III. JESUS, FAITHFUL AND COMPASSIONATE HIGH PRIEST
Jesus, Superior to Moses.
#The author now takes up the two qualities of Jesus mentioned in Heb 2:17, but in inverse order: faithfulness (Heb 3:1–4:13) and mercy (Heb 4:14–5:10). Christians are called holy “brothers” because of their common relation to him (Heb 2:11), the apostle, a designation for Jesus used only here in the New Testament (cf. Jn 13:16; 17:3), meaning one sent as God’s final word to us (Heb 1:2). He is compared with Moses probably because he is seen as mediator of the new covenant (Heb 9:15) just as Moses was of the old (Heb 9:19–22, including his sacrifice). But when the author of Hebrews speaks of Jesus’ sacrifice, he does not consider Moses as the Old Testament antitype, but rather the high priest on the Day of Atonement (Heb 9:6–15). Moses’ faithfulness “in [all] his house” refers back to Nm 12:7, on which this section is a midrashic commentary. In Heb 3:3–6, the author does not indicate that he thinks of either Moses or Christ as the founder of the household. His house (Heb 3:2, 5, 6) means God’s house, not that of Moses or Christ; in the case of Christ, compare Heb 3:6 with Heb 10:21. The house of Heb 3:6 is the Christian community; the author suggests its continuity with Israel by speaking not of two houses but of only one. Heb 3:6 brings out the reason why Jesus is superior to Moses: the latter was the faithful servant laboring in the house founded by God, but Jesus is God’s son, placed over the house. 1Therefore, holy “brothers,” sharing in a heavenly calling, reflect on Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2who was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was “faithful in [all] his house.”#a. [3:2] Nm 12:7. 3But he is worthy of more “glory” than Moses, as the founder of a house has more “honor” than the house itself.#b. [3:3] 2 Cor 3:7–8. 4Every house is founded by someone, but the founder of all is God. 5Moses was “faithful in all his house” as a “servant” to testify to what would be spoken, 6#The majority of manuscripts add “firm to the end,” but these words are not found in the three earliest and best witnesses and are probably an interpolation derived from Heb 3:14. #c. [3:6] 10:21; Eph 2:19; 1 Tm 3:15; 1 Pt 4:17. but Christ was faithful as a son placed over his house. We are his house, if [only] we hold fast to our confidence and pride in our hope.
Israel’s Infidelity a Warning.
7#The author appeals for steadfastness of faith in Jesus, basing his warning on the experience of Israel during the Exodus. In the Old Testament the Exodus had been invoked as a symbol of the return of Israel from the Babylonian exile (Is 42:9; 43:16–21; 51:9–11). In the New Testament the redemption was similarly understood as a new exodus, both in the experience of Jesus himself (Lk 9:31) and in that of his followers (1 Cor 10:1–4). The author cites Ps 95:7–11, a salutary example of hardness of heart, as a warning against the danger of growing weary and giving up the journey. To call God living (Heb 3:12) means that he reveals himself in his works (cf. Jos 3:10; Jer 10:11). The rest (Heb 3:11) into which Israel was to enter was only a foreshadowing of that rest to which Christians are called. They are to remember the example of Israel’s revolt in the desert that cost a whole generation the loss of the promised land (Heb 3:15–19; cf. Nm 14:20–29). In Heb 4:1–11, the symbol of rest is seen in deeper dimension: because the promise to the ancient Hebrews foreshadowed that given to Christians, it is good news; and because the promised land was the place of rest that God provided for his people, it was a share in his own rest, which he enjoyed after he had finished his creative work (Heb 3:3–4; cf. Gn 2:2). The author attempts to read this meaning of God’s rest into Ps 95:7–11 (Heb 3:6–9). The Greek form of the name of Joshua, who led Israel into the promised land, is Jesus (Heb 3:8). The author plays upon the name but stresses the superiority of Jesus, who leads his followers into heavenly rest. Heb 3:12, 13 are meant as a continuation of the warning, for the word of God brings judgment as well as salvation. Some would capitalize the word of God and see it as a personal title of Jesus, comparable to that of Jn 1:1–18. Therefore, as the holy Spirit says:
“Oh, that today you would hear his voice,#d. [3:7–11] Ps 95:7–11.
8‘Harden not your hearts as at the rebellion
in the day of testing in the desert,
9where your ancestors tested and tried me
and saw my works#e. [3:9] Ex 17:7; Nm 20:2–5. 10for forty years.
Because of this I was provoked with that generation
and I said, “They have always been of erring heart,
and they do not know my ways.”
11As I swore in my wrath,
“They shall not enter into my rest.”’”
12Take care, brothers, that none of you may have an evil and unfaithful heart, so as to forsake the living God. 13Encourage yourselves daily while it is still “today,” so that none of you may grow hardened by the deceit of sin. 14We have become partners of Christ if only we hold the beginning of the reality firm until the end,#f. [3:14] Rom 8:17. 15for it is said:
“Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
‘Harden not your hearts as at the rebellion.’”#g. [3:15] Ps 95:7–8.
16#h. [3:16–19] Nm 14:1–38; Dt 1:19–40. Who were those who rebelled when they heard? Was it not all those who came out of Egypt under Moses? 17With whom was he “provoked for forty years”? Was it not those who had sinned, whose corpses fell in the desert?#i. [3:17] Nm 14:29. 18And to whom did he “swear that they should not enter into his rest,” if not to those who were disobedient?#j. [3:18] Nm 14:22–23; Dt 1:35. 19And we see that they could not enter for lack of faith.