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Reference: Hebrews


That branch of the posterity of Abraham whose home was in the land of promise. The name Hebrew is first applied to Abraham in Ge 14:13, and is generally supposed to have been derived for Heber, the last of the long-lived patriarchs. However outlived six generations of his descendants, including Abraham himself, after whose death he was for some years the only surviving ancestor of Isaac and Jacob. Hebrews appears to have been the name by which the Jewish people were known to foreigners, in distinction from their common domestic name, "the children of Israel." The name of Jews, derived from Judah, was afterwards applied to them as inhabitants of Judea, 2Ki 16:6.

Abraham, the founder of the Jewish nation, was a migratory shepherd, whose property consisted mainly in vast flocks and herds, but who had no fixed residence, and removed from place to place as the convenience of water and pasturage dictated. As such a nomad, he had lived in Ur of the Chaldees, and then in Haran, whence he removed and dwelt in the same manner among the Canaanites, in the country which God promised to give to his posterity. His son and grandson, Isaac and Jacob followed in his steps. By a miraculous arrangement of Providence, Joseph, one of the sons of Jacob, became grand-vizier of Egypt; and in a time of famine invited his family to settle in that land. Here Moses died, and was succeeded by Joshua, who conquered the desired country, and allotted it to the several tribes. From this time they were governed in the name of Jehovah, by chiefs, judges, or patriarchal rulers, until the time of Samuel; when the government was changed to a monarchy, and Saul anointed king. David, a shepherd youth, but the man after God's own heart, was afterwards king, and founded a family which continued to reign in Jerusalem until the entire subjugation of the country by the Chaldeans. Under his grandson Rehoboam, however, ten tribes revolted and formed a separate kingdom, that of Israel, between which the kingdom of Judah there were hostile feelings and frequent wars. The termination of the whole was the carrying away of the greater part of both nations to Babylon, Media, etc. After seventy years of exile, a few small colonies of Hebrews returned, and built another temple at Jerusalem, and attempted to reestablished their nation; but they had to struggle first, under the Maccabees, against the kings of the Seleucian race, (see JERUSALEM,) and then against the Romans; by whom at length, under Titus, Jerusalem was taken and utterly destroyed, A. D. 70-71. Since that time, although Jerusalem has been rebuilt, the Hebrews have ceased to exist as an independent people; but they are scattered among all the nations of the earth, where they retain their characteristic traits, and live as strangers, and, in a great measure, as outcasts.

The government of the Hebrews is, by Josephus, called a theocracy-a form of government which assigns the whole power to God, with the management of all the national affairs-God, in fact, being the proper King of the state. This government, however, underwent several changes under the legislator Moses, his successor Joshua, the judges, the kings, and the high priests. But amid all these revolutions, God was considered as the monarch of Israel, though he did not exercise his jurisdiction always in the same manner. In the time of Moses, he dwelt among his people as a king in his palace, or in the midst of his camp; always ready to be consulted, promulgating all needful laws, and giving specific directions in all emergencies. This was, properly, the time of the theocracy, in the strictest sense of the term. Under Joshua and the judges, it continued nearly the same: the former being filled by the spirit which animated Moses, would undertake nothing without consulting Jehovah; and the latter were leaders, raised up by God himself, to deliver the Hebrews and govern in his name. The demand of the people for a king occasioned to Samuel, the prophet-judge, great disquietude; for he regarded it as a rejection of the theocratic government, 1Sa 8:6-7. God complied with the wishes of the people; but he still asserted his own sovereign authority, and claimed the obedience of all.

The religion of the Hebrews may be considered in different points of view, with respect to the different conditions of their nation. Under the patriarchs, they were instructed in the will of God by direct revelation, worshipped him by prayer and sacrifices, opposed idolatry and atheism, used circumcision as the appointed seal of the covenant made by God with Abraham, and followed the laws which the light of grace and faith discovers to those who honestly and seriously seek God, his righteousness, and truth. They lived in expectation of the Messiah, the Desire of all nations, to complete their hopes and wished, and fully to instruct and bless them. Such was the religion of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Joseph, etc., who maintained the worship of God and the tradition of the true religion. After the time of Moses, the religion of the Hebrews became more fixed, and ceremonies, days, feasts, priest, and sacrifices were determined with great exactness. This whole dispensation only prefigured that more perfect one which should come, and bring life and immortality to light in his gospel, and make a full atonement for the sins of the world. See TYPE.

The long abode of the Hebrews in Egypt had cherished in them a strong propensity to idolatry; and neither the miracles of Moses, nor his precautions to withdraw them from the worship of idols, nor the rigor of his laws, nor the splendid marks of God's presence in the Israelitish camp, were able to conquer this unhappy perversity. We know with what facility they adopted the adoration of the golden calf, when they had recently been eyewitnesses of such divine wonders. Saul and David, with all their authority, were not able entirely to suppress such inveterate disorders. Superstitions, which the Israelites did not dare to exercise in public, were practiced in private. They sacrificed on the high places, and consulted diviners and magicians. Solomon, whom God had chosen to build his temple, was himself a stone of stumbling to Israel. He erected altars to the false gods of the Phoenicians, Moabites, and Ammonites, and not only permitted his wives to worship the gods of their own country, but he to some extent adored them, 1Ki 11:5-7. Most of his successors showed a similar weakness. Jeroboam introduced the worship of the golden calves into Israel, which took such deep root that it was never entirely extirpated. It was for this cause that God gave the Hebrews over into the hands of their enemies, to captivity and dispersion. See IDOLATRY. After the captivity, they appear to have been wholly free from the worship of idols; but they were still corrupt and far from God, and having filled the cup of their guilt by rejecting and crucifying the Lord of glory, they were extirpated as a nation and became strangers and sojourners over all the earth.

For the language of the Hebrews, see LANGUAGE.

The existence of the Hebrews as a people distinct from all others, to this day, is a miracle of the indisputable king, which may well justify a few remarks.

1. They are spread into all parts of the earth; being found not only in Europe and America, but to the utmost extremity of Asia, even in Thibet and China. They abound in Persia, Northern India, and Tartary, wherever travellers have penetrated. They are, as they assert, descendants of the tribe carried away captive by the Assyrian monarchs. They are also numerous in Arabia, in Egypt, and throughout Africa.

2. In most parts of the world their state is much the same-one of dislike, contempt, and oppression. In past ages innumerable exactions and wrongs have been heaped upon them. Within the last few years they have received more justice at the hands of some of the European states; but they have usually held their possessions by a very precarious tenure.

3. They everywhere maintain observances peculiar to themselves: such as circumcision, performed after the law of their fathers; the great day of expiation; also the observance of a Sabbath or day of rest


(Ac 6:1) were the Hebrew-speaking Jews, as distinguished from those who spoke Greek. (See Greek.)

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He'brews Epistle to the.

This is the only Epistle attributed to Paul that does not bear his name. In all the oldest MSS his name does not occur, either at the beginning or at the end. Most of the early writers attribute it to Paul, though with some there were doubts respecting it. 2Pe 3:15-16 seems to confirm the authorship of Paul, besides the internal evidences of it. The question as to who the writer was does not touch its inspiration: of this there can be no legitimate doubt. It may be that Paul's name is withheld because he was so maligned by the Jews, many of whom were related to the very ones to whom he was writing, that they might not be prejudiced against the Epistle. Doubtless many to whom he was writing had heard the discourses of the Lord, and the Epistle was, as it were, a further discourse from God through Christ as His Apostle: "Hath spoken unto us in His Son." Here Paul classes himself with the listeners.

It was written to Jews as persons already in relationship with God, but evinces that only those who received the Lord Jesus as Mediator were really in that relationship, and were "partakers of the heavenly calling." It shows that they no longer needed the shadows of heavenly things, for in Christ Jesus the heavenly things themselves were to be possessed. Eternal things are spoken of to the displacement of those that were temporal. It is not properly speaking an Epistle addressed to an assembly, but a treatise, in which the heavenly glory of Christ is contrasted with earthly hopes.

The tender way in which the apostle deals with the consciences of the Jews still clinging to Judaism, stands in marked contrast to the severe manner in which he writes to the Galatians, who as Gentiles never should have placed themselves under law. The believing Hebrews needed to be detached from the earth and attached to Christ in heaven; but though association with Christ is touched on, union with Him is not taught in the epistle, nor is the believer's relationship to God as Father brought out. The saints are viewed as in the wilderness on their way to the rest of God. In accordance with this the tabernacle is referred to, and not the temple, which belongs to the kingdom. As might be expected, the epistle contains many quotations from the O.T., but they are often cited by way of contrast rather than of comparison.

When and where the epistle was written is unknown: the temple service was still being carried on, and therefore it was written before A.D. 70 (cf. Heb 8:4-5; 10:11; 13:10). It probably dates from A.D. 63 or 64.

The great subject of the Epistle to the Hebrews is approach to God, the basis of which is found in the blessed Person and work of the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is viewed as the Apostle and High Priest, while His work is set forth, of such a nature as to give boldness to the believer to enter into the holiest by a new and living way inaugurated by Christ, who has died and risen, and entered as the great priest over God's house. This entrance is the climax to which the epistle leads the believing Hebrews, in complete contrast to the system, which, though given of God, left the worshippers at a distance and the holiest inaccessible to man. They were to learn the incomparable superiority of that which had been brought in by God Himself through Christ, over all that had been given by Him through Moses, and that, though all was on the ground of faith, with present suffering, they were brought into better things: they had better promises, better hopes, and had privileges to which those who served the tabernacle had no right. But all turns on the glory of the person of the Lord Jesus.

In Heb. 1 God has spoken in the Son. He is the Apostle in whom God speaks, one of the Persons of the Godhead

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HEBREWS, sometimes called Israelites, from their progenitor, Jacob, surnamed Israel, and in modern times Jews, as the descendants of Judah, the name of this leading tribe being given to all. See JEWS.

HEBREWS, EPISTLE TO THE. Though the genuineness of this epistle has been disputed both in ancient and modern times, its antiquity has never been questioned. It is generally allowed that there are references to it, although the author is not mentioned, in the remaining works of Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, and Justin Martyr; and that it contains, as was first noticed by Chrysostom and Theodoret, internal evidence of having been written before the destruction of Jerusalem, Heb 8:4; 9:25; 10:11,37; 13:10. The earliest writer now extant who quotes this epistle as the work of St. Paul is Clement of Alexandria, toward the end of the second century; but, as he ascribes it to St. Paul repeatedly and without hesitation, we may conclude that in his time no doubt had been entertained upon the subject, or, at least, that the common tradition of the church attributed it to St. Paul. Clement is followed by Origen, by Dionysius and Alexander, both bishops of Alexandria, by Ambrose, Athanasius, Hilary of Poitiers, Jerom, Chrysostom, and Cyril, all of whom consider this epistle as written by St. Paul; and it is also ascribed to him in the ancient Syriac version, supposed to have been made at the end of the first century. Eusebius says, "Of St. Paul there are fourteen epistles manifest and well known; but yet there are some who reject that to the Hebrews, urging for their opinion that it is contradicted by the church of the Romans, as not being St. Paul's." In Dr. Lardner we find the following remark: "It is evident that this epistle was generally received in ancient times by those Christians who used the Greek language, and lived in the eastern parts of the Roman empire." And in another place he says, "It was received as an epistle of St. Paul by many Latin writers in the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries." The earlier Latin writers take no notice of this epistle, except Tertullian, who ascribes it to Barnabas. It appears, indeed, from the following expression of Jerom, that this epistle was not generally received as canonical Scripture by the Latin church in his time: "Licet eam Latina consuetudo inter canonicas Scripturas non recipiat." [Although the usage of the Latin church does not receive it among the canonical Scriptures.] The same thing is mentioned in other parts of his works. But many individuals of the Latin church acknowledged it to be written by St. Paul, as Jerom himself, Ambrose, Hilary, and Philaster; and the persons who doubted its genuineness were those the least likely to have been acquainted with the epistle at an early period, from the nature of its contents not being so interesting to the Latin churches, which consisted almost entirely of Gentile Christians, ignorant, probably, of the Mosaic law, and holding but little intercourse with Jews.

2. The moderns, who, upon grounds of internal evidence, contend against the genuineness of this epistle, rest principally upon the two following arguments, the omission of the writer's name, and the superior elegance of the style in which it is written. It is indeed certain that all the acknowledged epistles of St. Paul begin with a salutation in his own name, and that, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, there is nothing of that kind; but this omission can scarcely be considered as conclusive against positive testimony. St. Paul might have reasons for departing, upon this occasion, from his usual mode of salutation, which we at this distant period cannot discover. Some have imagined that he omitted his name, because he knew that it would not have much weight with the Hebrew Christians, to whom he was in general obnoxious, on account of his zeal in converting the Gentiles, and in maintaining that the observance of the Mosaic law was not essential to salvation: it is, however, clear, that the persons to whom this epistle was addressed knew from whom it came, as the writer refers to some acts of kindness which he had received from them, and also expresses a hope of seeing them soon, Heb 10:34; 13:18-19,23. As to the other argument, it must be owned that there does not appear to be such superiority in the style of this epistle, as should lead to the conclusion that it was not written by St. Paul. Those who have thought differently have mentioned Barnabas, St. Luke, and Clement as authors or translators of this epistle. The opinion of Jerom was, that the sentiments are the Apostle's, but the language and composition that of some one else, who committed to writing the Apostle's sense, and, as it were, reduced into commentaries the things spoken by his master. Dr. Lardner says, "My conjecture is, that St. Paul dictated the epistle in Hebrew, and another, who was a great master of the Greek language, immediately wrote down the Apostle's sentiments in his own elegant Greek; but who this assistant of the Apostle was, is altogether unknown." But surely the writings of St. Paul, like those of other authors, may not all have the same precise degree of merit: and if, upon a careful perusal and comparison, it should be thought that the Epistle to the Hebrews is written with greater elegance than the acknowledged compositions of this Apostle, it should also be remembered that the apparent design and contents of this epistle suggest the idea of more studied composition, and yet, that there is nothing in it which amounts to a marked difference of style: on the other hand, there is the same concise, abrupt, and elliptical mode of expression, and it contains many phrases and sentiments which are found in no part of Scripture, except in St. Paul's Epistles. We may farther observe, that the manner in which Timothy is mentioned in this epistle makes it probable that it was written by St. Paul. Compare Heb 13:23, with 2Co 1:1, and Col 1:1. It was certainly written by a person who had suffered imprisonment in the cause of Christianity; and this is known to have been the case of St. Paul, but of no other person to whom this epistle has been attributed. Upon the whole, both the external and internal evidence appear to preponderate so greatly in favour of St. Paul's being the author of this epistle, that it cannot but be considered as written by that Apostle.

3. "They of Italy salute you," is the only expression in the epistle which can assist us in determining from whence it was written. The Greek words are, ?? ??? ??? '???????, which should have been translated, "Those from Italy salute you;" and the only inference to be drawn from them seems to be, that St. Paul, when he wrote this epistle, was at a place where some Italian converts were. This inference is not incompatible with the common opinion, that this epistle was written from Rome, and therefore we consider it as written from that city. It is supposed to have been written toward the end of St. Paul's first imprisonment at Rome, or immediately after it, because the Apostle expresses an intention of visiting the Hebrews shortly; we therefore place the date of this epistle in the year 63.

4. Clement, of Alexandria, Eusebius, and Jerom, thought that this epistle was originally written in the Hebrew language; but all the other ancient fathers who have mentioned this subject speak of the Greek as the original work; and as no one pretends to have seen this epistle in Hebrew, as there are no internal marks of the Greek being a translation, and as we know that the Greek language was at this time very generally understood at Jerusalem, we may accede to the more common opinion, both among the ancients and moderns, and consider the present Greek as the original text. It is no small satisfaction to reflect, that those who have denied either the genuineness or the originality of this epistle have always supposed it to have been written or translated by some fellow labourer or assistant of St. Paul, and that almost every one admits that it carries with it the sanction and authority of the inspired Apostle.

5. There has been some little doubt concerning the persons to whom this epistle was addre

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