The “word” of the Son is superior even to the “word” of Moses, the “servant” in the house of Yahweh and the Great Lawgiver – Hebrews 3:1-6.
The letter to the Hebrews demonstrates the supremacy of the Son by comparing his “word” to those of angels and of Moses, his priesthood and sacrifice to the Aaronic priests and the repeated animal sacrifices of the Levitical system, and the new covenant inaugurated by him to the old one now rendered obsolete by the ministry and exaltation of Jesus.
The letter’s first paragraph presented its key proposition – The word of God spoken in His Son is the complete “word” that surpasses all previous revelations. The earlier word “spoken in the prophets” was true but incomplete, promissory, and preparatory. And “having achieved the purification of sins,” Jesus has inherited the more distinguished name of “Son,” making him superior even to the mightiest of angels.
The letter first compared the “Son” to angels, which concluded with the letter’s first warning. If the earlier word delivered by angels on Mount Sinai included severe punishment for all who disobeyed it, how much worse will the consequences be for anyone who refuses to heed the word of the “Son”? – (Hebrews 2:1-4).
The next paragraph began with the proposition – God has not subjected the coming habitable world to angels but to man. Though the Son is now highly exalted, he participated in all the frailties of man’s mortality prior to his death, and his present reign is the result of his suffering on behalf of his “brethren,” the ones for whom he “achieved the purification of sins.”
The Son’s abasement was the necessary prelude to victory over the tyranny of death, and it demonstrated his solidarity with humanity. To “bring many sons to glory” he was “made complete through sufferings.” Consequently, having suffered the things common to all men, he qualified as the “merciful and faithful high priest” who now mediates on behalf of his people – (Hebrews 2:5-18).
- (Hebrews 3:1-6) – “Whence, holy brethren, partners in a heavenly calling, attentively consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Jesus, as one faithful to him who made him: as Moses also in his house. For of more glory than Moses has this one been counted worthy, by as much as, more honor than the house has he that prepared it. For every house is prepared by someone, but he that has prepared all things is God. Even Moses, indeed, was faithful in all his house as an attendant, for a witness of the things which were to be spoken; but Christ as a Son over his house, whose house are we, if the boldness of speech and boast of the hope we hold fast.”
Next, the letter compares Jesus to Moses to demonstrate the superiority of the former over the latter. Implicit is the priority of the “word spoken in the Son” over the Mosaic legislation. And at this point in the discussion, the comparison with Moses is most appropriate.
In the opening paragraph, the letter compared the “word spoken in” Jesus to the earlier revelations given “in the prophets.” Although Moses was the chief representative of this illustrious group, he was also more honored than all other prophets. Unlike the others, God spoke to him face-to-face and not through visions and riddles. And the greater rank of Moses serves to emphasize just how superior the Son is to all the prophets that preceded him.
As our “apostle,” he is the one sent from God to deliver His final Word. As our “high Priest,” he represents and makes intercession on our behalf. The descriptions of him as “one faithful,” and of Moses as “also in all his house,” allude to a passage from the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint:
- (Numbers 12:5-8) – “Hear now my words, if there be a prophet among you, I, Yahweh, will make myself known to him in a vision, I will speak with him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so; he is faithful in all my house: with him will I speak mouth-to-mouth, even manifestly, and not in dark speeches; and the form of Yahweh shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant, against Moses?”
Moses was the only one to whom Yahweh spoke face-to-face, that is, until Jesus. In Jewish tradition, Moses received greater honor and rank than even angels. Since the Son is superior to the angels, and since the letter already warned that disobedience to his word required far greater punishment than the Torah, the superiority of the Son over Moses follows logically.
The keywords “faithful,” “priest,” and “house” allude to the prophecy that one day Yahweh would “raise up a faithful priest, and according to that which is in my heart and in my soul will he do. Therefore, will I build for him an assured house.” Jesus is now presented as that promised “faithful priest” who has been set over God’s “house” – (1 Samuel 2:35, Hebrews 10:1-14).
And Jesus has been found worthy of more honor than Moses, just as the one who prepares the house is worthy of more honor than the house. The Son is associated closely with its builder – God – and he has been set over His house. In contrast, Moses was a servant in His “house.”The Greek verb rendered “prepare” or kataskeuazō means “to prepare, equip,” and not to “build.” In Greek literature, it was used for supplying vessels and furnishings to prepare a household for habitation.
“House” points to the living community of God’s covenant people. Jesus is “over His house whose house we are.” Believers “are” (present tense) his household as long as they hold fast their “confidence and boast of hope” – We must hold firmly to our confession and persevere to the end.
Nowhere does the letter denigrate Moses. However, the Great Lawgiver belonged to the past era that has been eclipsed by the Son, Jesus Christ.
The comparison with Moses prepares the reader for the next section concerning the generation of Israel that received the Mosaic “word” but failed “to hold fast to their confidence and hope.” To abandon the final revelation that God has “spoken” in His Son for the older and incomplete “word” will result in horrific consequences.