Notes on Hebrews 2:17-18

Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest1 in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation2 for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted3.

  • 1 Heb 4:14, 5:1, 10:21
  • 2 1 Jn 2:2, 1 Jn 4:10
  • 3 Heb 4:14, 1 Cor 10:13, James 1:12, 1 Pet 1:6, 2 Pet 2:9

These verses complete the argument (begun in 1:4) that Christ, though made lower in His incarnation, is far superior to the angelic beings (1:4-2:18). Verses 10-18 of Chapter 2 ennumerate several reasons why the Son of God became the Son of Man: for the suffering of death, to sanctify his brethren, destroy the work of the devil, to make reconciliation as a faithful high priest, and to succor those that are tempted. These last two are the focus of verses 17 and 18.

Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God

  • The Son of God became man so that he might be a faithful high priest for men.
  • Incarnation

  • Wherefore (ὅθεν) – Drawing a conclusion from what has been stated: “he took on him the seed of Abraham
  • It behoved him – “to be under obligation” (Strong). It was Christ’s ‘necessary obligation’ to be made like his brethren, in order to make reconciliation for them.
  • all things (κατὰ πάντα). It is always necessary to qualify the word ‘all’ when we find it in Scripture. The “all things” or “every thing” here does not include our sinful nature and those things that result from it – sickness, depression, hate, lust, etc.
  • Christ was like us in that He was: hungry, thirsty, and tired; needed sleep and food; He loved, marveled, was saddened and astonished; He grew, He studied, and He prayed, etc.
  • Q: Why would the Son of Glory subject Himself to this humiliation? A: “that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest”.
  • High Priest

  • Why did the Son of God need to become man in order to be a faithful high priest?
    • Because of the infinite distance between God and men (1 Tim 6:16)
    • Because of the enmity between God and men (Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21).
    • Conclusion: No immediate access for man to God without a priest: (one mediator, 1 Tim 2:5), (through Christ we have access to God, Eph 2:18, Eph 3:12)
  • merciful and faithful – Christ is merciful to us fallen creatures and faithful to God the Father.
  • Having trod the same path as His suffering and tried people, Christ is able to enter into their afflictions. He is not like an angel, who has never experienced pain. He is Man; nor are His sympathies impaired by His exaltation to heaven. The same human heart beats within the bosom of Him who sits at God’s right hand as caused Him to weep over Jerusalem! To be “faithful” means that His compassions are regulated by holiness, His sympathies are exercised, according to the requirements of God’s truth. There is a perfect balance between His maintenance of God’s claims and His ministering to our infirmities.
    (AW Pink)

  • More on the High Priestly role of Christ – see: Heb 4:14, 5:1, 10:21

to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

  • make reconciliation (ἱλάσκομαι) – to become propitious, be placated or appeased (Thayer)
    • Rendered “to make propitiation” in ESV, ASV, HCSB, NASB, and YLT.
    • Noun form (ἱλασμός) of ἱλάσκομαι:
      • 1 Jn 2:2 – “he is the propitiation for our sins
      • 1 Jn 4:10 – [God] “sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

    Reconciliation is between God and us; propitiation is solely God-ward. Propitiation was the appeasing of God’s holy anger and righteous wrath; reconciliation is entering into the peace which the atoning sacrifice of Christ has procured.
    (AW Pink)

  • Climax of the argument about WHY the Son of God became man -> so that He might propitiate God on our behalf!
  • In the time of the law, a man must have been a kinsman to be a redeemer (Lv 25, Ruth 4)
  • “the sins of the people”. Which people? The children God gave to Christ (vs 13), the seed of Abraham (vs 16, see Gal 3:29), His brothers (vs 17)
  • “A universal atonement …is an invention of Satan, with the design of casting dishonor upon Christ. …[An atonement which] is theoretically sufficient for everybody, yet in itself efficient for nobody, is a fictitious imagination, which finds lodgment only in those who are vainly puffed up by a fleshly mind.” (AW Pink)

For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

  • The final reason why the Son became man
  • Christ has never sinned (1 Pet 2:22) or even longed to sin, but He has been tempted (Heb 4:14), and so He is merciful to those who ask for help (1 Cor 10:13) when they are tempted.
  • [Christ] “was in all points tempted like as [we are, yet] without sin”. (Heb 4:14)
  • Temptation – 1 Cor 10:13, James 1:12, 1 Pet 1:6, 2 Pet 2:9


Oh, what a Savior is ours! The all-mighty God; yet the all-tender Man. One who is as far above us in His original nature and present glory as the heavens are above the earth: yet One who can be “touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” One who is the Creator of the universe; yet One who became Man, lived His life on the same plane ours is lived, passed through the same trials we experience, and suffered not only as we do, but far more acutely. How well-fitted is such a One to be our great High Priest! How self-sufficient He is to supply our every need! And how completely is the wisdom and grace of God vindicated for having appointed His blessed Son, to be made, for a season, lower than the angels! May our love for Him be strengthened and our worship deepened by the contemplation of what has been before us in these first two chapters of Hebrews.
(AW Pink)


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