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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 1 - Verse 1
Note: Due to extended length the Introductory Materials to this book can be found in Barnes Notes on
THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS.
ANALYSIS OF THE CHAPTER.
THE main object of the epistle is to commend the Christian religion to those who were addressed in it, in such a way as to prevent defection from it. This is done, principally, by showing its superiority to the Mosaic system. The great danger of Christians in Palestine was of relapsing into the Jewish system. The imposing nature of its rites; the public sentiment in its favour; the fact of its antiquity, and its undisputed Divine origin, would all tend to that. To counteract this, the writer of this epistle shows that the gospel had higher claims on their attention, and that, if that were rejected, ruin was inevitable. In doing this, he begins, in this chapter, by showing the superiority of the Author of Christianity to prophets, and to the angels; that is, that he had a rank that entitled him to the profoundest regard. The drift of this chapter, therefore, is to show the dignity and exalted nature of the Author of the Christian system— the Son of God. The chapter comprises the following points :—
II. The statement respecting his rank and dignity. He was
(1.) the Heir of all things;
(2.) the Creator of the worlds;
(3.) the brightness of the Divine glory, and the proper expression of his nature;
III. The work and exaltation of the Author of the Christian system.
(1.) He, by his own unassisted agency, purified us from our sins.
(2.) He is seated at the right hand of God.
IV. Proofs that what is here ascribed to him belongs to him, particularly that he is declared to be superior to the angels, Heb 1:5-14.
(1.) The angels have never been addressed with the title of Son, Heb 1:5.
(4.) He is addressed as immutable. He is declared to have laid the foundations of heaven and earth; and though they would perish, yet he would remain the same, Heb 1:10-12.
From this train of reasoning, the inference is drawn in Heb 2:1-4, that we ought to give diligent heed to what had been spoken. The Great Author of the Christian scheme had peculiar claims to be heard, and there was peculiar danger in disregarding his message. The object of this chapter is, to impress those to whom the epistle was addressed with the high claims of the Founder of Christianity, and to show that it was superior in this respect to any other system.
Verse 1. God, who at sundry times. The commencement of this epistle varies from all the others which Paul wrote. In every other instance, he at first announces his name, and the name of the church or of the individual to whom he wrote. In regard to the reason why he here varies from that custom, see the Introduction, & 3. This commences with the full acknowledgment of his belief, that God had made important revelations in past times, but that now he had communicated his will in a manner that more especially claimed their attention. This announcement was of particular importance here. He was writing to those who had been trained up in the full belief of the truths taught by the prophets. As the object of the apostle was to show the superior claims of the gospel, and to lead them from putting confidence in the rites instituted in accordance with the directions of the Old Testament, it was of essential importance that he should admit that their belief of the inspiration of the prophets was well founded, he was not an infidel, he was not disposed to call in question the Divine origin of the books which were regarded as given by inspiration, he fully admitted all that had been held by the Hebrews on that head, and yet showed that the new revelation had more important claims to their attention. The word rendered "at sundry times" —polumerwv— means, in many parts. It refers here to the fact, that the former revelation had been given in various parts. It had not all been given at once. It had been communicated from time to time, as the exigencies of the people required, and as God chose to communicate it. At one time it was by history, then by prophecy, by poetry, by proverbs, by some solemn and special message, etc. The ancient revelation was a collection of various writings, on different subjects, and given at different times; but now God had addressed us by his Son—the one great Messenger, who had come to finish the Divine communications, and to give a uniform and connected revelation to mankind. The contrast here is between the numerous separate parts of the revelation given by the prophets, and the oneness of that given by his Son. The word does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament.
And in divers manners polutropwv. In many ways. It was not all in one mode. He had employed various methods in communicating his will. At one time it was by direct communication, at another by dreams, at another by visions, etc. In regard to the various methods which God employed to communicate his will, see Introduction to Isaiah, & 7. In contradistinction from these, God had now spoken by his Son. He had addressed us in one uniform manner. It was not by dreams, or visions; it was a direct communication from him. The word used here, also, occurs nowhere else in the New Testament.
In times past. Formerly; in ancient times. The series of revelations began, as recorded by Moses, with Adam, (Ge 3.) and terminated with Malachi—a period of more than three thousand five hundred years. From Malachi to the time of the Saviour, there were no recorded Divine communications; and the whole period of written revelation, or when the Divine communications were recorded from Moses to Malachi, was about a thousand years.
Unto the fathers. To our ancestors; to the people of ancient times.
By the prophets. The word prophet, in the Scriptures, is used in a wide signification. It means not only those who predict future events, but those who communicate the Divine will on any subject. See Barnes "Ro 12:6"; See Barnes "1 Co 14:1".
It is used here in that large sense—as denoting all those by whom God had made communications to the Jews in former times.
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