Hebrews 1:5 Commentary

3 Sep

With chapter 1, verse 5, we enter a new section of the book of Hebrews. The author moves from an exposition of the supremacy of Christ to the scriptural proof of Jesus’ superiority to the angels. What we have here is a string of quotations from the Old Testament making the point that Jesus is superior to the angels. Now we need to remember where we have already been, because that brilliant opening paragraph is connected to the words here is verses 5-14 in many ways. One way of connection is that these quotations are proof that long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets. And as an interesting side note, we see from these quotations that God was speaking about His Son even in the Old Testament. Again, it is not God’s old way versus God’s new way when we think about Old Testament and New Testament, it is more a matter of promises made and promises kept.

I love this string of scripture quotations. This stringing of quotations is something we see in the book of Romans. The third chapter of Romans, in verses 10-18, is a string of quotes like this describing the fact that no one is righteous before God. Romans chapters 9-11 are linked together by a string of quotations, as Paul reasons through God’s ways with the Jews and the Gentiles. Another good example is 1 Peter 2:6-10, which strings together scriptures to point to Christ as the cornerstone.

Another connection of 1:5-14 to the opening paragraph is seen in this: in the opening paragraph there are seven truths about Jesus which describe His nature and work. Now in 1:5-14, there are seven Old Testament quotations which support the supreme Christ described in the opening paragraph.

For to which of the angels did God ever say,

“You are my Son,

today I have begotten you”?

Or again,

“I will be to him a father,

and he shall be to me a son”?

We have just said that this text in 1:5-14 has a lot of connection with the opening paragraph, 1:1-4. But the most direct connection is with verses 3 and 4 . . . After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

So with the end of verse 4, the comparison of Jesus with the angels has begun. This discussion about the angels and Christ will now continue through the rest of chapter one through the carefully-formed scriptural argument of verses 5-14.

We can stop here for a moment to again reflect of the importance of scripture and the importance of Israel’s story to the author of Hebrews. Scripture is seen by the author as God’s speech, it is held with the highest respect. And the story of Israel is seen as the place of God’s great work in history. Israel’s history is repeatedly referenced in the book of Hebrews as an illustration for Christians today. Usually it is in the form of warning, as Israel’s failures are often highlighted. I just wanted to point all this out to again affirm the continuity between the Old and New Testaments. To be sure, one of the big points of chapter one is that with Jesus something new is here. But the author of Hebrews never separates this new thing God is doing in Jesus with the things God has been doing all along. There is continuity with change, promise and fulfillment, a new thing built on the foundation of the old.

One other little note before we get into the text of verse five itself. You will notice throughout the book of Hebrews whenever scripture is quoted there is a little phrase missing that we see over and over when Paul quotes scripture. Paul’s “it is written” is the missing phrase from Hebrews. The author of Hebrews doesn’t use this phrase, which I think is a strong argument for why Paul is not the author of the book. The lack of the phrase “it is written” doesn’t show a lack of respect for scripture. Rather, the author here seems to know that his readers had a familiarity with scripture. There was no need to say “it is written” because they knew the scriptures. The fact that the readers had such a familiarity with Scripture is an indicator of a Jewish background.

As to this first quotation itself, it is from Psalm 2:7, a psalm which has been seen by both Christians and Jews as a Messianic psalm. The Savior is the subject of Psalm 2 and so we see first that in this quote that Jesus is the Messiah. This psalm probably formed the basis for God’s pronouncement over Jesus at His baptism. You hear the echoes there.

Second, we see the uniqueness of Jesus. He alone s called Son of God, distinguished from angels and people.

Third, we see the personal fellowship of Father and Son here, again distinguished from the angels, “You are MY Son”.

The use of the word “today” and the word “begotten” is not an indication that Jesus became the Son of God or was not eternally the Son. It is rather that when He completed His redemptive work He was exalted and thus anointed officially as King Jesus exalted at the right hand of God.

The second quote is intended to emphasize the idea in the first, that Jesus is the unique Son of God. The problem with the quote is that is from 2 Samuel 7:14 and in its context it refers to King Solomon. Here we have what must be termed as “near and far fulfillment.” Clearly, the words were originally spoken about Solomon, but the author of Hebrews saw that they applied on a deeper level to the Messiah Jesus. As Solomon was commissioned to build a temple where the glory of the Lord would dwell, so Jesus came to dwell among us, the temples of the Holy Spirit, in glory.

God declaring Jesus His Son is consistently tied to Christ’s exaltation (Acts 13:32-35; Romans 1:4). It’s not that Jesus was not God’s Son before it is that through the resurrection Jesus Sonship is publically declared and proven.

So the point of verse 5 is to point to Jesus as the utterly unique Son of God, far greater than the angels.

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