Hebrews 1:5-9

Hebrews 1:5‑9  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Next comes a series of quotations from the O.T pertinent to the Sonship of Christ just laid down. This fullness of citing the ancient oracles, though found elsewhere in the apostle's writings and conspicuously in the Epistle to the Romans, is nowhere so rich as here. Nor could we well conceive it other. wise, if he were writing to believers from among the chosen people, and anxious in his loving consideration for them to rest all on God's word already known to them familiarly rather than on his own fresh prophetic communications.
“For to whom of the angels did He ever say, Thou art My Son: I this day have begotten Thee? And again, I will be to Him a father, and He shall be to Me a son? And when, again, He bringeth in the firstborn into the habitable earth, He saith, And let all God's angels worship Him. And indeed as to the angels He saith, Who maketh His angels winds and His ministers a flame of fire; but as to the Son, Thy throne, O God, [is] unto the age of the age, and the scepter of uprightness [is] scepter of Thy kingdom. Thou lovedst righteousness and hatedst lawlessness therefore God, Thy God, anointed Thee with oil of gladness above Thy fellows” (ver. 5-9).
As Jews they were accustomed to think much of angels who were seen often on critical occasions by the fathers, and took a most distinguished part in bringing in the law, as well as in heralding or accomplishing deliverances afterward, as every one can see who reads the Law and the Prophets with attention. This tended to produce no small veneration in the minds of the just, and to superstition in such as went beyond scripture. Christ alone gives and keeps the truth in us by grace. And here we have a clear instance in point, as throughout the Epistle. Not only was the Life the light of men, rather than of angels, but the Son of God becoming man really, as He had often anticipatively intervened in human guise, gave proof that the good pleasure of God is in men, and prepared the way for the revelation of the glorious counsels He has ever had for such as believe, in the day of Christ, when even angels are to be in a subordinate place as indeed throughout eternity. This assuredly could not be without redemption, as redemption in the full sense could not be without incarnation, supposed in chap. i. and openly stated in chap. ii. as we shall see. As the Son is incontestably above the prophets, so is He now proved far above the angels; and He is the foundation of all our blessedness.
The first scripture quoted is from Psa. 2:77I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. (Psalm 2:7), “Thou art My Son: I this day have begotten Thee.” Never was such a word addressed to an angel. It applies only to Christ. But how? The apostle John loves to expatiate on His eternal Sonship. Again, elsewhere in the Epistles of Paul He is often shown as Son of God in resurrection (Rom. 1:4; 8:294And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: (Romans 1:4)
29For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)
, Col. 1:1818And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:18)), as of course also when He returns from heaven (1 Thess. 1:1010And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:10)). How is He regarded here? As Son of God born in time: so we see Him in Luke 1:3232He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: (Luke 1:32), and yet more definitely in ver. 35. The assumption of flesh in no way lowered His Sonship: Son of God eternally, He was still and no less Son of God when born of the virgin, as He is in resurrection and evermore in glory; He only, and in virtue of divine right acknowledged of and to Jesus solely by the word magnified above all Jehovah's name.
It is the more important that this should be seen clearly and irrefragably, because even the learned Bp. Pearson in his famous work on the Creed over and over again gives countenance to the mystic view1 of this verse of the Psalm cited in Acts 13:32, 3332And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, 33God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. (Acts 13:32‑33), as if the apostle had so definitely ruled. But this is quite an oversight. On the contrary and beyond controversy the apostle distinguishes in ver. 34 the Lord's resurrection (attested by Isa. 55:33Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. (Isaiah 55:3) and Psa. 16:1010For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. (Psalm 16:10)) from His Sonship in the days of His flesh as in Psa. 2:77I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. (Psalm 2:7). The “raising up” (not “up again” as in A. V.) in 32, 33, is as Messiah on earth; with which is contradistinguished in 34 God's raising Him upfront the dead.
Hence there is no need or even room for swerving from the simple yet grand truth that, as the Psalmist, so the apostle, in preaching at Antioch of Pisidia and here in writing to the Christian Jews, speaks of what Jehovah said of His Son when born a man. It is therefore His birth in time: “I this day have begotten Thee.”
The next citation appears to be from 1 Chron. 17:1313I will be his father, and he shall be my son: and I will not take my mercy away from him, as I took it from him that was before thee: (1 Chronicles 17:13) (2 Sam. 7 where the same words occur being more historical); “I will be to Him a Father, and He will be to Me a Son.” This is the assertion of the perfect and mutual affection that reigned between the Father and His Son now a living man: not what became an accomplished fact as Psa. 2:77I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. (Psalm 2:7), but what should subsist when He was born of woman, “Son of David, Son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:11The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (Matthew 1:1)).
As to the second text there has been little discussion among orthodox men. Not so in the third, which stands in our Epistle identical with the Vatican (not the Alexandrine) Septuagintal text of Dent. 32:43, and in substance with Psa. 97:77Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him, all ye gods. (Psalm 97:7). But it has been keenly urged as to the prefatory words that “again” (πάλιν) belongs to εἰσαγάγῃ and denotes a new and second introduction of the Messiah, instead of being as in the A. V. and many others the mark of another citation. Not a few ancients, mediævals, and moderns have so understood, though they differ widely as to the alleged second introduction. But the Pesch. Syr. found no such difficulty as the Vulgate; nor did Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Beza, Bengel, Wolf, any more than the fullest of modern commentators, Bleek. It is assumed that πάλιν would not stand where it is in the Greek if it introduced another citation; yet the good scholar who so speaks allows that in point of interpretation the rendering of the A.V. is much to be preferred! Is this really safe? That a false version yields better sense than the true? That the true is not justifiable grammatically?
The fact is that the collocation stands alone, as far as I can see, in the N. T. and that there is nothing either way in the LXX. T., in the other instances of the N. T. there is no case precisely like this before us, not only no ὅταν δέ, but nothing analogous. I do not admit (until a real case is produced adverse to what is confessed by a candid and competent man, Canon Humphry, to be a much preferable resulting sense) that we are driven to deny an elasticity to the Greek of which our tongue is perfectly susceptible. Englishmen are certainly not tied down to such an order, as “Again, when He bringeth in.” What proof is there that the far more pliant Greek is more restricted? Not infrequently there are solitary examples of collocation or construction even in the N. T. as in other writings. If we may say, “And when, again, he bringeth in,” &c., I know not why the writer may not with equal liberty have adopted a corresponding order, even though there be no other instance of or call for such a variety.
What then is the grammatical principle or the usage which is supposed to be traversed here? “Ιn this Epistle, when it is joined to a verb, it has always the sense of a second time, e. g., ch. 4:7, 5:12, 6:1, 6.” Is it not unfortunate that the very first is adverse? It is no more joined to a verb there than in the verse debated. It means “Again, he limiteth,” not “He limiteth a second time.” No one doubts that in 5:12, like 6:1,6 it means iterum (not rursus, particularly when used as a sort of parenthesis, as in chap. 1. and often elsewhere). Indeed, the very first occurrence in the N. T. refuses this imaginary canon of grammar. Our Lord said (Matt. 5:3333Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: (Matthew 5:33)) πάλιν ἠκούσατε, of which the unequivocal and universally allowed sense is, Again, ye heard, and not, because a verb follows, Ye heard a second time. To say “joined to a verb” begs the question. Is it really so? We may be assured it may not be.
The fact is that the apostle's object appears to be, not defining time when God ushers the Firstborn into the world, but (whenever it shall have been, past or future perhaps) proving the universal homage of all God's angels to the glory of the Son And surely Luke 2:13, 1413And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:13‑14) is a beautiful witness to it. Nor is there the smallest ground to limit “the firstborn” to resurrection. As any reader may see, Col. 1:1515Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: (Colossians 1:15) points out the Lord Jesus as the Firstborn of all creation, quite distinctly from His subsequent and still more glorious position of “Firstborn from the dead” in ver. 18 (cf. Rev. 1:55And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, (Revelation 1:5)). “Firstborn” as such is therefore more suitable to Him simply as incarnate; which tells, as far as it goes, against construing π. with the verb as “a second time.” At the same time it is frankly allowed that the fulfillment of Dent. 32. or of Psa. 97 as a whole awaits the Lord's second advent.
We have, after this, words cited from two Psa. 104:44Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire: (Psalm 104:4) as to the angels, which no Jew would dispute, and indeed such messengers and servants cannot but be angelic, whatever Calvin may argue to the contrary; 45:6, 7 as to the Lord Jesus. I have no right to pronounce on the true objects and the true predicates in the Hebrew. But it cannot be doubted that the Epistle to the Hebrews cites from the Sept. as in the Vat., save in the form of the last words; and there the true order admits of no question. So the meaning of the earlier Psalm is beyond just controversy. The glorious beings of heaven, its natural denizens, are made to do God's will in providence and to act in wind or flame. But instead of making Christ this or that, He says, Thy throne, O God, is for the age of the age (forever), and the scepter of uprightness is scepter of Thy kingdom.
Here, be it remarked, that it is a question of the time of fulfillment no more than in Dent. 32. (or Psa. 97); for it is very certain that the judicial kingdom described in Psa. 45 is still future, having had no real accomplishment yet. But none the less is the recognition of Messiah's glory most available even now for the object of the Epistle. For God owns the Messiah as no less than Himself; and, if God, it cannot be a mere question of time, whatever of glorious display may yet be in store.
The past too is not forgotten, nor ever can be by God. “Thou didst love righteousness and didst hate lawlessness.” Such was Jesus as a man here below; for in truth He is both in one person, and not more truly God than man, nor man than God. Compare Phil. 2 “Therefore God, Thy God, anointed Thee with oil of gladness beyond Thy fellows.”
How beautiful to see the largeness of grace and truth. After this lofty owning of Messiah as God by God comes the fullest acknowledgment of others. He Himself is no more ashamed to own us His companions or fellows than God is to own Him God. He that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of one. Yet He is God no less than the Father, Who will have all men honor the Son even as Himself. What have infidel dreams of progress to compare with simple and sure Christian truth?