The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Hebrews 3

Heb 3:1

Vv 1-6: Jesus is greater than Moses.

THEREFORE, HOLY BROTHERS, WHO SHARE IN THE HEAVENLY CALLING, FIX YOUR THOUGHTS ON JESUS, THE APOSTLE AND HIGH PRIEST WHOM WE CONFESS: There are many apostles, but Jesus is the supreme Apostle, sent by God. Only here in the NT is Jesus so called. He is indeed both the apostle and high priest. That is, the truth that we profess as Christians has been delivered by Jesus as apostle (the "one sent") and accomplished by Jesus as high priest. Jesus as the one sent by God represents God to humanity; Jesus as high priest represents humanity to God. Jesus is therefore God's revelation and makes possible human response. He is, as the author will describe him later (Heb 8:6; 9:15; 12:24), well qualified to be the "mediator between God and man" (cp 1Ti 2:5).

The word "share" ("metochoi", lit, "sharers") is important for our author (five occurrences of the noun in Hebrews; only one elsewhere in the NT: Luke 5:7, "partners"). Christ "shared" (verb form of same root) our humanity, Heb 2:14 (cp Heb 1:9); Christians are said to share in Christ (Heb 3:14), in the Holy Spirit (Heb 6:4), and in discipline (Heb 12:8).

"Partakers" / "sharers": of root and fatness of olive tree (Rom 11:17), of spiritual things (Rom 15:27), of one bread (1Co 10:17), of sufferings and consolation (2Co 1:7), of God's promise in Christ (Eph 3:6), of inheritance of sts (Col 1:12), of heavenly calling (Heb 3:1), of Christ (Heb 3:14), of the benefit (1Ti 6:2), of the glory (1Pe 5:1), and of the divine nature (2Pe 1:4).

HEAVENLY CALLING: "Heavenly" ("epouranios") occurs six times in Heb, applying not only to "calling," as here, but to the "gift" (Heb 6:4), the "sanctuary" and items related to it (Heb 8:5; 9:23), and to the Last Days "country" and city, Jerusalem (Heb 11:16; 12:22). It refers therefore to a perfection and reality associated with the fulfillment of God's purposes.

Our heavenly calling (Heb 3:1), by a heavenly Father (Mat 18:35), thru a heavenly word (Joh 3:12), presents to us a heavenly status (Eph 2:6), as we await a heavenly image (1Co 15:48,49), to be a heavenly Jerusalem (Heb 12:22), in a heavenly country (Heb 11:16), within a heavenly kingdom (2Ti 4:18). All this constitutes Christ's bre as a heavenly people of God!

APOSTLE: Lit, "one sent": antitype of Moses, sent by God to rescue God's people out of Egypt.

"As apostle, Jesus pleads the cause of God wi us; as high priest he pleads our cause wi God" (Tes 52:322).

Heb 3:2

HE WAS FAITHFUL TO THE ONE WHO APPOINTED HIM: Cp Heb 2:17. "Faithful" sig being obedient to the will of God, esp in regard to his sinlessness (Heb 4:15).

Other examples of faithfulness in service: Samuel (1Sa 3:20); David (1Sa 22:14); the temple overseers (2Ki 12:15); the workers (2Ch 34:12); Hananiah (Neh 7:2); Abraham (Neh 9:8); the treasurers (Neh 13:13); Daniel (Dan 6:4); Timothy (1Co 4:17); Epaphras (Col 1:7); Tychicus (Col 4:7); Onesimus (Col 4:9); Paul (1Ti 1:12); Moses (Heb 3:2,5); Gaius (3Jo 1:5); Jesus Christ (Rev 1:5); Antipas (Rev 2:13).

Cp Luk 16:10; 2Ch 31:12.

JUST AS MOSES WAS FAITHFUL IN ALL GOD'S HOUSE: This is drawn from Num 12:7, LXX, in a passage where Moses is exalted as the only one with whom God speaks "mouth to mouth" and not indirectly. God's house, as in v 6, where the same passage is quoted, is not to be understood in any literal sense -- not even in the sense of the temple itself. It refers instead to the purpose or work of God as it finds expression first in Israel and then in the church or ecclesia.

Heb 3:3

JESUS HAS BEEN FOUND WORTHY OF GREATER HONOR THAN MOSES, JUST AS THE BUILDER OF A HOUSE HAS GREATER HONOR THAN THE HOUSE ITSELF: For a similar contrast, see 2Co 3:7-11. In addition to the similarity between Moses and Jesus, however, there is also an important difference between them, now brought to our attention by the analogy of a builder and the house he builds. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor (lit, "glory") than Moses in the same way that a builder necessarily has greater honor than the house itself. The author in effect associates Jesus with the builder whereas Moses remains associated with the house (or, in other words, he was himself one who benefited by the redeeming work of Jesus). All the ecclesia (the "house" of God) depends upon the work of Jesus the apostle and high priest for its very existence.

JESUS: "This man" in AV: "Receives sinners" (Luk 15:2). "Never man spoke like..." (Joh 7:46). "No fault in..." (Luk 23:4,14,41). "Has somewhat to offer" (Heb 8:3). "Thru this man... forgiveness" (Act 13:38). "Is worthy of more honor than Moses" (Heb 3:3). "Sat down" (Heb 10:12). "Continues forever" (Heb 7:24). "Was Son of God" (Mar 15:39).

GREATER HONOR THAN MOSES: Parallels betw Christ and Moses: (1) escape from death as an infant; (2) rejection by his own people; (3) mediation (with Pharaoh); (4) self-denial; love of brethren; (5) lawgiver and prophet.

Heb 3:4

FOR EVERY HOUSE IS BUILT BY SOMEONE, BUT GOD IS THE BUILDER OF EVERYTHING: And yet God of course is to be regarded finally as the builder of everything (cp Heb 1:2; 2:10). Jesus in being faithful to his mission in being faithful to God and to God's purpose (v 2). Cp Psa 127:1: "Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain."

Heb 3:5

MOSES WAS FAITHFUL AS A SERVANT IN ALL GOD'S HOUSE, TESTIFYING TO WHAT WOULD BE SAID IN THE FUTURE: The true difference between Moses and Jesus emerges in this and the following verse. Moses' role was that of servant in all God's (lit, "his") house. In this opening clause we again have a strong verbal allusion to the LXX version of Num 12:7. Moses was the servant of something greater than himself -- of God's purposes which were to have their realization only in time to come -- "the future". Those are the very things indeed of which our author writes "in these last days" (Heb 1:2). Moses, as important as he was, served in a role of preparation, not one of fulfillment (cp Heb 11:39,40). Moses was responsible for building the literal tabernacle (cp Num 9:15), but Jesus is building up the "spiritual" tabernacle, of which the literal was a mere shadow!

SERVANT: The Gr "therapon" is not the common word "doulos". It is used only once here, and it specifies a very honorable attendant. Thus, Christ was greater than the most honorable of servants; he was a SON!

"It must also be borne in mind that Jesus does not present his death as an isolated act; it was the fulfilment of his life. He came to serve, and service was consummated in the death of the cross. His atoning work did not begin with Gethsemane or Golgotha, but with his baptism, and it was the completed life of obedience which was offered to the Father. Moses, whom the Jews called 'the first redeemer,' as Messiah would be 'the last,' had been willing to offer his life for the people: 'Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin -- ; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written'... But Moses, forbidden at last to enter Canaan, could not offer the perfect life; he was a great servant of the Lord and of Israel, 'faithful in all God's house,' but he could only provide 'a testimony of those things which were afterward to be spoken' (Heb 3:5, RV). He could only bear witness as a type to the greater Redeemer, whose whole life was an offering which his death perfected" (SMk 148).

Heb 3:6

CHRIST IS FAITHFUL AS A SON OVER GOD'S HOUSE: To the Jews, Moses was the greatest person who had ever lived: it was through Moses that God delivered Israel from Egypt, constituted Israel as a nation, and brought Israel the law. In all of this the magnificent Moses was faithful, but "as a servant." In the era of fulfillment of which the author writes, Jesus is as far superior to Moses as a son (cp Heb 1:2,5) is to a servant. In Moses we have promise; in the Son we have fulfillment, for in him God has accomplished his saving purposes.

AND WE ARE HIS HOUSE: The author has in mind the ecclesia, that is, the people of God, the community of faith, the recipient of the salvation brought by Christ: cp Heb 8:2; 1Pe 2:4-10; 1Ti 3:15; Eph 2:20.

IF WE HOLD ON TO OUR COURAGE AND THE HOPE OF WHICH WE BOAST: We have already seen allusions to the danger in which the readers stand (Heb 2:1,18) and more are to follow as this theme becomes one of increasing importance in the epistle. Faithfulness is required not only of God's special servants and His Son, but of his people as well (cp Col 1:23). It is with this primary concern that our author turns to an extended illustration–exhortation that occupies our attention until the end of Heb 4.

Hold fast: Heb 3:6; 4:14; 10:23; 1Th 5:21; Rev 2:25; 3:11; 1Co 15:2.

AV has "firm unto the end": Cp wi... "I am with you unto the end": Mat 28:20. ''He loved them unto the end": John 13:1. "Who shall confirm you unto the end": 1Co 1:8. "The rejoicing of hope firm unto the end": Heb 3:6. "Beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end": Heb 3:14. "Full assurance of hope unto the end": Heb 6:11. "Keepeth my works unto the end": Rev 2:26.

Heb 3:7

Heb 3:7 -- 4:13: Warning about missing out on Sabbath rest.

Vv 7-19: An exhortation inspired by the Exodus.

Vv 7-11: The quotation, Psa 95:7-11, is taken from the LXX. Psa 95 is divided into two parts: the first consists of praise and worship, the second of the warning that our author quotes in full. The psalmist's warning is based upon the narrative recorded in Exo 17:1-7 (cp Num 20:1-13) and the judgment passage in Num 14:20-35. The psalmist appeals to his own generation not to fall into the unfortunate plight of the generation that perished in the wilderness, and were unable to enter the promised land. (Paul uses the same basis for his teaching/exhortation in 1Co 10.)

AS THE HOLY SPIRIT SAYS: Scripture (the OT) is the word spoken by God (cp Heb 1:6,7,13). The Holy Spirit is similarly said to be the speaker in Scripture in Heb 10:15 (cp Heb 9:8). The human authors are not denied, but they are not important to the author since in the last analysis it is God who is responsible for what they say. Cp Mat 22:43; Acts 1:16; 28:25; 2Pe 1:20,21.

Heb 3:9

FORTY YEARS: This time period could have had special significance to the readers if it had been about forty years since the "exodus" accomplished by Jesus (presuming the epistle was written just prior to AD 70).

Heb 3:12

SEE TO IT, BROTHERS, THAT NONE OF YOU HAS A SINFUL, UNBELIEVING HEART THAT TURNS AWAY FROM THE LIVING GOD: The author now begins his commentary, employing key words drawn from the preceding quotation. What is to be avoided at all costs is a heart that is sinful and unbelieving -- or "hardened" and "going astray" (vv 8,10). This is the kind of heart that leads to apostasy, causing one to turn away (Gr "apostasize", or deliberately rebel) from God.

Heb 3:13

BUT ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER DAILY, AS LONG AS IT IS CALLED TODAY, SO THAT NONE OF YOU MAY BE HARDENED BY SIN'S DECEITFULNESS: The importance of fellowship and mutual support is explicitly mentioned in Heb 10:24–25. Encouragement is needed daily because the call to faithful discipleship is a constant challenge. The Christian life can only be lived on a daily basis, and therefore every day -- until the very end (v 14) -- is a new "today" when God calls and we must respond in obedience (cp 2Co 6:2: "I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation").

ENCOURAGE: Encouragement is sorely needed by the readers and is thus emphasized in the epistle. For the verb ("parakaleoo"), as here, see Heb10:25; 13:19,22. For the noun ("paraklesis"), see Heb 6:18; 12:5; 13:22 ("my word of exhortation").

Heb 3:14

WE HAVE COME TO SHARE IN CHRIST IF WE HOLD FIRMLY TILL THE END THE CONFIDENCE WE HAD AT FIRST: Even as Christ became a sharer in our humanity, Christians have come to share in Christ and the fulfillment he brings by participating in the kingdom he has inaugurated and by becoming heirs who come "to glory" (Heb 2:10). But this new status is not to be taken for granted because of a good beginning. Their initial confidence, that is, that subjective assurance that produces faithful obedience, must be held firmly till the end, until Jesus returns or until through death the believer's time of probation has ended.

"Partakers" / "sharers": of root and fatness of olive tree (Rom 11:17), of spiritual things (Rom 15:27), of one bread (1Co 10:17), of sufferings and consolation (2Co 1:7), of God's promise in Christ (Eph 3:6), of inheritance of sts (Col 1:12), of heavenly calling (Heb 3:1), of Christ (Heb 3:14), of the benefit (1Ti 6:2), of the glory (1Pe 5:1), and of the divine nature (2Pe 1:4).

TILL THE END: "I am with you unto the end": Mat 28:20.
"He loved them unto the end": John 13:1.
"Who shall confirm you unto the end": 1Co 1:8.
"The rejoicing of hope firm unto the end": Heb 3:6.
"Beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end": Heb 3:14.
"Full assurance of hope unto the end": Heb 6:11.
"Keepeth my works unto the end": Rev 2:26.

Heb 3:15

IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE: There is no question about God having spoken (Heb 1:1-3)!

Heb 3:17

THOSE WHO SINNED, WHOSE BODIES FELL IN THE DESERT: These words are quoted from Num 14:29 (LXX), with the last three words also echoing the original quotation (v 8). Our author's point is that those who sinned had been privileged to experience God's remarkable deliverance from Egypt. This wonderful beginning, however, did them no good in their later rebellion.

Heb 3:19

SO WE SEE THAT THEY WERE NOT ABLE TO ENTER: Entry into the land is the "rest" here. Those who died in the wilderness failed to arrive at the immediate goal of the possession of Canaan. Those who did enter did not enjoy the promised rest since the land was secure from enemies for only the briefest periods. Possession of the land in the present age, of sin and death, was never the true "rest" that God had in mind for his people (see Heb 4).

BECAUSE OF THEIR UNBELIEF: Unbelief here implies not intellectual doubting as much as deliberate unfaithfulness. From the author's perspective, unbelief and disobedience are inseparable. The unbelief and unfaithfulness of Israel were inexcusable because the Israelites had received abundant evidence of God's reality and love (cp Heb 4:2).

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