Hebrews 1:1 Commentary

27 Aug

1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,

The literary artistry of the author shows with the first verse: wordplay Πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως (many times and many ways) and alliteration (five of the first twelve words start with the Greek letter pi).

The words “Long ago” bring to mind the truth that God’s revelation goes back hundreds, even thousands of years. God has been speaking for a long time. And God has been speaking repeatedly. And God has been speaking in various ways.

FF Bruce writes, “God spoke. This initial affirmation is basic to the whole argument of this epistle, as indeed it is basic to the Christian faith. Had God remained silent, shrouded in thick darkness, the plight of mankind would have been desperate indeed; but now he has spoken his revealing, redeeming and life-giving word, and in his light we see light.” The truth that God spoke forms the main verb and central idea of this sentence.

We can see God speaking whenever we read our Old Testament, where God spoke to our fathers. The “fathers” here refers to those who have come before us and here is talking about the people of Israel. Through His prophets, God spoke to his people, here called “our fathers.” Now this word “prophets” is probably not limited to only those who wrote the books at the end of the Old Testament but is a more general term to refer to anyone who received the revelation of God and gave it to His people. So people like Moses, Elijah, Abraham and others would be included. What is especially meaningful in this verse is how the writer of Hebrews calls these people “our fathers.” Those who confess Jesus find their ancestors in the story of Israel. We are the spiritual descendants of the nation of Israel. This mixed Jew-Gentile church could all trace their history to the Jews, because it was through Israel that God spoke and through Israel that God brought Jesus into the world. What a blessing! This should make us want to read the OT more and more because it is your history, not the history of another nation. It is an unfolding of God’s past speech, His preparatory speech anticipating the coming of His final Word, Jesus.

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