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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 3 - Verse 16

Verse 16. For some. Some of the Hebrews who came out of Egypt. The truth was, that a large proportion of them rebelled against God, and provoked him to indignation. It is somewhat remarkable, that though all the Hebrews seem to have joined in the provocation— except a very small number—Paul should have used language which would seem to imply that the number which rebelled was comparatively small. Another version, therefore, has been given to this passage by some of the most eminent critics, consisting merely in a change in the punctuation, by which a different view is given of the whole sentence. According to this it would be a question, and would mean, "But who were they who when they had heard did provoke? Were they not all, indeed, who came out of Egypt under Moses? And with whom was he angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose carcasses fell in the wilderness?" This version was adopted by Chrysostom, Theodoret, and others of the Fathers; and is adopted by Rosenmuller, Clarke, Stuart, Pyle, and some others. In favour of it, it may be alleged

(1.) that the Greek win bear it—all the change required being in the punctuation;

(2.) that it avoids the difficulty which exists in one other interpretation, of supposing the apostle to imply that but few of them rebelled, when the truth was that it was nearly all;

(3.) it thus accords with the remainder of the exhortation which consists in a series of questions; and

(4.) it agrees with the scope and design of the whole. The object was not to state that it was not all who came out of Egypt that rebelled, or that the number was small; but that the great body of them rebelled, and fell in the wilderness, and that Christians should be admonished by their example. These reasons seem to be so strong as to make it probable that this is the true construction; and the sense then will be, "For who were they that having heard did provoke? Were they not all who came out of Egypt under Moses?"

When they had heard. Had heard God speaking to them, and giving them his commands.

Did provoke.Provoked him to anger; or their conduct was such as was fitted to produce indignation. See Barnes "Heb 3:8".

 

Howbeit. alla. But. This particle "in a series of questions, and standing at the head of a question, means, but, further. It serves to connect, and give intensity to the interrogation." Stuart. Paul means to ask, with emphasis, whether the great mass of those who came out of Egypt did not apostatize at the same time he means to intimate that there is no security that they who have witnessed remarkable manifestations of the greatness of God, and who have partaken of extraordinary mercies, will not apostatize and perish. As the Hebrews, who heard God speak from Mount Sinai, revolted and perished, so it is possible that they who witness the mercies of God in redemption may be in danger of abusing all those mercies, and of perishing. By the example, therefore, of the disobedient Israelites, he would admonish professed Christians of their danger.

Not all, etc. According to the interpretation proposed above, "Were they not all who came out of Egypt?" Or, "Did not all who came out of Egypt?" The word all here is not to be taken in the strict sense. It is often used to denote the great body; a large proportion; or vast multitudes. Thus it is used in Mt 3:5: "Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan." So in Joh 3:26: "The same baptizeth, and all men come to him," So Php 2:21: "For all seek their own." 2 Co 3:2: "Ye are our epistle, known and read of all men." In fact, there were two exceptions—and but two—of the adults who came out of Egypt— Caleb and Joshua, Nu 14:30. All the others murmured against the Lord, and were prohibited from entering the promised land. Of the great multitudes who came out of Egypt, and who murmured, the exception was so small that the apostle had no scruple in saying in general that they were all rebellious.

{a} "For some" Nu 14:2, etc.

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