Hebrews 5:7-9


This text, found at the beginning of the great Christological section of Hebrews (4:14-10:18), is quite appropriate for this season of the church year. A parallel might be Matthew 26:38-46. By common agreement among the commentators verse 7 quite clearly refers to Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. The verses which precede our text picture Jesus as the great High Priest, the Son of God, who has now passed through the heaven. During His life on earth He was tempted in all ways just as are we, though He did not sin. Therefore He is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. Like the Levitical High Priests, Jesus was called to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin, and was able to commiserate with the wayward among human beings because He Himself was surrounded by weakness. This is all the more amazing when we remember that Jesus did not appoint or call Himself. And yet He became our eternal High Priest, the fulfillment of the Melchisedekian type.

Incidently, the Old Testament pericope for this day is Jeremiah 31:31-34, the promise of the New Covenant which Jesus ushered in and fulfilled. And the Gospel pericope for this day is John 12:20-33. Here we find certain Greeks seeking Jesus. In this Gospel pericope Jesus speaks some very profound truths. The last one, verse 32, speaks about His crucifixion which drew all men to Jesus. He is speaking about the universal atonement.

Hebrews 5:7 During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

"Days of Jesus' life" is rended "in His humble life on earth" by AAT. Note the Matthew account, the loud crying and tears are not mentioned. The next phrase reads "He was heard because of His piety." It is implied that the Levitical Priest lacked piety. Christ was heard by receiving the strength to do God's will.

Hebrews 5:8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered

"Son" here denotes Jesus' divinity. AAT correctly has "the Son." Similarly LB and TEV: "God's Son." The noun is definite. Stress is laid on its quality. We do not agree with KJV, NKJV, RSV, NASB, and NIV: "a Son." 

Then comes a figure of speech called parechesis. What did He learn? Obedience. This does not imply imperfection or sinfulness. "From what He suffered He learned obedience" shows His humanity and deep humiliation.

Westcott: The word 'obedience' contains a reference to the occasion of sin. Man's fall was due to disobedience; his restoration comes through obedience, Romans 5:19.
Lenski: The great object of the writer is to describe the agony of Jesus in its full intensity. That is the depth of his humiliation . . . Jesus learned 'from what He suffered' the ultimate obedience, learned it as a man learns by actually undergoing that suffering in obedience.

Hebrews 5:9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him

In Hebrews "perfect" never denotes moral perfection. Here it means "when He was brought to His goal," the goal of obedience through suffering. The text speaks of faith as obedience. In 4:6 and elsewhere the author spoke of unbelief as disobedience. "He became the source" is "He became the author." 


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series B, Festival Season Sundays Epistle Texts, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1987, pp. 78-79. Used with permission.

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