on Hebrews 10 :5
When he (the Messiah) cometh into the world - Was about to be incarnated, He saith to God the Father, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not - it was never thy will and design that the sacrifices under thy own law should be considered as making atonement for sin, they were only designed to point out my incarnation and consequent sacrificial death, and therefore a body hast thou prepared me, by a miraculous conception in the womb of a virgin, according to thy word, The seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent.
A body hast thou prepared me - The quotation in this and the two following verses is taken from Psalm 40, 6th, 7th, and 8th verses, as they stand now in the Septuagint, with scarcely any variety of reading; but, although the general meaning is the same, they are widely different in verbal expression in the Hebrew. David's words are, אזנים כרית לי oznayim caritha li, which we translate, My ears hast thou opened; but they might be more properly rendered, My ears hast thou bored, that is, thou hast made me thy servant for ever, to dwell in thine own house; for the allusion is evidently to the custom mentioned, Exodus 21:2, etc.: "If thou buy a Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve, and in the seventh he shall go out free; but if the servant shall positively say, I love my master, etc., I will not go out free, then his master shall bring him to the door post, and shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall serve him for ever." But how is it possible that the Septuagint and the apostle should take a meaning so totally different from the sense of the Hebrew? Dr. Kennicott has a very ingenious conjecture here: he supposes that the Septuagint and apostle express the meaning of the words as they stood in the copy from which the Greek translation was made; and that the present Hebrew text is corrupted in the word אזנים oznayim, ears, which has been written through carelessness for אז גוה az gevah, Then a Body. The first syllable אז, Then, is the same in both; and the latter נים, which joined to אז, makes אזנים oznayim, might have been easily mistaken for גוה gevah, Body; נ nun, being very like ג gimel; י yod, like ו vau; and ה he, like final ם mem; especially if the line on which the letters were written in the MS. happened to be blacker than ordinary, which has often been a cause of mistake, it might have been easily taken for the under stroke of the mem, and thus give rise to a corrupt reading: add to this the root כרה carah, signifies as well to prepare as to open, bore, etc. On this supposition the ancient copy, translated by the Septuagint, and followed by the apostle, must have read the text thus: אז גוה כרית לי az gevah caritha li, σωμα δε κατηρτισω μοι, then a body thou hast prepared me: thus the Hebrew text, the version of the Septuagint, and the apostle, will agree in what is known to be an indisputable fact in Christianity, namely, that Christ was incarnated for the sin of the world.
The Ethiopic has nearly the same reading; the Arabic has both, A body hast thou prepared me, and mine ears thou hast opened. But the Syriac, the Chaldee, and the Vulgate, agree with the present Hebrew text; and none of the MSS. collated by Kennicott and De Rossi have any various reading on the disputed words.
It is remarkable that all the offerings and sacrifices which were considered to be of an atoning or cleansing nature, offered under the law, are here enumerated by the psalmist and the apostle, to show that none of them nor all of them could take away sin, and that the grand sacrifice of Christ was that alone which could do it.
Four kinds are here specified, both by the psalmist and the apostle, viz.:
Sacrifice, זבח zebach, θυσια·
Offering, מנחה minchah, προσφορα·
Burnt-Offering, עולה olah, ὁλοκαυτωμα·
Sin-Offering, חטאה chataah, περι ἁμαρτιας.
Of all these we may say, with the apostle, it was impossible that the blood of bulls and goats, etc., should take away sin.
on Hebrews 10 :5
Wherefore - This word shows that the apostle means to sustain what he had said by a reference to the Old Testament itself. Nothing could be more opposite to the prevailing Jewish opinions about the efficacy of sacrifice, than what he had just said. It was, therefore, of the highest importance to defend the position which he had laid down by authority which they would not presume to call in question, and he therefore makes his appeal to their own Scriptures.
When he cometh into the world - When the Messiah came, for the passage evidently referred to him. The Greek is, "Wherefore coming into the world, he saith." It has been made a question "when" this is to be understood as spoken - whether when he was born, or when he entered on the work of his ministry. Grotius understands it of the latter. But it is not material to a proper understanding of the passage to determine this. The simple idea is, that since it was impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin, Christ coming into the world made arrangements for a better sacrifice.
He saith - That is, this is the language denoted by his great undertaking; this is what his coming to make an atonement implies. We are not to suppose that Christ formally used these words on any occasion for we have no record that he did - but this language is what appropriately expresses the nature of his work. Perhaps also the apostle means to say that it was originally employed in the Psalm from which it is quoted in reference to him, or was indited by him with reference to his future advent.
Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not - This is quoted from Psalm 40:6, Psalm 40:8. There has been much perplexity felt by expositorsin reference to this quotation, and after all which has been written, it is not entirely removed. The difficulty relates to these points.
(1) to the question whether the Psalm originally had any reference to the Messiah. The Psalm "appears" to have pertained merely to David, and it would probably occur to no one on reading it to suppose that it referred to the Messiah, unless it had been so applied by the apostle in this place.
(2) there are many parts of the Psalm, it has been said, which cannot, without a very forced interpretation, be applied to Christ; see Psalm 40:2, Psalm 40:12, Psalm 40:14-16.
(3) the argument of the apostle in the expression "a body hast thou prepared me," seems to be based on a false translation of the Septuagint, which he has adopted, and it is difficult to see on what principles he has done it. - It is not the design of these notes to go into an extended examination of questions of this nature. Such examination must be sought in more extended commentaries, and in treatises expressly relating to points of this kind.
On the design of Psalm 40, and its applicability to the Messiah, the reader may consult Prof. Stuart on the Hebrews, Excursus xx. and Kuinoel in loc. After the most attentive examination which I can give of the Psalm, it seems to me probable that it is one of the Psalms which had an original and exclusive reference to the Messiah, and that the apostle has quoted it just as it was meant to be understood by the Holy Spirit, as applicable to him. The reasons for this opinion are briefly these:
(1) There are such Psalms, as is admitted by all. The Messiah was the hope of the Jewish people; he was made the subject of their most sublime prophecies, and nothing was more natural than that he should be the subject of the songs of their sacred bards. By the spirit of inspiration they saw him in the distant future in the various circumstances in which he would be placed, and they dwelt with delight upon the vision; compare Introduction to Isaiah, section 7.iii.
(2) The fact that it is here applied to the Messiah, is a strong circumstance to demonstrate that it had an original applicability to him. This proof is of two kinds. "First," that it is so applied by an inspired apostle, which with all who admit his inspiration seems decisive of the question. "Second," the fact that he so applied it shows that this was an ancient and admitted interpretation. The apostle was writing to those who had been Jews, and whom he was desirous to convince of the truth of what he was alleging in regard to the nature of the Hebrew sacrifices. For this purpose it was necessary to appeal to the Scriptures of the Old Testament, but it cannot be supposed that he would adduce a passage for proof whose relevancy would not be admitted. The presumption is, that the passage was in fact commonly applied as here.
(3) the whole of the Psalm may be referred to the Messiah without anything forced or unnatural. The Psalm throughout seems to be made up of expressions used by a suffering person, who had indeed been delivered from some evils, but who was expecting many more. The principal difficulties in the way of such an interpretation, relate to the following points.
(a) In Psalm 40:2, the speaker in the Psalm says, "He brought me up out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock," and on the ground of this he gives thanks to God. But there is no real difficulty in supposing that this may refer to the Messiah. His enemies often plotted against his life; laid snares for him and endeavored to destroy him, and it may be that he refers to some deliverance from such machinations. If it is objected to this that it is spoken of as having been uttered" when he came into the world," it may be replied that that phrase does not necessarily refer to the time of his birth, but that he uttered this sentiment sometime "during" the period of his incarnation. "He coming into the world for the purpose of redemption made use of this language." In a similar manner we would say of Lafayette, that "he coming to the United States to aid in the cause of liberty, suffered a wound in battle." That is, during the period in which he was engaged in this cause, he suffered in this manner.
(b) The next objection or difficulty relates to the application of Psalm 40:12 to the Messiah. "Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of my head; therefore my heart faileth me." To meet this some have suggested that he refers to the sins of people which he took upon himself, and which he here speaks of as "his own." But it is not true that the Lord Jesus so took upon himself the sins of others that they could be his. They were "not" his, for he was in every sense "holy, harmless, and undefiled." The true solution of this difficulty, probably is, that the word rendered "iniquity" - צון ̀awon - means "calamity, misfortune, trouble;" see Psalm 31:10; 1 Samuel 28:10; 2 Kings 7:9; Psalm 28:6; compare Psalm 49:5. The proper idea in the word is that of "turning away, curving, making crooked;" and it is thus applied to anything which is "perverted" or turned from the right way; as when one is turned from the path of rectitude, or commits sin; when one is turned from the way of prosperity or happiness, or is exposed to calamity. This seems to be the idea demanded by the scope of the Psalm, for it is not a penitential Psalm, in which the speaker is recounting his "sins," but one in which he is enumerating his "sorrows;" praising God in the first part of the Psalm for some deliverance already experienced, and supplicating his interposition in view of calamities that he saw to be coming upon him. This interpretation also seems to be demanded in Psalm 40:12 by the "parallelism." In the former part of the verse, the word to which "iniquity" corresponds, is not "sin," but "evil," that is, calamity.
"For innumerable evils have compassed me about;
on Hebrews 10 :5