Hebrews 13 Bible Commentary

Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown

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1. brotherly love--a distinct special manifestation of "charity" or "love" (2Pe 1:7). The Church of Jerusalem, to which in part this Epistle was addressed, was distinguished by this grace, we know from Acts (compare Heb 6:10; 10:32-34; 12:12, 13).
continue--Charity will itself continue. See that it continue with you.

7. Two manifestations of "brotherly love," hospitality and care for those in bonds.
Be not forgetful--implying it was a duty which they all recognized, but which they might forget to act on (Heb 13:3, 7, 16). The enemies of Christianity themselves have noticed the practice of this virtue among Christians [JULIAN, Epistles, 49].
entertained angels unawares--Abraham and Lot did so (Ge 18:2; 19:1). To obviate the natural distrust felt of strangers, Paul says, an unknown guest may be better than he looks: he may be unexpectedly found to be as much a messenger of God for good, as the angels (whose name means messenger) are; nay more, if a Christian, he represents Christ Himself. There is a play on the same Greek word, Be not forgetful and unaware; let not the duty of hospitality to strangers escape you; for, by entertaining strangers, it has escaped the entertainers that they were entertaining angels. Not unconscious and forgetful of the duty, they have unconsciously brought on themselves the blessing.

3. Remember--in prayers and acts of kindness.
bound with them--by virtue of the unity of the members in the body under one Head, Christ (1Co 12:26).
suffer adversity--Greek, "are in evil state."
being yourselves also in the body--and so liable to the adversities incident to the natural body, which ought to dispose you the more to sympathize with them, not knowing how soon your own turn of suffering may come. "One experiences adversity almost his whole life, as Jacob; another in youth, as Joseph; another in manhood, as Job; another in old age" [BENGEL].

4. is, &c.--Translate, "Let marriage be treated as honorable": as Heb 13:5 also is an exhortation.
in all--"in the case of all men": "among all." "To avoid fornication let EVERY MAN have his own wife" (1Co 7:2). Judaism and Gnosticism combined were soon about to throw discredit on marriage. The venerable Paphnutius, in the Council of Nice, quoted this verse for the justification of the married state. If one does not himself marry, he should not prevent others from doing so. Others, especially Romanists, translate, "in all things," as in Heb 13:18. But the warning being against lasciviousness, the contrast to "whoremongers and adulterers" in the parallel clause, requires the "in all" in this clause to refer to persons.
the bed undefiled--Translate, as Greek requires "undefiled" to be a predicate, not an epithet, "And let the bed be undefiled."
God will judge--Most whoremongers escape the notice of human tribunals; but God takes particular cognizance of those whom man does not punish. Gay immoralities will then be regarded in a very different light from what they are now.

5. conversation--"manner of life." The love of filthy lust and the love of filthy lucre follow one another as closely akin, both alienating the heart from the Creator to the creature.
such things as ye have--literally, "present things" (Php 4:11).
I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee--A promise tantamount to this was given to Jacob (Ge 28:15), to Israel (De 31:6, 8), to Joshua (Jos 1:5), to Solomon (1Ch 28:20). It is therefore like a divine adage. What was said to them, extends also to us. He will neither withdraw His presence ("never leave thee") nor His help ("nor forsake thee") [BENGEL].

6. may--rather as Greek, expressing confidence actually realized, "So that we boldly (confidently) say" (Ps 56:4, 11; 118:6). Punctuate as both the Hebrew and the Greek require, "And (so) I will not fear: what (then) shall man do unto me?"

7. Remember--so as to imitate: not to invoke in prayer, as Rome teaches.
have the rule--rather, "who have had the rule over you": your spiritual leaders.
who--Greek, "the which": such persons as.
have spoken unto you--"spake" (so the Greek aorist means) during their lifetime. This Epistle was among those written later, when many of the heads of the Jerusalem Church had passed away.
whose faith--even unto death: probably death by martyrdom, as in the case of the instances of faith in Heb 11:35. Stephen, James the brother of our Lord and bishop of Jerusalem, as well as James the brother of John (Ac 12:2), in the Palestinian Church, which Paul addresses, suffered martyrdom.
considering--Greek, "looking up to," "diligently contemplating all over," as an artist would a model.
the end--the termination, at death. The Greek, is used of decease (Lu 9:31; 2Pe 1:15).
of their conversation--"manner of life": "religious walk" (Ga 1:13; Eph 4:22; 1Ti 4:12; Jas 3:13). Considering how they manifested the soundness of their faith by their holy walk, which they maintained even to the end of that walk (their death by martyrdom).

8. This verse is not, as some read it, in apposition with "the end of their conversation" (Heb 13:7), but forms the transition. "Jesus Christ, yesterday and to-day (is) the same, and (shall be the same) unto the ages (that is, unto all ages)." The Jesus Christ (the full name being given, to mark with affectionate solemnity both His person and His office) who supported your spiritual rulers through life even unto their end "yesterday" (in times past), being at once "the Author and the Finisher of their faith" (Heb 12:2), remains still the same Jesus Christ "to-day," ready to help you also, if like them you walk by "faith" in Him. Compare "this same Jesus," Ac 1:11. He who yesterday (proverbial for the past time) suffered and died, is to-day in glory (Re 1:18). "As night comes between yesterday and to-day, and yet night itself is swallowed up by yesterday and to-day, so the "suffering" did not so interrupt the glory of Jesus Christ which was of yesterday, and that which is to-day, as not to continue to be the same. He is the same yesterday, before He came into the world, and to-day, in heaven. Yesterday in the time of our predecessors, and to-day in our age" [BENGEL]. So the doctrine is the same, not variable: this verse thus forms the transition between Heb 13:7 and Heb 13:9. He is always "the same" (Heb 1:12). The same in the Old and in the New Testament.

9. about--rather, as oldest manuscripts read, "carried aside"; namely, compare Eph 4:14.
divers--differing from the one faith in the one and the same Jesus Christ, as taught by them who had the rule over you (Heb 13:7).
strange--foreign to the truth.
established with grace; not with meats--not with observances of Jewish distinctions between clean and unclean meats, to which ascetic Judaizers added in Christian times the rejection of some meats, and the use of others: noticed also by Paul in 1Co 8:8, 13; 6:13; Ro 14:17, an exact parallel to this verse: these are some of the "divers and strange doctrines" of the previous sentence. Christ's body offered once for all for us, is our true spiritual "meat" to "eat" (Heb 13:10), "the stay and the staff of bread" (Isa 3:1), the mean of all "grace."
which have not profited--Greek, "in which they who walked were not profited"; namely, in respect to justification, perfect cleansing of the conscience, and sanctification. Compare on "walked," Ac 21:21; namely, with superstitious scrupulosity, as though the worship of God in itself consisted in such legal observances.

10. Christianity and Judaism are so totally distinct, that "they who serve the (Jewish) tabernacle," have no right to eat our spiritual Gospel meat, namely, the Jewish priests, and those who follow their guidance in serving the ceremonial ordinance. He says, "serve the tabernacle," not "serve IN the tabernacle." Contrast with this servile worship ours.
an altar--the cross of Christ, whereon His body was offered. The Lord's table represents this altar, the cross; as the bread and wine represent the sacrifice offered on it. Our meat, which we by faith spiritually eat, is the flesh of Christ, in contrast to the typical ceremonial meats. The two cannot be combined (Ga 5:2). That not a literal eating of the sacrifice of Christ is meant in the Lord's Supper, but a spiritual is meant, appears from comparing Heb 13:9 with Heb 13:10, "with GRACE, NOT with MEATS."

11, 12. For just as "the bodies of those beasts whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by . . . are burned without the camp," so "Jesus also that . . . suffered without the gate" of ceremonial Judaism, of which His crucifixion outside the gate of Jerusalem is a type.
for--reason why they who serve the tabernacle, are excluded from share in Christ; because His sacrifice is not like one of those sacrifices in which they had a share but answers to one which was "wholly burned" outside (the Greek is "burnt completely," "consumed by burning"), and which consequently they could not eat of. Le 6:30, gives the general rule, "No sin offering whereof any of the blood is brought into the tabernacle of the congregation to reconcile withal in the holy place, shall be eaten; it shall be burnt in the fire." The sin offerings are twofold: the outward, whose blood was sprinkled on the outward altar, and of whose bodies the priests might eat; and the inward, the reverse.
the sanctuary--here the Holy of Holies, into which the blood of the sin offering was brought on the day of atonement.
without the camp--in which were the tabernacle and Levitical priests and legal worshippers, during Israel's journey through the wilderness; replaced afterwards by Jerusalem (containing the temple), outside of whose walls Jesus was crucified.

12. Wherefore Jesus--In order that the Antitype might fulfil the type.
sanctify--Though not brought into the temple "sanctuary" (Heb 13:11) His blood has been brought into the heavenly sanctuary, and "sanctifies the people" (Heb 2:11, 17), by cleansing them from sin, and consecrating them to God.
his own--not blood of animals.
without the gate--of Jerusalem; as if unworthy of the society of the covenant-people. The fiery ordeal of His suffering on the cross, answers to the burning of the victims; thereby His mere fleshly life was completely destroyed, as their bodies were; the second part of His offering was His carrying His blood into the heavenly holiest before God at His ascension, that it should be a perpetual atonement for the world's sin.

13. therefore--This "therefore" breathes the deliberate fortitude of believers [BENGEL].
without the camp--"outside the legal polity" [THEODORET] of Judaism (compare Heb 13:11) "Faith considers Jerusalem itself as a camp, not a city" [BENGEL]. He contrasts with the Jews, who serve an earthly sanctuary, the Christians to whom the altar in heaven stands open, while it is closed against the Jews. As Jesus suffered without the gate, so spiritually must those who desire to belong to Him, withdraw from the earthly Jerusalem and its sanctuary, as from this world in general. There is a reference to Ex 33:7, when the tabernacle was moved without the camp, which had become polluted by the people's idolatry of the golden calves; so that "every one who sought the Lord went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation (as Moses called the tabernacle outside the camp), which was without the camp"; a lively type of what the Hebrews should do, namely, come out of the carnal worship of the earthly Jerusalem to worship God in Christ in spirit, and of what we all ought to do, namely, come out from all carnalism, worldly formalism, and mere sensuous worship, and know Jesus in His spiritual power apart from worldliness, seeing that "we have no continuing city" (Heb 13:14).
bearing--as Simon of Cyrene did.
his reproach--the reproach which He bare, and which all His people bear with Him.

14. here--on earth. Those Hebrews who clung to the earthly sanctuary are representatives of all who cling to this earth. The earthly Jerusalem proved to be no "abiding city," having been destroyed shortly after this Epistle was written, and with it fell the Jewish civil and religious polity; a type of the whole of our present earthly order of things soon to perish.
one to come-- (Heb 2:5; 11:10, 14, 16; 12:22; Php 3:20).

15. As the "altar" was mentioned in Heb 13:10, so the "sacrifices" here (compare 1Pe 2:5, namely, praise and doing good, Heb 13:16). Compare Ps 119:108; Ro 12:1.
By him--as the Mediator of our prayers and praises (Joh 14:13, 14); not by Jewish observances (Ps 50:14, 23; 69:30, 31; 107:22; 116:17). It was an old saying of the rabbis, "At a future time all sacrifices shall cease, but praises shall not cease."
of praise--for salvation.
continually--not merely at fixed seasons, as those on which the legal sacrifices were offered, but throughout all our lives.
fruit of our lips-- (Isa 57:19; Ho 14:2).
giving thanks--Greek, "confessing." BENGEL remarks that the Hebrew, "todah," is beautifully emphatic. It literally means "acknowledgment" or "confession." In praising a creature, we may easily exceed the truth; but in praising God we have only to go on confessing what He really is to us. Hence it is impossible to exceed the truth, and here is genuine praise.

16. But--But the sacrifice of praise with the lips (Heb 13:15) is not enough; there must be also doing good (beneficence) and communicating (that is, imparting a share of your means, Ga 6:6) to the needy.
with such--and not mere ritualistic sacrifices.

17. Obey them that have the rule over you--(Compare Heb 13:7, 24). This threefold mention of the rulers is peculiar to this Epistle. In other Epistles Paul includes the rulers in his exhortations. But here the address is limited to the general body of the Church, in contrast to the rulers to whom they are charged to yield reverent submission. Now this is just what might be expected when the apostle of the Gentiles was writing to the Palestine Christians, among whom James and the eleven apostles had exercised a more immediate authority. It was important he should not seem to set himself in opposition to their guides, but rather strengthen their hands; he claims no authority directly or indirectly over these rulers themselves [BIRKS]. "Remember" your deceased rulers (Heb 13:7). "Obey" your living rulers; nay, more, not only obey in cases where no sacrifice of self is required, and where you are persuaded they are right (so the Greek, for "obey"), but "submit yourselves" as a matter of dutiful yielding, when your judgment and natural will incline you in an opposite direction.
they--on their part; so the Greek. As they do their part, so do you yours. So Paul exhorts, 1Th 5:12, 13.
watch--"are vigilant" (Greek).
for--Greek, "in behalf of."
must give account--The strongest stimulus to watchfulness (Mr 13:34-37). CHRYSOSTOM was deeply struck with these words, as he tells us [On the Priesthood, 6], "The fear of this threat continually agitates my soul."
do it--"watch for your soul's eternal salvation." It is a perilous responsibility for a man to have to give account for others' deeds, who is not sufficient for his own [ESTIUS, from AQUINAS]. I wonder whether it be possible that any of the rulers should be saved [CHRYSOSTOM]. Compare Paul's address to the elders, Ac 20:28; 1Co 4:1-5, where also he connects ministers' responsibility with the account to be hereafter given (compare 1Pe 5:4).
with joy--at your obedience; anticipating, too, that you shall be their "joy" in the day of giving account (Php 4:1).
not with grief--at your disobedience; apprehending also that in the day of account you may be among the lost, instead of being their crown of rejoicing. In giving account, the stewards are liable to blame if aught be lost to the Master. "Mitigate their toil by every office of attention and respect, that with alacrity, rather than with grief, they may fulfil their duty, arduous enough in itself, even though no unpleasantness be added on your part" [GROTIUS].
that--Grief in your pastors is unprofitable for you, for it weakens their spiritual power; nay, more, "the groans (so the Greek for 'grief') of other creatures are heard; how much more of pastors!" [BENGEL]. So God will be provoked to avenge on you their "groaning" (Greek). If they must render God an account of their negligence, so must you for your ingratitude to them [GROTIUS].

18. Pray for us--Paul usually requests the Church's intercessions for him in closing his Epistles, just as he begins with assuring them of his having them at heart in his prayers (but in this Epistle not till Heb 13:20, 21), Ro 15:30. "Us," includes both himself and his companions; he passes to himself alone, Heb 13:19.
we trust we have a good conscience--in spite of your former jealousies, and the charges of my Jewish enemies at Jerusalem, which have been the occasion of my imprisonment at Rome. In refutation of the Jews' aspersions, he asserts in the same language as here his own conscientiousness before God and man, Ac 23:1-3; 24:16, 20, 21 (wherein he virtually implies that his reply to Ananias was not sinful impatience; for, indeed, it was a prophecy which he was inspired at the moment to utter, and which was fulfilled soon after).
we trust--Greek, "we are persuaded," in the oldest manuscripts. Good conscience produces confidence, where the Holy Spirit rules the conscience (Ro 9:1).
honestly--"in a good way." The same Greek word as "good conscience." Literally, "rightly," "becomingly."

19. the rather--Greek, "I the more abundantly beseech you."
to do this--to pray for me.
that I may be restored to you-- (Phm 22). It is here first in the letter he mentions himself, in a way so unobtrusive, as not to prejudice his Hebrew readers against him, which would have been the result had he commenced this as his other Epistles, with authoritatively announcing his name and apostolic commission.

20. Concluding prayer.
God of peace--So Paul, Ro 15:33; 16:20; 2Co 13:11; Php 4:9; 1Th 5:23; 2Th 3:16. The Judaizing of the Hebrews was calculated to sow seeds of discord among them, of disobedience to their pastors (Heb 13:17), and of alienation towards Paul. The God of peace by giving unity of true doctrine, will unite them in mutual love.
brought again from the dead--Greek, "brought up," &c.: God brought the Shepherd; the Shepherd shall bring the flock. Here only in the Epistle he mentions the resurrection. He would not conclude without mentioning 'the connecting link between the two truths mainly discussed; the one perfect sacrifice and the continual priestly intercession--the depth of His humiliation and the height of His glory--the "altar" of the cross and the ascension to the heavenly Holy of Holies.
Lord Jesus--the title marking His person and His Lordship over us. But Heb 13:21, "through Jesus Christ." His office, as the Anointed of the Spirit, making Him the medium of communicating the Spirit to us, the holy unction flowing down from the Head on the members (compare Ac 2:36).
great-- (Heb 4:14).
shepherd of the sheep--A title familiar to his Hebrew readers, from their Old Testament (Isa 63:11; Septuagint): primarily Moses, antitypically Christ: already compared together, Heb 3:2-7. The transition is natural from their earthly pastors (Heb 13:17), to the Chief Pastor, as in 1Pe 5:1-4. Compare Eze 34:23 and Jesus' own words, Joh 10:2, 11, 14.
through the blood--Greek, "in," in virtue of the blood (Heb 2:9); it was because of His bloody death for us, that the Father raised and crowned Him with glory. The "blood" was the seal of the everlasting covenant entered into between the Father and Son; in virtue of the Son's blood, first Christ was raised, then Christ's people shall be so (Zec 9:11, seemingly referred to here; Ac 20:28).
everlasting--The everlastingness of the covenant necessitated the resurrection. This clause, "the blood of the everlasting covenant," is a summary retrospect of the Epistle (compare Heb 9:12).

21. Make you perfect--properly said of healing a rent; join you together in perfect harmony [BENGEL].
to do his will, working in you-- (Heb 10:36); rather as Greek, "doing in you." Whatever good we do, God does in us.
well-pleasing in his sight-- (Isa 53:10; Eph 5:10).
through Jesus Christ--"God doing (working) in you that . . . through Jesus Christ" (Php 1:11).
to whom--to Christ. He closes as he began (Heb 1:1-14), with giving glory to Christ.

22. suffer the word--The Hebrews not being the section of the Church assigned to Paul (but the Gentiles), he uses gentle entreaty, rather than authoritative command.
few words--compared with what might be said on so important a subject. Few, in an Epistle which is more of a treatise than an Epistle (compare 1Pe 5:12). On the seeming inconsistency with Ga 6:11, compare Note, see on Ga 6:11.

23. our brother Timothy--So Paul, 1Co 4:17; 2Co 1:1; Col 1:1; 1Th 3:2.
is set at liberty--from prison. So Aristarchus was imprisoned with Paul. BIRKS translates, "dismissed," "sent away," namely, on a mission to Greece, as Paul promised (Php 2:19). However, some kind of previous detention is implied before his being let go to Philippi. Paul, though now at large, was still in Italy, whence he sends the salutations of Italian Christians (Heb 13:24), waiting for Timothy to join him, so as to start for Jerusalem: we know from 1Ti 1:3, he and Timothy were together at Ephesus after his departing from Italy eastward. He probably left Timothy there and went to Philippi as he had promised. Paul implies that if Timothy shall not come shortly, he will start on his journey to the Hebrews at once.

24. all--The Scriptures are intended for all, young and old, not merely for ministers. Compare the different classes addressed, "wives," Eph 5:22; little children, 1Jo 2:18; "all," 1Pe 3:8; 5:5. He says here "all," for the Hebrews whom he addresses were not all in one place, though the Jerusalem Hebrews are chiefly addressed.
They of Italy--not merely the brethren at Rome, but of other places in Italy.

25. Paul's characteristic salutation in every one of his other thirteen Epistles, as he says himself, 1Co 16:21, 23; Col 4:18; 2Th 3:17. It is found in no Epistle written by any other apostle in Paul's lifetime. It is used in Re 22:21, written subsequently, and in CLEMENT OF ROME. Being known to be his badge, it is not used by others in his lifetime. The Greek here is, "The grace (namely, of our Lord Jesus Christ) be with you all."