Heb 13: Conclusion. The author has concluded the main part of
his letter, having argued his points with convincing forcefulness, and now turns
to various matters he desires to mention before concluding. Heb 13, therefore,
is like an appendix. This is not to say, however, that the material in this
chapter is unrelated to the main part of the letter. Indeed, some of the
author's main concerns are again touched upon here, but in a somewhat different
way, fleetingly, in order to bring out the practical significance of what has
already been argued. At the same time, much material is similar to the general
ethical exhortation found in the final sections of other letters of the NT.
Despite the unusual way Hebrews begins, these specific and concluding
exhortations give the work the character of a letter.
Vv 1-4: A call to ethical living.
KEEP ON LOVING EACH OTHER AS BROTHERS: Lit, "Let
brotherly love continue" (AV). In addition to the present passage, the word for
"brotherly love" ('philadelphia") occurs in the NT only in Rom 12:10; 1Th 4:9;
1Pe 1:22; and 2Pe 1:7 (twice). In Gr literature the word generally refers to
love for blood brothers and sisters; in Christian literature it refers
particularly to love for those who share the same faith. (As is the theme of
other NT letters, this kind of brotherly love is esp needed in situations where
Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians live side by side.)
Love, of course, is the basis of all Christian ethics. Jesus
sums up the law in the twofold command to love God and one's neighbor as oneself
(Mat 22:37-40; Mark 12:29-31; cp Rom 13:9,10). Love is all–important to
the Christian, greater even than faith or hope (1Co 13). Its importance is a
constant theme of the NT. The particular stress here upon love between brethren
also appears, for example, in John 13:34; Rom 12:10; 1Th 4:9; and 1Pe 1:22. The
exhortation to love one another has already been given by the author: "Let us
consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds" (Heb 10:24).
Love is always shown in concrete acts -- acts such as the author now
Vv 2-4: Entertaining angels. Notice the connections between
these verses (Rahab wi spies, or messengers -- 'angels': Jam 2:25)...
marriage/sexually immoral (harlot Rahab marrying into Israel)...
DO NOT FORGET TO ENTERTAIN STRANGERS: Literally, to
show hospitality or love to strangers or foreigners. This is translated from the
Greek "philoxenos" (1Ti 3:2), which occurs in the New Testament only here and
Rom 12:13, although the related work ("hospitable") occurs also among the
qualifications for elders listed in 1Ti 3:2 and Tit 1:8, and also 1Pe 4:9). Such
hospitality is commanded by the Law of Moses (Deu 10:19) and in the New
Testament (Rom 12:13; 1Pe 4:9; 1Ti 5:10). Those who care for the little ones
care for Christ (Mat 25:38,40). Hospitality was highly esteemed in the ancient
world and was certainly very important for Christians. Accommodation at inns was
expensive, and in any case inns had a bad reputation. But as Christian preachers
traveled around, believers gave them lodging and so facilitated their mission
(see esp 3Jo 1:5-8). Without hospitality in Christian homes, the spread of the
faith would have been much more difficult.
FOR BY SO DOING SOME HAVE ENTERTAINED ANGELS WITHOUT
KNOWING IT: As Abraham (Gen 18:1-8) and Lot (Gen 19:1-3), but possibly also
to Gideon (Jdg 6:11-22), and Manoah and the mother of Samson (Jdg 13:3-21).
Angels also appeared to Hagar, Daniel, the shepherds, Peter, and many others. Cp
the two at Emmaus (Luk 24:15-31). The writer is not advocating hospitality on
the off chance that one might happen to receive an angel as guest but rather
because God is pleased when believers are hospitable. Sometimes unexpectedly
happy results follow acts of hospitality.
It is always possible God may manifest His care and protection
in just such a way today -- the "without knowing it" reminds us that, even if
this were to occur, we might never know when it did... when some "unnumbered
comforts" were bestowed upon us!
Are there any reasons why we should think that an immortal
angel could NOT appear to us today? None that I know of. Of course the verse
does say "unawares"... so it sounds like, by the very nature of things, we
wouldn't be able to prove it -- even if we were visited by angels of God. And we
know, for that matter, that mortal men and women can be employed in the
providence of God as His "messengers" (or angels). (The same thing was true in
Bible times: think of the two spies who came to Rahab: the word in Jam 2:25 is
"spies" in NIV, and "messengers" in KJV; it is in fact "aggelos" or angels.
Similarly, Boaz entertained Ruth, and she proved to be a "messenger" from God,
by which Boaz was richly blessed.)
But I wouldn't consider that examples of mortal "angels" being
sent would necessarily rule out immortal "angels" being sent too. Any way, if
nothing else (and even if we never know!), it's probably healthy to keep that
thought in mind. It may make us kinder and more courteous to the next store
clerk, or deliveryman, or homeless person, or internet correspondent we
REMEMBER THOSE IN PRISON AS IF YOU WERE THEIR FELLOW
PRISONERS, AND THOSE WHO ARE MISTREATED: The remembering of prisoners and
empathy with those who suffer had already been admirably displayed by the
readers in the past (Heb 10:33,34; cp Heb 6:10). They are called to exhibit
these Christian virtues (cp Mat 25:36) again as present or imminent
circumstances may warrant. In the ancient world Christians had established an
excellent reputation for themselves for exercising charity to those in prison,
as well as for helping the suffering. This identification with those who suffer
is a common NT theme (eg, 1Co 12:26; Rom 12:15).
The apostle Paul experienced such kindnesses from other
brethren (Col 4:18; 2Ti 1:16).
AS IF YOU YOURSELVES WERE SUFFERING: Lit, "as if you
were yourselves in the same body". There are two possibilities here: (1) "since
you yourselves are also in these mortal bodies, which are in danger all the
time", and/or (2) "since you are all in the one body, the body of Christ, and
owe the same care to one another that you would bestow upon yourself".
MARRIAGE SHOULD BE HONORED BY ALL, AND THE MARRIAGE BED
KEPT PURE: From our author's statement that marriage is to be held in honor,
we may infer that he is countering the influence of an asceticism that forbade
marriage in the name of a supposedly higher way of holiness (cp 1Ti 4:3). But as
in Judaism, in Christianity the material world created by God is good, and such
extreme asceticism is unnecessary. Human sexuality is itself good. Sexual
promiscuity, of course, is out of the question: the marriage bed should be kept
FOR GOD WILL JUDGE THE ADULTERER AND ALL THE SEXUALLY
IMMORAL: In common with Paul's admonitions (cp 1Co 6:9; Eph 5:5; Col 3:5)
the author emphasizes that the immoral and the adulterous will receive the
judgment of God.
"Filth, corruption, immorality, unrestrained fleshly lust:
these become more and more 'normal' for the cesspool of modern society in which
we live. Marriage making and breaking at whim: living together in adultery
without marriage. The statistics of fornication among teenagers, and even
sub-teenagers, are appalling. It was for these filthy things the Canaanites and
Sodomites were wiped out, and God has not lessened His fiery and holy
indignation against all such animal depravities. It is a time of great peril for
the ecclesias. Without constant vigilance, we are certain to be affected in our
thinking by the vast weight of the corrupt world pressing in upon us. True, we
see these things as 'wrong,' but the constant familiarity dulls the sense of
outrage and disgust and alarm. Our children are brought into continuous contact
with this vile atmosphere in the schools. There are 'decent' people left in the
world around us, but their numbers and influence and authority are shrinking
rapidly before the rising tide of filth. And the teaching class, as a whole,
like the news media, are in the vanguard of the downward march to bestiality,
under the plea of 'emancipation' and 'enlightenment.' What can we do? The very
least we can do is to speak out very plainly; not to countenance these vile
abominations for a moment; to make our disgust and disapproval very clear; and
-- regardless of closeness of relationship -- to faithfully try to protect our
ecclesias and our children from any contact with those who deliberately choose
to trample God's holy law in the mire of the world's pig-pen. Let us be
motivated totally by the Spirit and in no measure by the flesh. Let us stand up
for purity and holiness!" (GVG).
Vv 5,6: The security of the believer. A further admonition
against loving money leads the author to a general statement about the security
of the believer, a statement that must have carried special significance for the
readers, given what they were facing or were about to face.
KEEP YOUR LIVES FREE FROM THE LOVE OF MONEY: Gr
"aphilargyros" occurs elsewhere in the NT only in 1Ti 3:3 in the list of
qualifications for an elder. The love of money is a danger to be avoided by
those who would live by faith (cp Col 3:5; Eph 5:3). It brings further evil with
it (1Ti 6:9,10) and reflects an improper attachment to this transitory world. In
the past the readers had exhibited the proper attitude when they endured the
loss of their property gladly "because you knew that you yourselves had better
and lasting possessions" (Heb 10:34).
BE CONTENT WITH WHAT YOU HAVE, BECAUSE GOD HAS SAID, "NEVER
WILL I LEAVE YOU; NEVER WILL I FORSAKE YOU": This is again a common theme in
the NT (cp 1Ti 6:6-10, where Christians are exhorted to remain content with the
bare necessities of life; also cp Phi 4:11; Mat 6:33). As is true of so much of
the ethical teaching of the early church, this emphasis also derives from the
teaching of Jesus (cp Mat 6:24-34; Luke 12:15). The readers, however, are to go
beyond simple contentment with what they have. They are to find their security
totally in God. The quotation is from Deu 31:6 (and again in v 8). The same
promise is made in Josh 1:5 (cp also Gen 28:15; 1Ch 28:20). Whereas material
possessions are by their nature subject to loss and thus unworthy of ultimate
commitment, God and His saving purpose are unchanging. They are guaranteed by
something far more solid than the FDIC!
The correspondence with Gen 28:15 is quite appropriate here:
Jacob was fleeing from his father's house. Favored above his brother, but hated
for that very reason, he must flee for his own life. He goes into Gentile lands,
where he suffers many things. Yet, through it all, God is with him and
protecting him, and working ultimately to bless him -- for he, and not his
brother, is the true "seed of promise"!
BE CONTENT WITH WHAT YOU HAVE: "Happiness is not a
matter of being pleased when things are the way you want them. Happiness is the
capacity and understanding to be content and thankful when present things are
far from what you would like them to be. Happiness is related to, and based
upon, eternity and eternal things. A 'happiness' that is in any way a precarious
hostage to the cheating vagaries of the present is no happiness at all in the
real or scriptural sense. It is a worthless sham. It will desert you at the very
moment you need it most" (GVG).
NEVER WILL I LEAVE YOU; NEVER WILL I FORSAKE YOU: Truly
a promise that comprehends within itself all other promises. If this is true,
then no attribute of God can cease to be engaged for us. Is He mighty? He will
show Himself strong on the behalf of them that trust Him. Is He love? Then with
lovingkindness will He have mercy upon us. Whatever attributes may compose the
character of the Deity, every one of them to its fullest extent shall be engaged
on our side. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom 8:31). To put
everything in one, there is nothing we could want, there is nothing we could ask
for, there is nothing we could need in time or in eternity, there is nothing
living, nothing dying, there is nothing in this world, nothing in the next
world, there is nothing now, nothing at the resurrection-morning -- which is not
contained in this verse.
"Have we no promise that God will be with us in our
difficulties? If anyone doubt it, he has but to recall the words of Paul in Heb
13, where he applies a promise to us which, without his guidance, we might have
lacked boldness to appropriate... It has to be understood, of course, that...
these sayings are not of indiscriminate application. Paul wrote to 'the saints
and faithful brethren in Christ Jesus,' such as know God, and have His love and
fear indwelling with them and walk in the obedience of His commandments in the
confidence and rejoicing of the hope" (WP 37,38).
SO WE SAY WITH CONFIDENCE, "THE LORD IS MY HELPER; I WILL
NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT CAN MAN DO TO ME?": The quotation is drawn verbatim from
the LXX of Psa 118:6. (Paul's statement in Rom 8:31 may be an allusion to the
same passage.) The author affirms the faithfulness of the Lord in every
circumstance and thus argues that there is no place for fear of what man can do
against the Christian. The appropriateness of this reminder for the readers is
clear. If they are called to suffer not only personal loss, as in the past, but
even the loss of life (cp Heb 12:4), they are to remember that God is with them
and that they participate in a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Heb 12:28). With
the Lord as their helper the readers can thus face every eventuality that may
THE LORD IS MY HELPER: "You are never going to make it
alone. You might as well face the fact. Either you are going to get God's total
help, or your life at the end will prove to be just one more tragic failure in
the countless, faceless passing billions of mortal flesh. The only way to get
God's help is to give Him everything you have: life, heart, mind, strength, and
goods. That's His price, and He does not haggle. Take it or leave it. It would
still be a bargain at a million times the price. What you give at very best is
actually nothing. It is just a poor little token of your love and thanksgiving,
worthless in itself, like the crumpled love-offering of a small child, but it
has great value and meaning to God. As long as it is everything you have, He
will accept it in love [ct Act 5:2]. You might as well give it, and reap
eternally for it. In a few years it will all be gone anyway, and so will you
with it" (GVG).
Vv 7-9: A call to faithfulness and a warning against false
teaching. Yet again the readers are summoned to faith. This leads the author in
turn to refer to the one whom he has earlier described as "the author and
perfecter of faith" (Heb 12:2). The constancy of Jesus Christ is a motive for
the readers to have faith as well as to avoid false teaching.
REMEMBER YOUR LEADERS, WHO SPOKE THE WORD OF GOD TO
YOU: Cp vv 17,24. Here it seems to be references to those leaders in the
past, in contrast to the present leaders (vv 17,24) -- men like James (who had
been put to death by Herod) and Peter.
CONSIDER THE OUTCOME OF THEIR WAY OF LIFE AND IMITATE THEIR
FAITH: Like the men and women of Heb 11, they were people of faith. That is,
they remained true to their convictions through all difficult circumstances
(perhaps including the events described in Heb 10:32–34). The outcome of
their way of life is not to be understood as martyrdom (cp Heb 12:4), but simply
as a manifestation of faithfulness. Holding these examples before them, the
author challenges the readers to imitate their faith (cp Heb 6:12).
OUTCOME: This may refer to the "coming-out" of Jordan,
in Jos 4:16-18. In other words, they entered the land of promise. The Greek word
for "outcome", "ekbasis", can mean "the end of" in the sense of death, but can
also mean "successful outcome", generally. The only other NT occurrence is in
1Co 10:13, where it means "escape", ie from Egypt, thru the Red Sea.
JESUS CHRIST IS THE SAME YESTERDAY AND TODAY AND
FOREVER: Cp Heb 1:2; Psa 102:27. Not, of course, that Jesus had an eternal,
personal existence before his birth. But rather, the main point of the verse is
that because of his past and present work Jesus Christ is sufficient to meet all
needs that Christians have. This is apparent not only from the context but also
from the actual structure of the verse, which reads, literally, "Jesus Christ
yesterday and today is the same, and until the ages." His work of yesterday, the
sacrificial and atoning work as high priest, has been expounded at length by our
author. That is the very basis of Christianity. Today his work continues in the
intercession he makes for us at the right hand of God (Heb 7:25; cp Heb
4:14–16). It is also true, as a kind of surplus benefit, that the future
of the readers remains secure. The faithfulness of Christ in the past and
present will find its counterpart in the future when he returns to consummate
the saving purposes of God (Heb 9:28). The faithfulness of Jesus Christ is
unchanging (cp Heb 7:24) and is thus something upon which the readers may depend
in living the life of faith.
In this "past, present, and future" of Jesus, there may be
readily discerned the true manifestation of the name and purpose of Yahweh: the
One who was, and is, and will be!
DO NOT BE CARRIED AWAY BY ALL KINDS OF STRANGE TEACHINGS.
IT IS GOOD FOR OUR HEARTS TO BE STRENGTHENED BY GRACE, NOT BY CEREMONIAL FOODS,
WHICH ARE OF NO VALUE TO THOSE WHO EAT THEM: The constancy of Jesus Christ
should in itself put the readers on guard against innovative and strange
teachings by which they may be carried away. The author now specifies what he
has in mind. He desires his readers to reject teachings about "foods" (NIV adds
the interpretive word "ceremonial") insofar as it is alleged that they have to
do with the spiritual well–being of Christians. Strength for the Christian
comes not by the partaking of or refraining from certain foods, but by grace.
Our author has already argued the transitory character of the
dietary laws of Judaism (Heb 9:10). The argument is similar here. Cp Col 2:16;
1Ti 4:3-5. The Mosaic institutions may have SEEMED permanent to his readers,
even 30 or so years after the death and resurrection of Christ. But it was not
so. They were destined to pass away.
Dietary regulations of whatever kind are of no ultimate
significance. Paul takes a similar attitude toward dietary teachings (cp Rom
14:17; 1Co 8:8). Thus the readers are not to let themselves be carried away by
such teachings. God's grace is all they need for strength to do his will and to
live as they ought.
Vv 10-16: Christ's sacrifice and the spiritual sacrifices of
believers. The sacrificial work of Christ has put the believer in a new and
privileged position, free from the Mosaic law or any other dietary legislation,
and dependent only upon grace. This definitive sacrifice should produce an
appropriate response: in the first instance, willingness to suffer abuse such as
Christ suffered, but in the second place, willingness to serve others. In this
passage the author rehearses his earlier argument and focuses on the practical
outworking of these truths in the lives of his readers.
WE HAVE AN ALTAR FROM WHICH THOSE WHO MINISTER AT THE
TABERNACLE HAVE NO RIGHT TO EAT: The sacrificial ritual of the Levitical
priesthood was but the imperfect and incomplete type and shadow of the
definitive sacrifice of Christ. (For Christ as the altar, see Heb 9:4; Psa
118:26,27; 1Jo 2:2; Eph 2:14-16; Rev 6:9.) Those who continue in that outmoded
sacrificial system cannot partake of the true and final sacrifice. But
Christians, by contrast, are COMMANDED to eat of Christ's flesh and drink his
blood (John 6:53; Mat 26: 27,28).
THE HIGH PRIEST CARRIES THE BLOOD OF ANIMALS INTO THE MOST
HOLY PLACE AS A SIN OFFERING, BUT THE BODIES ARE BURNED OUTSIDE THE CAMP: Cp
Lev 4:21; 16:27. Just as the priests could not eat of those sacrificial animals,
so they cannot partake of the sacrifice which they foreshadowed. Within the
framework of the old system, they cannot partake of the fulfillment brought by
the sacrifice of Christ. This is true of the priests and the high priest, but by
implication true of all those who participate in their work. Thus for the
readers to return to Judaism would mean the forfeit of the benefits of Christ's
work. They, like the priests, would be excluded from partaking of the altar,
that is, the work of Christ. This argument will lead in v 13 to the appeal to
leave Judaism behind.
Vv 12,13: Reference to the burning of the bodies of the
sacrificial animals "outside the camp" leads to a further interesting typical
parallel. Jesus "suffered outside the city gate". The crucifixion -- that
fulfillment of the OT sacrifices wherein he sanctified those who believe in him
-- took place outside the city walls (John 19:20; cp Mat 21:39). This analogy is
now given an application to the readers in the author's exhortation to join
Jesus "outside the camp". That is, they are called to leave behind the security
and comfort of Judaism and in so doing "bear the abuse he endured" (RSV; cp Heb
12:2). Almost the same expression occurs in Heb 11:26, in the description of the
faith of Moses -- what he left behind was the power and comfort and wealth of
Egypt (but the analogy still holds!). The readers are called to endure the
persecution that will come their way when they remain true to their faith in the
promises of God.
LET US, THEN, GO TO HIM OUTSIDE THE CAMP: Jesus
suffered crucifixion outside the city walls of Jerusalem. Edersheim has pointed
out that the rabbis held that Jerusalem was the "camp of God" -- along the lines
of the encampment of the 12 tribes in the wilderness. Moreover, the pattern was
even more detailed than that: in their view, the city as a whole represented the
camp of Israel; the temple itself represented the tabernacle of Moses; and thus
the most holy place of the temple was the final representation of the most holy
place of the tabernacle (Temple 62).
This going outside of the camp was possibly on the mind of
Jesus when he said to the Samaritan woman, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming
when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem...
Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the
Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father
seeks" (John 4:21,23).
HERE WE DO NOT HAVE AN ENDURING CITY, BUT WE ARE LOOKING
FOR THE CITY THAT IS TO COME: In fact, ALL cities -- and not just the
Jerusalem that now is -- are transitory. Like Abraham, and with all Christians,
the readers seek an abiding city, "the city with foundations" (Heb 11:10; cp Heb
11:16), the Jerusalem of a "heavenly" character (Heb 12:22). By implication, the
importance of the literal Jerusalem, symbolic of the temple and the Levitical
sacrifices, must give way to that of the new Jerusalem which will come down out
of heaven in the person of Jesus Christ.
Abraham, in hearing and accepting the promises of Yahweh,
understood that in this life he was to have no "continuing city", and so he
left, first Ur, and then Haran, becoming a stranger and a sojourner in this
present evil world. Likewise, believers -- being "seed of Abraham" thru Christ
(Gal 3:16,27-29) -- must leave behind their own "city" (the old Jerusalem, and
everything it stands for) and go forth, looking (as did Abraham) for a new and
glorious Jerusalem, wherein there is found righteousness.
THROUGH JESUS, THEREFORE, LET US CONTINUALLY OFFER TO GOD A
SACRIFICE OF PRAISE -- THE FRUIT OF LIPS THAT CONFESS HIS NAME: The "fruit
of lips: is a figure of speech for a grateful heart (eg, Psa 50:14,23). This is
a citation of Hos 14:1,2: "the calves of our lips"! Cp also Jer 33:11: "thank
offerings" or "the sacrifice of praise"!
Generally, this same point is made by Peter: we all as
believers in Christ constitute a spiritual priesthood, " offering spiritual
sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1Pe 2:5).
DO NOT FORGET TO DO GOOD AND TO SHARE WITH OTHERS, FOR
WHICH SUCH SACRIFICES GOD IS PLEASED: There are, however, other sacrifices
with which God is pleased, the spiritual counterpart of the sacrifices of the
old covenant. These include actions such as doing good in general, and sharing
with others in need. The readers are not to forget these common Christian
virtues. This, and not through the sacrifice of animals, is the way that
faithfulness to God is to be manifested.
Vv 17-19: "Obedience to leaders and a request for prayer. In
this final exhortation, the readers are enjoined to obey their leaders -- a
common enough exhortation in the NT, but one that has special significance for
these particular readers, given their inclination to abandon their Christian
faith and to return to Judaism. Obedience to their leaders will assure safe
arrival at the goal God has marked out for them.
This is followed by the first personal information about the
author, given via a specific request for prayer. The request and the reference
to the author's relation to the readers now give the character of an letter to
this impressive theological document" (NIBC).
OBEY YOUR LEADERS AND SUBMIT TO THEIR AUTHORITY: Cp 1Th
5:12,13; 2Th 3:14; 1Ti 5:17; 1Co 16:16.
THEY KEEP WATCH OVER YOU: This suggests constant
vigilance or wakefulness (cp Eph 6:18; Luke 21:36; cp the "sleepless nights" in
2Co 11:27; 6:5). The perspective here, indeed, is very similar to that of Paul
in 2Co 11:28: "I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches" (cp
AS MEN WHO MUST GIVE AN ACCOUNT: As stewards of others'
property, who must answer for any deficiency or loss: cp Eze 3:17-21; Luke
OBEY THEM SO THAT THEIR WORK WILL BE A JOY, NOT A BURDEN,
FOR THAT WOULD BE OF NO ADVANTAGE TO YOU: The point is that the readers are
to be obedient and submissive to the authority of their leaders in order that
their work will be a joy, and "not groaning". But obedience to the leaders is
not merely for the sake of making their work easier. The failure to submit to
them cannot benefit the readers. Indeed, the implication of this understatement
is that disobedience and insubordination will put the readers themselves in
"Anarchy is hateful to God. Submission to the Word of God is
the reasonable and beautiful attitude of a wise man. And that involves
submission one to another, a position not inconsistent with the arrangements for
the wise conduct of ecclesias by 'faithful men able to teach others;' men wise
in counsel, instructed in divine things, with the honour of God before their
minds. Such are not unmindful of the trust that is theirs; in their day, they
'watch... as they that must give account' " (CHeb 288).
PRAY FOR US: Here our author writes very much as Paul
does on occasion. The request for prayer concerning personal needs is of course
common in the Pauline letters (cp Rom 15:30; 2Co 1:11; Eph 6:19; Col 4:3).
WE HAVE A CLEAR CONSCIENCE: This expression is found
several times in the NT, but with the adjectives "agathe", "good," or kathara,
"pure," rather than "kale" as here (eg, Acts 23:1; 1Ti 1:19; 3:9; 2Ti 1:3; 1Pe
3:16, 21). A passage very similar to the present one is found in 2Co 1:12,
where, after a request for prayer, Paul speaks of his untroubled conscience. For
the word conscience, see note on Heb 9:9.
I PARTICULARLY URGE YOU TO PRAY SO THAT I MAY BE RESTORED
TO YOU SOON: For some reason the author has apparently been hindered from
returning to the community of the readers. He is clearly in difficulty of some
kind. In light of v 23 this is probably not imprisonment, unless he is confident
of imminent release. The author's special relationship to the readers is
apparent in his earnest request for prayer to be restored to them. He longs to
be in their midst again.
Vv 20,21: A concluding prayer. The letter is rounded out with
a magnificent closing prayer in which the author picks up a number of the key
motifs in the letter. The prayer is notable for its beauty and comprehensive
scope. Its powerful impact will be apparent to all who have read the letter and
noted the deep pastoral concerns of the author's heart.
THE GOD OF PEACE: A phrase common in Paul's letters
(eg, Rom 15:33; 16:20; 2Co 13:11; Phi 4:9; 1Th 5:23; 2Th 3:16).
WHO THROUGH THE BLOOD OF THE ETERNAL COVENANT BROUGHT BACK
FROM THE DEAD OUR LORD JESUS: This alludes to the earlier, detailed
description of the sacrificial meaning of Christ's death (Heb 7; 9; 10) and to
the accompanying powerful argument about the inauguration of a new covenant (Heb
7:22–8:13). The covenant ratified by the blood of Christ is an eternal one
-- ie, it has to do with eternal things -- esp including the eternal inheritance
of the land promised to Abraham (cp Zec 9:11; 2Sa 23:5).
THE GREAT SHEPHERD OF THE SHEEP: Cp "the Chief
Shepherd" of 1Pe 5:2-4 (also cp John 10:11; Mark 14:27; Eze 34:23). Cp esp the
"shepherd of the sheep" in Isa 63:11: this is a ref to Moses, described as the
shepherd of the nation of Israel, who in the Exodus brings himself and them up
"out of the sea". This is of course typical of the "exodus" of the Jewish
Christians themselves, out of the "Egypt" of Judaism, thru the waters of
baptism, and into a new life in Christ.
...EQUIP YOU WITH EVERYTHING GOOD FOR DOING HIS WILL, AND
MAY HE WORK IN US WHAT IS PLEASING TO HIM, THROUGH JESUS CHRIST, TO WHOM BE
GLORY FOR EVER AND EVER. AMEN: Cp Phi 2:12,13. "Most of the NT doxologies
are directed to God (eg, Rom 11:36; 16:25-27; Gal 1:5; Eph 3:21; Phi 4:20; 1Ti
1:17; Jude 25), and only a few, like the present one, are directed to Christ
(eg, possibly 1Pe 4:11; 2Pe 3:18; Rev 1:6)" (NIBC).
Vv 22-25: Postscript and blessing. Although the letter has
ended with a concluding prayer, as often happens in the letters of the NT, the
author has yet a few more words for his readers. Again we get a few bits of
tantalizing information, which are followed by a word of greeting and a final
BROTHERS, I URGE YOU TO BEAR WITH MY WORD OF
EXHORTATION: Hebrews is essentially a series of exhortations. These
exhortations are based, to be sure, on very solid theological argument, but the
latter always supports a practical concern or application. Our author has
himself done in this work what he at one point urges his readers to do:
"encourage one another" (Heb 10:25).
FOR I HAVE WRITTEN YOU ONLY A SHORT LETTER: The
implication being that he is able to elaborate these matters at greater length
when the occasion presents itself.
I WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT OUR BROTHER TIMOTHY HAS BEEN
RELEASED. IF HE ARRIVES SOON, I WILL COME WITH HIM TO SEE YOU: Where he may
have been imprisoned is unknown (the NT nowhere records an imprisonment of
Timothy), although Rome or Ephesus are good possibilities. The author is hopeful
that Timothy can meet him before long and accompany him on a visit to the
ecclesia, apparently already planned.
GREET ALL YOUR LEADERS AND ALL GOD'S PEOPLE: The
references to "all" may suggest a fairly large ecclesial community. These
greetings are in line with the author's encouragement for the readers to respect
and submit to their leaders (v 17).
THOSE FROM ITALY SEND YOU THEIR GREETINGS: The
greetings may, on the one hand, be sent from Italians in Italy to Christians
elsewhere or, on the other, from Italians living abroad to their brothers in the