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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 1 - Verse 8
Verse 8. But unto the Son he saith. In Ps 45:6,7. The fact that the writer of this epistle makes this application of the Psalm to the Messiah, proves that it was so applied in his time, or that it would be readily admitted to be applicable to him. It has been generally admitted, by both Jewish and Christian interpreters, to have such a reference. Even those who have doubted its primary applicability to the Messiah, have regarded it as referring to him in a secondary sense. Many have supposed that it referred to Solomon in the primary sense, and that it has a secondary reference to the Messiah. To me it seems most probable that it had an original and exclusive reference to the Messiah. It is to be remembered, that the hope of the Messiah was the peculiar hope of the Jewish people. The coming of the future King, so early promised, was the great event to which they all looked forward with the deepest interest. That hope inspired their prophets and their bards, and cheered the hearts of the nation in the time of despondency. The Messiah, if I may so express it, was the hero of the Old Testament—more so than Achilles is of the Iliad, and AEneas of the AEniad. The sacred poets were accustomed to employ all their most magnificent imagery in describing him, and to present him in every form that was beautiful in their conception, and that would be gratifying to the pride and hopes of the nation. Every thing that is gorgeous and splendid in description is lavished on him; and they were never under any apprehension of attributing to him too great magnificence in his personal reign; too great beauty of moral character; or too great an extent of dominion. That which would be regarded by them as a magnificent description of a monarch, they freely applied to him; and this is evidently the case in this Psalm. That the description may have been, in part, derived from the view of Solomon in the magnificence of his court, is possible, but no more probable than that it was derived from the general view of the splendour of any oriental monarch, or than that it might have been the description of a monarch which was the pure creation of inspired poetry. Indeed, I see not why this Psalm should ever have been supposed to be applicable to Solomon. His name is not mentioned. It has no peculiar applicability to him. There is nothing that would apply to him which would not also apply to many an oriental prince. There are some things in it which are much less applicable to him than to many others. The king here described is a conqueror. He girds his sword on his thigh, and his arrows are sharp in the hearts of his foes, and the people are subdued under him. This was not true of Solomon. His was a reign of peace and tranquillity, nor was he ever distinguished for war. On the whole, it seems clear to me, that this Psalm is designed to be a beautiful poetic description of the Messiah as king. The images are drawn from the usual characteristics of an oriental prince; and there are many things in the poem—as there, are in parables—for the sake of keeping, or veri-similitude, and which are not, in the interpretation, to be cut to the quick. The writer imagined to himself a magnificent and beautiful prince: a prince riding prosperously in his conquests; swaying a permanent and wide dominion; clothed in rich and splendid vestments; eminently upright and pure; and scattering blessings everywhere—and that prince was the Messiah. The Psalm, therefore, I regard as relating originally and exclusively to Christ; and though, in the interpretation, the circumstances should not be unduly pressed, nor an attempt be made to spiritualize them, yet the whole is a glowing and most beautiful description of Christ as a King. The same principles of interpretation should be applied to it which are applied to parables, and the same allowance be made for the introduction of circumstances for the sake of keeping, or for finishing the story. If this be the correct view, then Paul has quoted the Psalm in conformity exactly with its original intention, as he undoubtedly quoted it as it was understood in his time.
Thy throne. A throne is the seat on which a monarch sits, and is here the symbol of dominion, because kings, when acting as rulers, sit on thrones. Thus a throne becomes the emblem of authority or empire. Here it means, that his rule or dominion would be perpetual- "for ever and ever" —which assuredly could not be applied to Solomon.
O God. This certainly could not be applied to Solomon; but applied to the Messiah, it proves what the apostle is aiming to prove—that he is above the angels. The argument is that a name is given to him which is never given to them. They are not called God in any strict and proper sense. The argument here requires us to understand this word as used in a sense more exalted than any name which is ever given to angels, and though it may be maintained that the name
Elohim is given to magistrates or to angels, yet here the argument requires us to understand it as used in a sense superior to what it ever is when applied to an angel—or of course to any creature, since it was the express design of the argument to prove that the Messiah was superior to the angels. The word God should be taken in its natural and obvious sense, unless there is some necessary reason for limiting it. If applied to magistrates (Ps 82:6) it must be so limited. If applied to the Messiah there is no such necessity, (Joh 1:1; Isa 10:6; 1 Jo 5:20; Php 2:6, ) and it should be taken in its natural and proper sense. The form here—o yeov in the vocative case and not the nominative. It is the usual form of the vocative in the Septuagint, and nearly the only form of it. Stuart. This, then, is a direct address to the Messiah, calling him God; and I see not why it is not to be used in the usual and proper sense of the word. Unitarians proposed to translate this, "God is thy throne;" but how can God be a throne of a creature? What is the meaning of such an expression? Where is there one parallel? And what must be the nature of that cause which renders such an argument necessary?—This refers, as it seems to me, to the Messiah as king. It does not relate to his mode of existence before the incarnation, but to him as the magnificent monarch of his people. Still the ground or reason why this name is given to him is that he is divine. It is language which properly expresses his nature. He must have a divine nature, or such language would be improper. I regard this passage, therefore, as full proof that the Lord Jesus is divine; nor is it possible to evade this conclusion by any fair interpretation of it. It cannot be wrong to address him as God; nor addressing him as such, not to regard him as divine.
Is for ever and ever. This could not, in any proper sense, apply to Solomon. As applied to the Messiah, it means that his essential kingdom will be perpetual, Lu 1:33. As Mediator his kingdom will be given up to the Father, or to God, without reference to a mediatorial work, (1 Co 15:24,28—See Barnes "1 Co 15:24"; See Barnes "1 Co 15:28,) but his reign over his people will be perpetual. There never will come a time when they shall not obey and serve him, though the peculiar form of his kingdom, as connected with the work of mediation, will be changed. The form of the organized church, for example, will be changed—for there shall be no necessity for it in heaven—but the essential dominion and power of the Son of God will not cease. He shall have the same dominion which he had before he entered on the work of mediation; and that will be eternal. It is also true, that, compared with earthly monarchs, his kingdom shall be perpetual. They soon die. Dynasties pass away. But his empire extends from age to age, and is properly a perpetual dominion. The fair and obvious interpretation of this passage would satisfy me, were there nothing else, that this Psalm had no reference to Solomon, but was designed originally as a description of the Messiah, as the expected King and Prince of his people.
A sceptre of righteousness. That is, a right or just sceptre. The phrase is a Hebraism. The former expression described the perpetuity of his kingdom; this describes its equable nature. It would be just and equal. See Barnes "Isa 11:5".
A sceptre is a staff or wand usually made of wood, five or six feet long, and commonly overlaid with gold, or ornamented with golden rings. Sometimes, however, the sceptre was made of ivory, or wholly of gold. It was borne in the hands of kings as an emblem of authority and power. Probably it had its origin in the staff or crook of the shepherd— as kings were at first regarded as the shepherds of their people. Thus Agamemnon is commonly called, by Homer, the shepherd of the people. The sceptre thus becomes the emblem of kingly office and power—as when we speak of swaying a sceptre;— and the idea here is, that the Messiah would be a King, and that the authority which he would wield would be equitable and just. He would not be governed, as monarchs often are, by mere caprice, or by the wishes of courtiers and flatterers; he would not be controlled by mere will, and the love of arbitrary power; but the execution of his laws would be in accordance with the principles of equity and justice. How well this accords with the character of the Lord Jesus we need not pause to show. Comp. See Barnes "Isa 11:2, seq.
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