on Hebrews 2 :6
But one in a certain place - This one is David; and the certain place, Psalm 8:4, Psalm 8:5, Psalm 8:6. But why does the apostle use this indeterminate mode of quotation? Because it was common thus to express the testimony of any of the inspired writers; אמר ההוא amar hahu kethab, thus saith a certain scripture. So Philo, De Plant. Noe: Ειπε γαρ που, he saith somewhere; ειπε γαρ τις, a certain person saith. Thus even the heathens were accustomed to quote high authorities; so Plato, Tim.: Ὡς εφη τις, as a certain person saith, meaning Heraclitus. See in Rosenmuller. It is such a mode of quotation as we sometimes use when we speak of a very eminent person who is well known; as that very eminent person, that great philosopher, that celebrated divine, that inspired teacher of the Gentiles, the royal psalmist, the evangelical prophet, hath said. The mode of quotation therefore implies, not ignorance, but reverence.
What is man - This quotation is verbatim from the Septuagint; and, as the Greek is not as emphatic as the Hebrew, I will quote the original: מה אנוש כי תזכרנו ובן אדם כי תפקדנו mah enosh ki thizkerennu, uben Adam ki thiphkedennu; What is miserable man, that thou rememberest him? and the son of Adam, that thou visitest him? The variation of the terms in the original is very emphatic. Adam, אדם, is the name given to man at his creation, and expresses his origin, and generic distinction from all other animals. Enosh, אנוש, which signifies sick, weak, wretched, was never given to him till after his fall. The son of Adam means here, any one or all of the fallen posterity of the first man. That God should remember in the way of mercy these wretched beings, is great condescension; that he should visit them, manifest himself to them, yea, even dwell among them, and at last assume their nature, and give up his life to ransom them from the bitter pains of eternal death, is mercy and love indescribable and eternal.
on Hebrews 2 :6
But one in a certain place testified - The apostle was writing to those who were supposed to be familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures, and where it would be necessary only to make a reference in general without mentioning the name. The place which is quoted here is Psalm 8:4-6. The "argument" of the apostle is this, that there stood in the sacred Scriptures a declaration that "all things were placed under the control and jurisdiction of man," but that that had not yet been accomplished. It was not true (Hebrews 2:8) that all things were subject to him, and the complete truth of that declaration would be found only in the jurisdiction conferred on the Messiah - the man by way of eminence - the incarnate Son of God. It would not occur to anyone probably in reading the Psalm that the verse here quoted had any reference to the Messiah. It seems to relate to the dominion which God had given man over his works in this lower world, or to the fact that he was made lord over all things.
That dominion is apparent, to a considerable extent, everywhere, and is a standing proof of the truth of what is recorded in Genesis 1:26, that God originally gave dominion to man over the creatures on earth, since it is only by this supposition that it can be accounted for that the horse, and the elephant, and the ox, and even the panther and the lion, are subject to the control of man. The argument of Paul seems to be this: Originally this control was given to man. It was absolute and entire. All things were subject to him, and all obeyed. Man was made a little lower than the angels, and was the undisputed lord of this lower world. He was in a state of innocence. But he rebelled, and this dominion has been in some measure lost. It is found complete only in the "second man the Lord from heaven" 1 Corinthians 15:47, the Lord Jesus to whom this control is absolutely given. He comes up to the complete idea of man - man as he was in innocence, and man as he was described by the Psalmist, as having been made a little lower than the angels, and having entire dominion over the world.
Much difficulty has been felt by commentators in regard to this passage, and to the principle on which it is quoted. The above seems to me to be what is most probably true. There are two other methods by which an attempt has been made to explain it. One is, that Paul uses the words here by way of "allusion," or "accommodation" (Doddridge), as words that will express his meaning, without designing to say that the Psalm originally had any reference to the Messiah. Most of the later commentators accord with this opinion. The other opinion is, that David originally referred to the Messiah - that he was deeply and gratefully affected in view of the honor that God had conferred on him; and that in looking down by faith on the posterity that God had promised him (see 2 Samuel 7:16), he saw one among his own descendants to whom God would give this wide dominion, and expresses himself in the elevated language of praise. This opinion is defended by Prof. Stuart; see his Commentary on Hebrews, Excursus IX.
(That the grand and ultimate reference, in Psalm 8:1-9, is to the person of the Messiah, none can reasonably doubt. Both our Lord and his apostles have affirmed it; Matthew 21:15-16; 1 Corinthians 15:27; Ephesians 1:22. Add to these, the place before us, where - as the quotation is introduced "in the midst of an argument, and by way of proof" - the idea of "accommodation" is inconsistent with the wisdom and honesty of the apostles, and therefore inadmissible. The opposite extreme, however, of "sole and original" reference to the Messiah is not so certain. There is a more obvious and primary reference, which at once strikes the reader of the Psalm, and which, therefore, should not be rejected, until disproved. The conjecture, which a learned author mentioned above, has made, regarding the course of thought in the Psalmist's mind, supposing him to have been occupied with the contemplation of the covenant, as recorded in 2 Samuel 7 and of that illustrious descendant, who should be the Son of God, and on whom should be conferred universal empire - at the very time in which he composed the Psalm - is ingenious, but not satisfactory.
The least objectionable view is that of primary and secondary, or prophetic reference. This relieves us from the necessity of setting aside the obvious sense of the original place, and, at the same time, preserves the more exalted sense, which our Lord and his apostles have attached to it, and the Spirit of course intended to convey. And in order to preserve this last sense, it is not necessary to ascertain what was the course of feeling in the Psalmist's mind, or whether "he" really had the Messiah in view, since the prophets, on many occasions, might be ignorant of the full import of the words which the Holy Ghost dictated to them. This view, moreover, is all that the necessity of the case demands. It suits the apostle's argument, since the great and prophetic reference is to the Messiah. It presents, also, a complete πληρωσις plērōsis of Psalm 8:1-9, which it is allowed on all hands the primary reference alone could not do. It is sufficiently clear that such universal dominion belongs not to man, in his present fallen state. Even if it be allowed that the contemplation of David regarded "man as innocent, as he was when created," yet absolutely universal dominion did not belong to Adam. Christ alone is Lord of all. Creation animate and inanimate is subject to him.
Here then we have what has been well styled: "the safe middle point, the μέτρον ἀριστὸν metron ariston, between the two extremes of supposing this, and such like passages, to belong only to the Messiah, or only to him concerning whom they were first spoken." This middle point has been ably defended by Dr. Middleton. "Indeed." says he, "on no other hypothesis can we avoid one of two great difficulties; for else we must assert that the multitudes of applications made by Christ and his apostles are fanciful and unauthorized, and wholly inadequate to prove the points for which they are cited; or, on the other band, we must believe that the obvious and natural sense of such passages was never intended, and that it is a mere illusion. Of Psalm 8:1-9 the primary import is so certain that it could not be mistaken." The only objection to this double reference, worthy of being noticed, is connected with the clause, Ἠλαττωσας αὐτον βραχύτι παρ ̓ ἀγγελους Ēlattōsas auton brachuti par angelous, which, it is affirmed, must possess two senses, not only different, but opposite and contradictory.
In its primary application to man, the idea is plainly that of exaltation and honor. Such was the dignity of man that he was made "but a little" lower than the angels; on the other hand, the secondary, or prophetic application, gives to the language the sense of humiliation or depression. For, considering the original dignity of Christ, the being made lower than the angels, cannot otherwise be regarded. But may not the clause, in both applications, have the idea of exaltation attached to it? If so, the objection is at once met. And that this is the case has, we think, been satisfactorily made out. "What," asks Prof. Stuart "is his (Paul's) design?" To prove that Christ in his human nature is exalted above angels. How does he undertake to prove this? First by showing that this nature is made but little inferior to that of the angels, and next that it has been exalted to the empire of the world." This note has been extended to such length, because it involves a "principle" applicable to a multitude of passages. On the whole, it may be observed in reference to all these cases of quotation, that the mind of the pious and humble reader will not be greatly distressed by any difficulties connected with their application, but will ever rest satisfied with the assertion and authority of people, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.)
What is man ... - What is there in man that entitles him to so much notice? Why has God conferred on him so signal honors? Why has he placed him over the works of his hands? He seems so insignificant; his life is so much like a vapor; he so soon disappears, that the question may well be asked why this extraordinary dominion is given him? He is so sinful also, and so unworthy; so much unlike God, and so passionate and revengeful; is so prone to abuse his dominion, that it may well be asked why God has given it to him? Who would suppose that God would give such a dominion over his creatures to one who was so prone to abuse it as man has shown himself to be? He is so feeble, also, compared with other creatures - even of those which are made subject to him - that the question may well be asked why God has conceded it to him? Such question may be asked when we contemplate man as he is. But similar questions may be asked, if, as was probably the case, the Psalm here be supposed to have had reference to man "as he was created."
Why was one so feeble, and so comparatively without strength, placed over this lower world, and the earth made subject to his control? Why is it that when the heavens are so vast and glorious Psalm 8:3, God has taken such notice of man? Of what consequence can he be amidst works so wonderful? "When I look on the heavens and survey their greatness and their glory," is the sentiment of David, "why is it that man has attracted so much notice, and that he has not been wholly overlooked in the vastness of the works of the Almighty? Why is it that instead of this he has been exalted to so much dignity and honor?" This question, thus considered, strikes us with more force now than it could have struck David. Let anyone sit down and contemplate the heavens as they are disclosed by the discoveries of modern astronomy, and he may well ask the question, "What is man that he should have attracted the attention of God, and been the object of so much care?"
The same question would not have been inappropriate to David if the Psalm be supposed to have had reference originally to the Messiah, and if he was speaking of himself particularly as the ancestor of the Messiah. "What is man; what am I; what can any of my descendants be, who must be of mortal frame, that this dominion should be given him? Why should anyone of a race so feeble, so ignorant, so imperfect, be exalted to such honor?" We may ask the question here, and it may be asked in heaven with pertinency and with power, 'Why was man so honored as to be united to the Godhead? Why did the Deity appear in the human form? What was there in man that should entitle him to this honor of being united to the Divinity, and of being thus exalted above the angels?' The wonder is not yet solved; and we may well suppose that the angelic ranks look with amazement - but without envy - on the fact that "man," by his union with the Deity in the person of the Lord Jesus, has been raised above them in rank and in glory. "Or the son of man." This phrase means the same as "man," and is used merely to give variety to the mode of expression. Such a change or variety in words and phrases, when the same thing is intended, occurs constantly in Hebrew poetry. The name "son of man" is often given to Christ to denote his intimate connection with our race, and the interest which he felt in us, and is the common term which the Saviour uses when speaking of himself. Here it means "man," and maybe applied to human nature everywhere - and therefore to human nature in the person of the Messiah.
That thou visitest him - That thou shouldst regard him or treat him with so much honor. Why is he the object of so much interest to the Divine Mind?
on Hebrews 2 :6
2:6 What is man - To the vast expanse of heaven, to the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained! This psalm seems to have been composed by David, in a clear, moonshiny, and starlight night, while he was contemplating the wonderful fabric of heaven; because in his magnificent description of its luminaries, he takes no notice of the sun, the most glorious of them all. The words here cited concerning dominion were doubtless in some sense applicable to Adam; although in their complete and highest sense, they belong to none but the second Adam. Or the son of man, that thou visitest him - The sense rises: we are mindful of him that is absent; but to visit, denotes the care of a present God. Psa 8:4.