RPM, Volume 18, Number 53, December 25 to December 31, 2016

Barnes' New Testament Notes

Notes on the New Testament
Explanatory and Practical
Part 86

By Albert Barnes




In Heb 5:10,11, the apostle had said that the Lord Jesus was called to the office of high priest after the order of Melchisedek, and that there were many things to be said of him which were not easy to be understood. They had not, he says, advanced as far in the knowledge of the true religion as might have been reasonably expected, but had rather gone back, Heb 5:12-14. The design of this chapter seems to be, to warn them against the danger of going back entirely, and to encourage them to make the highest attainments possible in the knowledge of Christianity, and in the divine life. The apostle would keep them from entire apostasy, and would excite them to make all the advances which they possibly could make; and particularly he designs to prepare them to receive what he had yet to say about the higher doctrines of the Christian religion. In doing this he presents the following considerations.

(1.) An exhortation to leave the elements or rudiments of the Christian religion, and to go on to the contemplation of the higher doctrines. The elements were the doctrines of repentance, faith, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. These entered into the very nature of Christianity. They were its first principles, and were indispensable. The higher doctrines related to other matters, which the apostle called them now to contemplate, Heb 6:1-2.

(2.) He warns them, in the most solemn manner, against apostasy. He assures them that, if they should apostatize, it would be impossible to renew them again. They could not fall away from grace, and again be renewed; they could not, after having been Christians and then apostatizing, be recovered. Their fall, in that case, would be final and irrecoverable, for there was no other way by which they could be saved; and by rejecting the Christian scheme, they would reject the only plan by which they could ever be brought to heaven. By this solemn consideration, therefore, he warns them of the danger of going back from their exalted hopes, or of neglecting the opportunities which they had to advance to the knowledge of the higher truths of religion, vers. Heb 6:4-6.

(3.) This sentiment is illustrated Heb 6:7,8 by a striking and beautiful figure drawn from agriculture. The sentiment was, that they who did not improve their advantage, and grow in the knowledge of the gospel, but who should go back and apostatize, would inevitably be destroyed. They could not be renewed and saved. It will be, says the apostle, as it is with the earth. That which receives the rain that falls, and that bears its proper increase for the use of man, partakes of the Divine blessing. That which does not�"which bears only thorns and briers�"is rejected, and is nigh to cursing, and will be burned with fire.

(4.) Yet the apostle says, he hoped better things of them. They had indeed receded from what they had been. They had not made the advances which he says they might have done. But still, there was reason to hope that they would not wholly apostatize, and be cast off by God. They had shown that they had true religion, and he believed that God would not forget the evidence which they had furnished that they loved him, Heb 6:9,10.

(5.) He expresses his earnest wish that they all would show the same diligence until they attained the full assurance of hope, Heb 6:11,12.

(6.) To encourage them in this, he refers them to the solemn oath which God had taken, and his sacred covenant with them confirmed by an oath, in order that they might have true consolation, and be sustained in the temptations and trials of life. That hope was theirs. It was sure and steadfast. It entered into that within the veil; it had been confirmed by him who had entered heaven as the great High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, Heb 6:13-20. By such considerations he would guard them from the danger of apostasy; he would encourage them to diligence in the divine life; and he would seek to prepare them to welcome the more high and difficult doctrines of the Christian religion.

Verse 1. Therefore. "Since, as was stated in the previous chapter, you ought to be capable of comprehending the higher doctrines of religion; since those doctrines are adapted to those who have been for a considerable time professors of Christianity, and have had opportunities of growing in knowledge and grace�"as much as strong meat is for those of mature years�"leave now the elements of Christian doctrine, and go on to understand its higher mysteries." The idea is, that to those who had so long been acquainted with the way of salvation, the elements of Christianity were no more adapted than milk was for grown persons.

Leaving. Dismissing; intermitting; passing by the consideration of, with a view to advance to something higher. The apostle refers to his discussion of the subject, and also to their condition. He wished to go on to the contemplation of higher doctrines, and he desired that they should no longer linger around the mere elements. "Let us advance to a higher state of knowledge than the mere elements of the subject." On the sense of the word "leaving," or quitting with a view to engage in something else, see Mt 4:20,22; 5:24.

The principles. Marg. The word of the beginning of Christ. Tindal renders it, "let us leave the doctrine pertaining to the beginning of a Christian man." Coverdale, "let us leave the doctrine pertaining to the beginning of a Christian life." On the word "principles" see See Barnes "Heb 5:12".

The Greek there, indeed, is not the same as in this place, but the idea is evidently the same. The reference is to what he regarded as the very elements of the Christian doctrine; and the meaning is, "Let us no longer linger here.' We should go on to higher attainments. We should wholly understand the system. We should discuss and receive its great principles. You have been long enough converted to have understood these; but you linger among the very elementary truths of religion. But you cannot remain here. You must either advance or recede; and if you do not go forward, you will go back into entire apostasy, when it will be impossible to be renewed." The apostle here, therefore, does not refer to his discussion of the points under consideration as the main thing, but to their state as one of danger; and in writing to them he was not content to discuss the elements of religion as being alone fitted to their condition, but would have them make higher attainments, and advance to the more elevated principles of the gospel.

Of the doctrine. Literally, "the word" logon�"reason, or doctrine of the beginning of Christ." That is, the word or reason that pertains to the elements of his system; the first principles of Christian doctrine.

Of Christ. Which pertain to the Messiah. Either that which he taught, or that which is taught of him and his religion, Most probably it is the latter�"that which pertains to the Messiah, or to the Christian revelation. The idea is, that there is a set of truths which maybe regarded as lying at the foundation of Christian doctrine, and those truths they had embraced, but had not advanced beyond them.

Let us go on. Let us advance to a higher state of knowledge and holiness. The reference is alike to his discussion of the subject, and to their advancement in piety and in knowledge. He would not linger around these elements in the discussion, nor would he have them linger at the threshold of the Christian doctrines.

Unto perfection. Comp. See Barnes "Heb 2:10".

The word here is used, evidently, to denote an advanced state of Christian knowledge and piety; or the more elevated Christian doctrines, and the holier living to which it was their duty to attain. It does not refer solely to the intention of the apostle to discuss the more elevated doctrines of Christianity, but to such an advance as would secure them from the danger of apostasy. If it should be said, however, that the word "perfection" is to be understood in the most absolute and unqualified sense, as denoting entire freedom from sin, it may be remarked,

(1.) that this does not prove that they ever attained to it, nor should this be adduced as a text to show that such an attainment is ever made. To exhort a man to do a thing�"however reasonable�"is no proof in itself that it is ever done.

(2.) It is proper to exhort Christians to aim at entire perfection. Even if none have ever reached that point on earth, that fact does not make it any the less desirable or proper to aim at it.

(3.) There is much in making an honest attempt to be perfectly holy, even though we should not attain to it in this life. No man accomplishes much who does not aim high.

Not laying again the foundation. Not laying down�"as one does a foundation for an edifice. The idea is, that they were not to begin and build all this over again. They were not to make it necessary to lay down again the very corner-stones, and the foundations of the edifice, but since these were laid already, they were to go on and build the superstructure and complete the edifice.

Of repentance from dead works. From works that cause death or condemnation; or that have no vitality or life. The reference may be either to those actions which were sinful in their nature, or to those which related to the forms of religion, where there was no spiritual life. This was the character of much of the religion of the Jews; and conversion to the true religion consisted greatly in repentance for having relied on those heartless and hollow forms. It is possible that the apostle referred mainly to these, as he was writing to those who had been Hebrews. When formalists are converted, one of the first and the main exercises of their minds in conversion, consists in deep and genuine sorrow for their dependence on those forms. Religion is life; and irreligion is a state of spiritual death, (comp. See Barnes "Eph 2:1, whether it be in open transgression, or in false and hollow forms of religion. The apostle has here stated what is the first element of the Christian religion. It consists in genuine sorrow for sin, and a purpose to turn from it. See Barnes "Mt 3:2".

And of faith toward God. See Barnes "Mr 16:16".

This is the second element in the Christian system. Faith is everywhere required in order to salvation, but it is usually faith in the Lord Jesus that is spoken of. See Ac 20:21. Here, however faith in God is particularly referred to. But there is no essential difference. It is faith in God in regard to his existence and perfections, and to his plan of saving men. It includes, therefore, faith in his message and messenger, and thus embraces the plan of salvation by the Redeemer. There is but one God�" "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ;" and he who believes in the true God, believes in him as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the Author of the plan of redemption, and the Saviour of lost men. No one can believe in the true God who does not believe in the Saviour. Comp. Joh 5:23; 17:3. He who supposes that he confides in any other God than the Author of the Christian religion, worships a being of the imagination as really as though he bowed down to a block of wood or stone. If Christianity is true, there is no such God as the infidel professes to believe in, any more than the god of the Brahmin has an existence. To believe in God, therefore, is to believe in him as he actually exists�"as the true God�"the Author of the great plan of salvation by the Redeemer. It is needless to attempt to show that faith in the true God is essential to salvation. How can he be saved who has no confidence in the God that made him?

{a} "dead works" Heb 9:14

{b} "toward God" Heb 11:6


Verse 2. Of the doctrine of baptisms. This is mentioned as the third element or principle of the Christian religion. The Jews made much of various kinds of washings, which were called baptisms. See Barnes "Mr 7:4".

It is supposed, also, that they were in the practice of baptizing proselytes to their religion. See Barnes "Mt 3:6".

Since they made so much of various kinds of ablution, it was important that the true doctrine on the subject should be stated as one of the elements of the Christian religion, that they might be recalled from superstition, and that they might enjoy the benefits of what was designed to be an important aid to piety�"the true doctrine of baptisms. It will be observed that the plural form is used here�"baptisms. There are two baptisms whose necessity is taught by the Christian religion�"baptism by water, and by the Holy Ghost: the first of which is an emblem of the second. These are stated to be among the elements of Christianity, or the things which Christian converts would first learn. The necessity of both is taught. "He that believeth, and is baptized shall be saved," Mr 16:16. "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God," Joh 3:5. On the baptism of the Holy Ghost, See Barnes "Mt 3:11" See Barnes "Ac 1:6" comp. Ac 19:1-6. To understand the true doctrine respecting baptism was one of the first principles to be learned then, as it is now, as baptism is the rite by which we are initiated into the Church. This was supposed to be so simple, that young converts could understand it as one of the elements of the true religion; and the teaching on that subject now should be made so plain that the humblest disciple may comprehend it. If it was an element or first principle of religion; if it was presumed that any one who entered the Church could understand it, can it be believed that it was then so perplexing and embarrassing as it is often made now? Can it be believed that a vast array of learning, and a knowledge of languages, and a careful inquiry into the customs of ancient times, was needful in order that a candidate for baptism should understand it? The truth is, that it was probably regarded as among the most simple and plain matters of religion; and every convert was supposed to understand that the application of water to the body in this ordinance, in any mode, was designed to be merely emblematic of the influences of the Holy Ghost.

And of laying on of hands. This is the fourth element or principle of religion. The Jews practised the laying on of hands on a great variety of occasions. It was done when a blessing was imparted to any one; when prayer was made for one; and when they offered sacrifice they laid their hands on the head of the victim, confessing their sins, Le 16:21; 24:14; Nu 8:12.

It was done on occasions of solemn consecration to office, and when friend supplicated the Divine favour on friend. In like manner, it was often done by the Saviour and the apostles. The Redeemer laid his hands on children to bless them, and on the sick when he healed them, Mt 19:13; Mr 5:23; Mt 9:18.

In like manner, the apostles laid hands on others in the following circumstances: �"

(1.) In healing the sick, Ac 28:8.

(2.) In ordination to office, 1 Ti 5:22; Ac 6:6.

(3.) In imparting the miraculous influences of the Holy Spirit, Ac 8:17,19; 19:6.

The true doctrine respecting the design of laying on the hands, is said here to be one of the elements of the Christian religion. That the custom of laying on the hands, as symbolical of imparting spiritual gifts, prevailed in the Church in the time of the apostles, no one can doubt. But on the question whether it is to be regarded as of perpetual obligation in the Church, we are to remember,

(1.) that the apostles were endowed with the power of imparting the influences of the Holy Ghost in a miraculous or extraordinary manner. It was with reference to such an imparting of the Holy Spirit that the expression is used in each of the eases where it occurs in the New Testament.

(2.) The Saviour did not appoint the imposition of the hands of a "bishop" to be one of the rites or ceremonies to be observed perpetually in the Church. The injunction to be baptized and to observe his Supper is positive, and is universal in its obligation. But there is no such command respecting the imposition of hands.

(3.) No one now is entrusted with the power of imparting the Holy Spirit in that manner. There is no class of officers in the Church that can make good their claim to any such power. What evidence is there that the Holy Spirit is imparted at the rite of "confirmation?"

(4.) It is liable to be abused, or to lead persons to substitute the form for the thing; or to think that because they have been "confirmed," that therefore they are sure of the mercy and favour of God. Still, if it be regarded as a simple form of admission to a church, without claiming that it is enjoined by God, or that it is connected with any authority to impart the Holy Spirit, no objection can be made to it, any more than there need be to any other form of recognising church-membership. Every pastor has a right, if he chooses, to lay his hands on the members of his flocks and to implore a blessing on them; and such an act, on making a profession of religion, would have much in it that would be appropriate and solemn.

This is mentioned as the fifth element or principle of the Christian religion. This doctrine was denied by the Sadducees, Mr 12:18; Ac 23:8 and was ridiculed by philosophers, Ac 17:32. It was, however, clearly taught by the Saviour, Joh 5:28,29, and became one of the cardinal doctrines of his religion. By the resurrection of the dead, however, in the New Testament, there is more intended than the resurrection of the body. The question about the resurrection included the whole inquiry about the future state, or whether man would live at all in the future world. Comp. See Barnes "Mt 22:23" See Barnes "Ac 23:6".

This is one of the most important subjects that can come before the human mind, and one on which man has felt more perplexity than any other. The belief of the resurrection of the dead is an elementary article in the system of Christianity. It lies at the foundation of all our hopes. Christianity is designed to prepare us for a future state; and one of the first things, therefore, in the preparation, is to assure us that there/s a future state, and to tell us what it is. It is, moreover, a peculiar doctrine of Christianity. The belief of the resurrection is found in no other system of religion, nor is there a ray of light shed upon the future condition of man by any other scheme of philosophy or religion.

And of eternal judgment. This is the sixth element or principle of religion. It is, that there will be a judgment whose consequences will be eternal. It does not mean, of course, that the process of the judgment will be eternal, or that the judgment-day will continue for ever; but that the results or consequents of the decision of that day will continue for ever. There will be no appeal from the sentence, nor will there be any reversal of the judgment then pronounced. What is decided then will be determined for ever. The approval of the righteous will fix their state eternally in heaven, and, in like manner, the condemnation of the wicked will fix their doom for ever in hell. This doctrine was one of the earliest that was taught by the Saviour and his apostles, and is inculcated in the New Testament perhaps with more frequency than any other. See Mt 25; Ac 17:31.

That the consequences or results of the judgment will be eternal, is abundantly affirmed. See Mt 25:46; Joh 5:29; 2 Th 1:9; Mr 9:45,48.

{c} "doctrine" Ac 19:4,5

{d} "laying on of hands" Ac 8:17

{e} "resurrection" Ac 17:31; 26:8


Verse 3. And this will we do. We will make these advances towards a higher state of knowledge and piety. Paul had confidence that they would do it Heb 6:9,10; and though they had lingered long around the elements of Christian knowledge, he believed that they would yet go on to make higher attainments.

If God permit. This is not to be interpreted as if God was unwilling that they should make such advances, or if it were doubtful whether he would allow it if they made an honest effort, and their lives were spared; but it is a phrase used to denote their dependence on him. It is equivalent to saying, "if he would spare their lives, their health, and their reason; if he would continue the means of grace, and would impart his Holy Spirit; if he would favour their efforts, and crown them with success, they would make these advances." In reference to anything that we undertake, however pleasing to God in itself, it is proper to recognise our entire dependence on God. See Jas 4:13-16. Comp. See Barnes "Joh 15:5".

{a} "if God permit" Jas 4:15


Verse 4. For it is impossible. It is needless to say that the passage here Heb 6:4-6 has given occasion to much controversy, and that the opinions of commentators and of the Christian world are yet greatly divided in regard to its meaning. On the one hand, it is held that the passage is not intended to describe those who are true Christians, but only those who have been awakened and enlightened, and who then fall back; and on the other, it is maintained that it refers to those who are true Christians, and who then apostatize. The contending parties have been Calvinists and Armenians; each party, in general, interpreting it according to the views which are held on the question about falling from grace. I shall endeavour, as well as I may be able, to state the true meaning of the passage, by an examination of the words and phrases in detail: observing here, in general, that it seems to me that it refers to true Christians; that the object is to keep them from apostasy; and that it teaches that, if they should apostatize, it would be impossible to renew them again, or to save them. That it refers to true Christians will be apparent from these considerations:�"

(1.) Such is the sense which would strike the great mass of readers. Unless there were some theory to defend, the great body of readers of the New Testament would consider the expression here used as describing true Christians.

(2.) The connexion demands such an interpretation. The apostle was addressingChristians. He was endeavouring to keep them from apostasy. The object was not to keep those who were awakened and enlightened from apostasy, but it was to preserve those who were already in the Church of Christ from going back to perdition. The kind of exhortation appropriate to those who were awakened and convicted, but who were not truly converted, would be to become converted; not to warn them of the danger of falling away. Besides, the apostle would not have said of such persons that they could not be converted and saved. [But of sincere Christians it might be said, with the utmost propriety, that they could not be renewed again, and be saved, if they should fall away�"because they rejected the only plan of salvation after they had tried it, and renounced the only scheme of redemption after they had tasted its benefits. If that plea could not save them, what could? If they neglected that, by what Other means could they be brought to God?

(3.) This interpretation accords, as I suppose, with the exact meaning of the phrases which the apostle uses. An examination of those phrases will show that he refers to those who are sincere believers. The phrase "it is impossible," obviously and properly denotes absolute impossibility. It has been contended, by Storr and others, that it denotes only great difficulty. But the meaning which would at first strike all readers would be, that the thing could not be done; that it was not merely very difficult, but absolutely impracticable. The word�"adunaton�"occurs only in the New Testament in the following places, in all which it denotes that the thing could not be done. Mt 19:26; Mr 10:27: "With men this is impossible;" that is, men could not save one who was rich; implying that the thing was wholly beyond human power. Lu 18:27: "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God"�"-referring to the same case. Ac 14:8 "A man of Lystra, impotent in his feet;" that is, who was wholly unable to walk. Ro 8:3: "For what the law could not do;" what was absolutely impossible for the law to accomplish; that is, to save men. Heb 6:18: "In which it was impossible for God to lie." Heb 10:4: "It is not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take away sin." And Heb 11:6: "Without faith it is impossible to please God."�"In all of these instances denoting absolute impossibility. These passages show that it is not merely a great difficulty to which the apostle refers, but that he meant to say that the thing was wholly impracticable; that it could not be done. And if this be the meaning, then it proves that if those referred to should fall away, they could never be renewed; their case was hopeless, and they must perish:�"that is, if a true Christian should apostatize, or fall from grace, he never could be renewed again, and could not be saved. Paul did not teach that he might fall away and be renewed again as often as he pleased. He had other views of the grace of God than this; and he meant to teach, that if a man should once cast off true religion, his case was hopeless, and he must perish: and by this solemn consideration�"the only one that would be effectual in such a case�"he meant to guard them against the danger of apostasy.

For those who were once enlightened. The phrase "to be enlightened" is one that is often used in the Scriptures, and may be applied either to one whose understanding has been enlightened to discern his duty, though he is not converted, (comp. See Barnes "Joh 1:9") or, more commonly, to one who is truly converted. See Barnes "Eph 1:18".

It does not of necessity refer to true Christians, though it cannot be denied that it more obviously suggests the idea that the heart is truly changed, and that it is more commonly used in that sense. Comp. Ps 19:8. Light, in the Scriptures, is the emblem of knowledge, holiness, and happiness; and there is no impropriety here in understanding it in accordance with the more decisive phrases which follow, as referring to true Christians.

And have tasted. To taste of a thing means, according to the usage in the Scriptures, to experience, or to understand it. The expression is derived from the fact, that the taste is one of the means by which we ascertain the nature or quality of an object. Comp. Mt 16:28; Joh 8:51; Heb 2:9. The proper idea here is, that they had experienced the heavenly gift, or had learned its nature.

The heavenly gift. The gift from heaven, or which pertains to heaven. See Barnes "Joh 4:10".

The express!on properly means, some favour or gift which has descended from heaven; and may refer to any of the benefits which God has conferred on man in the work of redemption. It might include the plan of salvation; the forgiveness of sins; the enlightening, renewing, and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit, or any one of the graces which that spirit imparts. The use of the article, however,�"" the heavenly gift,"�"limits it to something special, as being conferred directly from heaven; and the connexion would seem to demand that we understand it of some peculiar favour which could be conferred only on the children of God. It is an expression which may be applied to sincere Christians; it is at least doubtful whether it can with propriety be applied to any other.

And were made partakers of the Holy Ghost. Partakers of the influences of the Holy Ghost�"for it is only in this sense that we can partake of the Holy Spirit. We partake of food when we share it with others; we partake of pleasure when we enjoy it with others; we partake of spoils in war when they are divided between us and others. So we partake of the influences of the Holy Spirit when we share these influences conferred on his people. This is not language which can properly be applied to any one but a true Christian; and though it is true that an unpardoned sinner may be enlightened and awakened by the Holy Spirit, yet the language here used is not such as would be likely to be employed to describe his state. It is too clearly expressive of those influences which renew and sanctify the soul. It is as elevated language as can be used to describe the joy of the Christian, and is undoubtedly used in that sense here. If it is not, it would be difficult to find any language which would properly express the condition of a renewed heart. Grotius, Bloomfield, and some others, understood this or the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. But this is not necessary, and does not accord well with the general description here, which evidently pertains to the mass of those whom the apostle addressed.

{b} "impossible" Mt 5:13; 12:31,32; Joh 15:6; Heb 10:26; 2 Pe 2:20,21 1 Jo 5:16


Verse 5. And have tasted the good word of God . That is, either the doctrines which he teaches, and which are good or pleasant to the soul; or the word of God which is connected with good, that is, which promises good. The former seems to be the correct meaning�"that the word of God, or the truth which he taught, was itself a good. It was that which the soul desired, and in which it found comfort and peace. Comp. Ps 119:103; 141:6. The meaning here is, that they had experienced the excellency of the truth of God; they had seen and enjoyed its beauty. This is language which cannot be applied to an impenitent sinner. He has no relish for the truth of God; sees no beauty in it; derives no comfort from it. It is only the true Christian who has pleasure in its contemplation, and who can be said to "taste" and enjoy it. This language describes a state or mind of which every sincere Christian is conscious, It is that of pleasure in the word of God. He loves the Bible; he loves the truth of God that is preached. He sees an exquisite beauty in that truth. It is not merely in its poetry; in its sublimity; in its argument; but he has now a taste or relish for the truth itself, which he had not before his conversion. Then he might have admired the Bible for its beauty of language, or for its poetry; he might have been interested in preaching for its eloquence or power of argument; but now his love is for the truth. Comp. Ps 19:10. There is no book that he so much delights in as the Bible; and no pleasure is so pure as that which he has in contemplating the truth. Comp. Jos 21:45; 23:16.

And the powers of the world to come. Or of the "coming age." "The age to come" was a phrase in common use among the Hebrews, to denote the future dispensation, the times of the Messiah. The same idea was expressed by the phrases, "the last times," "the end of the world," etc., which are of so frequent occurrence in the Scriptures. They all denoted an age which was to succeed the old dispensation; the time of the Messiah; or the period in which the affairs of the world would be wound up. See Barnes "Isa 2:2".

Here it evidently refers to that period; and the meaning is, that they had participated in the peculiar blessings to be expected in that dispensation�"to wit, in the clear views of the way of salvation, and the influences of the Holy Spirit on the soul. The word "powers" here implies that in that time there would be some extraordinary manifestation of the power of God. An unusual energy would be put forth to save men, particularly as evinced by the agency of the Holy Spirit on the heart. Of this "power" the apostle here says they of whom he spake had partaken. They had been brought under the awakening and renewing energy which God put forth under the Messiah, in saving the soul. They had experienced the promised blessings of the new and last dispensation; and the language here is such as appropriately describes Christians, and as indeed can be applicable to no other. It may be remarked respecting the various expressions used here, Heb 6:4,5,

(1.) that they are such as properly denote a renewed state. They obviously describe the condition of a Christian; and though it may be not certain that any one of them, if taken by itself, would prove that the person to whom it was applied was truly converted, yet, taken together, it is clear that they are designed to describe such a state. If they are not, it would be difficult to find any language which would be properly descriptive of the character of a sincere Christian. I regard the description here, therefore, as that which is clearly designed to denote the state of those who were born again, and were the true children of God; and it seems plain to me, that no other interpretation would have ever been thought of, if this view had not seemed to conflict with the doctrine of the "perseverance of the saints."

(2.) There is a regular gradation here from the first elements of piety in the soul to its highest developments; and, whether the apostle so designed it or not, the language describes the successive steps by which a true Christian advances to the highest stage of Christian experience. The mind is

(a.) enlightened; then

(b.) tastes the gift of heaven, or has some experience of it; then

(c.) it is made to partake of the influences of the Holy Ghost; then

(d.) there is experience of the excellence and loveliness of the word of God; and

(e.) finally, there is a participation of the full "powers" of the new dispensation�"of the extraordinary energy which God puts forth in the gospel to sanctify and save the soul.

{+} "to come" "The mighty works of that age that is to come"


Verse 6. If they shall fall away. Literally, "and having fallen away." "There is no if in the Greek in this place�"' having fallen away.'" Dr. J. P. Wilson. It is not an affirmation that any had actually fallen away, or that, in fact, they would do it; but the statement is, that on the supposition that they had fallen away, it would be impossible to renew them again. It is the same as supposing a case which, in fact, might never occur:�"as if we should say, "had a man fallen down a precipice, it would be impossible to save him;" or, "had the child fallen into the stream, he would certainly have been drowned." But though this literally means "having fallen away," yet the sense, in the connexion in which it stands, is not improperly expressed by our common translation. The Syriac has given a version Which is remarkable, not as a correct translation, but as showing what was the prevailing belief in the time in which it was made, (probably the first or second century,) in regard to the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. "For it is impossible that they who have been baptized, and who have tasted the gift which is from heaven, and have received the spirit of holiness, and have tasted the good word of God, and the power of the coming age, should again sin, so that they should be renewed again to repentance, and again crucify the Son of God, and put him to ignominy." The word rendered "fall away" means, properly, "to fall near by any one;" "to fall in with, or meet;" and thus to fall aside from, to swerve or deviate from; and here means undoubtedly to apostatize from, and implies an entire renunciation of Christianity, or a going back to a state of Judaism, heathenism, or sin. The Greek word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is material to remark here, that the apostle does not say that any true Christian ever had fallen away. He makes a statement of what would occur on the supposition that such a thing should happen -but a statement may be made of what would occur on the supposition that a certain thing should take place, and yet it be morally certain that the event never would happen. It would be easy to suppose what would happen if the ocean should overflow a continent, or if the sun should cease to rise, and still there be entire certainty that such an event never would occur.

To renew them again. Implying that they had been before renewed, or had been true Christians. The word again"�"palin �"supposes this; and this passage, therefore, confirms the considerations suggested above, showing that they were true Christians who were referred to. They had once repented, but it would be impossible to bring them to this state again. The declaration, of course, is to be read in connexion with the first clause of Heb 6:4, "It is impossible to renew again to repentance those who once were true Christians, should they fall away." I know of no declaration more unambiguous than this. It is a positive declaration. It is not that it would be very difficult to do it; or that it would be impossible for man to do it, though it might be done by God; it is an unequivocal and absolute declaration that it would be utterly impracticable that it should be done by any one, or by any means; and this, I have no doubt, is the meaning of the apostle. Should a Christian fall from grace, he must perish. HE NEVER COULD BE SAVED The reason of this the apostle immediately, adds.

Seeing. This word is not in the Greek, though the sense is expressed. The Greek literally is, "having again crucified to themselves the Son of God." The reason here given is, that the crime would be so great, and they would so effectually exclude themselves from the only plan of salvation, that they could not be saved. There is but one way of salvation. Having tried that, and then renounced it, how could they then be saved? The case is like that of a drowning man. If there was but one plank by which he could be saved, and he should get on that, and then push it away and plunge into the deep, he must die. Or if there was but one rope by which the shore could be reached from a wreck, and he should cut that and cast it off, he must die. Or if a man were sick, and there was but one kind of medicine that could possibly restore him, and he should deliberately dash that away, he must die. So in religion. There is but one way of salvation. If a man deliberately rejects that, he must perish.

They crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh. Our translators have rendered this as if the Greek were�" anastaurountav palin�" crucify again, and so it is rendered by Chrysostom, by Tindal, Coverdale, Beza, Luther, and others. But this is not properly the meaning of the Greek. The word anastaurow is an intensive word, and is employed instead of the usual word "to crucify," only to denote emphasis. It means that such an act of apostasy would be equivalent to crucifying him in an aggravated manner. Of course this is to be taken figuratively. It could not be literally true that they would thus crucify the Redeemer. The meaning is, that their conduct would be as if they had crucified him; it would bear a strong resemblance to the act by which the Lord Jesus was publicly rejected and condemned to die. The act of crucifying the Son of God was the great crime which outpeers any other deed of human guilt. Yet the apostle says, that should they who had been true Christians fall away, and reject him, they would be guilty of a similar crime. It would be a public and solemn act of rejecting him. It would show that if they had been there they would have joined in the cry, "Crucify him, crucify him!" The intensity and aggravation of such a crime perhaps the apostle meant to indicate by the intensive or emphatic ana in the anastaurountav. Such an act would render their salvation impossible, because

(1.) the crime would be aggravated beyond that of those who rejected him and put him to death�"for they knew not what they did; and

(2.) because it would be a rejection of the only possible plan of salvation, after they had had experience of its power and known its efficacy. The phrase "to themselves," Tindal renders, "as concerning themselves." Others, "as far as in them lies," or as far as they have ability to do. Others, "to their own heart." Probably Grotius has suggested the true sense. "They do it for themselves. They make the act their own. It is as if they did it themselves; and they are to be regarded as having done the deed." So we make the act of another our own when we authorize it beforehand, or approve of it after it is done.

And put him to an open shame. Make him a public example; or hold him up as worthy of death on the cross. See the same word explained in See Barnes "Mt 1:19, in the phrase, "make her a public example." The word occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. Their apostasy and rejection of the Saviour would be like holding him up publicly as deserving the infamy and ignominy of the cross. A great part of the crime attending the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus, consisted in exhibiting him to the passing multitude as deserving the death of a malefactor. Of that sin they would partake who should reject him, for they would thus show that they regarded his religion as an imposture, and would, in a public manner, hold him up as worthy only of rejection and contempt. Such, it seems to me, is the fair meaning of this much-disputed passage�"a passage which Would never have given so much perplexity if it had not been supposed that the obvious interpretation would interfere with some prevalent articles of theology. The passage proves that if true Christians should apostatize, it would be impossible to renew and save them. If then it should be asked whether I believe that any true Christian ever did, or ever will fall from grace, and wholly lose his religion, I would answer unhesitatingly, No. Comp. See Barnes "Joh 10:27,28; Ro 8:38,39; Ga 5:4.

If then it be asked what was the use of a warning like this, I answer,

(1.) It would show the great sin of apostasy from God if it were to occur. It is proper to state the greatness of an act of sin, though it might never occur, in order to show how it would be regarded by God.

(2.) Such a statement might be one of the most effectual means of preserving from apostasy. To state that a fall from a precipice would cause certain death, would be one of the most certain means of preserving one from falling; to affirm that arsenic would be certainly fatal, is one of the most effectual means of preventing its being taken; to know that fire certainly destroys, is one of the most sure checks from the danger. Thousands have been preserved from going over the Falls of Niagara by knowing that there would be no possibility of escape; and so effectual has been this knowledge, that it has preserved all from such a catastrophe, except the very few who have gone over by accident. So in religion. The knowledge that apostasy would be fatal, and there could be no hope of being saved should it once occur, would be a more effectual preventive of the danger than all the other means that could be used. If a man believed that it would be an easy matter to be restored again, should he apostatize, he would feel little solicitude in regard to it; and it has occurred, in fact, that they who suppose that this may occur, have manifested little of the care to walk in the paths of strict religion, which should have been evinced.

(3.) It may be added, that the means used by God to preserve his people from apostasy have been entirely effectual. There is no evidence that one has ever fallen away who was a true Christian, Comp. Joh 10:27,28, and 1 Jo 2:19; and to the end of the world it will be true, that the means which he uses to keep his people from apostasy will not in a single instance fail.

{*} "seeing" "Since"

{+} "afresh" "again"


Verse 7. For the earth. The design of the apostle by this comparison is apparent. It is to show the consequences of not making a proper use of all the privileges which Christians have, and the effect which would follow should those privileges fail to be improved. He says, it is like the earth. If that absorbs the rain, and produces an abundant harvest, it receives the Divine blessing. If not, it is cursed, or is worthless. The design is to show that if Christians should become like the barren earth, they would be cast away and lost.

Which drinketh in the rain. A comparison of the earth as if it were "thirsty"�"a comparison that is common in all languages.

That cometh oft upon it. The frequent showers that fall. The object is, to describe fertile land which is often watered with the rains of heaven. The comparison of "drinking in" the rain is designed to distinguish a mellow soil which receives the rain, from hard or rocky rand where it runs off.

And bringeth forth herbs. The word herbs we now limit, in common discourse, to the small vegetables which die every year, and which are used as articles of food, or to such in general as have not ligneous or hard woody stems. The word here means anything which is cultivated in the earth as an article of food, and includes all kinds of grains.

Meet for them. Useful or appropriate to them.

By whom it is dressed. Marg. "for whom." The meaning is, on account of whom it is cultivated. The word "dressed" here means cultivated. Comp. Ge 2:15.

Receiveth blessing from God. Receives the Divine approbation. It is in accordance with his wishes and plans, and he stories upon it and blesses it. He does not curse it, as he does the desolate and barren soil. The language is figurative, and must be used to denote that which is an object of the Divine favour. God delights in the harvests which the earth brings forth; in the effects of dews and rains and suns, in causing beauty and abundance; and on much fields of beauty and plenty he looks down with pleasure. This does not mean, as I suppose, that he renders it more fertile and abundant, for

(1.) it cannot be shown that it is true that God thus rewards the earth for its fertility; and

(2.) such an interpretation would not accord well with the scope of the passage. The design is to show that a Christian who makes proper use of the means of growing in grace which God bestows upon him, and who does not apostatize, meets with the Divine favour and approbation. His course accords with the Divine intention and wishes, and he is a man on whom God will smile�"as he seems to on the fertile earth.

{++} "earth" "land"

{*} "meet" "useful"

{1} "by" "for"

{+} "dressed" "belong to"

{a} "blessing" Ps 65:10


Verse 8. But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected. That is, by the farmer or owner. It is abandoned as worthless. The force of the comparison here is, that God would thus deal with those who professed to be renewed if they should be like such a worthless field.

And is nigh unto cursing. Is given over to execration, or is abandoned as useless. The word cursing means, devoting to destruction. The sense is not that the owner would curse it in words, or imprecate a curse on it, as a man does who uses profane language, but the language is taken here from the more common use of the word curse�"as meaning to devote to destruction. So the land would be regarded by the farmer. It would be valueless, and would be given up to be overrun with fire.

Whose end is to be burned. Referring to the land. The allusion here is to the common practice, among the Oriental and Roman agriculturists, of burning bad and barren lands. An illustration of this is afforded by Pliny. "There are some who burn the stubble on the field, chiefly upon the authority of Virgil: the principal reason for which is, that they may burn the seeds of weeds," Nat. Hist. xviii. 30. The authority of Virgil, to which Pliny refers, may be found in Georg. i. 84.

"Saepe etiam steriles incendere profuit agros, Atque levem stipulam crepitantibus urere flammis."

"It is often useful to set fire to barren lands, and burn the light stubble in crackling flames." The object of burning land in this way was to render it available for useful purposes; or to destroy noxious weeds, and thorns, and underbrush. But the object of the apostle requires him to refer merely to the fact of the burning, and to make use of it as an illustration of an act of punishment. So, Paul says, it would be in the dealings of God with his people. If, after all attempts to secure holy living, and to keep them in the paths of salvation, they should evince none of the spirit of piety, all that could be done would be to abandon them to destruction, as such a field is overrun with fire. It is not supposed that a true Christian will fall away and be lost; but we may remark,

(1.) that there are many professed Christians who seem to be in danger of such ruin. They resist all attempts to produce in them the fruits of good living as really as some pieces of ground do to secure a harvest. Corrupt desires, pride, envy, uncharitableness, covetousness, and vanity, are as certainly seen in their lives as thorns and briers are on a bad soil. Such briers and thorns you may cut down again and again; you may strike the plough deep, and seem to tear away all their roots; you may sow the ground with the choicest grain, but soon the briers and the thorns will again appear and be as troublesome as ever. No pains will subdue them or secure a harvest. So with many a professed Christian. He may be taught, admonished, rebuked, and afflicted, but all will not do. There is essential and unsubdued perverseness in his soul, and, despite all the attempts to make him a holy man, the same bad passions are continually breaking out anew.

(2.) Such professing Christians are "nigh unto cursings." They are about to be abandoned for ever. Unsanctified and wicked in their hearts, there is nothing else which can be done for them, and they must be lost! What a thought! A professing Christian "nigh unto cursing!" A man, the efforts for whose salvation are about to cease for ever, and who is to be given over as incorrigible and hopeless! For such a man�"in the church or out of it�"we should have compassion. We have some compassion for an ox which is so stubborn that he will not work, and which is to be put to death; for a horse which is so fractious that he cannot be broken, and which is to be killed; for cattle which are so unruly that they cannot be restrained, and which are only to be fattened for the slaughter; and even for a field which is desolate and barren, and which is given up to be overrun with briers and thorns; but how much more should we pity a man, all the efforts for whose salvation fail, and who is soon to be abandoned to everlasting destruction!

{++} "accompany" "Belong to"


Verse 9. But, beloved, we are persuaded better things. We confidently hope for better things respecting you. We trust that you are true Christians; that you will produce the proper fruits of holiness; that you will be saved.

Things that accompany salvation. Things that pertain to salvation. The Greek phrase here means, "near to salvation," or things that are conjoined with salvation. So Coverdale renders it, "and that salvation is nigher." The form of expression seems to refer to what was said in Heb 6:8. The land overrun with briers was nigh to cursing; the things which Paul saw in them were nigh to salvation. From this verse it is evident
(1.) that the apostle regarded them as sincere Christians, and (2.) that he believed they would not fall away. Though he had stated what must be the inevitable consequence if Christians should apostatize, yet he says that, in their case, he had a firm conviction that it would not occur. There is no inconsistency in this. We may be certain that if a man should take arsenic it would kill him; and yet we may have the fullest conviction that he will not do it. Is not this verse a clear proof that Paul felt that it was certain that true Christians would never fall away and be lost? If he supposed that they might, how could he be persuaded that it would not happen to them? Why not to them as well as to others? Learn hence, that while we assure men that if they should fall away they would certainly perish, we may nevertheless address them with the full persuasion that they will be saved.

{++} "accompany" "belong to"


Verse 10. For God is not unrighteous. God will do no wrong. He will not forget or fail to reward the endeavours of his people to promote his glory, and to do good. The meaning here is, that by their kindness in ministering to the wants of the saints, they had given full evidence of true piety. If God should forget that, it would be "unrighteous,"

(1.) because there was a propriety that it should be remembered; and

(2.) because it is expressly promised that it shall not fail of reward, Mt 10:42.

Your work. Particularly in ministering to the wants of the saints.

Labour of love. Deeds of benevolence when there was no hope of recompense, or when love was the motive in doing it.

Which ye have shewed toward his name. Toward him�"for the word name is often used to denote the person himself. They had showed that they loved God by their kindness to his people. Mt 25:40: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

In that ye have ministered to the saints. You have supplied their wants. This may refer either to the fact that they contributed to supply the wants of the poor members of the church, (comp. See Barnes "Ga 2:10, or it may refer to some special acts of kindness which they had shown to suffering and persecuted Christians. It is not possible now to know to what particular acts the apostle refers. We may learn,

(1.) that to show kindness to Christians, because they are Christians, is an important evidence of piety.

(2.) It will in no case be unrewarded. God is not "unjust;" and he will remember an act of kindness shown to his people�"even though it be nothing but giving a cup of cold water.

{c} "For God" Mt 25:40


Verse 11. And we desire that every one of you. We wish that every member of the church should exhibit the same endeavour to do good, until they attain to the full assurance of hope. It is implied here, that the full assurance of hope is to be obtained by a persevering effort to lead a holy life.

The same diligence. The same strenuous endeavour, the same ardour and zeal.

To the full assurance of hope. In order to obtain the full assurance of hope. The word rendered "full assurance," means firm persuasion, and refers to a state of mind where there is the fullest conviction, or where there is no doubt. See Col 2:2; 1 Th 1:6 Heb 10:22 comp. Lu 1:1; Ro 4:21; 14:5; 2 Ti 4:6,17, where the same word, in different forms, occurs. Hope is a compound emotion, made up of an earnest desire for an object, and a corresponding expectation of obtaining it. See Barnes "Eph 2:12" The hope of heaven is made up of an earnest wish to reach heaven, and a corresponding expectation of it, or reason to believe that it will be ours. The full assurance of that hope exists where there is the highest desire of heaven, and such corresponding evidence of personal piety, as to leave no doubt that it will be ours.

To the end. To the end of life. The apostle wished that they would persevere in such acts of piety to the end of their course, as to have their hope of heaven fully established, and to leave no doubt on the mind that they were sincere Christians. Learn hence,

(1.) that full assurance of hope is to be obtained only by holy living.

(2.) It is only when that is persevered in that it can be obtained.

(3.) It is not by visions and raptures, by dreams and revelations, that it can now be acquired, for God imparts no such direct revelation now.

(4.) It is usually only as the result of a life of consistent piety that such an assurance is to be obtained. No man can have it who does not persevere in holy living; and they who do obtain it usually secure it only near the end of a life of eminent devotedness to God. God could impart it at once when the soul is converted; but such is the tendency of man to indolence and sloth, that even good men would then relax their efforts, and sit down contented, feeling that they had now the undoubted prospect of heaven. As it is, it is held out as a prize to be won�"as that whose acquisition is to cheer us in our old age, when the warfare is over, and when, amidst the infirmities of years, and in the near prospect of death, we need special consolation. Comp. 2 Ti 4:6,7.

{a} "full assurance" Heb 3:6,14


Verse 12. That ye be not slothful. Indolent; inactive. This was what he was especially desirous of guarding them against. By diligent and strenuous effort only could they secure themselves from the danger of apostasy.

But followers. Imitators�"that you may live as they lived.

Of them who through faith and patience. By faith, or confidence in God, and by patience in suffering�"referring to those who in times of trial had remained faithful to God, and had been admitted to heaven. In Heb 11 the apostle has given a long list of such persevering and faithful friends of God. See Notes on that chapter.

The promise. The promise of heaven.


Verse 13. For when God made promise to Abraham. That he would bless him, and multiply his seed as the stars of heaven, Ge 22:16,17. The object of introducing this example here is to encourage those to whom the apostle was writing to persevere in the Christian life. This he does by showing that God had given the highest possible assurance of his purpose to bless his people by an oath. Reference is made to Abraham in this argument probably, for two reasons.

(1.) To show the nature of the evidence which Christians have that they will be saved, or the ground of encouragement�"being the same as that made to Abraham, and depending, as in his case, on the promise of God; and

(2.) because the example of Abraham was just in point. He had persevered. He had relied firmly and solely on the promise of God. He did this when appearances were much against the fulfilment of the promise, and he thus showed the advantage of perseverance and fidelity in the cause of God.

Because he could swear by no greater. There is no being greater than God. In taking an oath among men it is always implied that the appeal is to one of superior power, who is able to punish for its infraction. But this could not occur in the case of God himself. There was no greater being than himself, and the oath, therefore, was by his own existence.

He sware by himself. Ge 22:16: "By myself have I sworn." Comp. Isa 45:23. In an oath of this kind God pledges his veracity; declares that the event shall be as certain as his existence; and secures it by all the perfections of his nature. The usual form of the oath is, "As I live, saith the Lord." See Nu 14:21,28; Eze 33:11.


Verse 14. Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee. That is, I will certainly bless thee. The phrase is a Hebrew mode of expression, to denote emphasis or certainty�"indicated by the repetition of a word. Comp. Ge 16:10; Ex 8:10; Joe 3:14; Jud 5:30; 15:16.

Multiplying I will multiply thee. I will greatly increase thee�"I will grant thee an exceedingly numerous posterity.

{c} "Surely" Ge 22:16,17


Verse 15. And so, after he had patiently endured. After he had waited for a long time. He did not faint or grow weary, but he persevered in a confident expectation of the fulfilment of what God had so solemnly promised.

He obtained the promise. Evidently the promise referred to in the oath�"that he would have a numerous posterity. The apostle intimates that he had waited for that a long time; that his faith did not waver, and that in due season the object of his wishes was granted. To see the force of this, we are to remember,

(1.) that when he was called by God from Haran, and when the promise of a numerous posterity was made to him, he was seventy-five years old, Ge 12:1-6.

(2.) Twenty-four years elapsed after this, during which he was a sojourner in a strange land, before the manner in which this promise would be fulfilled was made known to him, Ge 17:1-16.

(3.) It was only when he was a hundred years old, and when he had persevered in the belief of the truth of the promise against all the natural improbabilities of its accomplishment, that he received the pledge of its fulfilment in the birth of his son Isaac, Ge 21:1-5.

(4.) The birth of that son was a pledge that the other blessings implied in the promise would be granted, and in that pledge Abraham may be said to have "received the promise." He did not actually see the numerous posterity of which he was to be the honoured ancestor, nor the Messiah who was to descend from him, nor the happy influences which would result to mankind from the fulfilment of the promise. But he saw the certainty that all this would occur; he saw by faith the Messiah in the distance, (Joh 8:56,) and the numerous blessings which would result from his coming. It was a remarkable instance of faith, and one well fitted to the purpose of the apostle. It would furnish ample encouragement to the Christians to whom he wrote to persevere their course, and to avoid the dangers of apostasy. If Abraham persevered when appearances were so much against the fulfilment of what had been promised, then Christians should persevere under the clearer light, and with the more distinct promises of the gospel.

{+} "endured" "waited"


Verse 16. For men verily swear by the greater. That is, they appeal to God. They never swear by one who is inferior to themselves. The object of the apostle in this declaration is to show that, as far as this could be done, it had been by God. He could not indeed swear by one greater than himself, but he could make his promise as certain as an oath taken by men was when they solemnly appealed to Him. He could appeal to his own existence and veracity, which was at any time the most solemn form of an oath, and thus put the mind to rest in regard to the hope of heaven.

And an oath for confirmation. An oath taken to confirm or establish anything.

Is to them an end of all strife. That is, when two parties are at variance, or have a cause at issue, an oath binds them to adhere to the terms of agreement concluded on, or contracting parties bind themselves by a solemn oath to adhere to the conditions of an agreement, and this puts an end to all strife. They rest satisfied when a solemn oath has been taken, and they feel assured that the agreement will be complied with. Or it may refer to cases where a man was accused of wrong before a court, and where he took a solemn oath that the thing had not beer, done, and his oath was admitted to be sufficient to put an end to the controversy. The general meaning is clear, that, in disputes between man and man, an appeal was made to an oath, and that was allowed to settle it. The connexion here is, that, as far as the case would admit of, the same thing was done by God. His oath by himself made his promise firm.

{a} "oath" Ex 22:11


Verse 17. Wherein God. On account of which, or since an oath had this effect, God was willing to appeal to it, in order to assure his people of salvation.

Willing more abundantly. In the most abundant manner, or to make the case as sure as possible. It does not mean more abundantly than in the case of Abraham, but that he was willing to give the most ample assurance possible. Coverdale renders it, correctly, "very abundantly."

The heirs of promise. The heirs to whom the promise of life pertained; that is, all who were interested in the promises made to Abraham�"thus embracing the heirs of salvation now.

The immutability of his counsel. His fixed purpose, he meant to show, in the most solemn manner, that his purpose would not change. The plans of God never change; and all the hope which we can have of heaven is founded on the fact that his purpose is immutable. If he changed his plans; if he was controlled by caprice; if he willed one thing to-day and another thing tomorrow, who could confide in him or who would have any hope of heaven? No one would know what to expect; and no one could put confidence in him. The farmer ploughs and sows because he believes that the laws of nature are settled and fixed; the mariner ventures into unknown seas because the needle points in one direction; we plant an apple-tree because we believe it will produce apples, a peach because it will produce peaches, a pear because it will produce a pear. But suppose there were no settled laws�"that all was governed by caprice�"who would know what to plant? Who then would plant anything? So in religion. If there were nothing fixed and settled, who would know what to do? If God should change his plans by caprice, and save one man by faith today and condemn another for the same faith tomorrow; or if he should pardon a man today and withdraw the pardon tomorrow, what security could we have of salvation? How grateful, therefore, should we be, that God has an immutable counsel, and that this is confirmed by a solemn oath! No one could honour a God that had not such an immutability of purpose; and all the hope which man can have of heaven is in the fact that He is unchanging.

Confirmed it by an oath. Marg. Interposed himself. Tindal and Coverdale, "added an oath." The Greek is, "interpose with an oath"�" emesiteusen orkw. The word here used�" mesiteuw �"means, to mediate or intercede for one; and then to intervene or interpose. The meaning here is, that he interposed an oath between himself and the other party by way of a confirmation or pledge.

{b} "heirs" Ro 8:17; He 11:9

{c} "immutability" Ro 11:29

{1} "confirmed it" "interposed himself"


Verse 18. That by two immutable things. What the "two immutable things" here referred to are, has been made a matter of question among commentators. Most expositors, as Doddridge, Whitby, Rosenmuller, Koppe, and Calvin, suppose that the reference is to the promise and the oath of God, each of which would be a firm ground of the assurance of salvation, and in each of which it would be impossible for God to lie. Prof. Stuart supposes that the reference is to two oaths�"the oath made to Abraham, and that by which the Messiah was made High Priest according to the order of Melchisedek, Ps 110:4; Heb 5:6,10.

He supposes that thus the salvation of believers would be amply secured, by the promise that Abraham should have a Son, the Messiah, in whom all the families of the earth would be blessed, and in the oath that his Son should be High Priest for ever. But to this interpretation it may be objected that the apostle seems to refer to two things distinct from each other in their nature, and not to two acts of the same kind. There are two kinds of security referred to, whereas the security furnished according to this interpretation would be the same�"that arising from an oath. However numerous the oaths might be, still it would be security of the same kind; and if one of them were broken, no certainty could be derived from the other. On the supposition, however, that he refers to the promise and the oath, there would be two kinds of assurance, of different kinds. On the supposition that the promise was disregarded�"if such a supposition may be made�"still there would be the security of the oath and thus the assurance of salvation was two-fold. It seems to me, therefore, that the apostle refers to the promise and to the oath of God, as constituting the two grounds of security for the salvation of his people. Those things were both unchangeable; and when his word and oath are once passed, what he promises is secure.

In which it was impossible for God to Lie. That is, it would be contrary to his nature; it is not for a moment to be supposed. Comp. Tit 1:2: "God�"that cannot lie." The impossibility is a moral impossibility, and the use of the word here explains the Sense in which the words impossible, cannot, etc., are often used in the Scriptures. The meaning here is, that such was the love of God for truth, such his holiness of character, that he could not speak falsely.

We might have a strong consolation. The strongest of which the mind can conceive. The consolation of a Christian is not in his own strength; his hope of heaven is not in any reliance on his own powers. His comfort is, that God has promised eternal life to his people, and that He cannot prove false to his word, Tit 1:2.

Who have fled for refuge. Referring to the fact that one charged with murder fled to the city of refuge, or laid hold on an altar for security. So we, guilty and deserving of death, have fled to the hopes of the gospel in the Redeemer.

To lay hold upon. To seize and hold fast�"as one does an altar when he is pursued by the avenger of blood.

The hope set before us. The hope of eternal life offered in the gospel. This is set before us as our refuge, and to this we flee when we feel that we are in danger of death. On the nature of hope, See Barnes "Eph 2:12".

{d} "lie" Tit 1:2

{e} "lay hold" 1 Ti 6:12


Verse 19. Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul. Hope accomplishes for the soul the same thing which an anchor does for a ship. It makes it fast and secure. An anchor preserves a ship when the waves beat and the wind blows; and as long as the anchor holds, so long a ship is safe, and the mariner apprehends no danger. So with the soul of the Christian. In the tempests and trials of life, his mind is calm as long as his hope of heaven is firm. If that gives way, he feels that all is lost. Among the heathen writers, hope is often compared with an anchor. So Socrates said, "To ground hope on a false supposition, is like trusting to a weak anchor." Again�""A ship ought not to trust to one anchor, nor life to one hope."

Both sure and stedfast. Firm and secure. This refers to the anchor. That is fixed in the sand, and the vessel is secure.

And which entereth into that within the veil. The allusion to the anchor here is dropped, and the apostle speaks simply of hope. The "veil" here refers to that which, in the temple, divided the holy from the most holy place. See Barnes "Mt 21:12".

The place "within the veil"�"the most holy place�"was regarded as God's peculiar abode, where he dwelt by the visible symbol of his presence. That holy place was emblematic of heaven; and the idea here is, that the hope of the Christian enters into heaven itself; it takes hold on the throne of God; it is made firm by being fastened there. It is not the hope of future riches, honours, or pleasures in this life�"for such a hope would not keep the soul steady; it is the hope of immortal blessedness and purity in the world beyond.

{f} "within the veil" Le 16:15


Verse 20. Whither. To which most holy place�"heaven.

The forerunner. The word here used occurs nowhere else in the New Testament.

A forerunner prodromov�"is one who goes before others to prepare the way. The word is applied to light troops sent forward as scouts. Diod. Sic. 17.17. Comp. "Wisdom of Solomon," (Apoc.,) xii. 8: "Thou didst send wasps, forerunners of thy host, to destroy them by little and little." The meaning here is, that Jesus went first into the heavenly sanctuary. He led the way. He has gone there on our account, to prepare a place for us, Joh 14:3. Having such a friend and advocate there, we should be firm in the hope of eternal life; and, amidst the storms and tempests around us, we should be calm. Made an High Priest for ever. See Barnes "Heb 5:6" See Barnes "Heb 5:10"

To illustrate this fact was the object for which this discussion was introduced, and which had been interrupted by the remarks occurring in this chapter on the danger of apostasy. Having warned them of this danger, and exhorted them to go on to make the highest attainments possible in the divine life, the apostle resumes the discussion respecting Melchizedek, and makes the remarks which he intended to make respecting this remarkable man. See Heb 5:11.

{g} "the forerunner" Heb 4:14

{h} "Melchisedec" Heb 7:17


We should aim at perfection, in order that we may have evidence of piety, Heb 6:1. No man can be a Christian who does not do this, or who does not desire to be perfect, as God is perfect. No one can be a Christian who is satisfied or contented to remain in sin; or who would not prefer to be made at once as holy as an angel�"as the Lord Jesus�" as God.

2. We should aim at perfection, in order to make great attainments, Heb 6:1. No man makes any great advance in anything who does not set his standard high. Men usually accomplish about what they expect to accomplish. If a man expects to be a quack physician, he becomes such; if he is satisfied to become a fourth rate lawyer, he becomes such; if he is willing to be an indifferent mechanic, he advances no higher; if he has no intention or expectation of being a first-rate farmer, he will never become one. If he sincerely aims, however, to excel, he usually accomplishes his object. And it is so in religion. If a man does not intend to be an eminent Christian, he may be certain he never will be. Religion is not produced by chance, any more than fine fruit is, or than a good harvest is. One of the principal reasons why President Edwards became so eminent a Christian was, that in early life he adopted the following resolution, to which he appears always to have adhered, that "on the supposition that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true lustre, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part, and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, To act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time." Life, by S. E. Dwight, D.D., p. 72.

3. We should aim to acquire as much knowledge of religious truth as we possibly can, Heb 6:1,2. True piety is principle. It is not fancy, or dreaming, or visions, or enthusiasm. It is based on knowledge, and does not go beyond that. No man has any more religion than he has knowledge of the way of salvation. He cannot force his religion to overstep the bounds of his knowledge; for ignorance contributes nothing to devotion. There may be knowledge where there is no piety; but there can be no true religion where there is no knowledge. If, therefore, a Christian wishes to make advances, he must gain a knowledge of the truth. He must understand the great doctrines of his religion. And in like manner, if we wish the next generation to be intelligent and solid Christians, we must train them up to understand the Bible.

4. The consequences of the judgment will be eternal, Heb 6:3. No truth is more solemn than this. It is this which makes the prospect of the judgment so awful. If the consequences of the sentence were to continue for a few years, or ages, or centuries only, it would be of much less importance. But who can abide the thought of "eternal judgment" of an eternal sentence? Here the most fearful and solemn sentence is for a short period. The sentence will soon expire; or it is mitigated by the hope of a change. Pain here is brief. Disgrace, and sorrow, and heaviness of heart, and all the woes that man can inflict, soon come to an end. There is an outer limit of suffering, and no severity of a sentence, no ingenuity of man, can prolong it far. The man disgraced, and whose life is a burden, will soon die. On the cheeks of the solitary prisoner, doomed to the dungeon for life, a "mortal paleness" will soon settle down, and the comforts of an approaching release by death may soothe the anguish of his sad heart. The rack of torture cheats itself of its own purpose, and the exhausted sufferer is released. "The excess [of grief] makes it soon mortal." But in the world of future woe the sentence will never expire; and death will never come to relieve the sufferer. I may ask, then, of my reader, Are you prepared for the "eternal" sentence? Are you ready to hear a doom pronounced which can never be changed? Would you be willing to have God judge you just as you are, and pronounce such a sentence as ought to be pronounced now, and have the assurance that it would be eternal? You seek worldly honour�"Would you be willing to be doomed always to seek that? You aspire after wealth�"Would you be willing to be doomed to aspire after that always? You seek pleasure, in the gay and giddy world�"Would you be willing to be doomed always to seek after that? You have no religion �"perhaps desire to have none�"Yet would you be willing to be doomed to be always without religion You are a stranger to the God that made you�"Would you be willing to be sentenced to be always a stranger to God? You indulge in passion, pride, envy, sensuality�"Would you be willing to be sentenced always to the raging of these passions and lusts? How few are they who would be willing to have an eternal sentence passed on them, or to be doomed to pursue their present employments, or to cherish their present opinions for ever! How few who would dare to meet a sentence which should be in strict accordance with what was just, and which was never to change!

5. With the righteous it should be matter of rejoicing that the judgment is to be eternal, Heb 6:3. They can desire no change of the sentence which will assign them to heaven; and it will be no small part of the joy of the heavenly world, that the results of the judgment will be everlasting. There will be no further trial; no reversing of the sentence; no withdrawing of the crown of glory. The righteous are the only ones who have not reason to dread a "just eternal sentence;" and they will rejoice when the time shall come which will fix their doom for ever.

6. We should dread apostasy from the true religion, Heb 6:4. We should habitually feel that if we should deny our Lord, and reject his religion, there would be no hope. The die would be cast; and we must then perish for ever. By this solemn consideration God intends to preserve his people; and it is a consideration which has been so effectual, that there is not the least reason to suppose that any one who has ever had any true religion has fallen away and perished. Many have been almost Christians, and have then turned back to perdition, (Mt 7:22,23; Ac 26:28; ) but there is no reason to suppose that any who have been true Christians have thus apostatized and been lost. Yet Christians are not kept without watchfulness; they cannot be kept without the most sincere and constant endeavours to preserve themselves from falling.

7. If the sin of apostasy is so great, then every approach to it is dangerous, and then every sin should be avoided. He that habitually indulges in sin cannot be a Christian; and every sin which a sincere Christian commits should be measured by the guilt which would exist should it become final, and should he wholly fall away. No man can indulge in sin and be safe; and no professed Christian, who finds himself disposed to indulge in sin, should cherish the expectation of reaching heaven, Heb 6:4-6.

8. It is a matter of devout gratitude that God has kept all his true people from apostasy, Heb 6:4-6. If it is true that no one who has been regenerated has ever fallen away; if the means which God has used have been effectual in a world so full of temptations, and when we have hearts so prone to evil; and if it is the intention of God to keep all to eternal salvation who are truly converted, then it should be to us a subject of devout thankfulness and of encouragement. In view of this, we should admire the wisdom of the plan which thus secures salvation; we should look to him with the firm assurance that he will keep what we have committed to him to the final day.

9. We should improve the privileges which we enjoy, so as to receive a blessing from God, Heb 6:7,8. It is desirable that a farm should be well cultivated, so as not to be overrun with briers and thorns; desirable that it should produce an abundant harvest, and not exhibit mere barrenness and desolation. Yet, alas, there are many professing Christians who resemble such a field of thorns, and such a scene of desolation. They produce no fruits of righteousness; they do nothing to extend the kingdom of the Redeemer! What can such expect but the "curses, of God ? What can the end of such be but to be "burned?"

10. God will not fail to reward his faithful people, Heb 6:10. What we have done in his service, and with a sincere desire to promote his glory, unworthy of his notice as it may seem to us to be, he will not fail to reward. It may be unobserved or forgotten by the world�"nay, it may pass out of our own recollection�"but it will never fail from the mind of God. Whether it be "two mites" contributed to his cause, or a "cup of cold water given to a disciple," or a life consecrated to his service, it will be alike remembered. What encouragement there is, therefore, to labour it. the promotion of his glory, and to do all we can for the advancement of his kingdom!

11. Let us follow those who have inherited the promises; Heb 6:12. They are worthy examples. When from their lofty seats in heaven they look back on the journey of life, though to them attended with many trials, they never regret the "faith and patience" by which they were enabled to persevere. We have most illustrious examples to imitate. They are numerous as the drops of dew, and bright as the star of the morning. It is an honour to tread in the footsteps of the holy men who have inherited the promises; an honour to feel that we are walking in the same path, and are reaching out the hand to the same crown.

It is the privilege of those who are truly the children of God to enjoy strong consolation, Heb 6:13-18. Their hope is based on that which cannot fail. God cannot lie. And when we have evidence that he has promised us eternal life, we may open our hearts to the full influence of Christian consolation. It may be asked, perhaps, how we may have that evidence? Will God speak to us from heaven, and assure us that we are his children? Will he reveal our names as written in his book? Will he come to us in the night-watches, and address us by name as his? I answer, No. None of these things are we to expect. But if we have evidence that we have true repentance, and sincere faith in the Redeemer; if we love holiness, and desire to lead a pure life; if we delight in the Bible an& in the people of God, then we may regard him as addressing us in the promises and oaths of his word, and assuring us of salvation. These promises belong to us, and we may apply them to ourselves. And if we have evidence that God promises us eternal life, why should we doubt? We may feel that we are unworthy; our consciences may reproach us for the errors and follies of our past lives; but on the unchanging word and oath of God we may rely, and there we may feel secure.

13. How invaluable is the Christian hope! Heb 6:19. To us it is like the anchor to a vessel in a storm. We are sailing along the voyage of life. We are exposed to breakers and tempests. Our bark is liable to be tossed about, or to be shipwrecked. In the agitations and troubles of life, how much we need some anchor of the soul; something that shall make us calm and serene! Such an anchor is found in the hope of the gospel. While that hope is firm we need fear nothing. All is then safe, and we may look calmly on, assured that we shall ride out the storm, and come at last safely into the haven of peace. Happy they who have fled for refuge to the faith of the gospel; whose hope, like a steady anchor, has entered into heaven, and binds the soul to the throne of God; whose confidence in the Redeemer is unshaken in all the storms of life, and who have the assurance that, when the tempest shall have beaten upon them a little longer, they will be admitted to a haven of rest, where storms and tempests are for ever unknown. With such a hope we may well bear the trials of this life for the few days appointed to us on earth�"for what are the longest trials here compared with that eternal rest which remains for all who love God in a brighter world?




IN Heb 5:10,11, the apostle had introduced the name of Melchisedek, and said that Christ was made an high priest after the same order as he. He added, that he had much to say of him, but that they were not in a state of mind then to receive or understand it. He then Heb 5:12-14 rebukes them for the little progress which they had made in Christian knowledge; exhorts them to go on and make higher attainments, Heb 6:1-3; warns them against the danger of apostasy, Heb 6:4-8; and encourages them to hold fast their faith and hope to the end, in view of the covenant faithfulness of God, Heb 6:9-20; and now returns to the subject under discussion�"the high priesthood of Christ. His object is to show that he was superior to the Jewish high priest, and for this purpose he institutes the comparison between him and Melchisedek. The argument is the following :�"

I. That which is drawn from the exalted rank of Melchisedek, and the fact that the ancestor of the whole Jewish priesthood and community �"Abraham�"acknowledged him as his superior, and rendered tribute to him. But Christ was of the order of Melchisedek, and the apostle, therefore, infers his superiority to the Jewish priesthood, Heb 7:1-10. In the prosecution of this argument, the apostle dwells on the import of the name Melchizedek, Heb 7:1,2; states the fact that he was without any known ancestry or descent, and that he stood alone on the pages of the sacred record, and was therefore worthy to be compared with the Son of God, who had a similar pre-eminence, Heb 7:3; urges the consideration that even Abraham, the ancestor of the whole Jewish community and priesthood, paid tithes to him, and thus confessed his inferiority, Heb 7:4; shows that he of whom a blessing was received must be superior to the one who receives it, Heb 7:6,7; and that even Levi, the ancestor of the whole Levitical priesthood, might be said to have paid tithes in Abraham, and thus to have acknowledged his inferiority to Melchisedek, and, consequently, to the Son of God, who was of his "order," Heb 7:9,10.

II. The apostle shows that-"perfection" could not arise out of the Levitical priesthood, and that a priesthood that introduced a perfect state must be superior, Heb 7:11-19. In the prosecution of this argument, he states that perfection could not be arrived at under the Hebrew economy, and that there was need that a priesthood of another order should be formed, Heb 7:11) that a change of the priesthood involved of necessity a change in the law of administration, Heb 7:12; that the necessity of change of the law also followed from the fact that the great high priest was now of another tribe than that of Levi, Heb 7:13,14;) that the Christian High Priest was constituted not after a commandment pertaining to the flesh, and liable to change, but "after the power of an endless life"�"adapted to a life that was never to change or to end, Heb 7:15-17; that, consequently, there was a disannulling of the commandment going before, because it was weak and unprofitable, Heb 7:18; and that the old law made nothing perfect, but that by the new arrangement a system of entire and eternal perfection was introduced, Heb 7:19.

III. The apostle shows the superiority of the priesthood of Christ to that of the Jewish system, from the fact that the great High Priest of the Christian system was constituted with the solemnity of an oath; the Jewish priesthood was not, Heb 7:20-22. His priesthood, therefore, was as much more important and solemn as an oath is superior to a command; and his suretyship became as much more certain as an oath is superior to a simple promise, Heb 7:22.

IV. The superiority of the priesthood of Christ is further shown, from the fact that under the former dispensation there were many priests; but here there was but one. There they lived but a brief period, and then gave way to their successors; but here there was no removal by death, there was no succession, there was an unchangeable priesthood, Heb 7:23,24. He infers, therefore, Heb 7:25,26, that the Christian High Priest was able to save to the uttermost all that came to the Father by him, since he ever lived to make intercession.

V. The last argument is, that under the Levitical priesthood it was necessary for the priest to offer sacrifice for his own sins, as well as for those of the people. No such necessity, however, existed in regard to the High Priest of the Christian system. He was holy, harmless, and undefiled; he had no need to offer sacrifices for his own sins; and in this respect there was a vast superiority of the Christian priesthood over the Jewish, Heb 7:26-28. The force of these several arguments we shall be able to estimate as we advance in the exposition.

Verse 1. For this Melchisedec. See Barnes "Heb 5:6".

The name, Melehisedek, from which the apostle derives a portion of his argument here, is Hebrew and is correctly explained as meaning king of righteousness�"being compounded of two words �"king and righteousness. Why this name was given to this man is unknown. Names, however, were frequently given on account of some quality or characteristic of the man. See Barnes "Isa 8:18".

This name may have been given on account of his eminent integrity. The apostle calls attention to it Heb 7:2 as a circumstance worthy of notice, that his name, and the name of the city where he reigned, were so appropriate to one who, as a priest, was the predecessor of the Messiah. The account of Melchisedek, which is very brief, occurs in Ge 14:18-20. The name occurs in the Bible only in Ge 14, Ps 110:4, and in this epistle. Nothing else is certainly known of him. Grotius supposes that he is the same man who, in the history of Sanchoniathon, is called suduk�"Sydyc. It has indeed been made a question by some whether such a person ever actually existed, and consequently whether this be a proper name. But the account in Genesis is as simple an historical record as any other in the Bible. In that account there is no difficulty whatever. It is said simply, that when Abraham was returning from a successful military expedition, this man, who, it seems, was well known, and who was respected as a priest of God, came out to express his approbation of what he had done, and to refresh him with bread and wine. As a tribute of gratitude to him, and as a thank-offering to God, Abraham gave him a tenth part of the spoils which he had taken. Such an occurrence was by no means improbable, nor would it have been attended with any special difficulty if it had not been for the use which the apostle makes of it in this epistle. Yet on no subject has there been a greater variety of opinion than in regard to this man. The bare recital of the opinions which have been entertained of him would fill a volume. But in a case which seems to be plain, from the Scripture narrative, it is not necessary even to enumerate these opinions. They only serve to show how easy it is for men to mystify a clear statement of history, and how fond they are of finding what is mysterious and marvellous in the plainest narrative of facts. That he was Shem; as the Jews suppose, or that he was the Son of God himself, as many Christian expositors have maintained, there is not the slightest evidence. That the latter opinion is false is perfectly clear; for if he were the Son of God, with what propriety could the apostle say that he "was made like the Son of God," Heb 7:3; that is, like himself; or that Christ was constituted a priest "after the order of Melchisedec;" that is, that he was a type of himself? The most simple and probable opinion is that given by Josephus, that he was a pious Canaanitish prince; a personage eminently endowed by God, and who acted as the priest of his people. That he combined in himself the offices of priest and king furnished to the apostle a beautiful illustration of the offices sustained by the Redeemer, and was, in this respect, perhaps the only one whose history is recorded in the Old Testament who would furnish such an illustration. That his genealogy was not recorded, while that of every other priest mentioned was so careful traced and preserved, furnished another striking illustration. In this respect, like the Son of God, he stood alone. He was not in a line of priests; he was preceded by no one in the sacerdotal office, nor was he followed by any. That he was superior to Abraham, and consequently to all who descended from Abraham; that a tribute was rendered to him by the great ancestor of all the fraternity of Jewish priests, was just an illustration which suited the purpose of Paul. His name, therefore, the place where he reigned, his solitariness, his lone conspicuity in all the past, his dignity, and perhaps the air of mystery thrown over him in the brief history in Genesis, furnished a beautiful and striking illustration of the solitary grandeur, and the inapproachable eminence of the priesthood of the Son of God. There is no evidence that Melchisedek was designed to be a type of the Messiah, or that Abraham so understood it. Nothing of this kind is affirmed; and how shall we affirm it when the sacred oracles are silent?

King of Salem. Such is the record in Ge 14:18. The word Salem means, peace; and from this fact the apostle derives his illustration in Heb 7:2. He regards it as a fact worth remarking on, that the name of the place ever which he ruled expressed so strikingly the nature of the kingdom over which the Messiah was placed. In regard to the place here denoted by the name Salem, the almost uniform opinion has been that it was that afterwards known as Jerusalem. The reasons for this opinion are,

(1.) that it is a part of the name Jerusalem itself�"the name Jerus, altered from Jebus, having been afterwards added, because it was the residence of the Jebusites.

(2.) The name Salem is itself given to Jerusalem. Ps 86:2: "In Salem also is his tabernacle, and his dwelling-place in Zion."

(3.) Jerusalem would be in the direction through which Abraham would naturally pass on his return from the slaughter of the kings. He had pursued them unto Dan, Ge 14:14, and he was returning to Mamre, that is, Hebron, Ge 14:13. On his return, therefore, he would pass in the vicinity of Jerusalem. Rosenmuller, however, supposes that by the name here Jerusalem is not intended, but the whole region occupied by the Jebusites and Hittites, or the royal seat of this region, situated not far from the cities of the plain�"the vale of Siddim, where Sodom and Gomorrah were situated. But I see no reason for doubting that the common opinion, that Jerusalem is intended, is correct. That place was favourably situated for a capital of a nation or tribe; was easily fortified; and would be likely to be early selected as a royal residence,

Priest of the most high God. This is the account which is given of him in Ge 14:18. The leading office of priest was to offer sacrifice. This duty was probably first performed by the father of the family, (comp. See Barnes "Job 1:5" see also Ge 8:20; 22:2; and when he was dead it devolved on the eldest son. It would seem, also, that in the early ages, among all nations whose records have reached us, the office of priest and king were united in the same person. It was long before it was found that the interests of religion would be promoted by having the office of priest pertain to an order of men set apart for this special work, That Melchisedek, who was a king, should also be a priest, was not, therefore, remarkable. The only thing remarkable is, that he should have been a priest of the true God. In what way he became acquainted with Him, is wholly unknown. It may have been by tradition preserved from the times of Noah, as it is possible that the arrival of Abraham in that land may have been in some way the means of acquainting him with the existence and character of JEHOVAH. The fact shows, at least, that the knowledge of the true God was not extinct in the world.

Who met Abraham. He came out to meet him, and brought with him bread and wine. Why he did this, is not mentioned. It was probably as an expression of gratitude to Abraham for having freed the country from oppressive and troublesome invaders, and in order to furnish refreshments to the party which Abraham headed, who had become weary and exhausted with the pursuit. There is not the slightest evidence that the bread and wine which he brought forth was designed to typify the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, as has been sometimes supposed. Comp. Bush on Ge 14:18. What did he know of this ordinance? And why should we resort to such a supposition, when the whole case may be met by a simple reference to the ancient rites of hospitality, and by the fact that the deliverance of the country by Abraham from a grievous invasion made some expression of gratitude on the part of this pious king in the highest degree proper?

Returning from the slaughter of the kings. Amraphel, king of Shiner, Arioch, king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer, king of Elam, and "Tidal, king of nations," who had invaded the valley where Sodom and Gomorrah were, and had departed with a great amount of booty. Those kings Abraham had pursued beyond Dan, and to the neighbourhood of Damascus, and had smitten them, and recovered the spoil.

And blessed him. For the important service which he had rendered in taking vengeance on these invaders; in freeing the land from the apprehension of being invaded again; and in recovering the valuable booty which they had taken away. From Heb 7:6,7, it appears that this act of blessing was regarded as that of one who was superior to Abraham: that is, he blessed him as a priest and a king. As such he was superior in rank to Abraham, who never claimed the title of king, and who is not spoken of as a priest.

{a} "king of Salem" Ge 14:18


Verse 2. To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all. That is, a tenth part of all the spoils which he had taken, Ge 14:20; thus acknowledging that, in dignity of office, Melchisedek was greatly his superior, Heb 7:4,6,8.

This does not appear to have been, on the part of Abraham, so much designed as a present to Melchisedek personally, as an act of pious thankfulness to God. He doubtless recognised in Melchisedek one who was a minister of God, and to him, as such, he devoted the tenth of all which he had taken, as a proper acknowledgment of the goodness of God and of his claims. From this it is evident that the propriety of devoting a tenth part of what was possessed to God, was regarded as a duty before the appointment of the Levitical law. Some expression of this kind is obviously demanded, and piety seems early to have fixed on the tenth part as being no more than a proper proportion to consecrate to the service of religion, for the propriety of the use which the apostle makes of this fact, See Barnes "Heb 7:4, See Barnes "Heb 7:6" See Barnes "Heb 7:8".

First being. The first idea in the interpretation of his name and office, etc. First being mentioned as king of righteousness, and then as king of peace.

King of righteousness. The literal translation of the name Melchisedek. See Barnes "Heb 7:1".

The argument implied in this by the remarks of the apostle is, that he bore a name which made him a proper emblem of the Messiah. There was a propriety that one in whose "order" the Messiah was to be found should have such a name. It would be exactly descriptive of him; and it was worthy of observation, that he of whose "order" it was said the Messiah would be should have had such a name. Paul does not say that this name was given to him with any such reference, or that it was designed to be symbolical of what the Messiah would be; but that there was a remarkable coincidence; that it was a fact which was worth at least a passing thought. This is a kind of remark that might occur to any one to make, and where the slight use which Paul makes of it would not be improper anywhere; but it cannot be denied, that to one accustomed to the Jewish mode of reasoning�"accustomed to dwell much on hidden meanings, and to trace out concealed analogies�"it would be much more obvious and striking than it is with us. We are to place ourselves in the situation of those to whom Paul wrote�"trained up with Jewish feelings, and Jewish modes of thought�"and to ask how this would strike their minds. And this is no more unreasonable than it would be in interpreting a Greek classic, or a work of a Hindoo philosopher, that we should endeavour to place ourselves in the situation of the writer, and of those for whom he wrote, and ascertain what ideas would be conveyed to them by certain expressions. It is not meant by these observations that there was really no intrinsic force in what Paul here said respecting the import of the name. There was force; and all the use which he makes of it is proper. His meaning appears to be merely that it was a fact worthy of remark, that the name had a meaning which corresponded so entirely with the character of Him who was to be a high priest of the same "order."

And after that. He is mentioned after that with another appellation equally significant.

King of peace. A literal translation of the appellation "king of Salem," Heb 7:1. The idea of Paul is, that it was worthy of remark that the appellation which he bore was appropriate to one whose ministry, it was said, the priesthood of the Messiah would resemble.


Verse 3. Without father. The phrase without father apatwr �"means, literally, one who has no father; one who has lost his father; one who is an orphan. Then it denotes one who is born after the death of his father; then one whose father is unknown�"spurious. Passow. The word occurs often in these senses in the classic writers, for numerous examples of which the reader may consult Wetstein, in loc. It is morally certain, however, that the apostle did not use the word here in either of these senses, for there is no evidence that Melchizedek was fatherless in any of these respects. It was very important, in the estimation of the Jews, that the line of their priesthood should be carefully kept; that their genealogies should be accurately marked and preserved; and that their direct descent from Aaron should be susceptible of easy and certain proof. But the apostle says that there was no such genealogical table in regard to Melchizedek. There was no record made of the name either of his father, his mother, or any of his posterity. He stood alone. It is simply said that such a man came out to meet Abraham�"and that is the first and the last which we hear of him and of his family. Now, says the apostle, it is distinctly said Ps 110:4 that the Messiah was to be a priest according to his order: and in this respect there is a remarkable resemblance, so far as the point of his being a priest�"which was the point under discussion�"was concerned. The Messiah thus, as a priest, STOOD ALONE. His name does not appear in the line of priests. He pertained to another tribe, Heb 7:14. No one of his ancestors is mentioned as a priest; and: as a priest he has no descendants and no followers. He has a lonely conspicuity similar to that of Melchisedek; a standing unlike that of any other priest. This should not, therefore, be construed as meaning that the genealogy of Christ could not be traced out�"which is not true, for Mt 1 and Lu 3 have carefully preserved it; but that he had no genealogical record as a priest. As the reasoning of the apostle pertains to this point only, it would be unfair to construe it as implying that the Messiah was to stand unconnected with any ancestor, or that his genealogy would be unknown. The meaning of the word rendered "without father" here is, therefore, one the name of whose father is not recorded in the Hebrew genealogies.

Without mother. The name of whose mother is unknown, or is not recorded in the Hebrew genealogical tables. Philo calls Sarah�" amhtora�"without mother, probably because her mother is not mentioned in the sacred records. The Syriac has given the correct view of the meaning of the apostle. In that version it is, "Of whom neither the father nor mother are recorded in the genealogies." The meaning here is not that Melchisedek was of low and obscure origin, as the terms "without father and without mother" often signify in the classic writers, and in Arabic, (comp. Wetstein;) for there is no reason to doubt that Melchisedek had an ancestry as honourable as other kings and priests of his time. The simple thought is, that the name of his ancestry does not appear in any record of those in the priestly office.

Without descent, Marg, pedigree. The Greek word agenealoghtov �" means, without genealogy; whose descent is unknown. He is merely mentioned himself, and nothing is said of his family or of his posterity.

Having neither beginning of days, nor end of life. This is a much more difficult expression than any of the others respecting Melchizedek. The obvious meaning of the phrase is, that, in the records of Moses, neither the beginning nor the close of his life is mentioned. It is not said when he was born, or when he died; nor is it said that he was born, or that he died. The apostle adverts to this particularly, because it was so unusual in the records of Moses, who is in general so careful to mention the birth and death of the individuals whose lives he mentions. Under the Mosaic dispensation everything respecting the duration of the sacerdotal office was determined accurately by the law. In the time of Moses, and by his arrangement, the Levites were required to serve from the age of thirty to fifty, Nu 4:3,23,36,43,47; Nu 8:24,26. After the age of fifty, they were released from the more arduous and severe duties of their office. In later periods of the Jewish history they commenced their duties at the age of twenty, 1 Ch 23:24,27. The priests also, and the high priest, entered on their office at thirty years of age, though it is not supposed that they retired from it at any particular period of life. The idea of the apostle here is, that nothing of this kind occurs in regard to Melchizedek. No period is mentioned when he entered on his office; none when he retired from it. From anything that appears in the sacred record it might be perpetual�"though Paul evidently did not mean to be understood as saying that it was so. It cannot be that he meant to say that Melehizedek had no beginning of days literally, that is, that he was from eternity; or that he had no end of life literally, that is, that he would exist for ever�"for this would be to make him equal with God. The expression used must be interpreted according to the matter under discussion, and that was the office of Melchizedek as a priest. Of that no beginning is mentioned, and no end. That this is the meaning of Paul there can be no doubt; but there is a much more difficult question about the force and pertinency of this reasoning�"about the use which he means to make of this fact, and the strength of the argument which he here designs to employ. This inquiry cannot easily be settled. It may be admitted, undoubtedly, that it would strike a Jew with much more force than it would any other person; and to see its pertinency we ought to be able to place ourselves in their condition, and to transfer to ourselves, as far as possible, their state of feeling. It was mentioned in Ps 110:4, that the Messiah was to be a "priest after the order of Melchizedek." It was natural, then, to turn to the only record which existed of him�"the very brief narrative in Ge 14. There the account is simple and plain�"that he was a pious Canaanitish king, who officiated as a priest. In what point then, it would be asked, was the Messiah to resemble him? In his personal character; his office; his rank; or in what he did? It would be natural, then, to run out the parallel, and seize upon the points in which Melchizedek differed from the Jewish priests which would be suggested on reading that account for it was undoubtedly in those points that the resemblance between Christ and Melchizedek was to consist. Here the record was to be the only guide, and the points in which he differed from the Jewish priesthood, according to the record, were such as these.

(1.) That there is no account of his ancestry as a priest�"neither father nor mother being mentioned�"as was indispensable in the records of the Levitical priesthood.

(2.) There was no account of any descendants in his office, and no reason to believe that he had any, and he thus stood alone.

(3.) There was no account of the commencement or close of his office as a priest, but, so far as the record goes, it is just as it would have been if his priesthood had neither beginning nor end. It was inevitable, therefore, that those who read the Psalm, and compared it with the account in Ge 14, should come to the conclusion that the Messiah was to resemble Melchizedek in some such points as these�"for these are the points in which he differed from the Levitical priesthood; and to run out these points of comparison is all that the apostle has done here. It is just what would be done by any Jew, or indeed by any other man; and the reasoning grew directly out of the two accounts in the Old Testament. It is not, then, quibble or quirk �"it is sound reasoning, based on these two points:

(1) that it was said in the Old Testament that the Messiah would be a priest after the order of Melchizedek; and

(2) that the only points, according to the record, in which there was anything peculiar about the priesthood of Melchizedek, or in which he differed from the Levitical priesthood, were such as those which Paul specifies, he reasons from the record; and though there is, as was natural, something of a Jewish cast about it, yet it was the only kind of reasoning that was possible in the case.

But made like. The word here used means, to be made like, to be made to resemble; and then to be like, to be compared with. Our translation seems to imply that there was a Divine agency or intention by which Melchizedek was made to resemble the Son of God; but this does not seem to be the idea of the apostle. In the Psalm it is said that the Messiah would resemble Melchizedek in his priestly office, and this is doubtless the idea here. Paul is seeking to illustrate the nature and perpetuity of the office of the Messiah by comparing it with that of Melchizedek. Hence he pursues the idea of this resemblance; and the true sense of the word used here is, "he was like, or he resembled the Son of God." So Tindal and Coverdale render it, "is likened unto the Son of God." The points of resemblance are those which have been already suggested:

(1) in the name�"king of righteousness, and king of peace;

(2) in the fact that he had no ancestors or successors in the priestly office;

(3) that he was, according to the record, a perpetual priest�"there being no account of his death; and perhaps

(4) that he united in himself the office of king and priest. It may be added, that the expression here, "was made like unto the Son of God," proves that he was not himself the Son of God, as many have supposed. How could he be "made like" himself? How could a comparison be formally made between Christ and himself?

Abideth a priest continually. That is, as far as the record in Genesis goes�"for it was according to this record that Paul was reasoning. This clause is connected with Heb 7:1; and, the intermediate statements are of the nature of a parenthesis, containing important suggestions respecting the character of Melchizedek, which would be useful in preparing the readers for the argument which the apostle proposed to draw from his rank and character. The meaning is, that there is no account of his death, or of his ceasing to exercise the priestly office; and in this respect he may be compared with the Lord Jesus. All other priests cease to exercise their office by death, Heb 7:23; but of the death of Melchizedek there is no mention. It must have been true that the priesthood of Melchizedek terminated at his death; and it will be also true that that of Christ will cease when his Church shall have been redeemed, and when he shall have given up the mediatorial kingdom to the rather, 1 Co 15:25-28. The expression, "abideth a priest continually," therefore, is equivalent to saying that he had a perpetual priesthood, in contradistinction from those whose office terminated at a definite period, or whose office passed over into the hands of others. See Barnes "Heb 7:24".

{1} "descent" "pedigree"


Verse 4 Now consider how great this man was. The object of the apostle was to exalt the rank and dignity of Melchizedek. The Jews had a profound veneration for Abraham; and if it could be shown that Melchizedek was superior to Abraham, then it would be easy to demonstrate the superiority of Christ, as a priest, to all who descended from Abraham. Accordingly he argues, that he to whom even the patriarch Abraham showed so much respect, must have had an exalted rank. Abraham, according to the views of the East, the illustrious ancestor of the Jewish nation, was regarded as superior to any of his posterity, and of course was to be considered as of higher rank and dignity than the Levitical priests, who were descended from him.

Even the patriarch Abraham. One so great as he is acknowledged to have been. On the word patriarch, See Barnes "Ac 2:29".

It occurs only in Ac 2:29; 7:8,9, and in this place.

Gave the tenth of the spoils. See Barnes "Heb 7:2".

The argument here is, that Abraham acknowledged the superiority of Melchizedek by thus devoting the usual part of the spoils of war, or of what was possessed, to God by his hands, as the priest of the Most High. Instead of making a direct consecration by himself, he brought them to him as a minister of religion, and recognised in him one who had a higher official standing in the matter of religion than himself. The Greek word rendered spoils�"akroyinion�"means, literally, the top of the heap, from akron, top, and yin, heap. The Greeks were accustomed, after a battle, to collect the spoils together, and throw them into a pile, and then, before they were distributed, to take off a portion from the top, and devote it to the gods, Xen. Cyro. vii. 6, 36; Herod. i. 86, 90; viii. 121, 122; Dion. Hal. ii. In like manner it was customary to place the harvest in a heap; and, as the first thing, to take off a portion from the top to consecrate as a thank-offering to God. The word then came to denote the first-fruits which were offered to God, and then the best of the spoils of battle. It has that sense here, and denotes the spoils or plunder which Abraham had taken of the discomfited kings.


Verse 5. And verily they that are of the sons of Levi. The meaning of this verse is, that the Levitical priests had a right to receive tithes of their brethren, but still that they were inferior to Melchizedek. The apostle admits that their superiority to the rest of the people was shown by the fact that they had a right to require of them the tenth part of the productions of the land for their maintenance, and for the support of religion. But still he says th at their inferiority to Melchizedek, and consequently to Christ as a priest, was shown by the fact that the illustrious ancestor of all the Jewish people, including the priests as well as others, had confessed his inferiority to Melchizedek by paying him tithes.

Who receive the office of the priesthood. Not all the descendants of Levi were priests. The apostle, therefore, specifies particularly those who "received this office," as being those whom he specially designed, and as those whose inferiority to Christ as a priest it was his object to show.

Have a commandment to take tithes. Have by the law a commission, or a right to exact tithes of the people, De 14:22,27-29.

{a} "who receive" Nu 18:21-26.


Verse 6. But he whose descent is not counted from them. Melchizedek. The word descent is, in the margin, pedigree. The meaning is, that he was not in the same genealogy�"mh genealogoumenov�"he was not of the order of Levitical priests. That Melchizedek is meant there can be no doubt; at the same time, also, the thought is presented with prominence, on which Paul so much insists, that he was of a different order from the Levitical priesthood.

And blessed him. Blessed him as a priest of God; blessed him in such a manner as to imply acknowledged superiority. See Heb 7:1.

That had the promises. The promise that he should have a numerous posterity; that in him all the nations of the earth should be blessed. See Heb 6:12-16.

{1} "descent" "pedigree"

{b} "tithes" Ge 14:20

{c} "the promises" Ro 9:4


Verse 7. And without all contradiction. It is an admitted principle; a point about which there can be no dispute.

The less is blessed of the better. The act of pronouncing a blessing is understood to imply superiority of rank, age, or station. So when a father lays his hand on his children and blesses them, it is understood to be the act of one superior in age, venerableness, and authority; when a prophet pronounced a blessing on the people, the same thing was understood; and the same is true, also, when a minister of religion pronounces a blessing on a congregation. It is the act of one who is understood to sustain an office above the people on whom the blessing is pronounced. This was understood of the Saviour when parents brought their children to him to lay his hands on them and bless them, Mt 19:13; and the same was true of Jacob, when flying he blessed the sons of Joseph, Heb 11:21; Ge 48:5-20. The word less here means the one of inferior rank; who is less in office, honour, or age. It does not imply inferiority of moral or religious character, for this is not the point under consideration. The word better means one who is of superior office or rank, not one who has necessarily a purer or holier character. That Melchizedek was thus superior to Abraham, Paul says, is implied by the very declaration that he "blessed him." It is also seen to be true by the whole comparison. Abraham was a petty prince; an Emir�"the head of a company of Nomades, or migratory shepherds, having, it is true, a large number of dependents, but still not having the rank here given to Melchizedek. Though called a prophet, Ge 20:7, yet he is nowhere called either a priest or a king. In these respects, it was undoubted that he was inferior to Melchizedek.


Verse 8. And here men that die receive tithes. Another point showing the inferiority of the Levitical priesthood. They who thus received tithes, though by the right to do this they asserted a superiority over their brethren, were mortal. Like others, they would soon die; and in regard to the most essential things they were on a level with their brethren. They had no exemption from sickness, affliction, or bereavement, and death came to them with just as much certainty as he approached other men. The meaning of this is, that they are mortal like their brethren, and the design is to show the inferiority of their office by this fact. Its obvious and natural signification, in the apprehension of the great mass of readers, would not be, as the meaning has been supposed to be, that it refers "to the brief and mutable condition of the Levitical priesthood." See Stuart, in loco. Such an interpretation would not occur to any one if it were not to avoid the difficulty existing in the correlative member of the verse, where it is said of Melchizedek that "he liveth." But is the difficulty avoided then? Is it not as difficult to understand what is meant by his having an immutable and perpetual priesthood, as it is to know what is meant by his not dying literally ? Is the one any more true than the other whatever difficulties, therefore, there may be, we are bound to adhere to the obvious sense of the expression here; a sense which furnishes also a just and forcible ground of comparison. It seems to me, therefore, that the simple meaning of this passage is, that under the Levitical economy those who received tithes were mortal, and were thus placed in strong contrast with him of whom it was said, "he liveth." Thus they were inferior to him�"as a mortal is inferior to one who does not die; and thus also they must he inferior to him who was made a priest after the "order" of him who thus "lived."

But there. In contrast with "here" in the same verse. The reference here is to the account of Melchizedek: "Here" in the Levitical economy, men received tithes who are mortal; "there," in the account of Melchizedek, the case is different.

He receiveth them. Melchizedek �" for so the connexion evidently demands.

Of whom it is witnessed. Of whom the record is. There is not, in Genesis, indeed any direct record that he lives, but there is the absence of a record that he died; and this seems to have been regarded as, in fact, a record of permanency in the office, or as having an office which did not pass over to successors by the death of the then incumbent.

That he liveth. This is an exceedingly difficult expression, and one which has always greatly perplexed commentators. The fair and obvious meaning is, that all the record we have of Melchizedek is, that he was "alive;" or, as Grotius says, the record is merely that he lived. We have no mention of his death, from anything that the record shows, it might appear that he continued to live on, and did not die. Arguing from the record, therefore, there is a strong contrast between him and the Levitical priests, all of whom we know are mortal, Heb 7:23. The apostle is desirous of making out a contrast between them and the priesthood of Christ, on this point, among others; and in doing this he appeals to the record in the Old Testament, and says that there was a case which furnished an intimation that the priestly office of the Messiah was not to pass over from him to others by death. That case was, that he was expressly compared Ps 110:4 with Melchizedek, and that in the account of Melchizedek there was no record of his death. As to the force of this argument, it must be admitted that it would strike a Jew more impressively than it does most readers now; and it may not be improbable that the apostle was reasoning from some interpretation of the passages in Ge 14 and Ps 110, which was then prevalent, and which would then be conceded on all hands to be correct. If this was the admitted interpretation, and if there is no equivocation, or mere trick in the reasoning�"as there cannot be shown to be�"why should we not allow to the Jew a peculiarity of reasoning as we do to all other people? There are modes of reasoning and illustration in all nations, in all societies, and in all professions, which do not strike others as very forcible. The ancient philosophers had methods of reasoning which now seem weak to us; the lawyer often argues in a way which appears to be a mere quirk or quibble, and so the lecturer in science sometimes reasons. The cause of all this may not be always that there is real quibble or quirk, in the mode of argumentation, but that he who reasons in this manner has in his view certain points which he regards as undisputed which do not appear so to us; or that he argues from what is admitted in the profession, or in the school where he is taught, which are not understood by those whom he addresses. To this should be added also the consideration, that Paul had a constant reference to the Messiah, and that it is possible that in his mind there was here a transition from the type to the antitype, and that the language which he uses may be stronger than if he had been speaking of the mere record of Melchizedek if he had found it standing by itself. Still his reasoning turns mainly on the fact, that in the case of Melchizedek there was no one who had preceded him in that office, and that he had no successor, and, in regard to the matter in hand, it was all one as if he had been a perpetual priest, or had continued still alive.

{a} "of whom" Heb 5:6


Verse 9. And as I may so say. So to speak�"wv epov eipein. For numerous examples in the classic writers of this expression, see Wetstein, in loc. It is used precisely as it is with us when we say, "so to speak," or, "if I may be allowed the expression." It is employed when what is said is not strictly and literally true, but when it amounts to the same thing, or when about the same idea is conveyed. "It is a softening down of an expression which a writer supposes his readers may deem too strong, or which may have the appearance of excess or severity. It amounts to an indirect apology for employing an unusual or unexpected assertion or phrase." Prof. Stuart. Here Paul could not mean that Levi had actually paid tithes in Abraham�"for he had not then an existence; or that Abraham was his representative�"for there had been no appointment of Abraham to act in that capacity by Levi; or that the act of Abraham was imputed or reckoned to Abraham�"for that was not true, and would not have been pertinent to the case if it were so. But it means, that in the circumstances of the case, the same thing occurred in regard to the superiority of Melchizedek, and the inferiority of the Levitical priesthood, as if Levi had been present with Abraham, and had himself actually paid tithes on that occasion. This was so because Abraham was the distinguished ancestor of Levi; and when an ancestor has done an act implying inferiority of rank to another, we feel as if the whole family, or all the descendants, by that act recognised the inferiority, unless something occurs to change the relative rank of the persons. Here nothing indicating any such change had occurred. Melchizedek had no descendants of which mention is made, and the act of Abraham, as the head of the Hebrew race, stood therefore as if it were the act of all who descended from him.

Levi. The ancestor of the whole Levitical priesthood, and from whom they received their name. He was the third son of Jacob and Leah, and was born in Mesopotamia. On account of the conduct of Simeon and Levi towards Shechem, for the manner in which he had treated their sister Dinah, Ge 34:25, and which Jacob characterized as "cruelty," Ge 49:5,6, Jacob said that they should be "scattered in Israel," Ge 49:7. Afterwards the whole tribe of Levi was chosen by God to execute the various functions of the priesthood, and were "scattered" over the land, having no inheritance of their own, but deriving their subsistence from the offerings of the people. Nu 3:6, seq. Levi is here spoken of as the ancestor of the tribe, or collectively to denote the entire Jewish priesthood.

Who receiveth tithes. That is, his descendants, the priests and Levites, receive tithes.

Payed tithes in Abraham. It is the same as if he had payed tithes in or by Abraham.


Verse 10. For he was yet in the loins of his father. Abraham is here called the father of Levi, by a common use of the word, referring to a more remote ancestor than the literal father. The meaning of the apostle is that he was even then, in a certain sense, in the loins of Abraham, when Melchizedek met him; or it was all the same as if he were there, and had then an existence. The relation which subsisted between him and Abraham, in the circumstances of the case, implied the same thing as if he had then been born, and had acted for himself by paying tithes. Instances of this occur constantly. A father sells a farm, to which his son would be heir, and it is the same as if the son had sold it. He has no more control over it than if he had been present and disposed of it himself. A father acknowledges fealty to a government for a certain title or property which is to descend to his heirs, and it is all one as if the heir had himself done it; and it is not improper to say that it is the same as if he had been there and acted for himself. For some valuable remarks on the nature of the reasoning here employed, see Stuart on the Hebrews, Eursus xiv. The reasoning here is, indeed, especially such as would be fitted to impress a Jewish mind, and perhaps more forcibly than it does ours. The Jews valued themselves on the dignity and honour of the Levitical priesthood, and it was important to show them on their own principles, and according to their own sacred writings, that the great ancestor of all the Levitical community had himself acknowledged his inferiority to one who was declared also in their own writings Ps 110 to be like the Messiah, or who was of the same "order." At the same time, the reasoning concedes nothing false, and conveys no wrong impression. It is not mere fancy or accommodation, nor is it framed on allegory or cabalistic principles. It is founded in truth, and such as might be used anywhere, where regard was shown to pedigree, or respect was claimed on account of the illustrious deeds of an ancestor. It would be regarded as sound reasoning in a country like England, where titles and ranks are recognised, and where various orders of nobility exist. The fact that a remote ancestor had done homage or fealty to the ancestor of another class of titled birth would be regarded as proof of acknowledged inferiority in the family, and might be used with force and propriety in an argument. Paul has done no more than this.


Verse 11. If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood. As the Jews supposed. They were accustomed to regard the system as perfect, It was an appointment of God, and they were tenacious of the opinion that it was to be permanent, and that it needed no change. But Paul says that this could not be. Even from their own Scriptures it was apparent that a priest was to arise of another order, and of a more permanent character; and this, he says, was full proof that there was defect of some kind in the previous order. What this defect was he does not here specify, but the subsequent reasoning shows that it was in such points as these�"that it was not permanent; that it could not make the worshippers perfect; that the blood which they offered in sacrifice could not take away sin, and could not render those who offered it holy. Comp. Heb 7:19,23,24, Heb 10:1-4.

For under it the people received the law. This assertion seems necessary in order to establish the point maintained in Heb 7:12, that if the priesthood is changed there must be also a change of the law. In order to this it was necessary to admit that the law was received under that economy, and that it was a part of it, so that the change of one involved also the change of the other. It was not strictly true that the whole law was given after the various orders of Levitical priests were established�"for the law on Sinai, and several other laws were given before that distinct arrangement was made; but it was true

(1) that a considerable part of the laws of Moses were given under that arrangement; and

(2) that the whole of the ceremonial observances was connected with that. They were parts of one system, and mutually dependent on each other. This is all that the argument demands.

What further need was there, etc. "If that system would lead to perfection; if it was sufficient to make the conscience pure, and to remove sin, then there was no necessity of any other. Yet the Scriptures have declared that there would be another Of a different order, implying that there was some defect in the former." This reasoning is founded on the fact that there was an express prediction of the coming of a priest of a different "order," Ps 110:4, and that this fact implied that there was some deficiency in the former arrangement. To this reasoning it is impossible to conceive that there can be any objection.

{a} "If, therefore" Ga 2:21; 5:18,19; Heb 8:7


Verse 12. For the priesthood being changed. According to the prediction in Ps 110 that it would be. When that occurs, the consequence specified will also follow.

There is made of necessity a change also of the law. The law so far as it grew out of that, or was dependent on it. The connexion requires us to understand it only of the law so far as it was connected with the Levitical priesthood. This could not apply to the ten commandments�"for they were given before the institution of the priesthood; nor could it apply to any other part of the moral law, for that was not dependent on the appointment of the Levitical priests. But the meaning is, that since a large number of laws�"constituting a code of considerable extent and importance�"was given for the regulation of the priesthood, and in reference to the rites of religion, which they were to observe or superintend, it followed that when their office was superseded by one of a wholly different order, the law which had regulated them vanished also, or ceased to be binding. This was a very important point in the introduction of Christianity, and hence it is that it is so often insisted on in the writings of Paul. The argument to show that there had been a change or transfer of the priestly office, he proceeds to establish in the sequel.


Verse 13. For he of whom these things are spoken. The Lord Jesus, the Messiah, to whom they had reference. The things here spoken of pertain to his office as priest; his being of the order of Melchizedek. The apostle here assumes it as a point concerning which there could be no dispute, that these things referred to the Lord Jesus. Those whom he addressed would not be disposed to call this in question, and his argument had conducted him to this conclusion.

Pertaineth to another tribe. To the tribe of Judah, Heb 7:14.

Of which no man gave attendance at the altar. The priestly office pertained only to the tribe of Levi. No one of the tribe of Judah had any part in the performance of the duties of that office. This was settled by the Jewish law.


Verse 14. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah. It is well known; it cannot be a matter of dispute. About the fact that the Lord Jesus was of the tribe of Judah there could be no doubt. Comp. Mt 1:3. But probably the apostle means here to refer to more than that simple fact. It was a doctrine of the Old Testament, and was admitted by the Jews, that the Messiah was to be of that tribe. See Ge 49:10; Isa 11:1; Mic 5:2; Mt 11:6, This was an additional consideration to show that there was to be a change of some kind in the office of the priesthood, since it was declared Ps 110 that the Messiah was to be a priest. The fact that the Messiah is to be of the tribe of Judah is still admitted by the Jews. As their distinction of tribes now, however, is broken up, and as it is impossible for them to tell who belongs to the tribe of Judah, it is held by them that when he comes this-will be made known by miracle.

Of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. That is, in the Mosaic laws respecting the office of priest this tribe is not mentioned. All the arrangements pertain to the tribe of Judah.

{b} "evident" Isa 11:1; Mt 1:3; Re 5:5


Verse 15. And it is yet far more evident. Not that our Lord would spring out of Judah, but the point which he was endeavouring to establish; that there must be a change of the priesthood, was rendered still more evident from another consideration. A strong proof of the necessity of such a change of the priesthood was furnished from the fact that the Messiah was to be of the tribe of Judah; but a much stronger because, as a priest, he was to be of the order of Melchizedek�"that is, he was of the same rank with one who did not even belong to that tribe.

After the similitude, Resembling; that is, he was to be of the order of Melchizedek.


Verse 16. Who is made. That is, the other priest is made�"to wit, the Messiah. He was made a priest by a peculiar law.

Not after the law of a carnal commandment. Not according to the law of a commandment pertaining to the flesh. The word carnal means fleshly; and the idea is, that the law under which the priests of the old dispensation were made was external, rather than spiritual; it related more to outward observances than to the keeping of the heart. That this was the nature of the Mosaic ritual in the main, it was impossible to doubt, and the apostle proceeds to argue from this undeniable truth.

But after the power of an endless life. By an authority of endless duration, That is, it was not concerned mainly with outward observances, and did not pass over from one to another by death, but was unchanging in its character, and spiritual in its nature. It was enduring and perpetual as a priesthood, and was thus far exalted above the service performed by the priests under the former dispensation.


Verse 17. For he testifieth. "That this is the true account of it is proved by the testimony of God himself, that he was to be a Priest for ever. See Barnes "Heb 5:6".

{a} "Thou art a Priest" Ps 110:4


Verse 18. For there is verily a disannulling. A setting aside. The law which existed before in regard to the priesthood becomes now abrogated, in consequence of the change which has been made in the priesthood. See Barnes "Heb 7:12".

Of the commandment. Relating to the office of priest, or to the ceremonial rites in general. This does not refer to the moral law, as if that was abrogated, for

(1) the reasoning of the apostle does not pertain to that, and

(2) that law cannot be abrogated. It grows out of the nature of things, and must be perpetual and universal.

Going before. Going before the Christian dispensation, and introducing it.

For the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. That is, it was not adapted to save man; it had not power to accomplish what was necessary to be done in human salvation. It answered the end for which it was designed�"that of introducing a more perfect plan, and then vanished as a matter of course. It did not expiate guilt; it did not give peace to the conscience; it did not produce perfection, (Heb 7:11,) and therefore it gave place to a better system.

{b} "weakness" Ac 13:39


Verse 19. For the law made nothing perfect. The Levitical, ceremonial law. It did not produce a perfect state; it did not do what was desirable to be done for a sinner. See Barnes "Heb 8:11".

That law, as such, did not reconcile man to God; it did not make an atonement; it did not put away guilt; in one word, it did not restore things to the condition in which they were before the law was broken and man became a sinner. If man were saved under that system�"as many undoubtedly were�"it was not in virtue of any intrinsic efficacy which it possessed, but in virtue of that great Sacrifice which it typified.

But the bringing in of a better hope did. Marg. "But it was." The correct rendering is, probably, "but there is the bringing in of a better hope by which we have access to God." The law could not effect this. It left the conscience guilty, and sin unexpiated. But there is now the introduction of a better system by which we can approach a reconciled God. The "better hope" here refers to the more sure and certain expectation of heaven introduced by the gospel. There is a better foundation for hope; a more certain way of obtaining the Divine favour than the law could furnish.

By the which. By which better hope; that is, by means of the ground of hope furnished by the gospel�"to wit, that God is now reconciled, and that we can approach him with the assurance that he is ready to save us.

We draw nigh unto God. We have access to him. See Barnes "Ro 5:1" See Barnes "Ro 5:2".

{1} "the bringing" "but it was"

{d} "which we draw" Ro 3:20


Verse 20. And inasmuch as not without an oath. In addition to every other consideration showing the superiority of Christ as a priest, there was the solemnity of the oath by which he was set apart to the office. The appointment of one to the office of priest by an oath, such as occurred in the case of Jesus, was much more solemn and important than where the office was received merely by descent. Ac 13:39


Verse 21. For those priests were made without an oath. The Levitical priests were set apart and consecrated without their office being confirmed to them by an oath on the part of God. They received it by regular descent, and when they arrived at a suitable age they entered on it of course. Jesus received his office by special appointment, and it was secured to him by an oath. The word rendered "oath" is, in the margin, "swearing of an oath". This is the proper meaning of the Greek word, but the sense is not materially varied.

But this with an oath. This priest, the Lord Jesus, became a priest in virtue of an oath.

The Lord sware. See Barnes "Heb 6:3".

The reference here is to Ps 110:4 "The Lord hath sworn." and will not repent. That is, will not regret, or will not alter his mind through regret�"for this is the meaning of the Greek word.

{2} "an oath" "swearing of an oath"

{e} "The Lord sware" Ro 5:2


Verse 22. By so much.

Inasmuch as an oath is more solemn than a mere appointment. The meaning is, that there is all the additional security in the suretyship of Jesus which arises from the solemnity of an oath. It is not implied that God would not be true to his mere promise, but the argument here is derived from the custom of speaking among men. An oath is regarded as much more sacred and binding than a mere promise; and the fact that God has sworn in a given case furnishes the highest security that what he has promised will be performed.

Was Jesus made a surety. The word surety egguov�" occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, nor is it found in the Septuagint. It properly means, a bondsman; one who pledges his name, property, or influence, that a certain thing shall be done. When a contract is made, a debt contracted, or a note given, a friend often becomes the security in the case, and is himself responsible if the terms of the contract are not complied with. In the case of the new covenant between God and man, Jesus is the "security," or the bondsman. But of what, and to whom, is he the surety? It cannot be that he is a bondsman for God that he will maintain the covenant, and be true to the promise which he makes, as Crellius supposes, for we need no suck "security" of the Divine faithfulness and veracity. It cannot be that he becomes responsible for the Divine conduct in any way�"- for no such responsibility is needed or possible. But it must mean, that he is the security or bondsman on the part of man; He is the pledge that we shall be saved. He becomes responsible, so to speak, to law and justice, that no injury shall be done by our salvation, though we are sinners. He is not a security that we shall be saved, at any rate, without holiness, repentance, faith, or true religions for he never could enter into a suretyship of that kind; but his suretyship extends to this point, that the law shall be honoured; that all its demands shall be met; that we may be saved though we have violated it, and that its terrific penalty shall not fall upon us. The case is this:�" A sinner becomes a true penitent, and enters heaven. It might be said that he does this over a broken law; that God treats the good and bad alike, and that no respect has been paid to the law or the penalty in his salvation. Here the great Surety comes in, and says that it is not so. He has become responsible for this; he the surety, the pledge, that all proper honour shall be paid to justice, and that the same good effects shall ensue as if the penalty of the law had been fully borne. He himself has died to honour the law, and to open a way by which its penalty may be fully remitted consistently with justice, and he becomes the everlasting pledge or security to law, to justice, to the universe, that no injury shall result from the pardon and salvation of the sinner. According to this view, no man can rely on the suretyship of Jesus but he who expects salvation on the terms of the gospel. The suretyship is not at all that he shall be saved in his sins, or that he shall enter heaven no matter what life he leads; it is only that if he believes, repents, and is saved, no injury shall be clone to the universe, no dishonour to the law. For this the Lord Jesus is responsible.

Of a better testament. Rather, "of a better covenant." The former covenant, was that which God made with his people under the Mosaic dispensation: the new covenant is that made by means of Christ. This is better, because

(1) the terms are more simple and easy;

(2) the observances and rites are much less onerous and hard;

(3) it relates to all men, not being confined to the Jewish people;

(4) it is now sure. The former was administered through the instrumentality of the Levitical priesthood, this by the Son of God; that was transitory and changing, this is permanent and eternal.

{f} "better testament" Heb 8:6


Verse 23. And they truly. Under the Jewish dispensation. The object of this verse, and the following, is to state one more reason of the excellence of the priesthood of Christ. It is that, owing to the frailty of human nature and the shortness of life, the office of priest there was continually changing. But here there was no such change. Christ, being exalted to the heavens to live for ever there, has now an unchangeable priesthood, and everything in regard to his office is permanent.


Verse 24. But this man. Gr., "But he"�"referring to Christ.

Because he continueth ever. Gr., "Because he remains for ever." The idea is, because he does not die, but ever lives, he has an unchanging priesthood. There is no necessity that he should yield it to others, as was the ease with the Jewish priests, because they were mortal. The reason, in their ease, why it passed to others, was not that they did not perform the office well, but that they were mortal, and could not continue to hold it. But this reason could not operate in the ease of the Lord Jesus, and therefore his priesthood would be permanent.

Hath an unchangeable priesthood. Marg., "or, which passeth not from one to another." The margin expresses the sense of the passage. The idea is not strictly that it was unchangeable, but that it did not pass over into other hands. The Levitical priesthood passed from one to another as successive generations came on the stage of action. This reasoning is not designed to prove that the priesthood of Christ will be literally eternal�"for its necessity may cease when all the redeemed are in heaven�"but that it is permanent, and does not pass from hand to hand.

{b} "unchangeable" "which passeth not from on to another"

{1} "priesthood" 1 Sa 2:35


Verse 25. Wherefore he is able also. As he ever lives, and ever intercedes, he has power to save. He does not begin the work of salvation, and then relinquish it by reason of death, but he lives on as long as it is necessary that anything should be done for the salvation of his people. We need a Saviour who has power and Christ has shown that he has all the power which is needful to rescue man from eternal death.

To the uttermost. This does not mean simply for ever�"but that he has power to save them so that their salvation shall be complete eiv to pantelev. He does not abandon the work midway; he does not begin a work which he is unable to finish. He can aid us as long as we need anything done for our salvation; he can save all who will entrust their salvation to his hands.

That come unto God by him. In his name; or depending on him. To come to God, is to approach him for pardon and salvation.

Seeing he ever liveth. He does not die as the Jewish priests did.

To make intercession for them. See Barnes "Ro 8:34".

He constantly presents the merits of his death as a reason why we should be saved. The precise mode, however, in which he makes intercession in heaven for his people is not revealed. The general meaning is, that he undertakes their cause, and assists them in overcoming their foes and in their endeavours to live a holy life. Comp. 1 Jo 2:1. He does in heaven whatever is necessary to obtain for us grace and strength; secures the aid which we need against our foes; and is the pledge or security for us that the law shall be honoured, and the justice and truth of God maintained, though we are saved. It is reasonable to presume that this is somehow by the presentation of the merits of his great sacrifice, and that that is the ground on which all this grace is obtained. As that is infinite, we need not fear that it will ever be exhausted.

{b} "able" Jude 1:24

{2} "to the uttermost" "evermore"


Verse 26. For such an High Priest became us. Was fitted to our condition. That is, there was that in our character and circumstances which demanded that a high priest for us should be personally holy. It was not requisite merely that he should have great power; or that he should be of a rank superior to that of the Jewish priesthood; but there was a special propriety that he should surpass all others in moral purity. Other priests were mere mortal men, and it was necessary that their office should pass to other hands: they were sinful men also, and it was necessary that sacrifices should be made for themselves as well as others. We need, however, a different priest. We need not only one who ever lives, but one who is perfectly holy, and who has no need to bring an offering for himself, and all the merit of whose sacrifice, therefore, may be ours. Such an high priest we have in the person of the Lord Jesus; and there is no truth more interesting, and no proposition more susceptible of proof, than that. HE IS EXACTLY FITTED TO MAN. In his moral character, and in the great work which he has accomplished, he is just such a Saviour as is adapted to the wants of ignorant, fallen, wretched, sinful man. He is benevolent, and pities our woes; wise, and is able to enlighten our ignorance; compassionate, and ready to forgive our faults. He has made such an sacrifice. It was necessary to put away our guilt, and offers such intercession as we need to have offered for us in order that we may be preserved from falling.

Who is holy. Not merely outwardly righteous, but pure in heart.

Harmless. Not injuring any one. To no one did he do wrong. Neither to their name, person, or property, did he ever do injury; nor will he ever. He is the only one who has lived on earth of whom it could be said that he never, in any way, did wrong to another.

Undefiled. By sin; by any improper desire or passion. He was unstained by crime; "unspotted from the world." Sin always defiles the soul; but from every such pollution the Lord Jesus was free.

Separate from sinners. That is, he did not associate with them as such. He did not partake of their feelings, plans, pleasures. Though he mingled with them, yet it was merely to do them good; and in all his life there was an entire separation from the feelings, principles, and views of a sinful world.

And made higher than the heavens. Exalted above the visible heavens; that is, at the right hand of God. See Barnes "Eph 1:21, See Barnes "Php 2:9".

We needed a high priest who is thus exalted, that he may manage our cause before the throne of God.

{d} "harmless" Heb 4:15; 1 Pe 2:22


Verse 27. Who needeth not daily, as those High priests. As the Jewish priests. This is an additional circumstance introduced to show the superior excellency of the High Priest of the Christian profession, and to show also how he was fitted to our wants. The Jewish high priest was a sinful man. He had the same fallen and corrupt nature as others. He needed an expiatory sacrifice for his own sins as really as they did for theirs. When he approached God to offer sacrifice, it was needful to make an atonement for himself; and when all was done, it was still a sacrifice offered by a sinful man. But it was not so in the case of Jesus. He was so holy that he needed no sacrifice for himself, and all that he did was in behalf of others. Besides, it was necessary that the sacrifices in the Jewish service should be constantly repeated. They were imperfect. They were mere types and shadows. They who offered them were frail, sinful men. It became necessary, therefore, to repeat them every day to keep up the proper sense of their transgressions, and to furnish a suitable acknowledgment of the tendency to sin alike among the people and the priests. Neither in the nature of the offering, nor in the character of those who made it, was there any sufficient reason why it should cease to be offered, and it was therefore repeated day by day. But it was not so with the Lord Jesus. The offering which he made, though presented but once, was so ample and perfect, that it had sufficient merit for all the sins of the world, and needed never to be repeated. It is not probable that the Jewish high priest himself personally officiated at the offering of sacrifice every day; but the meaning here is, that it was done daily, and that there was need of a daily sacrifice in his behalf. As one of the Jewish people, the sacrifice was offered on his account, as well as on the account of others�" for he partook of the common infirmities and sinfulness of the nation.

For this he did once. That is, once for all efapax. He made such an atonement that it was not needful that it should be repeated. Thus he put an end to sacrifice; for when he made the great atonement it was complete, and there was no need that any more blood should be shed for human guilt.

{a} "his own sins" Le 9:7


Verse 28. For the law. The ceremonial law.

Which have infirmity. Who are weak, frail, sinful, dying, Such were all who were appointed to the office of priest under the Jewish law.

But the word of the oath. By which one was appointed after the order of Melchizedek. See Barnes "Heb 7:21".

Maketh the Son. The Son of God. That appointment has resulted in his being set apart to this work.

Who is consecrated for evermore. Marg., Perfected. See Barnes "Heb 2:10".

The idea is, that the appointment is complete and permanent. It does not pass from one to the other. It is perfect in all the arrangements, and will remain so for ever.


The subject of this chapter is the exalted high-priesthood of the Redeemer. This is a subject which pertains to all Christians, and to all men. All religions imply the priestly office; all suppose sacrifice of some kind. In regard to the priestly office of Christ: as illustrated in this chapter, we may observe,

(1.) He stands alone. In that office he had no predecessor, and has no one to succeed him. In this respect he was without father, mother, or descent�"and he stands in lonely majesty, as the only one who sustains the office, Heb 7:3.

(2.) He is superior to Abraham. Abraham never laid claim to the office of priest, but he recognised his inferiority to one whom the Messiah was to resemble, Heb 7:2,4.

(3.) He is superior to all the Jewish priesthood�"sustaining a rank, and performing an office, above them all. The great ancestor of all the Levitical priests recognised his inferiority to one of the rank or "order" of which the Messiah was to be, and received from him a blessing. In our contemplation of Christ, therefore, as priest, we have the privilege of regarding him as superior to the Jewish high priest�"exalted as was his office, and important as were the functions of his office; as more grand, more pure, more worthy of confidence and love.

(4.) The great High Priest of the Christian profession is the only perfect priest, Heb 7:11,19. The Jewish priests were all imperfect and sinful men. The sacrifices which they offered were imperfect, and could not give peace to the conscience. There was need of some better system, and they all looked forward to it. But in the Lord Jesus, and in his work, there is absolute perfection. What he did was complete, and his office needs no change.

(5.) The office now is permanent. It does not change from hand to hand, Heb 7:23,24. He who sustains this office does not die, and we may ever apply to him, and cast our cares on him. Men die; one generation succeeds another; but our High Priest is the same. We may trust in him in whom our fathers found peace and salvation, and then we may teach our children to confide in the same High-Priest �"and so send the invaluable lesson down to latest generations.

(6.) His work is firm and sure, Heb 7:20-22. His office is founded on an oath, and he has become the security for, all who will commit their cause to him. Can great interests, like those of the soul, be entrusted to better hands? Are they not safer in his keeping than in our own

(7.) He is able to save to the uttermost, Heb 7:25. That power he showed when he was on earth; that power he is constantly evincing. No one has asked aid of him, and found him unable to render it; no one has been suffered to sink down to hell because his arm was weak. What he has done for a few, he can do for "all;" and they who will entrust themselves to him will find him a sure Saviour. Why will not men then be persuaded to commit themselves to him? Can they save themselves? Where is there one who has shown that he was able to do it? Do they not need a Saviour? Let the history of the world answer. Can man conduct his own cause before God? How weak, ignorant, and blind is he! how little qualified for such an office! Has any one suffered wrong by committing himself to the Redeemer? If there is such an one, where is he? Who has ever made this complaint that has tried it? Who ever will make it? In countless millions of instances the trial has been made, whether Christ was "able to save." Men have gone with a troubled spirit, with a guilty conscience, and with awful apprehensions of the wrath to come, and have asked him to save them. Not one of, those who have done this has found reason to doubt his ability; not one has regretted that he has committed the deathless interest of the soul into his hands.

(8.) Christ saves to the uttermost, Heb 7:25. He makes the salvation complete. So the Bible assures us; and so we see it, in fact, as far as we can trace the soul. When a Christian friend dies, we stand at his bed-side, and accompany him as far as we can into the valley of the shadow of death. We ask him whether he feels that Christ is able to save? He replies," Yes." When he has lost the power of speaking above a whisper, we ask him the same question, and receive the same reply. When he gives us the parting hand, and we, still anxious to know whether all is well, ask the same question, a sign, a smile, a lighting up of the dying eye, declares that all is well. As far as we can trace the departing soul, when it goes into the dark valley, we receive the same assurance; and why should we doubt that the same grace is bestowed further onward and that he saves "to the uttermost? " But what else thus saves? Friends give the parting hand at the gloomy entrance to that valley, and the gay and the worldly coolly turn away. The delusions of infidelity there forsake the soul, and minister no comfort then. Flatterers turn away from the dying scene�"for who flatters the dying with the praise of beauty or accomplishments? Taste, skill, learning, talent, do not help then�"for how can they save a dying soul? None but Jesus saves to the "uttermost;" no other friend but he goes with us entirely through the valley of death. Is it not better to have such a friend than to go alone through that dark, gloomy path? Any other gloomy and dangerous way may be more safely trod without a friend than the vale of death.

(9.) The Christian religion is fitted to our condition, Heb 7:26,27. It has just such a High Priest as we need�"holy, harmless, undefiled. Just such an atonement has been made as is necessary �"ample, rich, full, and not needing to be made again. It reveals just such truth as we want�" that respecting the immortality of the soul, and the glorious state of the redeemed beyond the grave. It imparts just such consolation as is fitted to our condition�" pure, rich, unfailing, elevating. It reconciles us to God just as it should be done�"in such a way that God can be honoured, and the purity and dignity of his law maintained. It is the religion adapted to dying, ignorant, sinful, wretched man. No other system so much consults the true dignity of our nature, and the honour of God; no one diffuses such consolations through the life that is, or fills with such hopes in regard to the life to come.

(10.) Since, then, we have now such a great High Priest; since the promises of the gospel are settled on so firm a foundation; and since the gospel in its provisions of mercy is all that we can desire it to be, let us yield our hearts entirely to the Saviour, and make this salvation wholly ours. We have the privilege, if we will, of drawing near to God with boldness. We may come near his throne. Though we are poor and sinful, and deserve neither notice nor mercy, yet we may come and ask for all that we need. We may go to God, and supplicate his favour with the assurance that he is ready to hear. We may go feeling that the great atonement has been made for our sins, and that no other offering is now needed; that the last bloody offering which God required has been presented, and that all that he now asks is the sacrifice of a contrite and a grateful heart. All that was needful to be done on the part of God to provide a way of salvation, has been done; all that remains is for man to forsake his sins, and to come back to a God who waits to be gracious.

{1} "consecrated" "perfected"




THIS chapter is a continuation of the argument which has been prosecuted in the previous chapters respecting the priesthood of Christ. The apostle had demonstrated that he was to be a priest, and that he was to be not of the Levitical order, but of the order of Melchizedek. As a consequence, he had proved that this involved a change of the law appointing a priesthood, and that, in respect to permanency, and happy moral influence, the priesthood of Christ far surpassed the Jewish. This thought he pursues in this chapter, and shows particularly that it involved a change in the nature of the covenant between God and his people. In the prosecution of this, he

(1.) states the sum or principal point of the whole matter under discussion�"that the priesthood of Christ was real and permanent, while that of the Hebrew economy was typical, and was destined in its own nature to be temporary, Heb 8:1-3.

(2.) There was a fitness and propriety in his being removed to heaven to perform the functions of his office there�"since if he had remained on earth he could not have officiated as priest, that duty being by the law of Moses entrusted to others pertaining to another tribe, Heb 8:4,5.

(3.) Christ had obtained a more exalted ministry than the Jewish priests held, because he was the Mediator in a better covenant�"a covenant that related rather to the heart than to external observances, Heb 8:6-13. That new covenant excelled the old in the following respects:

(a) it was established on better promises, Heb 8:6.

(b) It was not a covenant requiring mainly external observances, but pertained to the soul, and the law of that covenant was written there, Heb 8:7-10.

(c) It was connected with the diffusion of the knowledge of the Lord among all classes, from the highest to the lowest, Heb 8:11.

(d) The evidence of forgiveness might be made more clear than it was under the old dispensation, and the way in which sins are pardoned be much better understood, Heb 8:12. These considerations involved the consequence also which is stated in Heb 8:13, that the old covenant was of necessity about to vanish away.

Verse 1. Now of the things which we have spoken. Or, "of the things of which we are speaking," (Stuart;) or, as we should say, of what is said. The Greek does not necessarily mean things that had been spoken, but may refer to all that he was saying, taking the whole subject into consideration.

This is the sum. Or, this is the principal thing; referring to what he was about to say, not what he had said. Our translators seem to have understood this as referring to a summing up, or recapitulation of what he had said�"and there can be no doubt that the Greek would bear this interpretation. But another exposition has been proposed, adopted by Bloomfield, Stuart, Michaelis, and Storr, among the moderns, and found also in Sindas, Theodoret, Theophylact, and others, among the ancients. It is that which regards the word rendered sum kefalaion as meaning the ; the chief matter; the most important point. The reason for this interpretation is, that the apostle in fact goes into no recapitulation of what he had said, but enters on a new topic relating to the priesthood of Christ. Instead of going over what he had demonstrated, he enters on a more important point, that the priesthood of Christ is performed in heaven, and that he has entered into the true tabernacle there. All which preceded was type and shadow, this was that which the former economy had adumbrated. In the previous chapters the apostle had shown that he who sustained this office was superior in rank to the Jewish priests; that they were frail and dying, and that the office in their hands was changing from one to another, but that that of Christ was permanent and abiding. He now comes to consider the real nature of the office itself; the sacrifice which was offered; the substance of which all in the former dispensation was the type. This was the principle thing kefalaion the head, the most important matter; and the consideration of this is pursued through chapters 8-10.

We have such an High Priest. That is settled; proved; indisputable. The Christian system is not destitute of that which was regarded as so essential to the old dispensation�"the office of a high priest.

Who is set on the right hand of a throne, etc. He is exalted to honour and glory before God. The right hand was regarded as the place of principle honour; and when it is said that Christ is at the right hand of God, the meaning is, that he is exalted to the highest honour in the universe. See Barnes "Mr 16:19".

Of course the language is figurative�"as God has no hands literally�"but the language conveys an important meaning, that he is near to God, is high in his affection and love, and is raised to the most elevated situation in heaven. See Php 2:9; See Barnes "Eph 1:21, See Barnes "Eph 1:22".

{a} "who is set" Eph 1:20


Verse 2. A minister of the sanctuary. Marg. "or holy things." Gr. twn agiwn. The Greek may either mean the sanctuary�"denoting the Holy of Holies�"or holy things. The word sanctuary�"kodesh�"was given to the tabernacle or temple as a holy place, and the plural form which is here used�" ta agia�"was given to the most holy place by way of eminence �"the full form of the name being�"kodesh kodushim, or, agia agiwn hagia hagion, (Jahn's Arche. & 328,) or, as it is here used, simply as ta agia. The connexion seems to require us to understand it of the most holy place, and not of holy things. The idea is, that the Lord Jesus, the great High Priest, has entered into the Holy of Holies in heaven, of which that in the tabernacle was an emblem. For a description of the most holy place in the temple, See Barnes "Mt 21:12".

And of the true tabernacle. The real tabernacle in heaven, of which that among the Hebrews was but this type. The word tabernacle skhnh means, properly, a booth, hut, or tent, and was applied to the tent which Moses was directed to build as the place for the worship of God. That tabernacle, as the temple was afterwards, was regarded as the peculiar abode of God on earth. Here the reference is to heaven, as the dwelling place of God, of which that tabernacle was the emblem or symbol. It is called the "true tabernacle," as it is the real dwelling of God, of which the one made by Moses was but the emblem. It is not moveable and perishable like that made by man, but is unchanging and eternal.

Which the Lord pitched, and not man. The word pitched is adapted to express the setting up of a tent. When it is said that "the Lord pitched the true tabernacle"�"that is, the permanent dwelling in heaven�"the meaning is, that heaven has been fitted up by God himself, and that whatever is necessary to constitute that an appropriate abode for the Divine majesty has been done by him. To that glorious dwelling the Redeemer has been received, and there he performs the office of High Priest in behalf of man. In what way he does this the apostle specifies in the remainder of this chapter, and in chapters 9 and 10.

{1} "of the sanctuary" "holy things"

{b} "sanctuary" Heb 9:8,12,24


Verse 3. For every High Priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices. This is a general statement about the functions of the high priest. It was the peculiarity of the office; it constituted its essence, that some gift or sacrifice was to be presented. This was indisputable in regard to the Jewish high priest, and this is involved in the nature of the priestly office everywhere. A priest is one who offers sacrifice, mainly in behalf of others. The principles involved in the office are,

(1.) that there is need that some offering or atonement should be made for sin; and,

(2.) that there is a fitness or propriety that some one should be designated to do it. If this idea that a priest must offer sacrifice be correct, then it follows that the name priest should not be given to any one who is not appointed to offer sacrifice. It should not therefore be given to the ministers of the gospel, for it is no part of their work to offer sacrifice�"the great sacrifice for sin having been once offered by the Lord Jesus, and not being again to be repeated. Accordingly, the writers in the New Testament are perfectly uniform and consistent on this point. The name priest is never once given to the ministers of the gospel there. They are called ministers, ambassadors, pastors, bishops, overseers, etc., but never priests. Nor should they be so called in the Christian church. The name priest, as applied to Christian ministers, has been derived from the papists. They hold that the priest does offer as a sacrifice the real body and blood of Christ in the mass, and holding this, the name priest is given to the minister who does it consistently. It is not indeed right or Scriptural�"for the whole doctrine on which it is based is absurd and false�"but while that doctrine is held the name is consistent. But with what show of consistency or propriety can the name be given to a Protestant minister of the gospel?

Wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. That the Lord Jesus should make an offering. That is, since he is declared to be a priest, and since it is; essential to the office that a priest should make an offering, it is indispensable that he should bring a sacrifice to God. He could not be a priest, on the acknowledged principles on which that office is held, unless he did it. What the offering was which the Lord Jesus made the apostle specifies more fully in Heb 9:11-14; Heb 9:25,26

{a} "offer" Eph 5:2; Heb 9:12


Verse 4. For if he were on earth, he should not be a Priest. He could not perform that office. The design of this is to show a reason why he was removed to heaven. The reason was, that on earth there were those who were set apart to that office, and that he, not being of the same tribe with them, could not officiate as priest, There was an order of men here on earth consecrated already to that office, and hence it was necessary that the Lord Jesus, in performing the functions of the office, should be removed to another sphere.

{1} "that there" "they"


Verse 5. Who serve unto the example. Who perform their service by the mere example and shadow of the heavenly things; or in a tabernacle, and in a mode, that is the mere emblem of the reality which exists in heaven. The reference is to the tabernacle, which was a mere example or copy of heaven. The word here rendered example upodeigma means a copy, likeness, or imitation. The tabernacle was made after a pattern which was shown to Moses; it was made so as to have some faint resemblance to the reality in heaven, and in that "copy," or "example," they were appointed to officiate. Their service, therefore, had some resemblance to that in heaven.

And shadow. That is, in the tabernacle where they served there was a mere shadow of that which was real and substantial. Compared with what is in heaven, it was what the shadow is compared with the substance. A shadow�"as of a man, a house, a tree�"will indicate the form, the outline, the size of the object; but it has no substance or reality. So it was with the rites of the Jewish religion. They were designed merely as a shadow of the substantial realities of the true religion, or to present the dim outlines of what is true and real in heaven. Compare See Barnes "Col 2:17".

See Barnes "Heb 10:1".

The word shadow here skia is used in distinction from the body or reality swma�"(Compare Col 2:17; See Barnes "Heb 10:1") and also from eikwn�" a perfect image or resemblance. See Heb 10:1.

Of heavenly things. Of the heavenly sanctuary; of what is real and substantial in heaven. That is, there exists in heaven a reality of which the service in the Jewish sanctuary was but the outline. The reference is, undoubtedly, to the service which the Lord Jesus performs there as the great High Priest of his people.

As Moses was admonished of God. As he was divinely instructed. The word here used�"crhmatizw�"means, properly, to give oracular responses; to make communications to men in a supernatural way�"by dreams, by direct revelations, etc. See Mt 2:12,22; Lu 2:26 Ac 10:22; Heb 11:7.

For, See, saith he. Ex 25:9,40; 26:30.

In Ex 40, it is also repeatedly said that Moses executed all the work of the tabernacle as he had been commanded. Great care was taken that an exact copy should be exhibited to him of all which he was to make, and that the work should be exactly like the pattern. The reason doubtless was, that as the Jewish service was to be typical, none but God could judge of the form in which the tabernacle should be made. It was not to be an edifice of architectural beauty, skill, or taste, but was designed to adumbrate important realities which were known only to God. Hence it was needful that the exact model of them should be given to Moses, and that it should be scrupulously followed.

That thou make all things. Not only the tabernacle itself, but the altars, the ark, the candlestick, etc. The form and materials for each were specified, and the exact pattern shown to Moses in the Mount.

According to the pattern. Gr. tupon�"type; that is, figure, form. The word tupov type�"means, properly, anything produced by the agency of blows, (from tuptw�"to strike;) hence a mark, stamp, print, impression�" as that made by driving nails in the hands, (Joh 20:25;) then a figure or form, as of an image or statue, (Ac 7:43;) the form of a doctrine or opinion, (Ro 6:17;) then an example to be imitated or followed, (1 Co 10:6,17; Php 3:17; 1 Th 1:7; 2 Th 3:9; ) and hence a pattern, or model, after which anything is to be made, Ac 7:44. This is the meaning here. The allusion is to a pattern such as an architect or sculptor uses; a drawing or figure made in wood or clay, after which the work is to be modelled. The idea is, that some such drawing or model was exhibited to Moses by God on Mount Sinai, so that he might have an exact idea of the tabernacle which was to be made. A similar drawing or model of the temple was given by David to Solomon, 1 Ch 28:11,12. We are not, indeed, to suppose that there was, in the case of the pattern shown to Moses, any miniature model of wood or stone actually created and exhibited; but that the form of the tabernacle was exhibited to Moses in vision, See Barnes "Isa 1:1, or was so vividly impressed on his mind that he would have a distinct view of the edifice which was to be reared.

In the Mount. In Mount Sinai; for it was while Moses was there, in the presence of God, that these communications were made.

{b} "of heavenly" Col 2:17; Heb 10:1

{c} "that thou" Ex 25:40; 26:30


Verse 6. But now hath he obtained. That is, Christ.

A more excellent ministry. A service of a higher order, or of a more exalted nature. It was the real and substantial service of which the other was but the emblem; it pertained to things in heaven, while that was concerned with the earthly tabernacle; it was enduring, while that was to vanish away. See Barnes "2 Co 3:6, seq.

By how much. By as much as the new covenant is more important than the old, by so much does his ministry exceed in dignity that under the ancient dispensation,

He is the Mediator. See Barnes "Ga 3:19, See Barnes "Ga 3:19, where the word Mediator is explained. It means here that Christ officiates between God and man according to the arrangements of the new covenant.

Of a better covenant. Marg. "Or testament." This word properly denotes a disposition, arrangement, or ordering of things; and, in the Scriptures, is employed to describe the arrangement which God has made to secure the maintenance of his worship on earth, and the salvation of men. It is uniformly used in the Septuagint and in the New Testament to denote the covenant which God makes with men. The word which properly denotes a covenant or compact sunyhkh�"suntheke, is never used. The writers of the New Testament evidently derived its use from the Septuagint; but why the authors of that version employed it as denoting a will, rather than the proper one denoting a compact, is unknown. It has been supposed by some, and the conjecture is not wholly improbable, that it was because they were unwilling to represent God as making a compact or agreement with men, but chose rather to represent him as making a mere arrangement or ordering of things. Compare See Barnes "Heb 8:8, and Heb 9:16,17. This is a better covenant than the old, inasmuch as it relates mainly to the heart; to the pardon of sin; to a spiritual and holy religion. See Heb 8:10. The former related more to external rites and observances, and was destined to vanish away. See Heb 8:13.

Which was established upon better promises. The promises in the first covenant pertained mainly to the present life. They were promises of length of days; of increase of numbers; of seed-time and harvest; of national privileges; and of extraordinary peace, abundance, and prosperity. That there was also the promise of eternal life it would be wrong to doubt; but this was not the main thing. In the new covenant, however, the promise of spiritual blessings becomes the principal thing. The mind is directed to heaven; the heart is cheered with the hopes of immortal life; the favour of God and the anticipation of heaven are secured in the most ample and solemn manner.

{d} "excellent ministry" 2 Co 3:6-9; Heb 7:22

{2} "better covenant" "testament"


Verse 7. For if that first covenant had been faultless. See Barnes "Heb 7:11".

It is here implied that God had said that that covenant was not perfect or faultless. The meaning is not that that first covenant made under Hoses had any real faults, or inculcated that which was wrong, but that it did not contain the ample provision for the pardon of sin and the salvation of the soul which was desirable. It was merely preparatory to the gospel.

Then should no place have been sought for the second. There could not have been, inasmuch as in that case it would have been impossible to have bettered it, and any change would have been only for the worse.

{e} "if that first covenant" Heb 7:11


Verse 8. For finding fault with them. Or rather, "finding fault, he says is, with the Jewish people-for they had had nothing to do in giving the covenant, but with the covenant itself. "Stating its defects, he had said to them that he would give them one more perfect, and of which that was only preparatory. So Grottos, Stuart, Rosenmuller, and Erasmus understand it. Doddridge, Koppe, and many others understand it as it is in our translation, as implying that the fault was found with the people, and they refer to the passage quoted from Jeremiah for proof, where the complaint is of the people. The Greek may bear either construction; but may we not adopt a somewhat different interpretation still? May not this be the meaning? "For, using the language of complaint, or language that implied that there was defect or error, he speaks of another covenant." According to this, the idea would be, not that he found fault specifically either with the covenant or the people, but generally that he used language which implied that there was defect somewhere when he promised another and a better covenant. The word rendered "finding fault" properly means, to censure, or to blame. It is rendered in Mr 7:2 "they found fault," to wit, with those who ate with unwashed hands; in Ro 9:19, "why doth he yet find fault?" It occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. It is language used where wrong has been done; where there is ground of complaint; where it is desirable that there should be a change. In the passage here quoted from Jeremiah, it is not expressly stated that God found fault either with the covenant or with the people, but that he promised that he would give another covenant, and that it should be different from that which he gave them when they came out of Egypt�"implying that there was defect in that, or that it was not faultless. The whole meaning is, that there was a deficiency which the giving of a new covenant would remove.

He saith. In Jer 31:31-34. The apostle has not quoted the passage literally as it is in the Hebrew, but he has retained the substance, and the sense is not essentially varied. The quotation appears to have been made partly from the Septuagint, and partly from the memory. This often occurs in the New Testament.

Behold. This particle is designed to call attention to what was about to be said as important, or as having some special claim to notice. It is of very frequent occurrence in the Scriptures, being much more freely used by the sacred writers than it is in the classic authors.

The days come. The time is coming. This refers doubtless to the times of the Messiah. Phrases such as these, "in the last days," "in after times," and "the time is coming," are often used in the Old Testament to denote the last dispensation of the world �"the dispensation when the affairs of the world would be wound up. See the phrase explained in the Notes, See Barnes "Heb 1:2, and See Barnes "Isa 2:2".

There can be no doubt that, as it is used by Jeremiah, it refers to the times of the gospel.

When I will make a new covenant. A covenant that shall contemplate somewhat different ends; that shall have different conditions, and that shall be more effective in restraining from sin. The word covenant here refers to the arrangement, plan, or dispensation into which he would enter in his dealings with men. On the meaning of the word, See Barnes "Ac 7:8, and See Barnes "Heb 9:16,17".

The word covenant with us commonly denotes a compact or agreement between two parties that are equal, and who are free to enter into the agreement or not. In this sense, of course, it cannot be used in relation to the arrangement which God makes with man. There is

(1) no equality between them, and

(2) man is not at liberty to reject any proposal which God shall make. The word, therefore, is used in a more general sense, and more in accordance with the original meaning of the Greek word. It has been above remarked, See Barnes "Heb 8:6, that the proper word to denote covenant, or compact�" sunyhkh syntheke �"is never used either in the Septuagint or in the New Testament; another word diayhkh �" diathake�"being carefully employed. Whether the reason there suggested for the adoption of this word in the Septuagint be the real one or not, the fact is indisputable. I may be allowed to suggest, as possible, here an additional reason why this so uniformly occurs in the New Testament. It is, that the writers of the New Testament never meant to represent the transactions between God and man as a compact or covenant, properly so called. They have studiously avoided it; and their uniform practice, in making this nice distinction between the two words, may show the real sense in which the Hebrew word rendered covenant�"berith�"is used in the Old Testament. The word which they employ�" diayhkh�"never means a compact or agreement as between equals. It remotely and secondarily means a will, or testament�" and hence our word "New Testament." But this is not the sense in which it is used in the Bible�"for God has never made a will in the sense of a testamentary disposition of what belongs to him. We are referred, therefore, in order to arrive at the true Scripture view of this whole matter, to the original meaning of the word�" diatheke diyhkh�"as denoting a disposition, arrangement, plan; then that which is ordered, a law, precept, promise, etc. Unhappily, we have no single word which expresses the idea, and hence a constant error has existed in the church�"either keeping up the notion of a compact�"as if God could make one with men; or the idea of a will�"equally repugnant to truth. The word diayhkh is derived from a verb�"diatiyhmi�"meaning, to place apart, to set in order; and then to appoint, to make over, to make an arrangement with. Hence the word diayhkh diatheke�"means, properly, the arrangement or disposition which God made with men in regard to salvation; the system of statutes, directions, laws, and promises, by which men are to become subject to him, and to be saved. The meaning here is, that he would make a new arrangement, contemplating, as a primary thing, that the law should be written in the heart; an arrangement which would be peculiarly spiritual in its character, and which would be attended with the diffusion of just views of the Lord.

With the house of Israel. The family, or race of Israel�"for so the word house is often used in the Scriptures and elsewhere. The word "Israel" is used in the Scriptures in the following senses.

(1.) As a name given to Jacob, because he wrestled with the angel of God and prevailed as a prince, Ge 32:28.

(2.) As denoting all who were descended from him�" called "the children of Israel"�"or the Jewish nation.

(3.) As denoting the kingdom of the ten tribes�"or the kingdom of Samaria, or Ephraim�"that kingdom having taken the name Israel in contradistinction from the other kingdom, which was called Judah.

(4.) As denoting the people of God in general�"his true and sincere friends�"his church. See Barnes "Ro 2:28, See Barnes "Ro 2:29" See Barnes "Ro 9:6".

In this place, quoted from Jeremiah, it seems to be used to denote the kingdom of Israel in contradistinction from that of Judah, and together they denote the whole people of God, or the whole Hebrew nation, This arrangement was ratified and confirmed by the gift of the Messiah, and by implanting his laws in the heart. It is not necessary to understand this as refering to the whole of the Jews, or to the restoration of the ten tribes; but the words Israel and Judah are used to denote the people of God in general; and the idea is, that with the true Israel under the Messiah the laws of God would be written in the heart, rather than be mere external observances.

And with the house of Judah. The kingdom of Judah. This kingdom consisted of two tribes�"Judah and Benjamin. The tribe of Benjamin was, however, small, and the name was lost in that of Judah.

{a} "Behold" Jer 31:31-34


Verse 9. Not according to the covenant, etc. An arrangement or dispensation relating mainly to outward observances, and to temporal blessings. The meaning is, that the new dispensation would be different from that which was made with them when they came out of Egypt. In what respects it would differ is specified in Heb 8:10-12.

Because they continued not in my covenant. In Jeremiah, in the Hebrew, this is, "while my covenant they brake." That is, they failed to comply with the conditions on which I promised to bestow blessings upon them. In Jeremiah this is stated as a simple fact; in the manner in which the apostle quotes it, it is given as a reason why he would give a new arrangement. The apostle has quoted it literally from the Septuagint, and the sense is not materially varied. The word rendered "because" oti may mean "since"�""since they did not obey that covenant, and it was ineffectual in keeping them from sin, showing that it was not perfect or complete in regard to what was needful to be done for man, a new arrangement shall be made that will be without defect." This accords with the reasoning of the apostle; and the idea is, simply, that an arrangement may be made for man, adapted to produce important ends in one state of society or one age of the world, which would not be well adapted to him in another, and which would not accomplish all which it would be desirable to accomplish for the race. So an arrangement may be made for teaching children which would not answer the purpose of instructing those of mature years, and which at that time of life may be-superseded by another. A system of measures may be adapted to the infancy of society, or to a comparatively rude period of the world, which would be ill adapted to a more advanced state of society. Such was the Hebrew system. It was well adapted to the Jewish community in their circumstances, and answered the end then in view. It served to keep them separate from other people; to preserve the knowledge and the worship of the true God, and to introduce the gospel dispensation.

And I regarded them not. In Jeremiah this is, "Although I was an husband unto them." The Septuagint is as it is quoted here by Paul. The Hebrew may be rendered, "although I was their Lord;" or, as it is translated by Gesenius, "and I rejected them." The word means,

(1.) to be lord or master over anything, (Isa 26:13;)

(2.) to become the husband of any one, (De 21:13; 24:1;)

(3.) with

HEBREW�"to disdain, to reject. So Jer 3:14. It is very probable that this is the meaning here, for it is not only adopted by the Septuagint, but by the Syriac. So Abulwalid, Kimchi, and Rabbi Tanchum understood it. The Arabic word means, to reject, to loathe, to disdain. All that is necessary to observe here is, that it cannot be demonstrated that the apostle has not given the true sense of the prophet. The probability is, that the Septuagint translators would give the meaning which was commonly understood to be correct, and there is still more probability that the Syriac translator would adopt the true sense; for

(1) the Syriac and Hebrew languages strongly resemble each other; and

(2) the old Syriac version�"the Peshito�"is incomparably a better translation than the Septuagint. If this, therefore, be the correct translation, the meaning is, that since they did not regard and obey the laws which he gave them, God would reject them as his people, and give new laws better adapted to save men. Instead of regarding and treating them as his friends, he would punish them for their offences, and visit them with calamities.


Verse 10. For this is the covenant. This is the arrangement, or the dispensation, which shall succeed the old one.

With the house of Israel. With the true Israel; that is, with all those whom he will regard and treat as his friends.

After those days. This may either mean, "after those days I will put my laws in their hearts," or, "I will make this covenant with them after those days." This difference is merely in the punctuation, and the sense is not materially affected. It seems to me, however, that the meaning of the Hebrew in Jeremiah is, "in those after days" See Barnes "Isa 2:1, "I will put my laws into their mind;" that is, in that subsequent period, called in Scripture "the after times," "the last days;" "the ages to come," meaning the last dispensation of the world. Thus interpreted, the sense is, that this would be done in the times of the Messiah.

I will put my laws into their mind. Marg. Give. The word give in Hebrew is often used in the sense of put. The meaning here is, that they would not be mere external observances, but would affect the conscience and the heart. The laws of the Hebrews pertained mainly to external rites and ceremonies; the laws of the new dispensation would relate particularly to the inner man, and be designed to control the heart. The grand peculiarity of the Christian system is, that it regulates the conscience and the principles of the soul rather than external matters. It prescribes few external rites, and those are exceedingly simple, and are merely the proper expressions of the pious feelings supposed to be in the heart; and all attempts either to increase the number of these rites, or to make them imposing by their gorgeousness, have done just so much to mar the simplicity of the gospel, and to corrupt religion.

And write them in their hearts. Marg. Upon. Not on tables of stone or brass, but on the soul itself. That is, the obedience rendered will not be external. The law of the new system will have living power, and bind the faculties of the soul to obedience. The commandment there will be written in more lasting characters than if engraved on tables of stone.

And I will be to them a God. This is quoted literally from the Hebrew. The meaning is, that he would sustain to them the appropriate relation of a God; or, if the expression may be allowed, he would be to them what a God should be, or what it is desirable that men should find in a God. We speak of a father's acting in a manner appropriate to the character of a father; and the meaning here is, that he would be to his people all that is properly implied in the name of God. He would be their Lawgiver, their Counsellor, their Protector, their Redeemer, their Guide. He would provide for their wants, defend them in danger, pardon their sins, comfort them in trials, and save their souls, he would be a faithful friend, and would never leave them nor forsake them. It is one of the inestimable privileges of his people that JEHOVAH is their God. The living and ever-blessed Being who made the heavens sustains to them the relation of a Protector and a Friend, and they may look up to heaven feeling that he is all which they could desire in the character of a God.

And they shall be to me a people. This is not merely stated as a fact, but as a privilege. It is an inestimable blessing to be regarded as one of the people of God, and to feel that we belong to him�"that we are associated with those whom he loves, and whom he treats as his friends.

{1} "put" "give"

{2} "in" "upon"

{a} "and I" Hos 2:23; Zec 8:8

{*} "God" "Be their God"


Verse 11. And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, etc. That is, no one shall be under a necessity of imparting instruction to another, or of exhorting him to become acquainted with the Lord. This is designed to set forth another of the advantages which would attend the new dispensation. In the previous verse it had been said that one advantage of that economy would be, that the law would be written on the heart, and that they who were thus blessed would be regarded as the people of God. Another advantage over the old arrangement or covenant is here stated. It is that the knowledge of the Lord and of the true religion, would be deeply engraved on the minds of all, and that there would be no necessity for mutual exhortation and counsel. "They shall have a much more certain and effectual teaching than they can derive from another." Doddridge. This passage does not refer to the fact that the true religion will be universally diffused, but that among those who are interested in the blessings of the new covenant there would be an accurate and just knowledge of the Lord. In some way they would be so taught respecting his character that they would not need the aid to be derived from others. All under that dispensation, or sustaining to him the relation of "a people," would, in fact, have a correct knowledge of the Lord. This could not be said of the old dispensation, for

(1.) their religion consisted much in outward observances.

(2.) It was not to such an extent as the new system a dispensation of the Holy Spirit.

(3.) There were not as many means as now for learning the true character of God.

(4.) The fullest revelations had not been made to them of that character. That was reserved for the coming of the Saviour, and under him it was intended that there should be communicated the full knowledge of the character of God. Many Mss, and those among the best, here have polithn citizen�"fellow-citizen, instead of plhsion, neighbour; and this is adopted by Griesbach, Tittman, Rosenmuller, Knapp, Stuart, and by many of the fathers. It is also in the version of the LXX. in the place quoted from Jeremiah. It is not easy to determine the true reading, but; the word neighbour better accords with the meaning of the Hebrew and there is strong authority from the MSS. and the versions for this reading.

And every man his brother. Another form of expression, meaning that there would be no necessity that one should teach another.

Saying, Know the Lord. That is, become acquainted with God; learn his character and his will. The idea is, that the true knowledge of Jehovah would prevail as a characteristic of those times.

For all shall know me. That is, all those referred to; all who are interested in the new covenant, and who are partakers of its blessings. It does not mean that all persons, in all lands, would then know the Lord�"though the time will come when that will be true; but the expression is to be limited by the point under discussion. That point is not that the knowledge of the Lord will fill the whole world, but that all who are interested in the new dispensation will have a much more full and clear knowledge of God than was possessed under the old. Of the truth of this no one can doubt. Christians have a much more perfect knowledge of God and of his government than could have been learned merely from the revelations of the Old-Testament.

{b} "all shall know me" Isa 44:13


Verse 12. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, etc. That is the blessing of pardon will be much more richly enjoyed under the new dispensation than it was under the old. This is the fourth circumstance adduced in which the new covenant will surpass the old. That was comparatively severe in its inflictions, (see Heb 10:28;) marked every offence with strictness, and employed the language of mercy much less frequently than that of justice. It was a system where law and justice reigned; not where mercy was the crowning and prevalent attribute, it was true that it contemplated pardon, and made arrangements for it; but it is still true that this is much more prominent in the new dispensation than in the old. It is there the leading idea. It is that which separates it from all other systems. The entire arrangement is one for the pardon of sin in a manner consistent with the claims of law and justice, and it bestows the benefit of forgiveness in the most ample and perfect manner on all who are interested in the plan. In fact, the peculiarity by which the gospel is distinguished from all other systems, ancient and modern, philosophic and moral, pagan and deistical, is, that it is a system making provision for the forgiveness of sin, and actually bestowing pardon on the guilty. This is the centre, the crown, the glory of the new dispensation. God is merciful to the unrighteousness of men; and their sins are remembered no more.

Will I remember no more. This is evidently spoken after the manner of men, and in accordance with human apprehension. It cannot mean literally that God forgets that men are sinners, but it means that he treats them as if this were forgotten. Their sins are not charged upon them, and they are no more punished than if they had passed entirely out of the recollection. God treats them with just as much kindness, and regards them with as sincere affection, as if their sins ceased wholly to be remembered, or, which is the same thing, as if they had never sinned.


Verse 13. In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. That is, the use of the word "new" implies that the one which it was to supersede was "old." New and old stand in contradistinction from each other. Thus we speak of a new and old house, a new and old garment, etc. The object of the apostle is to show that, by the very fact of the arrangement for a new dispensation differing so much from the old, it was implied of necessity that that was to be superseded, and would vanish away. This was one of the leading points at which he arrived.

Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away. This is a general truth which would be undisputed, and which Paul applies to the ease under consideration. An old house, or garment; an ancient tree; an aged man�"-all have indications that they are soon to disappear. They cannot be expected to remain long. The very fact of their growing old Is an indication that they will soon be gone. So Paul says it was with the dispensation that was represented as old. It had symptoms of decay. It had lost the rigour which it had when it was fresh and new; it had every mark of an antiquated and a declining system; and it had been expressly declared that a new and more perfect dispensation was to be given to the world. Paul concluded, therefore, that the Jewish system must soon disappear.


1. The fact that we have a High Priest is fitted to impart consolation to the pious mind, Heb 8:1-6. He ever lives, and is ever the same. He is a minister of the true sanctuary, and is ever before the mercy-seat. He enters there not once a year only, but has entered there to abide there for ever. We can never approach the throne of mercy without having a High Priest there�"for he at all times, day and night, appears before God. The merits of his sacrifice are never exhausted, and God is never wearied with hearing his pleadings in behalf of his people. He is the same that he was when he gave himself on the cross. He has the same love and the same compassion which he had then; and that love which led him to make the atonement, will lead him always to regard with tenderness those for whom he died.

2. It is a privilege to live under the blessings of the Christian system, Heb 8:6. We have a better covenant than the old one was �"one less expensive and less burdensome, and one that is established upon better premises. Now the sacrifice is made, and we do not have to renew it every day. It was made once for all, and need never be repeated. Having now a High Priest in heaven who has made the sacrifice, we may approach him in any part of the earth, and at all times, and feel that our offering will be acceptable to him. If there is any blessing for which we ought to be thankful, it is for the Christian religion; for we have only to look at any portion of the heathen world, or even to the condition of the people of God under the comparatively dark and obscure Jewish dispensation, to see abundant reasons for thanksgiving for what we enjoy.

3. Let us often contemplate the mercies of the new dispensation with which we are favoured�"the favours of that religion whose smiles and sunshine we are permitted to enjoy, Heb 8:10-12. It contains all that we want, and is exactly adapted to our condition. It has that for which every man should be thankful; and has not one thing which should lead a man to reject it. It furnishes all the security which we could desire for our salvation; lays upon us no oppressive burdens or charges; and accomplishes all which we ought to desire in our souls. Let us contemplate a moment the arrangements of that "covenant," and see how fitted it is to make man blessed and happy.

First. It writes the laws of God on the mind and the heart, Heb 8:10. It not only reveals them, but it secures their observance, it has made arrangements for disposing men to keep the laws�"a thing which has not been introduced into any other system. Legislators may enact good laws, but they cannot induce others to obey them; parents may utter good precepts, but they cannot engrave them on the hearts of their children; and sages may express sound maxims and just precepts in morals, but there is no security that they will be regarded. So in all the heathen world�"there is no power to inscribe good maxims and rules of living on the heart. They may be written; recorded on tablets; hung up in temples; but stir men will not regard them. They will still give indulgence to evil passions, and lead wicked lives. But it is not so with the arrangement which God has made in the plan of salvation. One of the very first provisions of that plan is, that the laws shall be inscribed on the heart, and that there shall be a DISPOSITION to obey. Such a system is what man wants, and such a system he can nowhere else find.

Secondly. This new arrangement reveals to us a God such as we need, Heb 8:10. It contains the promise that he will be "our God." He will be to his people all that can be desired in God; all that man could wish. He is just such a God as the human mind, when it is pure, most loves; has all the attributes which it could be desired there should be in his character; has done all that we could desire a God to do; and is ready to do all that we could wish a God to perform. Man wants a God; a God in whom he can put confidence, and on whom he can rely. The ancient Greek philosopher wanted a God�"and he would then have made a beautiful and efficient system of morals; the heathen want a God�"to dwell in their empty temples, and in their corrupt hearts; the atheist wants a God to make him calm, contented, and happy in this life�"for he has no God now; and man everywhere�"wretched, sinful, suffering, dying�"WANTS A God. Such a God is revealed in the Bible�"one whose character we may contemplate with ever increasing admiration; one who has all the attributes which we can desire; one who will minister to us all the consolation which we need in this world; and one who will be to us the same God for ever and ever.

Thirdly. The new covenant contemplates the diffusion of knowledge, Heb 8:11. This, too, was what man needed�"for everywhere else he has been ignorant of God and of the way of salvation. The whole heathen world is sunk in ignorance; and indeed all men, except as they are enlightened by the gospel, are in profound darkness on the great questions which most nearly pertain to their welfare. But it is not so with the new arrangement which God has made with his people. It is a fact that they know the Lord; and a dispensation which would produce that is just what man needed. There are two things hinted at in Heb 8:11 of this chapter which are worthy of more than a passing notice, illustrating the excellency of the Christian religion. The first is, that in the new dispensation all would know the Lord. The matter of fact is, that the obscurest and most unlettered Christian often has a knowledge of God which sages never had, and which is never obtained except by the teachings of the Spirit of God. However this may be accounted for; the fact cannot be denied. There is a clear and elevating view of God; a knowledge of him which exerts a practical influence on the heart, and which transforms the soul; and a correctness of apprehension in regard to what truth is, possessed by the humble Christian, though a peasant, which philosophy never imparted to its votaries. Many a sage would be instructed in the truths of religion if he would sit down and converse with the comparatively unlearned Christian, who has no book but his Bible. The other thing hinted at here is, that all would know the Lord from the least to the greatest. Children and youth, as well as age and experience, would have an acquaintance with God. This promise is remarkably verified under the new dispensation. One of the most striking things of the system is, the attention which it pays to the young; one of its most wonderful effects is the knowledge which it is the means of imparting to those in early life. Many a child in the Sabbath school has a knowledge of God which Grecian sages never had; many a youth in the Church has a more consistent acquaintance with God's real plan of governing and saving men, than all the teachings which philosophy could ever furnish.

Fourthly. The new dispensation contemplates the pardon of sin, and is, therefore, fitted to the condition of man, Heb 8:12. It is what man needs. The knowledge of some way of pardon is that which human nature has been sighing for ages; which has been sought in every system of religion, and by every bloody offering; but which has never elsewhere been found. The philosopher had no assurance that God would pardon; and indeed one of the chief aims of the philosopher has been to convince himself that he had no need of pardon. The heathen have had no assurance that their offerings have availed to put away the Divine anger, and to obtain forgiveness. The only assurance anywhere furnished that sin may be forgiven, is in the Bible. This is the great peculiarity of the system recorded there, and this it is which renders it so valuable above all the other systems. It furnishes the assurance that sins may be pardoned, and shows how it may be done. This is what we must have, or perish. And why, since Christianity reveals a way of forgiveness�"a way honourable to God and not degrading to man�"why should any man reject it? Why should not the guilty embrace a system which proclaims pardon to the guilty�"and which assures all, that if they will embrace him who is the "Mediator of the new covenant," "God will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and will remember their iniquities no more?"

{a} "new covenant" 2 Co 5:17

{*} "vanish away" "nigh to dissolution"

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