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Hebrews 1:4-6

4. Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

4. Tanto praestantior angelis factus, quanto excellentius prae ipsis sortitus est nomen.

5. For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?

5. Cui enim inquam angelorum dixit, Filius meus es tu, ego hodie genui te? Et rursus, ego illi in Patrem, et ipse erit mihi in Filium.

6. And again, when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.

6. Rursus autem quum introducit filium in orbem dicit, Et adorent eum omnes angeli Dei.

 

4. Being made so much better, etc. After having raised Christ above Moses and all others, he now amplifies His glory by a comparison with angels. It was a common notion among the Jews, that the Law was given by angels; they attentively considered the honorable things spoken of them everywhere in Scripture; and as the world is strangely inclined to superstition, they obscured the glory of God by extolling angels too much. It was therefore necessary to reduce them to their own rank, that they might not overshadow the brightness of Christ. And first he proves from his name, that Christ far excelled them, for he is called the Son of God; 1717     Some by “name” understand dignity, but not correctly, as it appears from what follows; for the name, by which he is proved here to be superior to angels, was that of a Son, as Calvin here states. — Ed. and that he was distinguished by this title he shows by two testimonies from Scripture, both of which must be examined by us; and then we shall sum up their full import.

5. Thou art my Son, etc. It cannot be denied but that this was spoken of David, that is, as he sustained the person of Christ. Then the things found in this Psalm must have been shadowed forth in David, but were fully accomplished in Christ. For that he by subduing many enemies around him, enlarged the borders of his kingdom, it was some foreshadowing of the promise, “I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance.” But how little was this in comparison with the amplitude of Christ’s kingdom, which extends from the east to the west? For the same reason David was called the son of God, having been especially chosen to perform great things; but his glory was hardly a spark, even the smallest, to that glory which shone forth in Christ, on whom the Father has imprinted his own image. So the name of Son belongs by a peculiar privilege to Christ alone, and cannot in this sense be applied to any other without profanation, for him and no other has the Father sealed.

But still the argument of the Apostle seems not to be well-grounded; for how does he maintain that Christ is superior to angels except on this ground, that he has the name of a Son? As though indeed he had not this in common with princes and those high in power, of whom it is written, “Ye are gods and the sons of the most”, (Psalm 50:6;) and as though Jeremiah had not spoken as honorably of all Israel, when he called them the firstborn of God. (Jeremiah 31:9.) They are indeed everywhere called children or sons. Besides, David calls angels the sons of God;

“Who,” he says, “is like to Jehovah among the sons of God?” (Psalm 89:6.)

The answer to all this is in no way difficult. Princes are called by this name on account of a particular circumstance; as to Israel, the common grace of election is thus denoted; angels are called the sons of God as having a certain resemblance to him, because they are celestial spirits and possess some portion of divinity in their blessed immortality. But when David without any addition calls himself as the type of Christ the Son of God, he denotes something peculiar and more excellent than the honor given to angels or to princes, or even to all Israel. Otherwise it would have been an improper and absurd expression, if he was by way of excellence called the son of God, and yet had nothing more than others; for he is thus separated from all other beings. When it is said so exclusively of Christ, “Thou art my Son,” it follows that this honor does not belong to any of the angels. 1818     “If it be objected,” says Stuart, “that angels are also called sons, and men too, the answered is easy: No one individual, except Jesus, is ever called by way of eminence, the Son of God, i.e., the Messiah or the King of Israel,” John 1:49. By “The Son of God” is to be understood here His kingly office: He was a Son as one endowed with superior power and authority; and angels are not sons in this respect. — Ed.

If any one again objects and says, that David was thus raised above the angels; to this I answer, that it is nothing strange for him to be elevated above angels while bearing the image of Christ; for in like manner there was no wrong done to angels when the high­priest, who made an atonement for sins, was called a mediator. They did not indeed obtain that title as by right their own; but as they represented the kingdom of Christ, they derived also the name from him. Moreover, the sacraments, though in themselves lifeless, are yet honored with titles which angels cannot claim without being guilty of sacrilege. It is hence evident that the argument derived from the term Son, is well grounded. 1919     The foregoing is a sufficient answer to Doddridge, Stuart, and others, who hold that the texts quoted must refer exclusively to Christ, else the argument of the Apostle would be inconclusive. David is no doubt called a son in the 2nd Psalm, but as a king, and in that capacity as a type of Christ; and what is said of him as a king, and what is promised to him, partly refers to himself and to his successors, and partly to Christ whom he represented. How to distinguish these things is now easy, as the character of Christ is fully developed in the New Testament. We now see the reason why David was called a son, and why Solomon, as in the next quotation, was called a son; they as kings of Israel, that is, of God’s people, were representatives of him who is alone really or in a peculiar sense the Son of God, the true king of Israel, an honor never allotted to angels. (See Appendix B) — Ed.

As to his being begotten, we must briefly observe, that it is to be understood relatively here: for the subtle reasoning of Augustine is frivolous, when he imagines that today means perpetuity or eternity. Christ doubtless is the eternal Son of God, for he is wisdom, born before time; but this has no connection with this passage, in which respect is had to men, by whom Christ was acknowledged to be the Son of God after the Father had manifested him. Hence that declaration or manifestation which Paul mentions in Romans 1:4, was, so to speak, a sort of an external begetting; for the hidden and internal which had preceded, was unknown to men; nor could there have been any account taken of it, had not the Father given proof of it by a visible manifestation. 2020     Many have interpreted to-day as meaning eternity; but there is nothing to countenance such a view. As to the type, David, his “to-day” was his exaltation to the throne; the “to-day” of Christ, the antitype, is something of a corresponding character; it was his resurrection and exaltation to God’s right hand, where he sits, as it were, on the throne of David. See Acts 2:30; 5:30, 31; 13:33. — Ed.

I will be to him a Father, etc. As to this second testimony the former observation holds good. Solomon is here referred to, and though he was inferior to the angels, yet when God promised to be his Father, he was separated from the common rank of all others; for he was not to be to him a Father as to one of the princes, but as to one who was more eminent than all the rest. By the same privilege he was made a Son; all others were excluded from the like honor. But that this was not said of Solomon otherwise than as a type of Christ, is evident from the context; for the empire of the whole world is destined for the Son mentioned there, and perpetuity is also ascribed to his empire: on the other hand, it appears that the kingdom of Solomon has confined within narrow bounds, and was so far from being perpetual, that immediately after his death it was divided, and some time afterwards it fell altogether. Again, in that Psalm the sun and moon are summoned as witnesses, and the Lord swears that as long as they shall shine in the heavens, that kingdom shall remain safe: and on the other hand, the kingdom of David in a short time fell into decay, and at length utterly perished. And further, we may easily gather from many passages in the Prophets, that that promise was never understood otherwise than of Christ; so that no one can evade by saying that this is a new comment; for hence also has commonly prevailed among the Jews the practice of calling Christ the Son of David.

6. And again, when he bringeth or introduceth 2121     See Appendix C. , etc. He now proves by another argument that Christ is above the angels, and that is because the angels are bidden to worship him. (Psalm 97:7.) It hence follows that he is their head and Prince. But it may seem unreasonable to apply that to Christ which is spoken of God only. Were we to answer that Christ is the eternal God, and therefore what belongs to God may justly be applied to him, it would not perhaps be satisfactory to all; for it would avail but little in proving a doubtful point, to argue in this case from the common attributes of God.

The subject is Christ manifested in the flesh, and the Apostle expressly says, that the Spirit thus spoke when Christ was introduced into the world; but this would not have been said consistently with truth except the manifestation of Christ be really spoken of in the Psalm. And so the case indeed is; for the Psalm commences with an exhortation to rejoice; nor did David address the Jews, but the whole earth, including the islands, that is, countries beyond the sea. The reason for this joy is given, because the Lord would reign. Further, if you read the whole Psalm, you will find nothing else but the kingdom of Christ, which began when the Gospel was published; nor is the whole Psalm anything else but a solemn decree, as it were, by which Christ was sent to take possession of His kingdom. Besides, what joy could arise from His kingdom, except it brought salvation to the whole world, to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews? Aptly then does the Apostle say here, that he was introduced into the world, because in that Psalm what is described is his coming to men.

The Hebrew word, rendered angels, is Elohim — gods; but there is no doubt but that the Prophet speaks of angels; for the meaning is, that there is no power so high but must be in subjection to the authority of this king, whose advent was to cause joy to the whole world.


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