John Wesley's Explanatory Notes
Verse 1. God, who at sundry times - The creation was revealed in the time of Adam; the last judgment, in the time of Enoch: and so at various times, and in various degrees, more explicit knowledge was given. In divers manners - In visions, in dreams, and by revelations of various kinds. Both these are opposed to the one entire and perfect revelation which he has made to us by Jesus Christ. The very number of the prophets showed that they prophesied only "in part." Of old - There were no prophets for a large tract of time before Christ came, that the great Prophet might be the more earnestly expected. Spake - A part is put for the whole; implying every kind of divine communication. By the prophets - The mention of whom is a virtual declaration that the apostle received the whole Old Testament, and was not about to advance any doctrine in contradiction to it. Hath in these last times - Intimating that no other revelation is to be expected. Spoken - All things, and in the most perfect manner. By his Son - Alone. The Son spake by the apostles. The majesty of the Son of God is proposed, 1. Absolutely, by the very name of Son, verse 1, and by three glorious predicates,-"whom he hath appointed," "by whom he made," who "sat down;" whereby he is described from the beginning to the consummation of all things, Hebrews 1:2,3 2. Comparatively to angels, Hebrews 1:4. The proof of this proposition immediately follows: the name of Son being proved, Hebrews 1:5; his being "heir of all things," Hebrews 1:6-9; his making the worlds, Hebrews 1:10-12 his sitting at God's right hand, Hebrews 1:13, &c.
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Verse 2. Whom he hath appointed heir of all things - After the name of Son, his inheritance is mentioned. God appointed him the heir long before he made the worlds, Ephesians 3:11; Proverbs 8:22, &c. The Son is the firstborn, born before all things: the heir is a term relating to the creation which followed, Hebrews 1:6. By whom he also made the worlds - Therefore the Son was before all worlds. His glory reaches from everlasting to everlasting, though God spake by him to us only "in these last days."
Verse 3. Who sat down - The third of these glorious predicates, with which three other particulars are interwoven, which are mentioned likewise, and in the same order, Colossians 1:15,17,20. Who, being - The glory which he received in his exaltation at the right hand of the Father no angel was capable of; but the Son alone, who likewise enjoyed it long before. The brightness of his glory -Glory is the nature of God revealed in its brightness. The express image - Or stamp. Whatever the Father is, is exhibited in the Son, as a seal in the stamp on wax. Of his person - Or substance. The word denotes the unchangeable perpetuity of divine life and power. And sustaining all things -Visible and invisible, in being. By the word of his power - That is, by his powerful word. When he had by himself - Without any Mosaic rites or ceremonies. Purged our sins - In order to which it was necessary he should for a time divest himself of his glory. In this chapter St. Paul describes his glory chiefly as he is the Son of God; afterwards, Hebrews 2:6, &c., the glory of the man Christ Jesus. He speaks, indeed, briefly of the former before his humiliation, but copiously after his exaltation; as from hence the glory he had from eternity began to be evidently seen. Both his purging our sins, and sitting on the right hand of God, are largely treated of in the seven following chapters. Sat down - The priests stood while they ministered: sitting, therefore, denotes the consummation of his sacrifice. This word, sat down, contains the scope, the theme, and the sum, of the epistle.
Verse 4. This verse has two clauses, the latter of which is treated of, Hebrews 1:5; the former, Hebrews 1:13. Such transpositions are also found in the other epistles of St. Paul, but in none so frequently as in this. The Jewish doctors were peculiarly fond of this figure, and used it much in all their writings. The apostle therefore, becoming all things to all men, here follows the same method. All the inspired writers were readier in all the figures of speech than the most experienced orators. Being - By his exaltation, after he had been lower than them, Hebrews 2:9. So much higher than the angels - It was extremely proper to observe this, because the Jews gloried in their law, as it was delivered by the ministration of angels. How much more may we glory in the gospel, which was given, not by the ministry of angels, but of the very Son of God! As he hath by inheritance a more excellent name - Because he is the Son of God, he inherits that name, in right whereof he inherits all things His inheriting that name is more ancient than all worlds; his inheriting all things, as ancient as all things. Than they - This denotes an immense pre-eminence. The angels do not inherit all things, but are themselves a portion of the Son's inheritance, whom they worship as their Lord.
Verse 5. Thou art my Son - God of God, Light of Light. This day have I begotten thee - I have begotten thee from eternity, which, by its unalter able permanency of duration, is one continued, unsuccessive day. I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son - I will own myself to be his Father, and him to be my Son, by eminent tokens of my peculiar love The former clause relates to his natural Sonship, by an eternal, inconceivable generation; the other, to his Father's acknowledgment and treatment of him as his incarnate Son. Indeed this promise related immediately to Solomon, but in a far higher sense to the Messiah. Psalms 2:7; 2 Samuel 7:14
Verse 6. And again - That is, in another scripture. He - God. Saith, when he bringeth in his first-begotten - This appellation includes that of Son, together with the rights of primogeniture, which the first-begotten Son of God enjoys, in a manner not communicable to any creature. Into the world - Namely, at his incarnation. He saith, Let all the angels of God worship him -So much higher was he, when in his lowest estate, than the highest angel. Psalms 97:7.
Verse 7. Who maketh his angels - This implies, they are only creatures, whereas the Son is eternal, Hebrews 1:8; and the Creator himself, Hebrews 1:10. Spirits and a flame of fire - Which intimates not only their office, but also their nature; which is excellent indeed, the metaphor being taken from the most swift, subtle, and efficacious things on earth; but nevertheless infinitely below the majesty of the Son. Psalms 104:4.
Verse 8. O God - God, in the singular number, is never in scripture used absolutely of any but the supreme God. Thy reign, of which the sceptre is the ensign, is full of justice and equity. Psalms 45:6,7.
Verse 9. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity -Thou art infinitely pure and holy. Therefore God - Who, as thou art Mediator, is thy God. Hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness - With the Holy Ghost, the fountain of joy. Above thy fellows - Above all the children of men.
Verse 10. Thou - The same to whom the discourse is addressed in the preceding verse. Psalms 102:25,26
Verse 12. As a mantle - With all ease. They shall be changed - Into new heavens and a new earth. But thou art eternally the same.
Verse 13. Psalms 110:1.
Verse 14. Are they not all - Though of various orders. Ministering spirits, sent forth - Ministering before God, sent forth to men. To attend on them - In numerous offices of protection, care, and kindness. Who - Having patiently continued in welldoing, shall inherit everlasting salvation.