1. Epilogue, 13:1-19

i] love and sanctity


The author of Hebrews ends his letter by dealing with the issue of Christian living. In the passage before us he addresses the issue of love: love as it relates to the home, the Christian fellowship and society at large.


i] Context: See 2:10-18. We now come to the formal peroratio, the conclusion of the speech / address / sermon, here as final exhortations rounded up by a benediction and greetings. It is possible to argue that this concluding element of the sermon includes 12:25/28-29. Koester includes v28-29 in the peroratio and suggests a three part circular structure where the first and third parts are parellel:


Service to God, 12:28-29;

Serving others, 13:1-6;

Attention to leaders, 13:7-9.


Priestly Sacrifice, 13:10-11;

Christ's death for others, 13:12;

Christians follow Christ's lead, 13:13-14.


Sacrifice to God, 13:15;

Serving others, 13:16;

Attention to leaders, 13:17-19.


ii] Background: A general introduction; See 1:1-4.


iii] Structure: This passage, Love and sanctity, presents as follows:

Brotherly love, v1;

Love of strangers, v2;

Love of prisoners, v3;

Marital love, v4;

The false love of things, v5-6.


iv] Interpretation:

Throughout the letter / sermon, our author has touched a number of times on the issue of Christian living. Now, in his conclusion, he gives some typical pastoral advice. The reader is encouraged to address five elements of personal piety: brotherly love, hospitality, care of the persecuted, sexual propriety and contentment. The reader is reminded of divine judgment, but also of the promise of divine blessing, and therefore is given a right and proper way to respond to God.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 13:1

Love, v1-6: i] Brotherly love, v1. Our author's first exhortation in this set of directions to his readers is that they keep on loving one another. It is very easy for love to wane, but they are to keep at it. Brotherly love is a central virtue in the Christian life and is probably best understood in the terms of compassion, rather than a warm feeling toward another person.

menetw (menw) pres. imp. "keep on" - let continue, remain, abide. The present imperative carries the sense of a command with durative force, ie. urges an activity as an ongoing process. The believers must continue in their love one toward another.

h/ qiladelqia (a) "loving each other as brothers" - brotherly love. The word is used of affection toward siblings and is taken up in Christian literature to describe compassionate dealings with fellow believers. Attridge understands the sense here as an extension of the writers exhortation toward peace,12:14, but there is nothing in the text to make this link.


ii] Love of "strangers", v2. The second exhortation is for a recommitment to show hospitality toward traveling believers, probably believers who exercise a pastoral ministry of teaching or prophecy. Such hospitality often has unexpected rewards, as Abraham and Sarah discovered when they inadvertently entertained three divine messengers. Our guests may not be angels, but as messengers from God, a blessing from God may come by way of their visit.

epilanqanesqe (epilanqanomai) pres. imp. + gen. "do not forget to show" - do not forget / neglect. The NIV "forget" misses the sense here which is to forget and therefore, to fail to do something, ie. "do not neglect, overlook, care nothing about", BAGD. The ongoing sense of the command is again underlined with the use of the present tense. The use of this word seems to imply a resistance to hospitality, probably due to traveling pseudo teachers/prophets who survived on the generosity of others. The Didache (2nd century Christian ethical treatise) tries to regulate this development by stating that traveling ministers should only stay one day.

thV qiloxeniaV (a) gen. "entertain strangers" - hospitality. Genitive of direct object after the verb epilanqanomai. An important virtue in the early church, given the widespread "methodist" circuit ministry employed, 1Tim.3:2, Tit.1:8. The hospitality shown is therefore, not necessarily toward strangers, in fact, it is more likely toward brothers and sisters in the faith, probably referred, rather than known personally.

dia + gen. "for / by so doing" - because of [this]. Causal; giving the reason why.

tauthV "some people" - An illusion to Old Testament saints who encountered angels, particularly Abraham and Sarah who "inadvertently" entertained them.

xenisonteV (xenizw) aor. part. "have entertained" - having entertained, received. The participle may be classed as complementary, completing the sense of the main verb elaqon "without knowing it"; "receiving without being aware", cf. BDF#413[3]. The phrase is classical and reflects Gk. idiom. The word is used of showing hospitality toward a guest who is not necessarily a family member or a close friend. "There are those who ..... have entertained angels without knowing that they were doing it", Barclay.

aggelouV (oV) "angels" - divine messengers. The writer may have in mind the visit of divine beings, but his language may also be figurative. By showing hospitality toward a traveling prophet/pastor/teacher, we may receive a spiritual blessing, a word from the Lord (as did Abraham and Sarah), which far exceeds our small outlay made in offering hospitality.

elaqon (lanqanw) aor. "without knowing it" - hidden, unaware, without knowing. "Inadvertently", "unawares".


iii] Love of prisoners, v3. The exhortation to remember those in prison is certainly not just an exhortation to remember. This is all about considering those who are suffering for the faith, and acting to do all that is possible to help them in their time of need. In practical terms, it's about seeing that they don't starve to death in prison, forgotten and abandoned by their brothers and sisters. The consideration we are to show stems from the solidarity we share as fellow believers.

mimnhskesqe (mimnhskomai) pres. imp. "remember / continue to remember" - keep on remembering. The strength of the imperative and its ongoing sense, is not clear in the bland "remember" of the NIV. "Make sure you keep in mind [those in prison]." We are not to ignore the afflictions of those brothers and sisters facing persecution. Of course, the sense of the exhortation is not just to remember, but to act on the thought. Practical care toward prisoners was permitted at this time, so we have here an encouragement toward the provision of the daily needs of those members of the brotherhood imprisoned for their faith.

wJV "as if" - as, like. Comparative.

sundedemenoi (sundew) perf. pas. part. "you were their fellow prisoners / you were together with them in prison" - having been bound with. Hapax legomenon - once only use in the NT. The participial may be treated as adverbial, concessive, "[as] though", conditional, "[as] if", possibly modal, expressing manner, even as forming a dependent statement of perception expressing what should be remembered, namely, a self awareness of what it would be like to be a prisoner, yet, even though there is no nominalizer / article, it seems to serve as a substantive; "continue to remember the ones in prison as/like [one] having been imprisoned with [them]." The phrase expresses how we should consider those in prison for their faith; we should act in solidarity with them. The parallel phrase "as if you yourselves were suffering" further explains the point being made. "Remember those who are mistreated as though you were in their body", Koester.

twn kakoucoumenwn (kakoucew) perf. pas. part. "those who are mistreated" - the ones being mistreated, caused to suffer, ill-treated. The participle serves as a substantive. Persecution is again in mind.

onteV (eimi) pres. part. "[as if you yourselves] were suffering" - [as also yourselves] being [in body]. The participial as with "having been imprisoned with". A restatement of the previous parallel phrase, encouraging empathy with those who suffer. The reference to "body" is probably not picking up on Pauline "body" theology, namely, our incorporation into the one body, Christ, and therefore, the idea that the suffering of one member becomes the suffering of all, cf. Westcott. None-the-less, our incorporation in Christ does motivate us to empathize with the suffering of a brother.


iv] Marital love, v4. Another matter of personal morality that requires attention is that of sexual immorality, in particular, adultery. The marriage bed should be kept esteemed, undefiled by the intrusion of a third person. Sexual relations image the depth of the union possible with God in Christ and so should not be polluted by either adultery, or degraded casual sex. Such behavior prompts divine wrath, a wrath that is turned aside by the perfect sacrifice of Christ. Sexual sin is serious.

oJ gamoV "marriage should be" - let be marriage. The union of marriage. The imperative verb to-be is assumed; it is not in the text. Attached to "honored" it forms a predicate adjective which affirms a fact about the subject, "marriage". This grammatical structure is repeated in v5. Of course, the phrase may be a simple statement, "the honored marriage", but this is unlikely.

timioV adj. "honored" - respected, esteemed. The ethical issue here is adultery prompted by lust. The subject is commonly found in both Old and New Testament teaching on personal morality. The marriage bed should not be defiled by the sexual intrusion of a third person.

en pasin "by all" - The preposition is either distributional "among", or instrumental "by". Also, the "all" reads "all things", but "all people" seems more logical.

kai "and" - Coordinative.

hJ koith (h) "the marriage bed" - the bed. The opening clause is repeated here and therefore "matrimonial bed" is intended. In fact, the word is sometimes used of sexual relationships.

amiantoV adj. "kept pure" - undefiled. The word reflects the view that adultery defiles.

gar "for" - Expressing cause/reason; introducing a causal clause explaining why it is important to keep the marriage bed undefiled.

krinei (krinw) fut. "[God] will judge" - "Because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient", Eph.5:6. It is interesting how the New Testament seems to single out sexual sins and links them to divine judgment. Sexual sins are serious because they strike at the heart of the divine image, in particular, the notion of union with God, a union which is imaged in the sexual act. The defilement of this image is the issue. As for judgment, sexual sins are just as open to the wrath of God as any other sin, and as with all sin, God's wrath is turned aside by the same means, namely by grace through faith in the atoning work of Christ.

pornouV (oV) "the sexually immoral" - fornicators. The word is used to describe sexual sin in general terms.


v] Love of things, v5-6. In discussions on covetousness, both chastity and contentment are the desired outcome. Both illicit sex and the love of things, seem to go hand in hand, and so it is interesting that our author, like Paul, maintains a link between the two. Our author is not calling for simplicity, he is not an exponent of the simple-life movement; he is calling for disengagement, a stepping back from an over-reliance on worldly wealth. The reason a believer can step back from an over-reliance on things, is because God supports us during our journey to glory. This is affirmed in the quote from Deuteronomy 31:6, 8. As the Lord supported Israel in their journey to the promised land, so he will support us. Of course, we must be very careful not to jump to conclusions and define this support as "health, wealth and happiness." The Lord supports us as he sees fit. The consequence of accepting that the Lord is on our side, prompts a courageous response in the face of life's many challenges. With the psalmist, we can face these challenges with a fearless resolve and this because we undertake our journey with the Lord on our side, Ps.118:6.

oJ topoV (oV) "[keep] your lives" - manner of life, character, conduct. As in v4 the imperative of the verb to-be is assumed.

afilarguroV adj. "free from the love of money" - not greedy, not mercenary . "No lover of money", 1Tim.3:3, cf. 6:10. "Avoid coveting the things of this world."

arkoumenoi (arkew) pres. pas. part. + dat. "be content with" - being content with. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the assumed imperative "keep your life free ...."; "avoid covetousness and be content with ....." Some translations treat this participle as an independent verbal participle functioning as an imperative, but this is a rare construction. The writer is reinforcing his exhortation that the readers detach themselves from an over-reliance on worldly wealth. It is a call for detachment, although not necessarily simplicity.

toiV parousin (pareimi) dat. pres. part. "what you have" - with what is there. Construct para + eimi. Dative of direct object after the participle "being content with."

autoV "God" - he. Presumably the author of the quote is intended, therefore "God".

ou mh se anw (anihmi) aor. subj. "never will I leave you" - may I never abandon. A subjunctive of emphatic negation serving to underline the fact that God will never abandon his people. The quote here is difficult to identify, but is probably a particular version of Deuteronomy 31:6, 8 which we no longer have access to. The writer takes God's promise to support his people Israel, and applies it to first century believers. Identifying the actual support provided is always difficult. Support in eschatological terms is always in mind, but also the Lord stands beside us in our journey to the promised land and he will support us during that journey, although the support is not of our devising. That there is support, enables the believer to be detached from an over-reliance on worldly wealth.

egkatalipw (egkataleipw) aor. subj. "will I forsake" - may I forsake, desert.


wJste + inf. "so" - so that ... [to say]. The construction here, the conjunction with the infinitive, forms a consecutive clause expressing the result of accepting the truth that God will never leave us; "so, as a result, we can say ...."

hJmaV pro. "we" - Emphatic; "we for our part", Lenski. Given that God will never leave us, "we", the church, the people of God, can respond confidently ......

qarrountaV (qarrew) pres. part. "with confidence" - [so that we] being confident, brave, coragous, undaunted [to say]. The participle may be treated as adjectival, attributive, limiting the pronoun "we", "so we who are confident say", but also adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of our saying; "we can say fearlessly"; "we can confidently say", ESV. With the Lord on our side, we don't need to be overly focused on wealth and power to maintain our own security or the security and advancement of the church's mission.

ou fobhqhsomai (fobew) fut. pas. "I will not be afraid" - I will not fear. "I will be fearless." The quote is from the LXX, Ps.118:6. "There is not much humanity can do to me to inflict lasting damage", Junkins.


Hebrews Introduction



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