Who Was Jonah?

The questions below come from Chapter 4 of Volume 7 of BH Carroll‘s “An Interpretation of the English Bible.”

Who was Jonah and what was the time of his writing?

According to 2 Kings 14, he was the son of a prophet named Amittai and he
prophesied during the regin of King Jeroboam II in Israel.  He grew up in a
small town just north of Nazareth.

What are the New Testament scriptural references to the book of Jonah?

Matt 12:39-41, Matt 16:4, Luke 11:29-32 all record Jesus prophesying the “sign
of Jonah” to the evil generation of His day.

What is the purpose of this book?

1) To teach that salvation is possible for the gentiles
2) To illustrate true repentance – Jonah, Ninevites
3) To typify Christ

What is the style and character of the book?

The book is not prophetical, but rather historical.  It is included in the
prophets because Jonah was himself a prophet.

What doctrines are illustrated by the incidents of the book?

1) Resurrection (see Mt 12:39)
2) Repentance
3) Mercy and kindness of God
4) Will of God triumphs over the will of man

Give an account of Nineveh

– Nineveh was founded by Nimrod (Gn 10:11), as a colony of Babylon
– Shalmaaneser joined with Moab and Ammon against Israel, but the Israelites
were victorious
– Jonah teaches that Nineveh was a “great city” on the Tigris river and that
it’s breadth was 3 days journey (60 miles)
– According to Carroll, “Its walls were sixty feet high, with 1,500 towers, 200
feet high. The walls were broad enough on top to receive three chariots
driving side by side. It is almost certain that this city was larger than
Babylon, especially if we include in the estimate its suburbs.

What was the form of religion in Nineveh at this time?

– The Ninevites worshiped a fish god “merman” named Dagon.  Several carvings of this god have been found in excavations of the ancient city.  It is this same Dagon that the Philistines worshiped and in whose temple the Ark of the Covenant was placed, when it was captured (1 Sam 5).

What is the outline of this book?

1) Jonah’s disobedience and casting into the sea
2) Jonah’s deliverance from the sea
3) Jonah’s obedience and preaching
4) Jonah’s displeasure at God’s mercy

What were Jonah’s reasons for not wanting to go to Nineveh?

1) He hated the idolatrous gentiles
2) He knew God would be merciful to them, if they repented
3) Assyria was becoming a political threat to Israel

What was the casting lots in 1:7?

It was the method used to determine the Providence of Yahweh.  It was used in Acts 1 to determine which follower of Jesus would serve in Judas’ place as Apostle.

What was the remedy for the case as proposed by Jonah and how did it meet the approval of the sailors?

The sailors did not want to be guilty of innocent blood (by casting Jonah into the sea), but relented when they feared the storm would kill them. In this, the sailors showed a greater fear for the One True God than His prophet Jonah, who tried to flee from His will.

How do you explain their fearing Jehovah and sacrificing unto him?

When the sea stopped raging, after Jonah was thrown overboard, the sailors knew
that the powerful storm was from Yahweh.  They offered sacrifices to Him as
evidence of their faith in His power.

What about the fish that swallowed Jonah?

According to Carrol, the Mediterranean contains sperm whales and white sharks
large enough to swallow a man whole.

What was Jonah’s second commission?

God gave Jonah the opportunity to repent from his sin and a second chance to be
obedient to God’s will.  After this episode, Jonah was enabled to impress upon
the Ninevites the power of Yahweh over the Ninevite fish-god Dagon.  In 3:1-2,
we see God’s Call, God’s Commandment, and God’s Instruction.

What is God’s attitude toward sinners shown in 3:4?

God thunders the law of Sinai over sinners heads, but offers sweet mercy if they
repent.  In this case, Jonah repented from fleeing God’s will.  At the preaching
of Jonah, the Ninevites repent of their sins.  At the repentence of the
Ninevites, God repents of the calamity He threatened to bring on the city.

What happens in 3:5-10?

In 3:5-10, the people repent.  The sackcloth and fasting are evidences that followed
their faith and repentance.

How did Jonah receive the fact of the conversion of the Ninevites and God’s mercy to them and how did God deal with him?

Jonah demonstrated the heart of a legalist, because he was bitter that God showed
the Ninevites mercy.  God dealt gently with Jonah, by showing him the
illustration of the gourd.

How is the relation of the resurrection and the commission of Christ illustrated
in this book?

After Jonah was 3 days in the belly of fish, he came forth and preached
repentance and faith in God to the gentiles.  Christ was 3 days in the belly of
the earth, and resurrected, and by His Spirit preached repentance and faith in
God to the gentile nations.

An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign
be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days
and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and
three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in
judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at
the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. (Matt

Who Was Joel?

The questions below come from Chapter 3 of Volume 7 of BH Carroll‘s “An Interpretation of the English Bible.”

Who was Joel?

Joel was a prophet, the son of a Pethuel, and probably a resident of Jerusalem.  Not much else is known about him.

What the date of this prophecy?

The date of Jeol’s prophecy is unknown.  Older writers favor an older date during the reign of Joash (800s BC).  Newer authors put his writing in the 400s BC.

What the occasion of this prophecy?

The occasion of the prophecy is a plague of locusts which destroy the land and devour all the food.  The prophecy may refer to a literal plague or may represent in invading army (Babylon?) that destroys Israel.  The cause for the invasion is because of the sin of Judah.  Joel calls on Judah to repent in order to turn away the judgement of God.

To whom was this prophecy given and how do you explain the use of the name “Israel” in 2:27; 3:2, 16?

The prophecy is given to the Kingdom of Judah.  References to Israel are to the descendants of Jacob that live in the Southern Kingdom.

What are the essential points in the analysis of this book?

  • The Judgement of God
    • The locust invasion (1:1-20)
    • The Day of the LORD: Invasion of a northern army (2:1-17)
  • The Kingdom of God
    • God delivers Israel from the invaders (2:18-32)
    • The LORD judges all the nations (3:1-21)

What formula of introduction is found in the title to this book?

“The word of the LORD that came to Joel”

What the interpretation of the coming of the locusts?

Modern writers believe that the locust invasion was a literal plague that happened in Joel’s day.  According to Carrol and the older writers, the 4 locust invasions listed in Joel 1 are an allegory for 4 world powers that threaten the southern kingdom: Babylon, Persia, Greek, and Rome.

Carrol believes the invasion is not a literal locust invasion because:

  1. The writing is apocalyptic in nature.  It is a prophecy about a great national calamity, not an agricultural history
  2. A description is given in chapter 2 of a literal northern army invasion.  This is either a second calamity that will one day befall Israel, or it is describing, in literal terms, the allegory of chapter 1.
  3. The impact of the “Day of the LORD” is far worse than would be effected by a plague of locusts
  4. Rev 9:3-11 describe a locust invasion as a symbol for an invading army

According to this position, then how interpret 1:2 to 2:27?

According to the allegorical position, the locust invasion and “Day of the Lord” invasion of chapter 2 are the same invasion (perhaps Babylon or Assyria).  The invaders threaten total devastation, necessitating the repentance of Judah.  When Judah fasts and repents, God will have pity on His people and drive the invaders from the land.  He will then restore the fortunes of the nation (grain, wine, oil).

What is the promise in 2:28-32 and where do we find the fulfillment?

Afterward, God will pour out His spirit on “all flesh” (all kinds of people) – young and old, men and women will dream dreams and prophesy.  Peter applied the fulfillment of this prophecy to the resurrection of Christ and the outpouring of His Spirit on Pentecost:

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  …And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. …Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, …this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;  “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:  And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smokeThe sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come”  

(Acts 2:1-20)

What the judgments of 3:1-21 and when their fulfillment?

This is God’s Judgment on the heathen nations that oppose His people.  God summons them to the battlefield, where He pours out His wrath on them.

 The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. and [false spirits] go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.  …Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.  …God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath.

(Rev 16:12-19)

According to Carroll,  this event ushers in the millennium in which the Prince of Judah will win the victory over the world, bring about the full manifestation of His kingdom, and disseminate knowledge of Himself to the ends of the earth.

What ideas appear for the first time in Joel and what their application?

“Day of the LORD” – refers to a time of God’s Judgment – First on Israel which results in Israel’s conversion; and second upon the Heathen, which results in their destruction.  It finds its ultimate and final fulfillment in the last great day of judgment.

What the most important lessons of this book?

  1. God will punish disobedience
  2. He will be merciful to those that repent
  3. God will pour out His Spirit on His people in the last days
  4. God will save everyone who calls upon Him (2:32)
  5. Evil may triumph for a season, but God will have final victory over all things

Who Was Obadiah?

The questions below come from Chapter 1 of Volume 7 of BH Carroll‘s “An Interpretation of the English Bible.”

1. Who was Obadiah?

He was an prophet of Judah, whose name means “Servant of Jehovah”.  Nothing
else is known about him.

2. What the theme of his prophecy?

That Edom would be punished for taking advantage of Judah while Judah was
under attack by a foreign invader.

3. What the date and circumstances of this prophecy?

This is debatable.  Some think it takes place very early when the Philistines
and Arabians plundered Jerusalem because of the sins of Jehoram (2 Chron
21:16-17).  Other believe this prophecy came about during the initial stages
of the Babylonian captivity.

4. What was the attitude of Edom toward Israel and what the history which evidences this attitude?

The Edomites held hostility against the Israelites from the time of the split
between Jacob (father of Israel) and Esau (father of Edom); to the time when
the Edomites would not allow the Israelite slaves to travel from their land
after the exodus from Egypt.

The LORD says, through Obadiah, that the Edomites are full of pride and have
taken advantage of Israel during her distress by taking prisoners and
stealing her goods.

5. What of the general character of the book?

According to Carroll, “The style of Obadiah is remarkably original. …The
language is full of thought and pregnant with meaning. It has a vigor,
terseness, and rapidity which carry the reader along and place him by the
prophet’s side in fullest sympathy.”

6. What other passages of Scripture should be studied with Obadiah?

Jeremiah 49:7-22 and Ezekiel 35 both describe the arrogance of Edom and
God’s judgement against her.

7. Give a brief analysis of the book.

– vss 1-14:  God’s Judgement Because of Edom’s Arrogance and Treatment of Israel
– vss 15-21: The Day of the LORD and the Kingdom of God

8. What is the summary of verses 1-2?

God calls the nations to rise up against Edom to destroy her.

9. What was the character of the Edomites and what was the place of their security?

– The Edomites were proud and arrogant.
– The dwelt securely in the tops of the mountains

10. How is the completeness of the desolation described?

– Nothing will be left – it will be a complete desolation.

11. What reason did the prophet here assign for such desolation?

Edom sided with Israel’s enemies, plundered Israel, and rejoiced in her calamity.

12. What hope for Israel’s victory does the prophet here hold out to the people and how is it to be realized?

Israel will have final victory.  She will be as a flame and Edom will be as
stubble that will be burned and destroyed.

13. When were Obadiah’s prophecies fulfilled?

Edom was destroyed in the 6th Century BC by the Babylonians.  The survivors
pushed into the Negev region of Southern Judah – an area known as Idumea in
the New Testament.  These Idumeans were forced into Judaism and incorporated
into the Kingdom of Judah in the Second Century BC.

The LORD’s kingdom and Israelite posession of the Edomite land (modern
Jordan) will be fulfilled in the last days.

14. What are the lessons of the prophecy of Obadiah?

Love your brother
Pride goes before the fall
Beware of false confidence
Fear God’s wrath

Who Were the Later Prophets?

The questions below come from Chapter 1 of Volume 7 of BH Carroll‘s “An Interpretation of the English Bible.”

Introduction – The Prophets in General

1. What section of the Bible are we studying?

The later prophets

2. What can you say, in general, of the commentaries on this section?

Generally, older commentaries are better (pre-1880s), but some conservative modern works may be consulted judiciously.

3. What commentaries are especially commendable?

– Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
– Hengstenberg
– The Pulpit Commentary

4. What are the time limits of the prophetic period and what was the special mission of the prophets?

This period extends 700 years from Samuel to Malachi.

The mission of the prophets was to preach against the despotism of the kings and formalism of the priesthood.

5. What is the definition of the word “prophet”?

The Greek word (prophetes) means “to speak for”, i.e. on behalf of another, so the prophet is one that speaks on behalf of God to man.

6. By what words or terms were the prophets known? Give an illustration of each.

Hebrew nabhi  – means “speaker”
Hebrew ro’eh  – means “seer”
Hebrew chozeh – means “messenger”

also called, “man of God”, “servant of Jehovah”, etc.

7. What can you say about the inspiration of the prophets?

Their minds were stimulated and guided by the Holy Spirit as they proclaimed the message of Jehovah.

For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Pet 1:21)

8. What can you say about prophecy and fulfillment, and what does Orelli say
   about fulfillment of prophecy?

Many prophecies receive successive fulfillments, but one fulfillment is higher and greater than all the rest.  Orelli says, A prophecy can only be regarded as fulfilled when the whole body of truth included in it has attained living realization.”

9. What were the three great periods of writing prophets and who were the writing prophets of each of these periods?

The Assyrian Period, the Chaldean Period, and the Persian Period.

The Assyrian Period:

1) Obadiah
2) Joel
3) Jonah
4) Amos
5) Hosea
6) Isaiah
7) Micah
8) Nahum

The Chaldean Period:

1) Zephaniah
2) Habakkuk
3) Jeremiah
4) Ezekiel
5) Daniel

The Persian Period:

1) Haggai
2) Zechariah
3) Malachi

10. What are the three distinct elements for which a student of the prophets should look?

1) The historical context in which the prophet lived
2) The fulfillment (past or future) of the prophet’s message
3) Age-abiding principles that speak to our age

11. What are certain things that should be remembered in a study of the prophets?

1) Sovereignty of God
2) Obedience to God
3) Glory to God
4) A living hope that God would have ultimate victory

12. What are important considerations in the interpretation of prophecy?

1) Their teaching was full of figures, symbols, parables, and allegories to confound the simple and unbelieving.
2) Understanding the Pentateuch is necessary to understand these figures and symbols

13. What are the underlying themes found throughout predictive prophecy?

1) The failure of the Jewish nation
2) The coming of the Jewish Messiah
3) The establishment of the Messiah’s Kingdom
4) The restoration of the Jews to that Kingdom
5) The spread of that Kingdom over the whole earth

What Was the Assyrian Empire?

The Name

The name Assyria is derived from the Greek name Ashur (a descendant of Cush). According to Genesis 10, Cush was one of the sons of Ham, and Cush begat Nimrod the mighty hunter. Nimrod was apparently a builder, as he founded Babel, as well as other important early cities in the land of Shinar (the region we now call Mesopotamia). Out of this region went Ashur, who built the prime cities of the region – Nineveh, Rehoboth, and Calah. These cities are located in the Tigris river valley in northern modern day Iraq (south of the present city of Mosul).


The Assyrian Empire extended from its chief city-state Assur in upper Mesopotamia on the Tigris River. At its peak, it extended from Babylon in the South, to the Kurdish mountains in the North. It occupied the Persian lands now known as Iran and extended as far west as Egypt. The Empire fell in the third century before Christ and was later conquered by the Medes and Romans. It was a hotbed of Christian growth for several centuries before the region was conquered by the Islamic Arabs.


The religion, art, and culture of Assyria was greatly derived from the Babylonians. The national god of the Assyrian people was Assur, who had the Assyrian King as his high priest. This god was also associated with Asherah, “the queen of heaven”, whose worship spread into Israel in the 10th century. Another important god of the Assyrian people was Ishtar, a Babylonian goddess, whose temple was at Ninevah, the capital city of Assyria.


The Kingdom of Assyria came to great prominence under King Tiglath-pileser I in the early 1100s BC (about the time of the reign of Saul over Israel). He extended the empire as far west as the Mediterranean. Later the kingdom declined (during the reigns of David, Solomon, and Solomon’s sons), but was greatly revived (Neo-Assyrian Empire) under the leadership of Assur-nazir-pal III (911 BC). His son, Shalmaneser III, who reigned during the period of Israelite prophets Elija and Elisha, organized all of these conquered territories in the mid-800s and extended the kingdom east and west, destroyed Syria, conquered Persia and Babylon and posed a great threat to Judah. Later Neo-Assyrian Kings (Tiglath-Pileser III, Shalmaneser V, and Sargon II) drove the Egyptians out of Canaan and conquered Samaria and the 10 Israelite Tribes comprising the northern kingdom of Israel. The conquered people were taken into captivity and resettled into new lands, never to return.

Shalmaneser’s son Sennacherib and moved the capital city to Nineveh, defeated the Greeks, and extended his power into Asia Minor. Egypt, trying to gain a foothold in the region, united with Israel (Hezekiah) and several other small nations (Sidon, Ascalon, and Ekron), but was driven out by Sennacherib in 701 BC. The Assyrians conquered Sidon, Ascalon, and Ekron and destroyed much of the land of Judah, but did not conquer Jerusalem. The Judeans paid tribute to Sennacherib and he left.

The Assyrians continued to exert power in the region until the rise of the Median and Persian kings in the 600s and 500s, respectively.

Notes on Hebrews 4:3-10

For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest1: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works2. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if [Joshua] had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God3. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.

  • 1. Ps 95:11
  • 2. Gen 2:2
  • 3. Matt 11:28-29

Contextual Background: The author is here writing to Hebrew Christians who are in a very real danger of turning from their Christian profession back to Judaism. Additionally, the preceding argument from Chapter 3 is that many Israelites died in the wilderness, not seeing the promised land, because they were mere professors of faith, but did not have true saving faith – “we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Heb 3:19). This should cause us to take some time for self reflection – “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God” (Heb 3:12). How do we know that we have true saving faith? We are told that “we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end” (Heb 3:14).

Furthermore, the author is continuing his theme of how the New Covenant is superior to the Old. These verses are in the midst of the larger argument begun in chapter 3 in which the writer is providing evidence about how Joshua led his people into a temporary rest, but Christ, has already entered the eternal rest, and will lead his people into it.


literally: if they shall enter into my rest…

  • This means “they shall NOT enter into my rest” (Hebrew elliptical oath)
    • Who did God say would not enter his rest in Ps 95:11? According to Heb 3:11, they were those that had “an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God”.

…although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.

  • God finished His work of creating on the seventh day and rested (Gen 2:2)
  • This rest was commemorated by Israel in its weekly Sabbath. (Ex 31:17)
  • The author is reminding us that although the seventh day is ‘a’ rest of God mentioned in the Bible, it is not ‘the’ rest of God that was offered to the Hebrew people after the Exodus (and which is the present focus). This Old Covenant rest of God, which the Hebrews rejected through unbelief, was a rest from slavery and war in the land of Canaan
  • This promised land rest was that referred to in chapter 3, and, which is used as a type here of the future eternal rest of God in Heaven – “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God” (verse 9)

they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief…

The word “preached” here means “evangelize.” The same root word is rendered “gospel” in verse 2. This shows us, First, that God has employed only one instrument in the saving of sinners from the beginning, namely, the preaching of the gospel, cf. Galatians 3:8. Second, that the demand of the Gospel from those who hear it is faith, taking God at His word, receiving with childlike simplicity and gladness the good news He has sent us. Third, that “unbelief” shuts out from God’s favor and blessing. …Solemn warning was this for the Hebrews whose faith was waning. (AW Pink)

For if [Joshua] had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God

  • The author of Hebrews always makes contrasts between the old and new covenant (better covenant, better promises, etc). Here he is presenting a better rest than that enjoyed under the Old Covenant
  • When Ps 95 (the chapter the author is here explaining) was written, the Israelites were enjoying rest from their enemies in their own land. The author here reminds his readers that this was only a temporary and typological rest, which only points to the better and eternal rest yet to come
  • [The Jews had] external types to guide them; not so have we, nor have we indeed any need of them, for the naked truth itself is set before our eyes. …Christ [does not] extend his hand to us, that he may conduct us by the circuitous course of types and figures, but that he may withdraw us from the world and raise us up to heaven. Now that the Apostle separates the shadow from the substance, he did so for this reason, — because he had to do with the Jews, who were too much attached to external things. (Calvin)

  • There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God
    • The Jews enjoyed a type of rest in their own land
    • Believers experience, in this life, a rest from slavery to sin.
    • However, there remains a future promise of eternal life in peace and rest

For he that is entered into his rest he also hath ceased from his own works, as God from His

  • “…rest is not enjoyed till work is ceased from. This world is full of toil, travail and trouble, but in the world to come there is full freedom from all these.” (Pink)
  • Many commentators (Pink, Calvin, Gill) take the “he” here to mean Christ. They understand this to mean that Christ has finished his work on the earth (John 19:30) and has entered His rest, just as the Father finished his work on the sixth day of creation and entered His rest. Evidence of this is seen in verse 11, where the emphasis is then shifted from the ‘he’ of verse 10, to ‘us’

Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
(Matt 11:28-29)

Notes on Hebrews 4:1-3

Let us therefore fear1, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it2. For unto us was the gospel preached3, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it4. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest5: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.

  • 1 Phil 2:12
  • 2 Heb 3:12
  • 3 Rom 10:17
  • 4 Eph 2:8-9
  • 5 Ps 95:11, Heb 3:11

This is a continuation of the argument begun in Hebrews 3:7, which is an exposition and application of Psalm 95. “Thus far we have had Christ’s superiority over the prophets, the angels, [and] Moses. Now it is the glory of Christ which excels that attaching to Joshua” (AW Pink).

Background on Joshua

  • Joshua was a great prophet like Moses (Joshua 1:5)
  • Joshua was to lead the people of God to their rest (Joshua 1:6)
    • “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them. (Joshua 1:5-6)
  • See Josh 1:12-15, where possession of the Promised Land is called the ‘rest’ promised by God. See also Joshua 22:4, and 23:1
  • Although most of the original generation that left Egypt died in unbelief, their descendants did enter God’s earthly rest for the Hebrew people.
  • God fulfilled his promise land rest for the people of God. This rest is typical of the greater rest for the people of God that Jesus, of whom Joshua is a type, will lead His people into
    • “And the LORD gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein. And the LORD gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand. There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass. (Joshua 21:43-45)
    • For if Joshua had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God (Heb 4:8-9)
  • When Messiah comes, there will be a greater rest for the people of God: “And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.” (Is 11:10)

The “rest” of Hebrews 3:11-4:11 refers to Canaan, and though Joshua actually conducted Israel into this rest, yet the apostle proves by a reference to Psalm 95 that Israel never really (as a nation) entered into the [final] rest of God. Herein lies the superiority of the Apostle (Heb 3:1) of Christianity; Christ does lead His people into the true rest. Such, we believe, is the line of truth developed in our passage.

(adapted from AW Pink)

Let us therefore fear

  • therefore… Chapter 3 ends with the solemn warning that the Hebrews who left Egypt “could not enter in because of unbelief.” Chapter 4 begins with a warning: therefore, in light of that, let us fear…
  • us – The author applies this admonition to himself and all believers.
  • Fear
    • Phil 2:12 – “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”
    • The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Proverbs)
    • Fear the Lord (Mt 10:28)
    • Do not be high-minded, but fearful (Rom 11:20)
    • Pass your time in fear (1 Pet 1:17)
    • etc.
  • This fear is not a lack of confidence in God’s ability or willingness to save. Rather, let us fear our own frailty and unbelief. Our sinful nature deceives us and leads us to place our confidence in ourselves and makes us vulnerable to temptation and sin. This “evil heart of unbelief” leads one to apostatize from Christ (Heb 3:12). The fear of apostasy and unbelief should cause us to be on guard against being deceived by sin, because “we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end.
  • “But the fear which is here recommended is not that which shakes the confidence of faith but such as fills us with such concern that we grow not torpid with indifference. (John Calvin)

lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.

  • What are we to fear? Not taking hold of the salvation which is freely offered us because of unbelief
  • The Hebrews left Egypt with great excitement and hope, but they did not have faith in God’s ability and willingness to keep his promise.
  • See Matthew 13:20-22. It is not our start, but our perseverance that witnesses our faith and salvation.

For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

  • God’s method of dealing with men has always been through the preaching of the gospel
  • Rom 10:14 – how can a man believe without preaching?
  • Faith comes by hearing (Rom 10:17) the gospel, but it is not the hearing alone that saves (Ja 1:22). The hearing must be mixed with faith
  • “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor 1:18)
  • “the Gospel is as food, and faith is the hand that receives it” (Gill)
  • For whom does the gospel work effectually? It is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth (Rom 1:16)
  • The gospel preached to the Hebrews: “The good news which was announced to the first-century readers of this epistle was that of a spiritual rest in Messiah. The good news given to the generation which came out of Egypt was that of a temporal, physical rest in a land flowing with milk and honey, offered to a people who had been reduced to abject slavery for 400 years… (Wuest)

For we which have believed do enter into rest…

  • The writer does NOT say that we HAVE entered into that rest, but rather that we DO enter that rest
    • vs 1 calls the rest for the people of God a promise (a future rest)
    • vs 9 states – “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God…” (a future rest)
    • vs 11 states – “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest” (a future rest)
  • Eph 1:13 – “After that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise”. See also 2 Tim 1:12

“The absolute safety, the fixed and unchanging portion of the chosen people of God can never be doubted. From the eternal, heavenly, divine point of view, saints can never fall; they are seated in heavenly places with Christ; they are renewed by the Spirit, and sealed by Him unto everlasting glory. …. From our point of view, as we live in time, from day to day, our earnest desire must be to continue steadfast, to abide in Christ, to walk with God, to bring forth fruit that will manifest the presence of true and God-given life. Hence the apostle, who says to the Philippians, ‘Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ’ (Heb. 1:6), adds to a similar thought in another epistle, ‘If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel.’ … For it is by these very exhortations and warnings that the grace of God keeps us. It is in order that the elect may not fall, it is to bring out in fact and time the (ideal and eternal) impossibility of their apostasy, that God in His wisdom and mercy has sent to us such solemn messages and such fervent entreaties, to watch, to fight, to take heed unto ourselves, to resist the adversary”

(Adolph Saphir)

But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

(Matt 13:20-23)

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)

Baptist Views on the Mosaic Covenant


Historic reformed theology splits the history of God’s dealing with man into two divisions: works and grace.  The first division is the era in which man could stand or fall before God based on his own obedience (Covenant of Works).  This period ended when Adam fell and was expelled from the garden of Eden.  From the time of Adam’s fall until the return of Christ, God began dealing with man as either fallen in Adam or standing in Christ.  In other words, there are two representatives for all men: Adam and Christ.  The time from Adam’s fall to the return of Christ is a period of grace, because for any man to be restored in his relationship to God, he must receive God’s grace.

Debates amongst Bible students arise when we consider the role of grace and works and the covenant made with the people of Israel at Mount Sinai.  Clearly, the people had been graciously chosen by God, and not for any good work they had done, and they had been miraculously delivered and made a people.  But, this people were given laws to follow in order to remain in fellowship with God and to retain his blessing.  There are several traditional views within Protestantism to try to explain the Sinai Covenant.


Old School Dispensationalists believed that the covenant at Sinai was for the people of Israel a covenant of works conditional covenant respecting their salvation.  God offered the Hebrew people his grace through the Abrahamic Covenant, which they subsequently rejected, and so God made a works-based arrangement with them.  Some also believed that Jews would receive salvation by obedience to the law and observance of the ordinances.

The Dispensation of Promise ended when Israel rashly accepted the law Exodus 19:8.  Grace had prepared a deliverer (Moses), provided a sacrifice for the guilty, and by divine power brought them out of bondage Exodus 19:4 but at Sinai they exchanged grace for law.  (Scofield Reference Bible, Notes on Genesis 12:1)

The Christian is not under the conditional Mosaic Covenant of works, the law, but under the unconditional New Covenant of grace.  (Scofield Reference Bible, Notes on Exodus 19:25)

As a dispensation, grace begins with the death and resurrection of Christ (Romans 3:34-26, Romans 4:24-25). The point of testing is no longer legal obedience as the condition of salvation, but acceptance or rejection of Christ, with good works as a fruit of salvation

Administration of the Covenant of Grace

Many reformed theologians, in placing emphasis on the continuity of God’s Plan of Salvation between the Old and New Testaments, have considered the Old Covenant, not as a separate and distinct substance from the New Covenant, but rather as only a different administration (or dispensation) of this same gracious covenant.  The Mosaic Covenant then, is wholly a gracious covenant.  The people are given laws, not for the salvation of their souls, but rather to organize life in the promised land and to foreshadow the coming Messiah.  This is Sam Waldron’s view and that of many popular reformed baptist pastors.

Of a Different Substance from the New Covenant

Many Baptist covenant theologians have viewed the Mosaic as being of a wholly different substance and administration from the Old.  They emphasize the legal nature of the Old Covenant, but unlike dispensationalists, do not believe the legal nature was in regards to salvation, but rather was a purely carnal covenant which offered blessing/curse to the people of Israel as a condition for remaining in the land of promise.   This is AW Pink’s view and the view of Pascal Denault and the 1689 Federalism blog.

Republication View

Some Baptists have a sort of hybrid view of the Old Covenant in which the Covenant is seen as being a republication of the law of man’s creation (see Marrow of Modern Divinity).  In other words, God has re-published the original Covenant of Works, made with man in the garden of Eden.  These Baptists, like dispensationalists, believe the covenant offered life and salvation by the perfect keeping of the law of God.  Unlike dispensationalists, however, they believe that no man was able to keep the law of God perfectly to the saving of his soul – with one notable exception!  Our Lord Jesus Christ was born under that covenant and kept the law perfectly!  So, for Jesus Christ, the Mosaic Covenant was an administration of the Covenant of Works.  For the nation of Israel, the covenant was a national covenant that offered blessing in the land through obedience (but not salvation) and offered a sacramental system to ceremonially atone for the sins of the nation and to foreshadow and prepare the way for Christ.  For individual people who lived in the covenant, God dealt with them through his gracious plan of salvation whereby their sins could only be righteous by the sacrificial death and meritorious work of Christ.  This is the view of Jeff Johnson and is similar to recent views held by some Paedobaptists.


This is a thorny issue and each view point has much scriptural support and great theologians speaking for it.  Although a difficult and tough knot to untie, I think that studying grace/works/continuity/discontinuity between the Old and New Covenants is the key for understanding the scriptures!

…[God] was pleased to make known His eternal purpose of mercy unto the fathers, in the form of covenants, which were of different characters and revealed at various times. …Each one reveals some new and fundamental aspect of truth, and in considering them in their Scriptural order we may clearly perceive the progress of revelation which they respectively indicated. They set forth the great design of God accomplished by the redeemer of His people.  (AW Pink)

The post linked below contains a very helpful discussion of these manners and a very lively and edifying series of comments by several great Baptist men who hold to traditional Particular Baptist views.  The brotherly tone and challenging back and forth is very edifying example of charitable theological discussion and many key issues are clearly discussed.

Clarification on the Mosaic Covenant and Eternal Life

Resources for the Epistle to the Hebrews

I’m compiling a list of resources on the book of Hebrews. This post will serve as a repository for those items as I find commentaries/audio/etc.

Commentaries Online

AW Pink Hebrews Commentary

Commentaries Recommended by FF Bruce

A critical and exegetical commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (1924) – James Moffatt

The Epistle to the Hebrews (1903) – Brooke Foss Westcott

The Greek Testament: Volume 4 (1878) – Henry Alford

Commentary Used for RBS Hebrews Class

William Lindsay’s Lectures on the Epistle to the Hebrews, Volume 1
William Lindsay’s Lectures on the Epistle to the Hebrews, Volume 2

John Owen’s Commentary

Hebrews Commentary Volume 1

Hebrews Commentary Volume 2

Hebrews Commentary Volume 3

Hebrews Commentary Volume 4