Hebrews 1 Commentary

v.1 “It is significant that the subject of the first verb is ‘God,’ for God is constantly before the author; he uses the word sixty-eight times, an average of about once every seventy-three words all through his epistle. Few NT books speak of God so often. Right at the beginning, then, we are confronted with the reality of God and the fact that he has been active. The first divine activity commented on is that God has spoken in a variety of ways. He spoke to Moses in the burning bush (Exod 3:2 ff.), to Elijah in a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12 ff.), to Isaiah in a vision in the temple (Isa 6:1 ff.), to Hosea in his family circumstances (Hos 1:2), and to Amos in a basket of summer fruit (Amos 8:1). God might convey his message through visions and dreams, through angels, through Urim and Thummim, through symbols, natural events, ecstasy, a pillar of fire, smoke, or other means. He could appear in Ur of the Chaldees, in Haran, in Canaan, in Egypt, in Babylon. There is no lack of variety, for revelation is not a monotonous activity that must always take place in the same way. God used variety.” [1]

v.2 “The letter to the Hebrews begins by asserting the greatest single fact of the Christian revelation: God has spoken to man through his word in the Bible and through his Son, Jesus. In Christ, God has closed the greatest communication gap of all time, that which exists between a holy God and sinful mankind.”[2]

“The writer begins by contrasting Jesus with the prophets who had gone before. He talks about him coming in the end of these days. The Jews divided all time into two ages—the present age and the age to come. In between they set The Day of the Lord. The present age was wholly bad; the age to come was to be the golden age of God. The Day of the Lord was to be like the birth pangs of the new age. So the writer to the Hebrews says, “The old time is passing away; the age of incompleteness is gone; the time of human guessing and groping is at an end; the new age, the age of God, has dawned in Christ.” He sees the world and the thought of men enter, as it were, into a new beginning with Christ. In Jesus God has entered humanity, eternity has invaded time, and things can never be the same again.”[3]

vv.2-3 “Some first-century Jewish Christians had abandoned their faith because they no longer recognized Christ’s deity and equality with God. The author’s first task is to expound and exalt God’s Son. He reminds them of eight things about Jesus [in vv.1-3].”[4]

“Possibly our vision of Christ is limited. We are in danger of confining him to our restricted experience or limited knowledge. We need a vision of Christ with these immense cosmic dimensions, a Christ who transcends all our noblest thoughts about him and all our best experience of him. These first-century readers would be less likely to turn from him in adversity if they had looked to him in adoration.  The opening sentences of the letter are designed to bring them and us to our knees; only then can we hope to stand firmly on our feet.”[5]

v.3 “He says that he was the charact?r of God’s very essence. In Greek charact?r means two things, first, a seal, and, second, the impression that the seal leaves on the wax. The impression has the exact form of the seal. So, when the writer to the Hebrews said that Jesus was the charact?r of the being of God, He meant that he was the exact image of God. Just as when you look at the impression, you see exactly what the seal which made it is like, so when you look at Jesus you see exactly what God is like.”[6]

“‘Sustaining’ translates pheron, which has a meaning like ‘carrying along.’ The author does not see Christ’s work in sustaining creation as holding up the universe like a dead weight (as Atlas was supposed to do!). Rather his thought is that of carrying it along, of bearing it toward a goal. The concept is dynamic, not static. ‘All things’ is ta panta, the totality, the universe considered as one whole. Nothing is excluded from the scope of the Son’s sustaining activity. The author pictures the Son as in the first instance active in creation and then as continuing his interest in the world he loves and bearing it onward towards the fulfillment of the divine plan.” [7]

“The word for sin (hamartia) occurs in this epistle twenty-five times, a total exceeded only by Romans with forty-eight. The author sees hamartia (‘sin’) as a great problem; and in this epistle ‘sin appears as the power that deceives men and leads them to destruction, whose influence and activity can be ended only by sacrifices’ […] But the usual sacrifices could not remove sin, and it is the author’s conviction that Jesus Christ was needed to remove it. In him and him alone are sins really dealt with.” [8]

“With the statement about the Son’s having effected purification of sins, the author comes to what is for him the heart of the matter. His whole epistle shows that the thing that had gripped him was that the very Son of God had come to deal with the problem of man’s sin. He sees him as a priest and the essence of his priestly work as the offering of the sacrifice that really put sin away. The author has an unusual number of ways of referring to what Christ has done for man: The Savior made a propitiation for sins (2:17). He put sins away so that God remembers them no more (8:12; 10:17). He bore sin (9:28), he offered a sacrifice (thysia) for sins (10:12), he made an offering (prosphora) for sin (10:18), and brought about remission of sin (10:18). He annulled sin by his sacrifice (9:26). He brought about redemption from transgressions (9:15). In other passages the author speaks of a variety of things the former covenant could not do with respect to sin, the implication in each case being that Christ has now done it (e.g., 10:2, 4, 6, 11). It is clear from all this that the author sees Jesus as having accomplished a many-sided salvation. Whatever had to be done about sin he has done.” [9]

“When this eternal work of purification was brought to its triumphant conclusion in the death and resurrection of Christ, our Lord sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (1:3). The first readers of this letter were not likely to miss the implication of this statement and, if they did, its author was to press home its meaning in a later passage (10:11-12). The Old Testament priest’s cultic work had constantly to be repeated because it was only temporarily beneficial. But Christ ‘offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins’. The priest stood because his task was never complete. He could never hope to bring it to the moment of final achievement. Only Christ’s sacrifice could be eternally effective. He sat down to indicate that the work was finished. On that day when he bore our sins in his own body, he cried, ‘It is finished.’”[10]

v.4 “‘Superior’ is the translation of kreitton, which is more usually rendered ‘better.’ This is one of the author’s favorite words. He uses it thirteen out of the nineteen times it appears in the NT (1 Cor, with three occurrences, is the only other book that has the word more than once). So we read in Hebrews that there are better things (6:9) and that the less is blessed of the better (7:7); there is a better hope (7:19) and a better covenant (7:22; 8:6); there are better promises (8:6) and better sacrifices (9:23); there are a better possession (10:34), a better country (11:16), a better resurrection (11:35), something better (11:40), and blood that speaks better (12:24). This strong emphasis on what is ‘better’ arises from the author’s deep conviction that Jesus Christ is ‘better’ and that he has accomplished something ‘better’ than anyone else.” [11]

vv.5-13 “The author opened this letter by affirming the variety and validity of the Old Testament revelation. Now he demonstrates the depth of his conviction by citing a series of Old Testament texts to assert the superiority of Christ. Deeply aware of the infinite distance between man and God, the Jewish people had placed their hope in mediators. At critical times in their history God had sent angels to reveal his will. These first-century readers knew only too well that Jesus was more than a good man, yet their Jewish contemporaries would not acknowledge his deity. Under religious pressure and social ostracism, some of these Jewish Christians were in danger of compromising their faith. Possibly they said, ‘He was something other than man, but not quite God.’ Perhaps they might argue, ‘He was the greatest of the angels, and even created by God as a perfect angel for a special assignment among men.’ The writer of the epistle uses a number of verses from the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament, to show the untenable nature of such a view. Christ is the Son of God and as such he is infinitely superior to the most dignified member of the angelic host.”[12]

“The preacher marshals these Old Testament quotations to provide a clear picture of the status of the angels relative to the Son. The Son sits at the preeminent position in the universe, with the angels in an inferior position as the servants who worship him. The Son has an eternal throne, from which the angels are sent out to minister. God has never spoken such proclamations as found in 1:5, 8 – 13 to the angels. Rather, his proclamations concerning them (1:6 – 7) show the angels’ inferiority. The Son alone is the favored object of divine decrees expressing royalty. By the end of this string of texts, no one in the author’s audience can doubt the superiority of the Son over the angels.”[13]


[1] Leon Morris, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 12 CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981).

[2] Raymond Brown, The Message of Hebrews, The Bible Speaks Today series (Downers Grove, Il:Inter-Varsity Press, 1982)  27.

[3] William Barclay, The letter to the Hebrews, The Daily study Bible series CD (Philadelphia, PN: The Westminster Press, 2000).

[4] Raymond Brown, The Message of Hebrews, The Bible Speaks Today series (Downers Grove, Il:Inter-Varsity Press, 1982) 27-28.

[5] Raymond Brown, The Message of Hebrews, The Bible Speaks Today series (Downers Grove, Il:Inter-Varsity Press, 1982) 32.

[6] William Barclay, The letter to the Hebrews, The Daily study Bible series CD (Philadelphia, PN: The Westminster Press, 2000).

[7]Leon Morris, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 12 CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981).

[8] Leon Morris, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 12 CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981).

[9] Leon Morris, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 12 CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981).

[10] Raymond Brown, The Message of Hebrews, The Bible Speaks Today series (Downers Grove, Il:Inter-Varsity Press, 1982) 33.

[11] Leon Morris, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 12 CD (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981).

[12] Raymond Brown, The Message of Hebrews, The Bible Speaks Today series (Downers Grove, Il:Inter-Varsity Press, 1982) 38.

[13] George H Guthrie, Hebrews, The NIV Application Commentary series CD (Grand Rapids, MI:Zondervan,1998).

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