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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 1 - Verse 7

Verse 7. And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits. He gives to them an inferior name, and assigns to them a more humble office. They are mere ministers, and have not ascribed to them the name of Son. They have a name which implies a more humble rank and office—the name "spirit," and the appellation of a "flame of fire." They obey his will as the winds and the lightnings do. The object of the apostle in this passage is to show that the angels serve God in a ministerial capacity—as the winds do; while the Son is Lord of all. The one serves him passively, as being wholly under his control; the other acts as a Sovereign, as Lord over all, and is addressed and regarded as the equal with God. This quotation is made from Ps 104:4. The passage might, be translated, "Who, maketh his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire; that is, "who makes his angels like the winds, or as swift as the winds, and his ministers as rapid, as terrible, and as resistless as the lightning." So Doddridge renders it; and so did the late Rev. Dr. J.P. Wilson. MS. Notes. The passage in the Psalm is susceptible, I think, of another interpretation, and might be regarded as meaning, "who makes the winds his messengers, and the flaming fire his ministers;" and perhaps this is the sense which would most naturally occur to a reader of the Hebrew. The Hebrew, however, will admit of the construction here put upon it, and it cannot be proved that it was the original intention of the passage to show that the angels were the mere servants of God, rapid, quick, and prompt to do his will—like the winds. The Chaldee Paraphrase renders the passage in the Psalm, "Who makes his messengers swift as the wind; his ministers strong, like a flame of fire." Professor Stuart maintains that the passage in the Psalm cannot mean "who makes the winds his messengers," but that the intention of the Psalmist is to describe the invisible as well as the visible majesty of God, and that he refers to the angels as a part of the retinue which goes to make up his glory. This does not seem to me to be perfectly certain; but still, it cannot be demonstrated that Paul has made an improper use of the passage. It is to be presumed that he, who had been trained in the knowledge of the Hebrew language, would have had a better opportunity of knowing its fair construction than we can; and it is morally certain, that he would employ the passage in an argument as it was commonly understood by those to whom he wrote—that is, to those who were familiar with the Hebrew language and literature. If he has so used the passage; if he has —as no one can disprove— put the fair construction on it, then it is just in point. It proves that the angels are the attendant servants of God; employed to grace his train, to do his will, to accompany him as the clouds and winds and lightnings do, and to occupy a subordinate rank in his creation.

Flame of fire. This probably refers to lightning— which is often the meaning of the phrase. The word "ministers" here, means the same as angels; and the sense of the whole is, that the attending retinue of God, when he manifests himself with great power and glory, is like the winds and the lightning. His angels are like them. They are prompt to do his will—rapid, quick, obedient in his service; they are, in all respects, subordinate to him, and occupy, as the winds and the lightnings do, the place of servants. They are not addressed in language like that which is applied to the Son of God, and they must all be far inferior to him.

{1} "And of the angels" "unto" {a} "maketh" Ps 104:4

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