SYNOPSIS – The “word” of the Son is superior even to the “word” of Moses, the “servant” of Yahweh – Hebrews 3:1-6.
The letter to the Hebrews employs a series of comparisons to demonstrate the superiority of the Son – His superior word, ministry, priesthood, and sacrifice – over their counterparts in the regulations and rituals of the Levitical legislation. This includes his superiority over the angels, Moses, the Levitical priesthood, and the repeated animal sacrifices required in the book of Leviticus. Moreover, Jesus inaugurated the New Covenant that rendered the old one obsolete.
The first paragraph of the letter presented its main proposition – The word of God spoken in His Son is the complete “word” of God 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 inherited a more excellent name – “Son” – making him superior even to the angels.
(Hebrews 2:1-4) – “For this cause, it behoveth us with unwonted firmness to be holding fast unto the things that have been heard, lest at any time we drift away. For if the word through messengers spoken became firm, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if so great a salvation as this we have neglected, — which, indeed, having received a beginning of being spoken through the Lord by them who heard, unto us was confirmed, God jointly witnessing also, both with signs and wonders and manifold mighty works, and with distributions of Holy Spirit, according to his own will?” – (The Emphasized Bible).
The declaration of his superiority over angels leads into the first warning of the letter – The need to “heed” the “word” spoken in the Son. Failure to do so results in dire consequences. This warning is reiterated throughout the epistle – (Hebrews 4:1-11, 6:4-8, 10:26-31, 12:25-26).
“The word spoken through angels.” The comparison of the “word” of the Son to the Law mediated by angels is based on the Jewish tradition that Moses received the Law from angels – (Deuteronomy 33:2, Acts 7:53, Galatians 3:19).
Regardless, the Law was also the word of God and, therefore, “became firm and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense.” Since terrible retribution fell on all who failed to heed the “word though angels,” how shall Christians escape far greater punishment if they abandon the superior “word spoken in the Son”?
The next section begins with a proposition – God has not subjected the coming habitable world to angels but to man. Though the Son is now highly exalted, he was fully human and participated in all the frailties of man’s mortality prior to his death and exaltation to reign at the right hand of God. His present reign is the result of his suffering and humiliation. Abasement was the necessary prelude and it demonstrated his solidarity with humanity. To “bring many sons to glory” he was “made complete through sufferings.” – (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 [all] his house. For of more glory than Moses hath this one been counted worthy — by as much as more honour than the house hath he that prepared it; For every house is prepared by someone — but he that hath 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 freedom of speech and boast of the hope [throughout firm] we hold fast.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
Next, the letter compares Jesus to Moses, demonstrating the superiority of the former to the latter. Implicit is the priority of the “word spoken in the Son” over the Mosaic legislation. At this point, the comparison with Moses is most appropriate.
In the opening paragraph, the letter compared the “word spoken in the Son” to the earlier revelations given in the prophets of Israel. Although Moses was the chief representative of this illustrious group, he was also more honored than all the other prophets. God spoke to him face-to-face, not through visions or riddles. The greater rank of Moses serves to emphasize just how vastly superior the Son is to all the prophets that preceded him – (Numbers 12:8).
As our “apostle,” Jesus is the one sent from God to deliver His full revelatory 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 ancient Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint:
(Numbers 12:5-8) – “And Yahweh came down in a pillar of cloud, and stood at the door of the Tent, and called Aaron and Miriam; and they both came forth. And he said, Hear now my words: if there be a prophet among you, I Yahweh will make myself known unto 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 and not via intermediaries. Initially, Jesus is put on a par with Moses – God also spoke face-to-face with the Son.
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 a far greater degree of punishment, logically, the superiority of the Son over Moses follows.
The keywords “faithful,” “priest,” and “house” all allude to the prophecy that one day Yahweh would “raise me up a faithful priest; 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” set over God’s “house” – (1 Samuel 2:35, Hebrews 10:1-14).
But Jesus has been found worthy of more honor than Moses, just as the one who prepares a house is worthy of more honor than the house.
The Son is associated closely with its builder – God. He has been set over the house.In contrast, Moses was a servant in it. The Greek verb rendered “prepare (kataskeuazō) means “to prepare, equip,” not to “build” – (Strong’s – #G2680). In Greek literature, it was used for supplying vessels and furnishings to prepare a household for habitation.
Moses was an “attendant” in the house of Yahweh “for a testimony” of the word that “will be spoken.” As a faithful “attendant,” Moses was a witness to the word that come later. Put another way, this is another picture of the preparatory function of the Old Covenant revelation. It was penultimate, not ultimate.
“House” points to the living community of God’s people. Jesus is “over His house whose house are we.” Believers “are” (present tense) his household as long as they hold fast their “confidence and boast of hope.” The warning of the letter is reiterated – It is necessity to hold firmly to our confession and persevere to the end.
Nowhere does the Author denigrate Moses. But Moses was part of an era now in the past that has been eclipsed by Jesus.
This comparison with Moses prepares the reader for the next section about the generation of Israel that received the “word” through Moses but failed “to hold fast to their confidence and hope.” To abandon the final revelation “spoken” in the Son for the older and incomplete “word” will result in a horrific price – (Hebrews 3:7-4:13).