Meditations in Hebrews 1: 12. The Start of the Prophetic Testimony
Heb 1:5 For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father”? Or again, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son”?
The writer’s starting point in verse 1 had been, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,” Having, in quick brush strokes, just given a panorama of the Son in verses 2 and 3 to show how he was greater than angels (v.4), he now goes back and takes some of the words from the Old Testament to confirm what he has just said. This is prophetic testimony to Jesus, all that follows in this chapter.
As a follow-on to verse 4, note his starting point: “For to which of the angels did God ever say…..” In the verses he is going to quote, his point is twofold: first, that these are references to the Son of God, yes back there in the Old Testament and, second, they show how the Son must be much superior to the angels by way of his relationship to the Father. In your Bible, you will see these laid out in such a way that we can see two different quotes, and they have ‘note letters’ after them pointing to Bible references at the bottom of the page.
The first quote is, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” This quote comes from Psalm 2: “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” (Psa 2:7) If you look up that Psalm you will see that an alternative for ‘King’ could be “anointed one” and so the Jews would look back to that Psalm as one of those possibly pointing forward to a ‘Coming One’. Also you will see an alternative note to “I have become your Father,” that says, “have begotten you.”
Now we picked up on this word ‘begotten’ in an earlier study and it simply means “comes out of” and as we also noted earlier the early church who formulated creeds went to some trouble to emphasise that Father and Son were and are of the same ‘essence’. The Son came out of the Father to be a distinct being who could communicate with the Father. So, what was remarkable was that the writer of Psalm 2 was moving in prophetic mode and actually spoke of a ‘Coming One’ who would be described as having come out of God Himself. Now it is probable that the scholarly Jews down through the ages, pondered over this and simply took it to mean, the Messiah would come from God because they could not envisage a being actually coming out of the One who was God, and certainly not being of the same essence as Him. This is why it was such a challenge for them every time Jesus even hinted at this.
The second quote is, “I will be his Father, and he will be my Son” and in your Bible you should see a footnote that suggests that this comes from 2 Samuel where we find, “He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son.” (2 Sam 7:13,14) This time we know the prophet because the context in 2 Samuel tells us that this is the Lord talking to Nathan who is to pass it on to David. The same quote is found in 1 Chron 17:13. Now this would have possibly confused subsequent Jewish scholars because they would see that the throne of David and the building of the temple referred to Solomon whose son brought about a split in the kingdom. Admittedly the southern kingdom did continue on as far as the Exile but after that there were no kings, just leaders until eventually one of the procurators, under the Romans, Herod the Great, was granted the title, ‘king of the Jews’ but this was clearly not of David’s line and anyway when Jerusalem was destroyed in the rebellion in AD70 again any thought of a throne that goes on ‘forever’ is long gone – in human terms at least. Perhaps because of those struggles verse 14 is largely forgotten, the idea of father and son.
Nevertheless, it was there and clearly referred to one who was not merely a human of descent of David. The Messiah will be the Son of the Father and the Father is God. No wonder the writer now adds a further quote, “And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” (v.6) Now this is where the writer gets picky because he quotes from the Greek version (the Septuagint) of the Old Testament scrolls which reads, “And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him,” (Deut 32:43) although the older version is very different (probably in your Bible). The reality was that they had this newer Greek version (not liked by some) and so he felt free to quote from it. The point he was again making that when the Son was begotten he was worthy of the worship of all the angels who would subsequently be created. The theme continues: the Son is far greater than angels!