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The Letter to the Hebrews: Chapter 4

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The Sabbath Rest. 1Therefore, let us be on our guard while the promise of entering into his rest remains, that none of you seem to have failed. 2For in fact we have received the good news just as they did. But the word that they heard did not profit them, for they were not united in faith with those who listened. 3 f 3, 11; Ps 95, 11 . For we who believed enter into [that] rest, just as he has said:

“As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter into my rest,’ ”

and yet his works were accomplished at the foundation of the world. 4 g Gn 2, 2 . For he has spoken somewhere about the seventh day in this manner, “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works”; 5 h Ps 95, 11 . and again, in the previously mentioned place, “They shall not enter into my rest.” 6Therefore, since it remains that some will enter into it, and those who formerly received the good news did not enter because of disobedience, 7 i 3, 7–8.15; Ps 95, 7–8 . he once more set a day, “today,” when long afterwards he spoke through David, as already quoted:

“Oh, that today you would hear his voice: ‘Harden not your hearts.’ ”

8 j Dt 31, 7; Jos 22, 4 . Now if Joshua had given them rest, he would not have spoken afterwards of another day. 9Therefore, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God. 10And whoever enters into God's rest, rests from his own works as God did from his. 11Therefore, let us strive to enter into that rest, so that no one may fall after the same example of disobedience.

12 k Wis 18, 15–16; Is 49, 2; Eph 6, 17; Rv 1, 16; 2, 12 . Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. 13 l Jb 34, 21–22; Pss 90, 8; 139, 2–4 . No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.

Jesus, Compassionate High Priest. 14 m 9, 11.24. *Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. 15 n 2, 17–18; 5, 2. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. 16 o 8, 1; 10, 19.22.35; 12, 2; Eph 3, 12 . So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

Notes:

f: 3, 11; Ps 95, 11 .

g: Gn 2, 2 .

h: Ps 95, 11 .

i: 3, 7–8.15; Ps 95, 7–8 .

j: Dt 31, 7; Jos 22, 4 .

k: Wis 18, 15–16; Is 49, 2; Eph 6, 17; Rv 1, 16; 2, 12 .

l: Jb 34, 21–22; Pss 90, 8; 139, 2–4 .

m: 9, 11.24.

n: 2, 17–18; 5, 2.

o: 8, 1; 10, 19.22.35; 12, 2; Eph 3, 12 .

Text Commentary view alone
Commentary spanning earlier chapters

3, 7–4, 13 :

The author appeals for steadfastness of faith in Jesus, basing his warning on the experience of Israel during the Exodus. In the Old Testament the Exodus had been invoked as a symbol of the return of Israel from the Babylonian exile (Is 42, 9; 43, 16–21; 51, 9–11 ). In the New Testament the redemption was similarly understood as a new exodus, both in the experience of Jesus himself (Lk 9, 31 ) and in that of his followers (1 Cor 10, 1–4 ). The author cites Ps 95, 7–11 , a salutary example of hardness of heart, as a warning against the danger of growing weary and giving up the journey. To call God living ( 12 ) means that he reveals himself in his works (cf Jos 3, 10; Jer 10, 10 ). The rest ( 11 ) into which Israel was to enter was only a foreshadowing of that rest to which Christians are called. They are to remember the example of Israel's revolt in the desert that cost a whole generation the loss of the promised land ( 15–19; cf Nm 14, 20–29 ). In 4, 1–11 , the symbol of rest is seen in deeper dimension: because the promise to the ancient Hebrews foreshadowed that given to Christians, it is good news; and because the promised land was the place of rest that God provided for his people, it was a share in his own rest, which he enjoyed after he had finished his creative work ( 3–4; cf Gn 2, 2 ). The author attempts to read this meaning of God's rest into Ps 95, 7–11 (6–9). The Greek form of the name of Joshua, who led Israel into the promised land, is Jesus ( 8 ). The author plays upon the name but stresses the superiority of Jesus, who leads his followers into heavenly rest. Verses 12 and 13 are meant as a continuation of the warning, for the word of God brings judgment as well as salvation. Some would capitalize the word of God and see it as a personal title of Jesus, comparable to that of Jn 1, 1–18 .

4, 14–16 :

These verses, which return to the theme first sounded in 2, 16–3, 1 , serve as an introduction to the section that follows. The author here alone calls Jesus a great high priest ( 14 ), a designation used by Philo for the Logos; perhaps he does so in order to emphasize Jesus' superiority over the Jewish high priest. He has been tested in every way, yet without sin ( 15 ); this indicates an acquaintance with the tradition of Jesus' temptations, not only at the beginning (as in Mk 1, 13 ) but throughout his public life (cf Lk 22, 28 ). Although the reign of the exalted Jesus is a theme that occurs elsewhere in Heb, and Jesus' throne is mentioned in 1, 8 , the throne of grace ( 16 ) refers to the throne of God. The similarity of v 16 to 10, 19–22 indicates that the author is thinking of our confident access to God, made possible by the priestly work of Jesus.

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