Do Not Miss His Rest
Beware of Dullness & Apostasy
Beware of Willful
Beware of Refusing Christ
Wilmington has another way of looking at the warning passages...
The Better Nots
Don’t disregard his Word He 2:1-4
Don’t doubt his Word He 3:12, 13; 4:11
Don’t depart from his Word He 6:4-6
Don’t despise his Word He 10:26-29
Don’t disagree with his Word He 12:25
OT PASSAGES QUOTED IN HEBREWS 5 -
Click for complete list of OT
He 5:5 <> Ps 2:7
He 5:6 <> Ps 110:4
He 5:10 <> Ps 110:4
KEY WORDS IN HEBREWS 5 -
Click for complete list of Key Words in
Eternal - He 5:9
Sacrifice - He 5:1, 3
Priest - He 5:1, 5, 6, 10
OUR GREAT HIGH PRIEST
OF THE POWER OF CHRIST
Son of God
Son of Man
chart is adapted in part from Jensen's Survey of the NT and
Wilkinson's Talk Thru the Bible
Kenneth Wuest has an excellent introduction to this next section of
Before beginning a study of this difficult section, we must indicate its
analytical structure. The section consists of a description of the spiritual
status of the Jew whom the writer wishes to reach, of a warning not to go
back to the abrogated sacrifices of the Levitical system, and of an
exhortation to put a heart faith in the New Testament sacrifice, the
Messiah. It is one of the passages found throughout the book containing a
warning not to go back to the type but to go on to faith in the
chart on Old versus New)
This individual is described as hard to teach and dull of hearing (He 5:11),
one who ought to be able to teach but cannot (He 5:12), one who is a babe
who was enlightened, who tasted of the heavenly gift and had been made a
partaker of the Holy Ghost (He 6:4-note),
one who had tasted the Word of God and the powers of the age to come (He
and who had been brought to repentance (He 6:6-note).
He is exhorted to put off once for all any dependence upon the Levitical
sacrifices and to go on to faith in the New Testament Sacrifice (He 6:1-note).
The first part of this exhortation is strengthened by the warning that
should he fall away, that is, renounce his professed faith in Messiah as the
High Priest of the New Testament and return to the abrogated sacrifices of
the First Testament, he would be crucifying the Son of God. This would be an
act which would make it impossible to restore him again to that place of
repentance to which he had been brought (He 6:6-note).
The second part of the exhortation is repeated in the words, “that ye be not
slothful but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the
promises” (He 6:12-note),
this second exhortation to faith being strengthened by the example of the
saved among these Jews who showed by their lives that they really had
exercised saving faith, the “beloved” of He 6:9-note.
We must be careful to note that this letter to the Hebrews is written to the
professing church made up of saved and unsaved, but the concern of the
writer is with reference to the unsaved. We are now ready for an exegetical
study of the Greek text of the passage under discussion, based upon the
analysis of the entire epistle, the only scientific way of going about our
Harry Ironside introduces this next interpretatively difficult
section from Hebrews 5:11-6:20 with this note of caution...
We are now to consider one of those portions of the writings of "our beloved
brother Paul," (Ed note: I do not think Paul wrote Hebrews) as Peter called
him, "in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are
unlearned and unstable wrest... unto their own destruction" (2Peter 3:16-note).
Probably there is no part of the Word of God that has stumbled immature and
uninstructed Christians like Hebrews 5:11-6:20. Therefore the need of
examining it with the utmost care. (Ironside Expository Commentary on
Ray Stedman introduces this section writing that...
It has been quite evident thus far in Hebrews that the pastor’s heart of the
author has been deeply troubled over the spiritual state of some of his
readers. Twice he has warned them at some length that they are in danger of
repeating the unbelief of the Israelites in the wilderness and failing,
therefore, to enter into the spiritual rest which they had been promised.
Once again he confronts them with their perilous state.
They are slow to learn, he declares, and because of this dullness, he has
difficulty in explaining to them the extraordinary advantages of the
Melchizedek priesthood of Jesus. If they had been growing as they should,
they ought by now to be able to pass the great truths of the faith along to
others. They would no longer be learning elementary truths of God’s word for
themselves but could be teachers of those coming after them. The high
priestly ministry which Jesus wants them to learn represents an advance on
the introductory truths of the Christian faith. But instead of responding to
his exhortations they seem to require those basic truths to be explained to
At best, they are spiritual infants who need to be taught over
and over the elementary truths as a baby needs to be fed milk and is not
ready for solid food. At worst, they are not Christians at all, but are like
many of the Israelites in the wilderness. They also are in danger of failing
to act in faith on the teaching they have received. Fear that this may be
their condition is what leads the author to issue the solemn warning of He
though in He 6:9-note,
he indicates that he does not yet believe they are all in such a fearful
state. (Hebrews 5:11-14 The Spiritual State of the
CONCERNING HIM WE HAVE MUCH
TO SAY: peri ou polus hemin o logos legein (PAN):
(1Kings 10:1; John 6:6; 16:12; 2Peter 3:16)
Concerning him - Some translate this as "concerning this", thus
Vincent says "Not Melchisedec, but the topic that Christ is a priest
after the order of Melchisedec, a topic to which great importance is
The writer wanted to dive into a "meaty" discussion of this personage, but
their spiritual condition was an impediment as he now explains.
The words “concerning him” of Heb
5:11 are from a preposition and a relative pronoun, which latter is in a
case form that indicates either the masculine or neuter gender. The last
named individual to which a masculine pronoun could point, is Melchisedec.
But the writer is not concerned with him in what he has to say in Heb
5:11–6:12. Therefore, the pronoun is neuter, referring to the teaching of
the Melchizedekian priesthood of Jesus Christ, a thing which these Jewish
readers who were still unsaved, needed to be convinced of if they were to
leave the Aaronic priesthood and its system of Levitical sacrifices. The
superiority of the New Testament sacrifice over the Levitical offerings is
the very thing which the writer is seeking to prove. He shows that
Melchisedec is better than Aaron. Therefore, the sacrifice of Christ is
better than the Levitical sacrifices. (Hebrews
Spurgeon - The apostle was about
to allegorize upon Melchizedek. He had intended to set forth that that
venerable and priestly king was, so far as scriptural information goes,
without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of
years nor end of life, and that he was superior to Levi, seeing that Levi’s
progenitor paid tithes to him and received his blessing. The apostle was
about to show that Melchizedek was a type of Jesus, who, as a priest, is
without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of
days nor end of years, but is a priest forever according to the power of an
endless life. But the apostle paused, for he felt that this allegory of
Melchizedek was too strong meat for those who were not full-grown men. We
have all heard, I dare say, of the divine who was foolish enough to take the
three baskets full of sweet meats that were upon the head of Pharaoh’s baker
and to say that they represented the Trinity. I have heard of another who
preached from this passage in Ezra 1:9—“twenty-nine knives”—and went to show
that they were types of the twenty-four elders. What he did with the surplus
five I don’t know. Was God’s Book ever meant to be a toy for the amusement
of childish imagination? Surely, no. The strong meat of allegory must be for
half-inspired saints like John Bunyan, and those masters in Israel who are
not to be carried away upon the back of every figure, but who can ride their
figures like good horsemen, with a bit in the mouth of the allegory, and
make it keep in a straight road and bear them safely on to their
(peri) means around, about this, concerning or regarding this. About
what? It could be translated about this or about him, the latter fitting the
He is ready to discuss Melchizedek but for the fear that the reader may fail to
grasp his meaning, for he will run counter to the usual Jewish ideas.
(Compare He 13:22
[note] "bear with" = endure
- note) Hence he pauses to stir up the interest
of the readers before going on with the argument. “I
still have a lot of things to say.” As it turned out, his subsequent
discussion was indeed lengthy (Hebrews 7:1-10:18) as well as deep.
It is one of the tragedies of the Church that there is so little attempt to
teach new knowledge and new thought - notice I am not referring to "new
revelation" for the Word of God from Genesis to Revelation is complete and
is all we need for life and godliness. Be very wary of those who claim to
have new revelations from God. The Spirit as our Teacher gives illumination
to our heart and mind as we diligently study and meditate on the Word of
Truth, but He does not give us new divine revelation. Stated another way,
the Bible is the completed record and nothing is to be added to it. John
records these sobering words...
testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if
anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in
this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this
prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the
holy city, which are written in this book. (See notes
We - The writer refers to himself.
Much to say (polus...ha logos) was a well known
literary idiom that served to draw attention to the importance of the
subject under discussion. The writer of Hebrews is clearly a teacher and
here he explains his problem is that he has much to teach but little time
(cp "written...briefly" He 13:22-note)
and they have little capacity - they have become dull hearers of
Steven Cole gives a good illustration of the problem the facing our
Just about every home that has small children has a growth chart somewhere
in the house. We sometimes used the inside of a closet doorjamb to mark the
height of our kids and the date. Then, perhaps each year on their birthdays,
we would measure them again. They were always excited to see how much they
had grown! But can you imagine how shocked and concerned we would have been
if, instead of growing up, one of our children had grown down! We would have
scheduled an immediate doctor’s appointment to find out what was wrong.
Growth is normal and a cause for joy. Shrinkage would have been bizarre and
a cause for alarm.
Many of the Hebrew Christians to whom our author wrote had grown down
in their Christian walk, not up. He says that they had come to need milk
again, not solid food. Imagine a teenager who quit eating regular food and
went back to formula and Gerber’s pureed peas! Instead of being able to
teach others, they now need someone to teach them the ABC’s of the Christian
life all over again. The author wants to talk to them about Jesus being a
high priest after the order of Melchizedek, but he fears that it will be
over their heads. So before he plunges into that subject, he is-sues the
strong warning that runs from He 5:11-6:20. In our text, he is saying, “Grow
up, folks!” Believers must move beyond the basics of the Christian faith and
grow up in Christ. You have no doubt been in a situation where an adult was
acting like a child: throwing a temper tantrum, or not dealing with a
frustrating situation in a mature way. You want to shout, “Grow up! Act your
age!” That’s what the author does here with the Hebrew Christians. (Hebrews 5:11-6:3 Grow Up!)
AND IT IS HARD TO EXPLAIN
SINCE YOU HAVE BECOME DULL OF HEARING:
kai dusermêneutos epei nothroi
gegonate (2PRAI) tais akoais: (Isaiah
6:10; Matthew 13:15; Mark 8:17,18,21; Luke 24:25; Acts 28:27)
ARRESTED SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT
The words hard to explain are
literally “hard of interpretation to be speaking.” It is difficult to make
this teaching intelligible to these unsaved Hebrews. The difficulty is
experienced by the writer. However, it is not found in any lack in the
writer, but in the spiritual condition of the subjects of this warning and
exhortation. They are dull of hearing. (Hebrews
to explain (1421) (dusermeneutos
[dysermeneutos] from dus [dys] = hard +
interpret) means literally hard to interpret. It conveys the ideas of hard or
difficult to explain or not easy to make clear. The idea is it is difficult to tell
someone the meaning of something.
Vincent says literally this reads "hard of interpretation to speak".
As an aside the root verb
(Jn 1:38, 42, 9:7, He 7:2) gives us the familiar theological term,
hermeneutics, which deals with the principles of biblical
interpretation. Let me call your attention to an excellent resource (online
as of Dec, 2010) by Dr Stephen R Lewis' who has compiled a 152 page
Pdf monograph on Hermeneutics. Even if you are not interested in
"hermeneutics" per se, you might consider perusing pages 22-45 which will
give you a very insightful summary of the history of Bible interpretation
through the ages.
Hermeneutics: The Study of the
Interpretation of the Scriptures
means hard to explain because of the strange (to Jews) line taken, but still
more because of their dullness. It is not hard or difficult in itself, but
hard to present in such a way that the readers will understand. The fault
lies with the hearers not the presenter.
In Luke 24:27 Jesus "explained" Old Testament Messianic passages to
some disciples on the road to Emmaus. "Explained" is the Greek verb
diermeneuo (from dia = an intensifier + hermeneuo = to
interpret) which means to explain thoroughly; translate, expound, interpret
, explain from one language into another.
It was difficult to expound the theological point concerning the high
priesthood of Jesus and how it finds its Biblical roots in that of
Melchizedek because the readers were not accustomed to thinking in such
terms. They were only accustomed to the "elementary principles of the
oracles of God." This was clearly not a commendation of those to whom it
You have become dull -
implies a deterioration on the hearers’ part. The thought is that they had
once been alert and interested to learn more of God's Word. They did not
start out dull but became that way. At one time they had been stirred and
moved and open, but they had sunk into a settled state of relative spiritual
stupor. In the spiritual realm a good saying is to...
Never look back
unless you want to go that way!
Wuest on become dull of hearing -
These Hebrews were slow, sluggish,
stupid, numbed, in their apprehension of the teaching of New Testament
truth. This made it difficult to teach them. The difficulty lay therefore
not in the writer but in them. But they had not always been in that
condition, as is shown by the word translated...become. It is in the
perfect tense which tense speaks of a process completed in past time having
present results. These Hebrews had at one time a spiritual apprehension
of New Testament truth sufficiently clear that they saw that the New
Testament Sacrifice displaced the First Testament offerings. The writer
tells us that also in the words, “who were once enlightened” (Heb 6:4). The
inability to apprehend was not a natural, inherent, and pardonable weakness,
but a culpable incapacity which was the result of past neglect of and a
gradual working away from New Testament truth (Heb 2:1–3). It was the
hardening of the heart against the ministrations of the Holy Spirit (Heb
3:7, 8). It was a deterioration of spiritual apprehension on the part of
these unsaved Hebrews who had been the recipients of the pre-salvation
ministry of the Holy Spirit, who had been leading them on step by step
toward the act of faith in the New Testament sacrifice, the Messiah. The
use of the perfect tense here tells us that the process had gone on to the
point of completion, with finished results. Their neglect had done its work,
and they as a result were in a settled state of spiritual stupidity so far
as their ability to apprehend New Testament truth was concerned. (Hebrews
(ginomai) means to come to acquire or experience a state.
Become is in the second person plural
perfect active indicative
indicating that they had
become and still were in a state of spiritual stupor.
Donald Grey Barnhouse warned that...Withering is a slow process, barely perceptible at first either to one who
is being withered or to those who look on.
It is not a
question of what they were by nature, but of what they had become by choice.
But what happened at some point of time in the past that would cause them to
have become so dull? To be sure persecution from without must have played
some role and must have caused them to begin to doubt the "Jesus way" over
the "Judaistic way". But applying this personally, we need to ask what happens in
our own life that makes us become lethargic toward
God's Word? And if we are honest, we will confess that sadly it is usually sin in one of it's manifold,
seductive, subtle (often not so subtle) forms. Sometimes it is
being attracted to worldly pursuits, not necessarily sinful ones but not
God's best ("the tyranny of the urgent"), not His will for my short day on earth (1Pe
As Puritan William Gurnall said...
must needs be
A doubting Christian.
The readers were spiritually immature, though they were not recent
converts. Hebrews has as one of its main goals the challenge to press on to
One of the first symptoms of spiritual regression,
or backsliding, is a dullness toward the Bible.
Sunday School class is dull (many churches in modern evangelicalism no
longer even have such an entity as "Sunday School", opting for "home groups"
where the Word of God may or may not be taught accurately), the preaching is
dull, and/or anything spiritual is dull. The problem is usually not with the
teacher or the pastor, but with the believer himself or herself.
Ask yourself beloved (and be honest with God and yourself)...
the Bible my joy and the delight of my heart?"
God's Word my love which I seek to meditate in all day?"
God's Word sweet to my taste, sweeter even than honey?"
As Thomas Guthrie soberly warned...If you find yourself loving any pleasure more than your prayers, any book
better than the Bible, any house better than the house of the Lord, any
table better than the Lord's table, any persons better than Christ, or any
indulgence better than the hope of heaven—be
Matthew Poole wrote that they
"dull of hearing because the ears of their mind were not created nor
proportioned to it: they were babes and children in understanding; the
difficulty was in themselves, not in the word or mystery; their intellective
faculty was slow to discern, perceive, and judge of this doctrine, and their
hearts were averse to it, being so conceited concerning the Levitical
priesthood: such were the apostles at the first, John 16:12 (Jesus declared
"I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.".
(Matthew Poole's Commentary)
Spurgeon - It is true of many Christians that they learn very little
to any purpose, and always need to be going over the A B C of the gospel.
They never get into the classics, the deep things of God; they are afraid of
the doctrine of election, and of the doctrine of the eternal covenant, and
of the doctrine of the sovereignty of God, for these truths are meant for
men of full age, and these poor puny babes have not cut their teeth yet.
They want some softer and more childlike food. Well, it is a mercy that they
are children of God; it would be better, however, for them to grow so as to
become teachers of others.
Thomas Hewitt feels that dull of hearing indicates "his readers had become confused and limited in their minds through apathy
and mental listlessness. They had become dull of hearing, which was a common
Greek ethical term for a sluggish intelligence.
Robert Gromacki makes some important distinctions...There is a difference between maturity and spirituality and
between immaturity and carnality. Maturity involves
time, growth, and experience, whereas spirituality stresses a
believer’s momentary relationship to the Holy Spirit. A believer who is
walking in the Spirit is spiritual because he wants to be controlled by Him,
but that same Christian may be immature if he has just been saved for a
short time (Gal 5:16). A carnal child of God is one who responds to a
problem out of his sinful human nature (1Co 3:3, 4). Believers in their
practice and disposition can thus possess these characteristics in pairs.
The goal of each saint should be maturity and spirituality.
The worst position would be immaturity and carnality. He could
however be mature and carnal or immature and spiritual. The readers (of the
letter of Hebrews) were basically immature with periodic lapses into
R., Dr. Stand Bold in Grace: An Exposition of Hebrews. The Woodlands, TX:
Kress Christian Publications)
from negative nê = no + ôtheô = to push means no push in the
hearing) is literally "no push" and thus means slow, sluggish, "numbed" in
mind as well as in the ears.
The idea is they are slow, slow to move, slothful, slack,
obtuse, languid, lazy, sluggish, indolent.
Indolence is an inclination to laziness, which is bad enough in the physical
world but can be deadly in the spiritual realm! Idleness is the enemy of the
soul. As Henry Ward Beecher once said...If you are idle, you are on the road to ruin, and there are few
stopping-places upon it. It is rather a precipice than a road.
The insightful Puritan writer Thomas
Brooks wrote that...A
lazy Christian will always lack four things: comfort, content, confidence
and assurance...(adding that) an idle life and a holy heart are a
In short, the readers of this letter (at
least some of them) had no "push" or no "drive" in their spiritual life!
They had no appetite or desire to hear deeper teaching. Instead of
quickening the powers of their understanding and the susceptibilities of
their heart by the regular intake and serious study of God's word, many of
the Hebrew readers had become dull in their apprehension of spiritual
Beloved, does this describe your/my
present spiritual life?
Arrested development is a pathetic thing
to behold - how sad to see a grown man acting like a small child! This is
never a "pretty sight"! Thus we begin to get a sense of the frustration the
writer must have felt as he wrote the sobering warning in this section.
In NT nothros is found only here and He 6:12 where the write desires
of his readers
that (they) may not be sluggish (nothros), but imitators of those who through faith and
patience inherit the promises.
Girdwood comments: "In He 6:12,
the word “slow” (nothros) will be contrasted with those who operate
“through faith and long-suffering.” This suggests a meaning like
“distrusting and easily discouraged.”" (The College Press NIV commentary)
Nothros was used in secular Greek to describe the numbed limbs of a
sick lion and the stupid hopes of the wolf that heard the nurse threaten to
throw the child to the wolves! In the Greek papyri the corresponding verb is
used of sickness. Plutarch notes that Parmenion was sluggish and lazy
in battle; the term could also be used of an athlete who was slow
because he was out of shape physically. In both the Wisdom literature and
Greek literature generally, nothros connotes the failure to follow
through with work or a responsibility because of being dull or slow in some
aspect of life.
Barclay - nothros is full of meaning. It means slow-moving in
mind, torpid in understanding, dull of hearing, witlessly forgetful. It can
be used of the numbed limbs of an animal which is ill. It can be used of a
person who has the imperceptive nature of a stone. Now this has something to
say to everyone whose business it is to preach and to teach; in fact, it has
something to say to everyone whose business it is to think and that means
that it has something to say to everyone who is a real person. It often
happens that we dodge teaching something because it is difficult; we defend
ourselves by saying that our hearers would never grasp it. It is one of the
tragedies of the Church that there is so little attempt to teach new
knowledge and new thought. It is true that such teaching is difficult. It is
true that often it means meeting the lethargy of the lazy mind and the
embattled prejudice of the shut mind. But the task remains. The writer to
the Hebrews did not shirk to bring his message, even if it was difficult and
the minds of his hearers were slow. He regarded it as his supreme
responsibility to pass on the truth he knew. (Hebrews
5 Commentary - William Barclay's Daily Study Bible)
Plato calls some students nôthroi (stupid). -
have to face study they are stupid (nothroi) and cannot remember. (Theaet.
nothros is used only in Pr 22:29.
The author cannot deal with profounder themes (like Melchizedek) because his
readers have become slow to hear and learn.
Nothros however does not mean that
the readers are in a permanent state of low intelligence. They have had time
to understand, but they still do not and thus are in danger of falling into
a state worse than the one they were in before they heard these truths (He
Phil Newton writes that...
Dull ears make for scant understanding and little practice. Without a
steady diet of God's Word a believer's ability to make wise decisions and
live like a believer will be stymied. Andrew Fuller was right.
Christians should not rest satisfied in having attained to a knowledge of
the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, but should go on unto
perfection [The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, vol. 1, 161].
To be satisfied with only an introduction to Christ calls into question the
reality of his faith. We must leave the elementary diet of milk for the
solid food of God's Word. This alone can sustain us and assure us in our
faith as we journey through the trials and demands of life....
The writer uses this word (nothros) one other time in the Epistle in
He 6:12 where it is translated, "sluggish." As we consider He 6:11, 12 we
find what he means by "dull" in noting its opposite description.
And we desire that each of you show the same diligence so as to realize the
full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but
imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
The opposite of dullness is diligence. It is a pursuit of full
assurance in Christ. It is a dogged, unrelenting desire to know the hope of
Christ filling your bosom to the brim. Dullness is really not an ear problem
but a heart problem. Something in the heart seems to reject the idea of
hearing and heeding the Word. John Piper comments,
The promises come to the ear, but there is no passion for them, no lover's
embrace, no cherishing or treasuring; and so no faith and no patience and-if
things don't change-no inheritance of eternal life! (By
This Time You Ought to Be Teachers)
How does this happen to those of us who have professed faith in Christ?
How can we become "dull of hearing"?
At least three things might possibly occur.
First, to neglect hearing the Word increases dullness of hearing.
Reading and studying Scripture is an acquired taste. The Word cuts against
the grain of the natural man, exposing him and laying bare his depravity (He
Apart from a changed heart and a renewed mind, a person has little desire to
expose himself to the Word, either by reading or listening to it (Ro 12:1-note,
Ep 4:20, 21, 22-note,
Ep 4:23, 24-note).
This is one reason why our writer exhorts these believers to "not forsake
our own assembling together," for as we neglect hearing the Word and
sitting under its counsel, we dull our own hearing (He 10:25).
Second, we become dulled when we take for granted the Word of God. If
the Word is one of those things that you will eventually get-around-to, then
you are in the process of being dulled. If you have become familiar to the
Word without paying heed to its application, then you are being dulled. The
train tracks run directly behind our home. Frankly, we don't even notice the
roaring of the train as it rumbles through our backyard every day. But when
someone visits us, they are often startled when they hear the train! We have
taken it for granted and grown so familiar with it that we do not notice it.
Has that happened with you and the preaching, reading, studying, and
teaching of God's Word?
Third, when we ignore obeying the Word we become dulled in our hearing.
James warns that we deceive ourselves when we are merely hearers without
being doers of the Word (Jas 1:22-note).
If you are given to
do not complain about what you are hearing of God's Word. It is no question
why you do not hear. You have no intention to obey so do not expect God to
make his Word plain to you if you want it only to satisfy your pride. (Leaving
Milk for Meat)
Adam Clarke on "dull of hearing"...Your souls do not keep pace with the doctrines and exhortations delivered to
you. As nothros signifies a person who walks heavily and makes little
speed, it is here elegantly applied to those who are called to the Christian
race, have the road laid down plain before them, how to proceed specified,
and the blessings to be obtained enumerated, and yet make no exertions to
get on, but are always learning, and never able to come to the full
knowledge of the truth.
Nida writes that...The readers have become less keen in their understanding of the Christian
faith and are in danger of abandoning their faith completely. (The
United Bible Societies' New Testament Handbook Series)
Steven Cole notes that...
The author hits the Hebrews with the fact that they have become dull of
hearing (Hebrews 5:11). They didn’t used to be that way, but they have
developed this spiritual malady. Dull is used only here and in He
in the New Testament, and has the nuance of sluggish or slow. It is used in
the Greek papyri of someone being sick and therefore lacking energy. So the
word has the idea of spiritual laziness or lethargy.
When there is an opportunity to get into God’s Word, this person says, “Nah,
let’s see what’s on the tube.”
When there is occasion to go and hear the Word taught, he says, “I’m tired.
I think I’ll stay home and go to bed early.”
shows that teaching God’s Word is a two-way matter. There is the knowledge
and ability of the teacher to explain things clearly and in an interesting
manner. But also, there is the receptivity of the hearers. It is significant
that the best teacher who has ever lived used to exhort His audience,
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” “Take care how you listen; for
whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even
what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him” (Luke 8:8, 18).
If Jesus is the preacher and the message isn’t coming through, guess who is
at fault? When hearers are dull, teaching is difficult.
I’m talking here about motivation. Motivation is the key to learning. Jesus
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they
shall be satisfied” (Mt 5:6-note)
Hunger and thirst are strong motivators! When you’re hungry or thirsty,
there is only one thing on your mind, to satisfy the craving for food or
water. If you are driven by the hunger or thirst for righteousness, you will
be satisfied (Mt
If you think, “Ho hum!” not only will you not grow; you won’t even know what
you’re missing! There is one other lesson in He 5:11:
There is no neutral in the Christian life.
Either you are growing or you’re shrinking.
Which is it for you right now? We fool ourselves into thinking that
we’re just treading water, but the strong current of
us backwards if we’re not striving to move ahead. Let me shoot straight:
if you’re not making time
to spend in God’s Word and in prayer,
you’re not growing, you’re shrinking!
You’re going from eating meat back to the formula and pureed peas. That
stuff is great for babies, but it won’t sustain a growing teenager or adult.
The author wanted to teach them about the significance of Jesus being a high
priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek, but they can’t handle
it. It’s like trying to get a student to read Shakespeare, but he can’t even
recognize the letters of the alphabet! In terms of their years as believers,
they should have been capable, but they needed to go back to spiritual
Phil Newton asks "How satisfying and deep is the Word of God? Jonathan Edwards declared, "The
word of God, which is given for our instruction in divinity, contains enough
in it to employ us to the end of our lives, and then we shall leave enough
uninvestigated to employ the heads of the ablest divines to the end of the
world." He added, "There is enough in this divine science to employ the
understandings of saints and angels to all eternity" [The Works of Jonathan
Edwards, vol. 2, 160]. More than enough, we might say of the Word of
God...But the question that might be more pertinent for us is personally
applied. "Are you growing in your knowledge and practice of the Word of
Milk for Meat)
Adoniram Judson wrote:
"A life once spent is
irrevocable. It will remain to be contemplated through eternity...the same
may be said of each day. When it is once past, it is gone forever. All the
marks which we put upon it, it will exhibit forever...each day will not only
be a witness of our conduct, but will affect our everlasting destiny....How
shall we then wish to see each day marked with usefulness...! It is too late
to mend the days that are past. The future is in our power. Let us, then,
each morning, resolve to send the day into eternity in such a garb as we
shall wish it to wear forever. And at night let us reflect that one more day
is irrevocably gone, indelibly marked." (from E. Judson "The Life of
Adoniram Judson" published in 1883) (See
(akoe from akoúo = to hear; see related verb
is the act, the sense or the thing heard.
Dull of hearing -
(idiom = ‘lazy as to one’s ears’) slow to understand. Slow to the hearings
and so slow to respond to the teaching sessions. Lest his readers think that
the writer is "labeling" every one of them with this disgraceful assessment,
elsewhere he singles out those who should be commended (see Heb 6:9, 10, 11,
12 and He 10:32, 33, 34, 35, 56).
The implication of dull of hearing is that a grasp of deep spiritual
truth is dependent in part on the diligence of the believer in listening.
The idea of hearing is a key idea in Hebrews...
Hebrews 2:1 (note)
For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have
lest we drift away from it.
Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, "TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS
VOICE, 8 DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME, AS IN THE DAY
OF TRIAL IN THE WILDERNESS
while it is said, "TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR
HEARTS, AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME."
Hebrews 4:7 (note)
He again fixes a certain day, "Today," saying through David after so long a
time just as has been said before, "TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT
HARDEN YOUR HEARTS."
Hebrews 5:9 (note)
And having been made perfect, He became
to all those who obey (literally "hear under",
= hupo + akouo) Him the source of eternal salvation,
Hebrews 5:11 (note)
Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you
have become dull of hearing.
Hebrews 11:8 (note)
By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed (literally "hear under",
= hupo + akouo) by going out to a place
which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing
where he was going.
they be dull of hearing? Drifting, neglecting (unconcerned, paying
no attention to) (He 2:1-note,
doubting (He 3:7, 8, 9ff-note),
hardening their hearts (He 3:7, 8-note,
He 4:7-note), not obeying
All of these attitudes and actions might explain their dullness. They had heard but they were not obeying
and thus not growing.
Jesus emphasized this important principle of spiritual growth in John
If any man is willing (present
to do (present
His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I
speak from Myself." (John 7:17)
"If any man sincerely wants to do God's will, he shall know...."
The first prerequisite to ascertaining God's leading or the truth about some
doctrine, is a genuine willingness to believe the truth and to do
(obey) the truth which one does understand. To know and not to do
(obey) runs the danger of being hardened to that truth and thus becoming
dull of hearing!
was not that the writer was a dull teacher, but that they are dull
hearers! Think of a slug! Slothful, sluggish, lazy, stupid, a condition of spiritual apathy and laziness that prevents spiritual
development. This is an instructive passage in terms of studying Scripture. The writer
says he’s got a lot to say, but its “hard to explain.” Why? Is it the
difficulty of the revelation? No, it’s the density of those
a "learning disability" so to speak.
Spurgeon...It may be hard going forward, but it is worse going back....Backsliders
begin with dusty Bibles and end with filthy garments....It is dangerous to
backslide in any degree, for we know not to what may lead.
Spiritual lethargy and slow response to God's truth prevented additional
teaching at this time on "him" (Melchizedek), so the
until He 6:20
(note) to mention Melchizedek again.
There is an important principle in this section - Failure to
appropriate the truth produces stagnation in spiritual
advancement and the inability to understand or assimilate additional
teaching (Jn 16:12 "but you cannot bear them now.")
The problem with the Hebrew readers of this letter reminds one of the
situation that existed among the Gentiles who had received God's truth of
natural (general) revelation in His creation and yet chosen to reject that
revelation resulting in their hearts being progressively darkened, even
becoming fools, and idol worshippers who were eventually given over by God
to the power of their own innate lusts.
Ro 1:18 (note)
For the wrath of God is revealed (continuously) from heaven against all
ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who (continually, actively) suppress
(hold down) the truth in unrighteousness,19 because that which is known
about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them (How? He
Ro 1:20 (note)
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal
power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through
what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even
though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but
they became futile (empty, vain) in their speculations, and their foolish
heart was darkened (Note well: The human soul abhors a spiritual
vacuum. If we reject the spiritual light God provides, we will be given over
to spiritual darkness! This is an immutable spiritual axiom! Such a person
no longer discerns right from wrong [see
more discernment in Hebrews 5:14],
but actually begins to think that right is wrong! [cp Jdg 21:25-note]
Note the "way back" is also shown in this passage - Know God,
Honor Him as God, Give Thanks to Him! We read the
Scriptures to grow to know which grows our love for Him and causes us
to honor Him with our daily choice that seek His glory not ours and
as we grow in our knowing of Him we begin to gain a greater appreciation of
His sovereign, total control of everything, and we are motivated by that
truth to genuinely give thanks in everything! This is the way back
Ro 1:22 (note)
Professing to be wise, they became fools,23 and exchanged the glory of the
incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds
and four-footed animals and crawling creatures (Study ancient godless
civilizations and you see abundant archaeological evidence of people who
were desperate to worship something they could see or touch or feel -- idols
-- rather than to submit and bow to the only true and Living God! This must
break God's heart! Ex 20:2, 3, 5)
Ro 1:24 (note)
God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts (i.e., into the power of and
to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. (Ro 1:18-24)
These Hebrew readers had not only received
natural revelation (God's Creation), but also
special revelation (God's Word - Ps 19:7ff-see
commentary on site) consisting of the OT Scriptures (Ro
Messiah Himself (Ro 9:5-note), and the teaching of the apostles (Heb
He 2:3-note). Until
the Hebrews obeyed the revelation they had received, additional
teaching about the Messiah’s priesthood would be of no profit to them.
is still a problem today!
Christ as a priest
after the order of Melchizedek is a difficult subject, and the writer is
going to deal with it forthrightly. To understand the subject requires sharp
spiritual perception. It requires hearers to be spiritually alert and to have a
knowledge of the Word of God.
J Vernon McGee quips that...The Hebrew believers who are being addressed here had a low
SQ—not IQ, but
SQ—spiritual quotient. It was hard to teach them because they had "lazy ears"
(~"lazy hearts") and it
was difficult to make them understand. They were babies, as many of the
saints are today, and they wanted "baby talk" from the preacher. They
want to hear anything that was difficult to understand. This is the reason
some preachers are getting by with murder in the pulpit—they murder the Word
of God. They absolutely kill it and substitute something from their own
viewpoint, and the congregations like that kind of baby talk. (Hebrews
J V: Thru the Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson
Guzik makes a cogent observation and application regarding dull of
hearing writing that...The dullness usually comes first, then the desire to give up. Watch out when
the Word of God starts seeming dull to you! (Ibid)
TO LISTEN TO TRUTH
Therefore we understand that their problem was an acquired condition
characterized by an inability to listen to spiritual truth. They were not
naturally “slow,” they were not intellectually deficient, but they had
become spiritually lazy. They listened with the attentiveness of a slug.
They had become unreceptive and closed.
When people truly come to Christ, their initial posture is one of intense
listening. Though only a boy, I was “all ears” after I met Christ. I
listened as best I could—and even took notes. God’s Word was alive! My
experience was not unique.
Webber, in his massive three-volume "A History of Preaching in Britain
and America", writes that one of the by-products of the Awakening
was an interest in shorthand...
Men and women studied shorthand in order that they might take down the
sermons that were stirring the English-speaking countries. This had happened
once before in Scotland, and it made its appearance once more in all
countries where the influence of the Awakening was felt. It was not at all
unusual to see men with a portable inkwell strapped about them, and a quill
pen thrust over an ear, hastening to join the throng assembling on the
But as the newness of it all died down, so did the listening—just as with
the Hebrews centuries before, and as with so many in the church today. To
such people it is “hard to explain” the deep, needful doctrines of the
Richard Baxter in his “Directions for Profitably Hearing the
Word Preached” gives this wise advice...Make it your work with diligence to apply the word as you are hearing it.…
Cast not all upon the minister, as those that will go no further than they
are carried as by force.… You have work to do as well as the preacher, and
should all the time be as busy as he… you must open your mouths, and digest
it, for another cannot digest it for you… therefore be all the while at
work, and abhor an idle heart in hearing, as well as an idle minister.
R. K. Hebrews: An Anchor for the Soul. Volume 1. Crossway Books;