New European Commentary


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2:1 Therefore we ought to give the more earnest attention to the things that we heard, lest we drift away from them- The more earnest attention continues the theme of chapter 1, that the things of the Lord Jesus are of greater moment than those spoken by Moses and declared by Angels (:2). "That we heard" suggests they would have heard rather than read the Gospel message. All they had was their memories of the word spoken; we therefore can the more understand the significance of the New Testament being written down. Hence the appeal to give attention to those things. Those things were about their personal salvation (:3). The more we believe that we really have been redeemed, the more evident it becomes that these things demand our whole and total devotion. If we “neglect so great salvation”, we will have ‘drifted away’ (RV) from the solid assurances which are in the Gospel we first heard. Clearly, it is a temptation to drift away from those assurances, even if we ‘hold’ to the doctrinal propositions of the Gospel in theory. The wonderful reality of it all for us can so easily drift away. But; we will be there!

2:2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution- "Transgression" is more 'inattention'. Although the judgments of the Mosaic law were not put into effect by the priesthood, the intention was that every act of violation, conscious or otherwise, had retribution. And God to this day is a sensitive responder to the works and thoughts of His people (s.w. 11:6). We should realize that under the new covenant, behaviour is even the more significant, and every act of life and thought is therefore the more culpable in light of the fact that God's Son shed His blood for our salvation.

2:3- see on Acts 1:1.

How shall we escape- The rejected will have a desire to escape but having no place to run (Heb. 2:3, quoting Is. 20:6 concerning the inability of men to escape from the approach of the invincible Assyrian army). Rev. 20:11 likewise speaks of the rejected 'heavens and earth' fleeing from the Lamb's throne and finding no place to go. Before the whirlwind of God's judgment, the false shepherds of Israel "shall have no way to flee, nor the principal of the flock to escape" (Jer. 25:35). The rejected will see that the Lord is coming against them with an army much stronger than theirs, and they have missed the chance to make peace (Lk. 14:31). They will be like the Egyptians suffering God's judgments in the Red Sea, wanting to flee but having no realistic place to run to. Uzziah hasting to go out from the presence of the Lord after he was judged for his sin was a foretaste of this (2 Chron. 26:20). But the "escape" in view may specifically refer to escape from the tribulation to come upon Jerusalem in the last days (Lk. 21:36 s.w.), and this had special relevance if indeed as suggested on 1:1 Hebrews is addressed primarily to the Jerusalem church.

If we neglect so great a salvation?- "So great a salvation" is the LXX for "A great deliverance" (Gen. 45:7), brought about by the suffering of Joseph-Jesus at the hands of his brethren. “Such great salvation" (Heb. 2:3) might imply that a lesser salvation could have been achieved by Christ, but He achieved the greatest possible. "He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him" (Heb. 7:25) may be saying the same thing. Indeed, the excellence of our salvation in Christ is a major NT theme. It was typified by the way Esther interceded for Israel; she could have simply asked for her own life to be spared, but she asked for that of all Israel. And further, she has the courage (and we sense her reticence, how difficult it was for her) to ask the King yet another favour- that the Jews be allowed  to slay their enemies for one more day, and also to hang Haman's sons (Es. 9:12). She was achieving the maximum possible redemption for Israel rather than the minimum. Paul again seems to comment on this theme when he speaks of how Christ became obedient, "even to the death of the cross" (Phil. 2:8), as if perhaps some kind of salvation could have been achieved without the death of the cross. Perhaps there was no theological necessity for Christ to die such a painful death; if so, doubtless this was in His mind in His agony in the garden. “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me" (Mt. 26:39) may not simply mean 'If it's possible, may I not have to die'. The Lord could have meant: 'If it- some unrecorded possible alternative to the cross- is really possible, then let this cup pass'- as if to say 'If option A is possible, then let the cup of option B pass from me'. But He overrode this with a desire to be submissive to the Father's preferred will- which was for us to have a part in the greatest, most surpassing salvation, which required the death of the cross.

Which having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed to us by those that heard- This is the standard proof for a non-Pauline authorship of Hebrews. But see on 1:1. The "us" and "we" in Hebrews refers to the wider readership and don't have to demand that the author includes himself in the reference. There are other examples of this e.g. "Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die" (1 Cor. 15:32). "We" should no longer be tossed around by false teachings (Eph. 4:14) surely precludes Paul personally. In Hebrews, the "we" who need to take more earnest heed to the Gospel is surely the readership rather than the author (Heb. 2:1). The personal notes at the end of chapter 13 are hard to interpret as written by anyone other than Paul. Even if the "we" must include Paul, "Those that heard" would refer to the disciples, whom Paul was not among. They "confirmed" the Lord's own message. It could be argued that Paul is saying that he had heard the message directly from the Lord on the Damascus road, as he emphasizes in Galatians; and what he heard was corroborated by the witness of the disciples. Read this way, the argument would be that the "us" referred to someone who had heard the message spoken through the Lord Jesus directly, and had the content of it confirmed to him by the disciples. And that "us" could only be Paul personally. In this case, this verse confirms rather than questions Paul's authorship.

2:4 God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various powers and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will- The purpose of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit was to confirm the spoken word of the disciples, the eye witnesses and first hearers of the Lord Jesus (2:3). This clear purpose of these gifts is proof of itself that they were not for all time; once the Lord's message and the inspired interpretation of it had been codified in the New Testament, there was no need for these miraculous gifts to confirm the authority and veracity of the preachers.

2:5 For not to angels did He subject the world to come, of which we speak- Paul now returns to his theme of the Lord's superiority over Angels. The great salvation made possible by the Lord's death means a place in God's Kingdom, when the world shall be subject unto us- and not to Angels. Whatever their future role, Paul implies that our status in the future Kingdom will be far greater than that of the Angels currently. "Did He" rather than "will He" reflects suggests that the whole plan of our salvation has already been effected in God's purpose and will. The subjection of the world to us was what Paul spoke about- in preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God coming on earth.

2:6 But one has somewhere testified- As noted on 13:22, this is the kind of language appropriate to a transcript of a talk or lecture.

What is man, that You are mindful of him? Or the Son of Man, that You visit him?- The parallel between mankind generally and "the Son of Man", Messiah, clearly places this "Son of man" as one of mankind, and not God. But it is this total humanity of the Lord Jesus which is the basis of His exaltation above Angels, as the argument goes on to demonstrate. This is also answering the tendency within parts of Judaism to think that the Messiah would be some kind of Angel or pre-existent spirit which visited earth. Note that God is mindful of man because He visits him- which He does through His Angels (visiting is Angelic language). Thus God is mindful (literally mind-full!) of us because of the Angels "visiting" us with trials and observation "every moment" (Job 7:18). His mind was full of us in that He 'visited' humanity in His Son. Note that the Son did not visit earth; God visited not the earth but mankind, in that He manifested Himself in His Son who was born of our human nature. And who were we, a tiny planet in an infinitely expanding cosmos, and just a few of us two legged beings on its surface, that God Almighty should plan our salvation and high exaltation through the nature and sacrifice of His only begotten Son...

Heb. 2:6-9 is an example of the inspired writer using expected reader response and expectations in order to make a point. Having spoken of how the world to come will be given to redeemed human beings and not to Angels, the writer goes on to quote from the Psalms to prove that point. We begin reading the quotation assuming it's talking about humanity generally; but as it goes on, we realize it's talking about the pre-eminent Son of Man, i.e. the Lord Jesus. Notice how in :9 He is called "Jesus", with no 'Lord' or 'Christ' added on. The point of it all is to make us perceive how totally identified is Jesus with humanity as a whole; a passage which speaks in its context of humanity generally is allowed to quite naturally flow on in meaning to apply to the Lord Jesus personally. It's a majestic, powerful way of making the point- that the Lord Jesus was truly one of us.

2:7 You made him a little lower than the angels, You crowned him with glory and honour and did set him over the works of Your hands- The context of Ps. 8:5 is of David's exaltation after killing Goliath. David sees in his victory the possibility for the exaltation generally not only of Israel but of all humanity. The individual in view is interpreted specifically as Jesus (:9). And it is likewise true that His exaltation is the possibility for the exaltation of all Israel and all humanity, insofar as we are "in Him" and identified with Him in baptism. The making of man or the Lord Jesus for a short time lower than the Angels is no evidence of His pre-existence or Divine incarnation in Him; for the words in their original context apply to the man David and to "man" generally. The idea is that man, and the Lord Jesus, is made for a little while / period lower than the Angels, and Paul takes this as implying that both the Lord Jesus and ourselves shall be exalted higher than the Angels, seeing we are only for a short period made lower than them.

2:8 You did put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that He subjected all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not see all things subjected to him- The "him" is mankind generally and also specifically the Lord Jesus. 1 Cor. 15:27,28; Eph. 1:22;5:24 use the same language to describe our subjection under the Lord's feet, becoming thereby His footstool. But the Gospel must yet advance, and those obedient to it must yet subject more parts of their lives to His kingship. Through His Spirit, we are progressively subjected to Him (Phil. 3:21). And finally, all things on earth shall literally be subject unto the Lord Jesus; and that includes Angels. For His superiority over Angels is the context of this passage. The same word is used of how Angels have been made subject unto Him (1 Pet. 3:22).

2:9- see on Rom. 3:19; Phil. 2:8.

But we behold him who has been made a little lower than the angels- Jesus- crowned with glory and honour because of his suffering of death, whereby, by the grace of God, he tasted death for every person- The focus is now moved from mankind generally to the Lord Jesus, the pre-eminent "son of man". He has been exalted to glory and honour, perhaps by implication a glory greater than of the Angels because of His suffering of death. The implication might be that Angels cannot die (Lk. 20:35,36) but the Lord did, and was thereby exalted above them. The Lord's exaltation is ours, and repeatedly we read in Hebrew 2 of the Lord's total connection with humanity in order to save and exalt us. That connection was not with Angels but with humans; for the Lord was not an Angel, seeing His mission was identification with men and thereby to achieve their salvation. His death was supremely a tasting of death for every man. Seeing Angels cannot die, the Lord's death was a clear enough statement He was no Angel but human, dying for His people. Death is the ultimate human fear and problem; and the Lord tasted every man's death, every man's ultimate fear and struggle. This was by God's grace because what is man, that He should be so mindful of us as to give His only begotten Son to identify with us and save a few of us.

By God’s grace, the Lord tasted death for (Gk. huper) every man, as our representative: “in tasting death he should stand for all" (Heb. 2:9 NEB). In His death He experienced the essence of the life-struggle and death of every man. The fact the Lord did this for us means that we respond for Him. “To you it is given in the behalf of (Gk. huper) Christ, not only to believe on Him [in theory], but to suffer for his sake (Gk. huper)" (Phil. 1:29). He suffered for us as our representative, and we suffer for Him in response. This was and is the two-way imperative of the fact the Lord was our representative. He died for all that we should die to self and live for Him (2 Cor. 5:14,15). “His own self bare our sins [as our representative] in his own body [note the link “our sins" and “his own body"] that we being dead to sin, should live unto righteousness" (1 Pet. 2:24,25). We died with Him, there on His cross; and so His resurrection life is now ours. He is totally active for us now; His life now is for us, and as we live His life, we should be 100% for Him in our living. He gave His life for us, and we must lay down our lives for Him (1 Jn. 3:16).

Heb. 2:9 seems to describe the Lord in His time of dying, in the suffering [not just the experience of, but the suffering associated with] death, as “crowned with glory and honour". There He was crowned not with thorns but glory and honour, from God's perspective. The physical sufferings of the cross were an especial cause of spiritual temptation to the Lord; just as physical pain, illness, weakness etc. are specific causes of our temptations to sin. Heb. 2:9 defines the Lord's 'sufferings' as specifically "the suffering of death", the sufferings associated with His time of dying. Heb. 2:18 RVmg. then goes on to say: "For having been himself tempted in that wherein he suffered". The sufferings of death were therefore an especial source of temptation for Him. Truly did He learn obedience to the Father specifically through the process of His death (Heb. 5:8). Let's seek to remember this when we or those close to us face physical weakness, illness and pain of whatever sort. The Greek words charis [grace] and choris [apart] differ by one very small squiggle. This is why there’s an alternative reading of Heb. 2:9: “So that apart from God [choris theou] he [Jesus] tasted death for us”. This would then be a clear reference to the way that the Lord Jesus felt apart from God at His very end. Not that He was, but if He felt like that, then this was in practice the experience which He had. Thus even when we feel apart from God- the Lord Jesus knows even that feeling.

2:10 For it became Him for whom are all things and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the author of their salvation- The God for whom are all things wishes to bring many sons to glory- not just one, the Lord Jesus. He who could do all things, whose are all things, worked out His purpose of having many glorious sons through giving them an author of salvation who was perfected through sufferings. That salvation has to be authored for each son makes it personal, and the relationship between the author and the authored the more intimate. The false idea of each person having an inherent "immortal soul" totally destroys the wonder of eternal salvation being personally authored for each of us. The same word for "author" is used in this sense in 12:2, where Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. By His grace He began faith in people, and the grace / gift of His Spirit finishes our faith in salvation. Through that path the Lord Jesus is the author of our salvation.

Perfect through sufferings- The Lord Jesus alone could say, with full meaning, “I am”. Who He appeared to be, was who He essentially was. He alone achieved a completely integrated, real self. He was what Paul called the “perfect man”, the completed, integrated person (Eph. 4:13). But He had to work on this. Hebrews always speaks of Him as “perfected”, as a verb (Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 7:28)- never with the adjective ‘perfect’. Apart from being a major problem for Trinitarian views, this simple fact sets Him up as our pattern, whom the Father seeks like wise ‘to perfect’. Yet the path the Lord had to take to achieve this was hard indeed. His final point of perfection was reached at the moment of His death; the sufferings of death elicited within Him that final point of completion / perfection. Which was why He died at just that point. And this adds infinite meaning to the sufferings of death which are our common experience.

2:11- see on Heb. 11:26.

For both he that sanctifies and they that are sanctified are all of the same nature- This is yet more evidence that the Lord was not an Angel. He had the nature of those whom He sanctified in order to achieve that sanctification. This inspired principle is profound and underpins the representative nature of the Lord's work and sacrifice. The sanctifier must be of the same nature as the sanctified. This raises a serious question about the validity of the Mosaic sacrifices; they were only acceptable by reason of the truly representative Messianic sacrifice to which they pointed forward. And as Paul will later point out, it was therefore not possible for the blood of animals to take away human sin; the sanctification had to be achieved by a sanctifier of the same nature. But "of the same nature" is literally "out of one". The argument could equally be that they were of the same Father, which is why He is not ashamed to call us brothers, for we are of the same one Father. In this case, Paul read the virgin birth as no fundamental barrier to the Lord's identification with us, for we and Jesus are all "of the same one", i.e. God.

For this cause he is not ashamed to call them brothers- The very fact Christ calls us His brothers (as in Mt. 12:50) is seen as proof of Christ's humanity, that it was men and not Angels who were His brothers. The Lord shall be ashamed of His association with some at the last day, and of us He will not be ashamed in that day (s.w. Mk. 8:38). But His unashamed association with us begins now in this life. Because God's Son is unashamed now of having us as His brothers, therefore the Father is not ashamed to be known as our God (11:16 s.w.).

2:12- see on Mt. 28:10.

Saying: I will declare Your name to my brothers, in the midst of the congregation will I sing Your praise- The Psalm quoted predicts the Lord's crucifixion. His prayer thoughts to the Father then included His awareness that the ekklesia, the church or "congregation", were His brothers. For He realized that it was through His sacrifice that a new family was being created. The declaration or preaching of the Father's Name to us was supremely through the Lord's death on the cross. The cross was the supreme declaration of the Name (Jn. 17:26); the first letters of the Hebrew title over the cross spelt 'YHWH'. And that declaration of the Name in the naked, bleeding, betrayed and crucified Christ was to us. And the Lord looked forward, perhaps in literal terms, to singing praise to the Father in the midst of His brothers. This all hardly sounds as if the Lord Jesus was "God the Son". He positioned Himself in the midst of His brethren, singing God's praise- even after His exaltation.

2:13 And again: I will put my trust in Him- The fact the Lord Jesus needed to trust the Father is cited as an example of His humanity, and therefore proof of His not being an Angel- for Angels do not need to exhibit trust or faith in God. The quotation from Is. 8:17 goes on to state that God is hidden from the majority of Israel- relevant to the Hebrew Christians who were wondering how so many in Israel could be wrong, and who were returning to the majority, the broad way of Judaism. The original context speaks of the isolation of Isaiah and his family within Israel; "I", even if Israel en masse do not, "will put my trust in Him"; the majority in Israel had stumbled (Is. 8:15), a figure Paul elsewhere uses about Israel's stumbling on the rock of Jesus as Messiah. And it was all because they had not truly understood God's law (Is. 8:20) which spoke so fully of Jesus as Christ.

And again: Behold, I and the children whom God has given me- Isaiah is a confirmed type of Christ, and his school of prophets typical of the saints. "I (Isaiah) and the children (prophets - Is. 8:16) whom the Lord hath given me" (Is. 8:18) is quoted here as referring to Christ and His brethren. Other instances of Isaiah being a type of Christ can be found by comparing Is. 6:10 with John 12:39-41 and by appreciating that "The spirit of the Lord God is upon me... to preach good tidings... to comfort all that mourn" (e.g. Hezekiah) is primarily concerning Isaiah's message of hope to Israel during the Assyrian invasions, although it is quoted concerning Jesus (Is. 61:1,2 cp. Luke 4:18). Is. 8:16-18 could be taken as Isaiah saying that he had decided not to teach his school of prophets any longer, but rather to just personally focus upon his own relationship with God: "Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. And I will wait upon the LORD, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him". The next verse is however quoted in Heb. 2:13 about the Lord Jesus and His brethren being of the same nature: "Behold, I and the children whom the LORD hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts". The Hebrew writer therefore understood this statement to reflect an intense unity between Isaiah and his "children", be they his literal children [Immanuel and Mahershalalhashbaz] or his spiritual children. It seems to me that Immanuel could've been some kind of Messiah figure- but for whatever reason, he didn't live up to it and the prophecy was therefore given a greater application to the Lord Jesus. Likewise, the "children" Isaiah refers to in Is. 8:18 became the faithful children in Christ under the new covenant, according to how Heb. 2:13 quotes it.

2:14- see on Gal. 1:4; Rev. 20:5.

Since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner partook of the same nature; so that through his death he might bring to nothing him that had the power of death, that is, the Devil- The language of sharing and partaking does not mean that the Lord only shared part of our nature; for we the children are sharers or partakers in flesh and blood, and we are fully human. He likewise participated or shard fully in our condition. Not an an actor, playing out a theological necessity that was scripted in the heavenly text, but in full total reality.

“Him that had the power of death, that is the Devil” (Heb. 2:14) may refer to the fact that “the sting (power) of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the (Jewish) Law” (1 Cor. 15:56; see also Rom. 4:15; 5:13;7:8, where ‘the Law’ that gives power to sin is clearly the Jewish law). Bearing in mind that the ‘Devil’ often refers to sin and the flesh, it seems significant that ‘the flesh’ and ‘sin’ are often associated with the Mosaic Law. The whole passage in Heb. 2:14 can be read with reference to the Jewish Law being ‘taken out of the way’ by the death of Jesus [A.V. “destroy him that hath the power of death”]. The Devil kept men in bondage, just as the Law did (Gal. 4:9; 5:1; Acts 15:10; Rom. 7:6–11). The Law was an ‘accuser’ (Rom. 2:19,20; 7:7) just as the Devil is. Hebrews 2:14 states that the Devil was destroyed by Christ’s death. The Greek for ‘destroy’ is translated ‘abolish’ in Ephesians 2:15: “Having abolished [Darby: ‘annulled’] in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances”. This would equate the Devil with the enmity, or fleshly mind (Rom. 8:7) generated by the Mosaic Law; remember that Hebrews was written mainly to Jewish believers. The Law itself was perfect, in itself it was not the minister of sin, but the effect it had on man was to stimulate the ‘Devil’ within man because of our disobedience. “The strength of sin is the Law” (1 Cor.15:56). “Sin taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me (Rom. 7:8,11). Hence “the wages of sin (stimulated by the Law) is death” (Rom. 6:23). It is quite possible that the “sin” in Romans 6, which we should not keep serving, may have some reference to the Mosaic Law. It is probable that the Judaizers were by far the biggest source of false teaching in the early church. The assumption that Paul is battling Gnosticism is an anachronism, because the Gnostic heresies developed some time later. It would be true to say that incipient Gnostic ideas were presented by the Judaizers in the form of saying that sin was not to be taken too seriously because the Law provided set formulae for getting round it. The Law produced an outward showing in the “flesh”, not least in the sign of circumcision (Rom. 2:28).

This passage places extraordinary emphasis upon the fact that the Lord Jesus had human nature: “He also himself likewise” partook of it (Heb. 2:14). This phrase uses three words all with the same meaning, just to drive the point home. He partook “of the same” nature; the record could have said ‘he partook of it too’, but it stresses, “he partook of the same”. The passages hammers home the same truth multiple times: "Himself... likewise... in like manner... partook... the same". The Lord's humanity was of huge moment to Paul. It is the basis for our salvation. The Lord partook in our nature, and we are made partakers in Him unto salvation (Heb. 2:14 cp. 3:14; 12:10; 2 Cor. 1:7; 1 Pet. 4:13). As He partook in our nature, so we partake in Him and symbolize it by partaking at His table (s.w. 1 Cor. 10:17,21,30). His humanity, when preached and understood, is a powerful invitation to partake in Him by baptism and a life lived in Him. A Divine "God the Son" has no such appeal. 

2:15- see on Heb. 5:7.

And might deliver all those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage- The reference is to Israel's deliverance from Egyptian bondage. The "devil" who was slain in :14 could then allude to Pharaoh. But Israel were delivered from a greater bondage- to the law and the inevitable fear of death which it inculcated in sinful man (see on :14). It is the fear of death, the subconscious awareness in every human being that they have sinned and must die, which is here defined as the psychological bind which keeps people in bondage. The message of freedom from sin and death which is in Christ is only attractive to those who are honest enough to get in touch with themselves and realize that this is indeed the psychological tie that binds them. We can only experience the joy of release from bondage if we perceive we were in bondage; and such joy can only come from a firm persuasion that if the Lord were to return right now, we really will be saved. For anything less than that is not good news, just a fearful sense of responsibility to judgment to come, against which we vainly hope our knowledge of some true theology will somehow triumph.

The fear of death grips our society more than we like to admit. The Swiss psychologist Paul Tournier observed the huge “number of people who dream that they are locked in, that everywhere they come up against iron-bound and padlocked doors, that they absolutely must escape, and yet there is no way out”. This is the state of the nation, this is how we naturally are, this is the audience to which we preach. And we preach a freedom from that fear. Because the Lord Jesus was of our human nature- and here perhaps more than anywhere else we see the crucial practical importance of doctrine- we are freed from the ranks of all those who through fear of death live their lives in bondage. For He died for us, as our representative. How true are those inspired words. “To release them who through fear / phobos of death were all their living-time subject to slavery” (Gk.). Nearly all the great psychologists concluded that the mystery of death obsesses humanity; and in the last analysis, all anxiety is reduced to anxiety about death. You can see it for yourself, in how death, or real, deep discussion of it, is a taboo subject; how people will make jokes about it in reflection of their fear of seriously discussing it. People, even doctors, don’t quite know what to say to the dying. There can be floods of stories and chit-chat… all carefully avoiding any possible allusion to death. This fear of death, in which the unredeemed billions of humanity have been in bondage, explains the fear of old age, the unwillingness to accept our age for what it is, our bodies for how and what they are, or are becoming. I’m not saying of course that the emotion of fear or anxiety is totally removed from our lives by faith. The Lord Jesus in Gethsemane is proof enough that these emotions are an integral part of being human, and it’s no sin to have them. I’m talking of fear in it’s destructive sense, the fear of death which is rooted in a lack of hope. There's a passage in Hamlet which speaks of not so much fearing death as "the dread of something after death" (some of the sentiments in Job 18 are similar). And modern psychoanalytical studies have confirmed this. A large part of the fear of death is the fear of what follows. For those in Christ, whilst like their Lord they may naturally fear the process of death, their future is secured; they know that death is unconsciousness and will end ultimately in a bodily resurrection at the Lord's return, after which they will share in His eternal life. For them, "the fear of death" in its ultimate form has been removed (Heb. 2:14-18).

This passage in Hebrews 2 says that the Lord can deliver us from such bondage because he is our representative, our brother, of our nature, not ashamed of His connection with us (2:11). Reasoning back from this, we can see that Moses' ability to redeem Israel from Egypt, his appropriacy for the task, was because he had openly declared that he was one of them. Yet the wonder of that was lost on them. And if we are not careful, the wonder of the fact that the Lord had our nature, that He was our representative and is therefore mighty to save, can be lost on us too. The thrill of these first principles should ever remain with us. 

All the Judges in some way prefigured the Lord; for they were "saviours" raised up to deliver God's weak and failing people in pure grace, when according to God's own word, they should have received the due punishment of rejection (Neh. 9:27,28). He who delivered "them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Heb. 2:15) was typified by all those earlier deliverers of God's people from bondage (cp. Mt. 1:21). The "great salvation" of Heb. 2:3 which the Lord achieved was foreshadowed by the great deliverance wrought by Samson (Jud. 15:18).

2:16 For truly not to angels does he take hold in association; but he took hold of the seed of Abraham- The tense of "take hold" suggests the Lord is doing this now. He does not take hold of Angels to associated with them, but of humans; because He had been intended through His nature to take hold of the seed of  Abraham. The Lord Jesus is therefore an active Lord, calling men and women, taking hold of them by His calling. But the word translated "take hold" is used in the Gospels of the Lord taking hold of men literally (Peter on the water in his loss of faith, Mt. 14:31; the blind man of Mk. 8:23; the little child of Lk. 9:47 with his immature faith and understanding; the paralyzed man of Lk. 14:4). In all these incidents we see acted parables of how the Lord takes hold of people in all manner of situations; and He does so on account of having fully shared our nature. The seed of Abraham referred to a singular seed, not a plural (Gal. 3:16)- the Lord Jesus personally. But He takes hold of men and women and His humanity is a beckoning to them to become 'in Him' by baptism, so that they too are part of the seed (Gal. 3:27-29).

Angels cannot die: “Death... does not lay hold of angels” (Heb. 2:16 Diaglott margin). If Angels could sin, then those who are found worthy of reward at Christ’s return will also still be able to sin. And seeing that sin brings death (Rom. 6:23), they will therefore not have eternal life; if we have a possibility of sinning, we have the capability of dying. Thus to say Angels can sin makes God’s promise of eternal life meaningless, seeing that our reward is to share the nature of the Angels. Heb. 2:16–18 repays closer reflection in this context of Angels and possibility to sin. It speaks of the reasons why the Lord Jesus had to be of human nature: “For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the [nature of the] seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted”. Exactly because the Lord Jesus had to be tempted to sin, He did not have Angelic nature but human nature. His mission was to save humanity from human sin and death, not the Angels who cannot die. So, He had to have human nature so that He could be tempted to sin; and so this section so labours the point that therefore He did not have Angels’ nature. Which, by inference, is not able to be tempted to sin. Note how the Bible speaks of “Angels” as if there is only one category of Angel– obedient Heavenly beings.

2:17- see on Lk. 24:6; Jn. 19:13.

Therefore in all things he had to be made like his brothers- The same Greek word is used in 1 Jn. 3:2 of how finally, we shall be "made like" Him. His experiences of life, of our humanity, brought Him into identity with us- so that we might reach final identity with Him. The language of 2:14-18 may well be intended to be talking specifically about the Lord's death. This ongoing process of being 'made like' us came to particular intensity at that time. The hymn of Phil. 2 makes the same point- that the Lord was made like us mentally particularly through His experience of crucifixion and death. His death became ours, so that His resurrection and life shall likewise become ours. But "made like" implies a process, as if through His life experience He progressively came to identify with all men, and this process of identification and total understanding of all men came to a peak culmination in His time of dying. "Made like" means fundamentally 'to assimilate'. He assimilated all that there is in man, so that nobody can ever now complain that there is nobody who understands them. On earth there indeed is not, but there is the Heavenly man who does.

Moses' persecution by Pharaoh enabled him to enter into the feelings of Israel in the slave camps; and as they fled from Pharaoh towards the Red Sea, Moses would have recalled his own flight from Pharaoh to Midian. The whole epistle to the Hebrews is shot through with allusions to Moses. "In all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren" (Heb. 2:17) is alluding to Dt. 18:18: “I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren like unto thee (Moses)". The brethren of Christ are here paralleled with Moses; as if Moses really is representative of not only natural Israel, but spiritual too- as well as Moses being a type of Christ. For this reason he is such a clear pattern for us, and we are invited so often to identify ourselves with him by copying his example. Moses was made like his brethren through his similar experiences, as Christ was progressively made like us by his life of temptation. 

So that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people- The Jewish High Priest was doing a job, and had no personal dispensation which allowed him to be merciful / compassionate (Gk.) to the offerers who came to him or to the people for whom he interceded. The Lord Jesus is a High Priest who has the capacity to show compassion, who is faithful or trustworthy to do the required work of obtaining our forgiveness. "Things pertaining to God" is an attempt to translate pros theos, the very phrase used in Jn. 1:1, "with God" and Jn. 13:3 "to God" (also Jn. 20:17 "I ascend... pros my Father"). The Lord is not simply "with God" in a literal sense but He is before God and with Him in the sense that He and the Father are 'together'; and the Lord Jesus is very much with us, on our side. He therefore is able uniquely to get our forgiveness. For He wants to save us... quite simply so. He is God "with us", Emmanuel, bringing God to be on our side in the crucial area of dealing with our sins. When we read of prayer being made by believers pros theos, with or before God (e.g. Acts 12:5; Rom. 10:1; 15:30; 2 Cor. 13:7; Phil. 4:6), this is possible on account of the Lord's mediation for us there. It also explains how Paul could have a clean conscience pros theos (Acts 24:16), when there had been a time when he had walked against the goads of conscience. But his heavenly mediator pros theos brought him too pros theos, because he was "in Christ". There in heaven itself, before God, we have peace and every confidence pros theos on account of our Lord Jesus (Rom. 5:1; 2 Cor. 3:4; 1 Jn. 3:21). For we are "in Christ", and are therefore and thereby acceptably pros theos in Heaven itself (1 Thess. 1:8,9).

2:18 For because he himself suffered when tempted, he is able to succour those who are being tempted- This succouring of tempted persons is surely psychological, seeing that temptation is internal to the human heart (James 1:13-15; Mk. 7:15-23). The succouring is therefore through the gift of the Spirit in the hearts / psychology of the believer. The Lord was tempted because He was human; God Himself cannot be tempted (James 1:13). And because He overcame, therefore He is now able to give His Spirit, the mindset He had, to those who are "in Him" and desire to truly be as Him. This verse suggests that in the heat of temptation, at the very moment of it, He is able to provide psychological strength to overcome it. And this is the path to salvation, it is how He saves us in practice. Now is the day of salvation, and so now is the time when He will provide us this "succour" or aid (see on 2 Cor. 6:2). We can boldly say that the Lord Jesus is my helper / succourer [s.w.], so we need never fear a situation that could spiritually swamp us (Heb. 13:6). "Suffered when tempted" doesn't mean that He simply suffered in the sense of experienced temptation. The word is used many times of the Lord's suffering on the cross, and later in Hebrews it is used in this way (5:8; 9:26; 13:12). His identity with our temptations came to a climax of total identity on account of His final sufferings, when He was the most sorely tempted.