Son Surpasses Moses

The “word” of the Son is superior even to the “word” of Moses, the “servant” in the house of Yahweh, the Great Lawgiver - Hebrews 3:1-6.

Dawn - Photo by Nick Scheerbart on Unsplash
The letter to the Hebrews demonstrates the superiority of the Son by comparing his word to the “word” of angels and of Moses, his priesthood and sacrifice to the Aaronic priests and the repeated animal sacrifices required by the Levitical regulations, and the new covenant inaugurated by Jesus to the old one rendered obsolete by the ministry and exaltation of the Son - [
Dawn - Photo by Nick Scheerbart on Unsplash].

The first paragraph presented the letter’s main proposition - The word of God spoken in His Son is the complete “word” that surpasses all previous revelations. The earlier “word spoken in the prophets” was true but incomplete, promissory, and preparatory. And “having achieved the purification of sins,” Jesus inherited a more excellent name, “Son,” making him superior even to the angels.
  • (Hebrews 2:1-4) – “For this cause, it behooves us with unwonted firmness to be holding fast to the things that have been heard, lest at any time we drift away. For if the word through angels spoken became firm, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if so great a salvation as this we neglect, which, indeed, having received a beginning of being spoken through the Lord by them who heard, unto us was confirmed, God jointly witnessing also, both with signs and wonders and manifold mighty works, and with distributions of Holy Spirit, according to his own will.
The declaration of his superiority over angels concludes with the first warning of the letter - The necessity to “heed” the “word” spoken in the Son. Failure to do so results in dire consequences.  In various forms, this warning is reiterated throughout the epistle - (Hebrews 4:1-116:4-810:26-3112:25-26).

The word spoken through angels.” The clause refers to the Jewish tradition that the Law was mediated to Moses by angels. Regardless, it also was the word of God. And since terrible retribution fell on all who failed to heed the “word though angels,” how will Christians escape far greater punishment if they abandon the vastly superior word “spoken in the Son”? - (Deuteronomy 33:2Acts 7:53Galatians 3:19).

The next paragraph begins with the proposition: God has not subjected the coming habitable world to angels but to man.  Though the Son is now highly exalted, he was fully human and participated in all the frailties of man’s mortality prior to his death and exaltation; his present reign is the result of his suffering and humiliation.  His abasement was the necessary prelude, and it demonstrated his solidarity with humanity. To “bring many sons to glory” he was “made complete through sufferings.” Consequently, having suffered the things common to all men, the Son qualified as the “merciful and faithful high priest” who mediates on behalf of his people - (Hebrews 2:5-18).
  • (Hebrews 3:1-6) - “Whence, holy brethren, partners in a heavenly calling, attentively consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Jesus, as one faithful to him who made him: as Moses also in his house. For of more glory than Moses has this one been counted worthy, by as much as, more honor than the house has he that prepared it. For every house is prepared by someone, but he that has prepared all things is God. Even Moses, indeed, was faithful in all his house as an attendant, for a witness of the things which were to be spoken; but Christ as a Son over his house, whose house are we, if the boldness of speech and boast of the hope we hold fast.
Next, the letter compares Jesus to Moses, demonstrating the superiority of the former over the latter. Implicit is the priority of the “word spoken in the Son” over the Mosaic legislation. And at this point in the discussion, the comparison with Moses is most appropriate.

In the opening paragraph, the letter compared the “word spoken in the Son” to the earlier revelations given “in the prophets.” Although Moses was the chief representative of this illustrious group, he was also more honored than all other prophets. God spoke to him face-to-face, not through visions or riddles. The greater rank of Moses emphasizes just how superior the Son is to all the prophets that preceded him.

As our “apostle,” he is the one sent from God to deliver His final and revelatory Word.  As our “high Priest,” he represents and makes intercession on our behalf. The descriptions of him as “one faithful,” and of Moses as “also in all his house,” allude to a passage from the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint:
  • (Numbers 12:5-8) - “Hear now my words, if there be a prophet among you, I, Yahweh, will make myself known to him in a vision, I will speak with him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so; he is faithful in all my house: with him will I speak mouth-to-mouth, even manifestly, and not in dark speeches; and the form of Yahweh shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant, against Moses?
Moses was the only one to whom Yahweh spoke face-to-face, and not via intermediaries. Initially in the narrative, Jesus is put on a par with Moses. God also spoke with him face-to-face.

In Jewish tradition, Moses received greater honor and rank than even angels.  Since the Son is superior to the angels, and since the letter already warned that disobedience to his word required far greater punishment, the superiority of the Son over Moses follows logically.

The keywords “faithful,” “priest,” and “house” allude to the prophecy that one day Yahweh would “raise up a faithful priest; according to that which is in my heart and in my soul will he do. Therefore, will I build for him an assured house.” Jesus is now presented as that promised “faithful priest” who has been set over God’s “house” - (1 Samuel 2:35Hebrews 10:1-14).

But Jesus has been found worthy of more honor than Moses, just as the one who prepares the house is worthy of more honor than the house. The Son is associated closely with its builder, God, and he has been set over the house. In contrast, Moses was a servant in it. The Greek verb rendered “prepare (kataskeuazō) means “to prepare, equip,” not to “build” - (Strong’s - #G2680). In Greek literature, it was used for supplying vessels and furnishings to prepare a household for habitation.

House” points to the living community of God’s people. Jesus is “over His house whose house are we.” Believers “are” (present tense) his household as long as they hold fast their “confidence and boast of hope.” The warning of the letter is reiterated – We must hold firmly to our confession and persevere to the end.
Nowhere does the Author denigrate Moses; however, the Great Lawgiver belonged to the era that is in the past and has been eclipsed by the Son.

The comparison with Moses prepares the reader for the next section concerning the generation of Israel that received the “word” through Moses, but nonetheless, failed “to hold fast to their confidence and hope.”  To abandon the final revelation “spoken” in the Son for the older and incomplete “word” will result in paying a horrific price.



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