Notes on Hebrews 3:15-19


While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts1, as in the provocation2. For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses3. But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?4 And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief5.

  • 1 Rom 2:5
  • 2 Ps 95:8
  • 3 Dt 1:19-40
  • 4 Num 14:29
  • 5 Heb 4:6

The writer continues his exposition of Psalm 95.

While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.

    • While it is said… What God has spoken, He continues to speak
    • Two things are impressed upon men:
      1. “hear his voice”
      2. “harden not your hearts”
    • This duty is to be performed promptly: today
    • To day” As each day is a new today, so God calls us *daily* to respond in faith and grow in grace
    • On the hardness of heart:
      • John 12:40 – “[The Lord] hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.
      • Rom 2:5 – “But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.
    • Hardness of heart is always tied to unbelief: Mark 3:5, 6:52, 8:17, 10:5, 16:14

Alas, by nature we are hard-hearted: and what we call good and soft-hearted is not so in reality and in God’s sight When we receive God’s word in the heart, when we acknowledge our sin, when we adore God’s mercy, when we desire God’s fellowship, when we see Jesus, who came to save us, to wash our feet and shed His blood, for our salvation, the heart becomes soft and tender. For repentance, faith, prayer, patience, hope of heaven, all these things make the heart tender: tender towards God, tender towards our fellow-men… (Adolph Saffir)

For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses.

  • provocation is the act of inciting anger
  • Provocation here refers to the murmuring and lack of faith of the Hebrews in the Wilderness. Because of their lack of faith, none of those that left Egypt, except for Caleb and Joshua, were permitted to enter the promised land (Dt 1:19-40).
  • …howbeit not all… Caleb and Joshua are the pattern of the man of faith who follows God’s Word in spite of opposition

But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness?

  • He refers to their dead bodies as “fallen carcases” to show God’s utter contempt of them for their lack of faith
  • The people’s chief sin was unbelief. All their other sins (murmuring, idolatry, lust) flowed from that
  • The destruction of that generation serves as an example to us: 1 Cor 10:5-11

And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?

  • to them that believed not (τοῖς ἀπειθήσασιν). ἀπειθέω means “to be disobedient, refuse compliance” (LSJ), “not to allow one’s self to be persuaded, to refuse or withhold belief, to refuse belief and obedience” (Thayer)
  • ἀπειθέω – see Rom 2:5, 10:21
  • Perhaps translated “unbelievers” here because of what follows…

So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.

“The apostle does not single out the sin of making and worshipping the golden calf; he does not bring before us the flagrant transgressions into which they fell at Beth-peor. Many much more striking and to our mind more fearful sins could have been pointed out, but God thinks the one sin greater than all is unbelief. We are saved by faith; we are lost through unbelief. The heart is purified by faith; the heart is hardened by unbelief. Faith brings us nigh to God; unbelief is departure from God”
(Adolph Saffir>

Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. (Heb 3:12)

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