Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. Let us . . . fear--not with slavish terror, but
godly "fear and trembling"
Since so many have fallen, we have cause to fear
being left us--still remaining to us after the others
have, by neglect, lost it.
his rest--God's heavenly rest, of which Canaan is the type.
"To-day" still continues, during which there is the danger of failing
to reach the rest. "To-day," rightly used, terminates in the
rest which, when once obtained, is never lost
A foretaste of the rest Is given in the inward rest which the
believer's soul has in Christ.
should seem to come short of it--Greek, "to have
come short of it"; should be found, when the great trial of all
shall take place [ALFORD], to have fallen short of
attaining the promise. The word "seem" is a mitigating mode of
expression, though not lessening the reality. BENGEL and OWEN take it, Lest there
should be any semblance or appearance of falling short.
2. gospel preached . . . unto them--in type: the
earthly Canaan, wherein they failed to realize perfect rest, suggesting
to them that they should look beyond to the heavenly land of rest, to
which faith is the avenue, and from which unbelief
excludes, as it did from the earthly Canaan.
the word preached--literally, "the word of hearing": the word
heard by them.
not being mixed with faith in them that heard--So the
Syriac and the Old Latin Versions, older than any of our
manuscripts, and LUCIFER, read, "As the world did
not unite with the hearers in faith." The word heard being the food
which, as the bread of life, must pass into flesh and blood through
man's appropriating it to himself in faith. Hearing alone is of as
little value as undigested food in a bad stomach [THOLUCK]. The whole of oldest extant manuscript
authority supports a different reading, "unmingled as they were
(Greek accusative case agreeing with 'them') in faith with its
hearers," that is, with its believing, obedient hearers, as
Caleb and Joshua. So "hear" is used for "obey" in the context,
"To-day, if ye will hear His voice." The disobedient, instead of being
blended in "the same body," separated themselves as Korah: a tacit
reproof to like separatists from the Christian assembling together
3. For--justifying his assertion of the need of "faith,"
we which have believed--we who at Christ's coming shall be found
to have believed.
do enter--that is, are to enter: so two of the oldest
manuscripts and LUCIFER and the old Latin.
Two other oldest manuscripts read, "Let us enter."
into rest--Greek, "into the rest" which is
promised in the ninety-fifth Psalm.
as he said--God's saying that unbelief excludes from
entrance implies that belief gains an entrance into the rest.
What, however, Paul mainly here dwells on in the quotation is that the
promised "rest" has not yet been entered into. At
he again, as in
already, takes up faith as the indispensable qualification for
although, &c.--Although God had finished His works of creation
and entered on His rest from creation long before Moses' time,
yet under that leader of Israel another rest was promised, which most
fell short of through unbelief; and although the rest in Canaan was
subsequently attained under Joshua, yet long after, in David's days,
God, in the ninety-fifth Psalm, still speaks of the rest of God
as not yet attained. THEREFORE, there must be
meant a rest still future, namely, that which "remaineth for the
people of God" in heaven,
when they shall rest from their works, as God did from His,
The argument is to show that by "My rest," God means a future rest, not
for Himself, but for us.
finished--Greek, "brought into existence," "made."
4. he spake--God
God did rest the seventh day--a rest not ending with the seventh
day, but beginning then and still continuing, into which believers
shall hereafter enter. God's rest is not a rest necessitated by
fatigue, nor consisting in idleness, but is that upholding and
governing of which creation was the beginning [ALFORD]. Hence Moses records the end of each of the
first six days, but not of the seventh.
from all his works--Hebrew,
"from all His work." God's "work" was one, comprehending,
however, many "works."
5. in this place--In this passage of the Psalm again, it is
implied that the rest was even then still future.
6. it remaineth--still to be realized.
some must enter--The denial of entrance to unbelievers is a
virtual promise of entrance to those that believe. God wishes not His
rest to be empty, but furnished with guests
they to whom it was first preached entered not--literally, "they
who first (in the time of Moses) had the Gospel preached to them,"
namely, in type, see on
unbelief--Greek, rather "disobedience" (see on
7. Again--Anew the promise recurs. Translate as the
Greek order is, "He limited a certain day, 'To-day.'" Here Paul
interrupts the quotation by, "In (the Psalm of) David saying after so
long a time (after five hundred years' possession of Canaan)," and
resumes it by, "as it has been said before (so the
Greek oldest manuscript, before, namely,
Heb 3:7, 15),
To-day if ye hear His voice," &c. [ALFORD].
8. Answer to the objection which might be made to his reasoning,
namely, that those brought into Canaan by Joshua (so "Jesus" here
means, as in
did enter the rest of God. If the rest of God meant Canaan, God
would not after their entrance into that land, have spoken (or speak
[ALFORD]) of another (future) day of entering the
9. therefore--because God "speaks of another day" (see on
remaineth--still to be realized hereafter by the "some (who)
must enter therein"
that is, "the people of God," the true Israel who shall enter into
God's rest ("My rest,"
God's rest was a Sabbatism; so also will ours be.
a rest--Greek, "Sabbatism." In time there are many
Sabbaths, but then there shall be the enjoyment and keeping of a
Sabbath-rest: one perfect and eternal. The "rest" in
is Greek, "catapausis;" Hebrew, "Noah";
rest from weariness, as the ark rested on Ararat after its tossings to
and fro; and as Israel, under Joshua, enjoyed at last rest from war in
Canaan. But the "rest" in this
is the nobler and more exalted (Hebrew) "Sabbath"
rest; literally, "cessation": rest from work when
as God rested
The two ideas of "rest" combined, give the perfect view of the heavenly
Sabbath. Rest from weariness, sorrow, and sin; and rest in the
completion of God's new creation
The whole renovated creation shall share in it; nothing will there be
to break the Sabbath of eternity; and the Triune God shall rejoice in
the work of His hands
Moses, the representative of the law, could not lead Israel into
Canaan: the law leads us to Christ, and there its office ceases, as
that of Moses on the borders of Canaan: it is Jesus, the antitype of
Joshua, who leads us into the heavenly rest. This verse indirectly
establishes the obligation of the Sabbath still; for the type continues
until the antitype supersedes it: so legal sacrifices continued till
the great antitypical Sacrifice superseded it, As then the antitypical
heavenly Sabbath-rest will not be till Christ, our Gospel Joshua,
comes, to usher us into it, the typical earthly Sabbath must continue
till then. The Jews call the future rest "the day which is all
10. For--justifying and explaining the word "rest," or
"Sabbatism," just used (see on
he that is entered--whosoever once enters.
his rest--God's rest: the rest prepared by God for
His people [ESTIUS]. Rather, "His rest":
the man's rest: that assigned to him by God as his. The
Greek is the same as that for "his own" immediately after.
hath ceased--The Greek aorist is used of indefinite time,
"is wont to cease," or rather, "rest": rests. The past
tense implies at the same time the certainty of it, as also that
in this life a kind of foretaste in Christ is already given [GROTIUS]
Mt 11:28, 29).
Our highest happiness shall, according to this verse, consist in our
being united in one with God, and moulded into conformity with Him as
our archetype [CALVIN].
from his own works--even from those that were good and suitable
to the time of doing work. Labor was followed by rest even in Paradise
(Ge 2:3, 15).
The work and subsequent rest of God are the archetype to which we
should be conformed. The argument is: He who once enters rest, rests
from labors; but God's people have not yet rested from them, therefore
they have not yet entered the rest, and so it must be still future.
ALFORD translates, "He that entered into his (or
else God's, but rather 'his';
'His rest': 'the joy of the Lord,'
Mt 25:21, 23)
rest (namely, Jesus, our Forerunner,
Heb 4:14; 6:20,
'The Son of God that is passed through the heavens': in contrast
to Joshua the type, who did not bring God's people into
the heavenly rest), he himself (emphatical) rested from
as God (did) from His own" (so the Greek, "works"). The
argument, though generally applying to anyone who has entered his
rest, probably alludes to Jesus in particular, the antitypical
Joshua, who, having entered His rest at the Ascension, has ceased or
rested from His work of the new creation, as God on the seventh day
rested from the work of physical creation. Not that He has ceased to
carry on the work of redemption, nay, He upholds it by His mediation;
but He has ceased from those portions of the work which constitute the
foundation; the sacrifice has been once for all accomplished. Compare
as to God's creation rest, once for all completed, and rested from, but
now still upheld (see on
11. Let us . . . therefore--Seeing such a promise is
before us, which we may, like them, fall short of through unbelief.
labour--Greek, "strive diligently."
that rest--which is still future and so glorious. Or, in
"That rest into which Christ has entered before"
fall--with the soul, not merely the body, as the rebel
after the same example--ALFORD translates,
"fall into the same example." The less prominent place of the
"fall" in the Greek favors this. The sense is, "lest any fall
into such disobedience (so the Greek for 'unbelief'
means) as they gave a sample of" [GROTIUS]. The
Jews say, "The parents are a sign (warning) to their sons."
12. For--Such diligent striving
is incumbent on us FOR we have to do with a God
whose "word" whereby we shall be judged, is heart-searching, and whose
eyes are all-seeing
The qualities here attributed to the word of God, and the whole
context, show that it is regarded in its JUDICIAL
power, whereby it doomed the disobedient Israelites to exclusion from
Canaan, and shall exclude unbelieving so-called Christians from the
heavenly rest. The written Word of God is not the prominent thought
here, though the passage is often quoted as if it were. Still the word
of God (the same as that preached,
used here in the broadest sense, but with special reference to its
judicial power, INCLUDES the Word of God,
the sword of the Spirit with double edge, one edge for convicting and
and the other for condemning and destroying the unbelieving
similarly represents the Word's judicial power as a sharp sword going
out of Christ's mouth to smite the nations. The same word which
is saving to the faithful
is destroying to the disobedient
(2Co 2:15, 16).
The personal Word, to whom some refer the passage, is not here meant:
for He is not the sword, but has the sword. Thus
reference to Joshua appropriately follows in
quick--Greek, "living"; having living power, as "the rod
of the mouth and the breath of the lips" of "the living God."
powerful--Greek, "energetic"; not only living, but
two-edged--sharpened at both edge and back. Compare "sword of
the Spirit . . . word of God"
Its double power seems to be implied by its being "two-edged."
"It judges all that is in the heart, for there it passes through, at
once punishing [unbelievers] and searching [both believers and
unbelievers]" [CHRYSOSTOM]. PHILO similarly speaks of "God passing between the parts
of Abraham's sacrifices
where, however, it is a 'burning lamp' that passed between the pieces)
with His word, which is the cutter of all things: which sword, being
sharpened to the utmost keenness, never ceases to divide all sensible
things, and even things not perceptible to sense or physically
divisible, but perceptible and divisible by the word." Paul's early
training, both in the Greek schools of Tarsus and the Hebrew
schools at Jerusalem, accounts fully for his acquaintance with Philo's
modes of thought, which were sure to be current among learned Jews
everywhere, though Philo himself belonged to Alexandria, not Jerusalem.
Addressing Jews, he by the Spirit sanctions what was true in their
current literature, as he similarly did in addressing Gentiles
piercing--Greek, "coming through."
even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit--that is,
reaching through even to the separation of the animal soul, the
lower part of man's incorporeal nature, the seat of animal desires,
which he has in common with the brutes; compare the same Greek,
"the natural [animal-souled] man"
from the spirit (the higher part of man, receptive of the Spirit of
God, and allying him to heavenly beings).
and of the joints and marrow--rather, "(reaching even
TO) both the joints (so as to divide them)
and marrow." Christ "knows what is in man"
so His word reaches as far as to the most intimate and accurate
knowledge of man's most hidden parts, feelings, and thoughts, dividing,
that is, distinguishing what is spiritual from what is
carnal and animal in him, the spirit from the
As the knife of the Levitical priest reached to dividing parts, closely
united as the joints of the limbs, and penetrated to the
innermost parts, as the marrows (the Greek is
plural); so the word of God divides the closely joined parts of
man's immaterial being, soul and spirit, and penetrates to the
innermost parts of the spirit. The clause (reaching even to)
"both the joints and marrow" is subordinate to the clause, "even
to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit." (In the oldest manuscripts
as in English Version, there is no "both," as there is in the
clause "both the joints and . . . which marks
the latter to be subordinate). An image (appropriate in addressing
Jews) from the literal dividing of joints, and penetrating to, so as to
open out, the marrow, by the priest's knife, illustrating the
previously mentioned spiritual "dividing of soul from spirit," whereby
each (soul as well as spirit) is laid bare and "naked" before God; this
view accords with
Evidently "the dividing of the soul from the spirit" answers to the
"joints" which the sword, when it reaches unto, divides
asunder, as the "spirit" answers to the innermost "marrow." "Moses
forms the soul, Christ the spirit. The soul draws with it the body; the
spirit draws with it both soul and body." ALFORD'S
interpretation is clumsy, by which he makes the soul itself, and
the spirit itself, to be divided, instead of the soul
from the spirit: so also he makes not only the joints to
be divided asunder, but the marrow also to be divided (?). The
Word's dividing and far penetrating power has both a punitive and a
discerner of the thoughts--Greek, "capable of judging the
intents--rather, "conceptions" [CRELLIUS];
"ideas" [ALFORD]. AS the Greek for
"thoughts" refers to the mind and feelings, so that for
"intents," or rather "mental conceptions," refers to the
13. creature--visible or invisible.
in his sight--in God's sight
"God's wisdom, simply manifold, and uniformly multiform, with
incomprehensible comprehension, comprehends all things
opened--literally, "thrown on the back so as to have the neck
laid bare," as a victim with neck exposed for sacrifice. The
Greek perfect tense implies that this is our continuous
state in relation to God. "Show, O man, shame and fear
towards thy God, for no veil, no twisting, bending, coloring, or
disguise, can cover unbelief" (Greek, 'disobedience,'
Let us, therefore, earnestly labor to enter the rest lest any fall
through practical unbelief
14. Seeing then--Having, therefore; resuming
great--as being "the Son of God, higher than the heavens"
the archetype and antitype of the legal high priest.
passed into the heavens--rather, "passed through the
heavens," namely, those which come between us and God, the aerial
heaven, and that above the latter containing the heavenly bodies, the
sun, moon, &c. These heavens were the veil which our High Priest
passed through into the heaven of heavens, the immediate
presence of God, just as the Levitical high priest passed through the
veil into the Holy of Holies. Neither Moses, nor even Joshua, could
bring us into this rest, but Jesus, as our Forerunner, already
spiritually, and hereafter in actual presence, body, soul, and spirit,
brings His people into the heavenly rest.
Jesus--the antitypical Joshua
hold fast--the opposite of "let slip"
and "fall away"
As the genitive follows, the literally, sense is, "Let us
take hold of our profession," that is, of the faith and hope
which are subjects of our profession and confession. The accusative
follows when the sense is "hold fast" [TITTMANN].
15. For--the motive to "holding our profession"
namely the sympathy and help we may expect from our High Priest. Though
He is not above caring for us; nay, as being in all points one with us
as to manhood, sin only excepted, He sympathizes with us in every
temptation. Though exalted to the highest heavens, He has changed His
place, not His nature and office in relation to us, His condition, but
not His affection. Compare
"watch with me": showing His desire in the days of His flesh for the
sympathy of those whom He loved: so He now gives His suffering
people His sympathy. Compare Aaron, the type, bearing the names
of the twelve tribes in the breastplate of judgment on his heart, when
he entered into the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord
cannot be touched with the feeling of--Greek, "cannot
sympathize with our infirmities": our weaknesses, physical and
moral (not sin, but liability to its assaults). He, though sinless, can
sympathize with us sinners; His understanding more acutely perceived
the forms of temptation than we who are weak can; His will repelled
them as instantaneously as the fire does the drop of water cast into
it. He, therefore, experimentally knew what power was needed to
overcome temptations. He is capable of sympathizing, for He was at the
same time tempted without sin, and yet truly tempted [BENGEL]. In Him alone we have an example suited to men of
every character and under all circumstances. In sympathy He adapts
himself to each, as if He had not merely taken on Him man's nature in
general, but also the peculiar nature of that single individual.
but--"nay, rather, He was (one) tempted"
like as we are--Greek, "according to (our) similitude."
without sin--Greek, "choris," "separate
If the Greek "aneu" had been used, sin would have
been regarded as the object absent from Christ the subject; but
choris here implies that Christ, the subject, is regarded
as separated from sin the object [TITTMANN]. Thus,
throughout His temptations in their origin, process, and result, sin
had nothing in Him; He was apart and separate from it [ALFORD].
16. come--rather as Greek, "approach," "draw near."
boldly--Greek, "with confidence," or "freedom of speech"
the throne of grace--God's throne is become to us a throne of
grace through the mediation of our High Priest at God's right hand
(Heb 8:1; 12:2).
Pleading our High Priest Jesus' meritorious death, we shall always find
God on a throne of grace. Contrast Job's complaint
and Elihu's " IF," &c.
mercy--"Compassion," by its derivation (literally, fellow
feeling from community of suffering), corresponds to the
character of our High Priest "touched with the feeling of our
find grace--corresponding to "throne of grace."
Mercy especially refers to the remission and removal of sins;
grace, to the saving bestowal of spiritual gifts [ESTIUS]. Compare "Come unto Me . . . and I
will give you rest (the rest received on first
believing). Take My yoke on you . . . and ye shall
find rest (the continuing rest and peace found in daily
submitting to Christ's easy yoke; the former answers to "receive
mercy" here; the latter, to "find grace,"
Mt 11:28, 29).
in time of need--Greek, "seasonably." Before we are
overwhelmed by the temptation; when we most need it, in temptations and
persecutions; such as is suitable to the time, persons, and end
A supply of grace is in store for believers against all exigencies; but
they are only supplied with it according as the need arises. Compare
"in due time,"
Not, as ALFORD explains, "help in time," that is,
to-day, while it is yet open to us; the accepted time
"He is able to succor them that are tempted."