John Owen.

An exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews: with preliminary ..., Volume 3 online

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*^ He shall build an house for my name, and I will establish the
throne of his kingdom for ever." (1 Chron. xvii. 12, 13. " He shall
build me an house, and I will establish his throne for ever.**")
Ver. 14. " I will be his Father, and he shall be my son : if he
commit iniquity, I will chastise him with the rod of men, and
with the stripes of the children of men." Ver. 16. " But my
mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul,
whom I put away before thee." (1 Chron. xvii. 13. " I will be his
Father, and he shall be my son ; and I will not take my mercy
away fi-om him, as I took it from him that was before thee.")
Ver. 16. " Aiid thy house and thy kingdom shall be established
for ever before me : thy throne shall be established for ever."
(1 Chron. xvii. 14. << But I will settle him ih mine house, and in

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VsR. 5.] Epistle to the Hebrews^ 151

mj kingdom for ever, and bis throne shall be established for

This is the whole divine oracle, from whence the apostle
takes the testimony under consideration ; and the difficulty
wherewith it is attended ariseth from hence, that it is not easy
to apprehend how any thing at all in these words should be ap-
propriated unto the Lord Christ ; seeing Solomon seems in the
whole to be directly and only intended. And concerning this
difficulty, there are three opinions among interpreters.

1. Some cutting that knot, which they suppose could not
otherwise be loosed, affirm that Solomon is not at all intended
in th^e words, but that they are a direct and immediate pro-
phecy of Christ, who was to be the Son of David, and to build
the spiritual house or temple of God. And for the confirma-
tion of this assertion, they produce sundry reasons from the
oracle itself: as,

1st, It is said, that God would raise up to David a seed, or
son ; intimating, that he was not as yet born, being foretold to,
be raised up ; whereas Solomon was born at the time of this

2d, It is also affirmed, that this son or seed should reign and
sit upon the throne of David after his decease, and after he was
-gathered unto his fathers ; whereas Solomon was made king, and
sat upon the throne whilst David was yet alive, and not entered
into rest with his fathers.

3d, The throne of this Son is to be established for ever, or
as the same promise is expressed, Psal. Ixxxix. 36. '^ Whilst
the sun and moon continue.*' The throne of Solomon and his
posterity failed within a few generations.

4th, The title there given unto him who is directly prophe-
sied of, shews him, as our apostle intimates, to be preferred
above all the angels ; and none will say that Solomon was 80>
who, as he was mferior to them in nature and condition, so by
sin he greatly provoked the Lord against himself and his poste-

But yet all these observations, though they want not some
appearance and probability of reason, come short of proving
evidently what they are produced for, as we may briefly mani-
fest. For,

1st, It doth not appear that Solomon was born at the time of
the giving forth of tnis oracle ; if we must suppose that God
intimated in it unto David, that none of the sons which be then
had should succeed him in his kingdom ; yea, it is manifest
from the story that he was not. Besides, raising up doth not
denote the birth or nativity of the person intended, but his de-
signation or exaltation to his throne and office, as is the usual
meaning of that expression in the Scripture ; so that Solomon

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1 j2 Jn Exposilion of the [Cnxr. I.

might be intendedi though now born, yea and grown up, if not
yet by the providence of God marked and taken out from
amongst his brethren to be king, as aftenn'ards he was.

2. Although a few days betore the death of David, to pre-
vent sedition and division about titles and pretensions to the
kingdom, Solomon by his appointment was proclaimed king, or
heir to the crown, yet he was not actually vested with the whole
power of the kingdom, until after his natural decease. More-
over also, David being then very weak and feeble, and render-
ed unable for public administration, the short remainder of his
days afler the inauguration of Solomon, needed not to be obser-
ved in the prophecy.

The other two remaining reasons must be afterwards spoken
unto. And for the present removal of this exposition, I shall
only observe, that to affirm Solomon not at all to be intended
in this oracle, nor the house or temple which afterwards he
built, is to make the whole answer of God by the prophet unto
David to be equivocal. For David inquired of Natlian about
building an house, or material temple unto God. Nathan re-
turns him answer from God that he shall not do so, but that
his son should perform that work. This answer David under-
stands of bis immediate son, and of a material house, and thercr
upon makes material provision for^t, and preparatbn in great
abundance, upon the encouragement he received in this answer
of God. Now if neither of these were at all intended in it,
neither bis son nor the material temple, it is evident that he was
led in^ a great mistake, by the ambiguity and equivocation of
the word ; but we find by the event that he was not led into
any such mistake, God approving and accepting of his obedi-
ence in what he did. It remains then that Solomon, first and
immediately, is intended in these words.

2. Some on the other hand aflSrm the whole prophecy so to
belong to, and so to be fulfilled in Solomon, and in him alone,
that there is no direct respect therein unto our Lord Jesus
Christ. And the reason for their assertion they take from thos^
words which immediately follow those insisted on by the apos-
tle, namely, " If he commit iniquity, I will chastise him with
the rod of men ;" which cannot be applied unto him who did
no sin, neither was there guile found in his mouth. They say
therefore, that the apostle applies these words unto Christ, only
by way of an allegory ; thus he deals with the. law of not muz-
zling the ox which treadeth out the corn, applying it to the
provision of carnal things to be made for the dispensers of the
gospel. As he also in another place representeth the two Tes-
taments in the story of Sarah and Hagar.

That which principally is to be insisted on for the removal of
this difficulty, a^d which will utterly take it out of our way.

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Tea. 5.] JBptitk to the Hebrews. 153

W91 fall in with our confirmation of the third interpretation to
be proposed. For the present, I shall only answer,- that as the
words dted by the apostle do principally concern the person of
Christ himself, yet being spoken and given out in form of a co-
venant, they have respect also to him as h^is tlie Head of the
coTenant, which God makes with all the elect in him. And
thus whcde mystical Christ, head and members, are referred to
in the prophecy ; and therefore David, in his repetition and
pleading of this oracle, Psal. Ixicxix. 30. changeth those words,
** if he commit iniauity,'' into, " if his children forsake niy
law."^ Notwithstanding then a supposition of transgression in
him, concerning whom these words are spoken, the Lord Christ
may be intend^ in them ; such failings and transgressions a^r
disannul not the covenant, often falling out on their part, for
whom he undertaketh therein. But I offer this only in mq/o-
^em coHtelamy to secure the testimony insisted on unto our apos^
tle^^s intention. The diiSculty itself will be afterwards clearfy

3. We say therefore with, others, that both Solomon and the
Lord Christ are intended in this whole orade ; Solomon literal*
ly and first, as the type ; the Lord Christ prindpally and mys-
tically, as he who was typified, figured, and represented by bmu
And our sense herein shall be farther explained and confirmed
in the ensuing considerations.

1. That tiiere never was any one type of Christ and his of-
fices that entirely represented him, and all that he was to do.
For as it was impossible that any one thing or person should do
so, because of the perfection of his person, and the excellency
of his office, which no one thing that might be appointed to
prefigure him as a type, because of its limitedness and imper-
fection, could fully represent ; so had any such been found out,
that multiplication of types which God in his infinite wisdom
was pleased to make use of, for tlie revelation of him intended
in them, had been altogether useless and needless. Wherefore,
according as God saw good, and as he had made them meet and
fit, so he designed one thing or person to figure out one tiling
in him, and another for another end and purpose.

2. That no type of Christ was, in all things that he was or
did, a type of him, but only in that particular wherein he was
designed of God so to be, and wherein he hatli revealed him so
to have been. David was a type of Christ, but not in all things
that he was and did. In his conquests of the enemies of the
churdi, in his throne and kingdom he was so ; but in his pri-
vate actions, whether as a man, or as a king or captain, he waf
not so. The like must be said of Isaac, Melchisedec, SolofaiOn.
and of all other personal types under the Old Testamenf, an4
much more of other things.

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154 An Exposition of the [Chap. I.

3. That not all things spoken of him that was a type, even m-
those respects wherein he was a type, are spoken of him as a
type, or have any respect unto the thing signified^ but some of
them may belong unto him in his personal capacity only. And
the reason is, because he, who was a type by God's instiiuiion^
might morally fail in the performance of his duty> even then and-
in those thingsi when and wherein he was a type. Hence some-
what may be spoken of him as to his moral performance of his
duty, that may no way concern the antitype, or Christ prefigured
by him. And this wholly reinoves the difficulty mentioned in
the second interpretation of the words, excluding the Lord Christ
from* being directly in the oracle, upon that expressbn, « If he
sin against me ;" for those words relating to the mdral duty of
Solomon, in that wherein he was a type of Christ, namely, the*
rule and administration of his kingdom, may not at all beloag to
Christ, who was prefigured by God's institution of things, and
nQt in any moral deportment in the observance of them.

4. That what is spoken of any type, as it was a type, and in
respect of its institution to be such, doth not really and properly
belong unto himj or to that which was the type, but unto him
who was represented thereby. For the type itself, it was enough
that there was some resemblance in it of that which was princi-
pally intended \ the things belonging unto the antitype being af-
firmed of it analogically, on account of the relation between them
by God's institution. Hence that which follows on such enunci-
ations, doth not at all respect or belong to the type, but only to
the antitype. Thus at the sacrifice of expiation, the scape goat
is said to bear and carry away all the sins of the people into a
land not inhabited \ not really, and in the substance of the mat-
ter, but only in an instituted representation : for the law was given
by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. Much less
may the things that ensue upon the Lord Christ's real bearing
and taking away of our sins be ascribed to the devoted beast. So
is it in this case. The words applied by the apostle to prove the
Son to have a more excellent name than the angels, and conse-
quently to be preferred above them, do not at all prove that So-
lomon, of whom they were spoken merely as he was a type,
should be esteemed to be preferred above all angels, seeing he
did only represent him who was so, and had these words spoken
unto him, not absolutely, but with respect unto that representa-
tion. And this removes the fourth objection made in the be-
half of the first interpretation, excluding Solomon from being at
ail intended in the prophecy -, for what was spoken of him as a
type, required not a fiill accomplishment in his own person, but
only that he should represent him who was principally intend-

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VsR. 5.] £putk to the Hebr^s. 155

5. That there is a two-fold perpetuity mentioned in the Scrip-
ture, the one limited and relative, the other absolute ; and both
these are apj^ied unto the kingdom* of David. First, there was
a perpetuity promised unto him and his posterity, in the king-
dom, as of the priesthood to Aaron, that is a limited perpetuity,
namely, during the continuance of the typical state and condition
of that people ; whibt they continued, the rule by right belonged
to the house of David. There was also an absolute perpetuity pro-
mised to the kingdom of David, to be made good only in the king-
dom and rule of the Messiah ; and both these kinds of perpetuity
are expressed in the same words., giving their sense according as
they are applied. If applied to the successors of David, as his king-
dom was a type of that of Christ, they denote the limited per-
petuity before mentioned^ as that which respected an adjunct of
the typical state of that people, that was to be regulated by it,
and commensurate unto it. Put as they were referred to the
kingdom of Christ represented in the other, an absolute perpetui-
ty is expressed in them. And this takes away the third reason,
excluding Solomon from being intended in these words ; the
perpetuity pronused being unto him limited and bounded.

These considerations being premised, I ^y, the words insisted
on by the apostle, « I will be unto him a Father, and he shall be
^ unto me a. son/' belonged first and next unto Solomon^ denoting
that fatherly love, and care, and protection, that God would af-
ford unta him in his kingdom, so far forth as Christ was repre-
sented by him therein ; which requires not that they must abso-
lutely, and in all just conse<)uences from them, belong unto the
person of Solomon. Principally therefore they intend Christ,
himself, exjMressing that eternal unchangeable love which the Fa-
ther bwe unto him, grounded on the relation of Father and

The Jews, I confess, of all others, do see least of any thing
typical in Solomon. But the reason of it is, because that his sin
was the occasion of ruining their carnal earthly glory and wealth,
which things alone they lust after. But the thing was doubtless
confessed by the church of old, with whom Paul had to do ; and
therefore we see, that the writer of the book of the Chronicles,
written after the return of the people from their captivity, when
Solomon's line had failed, and Zerubbabel of the house of Na-
than was governor amongst them, yet records again this promis«e,
as that which looked forward, and was yet to receive its fu)l a<:-
complishment in the Lord Christ. And some of the rabbins
themselves tell us, that Solomon, because of his sin, bad only
the name of peace, God stirring up adversaries ag^unst him : the
thing itself is to be looked for under Messiah Bep David.

The allegation of these words by the apostle being thus fiiBy

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186 dn Expotkum of tkt \Cbm. I.

and at large Vindicated, I shaH now briefly inqbire into tibe sense
and meaning of the words themselves.

It was before observed, that they are not prodoced by the
apostle to prove the natural sonship of Jesus Christ, nor do they
signify it ; nor were they urged by him to confirm darectly and
immediately this truth, that he is more excellent than the angels ;
of whom there is nothing spoken in them, nor in the jdace from
whence they are taken. But the apostle insists on this testimony,
merely in confirmation of his former argument, for the pre-emi-
nence of the Son above angels, taken from that more excellent
name which he obtained by inheritance ; which being the name
of the Son of God, he hereby proves that indeed he was so call-
ed by God himself.

Thus then do these words confirm the intention of the apos-
tle. For to which of the angels said God at any time, « I will
be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son." llie words
contain a great and signal privilege : they are spoken unto and
c<mceming the Messiah, and neither they, nor any thing equiva«
lent unto them, were ever spoken of any angel \ especially the
name of the Son of God, so emphatically, and in way of distin<«
tion firom all others, was never assigned unto any of them. And
this, as hath been already shewed, proves an eiriinency and pre-
eminence in him, above all that the angels attain unto. All this^
I say, follows from the peculiar signal appropriation of the name
of the Son of God unto him ; and his especial relation unto God
therein expressed.

We may briefly adjoin the intention of the words as in them-
selves considered, and so complete the exposition of them. Now
God promiseth in them to be unto the Lord Christ as exalted
mto his throne, a Father, in love, care, and power, to protect and
carry him on in his rule unto the end of the world. And there-
fore upon his ascension he says, that he went unto his God and
Father, John xx. 17. and he rules in the name and majesty of
God, Mic. V. 4. This is the import of the words : they intend
not the eternal and natural relation, that is between the Father
and Son, which neither b, nor can be the subject of any promise^
but the paternal care of God over Christ in his kingdom, and the
deamess of Christ himself unto him.

If it be asked on what account God would thus be a Father
unto Jesus Christ, in this peculiar manner, it mus^ be answered,
that the radical fundamental cause of it lay in the relation that
was between them from his eternal generation i but he manifest-
ed himself to be his Father, and engaged to deal with him in the
love and care of a Father, as he had accomplished his work of
mediation on the earth, and was exalted unto hit throne and rtde
b heaven*

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Vfilt. 5.] E^tk ^ Hk aSrekfs. im

And this is the first argument cyf the apottie» whereby he proftt
that the Son, as the revealer of the mind and will of Gcd in the.
gospely is mad^ more exce^nt than the aiigel9» whtise giory was
a refuge to the Jews in their adherence to bgal rites and adAiU
nistrations, eten because they were given unto them by the di*-
positton of angels.

According irtito our proposed method, we ttust in our progreat
^aw hence abo ^dotee instructions far cm own use' and edifici^
tioB. As^

first, Every thing in the Sa4pture is instnictive«^T1ie apo»*
tle^s arguing ixt this pfoce is not so mudi from the thing spc^en^
us from the natmer wherein it is ^ke^i ; even that sdso is high-
ly mysterious. So are all the concernments of it. Nothing in it
is needless, nothing usele^ Men somdimes perplex themselves
to find out th^ suitableness of some testimonies prodaeed out of
the Old TestanAent, nnto the confirmtttion of things and doctrines
in the New, by tfie penmen of the Holy Ghost ; When all the
diffictilty ariseth from a fond conceit, that they can apprehettd
the depth and bre^h of the wisdom that is laid up in any one
text of Scripture, when the Hc4y Ghost may have a principal
akn at those things which they a^e not able to dive into. Every
letter and tikle Of it is teaching, and every thing chat retoci»
onto it b instructive in the mind of God. And it nmst be ^^

1. It proceeds from infinite Wisdom, which hath pot an im-
pressicm of itself tilpon it, and filled all its capacity wkh its bless,
ed effects. In the whole frame, structure and order of it, in the
sense, words, coherence, expression, it is filled with wisdom,
which makes the commandment exceeding broad and large, so
that there is no absolute comprehension of it in this life. We
cannot perfectly trace the footsteps of infinite Wisdom, nor find
out all theefl^cts and characters of itsdf, which k hath left upon
the word. The whole Scripture is frill (rf wisdom, as the sea
is of water, i«4uch fills and covers all the parts of it. And,

a. Becaftse it was to be very comprehensive. It was to con*
tain directly or by consequence, one way or other, the whole re*
delation of God unto us, and all our duty unto him, both which
are marvellous, great, large and various. Now this could not
have been done in so narrow a room, unless every part <^ it, and
all the concerns of it> with its idiole order, had been filled with
mysteries, and expressions or intimations of the tnind and will of
God. It could not hence be, that any thing superfiuous should
be put into it, or any thing be in it, rtiat should not lehte to
teaching and insttuction.

9. It is that which God hath given unto his servants, for their
iOBtjnuai ^erAe day and night in tfaie world. A»d te theiir ift-

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15S Jn Expotititm of the [Chap. I.

quiry Into it, he requires of them their utmost diligence and en-
.deavours. This being assigned for their dutyi it was convenient
unto divine Wisdom and Goodness to find them blessed and use-
ful work in the whole Scripture, to exercise themselves about^
that every where they might meet with that which might satisfy
their inquiry, and answer their industry. There shall never be
any time or strength lost or mispent» that is laid out according to
the mind of God in and about his word. The matter, the words»
the order» the contexture of them, the scope, design and aim of
the Holy Ghost in them, all and every one of them, may well
take up the utmost of our diligence : all are divine. Nothing is
empty, unfurnished, or unprepared for our 8{Hritual use, advan-
tage and benefit. Let us Uien learn hence,

. 1. To admire, and as one said of old, to adore the fulness of
the Scripture, or of the wisdom of God in it. It is all full of di-
vine wisdom, and calls for our reverence, in the consideration of it.
And indeed a constant awe of the majesty, authority and holi.
ness of God in his word, is the only teachable frame. Proud
and careless spirits see nothing of heaven or divinity in the
word ; but the humble are made wise in it.

2. To stir up and exercise our faith and diligence to the ut-
most in our study and search of the Scripture. It is an endless
store-house, a bottomless treasure of divine jtruth. Gold is in
every sand. All the wise men in the worid may every one for
himself learn somewhat out of every word of it, and yet leave
enough still behind them for the instruction of all those that shall
come after tliem. The fountains and springs of wisdom in it are
endless, and will never be dry. We may have much truth and
power out of a word, sometimes enough, but never all that is in
it. There will still be enough remaining to exercise and refresh
us anew for ever. So that we may attain a true sense, but we
can never attain the full sense of any place : we can never ex-
haust the whole impression of infinite wisdom that is on the
word. And how should this stir us up to be meditating in it
day and night ; and many the like inferences may hence be taken.
Learn also,

Secondly, That it is lawful to draw consequences from Scrip,
ture assertions, and such consequences rightly deduced are infal-
libly true, and de fide. Thus, from the name given uuto Christ,
the apostle deduceth by just consequence his exaltation and pre-
eminence above angels. Nothing will rjghtly follow from truth,
but what is so also -, and that of the same nature with the truth
from whence it is derived. So that whatever by just consequence
is drawn from the word of God, is itself also the wwd of God,
and of truth in&llible. And to deprive the church of this liberty
in the interpretation of the word^ is to deprive it of the chief be*

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Veil 5.] Epistle to the Hebret09. IS9

nefit intended by it. This is that on which the whole ordinance
of preaching is founded^ which makes chat which is derived out
ill the word, to have the powers authority and efficacy of the
WOTd accompanying it. Thus though it be the proper work and
effect of the word of God to quicken, regenerate, sanctify and
purify the elect> and the word primarily and directly is. only that,
which is written in the Scriptures, yet we find all these effects
produced in and by the preaching of the word, when perhaps
not one sentence of the Scripture is verbatim repeated. And the
reason hereof is, because whatsoever is directly deduced, and de-
livered according to the mind and appointment of God from the
word, is the word of God, and hath the power, authority and ef-
ficacy of the word accompanying it.

Thirdly, The declaration of Christ to be the Son of God, is

Online LibraryJohn OwenAn exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews: with preliminary ..., Volume 3 → online text (page 19 of 70)