The Letter to the Hebrews 1:1-14 and Waldenström's Commentary
Unabridged Epistle Lesson for Christmas Day, 1990
Verses 1-4: Christ's highness; verses 5-14: proof thereof from the Old Testament
Verse I — Since God, in times past, many times and in many ways1 talked to the forefathers2 through the prophets,3 he has finally, toward the end of these days,4 spoken to us through a son,5 (see Numbers 12:6f.)
- Sometimes teaching, sometimes as law-maker, sometimes admonishing and punishing, sometimes encouraging and comforting, etc., whatever the people needed.
- That is to say, the people of Old Israel. The writer of Hebrews and the Christians to whom he wrote were all Israelites.
- When the prophets spoke, it was God who spoke through them.
- Verbatim: in these last days, that is to say, at the end of the current age. Like the apostles, the writer of Hebrews was waiting for the current age to come to an end very soon. Compare I Cor. 10:11, I Pet. 4:7. It had not been given to anyone to know the time or the moment. (Acts 1:7)
- Not a prophet but a son, namely the only begotten one.
Verse 2 — whom he has placed as heir over everything,1 through whom he has even made the ages;2 (See Romans 8:17, John 1:3, Col. 1:15f.)
- In that he elevated him and gave him all power in heaven and on earth (Phil. 1:8,9; Matt. 28:18).
- That is to say, everything that during the passing of the ages has come into being, not only the original creation, but everything that has to do with creation's development until the end of time. As all this is created through the son, therefore, the son is placed as the inheritor of everything, because he through his obedience has become perfect (chap. 5:8; Phil. 2:9).
Verse 3 — who,1 being2 his glory's radiation3 and his nature's character4 and carrying5 everything with the power of his word,6 has, since he accomplished the purge of sin,7 been seated on the right-hand side of the Majesty in the highest.8 (See Hebrews 8:1, Ps 110:1)
- Here the author develops more directly how the son came to be heir to everything (v. 2).
- While he was. . .
- God's majesty is described in this image as a light. From a light, beams of light radiate. Christ was, from God's majesty, that radiating beam. Thereby, the author describes the essence of the relationship with the father. Only the one who in essence was one with the father could sit on his right hand.
- The word in the original text really means something engraved, for example the engraving on a coin, Then it represents, for a thing or a person, what is distinct, its character. When Christ is called God's nature's character, it means that he has the same essence, has the same character, is of the same nature as God.
- While he carried. The author means by that, Christ was the one who held up everything.
- With God's omnipotent word.
- That is to say, while he cleansed himself from sin. The expression in the original text implies that Christ accomplished the purging for himself. The same word form in John 14:23 where it says, that the father and son shall make themselves a dwelling place among those who love him. That Christ purged himself from sin, is to understand it with Paul when he says that he died from sin (Romans 6:10). As long as Christ was in the world, he was surrounded, tempted, and plagued by humankind's sins. According to the Old Testament views, every sin-free person became unclean by the sins of other people with whom they came in contact. The temple itself became unclean by people's sins. From all such contact with sin, Christ purged himself by his death. In connection with this, what the author says in chapter 9:28, namely, when Christ returns again, he shall allow himself to be seen without sin. Some see in the author's words the meaning that Christ was sinful like us, but through his complete obedience cleansed himself from all sin. Such an idea can certainly come when looking at the wording here and in chapter 9:28. But the words also allow the familiar understanding which is also preferred, And, of course, the idea that Christ was sinful, is completely foreign to the rest of the New Testament. The most common understanding is that Christ, through his death, cleansed US PEOPLE from sin. However, about that nothing is said, unless with US PEOPLE is meant ALL people or only the believers. In addition to New Testament teaching, humankind's cleansing from sin occurs when we acknowledge our sin and believe in Jesus. Moreover, the words we express as CLEANSING OF SINS could even be translated as CLEANSING FROM SINS. The one in reality means the same as the other. See II Peter 1:9. See also Isaiah 1:18 where it is written that blood-red sins shall become as white as snow, which is the same as that the sinner shall be cleansed from them so that he or she will be white as snow. In the same way, it is said about the leper once, that he was cleansed (Matt. 8:3), and, once, that the leprosy was cleansed from him (Matt. 11:5).
- That is to say, in the heavens (see Matt. 21:9). That Christ sat at the majestic God's side means that he entered into dominion over everything created in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18). Note also the connection in verses 2 and 3. God, who through the son, originally created the ages and everything that is within them, has, through his elevation after the humiliation, installed him as heir to everything. And the son has, after he cleansed himself from sin, entered into dominion over everything because he was of the same essence as God. The latter because he bore and upheld everything through God's almighty word. That the author, in this presentation of the son's relationship to God and the world, looks away from the son's short humiliation speaks for itself. Because during that time he had temporarily discarded his godly majesty and his world-sustaining power (Phil. 2:7).
Verse 4 — having become1 so much higher than the angels,2 and having inherited a more superior name than they.3
- Through his elevation. That the son before his humiliation WAS, that he after the humiliation again WAS (John 17:5) is not here denied. But the author does not talk about that here; rather of that which was connected to the elevation.
- Who constitute the highest order in the created world.
- Namely, the name SON. The truth is that the angels in the Old Testament were called God's sons (Ps. 29:1, 89:7), but that happens in a completely different setting, Even people are sometimes called God's sons or children. Adam is called God's son as created by God (Luke 3:38), the people of Israel are called God's sons (Exodus 4:22, Hosea 11:1), being chosen as God's own people; the believers in the New Testament arc called God's children because they have been spiritually recreated by God. Christ, on the other hand, is called son in the true meaning of the word because he was, from all eternity, born of God. Therefore, he receives the title THE ONLY BEGOTTEN because no one is God's son the same way he is. That Christ is heir to this name, the author says, means that God has given him the same name as in the Old Testament writings.
Verse 5 — Because, to which of the angels1 has he2 ever said: My son are you; I3 have this day given you birth,4 And again: I shall be for him a father, and he shall be for me a son.5 (See Psalm 2:7, II Sam. 7:14, Heb. 5:5)
- Of course, to no one.
- There is a strong emphasis on the words YOU and I. The quoted statement is from Ps. 2:7.
- These words are used by Paul about Christ's resurrection. See Acts 13:33. The author of Hebrews does not dwell on those words, only the first ones in which the Messiah is called God's son.
- These words from II Sam, 7:14 constitute God's promise to David regarding his son Solomon. But the author uses them as if they were used about David's son Messiah. This happens often that an Old Testament passage, in addition to the historical meaning, is also prophetic.
Verse 6 — But when he1 again brings the firstborn2 to the inhabited world3 he says: And all God's angels worshipped him.4
- That is, God.
- Christ is here called the firstborn, most likely in comparison to the angels, because he is before them and therefore elevated above them. The firstborn was, according to Jewish tradition, always over his brothers. Some Bible scholars believe that the author calls Christ the firstborn because he was firstborn before any creation (Col. 1:15). There is no indication that this is the case in this writing.
- The son's first entrance in the world happened through his being born of human parents; his second entrance will happen at the SECOND COMING. And when God, in the Old Testament, talks about that, he uses the words that are here quoted.
- The author here quotes a Bible word that certainly is found in the seventy interpreters' Greek translation [Septuagint] of Deuteronomy 32:43, but which is missing in the Hebrew original text I n the former the quoted text reads as follows: "Rejoice ye heavens, with him, AND ALL GOD'S ANGELS WORSHIPPED HIM; REJOICE YE HEATHENS with his people and become strong in him all God's sons, because his sons' blood he will avenge and he shall avenge and with punishment repay the enemies; and they that hate him, he shall punish and the Lord Shall completely cleanse his people's land." The author applies this verse to Christ's second coming at which time the heavens, the angels, and the people shall rejoice and worship him. If the angels shall worship him, it is clear that he is much higher than they are. Note also how this worship gives witness to his godly majesty, without which it would be idol worship.
Verse 7 — And with regard to the angels, he says1: He who makes his angels wind and his servants flames off fire.2 (See Psalm 104:4)
- Namely God in his Word. What the psalmist says is God's Word.
- This Bible passage (Ps. 104:4) reads in the original Hebrew: He makes winds of his angels (his messengers), flames of fire of his servants. But the author quotes the words in the Psalm according to the seventy interpreters' Greek translation where it reads just the opposite: He makes his angels wind, etc. In the Hebrew text it says that God uses the wind and lightning as his messengers. In the Greek translation, however, he transforms his angels to wind and lightning when he wants, through them, to show his power or do his will, etc, The author of Hebrews has in this way proof of the angels' smallness and their changeable brings in comparison with Christ, whose Godliness, creative powers, and unchangeable being he describes in 8-12. And yet, the angels are the highest created beings.
Verse 8 — But with regard to the son, he says: Your throne, oh God,1 lasts eternally,2 and the sceptre of righteousness3 is your kingdom's sceptre. (See Psalm 45:7)
- Note how Christ here is addressed by the name of God.
- Verbatim: to the ages' age
- The sceptre of righteousness is such a sceptre that keeps right and righteousness in power in the kingdom.
Verse 9 — You have loved righteousness and hated unrighteousness; for that reason1 has God, your God,2 annointed you with oil of gladness3 more than you colleagues."4 (See Psalm 45:8)
- Here, as in Phil. 2:9, Christ's glorification is portrayed as reward for his perfect righteousness during his life on earth.
- God, who is your God. The words could also be translated as: for that reason has God, your God annointed you, etc. There, Christ is addressed with the name God as in verse 8. Although such a translation is contrary to the Hebrew original text, it is not impossible that the author thought the meaning as such. He quotes the words after the seventy translators' Greek translation of the Old Testament
- Kings were annointed with oil when they were consecrated. Christ's exaltation is presented here in this description by such an annointing. The oil is called the oil of gladness to express the inexpressible happiness which was united with his exaltation.
- More than the angels. These are called colleagues, as they are participants with him in the heavenly glory but at a lower station. The angels STAND AROUND God's majestic throne; the son SITS on the same.
Verse 10 — And:l You, Lord, have in the beginning established the earth, and the heavens are your handiwork; (See Psalm 102:26)
- And in another place God speaks with reference to the son. This cited Bible passage (Ps. 102:26-28) contains the psalmist's word to God, but it is quoted here by the author as God's words to the son. In this context they portray the son's creative powers and unchangeability in comparison to the angels who are created and changeable.
Verse 11 — they1 shall vanish,2 but you shall remain and they shall all become old as clothing, (See Psalm 102:27)
- Namely, the heavens. The New Testament teaches about several heavens. (See comments to II Cor, 12:2)
- The heavens appear to be unchangeable. They are not.
Verse 12 — and as a mantel you shall transform them,1 and they shall be transformed;2 but you are the same and your years shall not come to an end. (See Psalm 102:28)
- According to another reading: you shall fold them up together. Even this reading is supported by good documentation.
- According to another reading: they shall be transformed as a garment. Nothing created is unchangeable.
Verse 13 — But with regard to any of the angels, has he ever said:1 Sit at my right hand2 until I have laid down your enemies as a footstool for your feet?3 (See Psalm 110:I, Matt. 22:44, Acts 2:34, I Cor. 15:25, Heb. 10:12f.)
- This he has not said anywhere about any of the angels, only about the only begotten son.
- This is a metaphorical expression about the son's participation in God's majesty and power. To the son is given ALL power in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18).
- To place one's foot on the neck of one's enemy was, among the Eastern peoples, a sign of the enemy's complete subjugation (Compare Joshua 10:24). The son shall completely crush all his enemies.
Verse 14 — Are they not all1 servant-spirits sent out in service for the sake of those2 who shall inherit salvation?3
- Even the highest angels. (See comments to Matt. 18:10)
- Not FOR themselves. The angels are GOD'S servants and do service FOR HIM when they help and protect his chosen. The one who watches and cares for another's child, serves the child's parents for the child's welfare.
- The eternal salvation — the Messiah's kingdom.