on Hebrews 2 :9
Should taste death for every man - In consequence of the fall of Adam, the whole human race became sinful in their nature, and in their practice added transgression to sinfulness of disposition, and thus became exposed to endless perdition. To redeem them Jesus Christ took on him the nature of man, and suffered the penalty due to their sins.
It was a custom in ancient times to take off criminals by making them drink a cup of poison. Socrates was adjudged to drink a cup of the juice of hemlock, by order of the Athenian magistrates: Πινειν το φαρμακον, αναγκαζοντων των Αρχοντων. The sentence was one of the most unjust ever pronounced on man. Socrates was not only innocent of every crime laid to his charge, but was the greatest benefactor to his country. He was duly conscious of the iniquity of his sentence, yet cheerfully submitted to his appointed fate; for when the officer brought in the poison, though his friends endeavored to persuade him that he had yet a considerable time in which he might continue to live, yet, knowing that every purpose of life was now accomplished, he refused to avail himself of a few remaining moments, seized the cup, and drank off the poison with the utmost cheerfulness and alacrity; επισχομενος και μαλα ευχερως και ευκολως εξεπιε. Plato, Phaed. sub. fin. The reference in the text seems to point out the whole human race as being accused, tried, found guilty, and condemned, each having his own poisoned cup to drink; and Jesus, the wonderful Jesus, takes the cup out of the hand of each, and cheerfully and with alacrity drinks off the dregs! Thus having drunk every man's poisoned cup, he tasted that death which they must have endured, had not their cup been drunk by another. Is not this the cup to which he refers, Matthew 26:39 : O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me? But without his drinking it, the salvation of the world would have been impossible; and therefore he cheerfully drank it in the place of every human soul, and thus made atonement for the sin of the whole world: and this he did, χαριτι Θεου, by the grace, mercy, or infinite goodness of God. Jesus Christ, incarnated, crucified, dying, rising, ascending to heaven, and becoming our Mediator at God's right hand, is the full proof of God's infinite love to the human race.
Instead of χαριτι Θεου, by the grace of God, some MSS. and the Syriac have χωρις Θεου, without God, or God excepted; i.e. the manhood died, not the Deity. This was probably a marginal gloss, which has crept into the text of many MSS., and is quoted by some of the chief of the Greek and Latin fathers. Several critics contend that the verse should be read thus: "But we see Jesus, who for a little while was made less than angels, that by the grace of God he might taste death for every man, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor." Howsoever it be taken, the sense is nearly the same:
1. Jesus Christ was incarnated.
2. He suffered death as an expiatory victim.
3. The persons in whose behalf he suffered were the whole human race; every man - all human creatures.
4. This Jesus is now in a state of the highest glory and honor.
on Hebrews 2 :9
But we see Jesus - We do not see that mankind has the extended dominion of which the Psalmist speaks elsewhere. But we see the fulfillment of it in Jesus, who was crowned with glory and honor, and who has received a dominion that is superior to that of the angels. The point of this is, not that he suffered, and not that he tasted death for every man; but that "on account of this," or "as a reward" for thus suffering, he was crowned with glory and honor, and that he thus fulfilled all that David Psalm 8:1-9 had said of the dignity and honor of man. The object of the apostle is, to show that he was "exalted," and in order to this he shows why it was - to wit, because he had suffered death to redeem man; compare Philippians 2:8-9.
Who was made a little lower than the angels. - That is, as a man, or when on earth. His assumed rank was inferior to that of the angels. He took upon himself not the nature of angels Hebrews 2:16, but the nature of man. The apostle is probably here answering some implied objections to the rank which it was claimed that the Lord Jesus had, or which might be urged to the views which he was defending. These objections were mainly two. First, that Jesus was a man; and secondly, that he suffered and died. If that was the fact, it was natural to ask how he could be superior to the angels? How could he have had the rank which was claimed for him? This he answers by showing first, that his condition as a man was "voluntarily" assumed - "he was made lower than the angels;" and secondly, by showing that as a consequence of his sufferings and death, he was immediately crowned with glory and honor. This state of humiliation became him in the great work which he had undertaken, and he was immediately exalted to universal dominion, and as Mediator was raised to a rank far above the angels.
For the suffering of death. - Margin, "By." The meaning of the preposition rendered here "for" (διὰ dia, here governing the accusative) is, "on account of;" that is, Jesus on account of the sufferings of death, or in virtue of that, was crowned with glory and honor. His crowning was the result of his condescension and sufferings; see notes, Philippians 2:8-9. It does not here mean, as our translation would seem to imply, that he was made a little lower than the angels in order to suffer death, but that as a reward for having suffered death he was raised up to the right hand of God.
Crowned with glory and honor. - That is, at the right hand of God. He was raised up to heaven; Acts 2:33; Mark 16:19. The meaning is, that he was crowned with the highest honor on account of his sufferings; compare Philippians 2:8-9; Hebrews 12:2; Hebrews 5:7-9; Ephesians 1:20-23.
That he - . Or rather, "since he by the grace of God tasted death for every man." The sense is, that after he had thus tasted death, and as a consequence of it, he was thus exalted. The word rendered here "that" - ὅπως hopōs - means usually and properly "that, so that, in order that, to the end that," etc. But it may also mean "when, after that, after;" see the notes at Acts 3:19. This is the interpretation which is given by Prof. Stuart (in loc.), and this interpretation seems to be demanded by the connection. The general interpretation of the passage has been different. According to that, the sense is, "We see Jesus, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, so as that, by the grace of God, he might taste of death for every man;" see Robinson's Lexicon on the word ὅπως hopōs, and Doddridge on the place. But it is natural to ask when Jesus was thus crowned with glory and honor? It was not before the crucifixion - for he was then poor and despised. The connection seems to require us to understand this of the glory to which he was exalted in heaven, and this was after his death, and could not be in order that he might taste of death. I am disposed, therefore, to regard this as teaching that the Lord Jesus was exalted to heaven in virtue of the atonement which he had made, and this accords with Philippians 2:8-9, and Hebrews 12:2. It accords both with "the fact" in the case, and with the design of the apostle in the argument before us.
By the grace of God - By the favor of God, or by his benevolent purpose toward people. It was not by any claim which man had, but was by his special favor.
Should taste death - Should die; or should experience death; see Matthew 16:28. Death seems to be represented as something bitter and unpalatable - something unpleasant - as an object may be to the taste. Or the language may be taken from a cup - since to experience calamity and sorrow is often represented as drinking a cup of woes; Psalm 11:6; Psalm 73:10; Psalm 75:8; Isaiah 51:17; Matthew 20:22; Matthew 26:39.
For every man - For all - Ὑπὲρ παντὸς Huper pantos - for each and all - whether Jew or Gentile, bond or free, high or low, elect or non-elect. How could words affirm more clearly that the atonement made by the Lord Jesus was unlimited in its nature and design? How can we express that idea in more clear or intelligible language? That this refers to the atonement is evident - for it says that he "tasted death" for them. The friends of the doctrine of general atonement do not desire any other than Scripture language in which to express their belief. It expresses it exactly - without any need of modification or explanation. The advocates of the doctrine of limited atonement cannot thus use Scripture language to express their belief. They cannot incorporate it with their creeds that the Lord Jesus "tasted death for every man." They are compelled to modify it, to limit it, to explain it, in order to prevent error and misconception. But that system cannot be true which requires people to shape and modify the plain language of the Bible in order to keep people from error! compare the notes at 2 Corinthians 5:14, where this point is considered at length.
(With the author's views on the doctrine of atonement we accord in the main; yet are here tempted to ask if the advocates of universal atonement would not be under the like necessity, of explaining, modifying, or "extending," such passages as limit, or seem to limit, the atonement of Christ; and if in framing a creed, the advantage would not lie about equal on either side? Neither party would be contented to set down in it those scriptures which seemed least favorable to themselves without note or explanation. If this remark appears unjust, in as much as the universalist could admit into his creed, that "Christ laid down his life for the sheep," though at the same time he believed further, that he laid it down not for them only, nay, not for them in any special sense "more than for others;" let it be observed that the limitation could just as well admit into his, that "Christ tasted death for every man," or for all people, (Υπερ παντος Huper pantos) though he might believe further, not for all specially, not for all efficaciously, or with Prof. Stuart on the place, not for all universally, but "for all without distinction" that is, both Jew and Gentile. It is indeed difficult to say on which side explanation would be most needed.
In the case of the limited passage it would require to be observed first, that the atonement extended further than it intimated, and besides, that there was no special reference to the parties specified, the sheep, namely. There would be required, in truth, both extension and limitation, that is, if a creed were to be made, or a full view of opinion given. They seem to come nearest the truth on this subject, who deny neither the general nor special aspect of the atonement. On the one hand there is a large class of "universal passages," which cannot be satisfactorily explained on any other principle than what regards the atonement as a great remedial plan, that rendered it consistent with the divine honor, to extend mercy to guilty people at large, and which would have been equally requisite had there been an intention to save one, or millions; numbers indeed not forming any part of the question. On the other hand, there is a large class of "special" texts, which cannot be explained without admitting, that while this atonement has reference to all, "yet God in providing it had a special design to save his people by it;" see the whole subject fully discussed, on the author's note referred to above, and in the supplementary note, on the same passages, which contains a digest of the more recent controversies on the point.)
Hence, learn Hebrews 2:6-9, from the incarnation of the Son of God, and his exaltation to heaven, what an honor has been conferred on human nature. When we look on the weakness and sinfulness of our race, we may well ask, what is man that God should honor him or regard him? He is the creature of a day. He is feeble and dying. He is lost and degraded. Compared with the universe at large, he is a speck, an atom. He has done nothing to deserve the divine favor or notice, and when we look at the race at large we can do it only with sentiments of the deepest humiliation and mortification. But when we looker human nature in the person of the Lord Jesus, we see it honored there to a degree that is commensurate with all our desires, and that fills us with wonder. We feel that it is an honor to human nature - that it has done much to elevate man - when we look on such a man as Howard or Washington. But how much more has that nature been honored in the person of the Lord Jesus!
(1) what an honor to us it was that he should take our nature into intimate union with himself - passing by the angelic hosts, and becoming a man!
(2) what an honor it was that human nature there was so pure and holy; that "man" - everywhere else so degraded and vile - "could" be seen to be noble, and pure, and godlike!
(3) what an honor it was that the divinity should speak to people in connection with human nature, and perform such wonderful works - that the pure precepts of religion should come forth from human lips - the great doctrines of eternal life be uttered by "a man," and that from human hands should go forth power to heal the sick and to raise the dead!
on Hebrews 2 :9
2:9 It is done only with regard to Jesus, God - Man, who is now crowned with glory and honour - As a reward for his having suffered death. He was made a little lower than the angels - Who cannot either suffer or die. That by the grace of God, he might taste death - An expression denoting both the reality of his death, and the shortness of its continuance. For every man - That ever was or will be born into the world.