Hebrews 2:10-18


The Epistle to the Hebrews begins with the superiority of the incarnate Son of God over the angels. This comparison continues into the second chapter and the last mention of angels is at verse 16. 

In chapter two we are told that Jesus is superior because His message is superior (verses 1-4) and because the Kingdom of Glory is subject to the incarnate Christ (verses 5-18).  This incarnate Christ humbled himself deeply. The writer of Hebrews quotes Psalm 8 in Hebrews 2:6-8 to show the deep humiliation of Jesus Christ. 

Luther, Stoeckhardt and Kretzmann were convinced that Psalm 8 is Messianic.

Luther: (Verse 7) Many have worked hard to expound this verse. A great number of teachers, especially Jerome and, at different times, Augustine, Ambrose, and Chrysostom, seem to understand it as referring to mankind alone. But we state briefly that though it is possible to understand this verse in an improper sense as referring to man, just as if someone were to understand the statement in Psalm 72:8, yet in the proper sense this verse can be understood only as referring to Christ.

The passage from Psalm 8 is not speaking about the  "dignity of man" (thus Bruce and Lenski) but is wholly Messianic and describes the deep humiliation and the ultimate exaltation of Jesus Christ. The antecedent to him in verse 8b is not redeemed man but Jesus Christ. For a little while (during the state of humiliation) He was made a little lower than the angels to suffer death and to taste of death for every man. Thereafter God crowned Him with honor and glory.

Note carefully that the universal atonement is introduced at verse 9b and the theme is constant to the end of verse 18.

Since our text is limited to verses 10-18 we shall say no more about the reference to Psalm 8.

Note how the word  death pervades this section: in verse 9 twice, verse 14 twice, and once in 15. He suffered death, He tasted death, through death He conquered the devil who had the power of death, and, finally, He delivered all those who for fear of death were slaves of death their whole life. Jesus Christ was born to die. His death delivered all men.

Note how the universal atonement pervades this text. He tasted death for everyone, verse 9. He conquered Satan by dying, verse 14. He delivered those who were caught in the slavery and fear of death, verse 15.  He paid for their sins, verse 17. He is able to help those who are tempted.

Hebrews 2:10 In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.

Rienecker: It was appropriate that action taken to help man should include suffering, since suffering is mankind's common lot. The phrases indicate that the sufferings and death of Jesus are not accidental; they form part of the eternal world purpose of God. The participle could refer to Christ who leads sons into glory, or it could refer to the subject of the infinitive, i.e., God the Father who leads sons to glory.

Only God can lead people to glory. Therefore the participle could denote God in general or Christ in particular because He is God. The usage of the participle is not easy to determine.  Is it coincidental with the infinitive?  "In bringing many sons . . . to make perfect etc." Or does it denote purpose? "In order to bring many sons etc." It really does not make that much difference. Some English translations have it one way,some the other. The meaning is ultimately the same.

"To glory." Ultimately, this means the glory of everlasting life but here it does not exclude conversion and preservation in the faith until death.

"Author." Does this mean  "author" or  "leader"? Look at 12:2 where it surely means  "originator" or "author." The word can mean either.

"To perfect," in the sense of  "to bring to the goal." This verb is used frequently in Hebrews.  It never denotes moral perfection. In one way or another it always means  "to bring to the goal." God brought His son through to the goal of redeeming all men. God brought Jesus to His goal through suffering.  By the way, here we have added proof that verses 6-8 speak of Jesus' humiliation, not the dignity of redeemed man.

Hebrews 2:11 Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.

This verse is explanatory. It explains how it was possible for Jesus to suffer and to be brought to His goal. He had to become man in order to do this.

"Makes men holy." The English version TEV tried to get at the exact meaning: "He makes men pure from their sins, and both he and those who are made pure all have the same Father."

We could read  "Both Redeemer and redeemed," or "both Savior and the saved."

"All" is very emphatic  "All the redeemed." This must indicate the universal atonement.

"Of the same family." Does this mean  "of one Father"? Or is it  "of one stock"? Or simply  "of one" or  "all of one origin"? The context, both that which precedes and that which follows, surely indicates the meaning:  "All of one nature." The passage stresses the humanity of Christ.

"So" points back to the common humanity of Jesus and of all men. The  Formula of Concord, referring to our text twice,understands the text in the following way:

The Son of God assumed into the unity of his person this same human nature, though without sin, and thus took on himself not alien flesh, but our own, and according to our flesh has truly become our brother. (Epitome, I,5, Tappert, page 466)

Then Hebrews 2:14-17 is quoted again,

In the article of our redemption we have the mighty testimony of Scripture that God's Son assumed our nature, though without sin, so that in every respect he was made like us, his brethren,sin alone excepted. (Solid Declaration, I, 43, Tappert, page 515)

Back to our text. Verse 11b reads  "For which reason He is not ashamed to call them brothers." Jesus became the brother of all men through the incarnation. That is the way the  Formula of Concord understands it and that is surely the correct understanding. In other words, men is not limited to the Jews or to believers. It denotes all men. Jesus is not ashamed to call a person whom we might consider the most hopeless sinner His brother. We must never forget that truth. The unmerited favor and grace of God stand behind this sentence.  It should humble us deeply. I am not a  "favorite" of Jesus in the sense that I merit something better than anyone else.

Hebrews 2:12 He says,  "I will declare your name to my brothers;in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises."

Hebrews 2:13 And again,  "I will put my trust in him." And again he says,  "Here am I, and the children God has given me."

Here we have three quotations from the Old Testament. The one thought which they have in common is Jesus' oneness with His brethren. They have the same nature.

The first (verse 12) is a prophecy from a Messianic Psalm, 22:22. It reads:  "I will tell of Thy name to my brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise Thee." The same thought is found in John 17:7.

The second quotation in verse 13, taken from Isaiah 8:17 which reads in the Massoretic text:  "I will even look eagerly for Him."

The future tense used here denotes the lasting character of the trust. It has been said that here Isaiah is a type of the Messiah. It is a great comfort for me to know that it was Jesus' trust in the Father that brought Him through. Think of His trust in the Garden of Gethsemane or on the cross.

By the way, in Matthew 27:43 the chief priests, scribes and elders made fun of Jesus because He trusted in God and they challenged God to deliver Jesus.  His enemies could sense that Jesus trusted in His Father. But so deep was their hatred toward Him that even this did not move them.

Psalm 22:9 speaks of Jesus' trust in His Father from infancy on. If the incarnate Jesus needed to trust His Father, how much more must I do the same!

The third quotation also calls attention to the common humanity of mankind and Jesus.

Hebrews 2:14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death -- that is, the devil --

This is the conclusion. The tense of the verbs describe the constant human condition, and the historical event of the Incarnation when the Son of God assumed this same human nature and thus Himself became truly man and according truly one with mankind.

This is very comforting Gospel. Though death is God's judgment,Satan had the power over death.  He used it as his tool and weapon. Jesus abolished death. Look at 2 Timothy 1:10.  Death's victory and sting is gone. Look at 1 Corinthians 15:55.  Jesus said to His enemies in Gethsemane:  "This is your hour and the power of darkness." Luke 22:53.

Hebrews 2:15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

First Jesus rendered Satan and death inoperative. Death causes fear. And the fear, in turn, is directed at the death. An axiom underlies this verse. All men are slaves in the sense that they fear death. Many TV shows have this as a basic theme. We witness people terrified, screaming, turning pale in the face of death.

"All their lives," though out their lives. How true! Death and its resultant fear is a grim master which makes slaves of all men, no matter what their station in life might be.

Bengel: A paradox: Jesus suffered and overcame death; the devil, wielding death, succumbed.

The freedom of which Paul speaks at Galatians 5:1 and 13 is freedom from sin (its guilt and power), death (with its terrible fear) and Satan and all his power. Paul warns us in Galatians 5:1 not to lose our freedom by becoming victims of the yoke of slavery again. In that case he is speaking of work-righteousness.

Hebrews 2:16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants.

The writer is emphasizing the fact that Jesus became a human being to help human beings. In this verse we have the last reference to angels. The writer, in chapter 1 had stressed Jesus' superiority, in the state of humiliation, to the angels. In verse 16 he is simply stating that Jesus' redemptive work is limited to human beings.

Why does he say  "Abraham's descendants" and not "all men"? It is clear from what precedes and from what follows that Jesus is the Savior of all men. Very likely the reason is that the writer is addressing people of Jewish origin in particular and, in keeping with that thought, the descendants of Abraham are representatives of all men. Or perhaps he is indicating that Jesus came first for the Jews and then also for the Gentiles.

Hebrews 2:17 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

What was the reason? He wanted to help mankind. God made Jesus like all other human beings. This, of course, excludes the fact that Jesus was sinless. He could become a human being in every respect without becoming sinful Himself. But man's sin was imputed to Him.

This likeness is nothing less than complete identification. We too easily forget this truth.

"High Priest," this High Priest is in a class all His own. No one was ever more compassionate than Jesus Christ. He faithfully carried out His work as High Priest. This word looks forward to the use of this word in chapter 3 where we are told that both Moses and Jesus were faithful.

And now we are told in what sense Jesus was faithful. A priest takes man's part before God. As Priest, Christ was man's representative before God. The phrase denotes all men's relationship to God. The purpose is to propitiate. It is the same verb used by the publican in the parable, Luke 18:13.  "To make propitiation for the sins of the people." Man's greatest problem is his sin. Jesus took care of that problem. Look at 1 John 2:2; 2 Corinthians 5:19; and Romans 3:25.

Hebrews 2:18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Not only did the incarnate Christ pay for our sins but He also suffered daily what we go through. That is evidently the purpose of this final verse. And since He suffered the daily grind of temptation He is equipped to help the tempted. Sin brings suffering and temptation. During His earthly life Jesus suffered as we suffer and He did it in our place. All the while He was also being tempted to sin. After His great temptation from the devil, Luke tells us (4:13) that the devil left Jesus for a while. In other words, the account of Jesus' temptation is evidently just one example of what went on in the life of Jesus constantly. Therefore He is able to help the tempted.

We conclude by quoting Hebrews 4:14-16  "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are -- yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence,so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. "


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series C Epistle Texts, Festival Season Sundays, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1985, pp. 15-18. Used with permission.

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