Hebrews 3:16

Monday, 17 September 2018

For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Hebrews 3:16

The author now asks a question based on the words of the psalm that he just cited. Those words implored his Hebrew audience, that if they hear the voice of the Lord, to not harden their hearts as they did in the rebellion, meaning the time in the wilderness. It is based on the idea of it being Today. Obviously, he is telling them that Today is the Day. The voice of the Lord is calling. If, in fact, they hear, they need to respond differently than those who the psalm speaks of.

Now he asks “For who, having heard, rebelled?” It is an obvious question that requires an answer from the audience – both individually and collectively. Why is this so? Because he then answers the question for them, saying, “Indeed, was it not all.” He speaks of the entire congregation as a whole, not merely as individuals. It is already known that Joshua and Caleb did not harden their hearts, and they both entered Canaan. Further, Moses appeared with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, clearly showing that he is a saved person. Thus, this cannot be speaking of salvation, but of entering God’s rest as a group of people.

With this understanding, we can see the error of the KJV which makes this verse a statement rather than a question, by translating this passage as, “For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.” It would be utter nonsense to say, “For some,” when speaking of over six hundred thousand men (plus their families) when only two adults entered into Canaan. Further, it is shown, quite clearly, that Joshua and Caleb did not enter the promised rest because the passage is speaking of the collective whole (see verse 4:8), not individuals. Rather than a statement, the Greek forms a question – “For who, having heard, rebelled?” This is confirmed then by the word “all” in the next clause.

The entire congregation (all) are “who came out of Egypt.” The author is clearly speaking of the collective whole that was led by Moses. Again, as stated in previous verses, the entire passage is taking the thought of the Hebrew people rebelling against the Lord, and thus not entering into His rest. Any individual that believes in Christ will enter that rest (verse 4:3), but when the collective rebels, the rest is denied to it. This is why the psalmist again sets another day, calling it Today. Israel has a Day in which they must believe as a whole before they can, as a whole, enter God’s rest. Jesus said as much in Matthew 23 –

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” Matthew 23:37-39

After Jesus completed His work, were there Jews who believed? Obviously so. Acts testifies to this, and the author is one of them. Who is Jesus referring to then? He is referring to the collective whole as represented by their leaders who He calls “Jerusalem.” Jerusalem is the seat of power. The leaders in Jerusalem represent the whole, just as Moses represented the whole in the wilderness.

Life application: These verses are completely misunderstood because 1) the audience is not properly identified. It is the Hebrew people who are being spoken to. And, 2) the audience is taken as individuals, when in fact it is speaking to the whole about a matter which affects the whole. God has promised rest to His people (of whom the Gentiles are included). However, that rest for Israel is yet ahead for them as a people. Individuals enter God’s rest through belief, but the nation of Israel also enters into that rest as a whole through belief. It is the latter which is being referred to now.

Heavenly Father, Your word tells us that for those who trust in Christ, a state of rest is entered into. The work of God is to believe in the One You have sent, Jesus. He is our rest, and He has accomplished the work which grants us that state. All You ask us to do is to believe. What a gift! May many come to understand that the work is complete and that the rest is assured, all because of faith in Jesus. Thank You for what You have done through Him! Amen.

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