Exhortation to Faithfulness.* 1Therefore, we must attend all the more to what we have heard, so that we may not be carried away. 2For if the word announced through angels proved firm, and every transgression and disobedience received its just recompense,a 3how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? Announced originally through the Lord, it was confirmed for us by those who had heard.b 4God added his testimony by signs, wonders, various acts of power, and distribution of the gifts of the holy Spirit according to his will.c
Exaltation through Abasement.* 5For it was not to angels that he subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. 6Instead, someone has testified somewhere:
“What is man that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man that you care for him?d
7You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
you crowned him with glory and honor,
8subjecting all things under his feet.”
In “subjecting” all things [to him], he left nothing not “subject to him.” Yet at present we do not see “all things subject to him,”e 9but we do see Jesus “crowned with glory and honor” because he suffered death, he who “for a little while” was made “lower than the angels,” that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.f
10For it was fitting that he, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering.g 11He who consecrates and those who are being consecrated all have one origin. Therefore, he is not ashamed to call them “brothers,” 12saying:
“I will proclaim your name to my brothers,
in the midst of the assembly I will praise you”;h
“I will put my trust in him”;
“Behold, I and the children God has given me.”i
14Now since the children share in blood and flesh, he likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,j 15and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life. 16Surely he did not help angels but rather the descendants of Abraham; 17therefore, he had to become like his brothers in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people.k 18Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.
* [2:1–4] The author now makes a transition into exhortation, using an a fortiori argument (as at Heb 7:21–22; 9:13–14; 10:28–29; 12:25). The word announced through angels (Heb 2:2), the Mosaic law, is contrasted with the more powerful word that Christians have received (Heb 2:3–4). Christ’s supremacy strengthens Christians against being carried away from their faith.
* [2:5–18] The humanity and the suffering of Jesus do not constitute a valid reason for relinquishing the Christian faith. Ps 8:5–6 is also applied to Jesus in 1 Cor 15:27; Eph 1:22; and probably 1 Pt 3:22. This christological interpretation, therefore, probably reflects a common early Christian tradition, which may have originated in the expression the son of man (Heb 2:6). The psalm contrasts God’s greatness with man’s relative insignificance but also stresses the superiority of man to the rest of creation, of which he is lord. Hebrews applies this christologically: Jesus lived a truly human existence, lower than the angels, in the days of his earthly life, particularly in his suffering and death; now, crowned with glory and honor, he is raised above all creation. The author considers all things as already subject to him because of his exaltation (Heb 2:8–9), though we do not see this yet. The reference to Jesus as leader (Heb 2:10) sounds the first note of an important leitmotif in Hebrews: the journey of the people of God to the sabbath rest (Heb 4:9), the heavenly sanctuary, following Jesus, their “forerunner” (Heb 6:20). It was fitting that God should make him perfect through suffering, consecrated by obedient suffering. Because he is perfected as high priest, Jesus is then able to consecrate his people (Heb 2:11); access to God is made possible by each of these two consecrations. If Jesus is able to help human beings, it is because he has become one of us; we are his “brothers.” The author then cites three Old Testament texts as proofs of this unity between ourselves and the Son. Ps 22:22 is interpreted so as to make Jesus the singer of this lament, which ends with joyful praise of the Lord in the assembly of “brothers.” The other two texts are from Is 8:17, 18. The first of these seems intended to display in Jesus an example of the trust in God that his followers should emulate. The second curiously calls these followers “children”; probably this is to be understood to mean children of Adam, but the point is our solidarity with Jesus. By sharing human nature, including the ban of death, Jesus broke the power of the devil over death (Heb 2:4); the author shares the view of Hellenistic Judaism that death was not intended by God and that it had been introduced into the world by the devil. The fear of death (Heb 2:15) is a religious fear based on the false conception that death marks the end of a person’s relations with God (cf. Ps 115:17–18; Is 38:18). Jesus deliberately allied himself with the descendants of Abraham (Heb 2:16) in order to be a merciful and faithful high priest. This is the first appearance of the central theme of Hebrews, Jesus the great high priest expiating the sins of the people (Heb 2:17), as one who experienced the same tests as they (Heb 2:18).