1:5-14: The Superiority of Christ over the angels
1:5: Christ is the only true Son of God (1.5)
1:6: Christ is to be worshipped by all angels (1.6)
1:7: Christ is made the angels and is served by them (1.7, 14)
1:8-9: Christ is the righteous God who rules and reigns (1.8-9)
1:10-12: Christ is the Creator and Sovereign Lord (1.10-12)
1:13: Christ sits at the right hand of God (1.13)
2:1-4: Take heed to the Gospel
2:1: Exhortation to pay attention
2:2-4: Reasons to pay attention
2:2: The great responsibility in the old economy
2:3-4: The greater responsibility in the new economy
What: In this passage, we see that Christ is so much higher and superior to all the angels, and therefore His message to us demands our response and attention.
How: Through the overwhelming testimony of the Scriptures of the past, focused as they are on the address of Father to Son, compared with the address of angels
Why: Because the Hebrews were being drawn away from the worship of the Son to direct their worship variously (including to angels)
Whereunto: In order that Faith would see the Son set and settled in glory above the angels, worshipped by the angels.
In proving His argument that Christ was not some angel but the very Son of God, the author to the Hebrews builds upon the message of the Old Testament to prove to the readers that Christ is so far superior to the angels and the message of the Gospel is a greater revelation than that granted to the Old Covenant people of God. He proves that Christ is the only true Son of God, the object of the angels’ worship, the Creator and Lord over the angels, God who rules upon His throne, the Creator and Immortal Sovereign Lord over the whole of creation, and the Mediator between man and God who has taken His place at His Father’s right hand.
Such a truth should draw these Hebrews into believing and trusting this message. They are to be warned that should they apostatize, they would be rejecting a greater message than that given in the Old economy, which was declared by angels. Since the angels are shown to be greatly inferior to the Son, the message which the Son brings must be greater and higher than that which has been proclaimed and exhibited in the Son of God. Therefore, if the hearers of the Old economy’s revelation were punished for rejecting that message, how much more will those be punished who have rejected the message of Christ, which has been proclaimed by Christ, and witnessed to and testified in many powerful ways, which far exceed that under the Old economy.
Verse 5 and following continues to explain what is written in verse 4, using seven scriptural quotations. The verse starts with the sentence τίνι γὰρ εἶπέν ποτε τῶν ἀγγέλων, “for to which of the angels did [God] ever say?” γὰρ is the connecting word, just as τῶν ἀγγέλων which is used in verse 4 connects the two verses in a unit. The first two quotations are from Psalm 2:7, and 2 Samuel 7:14 and are both rhetorical questions. God did not say to any angel “you shall be My Son…”
Now, having declared in v 4 that the exalted Son received a more excellent name than the angels, the writer now identifies that name as υἱός μου, “my Son.” As O’Brian says: The conjunction of Psalm 2:7 and 2 Samuel 7:14 underscores the unique relationship which the Son enjoys with God the Father, and provides biblical support for the claim that the position of the angels is subordinate to that of the Son.
The OT second quotation shows the words of the prophet Nathan to David. Nathan tells David how his line would build a house for God, establishing a kingdom that will last forever. There is a Messianic message in this, for this promise is fulfilled in the coming of Christ, (see Rom. 1:3). Christ, the Son of God came, who is both the Son of God and the son of David. The following quotations in the proceeding verses mark Jesus as the one being worshipped by angels. Aquinas points out, by the use of the singular in the statement, “Thou art my Son”—“as much as to say: Although many others are called sons, yet to be the natural son belongs to him alone; whereas others are called sons of God because they participate in the Word of God.”
As a side-note, see the interesting chiasm in this verse.
A You are my Son;
B today I have become your Father.
B´ I will be his Father,
A´ and he will be my Son.
A summary of verse 5 can say that although the angels are sometimes designated as “sons of God” in the pages of the OT (e.g., Pss 29:1; 89:7; Job 1:6), Jesus alone is recognized by God as his unique Son
6. The first two texts identify Jesus as the son of God. Now the passages that follow tell about how this Son is to be worshipped by angels: And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.” The verse uses πάλιν (again) to introduce the Son of God to the world. connect πάλιν, “again,” with the verb εἰσαγάγῃ, “he brings,” so that it refers to “another” or “second” entrance into the οἰκουμένη. οἰκουμένη signifies habitable land, in contrast to a desert or wilderness. So the adverb πάλιν talks about a second introduction of the Son. One with His incarnation, and one with His coming again. The one whom God has introduced into the heavenly world is his ‘Firstborn’ (prōtotokos), a term that is a variation on ‘Son’ (huios), which was used in vv. 2 and 5 of Christ’s unique relationship to God. Prōtotokos here echoes the wording of Psalm 89:27 (LXX 88:28), where God says of David, ‘I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth’. In the Old Testament this term “first born” is often used as a ranking order, a high rank within the family. Israel is the firstborn, having a special place, and so is Christ to God. Being the first born means that you are consecrated to the Lord, as Christ is, and Israel is supposed to be as well.
This also speaks of the family of Christ, so has a pastoral aspect to it. talks about this, saying that though Frequently ‘firstborn’ was employed to denote one who had a special place in his father’s love, This affirmation of Christ’s preeminence as the Firstborn anticipates and has profound implications for what Hebrews will later claim about Christ’s relationship to the ‘many sons and daughters’ whom he is not ashamed to call his ‘brothers and sisters’. They are members of his family (2:10–14) and belong to ‘the church of the firstborn’, having come to ‘the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God’ (12:23).
7. Verse 7 shows the fourth sequence of quotations of the Old Testament, referring to Psalm 104:4. Psalm 104 is the glorious psalm about God’s power in creation of the world and His control over all things. However, this verse does not refer directly to Christ, but speaking directly about the angels. O’Brian explains this as follows: “By shifting to the angels, the LXX reverses the objects165 so that the text now speaks of the transitory nature of the angels, who receive their rank and task from God. Hebrews, by drawing attention to the ephemeral and fleeting form of the angels, underscores their inferiority to the Son.” On the one hand, the verse shows us the important place the angels have within God’s creation, on the other hand it shows their inferiority to God and His Son Jesus Christ. Verse 7 forms one unit with verse 8, being inseparably connected by the construction καὶ πρὸς μὲν τοὺς ἀγγέλους λεγει … πρὸς δὲ τὸν υἱόν …, “In reference to the angels he says … But referring to the Son …” (vv 7, 8). Again a contrast between angels and Christ. As Lane argues, “the introduction of a quotation concerning the mutability of the angels serves primarily to emphasize the unchangeable, eternal character of the Son.” Besides that, it is God who makes (ποιέω) angels like wind and fire. They are subjected to His creative work.
Viewing the concepts of wind and fire in this verse opens up for many debates. Lane argues that the OT frequently uses these elements as divine instruments for theophany. In this form the text was cited in the rabbinic tradition as evidence of the transcendence of God who executes his will through the angels (cf. ExodRab 25.86a: “they sit and stand at his will, and appear in the form of a man or a woman, or even as wind and fire”) Hughes mentions that the verse of Psalm 104:4 “may either affirm that God makes wind and fire serviceable to Him for special missions (cf. 148:8), or that He gives wind and fire to His angels as the material of their manifestation and, as it were, their assumption of a corporeal form, for the purpose of His activity within the world, which is mediated by means of them.” He concludes that in this verse it is clear how God can reduce angels to the elemental forces of wind and fire, so unstable is their nature, whereas the person and authority of the Son are above all change and decay.
8-9. Verse 8-9 are introduced by δέ (but), showing the following contrast to the previous verse. These verses together introduce the fifth quotation, Psalm 45:6-7. It directs the attention back to the Son, establishing that the Son does not belong to the created order as the angels do, and therefore ranks higher.
The Psalm was originally directed at the house of David, and it is strange that he is referred to as God. Therefore, translators have translated it with the expression “God is your throne” or “Your throne is (a throne of God) eternal.” O’Brien explains this verse as a statement that simply means that ‘this Davidic monarch receives his authority from God’ Harris suggests that the Davidic king’s rule is like the authority of God when: (1) he reflects God’s presence, and ‘glory and majesty’ are ascribed to him (Ps. 45:5a; as it is of God, so Ps. 96:6); (2) he is declared a ‘defender and lover of truth and righteousness’ (Ps. 45:5b–8a; as God is, Pss. 33:5; 48:10–11; Isa. 61:8); (3) he ‘judges with equity’ (Ps. 45:7b; as God does, Pss. 67:4; 99:4a); and (4) his rule (i.e., his dynasty) lasts forever (Ps. 45:16–17; note God’s eternal rule in Pss. 10:16; 93:2; 145:13). Accordingly, the attribution of deity to the king is figurative. In Hebrews the psalm is now employed to draw explicit attention to the quality of the Son’s reign: ‘the sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of his kingdom’. It is marked by perfect justice and righteousness, for, unlike that of the Davidic kings, his rule is no longer hindered by human frailty.
This shows in the phrase that the Kingdom of God is forever and ever (εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος) and this speaks of the lack of human frailty. The Son and His Kingdom are forever. The verses 10-12 emphasize this further.
Verse 9 closes the unit with παρὰ τοὺς μετόχους σου, “above your companions.” The preposition παρά, taken in the comparative sense (“more than,” “beyond”), reinforces the contrast being drawn between Christ and the angels. Although angels participate in the implementation of God’s will (cf. vv 7, 14), and in this sense are μέτοχοι of the Son, God has assigned to him a superior office. Their function is to serve; his is to rule. Who are those μέτοχος (companions)? The context would seem to say that these companions are the angels. Some say that it is possible that the companions in view here are the ‘many sons’ (2:10) whom the firstborn Son is not ashamed to call his ‘brothers’ (2:11). It is clear that those companions are them that share in the heavenly calling.
10-12. Verses 10-11 seem to be the climax of the Sons superiority, work and reign. His eternity is exalted by the quotations of Psalm 102:25-27. Like in the previous verse the quote begins and ends with the Son’s eternity and the contrast of the angels and the imperfectness of the world. In Psalm 102 the author portrays anther contrast, that of his own fail life and the eternity of God (vv. 24, 26-27). These verses show that all creation proceeds from and depends on the preexistent Son (Col. 1:16–17).
Verse 10 in the LXX shows that σύ, “you,” is placed before κατʼ ἀρχάς, “in the beginning” (v 10), for the sake of emphasis; it serves to bring the new quotation into immediate association with the previous one which concluded on the word σου, with reference to the Son. The alteration of the future form διαμενεῖς, “you will remain,” to the present διαμένεις, “you remain” (v 11), provides a more adequate expression of the timeless quality of the Son’s nature. The change from ἀλλάσσειν, “to change,” to ἑλίσσειν, “to roll up” (v 12), which suggests the action of the rolling up of a cloak, provides the writer with a vivid image of change. The addition of ὡς ἱμάτιον, “like a garment,” which is repeated from v 11, before καὶ ἀλλαγήσονται, “and they will be changed” (v 12b), keeps the imagery of clothing prominently in view and serves to stress the frequency and casualness with which the created order is altered.
In verse 12 there is a parallelism with verse 8. Verse 12 closes with a summary. That summary has been mentioned in verse 11, where again, a contrast between the mutability of the angels and the unchanging character of the Son is portrayed with the words: αὐτοὶ ἀπολοῦνται, σὺ δὲ διαμένεις, (“they will perish, but you remain.”)
v 8 “Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever.”
v 12 “But you remain the same; you will never grow old.”
Παλαιωθήσονται is the future passive third person that means “to wear out; become old.” It is used in the expression ὡς ἱμάτιον παλαιωθήσονται, “like clothing they will wear out,” This points back to the OT Levitical cultus as the clothing of the priests will wear out. Here, it contacts to σὺ δὲ ὁ αὐτός, “but you remain the same” (v 12), again showing a divine contrast that God is eternally higher than the most sacred parts of the world and humanity. Christ, the Son, is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
13-14. Psalm 110:1 presents a climax to the OT series and gets special emphasis. At verse 5 the OT quotations started, and showed God’s enthronement, higher than David, the angels, creation. Another rhetorical question is made in comparison to the angels. The language of the psalm, ‘Sit at my right hand’ (v. 1), has already been alluded to in the opening paragraph where the Son of God is said to have sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven (1:3). Now it is explicitly quoted in relation to the king’s enthronement, and with it the promise of victory over all his enemies
The last verse connects to the whole rest of the chapter, by explaining the mission of the angels. Their service is selfless, as Hughes argues. It is a service unmarred by self-seeking and directed toward a glorious end. For they are λειτουργικὰ πνεύματα, “serving spirits.” The language of mission (apostellō), used elsewhere in Scripture of God’s messengers, the Son himself, his ‘apostles’, and other humans who are ‘sent ones’, is here employed of the angelic servants of God. They are ministering spirits220 (an expression which echoes key words of Ps. 104:4, cited in v. 7) who are not only subordinate to the exalted Son and therefore serve him, but who also engage in whatever ministry (εἰς διακονίαν) will benefit the ‘heirs of salvation’ here on earth, no doubt because of their close relationship with the Son by whom they are being brought to glory (2:10).
In this verse, God shows His intentions with human people, οἱ μέλλοντες κληρονομεῖν σωτηρίαν, “those who are to inherit salvation. Therefore the angels are not as God, but being heir of the plan of God’s salvation, of whom Jesus is the “founder” (2:10) and “source” (5:9). Lane argues that this last verse calls the hearers to make a decision. “It demands an affirmative answer. They are to recognize that in contrast to the Son, who is invited to share the divine presence and splendor, angels are sent forth on a mission of assistance to those who find themselves oppressed and confused in a hostile world.”
V.1. As the author started to demonstrate the superiority of the Son over the angels, he now calls them to remain faithful and not drift away from the gospel. Verse 1 contains a serious message. As one author notes: “These passages serve to demonstrate that the teaching of this epistle is not merely theoretical and unrelated to the realities of everyday life, but is intensely practical and therefore full of intense seriousness.” Why? Because it holds the doctrines and truth of life and salvation.
The verse opens with διὰ τοῦτο δεῖ, “it is necessary therefore…” and builds directly on the previous chapter. Because Christ is superior, and because He is the herald of God’s Word, therefore His words are authoritative. Because the author uses the first person plural “us,” he presses the listeners to hold fast to the messages that have been given before and pay the closest attention (περισσοτέρως προσέχειν) to this message. περισσοτέρως προσέχειν is synonymous to κατέχειν (to hold fast) which appears in the following chapters. The believers must pay attention to the message and hold fast to it, so that they will not drift away.
Verse 1 tells the readers what they have to pay attention too. The author does not mention the gospel, ‘but what has been heard” (τοῖς ἀκουσθεῖσιν).
There is a thematic connection between the first four verses of the first chapter and the first four verses of the second chapter. If God, in the final period of history, has spoken to us (ἡμῖν) his ultimate word in the Son (1:2a), then we (ἡμᾶς) must pay the closest attention to what has been heard (2:1).
The people have to guard themselves against drifting away (μήποτε παραρυῶμεν) from the course that has been set out before them. It refers to a nautical term, προσέχειν, which means “to hold a ship toward port, or to fasten the anchors to the sea bed.” So before the waves take the ship away from its anchor place, it must be firmly tight with the anchor of truth as given in the message of the gospel. παραρυῶμεν appears in the Old Testament in Proverbs 3:21 in the form of παραρρεῖν and means to lose sight of wisdom and advice. Here the author uses the term as a warning not to lose sight of Christ and His salvation.
The comparison to a ship is very relevant in this chapter. Though often unnoticeable, ships can drift far away from the shore by the wind and the waves until the resting sailor notices much later how his ship has drifted off course and that the way back is far. Therefore, holding fast to the truth as it has been told is essential to maintain true and strong faith.
V.2. The next three verses compare the word of angels to that of Christ. The author warns against neglecting the gospel message, because neglecting the gospel is neglecting the words of salvation.
Verse 2 speaks of the word that is delivered at Sinai through angels (Ex. 19-31). The angelic mediation of the law is not recorded in the Old Testament: according to the account in Exodus 20:1 the Lord dealt with Moses directly. But the tradition that angels acted as his intermediaries has biblical warrant in Deuteronomy 33:2 (LXX): ‘The Lord came from Sinai; … at his right hand were angels with him.’ Also Psalm 68:17 refers to the presence of angels: ἐκ δεξιῶν αὐτοῦ ἄγγελοι μετʼ αὐτοῦ (angels were with him at his right hand).” There are more sources in the NT that refer to angelic mediation for the law of God, like Gal. 3:19 and Acts 7:38, 53. In the early church tradition this mediating work of angels has been affirmed by early writers like Josephus who wrote: “And for ourselves, we have learned from God the most excellent of our teachings, and the most holy part of our law by angels [διʼ ἀγγέλων] or ambassadors” (Ant. 15.36).
In chapter 1, the authority of the angels under God had been confirmed, and now therefore the message that is brought by the angels should be directly related to God’s revelation. Warnings against disobedience follow in this verse. The author uses two words for this: παράβασις, “infringement,” and παρακοή, “disobedience.” These sins are directly addressed as being a violation against God. As trespassing of the law of Moses was strictly penalized, disobedience to the gospel of Christ would certainly be considered a great sin. The author uses μισθαποδοσία, “punishment as reward.”
“The law indeed, as Paul insists, is holy and good and also glorious (Rom. 7:12, 14; 2 Cor. 3:7ff.). How could what is God-given be anything less? The problem lies not with the law, which is the divine standard of life (Lev. 18:5; Ezek. 20:11, 13; Neh. 9:29; Lk. 10:28; Gal. 3:12), but with sinful man who is a law-breaker, with the consequence that the law stands over against him as an ordinance of condemnation and death, precisely because it is holy and just.”
V. 3 is the second part of the comparison and contains a rhetorical question: πῶς ἡμεῖς ἐκφευξόμεθα (How shall we escape?). The message brought through the angels was so serious, there is no escaping to it. We cannot escape the judgment if we show a lack of concern (ἀμελήσαντες) to Gods message, as will be mentioned in later chapters. Like in chapter 1, there is again a negative and a positive in one verse. “How shall we escape…” “For it is such a great salvation! (τηλικαύτης … σωτηρίας).” There is such an enormous privilege for believers in this text, and the core of this text is a wonderful message of hope.
This great salvation is in its word-group used to rescue from physical death (Jesus, 5:7; Noah, 11:7); but more often it appears in a positive and theological sense, and always in connection with the work of Christ (2:3, 10; 5:9; 6:9; 7:25; 9:28). Salvation is deliverance from judgment (6:8-9), having a future with God and His people (1:14) and everlasting life (2:10; 5:9). Salvation is for those who draw near to God through Christ, for Christ is the high-priest who sanctifies and purifies from sin (7:25).
The message spoken was validated by the people who heard the message, that may have implied some of the Hebrews to whom the letter was addressed. Though God had spoken before through angels, now he has spoken the words through His Son, “announced through the Lord” (λαλεῖσθαι διὰ τοῦ κυρίου) instead of ‘the word spoken through the angels’ (v.2) (ὁ διʼ ἀγγέλων λαληθεὶς λόγος). This shows again the superiority of the Son over the angels, like chapter 1 told us about.
This announcement by God has interesting implications for Christian living. ἀρχὴν λαβοῦσα λαλεῖσθαι διὰ τοῦ κυρίου, “first announced [by God] through the Lord himself” implies that the foundation of the Christian economy is traced to the ministry of the Lord. ὑπὸ τῶν ἀκουσάντων εἰς ἡμᾶς ἐβεβαιώθη, “guaranteed to us by those who heard him shows that the words are made accurate by witnesses. Those witnesses have heard that the ministry of Jesus is what salvation is about, about purification of the sins of man (καθαρισμὸς τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν).
V.4 συνεπιμαρτυροῦντος τοῦ θεοῦ. ‘God endorsed their witness.’ The ministry of Christ further continues in this verse as foundation of salvation and of the message that is told. The witnesses have seen this ministry that was confirmed by signs and wonders (σημεῖα καὶ τέρατα), and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The first spread of the gospel was accompanied by signs and miracles. Though the gospel was spread by speaking (λαλεῖσθαι) and hearing (τῶν ἀκουσάντων), the witness of God was necessary as power behind it all. What a privilege is it that the Word comes directly to us through the mediation of the Son Himself, even over angels and prophets from old times.