John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible
INTRODUCTION TO HEBREWS 1
The intention of this epistle being to demonstrate the superior excellency of the Gospel revelation to the legal one, the apostle begins with the divine author of it, in which they both agree, and observes that in other things they differ. The revelation under the law was made in times past, the Gospel revelation in these last days; the former was made to the Jewish fathers that were of old, the latter to the then present apostles; the one was made at sundry times, and in divers manners, the other was made at once, and in one way; the one was made by the prophets of the Lord, the other by his own son, Hebrews 1:1 and therefore the latter must be the more excellent; in proof of which the author enlarges on the character of the Son of God, with respect to his person, office, and glory; showing that he is heir of all things, the Maker of the worlds, of the same nature and glory with his Father; is omnipotent, and upholds all things by the word of his power; is the High Priest of his people, who has made satisfaction for their sins, and purged them from them, and is now at the right hand of God, Hebrews 1:2 He goes on to prove that he is more excellent than the angels, by a variety of arguments, and these supported by testimonies from the Scriptures; as that he has a more excellent name than any of them, being called the Son of God, Hebrews 1:4 which is proved from Psalm 2:7 that he is the object of the worship of angels, Hebrews 1:6 which is required of them, Psalm 97:7 that he is their Maker and Creator, Hebrews 1:7 which appears from Psalm 104:4 that he has an everlasting kingdom, is a righteous King, and is richly anointed above his fellows, Hebrews 1:8 which is the sense of some passages in Psalm 45:6 and that he is the founder and former of the heavens, and of the earth, and will endure when they shall not, Hebrews 1:10 which is confirmed by testimonies out of Psalm 102:25 that he sits at the right hand of God, where none of the angels were ever admitted, Hebrews 1:13 as is clear from Psalm 110:1 and besides, the angels, as they are ministers made by him, they are sent out from him to wait on his people, the heirs of salvation, and minister to them, and therefore he must be greater than they, Hebrews 1:14.
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners,.... The apostle begins the epistle with an account of the revelation God has made of his mind and will in former times: the author of this revelation is God, not essentially, but personally considered, even God the Father, as distinguished from his Son in the next verse; for the revelation under the Old Testament is divine, as well as that under the New; in this they both agree, in whatsoever else they differ: and this revelation was made at several times, at different seasons, and to different persons; and consisted of a variety of things relating to doctrine and worship, and concerning the Messiah, his person and office; of whom, at different times, there were gradual discoveries made, both before and after the giving of the law, from the beginning of the world, or the giving forth of the first promise, and in the times of the patriarchs, of: Moses, David, Isaiah, and other prophets: and this was delivered in various manners; sometimes by angels; sometimes in a dream; at other times by a vision; and sometimes by Urim and Thummim: and this he
spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets; by Moses, and other succeeding prophets, as David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, Zechariah, Malachi, and others; who were sent to the Jewish fathers, the ancestors of the people of the Jews, to whom they prophesied and declared the will of God, as they were moved and inspired by the Holy Ghost: and the apostle suggests, by this way of speaking, that it was a long time since God spake to this people; for prophecy had ceased ever since the times of Malachi, for the space of three hundred years; and this time past includes the whole Old Testament dispensation, from the beginning to the end of it, or of prophecy in it.
Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son,.... This is the Gospel revelation, or the revelation in the Gospel dispensation; which though it comes from the same author the other does, yet in many things differs from it, and is preferable to it; and indeed the general design of this epistle is to show the superior excellency of the one to the other; the former was delivered out in time past, but this "in these last days"; the Alexandrian copy, the Complutensian edition, and several other copies, read, "in the last of these days": perfectly agreeable to the phrase באחרית הימים, used in Genesis 49:1 to which the apostle refers, and in which places the days of the Messiah are intended; and it is a rule with the Jews
By whom also he made the worlds; this is said in agreement with the notions of the Jews, and their way of speaking, who make mention of three worlds, which they call, the upper world (the habitation of God), the middle world (the air), and the lower world
Who being the brightness of his glory,.... Or "of glory"; of God the Father, the God of glory, and who is glory itself; so called on account of his glorious nature and perfections and because of the glorious manifestations of them in his works of creation and providence, and in the various dispensations of his grace, and especially in his Son; and because he is the author of all glory, in the creatures, in the whole world, in Christ as man and Mediator, and in his own people. Now Christ is the "brightness" of this, as he is God; he has the same glorious nature and perfections, and the same glorious names, as Jehovah, the Lord of glory, &c. and the same glory, homage, and worship given him: the allusion is to the sun, and its beam or ray: so some render it "the ray of his glory"; and may lead us to observe, that the Father and the Son are of the same nature, as the sun and its ray; and that the one is not before the other, and yet distinct from each other, and cannot be divided or separated one from another: so the phrase זין יקריה, "the brightness of his glory", is used of the divine Being, in the Chaldee paraphrases
"For she is the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of his goodness.' (Wisdom 7:26)
And the express image of his person; this intends much the same as the other phrase; namely, equality and sameness of nature, and distinction of persons; for if the Father is God, Christ must be so too; and if he is a person, his Son must be so likewise, or he cannot be the express image and character of him; See Gill on Colossians 1:15.
And upholding all things by the word of his power; the Syriac version renders it, "by the power of his word", to the same sense, only inverting the words. The Targumist on 2 Chronicles 2:6 uses a phrase very much like this, of God, whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain; because, adds he, סביל כלא בדרע גבורתיה, "he bears", or "sustains all things by the arm of his power"; and the words are to be understood not of the Father, upholding all things by his essential and powerful Word, his Son; but of the Son himself, who upholds all creatures he has made; bears up the pillars of the universe; preserves every creature in its being, and supports it, and supplies it with the necessaries of life; rules and governs all, and providentially orders and disposes of all things in the world, and that by his all powerful will; which makes it manifest, that he is truly and properly God, and a very fit person to be a priest, as follows:
when he had by himself purged our sins; the Arabic and Ethiopic versions seem to refer this to God the Father, as if he, by Christ, made the expiation of sin, and then caused him to sit down at his right hand; but it belongs to the Son himself, who of himself, and by himself alone, and by the sacrifice of himself, made atonement for the sins of his people; which is meant by the purgation of them: he took their sins upon himself, and bore them, and removed them far away, and utterly abolished them, which the priests under the law could not do: and when he had so done,
he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; by "Majesty" is meant God the Father, to whom majesty belongs; who is clothed with it, and which is before him: and his "right hand" designs his power, greatness, and glory, and is expressive of the high honour Christ, as man, is possessed of; for his sitting here denotes the glorious exaltation of him in human nature, after his sufferings, and death, and resurrection from the dead; and shows that he had done his work, and was accepted, and was now enjoying rest and ease, honour and glory, in which he will continue; and the place of his session, as well as of the habitation of God, at whose right hand he sits, is on high, in the highest heavens.
Being made so much better than the angels,.... Christ is so much better than the angels, as the Creator, than the creature; as an independent being, than a dependent one; as he that blesses, than he that is blessed; as he that is worshipped, than he that worships: as a king, than his subjects; as a master, than his servants; and as he that sends, than he that is sent: and Christ may be said to be "made so", when he was manifested and declared to be so; and he was actually preferred to them, and exalted above them in human nature, after he had expiated the sins of his people, and when he was set down at the right hand of God, as in the latter part of the preceding verse, with which these words stand connected; for in his state of humiliation, and through his sufferings and death, he was made lower than they; but when he was risen from the dead, and ascended to heaven, he was placed at the right hand of God, where none of them ever was, or ever will be: besides, the phrase, "being made", signifies no more than that "he was"; and so the Syriac version renders it, "and he was so much better than the angels"; and so the Ethiopic version, "he is so much better": and this is observed, to prove him to be more excellent than any creature, since he is preferred to the most excellent of creatures; and to show, that the Gospel dispensation is superior to the legal dispensation, which was introduced by the ministration of angels; and to take off the Jews from the worship of angels, to which they were prone: and this doctrine of his could not be well denied by them, since it was the faith of the Jewish church, that the Messiah should be preferred to the angels: for in their ancient writings they say of him, he shall be exalted above Abraham, he shall be lifted up above Moses, and be higher than the ministering angels
as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they; which is that of the Son of God, a name peculiar to him; and which belongs to him in such a sense as it does not to angels, as is evident from the following verse: and though this name is not founded on his office, as Mediator, but arises from his nature and relation to God; yet he was declared to be the Son of God, and it was made manifest, that this name of right belonged to him, upon the discharge of his office, at his resurrection and ascension to heaven; and therefore he is said to obtain it by inheritance; or he appeared to inherit it of right, and that it was his possession for evermore.
For unto which of the angels said he at any time,.... That is, he never said to any of the angels what he has said to Christ; namely, what follows,
thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee for though angels are called the sons of God, Job 1:6 yet are never said to be begotten by him; or, with this clause annexed to it, "this day have I begotten thee"; nor are they ever so called in a proper sense, or in such sense as Christ is: this is said to Christ, and of him, in Psalm 2:7 and that agreeably to the sense of the Jewish church at this time, or the apostle would never have produced it to the Hebrews in such a manner; and not only the whole psalm in general, but this verse in particular, is owned by Jewish writers
And again, when he bringeth the first begotten into the world;.... By "the first begotten" is meant Christ. This is a name given him in the Old Testament, and is what the Hebrews were acquainted with, and therefore the apostle uses it; it is in Psalm 89:27 from whence it seems to be taken here, and which the ancient Jews
he saith, and let all the angels of God worship him; these words are cited from Psalm 97:7 where the angels are called Elohim, gods. So Aben Ezra on the place observes, that there are some (meaning their doctors) who say, that "all the gods are the angels"; and Kimchi says, that the words are not imperative, but are in the past tense, instead of the future,
all the angels have worshipped him; that is, they shall worship him; as they have done, so they will do. According to our version, they are called upon to worship God's firstborn, his only begotten Son, with a religious worship and adoration, even all of them, not one excepted; which shows, that Christ, as the first begotten, is the Lord God, for he only is to be served and worshipped; and that if angels are to worship him, men ought; and that angels are not to be worshipped, and that Christ is preferable to them; and the whole sets forth the excellency and dignity of his person. Philo the Jew
Or "to the angels", as in the following verse, "to the Son", which stands opposed to this; and the words said to them, or of them, are found in Psalm 104:4
who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire: this cannot be understood of the wind and lightning, and of God's making these his messengers and ministers to do his will; for such a sense is not suitable to the scope of the psalm, from whence they are taken, nor to the order of the words in which they stand; for it is not said he makes spirits, or winds, his angels, and flaming fire his ministers, but the reverse; and is contrary to the design of the apostle in citing them, which is to show the superiority of Christ to angels, of whom it is said, that they are made spirits: they are "spirits", created ones, and so differ from God the Creator: they are incorporeal ones, and so differ from men; they are immaterial, and so die not; they are spiritual substances subsisting in themselves: and they are "made" such by God the Father, and by the Son the Lord Jesus Christ, within the six days of the creation, and all at once; for it is not to be supposed that the Lord is daily making them; and this proves the Son to be God, as well as more excellent than the angels; unless this is to be understood of the daily disposal of them in providence, in causing winds, thunder, lightning, and the like. Some choose to supply the word with "as", and read, who maketh his angels as winds; for invisibility, velocity, power, and penetration: "and his ministers as a flame of fire"; and these are the same with the angels, for they are ministers to God; they attend his presence; are ready to perform any service for him; they sing his praise, and are his chariots in which he rides: and they are ministers to Christ; they attended at his incarnation: were solicitous for his preservation, ministered to him in distress, assisted at his resurrection, and accompanied him in his ascension, and will be with him at his second coming: and they are as a flame of fire, so called from their great power, force, and swiftness; and from their burning love, and flaming zeal, hence named seraphim; and because they are sometimes the executioners of God's wrath, and will descend in flaming fire, when Christ shall be revealed from heaven: angels sometimes appear in fiery forms; the chariots and horses of fire, by which Elijah was carried up to heaven, were no other than angels, in such forms: so the Jews
"all the angels, their horses are horses of fire, and their chariots fire, and their bows fire, and their spears fire, and all their instruments of war fire.'
And they have a notion, that an angel is half water, and half fire
But unto the Son, he saith,.... What he does not to angels, and which sets him infinitely above them; which shows him to be a Prince and King, and not a servant, or minister; and which even ascribes deity to him:
thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: this, with what follows in this verse, and the next, is taken out of Psalm 45:6 which psalm is not spoken of Solomon, to whom many things in it will not agree; he was not fairer than other men; nor was he a warrior; nor was his throne for ever and ever; and much less a divine person, and the object of worship; but the Messiah, and so the ancient Jews understand it: the Targum applies it to him, and mentions him by name in Hebrews 1:2 and some of their modern writers
A sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom; the sceptre is an ensign of royalty; and a sceptre of righteousness, or rightness, is expressive of the justice of government; the Syriac version renders it, "a sceptre stretched out"; which is a sceptre of mercy, as the instance of Ahasuerus stretching out his sceptre to Esther shows; and such is the Gospel of Christ, which holds forth and declares the mercy, grace, and love of God to men through Christ; and which may be called a sceptre of righteousness, since it reveals and directs to the righteousness of Christ, and encourages to works of righteousness; but here it designs the righteous administration of Christ's kingly office; for just and true are, have been, and ever will be his ways, as King of saints.
Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity,.... Christ loves righteous persons and righteous works, faithfulness and integrity, and a just administration of government, everything that is holy, just, and good; which has appeared in the whole course of his life on earth, in working out a righteousness for his people, and in encouraging righteousness in them, which he leads them in the way of; and his love of justice will still more appear at the last day, when he will judge the world in righteousness, and give the crown of righteousness to proper persons: and he hates iniquity; or "unrighteousness", as the Alexandrian copy and another read; as being contrary to his nature, both as God and man, and to the righteous law of God; which has appeared by his inveighing against it, and dehorting from it; by his severity exercised towards delinquents; by his suffering for it, and abolishing of it; and by chastising his own people on account of it; and his abhorrence of it will still more appear at the day of judgment, when all workers of iniquity, professors and profane, will be bid to depart from him:
therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows: the anointer is the God of Christ; that is, God the Father, who is the God of Christ, as man; and is so called, because he prepared and formed the human nature of Christ, and supported it under all its sufferings, and has glorified it; and as such Christ prayed unto him, believed in him, loved him, and obeyed him: the anointed is the Son of God, the Son spoken to, and is called God in the preceding verse; though he is not anointed as God, but as Mediator, to be prophet, and priest, and King: what he is anointed with is not material oil, but spiritual, the Holy Ghost, as it is explained in Acts 10:38 called the oil of gladness, in allusion to the use of oil at feasts and weddings, for the delight and refreshment of the guests; and because of the spiritual effects of joy and gladness, both on Christ, as man, and on his people. Now Christ was anointed as Mediator from all eternity; that is, he was invested with his office as such; and at his conception and birth he was filled with the Holy Ghost; who also descended on him at his baptism, after which he went about doing good, and healing diseases; but here it seems to refer to the time of his ascension, when he was declared to be Lord and Christ, the anointed one; and received gifts for men, the fulness of the Spirit without measure, and with which he was anointed above his "fellows"; by whom are meant, not the angels, nor the kings and princes of the earth; but the saints, who are so called, because they are of the same nature, and are of the same family, and are partakers of the same spirit, and grace; and having received the unction from him, are also kings, priests, and prophets, and will be companions with him to all eternity. Now the reason of his being anointed, or exalted, and made Lord and Christ, is, because he loves righteousness; see Philemon 2:7 or rather, because he is anointed with the Holy Spirit without measure, therefore he loves righteousness; for the words may be rendered, "thou lovest righteousness--because God, thy God, hath anointed thee".
And thou Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth,.... The person here addressed, as the Lord or Jehovah, and as the Maker of the heavens and the earth, is the same with the Son spoken to, and of, before; for the words are a continuation of the speech to him, though they are taken from another psalm, from Psalm 102:25. The phrase, "thou, Lord" is taken from Psalm 102:12 and is the same with, "O my God", Psalm 102:24 and whereas it is there said, "of old", and here, in the beginning, the sense is the same; and agreeably to the Septuagint, and the apostle, Jarchi interprets it by מתחילה, "at", or "from the beginning"; and so the Targum paraphrases it, מן שרויז, "from the beginning", that the creatures were created, &c. that in the beginning of the creation, which is the apostle's meaning; and shows the eternity of Christ, the Lord, the Creator of the earth, who must exist before the foundation of the world; and confutes the notion of the eternity of the world: and the rounding of it shows that the earth is the lower part of the creation; and denotes the stability of it; and points out the wisdom of the Creator in laying such a foundation; and proves the deity of Christ, by whom that, and all things in it, were made:
the heavens are the works of thine hands: there are more heavens than one; there are the airy heaven, and the starry heaven, and the heaven of heavens, the third heaven; and they were created the beginning, as the earth was, Genesis 1:1 and are the immediate work of Christ; they were made by himself, not by the means of angels, who were not in being till these were made; nor by any intermediate help, which he could not have, and which he did not need: the phrase is expressive of the power of Christ in making the upper parts of the creation, and of his wisdom in garnishing them, in which there is a wonderful display of his glory; and the whole serves to set forth the dignity and excellency of his person.
They shall perish,.... That is, the heavens and the earth; not as to the substance of them, but as to the quality of them; the present form and fashion of them shall pass away; the curse will be removed from them, and they will be renewed and purified, but the substance of them will continue; otherwise there would be no place, either for the righteous or the wicked,
But thou remainest; without any change or alteration, neither in his natures, divine or human, as God or man, nor in his office as Mediator; as a priest, he has an unchangeable priesthood, and ever lives to make intercession; as a King, his kingdom is an everlasting one, and of it there will be no end; and as a prophet, he will be the everlasting light, of his people.
They all shall wax old as doth a garment; garments in time wax old, and lose their beauty and usefulness, unless when a miracle is wrought, as in the case of the children of Israel in the wilderness. Now the heavens, and the light thereof, are as a garment and a curtain, Psalm 104:2 and these, together with the earth, will in time come to their end of usefulness, in the present form of them; see Isaiah 51:6.
And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up,.... In order to lay them aside, and make no use of them in the manner they now are; just as clothes, when they are grown old, or out of fashion, are folded up, and laid aside from use at present, or are put into another form. In the Hebrew text it is, "as a vesture shalt thou change them"; but the sense is the same, for a garment is changed by folding it, or turning it; agreeably to which Jarchi interprets the Hebrew phrase thus,
"as a man turns his garment to put it off;'
the Vulgate Latin version reads as the Hebrew does, and one of the manuscripts of New College, Oxford.
And they shall be changed; as to their form and use, not as to their being; for a change, and an annihilation, are two things:
but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail; which is expressive of the immutability of Christ, in his nature and perfections, in his person, and offices, in the virtue of his blood, righteousness, and sacrifice; and of his duration or continuance, in opposition to the fading and transitory nature of the heavens and earth, and of all outward enjoyments: and this may serve to take off the heart from the one, and set it upon the other; and to strengthen our faith in Christ, and encourage us to expect a continuance of blessings from him; all supplies of grace now, and eternal glory hereafter.
But to which of the angels said he at any time,.... That is, he never said to any of them in his council, or covenant; he never designed to give them any such honour, as hereafter expressed; he never promised it to them, or bestowed it on them; he never called up any of them to so high a place, or to such a dignity:
sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool; yet this he said to his Son, Psalm 110:1 for to him, the Messiah, are they spoken, and have had their fulfilment in him: See Gill on Matthew 22:44; and therefore he must be greater than the angels.
Are they not all ministering spirits,.... Servants to God, to Christ, and to his people, and therefore must be inferior to the Son of God. The phrase is Rabbinical; frequent mention is made in Jewish writings
Sent forth to minister for them who shall be the heirs of salvation? the persons they minister to, and for, are those, who shall be the heirs of salvation; that is, of eternal glory, which will be possessed by the saints, as an inheritance: hence it belongs to children, being bequeathed to them by their Father, and comes to them through the death of Christ, of which the Spirit is the earnest; and this shows that it is not of works, and that it is of an eternal duration, and takes in all kind of happiness: and of this the saints are heirs now; and so the Ethiopic version renders it, "who are heirs of salvation"; nor should it be rendered, "who shall be heirs", but rather, "who shall inherit salvation"; for this character respects not their heirship, but their actual inheriting of salvation: and the ministry of angels to, and for them, lies in things temporal and spiritual, or what concern both their bodies and their souls; in things temporal, in which they have often been assisting, as in providing food for their bodies, in curing their diseases, in directing and preserving them in journeys, in saving and delivering them from outward calamities, in restraining things hurtful from hurting them, and in destroying their enemies; in things spiritual, as in making known the mind and will of God to them, in comforting them, and suggesting good things to them, and in helping and assisting them against Satan's temptations; and they are present with their departing souls at death, and carry them to heaven, and will gather the elect together at the last day. And they are "sent forth" to minister to them in such a way; they are sent forth by Christ, the Lord and Creator of them, who therefore must be superior to them; they do not take this office upon themselves, though, being put into they faithfully and diligently execute it, according to the will of Christ: and this shows the care of Christ over his people, and his kindness to them, and the great honour he puts upon them, to appoint such to minister to them; and since they are of so much use and service, they ought to be respected and esteemed, though not worshipped.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Hebrews 1". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25