Lesson 2: Notes on Hebrews 1:5-14
It is essential in these quotations to pay careful attention to note who is being addressed, and then what the reply would be to a rhetorical question.
1:5 The Psalm 2:7 quotation is a declaration about the Son, yet it is rephrased here as a question whether the Father had ever said such a thing to an angel. The reply is obvious. He never said those words to any angel but to the Son alone. For the first time in Hebrews, Jesus is called “My Son.” Here the Oriental mind senses the reality: to honor that Son will register well with God; to reject Him will incite dreadful wrath. This is precisely the situation, as 10:28-31 makes clear.
The Psalm and Hebrews use the word “begotten.” Since it does not refer to a man literally begetting a son [men beget and women bear], some translators go for the meaning that God is making a declaration that this is His Son by using ‘became’. But if Jesus “became” the Son, many will assume that there was a time when He was not. The solution is to see how the Bible treats this verse. Acts 13:32,33 quotes Psalm 2:7 as fulfilled in the resurrection. Romans 1:4 also teaches that the act of God in raising Jesus was a kind of declaration of Jesus’ true Sonship. He was the Son of God before His resurrection, as in Matthew 16:16, but that was not yet clear to all; the Resurrection made it clear. The Son Who is heir to all things and Who sits with His Father on the Throne, is the Son the Father identifies as such with all the rights His title entails. The strong language of “beget” implies that the Father and Son are the same essence. The moment of becoming is a matter of declaration, not the beginning of something previously not so. We must not go beyond and suppose this verse implies that there was a moment when Jesus was not the Son and then a moment when He became the Son. (If a difficult Scripture is not clear to us, we rely on clearer ones that we do understand.) An ancient king would say of the one son he designated to reign with him, “You are my son, today I have begotten you.” This meant that such a son was the son chosen to reign and to be recognized as the father’s equal in a way the other literally begotten sons were not. To reject Jesus as God’s Son is to reject the Father (John 5:23). Psalm 2:6 says God has installed His King, and then in v.7, He decrees that the One installed is His Son, the Son Who eternally proceeds from the Father.
1:5 The second
quotation 1 Chronicles 17:13 also speaks of the Father-Son
relationship. God promised David that he
would always have a son born of his body who would reign over
1:6 This quotation from Deuteronomy 32:43 is legitimately part of the Deuteronomy text according to the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls. The point is, if angels are to worship Christ (the Firstborn), then He is God and they are not. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:13 to a fallen angel (Satan) during His temptation in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13). Worship must always distinguish the Lord God from His creatures. In Revelation 19:10,11, an angel refused John’s worship when John was overawed with his majesty. The angel, in very sound theology, instructed John, “Worship God!”
Firstborn does not mean the first one created or the first one born. It is the language of preeminence; the first one born in a family is “the number one son.” In the law his inheritance involved a double portion (Deuteronomy 21:15-17). Christ is the firstborn over creation because all things were made by Him and for Him (Colossians 1:15-17, a Scripture remarkably like the opening sentence of Hebrews!).
1:7 This statement from Psalm 104:4 makes sense when we read it in its context. The theme of that psalm is the greatness of God over His creation. Creation includes the physical heavens with clouds as God’s chariot. The winds are His messengers, and the flames are His servants. Earth, mountains, and waters obey His will; so do the winds who are His messengers. In the LXX in v.4 the word for winds and spirits is the same; the word for messengers is the word for angels. Angels are part of creation, servants of God in it. Hebrews asserted the Son as Creator in its opening sentence. The writer will repeat that in quotation 6 below. In the previous quotation, the angels worship Christ. Now in this last one they are servants. In 3:5,6 the servant/Son difference will be repeated.
1:8,9 In this quotation of Psalm 45:6,7, the Son is addressed as God. In 1:3, Christ sat at the right hand of the Majesty. In this verse He has the throne of God. Jesus is exalted as God among those companions who have the privilege to be in His presence.
1:9 This verse connects Jesus’ right to rule with His character. Both throne and scepter indicate His role as King, a position not given to His companions. Only Christ is anointed King above the others. Loving righteousness and hating wickedness are characteristics of Jesus to qualify Him.
This quotation and the one to follow mention eternity. His throne is forever, and He is forever. Later it will be emphasized that His priesthood is forever (7:16,17; 23-25). Other priests died and had to be replaced. An eternal throne and an eternal priesthood of an Eternal Person is a powerful combination.
1:10-12 (Psalm 102:25-27) Hebrews has already asserted Christ’s role as Creator above. Why yet another one? Christ is the One Who laid the foundations of the earth. What is the Creator called in this Psalm? Psalm 102 is not quoted exactly here. In v.25, Hebrews adds the word “Lord!” Psalm 102:25 says, “In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth …” Why insert the Name Lord? Note it is not the title “God” but the Name “LORD.” The word “God” is not God’s Name! The answer is that the “you” addressed in v.25 is the LORD, according to Psalm 102:18. Hebrews simply takes the Name from one verse and inserts it deliberately and properly into the quotation, an action justified by the context of the Psalm. In this way, the Name of YHVH has been applied to the Son. No Jew back then would miss the significance of that. As Hebrews progresses, the writer’s preference for calling Jesus “the Son,” will resume, but He will call Him “Lord” again, as in 2:3; 7:14 & 13:20.
1:13 (Psalm 110:1) In our literature we are not familiar with this little literary device, called an inclusio, which writers with a Hebrew mind often employed. The writer would show what a section is, by the inclusio, i.e., by repeating some key phrase at the beginning and the end. Here it is: “to which of the angels” in v.5 is repeated in v.14. That shows that the seven quotations were intended to stand together as support of the claim in v.4 that Christ has inherited a name superior to the angels.
No angel sits at the Father’s right hand, only the Son. Later we will see why Jesus deserves such an honor when the aspect of His finished work is added to Who He is as the Son. The Son eternally sat at the Father’s right hand; yet His right to such honor is enhanced as a result of His obedient work in human history as the Priest Who did the will of His Father (10:5-10). He deserves the personal sit-here-beside-Me acclamation, and the reward that His enemies should become His footstool. Psalm 110 makes clear that this language is only for the One who is David’s Lord and thus David’s God. There was no one in Jerusalem King David called “Lord!”
That Hebrews would use this much quotation reveals the high priority the doctrine has in the writer’s mind; it shows his theological method, and it is a clue that a danger he was addressing among his readers was error concerning angels. Such error, if believed, would undermine the true place of Christ. That makes the writer of Hebrews draw his sword and battle vigorously.
1:14: Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?
The seven supporting quotations have ended. The goal of Hebrews 1:5-14 is not to belittle angels. They are part of a creation that glorifies God. They are His servants, 1:7; many of them God elected to eternal life (1 Timothy 5:21). His holy angels stand in His presence, humbled that they should be allowed a right no one has, except those to whom God has given it. (See Luke 1:19 and Isaiah 6.) They do His will, unlike us, with immediate and absolute obedience, as in Ezekiel chapters 1-3. But they also serve us (Matthew 18:10). Creatures higher than us (2:7) are commanded to stoop to serving us. Often God has the strong serving the weak.