Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 13 September 2020 (in progress)
Scripture Text: The Scripture text used in this commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison and based on the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. Other Bible versions may be quoted. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Quotations marked with the initials "BR" indicate the translation of the commentary author.
Sources: Bibliographic data for works cited and resources consulted may be found at the end of the commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Important Jewish sources include:
● DSS: Citations marked as "DSS" are from the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish manuscripts of Scripture and sectarian documents found in the Qumran caves. Most of the Qumran MSS belong to the last three centuries BC and the first century AD. Online DSS Bible. Unless otherwise indicated quotations from the DSS are taken from A New Translation of The Dead Sea Scrolls (2005), abbreviated as TDSS.
● LXX: The abbreviation "LXX" ("70") stands for the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which was in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. Online. See Barry Setterfield, The Alexandrian Septuagint History.
● Josephus: Citations for Josephus, the first century Jewish historian (Yosef ben Matityahu), are from The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75–99 A.D.) trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
● MT: The Masoretic Text is the authoritative Hebrew text of the Tanakh for Rabbinic Judaism. Work on developing a uniform Hebrew Bible began in the 2nd century under Rabbi Akiva, but completed by Jewish scholars known as the Masoretes between the 7th and 10th centuries A.D. The oldest extant manuscripts date from around the 9th century. Online.
• Philo: Citations of Philo of Alexandria, the Jewish philosopher (20 B.C.─A.D. 50) are from The Works of Philo Judaeus, compiled by Peter Kirby, found online at Early Jewish Writings.
● Talmud: Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. The Jerusalem Talmud, identified with "TJ," may be found here. Click here for Talmud abbreviations.
● Targums: The Targums are early Aramaic translations of the Hebrew text with commentary that date from the first century. See an index of Targum texts here.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations. The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online. Parsing data for Greek words is taken from Anthony J. Fisher, Greek New Testament.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic writings and message I use the terms Jacob (James), Yeshua (Jesus), Messiah (Christ), Tanakh (Old Testament), and Besekh (New Testament).
Please see the Introduction for background information on the letter. This commentary assumes that Paul the apostle wrote the letter in the Hebrew language and Luke translated it into Jewish Greek.
Chapter Four Summary
In this chapter Paul concludes his discourse on entering the rest God has intended for His people. Paul encourages his readers, the Messianic Jews in the Diaspora, to faithfulness, obedience, and perseverance. He reminds his readers of the punishment of being excluded from the promised land that befell their forefathers for rebellion and unfaithfulness. Paul also reminds his readers of the power of Scripture and the greatness of Yeshua's priestly role on behalf of his people.
Chapter Four Outline
The Promised Rest, 4:1-5
The Appointed Day, 4:6-10
Third Warning, 4:11-13
The Great High Priest, 4:14-16
The Promised Rest, 4:1-10
1 Therefore, since a promise to enter into His rest remains, let us fear, lest anyone of you should seem to have come short.
Therefore: Grk. oun, an inferential conj., which is used here to indicate a conclusion connected with content of the previous chapter, "so, therefore, consequently, then." since a promise: Grk. epangelia, promise, especially associated with God's covenantal promises to Israel. A promise from God is a guaranteed assurance. to enter: Grk. eiserchomai, aor. inf., to go or enter into a geographical area, manufactured structure or other place defined in the context. The verb occurs 17 times in Hebrews, eight of which are in this chapter. into: Grk. eis, prep. that focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to direction and limit, here complementing the verb to indicate completion of movement.
His: Grk. autos, personal pronoun used to distinguish a person or thing from or contrast it with another, or to give him (it) emphatic prominence. The pronoun may mean (1) self, (2) he, she, it, or (3) the same. The second meaning applies here. rest: Grk. katapausis (from katapauō, "to cause to cease, to rest"), ceasing from labor, the state or condition of rest, or the place of rest. The concept of rest is an important theme in Hebrews with the noun occurring six times in this chapter. In the LXX katapausis translates six different Hebrew nouns that mean cease from work, rest, resting place or settling in a place (DNTT 3:255f).
Christians generally consider the promised "rest" to be heaven, but Paul never makes this specific association. The "heavenly Jerusalem" in 12:22 is not the final resting place since the city descends from heaven to earth (Rev 21:2). Certainly God's people go to heaven upon death (Luke 16:22; 23:43; Rev 2:7; 7:9), but our eternal rest will be enjoyed on the new earth (Isa 65:17; 66:22; 2Pet 3:13; Rev 21:1).
remains: Grk. kataleipō, pres. pass. part., may mean (1) to leave behind through withdrawal; or (2) cause to be left over, retain, remain in force, to reserve. The second meaning is intended here. Bruce interprets the verb as meaning "left open." let us fear: Grk. phobeō, aor. mid, subj., 1p-pl., to fear. The verb has two basic meanings that are opposite: (1) to be in a state of apprehension, with emotions ranging from anxiety to terror; and (2) to have special respect or reverence for, i.e., deep respect. The first meaning is intended here. The subjunctive mood is cohortative (Rienecker), which means that Paul exhorts his readers to participate with him in the act described.
lest: Grk. mēpote, conj., a marker cautiously expressing possibility and indicating a circumstance or attitude designed to counteract a consequence ordinarily considered undesirable; so that, lest. anyone: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun used to indicate non-specification; a certain one, someone, anyone, anything. The pronoun is often used to distinguish an individual in a class or in contrast to others. of: Grk. ek, prep., "out of, from within" (DM 102). The preposition denotes exit or emission out of, as separation from, something with which there has been a close connection.
you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. This is a striking change in focus from "we" to "you," i.e., Paul's readers. Paul knows his standing with the Lord, but he is not certain about some of his readers. should seem: Grk. dokeō (from dokos, "opinion"), pres. subj., the basic idea of receptivity to the intellect and thus may mean (1) to be of opinion, think, suppose; or (2) to seem, be accounted, reputed. The second meaning is intended here. Bruce has "might be deemed."
to have come short: Grk. hustereō, perf. inf., to be in a relatively deficient or disadvantaged state or condition; come short of, left behind, miss out on. The verb pictures someone in a company marching together with others who march faster than he can. He cannot keep up, so he falls behind (Rienecker). In terms of consequences the verb means to have failed to attain the promised rest in spiritual possession. The perfect tense marks not only a present or past defeat, but an abiding failure (Westcott). The potential outcome does not have to happen, if like Paul they will purpose to discipline themselves to live according to God's expectations (cf. 1Cor 9:27).
2 For indeed we are those having had the good news proclaimed, just as they also; but the word of their hearing did not benefit, not having been united with the faithfulness of those having heard.
For: Grk. gar, conj., a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that; for." The conjunction has four uses: (1) explanatory, (2) expressive of astonishment, (3) causal and, (4) inferential. The first use is intended here. indeed: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The third use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect.
we are: Grk. eimi, pres., 1p-pl., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). For some inexplicable reason Bible versions do not translate this important verb. Paul again identifies with his readers. those having had the good news proclaimed: Grk. euangelizō, pl. perf. pass. part., to announce the good message, specifically God's salvation, to 'not-yet-believers.' In the LXX euangelizō stands for Heb. basar, to publish or bring news or a report, whether good or bad (DNTT 2:108-109). Paul would likely have heard the good news (the "Jewish Gospel") proclaimed by Yeshua (cf. 2Cor 5:16) and certainly from any of Peter's public sermons. Considering the previous verse Stern interprets the good news here as the rest that comes from being forgiven by God.
just as: Grk. kathaper, adv. with a focus on a parallel aspect, just as, even as. they also: pl. of Grk. kakeinos (from kai, "and," and ekeinos, "he, she, it"), demonstrative pronoun. The pronoun refers to the Israelites that came out of Egypt. but: Grk. alla, conj., adversative particle used adverbially to convey a different viewpoint for consideration; but, except, on the other hand, otherwise. the word: Grk. ho logos, vocalized expression, word, discourse, statement, message or speech. In the LXX logos stands principally for Heb. dabar, which has a range of meaning, including 'speech, word, report, thing, matter' (Gen 29:13; BDB 182) (DNTT 3:1087). Here "the word" refers to that spoken by God to Israel or to Moses who then proclaimed God's words to Israel.
of their: pl. of Grk. ekeinos, demonstrative pronoun typically used to refer to a noun (person or thing) immediately preceding in the Greek text; that, that one there. hearing: Grk. akoē may mean (1) hearing as a sensory faculty; (2) the organ of hearing; or (3) that which is heard. The third meaning applies here. Many versions translate the noun as a verb "heard." did not: Grk. ou, adv., a particle used in an unqualified denial or negation; not. benefit: Grk. ōpheleō, aor., to engage in activity that brings about something good above and beyond that which existed earlier; assist, benefit, help, profit.
not: Grk. mē, adv., a particle of qualified negation that rules out any implications that could be involved with what should (could, would) apply (HELPS). It differs from the negative particle, oú, in that oú is objective, dealing only with facts, while mē is subjective, involving will and thought (DM 265). having been united with: Grk. sugkerannumi, perf. pass. part., cause to fit together; mix together, agree with, unite. the faithfulness: Grk. ho pistis (from peithō, "to persuade, be persuaded"), incorporates two primary facets of meaning, (1) that which causes trust and faith, i.e., faithfulness or reliability, and (2) trust or confidence in an active sense (BAG). Christian versions apply the second meaning and translate the noun as "faith," but the CJB has "trust." In other words faith is the means that produces the described result.
In the LXX pistis translates Heb. emunah (SH-530; BDB 53), firmness, steadfastness, or fidelity, mainly of men's faithfulness (1Sam 26:23; 2Kgs 12:15; 22:7; Jer 5:1, 3; 7:28; 9:3; Hos 2:20), but also of God's faithfulness (Ps 33:4; Lam 3:23; Hab 2:4); as well as Heb. emun (SH-529), faithfulness (Deut 32:20; Prov 13:17). Pistis also translates Heb. aman (SH-539), to confirm, to support (Jer 15:18); amanah (SH-548), fixed support (Neh 9:38; 11:23; SS 4:8); and emet (SH-571), firmness, faithfulness, or truth (Prov 14:22; Jer 28:9; 33:6). The LXX usage emphasizes that the intended meaning of pistis is faithfulness.
of those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. having heard: Grk. akouō, aor. part., to hear aurally or listen, often with the focus on willingness to listen or to heed the substance of what is said. In the LXX akouō translates Heb. shama (SH-8085; BDB 1033), which not only means to hear, but also to accept and to act upon what has been heard (DNTT 2:173). The emphasis of the verb here is "having heeded what was heard," and alludes to Caleb and Joshua who were faithful in obedience to God in contrast to the other ten spies and the great majority of the Israelites who were not united with them.
3 For we enter into His rest, those having believed, just as He has said, "So I swore in my wrath, 'They shall not enter into my rest;'" and yet, His works have been finished from the creation of the universe."
For: Grk. gar, conj. we enter: Grk. eiserchomai, pres. mid., 1p-pl. See verse 1 above. into: Grk. eis, prep. His rest: Grk. ho katapausis. See verse 1 above. I opted for "His rest," because "the rest" is that which God provides. Entering into "His rest" is equivalent to having "shalom with God" (Luke 2:14; Rom 5:1). those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. having believed: Grk. pisteuō, pl. aor. part., to have confidence in the trustworthiness of some thing or someone. A participle is a verbal substantive, and as such has adjectival quality. In the LXX pisteuō renders the Heb. 'aman (SH-539), to confirm or support, and in usage may mean, believe, trust, or be faithful (first in Gen 15:6) (DNTT 1:595). The verb pisteuō denotes a heart response of trust and a readiness to be faithful.
just as: Grk. kathōs, adv. emphasizing similarity, conformity, proportion or manner; as, just as. The adverb serves to clarify that the "rest" just mentioned is the same as referred to in the following quotation. He has said: Grk. ereō, perf., inform through utterance, here denoting speech completed. So: Grk. hōs, adv. with the primary function of connecting narrative components; used here to introduce a pattern or model; just as, just like, similar to. The following quotation is from Psalm 95:11 (LXX Ps 94:11), which repeated from verse 11 in the previous chapter.
I swore: Grk. omnuō, aor., to take an oath affirming the veracity of what one says; swear. In the LXX of this verse omnuō translates Heb. shaba (SH-7650), to take an oath, swear, first in Genesis 21:31 (BDB 989). Shaba is derived from Heb. sheba, meaning "seven," and there is evidence in ancient literature that it was not uncommon to seal an agreement by the number "seven." Thus, shaba could mean to "seven oneself, or bind oneself by seven things" (BDB 989). For example, in the narrative of Genesis 21 Abraham sealed an oath to Abimelech by giving seven ewe lambs as a witness (Gen 21:22-34). Then Abraham named the well at the place of the oath "Beersheba" or "Well-of-the-seven-oath" (Gen 21:31).
God did swear on important occasions. "'I have sworn by myself,' says ADONAI" (Gen 22:16 BR). God swore to give the land of Canaan to the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Gen 24:7; 26:3; Ex 6:8; 33:1; Deut 1:8; 6:10; 19:8; 31:7). God swore to multiply the seed of Abraham as the stars and the sand (Ex 32:13). God swore a perpetual covenant with Israel (Deut 4:31). God swore to establish his people as a holy people (Deut 28:9). Unlike man the oaths of God contain the certainty of fulfillment.
in: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position within, and in composition may be translated "among, at, by, in, on, or within." my: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. wrath: Grk. orgē means anger, indignation or wrath. In the Besekh orgē is used of human anger (Eph 4:31), but primarily divine wrath at the end of the age (Matt 3:7). Orgē depicts a settled anger that proceeds from an internal disposition, solidifying what the beholder considers wrong, unjust or evil (HELPS). In the LXX orgē is used to translate eight different Hebrew words for anger (DNTT 1:108). In this verse of the LXX orgē translates Heb. aph (SH-639), nostril, nose, face, anger (BDB 60). The anatomical term is used for anger because of the change in facial features that occurs from the emotion of anger.
they shall not: Grk. ei, conj., a contingency marker, normally used to introduce a circumstance assumed to be valid for the sake of argument, if, whether. However, the conjunction as used here expresses negation, as does the Hebrew conjunction (im, SH-518) it translates in the quoted verse. enter: Grk. eiserchomai, fut. mid., 3p-pl. The clause is lit. "if they shall enter." Ellicott points out a parallel construction in Numbers 14:23, in which the opening clause reads in Hebrew, "if they shall see" and the phrase essentially means "they will not see."
into: Grk. eis, prep. my: Grk. egō. rest: Grk. katapausis . See verse 1 above. In the LXX of the quoted verse katapausis translates Heb. menukhah (SH-4496), resting place, rest, quietness (BDB 629). In the Tanakh menukhah is used of a resting place (Gen 49:15; Num10:33; Deut 12:9; 1Kgs 8:56; Ps 132:14; Isa 66:1). We should note that the rest or resting place of which David and Paul speak here is not the creation rest of God (Gen 2:2), which is the basis for the Sabbath rest. The concept of menukhah as a resting place is almost always associated with land, a pleasant land, especially the inheritance of the promised land (Deut 12:9; Ps 132:14). The resting place represents the fulfillment of God's promise of security and rest from enemies (1Kgs 8:56).
Thus, Rashi says the resting place refers to the land of Israel and Jerusalem. God dwells in the midst of the resting place so that one may enjoy a close relationship with Him. David warned the Judean leaders of his day that just as God denied the inheritance to those who rebelled against Him in the wilderness, the same consequence could occur to his contemporary generation. Christian interpreters typically view the final resting place of God's people as heaven and the repeated misconduct of the Israelites in the wilderness made them unfit for heaven. Jews did not speak of heaven but the world to come or the age to come when the Messiah will rule. The Pharisee Sages affirmed, "All Israel has a portion in the world to come" (Sanhedrin 11:1), but then immediately identified Israelites who have no place in the world to come.
Included in the extensive list of people excluded the Sages declared "The generation of the wilderness have no share in the future world and will not stand in the last judgment. As it is written, 'in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die'" (Sanhedrin 11:2). This was the view of Rabbi Akiba (AD 50–135), the father of Rabbinic Judaism. Psalm 95 serves as a strong rebuttal to those who believe they can keep on sinning with impunity (cf. Ezek 18:4, 20, 24). and yet: Grk. kaitoi, a concessive particle; and yet, although, though. With this particle Paul introduces the thought that the rest denied to the rebellious Israelites was the rest God Himself enjoys since the beginning (Bruce).
His works: pl. of Grk. ho ergon generally means a tangible deed, action or accomplishment that may be observed, here of divine works accomplished in the beginning. have been finished: Grk. ginomai, pl. aor. pass. part., to transfer from one state or condition to another, which may be expressed in one of three ways: (1) come into being birth or natural process; be born or produced; (2) exist through application of will or effort by a person; be made, be performed, finish; or (3) undergo a state of existence, change or development; come to be, become, take place, happen, occur. The second meaning applies here.
from: Grk. apo, prep. used generally as a marker of separation, from, away from. the creation: Grk. katabolē, a founding or laying down a foundation. The noun occurs 11 times in the Besekh, ten of which denote something that took place in relation to creation, whether before or after (Matt 25:34; Eph 1:4; Heb 9:26; 1Pet 1:26; Rev 13:8; 17:8). Some versions have "creation" (CEV, EHV, ISV, MEV, NEB, NIV, VOICE). of the universe: Grk. kosmos, world, originally meant an harmonious arrangement and then ornament, decoration, and adornment.
To Greek philosophers the term meant the sum total of everything in existence here and now, the orderly universe (BAG). Pythagoras (570-495 BC) is credited as the first to use the word in this sense (Thayer). The LXX of the Tanakh uses kosmos some ten times for words meaning ornaments, jewelry or decorations and five times for Heb. tsaba, of the arrangement of the stars, 'the heavenly hosts,' as the ornament of the heavens (Gen 2:1; Deut 4:19). The meaning of kosmos as the 'orderly universe' is only found in later Greek writings of the LXX (2Macc. 7:23; 8:18; 4Macc. 5:25; Sir. 6:30; 21:21; Wis. 7:17; 9:3; 11:18). Moreover, the work of creation was completed.
Bible characters affirmed many times that the ADONAI (Heb. YHVH) made heaven and earth (Ex 20:11; 31:17; Ps 121:2; 124:8; 134:3; 146:6; Isa 37:16; Jer 32:17). While Paul does not elaborate on the mechanics of the 'making,' God spoke the universe into existence according to biblical revelation (Gen 1:1-31; Ex 20:11; Ps 33:6, 9; Heb 11:3). God did not use elements already in existence and the orderly universe did not create itself. Moreover, both Genesis and Paul affirm that God's works of creation were finished at the end of the six days of the creation week.
God is not still creating as the theistic evolutionist must allege. The natural processes that can be studied today are those of conservation and disintegration. It did not take God billions of years after the supposed geologic ages to complete His perfect works of creation (DSB). The recorded acts or works of creation in Genesis 1:1–2:2 includes time, space, the heavenly bodies, the earth, vegetation, animals, male and female humans, the seven-day week, and the Sabbath. See my article The Truth of Creation.
4 For he has spoken in a certain place concerning the seventh day in this way: "And God rested on the seventh day from all his works."
Source: Genesis 2:2; LXX Genesis 2:2
For: Grk. gar, conj. He has spoken: Grk. ereō, perf. See the previous verse. The verb alludes to the fact that the verse about to be quoted was spoken by God and alludes to supernatural inspiration of Scripture. A traditional interpretation is that the words were spoken to Moses, but it's more likely that Adam was the recipient of the divine message, who then recorded it for posterity. in a certain place: Grk. pou, adv. of place, which Danker defines as "indicating that precision about a datum is not a matter of concern; somewhere." The adverb also means "where" and used of a specific location (Mark 15:47; John 1:39).
Bible commentators generally deduce from the use of this adverb that the author did not know where the quoted verse is located in the Bible, so Paul did not write this letter. Of course, this doubt should extend to any of the proposed authors. The adverb pou simply means "in a certain place" (Mounce). The majority of versions translate the adverb as "somewhere" but others have "in a certain place" (AMPC, BRG, DRA, JUB, KJV, NKJV, NMB, RGT, WESLEY, YLT). It is not as ambiguous as the English translation of "somewhere." The text quoted in this verse from Genesis 2:2 also occurs in Genesis 2:3 and its truth is repeated in Exodus 20:11. So, in a sense the adverb conflates these locations, and serves to economize words.
concerning: Grk. peri, prep. with an orientational aspect relating to being near or having to do with something; in behalf of, about, concerning. the seventh day: Grk. ho hebdomos, adj., the seventh in sequence, here referring to the seventh day of creation week. in this way: Grk. houtōs, adv. used to introduce the manner or way in which something has been done or to be done; thus, in this manner, way or fashion, so. Paul then quotes from Genesis 2:2, omitting the opening phrase, "And God finished on the seventh day His work which He had done" (BR).
And: Grk. kai, conj. God: Grk. ho theos, God or god, as determined from the context. In the Besekh theos is used overwhelmingly for the God of Israel. In the LXX theos primarily renders the name of the Creator God Elohim (2568 times), but sometimes YHVH (300 times) (DNTT 2:67-70). Given the plural nature of Elohim the full triunity of God must be represented in theos. The definite article with the Greek name emphasizes that He is the only God in existence is the God who created the heavens and the earth out of nothing (Gen 1:1).
rested: Grk. katapauō, aor., to cause to cease activity, to rest. The verb does not connote fatigue, but the cessation of the acts of creation recorded in Genesis 1. In the LXX of this verse katapauō translates Heb. shabath (SH-7673), to cease, desist or rest. The Hebrew verb is a Qal consecutive imperfect, which means the resting did not begin until the works were finished. on: Grk. en, prep. the seventh: Grk. ho hebdomos for Heb shebi'ith (SH-7637), adj., seventh, an ordinal number. day: Grk. ho hēmera, may refer to (1) the daylight hours from sunrise to sunset, (2) the civil or legal day that included the night, (3) an appointed day for a special purpose or (4) a longer or imprecise period, such as a timeframe for accomplishing something or a time of life or activity (BAG). The second meaning applies here.
In the LXX of the quoted verse hēmera translates for Heb. yom (SH-3117), "day, time, year," which in context referred to a 24-hour period, the last day of creation week. from: Grk. apo, prep. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every, the whole. His: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. works: pl. of Grk. ergon. See the previous verse. In the LXX of Genesis 2:2 the plural ergon is used to translate the singular Heb. melakah (SH-4399), occupation, work, first in Genesis 2:2 of the work of creating the heavens and the earth and all therein. The simple declaration of this verse establishes the basis for verse 3 which declares that God blessed and sanctified the seventh day.
By sanctifying the seventh day God established that the seven-day week, which has no astronomical basis, would govern the human calendar and the seventh day would be a day of rest, as would be explained later in the giving of the Ten Commandments:
"8 Remember the day, Shabbat, to set it apart for God. ... 11 For in six days, ADONAI made heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. This is why ADONAI blessed the day, Shabbat, and separated it for himself." (Ex 20:8, 11 CJB)
The importance of the creation of the seventh day as a day of rest based God's example means that observance is above any dispute about the laws given to Moses for Israel. For more discussion on this topic see my article Remember the Sabbath.
5 And again in this passage, "They shall not enter into my rest."
Source: Psalm 95:11; LXX Psalm 94:11.
And: Grk. kai, conj. again: Grk. palin, adv. with focus on a repetitive occurrence; once more, again. The adverb probably implies "in a certain place" as in the previous verse and may be intended to conflate the truth found in various passages (Num 14:23; 32:11; Deut 1:35; Josh 5:6; Ps 95:11). in: Grk. en, prep. this passage: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun signifying a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes or follows it; this. The pronoun refers to Psalm 95:11. They shall not enter into my rest: This sentence repeats verbatim quotation in verse 3 above. See the comment there. The redundancy is purposeful.
Gill comments that the "rest" of which is spoken here is not God's rest of the seventh day, but the object is farther into the future as a reference to the rest gained through the good news. So the "good news rest" becomes the antitype of the former rest. Bruce identifies the future aspect of God's rest with the coming millennium on earth and cites the Epistle of Barnabas XV.4-5, 8:
"4 Notice, children, what is the meaning of "He made an end in six days"? He means this: that the Lord will make an end of everything in six thousand years, for a day with him means a thousand years. And he himself is my witness when he says, "Lo, the day of the Lord shall be as a thousand years." So then, children, in six days, that is in six thousand years, everything will be completed.
"5 "And he rested on the seventh day." This means, when his Son comes he will destroy the time of the wicked one, and will judge the godless, and will change the sun and the moon and the stars, and then he will truly rest on the seventh day.
"8 Furthermore he says to them, "Your new moons and the sabbaths I cannot away with." Do you see what he means? The present sabbaths are not acceptable tome, but that which I have made, in which I will give rest to all things and make the beginning of an eighth day, that is the beginning of another world."
While the interpretation of Gill and Bruce have some merit, Paul does not actually make the kind of argument they suggest. On the other hand Barnes takes a more contemporary approach and suggests the repetition of Psalm 95:11 has a two-fold object: (1) To show that even in this Psalm God spoke of "His" rest, to emphasize that the unbelieving and unfaithful should not enter into it; and, (2) it forms a bridge to the next verse, which shows that a rest yet remained for others to enter.
The Appointed Day, 4:6-10
6 Therefore since it remains for some to enter into it, and those formerly having received the good news did not enter because of disobedience,
Therefore: Grk. oun, conj. since: Grk. epei, conj., used to assume what precedes is true, and understands what follows to be true as well; since, inasmuch (HELPS). it remains: Grk. apoleipō, pres. part., to leave or leave behind, here with the focus on being reserved or left for future appearance or enactment. for some: pl. of Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. to enter: Grk. eiserchomai, aor. inf. See verse 3 above. into: Grk. eis, prep. it: Grk. autos, fem. personal pronoun, used here to denote the rest mentioned in the previous verses. Brown observes, "God wishes not His rest to be empty, but furnished with guests (Luke 14:23)." The phrase appears to be used as an understatement with a dual application, first of those who claimed the Land under Joshua's leadership and then those who will enter the Messianic age to come.
and: Grk. kai, conj. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. formerly: Grk. proteros, adv., indicating that something occurred prior to the current time; before, formerly, previously. The phrase "those formerly" refers to the wilderness generation based on the quotation from Psalm 95:11 I verses 3 and 5 above. having received the good news: Grk. euangelizō, pl. aor. pass. part., to announce the good message, here with the focus on people who received the good news. In the LXX euangelizō stands for Heb. basar, to publish or bring news or a report, whether good or bad (DNTT 2:108-109). The good news Moses proclaimed to the Israelites was as follows:
6 "Therefore say to Bnei-Yisrael: 'I am ADONAI, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will deliver you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. 7 I will take you to Myself as a people, and I will be your God. You will know that I am ADONAI your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8 So I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, and give it to you as an inheritance. I am ADONAI.'" (Ex 6:6-8 TLV)
did not: Grk. ou, adv. enter: Grk. eiserchomai, aor., 3p-pl. They did not enter into the land of Canaan. because of: Grk. dia, prep. used as a prefix to a statement, which may express (1) instrumentality; through, by means of; or (2) causality; on account of, because of. The second usage applies here. disobedience: Grk. apeitheia, disobedience, resistance, and in the Besekh always in opposition to God's authority. Josephus also uses apeitheia to describe the disobedience of the Israelites in the wilderness (Ant. III, 15:2). In the LXX apeitheia occurs only in 4Maccabees 8:9, 18; 12:4 where it is used to describe faithful Jews who dared to disobey the edict to adopt Hellenistic values.
7 again he appoints a certain day, "Today," saying by David after so long a time, just as it has been said, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts."
Source: Psalm 95:7-8; LXX Psalm 94:7-8
again: Grk. palin, adv. See verse 5 above. he appoints: Grk. horizō, pres., establish a boundary or framework through deliberate decision for an event, activity or thing; determine, appoint, ordain. a certain: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. See verse 1 above. day: Grk. hēmera. See verse 4 above. Today: Grk. sēmeron, adv., today, this day, now. saying: Grk. legō, pres. part., to make a statement or utterance, whether mentally, orally or in writing, often used to introduce quoted material. The focus of the verb may be declarative, interrogative or imperative. In the LXX legō renders Heb. amar (SH-559), to utter, say, shew, command or think. The Greek verb "say" functions here as quotation marks for the text following since ancient writings did not contain punctuation.
As in the previous chapter Paul bases his exhortation on an appeal to Psalm 95 (94 in the LXX). The MT does not ascribe authorship, but the LXX names David as the author, which Paul affirms in this verse. by: Grk. en, prep. See verse 3 above. David: Grk. David, which transliterates the Heb. David ("dah-veed") perfectly. David is one of the most important figures in Israelite history. His name first appears when God sent Samuel to anoint him as the next king (1Sam 16:13). At that time David was only a shepherd. Yet, from that humble beginning he would eventually become the King of Israel at the age of 30 and reign 40 years (2Sam 5:4; 1Chr 3:4). David made a tremendous impact on the nation of Israel.
In the military sphere he broke the power of all the pagan peoples in the land of Canaan and in the civil sphere he made Jerusalem his capital and solidified central authority. His accomplishments in the religious sphere are especially noteworthy. He erected the Tabernacle on Mt. Zion, centralized religion in Jerusalem and established Levitical choirs. He wrote many psalms and 73 psalms are specifically ascribed to him. He was known as the "sweet psalmist of Israel" (2Sam 23:1). Especially important is that he compiled and organized psalms into what we now know as the Book of Psalms (2Chr 29:30). David was a true worshipper, a man imbued with the Holy Spirit (1Sam 13:14; 16:13; 2Sam 23:2). God chose David to be king because He "sought out for Himself a man after His own heart" (1Sam 13:14).
Then, God made a personal and everlasting covenant with him by which God promised that He would establish the throne of David forever, build a house for Himself and send forth a king from the loins of David to rule over his people Israel (2Sam 7:12-14; 23:5; Ps 89:3; Isa 55:3; Jer 23:5-6; 33:21). Jeremiah left a simple eulogy: "David did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite" (1Kgs 15:5). The last comment on David's life in the Tanakh is from Ezra who twice refers to David as a "man of God" (2Chr 8:14; Neh 12:24).
after: Grk. meta, prep., may be used (1) as a marker of association; with, among; or (2) as a sequential marker; after, behind. The second usage is intended here. so long: Grk. tosoutos, demonstrative pronoun used to express intensity relative to something mentioned in context, here with the focus on duration. a time: Grk. chronos may mean (1) a span or period of time, or (2) a point or definite moment in time. The first meaning applies here. just as: Grk. kathōs, adv. See verse 3 above. it has been said: Grk. prolegō, perf. pass., to say beforehand or in advance, to predict.
Today: Grk. sēmeron. Time is always in the present, so action to receive God's favor should not be postponed. Tomorrow might be too late (cf. Luke 12:17-20). if: Grk. ean, conj. that serves as a conditional particle and produces an aspect of tentativeness by introducing a possible circumstance that determines the realization of some other circumstance. you hear: Grk. akouō, aor. subj., 2p-pl. See verse 2 above. The subjunctive mood looks toward what is conceivable or potential. His: Grk. autos, personal pronoun, referring to ADONAI (Heb. YHVH). voice: Grk. phōnē can mean (1) an auditory impression, sound, noise defined in the context; (2) the faculty of producing speech, voice; or (3) a system of communication, language (1Cor 14:10; 2Pet 2:16). The word often is used in the Besekh of articulated sound from a human mouth.
In the LXX phōnē generally renders Heb. qôl (SH-6963; BDB 876), sound or voice, the first usage of which is God's voice (Gen 3:8), and second the human voice (Gen 3:17), and these usages occur frequently in the Tanakh with various kinds of expression (DNTT 3:113). The phrase "His voice" alludes to the biblical reality that throughout the Tanakh YHVH is the One who speaks for Elohim. do not: Grk. mē, adv. See verse 2 above. harden: Grk. sklērunō, pres. subj., 2p-pl., to harden; become inflexible; obstinately stubborn, resisting what God says is right (HELPS). In the LXX sklērunō translates the Heb. chazaq, which means to be or grow firm, be strong (SH-2388; BDB 304), first in Exodus 4:21. The verb is used repeatedly in the Exodus narrative of Pharaoh's heart being hardened, first by himself (Ex 8:15, 32; 9:34) and then by ADONAI (Ex 9:12; 10:20, 27; 11:10; 14:8).
"Hardening" meant that Pharaoh stiffened his resistance to complying with God's expressed will, which God knew he would do. your: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. hearts: pl. of Grk. kardia, the pumplike organ of blood circulation, used fig. of selfhood or the combination of character, emotion, intelligence and the will. In the LXX kardia translates the Heb. nouns leb (SH-3820) and lebab (SH-3824), inner man, mind, heart, will (BDB 523f), first in Genesis 6:5 (DNTT 2:181). To "harden" the heart is to disobey the voice of God and act in accordance with one's own desires, which is what Israel did in the wilderness (Morris). The admonition would mean "Don't be like Pharaoh who hardened his heart and was destroyed." The warning was just as apt in Paul's day as it was in the time of Moses and David (Bruce).
Textual Note: Septuagint vs. Masoretic Text
Paul's quotation from the LXX translation of Psalm 94 illustrates a significant difference between the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Tanakh, and the Masoretic Text, the authoritative Hebrew text of the Tanakh for Rabbinic Judaism. Work on developing a uniform Hebrew Bible began in the 2nd century AD under Rabbi Akiva, but completed by Jewish scholars known as the Masoretes between the 7th and 10th centuries AD. The oldest extant manuscripts of the MT date from around the 9th century AD.
During the intertestamental period learned Jews translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. According to the Letter of Aristeas (ca. 200 BC) and Philo (On the Life of Moses II, 25-44) the project was initiated by King Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-247 BC) of Egypt. The Letter of Aristeas says that the King requested the Jewish High Priest Eleazar to provide six representatives from each of the tribes. The Talmud records that 72 elders did come together during the King's reign to translate the Torah (Megillah 9a). Thus, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures was in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. Extant MSS are dated from that period, so they are much older than MSS of the Masoretic Text.
Of special interest is that all the quotations from the Tanakh in the apostolic writings are taken from the LXX, or a variant Greek text available to the writer. Given that the spread of the good news was most successful among the Gentiles and Hellenistic Jews in the Diaspora, it made sense that the LXX would be the Bible in the apostolic era. Notable textual differences exist between the LXX and MT include Psalm 95, which Paul quotes in this chapter. Given the dates of extant MSS we may say that Rabbi Akiva and the Masoretes deliberately changed some passages in the Hebrew text in reaction to their usage by Messianic believers to prove Yeshua was the Messiah. For a definitive study of this subject see Barry Setterfield, The Alexandrian Septuagint History.
8 For if Joshua had given rest to them, He would not anyhow have spoken of another after this day.
Source: Psalm 95:11.
For: Grk. gar, conj. if: Grk. ei, conj. Joshua: Grk. Iēsous (for Heb. Y'hoshua, "YHVH is Salvation," BDB 221), the same Greek spelling of Yeshua's name. In Hebrew Yeshua is a contraction of Y’hoshua. Joshua was born in Egypt (c. 1485 BC) during the period of slavery. He was the son of Nun ("noon") of the tribe of Ephraim (Num 13:8). His name first appears in reference to the battle with the Amalekites during the desert travels. He led the Israelites in the actual fighting while Aaron and Hur held up Moses' hands (Ex 17:8-13). Only he was chosen to accompany Moses to the top of Sinai to receive the words of God (Ex 24:13). Joshua was one of the twelve chosen to spy out the land (Num 13:16) and returned with a good report (Num 14:28-30, 38). As a result he was promised a portion in the land of Israel. When Moses needed a successor God chose Joshua to be the shepherd of Israel (Num 27:16-17), because he was full of the Spirit (Num 27:18).
Joshua was a capable leader in every sphere. Like Moses he spoke directly to God and communicated the Lord's will and the Lord's message to God's people. His declaration at the end of his life, "as for me and my house, we will serve ADONAI" (Josh 24:15), represented the commitment and example of his entire life. He had obeyed the charge to be a student of Torah and obey the commandments given to Moses (1:7-8). There is no mention of a wife and children, but they are implied by his mention of "my house" (24:15). He lived 110 years (24:29). According to Jewish tradition Joshua wrote the book bearing his name, except 24:29-33 written by the priests Eleazar and Phinehas.
In his name and actions as the leader of Israel Joshua served as a type of the Messiah. Like Joseph before him no moral fault can be attached to the life of Joshua. He showed the qualities of wisdom, courage, faithfulness, and integrity. Joshua was a descendant of Joseph of Ephraim ("double fruit") and Yeshua was the son of Joseph who would come from Bethlehem of Ephrata, a term that also means fruitfulness. Joshua was a temporal savior, whereas Yeshua was a spiritual savior (Gill). Like the Messiah Joshua led the Israelites to victory against their enemies in Canaan, but also demonstrated mercy toward non-Israelites, e.g., Rahab (Josh 6:25) and the Gibeonites (Josh 9:15).
had given rest: Grk. katapauō, aor., to cease activity, rest. to them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun, used here of the Israelites who entered Canaan under the leadership of Joshua. In the time of Joshua God had given the Israelites rest from all their enemies (Josh 21:44; 23:1). In these two verses the LXX uses katapauō to translate Heb. nuach (SH-5117), to rest, settle down and remain. He: The "He" here is ADONAI. would: Grk. an, a disjunctive particle that nuances a verb with contingency or generalization; would, ever, might, in that case, anyhow. HELPS says the particle indicates what could occur under certain conditions, and the context determines the limits of those conditions. The particle is often not translated.
not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 2 above. have spoken: Grk. laleō, impf., to make an oral statement and to exercise the faculty of speech; assert, proclaim, report, say, speak, talk about, utter. of another: Grk. allos, adj., used to distinguish from one or more other entities; one, other (of two), another. The adjective is shorthand for "another rest." after: Grk. meta, prep. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. See verse 5 above. day: Grk. hēmera. See verse 4 above. In other words, if the rest of God meant Canaan, He would not after their entrance into that land, have spoken of a future day of entering the rest. The Israelites addressed in Psalm 95 were already in Canaan, but they were in danger of forfeiting their military rest because of hard hearts. Moreover, they did not attain the highest form of rest God intended for them.
9 So then, there remains a sabbath-rest for the people of God,
So then: Grk. ara, conj. that intimates that 'under these circumstances, something either is so, or becomes so' (Thayer). there remains: Grk. apoleipō, pres. pass. See verse 6 above. a sabbath-rest: Grk. sabbatismos, a resting based on the model of keeping the Sabbath. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. In addition, the noun does not occur in the LXX at all or any earlier or contemporary Jewish literature. Hyphenating the word (AMPC, DLNT, NIV) is important to stress that the noun is about resting.
for the people: Grk. ho laos, a group of humans, understood geographically or ethnically, and often in the apostolic narratives people groups associated with the God of Israel. In the LXX laos translates Heb. am (SH-5971), people, nation. In the Tanakh laos is often viewed in contrast with the ruling class (Gen 41:40). of God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 4 above. The overwhelming majority of cases of laos/am in the Tanakh denote Israel as the chosen people of God (DNTT 2:796). The specific phrase "people of God" occurs only three times in the Besekh (here; Heb 11:25; and 1Pet 2:10).
Christian interpretation typically treats the declaration of this verse as referring to the eternal rest to be enjoyed in heaven when the earthly work is done (Zodhiates). In contrast the CJB translates sabbatismos as "Shabbat-keeping" and makes the declaration about observing the Sabbath. Stern says,
"Christians often assume that the New Testament does not require God's people to observe Shabbat and go on to claim that Sunday has replaced Saturday as the Church's day of worship (see 1Cor 16:2). But this passage, and in particular verse 9, shows that Shabbat-observance is expected of believers." (673)
On the contrary Paul does not negate or enjoin keeping the fourth commandment, which he does not even quote. The noun sabbatismos does not refer specifically to the seventh day of the week inaugurated by God as a day of rest. All appointed days on God's calendar were sabbaths. The term sabbatismos was likely coined by Paul, or even Luke, in order to describe a present spiritual reality ("remains," not "will remain"), based on Psalm 95. The GNB has the correct perspective, "there still remains for God's people a rest like God's resting on the seventh day."
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.
Bruce: F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1964. (New International Commentary on the New Testament)
Danker: F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.
DNTT: Colin Brown, ed., Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols. Zondervan Pub. House, 1975.
DSB: The Defenders Study Bible. World Publishing Co., 1995. [KJV with annotations by Dr. Henry M. Morris.]
Eisenbaum: Pamela Eisenbaum, annotations on "The Letter to the Hebrews," Jewish Annotated New Testament, eds. Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Brettler. Oxford University Press, 2011.
Ellicott: Charles John Ellicott (1819–1905), Commentary for English Readers (1878). Online.
Fruchtenbaum: Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, "Hebrews," Ariel's Bible Commentary: The Messianic Jewish Epistles. Ariel Ministries, 2005.
Gill: John Gill (1697-1771), Exposition of the Entire Bible. Online.
HELPS: Gleason L. Archer and Gary Hill, eds., The Discovery Bible New Testament: HELPS Word Studies. Moody Press, 1987, 2011. (Online at BibleHub.com)
Jastrow: Marcus Jastrow, Dictionary of Targumim, Talmud and Midrashic Literature. G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1903, 1926. Online.
Kidner: Derek Kidner, Psalms 73―150: An Introduction and Commentary. InterVarsity Press, 1975. (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries)
Metzger: Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. 2nd ed. United Bible Societies, 1994.
Morris: Leon Morris, Hebrews. Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 12. Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp, 1989-1999.
Purkiser: W.T. Purkiser, ed. Exploring the Old Testament. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1955.
Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaqi (1040-1105), Commentary on the Tanakh. Online.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, "Hebrews," A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament. Vol. 2. Zondervan Pub. House, 1980.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
Thayer: Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Harper Brothers, 1889.
TLV: Tree of Life Version, Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society, 2014. Online.
Westcott: B.F. Westcott (1825-1901), The Epistle to the Hebrews. 2nd ed. Macmillan and Co., 1892. Online.
Zodhiates: Spiros Zodhiates (1922-2009), ed. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament. AMG Publishers, 1992, 1993.
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