Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Hebrews 10:5

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

When he (the Messiah) cometh into the world - Was about to be incarnated, He saith to God the Father, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not - it was never thy will and design that the sacrifices under thy own law should be considered as making atonement for sin, they were only designed to point out my incarnation and consequent sacrificial death, and therefore a body hast thou prepared me, by a miraculous conception in the womb of a virgin, according to thy word, The seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent.

A body hast thou prepared me - The quotation in this and the two following verses is taken from Psalm 40, 6th, 7th, and 8th verses, as they stand now in the Septuagint, with scarcely any variety of reading; but, although the general meaning is the same, they are widely different in verbal expression in the Hebrew. David's words are, לי כרית אזנים oznayim caritha li, which we translate, My ears hast thou opened; but they might be more properly rendered, My ears hast thou bored, that is, thou hast made me thy servant for ever, to dwell in thine own house; for the allusion is evidently to the custom mentioned, Exodus 21:2, etc.: "If thou buy a Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve, and in the seventh he shall go out free; but if the servant shall positively say, I love my master, etc., I will not go out free, then his master shall bring him to the door post, and shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall serve him for ever." But how is it possible that the Septuagint and the apostle should take a meaning so totally different from the sense of the Hebrew? Dr. Kennicott has a very ingenious conjecture here: he supposes that the Septuagint and apostle express the meaning of the words as they stood in the copy from which the Greek translation was made; and that the present Hebrew text is corrupted in the word אזנים oznayim, ears, which has been written through carelessness for גוה אז az gevah, Then a Body. The first syllable אז , Then, is the same in both; and the latter נים , which joined to אז , makes אזנים oznayim, might have been easily mistaken for גוה gevah, Body; נ nun, being very like ג gimel ; י yod, like ו vau ; and ה he, like final ם mem ; especially if the line on which the letters were written in the MS. happened to be blacker than ordinary, which has often been a cause of mistake, it might have been easily taken for the under stroke of the mem, and thus give rise to a corrupt reading: add to this the root כרה carah, signifies as well to prepare as to open, bore, etc. On this supposition the ancient copy, translated by the Septuagint, and followed by the apostle, must have read the text thus: לי כרית גוה אז az gevah caritha li, σωμα δε κατηρτισω μοι, then a body thou hast prepared me: thus the Hebrew text, the version of the Septuagint, and the apostle, will agree in what is known to be an indisputable fact in Christianity, namely, that Christ was incarnated for the sin of the world.

The Ethiopic has nearly the same reading; the Arabic has both, A body hast thou prepared me, and mine ears thou hast opened. But the Syriac, the Chaldee, and the Vulgate, agree with the present Hebrew text; and none of the MSS. collated by Kennicott and De Rossi have any various reading on the disputed words.

It is remarkable that all the offerings and sacrifices which were considered to be of an atoning or cleansing nature, offered under the law, are here enumerated by the psalmist and the apostle, to show that none of them nor all of them could take away sin, and that the grand sacrifice of Christ was that alone which could do it.

Four kinds are here specified, both by the psalmist and the apostle, viz.:

    Sacrifice, זבח zebach, θυσια·

    Offering, מנחה minchah, προσφορα·

    Burnt-Offering, עולה olah, ὁλοκαυτωμα·

    Sin-Offering, חטאה chataah, περι ἁμαρτιας .

Of all these we may say, with the apostle, it was impossible that the blood of bulls and goats, etc., should take away sin.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Wherefore - This word shows that the apostle means to sustain what he had said by a reference to the Old Testament itself. Nothing could be more opposite to the prevailing Jewish opinions about the efficacy of sacrifice, than what he had just said. It was, therefore, of the highest importance to defend the position which he had laid down by authority which they would not presume to call in question, and he therefore makes his appeal to their own Scriptures.

When he cometh into the world - When the Messiah came, for the passage evidently referred to him. The Greek is, “Wherefore coming into the world, he saith.” It has been made a question “when” this is to be understood as spoken - whether when he was born, or when he entered on the work of his ministry. Grotius understands it of the latter. But it is not material to a proper understanding of the passage to determine this. The simple idea is, that since it was impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin, Christ coming into the world made arrangements for a better sacrifice.

He saith - That is, this is the language denoted by his great undertaking; this is what his coming to make an atonement implies. We are not to suppose that Christ formally used these words on any occasion for we have no record that he did - but this language is what appropriately expresses the nature of his work. Perhaps also the apostle means to say that it was originally employed in the Psalm from which it is quoted in reference to him, or was indited by him with reference to his future advent.

Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not - This is quoted from Psalm 40:6, Psalm 40:8. There has been much perplexity felt by expositorsin reference to this quotation, and after all which has been written, it is not entirely removed. The difficulty relates to these points.

(1) to the question whether the Psalm originally had any reference to the Messiah. The Psalm “appears” to have pertained merely to David, and it would probably occur to no one on reading it to suppose that it referred to the Messiah, unless it had been so applied by the apostle in this place.

(2) there are many parts of the Psalm, it has been said, which cannot, without a very forced interpretation, be applied to Christ; see Psalm 40:2, Psalm 40:12, Psalm 40:14-16.

(3) the argument of the apostle in the expression “a body hast thou prepared me,” seems to be based on a false translation of the Septuagint, which he has adopted, and it is difficult to see on what principles he has done it. - It is not the design of these notes to go into an extended examination of questions of this nature. Such examination must be sought in more extended commentaries, and in treatises expressly relating to points of this kind.

On the design of Psalm 40:2, the speaker in the Psalm says, “He brought me up out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock,” and on the ground of this he gives thanks to God. But there is no real difficulty in supposing that this may refer to the Messiah. His enemies often plotted against his life; laid snares for him and endeavored to destroy him, and it may be that he refers to some deliverance from such machinations. If it is objected to this that it is spoken of as having been uttered” when he came into the world,” it may be replied that that phrase does not necessarily refer to the time of his birth, but that he uttered this sentiment sometime “during” the period of his incarnation. “He coming into the world for the purpose of redemption made use of this language.” In a similar manner we would say of Lafayette, that “he coming to the United States to aid in the cause of liberty, suffered a wound in battle.” That is, during the period in which he was engaged in this cause, he suffered in this manner.

(b) The next objection or difficulty relates to the application of Psalm 40:12 to the Messiah. “Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of my head; therefore my heart faileth me.” To meet this some have suggested that he refers to the sins of people which he took upon himself, and which he here speaks of as “his own.” But it is not true that the Lord Jesus so took upon himself the sins of others that they could be his. They were “not” his, for he was in every sense “holy, harmless, and undefiled.” The true solution of this difficulty, probably is, that the word rendered “iniquity” - צון ̀awon- means “calamity, misfortune, trouble;” see Psalm 31:10; 1 Samuel 28:10; 2 Kings 7:9; Psalm 28:6; compare Psalm 49:5. The proper idea in the word is that of “turning away, curving, making crooked;” and it is thus applied to anything which is “perverted” or turned from the right way; as when one is turned from the path of rectitude, or commits sin; when one is turned from the way of prosperity or happiness, or is exposed to calamity. This seems to be the idea demanded by the scope of the Psalm, for it is not a penitential Psalm, in which the speaker is recounting his “sins,” but one in which he is enumerating his “sorrows;” praising God in the first part of the Psalm for some deliverance already experienced, and supplicating his interposition in view of calamities that he saw to be coming upon him. This interpretation also seems to be demanded in Psalm 40:12 by the “parallelism.” In the former part of the verse, the word to which “iniquity” corresponds, is not “sin,” but “evil,” that is, calamity.

“For innumerable evils have compassed me about;

Mine iniquities (calamities) have taken hold upon me.”

If the word, therefore, be used here as it often is, and as the scope of the Psalm and the connection seem to demand, there is no solid objection against applying this verse to the Messiah.

(c) A third objection to this application of the Psalm to the Messiah is, that it cannot be supposed that he would utter such imprecations on his enemies as are found in Psalm 40:14-15. “Let them be ashamed and confounded; let them be driven backward; let them be desolate.” To this it may be replied, that such imprecations are as proper in the mouth of the Messiah as of David; but particularly, it may be said also, that they are improper in the mouth of neither. Both David and the Messiah “did” in fact utter denunciations against the enemies of piety and of God. God does the same thing in his word and by his Providence. There is no evidence of any “malignant” feeling in this; nor is it inconsistent with the highest benevolence. The Lawgiver who says that the murderer shall die, may have a heart full of benevolence; the judge who sentences him to death, may do it with eyes filled with tears. The objections, then, are not of such a nature that it is improper to regard this Psalm as wholly applicable to the Messiah.

(4) the Psalm cannot be applied with propriety to David, nor do we know of anyone to whom it can be but to the Messiah. When was it true of David that he said that he “had come to do the will of God in view of the fact that God did not require sacrifice and offerings?” In what “volume of a book” was it written of him before his birth that he “delighted to do the will of God?” When was it true that he had” preached righteousness in the great congregation?” These expressions are such as can be applied properly only to the Messiah, as Paul does here; and taking all these circumstances together it will probably be regarded as the most proper interpretation to refer the whole Psalm at once to the Redeemer and to suppose that Paul has used it in strict accordance with its original design. The other difficulties referred to will be considered in the exposition of the passage. The difference between “sacrifice” and “offering” is, that the former refers to “bloody” sacrifices; the latter to “any” oblation made to God - as a thank-offering; an offering of flour, oil, etc.; see the notes on Isaiah 1:11.

When it is said “sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not,” the meaning is not that such oblations were “in no sense” acceptable to God - for as his appointment, and when offered with a sincere heart, they doubtless were; but that they were not as acceptable to him as obedience, and especially as the expression is used here that they could not avail to secure the forgiveness of sins. They were not in their own nature such as was demanded to make an expiation for sin, and hence, a body was prepared for the Messiah by which a more perfect sacrifice could be made. The sentiment here expressed occurs more than once in the Old Testament. Thus, 1 Samuel 15:22. “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams,” Hosea 6:6, “For I desired mercy and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt-offerings;” compare Psalm 51:16-17, “For thou desirest not sacrifice, else would I give it; thou delightest not in burnt-offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit.” This was an indisputable principle of the Old Testament, though it was much obscured and forgotten in the common estimation among the Jews. In accordance with this principle the Messiah came to render obedience of the highest order, even to such an extent that he was willing to lay down his own life.

But a body hast thou prepared me - This is one of the passages which has caused a difficulty in understanding this quotation from the Psalm. The difficulty is, that it differs from the Hebrew, and that the apostle builds an argument upon it. It is not unusual indeed in the New Testament to make use of the language of the Septuagint even where it varies somewhat from the Hebrew; and where no “argument” is based on such a “passage,” there can be no difficulty in such a usage, since it is not uncommon to make use of the language of others to express our own thoughts. But the apostle does not appear to have made such a use of the passage here, but to have applied it in the way of “argument.” The argument, indeed, does not rest “wholly,” perhaps not “principally,” on the fact that a “body had been prepared” for the Messiah; but still this was evidently in the view of the apostle an important consideration, and this is the passage on which the proof of this is based.

The Hebrew Psalm 40:6 “Mine ears hast thou opened,” or as it is in the margin, “digged.” The idea there is, that the ear had been, as it were, excavated, or dug out, so as to be made to hear distinctly; that is, certain truths had been clearly revealed to the speaker; or perhaps it may mean that he had been made “readily and attentively obedient.” Stuart; compare Isaiah 1:5. “The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious.” In the Psalm, the proper connection would seem to be, that the speaker had been made obedient, or had been so led that he was disposed to do the will of God. This may be expressed by the fact that the ear had been opened so as to be quick to hear, since an indisposition to obey is often expressed by the fact that the ears are “stopped.” There is manifestly no allusion here, as has been sometimes supposed, to the custom of boring through the ear of a servant with an awl as a sign that he was willing to remain and serve his master; Exodus 21:6; Deuteronomy 15:17.

In that case, the outer circle, or rim of the ear was bored through with an awl; here the idea is that of hollowing out, digging, or excavating - a process to make the passage clear, not to pierce the outward ear. The Hebrew in file Psalm the Septuagint translates, “a body hast thou prepared me,” and this rendering has been adopted by the apostle. Various ways have been resorted to of explaining the fact that the translators of the Septuagint rendered it in this manner, none of which are entirely free from difficulty. Some critics, as Cappell, Ernesti, and others have endeavored to show that it is probable that the Septuagint reading in Psalm 40:6, was - ὠτίον κατηρτίσω μοι ōtion katērtisō moi- “my ear thou hast prepared;” that is, for obedience. But of this there is no proof, and indeed it is evident that the apostle quoted it as if it were σῶμα sōma“body;” see Hebrews 10:10. It is probably altogether impossible now to explain the reason why the translators of the Septuagint rendered the phrase as they did; and this remark may be extended to many other places of their version. It is to be admitted here, beyond all doubt, whatever consequences may follow:

(1)that their version does not accord with the Hebrew;

(2)that the apostle has quoted their version as it stood, without attempting to correct it;

(3)that his use of the passage is designed, to some extent at least, as “proof” of what he was demonstrating.

The leading idea; the important and essential point in the argument, is, indeed, not that “a body was prepared,” but that “he came to do the will of God;” but still it is clear that the apostle meant to lay some stress on the fact that a body had been prepared for the Redeemer. Sacrifice and offering by the bodies of lambs and goats were not what was required, but instead of that the Messiah came to do the will of God by offering a more perfect sacrifice, and in accomplishing that it was necessary that he should be endowed with a body But on what principle the apostle has quoted a passage to prove this which differs from the Hebrew, I confess I cannot see, nor do any of the explanations offered commend themselves as satisfactory. The only circumstances which seem to furnish any relief to the difficulty are these two:

(1)that the “main point” in the argument of the apostle was not that “a body had been prepared,” but that the Messiah came to do the “will of God,” and that the preparation of a body for that was rather an incidental circumstance; and

(2)that the translation by the Septuagint was not a material departure from the “scope” of the whole Hebrew passage.

The “main” thought - that of doing the will of God in the place of offering sacrifice - was still retained; the opening of the ears, that is, rendering the person attentive and disposed to obey, and the preparing of a body in order to obedience, were not circumstances so unlike as to make it necessary for the apostle to re-translate the whole passage in order to the main end which he had in view. Still, I admit, that these considerations do not seem to me to be wholly satisfactory. Those who are disposed to examine the various opinions which have been entertained of this passage may find them in Kuinoel, in loc., Rosenmuller, Stuart on the Hebrews, Excursus xx., and Kennicott on Psalm 40:6. Kennicott supposes that there has been a change in the Hebrew text, and that instead of the present reading - אזנים ‛aaznaayim- “ears,” the reading was אז גוף ‛aaz guwph- then a body;” and that these words became united by the error of transcribers, and by a slight change then became as the present copies of the Hebrew text stands. This conjecture is ingenious, and if it were ever allowable to follow a “mere” conjecture, I should be disposed to do it here. But there is no authority from mss. for any change, nor do any of the old versions justify it, or agree with this except the Arabic.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The apostle having shown that the tabernacle, and ordinances of the covenant of Sinai, were only emblems and types of the gospel, concludes that the sacrifices the high priests offered continually, could not make the worshippers perfect, with respect to pardon, and the purifying of their consciences. But when "God manifested in the flesh," became the sacrifice, and his death upon the accursed tree the ransom, then the Sufferer being of infinite worth, his free-will sufferings were of infinite value. The atoning sacrifice must be one capable of consenting, and must of his own will place himself in the sinner's stead: Christ did so. The fountain of all that Christ has done for his people, is the sovereign will and grace of God. The righteousness brought in, and the sacrifice once offered by Christ, are of eternal power, and his salvation shall never be done away. They are of power to make all the comers thereunto perfect; they derive from the atoning blood, strength and motives for obedience, and inward comfort.
Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 23

Nearly two thousand years ago, a voice of mysterious import was heard in heaven, from the throne of God, “Lo, I come.” “Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me.... Lo, I come (in the volume of the Book it is written of Me,) to do Thy will, O God.” Hebrews 10:5-7. In these words is announced the fulfillment of the purpose that had been hidden from eternal ages. Christ was about to visit our world, and to become incarnate. He says, “A body hast Thou prepared Me.” Had He appeared with the glory that was His with the Father before the world was, we could not have endured the light of His presence. That we might behold it and not be destroyed, the manifestation of His glory was shrouded. His divinity was veiled with humanity,—the invisible glory in the visible human form. DA 23.1

This great purpose had been shadowed forth in types and symbols. The burning bush, in which Christ appeared to Moses, revealed God. The symbol chosen for the representation of the Deity was a lowly shrub, that seemingly had no attractions. This enshrined the Infinite. The all-merciful God shrouded His glory in a most humble type, that Moses could look upon it and live. So in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, God communicated with Israel, revealing to men His will, and imparting to them His grace. God's glory was subdued, and His majesty veiled, that the weak vision of finite men might behold it. So Christ was to come in “the body of our humiliation” (Philippians 3:21, R. V.), “in the likeness of men.” In the eyes of the world He possessed no beauty that they should desire Him; yet He was the incarnate God, the light of heaven and earth. His glory was veiled, His greatness and majesty were hidden, that He might draw near to sorrowful, tempted men. DA 23.2

God commanded Moses for Israel, “Let them make Me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8), and He abode in the sanctuary, in the midst of His people. Through all their weary wandering in the desert, the symbol of His presence was with them. So Christ set up His tabernacle in the midst of our human encampment. He pitched His tent by the side of the tents of men, that He might dwell among us, and make us familiar with His divine character and life. “The Word became flesh, and tabernacled among us (and we beheld His glory, glory as of the Only Begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth.” John 1:14, R. V., margin. DA 23.3

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, 40

Our workers are not reaching out as they should. Our leading men are not awake to the work that must be accomplished. When I think of the cities in which so little has been done, in which there are so many thousands to be warned of the soon coming of the Saviour, I feel an intensity of desire to see men and women going forth to the work in the power of the Spirit, filled with Christ's love for perishing souls. 7T 40.1

Those in our cities—living within the shadow of our doors—have been strangely neglected. Organized effort should now be put forth to give them the message of present truth. A new song is to be put into their mouths. They are to go forth to impart to others now in darkness the light of the third angel's message. 7T 40.2

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