To the Hebrews 1:1-14

1  Long ago God spoke to our forefathers by means of the prophets on many occasions and in many ways.+  Now at the end of these days he has spoken to us by means of a Son,+ whom he appointed heir of all things,+ and through whom he made the systems of things.+  He is the reflection of God’s glory+ and the exact representation of his very being,+ and he sustains all things by the word of his power. And after he had made a purification for our sins,+ he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.+  So he has become better than the angels+ to the extent that he has inherited a name more excellent than theirs.+  For example, to which one of the angels did God ever say: “You are my son; today I have become your father”?+ And again: “I will become his father, and he will become my son”?+  But when he again brings his Firstborn+ into the inhabited earth, he says: “And let all of God’s angels do obeisance to him.”  Also, he says about the angels: “He makes his angels spirits, and his ministers+ a flame of fire.”+  But about the Son, he says: “God is your throne+ forever and ever, and the scepter of your Kingdom+ is the scepter of uprightness.  You loved righteousness, and you hated lawlessness. That is why God, your God, anointed you+ with the oil of exultation more than your companions.”+ 10  And: “At the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands. 11  They will perish, but you will remain; and just like a garment, they will all wear out, 12  and you will wrap them up just as a cloak, as a garment, and they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will never come to an end.”+ 13  But about which of the angels has he ever said: “Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet”?+ 14  Are they not all spirits for holy service,+ sent out to minister for those who are going to inherit salvation?


Study Notes

To the Hebrews: Titles such as this were apparently not part of the original text. Ancient manuscripts show that they were added later, doubtless to make it easier to identify the Bible books. The title “To the Hebrews” can be found in the papyrus codex referred to as P46, the oldest known manuscript containing the letter to the Hebrews. This manuscript is believed to date from about the year 200 C.E. (See Media Gallery, “Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews.”) The authoritative manuscripts Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus of the fourth century C.E. also contain the title “To the Hebrews.”

Long ago God spoke to our forefathers: Over the course of many centuries, God used a long line of prophets to speak to his people. Among the prophets Paul mentions or quotes in this letter are Abraham (Ge 20:7; Heb 7:1), Moses (De 34:10; Heb 9:19), Jeremiah (Jer 31:31-34; Heb 8:8-12), Habakkuk (Hab 2:3, 4; Heb 10:37, 38), and Haggai (Hag 2:6; Heb 12:26). Paul then draws a contrast, saying that “at the end of these days,” God spoke by means of his Son, Jesus Christ.​—Heb 1:2 and study note.

on many occasions and in many ways: In the Greek text, Paul opens his letter by using two similar-sounding words that overlap in meaning. Jehovah communicated with his people by means of the prophets, not all at once, but “on many occasions” (Greek, po·ly·me·rosʹ), at many times and in different locations and settings. He also used “many ways” (Greek, po·ly·troʹpos) to convey his messages. Sometimes, Jehovah spoke to the prophets directly and had them record the message in written form. (Ex 34:27) At other times, he gave the prophets dreams or visions. (Isa 1:1; Da 2:19; 7:1; Hab 1:1) Or God sent angels to convey his message. (Zec 1:7, 9) The prophets then proclaimed the inspired message in various ways. They may have spoken it publicly, written it down, or presented it by using symbols or by carrying out symbolic acts.​—Jer 7:1, 2; Eze 4:1-3; Ho 1:2, 3; Hab 2:2.

Now at the end of these days: Paul apparently refers to the end of the Jewish system of things. (1Co 10:11 and study note) That system came into being when the nation of Israel was born in 1513 B.C.E. At that time, God spoke to his people by means of Moses. However, Jehovah promised that he would raise up a prophet like Moses. “You must listen to him,” Moses said. (De 18:15, 18, 19) Jesus Christ was that foretold prophet. (Joh 5:46) Of him, Paul says here that God has spoken to us by means of a Son. As the Son of God, Jesus was far greater than all the imperfect human prophets who preceded him. Paul thus begins a line of reasoning that occupies much of this inspired letter: The Christian way of worship is superior to the worship in the Jewish system of things.

whom he appointed heir of all things: An heir is someone who has the right to receive, or inherit, a person’s money, property, or authority. However, most occurrences in the Christian Greek Scriptures use the words “heir” and “inherit” in connection with people who receive a reward from God. (Mt 5:5 and study note; 19:29; 25:34 and study note; 1Co 6:9) In this case, God appoints his firstborn Son as heir “of all things,” meaning that God gives him authority over everything in heaven and on earth. (Ps 2:8; Mt 28:18; Heb 1:6; 2:8; 1Pe 3:22; Re 11:15) Jesus is subject only to his Father, Jehovah.​—1Co 15:27, 28; Php 2:9-11.

through whom he made the systems of things: As used here, the phrase “systems of things” could be understood in at least two ways. First, it could refer to the distinguishing or characteristic features of certain time periods, or “ages,” as the Greek word could also be rendered. In this letter, Paul refers to faithful ones during pre-Flood times, in the days of the patriarchs, and in the years of Israel’s covenant relationship with God. During all those distinct periods, God made it possible for humans to worship him acceptably. However, he always pointed forward to the time when humans would be fully reconciled to him through his Son. In the Christian era, he established the new covenant, based on Jesus’ sacrifice. This Christian system of things was made through Christ because Jesus, as “the mediator of a new covenant,” has a major role in the outworking of God’s purpose. (Heb 1:3; 2:9; 12:24; see also Glossary, “System(s) of things.”) Second, the expression “systems of things” could be understood here in the sense of the world or universe, that is, all of God’s physical creation, such as the sun, the moon, the stars, and the earth. Jesus had a role as “a master worker” in all such creative works.​—Pr 8:30; Joh 1:3; compare Heb 11:3.

He is the reflection of God’s glory: One of several expressions that Paul uses here to describe the unique relationship between the resurrected Jesus Christ and his heavenly Father. The Greek word rendered “reflection,” which literally means “beaming forth,” occurs only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures. The word can be understood in an active sense (as in radiating light from a source) or in a passive sense (as in reflecting light from another source). Jesus is not the source of his Father’s glory. Rather, he is “the image of the invisible God.” (Col 1:15; compare Joh 5:19.) Therefore, the rendering “reflection” agrees with Bible teachings as a whole and is parallel with the expression rendered “the exact representation” in this verse.

the exact representation of his very being: The Greek word rendered “the exact representation” (kha·ra·kterʹ) literally refers to “a mark or impression placed on an object.” In non-Biblical Greek writings, the term refers to engravings in wood or in metal, brands on animal skins, impressions in clay, or images stamped on coins. Here it describes how the resurrected Jesus perfectly represents his heavenly Father’s very being. Even when on earth as a perfect man, Jesus reflected his Father’s qualities and personality to the fullest extent possible for a human. (See study note on Joh 14:9.) But after Jehovah resurrected Jesus and gave him “a superior position,” Jesus became like his Father more than ever before. (Php 2:9; Heb 2:9) He possesses immortality and has “life in himself.” (Joh 5:26 and study note; Ro 6:9; Re 1:18) So he is now “the exact representation of [God’s] very being.”​—Heb 1:2-4.

he sustains all things: As proof of Christ Jesus’ vast authority, Paul shows that God gave his Son power to sustain “all things” in the universe. (Compare Col 1:16, 17.) The Greek word for “sustains” can mean “bears up; holds up.” Here it conveys the idea of keeping something in existence or maintaining it. Jesus also plays a major role in moving Jehovah’s purposes toward fulfillment.

by the word of his power: Paul likely refers to Jehovah’s power. While Jehovah is the ultimate Source of power, he supplies it to others according to his will. (Isa 40:26, 29-31; Lu 5:17; Php 2:13; 4:13) This Greek phrase could also properly be rendered “by his powerful word.”

he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty: Jesus “made a purification” for the sins of mankind by offering “one sacrifice for sins for all time.” (Heb 10:12, 13) Jehovah rewarded him by resurrecting him to spirit life and by giving him “all authority . . . in heaven and on the earth,” a position superior to the one he had before coming to earth. (Mt 28:18; Php 2:9-11; Heb 2:9; 1Pe 3:18) The expression “at the right hand of the Majesty,” Jehovah God, seems to allude to Ps 110:1. (Heb 1:13 and study note; 8:1; 12:2) Sitting “at the right hand” indicates a position of power, authority, and honor. It is a position second only to that of Jehovah himself.​—Ro 8:34; 1Co 15:27, 28; Eph 1:20; see study note on Ac 7:55.

So he has become better than the angels: In this letter, Paul frequently uses the word “better” to emphasize the superiority of the Christian way of worship. (See “Introduction to Hebrews.”) Jesus became “better than the angels” because of a name that he inherited. That “name” stood for the great authority that Jehovah gave him. (See study note on Php 2:9.) Jehovah made Jesus “heir of all things.” (Heb 1:2 and study note) He also appointed his Son​—not any of the angels​—to be a king, an apostle, and a high priest in the manner of Melchizedek. (Heb 1:8; 3:1; 5:8-10; 7:1-3; compare Re 11:15.) What is more, Jesus alone was offered up as a ransom sacrifice “once for all time.”​—Heb 1:3; 9:28.

to which one of the angels did God ever say: In the Hebrew Scriptures, the angels as a group are at times called “sons of God” (Job 38:7; Ps 89:6) or “sons of the true God” (Ge 6:2, 4; Job 1:6; 2:1). However, none of them are singled out by God as my son in a special sense. (Mt 3:17; 17:5) Here the apostle Paul explains how Christ Jesus has a unique relationship with the Father, Jehovah, and is superior to the angels. Paul quotes two verses containing the words “my son” in singular and applies them to Jesus.

“You are my son; today I have become your father”: Paul quotes Ps 2:7 to emphasize Jesus’ superiority to the angels. This psalm describes the king whom God has installed. Apparently, the prophecy initially applied to David. God made David His son in a special sense by selecting him to be king. At Jesus’ baptism, Jehovah acknowledged Jesus in a special way when He declared: “This is my Son.” (Mt 3:17 and study note; Joh 1:14) At Ac 13:33, Paul was inspired to explain that these words were also fulfilled when Jesus was resurrected.​—See study note on Ro 1:4; see also Heb 5:5, where Paul again quotes Ps 2:7.

“I will become his father, and he will become my son”: This quotation is from 2Sa 7:14. (See also 1Ch 17:13; 28:6.) At 2Sa 7:11-16, Jehovah made a covenant with David that a kingdom would be established in his family line, including the promise that David’s son Solomon would become God’s son. Here, under inspiration, the apostle shows that this prophecy saw a greater fulfillment in Christ Jesus.

when he again brings his Firstborn into the inhabited earth: Paul is referring to a future event. This conclusion is supported by his words at Heb 2:5 regarding “the inhabited earth to come, about which we are speaking.” (See study note.) Thus Paul here points forward to a time when God would again send his Firstborn, this time invisibly, to give attention to the world of mankind.​—See study notes on Lu 2:1; Ac 1:11.

And let all of God’s angels do obeisance to him: Paul here quotes from the Greek Septuagint rendering of De 32:43 or Ps 97:7, or perhaps he combines thoughts from both scriptures. In the Septuagint, De 32:43 reads: “And let all of God’s sons do obeisance to him.” At Ps 97:7, the Septuagint reads: “Do obeisance to him [or “Bow down to him”], all his angels.” The Scriptures often use the expression “sons of God” to refer to angels. (See study note on Heb 1:5.) In the Hebrew Masoretic text, the phrase “and let all of God’s sons do obeisance to him” does not appear at De 32:43. However, support for this wording was discovered in a Dead Sea Scroll fragment of Deuteronomy written in Hebrew. The fragment contains a phrase with wording similar to that in the Septuagint. It is the first time this phrase has been found in any Hebrew manuscript of De 32:43. So the Greek translation of this expression was apparently based on a Hebrew text similar to what appears in this fragment.

do obeisance to him: Or “bow down to him,” that is, to Jesus. God has exalted Jesus to a position second only to that of the Most High. God has thus placed all the angels under the authority of his Son. Therefore, God can tell the angels to do obeisance to his Son. This admonition is in line with Php 2:9-11, where Paul wrote that “every knee . . . of those in heaven” should bend “in the name of Jesus.” (See study notes on Php 2:9, 10.) The Greek verb rendered “do obeisance to” (pro·sky·neʹo) at Heb 1:6 is broad in meaning. One lexicon gives the following possible meanings: “(fall down and) worship, do obeisance to, prostrate oneself before, do reverence to, welcome respectfully.” The context is essential in determining which is the correct rendering in this case. (See study note on Lu 24:52.) Many Bible translators use the term “worship” here (Heb 1:6), giving the impression that Jesus is God. However, the Bible shows elsewhere that Jesus is not Almighty God. Jehovah alone has the right to be worshipped. (Mt 4:10; Re 4:10, 11; 22:8, 9) Therefore, such renderings as “do obeisance to” or “bow down to” are well-supported and are found in various translations of this verse. The Jewish writer Josephus of the first century C.E. uses the Greek verb pro·sky·neʹo when speaking of subjects who, out of respect, would “make obeisance before,” or “bow before,” Roman governors and even their military bodyguards.​—The Jewish War, II, 366 (xvi, 4).

He makes his angels spirits: Paul quotes Ps 104:4 (103:4, LXX) from the Septuagint. Neither the psalmist nor Paul was merely stating the obvious truth that angels are spirit creatures. Rather, the phrase refers to how God uses his angels. Both the Hebrew and the Greek words rendered “spirits” can also refer to a powerful force, such as “wind.” (Ps 1:4; 147:18; 148:8; see also Joh 3:8 and study note.) The angels are like a mighty wind, unleashed and directed by God. That thought is echoed in the latter part of the verse, where the angels are called ministers, literally, “public servants.” Jehovah uses the angels to support his servants on earth. At times, God also causes the angels to be a flame of fire by using them to carry out his fiery judgments against the wicked.​—Compare 2Ki 19:20, 34, 35; Mt 16:27; 2Th 1:7, 8.

God is your throne forever: Jehovah God is Jesus’ throne in the sense that Jehovah is the Source of Jesus’ royal office or authority. Jehovah gave his Son “rulership, honor, and a kingdom.” (Da 7:13, 14; Lu 1:32) At Heb 1:8, 9, Paul quotes Ps 45:6, 7. The Greek text allows for the rendering found in many translations: “Your throne, O God, is forever.” However, there are good reasons to render it as in the New World Translation (and some other translations): “God is your throne forever.” For instance, the context at Heb 1:9 says, “God, your God, anointed you,” showing that the one addressed at Heb 1:8 (or at Ps 45:6) is, not Almighty God, but one of his worshippers. In addition, Ps 45:6, 7 was originally addressed, not to God himself, but to a human king of Israel who was appointed by God. As a prophecy, then, it likewise pointed to a great King whom God appointed​—the Messiah.

the scepter of your Kingdom: “The scepter” that Jesus Christ bears is a symbol of his royal authority. (Ps 110:2; see Glossary, “Scepter.”) This is a quotation from Ps 45:6, which foretold that Jehovah’s Messianic King would always use his authority in the right way. That is why his scepter is called “the scepter of uprightness [or, “justice”].”

You loved righteousness, and you hated lawlessness: Paul continues his quotation of Ps 45:6, 7, which contains an inspired prophecy about God’s Messianic King. During his earthly ministry, Jesus clearly demonstrated that he loved righteousness and hated lawlessness. (Mt 21:12, 13; 23:27, 28, 33; Joh 2:13-17; Heb 7:26; 1Pe 2:22) The Scriptures often show that love of what is right in God’s eyes is inseparably connected with hatred for what is wrong.​—Ps 97:10; 119:113, 163; Isa 61:8; Am 5:15.

anointed you with the oil of exultation: In Bible times, many kings were appointed to office by being anointed with literal oil. (1Sa 10:1; 1Ki 1:39; 2Ki 9:6) Oil was associated with exultation, or joy. (Isa 61:3; Joe 2:23, 24) Here Paul quotes Ps 45:7, which speaks prophetically of a joyful event, the anointing of the Messiah as King. The Messiah’s exultation, or joy, would be greater than that of his companions, that is, the kings of the royal line of David. Unlike those kings, the Messiah would be anointed by Jehovah personally, not with literal oil, but with holy spirit. At the time of his baptism, Jesus was anointed as future King and High Priest. However, the anointing that Paul here mentions apparently refers to the joyful event in heaven when Jesus was enthroned as King at the end of the Gentile Times. (Lu 21:24 and study note) No doubt that heavenly celebration was far more joyful than any earthly event, including the celebration at the anointing of David’s son Solomon.​—1Ki 1:39, 40.

O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth: Paul quotes from the Septuagint wording of Ps 102:25 (101:25, LXX), which included the expression “O Lord.” Here he demonstrates further the superiority of Jesus over the angels. The psalmist addressed these words to God. (Ps 102:1, 24) But Paul applies them to Jesus because Jesus is the one whom God used as His agent, or instrument, in creating everything, as Heb 1:2 and other verses show. (Joh 1:2-4; Col 1:15-17 and study notes on verses 15 and 16; see also Pr 8:23-31.) In view of their close working relationship, it could rightly be said that both Jehovah and Jesus “laid the foundations of the earth” and that “the heavens are the works” of their hands. In a similar way, both Jehovah and Jesus are referred to in the Bible as “our Savior.”​—Tit 1:3, 4 and study note.

They will perish: Paul here quotes Ps 102:26, which reveals that the physical “heavens and earth” are perishable. (Heb 1:10) They all could be destroyed if that were God’s purpose. And unlike Jehovah, the heavens and the earth are naturally subject to decay. That is why the inspired record says regarding them that just like a garment, they will all wear out. However, God reassures his servants that he can and will preserve any of his creations forever​—according to his choice.​—Ps 148:4-6; see also Ps 104:5; Ec 1:4.

but you will remain: Under inspiration, Paul applies those words from Ps 102:26 to Jesus. (See study note on Heb 1:10.) The point is to show the contrast between God’s Son (“you will remain”) and the physical heavens and earth (“they will perish”). The resurrected Jesus enjoys incorruptibility and “an indestructible life.” (Heb 7:16 and study note) Thus, the permanence of God’s Son surpasses even that of the heavens and the earth that he helped to create.​—Ge 1:26; Col 1:15.

your years will never come to an end: Paul applies these words from Ps 102:27 to Jesus. (See study note on Heb 1:10.) Upon his resurrection, Jesus received immortality. (1Ti 6:16 and study note; Heb 7:15, 16) This means that Jesus not only lives forever but enjoys life that cannot be destroyed.​—Compare study note on 1Co 15:53.

Sit at my right hand: With this verse Paul brings to a climax his argument for Jesus’ superiority over the angels. The apostle applies these words from Ps 110:1 to Christ, as did Peter and Jesus himself. (Mt 22:41-45; Mr 12:35-37; Lu 20:41-44; Ac 2:34, 35; Heb 10:12 and study note, 13) Upon his resurrection, Jesus waited at God’s right hand​—the position of highest favor​—to be installed as Messianic King at Jehovah’s appointed time. (See study notes on Ac 7:55; Heb 1:3.) At that time, Jesus’ enemies would be placed as a stool for his feet, meaning that he would have full authority and power over them.​—See study note on Heb 10:13; see also 1Co 15:25, where Paul applies Ps 110:1 to Jesus.

for holy service: Or “for public service.”​—See study note on Heb 1:7.

sent out to minister: In pre-Christian times, God frequently used his angels to minister to his faithful human servants and to protect them. (1Ki 19:5-8; 2Ki 6:15-17; Ps 34:7; Da 6:22) Angels also ministered to first-century anointed Christians who faced persecution and danger. (Ac 12:6-11; 27:23, 24) The angels showed remarkable humility by ministering to mere humans, including those who would one day be lifted up to a position even higher than that of angels.​—1Co 6:3.

for those who are going to inherit salvation: The anointed Christians addressed in this letter would “inherit salvation” in a special sense, for they would rule in heaven with Christ. (Mt 19:28; 2Ti 2:10-12; Heb 3:1) Paul is again showing the superiority of Christianity. The Jewish system of worship was no longer approved by God, so it could not offer its adherents the salvation mentioned here nor any other such exalted privileges.​—Lu 13:35.


Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews
Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews

Shown here is a page from the papyrus codex referred to as P46. This codex contains nine of Paul’s inspired letters, although they are placed in an order different from the one found in most modern-day Bibles. For example, the letter to the Hebrews comes immediately after the letter to the Romans. (See Media Gallery, “Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians.”) The leaf shown above is kept at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.A. The end of Paul’s letter to the Romans can be seen at the top of the page. (In this manuscript, the letter to the Romans ends with what is chapter 16, verse 23, in modern-day Bible translations; the remainder of the letter, what is now Ro 16:25-27, appears at the end of chapter 15.) The title of the letter that follows (highlighted in the photo) reads “Toward [or, “To”] Hebrews.” It is worth noting that the letter to the Hebrews is here included among other letters written by Paul. This fact, along with others, supports the conclusion that Paul was the writer of this inspired letter. The codex is believed to date from about the year 200 C.E., that is, about 150 years after Paul originally penned his letters.​—See “Introduction to Hebrews.”

Christian Sacrifices of Praise Far Superior to Animal Sacrifices
Christian Sacrifices of Praise Far Superior to Animal Sacrifices

Depicted here, a Christian preaches to two Jews as they stand at the base of the temple mount in Jerusalem. Hebrew Christians living in Jerusalem had to be courageous in order to preach to fellow Jews about salvation through Jesus Christ, the true Messiah. Many aspects of everyday life of the people around them were based on the Mosaic Law and various Jewish traditions. At the magnificent temple in Jerusalem (depicted in the background), the Levitical priests were offering up animal sacrifices according to the Mosaic Law. The Jews may have pointed to these visible things to prove that their way of worship was superior. However, about the year 61 C.E., Paul wrote a letter to the Hebrew Christians in which he showed that the Christian way of worship is far superior to that of Judaism. He pointed out that Christians have a superior temple, a spiritual one, and a superior High Priest, “Jesus the Son of God.” They also have a superior sacrifice, which needed to be given only once for all time. Paul explained all these heavenly realities. (Heb 4:14; 7:27, 28; 9:24, 25) That spiritual outlook no doubt motivated the Hebrew Christians and gave them the courage they needed to carry out their worship of Jehovah God. An important part of that worship is the offering of sacrifices of praise, which Paul describes as “the fruit of . . . lips that make public declaration to [God’s] name.” He adds: “God is well-pleased with such sacrifices.” (Heb 13:15, 16) In contrast, after 33 C.E., the animal sacrifices offered at the temple had no value for gaining God’s approval.

Video Introduction to the Book of Hebrews
Video Introduction to the Book of Hebrews