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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 2 - Verse 17
17. Wherefore in all things. In respect to his body; his soul; his rank and character. There was a propriety that he should be like them, and should partake of their nature. The meaning is, that there was a fitness that nothing should be wanting in him in reference to the innocent propensities and sympathies of human nature.
It behoved him. It became him; or there was a fitness and propriety in it. The reason why it was proper, the apostle proceeds to state.
Like unto his brethren. Like unto those who sustained to him the relation of brethren; particularly as he undertook to redeem the descendants of Abraham, and as he was a descendant of Abraham himself, there was a propriety that he should be like them. He calls them brethren; and it was proper that, he should show that he regarded them as such by assuming their nature.
That he might be a merciful and faithful high priest.
(1.) That he might be merciful; that is, compassionate. That he might know how to pity us in our infirmities and trials, by having a nature like our own.
(2.) That he might be faithful; that is, perform with fidelity all the functions pertaining to the office of high priest. The idea is, that it was needful that he should become a man; that he should experience, as we do, the infirmities and trials of life; and that, by being a man, and partaking of all that pertained to man except his sins, he might feel how necessary it was that there should be fidelity in the office of high priest. Here were a race of sinners and sufferers. They were exposed to the wrath of God. They were liable to everlasting punishment. The judgment impended over the race, and the day of vengeance hastened on. All now depended on the Great High Priest. All their hope was in his fidelity to the great office which he had undertaken. If he were faithful, all would be safe; if he were unfaithful, all would be lost. Hence the necessity that he should enter fully into the feelings, fears, and dangers of man; that he should become one of the race, and be identified with them, so that he might be qualified to perform with faithfulness the great trust committed to him.
High priest. The Jewish high priest was the successor of Aaron, and was at the head of the ministers of religion among the Jews. He was set apart with solemn ceremonies—clad in his sacred vestments—and anointed with oil, Ex 29:6-9; Le 8:2. He was by his office the general judge of all that pertained to religion, and even of the judicial affairs of the Jewish nation, De 17:8-12; 19:17; 21:5; 33:9,10.
He only had the privilege of entering the most holy place once a year, on the great day of expiation, to make atonement for the sins of the whole people, Le 16:2, etc. He was the oracle of truth—so that, when clothed in his proper vestments, and having on the Urim and Thummim, he made known the will of God in regard to future events. The Lord Jesus became, in the Christian dispensation, what the Jewish high priest was in the old; and an important object of this epistle is to show that he far surpassed the Jewish high priest, and in what respects the Jewish high priest was designed to typify the Redeemer. Paul, therefore, early introduces the subject, and shows that the Lord Jesus came to perform the functions of that sacred office, and that he was eminently endowed for it.
In things pertaining to God. In offering sacrifice; or in services of a religious nature. The great purpose was to offer sacrifice, and make intercession; and the idea is, that Jesus took on himself our nature that he might sympathize with us; that thus he might be faithful to the great trust committed to him—the redemption of the world. Had he been unfaithful, all would have been lost, and the world would have sunk down to woe.
To make reconciliation. By his death as a sacrifice. The word here used— ilaskomai—occurs but in one other place in the New Testament, (Lu 18:13,) where it is rendered, "God be merciful to me a sinner;" that is, reconciled to me. The noun ilasmov— propitiation) is used in 1 Jo 2:2; 4:10. The word here means, properly, to appease, to reconcile, to conciliate; and hence to propitiate AS TO SINS; that is, to propitiate God in reference to sins, or to render him propitious. The Son of God became a man, that he might so fully enter into the feelings of the people as to be faithful, and that he might be qualified, as a high priest, to perform the great work of rendering God propitious in regard to sins. How he did this is fully shown in the subsequent parts of the epistle.
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