John Owen.

The works of John Owen (Volume 12) online

. (page 17 of 70)
Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 17 of 70)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


under the type of David, yet then also whatever is spoken in it
must firstly and properly be understood of David. So that if the
words insisted on by the apostle do prove that the Lord Christ was
made more excellent than the angels, they prove the same concern-
ing David also, concerning whom they were spoken in the first
place.

Ans. 1. There is no cogent reason why we should acknowledge
David and his kingdom to be at all intended in this psalm. The
apostles, we see, apply it unto the Lord Christ without any mention
of David, and that four several times, — twice in the Acts, and twice
in this epistle. The Jews acknowledge that it belongs unto the
Messiah. Besides, there are sundry things spoken in the psalm
that could never truly and properly be applied unto David. Such
are the promises, verses 8, 9, and the invitation of all men to put
their trust and confidence in him, verse 12. And we have a rule
given us by the Holy Ghost, — That where any thing seems to be
spoken of any one to whom it doth not properly belong, there the
person is not at all to be understood, but the Lord Christ himself
immediately. This rule Peter gives us in his interpretation of the
Ifith psalm, and his application of it unto the Lord Jesus, Acts
ii. 29-3 L So that there is no necessity to grant that there is any
reference in these words to any type at all. But, —

2. We grant that David was a type of Christ, and that as he
was king ot the people of God. Hence he is not only often sig-
nally called "The son of David," but "David" also, Jer. xxx. 9;
Ezek. xxxvii. 24, 25; Hos. iii. 5. And the throne and kingdom
promised to David for ever and ever, that it should be as the sun,
and established for ever as the moon, Ps, Ixxxix. 36, 37, — that is,
whilst the world endures, — had no accomplishment but in the tin one
and kingdom of his Son, Jesus Christ. Thus also many other thiugs
are said of him and his kingdom, which in propriety of speech can
no way be applied unto him but as he was a type of Christ, and
represented him to the church. We may then grant, as that about
which we will not contend, that in this psalm consideration was had
of David and his kingdom, but not absolutely, but only as a type
of Christ. And hence two things will follow: —

(1.) That some things may be spoken in the psalm which no
way respect the type at all. For when not the type, but the person



iS4> AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CIIAP. U

or thing signified, is principally aimed at, it is not necessary that
every thing spoken thereof should be applicable pi'ojjerly unto tlie
type itself, it being sufficient that there was in the type somewhat
that bare a general resemblance unto him or that which was princi-
pally intended. So, on the contrary, where the type is principally
intended, and an application made to the thing signified only by
Avay of general allusion, there it is not required that all the particu-
lars assigned unto the type should belong unto or be accommodated
unto the thing typed out, as we shall see in the next testimony cited
by the apostle. Hence, though in general David and his deliver-
ance from trouble, with the establishment of his throne, might be
respected in this psalm, as an obscure representation of the kingdom
of Christ, yet sundi'y particulars in it, and among them this men-
tioned by our apostle, seem to have no respect unto him, but directly
and immediately to intend the Messiah.

(2.) If it yet be supposed that what is here spoken, " Thou art
my Son, this day have I begotten thee," is also to be applieil unto
David, yet it is not ascribed unto him personally and absolutely,
but merely considered as a type of Christ. What, then, is princi-
pally and directly intended in the words is to be sought for in
Christ alone, it being sufficient tg preserve the nature of the type
that there was in David any resemblance or representation of it'.

Tlius, whether David be admitted as a type of Christ in this psalm
or no, the purpose of the apostle stands firm, that the words were
principally and properly spoken of the Messiah, and unto liim. And
this is the first thing required in the application of the testimony
insisted on.

Secondly, It is required that in the testimony produced a signal
name be given unto the Messiah, and appropriated unto him, so as
that he may inherit it for ever as his own, neither men nor angels
having the same interest with him in it. It is not being called by
this or that name in common with others that is intended, but such
a peculiar assignation of a name unto him as whereby he might for
ever be distinguished from all others. Thus many may be beloved
of the Lord, and be so termed, but yet Solomon only was peculiarly
called '^V]"'"!^, " Jedidiah;" and by that name was distinguished from
others. In this way it is that the Messiah hath his name assigned
unto him. God decreed from eternity that he should be called by
that name; he spake unto him and called him by that name: "Thou
art my Son, this day have I begotten thee." He is not called the
Son of God upon such a common account as angels and men, — the
one by creation, the other by adoption; but God peculiarly and in a
way of eminency gives this name unto him.

Thirdly, This name must be such as either absolutely, or by rea-
son of its peculiar manner of ajjpropriation unto the Messiah, proves



VER. 5.] EPISTLE TO TflE HEBREWS. 135

his pre-eminence above the angels. Now, the name designed is TJie
Son of God: " Thou art my Son;^' not absolutely, but with that ex(v
getical atljunct of his generation, " This day have I begotten thee."
Chrysostom, Horn, xxii., on Gen. vi., positively denies that the angels
in Scripture are anywhere called the sons ot God. Hence some con-
jecture that the translation of the LXX. is changed since that time,
seeing it is evident that they are so called in the Greek Bibles now
extant.

However, in the original they are called " the sons of God," Job
i. 6, ii. 1, xxxviii. 7; Ps. Ixxxii. G. Believers are also called "the sons
of God," Horn. viii. 16; Gal. iv b; 1 John iii. 1; and magistrates
"gods," Ps. Ixxxii. 1, 6; John x. 34. It doth not therefore appear
how the mere assigning of this name to the Messiah doth prove his
pre-eminence above the angels, who are also called by it.

Ans. Angels may be called the sons of God upon a general ac-
count, and by virtue of their participation in some common privilege;
as they are l)y reason of their creation, like Adam, Luke iii. ult., and.
constant obedience. Job i. But it was never said unto any angel
personally, upon his own account, " Thou art the son of God." God
never said so unto any of them, especially with the reason of the
appellation annexed, " This day have I begotten thee." It is not,
then, the general name of a son, or the sons of God, that the apostle
instanceth in; bat the peculiar assignation of this name unto the
Lord Je.sus on his own particular account, with the reason of it an-
nexed, " This day have I begotten thee," which is insisted on. So
that here is au especial appropriation of this glorious name unto the
Messiah.

Again, The aiipropriation of this name unto him in the man-
ner expressed proves his dignity and pre-eminence above all the
angels. For it is evident that God intended thereby to declare his
singular honour and glory, giving him a name to denote it, that was
never by him assigned unto any mere creature, as hi.s j^oculiar inhe-
ritance; in particular, not unto any of the angels. Not one of them
can lay any claim unto it as his peculiar heritage from the Lord.

And this is the whole that was incumbent on the apostle to prove
by the testimony produced He manifests him sufficiently to be
more excellent than the angels, from the excellency of the name
which he inherits, according to his proposition before laid down.
There is, indeed, included in this reasoning of the aposlle an inti-
mation of a peculiar filiation and sonshijD of Christ. Had he not
been so the Son of God as never any angel or other creatiu-e was, he
never had been called so in such a way as they are nevi'r so called.
But this the apostle at present doth not expressly insist upon; only,
he intimates it as the foundation of his discourse.

To conclude, then, our considerations of this testimony, we shall



136 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CUAP. L

Li iefly inquire after the sense of the words themselves, absolutely
considered ; although, as I have showed, that doth not belong di-
rectly unto the present argument of the apostle.

Expositors are much divided about the precise intendment of
these words, both as they are used in the psalm, and variously ap-
plied by the apostles. But yet generally the expositions given of
them are pious, and consistent with each other. I shall not insist
long upon them, because, as I said, their especial sense belongeth
not unto the design and argument of the apostle.

That Chi'ist is the natural and eternal Son of God is agreed at
this day by all Christians, save the Socinians. And he is called so
because he is so. The formal reason why he is so called is one and
the same, namely, his eternal Sonship; but occasions of actual as-
cribing that name unto him there are many. And hence ariseth
the difficulty that is found in the words. Some think tiiese words,
" This day have I begotten thee," do contain the formal reason of
Christ's being properly called the Son of God, and so denote his
eternal generation. Others think they express only some outward
act of God towards the Lord Christ, on the occasion whereof he was
declared to be the Son of God, and so called. The former way went
Austin, with sundry of the ancients. The Di'D, the "hodie," or
" this day," here, was the same with them as the " nunc stans," as
they call it, of eternity; and the '^^^7- •' "I have begotten thee,"
denotes, as they say, the proper natural generation of the Son, by
an inconceivable communication of the essence and substance of the
Godhead by the person of the Father unto him. And this doctrine
is true, but whether here intended or no is by some greatly ques-
tioned.

Others, thei'efore, take the words to express only an occasion of
giving this name at a certain season to the Lord Christ, when he was
revealed or declared to be the Son of God. And some assign this
to the day of his incarnation, when he declared him to be his Son,
and that he should be so called, as Luke i. 35; some to the day of
his baptism, when he was again solemnly from heaven proclaimed
so to be, Matt. iii. 17; some to the day of his resurrection, when he
was declared to be the Son of God with power, Rom. i. 4, and Acts
xiii. 33 ; some to the day of his ascension, whereunto these words
are applied. And all these interpretations are consistent, and recon-
cilable witii each other, inasmuch as they are all means serving
unto the same end, that of his resurrection from the dead being the
most signal amongst them, and fixed on in particular by our apostle
in his application of this testimony unto him, Acts xiii. 33.

And in this sense alone the words have any appearance of respect
unto David, as a type of Christ, seeing he was said, as it were, to be
begotten of God when he raised him up, and established him in his



VER. 5.] EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 137

rule and kingdom. Neither, indeed, doth the apostle treat in this
place of the eternal generation of the Son, but of his exaltation and
pre-eminence above angels.

The word I3i'!], also, constantly in the Scripture denotes some sig-
nal time, one day or more. And that expression, " This day have
I begotten thee," following immediately upon that other typical one,
" I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion/' seems to be of the
same importance, and in like manner to be interpreted. Thus far,
then, I choose to embrace the latter interpretation of the word:^, —
namely, that the eternal generation of Christ, on which his filiaticm
or sonship, both name and thing, doth depend, is to be taken only
declaratively; and that declaration to be made in his resurrection,
and exaltation over all that ensued thereon. But every one is left
unto the liberty of his own judgment herein.

And this is the first testimony whereby the apostle confirms his
assertion of the pre-eminence of the Lord Christ above the angels,
from the name that he inherits as his peculiar right and possession.

For the further confirmation of the same truth, he adds another
testimony of the same importance, in the words ensuing: —

7"e7'. 5. — Ka/ vdXiv 'Eyuj iGo/xai ahriZ ug Tarspa, zai avrog iGrai fioi
£/g v'lov ;

Vulg.: "Et rursum.ego ero illi in patrem, ct ipse erit mihi in filium;" — " I will he
to him lor a father, and he shall he to ine for a son." So also the Syriac, ''7*»?
anil '*"-^', " in pati'cm," and " in filium;" not "pro patre," and " profiHo," as some
render the words. Erasmus worse than they: "Eg-o ero ei loco patris, et ille
erit mihi loco filii;" — "Instead of a father," and "instead of a son," or, "in
the place;" which agrees not with the letter, and corrupts the sense. Beza:
" Ego ero ei pater, et ipse erit mihi filius ;" who is followed by ours, " And agam,
I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son."

Kocl Troi'hiv, " and again." That is, in another place, or " again,"^ it is said
to the Son what is nowhere spoken unto the angels. ''Ey^j 'hoficci, — ""~~1|.~^ "'??^
■|3-5 ^~~~^~^^ sl-'i 3S5^ The prefi.Ked 'j doth not denote a suh-tituiion or (onipari-
son, but the truth of the thing itself. So it is said of Rebekah, ""f*?? "''"^"'i'],
" she was unto him," not " for," or " instead of," or " in the place of," but " his
wife," Gen. xxiv. 67. And in the words of the covenant, Jer. x.\xi. 33, "I will
be to them ^^'^''*?, and they sliall be to me ^j'?: not, " I will be unto them instead
of God, and they shall be unto me instead of a people;" but, " I will be their
Gi)d, and they shall be my people." And the same is the signification of thesa
words, " I will be his father, and he shall be my son."'



• The quotation is from 2 Sam. vii. 14. The etc is Hebraistic, equivalent to h.
Efforts have been made to explain this ])assage exclusively either of Sol. mon or of
Christ; but in vain. The conuxt will not alloA such a limiiation. The "seed"
predicted is a royal progeny, — not merely an individual son, but a succ< ssion of
kings; and as the Me.-siah is the most "distinguished and gloi-ious, whatever ot
dignity and of honour is asserted or implied in the context is properly attributable
to him, — 'Turner. — Ed.



13S AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CHAP. I.

Yer. 5. — And again, I will be to him a father, and he
shall be to me a son ?

This is the second testimony produced by the apostle to prove the
pre-eminence of the Lord Christ above the angels, from the excel-
lency of the name given unto him. One word, one witness, the
testimony being that of God, and not of man, had been sufficient to
have evinced the truth of his assertion; but the apostle adds a
second here, partly to manifest the importance of the matter he
treated of, and partly to stir them up unto a diligent search of the
Scripture, where the same truths, especially those that are of most
concernment unto us, are scattered up and down in sundry places,
as the Holy Ghost had occasion to make mention of them. This is
that mine of precious gold which we are continually to dig for and
search after, if we intend to grow and to be rich in the knowledge
of God in Christ, Prov. ii. 3, 4. Expositors do generally perplex
themselves and their readers about the application of these words
unto the Lord Christ. Cajetan, for this cause, that this testimony
is not rightly produced nor applied as it ought, rejects the whole
epistle as not written by the apostle, nor of canonical authority.
Such instances do even wise and learned men give of their folly
and self-fulness every day. The conclusion that he makes must
needs be built on these two suppositions: — First, That whatever any
man might or could apprehend concer-ning the right application
of this testimony, he himself might and could so do; for other-
wise he might have acknowledged his own insufficiency, and have
left the solution of the difficulty unto them to whom God should 1)6
pleased to reveal it. Secondly, That when men of any generation
cannot understand the force and efficacy of the reasonings of the
penmen of the Holy Ghost, nor discern the suitableness of the tes-
timonies thay make use of unto the things they produce them iu
the confirmation of, they may lawfully reject any portion of Scrip-
ture thereon. The folly and iniquity of which principles or sujjpo-
sitions are manifest.

The application of testimonies out of the Old Testament in tlie
New depends, as to their authority, on the veracity of him that
maketh use of them; and as to their cogency in argument, on the
acknowledgment of them on whom they are pressed. Where we
find these concurring, as in this place, there remains nothing for
us but to endeavour a right understanding of what is in itself
infallibly true, and unquestionably cogent unto the ends for which
it is used.

Indeed, the main difficulty which in this place expositors gene-
rally trouble themselves withal ariseth ptuely from their own mis-
take. They cannot understand how these words should prove the



VER. 5.J EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 1 39

natural sonsliip of Jesus Christ, which they suppose tliey are pro-
duced to confirm, seeing it is from thence tliat lie is exalted above
the angels. But the truth is, the words are not designed by the
apostle unto any such end. His aim is oidy to prove that the Lord
Christ hath a name assigned unto him more excellent, either iu
itself or in the manner of its attribution, than any that is given
unto the angels, Avhich is the medium of this first argument to prove
him, not as the eternal Son of God, nor in respect of his human
nature, but as the revealer of the will of God in the gos[jel, to be
preferred above all the angels in heaven, and consequentlv, in par-
ticidar, above those whose ministry was used in the giving of the
law.

Two things, then, are necessary to render this testimony effectual
to the pm'pose for which it is cited by the apostle ; — first. That it was
originally intended of him to whom he doth apply it; secondly,
That there is a name in it assigned unto him more excellent than
any ascribed unto the angels.

For the first of these, we must not waive the difficulties that in-
terpreters have either found out in it, or cast upon it. The words
are taken from 2 Sam. vii. 14, and are part of the answer returned
from God unto David by Nathan, upon his resolution to build him
a house. The whole oracle is as followeth: Verses 11-16, "The
Lord telleth thee that he will make thee an house. And when thy
days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up
thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I
will establish his kingdom." (Or as 1 Chron. xvii. 11, "And it
shall come to pass, when thy days be expired, that thou must go to
be with thy fathers, that I will raise up thy seed after thee, which
shall be of thy sons; and I will establish his kingdom,") " He shall
build an house for my name ; and I will establish the throne of his
kingdom for ever." (1 Chron. xvii. 12, " He shall build me an
house, and I will stablish his throne for ever.") " I will be his
father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chas-
ten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children
of men : 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 from iiim, as I took it from him that was before
thee.") "And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established
for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever,"
(1 Chron. xvii. 14, "But I will settle him in mine liouse and in
my kingdom lor ever: and his throne shall be established for ever-
more.")

Tiiis is the whole divine oracle from whence the apostle takes the
testimony under consideration; and the difficulty wherewith it is



140 AN EXPOSITION OF THE [CHAP L

attended ariseth from hence, that it is not easy to apprehend how
any thing at all in these words should be appropriated 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 other-
wise be loosed, affirm that Solomon is not at all intended in these
words, but that they are a direct and immediate prophecy of Christ,
who was to be the son of David, and to build the spiritual house or
temple of God. And for the confirmation of this assertion they
produce sundry reasons frotn the oracle itself; as, —

(1.) 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 prophecy.

(2.) It is also affirmed that this son or seed shouhl reign and sit
upon the throne of David after his decease, and being gathered
unto his fathers; whereas Solomon was made king and sat upon tlie
throne whilst David was yet alive, and not entered into rest wiih
his fathers.

(3.) The throne of this son is to be established for ever, or as the
same promise is ex}>ressed, Ps. Ixxxix., whilst the sun and moon
continue; — the throne of Solomon and his posterity tailed withia
a few generations.

(4.) The title there given unto him who is directly prophesied of
shows him, as our apostle intimates, to be preferred above all the
angels; and none will say that Solomon was so, who, as he was
inferior to them in nature and condition, so by sin he greatly pro-
voked the Lord against himself and his posterity.

But yet all these observations, though they want not some ap-
pearance and probability of reason, come short of proving evidently
what they are produced for, as we may briefly manifest ; for, —

(1.) It doth not appear that Solomon was born at the time of the
giving forth of this oracle, if we must suppose that God intimated
in it unto David that none of the sons which he 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 nati-
vity of the person intended, but his designation or exaltation to his
throne and office, as is the usual meaning of that expression in the
Scripture; so that Solomon might be intended, thougli bow 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 afterwards
he was.

(2.) Although a few days before the death of David, to prevent
sedition and division about titles and pretensions to the kingdom,
Solomon by his appointment was proclaimed king, or heir to the



VER. 5. EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS. 14.]

crown, yet he was not actually vested with the whole power of the
kingdom until after his natural decease. Moreover, also, David
being then very weak and feeble, and rendered unai^le for public
administration, the short remainder of his days after the inauciira^
tion of Solomon needed no observation in the propiiecy.

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 Nathan about building a house or material
temple unto God. Nathan returns him answer from God that he
shall not do so, but that his son should perform that work. This
answer David understands of his ivimediate son and of a material
house, and thereupon makes material provision lor it and prepara-
tion 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 his son nor the material temple, — it is evident that
he was led into a great mistake, by the ambiguity and equivocation
of the word ; but we find by the event that he was not, God ap-
proving and accepting of his obedience in what he did. It remains,
then, that Solomon firstly and immediately is intended in these
words.

2. Some, on the other hand, aflSrm the whole prophecy so to be-
long unto and so to be fulfilled in Solomon, and in him alone, that
there is no direct respect therein unto our Lord Jesus Christ, And



Online LibraryJohn OwenThe works of John Owen (Volume 12) → online text (page 17 of 70)