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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 2 - Verse 6

Verse 6. But one in a certain place testified. The apostle was writing to those who were supposed to be familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures, and where it would be necessary only to makes reference in general, without mentioning the name. The place which is quoted here is Ps 8:4-6. The argument of the apostle is this—that there stood in the sacred Scriptures a declaration, that "all things were placed under the control and jurisdiction of MAN," but that that had not yet been accomplished. It was not true (Heb 2:8) that all things were subject to him; and the complete truth of that declaration would be found only in the jurisdiction conferred on the Messiah—THE MAN, by way of eminence—the incarnate Son of God. It would not occur to any one probably in reading the Psalm, that the verse here quoted had any reference to the Messiah. It seems to relate to the dominion which God had given man over his works in this lower world, or to the fact that he was made lord over all things. That dominion is apparent, to a considerable extent, everywhere, and is a standing proof of the truth of what is recorded in Ge 1:26, that God originally gave dominion to man over the creatures on earth—since it is only by this supposition that it can be accounted for, that the horse, and the elephant, and the ox, and even the panther and the lion, are subject to the control of man. The argument of Paul seems to be this:— "Originally this control was given to man. It was absolute and entire. All things were subject to him, and all obeyed. Man was made a little lower than the angels, and was the undisputed lord of this lower world. He was in a state of innocence. But he rebelled, and this dominion has been in some measure lost. It is found complete only in the second man, the Lord from heaven, (1 Co 15:47,) the Lord Jesus, to whom this control is absolutely given. He comes up to the complete idea of man—man as he was in innocence, and man as he was described by the Psalmist, as having been made a little lower than the angels, and having entire dominion over the world." Much difficulty has been felt by commentators in regard to this passage, and to the principle on which it is quoted. The above seems to me to be that which is most probably true. There are two other methods by which an attempt has been made to explain it. One is, that Paul uses the words here by way of allusion, or accommodation, (Doddridge;) as words that will express his meaning, without designing to say that the Psalm originally had any reference to the Messiah. Most of the later commentators accord with this opinion. The other opinion is, that David originally referred to the Messiah—that he was deeply and gratefully affected in view of the honour that God had conferred on him; and that in looking down by faith on the posterity that God had promised him, (see 2 Sa 7:14,) he saw one among his own descendants to whom God would give this wide dominion, and expresses himself in the elevated language of praise. This opinion is defended by Prof. Stuart. See his Com. On the Hebrews, Excursus IX.

What is man, etc. What is there in man that entitles him to so much notice? Why has God conferred on him so signal honours? Why has he placed him over the works of his hands? He seems so insignificant; his life is so much like a vapour; he so soon disappears, that the question may well be asked why this extraordinary dominion is given him? He is so sinful, also, and so unworthy; so much unlike God, and so passionate and revengeful; is so prone to abuse his dominion, that it may be well asked why God has given it to him? Who would suppose that God would give such a dominion over his creatures to one who was so prone to abuse it, as man has shown himself to be? He is so feeble, also, compared with other creatures—even of those which are made subject to him-that the question may well be asked why God has conceded it to him? Such questions may be asked when we contemplate man as he is. But similar questions may be asked, if, as was probably the case, the Psalm here be supposed to have had reference to man as he was created. Why was one so feeble, and so comparatively without strength, placed over this lower world, and the earth made subject to his control? Why is it that, when the heavens are so vast and glorious, (Ps 8:3,) God has taken such notice of man? Of what consequence can he be amidst works so wonderful? "When I look on the heavens, and survey their greatness and their glory," is the sentiment of David, "why is it that man has attracted so much notice, and that he has not been wholly overlooked in the vastness of the works of the Almighty? Why is it, that instead of this he has been exalted to so much dignity and honour?" This question, thus considered, strikes us with more force now, than it could have struck David. Let any one sit down, and contemplate the heavens as they are disclosed by the discoveries of modern astronomy, and he may well ask the question, "What is man that he should have attracted the attention of God, and been the object of so much care?" The same question would not have been inappropriate to David, if the Psalm be supposed to have had reference originally to the Messiah, and if he was speaking of himself particularly as the ancestor of the Messiah. "What is man; what am I; what can any of my descendants be, who must be of mortal frame, that this dominion should be given him? Why should any of a race so feeble, so ignorant, so imperfect, be exalted to such honour?" We may ask the question here, and it may be asked in heaven with pertinency and with power, "Why was man so honoured, as to be united to the Godhead? Why did the Deity appear in the human form? What was there in man that should entitle him to this honour of being united to the Divinity, and of being thus exalted above the angels?" The wonder is not yet solved; and we may well suppose that the angelic ranks look with amazement —but without envy—on the fact, that man, by his union with the Deity in the person of the Lord Jesus, has been raised above them in rank and in glory.

Or the son of man. This phrase means the same as man, and is used merely to give variety to the mode of expression. Such a change or variety in words and phrases, when the same thing is intended, occurs constantly in Hebrew poetry. The name "son of man" is often given to Christ, to denote his intimate connexion with our race, and the interest which he felt in us, and is the common term which the Saviour uses when speaking of himself. Here it means man, and may be applied to human nature everywhere—and therefore to human nature in the person of the Messiah.

That thou visitest him. That thou shouldst regard him, or treat him with so much honour. Why is he the object of so much interest to the Divine Mind?

{a} "What is man" Ps 8:4

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