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Hebrews 9:17

    Hebrews 9:17 Translations

    King James Version (KJV)

    For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.

    American King James Version (AKJV)

    For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator lives.

    American Standard Version (ASV)

    For a testament is of force where there hath been death: for it doth never avail while he that made it liveth.

    Basic English Translation (BBE)

    For a testament has effect after death; for what power has it while the man who made it is living?

    Webster's Revision

    For a testament is of force where there hath been death: for it doth never avail while he that made it liveth.

    World English Bible

    For a will is in force where there has been death, for it is never in force while he who made it lives.

    English Revised Version (ERV)

    For a testament is of force where there hath been death: for doth it ever avail while he that made it liveth?

    Definitions for Hebrews 9:17

    Testament - A covenant; an agreement.

    Barnes' Notes on Hebrews 9:17

    For a testament - Such an arrangement as God enters into with man; see the remarks on Hebrews 9:16.

    Is of force - Is ratified, or confirmed - in the same way as a deed or compact is confirmed by affixing a seal.

    After men are dead - ἐπὶ νεκροῖς epi nekrois. "Over the dead." That is, in accordance with the view given above, after the animal is dead; or over the body of the animal slain for sacrifice, and to confirm the covenant. "For a covenant is completed or confirmed over dead sacrifices, seeing it is never of force as long as the victim set apart for its ratification is still living." ms. notes of Dr. JohnP. Wilson. To this interpretation it is objected, that "νεκροῖς nekrois - "nekrois" - means only "dead men;" but human beings surely were not sacrificed by the Jews, as a mediating sacrifice in order to confirm a covenant." Prof. Stuart in loc. In regard to this objection, and to the proper meaning of the passage, we may remark:

    (1) that the word "men" is not in the Greek, nor is it necessarily implied, unless it be in the use of the Greek word rendered "dead." The proper translation is, "upon, or over the dead." The use of the word "men" here by our translators would seem to limit it to the making of a will.

    (2) it is to be presumed, unless there is positive proof to the contrary, that the Greeks and Hebrews used the word "dead" as it is used by other people, and that it "might" refer to deceased animals, or vegetables, as well as to human beings. A sacrifice that had been offered was dead; a tree that had fallen was dead; an animal that had been torn by other wild animals was dead. It is "possible" that a people might have one word to refer to "dead men," and another to "dead animals," and another to "dead vegetables:" but what is the evidence that the Hebrews or the Greeks had such words?

    (3) what is the meaning of this very word - νεκρός nekros - "nekros" - in Hebrews 6:1; Hebrews 9:14, of this very Epistle when it is applied to works - "dead works" - if it never refers to anything but people? compare James 2:17, James 2:20, James 2:26; Ephesians 2:1, Ephesians 2:5; Revelation 3:1. In Ecclesiastes 9:4, it is applied to a dead lion. I suppose, therefore, that the Greek phrase here will admit of the interpretation which the "exigency of the place" seems to demand, and that the idea is, that a covenant with God was ratified over the animals slain in sacrifice, and was not considered as confirmed until the sacrifice was killed.

    Otherwise - Since - ἐπεί epei. That is, unless this takes place it will be of no force.

    It is of no strength - It is not "strong" - ἰσχύει ischuei - it is not confirmed or ratified. "While the testator liveth." Or while the animal selected to confirm the covenant is alive. It can be confirmed only by its being slain. A full examination of the meaning of this passage Hebrews 9:16-17 may be found in an article in the Biblical Repository, vol. 20, pp. 51-71, and in Prof. Stuart's reply to that article. Bib. Repos. 20, pp. 356-381.

    Wesley's Notes on Hebrews 9:17

    9:17 After he is dead - Neither this, nor after men are dead is a literal translation of the words. It is a very perplexed passage.