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Romans chapter 9 God’s ways defended

Chapters 9-11 of the epistle to the Romans form a parenthetical section in the epistle, in which the apostle shows that the gospel which is the same for Jew and Gentile is perfectly in harmony with the purpose of God. The Old Testament had made a sharp distinction between Israel and the rest of mankind, (see, for example, Ephesians 2:11,12), but the apostle has shown in chapters 1-8 that as far as sinnership is concerned, “there is no difference”. So does this mean that Old Testament distinctions are invalid, and that there is no future for Israel as a separate entity? The apostle shows in chapters 9, 10 and 11 that this is not so. In chapter 9 the emphasis is upon incidents from Israel’s past which declare the principles behind the purpose of God. In chapter 10 the emphasis is on Israel’s present unbelief and its consequences. In chapter 11 the emphasis is on the future for Israel when “the Redeemer shall come from Zion”.

It is vital to a correct understanding of the section to see that the apostle is referring throughout to Israel as a nation. Twelve times he uses the word Israel, the name of the nation, and twice he refers to Israelites, as members of the nation. But he only uses the word Jew, the name for the individuals making up the nation, on two occasions, and that, not in connection with national affairs, but individual response to the gospel, in 9:24 and 10:12. A false view of chapters 9-11 will be formed in our minds if we do not take account of this fact.

Throughout chapters 1 to 8 the apostle has made reference to the Jews and the Gentiles as individuals. In chapter 1:16 he spoke of the gospel being “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek”. Now it was a great blessing for the Jews that the first thing the apostles did when they went into a city to preach the gospel was to go into the synagogue. This was where seekers after God were to be found. But whilst this was a great blessing, it was also a strong rebuke, for it supposed that the works of the law had not enabled the Jew to come to a state of righteousness, for the gospel was needed by them as much as by the depraved Gentile. It also supposed that the Jews in the synagogue had not received Christ as their Messiah yet, or else they would be meeting with Christians.

Then in chapter 2:8,9 the Jew is first again, but this time in judgement. “But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile”. The apostle is careful to repeat in verse 10 that glory, honour, and peace are offered to the Jew first, but the fact remains that judgement will be meted out the Jew first because of his failure to obey righteousness as expressed in the law formally given to the nation at Sinai.

Later in the same chapter the apostle exposes the hypocrisy of the Jew, for he prided himself on having the law, yet failed to keep it. As a result the name of God was blasphemed amongst the Gentiles. The conclusion the apostle draws is that being a Jew, committed by the rite of circumcision to keeping the law, is of no value if the law is transgressed. A true Jew is circumcised in heart; in other words, is a believer in Christ.

The question naturally arises, if a Jew is no better that a Gentile when it comes to sin and judgement, is there any advantage or benefit in being a Jew? The apostle answers that there are many advantages in being a Jew, the main one being that they had the oracles of God, for God spoke through Moses to them, and the words were recorded for their instruction and reproof, 3:2. The fact that many Jews were unfaithful to God in their attitude to His word does not mean that the word is invalid. This unfaithfulness is highlighted by fourteen statements Paul extracts from the Old Testament Scriptures, showing conclusively that the Jews were sunk in sin, and effectively no different to Gentiles, for “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”, 3:23.

So this chapter is the beginning of that part of the epistle in which the apostle, having made known the ways of God in the gospel in chapters 1 to 8, now defends those ways against possible objections, especially from his Jewish readers. In particular, His ways in relation to the people of Israel as a nation.

Structure of the chapter

Section (a) Verses 1-5 The privileges of Israel
Section (b) Verses 6-13 The purpose of God
Section (c) Verses 14-18 The pity of God
Section (d) Verses 19-24 The power of God
Section (e) Verses 25-33 The proof from the Scriptures


9:1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,

9:2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.

9:3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

9:4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;

9:5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

Section (a) Verses 1-5 The privileges of Israel

9:1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,

I say the truth in Christ- Paul writes now as a believing Jew, and therefore as a man who is in Christ. His Jewish opponents no doubt accused him of treachery, for he had embraced Christianity, which to them was based on the claims of a blasphemous imposter. He puts himself on oath, so to speak, to tell the truth about his situation. It would be a very serious thing to associate with Christ, and then lie.
My conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit- first his oath, now two witnesses by which every word may be established. His conscience was one witness, and the Holy Spirit is the other. He is confident that the Holy Spirit and his conscience are in agreement on this matter. Even if the Jews were sceptical of Paul, this solemn statement would at least gain their attention.

9:2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.

That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart- far from having disowned his nation, Paul’s heart was burdened and sorrowful as he thought of their national unbelief. In the next verse he will tell us how far his intense concern for the nation of Israel could go.

9:3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ- the imperfect tense of the verb “wish” indicates that which is simply theoretical, and which could not be realized in actual fact. It is not possible for someone who is truly saved to be anathema to Christ. Moses in a similar situation asked for his name to be blotted out of God’s book, if it meant God would presence Himself with His people again, Exodus 32:30-35. The book he referred to being the record of those who live upon the earth, Psalm 139:16. (Note, in passing, that this book includes the unborn). In effect, Moses was offering to die for the nation.
For my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh- the word brethren speaks of natural affection, not a spiritual relationship in the family of God. Stephen addressed the Jews as brethren, emphasizing their common descent from their father Abraham, Acts 7:2, but their subsequent treatment of him showed they were not born of God.

There now follows an impressive list of national privileges, not one of which in itself brought individual salvation.

9:4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;

Who are Israelites- this national name has not been used in the epistle previously, but now occurs as ‘Israel’ or ‘Israelite’ 14 times in chapters 9-11, alerting us to the fact that Paul is speaking about the nation, not specifically about individual Jews.
To whom pertaineth the adoption- “adoption” is the act of recognising a person, or in this case, a nation, as one’s son. This means Israel were God’s son nationally, for God said to Pharoah, “Israel is My son, even My firstborn”, Exodus 4:22,23. Israel as a nation is the firstborn in God’s family of nations, see Hosea 11:1 and Amos 3:2.
And the glory- the glory of God appeared in connection with the Tabernacle, thus forming a link with the revelation of the God of glory who appeared to Abraham when he was in Ur, Acts 7:2.
And the covenants- whether it be to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Phinehas or David.
And the giving of the law- note the apostle separates the covenants of promise from the old covenant of the Law, see Galatians 3:16,17. The former were unconditional, the latter was conditional on their obedience, hence the distinction made between them in this list.
And the service of God- a reference to the priestly and Levitical activity in connection with the tabernacle and the temple. See Hebrews 9:6. It is not Scriptural to call Christian meetings services.
And the promises- the detail of the undertaking given in the covenants was expanded by the prophets, as they spoke of the blessings available to the nation.

9:5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

Whose are the fathers- having spoken of things, the apostle now speaks of persons. The patriarchs were the common possession of all in Israel. This prepares the way for verses 6-13 where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are used as illustrations.
And of whom, as concerning the flesh- note the change of preposition. The nation possessed the fathers, but being unbelieving, did not possess Christ. “Of” means “out of”. Christ is really descended from the fathers insofar as the flesh is concerned. He has legal descent from Abraham through Joseph, Matthew 1:1,16, and natural descent from Abraham through
Mary, Luke 3:23,34.
Christ came- the Messiah had arrived, but they failed to recognise Him. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not”, John 1:11. He came of Israel according to the flesh, but He also came forth from the Father, and came into the world, John 16:28. It would be inconceivable for the apostle, who believed in Christ, to turn from the nation from which He came, and to whom He came.
Who is over all, God blessed for ever- there is more to Christ than manhood. He who is from the nation is over the nation, for He is equal with the God of Israel. Note how the manhood and Godhood are both necessary here, as they were necessary in Romans 1:3,4. Far from modifying his doctrine concerning Christ as he defends himself, Paul insists that Christ is blessed for ever, deserving equal honour with the Father. He is Son of the Blessed, Mark 14:61,62.

This shows the wickedness of rejecting Him, as the majority in Israel had done. He is over all, so they should have responded, “My Lord!” He is God, so they should have responded, “My God!”, but they failed to do so. The apostle Thomas doubted at first that Christ was risen, and only believed when he saw, after a whole week had gone by. He represents the nation of Israel in a future day, who, when the whole period of the current church age has elapsed, will “look upon Him whom they pierced”, John 19:37, for “every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him”, Revelation 1:7. Significantly, it was the sight of the pierce-wounds that convinced Thomas, John 20:24-29. No wonder he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God”.


9:6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:

9:7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.

9:8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

9:9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.

9:10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;

9:11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth;)

9:12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.

9:13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

The truths brought out in this chapter would be very startling to a Jew, shaking his beliefs to the very foundation. The apostle is going to methodically show, however, that these truths are based on the way God dealt with the patriarchs. It is not even that these truths have not been mentioned before in the New Testament, for they have, in various ways, as the following points show:

1. The words of the Lord Jesus to Nicodemus, “Marvel not that I say unto thee, “Ye must be born again”, John 3:7. Note the change of personal pronoun. The Authorised Version, because it retains the distinction between singular and plural pronouns, is indispensable if a correct grasp of God’s mind is to be known. The Lord speaks to Nicodemus as an individual, (“I say unto thee”), but then says, “Ye must be born again”. Every individual in the nation of which Nicodemus was a part, and of which he was a teacher, needed to be born again. It was not just a message for him. So the nation as a whole stood in need of the new birth. Just being the nation was not enough.

2. The lawyer who came to ask about the law was told the story of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37. The lesson he should have derived from the story was not that he was like a priest or Levite, or even like the Samaritan, but he was like the man left half-dead by the roadside. Such was the condition even of one who had influence and prestige in Israel.

3. In John 8:33 the claim is made by the Jews that they were Abraham’s seed. In response the Lord Jesus alluded to the incident in Genesis 21:8-11 where Ishmael mocked Isaac, and as a consequence was cast out of the father’s house. It is slaves that are cast out, as Ishmael was; it is sons that remain in the house, as Isaac did. But the Jews were slaves to sin, for the Lord said to them, “He that committeth sin is the servant of sin”, verse 34. They were servants like Ishmael then, and not like Isaac the free son. Their claim to be Abraham’s seed was correct, but Ishmael could claim this, and had God’s word to prove it, for God had said to Abraham, “And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed”, Genesis 21:13. Mere descent from Abraham was not enough however, if they are to be sons in the Father’s house.

These incidents will provide the framework for the apostle’s teaching in this important passage. As we go through, we shall have to be careful to distinguish the times when Paul is speaking of the literal event, and when he is deriving a spiritual principle from it which furthers the cause he has in mind in the passage. We shall also need to be careful to remember the apostle’s overall purpose, which is to show how God deals with the nation of Israel.

Section (b) Verses 6-13 The purpose of God

9:6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:

Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect- when laws are enacted it is usually specified when they are to take effect; that is, when they are to come into force. Now the word of God in the Old Testament said that it would be the Messiah who would bring to fruition the purpose of God for the nation. But it seems as if that word of God has not come into effect, for the nation rejected Jesus of Nazareth and saw to it that He was crucified. They were acting inconsistently in this, for the coming of Christ was the climax to the Old Testament blessings mentioned in verses 4 and 5, not an after-thought.

To deal with this problem, (if problem it is), the apostle shows that the reason things do not seem to have come into effect as the Jews expected, (for they were looking for a warrior Messiah to defeat their enemies, not a crucified Messiah who seemed himself to be defeated), is the unbelief of the majority in the nation. It is the apostle’s task to show, then, that the reason why God’s purpose has not yet been fully realised is because that purpose involves a nation that is composed of believers only. As long as that is not the case, the realisation of all God’s plans is deferred.

The apostle begins by drawing on truths which were implied in God’s dealings with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the founders, under God, of the nation, and revered by them all. If he can show that God was acting, even then, on certain fixed principles, and if he can show that those fixed principles explain the current situation of Israel, then his task is done and the problems are solved. It will also show that Paul’s sorrow over the current state of the nation is not due to any disappointment he has with God’s dealings. Rather, the cause of His sorrow is alone the unbelief of the privileged nation of Israel.

There are at least five incidents the apostle uses, and they are these:

1. When Jacob was renamed Israel, Genesis 32:24-28
When Jacob was born his hand was holding his brother Esau’s heel. Rebekah called him Jacob because the word means “take by the heel”. It also means “supplanter”, as we see from the words of his brother Esau when he said, “Is he not rightly called Jacob? For he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing”, Genesis 27:36. Having fled from his brother Esau, Jacob was returning, years later. God intervened in his experience, and sent an angel who wrestled with him. When he asked for a blessing from God, the angel said that his name would be changed from Jacob to Israel, “for as a prince hast thou power with God, and with men, and hast prevailed”, Genesis 32:28. The name Israel is made up of two words, “isra” meaning prince, and “el” meaning God.

2. The birth both of Ishmael and Isaac, Genesis 16:1-16; 21:1-5 Abraham had no son and heir, so he adopted the fleshly custom of the day and produced a son, Ishmael, through Hagar, Genesis 16. God then promised to give Abraham a son through his proper wife Sarah, and even though by this time Abraham and Sarah were old, Isaac was born, Genesis 17:15-17; 21:1-5.

3. Jacob and Esau when unborn, Genesis 25:21-26

Isaac’s wife Rebekah was carrying twins, and they struggled within her. When she enquired of the Lord about this, she was told that there were two nations in her womb, and the twin who would be born first, Esau, would serve his younger brother Jacob, Genesis 21-26.

4. After Israel made the golden calf, Exodus 32:9-14;33:15-19

God threatened to destroy the nation of Israel for worshipping the golden calf. Moses intervened, however, and God agreed to spare the nation with the words, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and show mercy on whom I will show mercy”, Exodus 33:19.

5. The raising up of Pharoah to be king in Egypt, Exodus 9:16.

He resisted God will, and became an example of the folly of so doing. God said to him, “And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee My power; and that My name may be declared throughout all the earth”, Exodus 9:16.

Returning to verse 6

For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel Jacob is used as an illustration first by the apostle, even though he was after Abraham and Isaac in time, because his name was given to the nation, and the passage is about national status and blessing.

The rabbis taught that “No Israelite can go into Gehenna”, Pesikta 38(a), and, “All Israelites have their portion in the world to come”, Sanhedrin I. The apostle must deal with this error, and he does so by the use of the incident involving the name of Israel.

Jacob, whose name, as we have seen, means “supplanter”, was renamed Israel, meaning “a prince with God”, or “ruling with God”. So what Paul is emphasizing here is that they are not all princes with God who bear the name of “prince with God”. In other words, to be of the nation naturally, does not secure spiritual blessing; that must come through faith. Jacob had to learn that lesson, for he had survived by his scheming until Genesis 32, and then he found that true blessing comes from God alone, when men earnestly desire it. It was at this point he became a prince with God.

The apostle shows in the next verses that their status as a nation is through the purpose of God, and is not a result of them meriting the position. That purpose does not involve a nation composed of both believers and unbelievers, but believers only. This is why there is a future for Israel as a nation still, because their destiny as a nation is grounded in the sovereign choice of God. But is is a nation that believes. Like the fig tree that the Lord Jesus cursed, which withered away from the roots, Mark 11:12-14,20,21, the nation of Israel after the flesh has no future. We must not embrace the idea that the current State of Israel acts according to God. The nation is in unbelief, and has been since it crucified its true Messiah. In fact, the majority of the nation will receive and believe the Antichrist, see Daniel 9:27. Individual members of the nation must learn to depend on God and His grace for blessing, and come to Him individually in faith.

Jacob’s brother Esau had used this name in a similar way. When Jacob was born, he was given that name, which means “to take by the heel”, because he had grasped his twin brother’s heel after he had been brought forth. But the Hebrew word for Jacob also means “he will supplant”, so it was prophetic also. Later, when the twins were grown, Esau said, “Is not he rightly called Jacob? For he hath supplanted me these two times”, Genesis 27:36. So the name Jacob was used in a figurative as well as a literal sense. Such is the case also with the name Israel in this verse.

We see this illustrated in the case of Nathaniel, who was described by the Lord, (who knew his heart), as “an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile”, John 1:47. Jacob had been marked by guile, but then had dealings with God and was renamed Israel. Nathaniel, too, had been born as a man of guile, Jacob-like, as we all are, but a change had come about, and he was now Israel-like, a prince with God, and recognised as such by the Lord Jesus Himself. He was now fit to be part of Christ’s kingdom, not only because he recognised Jesus of Nazareth was king of Israel, but also because he owned Him as Son of God. Only those who do this will be in the kingdom.

Another example of the use of a name as a description is found in Romans 2:28,29, where we read, “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men but of God”. Now the word Jew is derived from the name Judah, which means “praise”, see Genesis 29:35. So the apostle is virtually saying to the Jews, “You are called by the name Judah, but because there is no reality in your hearts, and you are only Jews by birth, then you do not live up to that name by bringing praise to the Lord by your lives; nor can He, for His part, praise you for the way you live”.

So, going back to his statement, we see that the apostle is in line with Old Testament and New Testament practice to use the name Israel not only as a personal title, but also as a description. So what does the statement actually mean? The apostle is declaring that being part of the nation that derives its name from Israel their forefather, does not automatically mean that you can be described as “Israel”, a “prince with God”. That dignity only comes after personal dealings with God have wrought a great change of heart. So it is that the apostle can refer to the future nation of Israel, after it has come into the good of God’s grace nationally, after their Messiah has returned to them, as “the Israel of God”, the nation He can own and recognise because they are all believers, Galatians 6:16.

Taking all these things together, we see that the apostle is shattering the national complacency of those in Israel, and is showing them that their rejection of Christ is the result of their own unbelief, and not as a result of God’s word being ineffectual.

9:7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.

Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children- John the Baptist warned those of his day, “think not to say within yourselves, ‘We have Abraham to our father:’ for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham”, Matthew 3:9. If being a child of Abraham is a natural thing only, then God can produce children for Abraham by breathing life into natural things like stones.

We should notice the different ways the word “seed” is used in connection with Abraham, as follows:

First, Ishmael was Abraham’s seed, in the sense that he was a child of Abraham, Genesis 21:13, (the very next verse to the one Paul is about to quote).

Second, Isaac was Abraham’s seed, for God said, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called”, Genesis 21:12.

Third, Abraham’s descendants through Isaac are called Abraham’s seed, for God said, “I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed My voice”, Genesis 22:17,18.
Fourth, in the ultimate sense “The Seed” is Christ, as Galatians 3:16 makes clear with the words, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, ‘And to seeds’, as of many; but as of one, ‘And to thy seed’, which is Christ”. So if the seed is Christ, then He cannot be associated with any who are not believers. God’s definition of the seed of Abraham, in this use of the word, (as opposed to the use of it sometimes as meaning ‘physical descendants of Abraham’, like Ishmael, or the children of Keturah), was “those who can be associated with Christ, and who belong to Him”. Even if they lived in Old Testament times God could think of them in relation to His Son, just as He passed over the sins of Old Testament saints in view of His Son’s sacrifice at Calvary, Romans 3:25.

Fifth, the expression “Abraham’s seed” is applied to believers of this age in the words, “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”, Galatians 3:29. So the seed of Abraham is said to be believers at this present time. It would be inconsistent to think that the seed could consist of unbelievers in former times, but only believers now.

But, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called”- this is a quotation from Genesis 21:12, spoken when Hagar and Ishmael were cast out of Abraham’s house. God sovereignly singled out Isaac to be the heir of Abraham, thus showing that the natural descent of Ishmael from Abraham was of no avail when it comes to relationship with God. This is not only true of those descended from Abraham through Hagar, but extends even to those who only have natural descent through Abraham, as we have seen from the Lord’s words to the men of His day, as we shall see when thinking of the next verse.

9:8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God- “That is” should be understood as “which means”. Paul now applies the principle illustrated by Ishmael, (child of the flesh), and Isaac, (child of promise). He had already used the story in a similar way in Galatians 4:21-31.

The Jews had claimed in John 8:33 to be Abraham’s seed. This gave the Lord Jesus the opportunity to point out to them the spiritual meaning that lay behind a significant event in the experience of Abraham and Isaac. On the day that Isaac was weaned, his father had made a great feast to celebrate the occasion. Ishmael, however, cruelly mocked Isaac, and consequently was cast out of Abraham’s house, Genesis 21:1-13.

Now Ishmael was the son of Hagar, the slave-girl from Egypt. Nonetheless he could claim to be Abraham’s seed, for Abraham was his father. The Jews, too, were naturally descended from Abraham. As slaves to sin, however, they were no different to Ishmael, the child of the slave. As such, they had no right to be in God’s house.

Isaac had the right to remain in the father’s house, and he illustrates the fact that the Lord Jesus, the Son of His Father, is worthy of a settled place in the Father’s presence. He has no sin within to enslave Him, and He is perfectly free to do the Father’s will.

The wonder of it all, however, is that others besides the Lord Jesus may share that place. Those made free by the application of the truth to their souls, are made free indeed. This particular word for “indeed”, is only used here in John’s gospel. It is based on the word “to be”, and indicates that those who are made free by the Lord Jesus are free to the very core of their being. They are not superficially free. They are as free, in fact, as the Son is free, and with the same result, namely favour with the Father, and ultimately a place in the Father’s house on high, John 14:2,3.

There was no doubt that the Jews who surrounded Christ as He spoke these words were descended from Abraham as to the flesh, but their attitude towards Him suggested there was something badly wrong. Just as Ishmael mocked Isaac when he was presented to the world as the son of his father, so the nation of Israel mocked Christ’s claim to be the Son of God. So it is possible to be descended from Isaac naturally, but be Ishmael-like spiritually, and reject Christ.

In a similar way the apostle begins to apply the principle; he is thinking on two levels. He is seeing Ishmael as the product of Abraham’s fleshly way of obtaining a son, and Isaac as the son God supernaturally gave to Abraham and Sarah. In that initial sense Ishmael was a child of the flesh as to his birth, and Isaac was a child of God as to his birth.

Paul is not saying anything about the personal spiritual status of Ishmael and Isaac. Isaac was certainly not born of God because he was miraculously conceived; he would have to have personal dealings with God to become His child. (In any case being a child of God in the new-birth sense does not happen at natural birth). Nor was Ishmael unable to believe because he was a child after the flesh. After all, every person born, including Isaac, is “born of the flesh”, John 3:6. If Ishmael came to God in repentance and faith he too could be born of God.

So much for the first level on which the apostle is thinking. But there is a higher level, and it illustrates the principle God works on to secure for Himself a nation of Israel that is composed entirely of converted souls. So Ishmael and Isaac now become illustrations of those who are simply naturally born, and those who are born of the Spirit according to God’s promise to give eternal life to those who believe.

But the children of the promise are counted for the seed- just as Isaac was born naturally through the promise of God, (and hence can be called a child of promise), so on a higher level, those who are born again as a result of God intervening, are the true children of God, and constitute the true seed of Abraham.

That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God- “That is” may be understood as “which means”. Paul now applies the principle illustrated by Ishmael, (child of the flesh, because he was produced by Abraham acting after the flesh), and Isaac, (child of God, because he was produced by God’s intervention). He had already used these two sons as an allegory in Galatians 4:21-31, seeing in Ishmael those who are the product of the law, and who are therefore in bondage to it, and Isaac those who are the product of grace, and are free.

Having stated the situation from a positive angle in verse 7, the apostle now begins to apply the principle from a negative angle as he speaks of those who do not qualify to be part of the true seed. He is not still speaking of Ishmael and Isaac, but rather of those whom they illustrate, namely, those of the nation of Israel who are born after the flesh, and those of the nation of Israel who are born of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is now using the expressions “children of the flesh” and “children of God” in application. This is confirmed by the fact that he is talking about children in the plural in each case, so he is not speaking specifically about Ishmael and Isaac here. He is showing that the true Israel is only composed of those born of the Spirit.

The expression “children of the flesh” as used in Paul’s application, means those who are descendants of Abraham but have never been born again through faith. They are not descended from Ishmael, but from Isaac, but they are not Isaac-like. As such, they are not part of the true Israel. The true Israelites are those who are not only children of Abraham by natural birth, but children of God by new birth.

But the children of the promise are counted for the seed- the promise mentioned here is the promise quoted in the next verse. The expression “children of the promise” applies the situation as regards Isaac physically, in a spiritual way. He was heir to everything because God promised him to Abraham and Sarah. He becomes an illustration of those who lay hold of the promises of God. It is those who are born as a result of God working, as Isaac was, rather than those born through human effort, like Ishmael, who are the children of the promise. Paul is bringing out here that it was never God’s intention to reckon a mixed company of believers and unbelievers to be the Seed of Abraham that would inherit the promises, and over whom Christ would reign.

After all, we must bear in mind two things in connection with the true seed. First, that in the ultimate sense it is Christ, as Galatians 3:16 makes clear with the words, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, ‘And to seeds’, as of many; but as of one, ‘And to thy seed’, which is Christ”. So if the seed is Christ, then He cannot be associated with any who are not believers. God’s definition of the seed of Abraham, in this use of the word, (as opposed to the use of it sometimes as meaning ‘physical descendants of Abraham’), was “those who can be associated with Christ, and who belong to Him”. Even if they lived in Old Testament times God could think of them in relation to His Son, just as He passed over the sins of Old Testament saints in view of His Son’s sacrifice at Calvary, Romans 3:25.

Second, the expression “Abraham’s seed” is applied to believers of this age in the words, “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”, Galatians 3:29. So the seed of Abraham is said to be believers at this present time. It would be inconsistent to think that the seed could consist of unbelievers in former times, but only believers now.

9:9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.

For this is the word of promise- the last point is of great importance, therefore the apostle quotes the actual promise that God made.
“At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son”- the emphasis is on the action of God, “will I come”, showing that position with God must come from His intervention, not that of the flesh. Note also that the timing of the birth of the child was completely in the control of God. The gender of the child was also under Divine control, for His purpose could not be worked out if Sarah had a daughter. The child must be a son so as to beget seed.

9:10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;

And not only this- the third lesson Israel must learn.
But when Rebecca also had conceived- as well as Sarah’s conception illustrating a principle, Rebecca’s does also. Note how appropriate these illustrations are, for they both involve the matter of producing children.
By one, even by our father Isaac- the fact that there were two different mothers involved in the births of Ishmael and Isaac served to illustrate the contrast between, on the one hand, the devices of the flesh, (Abraham having a child by his bondslave), and, on the other hand, the promise of God, (Isaac is born of parents who are as good as dead). Now, however, the apostle draws attention to the purpose of God in His sovereign choice of one rather than the other. The situation with Rebecca suits his requirements admirably, for there is one father, one mother, and their twin sons are not born at the time God speaks about them.

9:11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth;)

(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil- as both are not born, they are in identical circumstances. As those not having done any act of moral significance, neither has earned the favour of God by good works, nor, for that matter, His anger because of evil works. So Jacob is not blessed because of good works, nor is Esau rejected because he has done evil works, at this point in time. When the promise quoted in verse 9 was given, Ishmael was already born. Here, things are different, and the difference illustrates the principle of God’s sovereign choice, as the apostle will now say.
That the purpose of God according to election might stand- “stand” means abide, last, not perish. There was nothing in the situation regarding Rebecca’s sons which would cause God’s purpose to be undermined. The election the apostle is speaking about is God’s choice of the descendants of Jacob to form the nation of Israel over which His Son would reign. We see this to be the case by reading Genesis 25:23, where God says to Rebecca in response to her enquiry as to why her babies were struggling in the womb, “Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger”. Words could not be plainer, “Two nations…two manner of people…one people…other people”. Coupled with this, God speaks through Malachi of Esau’s mountains. Clearly the reference is to the nations that will spring from Esau and Jacob respectively. Just as clearly the reference is not to God choosing one person for salvation and the other for damnation. The two sons give their names to two nations, and only one of the nations, Israel, is chosen of God to produce the Messiah. This has nothing to do with the personal destiny of either Jacob or Esau. That will be determined by their response to God, or lack of it, as the case may be. The election is of Jacob to be the father of the twelve sons who would form the twelve tribes of Israel.
The quotation which follows in verse 13 reinforces this truth, for Malachi is speaking of nations under their patriarchal head, Jacob and Esau, (Scripture says “Esau is Edom”, Genesis 36:8).
Not of works, but of Him that calleth)- Israel’s position as the favoured nation is solely the result of God choosing that it should be so, and not at all because by their works they have merited it, (for being not yet born they had done neither good or evil). Now this is a blessing and also a caution for the nation. It is a blessing, in that if the nation in the ideal sense, (and not in any merely traditional sense), is God’s because He chose it, then their position is unassailable and secure. It is a caution because if their position is not based on works, then they cannot earn it, but must know God’s grace in Christ. They cannot be blessed as a nation apart from Christ and Calvary. So the nation of Israel is God’s choice from among the nations, but it is not the nation consisting of believers and unbelievers, but the nation the apostle calls “the Israel of God”, Galatians 6:16.

9:12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.

It was said unto her- first the apostle quotes what was said to Rebecca before the sons were born.
“The elder shall serve the younger”- that is, Esau, the first one to come from the womb, would serve his younger brother Jacob. In normal circumstances in Bible times, the reverse would be the case. That this is a national thing we have already noted from the words, “Two nations are in thy womb”, Genesis 25:23. But it is also seen in the fact that Esau did not personally serve Isaac in his lifetime. In fact the reverse is the case, for in Genesis 33 we find the following:

Verse 3 Jacob bows himself to the ground seven times before his brother Esau.
Verses 5 and 14 Jacob calls himself Esau’s servant.
Verses 13,14,15 Jacob calls Esau his lord.

Clearly this is not a fulfilment of the prophecy “the elder shall serve the younger”, if we understand the elder to be Esau personally and the younger to be Jacob personally. The prophecy is only fulfilled on a national level. It was partially fulfilled during David’s reign, for we read, “And he put garrisons in Edom; and all the Edomites became David’s servants”, 1 Chronicles 18:13. It will be fulfilled fully when Christ reigns, as the prophecy of Obadiah 18 makes clear, “And the house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble, and they shall kindle in them, and devour them; and there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau, for the Lord hath spoken it”.

9:13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

As it is written- the previous verse relates to what was said by God just before the twins were born, whereas now it is the word of God through Malachi centuries later. Note the “it is written”, for the Word of God, written by Malachi many years before Paul was writing, still abides, and is currently relevant. This gives the apostle authority to use it in his argument, for the words have not lost their power.
‘Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated’- God now speaks in the past tense, and summarises His attitude to the two nations which came from Esau and Jacob. It would be helpful to quote Malachi’s words, to see the context:

“The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi. I have loved you, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, ‘Wherein hast Thou loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness. Whereas Edom saith, ‘We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places;’ thus saith the Lord of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, ‘The border of wickedness’, and, ‘The people against whom the Lord hath indignation for ever.’ And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The Lord will be magnified from the border of Israel”, Malachi 1:1-5.

“Was not Eau Jacob’s brother?” serves to remind us of the circumstances surrounding the birth of Esau and Jacob. Yet Esau is called Jacob’s brother, not Jacob, Esau’s brother, even though by the time Jacob was born, his twin brother Esau had already arrived. There is an allusion in this to the fact that Jacob was going to be the dominant and preferred one, and Esau is reckoned only in terms of being his brother.

Esau and Jacob were twin brothers, and there was no difference between them as to parentage and environment, yet God gave Jacob the superior place because He chose him to be the father of the nation of Israel through his twelve sons.

This was an act of love, for as Moses reminded Israel in the Deuteronomy 7:7,8 that “The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people: for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved you, and because He would keep the oath which He hath sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, from the hand of Pharoah king of Egypt”.

So Moses offers no direct explanation as to why God loved them, but simply says He loved because He loved, indirectly implying that God loved them because He is love, and His dealings are an expression of what He is in Himself. He does not need anything from man to make Him love, He loves because it is His nature to do so. So God’s choice of Israel was in love, and it involved Jacob being in the ascendancy. But if Israel was the object of love, Esau, (who later on, when formed into a nation, was called Edom), was the object of God’s hatred, not because He hates without cause, but because He hated what Edom did. Scripture says, “God is love”, 1 John 4:8, for that is the essence of His Being. It is not the case that God is hate. God loves without cause, (except the underlying cause of glorifying Himself in some way), but He does not hate without just cause.

So it was that in Malachi’s day, Edom had been judged. The cause of God’s judgement is set out by Obadiah in verses12-14. Edom had done the following things:

1. Rejoiced when Israel was taken into captivity. “But thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother in the day that he became a stranger; Neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction”.

2. Reacted in pride to the calamity of Israel. “Neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly in the day of distress”.

3. Entered into the gates of Jerusalem to loot and pillage. “Thou shouldest not have entered into the gate of My people in the day of their calamity. Yea, thou shouldest not have looked on their affliction in the day of their calamity, nor have laid hands on their substance in the day of their calamity”. The psalmist wrote as he sat by the rivers of Babylon during the captivity, “Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom, in the day of Jerusalem; Who said, ‘Raze it, Raze it, even to the foundation thereof'”, Psalm 137:7.

4. Cut off those trying to escape. “Neither shouldest thou have stood in the crossway, to cut off those of his that did escape”.

5. Betrayed those that remained in the city. “Neither shouldest thou have delivered up those of his that did remain in the day of distress”.

These are examples of gratuitous and unjustified wickedness and spite. As a result Ezekiel, prophesying at about the same time as Obadiah, recorded God’s words, “I will stretch out My hand upon Edom, and will cut off man and beast from it; and I will make it desolate from Teman; and they of Dedan shall fall by the sword. And I will lay My vengeance upon Edom by the hand of My people Israel: and they shall do in Edom according to Mine anger and according to My fury; and they shall know My vengeance saith the Lord God”, Ezekiel 25:13,14.

And again, “Thus saith the Lord God; When the whole earth rejoiceth, I will make thee desolate. As thou didst rejoice at the inheritance of the house of Israel, because it was desolate, so will I do unto thee: thou shalt be desolate, O mount Seir, and all Idumea, even all of it: and they shall know that I am the Lord”, Ezekiel 35:14,15.

Malachi prophesied after the remnant of Israel had returned to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel and had rebuilt the city of Jerusalem and the temple. A comparison between the things Malachi prophesies about, and the conditions in Jerusalem at the end of the book of Nehemiah, will suggest that he ministered at the end of the first period into which Daniel’s 490 years’ vision was divided. His book is critically important, for it shows what God’s attitude to them was before they entered the dark period between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament, when the heavens would be silent. The faithful ones need to be assured of His love; the unfaithful ones need to be reminded of His judgements.

To assure them of His love, God reminds them through Malachi that He had restored the nation that bears Israel’s name to the land after the captivity. To remind them of His judgements, He cites the fact that He expressed His hatred towards Esau, (referred to as Edom by Malachi, for Genesis 36:8 says “Esau is Edom”, ), as is seen by the fact that his mountains and cities were laid waste, whereas Jerusalem was rebuilt.

The principle the apostle is deriving from all this is simple: the love God had shown in His choice of them to be His special nation is maintained, and those who do anything to try to frustrate the outworking of His purpose through them will know His hatred and His wrath. As was said in Zechariah 2:8, “He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye”.

We may summarise the apostle’s teaching so far by saying that having startled us with the thought that not all who are descended from the patriarch Israel are really part of the nation to which he gave his name, nevertheless the future of Israel is assured because it is the object of God’s loving choice.


9:14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.

9:15 For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

9:16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

9:17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew My power in thee, and that My name might be declared throughout all the earth.

9:18 Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth.

Section (c) Verses 14-18 The pity of God towards the nation

9:14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.

What shall we say then- here the apostle asks a question of his believing readers, whereas in verse 19 he supposes an unbeliever objecting. The “then” tells us that the question is asked because of what has gone before.
Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid- are God’s dealings unjust when He loves one and hates another? This can only be true if He does so without good reason and contrary to His own righteousness. God cannot deny Himself, 2 Timothy 2:13. God and unrighteousness cannot co-exist. The reason the apostle can so forcibly deny that there is unrighteousness with God is found in the next verse, hence it begins with “for”, meaning “because”. The apostle is confident that God will continue to show that same love, righteousness and mercy mingled together in His dealings with Israel in the future, as He did when they made the golden calf.

9:15 For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

For He saith to Moses- after Israel had sinned in the matter of the golden calf. We might think this will be an example of God hating, but it is the reverse.

It would be helpful to set out the main features of the context of the words Paul is about to quote:

1. Some in Israel make a golden calf to worship, Exodus 32:1-8.

2. The Lord threatens to obliterate the nation of Israel and make a nation from Moses, Exodus 32:9,10.

3.Moses pleads for them firstly on the basis of the harm that would be caused to God’s name if He abandoned the nation He had just redeemed from Egypt. Then secondly, on the basis of His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, (meaning Jacob), Exodus 32:1-13.

4. The Lord responds to this by reversing His decision, Exodus 32:14.

5. Moses and Joshua come down from the mount and Moses breaks the tables of the Law, Exodus 32:15-24.

6. Moses stands at the gate of the camp, and appeals for those who are on the Lord’s side in this matter to come to him. The tribe of Levi do so, and are charged with the slaughter of the guilty persons, presumably those of their tribe who followed Aaron as he led them into sin, Exodus 32:25-29. When Moses referred to this incident later, he said of Levi, “Who said unto his father and mother, ‘I have not seen him’; neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor know his own children'”, Deuteronomy 33:9. God was doing what He will do again in the future, for “He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness”, Malachi 3:3.

7. Moses goes to the Lord to make atonement by intercession, and also by offering to be blotted out of the book of the living; in other words, offers to die for the nation. The Lord does not accept this, saying the individual must die for his own sin. By refusing Moses’ offer God preserved the uniqueness of the death of His Son. He promises an angel to go before the people instead of Himself, and He plagues the people for their idolatry, Exodus 32:30-35.

8. Although the Lord refuses to go up with the people, He promises to ensure that they inherit the land, Exodus 33:1-3.

9. The people mourn at this, Exodus 33:4-6.

10. Moses pitches a tabernacle outside the camp, and makes coming out to him a test of their loyalty, Exodus 33:7-11.

11. Moses appeals to God to return to leading His people with the words, “Show me now Thy way, that I may know Thee…and consider that this nation is Thy people”, Exodus 33:12-13.

12. The Lord assures Moses that His presence will go with him, Exodus 33:14.

13. Moses twice over calls Israel “Thy people”, Exodus 33:15,16.

14. God undertakes to “do this thing also that thou hast spoken”. In other words, the people are to be reckoned God’s people again after their lapse, Exodus 33:17.

15. Moses requests to see God’s glory, the sign that His presence was with him. The Lord agrees, Exodus 33:18.

Then come the words that Paul now quotes-

I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion- by saying “I will…I will” God is indicating His determined purpose, from which He will not be deflected. Israel had good reason to be grateful that this sovereign attitude of God was manifested towards them. They had forfeited all rights to His mercy, yet God chose to show mercy to them despite their sin. This is a righteous thing for God to do, because He declares His glory to Moses in the very next chapter as one who forgives sin, Exodus 34:7. The incident of the golden calf had been a test for Aaron, and he failed. (This highlights the fact that the law made men high priests that have infirmity, Hebrews 7:28.). It was also a test for Moses, and he triumphed, pleading for the people, offering to die for them, securing their reinstatement as the people of God with the presence of God with them.

Notice it is not God saying He will have mercy on some and judge others. It is unmixed mercy and compassion to the nation, despite their waywardness. God’s right to cast them off as a nation was maintained, for He is light, and therefore displays righteousness and holiness, but He is also love, and therefore displays mercy and compassion.

There is nothing here in the context, (and it is always the context that must govern our interpretation), to warrant the idea that God arbitrarily picks out some to have mercy on, and passes others by, for that would contradict other Scriptures. Peter wrote that “The Lord…is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance”, 2 Peter 3:9. There are none upon the earth at any time who could not gain God’s salvation, if they would only come God’s way, namely, by repentance and faith. The idea that there are some who are predestined to the Lake of Fire, and therefore there is no provision for them is a God-dishonouring lie. The Scripture distinctly states that men are chosen to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth, 2 Thessalonians 2:13.

In Exodus 33:19, the words are given as, “and He said…’and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy'”. Grace is God’s free and unmerited favour to those who cannot merit it and cannot repay it. The word for mercy used here is His deep compassion for those He sees need help, His tender pity to those who feel the misery of sin. This is perfectly manifested by the Lord Jesus when He wept over Jerusalem, lamenting its refusal to come to Him, Luke 19:41; see also Matthew 23:37. How appropriate these words are to the situation. The people have sinned, but God is prepared to show grace towards them; He knows they have a tendency to fail, so He has, and will continue to have, compassion upon them in their frailty, in view of His covenant with Abraham. So there is provision in the attitude of God for the people in their current situation, and any that would arise in the future.

So we may summarise by saying that in Exodus 33, where the people have broken the Law, God pledges to show grace. The people deserve His judgement, but He assures Moses He will reach out to them in their weakness and have compassion on them. In Romans 9, however, the point is that God has pity on the nation, not so much because they are law-breakers, but because they have rejected His Son cruelly, and intends to have compassion over them, if they will turn from their unbelief. No doubt this is an answer to the prayer of the Lord Jesus when He pleaded, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”, Luke 23:34. The princes of this world, including those listed in Acts 4:5,6, (whom Peter calls “ye builders” in verse 11, meaning the builders of the nation), crucified the Lord of glory in ignorance, 1 Corinthians 2:8.

The form of the phrase we are considering shows that God is determined in what He says He will do. He will do what He will do, and no power shall stop Him. He is indeed sovereign, but not in any unprincipled way, for He cannot deny Himself. This should give great comfort to those in Israel who were having second thoughts about their rejection of Christ. They may be confident that when they come to God in true repentance and faith they will find Him to be what He declared Himself to be through this word, spoken long ago to Moses, but repeated to them by the apostle Paul, whose heart longed to see them saved, as he expressly says in 10:1. They may also have confidence that all God’s covenant promises to Abraham will be fulfilled to the letter, always remembering the principle, set out in these verses, that it is believers alone who shall be in the good of that covenant.

9:16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God who showeth mercy- the principle on which God acts, (“it”), is not in response to the will of man asserting itself, (“willeth”), to influence God’s actions, (for example Moses interceding and offering to give his life for the nation), nor is it in response to any energetic action, (“runneth”), on the part of man, (such as the tribe of Levi slaying the worshippers of the golden calf), as if God can be forced to act in a certain way. Rather, it is the sovereign choice of God to show mercy. In this way the blessing is thoroughly undeserved and secure. If one man could persuade God to act in a particular way, who is to say that another man might not be able to influence Him in the opposite way? By the same token, if a man could merit God’s favour by “running”, that is, by energetic activity for Him, then there would some glory for man in the matter; but no flesh may glory in God’s presence, 1 Corinthians 1:29. God’s actions are rooted solely in His will, and this gives great assurance to those who comply with that will.

9:17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew My power in thee, and that My name might be declared throughout all the earth.

For the scripture saith unto Pharoah- by using the word “saith”, and not “said”, the apostle emphasises the living voice of the Old Testament Scriptures, that they have the same authority as the original oral statement. We should remember that there were only a few weeks between the defeat of Pharoah and the worshipping of the golden calf. Pharoah becomes, because of his hardness of heart, one who knows God’s hatred. So there is a contrast between Moses pleading with God for the nation, and Pharoah determined to destroy them. Again we see the national aspect of the passage.
Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up- God brought Pharoah to the throne of Egypt to show His power when he abused his position and fought against God. It is not raised up by being born, as if God creates men to destroy them. The time had come for God to deliver His people, and those who oppose His will must be made an example.
That I might show My power in thee, and that My name might be declared throughout all the earth- we see here the two-fold purpose of God, namely, to show what happens to those who rebel against Him, and to magnify His name when He defeats His foes. As the Israelites said in their song, “Sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina. Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold of them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away. Fear and dread shall fall upon them”, Exodus 15:14-16. That His name was honoured is seen in that Rahab knew about Israel crossing the Red Sea, Joshua 2:8-11, and so did the Gibeonites, Joshua 9:9,10.

We should remember that Pharoah was virtually a god in Egypt, and so represented the powers of evil. He is not some insignificant individual, but
the one through whom the Prince of this world was attacking Israel. As such, he met God’s severe displeasure.

9:18 Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth.

Therefore- on the basis of God’s dealings with Israel and Pharoah, the following conclusion may be drawn.
Hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth- note that whilst the mention of mercy to Israel is repeated, the thought regarding Pharoah is that he will be hardened. In order that God’s power over Egypt might be demonstrated by the plagues, He hardened Pharoah’s heart, by allowing Pharoah to harden his heart wilfully, and thus fulfilled His purpose. The hardening was determined by God. When Pharoah hardened his heart, he was doing exactly what God willed to happen, yet he was still fully responsible for his actions. This is a warning to all in positions of power who seek to harm the nation of Israel. God will not ignore their actions, but will bring them to account. As He said to Abraham, “and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee”, Genesis 12:3.


9:19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth He yet find fault? For who hath resisted His will?

9:20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

9:21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

9:22 What if God, willing to shew His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:

9:23 And that He might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory,

9:24 Even us, whom He hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Section (d) Verses 19-24 The power of God towards His enemies

9:19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth He yet find fault? For who hath resisted His will?

Thou wilt say then unto me- the apostle anticipates an objection to this truth.
Why doth He yet find fault? For who hath resisted His will?- if the will of God cannot be resisted successfully, as Pharoah’s experience demonstrates, then what just reason has God for finding fault with what men do, since they only carry out what He decrees? And again, what reason is there to object to Israel’s continued unbelief as a nation? For the same word “harden” that is used of Pharoah, is used by God in relation to Israel in John 12:40, where the apostle quotes Isaiah’s words, “He hath blinded their eyes, and hath hardened their heart”, as being applicable to the nation that was about to have God’s Son crucified.

This is intensely solemn, for both Pharoah and Israel display the same attitude to God, and are hardened by Him as a result. That this national hardening does not mean no Jew can be saved is evident, for Paul will say in 11:1, “for I also am an Israelite”. He was living proof that individual Jews could still be saved.

The apostle answers this objection in two ways. First, by rebuking any argument against God, and then by explaining further the way in which God’s purpose is worked out.

9:20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?- the “nay” is a denial of the suggestion, while the “but” is the apostle’s rebuttal. The words he uses are an allusion to Job 33:12,13, “I will answer thee, that God is greater than man. Why dost thou strive against Him? For He giveth not account of any of His matters”. It is outrageous for puny sinful man to seek to argue with God and answer Him back, or even to expect Him to gives reasons for His actions.
Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, “Why hast Thou made me thus?”- now we have an allusion to Isaiah 45:9, which reads, “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, “What makest thou?” Job describes men as those who “live in houses of clay”, Job 4:19, and his friend Elihu said to him, “I also am formed out of the clay”, Job 33:6. This reminds us forcibly of the frailty and fragility of man, and cautions against pitting ourselves against the mighty God of heaven.

9:21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?- the apostle follows up his allusion to Isaiah 45:9 with its use of the potter metaphor for God. God has the right to do as He pleases, just as a potter has the right to make whatever he wants of his own clay. But that He does not act arbitrarily and capriciously is seen in the next verses. That God has the right to act sovereignly, is the answer to the unbelievers cavil. For the believer there is a further explanation, for God does not make vessels so He can destroy them.

9:22 What if God, willing to shew His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:

What if God- here the apostle sets out a complementary truth. God has the right to do as He pleases, as the previous verse has stated, but we must always be aware that He does not act in an unprincipled way. It is important to notice that in the Greek text the word “de” introduces a new topic. It is the equivalent of “on the other hand”, and is found near the beginning of verse 22. So having presented one valid explanation for the seemingly indifferent way in which God treats men, as if He makes them dishonourable, as a potter makes a vessel for a dishonourable use, he now gives to us the alternative explanation.

This alternative explanation of the dealings of God with men, is the one the apostle constantly favours in these verses. He is not a harsh and maverick God, acting in some unprincipled and arbitrary way, but works out His purpose in righteousness and love. We know this is God’s character, for He has been perfectly manifested by His Son, who said, “he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father”, John 14:9. We find no trace of harshness or unreasonableness in His dealings with men. He was harsh against their sin, it is true, but He came, not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them, Luke 9:56. There is no hint that He was making vessels so He could destroy them. An illustration of this is His way with Judas. Right to the end He sought His recovery, but Judas, alas, hardened his heart and went into perdition.

This alternative explanation will still maintain God’s rights over men, but will show that, far from being a tyrant, God in fact waits patiently for vessels of wrath to repent. It is worthy of note that when Pharaoh showed signs of relaxing his attitude to God, then respite was given him. We see this in connection with the plague of frogs, Exodus 8:8-15, and the plague of flies, 8:30-32. After the plague of hail, he even went so far as to say, “I have sinned this time: the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked. Intreat the Lord (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty thunderings and hail; and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer”, Exodus 9:27,28. Yet as soon as the hail is removed, Pharaoh hardened his heart. He was morally responsible for this hardening, but the Lord was behind it, to show His great power, but also to show His longsuffering, even to vessels of wrath.

Willing to show His wrath- that is, determined to do so. If God shows wrath, it is always for a just cause. At the time when the nation of Israel was about to be taken into captivity, Jeremiah also used the illustration of the potter and the clay. He tells us this:

“Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold as the clay is in the potter’s hand so are ye in Mine hand, O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if it do evil in My sight, that it obey not My voice, that I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them'”, Jeremiah 18:3-10.

Having spoken these words from the Lord, Jeremiah went to the people of Israel and applied them to their situation. Their response was to reject his words. Jeremiah was told by the Lord to respond to this by getting a potter’s earthen vessel, take representatives of the people, go to the valley of the son of Hinnom, and break the vessel in the sight of the people. He then said, ‘Thus saith the Lord of Hosts: Even so will I break this people and this city, as one breaketh a potter’s vessel, that cannot be made whole again'”, Jeremiah 19:1,2,10,11. The Jews reading Paul’s epistle would be well aware of the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah, and the way in which they used the imagery of the potter. They could be made anew if they repented, or they could continue in their current sinful state, be hardened of God, and thus be like an earthenware vessel, that cannot be made anew.

And to make His power known- as He did in the case of Pharoah.
Endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction- note that the apostle does not speak of God making vessels to pour out His wrath upon. We must not confuse the use of potter imagery in verse 20 in response to an unbelieving objection, (which emphasises God’s sovereignty), and the use of potter imagery in this verse as the apostle explains the situation in more detail for the benefit of earnest and perplexed enquirers, (which emphasises God’s long-suffering).

He endured the behaviour even though it deserved His wrath. If He endured with much long-suffering it was because He was waiting for repentance, as 2 Peter 3:9 indicates. This was the situation with Israel nationally, for as Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost”, 1 Thessalonians 2:15,16. No-one could doubt they were, and are, a vessel of wrath. But Jeremiah, whilst he applied the image of the potter’s vessel to Israel, did say that it referred to any nation. So applying that here, we see that those of any nation which oppose God’s purpose for Israel are vessels of wrath, for the word is not “vessel”, but “vessels”. Those who persecute Israel must not expect to go unpunished, even though their actions work out God’s purpose in some way. This was a principle set out by the Old Testament. For instance, having told Abraham that his seed would be afflicted in Egypt, God then said that the nation that afflicted them He would judge, and so it came to pass, Genesis 15:14.

To be fitted is not the same as to be made, and also is in the middle voice, meaning men fit themselves. All men are deserving of God’s wrath as they come into the world, for they are “by nature the children of wrath”, Ephesians 2:4; there are none that are vessels unto honour when they are born. That birth is in view is seen in the expression “by nature”. Men are children of wrath by natural birth, not by some predestining act of God. Nor are they children of wrath by default, as if God predestined some to heaven and by that act predestined the rest to endure His wrath. Men, however, Israelites included, fit themselves for wrath by their sin. The wrath will be in exact proportion to their guilt.

9:23 And that He might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory,

And that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy- note it is vessels of mercy, not vessels unto honour. Only the mercy of God to undeserving sinners can introduce them to the glories detailed in 8:28-30, so that they become vessels of honour in association with His Son. This is true predestination, which has not to do, (strangely enough) with destinations, heaven or hell, but with being within the boundaries of God’s purpose to surround His Son with those who are like Him.
The vessel Jeremiah saw the potter make was marred in his hand, but he did not say, “This vessel is obviously predestined to be marred, I will therefore throw it away”. In fact, the potter made that same vessel anew. And this God does also, for as soon as He has dealings with men, and they realise they are marred by sin, He is able to make them anew by the new birth, and by this means fit them to know the riches of His glory. This is indicated in God’s word through Jeremiah, for He declared that if the nation of Israel, represented by the marred vessel, turned from their evil, then God would not inflict judgement upon them.
Which He had aforeprepared unto glory- the tenses the apostle uses in verses 22 and 23 show that he is looking back after the will of God has been worked out. Aforeprepared either involves being prepared beforehand in His eternal counsel, Ephesians 1:3-6; Romans 8:29,30, or prepared for eternity in their lifetime. Men fit themselves for destruction by being content to remain vessels of wrath, but God alone can fit men for honour and glory.

9:24 Even us, whom He hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Even us, whom He hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles- note that as he describes the vessels of mercy, he speaks of God’s call in the gospel, and also reverts to the term Jew, the individual, rather than Israel, the national name. After all, if there is to be a nation composed only of believing Israelites in the future, they must come individually by faith in response to God’s call in the gospel.

Paul, by the use of the word “us”, joins himself with any, of the Jews or of the Gentiles, who have become a vessel of mercy through response to the gospel. He had been “a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious”, but he “obtained mercy”, 1 Timothy 1:13.

The mention of Gentiles prepares us for verses 30-33, but first the apostle must show how the truth he has been setting forth in regard to Israel is in line with Old Testament scripture. If he cannot do this, he will not convince Jewish doubters.

Summary of the passage

We have learnt in verses 6-24 the following things:

1. That not all who call themselves Israelites are reckoned by God to be part of the nation over which Christ shall reign. Something more than physical descent from Abraham through Jacob is needed.

2. Just as Isaac was born through the intervention of God, so those wishing to be counted part of the Israel of God must be born of God.

3. Just as Jacob was chosen and loved by God, so those who are truly Israelites may be assured that God loves them and preserves them.

4. Just as Edom was hated by God for what he did to the nation of Israel, so those who oppose God’s purpose shall be dealt with severely.

5. Just as God had mercy on Israel despite their lapse into idolatry, and responded to Moses’ pleading for them, so He will be merciful when they repent of their sin.

6. Just as Pharoah hardened his heart and resisted God, and thus incurred His wrath, so those who harden their hearts, (even if they are of the nation of Israel naturally), will know God’s wrath.

7. God in His sovereignty prepares those who believe for glory.

8. Equally, God in His sovereignty destroys those who by unbelief and rebellion fit themselves for destruction.


9:25 As He saith also in Osee, I will call them My people, which were not My people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.

9:26 And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not My people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.

9:27 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:

9:28 For He will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.

9:29 And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.

9:30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.

9:31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

9:32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;

9:33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed.

Section (e) Verses 25-33 The proof from the Scriptures.

9:25 As He saith also in Osee, I will call them My people, which were not My people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.

As He saith also in Osee- as well as speaking through Paul, God spoke through Osee, otherwise known as Hosea, who stood at the head of the minor prophets in the Jewish arrangement of books. If he can produce proof from the scriptures that what he has just said is in line with the Old Testament, then he is well on the way to convincing his Jewish objectors.
I will call them “My people”, which were “not My people”; and her “beloved”, which was “not beloved”- a reference to God’s promise that although He was going to renounce His people and send them into captivity because of their idolatry, (Hosea prophesied just before the Assyrians came and removed the Northern Kingdom), He would reverse His decision and accept them back. So, far from being cast off finally because of their sin in going into idolatry, and later on crucifying Christ, they may call upon the Lord to show mercy upon them as individuals now, just as they will do nationally in a future day. The principle is the same in either case. Thus the apostle has derived the principle he needs to prove his point; he has not transferred the interpretation of the passage to the church, but has made a legitimate application. If God will so act towards Israel as a nation in a day to come, that must be in line with His character, and since God does not change, that is His character now in regard to individual salvation. The reason why God can own Israel as his people in a day to come, is because they will have all turned to Christ at His second coming. At last they will be a nation consisting only of believers.

9:26 And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not My people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.

And it shall to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, “Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God”- a quotation from Hosea 1:10. The prophet spoke words of judgement to Israel whilst they were still in the land, yet they will be brought back from dispersion amongst the Gentiles to be addressed by God in the land again, (hence the reference to “the place where is was said unto them”, meaning the land of Israel), this time with words of encouragement. Thus the meaning of the name of Hosea’s first son finds its double fulfilment. Jezreel means “sown of God”, or “seed of God”. They were to be scattered amongst the nations as seed is scattered, but in a day to come they will be sown in the land, and will be the seed, (children) of God, see Hosea 2:22,23. Peter uses this same Scripture to show that these things have been anticipated by believers at the present time, 1 Peter 2:10, but Paul is using the words literally, not figuratively, as Peter did.

9:27 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, ‘Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:

Esaias also crieth concerning Israel- Isaiah also, as well as Hosea, had things to say about Israel. Since Isaiah is “also” speaking about Israel, this shows that both Isaiah and Hosea are prophesying about Israel, not about the church. The words are found in Isaiah 10:22. “Concerning” means over, as if lamenting over Israel as Christ did over Jerusalem.
‘Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea- Hosea said this also, but he was referring to their prosperity in the land under the Messiah, Hosea 1:10, (hence the apostle does not quote his words, even though they are in the same sentence as the words quoted in verse 26).
Isaiah is the one the apostle quotes now, for he is highlighting the fact that despite the numerical greatness of Israel, God will only save a remnant. This of course is the main theme of the apostle in the chapter, that relationship with God is on the basis of His choice, and their faith, not on national status.
A remnant shall be saved’- that is, only a remnant, and not the whole nation. This is true in principle now, see 11:5, and in the future, see Zechariah 13:9.

9:28 For He will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.

For He will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness, because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth- this is Paul’s comment on the words of Isaiah, explaining how it is that although they are as numerous as the sand of the sea, yet only a remnant shall be saved. God will do, and finish, a work with Israel, in which He will cut them short, that is, will reduce them from a professing multitude to a believing remnant. This will be a righteous thing for Him to do, and He will do it “upon the earth”, that is, in the land of Israel, where they will all gravitate at the end times. Notice it is not a short work of the earth, but upon the earth.

9:29 And as Esaias said before, ‘Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha’.

And as Esaias said before- that is, before it came to pass, and before his words in chapter 10 just quoted.
‘Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodom, and been made like unto Gomorrha’- this is from Isaiah 1:9, where the word “seed” is found instead of Paul’s word “remnant”. This is a link with Hosea, for his son Jezreel was the sign that there would be a seed or generation begotten of God to populate the millenial earth; see on verse 27. God was going to own a seed Note the implied encouragement in the use of the title Lord of Sabaoth, or Hosts. God is surrounded by myriads who serve Him, and He sends forth hosts to protect those who are His, see Hebrews 1:14. They may only be a remnant, but they are in the majority. But this was only because of Divine intervention; otherwise they would have been exterminated, just like the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrha after God had judged them with fire from heaven.

9:30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.

What shall we say then?- what conclusion shall we draw from the foregoing? The expression really introduces a section which forms a link with the next one, where the apostle describes the refusal of the individual members of the nation of Israel to believe.
That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness- they had no law to guide them in matters relative to God and did not desire one.
Have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith- attained means laid hold of; it is not a word which suggest human attainment or merit, but rather a laying hold of God’s promises in faith.

9:31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness- professing to be interested in being righteous, and seeking to keep the law to achieve this.
Hath not attained to the law of righteousness- attain in this instance means to arrive at. The Gentiles have reached and grasped righteousness, but it is always just out of the reach of the Jew, no matter how hard he pursues it.

9:32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;

Wherefore?- why is this the case?
Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the deeds of the law- only faith grasps the blessing, those who seek to merit it fall short.
For they stumbled at that stumblingstone- “that stumblingstone” does not refer to the law as a stumblingstone, but the stumbling stone of Christ as Messiah, as the quotation following makes clear. It is not only the Jews of Christ’s day who stumbled at Him because He emphasized the need for faith, and the futility of human effort; in the Old Testament time there was a failure to see that if a Messiah was needed as their Saviour, then they had no power in themselves to please God.

9:33 As it is written, ‘Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed’.

As it is written, ‘Behold I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed’- the apostle here combines together quotations from Isaiah 28:16, “Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: He that believeth shall not make haste”, and Isaiah 8:14, “And He shall be for a sanctuary, but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel”. In both contexts the idea is of the danger of the sort of unbelief which trusts in men rather than God. Faith rests upon Christ the foundation stone and does not have to make a hasty retreat when the enemy comes, whereas unbelief trips up over Christ, and finds Him to be offensive as He insists on the need for faith not religious works.







HEBREWS 11:17-40


11:17  By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
11:18  Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:
11:19  Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
11:20  By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
11:21  By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.
11:22  By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.

Section (d)    Verses 17-22    Faith in relation to death.

We must not lose sight of the fact that the chapter is designed to fortify the Hebrew believers in their faith, despite the opposition they faced.  They are to be like Habakkuk and wait in faith for the revelation of Christ in glory.  Meanwhile they must live by their faith, and press on to what is before them.  But they will have to face the fact that they might die before Christ comes- how will they face death?  This is the matter dealt with in the next section.

11:17  By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,

By faith Abraham, when he was tried- we have already learnt lessons from Abraham, for verse 8 introduced us to him.  Now he is alluded to again to present another aspect of faith.
There is no suggestion here that Abraham’s faith was only tried once.  Rather, this is the supreme trial, and we are now told how Abraham reacted to the test.  James tells us that by this trial of faith Abraham’s faith was perfected, or “brought to completeness”, confirming the statements of the Old Testament that Abraham was a man justified by faith and also the friend of God, James 2:21-23.
We read of Abraham in Genesis 21 as he enjoyed a life of contentment and ease by the oak in Mamre.  Then, like a bolt from the blue, the word of God comes, “Take thy son…offer him for a burnt sacrifice”!  Abraham had everything, but now God says to him in effect, “Give Me thy dearest and best”.  We learn here that having faith does not mean we are exempt from trial, whether from the world or from God.  The trial of faith is designed to yield that which shall be to the praise, honour and glory of God in eternity, 1 Peter 1:7.
Offered up Isaac– Hannah gave her son Samuel to God, but this did not involve his death.  This does, and Isaac will become just a pile of ash.  God does not ask for Ishmael, the dispossessed son, but Isaac.
And he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son- the writer is adding reason after reason why Abraham might well have resisted God’s demands upon him.  He might have argued that to slay a son was unethical- why could he not bring an animal offering instead?  And why must it be Isaac, in whom are vested all the promises of God to him, and on whom depends the coming of the Seed?
It was Isaac as his only begotten son that he was to be offered.  This title emphasises the deep affection that Abraham had for his son.  Isaac is the only one called this in the epistle, for the Lord Jesus is presented as God’s firstborn throughout.

11:18  Of whom it was said, “That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:”

Of whom it was said, “That in Isaac shall thy seed be called”- Abraham had progressed in faith since he asked God that Ishmael might be blessed, as if the promise just given that Sarah would bare Isaac could not be fulfilled, Genesis 17:17,18.  And even on the occasion of the weaning of Isaac, and his presentation to the world as Abraham’s son, Abraham was grieved that Sarah cast Ishmael and his mother out, Genesis 21:9-11.  It was at this point that God said to Abraham, “in Isaac shall thy seed be called”.  In response to this Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away, no doubt at last coming to terms with the fact that God’s purpose was centred in Isaac as the seed.  Soon after, God demanded that God slay Isaac!  Human reason would say this was madness; faith says it must be done.  Abraham knew by faith that no word of God can contradict another of His words.  The way he thought about it is told us in the next verse.

11:19  Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead- this is the crowning-point of Abraham’s faith, the day when it was “made perfect”, to use James’ words.  At last Abraham is resting unreservedly on God’s word, despite what the natural mind would think.  If God had promised that through Isaac the promised Seed would come, then Abraham knew that nothing, not even the death of Isaac, could thwart the fulfilment of that promise.
And he had reason to believe that, for God had brought Isaac out from the virtually dead bodies of himself and his wife Sarah.  The apostle Paul shows in Romans 4:13-25 that Abraham’s faith was in one who quickeneth the dead.  He also applies the lesson that those who believe the gospel believe in the one who raised up Jesus Christ from the dead.
Even death is not an obstacle to faith, for faith is the evidence of things not seen, and Abraham looked beyond the thought of Isaac reduced to ashes, to Isaac raised again from the dead.
Notice the word “accounting”, for it has as its basis the word that gives us logic.  Faith does not abandon logic, but assembles facts about God through His word, and comes to conclusions.  Faith is not unreasonable, but it does allow the word of God to govern its thinking, and hence comes to conclusions that to the natural mind seem unreasonable.
From whence also he received him in a figure- it is interesting to notice that Abraham said to his servants as they went towards Moriah, “I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again unto you”, Genesis 22:5.  And so it came to pass, for Isaac did return with Abraham, a virtually resurrected man.  Of course the way it happened was that a ram was found for a substitute, after Abraham’s faith had passed its supreme test, and the knife was uplifted in his hand to slay his son.  It would occur to the Hebrews that God’s only-begotten Son had been offered at Calvary, and God had not spared Him, (there was no “ram caught in a thicket” for Him), but rather had freely offered Him up for us all, Romans 8:32.  Having really died, He was really raised, the guarantee of all that God has in view for His people. 

11:20  By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.

By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come- we now arrive at a point where the Old and New Testaments give to us a different view of the same event.  If we only had the Old Testament record of Genesis chapter 27, we would emphasise that Isaac was deceived by Jacob into granting him the blessing.  From Hebrews 11, however, we learn that, despite being deceived by Jacob, Isaac did in fact act in faith at the end of the incident by blessing Jacob above Esau, (hence the younger is put before the older in this verse). 

It would be helpful if we have in our minds the sequence of events leading up to this incident:

Genesis 25:21  Rebekah conceives twins by Isaac.
Genesis 25:22 The children struggle in her womb.
Genesis 25:22 She enquires of the Lord about this.
Genesis 25:23  The Lord tells her that two nations are in her womb, and “the elder shall serve the younger”.
Genesis 25:24-26 Esau and Jacob are born, in that order.
Genesis 25:28  As they grow up, Isaac loves Esau, and Rebekah loves Jacob.
Genesis 25:29-34  Jacob persuades Esau to sell him his birthright.
Genesis 27:1  Isaac, thinking he is about to die, intends to give Esau the blessing that goes with the birthright.
Genesis 27:5 Rebekah overhears this, and devises a scheme so that Jacob will receive the blessing.
Genesis 27:6-29 The scheme succeeds, and Isaac gives the blessing to Jacob, thinking he is blessing Esau.
Genesis 27:30-32 Esau presents himself to Isaac as firstborn son.
Genesis 27:33 “And Isaac trembled very exceedingly”, then says, “Yea, and he shall be blessed”.
Genesis 27:34-40 Isaac gives Esau a lesser blessing.

So Isaac feels that he is about to die, and therefore wishes to bless his sons, in effect giving them a verbal will, yet not so much bestowing his possessions on them, but, as a patriarch, calling down God’s blessing upon them in the future.  He should have given priority to Jacob in this, for he must have known that Esau had sold his birthright to him, and therefore Jacob was the firstborn, and had claim on the better blessing that went with the birthright.  He allowed his senses to govern him, however, for he smelt, touched, tasted, heard, and dimly saw, but his natural senses deceived him.  Many of the Hebrews were doing this, and the vestments, impressive buildings and awe-inspiring ceremonies of the temple worship were beckoning them.  To abandon them in favour of Christ would be an act of faith.  Sadly, many believers are still impressed by a religion of the senses.
What if Isaac’s blessing had gone to Esau and his seed?  The blessing involved five things:

First, that peoples would serve him.
Second, that nations would bow down to him, (with the word “bow” being the homage that befits royalty or God).
Third, he would be lord over his brethren.
Fourth, his mother’s sons would bow down to him.
Fifth, he would be able to count on God’s watchful care over him, even though he would have enemies ready to curse him. 

This would have made one of Esau’s descendants the Messiah, with Jacob’s descendants bowing to him, owning him lord, and giving him homage!  No wonder when he found he had been deceived, Isaac “trembled very exceedingly”, as he contemplated what his mistake would have meant if God had not intervened.
Isaac’s faith came to the fore, however, when, having found out he had blessed Jacob and not Esau, he realised his mistake, and refused to retract the blessing.  And this is what Hebrews 11 highlights, for the faith of Isaac rises above his former mistake, and acts in line with the word of God to Rebekah long before, “the elder, (Esau), shall serve the younger, (Jacob), Genesis 25:23.
The lesson for the Hebrews is clear.  God has centred every blessing in His Son, His Firstborn.  Some of the Hebrews had made the mistake of thinking that the blessing was elsewhere.  If they were genuinely believers they would own up to the enormity of their error, as Isaac did, and return to Christ as the true Firstborn with the blessing.  Our writer will return to the subject of Esau in 12:16,17, and again warn the Hebrews of the danger of despising their birthright.  For the church is the church of firstborn ones, 12:22.
Thus the grave mistake of Isaac is turned into an important lesson as God over-rules in the situation.  This does not make God complicit in the deception carried out by Rebekah and Jacob, but it does show that He is in total control of every situation, and safeguards the line of the Messiah.  So Isaac did bless Jacob and Esau, and in that order, but the reference is not to what he did whilst he was being deceived, but what he did after he had realised his mistake. 

11:21  By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.

By faith Jacob, when he was a dying- here is another aspect of faith in the face of death.  Abraham showed he believed in resurrection; Isaac showed he believed that the coming seed would be supreme in the earth; now Jacob shows that he understands the principle of the firstborn’s rights, and ensures that the Seed will have a complete nation to reign over.  Again, it would be helpful if we noticed the sequence of events in Genesis 48:   

Genesis 48:1,2
Joseph takes his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to see Jacob, who was sick.

Genesis 48:3,4
Jacob recalls God’s covenant with him about the nation and the land.

Genesis 48:5
Jacob claims Joseph’s two sons as his own.

Genesis 48:8,9
Jacob declares his intention to bless them.

Genesis 48:10-20
Jacob crosses his hands so that his right hand is on Ephraim’s head, thus making him firstborn, even though he was born second.

Like Isaac before him Jacob was unable to see clearly, but he guided his hands wittingly, showing that, unlike Isaac, he was aware of what he was doing.  Isaac had been dull-witted and out-witted, but Jacob is sharp-witted.  Rebekah had tried to switch sons, and make out Jacob was firstborn, but when Joseph presents his firstborn son to Jacob’s right hand, it is Jacob who switches sons by crossing his hands, for he has learned his lesson.
Blessed both the sons of Joseph- this blessing consists of being counted as Jacob’s sons, a privilege granted to both.  It is not a question at this point as to who is the firstborn.  Being a prophet as well as a patriarch, (as we see from Genesis 49:1), Jacob knew that two of his sons would be deprived of a full inheritance in Israel.  Levi and Simeon are singled out for censure in Jacob’s death-bed pronouncements, and they were to be divided in Jacob and scattered in Israel, Genesis 49:7.  So it was that Levi was given no land as an inheritance, but had cities throughout Canaan, and Simeon was given a portion within the confines of the inheritance of Judah.  To safe-guard the idea of the twelve tribes, therefore, Jacob blessed both the sons of Joseph with a full place in the land.  The fact that he made Ephraim the firstborn by crossing his hands is not prominent here; simply that both sons would make up the deficiency of others.
Even though Manasseh would be a ring-leader in defection once they reached the land, and even though Ephraim would give his name to the breakaway ten tribes, and be carried away first into captivity, nevertheless Jacob looks beyond that, to when Messiah will unite the nation together under His headship, as Ezekiel 37:15-22 and Hosea 1:11 indicate.
And worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff- when he had obtained a promise from Joseph that he would ensure he was buried in Canaan, Jacob bowed himself on the bed’s head, no doubt in relief, Genesis 47:31.  Here, however, he rises higher, and worships.  He does so, however, leaning on the top of his staff.  We are not told this in Genesis, but the Epistle to the Hebrews is just as inspired as that book is.  There is no good reason for confusing this incident with that of Genesis 47:31.
Jacob’s staff had become a symbol of his pilgrimage through life, for he had said to his brother, “with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands”, Genesis 32:10.  Jacob is saying that he crossed Jordan alone on his way to Padan-Aran to find a wife, and now he has become a multitude of people by God’s goodness.  How fitting that as he contemplates the further multiplication of the nation through the incorporation of Manesseh and Ephraim into it, (Moses would speak of “the ten thousands of Ephraim, and the thousands of Manesseh”, Deuteronomy 33:17), he again should draw attention to his staff, no doubt worshipping God for His gracious intervention in his life.  He does not need to lean on his staff to help him along, for his pilgrimage is over.  What he does do is lean on the staff as the symbol of God’s faithfulness to him during his life.  He was leaning in faith upon God as he is about to die.  This reiterates what was said in verse 13- “these all died in faith”, for they died as they lived, trusting God and strengthened by His promises.  This is the best way to die.
Needless to say, the notion that Jacob worshipped his staff is totally contrary to Scripture, and is mere superstition, which should have no place in a believer’s thinking.
The Hebrews would surely not miss the significance of a non-Levite worshipping, nor the fact that Abel had offered sacrifice without a tabernacle system.  They are being reminded that an earthly building and a tribal priesthood is not necessary for the worship of God.

11:22  By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.

By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel- Joseph had grasped the significance of God’s words to Abraham:
“Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;  And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.  And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age.  But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.  And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.  In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates'”, Genesis 15:13-18.

Laying hold of this word, Joseph’s faith made it real, and he could look beyond the present, not just to the near-future when the Israelites would return to Canaan, but long-term, for he made mention of his bones, and was therefore anticipating resurrection.
It is important to understand what God is saying when He speaks of the period of four hundred years.  The verse does not say that the Israelites would be in Egypt for four hundred years.  It is the affliction that lasts four hundred years, and this period begins with the mocking of Ishmael, the son of the Egyptian slave-woman when Isaac was weaned, Genesis 21:9. 

The time line is as follows:
Galatians 3:17; Acts 7:6
God makes a covenant with Abraham.  Abraham is a stranger in the land of Canaan.
The beginning of a 430 year period ending with the Exodus, Exodus 12:40,41, Galatians 3:17.

Genesis 15:13; Acts 7:6
Isaac is installed as firstborn and seed, and Ishmael, son of the Egyptian, mocks.  Now Abraham’s seed also is a stranger in the land of Canaan.  Beginning of the 400 year period of affliction.

Genesis 47:1
Jacob comes into Egypt.
Beginning of a 215 year period until the Exodus.  71 years without slavery, then at the death of Joseph and rising up of a new Pharoah, 144 years in slavery.  The birth of Moses was 64 years after the death of Joseph.

We know from Exodus 12:41 that careful record was being kept of the passage of time, for the exodus occurred on the anniversary of God’s covenant with Abraham, “even the selfsame day”.  Joseph would know, because he accepted God’s word in faith, that the Exodus was 144 years ahead.
And gave commandment concerning his bones- Joseph acted upon this belief, and made sure that his bones would be carried up out of Egypt.  No doubt he could have had a royal burial, but he chose to associate with the people of God.  He was embalmed and put in a coffin, but not buried.  He knew that only his bones would be left by the time the departure from Egypt came; he knew also that it would not be so long that he would have crumbled to dust.  All this shows that Joseph took the word of God to be literally true- it was not an allegory.
We might think that it did not matter where his bones were, but the commandment concerning his bones not only show his strong belief that God would honour His word, but the presence of his coffin in the midst of the nation for 184 years would sustain them in their faith in the promise, too.  For Joseph was not only anticipating a departure from Egypt, but also an entry into the land forty years later.  He knew the date of the first, but he might have been surprised if he had known how long the wilderness journey would take. 


11:23  By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.
11:24  By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;
11:25  Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
11:26  Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.
11:27  By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
11:28  Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.
11:29  By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.
11:30  By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.
11:31  By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.

Section (e)        Verses 23-31    Faith in relation to the world.

We now come to a new section, which shows the attitude that believers had to the world, as represented by Egypt. 

Verse 23 The faith of Amram and Jochebed.
Resistance to the world.
Verses 24-26 The faith of Moses as an individual.
Refusal of the world.
Verse 27 The faith of Moses as God’s representative.
Rejection of the world.
Verse 28  The faith of Moses as the people’s leader.
Redemption from the world.
Verse 29 The faith of the Nation.
Release from the world.
Verse 30 The faith of the Nation.
Ruin of the world.
Verse 31 The faith of Rahab.
Rescue from the world.

11:23        The faith of Amram and Jochebed

Resistance to the world.

11:23  By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents- although the sentence begins “By faith Moses”, he is not the one who demonstrates faith here, but his parents.  This Scripture says his parents hid him; Stephen says he was “nourished up in his father’s house three months”, Acts 7:20; Exodus 2:2 says that he was hidden by his mother.  So we may see here that the husband and the wife were united in the defence of their child.  It is good when Christian parents are united in the way they bring up their children for God.  The sure way of being united is to be governed by the Word of God alone in the matter- there is no double-mindedness there.
Moses had been born under threat of death, because Pharoah was worried that the Hebrews would multiply so that they outnumbered the Egyptians. Because they saw he was a proper child- Stephen says he was “exceeding fair”, or as the words are literally, “beautiful to God”.  This sort of expression is used of “whatever can in any way be likened to God, or resemble Him in any way”, Grimme. There must have been revealed to Moses’ parents that the child was destined for greatness, and they acted accordingly.  It was not that he was in the line of the Messiah, for he was of the tribe of Levi; nonetheless there was something about his features that alerted them to the fact that he was special.  They had not seen these features in Aaron, his older brother.  Perhaps there was something about the alertness, the facial features and the eyes of Moses that alerted his parents to something different, (remember Moses was still alert and of good eyesight at the age of 120, Deuteronomy 34:7).  They would enquire of the Lord about this, (just as Rebekah enquired about her unborn sons, Genesis 25:22), and no doubt they saw he was a proper child with spiritual insight as the Lord made known His purpose for the child.
And they were not afraid of the king’s commandment- whatever other parents were doing, they would not destroy the life of their son.  They obeyed God, (who values life), rather than men, (who were, and are, indifferent to the value of life).  Faith always runs counter to the world on moral issues, for the world by definition is opposed to God.  Says John, “this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith”, 1 John 5:4.  Just as great things were achieved by Amram and Jochebed because their faith rose above the opposition, so the Hebrews of the New Testament could imitate them, and rise above the religious opposition of Judaism.
When they could no longer hide him from the Egyptians, Moses’ parents did exactly what Pharoah had commanded, for the edict from the king was “cast out” into the Nile, Acts 7:19, and so they did indeed “cast him out” into the Nile, Acts 7:21.  So they obeyed the king, but also obeyed God whose law says “Thou shalt not kill”.  In this way they did not have to employ situation ethics, as Rahab did when she lied about the spies, Joshua 2:2-7.  Amram and Jochebed have a clear conscience that they have honoured the king, and honoured God as well.
We would do well to pray that we might not be forced into a situation where the only way of escape, (so we think), is to lie and deceive.  It is God who makes a way to escape when we are tempted, 1 Corinthians 10:13.  In no circumstances is lying an option for a believer, Ephesians 4:25.  We should be prepared, if necessary, to “swear to our own hurt”, Psalm 15:4.
Because they acted in faith, Amram and Jochebed were guided by God to lay him in his ark by the river’s edge at a place where Pharoah’s daughter came to bathe.  The Egyptian palace would no doubt be furnished with the facilities for bathing, but this was different.  The Nile was revered as a god, for did it not annually flood, and deposit on the land the fertile silt that enabled Egypt to prosper?  So the Nile was considered sacred, and able to impart fruitfulness and prolong life- where better to bathe if you are a childless and idolatrous princess?  To bathe in such a river was to devote ones-self to the god.  We might almost say to be baptised unto it.  The temples that stood on the banks of the Nile had a portion of river enclosed just for this purpose, so that bathing was safe.  It is in all probability here that Moses’ parents hid the child, with Miriam their daughter at a discreet distance away.  The princess comes with her maidens to worship the river-god, and lo, the god has given her a child!  The fact that Moses was taken to be her son seems to indicate that she was childless.  To her superstitious mind, the gods have favoured her.  She calls him Moses, which is made up of two Egyptian words, “mo”, water, and “uses”, rescued from water.  Ever after Moses is called by that name.  So it is that Amram and Jochebed obeyed God and gave away their son, but God saw to it that they received him back again for a time.  And God so over-ruled that they were paid to bring up their own child!  Truly God is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, as verse 6 of our chapter has told us.

Verses 24-26   The faith of Moses as an individual

Refusal of the world.

11:24  By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;

By faith Moses, when he was come to years- forty years have passed, and Moses has been in the palace for most of them.  He has been taught the wisdom of the Egyptians, Acts 7:22, yet that has not dulled his appreciation of the wisdom of God.
Refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter- the point has come when he must decide where his allegiance lays.  Whether there was some process that he was facing which would further entrench him in Pharoah’s house we are not told.  What we are told here is that he stood firm.  He might have argued naturally that he had some sort of obligation to Egypt for giving him such a life-style as he had enjoyed as the son of Pharoah’s daughter.  He might have argued that it was ungrateful to the princess who had saved his life.  He might have reasoned that to remain where he was would give him better opportunity to help his fellow Israelites.  Like Daniel after him, he might have great influence on the affairs of the king.  This was not God’s will at this time, however.  Daniel was in an abnormal situation, with the kingly tribe, (of which he was part), dispossessed of the land of Israel and the throne of David, so that made his position different.  We should always take into account the way God is acting in this age, for we cannot necessarily transpose what Old Testament saints did into our situation.  For instance, shall we raise an army like Gideon and rout the enemy?  Or shall we heed the words of the Lord Jesus, “The Son of Man came not to destroy men’s lives”, Luke 9:56?

11:25  Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;

Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God- Moses knew from the making of the covenant with Abraham that a burning lamp had passed through the pieces of the sacrifice during the horror of a great darkness.  In other words, God was with His people in their affliction, not distant from them.  “In all their affliction He was afflicted”, Isaiah 63:9.  How could Moses distance himself from the Hebrews when God did not?
Notice that he made a deliberate choice here.  It was not forced upon him by circumstances.  Indeed, the circumstances all tended to confirm him as the son of Pharoah’s daughter.
It is affliction with the people of God he chooses.  It is with the things of God that his sympathies lie, for the palace life has not deflected him in his faith.  The wisdom of Egypt has not converted him.  The faith of the believer gives him victory over the world, 1 John 5:4.  We begin the Christian life by turning in a different direction to the world, and this is how we continue, if we are consistent.
Sadly, Moses went about this associating with the people of God in a faulty way, for he tried to legislate between an Egyptian and an Hebrew, and in the process killed the Egyptian.  This was not an act of faith, and resulted in him fearing the wrath of the king, (which forty years later he did not, verse 27), and spending forty years in the wilderness away from the people of God.  Moses faithfully records this in the Book of Exodus, but the writer to the Hebrews omits it, for it was not an exhibition of faith.  In the same way he omits the forty years of the wilderness experience of Israel, because that was a period marked largely by unbelief.  Moses and Israel do not give examples of faith in these instances, and therefore they are not appropriate for the sort of chapter Hebrews 11 is setting out to be.
Than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season- Moses could have reasoned that the Exodus was only forty years away, (for he knew the time-span God indicated in His word to Abraham, Genesis 15:13), so why not enjoy the life-style while he could, and then associate with God’s people at the end?  Why make things difficult for ones-self in the meantime?  Had not God intervened so that he was adopted by Pharoah’s daughter?  Is not renouncing this to go against the will of God?  This is how Moses might have reasoned; but even if he did think like this initially, he soon came to the conclusion that it was God’s will for him to make a break with Egypt.
We need to remember that what God’s will at one point in our lives is not necessarily going to be His will throughout our lives.  This would have a lesson for the Hebrews.  It was the will of God for their forefathers that they offer animal sacrifices, in Old Testament times, but that will of God has been displaced by another will, equally of God, as Hebrews 10:9,10 explains.

11:26  Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.

Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt- Moses had discerned that the lamp that passed between the divided pieces of the covenant victim when God made covenant with Abraham was a symbol of the Messiah.  Isaiah 62:1 would later record, “For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth”.  This is one of the places in the Old Testament where the word salvation is the word “yeshua”, the equivalent of “Jesus”.  He is the lamp therefore.  Moses seems to have insight into this, (and it will be confirmed to him at the burning bush),and despite the implication of the horror of a great darkness that the seed will pass into, Genesis 15:12, Moses is prepared to suffer reproach.  Because that reproach concerns God’s promise, in symbol, that the Messiah will be the one who will ensure the covenant is stable, (for normally the two covenanting parties passed between the pieces of sacrifice, but in this case it was just the lamp), then association with those who are in that covenant relationship with God, (the “people of God”), is the reproach of Christ, the Messiah.
Moses thought of this as a valuable thing.  He treasured it in his heart above all else.  Surrounded for forty years by the opulence and splendour of the palace of Pharoah, he was unmoved, and his heart was set on spiritual realities, even though they involved reproach and hardship.  How easy it is for us as believers to cast envious eyes at the luxuries of the world.  We should remember, however, the riches of God’s grace, expressed to us as they are by the vast inheritance He has given to us, detailed for us in such passages as Ephesians 1:1-14.  As the apostle exhorted in Colossians 3:1,2  we should set our affection on things above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  For “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”, Matthew 6:21.  What our hearts are occupied with is an indication of what is valuable to us.
For he had respect unto the recompence of the reward- Moses knew that God would see to it that the land would eventually be theirs, and they would have the great privilege of being in it under the righteous reign of the Messiah.  This to him far outweighed any temporary advantage that Egypt’s royal court might give him.  The writer to the Hebrews has already exhorted his readers to “Cast not away your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward”, Hebrews 10:35.  They may have suffered the spoiling of their goods because of their stand for Christ, but this was of little account when compared to the compensating reward that God will give for faithfulness to Him.
So we may say that the refusal of relationship with the princess of Egypt involved the recognition that the Hebrews were the people of God.  This in turn resulted in reproach, yet this would be certainly followed by recompence.

Verse 27        The faith of Moses as God’s representative

Rejection of the world.

11:27  By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.

By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king- Moses himself tells us specifically that he feared after he had killed the Egyptian and the fact was known, even though he had sought to bury the body unnoticed.  He had “turned this way and that way” before he did this, the sure sign of a man with a guilty conscience.  This verse tells us of a point where he did not fear the wrath of the king, and connects with it a forsaking of Egypt.  Having been forty years in the land of Midian, Moses is sent into Egypt to lead God’s people out.  He is given a sight of a burning bush, and hears God speak to him out from it.  The bush burns, but is not consumed, for God will be in the midst of His people, even when they are in “the iron furnace”, Deuteronomy 4:20, and He will see to it that they are not consumed by the trial.  Fortified by God’s word to him, Moses in principle forsook Egypt.
Various details show us that Moses did not fear the king.  Remember that the Pharoah is different now, for God told Moses that “all the men are dead which sought thy life”, Exodus 4:19, and this would include Pharoah the father of his adopted mother, the princess.  It may well be that the new Pharoah had reason to see Moses slain, as being a possible rival to the throne if he reversed his decision to not be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter.
First, we note God’s word to Moses, “I have made thee a god to Pharoah”, Exodus 7:1.  How could a “god” fear a man?
Second, we note the position Moses adopted when he spoke to Pharoah in Exodus 7:15, for God told him to stand by the river’s brink before Pharoah came.  No doubt coming to worship the river, or bathe in it, Pharaoh finds that his way is blocked by an intrepid Hebrew!  How dare this man interpose between Pharoah and his god!  To add insult to injury Aaron lifts his rod over the river and turns it to blood, the sure sign of judgement.  Years before, the river had been the deathbed of many Hebrew children, and now the time of retribution has come.
Third, we note that Moses and Aaron constantly enter the presence of a heavily guarded Pharoah, despite the fact that his land is being increasingly ruined by the plagues they are inflicting on it.  Yet no hand is laid on them.  The rod of God is of more authority than the rod of magicians.
Fourth, Moses is not afraid to enter the palace, despite the fact that Pharoah was reckoned to be a god, and demanded worship. . This Moses would refuse to give him.  Pharoah was the virtual ruler of the world, and, being an object of worship, was the god of this world.  In these things he is a symbol of Satan himself, who is the god of this world and its prince, 2 Corinthians 4:4; John 14:30.  Each of the plagues was an attack upon an Egyptian object of worship, yet Moses is unafraid.
Fifth, we read in Exodus 10:6 that “Moses turned himself and went out from Pharoah”.  Despite the king’s bodyguard that surrounded and protected Pharoah, who at a word from the monarch would slay him, Moses calmly turned and left the presence of Pharoah without a hint of deference to him.  He is confident that the God who told him that he would be the one to lead the people out, will protect him from a dagger in the back.
Sixth, the climax came when he issued an ultimatum to Pharoah, and warned him that all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, including his own, would be slain.  This would ruin Egypt, and would be just recompence for the destruction of the Hebrews’ children forty years before.  Then we read, “he went out from Pharoah in a great anger”.  This is surely the moment when he “forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king”.

Verse 28    The faith of Moses as the people’s leader          

Redemption from the world.

11:28  Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.

Through faith he kept the passover- given the anger of Pharoah, Moses might have panicked and left Egypt and celebrated the Passover in the wilderness.  After all, God had told Moses that he would serve Him on Mount Sinai, Exodus 3:12, and Moses interpreted this as keeping a feast in the wilderness, which is how he put it to Pharoah, Exodus 5:1.  Why not wait until Israel was safely in the wilderness, and then keep the feast in peace?  Faith obeys God, and trusts Him for everything.  If they had not kept the feast the night they were told to, the destroying angel would have found their houses unprotected.  So it is that the night the angel of death visited Egypt, Israel were still in the land of Egypt, yet because they were obeying God in all things, they were safe.  The original readers of this epistle may rest assured that to follow God’s guidance is always the safest course.  Their situation is full of danger for them as they are persecuted for their faith, but they should rest in God.  We are reminded by John as he introduces the upper room ministry that the Lord Jesus was on a journey via Calvary to the throne of God; He knew also that the intention to betray was already in Judas’ heart.  Notwithstanding He met with His own and gave them much teaching to prepare them for His absence.  Even though the cross was but a few hours away, He lingered with His own.  He knew that everything was under control.
Moses has learnt the lesson that if the people of God are going to be delivered from their taskmasters, it must be by the seemingly foolish method of the blood of a helpless lamb.  Forty years before, Moses had tried to help his brethren, but that was by carnal methods and deeds.  He has learnt his lesson.
One of Christ’s disciples, Simon, was a Cananite, Matthew 10:4, which does not mean he came from Canaan, but that he was a Zealot, dedicated to the overthrow of the Romans.  The Lord Jesus called him from that to work for the kingdom of God.  (Of course, Matthew was at the other end of the spectrum, working for the Romans and collecting their taxes- he was called away as well).  Peter was a fisherman, but, in zeal for his Lord, wielded a sword in Gethsemane- he was rebuked, for he had to learn the same lesson as Moses, that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal”, 2 Corinthians 10:4, and, “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God”, James 1:20.
It is Moses that is said to keep the Passover, whereas the nation is referred to, (“them”), at the end of the verse.  Moses is acting on personal conviction, but he is also acting as an example to the nation.  His parents had been an example to him as they resisted the decree of the king, and now he is likewise being an example to others.  As the one with “the rod of God”, Exodus 4:20, he represented the authority of God, and should be listened to and followed, just as the apostle Paul exhorted the believers to be a follower or imitator of himself, quickly adding, “as I am of Christ”, 1 Corinthians 11:1.
There are those who suggest that to “keep” the Passover means to institute the Passover.  However, in Matthew 26:18 we read of the Lord Jesus keeping the Passover, but He did not institute it then.  The point is, (since the word “keep” in both Exodus and Matthew means to make), that all the detailed arrangements were carried out carefully and calmly.  The apostle Paul exhorted the Corinthian believers to “keep the feast”, 1 Corinthians 5:8.  In that chapter he is using as an illustration the Passover and its accompanying Feast of Unleavened Bread to press upon the believers the need to deal with the evil in their midst.  “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us”; in other words, the work of Calvary by which redemption was obtained, is done, but it remains for us as believers to live out the meaning of the feast that is inseparably connected with it, that of unleavened bread.  Just as Israel were to purge out literal leaven from their houses, so the saints are to purge out the moral leaven of immorality and false doctrine from the house of God, the assembly.  Deliverance from the world has lost its meaning if the evil of the world is still in our midst.
And the sprinkling of blood- to kill the Passover lamb, but not sprinkle its blood, was folly in the extreme.  No doubt the Egyptians looked on in puzzlement as the Israelites daubed their doorways with blood.  But this was Divine wisdom, for the blood was the evidence that the life of another had been forfeited, so that the firstborn inside the house could be safe.  It was either the lamb or the firstborn that died; the difference lay in the exercise of faith.  There would have been very few houses in Israel where there was no firstborn son, even if he was an old man, (for there seems not to be any indication that the firstborn son must be young), and the only means of safety was through the blood of the lamb; blood, moreover, that was to be sprinkled, for the death of the lamb, (the work achieved), must be followed by the sprinkling of the blood, (the work applied).  Just as now, it is not enough that Christ has died, there must be the receiving of the truth by faith in personal application, in order that what happened two thousand years ago may become real to the soul now.
Lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them- as far as those who had sprinkled the blood were concerned, God had not only passed through the land of Egypt to smite the firstborn, but He had also passed over their houses, Exodus 12:12.  This means that the selfsame Lord that judged the firstborn sons, had already been satisfied by the death of the lamb, and He could righteously shield those houses where the blood was sprinkled.
We should not think of God passing over the house as meaning He simply passed by the house.  The Hebrew word is “pesach”, meaning to leap over.  So instead of simply passing by the houses with blood-stained door-posts, God actually protected those inside from the death that was striking the firstborn sons of Egypt.  It is said that the Egyptian word which most nearly corresponds to the word for passover, is “pesh”, meaning “to spread the wings out over so as to protect”.  This reminds us of the words of the Lord Jesus when He wept over Jerusalem, and said, “how often would I have gathered thee, as a hen doth gather her chickens under her wings, but ye would not”, Luke 13:34.
Eighty years before, the Pharoah of the time had ordered the death of all new-born Hebrew sons.  He did not limit the decree to firstborn sons.  Now is the time of recompence.  It may have been a long time coming, but come it did.  God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man sows he will reap, sooner or later, Galatians 6:7.
To destroy the firstborn son is to destroy the very heart of Egyptian society.  And the threat was not limited to ordinary people, for it extended to the successor of Pharoah on his throne.  God was destroying Egypt, and showing His supreme power as He did so.  He had promised to do this when He covenanted with Abraham four hundred and thirty years before, with the words, “that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge”, Genesis 15:14, the word “I” being emphatic- He would not delegate it to another.
There is a warning here to the unbelievers in Israel, for they should be complacent, and rest on the fact that they belonged to the Hebrew nation.  They must “sprinkle the blood of the lamb” if they are to be safe.  To ignore the message of John the Baptist, “Behold the lamb of God”, and to fail to act in faith, is to miss out on redemption.  Moreover, to fail in this way is to be no different morally to the Egyptians, who spurned the power of the sprinkled blood.  Indeed, it is to be worse than they, for they would be counting the blood of Christ an unholy thing, Hebrews 10:29.
So it is that the Israelites were redeemed from Egypt by the blood that they must have thought of as extremely precious; it was so valuable that it had purchased their freedom from Egypt.  Believers of this age, however, have been redeemed from a far more terrible situation, for they have been redeemed from this present evil world.  And far more precious blood has secured their release, the blood of Christ, “as of a lamb without blemish and without spot”, 1 Peter 1:18,19.  This perfection is not just in the physical sense, but in the moral sense, for Christ is free from all sin, whether inherited or acquired.  As one who is without blemish, Christ has no shortcomings at all, being sin-free entirely as to His nature.  As one who is spotless, He has no stain on His character.  So it is that those who are full of blemishes and character-stains, are protected by the blood of God’s spotless lamb, when His death is laid hold of by faith.

Verse 29    The faith of the Nation

Release from the world.

11:29  By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.

By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land- to faith, the passage through the Red Sea was no different to a passage through the sand dunes of the arid desert, such was the thoroughness with which God had prepared their path.  But the pathway was of no use if they did not tread it, and this they did by faith.  We read at the end of the crossing of the Red Sea that “the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and His servant Moses”, Exodus 14:31.  At first, Israel feared Pharoah’s cavalry, as it bore down upon them.  But just as at the Passover God Himself had protected them, so now.  For the pillar of fire removed itself and stood between them and the enemy, Exodus 14:19.  But more than that, as it passed from the front to the rear of the column of marching Israelites, they were baptised in it, and the New Testament says they were baptised to Moses, 1 Corinthians 10:2.  They were committing themselves to the man with the rod of God in his hand; the rod that had wrought such wonders in Egypt over the past few weeks, and which had been lifted up over the sea to divide it.  They knew that he was in touch with God, and on the basis that he had the word of God, they obeyed him.
They pass through the Red Sea by faith, and not in desperation.  It is true that they feared Egypt’s army, for it was ruthless and cruel, and specialised in cutting off the hands of its prisoners as a way of counting them, and then offering them to their gods as a thank-offering.  They fear God more, however.
Their faith in God is rewarded, for they venture onto the sea-bed and find it bone-dry.  They do not have to pick their way through pools of water, as if God was not able to completely defeat the sea, but they walk on dry ground.  So much so that when God caused the chariot wheels of their pursuers to come off, Exodus 14:25, their axles dug into hard ground; they did not slide through the mud.  It might even be that God used the hardness of the ground to shake the chariot wheels off.
What an encouragement the remembrance of this would be to the Hebrews in receipt of this epistle.  They seemed to be hemmed in on every side, as their forefathers had been; their foes, the Judaisers, persecuting them as those who had left the fold, and the world opposing them as believers.  Just as Israel of old had two options, so have these.  They could either turn back, and face the wrath of the enemy, or go forward in faith.  Said our writer in 10:39, “we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul”.  In the case of the Hebrews of AD 68, the wrath they faced was the wrath of God against those who despise His Son.
Those who venture forward in faith find that what seemed an insurmountable obstacle is in fact their salvation, for the very sea that opened up for them to pass through, then returned to drown their enemies.  The Hebrews who wavered should take note of this, and move forward in faith.  They will find that their Messiah has been through the waters before them, and has dried up the waters of judgement for them.  For He had an exodus too, and Moses and Elijah spoke with Him about it on the mount of transfiguration, Luke 9:31, (“His decease” uses the Greek word for exodus).  He, too, was hemmed in on every side.  He spoke of it in these terms, “I have a baptism to be baptised with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished”, Luke 12:50.  Unlike Israel, however, the Lord Jesus was hemmed in or straitened by the will of His Father, from which He refused to deviate.  He knew that a baptism awaited Him, the immersion into the experience of God’s wrath, (corresponding to the judgement of Passover night, with the death of the first-born, except that the first-born who died was Himself), and the subsequent emergence into resurrection conditions, (corresponding to the passage through the Red Sea, until the other side was reached).  So it is that His decease is accomplished at Jerusalem, for the city that saw Him die, is the city that holds His empty tomb.  The city that is the centre of Judaism, is the city that He left, carrying the cross they gave Him.  And it is accomplished, for the journey into wrath and death, and out of it, is over.  Both Moses and Elijah had unusual departures from this world, but neither went out of the world as Christ did, as one who had died and had risen in triumph.  Those who believe in Him are not only dead with Christ, but are also risen with Him, Colossians 2:12, and they signify this by their baptism in water.  For them there is no immersion into the wrath of God.
Which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned- to apparently tread the same pathway as the people of God, and yet not do it in faith, is to meet with disaster.  So the Egyptians found, and so would some in Israel find who only appeared to believe in God, all the while refusing the Son that God had sent to them for their blessing and salvation.
So it is that Israel gained release from the world that had oppressed them for so long; yet all who believe are released from a far greater oppression, and are brought into association with a risen Christ, free from condemnation.  Yet the trials of life remain, but they are tempered by the fact that there will be another exodus from this world, when the Lord comes to “take His waiting people home”.  This will be the logical climax to the moral exodus they have already experienced.

Verse 30        The faith of the Nation

Ruin of the world.

11:30  By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.

By faith the walls of Jericho fell down- if Egypt represented the world seeking to prevent the slaves making their exit from it, Jericho represents the world as seeking to prevent entry into the inheritance of the sons.  This opposition is represented by the walls of Jericho.  The king and his city are in fear because Israel surrounds them, and they make no attempt to issue forth to attack them.  As Joshua 5:1 says, “their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them anymore, because of the children of Israel”.  This is not enough to make the walls fall down however; for that, faith is needed.  The Hebrews too faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles, (and some of them no doubt would soon find themselves within the beseiged city of Jerusalem in AD 70), but they had only to move in faith and God would give them deliverance.  The obstacle might not be destroyed, as Jericho was, but they would be given the way of escape from their difficulties.
So it was not battering rams that destroyed Jericho’s walls, for “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds”, 2 Corinthians 10:4.
Infidels might have their own ideas about what caused the walls to fall.  Say they, it must have been an earthquake, perhaps even triggered by the great shout that the Israelites made.  Or perhaps the walls were not well-built anyway.  In fact this latter idea has embedded itself into the English language, and badly-built buildings are labelled “Jeri-built”.  Neither of these things was the cause; it was simple faith in God that caused the walls to fall, because God always responds to faith.  This is why even faith no bigger than a grain of mustard seed is enough to move a mountain, for the faith is in the God who made, (and can move) the mountain, Matthew 17:20.
After they were compassed about seven days- in obedience to God the Israelites persisted.  No matter how laughable the method seemed to be to the natural mind, they persevered, and the desired result was achieved.  God’s ways and man’s ways are far apart, and the natural mind has no inkling of what God is able to do.  By marching round the city once for six days, and then seven times the seventh day, the number thirteen, the number of rebellion, was impressed upon the event.  But it was the rebellion of Jericho, not Israel.  So the Hebrews must decide which side they are on, either the side that rebels against the person and work of Christ, or the side that opposes that rebellion in faith, and by that faith pulls down the stronghold of unbelief. 

Verse 31        The faith of Rahab

Rescue from the world

11:31  By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.

By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not- not only was Jericho rebellious, but it was unbelieving.  They had no time for God and His people, even though they were in fear of them.  We come now to the second woman in the chapter of faith.  Not now Sarah the distinguished wife of the equally distinguished patriarch Abraham, the “Friend of God”, but a Gentile harlot.  Yet God takes note of the faith of them both, and by her faith Rahab is found in the same chapter as Sarah.  For Matthew chapter 1 shows how that, because she married Salmon, she became the mother of Boaz, of the line of the Messiah.  Great things happen to those who go contrary to the world and gain the victory by faith.  The Hebrews might well heed the lesson, and go contrary to the world of Judaism in like faith, and hence gain the victory over it, and find themselves vitally involved with the Messiah.
The difference between Rahab and the rest of Jericho was that she was trusting what the scarlet line represented, the promise of God through the spies.  Their word to her was God’s word to her, and she believed it and acted upon it.  And this, as the first verse of the chapter has told us, is the essence of faith.
When she had received the spies with peace- no doubt the spies deliberately chose a harlots house, since it would not arouse suspicion if a stranger entered there.  But they were noticed, and this was gave occasion to Rahab to act in faith.  But the Scripture is careful to tell us that she hid the men in the flax laid out on the roof, and also that she came to them “before they were laid down”.  This would not have been her normal behaviour when men came to visit her; now she is a changed person, and what has changed her is faith.
To her, at the beginning, the men were spies, but she receives them in peace because she believes in their God now.  The rest of Jericho would have received them with execution- she is different.  When James is using this incident, he emphasises Rahab’s works, the evidence of her faith, and hence calls the men messengers, James 2:25.  He also uses a different word for “receive” which means “to give hospitality to”, thus pointing out the trouble she took as she acted in faith, and by works expressed that faith.  The word used in the verse we are considering is simply to allow into one’s house, itself an act of faith.
She did not say, “Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled”, but rather gave them “those things that are needful for the body”, James 2:16.
It will not be lost on intelligent Hebrews that there is a contrast between two spies, Joshua and Caleb, whose word was not believed with disastrous consequences, (as chapters 3 and 4 of this epistle have showed), and the two spies who came to Rahab, and who were believed by her, with blessed consequences.  The Hebrews should learn a lesson from this, and mix the word with faith when they heard it, Hebrews 4:2.


11:32  And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:
11:33  Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.
11:34  Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
11:35  Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:
11:36  And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
11:37  They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;
11:38  (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

Section (f)    Verses 32-38        Faith in relation to affliction.

Having shown how to live by faith, and how to die by faith, then how to react to the world that opposes them, our writer now prepares his readers for even more affliction than they had already experienced.  The siege and destruction of Jerusalem is just a year or two ahead, (if the epistle was written in AD 68), and they must be prepared for it.  So it is that various traumatic experiences are listed, some in Old Testament times, and some in the period between Malachi and Matthew when God seemed silent.  Faith sustained the people of God even in those times too, for Malachi prophesies that there would be those who would speak often one to another, Malachi 3:16, and when the New Testament opens we find people like Anna speaking of Him, Luke 2:38.

This closing section may be divided as follows:

(a) Verse 32  Unlikely heroes. 
(b) Verses 33-35(i) Unusual happenings.  Ten exploits of faith.
(c) Verses 35(ii)-38 Unjustified horrors.    Ten extremities of faith.
(d) Verse 39 Unrealised hope.
(e) Verse 40 Unrevealed hope.

(a)    Verse 32    Unlikely heroes

11:32  And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:

And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell- if these words were originally given as addresses in a synagogue, we may easily see why, as he records what he said, he writes “time would fail”, and not “space would fail”.  He was originally limited by time as he discoursed.  The word for “tell” means “to narrate to the end”.  This chapter also conforms to the style of one part of the synagogue service, when a speaker would recount God’s dealings with the nation, (see, for instance, the addresses of Paul in the synagogue in Acts 13, and Stephen in Acts 7), and especially the trials the people had gone through.
We would expect this list to be full of kings and priests, but it is not.  It is true David is mentioned, but he is put before Samuel, as if his experiences before he became king are in view.  So we have three judges, an army commander, an anointed king on the run, Samuel, and unnamed prophets.
Of Gedeon- this man gains a place in the list here, even though he was fearful at first.  He questioned God, suggesting His presence was not in evidence, Judges 6:13; he had an inferiority complex about the poverty of his family, verse 15; but he learnt to trust God.  His faith came to a climax when he refused to be made king over Israel, Judges 8:22,23.  He knew God’s word on the matter of the kingly tribe and refused personal advantage by faith.  The Hebrews might think that they were in a weak position, for they had taken the spoiling of their goods, just as Gideon had been impoverished by the Midianites, but they, like him, could triumph in faith.  And do so, moreover, without disregarding the rights of the Messiah.
And of Barak- this man tends to come off badly when comments are made about him.  He is disparaged for seemingly only being prepared to act if a woman did so first, for he said to Deborah, “If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go”, Judges 4:8.  We should remember, however, that Deborah was the judge of Israel at the time, and as such represented the authority and presence of God.  So Barak’s words are like Moses’, when he said to God, “If Thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence”, Exodus 33:15.  In confirmation of this we find that both Deborah and Barak sing a song of victory to the Lord afterwards, Judges 5:1.  Barak had obeyed the apparently suicidal command to fight the battle in the Plain of Jezreel, ideally suited to the tactics of the nine hundred iron chariots of the opposition, but through that plain flowed the river Kishon, and when God sent the rain, the chariots were immobilised, and the enemy routed.  Such is the triumph of faith.
And of Samson- this man also is much criticised, and rightly so, in the main.  He is marked by up-and-down experiences, and lacks consistency.  He is sometimes thought of as an illustration of Christ, but this is a mistake.  It is best to think of him as an illustration of Israel, with its troughs and peaks throughout history.  Samson did triumph at the end of his life, however, just as Israel will emerge from the seemingly devastating experience of the great tribulation, when the “lords of the Philistines”, (Antichrist and his associates), will seem to have them in their power.
And of Jephthae- like Barak and Gideon, Samson and Jephthah are mentioned in the reverse of chronological order.  Perhaps it is because Gideon began well and Barak finished well that the two are combined by our writer by means of the literary device of reversing their order.  The Hebrews should finish as they began, with faith in Christ sustaining them.  Samson on the other hand finished well even though his life was variable as regards faith in God.  The Hebrews should be encouraged by the fact that even if their faith in God has been weak, they may still finish well.  Jephthae shows a fine grasp of the history of the dealings of God with the people of Israel, as is seen in his long speech recorded in Judges 11:14-27.  Faith takes encouragement from God’s past dealings, and goes forward in confidence.
Of David also- almost as an afterthought David is mentioned, (and there is no mention of Solomon).  But it is before Samuel, so it is David the fugitive, dependant upon God as he seeks to avoid Saul.  It was on one such occasion that David penned Psalm 34, and the last verse says, “And none of them that trust in Him shall be desolate”, Psalm 34:22.  And when the Lord had “delivered from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul”, Psalm 18 title, then David could write, “My God, my strength, in whom I will trust”, verse 2.  He is resolved not to be self-sufficient even when his enemies are all destroyed.  And these words are quoted of the Lord Jesus in Hebrews 2:13, and show Him as a man of faith too.  By going on in faith the Hebrews would be following not just the footsteps of David, but of the Messiah also.
And Samuel- this man is noted for his life of prayer.  As we see from Jeremiah 15:1 he was remembereded for this in Israel long after he was gone.  He regarded it a sin to not continue praying for the people, even though they rejected God as their king,1 Samuel 12:33.  He is a faint illustration of the one who “ever liveth to make intercession for us”, Hebrews 7:25.  But prayer is a powerful expression of dependence on God, and as such is an act of faith.
And of the prophets- when the Lord asked who men said He was, part of the answer was, “one of the prophets”, Matthew 16:14.  This was not surprising, even though it was inadequate as an answer.  The saints of old time must have possessed eternal life, or else they could not have communed with God and served God.  But the Lord Jesus is eternal life personified, as 1 John 1:1-4 indicates.  It is not unexpected then that some of the features of Christ should be seen in the prophets.  Like Christ, they spoke the word of God to a largely unresponsive audience, yet remained faithful to God through it all.  James exhorts, “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience”, James 5:10.  The prophets were sent by God mostly when the nation was failing, and needed to be brought back to God.  This was why their mission was so difficult.
As we think of the men listed here, we see that we have to sift their lives, and select that part which is an example of faith.  We shall learn in the next chapter, however, that Christ is the author and finisher of faith.  His life was wholly given over in devotion and dependence.  There is nothing at all about Him that is best forgotten. 

(b)    Verse 33-35(i)    Unusual happenings.  Ten exploits of faith.

11:33  Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.

Who through faith subdued kingdoms- we are not told who did what in these verses, as if to say that any one of these exploits is open to faith.  None need opt out.  We think of Barak, Samson, Jephthah and Samuel as examples of the subduing of kingdoms that oppressed Israel in the times of the judges.  The point is they did it through faith, and not through military prowess.  Their trust was in God, not their own ability.  Of course it is not the task of believers in this age to subdue kingdoms, either by recourse to war or politics; our citizenship is in heaven, and we are called to further God’s interests, not that of one particular country of the world.  Much damage has been done to the cause of Christ through the centuries of this present era by those who tried to set up Christian political systems.  The only sacral state established by God was the nation of Israel in Old Testament times.  A sacral state is one where the law of the land is the religion of the land.
Wrought righteousness- both the judges and the prophets sought to bring the people back to the law, in order that righteousness might exalt them as a nation.
Obtained promises- the judges mentioned above all gained undertakings from God of what He would do for them if they trusted Him.
Stopped the mouths of lions- Samson stopped the mouth of the lion by slaying it, Judges 14;6.  Daniel stopped the mouth of lions without touching them, but simply by faith, and God sent His angel to ensure that the lions were rendered harmless, Daniel 6:22. 

11:34  Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.

Quenched the violence of fire- no doubt a reference to Daniel’s three friends, cast into the fiery furnace but preserved to such a degree that there was not even the smell of the fire on them and their clothes were not singed, Daniel 3:27.  Before they were thrown into the furnace, these three worthies asserted, “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thy hand O king.  But if not, be it known unto Thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods”, Daniel 3:17,18.  So whether they avoid the furnace or endure the furnace, these men are resolute in faith.  In fact both happened unto them, for they were put in the furnace, but delivered from it too, in the sense that they escaped unscathed.  Thus their faith was rewarded.  Daniel’s friends picture the nation of Israel in a future day when they pass through the fire of the great tribulation, but the promise of God to them is, “When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.  For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, the Saviour”, Isaiah 43:2,3.
Escaped the edge of the sword- this was David’s experience when he was on the run from Saul.  Even though he was the anointed king, David was hunted as if a transgressor.  In all his troubles God was with him, and finally delivered him from them.
Out of weakness were made strong- Barak was seriously vulnerable in the face of nine hundred chariots of iron massing on the Plain of Jezreel, ideal conditions for a cavalry attack, but faith triumphed, and the enemy was defeated.  Gideon was weak socially and pyschologically, yet through faith he was able not only to cut down his fathers idol-grove, but also defeat the Midianites with a small band of men.  The Hebrews might feel like Gideon, but their faith could triumph for God if they were exercised.  The apostle Paul wrote, “When I am weak, then am I strong”, 2 Corinthians 12:10.  In other words, to feel and acknowledge one’s own weakness is the first step on the road to dependence on the power of God.
Waxed valiant in fight- Barak was encouraged by Deborah, and rose to the occasion, defeating Sisera decisively. The apostle Paul exhorted Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith”, 1 Timothy 6:12.
Turned to flight the armies of the aliens- David, the despised shepherd lad, with just his shepherd’s instruments, a sling, a bag, and small stones, was more than a match for the mighty Goliath.  But his secret was that whereas Goliath cursed David by his gods, David came to him in the Name of the God of Israel.  No wonder the Philistine army turned and fled when they saw what faith in God can do, 1 Samuel 17:51.

11:35  Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:

Women received their dead raised to life again- the widow of Zarephath and the woman of Shunem both had their sons restored to them.  It was indeed an act of faith on the part of Elijah and Elisha respectively that this happened, as they prayed to God that life might return, but it was an act of faith on the part of the women to go to the prophet for this blessing.  They might have been resigned to the death of their child, and accepted the inevitable.  Their faith rose to the occasion, however, and expected great things from God- and received them.

(c)    35(ii)-38    Unjustified horrors.  Ten extremities of faith

Having listed ten exploits of faith where faith seemed to succeed, we now learn of ten extremities that believers endured, when faith seemed not to succeed, and there was no relief.  This will prepare the Hebrews for the horrors of the fall of Jerusalem, so soon to come upon them.  They may take courage from the fact that many of those who believed amongst the nation in former times, although seemingly overwhelmed by their sufferings, nonetheless triumphed through faith in God.  In chapter 12 they will be reminded of the supreme man of faith, who “endured the cross”.  None shall surpass Him in His trials.

And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance- even though they were being beaten to death, these worthies refused to give in and deny the faith.  We are now in the period between Malachi and Matthew, hence no names are given, for they would not mean anything to us.  Even though heaven seemed to be silent during those many years, God was taking note.  As Malachi had said before that period began, He was writing a book of remembrance of their faithfulness to Him, Malachi 3:16, and we are privileged to discover here some of the things recorded in that book.
That they might obtain a better resurrection- they were already sure of being raised at the resurrection of the just rather than the unjust, because they were believers.  There will be rewards for faith after that resurrection, however, and we are told here that they will obtain a better position in the kingdom through their faithfulness even unto death.  Speaking of this event, John tells us, “And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, saying, We give Thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power, and hast reigned.  And the nations were angry, and Thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that Thou shouldest give reward unto Thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear Thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth”, Revelation 11:16-18.  The Lord Jesus spoke of believers who would be recompensed at the resurrection of the just for the good things they had done, Luke 14:14.

11:36  and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment:

11:36  And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings- mocking is mental pain and scourging is the physical equivalent.  When commenting on the fact that Ishmael had mocked Isaac, the apostle Paul defines that mockery as persecution, Genesis 21:9; Galatians 4:29.  The Lord Jesus was scourged, and the ancients called that punishment “the first death”, for often the victims did not survive the experience, and were spared crucifixion.  If we take the word trial in its judicial sense, we see what an unrighteous way justice is being administered here, with the case decided on the basis of torture.  At the so-called trial of the Lord Jesus many of the rules of Jewish justice were broken, so eager were they for Him to be crucified.  The Lord warned His followers to expect this sort of treatment also, “But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues”, Matthew 10:17,18.
Yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment- after a false trial comes false imprisonment in chains.  Jeremiah experienced this in his day, Jeremiah 37:12-16, as his own people turned against him.

11:37  They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;

They were stoned- this is the Jewish method of execution, so it is not the random throwing of stones towards a person in mild anger, but stoning as a means of execution.  They were treated as evil-doers, being given an evildoer’s death.  This is an outrage to justice and to the good consciences of true believers.  Yet by faith they accepted these things, knowing that God was on their side.  The Lord Jesus warned of a time when “whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service”, John 16:2.
They were sawn asunder- it is said that Isaiah suffered this, so there was no respect for saintliness, piety, and old age, (for Isaiah’s ministry as a prophet spanned some sixty years, so he must have been old when he died).  The prophet of salvation was despised at the last.  The Hebrews should remember that their nation had despised the one Isaiah spoke of, and crucified Him.
Were tempted- this would refer to the extreme pressure that some were put under to try to make them give up their faith.  The classic example is recorded by Josephus as he wrote of the death of a Jewish mother and her seven sons, and the way in which she refused to recant so that her sons could be spared.
Were slain with the sword- this is the Gentile method of execution, so it was not just apostate Israelites who persecuted God’s faithful people.  It is also, incidentally, the Moslem mode of execution, and it is worth remembering that there are many Christians being persecuted even today, in the ways that are listed here.  The sword of justice is indeed put into the hand of man, but only so he may punish evildoers, Romans 13:4.  The events described here are an abuse of that power if done by the authorities, and the usurping of that power if done by private persons. A Jewish rabbi said once that killing for religious reasons said more about the person killing than the one killed.
They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins- they had to make do with whatever protection they could find, even if it was only the cast-offs of slaughtered animals.
Being destitute, afflicted, tormented- as a result of the foregoing, their condition is three-fold.  Destitute as to the necessities of life; mentally and emotionally stressed; and tormented with fever and illness as they shivered in the cold.  They were in extreme hardship financially, emotionally, and physically.

11:38  (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

(Of whom the world was not worthy:)  Outraged as he thought of these things, our writer breaks off to pass comment on the world that inflicted such atrocities on God’s faithful people.  But faith looks on to the time when God’s city shall be their home, as it descends from heaven to hover over an earth ruled righteously by Christ.  Then man’s world and man’s day shall have come to an end, and the Day of the Lord will have begun.  The world of that day will be worthy of them, as today it is definitely not.
They wandered in deserts, and in mountains- during the day they endured either the cold of the mountains, or the heat of the deserts, the only places where they could be safe from their enemies.  They wandered, not having any settled place, and not daring to have one, lest they be discovered.
And in dens and caves of the earth- at night they shared the shelter of either man-made dens, or natural caves, with the wild animals.  Their fear of them was less that the fear they had of their pursuers, who were worse than wild animals for cruelty and heartlessness.  They would remember the time when David, the anointed king, had to live in the Cave of Adullam for fear of Saul, 1 Samuel 22:1.


11:39  And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
11:40  God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. 

(d)    Verse 39        Unrealised hope

11:39  And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:

And these all, having obtained a good report through faith- as they came to an end of their lives, God’s report about them was good.  He had taken note of their sufferings, and although in His wisdom He had not intervened to relieve them, nevertheless He will surely recompence these who suffered because of their trust in Him.
Received not the promise- like Abraham and the others of the first part of the chapter, they did not receive the promises in the plural, verse 13.  Here the promise is in the singular, and takes us back to the promise of the coming of the Messiah that began the section on faith, in 10:37.  The word of God is that after they have done the will of God they will receive the promise, 10:36.  The coming of the Messiah is held out to those who suffer as the ultimate answer of God to their afflictions. 

(e)    Verse 40    Unrevealed hope

11:40  God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. 

God having provided some better thing for us- in the context, the better thing must be the coming of Christ for His saints.  These Hebrew believers were to have part in that, for they had exchanged being Jews for being Christians, and as such were in a more privileged position that even those who received a good report through faith in the chapter we have been looking at.
The word “provided” has the idea of seeing beforehand, reminding us that according to Ephesians chapter 3 the mystery of the church and its associated blessings was not known in the Old Testament, but it was known to God in eternity.  Those who triumphed by faith during those times did so without the hope of the church before them.  The coming of Christ for the church is a much better prospect, for it will usher into the heavenly inheritance, which is far superior to anything that was promised to Israel.  The apostle Peter speaks of “exceeding great and precious promises”, 2 Peter 1:4.  The promises to Israel are great promises, but the promises to the church are exceeding great.
That they without us should not be made perfect- in the next chapter millenial conditions are described, and one of the features mentioned there is that the spirits of just men will have been made perfect.  In other words, the just men of Old Testament times, who had lived by faith but had not seen their hopes realised, will be brought into the things they hoped for, and thus they will be in a state of completeness, having reached the goal they looked for.
Here we are told that that will not happen without believers of this age being made perfect.  This will take place when the Lord comes for the church, and all our hopes will be realised.  So it is that we shall come with Christ when He comes to reign, and just men, by then with resurrection bodies, will be perfected also.  But the point is they cannot enter into that perfection unless we have already done so.
So it is that the section ends where it began, for in Hebrews 10:37 the coming of Christ is in view, and the believer lives by faith as he awaits that coming.  When He does come, the believers will “receive the promise”, and enter into their “great recompence of reward”, verse 35.  Having been changed and perfected, church saints will come with Christ when He comes in glory to the earth, and all believers of other ages will be brought into the longed-promise blessing of God through the Messiah.

God and the ages of time. Part 2: The present age.

It is vitally important to have an understanding of the nature of this present age, because that will deliver us from the errors that are taught in some circles. For example, there are those who teach that the present age is simply a continuation of the dealings of God as they were in Old Testament times. That this is not so will be apparent as we study Ephesians chapter 3. The church is a distinct entity, unknown in Old Testament times, and is not to be confused with Israel. Whilst it is true that the nation of Israel has been cast away for a time, it has not been cast away finally, for God intends to recover the nation, so that Christ may rule over it as their Messiah.

A proper understanding of this chapter will deliver us from the notion that God will have dealings with the nation of Israel at the same time as He is calling out the church. The logical outcome of understanding Ephesians 3 is that we realise the Lord Jesus must come for His people at the rapture, (as described in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58), before the last seven years of Daniel’s 70 weeks begin to run their course. This means that such chapters as Matthew 24 and 25 make no reference to the church, and we should avoid quoting them as if they did.


In this section the apostle sets out the details relative to the mystery that he was responsible for explaining to the believers. This mystery, or hitherto unknown truth, had to do with the relationship between believers who had been Jews, and believers who had been Gentiles.

It was revealed to Daniel in Daniel 9:24-27, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem unto the reign of the Messiah would be a period of 490 years. This period was divided into three very unequal blocks of time. The first block was of 49 years, and extended down to the prophecy of Malachi, with which the Old Testament closes. The second block, consisting of 434 years, extended until the cutting off of Messiah at Calvary. At this point there remained one 7 year period still to elapse. Unknown to Daniel, it was God’s plan to have another period of time between the death of the Messiah and the final seven years. This is the present age. In Ephesians chapter 3 and Colossians 1:23-29, the apostle explains the mystery about this church age of grace in more detail.

The main subjects covered are as follows:

The steward of the mystery:

Verse 1        Paul’s sufferings.

Verses 7,8 Paul’s humility

Verse 13     Paul’s endurance.

The hiding of the mystery:

Verse 5 It was not known in other ages.

Verse 5 It was not passed on down the generations.

Verse 9 It was hid in God.

Verse 8 Its riches are unsearchable, even by saints of Old Testament.

The revelation of the mystery:

Verse 2 Paul given grace to reveal it.

Verse 3 Revealed to Paul at first.

Verse 4 Written down so that we may understand.

Verse 5 Revealed to other apostles and prophets as well.

The substance of the mystery:

Verse 6

Gentile believers are fellow-heirs with Jewish believers.

Gentile believers are fellow-members of the body of Christ.

Gentile believers are fellow-partakers of God’s promise by the gospel.

The result of the mystery:

Verse 4 Believers are able to understand.

Verse 8 Believers are able to appreciate the rich truth as before they could not.

Verse 10 Angels are able to see the wisdom of God through the church.

Verse 11 God’s eternal purpose is put into effect.

Verse 11 The Lordship of Christ is made known.

Verse 12 Believers may confidently approach God, conscious of their position.

Verse 13 Believers are saved from despair by the glorious truth of the mystery.


Verses 1-4 The mystery unveiled to Paul.
Verse 5 The mystery unknown by Old Testament saints.
Verse 6 The mystery unfolded to New Testament saints.
Verses 7-10  The mystery understood by the saints.
Verses 10,11  The mystery understood by the angels.
Verses 12,13  The mystery underpinning boldness and confidence.


3:1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,

By “for this cause” the apostle means “for the sake of this”, and not simply “because”. The cause Paul was promoting was that of the truth of the church, as spoken of in 2:11-22. In Acts 21:28,29 Paul was accused of taking Trophemus, an Ephesian, past the middle wall of partition in the Temple at Jerusalem, and we read that “forthwith the doors were shut”, verse 30. From this point on in the book of the Acts, the apostle is a prisoner. The charge the Jews brought against him was provoked by his statement that the Lord had sent him to the Gentiles, Acts 22:21. Soon after this comes the first mention of the phrase “Paul the prisoner”, Acts 23:18. Rome may have bound Paul with a chain, but really he is a prisoner belonging to Christ Jesus, the man who is risen from the dead and ascended in glory to heaven. Because Christ is risen, the ultimate prison house, the grave, has been destroyed. All lesser imprisonments now become bearable. Paul was prepared to suffer for the sake of the truth; how much are we prepared to suffer for it? Or are we going to compromise in the face of opposition?

3:2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:

The sufferings Paul endured as he travelled amongst the Gentiles were only worthwhile, from a human standpoint, if the believers heard with interest the things he had to say and write to them.

A dispensation is the handling of household affairs as a trusted steward. The word as used here does not denote a period of time, but rather, the administration of divine things during a particular period of time. So as the dispenser or administer of the benefits God had for His people in terms of instruction in His ways, Paul so served that what God had for them was duly passed on to them. So the grace or favour of God in this instance consisted of doctrine, and Paul was the one chosen to pass on that doctrine. God’s grace also enabled Paul to teach the truths of this passage- they could only be known as God in grace revealed them to him, and were not the result of the research he had done.

3:3,4 How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)

In chapter 2 the apostle had likened the church to a temple, which was a habitation of God through the Spirit, 2:21,22. Now in those times there was, in connection with the heathen temples, (and Ephesus was famed for its temple to Diana), a body of doctrine that was known as the mysteries of the god. Revelation 2:24 calls these the deep things of Satan, things that were revealed, not to the common worshippers, but only to a favoured few. The mysteries were mysterious only to those not initiated into them. But to those who were thus initiated, they were fully revealed. These doctrines were imparted by a specially selected interpreter of the gods, called a hierophant. When they had been instructed into the secrets of their god, the initiates would be allowed in to his immediate presence as those who were “perfected”.

Now the Spirit of God lifts these concepts from their pagan setting, and sanctifies them to their proper use. Paul was the interpreter, and the saints, once instructed, would have perfect knowledge in those things imparted to the apostle.

Note that he received these things by revelation, for he could not study the Old Testament scriptures and discover them, for they were not found there. As far as saints of old time were concerned, these truths were hidden; now that the apostle has exercised his stewardship, they are made known to church saints.

Ananias told Paul that “The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know His will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of His mouth. For thou shalt be a witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard”, Acts 22:14,15.

The few words he speaks of would include the following:

1. The words of chapter 2, where he shows that the cross of Christ is the basis whereby Jew and Gentile may be brought together into unity. This gives details about being “fellow-heirs”.

2. The words of Galatians 3 where Gentiles are brought into blessing as heirs. This gives details about being “partakers of His promise through the gospel”.

3. The words of 1 Corinthians 12 where Gentiles are shown to be part of the body of Christ, the church. See on verse 6. He is enabled to give a coherent explanation for the fact that Jew and Gentile are united in one body. This gives details about being “fellow-members of the same body”.


3:5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;

The word for ages originally meant a begetting, being derived from the word to become. The meaning was transferred from the people to the time in which they lived, inasmuch as a period of time is often described in terms of what happened to the people during it. Paul is emphasising the heavenly origin of these mysteries, and that they are unique to this particular age.

The phrase “sons of men” reminds us that the truths in question were not handed down from father to son in Old Testament times.

The apostle makes it clear in Galatians 1:15-24 that he had visited Jerusalem on two occasions, and had deliberately avoided contact with most of the apostles. Fourteen years later, however, he went up “by revelation”. Now this may simply mean that he went to Jerusalem because Christ revealed to him that this was His will. Or it could mean that he went up according to, or in connection with, the revelation that he had been given about the mystery, which it was now the time to pass on to his fellow apostles. This he did when he “communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles”, Galatians 2:1,2. If this is correct, then it shows how the holy apostles and prophets had the truth of the mystery revealed to them.

It also shows that Paul’s conception of the gospel was of far greater scope that we may sometimes think, for it included insight into God’s ways with men. This also disposes of the notion that the apostle Peter did not understand the church. When he writes that Paul taught things “hard to be understood”, 2 Peter 3:16. it does not necessarily mean he found them hard to understand. It was “the unlearned and unstable” who did this.

The order, “apostles and prophets” is significant, for it prevents us thinking that the prophets were those of Old Testament times. These prophets were those that the church was built upon, as to its doctrine, 2:20. They were holy men, set apart to God’s interests, and not in the least inferior to the Old Testament “holy men of God” that Peter speaks about, 2 Peter 1:21. Now that these hitherto unknown truths have been revealed, and also written down, we have no need for apostles and prophets.

Note the following:

  • The faith, or body of truth, has been once for all delivered to the saints, Jude 3 margin, so that they may earnestly contend for it.
  • The Lord Jesus promised the apostles in the upper room that the Holy Spirit would lead them into all truth, John 16:13, and this promise has been fulfilled.
  • The apostle Paul was the one who “fulfilled the word of God”, Colossians 1:25. That is, the doctrines he instructed the saints in was the climax, the fully filling up, of the body of truth we need to know whilst we are down here. “That which is perfect” has come, 1 Corinthians 13:10.
  • When believfers in Christ get to heaven, fresh truths will be revealed, for we shall then fully know as we are fully known by God now, 1 Corinthians 13:12; but we do not need that knowledge yet, even if we could understand it.
  • We should not expect fresh revelations of doctrine today. Those who declare they have a fresh word from the Lord, however acquired, should be asked what it is. If it turns out to be in the Scriptures anyway, their claim is pointless. If it is something outside of Scripture, then they fall foul of the curse pronounced on those who add to the word of God, Revelation 22:18.


3:6 That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel:

We come now to the substance of the mystery. At first sight it might seem to be insignificant, until we realise how far-reaching and different these truths are. It is contained in three phrases: “fellow-heirs”; “of the same body”; and “partakers of His promise”. Each of the three expressions has the idea of togetherness about it. So in effect the Gentiles are said to be fellow-heirs, fellow-members of the same body, and fellow-partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel.


The apostle Paul had begun the epistle by describing the wealth God has given us in Christ. Using words and phrases such as “sonship”, (adoption of children), “redemption”, “obtained an inheritance”, “earnest of our inheritance”, “redemption of the purchased possession”, he is clearly contrasting the believer’s spiritual inheritance in heavenly places with Israel’s earthly inheritance in Canaan. Whereas their blessings depended on obedience to the law, as Moses made clear to them in Deuteronomy 28, ours are secured in Christ, by grace, verse 3. The nation of Israel was chosen because of the fathers, Deuteronomy 7:8, whereas believers of this age are chosen “in Him”, verse 4. Israel were accepted if they kept the law, whereas believers are accepted “in the Beloved”, verse 6. Israel were redeemed nationally by the Passover lamb, whereas we have redemption “through His blood”, verse 7. Israel’s continuance in the inheritance depended on their obedience to God, and their success in driving out the enemy, whereas we are sure of the inheritance, for the Spirit within is earnest or pledge of it.

So those who formerly were Gentiles, now they have believed, come into the inheritance because they are heirs of God just as much as believers who formerly were Jews. Their relationship with these Jewish believers is not a one-sided one. The believing Gentiles have equal share with the one-time Jews, since they are all joint heirs with Christ, Romans 8:17, and He does not discriminate between them.


The apostle Paul is the only one to use the figure of a human body and its head to illustrate the relation between Christ and the church. Now that He is risen from the dead and ascended, Christ has become head of the body, the church, Colossians 1:18. Every true believer of this present age is linked to the Head in heaven, for “he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit”, 1 Corinthians 6:17, and “He that established us with you in Christ, (or, as it may be rendered, ‘firmly joined us to Christ’), and hath anointed us, is God”, 2 Corinthians 1:21.


In 2:12 we learn that the Gentiles had no claim on the covenants that God made with Israel. These covenants were:

1. The Abrahamic covenant, Genesis 12:1-3), which promised them the land of Canaan.

2. The Mosaic covenant, Deuteronomy 6:3, which promised blessings if they obeyed His law.

3. The Palestinian covenant, Deuteronomy 29 and 30, with its promise of restoration to the land if they rebelled but then repented.

4. The Davidic covenant, 2 Samuel 7:12-17, which promised a king to reign over them.

And all this lack of blessing was because they were “without Christ”, that is, apart from, or cut off from any relationship with Israel’s Messiah. It is through the Christian gospel that they have arrived at their present happy position of having a share in the spiritual and heavenly blessings Christ secures and guarantees. They do not come into blessing by being a convert to Judaism, but by conversion to Christ.


3:7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of His power.

It was the apostle Paul who was entrusted with the ministry of unfolding these truths to the other apostles, (when he went up to Jerusalem, if the view expressed in the notes on verse 5 about Galatians 2:1,2 is correct), and to the saints. He could not do so in his own strength, or by his own ability; he could not, for instance, rely on his expertise as a trained rabbi, for these truths were unknown to the rabbis. To discharge his stewardship in a spiritual manner he needed, not the skill of men, but the help of God in the form of grace. The effectual working of Divine power is needed, because Satan is opposed to the progress of Divine truth. The power of God which He put forth to raise Christ from the dead, Ephesians 1:19,20, is put forth again, to thwart the Devil’s hindering tactics.

3:8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;

The apostle is almost overwhelmed by the responsibility laid upon him. When it was a question of him being a sinner, he said he was chief, 1 Timothy 1:15, but now that he has been made an apostle by the glorified Christ, he is deeply humbled. So much so that he invents a word to describe his status- “leaster”. No doubt the thing which humbled him in this context is the exceptional character of the truth he was commissioned to make known. The rich truth about Christ, and in particular, His relationship with His people at the present time.

This truth was unsearchable, a word which literally means untraceable, untrackable. Paul was enabled to announce truths that it is impossible to either discover or understand with the unaided human mind, and which, moreover, were untraceable by Old Testament saints. Only the believer of this age, energised by the Spirit of God, can enter into the deep things of God, see 1 Corinthians 2:9-16.

3:9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:

Not only do we need to have the truth revealed to us, we need to be enlightened as to how to handle the truth once we have got it. For it is to be worked out in fellowship with other believers, as is seen in the three-fold use of the word “fellow” in verse 6.

The mystery has been hid in God. It was not hidden in God’s word, but in His heart, ready to be disclosed at the moment of His choosing. That moment was when His Son had returned to heaven, His work on earth completely finished. Confusion will result if we try to read the church into the Old Testament. We must not confuse the church with Israel. It is interesting to notice that it is Matthew’s gospel, the gospel of the King, which alone records the prophecy of Christ about the church. Interesting also, that after this has been done in chapter 16, the next chapter records the transfiguration of Christ, which confirmed to Peter that the Old Testament prophecies about the kingdom were still valid, 2 Peter 1:16-19. The kingdom is not cancelled, nor has the church replaced it.

Through Jesus Christ all things had been created, including the ages of time, (for time is part of God’s creation). As the Architect of the Ages, He chooses to tell His secret to His people at this time.


3:10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

The angels had desired to look into the things that the prophets wrote concerning the sufferings and glory of the Messiah, 1 Peter 1:10-12. Now they are able to plainly see the results of His sufferings. The wisdom of God is His complete insight into the true nature of things. In the present context, it has to do with His ways in this age.

The angels had witnessed the way that Eve had by-passed the authority of Adam, and accepted the authority of Satan. The church is that company which accepts the authority of Christ, and expresses it in obedience to His will. The angels take great interest in those who, despite the fact that Christ left the earth 2000 years ago, having been given insight by God into the true nature of things through Christ who is the wisdom of God, express that wisdom in obedience and love. For instance, the covered head and long hair of the sisters is an object lesson to the angels, for they thereby see Christian women acting contrary to the first woman, who failed to submit to Divine order with disastrous results. We should never underestimate the value of this testimony by the sisters, for they maintain this testimony “because of the angels”, 1 Corinthians 11:10.

3:11 According to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:

Not only is the mystery hid in God, and hid from ages and generations, but it has been His purpose eternally to bless Gentiles this way. It is not an emergency plan devised after Israel refused its Messiah and crucified Him. Rather, that rejection of Christ as their Messiah was foreknown, and part of the plan. They still bear the full burden of guilt for slaying Him, but He was “delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” in the ultimate sense.


3:12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Him.

Those who were initiated into the mysteries were allowed to approach into the immediate presence of the heathen idol, behind which lurked an evil spirit. The believer’s privilege is far purer and greater, even that of approaching the true God with boldness, and with confidence. Boldness is literally the “absence of fear in speaking”, and would refer to the fact that, instructed in apostolic doctrine, the believer is able to speak to God with intelligence. He also has confidence too, for the truth unfolded by the apostles serve to strengthen the believer’s faith, and assure him of the dignity of the privilege that is his. Heathen idol-worshippers were driven by fear and ignorance- how different is the attitude of the believer!

3:13 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.

Having set forth the truth about the mystery in the previous verses, the apostle is now in a position to appeal to them to be encouraged in the Christian pathway. They should not allow the fact that the apostle went through tribulations and distress as he went about ministering, to make them think that what he taught was not of God. Far from being a sign of God’s disapproval, the trials of the apostle were occasioned in the main by Jewish opponents, who were angry at his emphasis on Gentiles coming into blessing. This blessing was a glorious thing, for it linked them to Christ in glory. Far from being downcast, therefore, because of the apostle’s sufferings, they should see in them a sign present and coming glories were assured.

In the parallel passage to this, Colossians 1:23-29, the apostle rejoices in his sufferings for them. He knew from the outset that he would have to suffer for the sake of Christ, being told it a few days after his conversion, Acts 9:16. He knew also that the full complement of those sufferings had not been reached, for there was “that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ”. This does not mean, of course that there was shortfall in the sufferings of Christ. The shortfall was with Paul. He rejoiced also in the riches of the glory of the mystery, verse 27. And so should we rejoice, as we contemplate the glorious things God has done, and will yet do.

Part 1: Survey of Old Testament history



In this study we shall survey the history of the Old Testament by noting those crisis-events which affected the whole world, for good or for evil. James said “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world”, Acts 15:18, and Paul said that “God…hath determined the times before appointed”, Acts 17:26. So whether it be what God does, or when He does it, all is under His sovereign control.

Note on the dating of events in the Bible.

The Old Testament gives to us sufficient information to enable us to construct a continuous chronology of the period from the creation in about 4042 BC, to the death of the Lord Jesus. Some believers feel that there may be gaps in the genealogies, giving an earlier date for creation than this, but this is not the case, for the following reasons:

1. The fact that ages are given at all in the genealogies shows that the link between the fathers and sons is important chronologically.

2. The age of the father at the birth of the son is mentioned, even though in some cases that son was not the first child, which again shows that accurate chronology is important to the writer.

3. The three-fold way in which the ages are given in Genesis 5 shows that the relationship of the generations to one another is important. It also assures us that the ages given are correct, despite their size.

4. We know some at least are father/son relationships, but the formula used is the same as for the others where it is not expressly said. The Hebrew word “ab” was available to denote father/ancestor relationship, as in Genesis 4:20,21;17:5. The regular word “yalad” is always used in 450 references, except Genesis 46:18,22; Deuteronomy 4:25;23:8, but in these instances grandchildren are included.

5. It is true that there are generations omitted in Matthew 1, but they are detailed in the Old Testament, or else we would not know they are missing. Matthew’s object was to prove that Christ’s claim to the throne of David is legal; he is not concerned with chronology at that point.

6. If there are generations missing in the line of the Messiah, how do we know the missing persons are of the tribe of Judah, and of the House of David? If they are not, Christ’s claim is void.

7. Jude says that Enoch was the seventh from Adam, so clearly he did not believe there were gaps between generations 1-6, which is where they are most likely to be.

Taking all these reasons together, we may have confidence that the Old Testament history is a connected one, and that the events detailed there are historical, not mythical, for those who write myths are not interested in accurate dates and factual information.

We turn now to a consideration of the events in the Old Testament which have world-wide and age-lasting significance.

THE CALAMITY OF THE FALL Genesis 3; Romans 5:12-21

In Romans chapter 5 the apostle explains that the one act of disobedience of one man, Adam, when he sinned, has meant certain results passing to all men. He contrasts this with the one act of righteousness, (this is the meaning of “righteousness” in Romans 5:18) of another man, the Lord Jesus when He died on the Cross, by which all may be brought into blessing. The one act of Adam as he rebelled against God and fell into sin, has meant the following things have happened:

1. The sin-principle is now within all men as descendants of Adam, Romans 5:12, and this means that physical death follows, for “the wages of sin is death”, Romans 6:23.

2. Another result of having the sin-principle within is that men are all sinners by nature and practice, for “all have sinned”, Romans 5:12. For the believer sin and death are both dealt with by the death of Christ, see Romans 6:1-11.

3. The place of dominion enjoyed by Adam is now forfeited, with the result that Hebrews 2:8 says “but now we see not yet all things put under him”. God’s answer to this is Jesus, the man who can exercise dominion over the earth in a coming day, without failure.

4. The whole of creation “groans and travails together in pain until now”, having been “made subject to vanity”, and experiencing the “bondage of corruption”, Romans 8:20-22, Genesis 3:17,18. God’s answer is to manifest the sons of God at the coming of Christ to reign, the proof of His ability to deliver from bondage.

THE CATASTROPHE OF THE FLOOD. Genesis 6,7,8; 2 Peter 3:1-7; Matthew 24:37-39.

It is clear from what is stated in the above passages, that the flood of Noah’s day was a world-wide event. The words of the Lord Jesus should be sufficient- “the flood came and took them all away”.

Things we learn about God from the flood:

1. That God is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Peter 3:20.

2. That the wrath of God is a reality, Romans 1:18, 2 Peter 2:5,9.

3. That in the midst of wrath God remembers mercy, Habakkuk 3:2, as is shown by the provision of the ark. Those who died unrepentant however, refused that mercy.

4.  That just as by the word of God waters above and below the surface of the earth were reserved to be used in the judgement of the flood, so the earth is now kept in store by the same word, reserved unto the future day of judgement by fire, 2 Peter 3:5-7.

Things we learn about man from the flood:

1. He is ungodly, Jude 14,15; Genesis 6:5.

2. He is unbelieving, doubting the truth of God’s warnings, 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:3,4.

3. He is unresponsive, 2 Peter 3:5, (willingly ignorant),Matthew 24:39, (knew not even though Noah had preached to them for many years, Enoch had prophesied, the ark had been under construction, and Methuselah, whose name means “when he is dead it (the flood) shall be sent”, was growing very old).

4. He is unconcerned, Matthew 24:37,38.

5. He is unchanged, for as it was in the days of Noah so shall it be again. Matthew 24:37.


No date is given in Scripture for this event, but if the statement in Genesis 10:25 concerning Peleg, that “in his days was the earth divided”, refers to the division resulting from the confusion of languages, then the event may have been in the year of Peleg’s birth, which was 2247BC. If this is so, then Methuselah’s name told of the crisis at his death, the flood, whilst Peleg’s told of the crisis at his birth, Babel. The alternative view is that the division of the earth was when the earth gradually sank in the years following the flood, so that the land bridges that allowed animals to spread throughout the earth from Ararat now sank beneath the sea, isolating some distinct classes of animals, like kangaroos. This event would serve to reinforce the scattering at Babel, for the nations would be fixed in their location, only migrating with difficulty.

Cain had built a city in chapter 4:17, but now a city, the political structure, is accompanied by a tower, a religious building, “whose top to the heavens”; in other words, dedicated to the worship of the sun, moon and stars. In order that this wicked denial of the glory and supremacy of God be judged, and also that its reappearance be hampered, God confused the language all men spoke up to that time. By this means He scattered men over the face of the earth, for they were forced to associate only with those who now spoke their new language. This drastic judgement, which has consequences for us even today, shows God’s abhorrence of idolatry. At the end of the age, men will again make Babylon the centre of their rebellion against God; as Revelation chapters 17 and 18 make clear.

THE CALL OF ABRAHAM. Genesis 12:1-5; Joshua 24:2,3; Acts 7:2-5. 1921BC.

In Genesis chapter 11 men united at Babel against God. In Genesis chapter 12 God called Abraham to separate from Ur of the Chaldees, (the city of the moon god about 200 miles from Babylon), and also from his idol-worshipping kindred, Joshua 24:2, and promised him a land for an inheritance, where the worship of the true God could be maintained. God said to Abraham “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed”, Genesis 12:3.

These are some of the blessings resulting from the call of Abraham:

1. The knowledge and worship of God preserved in the earth, through the Tabernacle ritual; the Law of Moses; the testimony of the prophets, Romans 9:4; Luke 16:29.

2. The important principle was made known that it is by faith in God that righteousness is imputed, Romans 4:3,9-13.

3. The writing and very careful preservation of the Scriptures ensured that the knowledge of God could be accessible to all, Romans 3:2; Acts 8:28.

4. The birth of Christ of the seed of Abraham, with all its attendant spiritual blessings to those who believe, Romans 9:5; Matthew 1:1,21.

The Lord Jesus summed up these blessings in the words, “we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews”, John 4:22. Both the true worship of God, and salvation from the idolatry all around, were known by the Jews in God’s goodness.

COVENANT WITH ISRAEL. Date 1491 BC. (430 years after Genesis 12:1-3,7, see Galatians 3:17,18).

The descendants of Abraham having gone to live in Egypt, and after a while having suffered persecution, God delivered them from that land and brought them out under the leadership of Moses, to begin their journey to the land of Canaan, which He had promised to give them, Genesis 12:1;13:12-17 They soon arrived at Mount Sinai, from which mount God gave to Israel His law, and entered into a covenant with them as a nation. A covenant is an arrangement between two persons or groups. The covenant God made with Israel at Sinai was conditional; that is, the benefits of being in covenant relationship with God depended upon them keeping His law. This is why the New Testament is so insistent that believers are not under law, for if they were, their blessings would not be secure, being dependant on their own efforts. Christians are under grace, and their blessings are certain, because they depend on Christ and not on themselves. See Romans 6: 14,15; Galatians 3:1-14; 5:1-5; Ephesians 1:3.

The New Testament says the following things about the Law given at Sinai:

1. It is holy, Romans 7:12, and spiritual, Romans 7:14.

2. It is weak through the flesh, Romans 8:3.

3. It works wrath, Romans 4:15.

4. It entered so that the offence might abound, Romans 5:20.

5. It cannot justify the sinner, Galatians 2:16.

6. It is the ministration of death, 2 Corinthians 3:7.

7. It is ended as a way of becoming righteous, by the death of Christ, Romans 10:4.

CHOICE OF DAVID. Date 1063 BC, approx.

Having given Israel His law, and led them through the wilderness, as recorded in EXODUS, LEVITICUS, NUMBERS AND DEUTERONOMY, under Joshua the land was entered and divided out, as recorded in the book of JOSHUA. After his death, a period of decline followed, as recorded in the books of JUDGES AND RUTH. Then God raised up Samuel, and in his days as judge, Israel wanted a king, and God allowed them to choose Saul, who was of the tribe of Benjamin. This is recorded in the 1ST BOOK OF SAMUEL. After 40 years of his rule God rejected him from being king, and chose David, of the royal tribe of Judah. Jacob prophesied in Genesis 49:10 that the sceptre would not depart from Judah, which was another way of saying that the right to rule was to be Judah’s. The apostle Paul referred to these events in his address in the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia, Acts 13:14-43. He compresses four statements about David into one verse. As he does so, he shows his mastery of Old Testament history, (as Stephen had done in Paul’s hearing in Acts 7), in order to gain the ear of his highly-critical Jewish audience. In fact Paul picks up where Stephen was forced to break off because his audience were becoming agitated. It is vitally important for preachers to have credibility with their audience, not to draw attention to themselves, but that the truth they announce may be promoted in a God-honouring way.

The four different ways the apostle handled the Old Testament record in Acts 13:22:

“I have found David”, a direct QUOTATION from Psalm 89:20. David’s name.

“David the son of Jesse”, a DEDUCTION from 1 Samuel 16. Davids father, and hence his tribe.

“A man after mine own heart”, an ADAPTATION of Samuel’s words in 1 Samuel 13:14, rephrasing them into the form in which they were originally spoken to Samuel by God. (Remember Paul is speaking as an inspired prophet of God). David’s character.

“Which shall fulfil all my will”, an IMPLICATION from the negative things that are said about Saul in 1 Samuel 13:13,14. Davids work.

Having skilfully built up a description of David, Israel’s first proper king, Paul is now able to announce that it is of this man’s seed that God has raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus. Acts 13:23. Thus it is that the Lord Jesus is described as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, Revelation 5:5. As the Lion He is the man of war, like David, defeating His enemies when He comes again, Revelation 19:11. As Shiloh, Genesis 49:10, He is the peace-bringer, as Solomon was, and shall reign as Prince of Peace, Isaiah 9:6,7.

CARRYING AWAY OF ISRAEL AND JUDAH. 2 Kings 17; 2 Kings 24,25, 721 BC and 606 BC.

Following Saul’s death, David reigned over Israel as recorded in the 2ND BOOK OF SAMUEL, and also in the 1ST BOOK OF CHRONICLES. Then followed the reign of Solomon. At his death the kingdom was divided into two, with the descendants of David reigning over the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, known as “Judah”, and various kings reigning over the 10 tribes, known as “Israel”, or “Ephraim”. The reigns of Solomon and the kings of Judah are recorded in 2ND CHRONICLES, and the reigns of all the kings from Solomon onwards, both of Judah and Israel, are recorded in 1 AND 2 KINGS.

Prophets sent to the ten tribes were JONAH, HOSEA, and AMOS. Those sent to Judah were ISAIAH, MICAH, NAHUM, JOEL, JEREMIAH, HABAKKUK, ZEPHANIAH, and OBADIAH. EZEKIEL and DANIEL prophesied after the carrying away, and HAGGAI, ZECHARIAH and MALACHI, after the return from Babylon.

Israel, the 10 tribed nation, was the first to go into captivity to Assyria, whilst Judah was taken into captivity to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. It is this latter event which is of such importance, for two things happened:

1. The people of Israel no longer had a king over them of the tribe of Judah, see Hosea 3:4,5.

2. Dominion was transferred into the hands of Gentiles, beginning with Nebuchadnezzar, and ending with the Antichrist. This is known as “the times of the Gentiles”, see Luke 21:24.

This period of Gentile rule was symbolised by the various materials of which the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was made, Daniel 2. He was the head of gold, and he was to be followed by the Medes and Persians, then came the Grecian empire, then Rome. The final form of Gentile rule is a future world- empire of ten kingdoms, with the Beast, or Antichrist at its head. He will accept from Satan what the Lord Jesus refused, namely world dominion, Mathew 4:8-10.

Nebuchadnezzar saw a stone cut out of the mountain without hands, and it fell on the feet of the image of Gentile dominion, and crushed it to powder. Then the stone became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. All this signifies the destruction of Gentile rule by Christ when He comes to earth again, and then He will set up His kingdom which shall last for 1000 years in its mediatorial form, and then He shall give it up to God, 1 Corinthians 15:24-28, having shown that it is possible for a man to rule effectively for God. Then God shall be all in all, and the perfect, eternal age will have dawned.

And there were great voices in heaven, saying,

“The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord,

and of His Christ;

and He shall reign for ever and ever”.

Revelation 11:15.


This chapter is a continuation of the section begun in 5:11, where the writer breaks off from his consideration of the subject of the Melchizedec priesthood of Christ. The section continues until the end of this chapter. This is the third parenthetical and warning passage in the epistle.

In chapter 2:1-4 there was a warning to those amongst the Hebrews who were neglecting to take advantage of the gospel that Christ and the apostles had preached.

In chapter 3:6 to 4:13, there was a warning to those who had professed to believe the gospel, but showed every sign of being like their ancestors who, although having come out of Egypt to travel to the promised land of Canaan, when the good news of the blessings of that land were announced to them, refused to go in. Some of the nation did, however, showing themselves to be true believers.

In this passage we have a similar division. Those of 5:11-14 and 6:9-20 who, although slow to learn, nonetheless truly believed, (see 6:9), and those who were not yet in the good of Christian things.


6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,

6:2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

6:3 And this will we do, if God permit.

6:4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,

6:5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,

6:6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

6:7 For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:

6:8 But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.


6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,

Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ- in 5:12 we find reference to “the first principles of oracles of God”, an expression alluding to the basic doctrines of the Old Testament, which are listed in 6:1-2. The believing Hebrews were urged to progress further than that. Now we have a reference to the principles of the doctrine of Christ, as He built upon Old Testament truth, and, in His words, fulfilled it, Matthew 5:17. He had not come to destroy the law and the prophets, but to bring out their full meaning, and as He did so, display a full expression of their teachings in His life. He magnified the law and made it honourable. He gave spiritual insights into the Old Testament as it foreshadowed and prepared the way for Him.

Let us go on unto perfection- a reference to the full truth as set out in New Testament. The Lord Jesus indicated that there were certain truths the disciples could not take in at that point, but after the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost He would guide them into all truth, John 16:12,13. There were things that John the Baptist could not tell those who listened to him, and they were reserved to a time after Pentecost. Notice the change of pronoun in John 3:11,12, where, speaking to Nicodemus, (who no doubt had listened to both John the Baptist and Christ preaching), the Lord Jesus referred to the announcement of earthly things which both He and John had made, “We speak that we do know”, and the heavenly things that He alone could tell, “I tell you heavenly things”.

Not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works- we now have a list of things which were basic truths as set out in the Old Testament oracles. Whilst these doctrines are good, there are more advanced things, which Christianity brings in. So, for instance, repentance in the Old Testament was a purely negative thing, as men turned from their works, which were sinful, and therefore were deserving of death. Repentance in the New Testament, however, is not only a turning from past sins, but it is also repentance which is prompted by the fact that God has appointed one to judge the world, having marked Him out by raising Him from the dead, Acts 17:30,31.

And of faith toward God- before Christ came, faith was in God, whereas now the words of the Lord Jesus to His disciples are applicable, “ye believe in God, believe also in Me”, John 14:1. Now that Christ has come, the truth of the fact that God is the Triune God is prominent, and Christ is to be believed as one who is equal with God.

6:2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.

6:2 Of the doctrine of baptisms- under the tabernacle system, there were many ritual washings. Every sacrifice had to be washed before it was placed on the altar; the priests were not only washed all over when they were initially brought into the priesthood, but had to wash hands and feet before entering the tabernacle; brass pots that had been used to hold sin-offerings had to be cleansed with water; lepers had to be washed more than once; there were several washings during the Red heifer ceremony of Numbers 19. Thus many outward washings were required, but Christianity introduces the “washing of regeneration”, Titus 3:5, which deals with matters within. The Pharisees criticised the disciples for not engaging in ritual washings, and were rebuked by the Lord, Matthew 15:1-11. It is inward defilement that matters most.

And of laying on of hands- When the priests were consecrated, Moses laid hands on them; the priest laid hands on lepers at their restoration into the life of Israel; every worshipper had to lay his hands upon his offering to identify it as his own, so that the benefits of bringing it might be his. This physical act has now been transformed into an act of faith.

And of resurrection of the dead- the doctrine that the dead would be raised is found in the Old Testament. See Genesis 22:5 (with Hebrews 11:17-19); Exodus 3:6, (connect with Mark 12:26,27); Daniel 12:2; Hosea 13:14; John 11:24, (Martha’s statement of belief in the light of the Old Testament); Acts 26:6-8, (Israel’s Old Testament belief).

The expression is, literally, “resurrection of dead persons”. Through the ministry of the Lord Jesus there is introduced a further concept, that of “the resurrection out from among the dead”, as Mark 9:9,10 reads literally. In that passage the disciples were perplexed as to what was meant. The idea that before Christ reigns some of the dead will be raised was clear to them from Daniel 12:2,3. But that passage spoke of the righteous dead, and those who were left in the graves would be raised at the Great White Throne judgement. What perplexed them was that just one person, the Son of Man, would be raised, without anyone else being involved.

And of eternal judgement- that men who died in sin would be judged was clear from the Old Testament. See Genesis 18:25; Psalm 9:17, 50:6, 75:7, 94:2, Proverbs 15:24, 27:20; Isaiah 33:14; Daniel 12:2; Hebrews 12:23; Jude 7. But it was left to the Lord Jesus to speak of God as the one “who shall destroy both body and soul in hell, (Gehenna, the Lake of Fire), Matthew 10:28; of “outer darkness” and “weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth”, Matthew 25:30; of “everlasting fire”, Matthew 25:41; of the unrighteous departing into “everlasting punishment”, Matthew 25:46; of a place “where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched”, Mark 9:45.

6:3 And this will we do, if God permit.

And this will we do, if God permit- the nation was on probation, and in danger of rejection, so they had no reason to presume upon God’s goodness and mercy. The fig tree, (a figure of Israel after the flesh), had been given a time of opportunity, but it was in danger of being cut down as unfruitful, Luke 13:6-9. In Hebrews 12:28 the writer exhorts the Hebrews to “have grace”, which means to take advantage of the grace made available by God, grace in that context meaning the favour He shows them by allowing them to advance in Divine things.

The following words have caused much disquiet to believers, as they wonder whether they come into the category described here, and therefore cannot be eternally secure. It might be helpful to list the main ways in which Hebrews 6:4-6 has been interpreted. The question is: who are these that cannot be renewed to repentance? The following interpretations have been offered:

1. That it refers to true believers who apostatise.

BUT as we shall see in verse 6, the word for “fall away” is not the word for apostatise. In any case, it is not possible for a true believer to lose salvation, as we may see from the following Scriptures:

(a) In John 1:13 believers are described as born of God. They cannot be unborn.

(b) In John 6:39 the Lord Jesus declares that of all that the Father has given Him, He will lose nothing. Those who are given Him are those who believe in Him, verse 37. It is the will of God that the Son should keep all who the Father gives Him; is it possible that the Son of God is not competent enough to do this? Or that He will despise the gift His Father has given Him by losing it?

(c) In John 10:28,29 the Good Shepherd declares that His sheep shall never perish, nor be plucked out of either His hand or His Father’s. If it is possible to divide between the persons of the Godhead, then it possible to separate the sheep from Christ. But the Godhead is one, and cannot be divided. The sheep are safe, and safe for ever.

(d) In John 14:16,17 the Lord assures us that the Spirit of God abides with the believer for ever. Wherever the Spirit is, the believer is. It cannot be, therefore, that a true believer could be found in hell.

(e) In Romans 8:30 the apostle assures us that those who are justified by faith are, as far as the purpose of God is concerned, already glorified. That glory being connected with the purpose of God to surround His Son with those that are like Him. That purpose cannot be frustrated.

(f) Ephesians 2:5,6 makes clear that every true believer is associated with the resurrection, ascension and present session of Christ at the right hand of God in the heavenly places. If it is possible to unseat Christ from that position, it is possible to unseat the believer.

(g) Philippians 1:6 states that “He which hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ”. The security of the believer rests with God. It is, therefore, in safe hands.

(h) 1 John 1:7 assures us that as far as true believers are concerned, “the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin”.

2. That it refers to true believers who backslide.

BUT, (a) the prodigal (who was a son when he left his father’s house), repented and returned, Luke 15:21. (b) John Mark, who wrote the Gospel according to Mark, had a lapse in his service for the Lord, Acts 13:13; 15:37-39, yet was recovered, and was described by the apostle Paul as “profitable to me for the ministry”, 2 Timothy 4:11.

3. That it refers to those who heard Christ and refused Him initially.

BUT, although it is true that God caused the nation of Israel to be judicially blinded when it rejected His Son, Romans 11:7-10, the gospel was still preached to that nation after Christ had returned to heaven. The word of Christ to His apostles was very clear, that the gospel was to be preached “beginning from Jerusalem”, Luke 24:47. The judicial blinding of Israel was not total, so that none could believe, but “in part”, Romans 11:25, so that individuals from the nation could still come to Christ. James is a classic example of one who had a close encounter with Christ, having lived in the same house for many years, but who did not believe until after the resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15:7.

4. That it refers to those who believed on Christ as a miracle worker, to whom He did not commit Himself, John 2:23,24.

BUT Nicodemus came out into the open and buried Christ, even though he was most probably amongst those who at first only believed in Christ as a miracle worker, to whom the Lord Jesus did not commit Himself, John 2:23-25. By coming out into open loyalty to the crucified Christ, he shows he had come to faith in a crucified Saviour.

5. That it refers to those who sank so low as to agree with Christ’s crucifixion.

BUT as we have seen, the word of Christ was, “beginning at Jerusalem”. In accordance with this the apostle Peter stood up in Jerusalem, and declared that although they had by wicked hands crucified and slain Him, they could save themselves from the wicked generation that had Christ’s blood on their hands, Acts 2:40.

6. That it refers to a hypothetical situation, where the writer uses the expression, “if they shall fall away” to imply that, if true believers apostatise, then God is put in an impossible position.

BUT the word for “fall away”, as we have noted, is not the word for apostasy. If refers to stumbling in the way. It is not true that it is not possible to restore those who have stumbled in some way. Nor is it true that those who stumble in this way crucify the Son of God afresh when they try to return to God and His ways. In any case, what connection is there between an encouragement to go on to perfection, and the statement that true believers cannot be renewed to repentance?

So these six options, for one reason or another, are not valid. In deciding who these people are we should note three things about them:

(a) If they were brought to repentance it would be for the second time, for they would be renewed again unto repentance, verse 6.

(b) By falling away, they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, verse 6. The nation of Israel had already crucified for itself the Son of God. If these people fall away, they will crucify Him again in the sense that they will then be siding with the verdict of the nation of Israel, and that crucifixion will now be intensely personal, for they will do it for themselves.

(c) They are said to fall away. As we have said, this is not the word for apostasy. It is only used here in its verbal form, but it is used elsewhere in a noun form. Some of the references are as follows: “who was delivered for our offences, Romans 4:25; “the forgiveness of sins“, Ephesians 1:7; “dead in trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:1. So the word is used of the general sins of men, telling us it is not apostasy. It is also used in Romans 11:11, a very relevant passage. The apostle asks the question about the nation of Israel, “Have they stumbled that they should fall”. His answer is very decided, “God forbid”. Then he goes on to write, “but rather through their fall, salvation is come unto the Gentiles”. This seems to be contradictory, until we realise that two words for fall are used here. Israel has not stumbled at Christ so as to utterly fall and be totally cast off by God. But it is true that they have fallen in a limited sense. Now this latter word for fall, is the same as “fall away” in Hebrews 6:6. The nation was reaching a critical moment. Soon the city of Jerusalem would be destroyed, (for they had no continuing city on earth, Hebrews 13:14), and with it, the nation. The epistle to the Hebrews comes to them from God at this moment of crisis, and constitutes Christ’s last appeal to them. Those who had hesitated about accepting Him must decide, and decide quickly, or else their future will be bound up in a judged nation.

Summarising then, we can say these people have repented once, have not yet sided with the nation in crucifying Christ, and are in danger of making the decision to fall away from Him finally. The only people in Israel who fit this description are the disciples of John the Baptist. As we examine the statements in verses 4 and 5, we shall see this to be the case.

6:4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,

For it is impossible- having spoken of a situation that God would count permissible, we now learn of a situation where God would find it impossible to do something. The reason it is impossible is because Christianity is the final word of God to man. What further revelation could there possibly be after His Son had manifested Him to perfection? Isaiah pictured the nation of Israel as a vineyard to which God had done everything possible. Despite this, they brought forth wild grapes. In the light of this Isaiah records God’s question, “What could have been done more to My vineyard, that I have not done in it?” Isaiah 5:4. Likewise in Christ’s day,  the nation had been blessed by the presence of the Son of God; what higher blessing could there be? There is nothing God can say to them beyond what His Son has already said.

For those who were once enlightened- the Lord Jesus said of John, that “he was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light”, John 5:35. They had welcomed the gospel of an imminent kingdom, the defeat of their enemies, and the bringing in of a glorious era of peace and prosperity for them. (See, for instance, the words of John’s father in Luke 1:67-75). They were only too ready to bask in this light. But when Christ came as the meek and mild one, who advocated that if your enemy struck you on the cheek, you should turn the other one towards him, so that he could strike that one also, they began to have second thoughts. Even John the Baptist began to wonder whether Jesus was really the true Messiah, Luke 7:20.

And have tasted of the heavenly gift- to taste means to experience. Job said, “For the ear trieth words, as the mouth tasteth meat”, Job 34:3, so as the disciples of John listened to him preach, they were experiencing something that had come from God in heaven as a gift. John himself had said, “A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven”, John 3:27. That passage goes on to describe the Son of God having everything given into His hand. John had limited things, Christ all things.

And were made partakers of the Holy Ghost- John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit of God before he was born, Luke 1:15. This was no doubt to fit him for his unique task of heralding the arrival of Christ. It was necessary that the workings of the flesh in him should be subdued from the first, so that he could be a suitable messenger of the King. So it was that as John’s disciples followed him, they were companions of a man filled with the Spirit, and in that sense were partakers, or companions, of the Holy Spirit. This placed a heavy responsibility upon them.

6:5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,

And have tasted the good word of God- again the word “taste” is used, and in connection with two things, the word of God, and the powers of the age to come. The repetition of the word signals a change from thinking of John’s ministry to thinking of Christ’s. John encouraged his followers to leave him and follow Christ, for when he was told that the Lord Jesus was baptising many converts, instead of being sorry, he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease”, John 3:30. The spoken ministry of the Lord Jesus was very special, being God speaking by His Son, as Hebrews 1:2 has already explained. He said, “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin”, John 15:22. So to experience the word of God from the lips of one who is God, is an unparalleled privilege, and to despise it, an unparalleled sin.

And the powers of the world to come- this is the other thing tasted or experienced. Not only did Christ speak unique words, He did unique things, for He said, “If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now they have both seen and hated both Me and My Father”, John 15:24. The miracles of Christ were on a different level to those performed by Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles. He spoke of what the Father was doing, and then said, “for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise”, John 5:19. This means that His miracles were done in identically the same way as the Father. It was not a question of powers being imparted to a man, but inherent powers in the Son of God being manifested. This makes His miracles special, and justifies His statement, already quoted, that they were works “that none other man did”, John 15:24. Others had done miracles of the same sort, but not in an identical manner to the way the Son did.

We have already noticed in connection with Hebrews 2:5 that there are three words for world in the New Testament. The one used here is “age”, with emphasis on that period of time when Christ will reign here upon the earth. The powers of the age to come are the miracles the Lord Jesus performed during His ministry. These miracles had several purposes:

(i) They were an expression of His compassion and care.

(ii) They were a demonstration of His power.

(iii) They showed that He and His Father acted completely in harmony, John 5:17. He said that it was the Father who did the works, John 14:10.

(iv) They supported and illustrated the doctrines He unfolded, so that the teaching was both visual and vocal, John 14:11.

(v) They were an incentive for men to believe on Him, John 14:11.

(vi) They destroyed the works of the Devil, 1 John 3:8.

(vii) They were a fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy, Isaiah 35:5,6.

(viii) They were the sign that He was able to bring in kingdom conditions, Matthew 12:28.

It is the last purpose that is in view in this passage, for the power that will be needed to bring in the kingdom was clearly resident in Christ, as a reading of Matthew chapters 8 and 9 will show. He could remedy disease, danger, death, and could also deal with the demon forces of evil. Notice that these last two matters mentioned in verse 5, the word and the works, are the two things Christ responded with when the messengers from John the Baptist came, in Luke 7:2. He spoke of His miracles, and then of the preaching of the gospel to the poor. Then He said, “Blessed is he that is not offended in Me”. This is very relevant here, for those in view in this passage were, like John the Baptist, offended or stumbled by the difference between their Messianic aspirations and His character and works.

6:6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.

 If they shall fall away- as we have seen, this is not the regular word for apostasy. It is the word used by Paul as he described the response of Israel to Christ. Having been brought up to the heights of His teaching, they fell away from it because of unbelief.

To renew them again unto repentance- John’s disciples were in the unique position of having repented once, and yet needed to repent again. When the apostle Paul came across some of these disciples in Ephesus, they confessed that they had not heard of the coming of the Holy Spirit. It was not that they had never heard of the Holy Spirit, for John had spoken of Him. What they were ignorant of was the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. This meant that they were not fully aware of the truth of Christianity. Paul explained that the ministry of John was preparatory, for “John verily baptised with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on Him which should come after Him, that is on Christ Jesus”, Acts 19:4. This is a very significant use of the title Christ Jesus, for it is one reserved for the Lord Jesus after He had returned to heaven; John the Baptist would certainly never have used it. The apostle is clearly rapidly bringing these men up to date. Their immediate response was to be baptised, not in the name of Christ Jesus, (which tells of His position in heaven), but in the name of the Lord Jesus, verse 5, (which tells of His authority). They are now in the good of Christian things, and by being baptised again, this time in recognition of the Lordship of Christ, they show they have repented of their failure to come onto proper Christian ground.

Seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame- by deliberately turning from the full light of Christianity, they would take sides with their nation, who had crucified Christ. By so doing they would crucify Him afresh, this time to themselves personally. This was a very grave sin, and one for which there can be no remedy as long as it is persisted in. The writer adds, “put Him to an open shame”, to emphasise that this was no minor matter, but that the public disgrace of crucifixion was involved here. Was this really what they wanted Jesus of Nazareth to experience? Would John the Baptist, a man filled with the Spirit of God, have done this? Then why should his disciples?

The Jews had initially condemned Christ for claiming that He was the Son of God, Matthew 26:63-66; the secondary charge of claiming to be a king was only brought when they saw that Pilate the Governor was not interested in matters such as whether He was the Son of God, John 19:28-32.

6:7 For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God:

The writer now symbolises the two classes of people he has been addressing since 5:11. Those who were genuine believers, but immature, and those who were disciples of John the Baptist, and had failed, as yet, to give their allegiance to Christ. The former company is pictured here as earth or soil that takes advantage of what comes from heaven, and responds with things that the husbandman appreciates, and which he decides are suitable, or meet. Such persons are approved of by God, and receive His blessing. The writer will quote God’s promise of blessing to Abraham in verse 14.

We have noted the progression in the warning passages in the epistle. In chapter 2 the lesson is from Sinai; in chapters 3 and 4 from the march through the wilderness to the borders of the land; and now we are, so to speak, in the land, with two responses to the goodness of God as expressed by the rain. Moses said “My doctrine shall drop as the rain…because I will publish the name of the Lord”, Deuteronomy 32:2,3. And Isaiah wrote that God said, “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall My word be that goeth out of my mouth: It shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it”, Isaiah 55:10,11.

6:8 But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.

But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected- it might seem strange to use this illustration in relation to John’s disciples, until we remember that as far as their aspirations were concerned, they were in the kingdom. Had not both John the Baptist and Christ preached that the kingdom of heaven had drawn nigh? They had believed on that basis, and one of the reasons they did not give Christ their whole allegiance was that He did not seem to bring in the kingdom. Like the five foolish virgins of the parable, Matthew 25:1-13, they had gone forth to meet the bridegroom, in readiness to go the kingdom feast. Their lamps were burning simply and only with nationalistic fervour, and not the Spirit of God. This is why the wise virgins told them to go to those that sell oil, for their oil was available, at a price, from men, whereas the oil of the Spirit is a gift from God.

So it is that they, having received the same “rain” as believers had, instead of bringing forth herbs, beneficial and healthy, they brought forth thorns and briers, the sign of a cursed earth. Now when Christ reigns, the curse will be removed from the earth, (except from the serpent, Isaiah 65:25), so thorns and briers will be no longer. These people are introducing the sign of the curse into the place from which the curse will have been removed. Moreover, the thorns were used by men to put Christ to an open shame, for they mocked His claims to kingship by giving Him a wooden throne, (a cross); a wooden sceptre, (a reed); and a wooden crown, (of thorns).

And is nigh unto cursing- having produced the fruits of the curse, it is no surprise that they were in danger of the curse of God themselves, in contrast to the blessing others received. In the mercy of God that curse, which involves the rejection of them along with the rest of the unbelieving nation of Israel in AD 70, was only nigh- it had not yet been pronounced. But it was nigh, and they should not presume upon the patience of God, especially as the epistle was probably written around AD 68, just two years before the destruction of Jerusalem, which signalled the casting off of the nation.

Whose end is to be burned- such is the  end of thorns and briers, which, not being fit or useful to the landowner, are simply burned up out of the way.


6:9 But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.

6:10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward His name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

6:11 And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:

6:12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

6:13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no greater, He sware by Himself,

6:14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.

6:15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.

6:16 For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.

6:17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath:

6:18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:

6:19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;

6:20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.


The remaining part of the chapter may be divided as follows:

Verses 9-10 Past and present faith and practice.

Verses 11-20 Future faith and patience.

Verses 9-10       Past and present faith and practice.

6:9 But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.

But, beloved- this is the only place in the epistle where these words occur, and they serve to reassure his believing readers that he means no ill towards them.

We are persuaded better things of you- the better things are like the herbs the husbandman is looking for. Since they had suffered the spoiling of their goods, and also that in Old Testament times poverty was a sign of unfaithfulness to God, they might become depressed. John the Baptist had been depressed when he was cast into prison and Christ did not rescue him, even though He came to “preach deliverance to the captives”, Luke 4:18. Christians walk by faith, not by sight, so external deliverances are not so important as spiritual progress. “Tribulation worketh patience”, Romans 5:3, so it is part of God’s education programme for us, building Christ-likeness into our souls.

And things that accompany salvation- what they are comes out in the passage, such as their work and labour of love done with diligence. This shows that those referred to in the previous verses were not true believers. Those who bring forth thorns and briers are not saved.

Though we thus speak- by speaking of one particular class of people in severe terms, the writer does not mean to include everyone in the condemnation. It is in the best spiritual interests of unbelievers that the truth of God’s word is brought to bear on them.

6:10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed toward His name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love- because God has graciously undertaken to reward work and labour done for Him, it is a matter of righteousness for God to take account of that which He has promised to recompense. To forget rather than remember in the day of assessment would be an unrighteous thing, for it would make Him unfaithful to His promise, and this He cannot be. The work is the thing done, the labour is the toil to the point of weariness that the work involved.

Which ye have showed toward His name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister- the word for show means to show forth or prove. Their works were proof of their love of His name, which in turn showed that they were true believers. Abraham showed the reality of His faith by doing the work God required him to do, even though this meant offering up his son. James said that this act perfected his faith, for its reached its highest development then, James 2:21-23. These showed their love for the name of God by ministering to the saints in the past, and continuing to do so in the present. One major way in which love to God is expressed is by love to fellow-believers. As the apostle John wrote, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth Him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous”, 1 John 5:1-3. So those who have the life of God the Father, and as such are in His family, will also love the rest of the family. And they know that their love for the family is of the right sort, if it is the same love that they have for God. And how do they know that their love for God is true? By asking themselves whether they keep His commandments, for only those who have the life of God can do this.

Verses 11-20 Future faith and patience.

6:11 And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:

And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence- the writer expresses a desire on the behalf of the saints they ministered to, (those referred to in verse 10, hence the “we”, as the writer unites with them in thankfulness for the Hebrews’ labours), that their diligence might continue, and that all of them might be involved in it. Not that the saints were asking for a continuance of the help. But, rather, that the reward for work done by them might be the greater, to God’s glory. This is the same attitude as is shown by the apostle Paul as he wrote to the Philippians to thank them for their gifts, “Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account”, Philippians 4:17. In the economy of God, a gift given to another, results in reward credited to the giver’s account, to be paid back in eternity.

To the full assurance of hope unto the end- this diligence would carry its own reward even now, for it would result in their souls being assured of the reality of their faith, and this in turn would give them great reason to hope in God for the future. The apostle John wrote, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him”, 1 John 3:18,19.

6:12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

That ye be not slothful- this is the opposite of the diligence of verse 11. It is the same as is translated “dull”, meaning sluggish, in 5:11. And herein lies the secret, for they were slothful in hearing the truth, and this resulted in slothfulness in practising the truth. If we do not respond to the word of God, our zeal for Him will lessen.

But followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises- having spoken in verses 9 and 10 of faith and practice, the writer now speaks of faith and promises. As converted Hebrews they would revere the ancient patriarchs, and seek to copy them. The patriarchs were marked by faith, but they coupled it with patience. Because they believed God, they also believed that His timing was best, and therefore waited with patience for the fulfilment of all He had promised. So confident were they of His faithfulness that they were not put off when those promises were not fulfilled quickly. The reason why they were so confident is given in the next verse.

6:13 For when God made promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no greater, He sware by Himself,

For when God made promise to Abraham- the particular promise in mind is the one of Genesis 22:15-18, but the terms of the promise are not in view here, just the principle involved. God had promised blessing to Abraham before. In Genesis 12, verses 1-3, and again in verse 7, it was simply a matter of God speaking and Abraham believing. In Genesis 15:1-6, again the word of God comes to Abraham and he believes it, and this is emphasised in Romans 4:1-5, to show that justification is by faith, and faith alone; faith which rests solely on the truth of the word of God. In Genesis 15:7-21, however, in response to Abraham’s question “How shall I know that I shall inherit it?” God entered into a covenant with him. But because Abraham was asleep when the covenant was made, it was an unconditional covenant, not depending on Abraham for its fulfilment at all. What guaranteed the covenant was the burning lamp that passed between the pieces of the covenant victim, instead of Abraham doing so. So it is that the apostle Paul, referring to this incident in Galatians 3:17, can say that “the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of no effect”. So the burning lamp is a figure of Christ, and it is He who shall bring in the fulfilment of God’s covenant with Abraham. In the instance in view here, however, it is a question of God’s oath. This oath was uttered in Genesis 22:15-18, after Abraham had shown his willingness to offer Isaac on the altar.

Because He could swear by no greater, He sware by Himself- God was prepared to put Himself under oath to assure Abraham that His promise was sure. But what can God use to guarantee His promise, since there is nothing greater that God? So He sware by all that He is, so that the very nature of God is the pledge that the promise will be fulfilled. If God can disintegrate, so can the promise. Since this is impossible, then the promise is sure.

6:14 Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.

Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee- because the preceding words, in Genesis 22:16, say that God sware by Himself, then the word “surely” can be used here, for the promise is a sure as God Himself, and He will make sure the word is fulfilled.

6:15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.

And so, after he had patiently endured- it had been many years since God’s original word to Abraham had been heard. Now it can be said of him that he has patiently endured, especially since the oath came after he had passed the severe trial of offering up Isaac on the altar.

He obtained the promise- as one who had patiently endured even that trial, he received confirmation of God’s promise. Of course it is said of Abraham and others in Hebrews 11:13 that they died without having received the promises. But that means they did not receive the fulfilment. The point in chapter 11 is that faith lays hold of unseen things, and to faith they are real and substantial, (see  Hebrews 11:1), even though unfulfilled at the time. Here the point is that God gave the promise and Abraham received it.

6:16 For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.

For men verily swear by the greater- we learn two things about the oaths men make. Firstly, they support their oath by something greater than themselves. The Lord Jesus forbade His followers from doing this, since a believer’s word should be good enough, Matthew 5;33-37.

And an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife- The second thing about men’s oaths is that when they have sworn on oath, there is no strife or dispute about the terms of the arrangement being made.

6:17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath:

Wherein God- verse 16 is in parenthesis, to highlight the fact that men accept the assurance of an oath made by a fellow-man, so an oath on the part of God should be even more readily accepted. So the “wherein” refers to verses 13 and 14, which describe God promising on oath to Abraham. It was in that way that He confirmed His promise to Abraham.

Willing- it was not that God was reluctant to confirm His promise, as if He was unsure whether He could fulfil it. Rather, He wished to assure Abraham of the certainty of what He was promising.

More abundantly- He desired to go beyond what was necessary, so that His promise could be shown as certain.

To show unto the heirs of promise- He demonstrated that the promise was valid, by swearing on oath as well.

The immutability of His counsel- the word translated “immutability” was used in the legal circles of the time for the fact that a will was binding, and could not be changed. God is determined, and that should be enough for us when He promises; but He is willing for His determination to be abundantly demonstrated by His confirmatory oath.

6:18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:

That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie- both the promise and the oath were made by God speaking. But God cannot deny Himself, 2 Timothy 2:13, and since He is the God of truth, He can never go against the truth by speaking an untruth, for He cannot lie, Titus 1:2.

We might have a strong consolation- God’s promise gives us consolation; His oath makes the consolation (meaning encouragement), strong. The encouragement is given so that we show the diligence the writer urges us to in verse 11.

Who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us- beset by difficulty, and surrounded by those who were in danger of turning away from the faith, the believing Hebrews needed a place of safety, where they could take refuge. The storm of persecution and opposition was raging around them, so they need a safe haven in which to weigh anchor and be secure. In this place of safety they would be able to hold firmly to the hope that God had given them through both promise and oath. It was not that the hope would be stronger when they were in the refuge, but their hold on it would be strengthened. They flee so as to lay hold of the hope held out by the promise, even though they had the promise already. Those who thus flee show the genuineness of their faith.

6:19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;

Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul- the hope God gives by His promise is sure to anchor the soul, for both the promise and the hope are sure, so the hope based on these two things is sure too. It anchors the soul, fixing it immovably in the very character of God.

Both sure and steadfast- the hope is safe and secure, being rooted in God’s sure promise and His steadfast oath.

And which entereth into that within the veil- it is said that it was difficult to enter the harbour of Alexandria, especially during a storm. In such circumstances a boat would be launched from the storm-tossed vessel, which would carry the anchor within the harbour walls, and drop it in the quiet waters there. In this way the hopes of those on board the vessel would be anchored in a peaceful place, even though they themselves were still in the stormy waters outside. Notice that it is the hope that enters into that within the veil, not the believers. Their hold on the anchor chain is sure, through faith, and the anchor itself is sure and steadfast too, so all is secure. Where the veil is will be told us in the next verse.

6:20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

Whither the forerunner is for us entered- The forerunner has carried the anchor into the harbour, so those in the vessel outside have a link with what is within. The harbour is heaven itself, beyond the veil of the stellar heavens, the same thought as in 4:14. What a great encouragement to the Hebrew Christians who had given up earthly prospects, even legitimate Jewish ones. And to think that the forerunner, Christ Himself, has entered in for them, so as to act as their link with heaven.

Even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec- by this expression the writer links back with what he was speaking of in 5:10, and prepares the way for the truth he will unfold in chapter 7. Melchisedek had been unaffected by the wars going on all around him in Genesis 14, and was King of peace in the midst of it all, Hebrews 7:2. So Jesus has gone in to the place of peace, the sanctuary of God, and our link with Him ensures our souls can be at peace too. Especially as we remember he has gone in for us.


There are two ways in which the subject of the priesthood of Christ is approached in the Epistle to the Hebrews.  In chapters 1-7, the emphasis is on the person who is priest, and the way in which His life’s experiences down here, especially His temptations, qualify Him to serve as a priest who gives help and succour to those who likewise are passing through trials on the earth.  In this section, the writer draws upon the ministry of Melchisedec towards Abraham, and that mainly by comparison.

In Chapters 8-10, however, the emphasis is on His priesthood bringing His people into the good of His death, hence the subject of blood is foremost. In this second division, it is not progress through the world that is in view, but access into the heavenly sanctuary, and the writer draws on the illustration of Aaron, and the way in which he ministered to God, this time mainly by way of contrast.

We could set these things out as follows:

Chapters 1-7  Chapters 8-10
Emphasis on His Person Emphasis on His work
Jesus, the Son of God, personal names  Christ, official name
Comparison with Melchisedec  Contrast with Aaron
Progress through the world Entry into the Sanctuary
Basis of His help: His temptation      Basis of His help: His blood
Emphasis on His life down here Emphasis on His death, and His life in heaven


7:1  For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;

7:2  To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;

7:3  Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.

7:4  Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.

7:5  And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham:

7:6  But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises.

7:7  And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.

7:8  And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.

7:9  And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham.

7:10  For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.

We are now in a position to notice the general structure of Hebrews 7, which may be divided into seven paragraphs, as follows: 

(a) Verses 1-3 Melchisedec, personally and officially, as a king-priest.
(b) Verses 4-10 The priesthood of Christ results in blessing for His people.The priesthood of Christ involves mediating when believers bring gifts to God.                 
(c) Verses 11-14 The priesthood of Christ supercedes the Levitical order.
(d) Verses 15-17 The priesthood of Christ is carried out in the energy of Divine Life.
(e) Verses 18-19 The priesthood of Christ is profitable to God.
(f) Verses 20-22 The priesthood of Christ does not cause God regret.
(g) Verses 23-28 The priesthood of Christ is continual, and effectual.

Each of these sections has a keyword, or words, either derived from things said about Melchisedec in verses 1-3, or from the quotation that the writer made in 5:6, where he began to speak about the order of Melchisedec.  We will notice these key words as we proceed.

The chapter may be divided into two main sections.  Verses 1-10 are based on Genesis 14, with its detail about Melchisedec meeting Abraham after he had defeated those who had taken his nephew Lot captive.  Laden with the spoils of his victory, Abraham was about to be met by the King of Sodom who would tempt him to keep those spoils for himself.  Before this, however, Melchisedec met him with bread and wine, and blessed him in the name of the Most High God.  As a result of this, Abraham was strengthened to resist the King of Sodom’s temptation, and he gave the best of the spoils to Melchisedec as the representative of God.

Verses 15-28 are based on Psalm 110, the only other place in the Old Testament where Melchisedec is mentioned.  This psalm was used by the Lord Jesus to show that He was David’s Lord, as well as David’s son, Matthew 22:41-46. It was also used by the apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost to support his announcement that the Lord Jesus was risen from the dead, and had ascended to heaven, Acts 2:34-36.  The men of Israel needed to realise that the ascension of the Messiah to heaven had been predicted in the Old Testament.

(a)    1-3    Melchisedec, officially and personally, as king-priest.

7:1  For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him;

In verses 1 and 2 we are told about things included in the Old Testament record.  Then in verse 3(i) we have things excluded from the Old Testament.  In verse 3(ii) we have things concluded from the Old Testament. 

For- the chapter is an elaboration on the words of 5:6, “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec”; 5:10, “called of God a high priest after the order of Melchisedec, and 6:20, “become high priest after the order of Melchisedec”.
This Melchisedec- the one mentioned in 5:10 and 6:20.  If we connect these two verses, then we see that our high priest is the author of eternal salvation, anchors us within the veil, and all this because He continueth ever as a priest after the order of Melchisedec. 
King of Salem- it is not certain that this is Jerusalem, which was known formerly as Jebus. The Septuagint Version, (which may or may not be genuine), translates Psalm 76:2 as “His tabernacle is in peace”, not viewing the word Salem as a place-name.  Would the writer emphasise the significance of Salem if it was Jerusalem, seeing that he will urge his readers to distance themselves morally from that place in 13:12-14?  If Salem is the same as the Salim of John 3:23, then this is highly significant, as we shall see.
Priest of the Most High God- a title which emphasises God’s supremacy over all, and especially to be demonstrated during the reign of Christ over the earth in a coming day.  Melchisedec worshipped and served the one true God in the midst of the heathen world of Canaan.  He is a demonstration of the fact that God revealed Himself to others outside of Israel as it pleased Him.  Remarkably, he combined priesthood with kingship, as Christ does to perfection.  See Zechariah 6:13 and Isaiah 6:1, (remembering Uzziah sought to combine priesthood and kingship, and was judged for it, 2 Chronicles 26:16-23, and note also 27:2, concerning his son- it is good to learn from the mistakes of our forbears).
Who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings- he himself is unaffected by their warring, for he is king of peace.  He meets Abraham before the king of Sodom makes his unrighteous suggestions, for Melchizedec is king of righteousness, and strengthens Abraham to make a righteous decision about the goods of Sodom.  He is supreme and in control in these two key areas, and thus is like Christ.
And blessed him- This prepares us for the idea that the priesthood of Christ is for our blessing.  This subject is returned to in verses 6,7.

7:2  To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;

To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all- as well as Melchizedec acting, Abraham also acted by giving God’s portion to Melchizedec.  He thus recognised that he was God’s representative.  The responses of God’s people are channelled through Christ, and this incident illustrates this.  The spoils of battle are given to God in gratitude.  The significance of this is brought out in verses 5-10.
First, being by interpretation, King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace- the writer sees significance in the meaning of names, and their order, for righteousness must be established before peace can be known, Romans 5:1.  Melchisedec must have been an exceptional ruler if these things were true of him amidst the corruption all around.  Because of this he is taken up as a type of Him who is separate in nature from sinners, verse 26.  Compare Melchisedec’s character with that of Lot in Sodom, vexing his righteous soul with the unrighteousness of that city, as 2 Peter 2:8 reveals.

7:3  Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.

Without father, without mother- as far as the record goes.  He had a genealogy, as verse 6 says, but it is not recorded for a reason.  This is especially significant because Genesis is a book of genealogies, those generations being as follows: Of the heavens and the earth, Genesis 2:4; of Adam, 5:2; of Noah, 6:9; of the sons of Noah, 10:1; of Shem, 11:10; of Terah, 11:27; of Ishmael, 25:12; of Isaac, 25:19; of Esau, 36:1; of Jacob, 37:2.  The details about Melchisedec are deliberately withheld to make him as much like the Son of God as it is possible for anyone to be.  The Lord Jesus has a genealogy in fact, so it is not that Melchisedec was not descended from anyone, for that would have made him unlike the Son of God in this respect.  We know Aaron’s father and mother, and we know Eleazar took over the priesthood from him.  Christ’s priesthood, like Melchisedec’s, is not successional.
Without descent- this means without (recorded) genealogy.  The reference is not to descendants, but ancestors.  Christ’s priesthood is not tribal, as was Levi’s.  This shows that Melchisedec was not another name for Shem.  Although the latter was still alive at this time, information about his father and his descendants is not withheld from us in the Scriptures, as is the case with Melchisedec.
Having neither beginning of days, nor end of life- not literally, but as far as the record goes.  This is emphasised later, for Christ’s priesthood is after the power of an endless life. 
But made like unto the Son of God- the “but” indicates the difference between the negative statements “without…” and this positive one.  Only by the withholding of these details can he in any way be like the unique Son of God.
Abideth a priest continually- the main verb of the sentence beginning in verse 1.  The main point, too, in the passage, for there is nothing in Melchisedec’s record to say he did not abide continually, and as such he is an illustration of Christ’s ministry.

We may summarise things so far as follows:

Fact about Melchisedec Significance Contrast with Aaron
Without father Priesthood not successional.  Unlike sons of Levi.
Without mother Priesthood not natural. Carnal commandment.
Without descent  Priesthood not tribal.  Aaron must be of Levi.
Without beginning of days  Priesthood not temporal. Priesthood changed.
Without end of life  Priest not mortal.  Men that die.
Abideth …continually  Priesthood continual.  Not suffered to continue.

(b)    4-10    The priesthood of Christ results in blessing for His people.  The priesthood of Christ involves mediating when believers bring gifts to God.
KEYWORDS: Tithe and bless.

7:4  Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.

Now consider how great this man was- since he is like the Son of God, considering him will be profitable.  To consider means to think upon with interest and purpose, with the observation of details.
Unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils- the word patriarch is at the very end of the sentence for emphasis, “and he the patriarch”.  He might have special reason to keep the spoils, as he had won them.  Did he feel his victory was as a result of Melchisedec’s intercession?  Where did Abraham learn that the tithe, or tenth part, was God’s part?  From Melchizedec?  Or was it because Abraham was “the Friend of God”?  By meeting Abraham before the king of Sodom came with his temptations to “keep the goods”, Genesis 14:21-23, Melchisedec succoured the one about to be tempted, see Hebrews 2:18.  Abraham had dealings with the priest of the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth, so he could afford to let the goods go; but not before God had His portion.  Spoils are literally “the top of the heap”.  In other words, the best.  Do we give to God the first and best?  “Seek ye first the kingdom of God”, Matthew 6:33.  In verses 4-8 Abraham pays tithes and is blessed, whereas in verses 9-10, Levi pays tithes and is shown to be inferior.

7:5  And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham:

And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood- Note the way the Levitical priesthood is magnified here, in order to make the contrast with the priesthood of Melchisedec even more telling.
Have a commandment to take tithes of the people- their priesthood is so important that God commands that it be supported by the tithes the people offer to Him. The paying of tithes to them was not their idea. 
According to the law- their tithes were a legal requirement, whereas Abraham gave in gratitude for God’s grace to him in his victory.  Note the way the law and the priesthood of Levi are bound up together, so the civil and ceremonial law are connected. 
That is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham- the Levites, and the rest of the tribes, all have the honour of coming from Abraham, but even though this is the case, Levi has the added privilege of coming from the priestly tribe, and hence must be supported.

7:6  But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises.

But he whose genealogy is not counted from them- clearly so, because Melchisedec lived long before Levi.  But this does not prevent Levi from acknowledging him, as verse 9 indicates.  Note the reference to genealogy, or pedigree, again, so Melchisedec did have one, but it is not recorded, for the special purpose of making him, as far as the record goes, like the Son of God, who as to His Deity is un-originated.
Received tithes of Abraham- so he is superior to Abraham the patriarch, the father of the faithful. 
And blessed him that had the promises- the act of blessing was to invoke upon Abraham an appreciation of the things he had already been given by God.  He had received the promises, but needed to see them as superior to anything that Sodom could offer. 

7:7  And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.

And without all contradiction- the writer begins like this because his readers may have difficulty with the idea of someone being better than Abraham, especially if that person is a Canaanite king!  They cannot gainsay his arguments though.
The less is blessed of the better- the whole of the epistle has to do with Someone better, and Melchisedec typifies Him.  A person who blesses with God’s blessing must already be in the good of the blessing himself.  If Salem is the same as the Salim of John 3:23, then it was near to where John the Baptist, of the tribe of Levi, said “He must increase, but I must decrease”, John 3:30.

7:8  And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth.

And here- on the one hand. 
Men that die that die receive tithes- the tithe supports a dying cause, for the fact that the priests were not suffered to continue by reason of death is a sign of their inferiority, verse 23. 
But here- on the other hand. 
He receiveth them of whom it is witnessed that he liveth- witnessed, that is, by the eloquent testimony of the omission of his death in the Scriptural record.  Of course, Melchisedec was not alive when the Epistle to the Hebrews was written.  Because his priesthood was a living one, paying tithes was worthwhile.

7:9  And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham.

And as I may so say- the writer is confident he has authority from God to reason in the way that follows. 
Levi also, who receiveth tithes, paid tithes in Abraham- this statement puts the two orders of priesthood in direct contrast, and is the crowning point of the argument, which explains why it is left until last, even though Abraham paying tithes is dealt with in verse 6.  By supporting the priesthood of Melchisedec, and giving to God via its priest, Levi, the one who gave his name to the Levitical and Aaronic priesthood, confesses its superiority.  In verse 6 the point was that the famous patriarch paid tithes, here, that Levi did it.  This means that the whole Levitical system is inferior to that of Melchisedec, and therefore of Christ, for He is High Priest after the order of Melchisedec.  The only logical step to take in view of this is to go “outside the camp” of the Levitical system, 13:13.

So we may say about Levi the following:
He received tithes to support his ministry; He was commanded to do so by God; he took those tithes of those who were his brethren, not from strangers; they, like he, were of the same father, yet Levi had a higher claim than they.

7:10  For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him.

For he was yet in the loins of his father when Melchizedec met him- this is the same sort of idea as the apostle Paul uses in Romans 5:12, where all are bound up in the sin of Adam, his act being a representative one.  Note how important it is that Melchisedec has no genealogy, for no-one in his ancestry can be said to acknowledge a superior priesthood before he began to function.

Notice the way in which three notable men have been built up in stature, and then reduced in favour of Christ:
Melchisedec:  King; priest of Most High God; blessed Abraham; received tithes on behalf of God.  BUT: only like the Son of God.
Abraham:  Responsible for the slaughter of the kings; the patriarch.  BUT: paid tithes to Melchisedec and was blessed by him.
Levi:  Received tithes; was commanded to do so; took those tithes from his brethren, even though they, and he, were all alike sons of Jacob.  BUT: men that die; paid tithes to Melchisedec through Abraham.


7:11  If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?

7:12  For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.

7:13  For He of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar.

7:14  For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.

7:15  And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest,

7:16  Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.

7:17  For He testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

7:18  For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof.

7:19  For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.

7:20  And inasmuch as not without an oath He was made priest:

7:21  (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by Him that said unto Him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:)

7:22  By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.

7:23  And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death:

7:24  But this man, because He continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.

7:25  Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.

7:26  For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;

7:27  Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for His own sins, and then for the people’s: for this He did once, when He offered up Himself.

7:28  For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore. 

(c)    11-14    The priesthood of Christ supercedes the Levitical order.
KEYWORD: tribe.

The remainder of the chapter may be looked at in relation to the quotation from Psalm 110.  Verses 11-14 emphasise “order of Melchisedec”; verses 15-19, “priest for ever”; verses 20-22, “the Lord sware”; and verses 23-28, “will not repent”.

7:11  If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron?

If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the Law)- the “therefore” indicates that a conclusion is about to be drawn on the basis of the foregoing arguments.  One would expect that a priesthood that supported and enforced the requirements of the very Law of God, (which by definition is perfect), would bring in the perfection that God demands.  But it is not so.  Note the linkage between the civil and ceremonial law, for some suggest that whilst the ceremonial is passed away, the civil is not.  See Exodus 4:27 where Moses, the mediator of the Law, and Aaron, the Levitical and ceremonial high priest, kiss on Mount Sinai, the Mount of God, where the Law was given.  A symbolic act. 
What further need was there- for what can there be beyond perfection? 
That another priest should rise- the arrival of a different sort of priest is indication that the Levitical sort was not ideal.  Rise means to stand up, with which compare Nehemiah 7:65. 
After the order of Melchizedec- we should not think that “order” means a succession of priests; it simply means “arrangement”.  The priesthood of Christ is arranged in the same way as Melchizedec’s was. 
And not be called after the order of Aaron- the priesthood of Aaron supplies the writer with contrasts which further his arguments in chapters 8 to 10, but Christ never functioned as a Levitical priest.

7:12  For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.

For the priesthood being changed- the writer assumes we have seen the significance of his reasoning, and will agree that it is proved that the priesthood is in fact changed.  It is not just a change of priest, but of priesthood, the whole order of things. 
There is made of necessity a change also of law- the governing principles must be different, seeing that the order is different.  Since the governing principles of the Levitical priesthood were those of the law of Moses, that law cannot govern the Melchizedec priest. The law and the priesthood stand together and fall together.

7:13  For He of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar.

For He of whom these things are spoken- the word for “called” in verse 11 is the ordinary word for “to say”.  Hebrews 5:6 begins “As He saith also in another place”, and then “Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec”, so the establishment of Christ as priest is by the spoken word of God to Him.                                                               Pertaineth to another tribe- showing that one of the laws governing the Levitical priesthood was that the priest must be of the tribe of Levi. Of which no man gave attendance at the altar- no man of Judah would have been allowed to officiate at the altar.   It is evident that if a priest is of a different tribe, yet is called of God to His office, then He must be of a different order. 

7:14  For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.

For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah- the early believers clearly did not have any difficulty in seeing that the Lord Jesus was of the tribe of Judah.  “Our Lord” is a title which emphasises his exaltation as priest, in accordance with the words “The Lord said unto My Lord”, Psalm 110:1.  David’s Lord has become ours.  Lord, Jesus, and Son of God are all titles of Christ as priest, suggesting authority, sympathy and Divine sufficiency.  The word “sprang” is used of the sunrising, and also in connection with the Messianic title of Branch, Jeremiah 23:5; Zechariah 6:12.  In Luke 1:78, Zecharias, a Levitical priest, admits that light has not sprung up through Levi. Only Christ can call out of the darkness of Sinai, (Hebrews 12:18), into the light of His own glorious person, 1 Peter 2:9. 
Of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood- Moses was the Mediator of the Law, and also the writer of Leviticus.  If Moses the Mediator of the Law said nothing about it, whether in the giving of the Law or the writing of the book of Leviticus, (the priest’s manual), then the matter is settled. The Hebrews revered Moses as much as Abraham, and now both are appealed to as the writer unfolds his doctrine.  Christ is not king-priest because He is of the royal tribe of Judah, but rather because He has been made High Priest after the order of Melchizedec, and that order is a king-priest order or arrangement. Melchisedec was not a king because he was of Judah, nor priest because of Levi, for he was neither.

(d)    15-17    The priesthood of Christ is carried out in the energy of Divine Life.
KEYWORDS: For ever.

7:15  And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest,

And it is yet far more evident- In verse 14 the evident thing was that He was of Judah as to His birth, but it is far more evident that He is risen from the dead, thus showing that His life was not dissolvable by death.  There would have been more witnesses to His resurrection in AD 68 than there were to His birth.                                                                     For that after the similitude of  Melchisedec there ariseth another priest- since Melchisedec was made like the Son of God as far as the record goes, then the subsequent priesthood of Christ can be like His; but He has to exist first for Melchisedec to be like Him. 

Some of the similarities between Melchisedec’s priesthood and Christ’s are as follows:

He has not to do with sacrificing on an altar.  Christ’s priestly ministry began after His sacrifice had been accepted, 7:28.
He grants blessings that were not known to Abraham before. Christ brings in “better promises”, 8:6.
He encouraged Abraham to resist temptation.  Christ is “able to succour them that are tempted”, 2:18.
He has the authority of a throne behind him, being a king. Christ as high priest is “set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens”, 8:1.
 He showed priestly discernment by seeing the danger Abraham was in, and priestly concern for him. Christ “ever liveth to make intercession for us”, 7:25).
He was king of righteousness in an unrighteous environment.  Christ is undefiled still, after His life in this defiled world, 7:26.
As far as the record goes, Melchisedec continued in his priesthood without interuption by death.  Christ “continueth ever”, 7:24, and “ever liveth”, 7:25).

 Ariseth another priest- that is, a different sort of priest, in the same degree that Melchisedec’s priesthood was different to Aaron’s.

We learn from contrasts with Aarons’ priesthood, what Christ’s ministry is not like: 

Aaron was priest because he was a descendant of Levi. Christ is high priest because He is Son of God, 5:5,6.   
Aaron needed special clothing of “glory and beauty”, Exodus 28:2, to fit him ceremonially for his work.  Christ’s character is one of official glory and moral beauty and honour.
Aaron was directed to officiate in accordance with the requirements of a legal ordinance. Christ’s ministry is in accordance with His own dissoluble life, with all that implies.
Aaron needed to offer sacrifices for his own sins, 7:27. Christ is sinless.
Aaron needed to constantly offer for the sins of the people, showing that the previous sacrifices had not been permanently effective, 10:11. Christ offered “one sacrifice for sins for ever”, 10:12.
Aaron was not able to bring the people in Christ brings in the better prospect of being able to draw nigh to God, 7:19.
Aaron could not bear the sight of the glory of God, so had to make a cloud of incense to shield him, in the presence of God, Leviticus 16:12,13.  Christ appears in the presence of God, 9:24, and is on the right hand of the Majesty on high, 1:3.

 7:16  Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.

Who is made- the word “made” means “constituted”, “made to become”. 
Not after the law of a carnal commandment- This priest is constituted as such not in accordance with the governing principle of a commandment which came to men in the flesh.  “Carnal” could be translated “fleshen”, not fleshly in the evil sense of unspiritual, (although many Levitical priests were this), but suited to life in the flesh down here, hedged about as it is by earthly limitations and relationships which render a person unfit to minister in the heavenly sanctuary. 
But after the power of an endless life- in relation to the fact that His life has been shown, by resurrection, to be indissoluble or indestructible by death, and therefore is endless.  He is not regulated by commandments, but serves in the energy of His Deity, and hence He is priest because is the Son of God.  One of the reasons why Christ rose from the dead was that He is the Living One, (Revelation 1:18, margin), sharing Divine, eternal life with the Father and the Spirit.  He is fitted, therefore, to minister in the Heavenly Sanctuary, which is the Father’s House, since it is His eternal dwelling.  For this reason Melchisedec’s death was not recorded in Scripture, and he is said to abide a priest continually.  Another feature of the life the Lord Jesus has is that it involves knowledge, for eternal life gives the capacity to know God, John 17:3.  He who is eternal life personified, 1 John 1:1-3, knows fully the requirements of God regarding the care of His people, and is able to function in accordance with that complete knowledge.  Aaron could only minister as instructed by God; Christ knows perfectly the Divine requirements, without them having to come to Him as a law.

7:17  For He testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

For He testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedec- as long as the life of our priest lasts, He shall be priest; in other words, for ever.  The praises of God’s people shall always be offered “by Him”, 13:15.  The writer is now dealing with the various parts of the quotation from Psalm 110:4 he has used since 5:6.  It is God who testifies in Psalm 110.  Compare the testimonies of Christ and the Spirit in 10:5-18.

(e)    18-19    The priesthood of Christ is profitable to God.

7:18  For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof.

For there is verily a disanulling of the commandment going before- by making Christ a high priest after the order of Melchisedec God set aside the former order as being no longer of value, together with the commandments which regulated it. 
For the weakness and unprofitableness thereof- the Levitical system had not the dynamic needed to bring men into the presence of God, and hence He was not profited by their worship.  Note the contrast between the weakness of the law and the power of Christ’s life, verse 16.  Unprofitableness is that which is not beneficial or serviceable.

7:19  (For the law made nothing perfect), but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God.

(For the law made nothing perfect)- this is true in various connections, but here it did not provide the circumstances whereby the ordinary Israelite could draw near to God. 
But the bringing in of a better hope did- The word “did” has been supplied, for there is no corresponding word in the original.  On the one hand there is the disannulling of the commandment, verse 18, and on the other, the bringing in of a better hope or prospect through Christ.  The better hope is the sum total of all the blessings of which Christ is the guarantor.  In particular, the blessing of being able to draw nigh to God.
By which we draw nigh to God- on the ground of this hope set before us, 6:18-20, we have the encouragement and the ability to draw nigh to God.  The law was unable to effect this.  As we respond, God is profited.  As the Lord Jesus Himself declared, “The Father seeketh worshippers”, John 4:23.  The Lord Jesus ensures by His ministry that those worshippers have free access to the immediate presence of God.

(f)    20-22    The priesthood of Christ does not cause God regret.

7:20  And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest:

And inasmuch as- see on verse 22, “by so much”.  The truth that He was made priest by God’s oath is a weighty one, with far-reaching consequences. 
Not without an oath He was made priest- note the negative reference to Aaron not made priest by oath.  There was no Divine oath at his consecration.  If there had been, the Levitical system would have been permanent.

7:21  (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:)

(For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath- “This” means “this priest”, even Christ, made priest in accordance with Psalm 110:4, now quoted. 
By Him that said unto Him, The Lord sware, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:)- By uttering an oath God shows “the immutability of His counsel”, 6:17, and this gives “strong consolation”, 6:18.  The word for repent means regret.  God will never regret installing Christ as High Priest, but He did surely regret the actions of those of Aaron’ line, such as Nadab, Abihu, Eli, Annas, and Caiaphas.  “Sware” is in the past; “will not repent” is in the future, showing God’s utmost confidence in His Son. 

7:22  By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament.

By so much- this expression links with the “inasmuch”, (meaning “by how much”), in verse 20.  The question in verse 20 is, “By how much?” the answer is found here, “by so much”.  By the truth contained in verses 20,21, which speaks of Christ as priest by oath, there is given reason why the covenant of which he is about to speak is better.  For it is not only new, but everlasting, underwritten by the oath of God, which makes Him the priest-minister of the blessings of that covenant.
Was Jesus made a surety of a better testament- a surety is a personal guarantee.  Note the seven references to Him under this name in the epistle, 2:9; 6:20; 7:22; 10:19; 12:2; 12:24; 13:12.  The personal guarantee is given character by the personal name.  His integrity makes it valid.  He has been fully tested, and therefore is qualified, (perfected) to act for His people before God.  The testament is better because it is established on better promises, 8:6; the covenant victim is Christ Himself, 9:16; it is ratified in the heavenly sanctuary, 9:24; the effects are final; it deals with sins, 10:18; it avails for Israel and believing Gentiles, 2 Corinthians 3.

(g)    23-28    The priesthood of Christ is continual, and effectual.
KEYWORD: Continue.

7:23  And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death:

And they truly were many priests- down the centuries, not at one time, although there were many at the time of Christ’s birth.  Perhaps the reference is to the genealogies of priests such as in 1 Chronicles 6:3-15.  “Were” could be translated as “are”, that is, in the record.  Note the reference in that passage to the Captivity; emphasising that those priests were unable to save them to the uttermost.
Because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death- they were mortal, “fleshen” men, not possessing indissoluble, indestructible life.

7:24  But this man, because He continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.

But this man- a solitary, unique man, in contrast to the many Levitical priests.
Because He continueth ever- for death no longer has dominion over Him, and His life is endless literally, as Melchisedec’s was typically. This is one reason why the priesthood of Christ cannot begin before He died, or else He also, like the Levitical priests, “would not be suffered to continue by reason of death”.  Compare also “abideth a priest continually”, verse 3. Could   He be said to abide a priest continually while He was dead and buried?                                                   Hath an changeable priesthood- He will never hand over to a successor, nor shall His priesthood reve rt to being Levitical.  He who knows us through and through will never be replaced with a novice.  It is not that the order does not change, for that is already proved in verses 11-14, but that the priest does not change.  Note the contrast between creation which shall be changed, and Christ who is the Same, 1:11,12. 

 7:25  Therefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.

Wherefore- because of the features detailed in verses 11-24.
He is able also to save them to the uttermost- not only surety for the blessings, but Saviour for the blemishes.  The word uttermost literally means outermost.  Those in extreme circumstances are not too far gone for Him to save them from their trouble.  Peter might have thought that by denying his Lord he had gone beyond the limit of recovery.  Yet the Lord has assured him beforehand that He had prayed for him, Luke 22:31,32, and that he would be converted, or turned round, from his denial, and be enabled to strengthen his brethren so that they do not deny as he had.
That come unto God by Him- as we approach to God, verse 19, we do so as those who have failed in some way.  But Christ is fully able to “bear the iniquity of the holy things”, Exodus 28:38; that is, the iniquity which otherwise would make holy things unholy.  As Aaron had a golden plate with “Holiness to the Lord” inscribed on it, so Christ has the holiness of His Father in mind all the time, as John 17:11 shows.  We approach God with assurance, not only because of the blood of Jesus, but also because we have a great priest over the house of God, 10:19-22.  We also come unto God and His throne to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need, 4:16.  Perhaps if Lot had come to Melchisedec, as Abraham did, things would have been different for him. 
Seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them-  He is always living with a view to interceding for His own.  Aaron was chosen to assist Moses because he could speak well, Exodus 4:14.  But he spoke wrongly at Sinai, Exodus 32:5; held his peace about Nadab and Abihu, and made excuses for his failure, Leviticus 10:3, 19; and in Numbers 12:2 spoke against Moses.  The Christian’s High Priest has no such shortcomings.  He intercedes when the adversary seeks to condemn, Romans 8:34, (see also Luke 22:31,32- prayed for before the trial came), when believers sin, 1 John 2:1, and when the difficulties and temptations of the way overwhelm us.  He is the author of eternal salvation, 5:9, for the safety which we shall know in eternity, is ours now.

7:26  For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;

For such an high priest- as described in previous verses. 
Became us- is becoming to us, eminently suited to our need.  He has no fault or sin to hinder Him in His ministry for us.
Who is holy- not the usual word for holy, which is hagios; this is hosios, which is a combination of mercy, kindness and holiness.  (See its use in Acts 13:34, 35, where it is translated “sure mercies”, and “Holy One”).  This combination was seen in the life and ministry of Christ; it was not the priest and Levite of Aaron’s line which had compassion on the man fallen among thieves, Luke 10:33.  He has taken His pure character to heaven, for it is “who is”, not “who was”. 
Harmless- guileless, without an evil thought.  A marked contrast to the priests as they clamoured for Christ’s death.  See also Jacob’s prophecy concerning Levi, Genesis 49:5-7, where he said that “instruments of cruelty are in their habitations”.  Christ’s thoughts towards us as He intercedes are only good.  He will never be like Elijah, who interceded against the people of God, Romans 11:2.
Undefiled- free from contamination.  Not simply ceremonially clean, but actually.  See Leviticus 22:1-3, where the priests were warned that defilement would mean banishment from the Lord’s presence.  The Lord Jesus did not need to be washed, as Aaron did when he was consecrated, Exodus 29:4.
Separate from sinners- the verb is passive, separated by another.  It is said of Aaron that he was “separated, that he should sanctify the most holy things, he and his sons for ever, to burn incense before the Lord, to minister unto Him, and to bless in His name for ever”, 1 Chronicles 23:13.  He failed, however, and these ministries are carried out in a better and fuller way by Christ, who has been separated from the failed line of Aaron by being saluted by God as High Priest after the order of Melchisedec, 5:10.  The name “Levi” means joined, but Christ is separated. 
And made higher than the heavens- He has passed through the heavens, and is seated at the right hand of God, the place of power and influence.  He is minister of the heavenly sanctuary, 8:1,2.  Aaron entered into an earthly tabernacle, whereas Christ has entered into the “true tabernacle”, heaven itself, 8:2; 9:24.  This is the only sanctuary that true believers know.  What folly, in the light of these verses, to speak of earthly, man-made buildings as sanctuaries!  The Lord Jesus declared that “ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father”, John 4:21.

7:27  Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this He did once, when He offered up Himself.

Who needeth not daily, as those high priests- having spoken of His positive virtues, the writer now contrasts Him with Aaron and his successors.  They sinned every day, whereas the days of Christ’s flesh were marked by piety, 5:7.
To offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the peoples’- this may refer to daily offerings at Israel’s altar, or it may be a reference to the Day of Atonement, since daily means day by day, on each successive Day of Atonement, when matters were resolved before God.  Aaron needed to offer for his own sins first, so that he could then minister for the people. 
For this He did once, when He offered up Himself- the “this” referring to offering for the people.  We must not confuse offering with burning on the altar.  The offering of the sacrifice was the bringing of it near the altar.  Animals had to be brought to the altar to be killed, but Christ came willingly, and presented Himself at Calvary as a willing victim.  Since He was not priest until He ascended, then He cannot have acted as a priest at His own sacrifice. 

7:28  For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.

For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity- because of their inherent weakness, they were liable to sin, as 5:2,3 indicates. 
But the word of the oath, which was since the law- because the law was not rendered out of date until Christ died, this proves that He was not High Priest at that time.  Note the contrast between the impersonal way the law made men priests, with the personal word of the oath of God. “The expression “since the law” does not mean “since the law was given at Sinai”, but rather, “since the law was done away at Calvary”. 
Maketh the Son- the name Jesus is not mentioned here, since the contrast is between weak, infirm priests, and the Son who acts according to the power of His Divine and endless life. 
Who is consecrated for evermore- at his consecration, Aaron’s hands were filled with various parts of the sacrifices, and this is what consecration means in the Old Testament; it is literally “to fill the hand”.  So Christ, as He lifts up His pierced hands, (figuratively speaking), in intercession for His people, shows the Father the evidence of His completed work at Calvary.  Here the Greek word is the same as in 2:10; 5:9, “to be qualified, fully equipped”.  By the experiences He passed through down here, the Lord Jesus is able to deal fully with every situation in which we need His priestly help.  Since He is fully-equipped, He is able to fully save.



1:14  And if the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the Lord be of fowls, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves, or of young pigeons.
1:15  And the priest shall bring it unto the altar, and wring off his head, and burn it on the altar; and the blood thereof shall be wrung out at the side of the altar:
1:16  And he shall pluck away his crop with his feathers, and cast it beside the altar on the east part, by the place of the ashes:
1:17  And he shall cleave it with the wings thereof, but shall not divide it asunder: and the priest shall burn it upon the altar, upon the wood that is upon the fire: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord.


1:14  And if the burnt sacrifice for his offering to the Lord be of fowls, then he shall bring his offering of turtledoves, or of young pigeons.

We now come to the third section of this interesting chapter.  If the bullock represents Christ in relation to the Father, and the sheep and goat emphasise His own exercise, then the birds would suggest Christ’s relation to the other person of the Godhead, namely, the Spirit of God.  In the very first mention of the Spirit, in Genesis 1:2, He is spoken of as “moving” or as the marginal rendering is, ‘fluttering’; so at the very beginning of the Scriptures He is spoken of under the figure of a bird.

Again, when a new world emerged from the waters of the flood, the dove was sent forth by Noah, and at first found no rest for the sole of her foot, but at last the waters of judgement receded and she returned no more; for the earth was now a suitable place for this clean bird.  The Spirit of God can only find rest in conditions in harmony with His Person, which is why the unbeliever cannot receive the Spirit of God; John 14:17.  Not until faith is exercised, and God creates anew, 2 Corinthians 5:17,18, are there fit conditions prevailing, enabling Him to dwell within the heart of the believer.  This was a lesson that Noah needed to learn, for it was not until the dove was happy with her surroundings that Noah was permitted to step out onto a new world.  All the time that the raven, the bird delighting in flesh, was satisfied, Noah was to remain in the ark.  Once the dove had indicated that suitable conditions were present, Noah could remove the covering of the ark on a significant day, namely, the first day of the first month.

These things are full of lessons for the believer.  Just as the “old world” was not spared, but rather “being overflowed with water, perished” 2 Peter 2:5; 3:6, so as far as the believer is concerned, “old things are passed away,” 2 Corinthians 5:17.  Swept away, so to speak, by the floods of Divine wrath against sin which Christ endured Psalm 88:7,16.  Just as Noah was able to step out into the new world that had emerged from the waters of the flood, so the believer enters into a new position in Christ, where new things that are of God are found.  Just as the new world of Genesis 8 was to be filled with the savour of a burnt sacrifice, so the believer is to live a life of self-sacrifice, or as the apostle puts it in 2 Corinthians 5:15, “they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them and rose again”.  Noah took of every clean beast, and every clean fowl and offered them upon the altar.  That which is clean in its nature, and that which finds the new creation congenial, can fittingly be consecrated to the service of God.

It was not only upon the new world that the dove found rest, but also on Noah and the ark.  In fact, there seems a special relationship between Noah and the dove, expressed, for instance, in Genesis 8:8, “he sent forth a dove from him”.  Again in verse 9, the dove “returned unto him into the ark…then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark”.  Further on in verse 11, “the dove came in to him in the evening”.  So not only does the dove associate with the new world, but also with the one that found grace in the eyes of the Lord, and who was responsible for bringing others with him into conditions fresh and new.

There is another with whom the Spirit of God can associate happily, even Christ, who brings His people through death and judgement safely and introduces them to a new world of peace and purity.  See Romans 6:1-13; 1 Peter 3:18-22.

Let us notice some of the ways in which the Spirit of God is linked with the Lord Jesus.  Remember He shares Deity equally with the Father and the Son, a fact emphasised in Matthew 28.19 where new believers are to be baptised in “the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”. Three Persons but only one name.  Not only is there a special relationship between the Spirit and Christ because of their Deity, but also as a man the Lord Jesus was in fellowship with the Spirit in a remarkable way.  Hence in Galatians 4:6 the Holy Spirit is described as the Spirit of God’s Son, and in Romans 8:9 as the Spirit of Christ.  There is no reason why the believer should not display the dignity of sonship, nor is there any excuse for lack of Christ-likeness, for the Spirit of God’s Son resides within, and empowers the Christian for a life which meets Divine approval.

There is a very marked contrast presented in Romans 1, for at the end of the chapter is a list of twenty-three of the gruesome iniquities of men, whereas at the beginning Jesus Christ is declared to be the Son of God with power, in accordance with the Spirit of Holiness.  How great is the difference between sinful man and that Holy One that was born amongst them!  One of the things that made the difference was that Christ and the Spirit were totally in harmony, whereas sinful men and the Spirit are totally at variance.

The whole of the life of the Lord Jesus was marked by holiness, total separateness from sin and its results.  Instead of the Lord looking down from heaven and concluding that there was none good and that they were unprofitable and filthy, He could look down upon Christ and not only say that He was well-pleased, but also signify it by the descent of the Holy Spirit in bodily shape as a dove, Luke 3:22.  In that scene beside the Jordan there is enacted a miniature of the history of the Saviour, for the descent into the Jordan, the river of judgement, is a preview of His descent into the waters of death and judgement at Calvary when that baptism for which He was straitened, was accomplished; Luke 12:50.  But then He came up straightway out of the waters, Matt 3:16, for when at last Christ would enter into death, it could not be that death should detain Him; as Peter said, “it was not possible that He should be holden of it,” Acts 2:24.  The grave must give up its conqueror “straightway”.  But then the heavens were opened unto Him at the Jordan, just as later they would open again to receive Him back in glory, 1 Timothy 3:16.  For, as Peter said again, “whom the heaven must receive,” Acts 3:21.  Consequent upon His return to heaven, He has prayed the Father, (and Luke says that Christ came up out of the waters of baptism praying), and He has sent another Comforter, even the Spirit of truth, John 14:16,17.  So whether it be the descending or the emerging, or being received by an opened heaven, or praying, each part of the baptism of Christ was a foreshadowing of glorious things that were yet to be.

Mention is made in all four of the Gospel records of this particular event in the life of the Lord Jesus, but it is characteristic of John’s approach that he records it as John the Baptist recalls it, and shows that the Deity of Christ is attested thereby.  John is heard saying “There standeth One among you, whom ye know not,” John 1:26, and by his use of the perfect tense for the word “know”, he indicates that their ignorance of Christ in the past was continuing into the present, but when he refers to himself and his ignorance of the Lord, he uses the pluperfect tense, thus putting his ignorance in the past but not continuing into the present.  What had changed John’s ignorance into insight?  Simply this, as he explains in John 1:33, that the God who sent him to baptise with water, also said that the One who would baptise with the Holy Spirit would have the Spirit of God descend upon Him and remain upon Him.  And this same One would baptise with the Holy Spirit.

Clearly, One who can administer a Divine Person, even the Holy Spirit, must Himself be a Divine Person.  Hence John says he saw and bare record.  That is, he saw the Spirit descending as God had said He would, and on the basis of that, he bare record of the implication that here was indeed the Son of God upon the earth amongst men.  Thus John the apostle records these things to further his God-given design of affirming the Deity of Christ.

Not only are there allusions to the connection between Christ and the Spirit to be seen in Leviticus chapter one, but also thoughts of resurrection also.  Firstly, the word for “dove” in the Hebrew is “yonah”, the direct equivalent of “Jonah”, (there being no ‘J’ in Hebrew).  Jonah was the prophet singled out by the Lord Himself as being a sign; for just as Jonah had been three days and nights in the whale‘s belly, so He, the Son of Man, would be three days and nights in the heart of the earth, Matthew 12:39,40.  Doubtless there are contrasts between the Lord Jesus and Jonah, especially with regard to Jonah’s disobedience, but nonetheless there are comparisons.  We must not forget in this connection the Saviour’s words, “a greater than Jonah is here” Matthew 12:41, meaning Himself.

Thus we find that Jonah experienced the great tempest, being cast into the midst of the raging sea, Jonah 1:15.  Christ also endured the tempest of Divine wrath, saying in the language of Psalm 42:7, “all Thy waves and Thy billows are gone over Me”.  And because He was afflicted with all God’s waves, the believer can say “there is no condemnation,” Romans 8:1.

Not only did Jonah experience the storm, and was subsequently “buried” in the great fish for three days and nights, but he was also brought out by God’s command and made to stand upon dry land again, thus becoming a figure of Christ risen.  As Jonah went to preach to the Gentile Ninevites and as he subsequently prophesied in Israel, he did so as a man who had gone through a death and resurrection experience, Jonah 3:3; 2 Kings 14:25.  So Christ, risen from the dead, has “preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh” Ephesians 2:17.   

We have already alluded to another Old Testament character who had a special association with the dove, namely Noah.  We have noted that the dove could only rest upon either the olive tree, Noah, or the new and cleansed earth.  So much for the dove set free by Noah, but what of her six companions, Genesis 7:3?  We read that Noah builded an altar to the Lord and took of every clean fowl and offered burnt offerings on the altar, and the Lord smelled a sweet smell, or a savour of rest.  So at last the turmoil and upheaval of the sinful pre-flood day, is replaced by a scene of rest that satisfied God.

There is a special significance in the use of the word “rest” in the marginal rendering of the expression “sweet savour” and it is just this, that it is the word for Noah.  Now when Noah’s father gave him his name, he uttered a prophecy, saying, “This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed,” Genesis 5:29.  Again, the word for “comfort ” is “Noah”.  Thus he is marked out by prophecy as a rest-bringer and a comforter.  Whether Lamech knew how his son would live up to the name he gave him, we are not told, but certainly there was deliverance in a very real way from a sin-cursed earth by means of the ark which Noah by faith prepared.  Thus through Noah there came rest for God and man; for God in the sweet savour of a sacrifice which rose from an altar on a renewed earth, and for man, in the deliverance from the world of violence and sin which prevailed before the flood.

So too by Christ there is rest from sin and its consequences.  Comfort, also, for when the Lord Jesus promised the Spirit of God to His people He expressed Himself thus, “I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter,” John 14:16.  And the word He used for “another” means another of the same sort.  So that by implication Christ is the Comforter of His people.

It may be asked why the thought of resurrection is found in the burnt offering at all.  The answer is surely this, that acceptance for Christ as a man was not only denoted by the word from heaven at His baptism, and every evidence during His life that He was approved by the Father, but also by the fact that He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, Romans 6:4.  The idea of acceptance for Christ in resurrection is a Scriptural one, for when the apostle Paul is speaking of the acceptance of believers in 2 Corinthians 6:2, he quotes from an Old Testament passage, Isaiah 49:8, which speaks of the acceptance of the Messiah.  Though God’s servant through whom He would be glorified, nevertheless the Messiah would seem to have laboured in vain and moreover would be despised by the very nation He came to bless.  But He would be vindicated in resurrection and the despised of men would be shown to be accepted with God.  The One for whom there was no help or salvation upon the cross, would be saved out of death in accordance with His prayer, see Hebrews 5:7.  He who is heard in Psalm 22 praying to His God but receiving no answer, is at last answered at the point in the Psalm, verse 22, where it breaks out into the triumph of His rising from the dead.  Thus salvation, help and acceptance are found by Christ in resurrection conditions; and so they are also for believers, since the verse that initially spoke of Christ is applied to believers.  In fact, the theme of acceptance, of receiving one another, of commending one another, runs throughout the Second Epistle to the Corinthians.  The present age is one in which those who believe may be brought into full acceptance with God, and that atmosphere of acceptance should mark the dealings of the Lord’s people with each other.

So the salvation and acceptance of the believer is inseparably linked to Christ’s acceptance at God’s right hand, and that epistle which especially mentions the idea of being “accepted in the Beloved”, is also the one where salvation is spoken of in terms of being quickened, raised and seated in heavenly places in association with Christ.  See Ephesians 2:4-8.  It is by grace believers have been saved from death in trespasses and sins and linked to Christ in a heavenly way.

In confirmation of this, we recall that it was just before Jonah was brought to dry land that he uttered, (no doubt anticipating deliverance), “salvation is of the Lord”.  Salvation for Jonah meant being delivered from the tempest, from the whale’s belly and from all their accompanying distress, by being brought safely to dry land.  So the believer is brought to the security of a standing before God in grace, Romans 5:2.  But only because he is associated with a greater than Jonah, who not only rose from the dead, but rose to heaven also.

Let us return to the offerer of Leviticus 1:14.  He has a choice, so will he bring the turtle-doves or the young pigeons?  He has no large bullock to bring, but he will bring that which he used great energy to obtain, for clearly a dove is not so easily caught as a bullock.  In that connection, note the specific mention in Matthew 21:12 of “the seats of them that sold doves”, which the Saviour in His zeal overturned.  “Seats” and “sold” do not go with “doves”, for the latter speak of spiritual energy and of that which money cannot buy.

Thus the offerer unashamedly brought the poor man’s offering, not because he was lacking in spirituality, but rather the reverse, for “God hath chosen the poor of this world rich in faith,” James 2:5.  His gift was a foreshadowing of that time when He who was so rich, should become so poor, 2 Corinthians 8:9.

Again we ask, which will the offerer choose?  Will he select the turtle dove, a summer visitor to Palestine, or the young pigeon, the resident in the land?  Whichever he chooses will speak of Christ, for was He not at one and the same time a visitor and a resident in the promised land?

We might well think of the days of the prophets as the days of decline, with dark shadows approaching, the autumn of Israel’s experience.  The days of Malachi were winter indeed, with no warmth of love to God from the masses of Israel, no growth of appreciation of His Person, no fruit to His praise, but rather cold indifference and the idleness of apathy.  But Israel’s spring came with the arrival upon the scene of John the Baptist.  He it was who echoed the cry of the Song of Solomon 2:8, “Behold He cometh!”  At long last the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth and the sure sign of approaching summer is heard, the song of the turtle dove, verse 12.  Truly as Jeremiah said “the turtle observes the time of her coming,” 8:7 and “when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son,” Gal 4.4.

Thus the choice of the turtle dove would remind the heart of God of the time when His Son would be in the world, and a spiritual man who had “come from above” would be able to tell what He had seen and heard with the Father.  The “voice of the turtle would be heard in their land” and there would be a response in the hearts of some, who would, by receiving the testimony of the One from above, set to their seal that God was true, and to them, as to Christ, the Father would give the Spirit without measure, John 3:31-34.  Well might we worship the Father for such a Visitor as this!  And like the self-abasing Psalmist say, “What is.. the son of man, that Thou visitest Him?”

The pigeon was a resident in Canaan and especially common in the valley of the river Jordan.  But it was a dove from heaven that descended upon the Lord at His baptism in that river, for heaven’s smile was upon Him.  In a very real sense the Lord Jesus was at home in the Land of Israel, for it was the land promised to Abraham and to his seed in Genesis 12:7.  That seed was Christ, as Galatians 3.16 indicates, and hence the land belonged to Him because of the promise of God.  But Christ had another and a prior claim, for He is Jesus-Jehovah, and as such could say, “the land is mine”, Leviticus 25:23.  Therefore as the God of Abraham, and the Son of Abraham, the Lord owned the land- it was His home.  The tragedy was that when He came to His own (home), His own people received Him not, John 1:11.  Like Simon the Pharisee, they washed not His feet to refresh Him after His journey to them, gave Him no kiss of welcome and affection, and refused Him the anointing that would have indicated they thought Him to be the Messiah, Luke 7:44-46.  Just as in Simon’s house there was one who gave to Him these things, so in the midst of the nation there were those who received Him gladly and to them gave He the authority to take their place as children of God, John 1:12.

1:15  And the priest shall bring it unto the altar, and wring off his head, and burn it on the altar; and the blood thereof shall be wrung out at the side of the altar:

There is a measure of intelligence in this sacrifice which is not at first apparent if we only consider the physical size of the animal brought.  There was an appreciation by the supplier of this dove that God is not so much interested in quantity, as in quality.  This principle applies to every aspect of the service of the Lord.  See 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 for instance, or Mark 12:41-44.  Not that He disregards quantity altogether, but He is not pleased with quantity at the expense of quality.  The man is not embarrassed by the apparent smallness of his present, for he is coming to One who reads the heart and who sees not as man sees.  He has no reservations as he delivers the bird to the priest to bring to the altar.

There might be a measure of pride and boastfulness lurking in the heart of the one who brought a bullock, for he was publicly bringing what all would recognise as a valuable animal, especially in the midst of a desert.  But there would be no such conceit with the man who brought a dove.  As believers, we might well learn a lesson from this, lest whilst professing to minister to the heart of God, we are in fact ministering to our own ego.  Let us remember the words of the Lord Jesus as He quoted Isaiah’s prophecy “This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me,” Matthew 15:8.  By drawing near in such a way they displayed a grave lack of priestly intelligence as to the requirements of God.  And was it not sadly true that even amongst the believers at Corinth there were those “who had not the knowledge of God”?  They had a very limited grasp as to who the God of Christianity really was.  Let us not forget that fundamental statement of God in Hosea 6.6, “I desired mercy and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”  In other words, the attitude of heart and mind of the offerer is more important than the animal offered.  May the Lord deliver us from the hypocrisy of appearing to bring a large and impressive offering, when in fact our hearts are not enlarged in love to God and His Son.

The wringing off of the head of gthe bird is clearly the equivalent of the killing of the bullock or sheep before the Lord.  Having been wrung off, the head is burnt as incense upon the altar, by itself.  Moreover, the head of the bird is said to be dealt with by the priest, whereas with the bullock or sheep all the parts are spoken of as being cut up by the offerer.  Thus the head is physically separated by being wrung off, and is also separated from the rest of the bird by being burnt first.

This separation highlights the importance of the head of the dove, and the incense of the burning of the head gives character to the subsequent actions of the priest, for the sweet savour arises as he proceeds further with the ritual.

Isaiah chapter one speaks of the ox knowing his owner, and this is indeed true, for a bullock will recognise the one who habitually feeds it and works with it.  But the head-knowledge of a dove is of a different sort, for Jeremiah says that the dove “knoweth the time of her coming”, and the context shows he is referring to the marvel of migration.

But the insight of the pigeon is slightly different, for that bird has a homing instinct; so whereas the dove knows how to leave home, the pigeon knows how to go back home.  How like Christ these thing are!  For He left the Fathers’ House to come into this “world of woe”, and then left the world, and went back to the Father.  While He was here, the Lord Jesus displayed insight in four main areas: His knowledge of the Father, e.g. John 8:55.  His knowledge of men, e.g. John 5:42.  His knowledge of the Cross beforehand, e.g. John 18:4.  His knowledge of His going and its time e.g. John 8:14; 13:1.

See how this fits in with the dove of the burnt offering.  As the one who knows the Father uniquely, Christ lived down here upon the earth for the Father’s delight, and manifested those features which mark Him out as God’s Beloved.  And as we have seen already, it is as Beloved that He renders His believing people acceptable.

As One who knew the hearts of men, He came to earth so that on the Cross He might deal with their shortcomings, and place believers in a position of favour.  The work of the Cross was executed by One whose knowledge of the Old Testament was total.  This is not to say that He went to the Cross in any fatalistic or automatic way, but He was not satisfied until He could say “It is finished”, and the whole of the ancient prophecies relating to His death were fulfilled to the very letter.

Like the dove, He had known the time of His coming, for it was “the time appointed of the Father,” Galatians 4:1-5.  The book of Genesis had begun with a man, Adam, who was “figure of Him that was to come,” Romans 5:14.  And it had ended with the ancient patriarch foretelling that Shiloh would come, and exclaiming, “I have waited for Thy salvation O Lord,” Genesis 49:18.  The word he used for salvation being the equivalent to Jesus.  So all down the years the prospect of Christ’s coming sustained the hearts of His waiting  people; it was almost as if He was already on His way!  For did not Micah say that His goings forth have been from of old?  Micah 5:2.  He also said “from everlasting,”  and thus we learn that it has ever been in the heart of Christ to come into this world for the sake of His Father’s interests and ours.

Like the pigeon, moreover, He knew the time to go home.  Time and again in John’s Gospel we read the expression, “His hour had not yet come”, but as last He can lift up His eyes into heaven, as if with longing gaze, and say “Father, the hour is come” and “I come to Thee”, John 17:1,11.  His occupation, when back home, will engage our thoughts a little later on.

Before we pass on from this consideration of the head of the dove, let us not lose the lesson for ourselves in all this.  Believers are bidden to “present their bodies a living sacrifice”, this being their “reasonable (logical, intelligent) service,” Romans 12:1.  There is a great need for the Lord’s people to surrender their sanctified intellectual powers to God, that, instead of using them for personal gain and advancement in this world, they may be at His disposal to use in the furthering of His interests.  May the Lord challenge us in these things.

Too many of the people of God have apparently lost the ability to think, and have settled down into a passive acceptance of all that reaches their ears, whether from the platform or, alas, from the world.  This is a potentially disastrous situation, for by being in such a state we lay ourselves open to the attacks of the enemy.  We need to be “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:5.  Let us “prove all things; hold fast that which is good,” 1 Thessalonians 5:21; seeking true nobility, like those of Berea, who “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so,” Acts 17:11.

The greater amount of blood from the bullock is sprinkled round about upon the altar, to give, as we have suggested, the assurance at eye-level of the acceptance of the offering, and the offerer’s acceptance through it.  With the dove, of course, there will be less blood, but to counteract this it is wrung out at the side or wall of the altar.  In other words, the blood is put where it may be easily seen, despite its smallness in quantity.  Does this not emphasise to us that the effect of the blood is governed, not by its quantity, but by its quality.  This lesson is taught again in Leviticus 16, where to effect the atonement for the whole house of Israel Aaron sprinkled the blood with his finger. The blood that can be held on a finger is all that God requires.  And if this is true of the blood of an animal, how much more of the blood of Christ?  For the Scriptures are absolutely silent as to the amount of blood that was shed at the Cross, but they are very insistent as to its quality.  “The precious blood of Christ” is the word of 1 Peter 1:19, whilst Paul says “in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature,” Colossians 1:14,15.

Let us rejoice in the effects of the blood of Christ, which effects accrue because of whose blood it was that was shed at Calvary.  Let us not, on the other hand, be influenced by the school of thought which wishes to remove the word blood from the Christian’s vocabulary, and in particular, from the preacher’s.  Let there be no mistaking the fact that “without shedding of blood is no remission,” Hebrews 9:22; and “it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul,” Leviticus 17:11.  Whilst there should not be an over-emphasis on the more harrowing details of the crucifixion of Christ, nevertheless we should remember that it was a cruel and violent death that was meted out to the Son of God; but then, sin is cruel and violent.  Coupled with this, the life of the soul is in the blood, and His soul was poured out unto death.  Everything that touched the altar was to be holy, Exodus 29:37, and the fact that this blood did so touch the altar indicated its holy character.  We would do well, then, to only have holy thoughts about the blood of Christ.

1:16  And he shall pluck away his crop with his feathers, and cast it beside the altar on the east part, by the place of the ashes:

This most interesting operation is, of course, only carried out in the case of the bird-offering.  First of all we may notice where it is the crop and feathers of the bird are cast.  If in the case of the lamb, the killing of the animal at the north side of the altar is specially mentioned, then here we have the east part specified as being the place of the ashes.  If the north side was the place of the shadows, then the east part was surely the place of the sun-rise.  For the rays of the rising sun would first strike the east wall of the altar, which, in fact, was the side nearest to the offerer as he approached it.  It is not too difficult to relate the place of the sun-rising with the place of resurrection.  The words of Mark are interesting in this connection, “And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.” Mark 16:2.  Couple this with the fact made known by John that the garden-tomb was in the place where Jesus was crucified, 19:41, or to put it another way, was in the “place of sacrifice”.  Then we readily see that the sun is rising on the east wall of the altar, so to speak, and is lighting up the place of the ashes.  For the ashes were evidence that a sacrifice had been offered and were carefully deposited, with due ceremony, (Leviticus 6:8-11), firstly at the base of the altar, and then without the camp in a clean place.

Correspondingly, the body of the Lord Jesus was reverently taken down from the cross and laid in a new tomb.  And all this took place “without the camp” Hebrews 13:12,13.  So like the ashes in the ancient ritual, his body was not only associated with the place of death as it lay buried, but at the same time was disassociated from the uncleanness of the camp of Israel.

Thus the link is maintained between the Christ who died, and the Christ who was buried, and the link is formally broken between Christ and Judaism.  But not only was He buried in a garden, but having risen from the dead, He appeared to Mary in that garden.  And these are the very things that the apostle links together in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, “Christ died…He was buried…He rose again…He was seen”.  There can be no gospel without the setting forth of these fundamental doctrines, and they who preach, yet ignore them, betray the Son of God again.  Beware of a so-called gospel which appeals to some supposed good in man, whilst forgetting that it was man that put the Lord of glory on a cross.

But returning to Leviticus chapter 1, we note that it was the crop and the feathers of the bird that were cast onto the place of the ashes.  Incidentally, the word “cast” is the same as is used of Jonah, (whose name as we have said means ‘dove’), when he was cast into a watery grave during the tempest.  So this further reinforces the idea of resurrection present in these verses.  For Jonah was the man who died and rose again, in a figure,  Matthew 12:39,40.

The crop of the bird is the receptacle that holds undigested food; that which has been received and taken in, but which has not yet been assimilated and turned into energy.  Has this anything to teach us about Christ?  His own words were, to disciples who had gone away into Samaria to buy bread, “I have meat to eat that ye know not of”, and again “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work” John 4:32,34.

We learn then that what sustained the Lord Jesus in His pathway down here was His doing of the will of God.  When in the wilderness being tempted of the devil, He had fasted for forty days, and yet it was only afterwards that He felt hunger.  What sustained Him during those forty days without food?  The answer is found in the first response of Christ to the devil, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God,” Matthew. 4:4.  It was the Word of God which gave Him strength and energy.  The lesson for believers is clear- they shall only overcome temptation to the degree in which the Word of God is their spiritual food.

So Christ’s meat, his food, his bread, was to do the will of God, and all the instructions the Father gave to Him were taken into His very being and translated into energetic effort for the Father’s honour, so that He can say at the end of His earthly ministry “I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do,” John 17:4.  So that which spoke of food undigested, energy unused, was absent when the dove was laid upon the altar, to present us with a fitting picture of Christ.

There is more we may learn from this, however, for the crop was cast on the spot which suggests resurrection, the east of the altar.  Certainly the work of revealing the Father has been gloriously completed to God’s evident satisfaction, John 12:28, but Christ has taken up further ministry in resurrection manhood.  He serves still and in fact has taken the servant’s place for ever.

This present, unfinished work He hinted at to Mary, in the garden, near the tomb, near the “place of the ashes”.  Said He “I ascend (and the word is the direct equivalent of the word “ascending offering” as found in Leviticus 1), unto My Father and your Father; and to My God and your God,” John 20:17.  What does this statement mean?  Notice first of all, that the Lord Jesus does not say “Our Father”, “Our God,” but carefully distinguishes His relationship to God from that of believers.  Whilst the true believer has God for his Father and for his God, yet it is on an entirely different basis.  The Lord Jesus is the Son of God from all eternity, for in the Scriptures sonship involves the sharing of nature, and God’s nature is eternal.  God is love, and love must have an object to love, hence we may say that Christ, the Son of His love, is His eternal Son.  Believers on the other hand, are children of God by new birth, and sons of God by adoption, and because of this are able to call God their Father.  Thus we have the same Father as the Lord Jesus has, but on a different basis.

We have the same God, too, but again the reason is different.  The Spirit of Christ in the psalmist expressed Himself thus: “I was cast upon Thee from the womb: Thou art My God from My mother’s belly,” Psalm 22:10.  So from the moment of His taking manhood the Lord regarded God as His God, for He had come into a position of submission and dependence, and needed the support and succour of His God whilst down here.  There was never any suspicion of independence with Christ, for He ever relied in faith upon God.  In fact He is the Author and Finisher of the true life of faith.

How different it is with unbelievers!  From our birth we rebelled against the will of God, for the mind of the flesh is “not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be,” Romans 8:7.  How often we demonstrated that our will was contrary to God’s, going astray as soon as we were born, speaking lies, Psalm 58:3.  But then God intervened in mercy, and because of the person and work of His Son we were given a new place before Him, with a new nature which responds to His will.  The life of faith then began for us, and there was given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.  The only true God had become our God and Father.

Something more is needed, however, for we need One in the presence of God who can maintain us in our new-found position.  And this One we have in our ascended Saviour, who represents His people before God, and ministers as Advocate and High Priest.  This word “advocate” is the same as “comforter,” thus the support that Christ gave His own as a comforter on earth is continued for us in heaven, for He is Jesus Christ the same yesterday, (on earth), today, (in heaven), and for ever.  How appropriate that this should be suggested in the dove section of the chapter, for the Holy Spirit of God, who appeared as a dove at Jordan, is ‘another comforter’; another, that is, of a same sort as Christ, John 14:16.

The Lord Jesus acts as a advocate in relation to the sins of His people.  Note, in 1 John 2;1, the word “if”, “if any man sin.”  Not when, as if it would be habitual, but if, as being occasional and unusual.  The believer is expected to have done with sins, 1 Peter 2:24 margin, but should, unhappily, the need arise, communion with the Father and the Son is restored by the advocacy of Jesus Christ the righteous.  Christians are stated to be by constitution those who, far from denying they have a sin-principle within, confess that sometimes they allow it to assert itself, and sin spoils their relationship with their Father.  They are assured, however, that upon confession, this fellowship is restored.  See 1 John 1:8-2:2.

The basis upon which this can happen is two-fold, namely, the person and the work of Christ.  His personal presence with the Father as Advocate, representing their cause, defending their interests, ensures forgiveness and restoration when they confess.  And, says the apostle, “He is the propitiation for our sins.  Not ‘He was’, but “He is”.  For the same One who at Calvary became the satisfactory sin-offering by which propitiation was made, is now in heaven to plead His people’s cause when the accuser of the brethren seeks to do his diabolical work against them.

So much for our relationship to the Father, but the Lord also said “I ascend to…your God”.  This involves His priestly ministry as set out in the Epistle to the Hebrews.  As a Great Priest over the House of God, a position granted to Him at His ascension, (see Hebrews 4:14; 5:6; Psalm 110:4,1; Acts 2:34; Hebrews 9:11,12), the Lord Jesus is engaged in a ministry of succour, Hebrews 2:18, sympathy, Hebrews 4:15 and intercession Hebrews 7:25.

With regard to the latter, the Scripture assures us first of all that as High Priest He continueth ever, for His priesthood is not transferable.  Not only will His priesthood never degenerate into the lower order of Aaron, but, in contrast to the high priests of Old Testament times, who passed on their garments of office at death, He shall never hand over to another, for He continueth ever.  We can absolutely rely on His unfailing support.  There is no limit to His abilities and He is able to save to the uttermost those that come unto God by Him; no extremity is too hard for Him to deal with.  What a contrast to Aaron in Leviticus 10:3, for faced with an extreme situation, Aaron held his peace!  Our High Priest ever liveth to make intercession for us.

Hebrews 7.26 says such an High Priest “became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens”.  It is these things that distinguish Him from all others and interestingly, these words are used of the dove as well.  The dove was suitable for sacrifice and was therefore holy; we are exhorted to be harmless as doves; The Song of Solomon describes the bride as “my dove, my undefiled”; and we remember that after the Flood the dove would have no contact with the debris of a judged world, and in that sense was separate from sinners; and finally, we remember the words of David, written in the year of Absalom’s rebellion, when he was forced to flee over the brook Kidron, up the Mount of Olives- “Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away and be at rest”! Psalm 55:6.  A foreshadowing of the occasion when David’s Son and David’s Lord would cross that same stream, climb that same hill, and after death and resurrection, would be made higher than the heavens and be at rest on the right hand of God.

Whilst in one sense He is “at rest”, in another sense, He is very active, occupied with the ministry of advocacy and priesthood we have briefly touched upon, and He successfully maintains His people in the place of acceptance into which His sacrifice at Calvary has brought them

The feathers are the glory of the dove, its beautiful plumage giving it distinction.  Yet they have no place on the altar.  We know that when Christ the Messiah of Israel came to that nation, they saw no beauty in Him that they should desire Him, Isaiah 53:2.  He did not match their expectations of a ruthless warrior treading down their enemies and giving them peace and stability in the land of Israel.  Nonetheless He was “glorious in the eyes of the Lord” Isaiah 49:5, and there were a few believing souls who “beheld His glory,” John 1:14.  He had deliberately chosen a pathway of no reputation, having taken a servant’s form, Philippians 2:7.

The nation of Israel had chosen for their first king one who was head and shoulders above them, 1 Samuel 9:2, whereas God’s choice was one described as the least, 1 Samuel 16:11, margin.  Thus God’s thoughts are shown to be different to man’s, in this, as in all matters.  He delights in those who take the low place, and He “resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble,” 1 Peter 5:5.

So the feathers, which drew attention to the dove, and gave it glory, are taken from it, to remind us of the One who humbled Himself even unto death, and that the death of the Cross with all its shame and abuse.  But from this lowest place Christ has ascended to the highest, and the apostle Paul describes that ascension in words from Psalm 68- “Thou has ascended up on high”.  And whether we regard the thirteenth verse of that psalm as referring to the comparative obscurity of the ark as it was kept in the house of Amminadab, amongst the common and everyday cooking pots on the grate, to be followed by a position of glory in a Temple adorned with silver and gold; or whether we adopt the marginal rendering “sheepfolds” and think of David’s humble occupation as a shepherd, followed by the glory of sitting on Israel’s throne, the principle is clear, that the once despised and lowly one is surely to be placed in a position of glory.  And just as when the sun shines on the plumage of a bird it brings out beauties which are unseen on a cloudy day, so hidden glories shall yet be seen in Christ.

When those glories shine forth in the earth, His “time” will have come, of which He spoke in John 7:1-18.  His brethren according to the flesh sought to suggest that He should show Himself to the world, but they were unbelieving, as verse 5 says, and hence were ignorant of the purposes of God.  For the hour of which the Saviour spoke so often in John’s Gospel, the hour of His suffering at the Cross, when He would drink the cup of wrath from God (c.f. Mark 14:35,36), must transpire, before the “time”, the period of His glorious reign upon the earth, could run its course.  Their time of opportunity for blessing was always at hand, if they would but believe.  In a world full of hatred for Him, Christ’s present work was to testify of its evil and to go to the Cross to bring this world-system to an effective end as far as God is concerned, John 7:7,33.

In John 7 the season was the Feast of Tabernacles, when Israel commemorated their journey through the wilderness and their arrival in the Land of Promise.  The festival was a foretaste of the glorious Millennial reign of Christ on the earth, when Israel’s wandering among the nations will be over and they will enter into the rest that God has prepared for them, Hebrews 3:7-4.11.  What more suitable time, it might be thought, for One Who claimed to be the Messiah to manifest Himself.  But Christ does not move and act in line with natural reasoning, but in harmony with the counsels of the Father; hence He goes up to the feast, not as one who makes a display, but rather, in secret, so that He had to be sought out, and men asked “Where is He ?”  Thus He demonstrated that far from seeking His own glory, He sought only that of the One who had sent Him, and by this was demonstrated to be the true Messiah with no unrighteous motives or self-interest, John 7:18.

There is an important lesson here for believers.  We are not to be occupied with self and its aspirations, but rather should actively seek the lowly place, for “before honour, humility”.  Let us humble ourselves under the Mighty Hand of God, that He may exalt in due time.  Let us learn from the heap of feathers on the ashes beside the altar.

1:17  And he shall cleave it with the wings thereof, but shall not divide it asunder: and the priest shall burn it upon the altar, upon the wood that is upon the fire: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord.

We draw our consideration of the burnt offering to a close by taking account of a very precious thing.  The animals used as burnt offerings were cut in pieces and exposed fully upon the altar in clear view of the offerer, and consequently the excellence of the animal was fully known.  With the dove the procedure is different, for whilst the process of dividing was begun, (cleave it with the wings), it was not completed, (not divide it asunder).

We rejoice to know that the love, devotion, and energy of Christ have been fully exposed at the Cross, and there brought into full display.  But we also rejoice to know that there are depths in the person of Christ that we shall not know because we cannot know.  His own testimony was that “no man knoweth the Son, but the Father,” Matthew 11:27.  For whilst the Father may be known as the Son reveals Him, with the Son it is not so.  The Father is simply God, but the Son is God manifest in flesh, and great is this mystery of godliness.

Shall we not be content to allow Divine Persons to enjoy their infinite knowledge of One Another?  For “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever,” Deuteronomy 29:29.

    O precious Saviour, we now Thee adore,
    We praise Thy Name;
    The Lord from heav’n, where Thou wast e’re before;
    We own Thy claim.
    Beloved object of the Father’s heart,
    His own dear Son, Thou didst of flesh take part.

    Thy sinless manhood, holy, pure and right,
    Hath fitted Thee
    To do God’s Will, and in that Will delight,
    Well pleased is He!
    For Thee the altar was the goal in view,
    There Thou didst go, with purpose glad and true.

    There all was yielded as an offering
    Of savour sweet
    On our behalf – for we had naught to bring,
    Nor could God meet.
    Thou didst the north, in shadows occupy,
    But rose in glory, and went up on high.

    Thy Father’s heart is fully satisfied,
    Thou hast done well.
    Nothing remains to do, since Thou hast died,
    We joy to tell.
    Accepted in God’s Well-beloved Son,
    In Him we stand, Who all God’s Will hath done.

    May be sung as a hymn to the tune “Sandon”.

The Burnt Offering: Part 3



This truth of the sinlessness of Christ is of tremendous importance, for the requirement of old was nothing less than perfection, for God said, “it shall be perfect to be accepted” Leviticus 22:20-22.  Anything less than this rendered the animal disqualified.  God does not alter His requirements at all.  Who cannot see that if there were any trace of sin in Christ, whether of heart or hand, thought or word, then He would not be suited to the task of going into death sacrificially?  How can He be a saviour who himself needs to be saved?  Drowning men are not rescued by drowning men, but by those who stand secure upon the rock and throw them a lifeline.

Of course the temptation of the Lord Jesus may present problems to us in this connection, but the answer to those problems is, as ever, to accept the plain statements of Scripture.  We must not tamper with one doctrine to try to make another more easy to understand, nor should we allow what we do not know, to rob us of what we do know.  There are those who wish to teach that the Lord Jesus, whilst not actually sinning under temptation, nevertheless could have done so.  Otherwise, they say, His temptation was not real.

The writer believes that these are wrong notions concerning the person of Christ and come about because of a wrong understanding of the word “tempt”.  The word translated “tempt” means ‘to make an experience of, to pierce or search into, to try with the purpose of discovering what of good or evil was in a person or thing’ (Trench’s New Testament Synonyms).  So the predominant idea is one of testing and assessing. Failing the test is not inevitably involved.

Because believers still have the capacity to sin and because, too often, we do sin when tested, we have come to think of temptation as always, or nearly always, connected with sinning.  When we think of the temptation of Christ, there is absolutely no reason to immediately think of sin as an inevitable consequence.  In fact, when the writer to the Hebrews speaks of the temptation of Christ, he expressly rules out the matter of sin in connection with it, “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin”  Hebrews 4:15.  The last phrase “yet  without  sin” qualifies and restricts “in  all  points”, and  therefore  is  not to be understood as meaning that the end result of the temptation was that He did not sin, although that is in fact true, but that His temptation came only from without, not from a sinful nature within.  After all, the context is dealing with the ability of Christ our High Priest to sympathise with us in our trials on the earth, He having passed this way before, returning to heaven fully qualified to bear our burdens.  He cannot sympathise with sin, for He does not know what it is to sin.  But He can sympathise with us in our trials, having been tried in all points as we are.

Even in circumstances where the temptation, if succumbed to, would have resulted in sin, such as the temptation by the devil in the wilderness, Christ is seen to be triumphant, for having been led of the Spirit into the wilderness He returns in the power of that same Spirit into Galilee Luke 4:1,14.  Nothing that had taken place in between had resulted in the Spirit being grieved.  There had been no independent action, (such as turning stones into bread without a word from His Father), no deviation from the Father’s will, (such as casting Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple), no seeking glory and splendour, (such as coveting the kingdoms of the earth), but rather a humble reliance on His Father.

It was precisely because the Lord Jesus was unable to sin, that the pressure of the temptation was felt by Him so keenly.  Imagine a length of sea wall, built with the purpose of keeping back the raging sea.  One section is constructed by a competent engineer, with the very best materials, whilst the adjoining section is of faulty construction, using second-rate materials.  Which section will feel the pressure of the waves the most?  Surely the well-constructed section will, as it resists the force of the waves hurled against it.  The faulty section soon gives way under trial and no longer feels the pressure of the water.  Shall we be so foolish as to say that because the good wall did not give way, then it was not tried?  Shall we also foolishly say that because Christ did not give way under trial and temptation, that He therefore was not really tested?  This would fly in the face of the Scriptures which say that Christ suffered, being tempted, Hebrews 2:18.  To Him, temptation meant suffering, as He resisted that temptation to the utmost.  Too often, with us, temptation means enjoyment, as we give in to the temptation and allow the flesh to gratify itself.

Besides these considerations, we must remember that in the one person, Jesus Christ, there were two natures, manhood and Deity, brought together in union which is complete and indissoluble, so that every act and thought is of One who is both God and man.  He does not do some things as God and some things as man, but His person is one.  For example, He slept during the storm on the lake, for He was God manifest in flesh; and He rebuked the winds and the waves because He who was manifest in flesh is God.

So that those who suggest that Jesus Christ could sin, are suggesting that He who is God manifest in flesh could sin.  Now there are certain things that God cannot do, for they would undermine the very nature of His Being, and one of those things is to sin.  We conclude therefore that Christ was unable to sin.

There is a passage in the Old Testament, in Numbers chapter 4, which illustrates the point we have been trying to make as to the purity of Christ.  This chapter gives instructions for the transporting of the holy vessels of the tabernacle through the wilderness.  Brought out from the sacred confines of either the Court or the Sanctuary, they were carried through the desert with its sandstorms and dusty ways until the next stopping place was reached.  Yet no mention is directly made to the laver, that which held the water for the washing of the feet of the priests before they entered the Holy Place.  Is there not in this the suggestion that Christ, a true “vessel unto honour” who emerged from the Heavenly Courts to tread a path through this wilderness-world, was pure and undefiled, needing not the washing of water by the word as a remedy for defilement, but was ever “the undefiled in the way” who is “blessed,” Psalm 119:1?

How different are the Lord’s people, who although washed all over at conversion to fit them for their new state of regeneration John 13:10; Titus 3:5, nonetheless need the habitual application of the Word of God with its cleansing power, to deal with defilement contracted during daily life in this polluted world through which they pass, Ephesians 5:26.  The Eastern traveller, although starting out on his journey as one who had bathed, nevertheless needed to wash his dusty feet at the end of the day’s journey John 13:10.

Before passing from the consideration of the four parts which are specially mentioned as being laid upon the altar, we must note some practical lessons which may be learnt at this point.  The apostle Paul beseeches us to present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice, Romans 12:1.  It follows therefore that the head, (our mind), the fat, (our energies), the inwards, (our hearts’ affections) and the legs, (our walk) must all be in an holy and acceptable state if we are to truly be something for God.

Hence the apostle exhorts the Philippians to let the same mind which was in Christ be in them, Philippians 2:5; he speaks of glorying in infirmities, that the power of Christ might rest on him, 2 Corinthians 12:9; of the love of Christ constraining him, 2 Corinthians 5:14; and of his ways in Christ, 1 Corinthians 4:17.  Thus the believers’ mind, energy, love and movements, if like Christ’s, will all co-ordinate together and be for the delight of God  Then his mind will be governed by God’s word, so that his energies may be put forth with intelligence; and his love for Christ will ensure that he goes where He leads.

At last the moment has come for which such careful preparation has been made, and the fire can begin its work.  Note that all is to be placed upon the altar, reminding us of the total and unreserved commitment of the Lord Jesus to the work given Him to do.  Nothing of what He was or did was in any way unacceptable to God, for the testimony from heaven was, “well-pleased” and He did always those things which pleased the Father, John 8:29.  The word from heaven in Malachi’s day was that God found no pleasure in His people Malachi 1:10, nor would He accept an offering at their hand.  At last there is One upon the earth who is different and unique and this totally acceptable person willingly presented Himself to God in His entirety, withholding nothing.

Under the action of the fire, the sacrifice was transformed into a cloud of incense (such is the meaning of the word for burn in verse 9), which in God’s estimate was of a sweet savour, or a savour of rest.  How unsavoury this world must be to God; the best of nations was likened to a defiled leper, with putrefying sores neither tended nor dressed, Isaiah 1:6.  What of the rest of men who are described by God as being filthy? Psalm 14:3.

How refreshing therefore it must have been to God to see One whose person, given up in sacrifice, resulted in nothing but a pleasurable aroma, with no admixture of the stench of sin.  The idea involved in this sweet-savour was that of complete complacency.  At last God has reached His long sought-for goal, even pleasure in man.  He had rested after His work of creation, for all had been completed and could be pronounced “very good”, but He could not use those words of man after sin had come in.  On the basis of the person and work of Christ there is joy and refreshment for God in the new creation made possible by His sacrifice and in this new creation all things are of God and in conformity with His desires.  What a tremendous privilege and blessing it is to be part of that new creation in Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:17, and to be involved in that which gives God pleasure.  We might well heed the exhortation of the apostle to not receive the grace of God in vain, but rather to act in the light of that grace which has brought us such rich and eternal blessing, and live lives which in practice are taken up with new things and dispense with the old.

Here we come to the end of the first division of the chapter and we have seen in type One who moved on earth and died on the Cross, only for the sake of His Father’s interests  Whose first recorded words are “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?” Luke 2.49 and who could say a few moments before He died “It is finished,” John 19:30.


1:10  And if his offering be of the flocks, namely, of the sheep, or of the goats, for a burnt sacrifice; he shall bring it a male without blemish.
1:11  And he shall kill it on the side of the altar northward before the Lord: and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall sprinkle his blood round about upon the altar.
1:12  And he shall cut it into his pieces, with his head and his fat: and the priest shall lay them in order on the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar:
1:13  But he shall wash the inwards and the legs with water: and the priest shall bring it all, and burn it upon the altar: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord.


1:10  And if his offering be of the flocks, namely, of the sheep, or of the goats, for a burnt sacrifice; he shall bring it a male without blemish.

We come now to that section which deals with the sheep or the goat brought for sacrifice.  Since much of what is found in verses 10-13 is identical to the first section, we shall concentrate on the sheep and goats themselves and the statement of verse 11 “he shall kill it on the side of the altar northward”.

The animal which we tend to think of first in relation to sacrifice is the lamb.  The well-known words of Genesis 22:8 could be cited, “My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering,” or of Isaiah 53:7, “He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter,” (although the word “slaughter” is not regularly used for sacrifice, yet verse 10 shows Calvary is in view), or of John the Baptist in John 1:29,36 – “Behold the Lamb of God”.  All these passages bring before us the idea of the lamb for sacrifice, and Christ is that lamb.  Note that in each of the passages referred to there is the idea of movement, for it is said of Abraham and Isaac, that “they went both of them together.  And Isaiah speaks of Christ being led, and John refers to Jesus coming, and walking.  With these statements we might contrast a further reference to the lamb, this time in Revelation 5:6, “stood a Lamb”.  Clearly the movement and what was involved in that movement are both over.

In Genesis 22 the father and the son go together to the place of sacrifice, the one to offer, the other to be offered.  How wonderfully this has been repeated in the New Testament, for did not the Lord Jesus say the night before He died, “I am not alone, the Father is with Me”? John 16:32.  This remark is made in the Gospel which does not record those words of the Saviour when upon the Cross, “My God, My God, Why hast Thou forsaken Me?”  The Lord may be forsaken of His God upon the Cross when made sin, but the fact remains that He and His Father are One and nothing can alter that eternal condition.

There is movement further on in Genesis 22:19, where we read of the father and the young men going together to Beer-sheba.  Abraham’s young men, having seen the place of sacrifice afar off, verses 4 and 5; and knowing that on Moriah death and resurrection have, in figure, transpired, Hebrews 11:17-19, are able to go with the father to dwell where he dwelt.  So likewise, believers of this age who look back to Calvary and see the place of sacrifice afar off, now press on in fellowship with the Father to dwell at last in the Father’s house, 1 John 1:3; John 14:2,3.

When we turn to Isaiah’s reference to the lamb, we find that he presents us with a contrast between the erring, wandering nation, like a flock of sheep gone astray, and the Lord Jesus, never straying but always “before Jehovah” Isaiah 53:6,2.  Never did He deviate from the path of righteousness, Psalm 23:3, nor walk in the counsel of the ungodly, Psalm 1:1.  Note how Mark records His progress towards Jerusalem, the place of His crucifixion, for he writes, “they were in the way going up to Jerusalem; and Jesus went before them: and they were amazed; and as they followed, they were afraid,” Mark 10:32.  Well might the disciples be amazed at the sight, for even though He knew the cruel death of the Cross lay before Him, yet not for one moment does He hesitate, but presses forward.  As they followed, they were afraid, for they were beginning to realise the solemn implications of being a true follower of Christ, with the duty of taking up one’s cross and following Him.

If in Genesis 22 we have fellowship in connection with the lamb, and in Isaiah 53 and Mark 10 following the lamb, and not straying, then in John 1 we have the fulfilment of Scripture through the lamb.  “All the prophets and the law prophesied until John” were the words of the Lord Jesus Himself, Matthew 11:13.  So when in the first chapter of John’s Gospel we find that John “seeth Jesus coming unto him” he is simply doing what all other true prophets in Old Testament times had done, as they anticipated and awaited the coming of the Messiah.  When he cries “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”, he is gathering together the testimony of the centuries concerning the Person and work of the Saviour.  For as we have already noted, Abraham assured his son that God would provide Himself a lamb and here at last on the banks of the Jordan was the Lamb of God.

The second book of Moses had spoken of the Passover lamb as “the” lamb, Exodus 12:4, and this also finds its echo in the words of John “Behold the Lamb”.  Again the ritual of the Day of Atonement involved a goat which bore away sins and Christ is the fulfiller of that type too, for He is the bearer away of sin, says John.  So much for extracts from the law of Moses, but what of the prophets?  Let the one that the Lord Jesus described as “the” prophet be our guide, even Daniel.  He is engaged in prayer in Daniel 9, because of the condition of his nation and its royal city, now in ruins.  He prays at the time of the evening oblation, but no sacrifice burns on Israel’s altar as he prays, for the Temple is in ruins also.  Who can remedy such a situation?  Only Messiah the Prince, who will make an end of sins, the sins that brought the desolation of City and Temple, and bring in everlasting righteousness.  He alone can purge the earth of its ingrained sin and introduce the reign of right which shall never be over-thrown.  No wonder John announces Him as the One who will take away the sin of the world!

Thus in closing these few remarks on passages relating to the Lamb of God’s providing, we notice that in Genesis 22 it is the father that takes the initiative.  Yet the son, who to all intents and purposes was the lamb, is willingly involved.  In Isaiah 53 wicked men take the initiative and the lamb is prepared to be taken by them to the place of slaughter.  Whilst in John 1 the initiative is Christ’s Himself, as He comes into the world.  So as we think of the lamb and goat section of Leviticus 1, we are assured that the One of whom it speaks went to the place of sacrifice in fellowship with His Father, in fulfilment of the prophecies of the Old Testament, and even if men counsel together to slaughter Him, we know that they only bring to pass the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.

What is the difference between a sheep and a goat, considered typically?  The word used for sheep here, namely “keseb”, means a he-lamb.  Not a “taleh,” a sucking lamb, nor yet a stout he-lamb, a “kar”; and certainly not a “kabsah,” a she-lamb.  Yet the word is not the same as is used in Genesis 22:7,8, a “seh” a young lamb of either the sheep or the goats.  Thus the emphasis seems to be upon the fact that it is a male.  As for the word for goat, “ez”, it has for its meaning a goat or she-goat.  In fact the word is translated “she-goat” 5 times.  Yet we know that the goat of Leviticus 1 must be a male.  Thus again the emphasis seems to be upon the maleness of the animal, for even though the usage of the word allows the idea of a she-goat, the regulations expressly exclude anything but a male.

It was not enough for the would-be offerer to bring the first animal he chanced upon as he entered his flock.  Apart from the vital necessity of freedom from blemish, the animal must of necessity be a male, neither ewe or she-goat would be acceptable.  The idea lying behind the male in Scripture is that of activity, not passivity, as with the female.  This is not to say, of course, that females either amongst the animal kingdom or the race of mankind are inactive.  But they are active in a different sort of way.

There is presented to us in the male sheep an illustration of the active, deliberate and resolute subjection of Christ to the Father’s will.  He is not simply the meeting-point of influences outside of Himself, such as the enmity of Satan and the world, but one who deliberately sets out to actively do the will of His Father.  His words in Gethsemane will serve to bring out the contrast between active submission and passive submission. They are as follows, as found in the Synoptic Gospels:

Matthew 26.39 “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt”.
Mark 14.36 “Abba, Father, all things are possible unto Thee; take away this cup from Me: nevertheless not what I will, but what Thou wilt”.
Luke 22.42 “Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be done”.

How the reality of the manhood of Christ shines out here!  Sincerely and definitely seeking that the awful cup of Divine wrath which was being extended to Him, might in some way be allowed to pass.  Yet only if it be the will of His Father so to intervene.  Mark’s account makes clear that “the cup” to which the Saviour refers, is the same as the “hour” of His sufferings upon the Cross.  Compare Mark 14:35 with verse 36.  Such were the horrors of that time that the holy soul of Christ shrank from the enduring of its agonies.  Yet, for all that, He expresses His passive submission to the will of His Father.

By contrast, in John’s Gospel that submission is active, the male offering is in view there.  Again the scene is Gethsemane, but this time there is no falling to the ground in agony by Christ, overwhelmed by the prospect of the bitter experiences so soon to be His portion.  In fact, it is the band of men that have come to arrest Him that fall to the ground, though not in prayer, but in fear.  Nor is there any mention of the cup being allowed to pass from Him undrained, but on the contrary there is a rebuke for Peter who by his sword seeks to prevent Him from drinking it.  Note the decisive and majestic words, “The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it”? John 18:11.  This is active submission, deliberately setting out to be subject to the will of the Father and it is this aspect of things which is emphasised throughout John’s Gospel.

But if the sheep was to be a male, so was the goat, so wherein lays their difference?  The goat is a more rugged animal than the sheep, the better able to survive under adverse circumstances.  It is said that the ancestors of the wild goats that may be found on some of the mountains in Wales were let loose there by the Welsh shepherds.  For the goats were able to penetrate into places which would be dangerous to a sheep, and would crop the grass so that the sheep would not be tempted to venture there and then be unable to return.  In the Scripture, the goat is associated with adverse circumstances Leviticus 16:22, and adverse decisions, Matthew 25:32,33,41.

We suggest therefore, that the male goat presents to us the idea of active subjection which takes the initiative despite adverse circumstances, whereas the male sheep gives the idea of active subjection which accepts circumstances as they develop, knowing them to be the will of God.

See how this unfolds in John’s Gospel.  In chapter 18.4 Jesus went forth to meet the hostile band with their swords and staves and lanterns.  This is the ‘goat’ aspect, facing hardship and opposition with determination and resolve.  But then we see the ‘sheep’ aspect of His active subjection in verses 12 and 13 as the band took Jesus, bound Him, and led Him away.  Thus beginning the fulfilment of the words of Isaiah as quoted in Acts 8:32, “He is led as a lamb to the slaughter”.  At one moment He is seen actively taking the initiative, going forth to meet the foe, the next He is allowing Himself to be bound.

What irony lays in the probable fact that the route taken by the soldiers with their prisoner was via the ascent by which Solomon went up to the House of the Lord to offer his ascending offering 1 Kings 10:5, which was one of the sights which caused such wonderment in the heart of the Queen of Sheba.  Are not our hearts likewise filled with amazement when we see the ascent by which Christ went up to the place of sacrifice?

Thus He was led to the palace, John 18:12-15; led to the Praetorium, (judgment hall), 18:28; and finally led to ‘the place’, which in fact was Golgotha, “the place of a skull” 19:16, 17.  But notice that He goes forth before He is led away in chapter 18, and then in 19:17 He goes forth after He is led away.  He shows Himself to be the Beginning and the Ending, the First and the Last; always in command of the situation, confident in the execution of His Father’s will, despite the tremendous cost.  Truly He is the he-goat that goeth well and is comely in going, Proverbs 30:29,31.

1:11  And he shall kill it on the side of the altar northward before the Lord: and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall sprinkle his blood round about upon the altar.

Only of the sheep and the goat is this said, although surely we may assume that it pertained to the other sacrifices also, the bullock and the dove.  We have seen already in this chapter the way in which contrasting and yet complementary things are put side by side, and such is the case here.  For “the side of the altar northward” suggests one thing, whilst “before the Lord” suggests another.  But one that not only harmonises with the first, but enhances it.

All of the points of the compass have certain associations.  For instance, the east suggests expectation, for it is the place of the sun’s rise, with all the hopes of the light of day.  The west would suggest expansion and enlargement, for it was the furthest extent of the sun’s course and was also the predominant direction in which the Gospel travelled from Jerusalem, in large part amongst the sons of Japheth, whose name means ‘enlargement’ Genesis 10.1-4.

But the north seems to be the place of exposure to danger.  It was from the north that danger threatened Israel so often.  As Jeremiah said “out of the north an evil shall break forth” 1:14.  Then Proverbs 25:23 says “the north wind driveth away rain”.  We might think this to be a good thing, but the rest of  the verse says “so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.”  Again Job 37:22 says “fair weather cometh out of the north: with God is terrible majesty.  Again, Psalm 75:6,7 says “promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south.  But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and setteth up another”.

The underlying thought behind these references to the north is of fore-boding, of terribleness, of exposure to danger, of judgement.  Couple with this the fact that the north side of the altar would necessarily be in the shadows, and we have a picture built up of a place of ominous portent.  It was this sort of experience that the Lord knew when He was found on the north side of Jerusalem on a cross.  Did the enemy come and destroy the Temple in olden times?  Then Christ prophesies that the temple of His Body will be destroyed at the cross, John 2:19.  Was the ensign lifted up by the tribe of Dan, camped on the north side of the Tabernacle, a serpent?  Then Christ would be lifted up in the same way, in accordance with the type of another uplifted serpent, that of Numbers 21.  See John 3:14-16.

Whilst the foregoing was true, that the enemy would come, that He would be lifted up, yet there was in the heart of the Son of God the consciousness that He was ever in personal favour with the Father.  For in John 2 there is a clear contrast made between Herod’s Temple, defiled and profaned, and the temple of His Body, pure and holy.  So whilst the Temple of Old Testament times was destroyed because of the failure of the people, Christ’s Body was brought into the dissolution of death for several reasons, but certainly not for failure on His part.

Whilst it is true that He was lifted up as both the brazen serpent, and the serpent-ensign had been, yet He was never personally anything less than holy.  Truly made sin, yet never made to become a sinner or sinful.  Always “before the Lord”, even during the three hours of darkness which veiled His deepest anguish; ever the delight of the Father’s heart.  A possible hint of this is found in Psalm 22:20.  The psalm is in character a sin-offering psalm, beginning as it does with Christ’s experience of being forsaken of God because of sin.  But then in verse 20 Christ is heard to say “Deliver my soul from the sword, my darling from the power of the dog”.  To what is He referring here?  Is it to His own soul, previously mentioned in the verse?  Or is it that the Son is speaking of Himself in the language that He knows the Father uses of Him?  For the word translated “darling” is elsewhere in the OT translated as “only son”.  Its first use is in Genesis 22:2,16 of Isaac, Abraham’s only son, his only-begotten, as Hebrews 11:17 describes Him.  Its last use is in Zechariah 12:10, a prophecy of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus.  Thus sensing deeply His relationship with the Father, He speaks as He knows the Father would speak.  Just as the fat of the sin offering was not burnt with the rest of the animal upon the ground, but rather was burnt as incense upon the altar of burnt offering, so the fragrance of the devotion and faithfulness of Christ in dealing with sin was associated with His work in gaining acceptance for His people.  Thus there is suggested by the thought of the north, and also “before the Lord”, not only the perseverance of Christ under the most severe testing, but also the fact that during all the time of that testing, He was personally delightful to the Father in heaven.

1:12  And he shall cut it into his pieces, with his head and his fat: and the priest shall lay them in order on the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar:
1:13  But he shall wash the inwards and the legs with water: and the priest shall bring it all, and burn it upon the altar: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord.

One further point of difference, although perhaps a slight one, might be mentioned, as we bring these remarks on the sheep and goat section to a close.  In the case of the bullock, “the priest shall burn all”, but in the case of the sheep or goat, “the priest shall bring it all”.  Of course, all the sheep was burnt and all the bullock was brought, but special mention is made of burning on the one hand and bringing on the other.  Thus the expressions used fit in with the particular emphasis in each section.  The bullock tells of One wholly given up to God’s interests, therefore it is “burn all”.  Whereas the sheep and the goat tell of One who pressed towards the place of sacrifice, and would not be turned back, hence, “bring all”.  It is well with the Lord’s people when they are wholly given up to their Father’s interests and walk in ways that give Him pleasure.  See 1 Thessalonians 4:1.


HEBREWS 2:11-18


2:11  For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren,

 2:12  Saying, I will declare Thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee.

 2:13  And again, I will put my trust in Him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.

 2:14  Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

 2:15  And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

2:11    For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified- To sanctify means to set apart.  It is too early in the epistle to think in terms of being sanctified by the sacrifice of Christ, 10:10.  In the context, the captain of our salvation has separated us from the world of Adam of which we formed part.  In His prayer in John 17, the Lord Jesus spoke of sanctifying Himself, that His people might be sanctified by the truth.  Sanctification, or holiness, has not to do in the first instance with separation from sin, (we must not confuse sanctification with purification), but rather involves separation from the ordinary, to be occupied with the sacred.  Christ ever sanctified Himself during His life down here, and this qualifies Him to sanctify His people now.  He had contrasted those who have eternal life with those who only have the life of flesh, John 17:2, and has described His own as given to Him by the Father out of the world, verse 6.  This does not involve being physically removed, but morally distinct.  Given that believers are in the world, He requested that they might be sanctified by the truth.  The truth in question being that regarding the nature of the eternal life believers possess, the very life of God.  It is as we have fellowship with God and His Son in the things of eternal life, (which things were expressed fully by the Son when He was here), that we shall be set apart from the world of Adam.  The closer we get to God, the further we shall be from the world.  Adam associated his race with things that caused them to perish, whereas Christ associates with salvation the race of which He is head.  By passing through this world, and suffering in it, the Lord Jesus has equipped Himself with the experience to lead His people through the same world, with all its sufferings. 
Are all of one- the sanctifier, (Christ), and those sanctified, (His people), all emerge out of one common experience of suffering on the way to glory.  He has already come out of the tomb never to suffer again.  But association with Christ in His burial and resurrection begins a life of suffering for the believer.  From which suffering he will emerge just a certainly as Christ has emerged.  If we suffer with Him, we shall be glorified together, Romans 8:17.  Christ is out of the experience of suffering already, whereas we await that emergence, but because it is certain it can be spoken of as if already accomplished.  It is noticeable that the apostles did not begin to suffer for Christ until He was risen from the dead.
For which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren- “A brother is born for adversity”, Proverbs 17:17, and the common experience of suffering bonds us with our captain.  If He passed through suffering, and the people did not, then there might be room for embarrassment if He called us brethren.  Note the way Romans 8 moves from a consideration of sufferings because of a groaning creation, verses 16-27, to the thought that God’s people shall be brethren with His Son, in glory, verses 28-30.  No amount of privation can destroy that, as Romans 8:38,39 declares:  “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

2:12    Saying, “I will declare Thy name unto My brethren- These are words found in Psalm 22:22 at the point where the scene changes from one of death and great suffering, to resurrection and great glory.  They represent the point where Christ finishes His experience of suffering in this world, and begins to enter His glory, “God raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory”, 1 Peter 1:21. 
The Lord described His disciples as those that had continued with Him in His temptations, and despite the way they had forsaken Him in Gethsemane, He still said to the women, “Go tell My brethren that I go before you into Galilee”, Matthew 28:10.  He also spoke of ascending to His Father and theirs, thus showing He was not ashamed to associate with them, even if they had been ashamed, temporarily, to associate with Him.  In this way He began to carry out what He promised in His prayer to His Father in John 17:26, and continued the declaration of the Father’s name or character. 
In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee”- If the first phrase involved teaching the Name, this one involves praising the Name.  Praise is the expression of the works of God, and here the Lord Jesus can be thought of as praising God for His great work of delivering Him from death, in answer to His prayer, Hebrews 5:7.  It is noticeable that after the Passover meal a psalm was sung before they left, in accordance with the custom of Israel, whereas we do not read of this in the upper room in the post-resurrection appearances to the disciples there.  Perhaps a psalm, (1 Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 5:19), now has the more spiritual idea of a personal expression of praise, rather than the repetition of the exercises of others.  By singing praise in the church is meant the recounting by the Lord Jesus of His appreciation of the intervention of His Father on His behalf; He does this as His people speak of Him to the Father.  Psalm 22 does not actually use the word sing in the expression that is quoted here, perhaps confirming that singing is not necessarily in view.
There is a possibility that the declaring of the Name is done while His people are still on earth, whereas the singing of praise in the midst of the church will take place in heaven when all the redeemed are safe home.  So one refers to the local assembly, the other to “the church of the firstborn (ones) which are written (enrolled) in heaven”, 12:23.

2:13    And again, “I will put my trust in Him”- This is a quotation from Psalm 18, which is mainly an account of David’s deliverance from the hand of his enemies, including Saul.  Now Saul had persecuted David some 40 or more years before, and he seems to have used this psalm as an expression of his dependence on God at every stage of his life.  The first three verses, from which this quote comes, give to us the attitude of David to adversity, and one feature is his trust in God.  Then he records the way in which God vindicated his trust in him by delivering him from his foes.  So we learn that during the time when His enemies had the upper hand, the Lord Jesus was marked by trust in God.  Indeed, this was ever His attitude, for Psalm 22:9,10 says “I was cast upon Thee from the womb; Thou art My God from My mother’s belly; Thou didst make me hope when I was upon My mother’s breast”.  As a result, He knew deliverance from Herod.  Children, even unborn children, are remarkably sensitive to the circumstances in which their mother finds herself.  See, for instance, Luke 1:41.  By implication, His brethren will be marked by this trust too, as they follow the path the captain of their salvation has marked out for them. 
And again, “Behold, I and the children which God hath given Me”- This is a quotation from Isaiah 8:18.  Isaiah had the task of warning the wicked king Ahaz of impending captivity at the hands of the Assyrians.  As a sign to Israel, Isaiah was instructed by God to name his two sons in a particular way.  One was to be Shear-jashub, a name which means “A remnant shall return”, and the other, Maher-shalal-hash-baz, which means “In making haste to the spoil he hasteneth the prey”.  So when Isaiah said to the nation, “Behold, I and the children which God hath given me”, they were a “sign and a wonder” to Israel.  Maher-shalal-hash-baz was testimony that the Assyrian would indeed hasten to invade the land, and take them as a prey.  The other son, however, was God’s promise that even though that happened, a remnant would return from captivity.  So during the present age, believers from the nation of Israel are likewise a testimony to coming judgement on the nation in the form of the Great Tribulation, (and to a lesser extent the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70), and also to the fact that God will be favourable to His people and ensure that a remnant of them will know His salvation.  It is interesting that the Lord Jesus called His brethren “children”, in John 21:5, using the same word which is found here and in the next verse.  So physical descendants are not necessarily in view in the application of the quotation, but a spiritual relationship.  Just as Isaiah’s trust was in God despite the impending judgements, so the trust of the Hebrew believers should be in God despite what would happen to them as a nation in AD 70.

2:14    Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood- The children in question being those addressed in the previous verse, the children of God, who are the same as Christ’s brethren, true believers.  The present condition of the children is in view because they were not children before they became partakers.  The verb “are partakers” is in the perfect tense, meaning continuation from the past to the present.  Those who share flesh and blood are in a condition of relative weakness, which leaves them vulnerable to attack by evil as they make their way to glory, therefore their Captain steps in to help. 
He also Himself- It is necessary for Him to have the same nature as those He leads, so that He may pass through the same experiences, sin apart, of course. 
Likewise took part of the same- Not only does He share flesh and blood with the children, but shares it likewise, or in the same manner- “Similarly, in like manner, in the same way… is equivalent to ‘in all things’ of verse 17, and hence is used of a similarity which amounts to equality”, Grimme.  The manhood  of Christ is real, even though He is without sin, for a sinful nature is not an integral part of humanity.  Adam was a real man before he sinned- he did not have to possess a sinful nature before he was rightly called a man.  1 Corinthians 15:50 distinguishes between flesh and blood, and corruption, showing that our corrupt nature can be considered apart from our flesh and blood condition.  The Lord Jesus took part of flesh and blood in like manner to the children, by birth of a mother, and He subsequently took part in this condition as He lived amongst men.  Perhaps there is an allusion to the other son mentioned by Isaiah, even Immanuel, the child born of the virgin, Isaiah 9:14, see Matthew 1:23. 
The word used of believers is partakers, meaning they have a common, equal share in humanity, whereas Christ took part, which involves coming in from outside the condition, a testimony to His pre-existence before birth. 
That through death He might destroy Him that had the power of death- Psalm 18, which is quoted in verse 13, and which is found in 2 Samuel 22 also, was written when the Lord had delivered David from his enemies, including Goliath and his sons.  In fact 2 Samuel 21:22 links the defeat of Goliath when David was a youth, with the defeat of his four sons by David’s mighty men, when David was an old man.  Goliath had put the fear of death into the hearts of the armies of Israel, but David had delivered them from that fear, and had beheaded Goliath with his own sword.  So Christ has defeated the greatest enemy of all, the Devil, by using the very weapon that he used. 
By coming into flesh and blood conditions, and by allowing Himself to be condemned to death, the Lord Jesus placed Himself in a position of weakness.  Yet in this weakness He defeated the mightiest force for evil there ever could be.  See 2 Corinthians 13:4.  Since He is now raised from the dead by the power of God, there is no possibility of the Devil being effective against God’s sons.  To destroy means to make of no effect, not annihilate.  In the wisdom of God, the Devil is still allowed some measure of activity, but when his final doom is effected it will only take an “ordinary” angel to bind him and cast him into the lake of fire, Revelation 20:1-3. 

2:15    And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage- those under the law were under the ministration of condemnation and death, 2 Corinthians 3:7,9.  This brought bondage, for they were not free from fear of death.  Imagine a believer in Israel who is returning from sacrificing a sin offering.  As he returns to his tent he sins again; yet it is too late to return to the altar.  He goes to sleep that night fearing that he may die, and die, moreover, with sin upon him.  Through Christ’s death, however, this fear is removed, and death may be faced calmly.  This relates especially to believers who formerly were Jews, and therefore under the law.


2:16  For verily He took not on him the nature of angels; but He took on him the seed of Abraham.

 2:17  Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

 2:18  For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted. 

2:16    For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels- “the nature of” has been added by the translators, since they felt it necessary.  But the word “took” is the key here.  It means to “take up a person to help him, to rescue from peril, and also to succour”.  There is nothing about taking a nature.  The Textus Receptus says “For not indeed of angels takes He hold”.  The point is that He did not come into flesh and blood conditions to help angels, but the seed of Abraham.  Angels have no fear of death, nor does Christ succour them. 
But He took on Him the seed of Abraham- that is, His coming is relevant to the first readers of the epistle, the Hebrews, descended from “Abram the Hebrew”, Genesis 14:13.  They should not think that because the link with Adam has been emphasised in the earlier verses, that they have no special place with God.  “Salvation is of the Jews”, John 4:22.  “Of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came”, Romans 9:5.  The special emphasis, however, is on those descended from Abraham naturally who were believers, and therefore were his seed spiritually, see John 8:33-45; Romans 4:16; Galatians 3:29.   The word “took” is the same as is used in 8:9 of God taking hold of Israel to lead them out of Egypt.  Here our captain takes hold to lead out of the world.  Clearly, the statement in 8:9 does not involve taking a nature.  “For verily” is only found here in the New Testament.  “It is used when something is affirmed in an ironical way”- Grimm.  Vine says it means, “Of course,” or “It goes without saying.”

2:17    Wherefore- this means “for which reason”. 
In all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren- For the purpose of taking hold of the seed of Abraham, He needed to be made like them in all things- note He is made like His brethren, meaning believers.  He is not made like unbelievers in all things, for they have a sinful nature, whereas believers are looked at ideally as being righteous, even whilst in a mortal body.  This confirms that the seed of Abraham in verse 16 means believers.  “Behoved” means “a necessity in view of the subject under discussion”.  Having taken flesh and blood, and come to take hold of believers to help them, it is necessary that He become like them in all relevant things, so that He may minister unto them effectively.  The previous verses have shown believers to be delivered by His various ministries; but they are passing through temptations that may cause them to fall- how can He help them in this? 
That He might be- in order that He might take His place as, or be granted the position of. 
A merciful and faithful high priest- the word for mercy here indicates the outward manifestation of pity, with need on the part of the one shown mercy, and resources on the part of the one showing it.  It is not simply an attitude, but an act, as demonstrated by the Good Samaritan, who was not content to look from a distance, (as the priest was), but acted in compassion. 
Faithfulness marks Him, not only in His relationship with God, 3:2, but also towards believers, the idea behind faithfulness being reliability and stability.  The failures we manifest do not cause our helper to desert us.  Cf. “only Luke is with me”, 2 Timothy 4:11, for the writer of the priestly gospel has learnt the constancy of the One he wrote of, and sought to imitate it. 
In things pertaining to God- in matters that relate to the honour of God.  Aaron was made priest to minister unto God, Exodus 28:1.  The priesthood of Aaron had to do with constant sacrifices and yearly atonement.  Christ dealt with these two aspects before He entered into his ministry, as hebrews 7:28 makes clear.  His sacrifice renders altar sacrifices obsolete, chapter 10, and His work of propitiation is once for all, chapter 9.  His priesthood has to do with helping us move through the world safely, and leading the way into the presence of God. 
To make reconciliation for the sins of the people- reconciliation, the bringing into harmony of persons formerly at variance, is one result of the work of propitiation.  “To” means “for to”, a similar expression to the “That He might be” of the beginning of the verse.  The change of word indicates that, as the scholars say, “this is a separate telic clause”, (a clause which tells us what the goal is).  So there are two goals in view in the verse, the one issuing from the other- He is made like His brethren with the general object of being a faithful high priest for them, and also to make propitiation.  Whilst this is put second, the work was done before He became high priest, but the writer perhaps wishes to link His present work of succouring the tempted with the work that is the support for that ministry.  Compare 1 John 2:1,2, with the advocacy of Christ on the basis of His propitiatory work.  He is the propitiation for our sins in the sense that the one in heaven interceding is the one who once was on the cross propitiating.  The alternative reason for propitiation being mentioned second will be given later.
The Lord Jesus spoke to Mary Magdalene about His brethren, and indicated that He was about to “ascend to My Father, and your Father, to My God, and your God”, John 20:17.  Thus He would still be the link between His people and God, maintaining them in His dual role of Advocate with the Father, and High Priest in things pertaining to God. 
The basis of His advocacy is two-fold.  His person, for He is Jesus Christ the righteous, and His work, for He is the propitiation for our sins, 1 John 2:1,2.  The apostle John was concerned about believers sinning.  The sins of believers are just as obnoxious to God, and just as deserving of wrath, as those of unbelievers.  But we are “saved from wrath through Him”, Romans 5:9, as He pleads the merits of His work.  He is, says John, the propitiatory offering for our sins.  Not was, but is.  In other words, the one who acts for us in heaven as our advocate, is the very same one who hung upon the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. 
He is also our High priest.  Hebrews 2:17,18 form a bridge between chapter two, with its emphasis on the reasons why the Lord Jesus took manhood, and the way in which Israel were tempted in the wilderness as noted in chapter three. 
Note in particular the word “for” which begins verse 18. Too little attention has been paid to this word, and hence the connection between verses 17 and 18 is often lost.  The reason why we have a high priest who is merciful and faithful is that He has been here in manhood and suffered being tempted.  When His people pass through temptation, then He undertakes to deal with their cause.  Because He has been here, and has been tempted in all points like as we are, He is able to help us when we cry to Him for help.  The word for succour is used by the woman of Canaan in Matthew 15:25 when she cried out, “Lord, help me”.  He is able to point us to the ways in which He overcame in the wilderness temptation, and thus we are strengthened to resist temptation.
But what if we fall, and sin?  In that case He comes to our aid in another way.  We see it typified negatively in Leviticus 10:16-20.  The priests were commanded to eat the sin-offerings, if the blood thereof had not been brought into the sanctuary.  This was in order to “bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord”, Leviticus 10:17, where the word for bear is the same as is used for the scapegoat bearing iniquity.  But at the end of the consecration of the priesthood, Moses was angry on God’s behalf, for the priests had failed in this.  One of the functions of priesthood, then, was to personally identify with the sin-offering by eating it, and by so doing bear the iniquity of the congregation, taking responsibility for their failure, but doing so safeguarded by the fact that a sin-offering had been accepted by God.  As they did this the scripture explicitly says they made atonement for the people, Leviticus 10:17.  We see then what the writer to the Hebrews means when he talks of Christ making reconciliation or propitiation for the sins of the people.  He is indicating that Christ personally identifies Himself with His sin-offering work at Calvary, and thus takes responsibility for the failures of His people under temptation.  This is acceptable to God, and His people are preserved, despite their failure.

2:18         For in that He hath suffered, being tempted- only those who resist temptation suffer.  The fact that it is said without qualification that He suffered when He was tempted, shows that He always resisted resolutely.  He therefore knows what His people pass through when they resist temptation. 
He is able to succour them that are tempted- knowing the pressure they are under, He is able to suit the help they need to their situation.  When His people do not resist temptation, then His work at Calvary safeguards their position, hence the mention of propitiation in the previous verse.  To succour means to run to the aid of a person in danger when they cry for help.  See Matthew 15:25, “Lord, help me”; and Hebrews 4:16 “Grace to help in time of need”, where the same word as succour is used.  Because He has experienced the pressure of temptation, and has overcome, when we go to Him for help He is able to point us to the way in which He overcame, as detailed in the temptation accounts in the gospels.






4:1  Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all;

4:2  But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.

4:3  Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:

4:4  But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

4:5  To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

4:6  And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

4:7  Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

4:8  Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.

4:9  But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?

4:10  Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.

4:11  I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain 

(a) Verses 1-3 Infants in bondage.
(b) Verses 4-5 God’s Son sent to redeem from bondage and bring to liberty.
(c) Verses 6-7 God’s Spirit sent to enable that liberty to be expressed. 
(d) Verses 8-10 God’s sons return to bondage.

(a)    4:1-3    Infants in bondage
4:1    Now I say, that the heir, as long as he is a child (infant)- the apostle now uses another illustration, similar to that of 3:24,25.  He has spoken of believers being Abraham’s seed, as those who belonged to Christ.  He now concentrates on the fact that believers are heirs as well.  Differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all- as far as the realisation of heirship is concerned, the infant is no different to a slave, who has no prospects at all. 

4:2    But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father- a tutor is a guide or guardian of infants, a guardian is a superior servant over the household, whether children or slaves.  These trusted servants would be responsible for the welfare of the infant until he reached the age of maturity, at around 14 years old.  Time appointed of the father- in the Roman household, the father exercised absolute control over his wife, children, slaves, and even nephews and nieces.  This control lasted until his death.  The instatement of an infant as his father’s heir depended absolutely on the discretion of the father. 

4:3    Even so we- now comes the application of the illustration.  The apostle has used the pronoun “ye” from 3:25, where he saw in the fact that Gentiles had entered into sonship the proof that the Jews were no longer in a state of infancy, if they believed in Christ.  Now he uses the emphatic “we”, to signal the fact that he is now thinking of the Jews again.  When we were children (infants)- the Authorised Version obscures the important distinction the apostle is making in these verses between infancy which lasted from birth to about age 14, and sonship, from age 14 onwards.  He is not thinking of life in the family, but privilege.  Were in bondage under the elements of the world- as the tutor of 3:24 represented the law of Moses, so here.  The elements were the rudimentary principles as found in the law, the abc of God’s dealings with His people.  The law was not for those who were in the full privilege of sonship.  This is why chapter five will show that to go back to the law is to be hindered in the Christian life, see 5:7. 

(b)    4:4-5    God’s Son sent to redeem and bring to liberty
4:4    But when the fulness of the time was come- corresponding to “the time appointed of the father”, of verse 1.  When the time was right for the nation of Israel to have the opportunity of sonship.  God sent forth His Son- it was evident that the law had produced none who could be an example of sonship, for God had to send forth His Son from His own presence.  Certainly there was no-one who could remedy the immaturity of Israel from amongst the people.  Made of a woman- the word “made” is from the verb “to become”, and has to do with what a person has been rendered as regards condition, place or rank.  Here the emphasis is on the condition of the Son’s entrance into the world.  He came by the normal means, although His conception was supernatural.  As one born of Mary, He was a real man.  The sinful nature which the rest of men possess is not a normal part of man, for it is perfectly possible to be a true man and not have a sinful nature, as was the case with Adam before he sinned.  As one who was not begotten of Joseph, He was ideal man, for He did not inherit the tendency to sin which all others receive from their father.  Because He was the Son of God, and as such was equal with God in all respects, He was also righteous man, for it is not possible for Him to unite anything unrighteous to His person.  As one who was a real man, He manifested true sonship in manhood on the earth.  Sonship is not something that can only be displayed in heaven, but can be worked out on earth.  Adam failed because of the woman, whereas Christ failed not, even though His manhood was derived from a woman.  Made under the law- the same remarks apply to “made”, as before.  The condition of His presence here in the world was governed by the fact that He was under the jurisdiction of the law of Moses.  Even though this was so, His motivation to do God’s will came from within, from the heart, and not from tables of stone.  It is interesting that in the quotation from Psalm 40 which is made in Hebrews 10:5-8, the words, “thy law is within my heart”, are omitted, for there was nothing legal about Christ.  He showed true sonship, involving dignity, maturity and liberty, even though surrounded by those in Israel who were immature infants. 

4:5    To redeem them that were under the law- verse 3 has spoken of bondage, and slaves need to be redeemed if they are to be brought into the position of sons.  It was perhaps a shock for those in Israel to be told that they were slaves, but the law had brought them to this, see John 8:34.  The essential features of slavery are lack of liberty, dignity, and maturity, and only God’s free sons have these things.  Christ came to “Preach deliverance to the captives, and to set at liberty those that are bruised”, Luke 4:18.  His word sets free, John 8:31, so the opportunity of freedom was given to the nation by His preaching, but it was only those who realised they were “bruised” that were set at liberty.  The lawyer of Luke 15 would no doubt have seen himself as the Good Samaritan, performing works in love to his neighbour.  He ought to have realised, however, that he was pictured by the man wounded at the roadside, half-dead, and sinking slowly until he was fully dead.  As One who was under the law, but, being virgin-born, was sinless, Christ was in a position to rescue others under the law.  That we might receive the adoption of sons- the apostle has already explained how Gentiles become sons, in 3:26, now he shows how those in Israel are brought to the same position.  The Gentiles were brought straight from slavery to sonship, when they believed.  Israel, however, was in a national relationship with God as an infant, and the practice of adoption needed to operate.  The phrase “adoption of sons”, refers to the practice in Roman culture of a father who had no son and heir legally adopting a suitable son from another family.  The adopted son was introduced into all the privileges of his new family, being legally as if he were born into it.  So those from Israel who believed the gospel, entered into the full privilege of being sons of God. 

(c)    4:6-7    God’s Spirit sent to enable liberty to be expressed
4:6    And because ye are sons- the apostle now resumes his remarks regarding believers who were formerly Gentiles, but who had been brought into sonship through faith in Christ.  God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts- this shows conclusively that all believers are sons, for the following reason.  All believers possess the Spirit of God, as Galatians 3:2 shows, so if all have the Spirit, and all have the Spirit because they are sons, then all believers must be sons.  This is confirmed by 3:26, where sonship is based on faith, not progress.  Of course there should be progress in the manifestation of this relationship, as Matthew 5:44,45 indicates, “That ye may be (become) the children (sons) of your Father which is in heaven”.  The Spirit of God, who was upon the Lord Jesus, was the power by which He lived here for God.  So because we have that same Spirit, we are enabled to live here for God, too, and that as His sons.  Dignity, liberty and maturity should mark us, as it marked Him.  Into your hearts- it was God’s promise under the terms of the New Covenant that He would write His laws in the hearts of His people, Hebrews 10:16.  This is in contrast to His laws being written on tables of stone.  See how the apostle elaborates on this in 2 Corinthians 3:1-4:6.  No longer are believers under the law as a religious code by which they seek to please God and earn His favour.  Instead, there should be willing obedience in their hearts to all that He commands, just as there was with Christ, Isaiah 50:4,5; John 8:26-29; 38; 12:49,50; 14:24; 17:8.  The power to do this is found in the indwelling Spirit of God.  As the apostle teaches in Romans 8:2,3, having been made free from the law which highlighted sin and brought in death, the believer is able to fulfil the righteousness of the law in the measure in which he walks after the Spirit and not after the flesh.  The righteousness of the law is all that the law demanded as being right.  Sent forth- not only has God sent forth His Son, because sonship had not been exhibited under the law, but He has also sent forth the Spirit, for the power to live as sons is not found amongst men either.  Crying, Abba, Father- in Romans 8:15 it is the believer who cries “Abba”, whereas here it is the Spirit who does so.  Now God the Father is not the Father of the Holy Spirit, so the meaning must be that the Spirit so relates to us in our sonship-position, (remember He is the Spirit of God’s Son), that our crying is said to be His.  On earth, we cry by the Spirit, “Abba”, whilst the cry is heard in heaven through the mediation of the Spirit of God.  Compare a similar action of the Spirit in the matter of prayer generally in Romans 8:26,27.  This is what Jude calls “Praying in the Holy Spirit”, Jude 20.  It is said that slaves in the Roman household were forbidden to use this word to the father in the house, so the fact that believing Gentiles can use it in their address to God is conclusive evidence that their slave-days are gone.  The word abba is an Aramaic word, as brought back by Israel from their captivity in Babylon.  The word translated father is of course a Greek word as originally written by the apostle, so is the word Greek and Roman sons would use.  The fact that all believers use both words shows the fact that there is in Christ neither Jew nor Gentile, 3:28.  The use of the word abba denotes a closeness of relationship, a fondness for the one addressed, and a freeness in his presence, that was never known by Israel under the law, and certainly not by Gentiles as they worshipped idols. 

4:7    Wherefore thou art no more (longer) a servant (slave), but a son- they had once been abject slaves to idols, as verse 8 will go on to say.  There was no process of infancy followed by sonship as there was nationally for Israel.  And if a son, then an heir of God through Christ- the Father has decided that the appointed time has come, and the full rights of sonship are now possessed; with them comes the rights of heirship too.  Again, there is the reminder that Israel were potentially heirs under the law, but not until they reached sonship in Christ could they know the inheritance.  Gentiles go straight from having nothing, to possessing everything in Christ.  As God is now their Father, they are heirs of all that He has, and this through the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus.  “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be His God, and he shall be My son”, Revelation 21:7.  This is the only place in John’s writings where believers are called sons, and is an allusion to Psalm 2:8, so not John’s words in one sense.  Everywhere else he reserves the title for the Lord Jesus in order to preserve the uniqueness of His Sonship.

(d)    4:8-11    God’s sons return to bondage
4:8    Howbeit then, when ye knew not God- eternal life involves the knowledge of God as “the only true God”, John 17:3, therefore when the Galatians worshipped false gods, they could not have known the True God.  Ye did (bond)service unto them which by nature are no gods- they were enslaved to gods which, as far as their real identity is concerned, must be labelled “No-gods”.  This is in agreement with the ancient prophets, who declared that the gods of the heathen were vanities, or nothings. See 1 Chronicles 16:25,26; Isaiah 44:9,10.  This is not to say that the evil spirits behind idolatry did not exist, but rather that having dealings with them is a vain and worthless exercise, because it involves a person in vain worship.  The stark contrast is between liberty as sons to serve the God they know to be real, and bondage as slaves to gods that are unreal.

4:9    But now, after that ye have known God- the Lord Jesus has been given authority to grant eternal life to all that the Father has given Him, John 17:2.  Thus blessed, the believer knows God, and is in vital relationship with Him.  Or rather, are known of God- the apostle guards against the notion that knowing God is an achievement on the part of the Galatians.  It is God who has taken the initiative, and worked out in time the logical outcome of His foreknowledge of His people, Romans 8:20; 1 Peter 1:2.
How turn ye to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?- “How” asks the question “In what manner”?  “By what process?  The apostle is baffled as to how true believers can be so influenced, that they turn their backs on liberty and return to bondage.  He will say in 5:8 “this persuasion cometh not of Him that calleth you”, again a reference to God’s sovereign call of them in line with His foreknowledge.  They had not so much turned back to the weak and beggarly elements, but turned back to bondage; bound to a different slavemaster indeed, but still in slavery.  The elements are the elementary and basic principles of the law, which are weak, and therefore unable to give power to put the laws into effect, for the law was “weak through the flesh”, Romans 8:3.  The law was also beggarly, and so could not bring into the prosperity which God’s sons and heirs ought to know.  By describing the elements as weak and beggarly, the apostle does not speak evil of God’s law, but rather emphasises the fact that it had not the power to bring into maturity, liberty and prosperity, any more than slavery to idols had.

4:10    Ye observe days- such as the Sabbath day, whether the regular seventh day of the week, or the other sabbaths which were stipulated, Leviticus 23:39, (there was no guarantee that the fifteenth day of the month would be a sabbath, and in any case the eighth day was to be a sabbath as well).  And months- the Jewish feasts were regulated by the appearance of the new moon.  And times- Israelites were required to appear at Jerusalem at three seasons during the religious year, see Deuteronomy 16:16.  And years- the years of Jubilee and release were occasions of great rejoicing in Israel, occurring once every 49 years, Leviticus 25:8-10.  All these, then, were times at which the religious ceremonies of Israel took place.  The emphasis here is on the festivals and celebrations of Israel; but these only had meaning for those who were under obligation to the civil code of the law, which took the form of a covenant between God and the people of Israel- Gentiles were never under this covenant.

4:11    I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain- such was the zeal of the Galatians in embracing Judaism, that the apostle began to wonder whether his labour in preaching the gospel to them, and subsequently seeking to establish them in the truth, was all fruitless effort.  Such is the difference between law and grace that the two cannot both be in control at the same time. 

REASON FOUR    4:12-18       



4:12  Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all.

4:13  Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.

4:14  And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.

4:15  Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.

4:16  Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?

4:17  They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them.

4:18  But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.


(a) Verse 12 Paul’s interest and its entreaty.
(b) Verses 13-16 Paul’s infirmity and its effect.
(c) Verses 17-20 Judaiser’s influence and its evil.

(a)    4:12    Paul’s interest and its entreaty
4:12    Brethren, I beseech you- he does not doubt their salvation when he says “I am afraid of you”, in verse 10, so here calls them his brethren.  Be as I am- he wonders whether the principles of the grace of God have really been grasped by them as firmly as they should.  He himself had been delivered from Judaism, and the grace of God had so impressed its truth on his soul, that he was not only free from the law in principle, but in practice too.  He desired them also to be free both in principle and practice. For I am as ye are- he was free in principle, as he is convinced they were.  It only remained for them to be free in practice, as he was.  Ye have not injured me at all- they had not done him any harm when he came with the gospel to them, even though that gospel often arouses enmity on the part of the unsaved, since it condemns their sin.  Note the experiences of the apostle when in and around Galatia in Acts 14.  In fact, as he will say in verse 15, they would have healed his illness if they could.  As he looks back at their initial response, it encourages him to think that they will retrace their steps and return to the things they believed at the first. 

(b)    4:13-18        Paul’s infirmity and its effect
4:13    But ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first- when Paul went to the Galatian area, as recorded in Acts 14, twice he was stoned, and on one occasion was thought to be dead, such was the ferocity of the attack, Acts 14:19.  It was against this background that the apostle can not only say that they had not injured him, but also that he was in a poor physical state when he came to their province, yet persevered with the gospel. 

4:14    And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected- not only was he weak through persecutions, but had a trial (temptation) which seems to have rendered him repulsive to look upon.  Some have suggested that he had some distressing eye complaint, hence the reference to eyes in verse 15.  Tradition says the apostle may have been ugly in appearance.  Certainly his enemies said that his bodily presence was weak, 2 Corinthians 10:10.  An ancient non-Biblical description of Paul is as follows:- “A little man of stature, thin-haired upon the head, crooked in the legs, of good state of body, with eyebrows joining, and nose somewhat hooked, full of grace: for sometimes he appeared like a man, and sometimes he had the face of an angel”.  But received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus- despite his outward appearance, the Galatians welcomed him for what he had come to say, as if he were an angel, or even as if he were Christ Himself.  Such was the power by which he preached, the comparison which came to mind was that he was like an angel, a messenger from God; and such was the Christ-likeness of this man, that they thought it was as if He Himself had come.  They saw no man save Jesus only, Mark 9:8; Matthew 28:20; Mark 16:20.

4:15    Where then is the blessedness ye spake of?- the gospel brings into the blessedness of sins forgiven, see Psalm 32:1; Romans 4:6-8, but now the Galatians had been influenced by the law-men, and the misery which comes when there is a lack of assurance engulfed them.  For I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me- such had been the gladness which the grace of Christ had brought, that it translated into an intense love and concern for the welfare of the one who was His representative. 

4:16    Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?- from one who brought them liberty, the apostle, in the opinion of the Galatians was now one who acted against their best spiritual interests.  The apostle had not changed, but the Galatians had been influenced by the false teachers.  John tells us that those who receive the apostles are of God, 1 John 4:6.  The early believers continued steadfastly in the doctrine and fellowship of the apostles, Acts 2:42, so fellowship with the apostles was enjoyed because the truth was enjoyed.  All truth causes the natural heart to rebel, for the lie of the Devil is more attractive to it than the truth of God, see John 8:37-47.

(c)    4:17-18        Judaiser’s influence and its evil
4:17    They zealously affect you, but not well- to zealously affect means to give close attention to something or someone.  The law-teachers were diligent and persuasive, and had influenced the Galatians, but not well, that is, against their best spiritual interests.  Yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them- the false teachers wanted to drive a wedge between the believers and the apostle, so that the truth he brought no longer had its proper place in their hearts.  They also wanted the Galatians to give them their attention, that they might (zealously) affect them, for the word used is the same as at the beginning of the verse.  See also 6:12,13. 

4:18    But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing- the apostle makes it clear that he is not against enthusiasm, but it must be directed in the right channel.  And it must always be directed there, for no progress is made by those who veer from grace to law.  And not only when I am present with you- the Galatian national characteristic of hasty changes of opinion showed itself by a change of allegiance when the apostle left them, and the false teachers came.  They should have had the truth firmly held in their hearts, so that the truth was not just in the apostle, and left when he did. 

4:19    My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you- immediately the apostle uses the idea of birth relationship as he introduces the truth contained in the Old Testament record of the birth and weaning of Isaac.  He, like Sarah, had travailed and brought forth.  His travail, however, was spiritual, as he “laboured” in the gospel until there were those who were born of God.  Compare also his words to the Thessalonians, amongst whom he had “laboured and travailed”, 1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8, and towards whom he acted as a nurse does towards her (own) children, 1 Thessalonians 1:7, and as a father toward his (own) children, 1 Thessalonians 2:11.  The apostle’s salutation to them in both epistles to the Thessalonians emphasised the Fatherhood of God, 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1.  The apostle was therefore imitating God as he acted with care towards the Thessalonians.  Such was his desire for the Galatians, too.

4:20     I desire to be present with you and change my voice- having exhorted them to be zealous even when he was not present, verse 18, he assures them that saying that did not mean that he was glad to be absent- the reverse was the case.  His “voice”, or tone of rebuke that he had employed in verses 8-18, he would gladly exchange for a tone of commendation and praise.  For I stand in doubt of you- because of their change in thinking, he was perplexed as to where they really stood.  He had not come to the final conclusion that they had never really known the grace of God, but they were acting as if they had not, and this caused the apostle disquiet.

We now come to the fifth reason why grace is to be preferred to law.  In this section the apostle skilfully undermines the false teachers by using a technique that the scribes used.  The difference between the apostle and them, though, is that he was inspired of God as he handled the Old Testament Scriptures, whereas they were not.  So he proceeds to use a pivotal story from the life of Abraham to illustrate the need to banish law-keeping from our lives, so as to live according to the grace expressed in Christ.



4:19  My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,

4:20  I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.

4:21  Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?

4:22  For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.

4:23  But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.

4:24  Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.

4:25  For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.

4:26  But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.

4:27  For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.

4:28  Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.

4:29  But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.

4:30  Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.

4:31  So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free. 


(a) Verses 21-23 The foundation of the allegory.
(b) Verses 24-26 The explanation of the allegory.
(c) Verse 27 The confirmation of the allegory.
(d) Verses 28-31 The application of the allegory.

(a)    4:21-23        The foundation of the allegory.
4:21    Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?- note that the apostle uses the word law in two senses in one verse here, as he does elsewhere.  The first word law refers to the law of Moses given at Sinai, which formed the terms of God’s covenant with the people of Israel.  The second word refers to the five books of Moses.  The Old Testament was divided into three, as the words of the Lord Jesus in Luke 24:44 indicate- “Which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning Me”.  The book of Genesis, the first of the books of Moses, although recounting events before the law was formally given, was considered to be as binding in its instruction as the law itself, and therefore was included in the section called “The law”, or “Torah”.  If the Galatians desired to be under the law, they must react as the law requires, and the apostle will show that that means rejecting the law! 

4:22    For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a free woman- thus the apostle uses the historical record as the Lord Jesus did in John 8:30-47, where it was a question of the claim of the Jews that they were Abraham’s seed.  As we have seen in connection with 3:29, the Saviour did not dispute their claim to natural descent, but He did refuse their claim to spiritual descent, for they were not believers like Abraham.  The first son referred to by Paul is Ishmael, son of the Egyptian slave-girl Hagar, whereas the second son is Isaac, son of the free woman, Abraham’s true wife, Sarah. 

4:23    But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh- the word “but” suggests to us that there are important differences between these two sons, (apart from the fact that they had different mothers), and this is the case, as the apostle now explains.  Ishmael and Isaac were both men of flesh and blood, so the word flesh here must be used, not in that sense, but in the sense of carnal.  Sarah, realising that she was approaching the time when her inability to have children would never, naturally speaking, be remedied, employed the custom of the day, (hence the fact that Ishmael was born after the flesh), and suggested that Abraham have a child by Hagar to provide an heir.  This he did, and Ishmael was born.  It is significant that after this event, recorded in Genesis 16, we read in Genesis 17:1 that God exhorted Abraham to walk before Him and be perfect, thus suggesting that for thirteen years since the conception and birth of Ishmael, Abraham had not been doing this.  But he of the freewoman was by promise- Isaac was born as a direct result of God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:4, which he had ignored by listening to Sarah’s carnal suggestion.  He is described in verse 29 as having been born after the Spirit.  These facts prepare the way for the application of the events related in Genesis.

(b)    4:24-26        The explanation of the allegory
4:24    Which things are an allegory- unfortunately this translation might give the impression that the apostle believed that the book of Genesis was a collection of allegories, and was not historical fact.  Nothing could be further from the truth, for time and again the apostle based doctrine on what happened in the early chapters of the book of Genesis, and there would have been no point in doing this if they were not real events. See for example the following passages:

Romans 4
The principle of justification by faith is established by reference to the history of Abraham.

Romans 5:12-21
The contrasts and comparisons between Christ and Adam are used to show both the result of man’s link with Adam by nature, and the result of his link with Christ if he believes.

1 Corinthians 11:3-12
The headship of the male believer, and the subjection of the female believer, is established from the early chapters of the book of Genesis.

1 Corinthians 15:22, 45-49
Just as man bears the image of the earthly man, Adam, so believers shall bear the image of the Lord from heaven.

1 Corinthians 14:34,35
The need for the sisters to be silent in the assembly is based on the principle of subjection established in Eve.

2 Corinthians 11:1-4
The way Satan deceived Eve is given as a warning to believers today.

Galatians 3:6-9
The prospect of blessing for Gentiles if they believe like Abraham believed.

Ephesians 6:30,31
The formation of Eve is seen as a foreshadowing of the union between Christ and His people.

1 Timothy 2:11-15
The order in which Adam and Eve were formed, and the fact that Eve sinned first, is used to show that the sisters should not usurp the headship of the brothers by engaging in teaching.

1 Timothy 4:3-5
The fact that God sanctioned the eating of meat after the flood indicates that meat is now sanctified for the believer’s use by the word of God.  So Paul indicates, in an inspired epistle, that Genesis 9 is the word of God.

That Paul believed in the authority of the book of Genesis is not surprising, for the Lord Jesus, whom Paul served, taught the historicity of the book of Genesis too.  In fact He quoted from, or referred to, every one of the first eleven chapters, (the ones that are especially attacked by liberals and infidels), as follows:

Genesis 1
“He which made them at the beginning made them male and female”, Matthew 19:4.

Genesis 2
  “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and cleave unto his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh”, Matthew 19:5.

Genesis 3
“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father will ye do.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it”, John 8:44.

Genesis 4
“The blood of righteous Abel”, Matthew 23:35.

Genesis 5/6
“The days of Noah”, Matthew 24:37, 38.

Genesis 7/8/9
“The flood came”, Matthew 24:39.

Genesis 10
“The flood…took them all away”, Matthew 24:39, (“Of them was the whole earth overspread”, Genesis 10:19, implying that only the eight that were in the ark survived).

Genesis 11
“Before Abraham was, I am”, John 8:58.

Furthermore, every chapter of the book of Genesis is alluded to in some way in the New Testament and every New Testament writer alludes to, or quotes, the book of Genesis, so that there are more than one hundred quotes or allusions to the book of Genesis in the New Testament.  When the New Testament writers referred to the book of Genesis, they never give the impression that they believed it to be anything other than literal, historical fact.  If the events described are not real, then the doctrine based on them is not real either. 
To return to the apostle’s use of the word allegory.  It would be better to understand him to mean that the incident he refers to in the life of Abraham and his family, whilst it is literal fact, is also allegorical.  This means it has an alternative and spiritual meaning that we may put alongside of it, and which gives an added reason why it has been included in the Word of God.  Although the same word is not used in Hebrews 11:19, where Abraham is said to have received Isaac back from the dead in a figure, yet there is a similar idea.  Isaac had not actually died, but in figure he had, in the person of the ram, and his return from the place of sacrifice as a living son was a figure of resurrection.  So in Galatians 4, the incidents are true literally, but are also true figuratively and spiritually, for principles are illustrated by them.  This does not give us licence to use our imagination with the Old Testament, and make it mean what we want it to mean, since we are not inspired by the Spirit of God to infallibly interpret Scripture as the apostles were.  For these are the two covenants- now we have the spiritual meaning which the apostle sees, by the Spirit, in these facts. 

Already, in His public teaching, the Lord Jesus had seen in Ishmael and Isaac an illustration of those who were simply sons of Abraham by natural descent, and those who were sons of Abraham by faith, John 8:33-41.  Coupled with this, the prophet Isaiah, in the passage the apostle will quote in verse 27, saw a reference to two aspects of the nation of Israel in their relationship with God.  Furthermore, the apostle has already told the Galatians that they are Abraham’s seed, and has thereby prepared the way for the further ideas in this passage.  Thus there has already been a three-fold use of the truths in relation to the sons of Abraham, by Christ, by Isaiah, and by the apostle himself.

The relationship which Abraham had physically with two women, is used to illustrate God’s moral relationship with the nation of Israel considered from an earthly standpoint, and then from a heavenly.  The one from the mount Sinai- God’s relationship with Israel at Sinai was based on the covenant of the Law.  The terms on which God had dealings with them as a nation were detailed in that set of laws.  In Jeremiah the Lord refers to this covenant, and declares He was a husband to Israel, Jeremiah 31:32.  Which gendereth to bondage- gendereth means produces children, as Hagar produced Ishmael.  As a result of the Sinai-relationship with God, there was produced those who were in bondage, because the demands of the law were impossible to meet, and therefore they became under obligation to God to remedy the situation.  Which is Hagar- that is, in the symbolism of the allegory, Sinai, and all that it involves, is portrayed by Hagar.

4:25    For this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia- that is, this Hagar in the language of the allegory, not Hagar literally, for a woman cannot be a mountain.  And answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children- Sinai corresponds to, (answereth to), Jerusalem on earth, the centre of Judaism, where that which was given to the nation at Sinai was at that time enforced.  Those who are Jerusalem’s “children”, or product, are in bondage, just as Jerusalem itself is, the place of bondage to the law.  It was those who had come from Jerusalem that led the Galatians astray in the first place, as they tried to win them over to law-works for salvation.  This is the road to bondage. 

4:26    But Jerusalem which is above is free- there is a heavenly city, where God makes His presence felt, and from whence also the Lord Jesus came in grace.  Note the similar argument of the writer to the Hebrews in Hebrews 12:18-24.  Which is the mother of us all- that is, the mother of all believers, including the Galatians.  Just as Jerusalem on earth represented the religion given at Sinai, so Jerusalem which is above, in heaven, represents the grace of God in Christianity.  The believer is to rejoice that his name is written in heaven, in the roll of the citizens of the heavenly Zion, Luke 10:20.  Our citizenship is in heaven; just as the citizens of Philippi, a Roman colony, had citizenship of distant Rome, so believers have citizenship in heaven, Philippians 3:20,21.  The Lord Jesus spoke of being born again, and the word for “again” is used when John the Baptist said Christ had come “from above”, John 3:31.  So inasmuch as our life is the life of heaven, then we are the “children” of that place, and as such are free, being born as a result of the grace of God expressed in Christ. 

(c)    4:27        The confirmation of the allegory
4:27    For it is written- The apostle not only has the sanction of the words of the Lord Jesus in John 8:33-36, but also the way the prophet Isaiah spoke of Israel firstly under the figure of a woman who was barren, and then of a woman who rejoiced at the number of her children.  Break forth and cry, thou that travailest not- Isaiah exhorts Israel, under the figure of a woman, to break out into singing, and cry cheerfully.  This is all the more startling, because the words follow the account of the life, rejection, and crucifixion of their Messiah, the Man of Sorrows.  But this is the reason for the change in the nation, for they have joy through His sorrow.  Thou that travailest not- like Sarah, Israel considered naturally was barren, and only the grace of God could remedy this.  For the desolate- as Sarah was deprived of the attentions of Abraham in favour of Hagar, so Israel was not only barren of results for God, in her natural state, but was, Hagar-like, linked to the God of the law.  Hath many more children than she which hath a husband- or better, “she which hath the husband”.  It was Hagar who had Abraham the husband, leaving Sarah desolate in her barrenness and loneliness, just as Israel was separated from God.  At last, however, it was Sarah who triumphed, for in the birth of Isaac there was the prospect of the fulfilment of God’s words of promise that Abraham’s seed should be as the stars of heaven for multitude, Genesis 15:5.

To summarise-
Israel naturally, like Sarah naturally, was barren and unproductive.
Israel under the law was, like Hagar and Ishmael, in bondage.
Israel responding to grace is, like Sarah and Isaac, in freedom.  This is true of those in Israel now who receive the gospel of grace, and also will be true of those in Israel in a future day who will receive their Messiah.

(d)    4:28-31        The application of the allegory
4:28    Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise- as already indicated in 3:29, believers are part of Abraham’s spiritual seed, and they have received the promised Spirit, through faith, 3:14.  So just as Isaac was a son produced according to God’s promise to Abraham that he would have a child, so believers are God’s sons in accordance with the promise found in the gospel.  All the promises of God in Christ are Yea and Amen, 2 Corinthians 1:20; or in other words God’s promises are certain, because they are secured by Christ- He will never say “Nay”, and thus reverse His “Yea”. The apostle John clearly states that the promise that God gives to His children involves the possession of eternal life, 1 John 2:25.  Implied in this is the fact that believers are not sons of God through law-keeping, for that would depend on merit earned by us, not promise given by God in grace.  We should not deduce that every promise given to Abraham is ours, but rather see that the principle on which God deals with us in grace is that of promising things, not expecting things like works of law.

4:29    But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit- Ishmael was born as a result of the carnal suggestion from Sarah that Abraham should have a child by Hagar.  Isaac, on the other hand, was born by the direct intervention of God, and we learn here that Sarah was given strength to have Isaac by the Spirit of God Himself.  It is important to notice that the exact way in which Isaac was born after the Spirit is not repeated with believers.  With the latter it is the new birth that is after the Spirit, whereas with Isaac it was his natural birth.  Which confirms that when we are said in verse 28 to be children of promise, it does not necessarily mean that everything promised to Isaac is ours.  Even so it is now- the apostle is preparing the way for his strong words about the Judaisers in chapter 5, and is content for the present to remind the Galatians that Ishmael mocked Isaac at his weaning feast, Genesis 21:8-11.  The reason he did this was because it became apparent at that time that Isaac was established as the son and heir of Abraham, and had displaced Ishmael.  The apostle sees in the mocking of Ishmael the principle of persecution, for “he that hateth his brother is a murderer”, 1 John 3:15.

4:30    Nevertheless what saith the scripture?- it is a remarkable vindication of Sarah’s return to strong faith in God after her initial disbelief when she was promised a son, that her words are referred to here as scripture.  Earlier in the life of Ishmael, Sarah had dealt severely with Hagar, who had despised her, no doubt because of her barrenness, Genesis 16.  Then, the angel of the Lord had commanded Hagar to return to her mistress.  “Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the bondwoman”- with the birth of Isaac, and his presentation to the world at his weaning feast, the time had come for the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael, as before it had not.  Two things had to happen; first, Isaac had to be born, and second, Ishmael had to show his true feelings towards him by mocking him.  This explains why the expulsion of Hagar in Genesis 16 had to be put right, and Hagar re-instated, whereas when Ishmael mocked, it was the right time to expel both him and his mother, for the true son had been manifested.  So also, when God had sent forth His Son, and presented Him to the world in the words “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”, and when also the representatives of the law had persecuted Him, then it was time for those who were produced under the law to be shown in their true character, and be rejected by God.  And this response of God to the rejection of His Son by religious men, should be the response of the believer too, hence in 5:12 the apostle wishes that the law-teachers were cut off.

4:31    So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free- The conclusion can now be drawn that, like Isaac, believers are the children of the freewoman, Jerusalem which is above, the centre of the grace of God. 

Note the three ways in which believers are described in this passage, using Isaac as the figure-

Verse 28 Children of promise.
Verse 29 Born after the Spirit.
Verse 31 Children of the freewoman.  

The first verse of chapter 5 may be thought of as part of chapter 4, and exhorts us to stand fast in the liberty of the gospel that the freewoman represents, and not to become enslaved by the bondage to the law that Hagar the slave-girl represents.