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Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews, Part 3: Christ is Head of His Own Household
At the opening of this epistle we saw Paul of Tarsus proclaim the coming of a Son appointed “heir of all”, through whom God has chosen to communicate His will to man. So Paul inferred that God no longer conveys His will to men through prophets, as He had done in antiquity. Inevitably, Yahshua Christ is the last of such prophets. But Paul then spoke of this Son as being the image of the substance of God Himself, and many people who are too attached to their own perception of reality in this physical world do not fully understand the implications of such a statement. However some people are so attached to the physical world because it is the only world that they shall ever see, and therefore it is the only world that they can truly understand. This is the nature of true Christianity – that those who are from above hear and sincerely believe the things from above, while those who are not shall forever dispute such things. (And when we engage with them in their endless disputes, we allow ourselves to be captivated by them.)
For this reason Christ said to His adversaries, as it is recorded in John chapter 8: “Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” They will die in their errors, because they have no propitiation, nor any chance for communion with God. Quite ostensibly they are bastards, and therefore they must die in their errors, as there is no other choice for them. Their very existence is a sin against God. It is not as if the enemies of Christ had been given a choice to believe or not. In John chapter 10 Christ said “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.” So those who are not of God are not expected to believe Him, and where Christ said “if ye believe not”, He was not giving them a choice. Rather, He was asserting a factual implication. And even in spite of the fact that they sometimes profess to believe, they are often found arguing with God.
Paul also said of that same Son that it is He “through whom He also made the ages”. In that we noticed the divine Providence of God, that He knew from the beginning that He would participate as a Creature in His Own Creation. Those who do not understand that the Son is also the Father, that Yahweh God and Yahshua Christ are One, are either of this world, or are perhaps they are deceived by those of this world and should reconsider the Word of God. The understanding that Christ is God is further illustrated where Paul said at the end of Hebrews chapter 2 that “since the children have taken part in flesh and blood, He also in like manner took part in the same”, and then he said “not that of Messengers has He taken upon Himself, but He has taken upon Himself of the offspring of Abraham… from which He was obliged in all respects to become like the brethren”. If Christ took upon Himself the seed of Abraham, if Christ was obliged to become like the brethren by taking part in flesh and blood as they did, then Christ is God, because Christ is the Creator who made a conscious decision to do what He did, rather than having merely been created.
We shall see Paul express this same concept in other ways as we proceed through this epistle.
Here we are emphasizing these things once again, because there are still Identity Christians who dispute them. And worse yet, there are so-called Christian Identity pastors who refute “oneness” as they call it, denying the very words of Christ who said “I and My Father are One”. Do you not understand, that a man without this foundation of Christian Spiritual understanding has no spiritual understanding at all? If one denies the deity of Christ, or imagines that Israel has more than one God, then one has no spiritual understanding and one has no authority as a Christian pastor or teacher, period. The trinity idea is only an excuse to pacify those who do not understand that God can take the form of a man. Where Christ said in John chapter 14 “16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you”, He also said “18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” Thus it is evident that Christ is also the Holy Spirit. Where he said “another”, it is a reference to time and to form, rather than to person, since it is still the same God who transcends all Creation.
Those who reject these concepts do not truly understand the transcendental nature of the Adamic race who are in this world, but who in Spirit are not of this world. There are things which belong to the spiritual plane, and each Adamic man (which includes the female of the race as well as the male) is a spiritual creature being prepared for a greater existence. The tutor in that preparation is the Law of God, as Paul had instructed the Galatians, that the law was the tutor by which they were to be brought to Christ. Their ancestors having lived under the law for many generations, their collective cultural conscience was prepared for accepting Christ. So Paul explains the relationship between the Adamic man, the law, and sin in Romans chapters 5 through 8 and he concludes that there is nothing which “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
But the law is spiritual, as Paul also wrote to the Romans, so the Law of God is valid on the spiritual level as well as in the physical world, and Yahweh God is bound to keep His Own law. So Paul explained in Romans chapter 7 that a wife was bound to the law so long as the husband lives, but she would be released from that law if He died. There Paul was teaching just how Christ died on behalf of His people Israel in order to release them from judgment for their sin. The nation was bound to their God as a wife to a Husband, on the physical level. When the people sinned, they were all liable to the judgments of the law commensurate with their sin, so being idolaters, at the least, they were all worthy of death. They were only worthy of this judgment because of the agreement they had made at Sinai, as they agreed to be bound to the law. But in Jeremiah chapter 31, through the prophet Yahweh connects the promise of a New Covenant to a promise that Israel would not cease from being a nation, and in Romans chapter 7 Paul explained that the Husband died instead, in the person of Yahshua Christ. The only way that such an act could release Israel from the judgments of the law is if Christ was indeed Yahweh God incarnate. And if Christ is not Yahweh dying as a man to release Israel from the law, then the law is not fulfilled, which was the reason why Christ had come.
The Husband came into the physical world and died on behalf of Israel, the wife who became bound to Him through the law which He had imposed on them in the physical world, and to which they had agreed at Sinai. And in that manner the promise of Hosea could be fulfilled, where even as Yahweh was divorcing Himself from Israel, He had promised that at some point in the future He would betroth them to Him forever. So Yahweh says in Hosea chapter 2 “19 And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. 20 I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.” And then after explaining the death of the Husband, Paul says in Romans chapter 7 “4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.” Christ having died on behalf of the children of Israel, symbolically in that manner the children of Israel should consider themselves dead to the law as well. Paul again wrote in his second epistle to the Corinthians “for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” The Romans and the Corinthians being descendants of the ancient Israelites, the union of the nations to Christ is the reconciliation of Israel to God prophesied in Hosea and announced throughout Paul’s epistles. By mentioning marriage to Christ in Romans 7, or the betrothal to Christ in 2 Corinthians 11, Paul is making reference to the exact same betrothal of Hosea chapter 2, and Yahshua Christ is Yahweh God incarnate in the flesh.
All of those who deny this fail to understand not only the transcendental meaning of Scripture, but also the transcendental significance of historical events. They are certainly not messengers of the Gospel of Yahshua Christ. And if they fail to be corrected when they are confronted with this Scripture, then it is very probable that they are of this world, or from below, as Christ had informed His adversaries.
Writing these things to the Hebrews, Paul did not take the time to argue from the Scriptures that the Son of whom he spoke was the promised Messiah. Rather, he seems to have taken it for granted that the Hebrews understood the connection from the Scriptures. So rather than use the other prophets, thus far Paul has used the Psalms as the basis for his arguments, citing many of the references to a Son who would occupy a place over the Creation and even over the Angels of God, and who would sit upon the throne of God in heaven while also ruling over the earth. They are functions which the other prophets ascribed to a Messiah, a savior, or the coming David. Paul evidently expected his readers to understand the connections in the Scriptures. There is only one place in Scripture where this seems to be expressed explicitly, and although Paul did not cite it here, that place is found in Isaiah chapter 9 where it says “6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever….”
Being God incarnate, Paul also explained that Christ was set above all of the angels of God, although He was made somewhat lower than the angels, taking on the form of a man. So we also see that there must be a heavenly order of angels of higher estate than man, but on the other hand man will also attain to the heavenly order, through Christ. And once again, as Paul’s words infer, the angels of Christ are men, as men at diverse times in the past had also fulfilled the office of angel. So in Hebrews chapter 2 Paul distinguished Christ above the angels, and the angels of Christ, who are the messengers of the Gospel, apart from the heavenly angels through whom God had communicated with men in the past.
Being God incarnate, of all men only Christ alone could overcome death through the transcendental spirit. Therefore in the closing verses of Hebrews chapter 2 Paul wrote “that through death He would annul him having the power of death, that is, the Devil, and He would release them, as many as whom in fear of death, throughout all of their lives were subject as slaves.” And it is not that men, having accepted Christ, will not die as men, but that men in Christ should not fear death, because they should understand that if Christ lives, they also shall live – if indeed they are children of God. Therefore in Christ men are free from the fear of death through the knowledge of a better existence in the Spirit, and while they live they are also free of the shackles of the rituals of the law which were esteemed to be their propitiation for sin. But in Christ, once men depart from sin, their consciences are also free of the burden of guilt imposed by sin. So Paul in that same chapter 7 of his epistle to the Romans wrote to those who had turned to Christ and said: “5 Indeed when we were in the flesh, the occurrences of fault, which were through the law, operated in our members for the bearing of fruit for death; 6 but now we are discharged from the law, being put to death in that which we were held, so that we are bound in newness of Spirit, and not oldness of letter.”
The devil has the power of death because it is the devil who originally lured man to live in sin. The word for devil, διάβολος, means accuser in Greek and carries the implication of one making false accusation. So it is usually rendered as false accuser in the Christogenea New Testament. In the Revelation, in chapter 12, we read “Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.” This is not necessarily literal. On the spiritual level, the law being spiritual, the very existence of bastards sprung from the Adamic race stands as an accusation against that race, as each bastard is a violation of Yahweh’s law. As Euripides wrote in Hippolytus (lines 962-963), “...the bastard is always an enemy to the true-born.” But once the devils slew God Himself in the form of Yahshua Christ, on the spiritual level the entire burden of guilt falls upon the enemies of Christ. So they themselves proclaimed that “His blood be on us, and on our children.” On the spiritual level, those true-born sons of God who have the spirit of God in them shall overcome the children of the devil, all of the bastards created over the course of history.
Being freed from the judgments of the law, Paul expected men to be free from their fear of death, but to also be free from sin as he wrote in Romans chapter 8 that: “3 The law is powerless, in that it has been weak over the flesh, Yahweh sending His own Son in the likeness of errant flesh, and amidst guilt, condemned guilt in the flesh, 4 that the judgment of the law should be fulfilled among us, who walk not in accordance with the flesh, but in accordance with the Spirit. 5 For they who are in accordance with the flesh, strive after the things of the flesh; and they who are in accordance with the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 Indeed the purpose of the flesh is death, but the purpose of the Spirit, life and peace. 7 Because the purpose of the flesh is hostile to Yahweh, then to the law of Yahweh it is not obedient; neither is it able to be; 8 and they that are in the flesh are not able to satisfy Yahweh. 9 However you are not in the flesh, but in Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of Yahweh dwells in you; and if one has not the Spirit of Christ, he is not of Him: 10 but if Christ is in you, indeed the body is dead because of fault, but the Spirit alive because of righteousness. 11 Moreover, if the Spirit of He who raised Yahshua from the dead dwells in you, He who raises the Anointed from the dead will also produce alive your mortal bodies through His Spirit that dwells in you.”
Here once again, only the transcendental man, the man born from above, can truly keep the law of God, because the law is spiritual. The man of this world may profess to keep the law, but when he does it is only in a fleshly way, seeking to justify himself through rituals of the law, sacraments and the works of his own hands. These fleshly fulfillments of the law fail to remove sin, as Paul shall also assert later in this epistle. One of the lessons which our race is supposed to attain through our history is the inefficacy of rituals and ceremonies and the works of the hands of men to remove sin. As the devil exploited the weakness of the flesh and tempted Eve to partake of the forbidden tree, fleshly men today exploit the weakness of the flesh and tempt Christians into sin, and also into self-justification, while they neglect the commandments of Christ and the true spirit of the law practiced in love for one’s brethren. Instead, they exalt the flesh and justify men, or have men justify themselves, by the works of their hands. So the true Christian seeks to keep the spirit of the law and not rely on his own hands for his justification, rather relying on Christ his God. This is an underlying theme of this epistle to the Hebrews, especially throughout its later chapters. It is also a thread found throughout the entirety of the Scriptures.
One last theme of Hebrews chapter 2 was the racial exclusivity of the Gospel of Christ. Paul had attested that “”He sanctifying and those being sanctified are all sprung from one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren”. We had explained that the phrase “sprung from one” may have been rendered “of one household” or even “of one family”, a reference to the fact that the promises in Christ were made exclusively to those nations which sprang from the seed of Abraham through Jacob-Israel. Paul then said that Christ “has taken upon Himself of the offspring of Abraham, from which He was obliged in all respects to become like the brethren, that He would be a compassionate and faithful high priest of the things pertaining to Yahweh to make a propitiation for the failures of the people.” Here in the opening verses of Hebrews chapter 3, Paul continues in that same perspective, and his words confirm for us that his message is indeed limited to those same offspring of Abraham, to the nations who sprang from the Israelites of antiquity, as he refers to the household of God as that same household which Moses led through the wilderness.
Paul had told the Romans that they once had the truth of God, and that they had the laws written in their hearts, things which only applied to descendants of ancient Israel. Paul told the Corinthians that their fathers were baptized in the cloud and in the sea with Moses. Paul said in Acts chapter 26 that “I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: 7 Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come.” Paul’s message never changed, and while the Israelites in Judaea may not have understood that Paul took his Gospel overseas because the nations to which he went were the very nations descended from scattered Israel, Paul himself certainly did understand, or he could not have brought them the Gospel. While here Paul writes to Hebrews who still identified with the Old Testament history, he nevertheless teaches the same things which he had taught to the descendants of the Israelites scattered abroad, who no longer identified with their own ancient history.
So whether men knew it or not, all of the nations to which the original apostles of Christ brought the Gospel were nations descended from the ancient Israelites, and were of the seed of Abraham. They alone are the household of God. There is no difference between the houses of Israel and Judah to whom the New Covenant was promised in Jeremiah, and the household of Moses and Christ here, and the “household of the faith” mentioned in Galatians chapter 3. They are all descriptive of the same people, and one and the same household. This is also the context of Hebrews chapter 2, and in that manner Paul continues here in Hebrews chapter 3:
1 From which, holy brethren, partners of the heavenly calling, you should consider Yahshua, the Ambassador and high priest of our profession, 2 being faithful to He who has ordained Him, even as Moses, among His household.
Christ is the apostle, or ambassador, of the Christian profession because He was sent directly from God. And even if He is God, in the eyes of men He is also a man, so He fulfills both roles as God has the ability to transcend His Own Creation. If men deny God that ability, then they are also denying that God is God. Yahshua Christ, taking upon Himself flesh and blood to live and die as a man, spoke to His brethren as a man, and not as God. After He was resurrected, however, then His fellows recognized Him as God, as even doubting Thomas had proclaimed, “My Lord and My God.” Therefore Christ spoke to men as a man where He said in John chapter 12 “49 For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.”
Paul will explain at great length later in this epistle how Yahshua Christ is also high priest of the Christian profession, as he says in Hebrews chapter 10, in part, “11 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God...”
The Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Ephraemi Syri (C), Claromontanus (D) and the Majority Text all have the last phrase in verse 2 to read “among His entire household”; the text here follows the 3rd century papyrus P46, and 3rd or 4th century papyrus P13 and the Codex Vaticanus (B). It seems that some copyists sought to create a wider perspective of the concept of this household than the Scripture itself actually describes.
But the household of the promises of God is already defined by Scripture in the promise of the New Covenant and elsewhere in the Old Testament. The promise of the New Covenant is explicit in Jeremiah chapter 31, which is a passage that Paul himself quotes in Hebrews chapter 8, where it says “31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah”. Moreover, in Ezekiel chapter 37 Yahweh spoke to the children of Israel and said “26 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.” Every occurance of the pronoun, them, in that passage referes to the children of Israel. Furthermore, we read in Amos chapter 3 where Yahweh speaks to Israel and says: “2 You only have I known of all the families [or households] of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” Then, so that they may be released from that punishment and given mercy, we read where the children of Israel are characterized as saying in Isaiah chapter 53 that “5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” And finally, for that very purpose Christ Himself had professed in Matthew chapter 15 that “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
So Paul writes to these Hebrews, he also being a Hebrew, informing them that that Christ is “high priest of our profession”, meaning that the faith belongs to the Hebrews, and that Christ was appointed over the same household over which Moses was appointed, which is the twelve tribes of the children of Israel that Paul professed were the recipients of the promise in Christ in Acts chapter 26. Where Paul informs his readers that Christ was “faithful to He who has ordained Him, even as Moses, among His household”, he asserts that Moses had faithfully executed the things that He was to do for the people of the household of God just as Christ executed what he was given to do among that same household of God. It is the same household, and its nature has not changed even as Paul writes these words nearly thirty years after the Resurrection. However the analogy which follows is even more profound:
3 For He has been deemed worthy of more honor than Moses, just as so much more honor than the house has He who built it. 4 For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is Yahweh.
So Christ is equal to He who built the house, and therefore Christ is worthy of more honor than Moses. From that perspective, Christ must be the builder of the house of Israel, as Paul himself fully relates here, so therefore Christ must be one and the same with Yahweh the God of Israel who said in Isaiah chapter 43: “1 But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.” Christ must be one and the same with Yahweh the God of Israel who said likewise in Isaiah chapter 44: “1 Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen: 2 Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen.”
Likewise, Paul may have said here that “He who built all things is God”, but in Hebrews chapter 1 Paul had already attested that “At the end of these days He speaks to us by a Son, whom He has appointed heir of all, through whom He also made the ages.” So “He who built all things is God”, but Yahshua Christ is that same God as well, because even He said “Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord”. The Hebrews revered Moses, and Paul is telling them that they should revere Christ even more, as He is the God who built Israel the household, which is also the Body of Christ. Paul continues describing this same phenomenon:
5 And indeed Moses was faithful among His entire household as an attendant, for a testimony of the things being spoken, 6 but Christ as a Son over His household, whose household we are, if indeed we possess that liberty and the boast of the expectation.
The reference in verse 5 seems to be a citation of Numbers chapter 12 where we read “5 And the LORD came down in the pillar of the cloud, and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam: and they both came forth. 6 And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. 7 My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. 8 With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? 9 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them; and he departed.”
At the end of verse 6 we read the words “whose household we are, if indeed we possess that liberty and the boast of the expectation.” To the end of this there is an interpolation which is found in the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Ephraemi Syri (C), Claromontanus (D) and the Majority Text, where they have all added words which we would translate as “steadfast until the end”. The text here once again follows the 3rd century papyrus P46, the 3rd or 4th century papyrus P13 and the Codex Vaticanus (B).
The difference is not insignificant. While the same phrase appears in verse 14 of this chapter, and there the phrase is attested to by all of the manuscripts, it is in a slightly different context. The expectation, which is the fulfillment of the promises made to Israel, is not contingent upon one’s faith. That may sound like a heresy, however even Paul wrote speaking of Israel in Romans chapter 11, as the King James Version translates it, “For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.” All of Israel is saved according to the promises of God. However in verse 14 of this chapter, where the phrase later appears, it is in reference to partnership with Christ, which is something that is contingent upon the acts which are inspired by one’s faith.
The context of this statement enriches, and is enriched by, the things which Paul had said in Hebrews chapter 2, where he attested that “both He sanctifying and those being sanctified are all sprung from one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren” and also where he wrote that “He has taken upon Himself of the offspring of Abraham, from which He was obliged in all respects to become like the brethren… to make a propitiation for the failures [sins] of the people [of Israel].” Paul’s message is a message of a racial covenant, where Yahweh God has joined the Creation as a member of that same race, in order to keep the promises which He made to their fathers. One’s eternal salvation is not a matter of one’s personal belief. Rather, it is a matter of whether one is of the seed which has been promised that salvation by the Word of God in the Scriptures.
Those who belong to the seed of Abraham through Jacob-Israel have the liberty and boast of the expectation of which Paul speaks, as Paul himself explained in Romans chapter 4, where he attested that the promise is certain to all of the seed, the seed of Abraham. The substance of the hope Paul refers to is expressed in the 16th Psalm: “8 I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. 10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” It is expressed again in the 130th Psalm: “7 Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. 8 And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” And then in the 131st Psalm: “3 Let Israel hope in the LORD from henceforth and for ever.”
Paul then continues in this perspective by putting this call to obedience in Christ within the context of Old Testament disobedience:
7 Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says: “Today if you would hear His voice, 8 do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion in the day of trial in the desert, 9 where your fathers had made trial in scrutiny and saw my works 10 forty years.
The Greek verb παραπικραίνω, (Strong’s # 3893), appears below in verse 16 of this chapter and means to embitter or provoke, according to Liddell & Scott. Here we have the associated noun, παραπικρασμός (Strong’s # 3894), which also appears in verse 15 and Liddell & Scott define it simply as provocation. Both words have the Greek word πικρός, which literally means bitter, as their ultimate root. As the Hebrew word mara (see Strong’s Hebrew #’s 4751, 4754, and 4784) means bitter and then metaphorically means rebel, as either a noun or a verb, translating the Christogenea New Testament we have treated the use of παραπικραίνω and παραπικρασμός here as Hebraisms, rendering them to mean rebel and rebellion respectively, in these three verses. The actions of the Israelites of the Exodus may have provoked God to action, however those actions were made in rebellion to God as the Hebrew usage suggests. Thus Paul continues in verse 10:
On which account I had been angry with this race, and said: ‘always do they wander in heart, and they have not known My ways.’
The 3rd or 4th century papyrus P13 has the end of this verse to read “...always do they wander in their hearts, on which account they have not known My ways.”
The text is a citation of Psalm 95:7-11. The Codex Ephraemi Syri (C) and the Majority Text have τῇ γενεᾷ ἐκείνῃ here, for which we may be obliged to write “with that generation”, and that is the reading found in the Septuagint. But here the text of the Christogenea New Testament follows the 3rd century papyrus P46, and 3rd or 4th century papyrus P13 and the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Alexandrinus (A), Vaticanus (B) and Claromontanus (D), all of which have τῇ γενεᾷ ταύτῃ, or “with this race”, of which the Hebrews addressed here were certainly still a part.
The primary meaning of the Greek word γενεά (Strong’s # 1074) is race, stock or family, as Liddell & Scott attest. And although in some contexts it would better be translated as generation, as the lexicons also attest, and Liddell and Scott at γενεά I. 2. cite such a use for the word as early as Homer, the word should nevertheless retain the original idea of race, which the English word generation does not reflect as it is popularly perceived. Therefore it is not generation here and we choose to follow the reading τῇ γενεᾷ ταύτῃ.
In chapter 4 of this epistle, in a further reference to this same event which Paul presently describes, he wrote “if Joshua had given them rest”. In the Exodus, the forty years were spent in the desert so that the generation which sinned at Sinai would not see the promised land and the prospect of rest offered in Joshua. So Paul, referring to the failure of the people who survived up to the time of Joshua and beyond, refers to the race as a whole, and not merely to a single generation. Therefore the context was also a determining factor in considering which manuscripts to follow here.
Now Paul describes the action which Yahweh God was provoked into taking:
11 So I have sworn in My wrath, whether they should enter into My rest.”
The phrase εἰ (literally if) εἰσελεύσονται (literally they shall enter into) appears here and again at verses 3 and 5 in Hebrews chapter 4. In our translation it is always written as “whether they should enter” since the conditional conjunction εἰ by itself is in English either if or whether, and not much else. The King James Version rendered the conditional particle as a definite negative here where it has “they shall not enter”, but that version treated the phrase in much the same way as we have here in chapter 4 where on two occasions it has “if they shall enter”. We have sought to translate the term literally in all three places, in spite of the more explicit statement Paul makes at 3:18 where it says “And to whom did He swear would not enter into His rest, if not to those who would not comply?”
This is because the Greek conditional particle is often used to express a factual implication, rather than merely offering a possibility. That Biblical usage of the conditional particle is frequently misunderstood in English even in spite of the fact that the conditional particle is also sometimes used in that manner in English. For instance, one may say that “You can use the men's bathroom if you are a man”, but that does not give one a choice whether or not to be a man. One can only be born male or female. Likewise, Paul said in Galatians that “And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed”, meaning that if you are not one of Abraham’s seed, you cannot be Christ’s. The conditional particle expresses a factual implication, it does not give one a choice in the matter unless both conditions are equally choosable. (The enemies of Christ also have a natural hatred for such factual implications.)
The verb ὀμνύω (Strong’s # 3660), which is rendered literally here and in verse 3 of chapter 4 as to swear, may have been rendered to threaten, as Joseph Thayer explains in his Greek-English Lexicon. Again, in verses 7 through 11 here Paul cites Psalm 95:7-11, a passage which once again exhibits the purpose of the Christ: “7 For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9 When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. 10 Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: 11 Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.” This being another Messianic Psalm appealing to Yahweh as the “rock of our salvation”, as it proclaims in its very first verse, we see that the expectation of salvation is once again expressed for the children of Israel. Paul associated this Psalm with Christ where he says “today if you will hear His voice” in reference to Christ. In this perspective, in reference to the disobedience in the wilderness, Paul continues with a warning which infers that those who reject Christ will face the same punishments:
12 You beware, brethren, that at no time will there be in any one of you a wicked heart of disbelief, in which is revolt [or rebellion, a standing off] from Yahweh who lives. 13 Rather encourage yourselves each and every day, so long as this day bears a name, that not any one of you are hardened in deceit of wrongdoing [or sin].
The Greek phrase ἄχρις οὖ τὸ σήμερον καλεῖται is literally “as long as this day is called”. In their definition of καλέω, Liddell & Scott make the explanation for the perfect passive that it may mean “to have received a name, to bear it,” while here we have a present passive tense. Even less literally, the intended meaning of the phrase seems to be “as long as this age endures”.
Paul has admonished these Hebrews to believe in the Son, Yahshua Christ as apostle and high priest of “our profession”, meaning the profession of Paul as well as his readers, and warned them that they must believe in the Son, but has only so far explained that this is the promised Son who is set above the angels and the prophets, and who is to rule over the Creation of God. However throughout the later chapters of the epistle, Paul will explain in greater detail what it is that the Hebrews should maintain in relation to that belief, and how they should apply that belief in their daily lives.
But notice that Paul did not say that they would lose any of the promises made to their fathers if they did not believe. Rather, he only told them that they would face trials like those who faced trials in the time of Joshua and Moses. The Hebrews were offered rest in the days of Joshua and Moses, but as Paul is about to explain in Hebrews chapter 4, they did not achieve that rest, because they were not obedient to their God. That does not cost them eternal life, but rather it only ensures their continued punishment in this life. As, for example, the Word of Yahweh says in Jeremiah: “… though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished”, it also says in Amos: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. 3 Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Nearly 800 years before Paul wrote his epistles, the children of Israel were scattered abroad for their sins, during which time they became many other nations. Most of Paul’s epistles are addressed to them, however here he speaks to a remnant of Israel which remained in its Hebrew traditions, and thus he continues to cite the original promises made to Israel:
14 For we have become partners of the Christ, if indeed to begin with we possess that of the assurance [A has “of His assurance”] steadfast until the end. 15 In respect of which it is said: “Today if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion.”
And Paul once again cites the Psalm, where he is equating Christ to the “rock of our salvation” and it says in verse 7: “For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart…”
Verse 14 may have been translated in part, “… if indeed we hold the firm beginning of our assurance until the end.” In any case, the words for beginning and for steadfast, or firm, which are in the accusative case, cannot modify the word for assurance, or confidence, which is in the genitive case. The adjective in the accusative case modifies the noun of the same case. So it is the beginning which is firm in Paul’s words here, and the assurance must be an assurance which was held from that firm beginning, which in this context relates back to the Old Testament and not merely to the appearance of Christ, but to the promises of salvation for Israel that existed from the beginning and which Paul has been citing throughout this chapter and this epistle. Paul is asserting that this Yahshua Christ, the Son, is also the “rock of Salvation” who was promised in all of these Psalms and other Scriptures he has quoted, that He is the promise made to the Israelites from the beginning, and that it is the faith in Him which therefore must be maintained by these Hebrews. If Paul’s readers had that assurance from the beginning, meaning that if they were indeed children of the promises, then holding the assurance of those promises steadfast they in turn would become partners of Christ.
So we would contend that there is no promise in Christ for outsiders who come along after-the-fact, who are not Old Testament children of the original promises made in the beginning. The outsiders did not have any promises at the beginning so they have no promises at the end, and we see that the substance of the faith has not changed since the Psalms were written, or since the children of Israel had wandered in the desert, as Paul continues:
16 For some hearing had rebelled, though not all of those coming out of Egypt with Moses.
The Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece punctuates verse 16 as two questions: “For did not some hearing rebel? But not all of those coming out of Egypt with Moses?” The text agrees with the readings of the King James Version and other editors.
Not all of the Israelites had rebelled in the desert, so Paul explains that Yahweh was not angry with them all. In that manner, he is offering these Hebrews hope if they choose to remain in the faith of Christ without rebelling. However there is more to the partnership with Christ than mere belief, and Paul will explain many things as the epistle proceeds. In this context, we must bear in mind the force of the Judaizers, who sought to keep Hebrews bound to the rituals and ceremonies of the Old Testament, as well as to impose such things upon the Christians of the other nations. But for now, Paul continues to exhort the Hebrews to obedience with his rhetorical argument comparing the Exodus:
17 And with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who failed [A has “who were disobedient”], whose bodies [κῶλον (2966) is literally “limbs” or “legs”] fell in the desert?
This is a warning, but is also an exhortation to obedience. As there was a promise of life to all those of Israel who submitted to their God in obedience to His law, there remains a promise of life to all of those of Israel who cleave to Christ and keep the law. The conditions of Creation and the laws of kind after kind from the beginning, and perpetuated in the maintenance of the race through God’s law assure the Adamic man of eternal life. But a keeping of the law in this life assures the maintenance of the race and the well-being of the individual who keeps it. Therefore, as Paul seeks to explain to these Hebrews, peace is found in observing the word of God, which has now passed from the Levitical priesthood into the New Covenant in Christ. Joining that partnership one has an offer of peace, and rejecting that partnership, one is bound to suffer tribulation. In that same manner the Israelites who rejected the laws of God and chose to engage in idolatry also suffered tribulation.
18 And to whom did He swear would not enter into His rest, if not to those who would not comply [P46 has “would not believe]? 19 And we see that they had not been able to enter because of disbelief.
In reference to the Israelites of the Exodus, here Paul infers that their lack of faith in what they had seen in the Exodus was the condition which led to their disobedience. Therefore they were prohibited from entering the rest of God which they had been promised. This rest is first made apparent in Exodus chapter 33 where we read: “12 And Moses said unto the LORD, See, thou sayest unto me, Bring up this people: and thou hast not let me know whom thou wilt send with me. Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight. 13 Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people. 14 And he [meaning Yahweh] said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.”
What is meant by the rest which Yahweh promised to the children of Israel if they would hearken to Him becomes evident in Numbers chapter 14, where we read “6 And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes: 7 And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. 8 If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. 9 Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not.”
If one remains obedient to God, one need not fear the people of the land. But the children of Israel continued in their disobedience, and they did fear the people of the land, never having the rest that they could have had if they had followed the Laws of Yahweh their God. This we see in Leviticus chapter 26 where the Word of Yahweh says: “27 And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me; 28 Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins. 29 And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat. 30 And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you. 31 And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours. 32 And I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it. 33 And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste. 34 Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies' land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her sabbaths. 35 As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest; because it did not rest in your sabbaths, when ye dwelt upon it.”
So we read further on in that same chapter of Numbers, as the people rejected the counsel of Joshua and Caleb: “10 But all the congregation bade stone them with stones. And the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel. 11 And the LORD said unto Moses, How long will this people provoke me? and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs which I have shewed among them? 12 I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of thee a greater nation and mightier than they.”
In Hebrews chapter 4 Paul continues with this theme, and when we resume, we shall discuss a couple of the aspects of this period of the rest of God promised to the children of Israel in greater depth.