flesh with the spirit.
But it may be asked, Is not God the Father also of our flesh? For it is not without reason that Job mentions the creation of men as one of the chief miracles of God: hence on this account also he is justly entitled to the name of Father. Were we to say that he is called the Father of spirits, because he alone creates and regenerates our souls without the aid of man, it might be said again that Paul glories in being the spiritual father of those whom he had begotten in Christ by the Gospel. To these things I reply, that God is the Father of the body as well as of the soul, and, properly speaking, he is indeed the only true Father; and that this name is only as it were by way of concession applied to men, both in regard of the body and of the soul. As, however, in creating souls, he does use the instrumentality of men, and as he renews them in a wonderful manner by the power of the Spirit, he is peculiarly called, by way of eminence, the Father of spirits. 250
When he says, and we gave them reverence, he refers to a feeling implanted in us by nature, so that we honor parents even when they treat us harshly. By saying, in subjection to the Father of spirits, he intimates that it is but just to concede to God the authority he has over us by the right of a Father. By saying, and live, he points out the cause or the end, for the conjunction “and” is to be rendered that, — “that we may live.” Now we are reminded by this word live, that there is nothing more ruinous to us than to refuse to surrender ourselves in obedience to God.
10. For they verily for a few days, etc. The second amplification of the subject, as I have said, is that God’s chastisements are appointed to subdue and mortify our flesh, so that we may be renewed for a celestial life. It hence appears that the fruit or benefit is to be perpetual; but such a benefit cannot be expected from men, since their discipline refers to civil life, and therefore properly belongs to the present world. It hence follows that these chastisements bring far greater benefit, as the spiritual holiness conferred by God far exceeds the advantages which belong to the body.
Were any one to object and say, that it is the duty of parents to instruct their children in the fear and worship of God, and that therefore their discipline seems not to be confined to so short a time; to this the answer is, that this is indeed true, but the Apostle speaks here of domestic life, as we are wont commonly to speak of civil government; for though it belongs to magistrates to defend religion, yet we say that their office is confined to the limits of this life, for otherwise the civil and earthly government cannot be distinguished from the spiritual kingdom of Christ.
Moreover when God’s chastisements are said to be profitable to make men partners of his holiness, this is not to be so taken as though they made us really holy, but that they are helps to sanctify us, for by them the Lord exercises us in the work of mortifying the flesh.
11. Now no chastening, etc. This he adds, lest we should measure God’s chastisements by our present feelings; for he shows that we are like children who dread the rod and shun it as much as they can, for owing to their age they cannot yet judge how useful it may be to them. The object, then, of this admonition is, that chastisements cannot be estimated aright if judged according to what the flesh feels under them, and that therefore we must fix our eyes on the end: we shall thus receive the peaceable fruit of righteousness. And by the fruit of righteousness he means the fear of the Lord and a godly and holy life, of which the cross is the teacher. He calls it peaceable, because in adversities we are alarmed and disquieted, being tempted by impatience, which is always noisy and restless; but being chastened, we acknowledge with a resigned mind how profitable did that become to us which before seemed bitter and grievous. 251
Hebrews Chapter 12:12-17
12. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;
12. Quare manus remissas et genua soluta surrigite;
13. And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.
13. Et rectasfacite vias pedibus vestris, ne claudicatio aberret, sed magis sanetur.
14. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
14. Pacem sectamini cum omnibus et sanctimonium, sine qua nemo videbit Dominum:
15. Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;
15. Curam agentes ne quis deficiat a grtia Dei, no quae radix amaritudinis sursum pullulans obturbet et per eam inquinentur multi;
16. Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.
16. Ne quis scortator vel profanus, ut Esau, quo pro uno edulio vendidit primogenituram suam.
17. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.
17. Nostis enim quod quum postea vellet haeriditariam obtinere benedictionem, reprobatus sit, poenitentae enim locum non invenit, etiamsi cum lachrymis quaesiisset eam.
12. Wherefore, lift up, etc. After having taught us that God regards our salvation when he chastises us, he then exhorts us to exert ourselves vigorously; for nothing will more weaken us and more fully discourage us than through the influence of a false notion to have no taste of God’s grace in adversities. There is, therefore, nothing more efficacious to raise us up than the intimation that God is present with us, even when he afflicts us, and is solicitous about our welfare. But in these words he not only exhorts us to bear afflictions with courage, but also reminds us that there is no reason for us to be supine and slothful in performing our duties; for we find more than we ought by experience how much the fear of the cross prevents us to serve God as it behooves us. Many would be willing to profess their faith, but as they fear persecution, hands and feet are wanting to that pious feeling of the mind. Many would be ready to contend for God’s glory, to defend what is good and just in private and in public, and to do their duties to God and their brethren; but as danger arises from the hatred of the wicked, as they see that troubles, and those many, are prepared for them, they rest idly with their hands as it were folded.
Were then this extreme fear of the cross removed, and were we prepared for endurance, there would be nothing in us not fitted and adapted for the work of doing God’s will. This, then, is what the Apostle means here, “You have your hands,” he says, “hanging down and your knees feeble, because ye know not what real consolation there is in adversity; hence ye are slow to do your duty: but now as I have shown how useful to you is the discipline of the cross, this doctrine ought to put new vigor in all your members, so that you may be ready and prompt, both with your hands and feet, to follow the call of God.” Moreover, he seems to allude to a passage in Isaiah, (Isa 35:3;) and there the Prophet commands godly teachers to strengthen trembling knees and weak hands by giving them the hope of favor; but the Apostle bids all the faithful to do this; for since this is the benefit of the consolation which God offers to us, then as it is the office of a teacher to strengthen the whole Church, so every one ought, by applying especially the doctrine to his own case, to strengthen and animate himself. 252
13. And make straight paths, etc. He has been hitherto teaching us to lean on God’s consolations, so that we may be bold and strenuous in doing what is right, as his help is our only support; he now adds to this another thing, even that we ought to walk prudently and to keep to a straight course; for indiscreet ardor is no less an evil than inactivity and softness. At the same time this straightness of the way which he recommends, is preserved when a man’s mind is superior to every fear, and regards only what God approves; for fear is ever very ingenious in finding out byways. As then we seek circuitous courses, when entangled by sinful fear; so on the other hand every one who has prepared himself to endure evils, goes on in a straight way wheresoever the Lord calls him, and turns not either to the right hand or to the left. In short, he prescribes to us this rule for our conduct, — that we are to guide our steps according to God’s will, so that neither fear nor the allurements of the world, nor any other things, may draw us away from it. 253
Hence be adds, Lest that which is lame be turned out of the way, or, lest halting should go astray; that is, lest by halting ye should at length depart far from the way. He calls it halting, when men’s minds fluctuate, and they devote not themselves sincerely to God. So spoke Elijah to the doubleminded who blended their own superstitions with God’s worship, “How long halt ye between two opinions?” (1Ki 18:21.) And it is a befitting way of speaking, for it is a worse thing to go astray than to halt. Nor they who begin to halt do not immediately turn from the right way, but by degrees depart from it more and more, until having been led into a diverse path so they remain entangled in the midst of Satan’s labyrinth. Hence the apostle warns us to strive for the removal of this halting in due time; for if we give way to it, it will at length turn us far away from God.
The words may indeed be rendered, “Lest halting should grow worse,” or turn aside; but the meaning would remain the same; for what the Apostle intimates is, that those who keep not a straight course, but gradually though carelessly turn here and there, become eventually wholly alienated from God. 254
14. Follow peace, etc. Men are so born that they all seem to shun peace; for all study their own interest, seek their own ways, and care not to accommodate themselves to the ways of others. Unless then we strenuously labor to follow peace, we shall never retain it; for many things will happen daily affording occasion for discords. This is the reason why the Apostle bids us to follow peace, as though he had said, that it ought not only to be cultivated as far as it may be convenient to us, but that we ought to strive with all care to keep it among us. And this cannot be done unless we forget many offenses and exercise mutual forbearance. 255
As however peace cannot be maintained with the ungodly except on the condition of approving of their vices and wickedness, the Apostle immediately adds, that holiness is to be followed together with peace; as though he commended peace to us with this exception, that the friendship of the wicked is not to be allowed to defile or pollute us; for holiness has an especial regard to God. Though then the whole world were roused to a blazing war, yet holiness is not to be forsaken, for it is the bond of our union with God. In short, let us quietly cherish concord with men, but only, according to the proverb, as far as conscience allows.
He declares, that without holiness no man shall see the Lord; for with no other eyes shall we see God than those which have been renewed after his image.
15. Looking diligently, or, taking care, or, attentively providing, etc. 256 By these words he intimates that it is easy to fall away from the grace of God; for it is not without reason that attention is required, because as soon as Satan sees us secure or remiss, he instantly circumvents us. We have, in short, need of striving and vigilance, if we would persevere in the grace of God.
Moreover, under the word grace, he includes our whole vocation. If any one hence infers that the grace of God is not efficacious, except we of our own selves cooperate with it, the argument is frivolous. We know how great is the slothfulness of our flesh; it therefore wants continual incentives; but when the Lord stimulates us by warning and exhortation, he at the same time moves and stirs up our hearts, that his exhortations may not be in vain, or pass away without effect. Then from precepts and exhortations we are not to infer what man can do of himself, or what is the power of freewill; for doubtless the attention or diligence which the Apostle requires here is the gift of God.
Lest any root, etc. I doubt not but that he refers to a passage written by Moses in De 29:18; for after having promulgated the Law, Moses exhorted the people to beware, lest any root germinating should bear gall and wormwood among them. He afterwards explained what he meant, that is, lest any one, felicitating himself in sin, and like the drunken who are wont to excite thirst, stimulating sinful desires, should bring on a contempt of God through the alluring of hope of impunity. The same is what the Apostle speaks of now; for he foretells what will take place, that is, if we suffer such a root to grow, it will corrupt and defile many; he not only bids every one to irradiate such a pest from their hearts, but he also forbids them to allow it to grow among them. It cannot be indeed but that these roots will ever be found in the Church, for hypocrites and the ungodly are always mixed with the good; but when they spring up they ought to be cut down, lest by growing they should choke the good seed.
He mentions bitterness for what Moses calls gall and wormwood; but both meant to express a root that is poisonous and deadly. Since then it is so fatal an evil, with more earnest effort it behooves us to check it, lest it should rise and creep farther. 257
16. Lest there be any fornicator or profane person, etc. As he had before exhorted them to holiness, so now, that he might reclaim them from defilements opposed to it, he mentions a particular kind of defilement, and says, “Lest there be any fornicator.” But he immediately comes to what is general, and adds, “or a profane person;” for it is the term that is strictly contrary to holiness. The Lord calls us for this end, that he may make us holy unto obedience: this is done when we renounce the world; but any one who so delights in his own filth that he continually rolls in it, profanes himself. We may at the same time regard the profane as meaning generally all those who do not value God’s grace so much as to seek it and despise the world. But as men become profane in various ways, the more earnest we ought to strive lest an opening be left for Satan to defile us with his corruptions. And as there is no true religion without holiness, we ought to make progress continually in the fear of God, in the mortifying of the flesh, and in the whole practice of piety; for as we are profane until we separate from the world so if we roll again in its filth we renounce holiness.
As Esau, etc. This example may be viewed as an exposition of the word profane; for when Esau set more value on one meal than on his birthright, he lost his blessing. Profane then are all they in whom the love of the world so reigns and prevails that they forget heaven: as is the case with those who are led away by ambition, or become fond of money or of wealth, or give themselves up to gluttony, or become entangled in any other pleasures; they allow in their thoughts and cares no place, or it may be the last place, to the spiritual kingdom of Christ.
Most appropriate then is this example; for when the Lord designs to set forth the power of that love which he has for his people, he calls all those whom he has called to the hope of eternal life his firstborn. Invaluable indeed is this honor with which he favors us; and all the wealth, all the conveniences, the honors and the pleasures of the world, and everything commonly deemed necessary for happiness, when compared with this honor, are of no more value than a morsel of meat. That we indeed set a high value on things which are nearly worth nothing, arises from this, — that depraved lust dazzles our eyes and thus blinds us. If therefore we would hold a place in God’s sanctuary, we must learn to despise morsels of meat of this kind, by which Satan is wont to catch the reprobate. 258
17. When he would have inherited the blessing, etc. He at first regarded as a sport the act by which he had sold his birthright, as though it was a child’s play; but at length, when too late, he found what a loss he had incurred, when the blessing transferred by his father to Jacob was refused to him. Thus they who are led away by the allurements of this world alienate themselves from God, and sell their own salvation that they may feed on the morsels of this world, without thinking that they lose anything, nay, they flatter and applaud themselves, as though they were extremely happy. When too late their eyes are opened, so that being warned by the sight of their own wickedness, they become sensible of the loss of which they made no account.
While Esau was hungry, he cared for nothing but how he might have his stomach well filled; when full he laughed at his brother, and judged him a fool for having voluntarily deprived himself of a meal. Nay, such is also the stupidity of the ungodly, as long as they burn with depraved lusts or intemperately plunge themselves into sinful pleasures; after a time they understand how fatal to them are all the things which they so eagerly desired. The word “rejected” means that he was repulsed, or denied his request.
For he found no place of repentance, etc.; that is, he profited nothing, he gained nothing by his late repentance, though he sought with tears the blessing which by his own fault he had lost. 259
Now as he denounces the same danger on all the despisers of God’s grace, it may be asked, whether no hope of pardon remains, when God’s grace has been treated with contempt and his kingdom less esteemed than the world? To this I answer, that pardon is not expressly denied to such, but that they are warned to take heed, lest the same thing should happen to them also. And doubtless we may see daily many examples of God’s severity, which prove that he takes vengeance on the mockings and scoffs of profane men: for when they promise themselves tomorrow, he often suddenly takes them away by death in a manner new and unexpected; when they deem fabulous what they hear of God’s judgment, he so pursues them that they are forced to acknowledge him as their judge; when they have consciences wholly dead, they afterwards feel dreadful agonies as a punishment for their stupidity. But though this happens not to all, yet as there is this danger, the Apostle justly warns all to beware.
Another question also arises, Whether the sinner, endued with repentance, gains nothing by it? For the Apostle seems to imply this when he tells us that Esau’s repentance availed him nothing. My reply is, that repentance here is not to be taken for sincere conversion to God; but it was only that terror with which the Lord smites the ungodly, after they have long indulged themselves in their iniquity. Nor is it a wonder that this terror should be said to be useless and unavailing, for they do not in the meantime repent nor hate their own vices, but are only tormented by a sense of their own punishment. The same thing is to be said of tears; whenever a sinner sighs on account of his sins, the Lord is ready to pardon him, nor is God’s mercy ever sought in vain, for to him who knocks it shall be opened, (Mt 7:8;) but as the tears of Esau were those of a man past hope, they were not shed on account of having offended God; so the ungodly, however they may deplore their lot, complain and howl, do not yet knock at God’s door for mercy, for this cannot be done but by faith. And the more grievously conscience torments them, the more they war against God and rage against him. They might indeed desire that an access should be given them to God; but as they expect nothing but his wrath, they shun his presence. Thus we often see that those who often say, as in a jest, that repentance is sufficiently in time when they are drawing towards their end, do then cry bitterly, amidst dreadful agonies, that the season of obtaining repentance is past; for that they are doomed to destruction because they did not seek God until it was too late. Sometimes, indeed, they break out into such words as these, “Oh! if — oh! if;” but presently despair cuts short their prayers and chokes their voice, so that they proceed no farther.
Hebrews Chapter 12:18-24
18. For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest,
18. Non enim accessistis ad montem qui tangatur vel ignem accensum ac turbinem et caliginem et procellam.
19. And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more:
19. Et tubae sonitum et vocem verborum, quam qui audierant excusarunt, ne illis proponeretur sermo:
20. (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart:
20. Non enim ferebant quod edicebatur, Etiam si bestia tetigerit montem, lapidabitur aut jaculo configatur;
21. And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)
21. Ac sic terribile erat visum quod apparuit, Moses dixit, Expavefactus sum et tremefactus:
22. But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,
22. Sed accessistis ad Sion montem, civitatem Dei viventis, Jerusalem coelestem,
23. To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
23. Et ad conventum innumerabilium Angelorum, et ecclesiam primogenitorum, qui scripti sunt in coelis, et judicem omnium Deum, et spiritus justorum consecratorum,
24. And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.
24. Et Mediatorem Novi Testamenti Iesum, et sanguinem aspersionis, meliora loquentem quam loquebatur sanguis Abel.
18. For ye are not come, etc. He fights now with a new argument, for he proclaims the greatness of the grace made known by the Gospel, that we may reverently receive it; and secondly, he commends to us its benign characters that he might allure us to love and desire it. He adds weight to these two things by a comparison between the Law and the Gospel; for the higher the excellency of Christ’s kingdom than the dispensation of Moses, and the more glorious our calling than that of the ancient people, the more disgraceful and the less excusable is our ingratitude, unless we embrace in a becoming manner the great favor offered to us, and humbly adore the majesty of Christ which is here made evident; and then, as God does not present himself to us clothed in terrors as he did formerly to the Jews, but lovingly and kindly invites us to himself, so the sin of ingratitude will be thus doubled, except we willingly and in earnest respond to his gracious invitation. 260
Then let us first remember that the Gospel is here compared with the Law; and secondly, that there are two parts in this comparison, — that God’s glory displays itself more illustriously in the Gospel than in the Law, — and that his invitation is now full of love, but that formerly there was nothing but the greatest terrors.
Unto the mount that might be touched, 261 etc. This sentence is variously expounded; but it seems to me that an earthly mountain is set in opposition to the spiritual; and the words which follow show the same thing, that burned with fire, blackness, darkness, tempest, etc.; for these were signs which God manifested, that he might secure authority and reverence to his Law. 262 When considered in themselves they were magnificent and truly celestial; but when we come to the kingdom of Christ, the things which God exhibits to us are far above all the heavens. It hence follows, that all the dignity of the Law appears now earthly: thus mount Sinai might have been touched by hands; but mount Sion cannot be known but by the spirit. All the things recorded in the nineteenth chapter of Ex 19:1-25 were visible things; but those which we have in the kingdom of Christ are hid from the senses of the flesh. 263
Should any one object and say, that the meaning of all these things was spiritual, and that there are at this day external exercises of religion by which we are carried up to heaven: to this I answer, that the Apostle speaks comparatively; and no one can doubt but that the Gospel, contrasted with the Law, excels in what is spiritual, but the Law in earthly symbols.
19. They that heard entreated, etc. This is the second clause, in which he shows that the Law was very different from the Gospel; for when it was promulgated there was nothing but terrors on every side. For everything we read of in the nineteenth chapter of Ex 19:1-25 was of this kind, and intended to show to the people that God had ascended his tribunal and manifested himself as a strict judge. If by chance an innocent beast approached, he commanded it to be killed: how much heavier punishment awaited sinners who were conscious of their guilt, nay, who knew themselves to be condemned to eternal death by the Law? But the Gospel contains nothing but love, provided it be received by faith. What remains to be said you may read in the 2Co 3:1-18 of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians.
But by the words the people entreated, etc., is not to be understood that they refused to hear God, but that they prayed not to be constrained to hear God himself speaking; for by the interposition of Moses their dread was somewhat mitigated. 264 Yet interpreters are at a loss to know how it is that the Apostle ascribes these words to Moses, I exceedingly fear and quake; for we read nowhere that they were expressed by Moses. But the difficulty may be easily removed, if we consider that Moses spoke thus in the name of the people, whose requests as their delegate he brought to God. It was, then, the common complaint of the whole people; but Moses is included, who was, as it were, the speaker for them all. 265
22. Unto mount Sion, etc. He alludes to those prophecies in which God had formerly promised that his Gospel should thence go forth, as in Isa 2:1-4, and in other places. Then he contrasts mount Sion with mount Sinai; and he further adds, the heavenly Jerusalem, and he expressly calls it heavenly, that the Jews might not cleave to that which was earthly, and which had flourished under the Law; for when they sought perversely to continue under the slavish yoke of the Law, mount Sion was turned into mount Sinai as Paul teaches us in the Ga 4:21-31 of the Epistle to the Galatians. Then by the heavenly Jerusalem he understood that which was to be built throughout the whole world, even as the angel, mentioned by Zechariah, extended his line from the east even to the west.
To an innumerable company of angels, etc. He means that we are associated with angels, chosen into the ranks of patriarchs, and placed in heaven among all the spirits of the blessed, when Christ by the Gospel calls us to himself. But it is an incalculable honor, conferred upon us by our heavenly Father, that he should enroll us among angels and the holy fathers. The expression, myriads of angels, in taken from the book of Daniel, though I have followed Erasmus, and rendered it innumerable company of angels. 266
23. The firstborn, etc. He does not call the children of God indiscriminately the firstborn, for the Scripture calls many his children who are not of this number; but for the sake of honor he adorns with this distinction the patriarchs and other renowned saints of the ancient Church. He adds, which are written in heaven, because God is said to have all the elect enrolled in his book or secret catalogue, as Ezekiel speaks. 267
The judge of all, etc. This seems to have been said to inspire fear, as though he had said, that grace is in such a way altered to us, that we ought still to consider that we have to do with a judge, to whom an account must be given if we presumptuously intrude into his sanctuary polluted and profane.
The spirits of just men, etc. He adds this to intimate that we are joined to holy souls, which have put off their bodies, and left behind them all the filth of this world; and hence he says that they are consecrated or “made perfect”, for they are no more subject to the infirmities of the flesh, having laid aside the flesh itself. And hence we may with certainty conclude, that pious souls, separated from their bodies, still live with God, for we could not possibly be otherwise joined to them as companions.
24. And to Jesus the Mediator, etc. He adds this in the last place, because it is he alone through whom the Father is reconciled to us, and who renders his face serene and lovely to us, so that we may come to him without fear. At the same time he shows how Christ becomes our Mediator, even through his own blood, which after the Hebrew mode of speaking he calls the blood of sprinkling, which means sprinkled blood; for as it was once for all shed to make an atonement for us, so our souls must be now cleansed by it through faith. At the same time the Apostle alludes to the ancient rite of the Law, which has been before mentioned.
That speaketh better things, etc. There is no reason why better may not be rendered adverbially in the following manner, — “Christ’s blood cries more efficaciously, and is better heard by God than the blood of Abel.” It is, however, preferable to take the words literally: the blood of Christ is said to speak better things, because it avails to obtain pardon for our sins. The blood of Abel did not properly cry out; for it was his murder that called for vengeance before God. But the blood of Christ cries out, and the atonement made by it is heard daily. 268
Hebrews Chapter 12:25-29
25. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:
25. Videte ne asperenemini loquentem; nam si illi, qui aspeernati sunt eum qui loquebatur in terra, non effugerunt, multo magic nos si aversemur loquentem e coelis;
26. Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.
26. Cujus vox tune terram concussit, nunc autem denuntiavit, dicens, Adhuc semel ego moveo non solum terram, sed etiam coelum.
27. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.
27. Illud autem, Adhuc semel, significat eurum quae concutiuntur translationem, ut maneant quae non concutiuntur.
28. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
28. Quare regnum quod non concutitur apprehendentes, habemus (alias, habeumus) gratiam: per quam colamus Deum, placentes illi cum reverentia et religione:
29. For our God is a consuming fire.
29. Deus enim noster ignis consumens est.
25. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh, etc. He uses the same verb as before, when he said that the people entreated that God should not speak to them; but he means as I think, another thing, even that we ought not to reject the word destined for us. He further shows what he had in view in the last comparison, even that the severest punishment awaits the despisers of the Gospel, since the ancients under the Law did not despise it with impunity. And he pursues the argument from the less to the greater, when he says, that God or Moses spoke then on earth, but that the same God or Christ speaks now from heaven. At the same time I prefer regarding God in both instances as the speaker. And he is said to have spoken on earth, because he spoke in a lower strain. Let us ever bear in mind that he refers to the external ministration of the Law, which, as compared with the gospel, partook of what was earthly, and did not lead men’s minds above the heavens unto perfect wisdom; for though the Law contained in it the same truth, yet as it was only a training school, perfection could not belong to it. 269
26. Whose voice then shook the earth, etc. Though God shook the earth when he published his Law, yet he shows that he now speaks more gloriously, for he shakes both earth and heaven. He quotes on the subject the testimony of the Prophet Haggai, though he gives not the words literally; but as the Prophet foretells a future shaking of the earth and the heaven, the Apostle borrows the idea in order to teach us that the voice of the Gospel not only thunders through the earth, but also penetrates above the heavens. But that the Prophet speaks of Christ’s kingdom, is beyond any dispute, for it immediately follows in the same passage, “I will shake all nations; and come shall the desire of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory.” It is however certain that neither all nations have been gathered into one body, except under the banner of Christ, nor has there been any desire in which we ought to acquiesce but Christ alone, nor was the temple of Solomon exceeded in glory until the magnificence of Christ became known through the whole world. The Prophet then no doubt refers to the time of Christ. But if at the commencement of Christ’s kingdom, not only the lower parts of the world were shaken, but his power also reached the heaven, the Apostle justly concludes that the doctrine of the Gospel is sublimer than that of the Law, and ought to be more distinctly heard by all creatures. 270
27. And this word, yet once more, etc. The words of the Prophet are these, “Yet a little while;” and he means that the calamity of the people would not be perpetual, but that the Lord would succor them. But the Apostle lays no stress on this expression; he only infers from the shaking of the heaven and the earth that the state of the world was to be changed at the coming of Christ; for things created are subject to decay, but Christ’s kingdom is eternal; then all creatures must needs be brought into a better state. 271
He makes hence a transition to another exhortation, that we are to lay hold on that kingdom which cannot be shaken; for the Lord shakes us for this end, that he may really and forever establish us in himself. At the same time I prefer a different reading, which is given by the ancient Latin version, “Receiving a kingdom, we have grace,” etc. When read affirmatively, the passage runs best, — “We, in embracing the Gospel, have the gift of the Spirit of Christ, that we may reverently and devoutly worship God.” If it be read as an exhortation, “Let us have,” it is a strained and obscure mode of speaking. The Apostle means in short, as I think, that provided we enter by faith into Christ’s kingdom, we shall enjoy constant grace, which will effectually retain us in the service of God; for as the kingdom of Christ is above the world, so is the gift of regeneration. 272
By saying that God is to be served acceptably, εὐαρέστως, with reverence and fear, he intimates that though he requires us to serve with promptitude and delight, there is yet no service approved by him except it be united with humility and due reverence. Thus he condemns froward confidence of the flesh, as well as the sloth which also proceeds from it. 273
29. For our God, etc. As he had before kindly set before us the grace of God, so he now makes known his severity; and he seems to have borrowed this sentence from the De 4:24 of Deuteronomy. Thus we see that God omits nothing by which he may draw us to himself; he begins indeed with love and kindness, so that we may follow him the more willingly; but when by alluring he effects but little, he terrifies us.
And doubtless it is expedient that the grace of God should never be promised to us without being accompanied with threatening; for we are so extremely prone to indulge ourselves, that without the application of these stimulants the milder doctrine would prove ineffectual. Then the Lord, as he is propitious and merciful to such as fear him unto a thousand generations; so he is a jealous God and a just avenger, when despised, unto the third and the fourth generation. 274
A cloud for a large multitude is a classical metaphor, and not scriptural. A cloud of footmen, and a cloud of birds, are used by Homer; and a cloud of footmen and horsemen, by Livy. — Ed.
See Appendix P 2.
See Appendix Q 2.
“Striving against sin,” or contending or fighting against sin, — the sin of apostasy, says Grotius, — the sin of their persecutors, say Macknight and Stuart, sin being considered here as standing for sinners, the abstract for the concrete. The Apostle says, that they had not yet resisted — resisted what? This he seems to explain by saying, “contending against sin.” It was then, the assault of sin that they had not yet resisted unto blood; and that sin was evidently apostasy, the sin plausibly presented to them, or ready to encompass and entangle them, mentioned in Heb 12:1.
The phraseology here is similar to what is in the preceding verse; a participle ends the sentence, and that qualifies the foregoing verb — “that ye may not become wearied, being faint in your souls.” Faintness or despondency in mind would inevitably be accompanied with weariness. Faith or strength of mind is necessary to prevent fatigue or weariness while engaged in contests and great trials; and as a preventive of despondency, we are directed attentively to consider how our savior bore the extreme trials which he had to endure. — Ed.
“Correction” is the best word for παιδεία, as it stands for מוסר and not “chastening” or chastisement. “Despise” in Hebrew is to regard a thing as trifling or with contempt, and so in Greek it means to regard a thing as little; the meaning is, not stoical; and then the meaning of the next clause is, be not depending. “Fret not,” or “be not faint” or despairing, “when reproved” or “chastised.” — Ed
Beza, Grotius, Macknight and Stuart, agree with Calvin in reading the first words interrogatively — “And have ye forgotten?” etc.
Ribera, the Jesuit, in his comment on this verse said, “The Apostle indirectly (tacite) reproves them, because they had no recourse to Scripture in their afflictions; compare Ro 15:4.” Capellus, referring to this passage, observed, “I wish the Jesuits were always to speak in this manner, but Ribera ought to have remembered that Paul was addressing the flock rather than the pastors, and that therefore, the Scriptures ought to be read by laymen.”
The clear intimation of the passage no doubt is, that the Hebrews ought to have attended to the truths contained in Scripture. — Ed.
See Appendix R 2.
There is in this verse the word “sons,” to be understood after “all;” that is, “all the sons are partakers:” so Macknight and Stuart. As “sons” conclude the verse, the word is omitted here. Those who have only the name of Christians are called “bastards,” or spurious or illegitimate children, because they are not born of God, being only the children of the flesh. They are not Isaac’s but Ishmael, whatever their professions may be, and though baptized and partakers of all the outward privileges of the gospel. — Ed.
Here is an instance, among many others, in which men’s ingenuity is allowed unnecessarily to involve things in difficulties. The comparison here is founded on two palpable facts: there are fathers of our flesh, i.e., the body, and they have for a short time a duty to perform as such; but God, being the Father of our Spirits, which are to continue forever, deals with us in a way corresponding to our destiny. The question of instrumentality has nothing to do with the subject. Nor can anything be fairly drawn from this passage as to the useless question of the non-traduction of souls, as some have thought; and it may be justly be called useless, as it is a question beyond the range of human inquiry. — Ed.
See Appendix S 2.
The words are neither from the Hebrew nor from the Septuagint, but the order is more according to the former than the latter. The Hebrew is “Brace ye up the relaxed hands, and the tottering knees invigorate;” and the Sept., “Be strong, ye relaxed hands and paralyzed knees.” The literal rendering of this passage is, “Therefore the enfeebled (or relaxed) hands and the paralyzed knees restore; i.e., to their former vigor, so that you may contend with your enemies and your trials and run your race.” They had before acted nobly as it is stated in Heb 10:32-34; he now exhorts them to recover their former vigor and strength. It is rendered by Macknight, “Bring to their right position.” The verb ἀνορθόω literally means no doubt to make straight again, and is so used in Lu 13:13; but it has also the meaning of renewing or restoring to a former state, or of rebuilding. See Ac 15:16. And in this sense Schleusner takes it in this passage. It is used in the Sept. in the sense of establishing confirming, making firm or strong. See Jer 10:12. Hence Stuart gives this version,—
“Strengthen the weak hands and the feeble knees.”
But the idea of repairing, or restoring or reinvigorating, gives the passage the most emphatic meaning. The Apostle in this instance only borrows some of the words from Isaiah, and accommodates them to his own purpose. — Ed.
Having spoken of strength, he now tells them how to use that strength. Be strong, and take a right course; go along the straight way of duty. See Appendix T 2. — Ed.
This interpretation is given by Grotius, Macknight and Stuart; but Beza, Doddridge and Scott, take the view given in our version regarding the lame or weak person as intended by τὸ χωλὸν. So is the Vulgate, “that no one halting may go astray, but rather be healed.” — Ed
It has been justly observed that διώκω is to follow or pursue one fleeing away from us. It means not only to seek peace but strive to maintain it. Ps 34:14, we have pursuing after seeking, “Seek peace and pursue it,” i.e., strive earnestly to secure and retain it. Ro 12:18, is an explanation.
But this strenuous effort as to peace is to be extended to holiness; not chastity, as Chrysostom and some other fathers have imagined, but holiness in its widest sense, purity of heart and life, universal holiness. The word ἁγιασμὸς is indeed taken in a limited sense, and rendered “sanctification” 1Th 4:3, and it may be so rendered here as it is in those places where it evidently means holiness universally, 1Co 1:30; 2Th 2:13, 1Pe 1:2. The article is put before it in order to show its connection with what follows, “and the (or that) holiness, without which no one shall see the Lord.” — Ed
It means properly overseeing and is rendered “taking the oversight,” in 1Pe 5:2, where alone it occurs elsewhere. The word bishop comes from it. It is rendered, “taking heed,” by Erasmus; “Diligently attending,” by Grotius; “Taking care,” by Beza; “Looking to it,” by Doddridge; “carefully observing,” by Macknight; and “Seeing to it.” By Stuart. Considering what follows, “Taking heed” would be the best version. — Ed.
See Appendix U 2.
It is said that “for one morsel of meat,” literally, “for one eating,” or, “for one meal,” as rendered by Doddridge, “he sold his birthright,” or according to Macknight, “he gave away his birthrights.” In this reference the Apostle gives the substance without regarding expressions, though he adopts those of the Septuagint in two instances, — the verb, which means to give away, used in the sense of selling, — and birthrights, or the rights of primogeniture. The word in Hebrew means primogeniture, used evidently by metonymy for its rights and privileges. Not only a double portion belonged to the first-born, but also the paternal blessing, which included things temporal and spiritual. The notion that the priesthood at that time and from the beginning of the world belonged to the first-born, has nothing to support it. Abel was a priest as well as Cain, and a better priest too. — Ed.
Though many such as Beza, Doddridge, Stuart etc. regard this “repentance” as that of Isaac, yet the phrase seems to favor the views of Calvin, “he found not the place of repentance,” that is the admission of repentance; it was inadmissible, there was no place found for it. The word τόπος has this meaning in Heb 8:7, “there should be no place (or admission) have been sought for the second.” The same sense is given to the word in Sir 38:12, “give place” (or admission) to the physician — ἱατρῷ δὸς τόπον. We may give this rendering, “for he found not room for repentance;” he seemed to repent of his sin and folly, but his repentance availed nothing, for it could not be admitted; there was in his case no repentance allowed, as the account given in Genesis testifies.
The difficulty about “it” in the following clause is removed, when we consider that here, as in some previous instances, the Apostle arranges his sentences according to the law of parallelism; there are here four clauses; the first and last are connected, and also the middle clauses, —
“For ye know,
That even afterwards wishing to inherit the blessing,
He was rejected,
For he found no room for repentance,
Though with tears he sought it, (i.e., the blessing.)”
Though Macknight gave the other explanation of “repentance” yet he considered the blessing as the antecedent to “it” in the last line. Though with the tears of repentance he sought the blessing, yet he was rejected: the door to repentance was as it were closed up, and it could not be opened — Ed.
The connection of this part has been viewed by some to be the following: — Having exhorted the Hebrews to peace and holiness, and warned them against apostasy and sinful indulgences, the Apostle now enforces his exhortations and warnings by showing the superiority of the Gospel over the Law. This is the view of Doddridge and Stuart. It appears that Scott connected this part with Heb 10:28-31, and that he considered that the object of the apostle was to bring forward an instance, in addition to former ones, of the superiority of the Gospel, in order to show that the neglect of it would involve a greater guilt than that of the Law. And this appears to have been the view of Calvin, which seems to be favored by the concluding part of the chapter. The word γὰρ may be rendered “moreover.” — Ed
It has been conjectured that μὴ has been omitted before “touched;” for in that case the passage would more exactly correspond with the account given in Exodus, for the people were expressly forbidden to touch the mountain. An omission of this kind was surely not impossible. The phrase as it is hardly admits of a grammatical construction: it has been found necessary to give the sense of an adjective to the participle. There would not be this necessity were the words rendered “To a mount not to be touched and burning with fire, and to,” etc. — Ed
The words used here are not taken literally from the Hebrew nor from the Sept. the four things mentioned in this verse, and the two things mentioned in the following verse, are found in the narrative in Exodus 19 and 20; but not consecutively as here; nor are the same terms used. “Blackness” γνόφῳ, should be “a dark or thick cloud,” Ex 19:16. “Tempest,” θυέλλη, is not mentioned in Exodus or in Deuteronomy; but it includes evidently “the thunders and lightnings” mentioned twice at least in Exodus, [Exod. 19:16, Exod. 20:18] though not once in Deuteronomy. — Ed
“The Hebrews,” says Grotius, “came in the body to a material mountain, but we in spirit to that which is spiritual.”
The words at the end of verse 20, “or thrust through with a dart,” are not deemed genuine, being not found in the best MSS., and none of any authority containing them. — Ed.
It is supposed by some that the reference here is to what is found in Exod. 19:16, 17. It is said in the former verse that all the people in the camp trembled; and it is concluded that Moses was at the time with them, for it is said in the next verse that he brought them forth out of the camp. But the passage that seems most evidently to intimate what is here said in the Ex 19:19, where we are told, that when the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder. “Moses spake” and that “God answered him by a voice.” Now we are not told what he said, nor what the answer was which God gave. It is however, natural to conclude, that under the circumstances mentioned, Moses expressed his fears, and that God removed them. —Ed.
Calvin follows the Vulg. And connects πανηγύρει with “angels.” It means a whole or a general assembly, and occurs in the Sept., and stands for מועד often rendered a solemn assembly: it was a solemnity observed by the whole people. Both as to sense construction, it is better to adopt the arrangement of our version. — Ed
To keep this clause distinct from the next but one, “the spirits of just men,” etc. has been difficult. The distinction which Calvin seems to make as well as Doddridge, Scott and Stuart, is this, — that those mentioned here, “the first-born,” were the most eminent of the ancients; but that “the spirits of just men” include the godly generally. The people of Israel were called “the first born,” Ex 4:22, because they were God’s chosen people. Ephraim is also called, “the first born,” Jer 31:9, because of the superiority granted to that tribe; and the Messiah is so called, Ps 89:27, on account of his eminence. The first born is one possessed of peculiar privileges. The word here seems to designate the saints, believers, Christians, as they are God’s chosen people and highly privileged. We hence see the propriety of “the whole assembly,” or the whole number of the faithful, composed of Jews or Gentiles. The Apostle says, “We are part of this whole assembly,” and in order to point out his meaning more distinctly he calls it “the Church.” The reference here seems to be the saints on earth, and at the end of the verse to departed saints. And they are said to be “made perfect,” because freed from guilt, sin, and every pollution, having “washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.” — Ed.
See Appendix X 2.
By “him that speaketh,” is by some understood Christ, but more properly God, as his is the leading subject in the foregoing and the following verses. The words which follow are brief; and the first clause is explained more fully in Heb 10:28, and the second in Heb 1:2. God spake “on earth” by Moses, but “from heaven” by his son, who came from heaven, ascended into heaven and sent his spirit down from heaven. The comparison here is between speaking on earth and speaking from heaven; but included in this, as previously explained in the Epistle, are the agents employed. God in delivering the Law fixed on a place on earth, and then as it were descended and employed an earthly agent, a mere man as his mediator; but in delivering the gospel, he did not descend from heaven, but employed a heavenly agent, his own son; thus manifested the superiority of the Gospel over the law. And that God is meant throughout this verse is evident from the following verse, “Whose voice,” etc. The passage may be thus rendered, —
“See that ye reject not him who speaketh; for if they escaped not who rejected him when speaking on earth, how much more shall not we, if we turn away from him when speaking from heaven?”
We have no single word to express χρηματίζοντα — oraculizing, rendered by Doddridge, “giving forth oracles;” by Macknight, “delivering an oracle;” and by Stuart, “warning.” But the best word we can adopt here is “speaking.” — Ed
The quotation is literally neither from Hebrew nor from the Sept., but is substantially the same. “The earth and the heaven” may be deemed a phrase used to designate the whole state of things, as they include the whole of the visible creation. The whole Jewish polity, civil and religious, is generally supposed to be intended here. But as the shaking of the nations is mentioned in Hag. 2:6, 7, Macknight thought that by “the earth” is meant heathen idolatry, and by “heaven” the Jewish economy, so called because it was divinely appointed. If this be allowed, then we see a reason for the change which the Apostle has made in the words: the original is both in Hebrew and in the Sept., “I shake (or will shake) the heaven and the earth;” but the Apostle says: “I shake not only the earth, but the heaven also.” — Ed.
See Appendix Y 2.
See Appendix Z 2.
The Vulgate is, “with fear and reverence;” Beza’s “with modesty and reverence and religious fear;” Schleusner’s, “with reverence and devotion.” Stuart has adopted our version. See Appendix A 3. — Ed.
The conjunction καὶ at the beginning of this verse is commonly omitted by translators, but Macknight has retained it, “For even our God,” etc. The intimation clearly is, that under the Gospel no less than under the Law God is a consuming fire to apostates; and apostasy or idolatry is the sin especially referred to in De 4:24, from which this passage is taken. — Ed