Hebrews 2 Commentary

v.1 “But both these words [‘pay attention to’ and ‘drift away’ in NIV] have also a nautical sense. Prosechein can mean to moor a ship; and pararrein can be used of a ship which has been carelessly allowed to slip past a harbor or a haven because the mariner has forgotten to allow for the wind or the current or the tide. So, then, this first verse could be very vividly translated: ‘Therefore, we must the more eagerly anchor our lives to the things that we have been taught lest the ship of life drift past the harbor and be wrecked.’ It is a vivid picture of a ship drifting to destruction because the pilot sleeps.’”[1]

“For most of us the threat of life is not so much that we should plunge into disaster, but that we should drift into sin. There are few people who deliberately and in a moment turn their backs on God; there are many who day by day drift farther and farther away from him. There are not many who in one moment of time commit some disastrous sin; there are many who almost imperceptibly involve themselves in some situation and suddenly awake to find that they have ruined life for themselves and broken someone else’s heart. We must be continually on the alert against the peril of the drifting life.”[2]

vv.2-3 “The important revelation of God’s mind in the Old Testament was declared by angels. The reference follows naturally after the series of Old Testament quotations demonstrating the superiority of Christ over the angelic host. The part played by the angels in the communication of the law was often discussed by Jewish teachers in the pre-Christian era. It appears in the Greek version of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) at Deuteronomy 33:2 where the text says that when the Lord came from Sinai ‘at his right hand were angels with him’, and the theme is also mentioned in two different New Testament contexts. When Paul wrote to the Galatians he explained that the law ‘was ordained by angels’ and in what proved to be his last sermon Stephen describes his hostile congregation as those ‘who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it’. If the angels’ message had to be obeyed, how much more the Son’s word with its good news of such a great salvation. Hughes express the warning in these terms: ‘If the breakers of the law did not go unpunished, certainly despisers of the gospel cannot expect to do so.’”[3]

v.9 “‘Suffering’ is an important idea in this letter and is specially significant in view of the readers’ earlier troubles and future prospects. The word is used here for the first time in the letter (2:9), but it is to recur later both in its description of Christ’s anguish throughout life and in death, and of the tribulations of God’s people. When Christ assumed our humanity he became like us, exposed to all the hazardous perils of our life and death. He was not protected from trouble and adversity. When we find ourselves immersed in the harsh realities of human experience, he knows exactly how we feel.”[4]

v.10 “In what sense has he been made ‘perfect’ through his suffering of death? As in 5:9, the author does not mean that Christ had been ‘imperfect,’ in the sense of being flawed or errant. Generally the word means ‘complete, whole, or adequate.’ […]  Perfection in Hebrews has to do with fully completing a course, making it to the end of God’s plan. That Jesus was made ‘perfect through suffering,’ therefore, connotes his full obedience to his mission of death on the cross and, perhaps, the adequacy of that act for bringing the children of God to glory.”[5]

v.11“If we are sanctified [‘made holy’ in NIV], then we must be what we are. It is possible only by his grace and in his strength, but it is certainly possible. All too often sin, ignorance or apathy keeps us from what we ought to be and can be with his help. We live well below our spiritual potential. If, through his work for us, we are sanctified, then let us see that our daily lives are ‘set apart’ so that what he achieved may not be only an item of theology, but a fact of experience.

“What does this mean in practical terms? It means that those who are ‘set apart’ for him recognize that he has the first claim on their lives. They recognize that such gifts that they have are set apart of God’s use in the world. Their possessions are set apart, clearly acknowledging that they too belong to God.  The sanctified man or woman does not spend enormous sums of money on items for self-satisfaction and then casually give a mere pittance to Christ’s work. Moreover, time is set apart for the service of Christ.  The Christian who has hours of time for leisure but no time for some practical work for Christ in church, college or community, is hardly sanctified in any practical sense. What is potentially there needs to be practically implemented.”[6]

v.12 “He will declare his name to his brothers. In antiquity ‘name’ generally signified more than an identifying label. It stood for the whole character, the whole person. So in this psalm the writer sees Jesus as saying that he will proclaim God’s character as he has revealed himself, not simply that he will declare the name of God.”[7]

vv.14-15 “It calls for an exceptional effort of mind on our part to appreciate how paradoxical was the attitude of those early Christians to the death of Christ. If ever death had appeared to be triumphant, it was when Jesus of Nazareth, disowned by the leaders of his nation, abandoned by his disciples, executed by the might of imperial Rome, breathed his last on the cross. Why, some had actually recognized in his cry of pain and desolation the complaint that even God had forsaken him. His faithful followers had confidently expected him to be the destined liberator of Israel; but he had died — not  […]  in the forefront of the struggle against the Gentile oppressors of Israel, but in evident  weakness and disgrace – and their hopes died with him. If ever a cause was lost, it was his; if ever the power of evil were victorious, it was then. And yet—within a generation his followers were exultingly proclaiming the crucified Jesus to be the conqueror of death and asserting, like our author here, that by dying he had reduced the erstwhile lord of death to impotence. The keys of death and Hades were henceforth held firmly in Jesus’ powerful hand, or he, in the language of his own parable, had invaded the strong man’s fortress, disarmed him, bound him fast, and robbed him of his spoil (Luke 11:21f.). This the unanimous witness of the New Testament writers; this was the assurance which nerved martyrs to face death boldly in his name. This sudden change from disillusionment to triumph can only be explained by the account which the apostles gave—that their Master rose from the dead and imparted to them the power of his risen life.”[8]

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

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

[3] Raymond Brown, The Message of Hebrews, The Bible Speaks Today series (Downers Grove, Il:Inter-Varsity Press, 1982) 47-48.

[4] Raymond Brown, The Message of Hebrews, The Bible Speaks Today series (Downers Grove, Il:Inter-Varsity Press, 1982) 56.

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

[6] Raymond Brown, The Message of Hebrews, The Bible Speaks Today series (Downers Grove, Il:Inter-Varsity Press, 1982)63-64.

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

[8] F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1990)  85.

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