Westminster Theological Journal 55 (1993) 255-80.

Copyright © 1993 by Westminster Theological Seminary, cited with permission.

 

 

                       CREATION AND RE-CREATION:

PSALM 95 AND ITS INTERPRETATION IN HEBREWS 3:1-4:13

 

                                             PETER E. ENNS

 

 

PSALM 95 does not read like a "typical" psalm. The first half, vv. 1-7a,

is an exhortation to praise Yahweh. The second half, vv. 7b-11, is a

word of warning against hardening one's heart and ends on an altogether

sour note: "As I swore in my wrath: ‘surely they shall not enter my rest.’"

This second half follows abruptly upon the first, apparently without the

slightest indication that these two halves belong together. As a result, many

form-critics have argued that Psalm 95 is composed of two songs that were

sung in the cult. Congregational praise was followed by a prophetic warn-

ing, in what Gunkel called wechselnde Stimmen.1 This overall approach di-

vides into two general camps: (1) those who recognize two distinct parts but

say that this structure is original to the psalm,2 and (2) those who say that

this two-part structure is a sign that they were originally two distinct songs

with two distinct Sitze-im-Leben.3

            The form-critical approach is not unjustified since there are clear differ-

ences between these two parts with respect to mood, person, and subject

matter. The first half is praise, the second half a warning; in the first half

the worshipers are speaking, in the second half God is the speaker; the first

half deals with creation while the second half deals with rebellion in the

desert. All of these factors certainly suggest that there are differences be-

tween the two parts that need to be discussed. Nevertheless, I question

whether past approaches have been helpful in explaining why Psalm 95

looks the way it does. Whether one argues on form-critical grounds for

 

            1 Hermann Gunkel, Die Psalmen ubersetzt and erklart (6th ed.; Gottingen: Vandenhoeck

& Ruprecht, 1986) 418. A similar view is expressed in other older commentaries such as Her-

mann Hupfeld, Die Psalmen (Gotha: Friedrich Andreas Perthes, 1860) 3.44-45, and W. O. E.

Oesterley, The Psalms (New York: Macmillan, 1939) 2.419, as well as more recent works such

as Hans Joachim Krause, Psalmen (Neukirchen: Neukirchener Verlag, 1960) 2.662, and Moses

Buttenweiser, The Psalms: Chronologically Treated with a. New Translation (New York: KTAV,

1969) 798. For an exhaustive summary of the scholarship on Psalm 95 see G. H. Davies, "Psalm

95," ZAW 85 (1973) 183-87. His efforts will not be repeated here.

            2 Gunkel is an example of this approach: "The second part, 7-11, stands in stark contrast

to the first. . . . The difference between both parts is so great, that one could well divide this

psalm into two poems that have come together only accidentally. . . . But this observation fails

when one takes notice that the same contrast is evident in the very similar Psalm 81" (Psalmen,

418).

            3 See, for example, T. K. Cheyne: "Ps. xcv. as it stands is formed of fragments of two

psalms" (The Book of Psalms [London: Kegan, Paul, Trench, & Co., 1888] 265).

                                                            255



256                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

either original unity (Gunkel) or disunity (Cheyne), the question still re-

mains why these two parts are together. One cannot simply argue for orig-

inal disunity by taking refuge in an inept redactor who, for no apparent

reason, brought together two distinct and unrelated songs for use in the

cult. Nor does arguing for original unity settle the question. One would still

have to ask why an author would write a psalm with such apparently

distinct parts for use in the cult. It is a curious situation that the problem

created by an alleged incongruity in subject matter, etc., is supposedly

solved by appealing to the function of the psalm in a cultic setting—as if the

cultic reciters of the psalm would be disinterested in whether the two parts

made sense together. Positing a particular form does not remove the prob-

lem of incongruity. It simply raises the same questions on a different level:

how can these two parts be justified to coexist in the same psalm? What

particular cultic purpose would be served by juxtaposing two such dispar-

ate songs?

            In discussing Hebrews' use of Psalm, 95, it is only appropriate that we

begin by looking carefully at Psalm 95 itself, which is to answer the ques-

tion, "Why does Psalm 95 look the way it does?" To investigate this issue,

we must pay closer attention not to a presumed setting in which a psalm

might have been uttered, but to the words on the page. It is the task of the

first part of this article to show that Psalm 95 is a sensible and purposeful

work, not merely because it might have had a cultic function, but because

the psalm makes sense. What unites this psalm is what might be called the

creation/re-creation theme.4 Verses 1-5 deal with God's cosmic creation as

motivation for worshiping Yahweh. Verses 6-7a follow by speaking of an-

other act of "creation," the Exodus, which also inspires the faithful to

worship. Verses 7b-11 conclude the psalm by warning the readers against

unfaithfulness. That the writer chooses the incident at Meribah and Mas-

sah (cf. Exod 17:1-7 and Num 20:1-13) as a paradigm for his warning is

significant since this is the quintessential rebellion of the original second

creation community, thus making explicit the Exodus connection implied

in vv. 6-7a. Establishing the thematic unity of the psalm will have some

bearing on how we understand Heb 3:1-4:13, the topic of the next section.

Hebrews applies this Exodus warning to his readers, (1) by presenting Israel

and the church as being in an analogous situation: both are Exodus com-

munities in their period of wilderness wandering; (2) by making certain

changes in the citation of Ps 95:7b-11 so as to make it most relevant for his

readers; (3) by equating the goal of the Christian's wandering with God's

 

            4 Two recent and helpful studies have undertaken to show the unity of Psalm 95: Marc

Girard, "Analyse structurelle du Psaurne 95," ScEs 33 (1981) 179-89, and Pierre Auffret,

"Essai sur la structure litteraire du Psaume 95," Biblische Notizen 22 (1983) 47-69. Their results

are stimulating but based entirely on the structure of the psalm. Where I hope to go beyond

these and other studies is by showing that the unity is not only structural but also thematic.



                        CREATION AND RE-CREATION                          257

creation rest, a point that draws upon the creation/re-creation theme. I begin by

offering the following translation of Psalm 95 for the reader's convenience.

            1. Come, let us shout with joy to Yahweh,

                        let us shout aloud to the rock of our salvation.

            2. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving,

                        with songs let us shout to him;

                3. for Yahweh is a great God, and a great King above all gods

                        4. in whose hands are the earthly recesses;

                            mountain peaks also belong to him;

                        5. to whom belongs the sea, since he made it;

                            his hands also formed the dry land.5

            6. Come, let us worship and bow down,

                        let us kneel before Yahweh our maker;

                        7a. for he is our God: we are the people of his pasture,

                              the sheep of his hand.6

            7b. Oh, that you would obey him today:

                        8. "Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah,

                            as in the day of Massah in the desert,

                            9. where your fathers tested me.

                                They tried me even though they had seen my deed(s).7

                           10. For forty years I was angry with [that] generation, so I

                                 said, ‘They are a people whose heart is wandering;

                                 they do not know my ways.’

                            11. As I swore in my wrath, ‘Surely, they will not enter my rest.’”

           

      5 To anticipate our discussion, it is tempting to read v. 5 as intentionally ambiguous. Might

the mention of sea and dry land refer both to creation and to the parting of the Red Sea?

Dahood argues in the same vein for "rock" (rvc) in v. 1, anticipating the Meribah/Massah

incident, which is the focus of vv. 7b-11 (Psalms II: 51-100 [AB 17; Garden City: Doubleday,

1968] 353).

    6 The exact meaning of v. 7a has been a topic of much discussion. Dahood argues that vdy

should be read as "his grazing plot" rather than "his hand" (Psalms II, 354). This fits well

with vtyfrm and would yield a nice word play with dy in vv. 4 and 5. Nevertheless, even if this

creative solution were correct, it would not solve the problem. It is still a question what the

mixed metaphor "people of his pasture" means. Whether vdy means "grazing plot" or "his

hand" will not help us here. It would make more sense were the passage to read "people of

his hand" (under his authority) and "sheep of his pasture," i.e., switching the constructs. As

it stands, we have two successive mixed metaphors, which for all we know may be an inten-

tional stylistic (chiastic?) device. The Targum, perhaps trying to alleviate the awkwardness, reads,

hydyx tyyfr Nxcv hymf vnHnxv, "And we are his people, the sheep of the pasture of his hand."

Gunkel reads, "For he is our God, and we are [his] people, the sheep of his pasture"

(Psalmen, 417). To achieve this reading, Gunkel must read a suffix on Mf (or at least argue that the

suffix is implied) and transpose the last two words of the phrase to vtyfrm Nxcv.. Neither has

any versional support, although the latter emendation is supported by Pss 74:1 and 100:3. He then

reads vdy as vfd (m. pl. imperative of fdy) and translates it, "Know that today...." This, too, is

conjectural. The same translation is followed by Krause (Psalmen, 662), and Oesterley (Psalms, 419).

         7 Whether ylfp should be translated singular or plural will be discussed in n. 28.



258     WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

                        I. Creation and Re-creation in Psalm 95

 

1. Ps 95:1-7a

 

            A brief overview of the structure of this portion of the psalm will serve

as a lead into a discussion of its thematic unity.8 We have in vv. 1-5 a

message of praise. The first-person cohortative predominates with God be-

ing spoken of in the third person. The opening imperative enjoins the

worshipers to perform four acts: come let us sing, shout aloud, draw near,

shout aloud. Whereas vv. 1-2 extol the worshipers to come, vv. 3-5 give the

reasons why (yk). Verse 3 is a general declaration of God's greatness above

all gods: there is no one like Yahweh. Verses 4 and 5 are two relative clauses

introduced by rwx that modify the main compound sentence of v. 3. Verse

4 specifies the declaration of v. 3. Why is God greater than all other gods?

By virtue of his ownership of all creation—from the unsearchable depths to

the mountain heights, all this belongs to him. Verse 5 takes the thought one

step further—or better, one step back. Not only is God the greatest by

virtue of his ownership of all creation, but he himself is the creator. He

made both the sea (v. 5a, vhWf) and the dry land (v. 5b). We have then

in vv. 1-5 a call to worship, the motive of which is based on the fact that

Yahweh is the greatest God. What makes him the greatest is not only his

ownership of creation (v. 4), but the fact that he is the creator himself (v. 5).

            Verses 6 and 7a parallel vv. 1-5 in structure. Verse 6 corresponds to vv.

1-2: come, let us worship, bow down, kneel. Verse 7a corresponds to vv. 3-5

by providing the motive for worship: "for [yk] he is our God, i.e., we are the

people of his pasture, the sheep of his hand." Once again, the community

is to come and worship. But the motive here is not simply God as the creator

and owner of that creation (as if that were not enough!). What motivates

the worshipers now is that God is also the "creator" of his people (vnWf,

v. 6).9 But what does it mean to say, "Yahweh is our maker"? When were

God's people created? This is a reference to Israel's "creation" as a people

when they came out of Egypt.

            (1) Creation and Re-creation Language. This juxtaposition of creation lan-

guage and the Exodus is a theme found elsewhere in Scripture.Hos 8:13-14

is one example: "Now he will remember their wickedness and punish their

sin. They will return to Egypt. Israel has forgotten his maker [hWf]." Israel

will be punished for his disobedience by returning to Egypt. But again, the

question is raised, What does "his maker" mean? The context of the

 

            8 More detailed treatments may be found in Auffret, "Essai sur la structure"; Girard,

"Analyse structurelle"; Davies, "Psalm 95"; and Charles Bruce Riding, "Psalm 95:1-7c as a

Large Chiasm," ZAW 88 (1976) 418.

            9 Both Girard ("Analyse structurelle," 183ff.) and Auffret ("Essai sur la structure," 49ff.)

pick up on the repetition of hWf in vv. 5 and 6 and its importance for understanding the

structure of Psalm 95, but they do not make the thematic connection.



                        CREATION AND RE-CREATION                          259

 

passage suggests at least one thing: it is to be understood in some connection

to the Exodus.10 By sending faithless Israel back to Egypt, God will undo

what he has done (hWf) by bringing them out of Egypt. Their punishment

will be an Egypt from which they will never return. What a fitting pun-

ishment for disobedient Israel: for forgetting her "creator" she will be

reduced to a state that undoes her creation—she will return to Egypt. Israel

is undone.

            The creation/re-creation theme is also found in Exodus 15, the Song at

the Sea. Verse 16 refers to the Israelites who are coming out of Egypt as "a

people you have created" (tynq vz-Mf).11 We should not allow the fact that

a different root is used (hnq instead of hWf) to distract us from the force of

the argument. The Exodus is closely associated with an act of creation and

it is the presence of this theme that is important.12

            Isa 43:14-17 is also relevant. Verse 15 reads: "I am Yahweh, your Holy

One; Israel's creator [xrvb], your King." Again, a different root is used but

the idea of creation is clear nevertheless. (The use of xrb, if anything,

strengthens the argument, since it provides a strong connection with cre-

ation in Gen 1:1.) What is meant here by "Israel's creator"? The context

is loaded with Exodus imagery and therefore strongly suggests that there is

some connection between Israel's creation and the Exodus. Verses 16-17 are

an explicit reference to the crossing of the Red Sea: "Thus says Yahweh,

who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who

drew out chariots and horses, both armies and soldiers." These passages

provide convincing evidence that a tradition exists in the OT that under-

stands the Exodus as an act of creation. The use of the Leitwort hWf in Ps

95:5-6, in addition to the obvious reference to creation in vv. 1-5, suggests

that Psalm 95 exhibits a similar tradition.13

 

   10 Although the point cannot be developed here, there is another level at which this passage

can be read—with what follows in v. 14 rather than (or better, in addition to) with what

precedes. Israel has forgotten his maker and proceeds to build (hnb) temples and fortify (hbr,

Hiph.) towns. In any event, the close juxtaposition of hWf and Egypt remains.

   11 The root hnq can also mean "to buy, "acquire," or "beget." The meaning of the root

is ambiguous, yet with God as the subject the meaning "create" is likely. See Gen 14:19, 22

(Crxv Mymw hnq); Ps 139:13 (ytylk tynq); and Prov 8:22 (referring to wisdom, ynnq hvhy).

For a fuller discussion, see P. Humbert, "’Qana’ en hebreu biblique," Festschrift Alfred Bertholet

(Tubingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 1950) 259-66. Deut 32:6, like Exod 15:16, is probably another

archaic poem and also uses this root with Israel as the object. It is worth noting that, in this

verse, both hnq and hWf appear: "Is he not your father, your creator [jnq], who made you [jWf]

and formed you [jnnky]?"

    12 The use of hnq in Isa 11:11 is also helpful, although there it is used in the context of the

return from Babylon rather than the Exodus. The relationship between these two events will

be developed in the following paragraphs.

    13 Like hWf, vdy is also a Leitwort bringing together the creation ("depths of the earth" and

"dry land" in vv. 4 and 5) and the Exodus ("sheep of his hand" in v. 7). The use of shep-

herding language to describe the Exodus will be discussed below.



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            Isa 43:14-17 is also instructive in another direction. Not only do we have

here the connection between creation and Exodus (re-creation) in vv. 15-17,

but between creation, Exodus, and the return from Babylon, which is por-

trayed as a second Exodus. Verse 14 reads, "Thus says Yahweh, your re-

deemer [Mklxg], the Holy One of Israel, ‘For your sake I will send to

Babylon and bring all of them down as fugitives, the Chaldeans in the ships

in which they took pride.’" Although a complete discussion of the con-

nection between creation, the Exodus, and the return from Babylon would

take us far beyond our stated purpose, it does provide a useful line of

inquiry. For one thing, the juxtaposition in this passage of the Exodus (vv.

16-17) and the return from Babylon (v. 14) shows that both follow the

re-creation paradigm. It also establishes a connection between re-creation

and redemption (lxg), since redemption here can mean nothing other than

the return from Babylon. Isa 48:20-21 establishes this connection further:

    Leave Babylon, flee from the Babylonians. With a joyous shout make it known

    and proclaim it. Send it out to the ends of the earth. Say, "Yahweh has redeemed

    [lxg] his servant Jacob. They did not thirst when he led them through the desert;

    he made water flow from a rock for them. He split a rock and water gushed forth."

 

This passage is particularly helpful. The return from Babylon is juxtaposed

explicitly to the Exodus (with a clear reference to the rebellion at Meribah

and Massah), thus portraying the return from Babylon as a second Exo-

dus.14 Hence, it speaks not only of the return from Babylon as an act of

Yahweh's redemption (lxg), but by clear implication the Exodus as well.

The first Exodus is unambiguously tied to the second Exodus. Both are acts

of re-creation; both are acts of redemption.

            Now, I would not want to press this line of reasoning too far, as if to say

that every mention of redemption from Egypt or Babylon is to be auto-

matically understood as an act of creation. I am not saying that creation

and redemption are interchangeable concepts. Rather, I am making the

observation that both creation and redemption language are used to de-

scribe God's acts of deliverance, be it the Exodus or the return from Baby-

lon.15 Bearing this in mind will bring other passages into our discussion that

might otherwise be neglected. One such passage is Isa 54:5, "For your

husband is your maker [jyWf], Yahweh of Hosts is his name. Your redeemer

[jlxg], the Holy One of Israel; he is called the God of all the earth." This

is reminiscent of the re-creation language seen above. And vv. 6-8 make

explicit the connection to the return from Babylon ("I abandoned you .. .

I will bring you back"). The language of creation and redemption are

juxtaposed to a re-creation event. Another example is Isa 44:2, "Thus says

 

   14 This theme is also found, for example, in Hos 9:3 and Isa 52:4.

   15 This point is also helpful for our understanding of hnq, mentioned above, which can also

mean "to redeem." There may be a purposeful ambiguity in Exod 15:16.



                        CREATION AND RE-CREATION                          261

 

Yahweh your maker [jWf], who formed you [jrcy] in the womb and helped

you." Here, creation and yet another theme, conception, are brought to-

gether. There is no explicit mention of either the Exodus or the return from

Babylon in this passage (the immediate context runs from v. 1 to v. 6).

            Nevertheless, the question still remains what "formed you in the womb"

means. One plausible explanation is suggested by v. 24, which juxtaposes

rcy and lxg: "Thus says Yahweh, who redeemed you [jlxg], who formed

you [jrcy] in the womb." In v. 2, creation and conception are paralleled,

whereas here in v. 24 it is redemption and conception. Isa 45:9-13 argues

along a similar vein. Yahweh is the potter who forms (rcy) man (v. 9). He

is also the potter who forms Israel (v. 11). What follows then is a discussion

of his act of cosmic creation (v. 12) juxtaposed to the return of the exiles

from Babylon (v. 13). Again, I will resist the temptation to make too much

of these parallels. Certainly rcy can be paralleled to both hWf and lxg

without having to conclude that these words all mean the same thing.

Nevertheless, the fact that these terms are brought together suggests at least

that they are to be understood as having some connection between them.

There is, at least in these passages from Isaiah,16 a complex of themes--con-

ception, redemption, creation—all of which refer not only to the Exodus

and/or the return from Babylon but to each other as well. Seen in this light,

there is a tradition in Scripture that understands both the Exodus and the

return from Babylon to be antitypes of creation. And the first half of Psalm

95 is merely one example of this tradition. This is of obvious interest for our

argument since establishing the presence of the Exodus theme in Ps 95:1-7a

provides a clear connection with the otherwise distinct second half.

            (2) Shepherding Language. What further establishes the creation/re-cre-

ation theme in Ps 95:1-7a is the shepherding language of v. 7a. The jux-

taposition of shepherding to the deliverance theme is common in Scripture.

First, let us turn back to Isaiah 44. We have already seen that v. 24 connects

redemption and conception. Relevant here is the rest of v. 24, which jux-

taposes re-creation ("Thus says Yahweh who redeemed you, who formed

you in the womb") to creation ("I am Yahweh, the creator [hWf] of all

things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by

myself").

            Verses 26b-27 make even more explicit the connection to the re-creation

theme, here the return from Babylon: "[I am Yahweh] . . . who says of

 

    16 The purpose of this discussion is not to establish a causal relationship between texts. That

Psalm 95 has an understanding of the Exodus that seems to be present in Isaiah does not

necessarily imply that the psalmist is deriving his message from Isaiah, either consciously or

unconsciously. I am simply answering the form-critical argument that Psalm 95 is made up

of two parts that have little more in common than an alleged cultic function. Toward that end,

it is sufficient to show that in its understanding of the Exodus, Psalm 95 stands within a

tradition of interpretation well represented elsewhere in Scripture. Indeed, this may be all

anyone can say.



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Jerusalem, ‘it will be inhabited,’ of the towns of Judah, ‘they will be

rebuilt,’ and of her ruins, ‘I will restore them,’ who says to the watery

deep, ‘be dry and I will dry up your streams.’" Besides the overt reference

to the return from Babylon, the mention of waters drying up is another

clear attempt to portray the return from Babylon as a second Exodus (see

Isa 48:20-21 and n. 14 above). The creation/re-creation theme being thus

established as central to this passage, we continue reading in v. 28, "who

says concerning Cyrus, ‘My shepherd [yfr]17—he will bring to pass all I

please. He will say of Jerusalem, "Let it be rebuilt," and of the temple,

"Let its foundations be laid."'" In allowing the captives to leave Babylon

and rebuild their city and temple, Cyrus is acting like a shepherd.

            Although more subtle, Hos 12:13-14 (EV. 12-13) is also relevant: "Jacob

fled to the country of Aram; Israel served to get a wife, for a wife he tended

flocks [rmw]18. By a prophet Yahweh brought Israel up from Egypt, by a

prophet he cared for him [rmwn]." This wordplay strongly suggests that the

deliverance from Egypt was a shepherding activity. As Israel tended La-

ban's flocks for his wives, so did Yahweh (through the mediating work of

Moses the prophet) "tend" his people by bringing them up out of Egypt.

            An example from the Pentateuch is Num 27:15-17. Yahweh is scolding

Moses for striking the rock instead of obeying his command only to speak

to it (Num 20:1-8). Moses says, "May Yahweh, the God of the spirits of all

flesh, appoint a man over this community who will go out before them and

come in before them, and who will lead them out [Mxycvy] and who will

bring them in, so that the community of Yahweh will not be like sheep

without a shepherd [hfr Mhl-Nyx rwx Nxck]." Although the specific context

is not the actual Exodus event, the shepherding imagery is still relevant.

Moses, the shepherd, was to bring the Israelites out of Egypt and into

Canaan. By his disobedience, this shepherding was completed by one who

remained steadfast: Joshua.

            There are also several passages from the Psalms that speak of the Exodus

in shepherding language.

     He brought out [hsn] his people like sheep [Nxc], he led [sHn] them like a

            flock [rdf] through the desert. [Ps 78:52]

    You led [urn] your people like sheep [Nxc] by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

                                                                                                                        [Ps 77:20]

 

    17 For "my shepherd" the LXX reads cppovciv, perhaps "to be like-minded," for which

the editors of BHS offer the retroversion yfre (amicus meum eel sententia mea). This is a

plausible suggestion and certainly makes sense in the context, but I see no compelling reason to

accept it. It cannot, on the basis of text-critical standards (e.g., lectio difficilior or lectio brevior),

be preferred to the reading in the MT, since the issue here is not a problem in the consonantal

text.

   18 Although the object "flocks" is not expressed, the meaning is obvious since the point here

is what Jacob had to do to get a wife. Gen 30:32 speaks of sheep, lambs, and goats.



                        CREATION AND RE-CREATION                          263

 

        Why, 0 God, have you rejected us forever? Why does your anger smolder

    against the sheep of your pasture [jtyfrm Nxc]? Remember your people

    [jtdf] whom you created [tynq] of old, the tribe of your inheritance whom

    you redeemed [tlxg]; you dwelt in Mount Zion.19 [Ps 74:1-2]

 

I should also mention Psalm 100, which juxtaposes creation language to

shepherding language, although there is no further overt reference to

either the Exodus or the return from Babylon: "Know that Yahweh, he

is God; he made us [vnWf]. Indeed,20 we are his people, the sheep of his

pasture [vtyfrm Nxc]."

            Finally, shepherding imagery is also common in prophetic literature,

where it refers to the return from Babylon. These passages are: Isa 40:11;

Jer 31:10; Mic 5:4; and Ezekiel 34. In view of the close connection between

the Exodus and the return from Babylon noted above, these passages are

relevant to our argument. All of this establishes that expressing God's

salvific activity in shepherding imagery is a common OT theme.21

            The point of the first half of Psalm 95 is clear: Psalm 95 is an "Exodus

psalm" long before we get to v. 7b. It is the creation/re-creation theme in

the first half that serves to connect it to the second. What is overt in vv. 7b-11

is barely concealed in vv. 1-7a. Of further interest is the manner in which

this theme is presented. Verses 1-5 speak of God as creator of the world,

whereas vv. 6-7a speak of him as creator of his people. Both are worthy

motives for praise. Nevertheless, vv. 6-7a bring the message much closer to

home. Praising God for his cosmic creative act is one thing, but praising

him for one's own concrete existence is quite another. This Exodus imagery

in vv. 6-7a makes vv. 1-5 more immediate for the readers of this psalm. The

 

    19 Psalm 74 is helpful in three other respects. First, the parallel between hnq and lxg is worth

noting. Second, the reference to Mount Zion may be reminiscent of Exod 15:17. Third, Psalm

74 is also helpful in that it also introduces mythic creation language into the context (vv. 12-17).

  20 The Ketib for this last phrase is vnHnx xl, which the Massoretes read as vnhnx vl, "we are

his." Although my argument is not affected either way, the latter reading is more expected in

the context of creation and shepherding language. A strong argument, however, is made by

Daniel Sivan and William Schniedewind, that xl and xlh are asseveratives in biblical Hebrew

("Letting your ‘Yes’ be ‘No’ in Ancient Israel: A Discussion of the Asseverative xlo and xlh,"

JSS [forthcoming]). The translation would be, "Indeed, we are his people, and the sheep of

his pasture." This solution is also attractive in that it connects vnHnx unambiguously with vmf.

Leaving the Qere would yield an awkward syntax, a point that has puzzled commentators.

Sivan and Schniedewind cite J. Lewis as having first posed this solution ("An Asseverative xl

in Psalm 100:3?" JBL 86 [1967] 216).

   21 Despite the pervasiveness of this theme in the OT, I am not suggesting that shepherding

imagery is exclusively associated with the Exodus or return from Babylon. One example is Ps

78:70-72, which speaks of David, the shepherd. Jon Levenson argues that shepherding im-

agery is used for enthronement (Theology of the Program of Restoration of Ezekiel 40-48

[Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1976] 87) as did Mowinckel before him (The Psalms in Israel's Worship

[Oxford: Blackwell, 1962] 1.156ff.).



264                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

creation is concretized in the most suitable manner, by an appeal to the

second creation. The proper response is praise.

            We see then that the message of the first part of Psalm 95 is:

  

            A. Let us praise Yahweh [the maker] (vv. 1-2)

                        B. because of his creation. (vv. 3-5)

            A'. Let us praise Yahweh, our maker (v. 6)

                        B'. because we are his [second creation]. (v. 7a)22

 

There is a progression from creation to re-creation, from the cosmic to the

personal. The second half of the psalm continues the progression: the Exo-

dus theme is made explicit. Relating, then, this second creation imagery to

the second half of the psalm, which is itself overtly concerned with the

Exodus theme, seems a logical step.

 

2. Ps 95:7b-11

            We must first establish more precisely the significance of the Meribah/

Massah incident for our psalm. This is a fitting example of disobedience for

our psalmist to choose to make his warning: it is the quintessential rebellion

of the Exodus community. Our understanding of this incident and what it

means for our interpretation of Psalm 95 will be aided by looking at how

this incident is presented elsewhere in Scripture.

            The rebellion is recorded twice, in Exodus 17 and Numbers 20. This

raises the question of whether the psalmist had one or the other in mind for

his psalm. In Exodus 17, the emphasis is on the disobedience of the people.

They want water, so Moses is told by God to strike the rock so that water

will come out of it for the people to drink. Moses' action was one of obe-

dience. In a manner of speaking, this narrative is a story of the Israelites

denying the efficacy of the Exodus. In v. 3 we read of the people grumbling

against Moses (similar to their grumbling in Exod 14:11-12): "Why did you

bring us out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of

thirst?" The Lord responds by giving another display of "Exodus power."

He commands Moses to strike the rock with the staff with which he had

earlier struck the Nile (v. 5). The staff with which he had cut off the

 

   22 Whereas we see an ABAB pattern in these first seven verses, Charles Bruce Riding argues

for an ABBA pattern ("Psalm 95:1-7c," 418):

            A. Let us worship our Savior (vv. 1-2)

                        B. for he is the creator of everything (vv. 3-5).

                        B'. Let us worship our creator (v. 6)

            A'. for he is our Savior (v. 7a).

    He defends his understanding of v. 7a, that shepherding language is savior language, by

appealing to Lev 26:12-13 and Jer 11:4. This also strengthens my suggestion that what is in

view in v. 7a is Israel's re-creation, i.e., its salvation from Egypt. Riding does not relate this

part to the rest of Psalm 95.



                        CREATION AND RE-CREATION                          265

 

lifegiving waters of the Egyptians was now providing water for the Israel-

ites: the Exodus is revisited.23 Numbers 20 provides a different perspective

on the incident. There the people grumble as they do in Exodus 17, but the

emphasis of guilt is clearly on Moses. He is told only to speak to the rock.

Instead, he strikes it—twice. His punishment is that he will not be per-

mitted to enter the land (Num 20:12).

            There are some advantages to understanding Exodus 17 as the back-

ground for Psalm 95. First, the people are the guilty party, a fact that would

speak more forcefully to the readers of Psalm 95. Second, in Psalm 95 the

forty-year period of God's anger against his people (v. 10) seems to be a

consequence of the rebellion (v. 8). In other words, the rebellion is at the

beginning of the forty-year period as in Exodus 17 rather than Numbers 20,

where it occurs at the end of the forty years. Yet, this fact also poses a

difficulty with relating this incident to our psalm. The event narrated in

Numbers 20 occurs near the end of that period and after a long succession

of rebellions starting in chap. 11. Hence, the threat of losing the promise of

the land is more immediate. This fact would also speak quite forcefully to

the addressees of Psalm 95, since this is how the psalm ends.

            Other passages, especially several psalms, also mention the rebellion.

Ps 106:13-15 and 32-33 follow the tradition of Exodus 17 by emphasizing

the people's rebellion. Two passages, both in the Pentateuch, follow Num-

bers 20 (Num 27:14 and Deut 32:51). Several passages focus not on the issue

of rebellion, but speak of the incident as an example of God's benevolence

in providing water for his people (Pss 78:15-20; 105:41; 107:6; and 114:8,

as well as Isa 48:21 discussed above).24 Ps 81:7 puts an interesting twist on

things by interpreting the incident as one where God tested the people,

rather than the people tested God. This is particularly noteworthy since

Psalm 81 resembles Psalm 95 more closely than any other (see n. 2 and

Gunkel's comment).

            All of this shows the variety of exegetical traditions concerning Meribah/

Massah. Which of these forms the background for Psalm 95? Clearly, the

traditions that regard the whole event as an act of God's benevolence can

be disregarded, so too the tradition expressed in Psalm 81. This leaves us

with the two main traditions of Exodus 17 and Numbers 20. Yet, there is

no reason to argue that Psalm 95 is necessarily dependent on one or the

other. For one thing, there does not appear to be anything in the psalmist's

use of the Meribah/Massah incident to indicate that he had one of these

traditions in mind over the other. One might counter that Psalm 95 has

Exodus 17 in mind, since these texts mention both Meribah and Massah

whereas Numbers 20 mentions only Meribah. But this argument is quite

 

   23 Wis 11:4-14 exhibits a similar interpretation of this incident. See especially v. 5: "For

through the very things by which their enemies were punished, they themselves received

benefit in their need."

   24 Besides Wis 11:4-14 mentioned in the previous note, a similar exegetical tradition is also

found in other texts, including Pseudo-Philo 10:7; 11:15; 20:8; and 1 Cor 10:4.



266                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

inconclusive. The fact that both are mentioned in Psalm 95 is more likely

a function of the parallelism, or "seconding" quality, of biblical poetry

than any perceived dependence on Exodus 17. Moreover, it would be very

difficult to conclude, merely on the basis of the presence of both names, that

the author of Psalm 95 did not have Numbers 20 in mind, too.

            Defining the issue as either/or would artificially limit the discussion. We

are reminded again of the fact that this event is recorded twice, near the

beginning of Israel's wilderness wanderings and toward the end. Only one

incident of wilderness rebellion is earlier (manna and quail in Exodus 16)

and only two are later (the bronze snake in Numbers 21 and the worship

of Baal Peor in Numbers 25). The rebellion at Meribah/Massah forms a

frame around virtually the entire wilderness rebellion period. The mention

of Meribah and Massah may be shorthand not just for Exodus 17 or

Numbers 20 but both—and everything in between.25 The subject in the

mind of the psalmist may not be merely this specific incident but the entire

period of wilderness rebellion. If the psalmist did have any specific text in

mind, it is more likely to have been Num 14:26-35 than either Exodus 17

or Numbers 20.26 There are some strong parallels in this passage that are

not found in the Meribah/Massah narratives proper. For one thing, Num

14:26-35 is an extended oath: hvhy-Mxn ynx-yH, “’As surely as I live,’ declares

Yahweh . . .” (v. 28), similar to the oath language of Ps 95:11. What follows

is a detailed description of the consequences of their unbelief. For one thing,

their bodies will fall in the desert (vv. 29, 33, 35) and only the obedient

Caleb and Joshua will enter (v. 30). We see that just as the unbelief of the

wilderness community kept them from their "rest," the addressees of Psalm

95 are threatened with this same punishment. And, although not as direct

a connection, the fact that Caleb and Joshua are permitted to enter the land

parallels what is implied in Psalm 95, i.e., that those who do not harden

their heart, who do not test the Lord, will indeed enter into his rest. Also,

the time of the Lord's discontent will be forty years (vv. 33-34). Both Psalm

95 and Numbers 14 mention the forty-year period of wrath. This is missing

from both Exodus 17 and Numbers 20.

            We see then that the Meribah/Massah incident is a forceful reminder of

the disobedience of the Exodus community. This is the explicit reference to

 

            25 Or, as Calvin argues, "Meribah and Massah" may be a synecdoche where the narrative

of Numbers 20, the height of their rebellion, represents the entire process of rebellion (Com-

mentary on the Book of Psalms [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981] 4.43-44). Even Moses, the chosen

mediator, rebelled. Can it get any worse? The specific issue of dependence does not appear to

be argued in the major commentaries.

            26 See also William L. Lane, who suggests concerning Heb 3:8 that the "interpretive

rendering of the place names as o[ parapikrasmo<j . . . and o[ peirasmo<j . . . indicates the

translator's intention to interpret Ps 95:7b-11 in the light of Num 14" (Hebrews 1-8 [WBC;

Dallas: Word, 1991] 85). Referring to the writer of Hebrews as a "translator," however, seems

to imply that he is working with the MT. It is more likely that his rendering of the place names

is simply taken from the LXX.



                        CREATION AND RE-CREATION                          267

 

the Exodus theme implicit in the first half of the psalm. True, the actual

deliverance from Egypt is not mentioned in vv. 7b-11, but that is simply

because the point of these verses is to warn against disobedience rather than

recount God's act of deliverance. And what better way to warn this com-

munity of faith than by appealing to the example of the original second-

creation community? The creation/re-creation theme is a motive not only

for praise but for warning as well. With this is mind, it might be better to

think of our psalm not in two parts, as is normally done, but in three:

            vv. 1-5: First creation is the motive for worship

            vv. 6-7a: Second creation is the motive for worship.

            vv. 7b-11: Second creation is the motive for warning.27

In this sense, the second part (vv. 6-7a) is the bridge that brings the whole

psalm together. Hence, there is no abrupt change in subject matter when

we come to v. 7b. Psalm 95 has been concerned throughout with the Exodus

as an object lesson, first for praise, then for warning.28

            This is not to say, however, that our psalm behaves in a perfectly pre-

dictable manner. For one thing, there is a sudden shift from praise to

 

    27 Auffret also argues that v. 7b begins a third distinct part of the psalm ("Essai sur la

structure," 64-65). He reads "Today" as an "invitation" parallel to vkl in v. 1 and vxb in v. 6.

Auffret subdivides vv. 8-11 by seeing two more such invitations: Mvyk in 8b and Nvxby-Mx in 11b.

   28 Another point that may help in substantiating the connection between the two halves of

the psalm is the meaning of ylfp in v. 9. The form is clearly singular ("my deed") but the

question is whether it should be read as a singular, or as a collective "my deeds." One could

certainly argue that this is a reference, for example, to the plagues against the Egyptians or

perhaps the events recorded in Numbers 11-20, i.e., that ylfp should be read as a plural. Yet

it is consistent with the argument of the psalm to understand it as referring to a singular event,

the Exodus: "Be warned, heirs of God's creative act; even your fathers who saw my deed tested

and tried me. If they can fall in the desert, so can you." Davies also mentions that this can

refer to one event, but he suggests Meribah or even Exod 32:25-29 ("Psalm 95," 194). He

mentions the Exodus but only in passing.

    The question remains whether there are any instances in Scripture of lfp in the singular,

preferably in construct with God, be it by name or pronoun, that have an unambiguous

singular meaning. This does not seem to be the case. In fact, there are many instances where

the meaning is unambiguously plural. Some examples in the Psalms are 64:10 (Myhlx lfp);

90:16 (jlfp, although LXX and some Syriac mss read jylfp); 143:5 (jlfp, with many mss,

as well as LXX, Syriac, and Targum, reading jylfp); 92:5 (jlfp); and 111:3 (vlfp). Of

particular interest are Isa 5:12 and Deut 32:4, both of which are arguably in re-creation contexts,

the former the return from Babylon and the latter the Exodus. Yet, there are several instances

where the meaning is at least ambiguous. These passages include Hab 3:2 (jlfp) and Ps 77:13

(jlfp, although many mss, with LXX and Syriac, read jylfp), both of which deal with the

Exodus; Isa 45:11 (ydy lfp, mentioned above), which speaks of the Exile; and Job 36:24

(vlfp), which speaks of creation. Three other examples may apply, but there the topic of

discussion is not God's work but man's personal moral conduct (Prov 24:12, 29; Job 34:11).

Clearly, we do not want to make too much of this point. Nevertheless, it is worth consideration

that ylfp here might possess an ambiguity as elsewhere. The psalmist might have had in mind

many of the deeds of God recorded in Numbers 11-20, as well as the Exodus.



268                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

warning. The issue, however, is what one may be justified in concluding

from this sudden shift. To assume, as Cheyne does, that these "fragments

of two psalms" could not have been the product of one author or one

Sitz-im-Leben lacks any argument or proof. Mood alone is not the deciding

factor, and any insistence that the psalm is made up of two disparate parts

would have to account for evidence of its unity. Likewise, Gunkel's position

of the original unity of the psalm is not convincing unless one can demon-

strate what exactly in the psalm provides for this unity, besides merely

cultic function.

            The fact that these verses are a warning accounts for the other differences

in this part of the psalm. In vv. 1-5, God is spoken of concerning his cosmic

creation. In vv. 6-7a, he is spoken of concerning his creation of Israel. In

the second half, God is no longer spoken of; he is the speaker. More spe-

cifically, he is giving his people a command, the imperative obviously being

a helpful way to express a warning. The end result is a psalm that progresses

from the impersonal to the personal. We move from creation (he made it)

to re-creation (he made us). We see how emphatic vv. 6-7a are in concret-

izing the God spoken of in such ineffable terms in vv. 1-5: "Yahweh our

maker, . . . he is our God, . . . we are the people of his pasture, the sheep of

his hand." Verses 7b-11 are even more concrete by making explicit what is

implicit in vv. 6-7a. Also, we move from God as passive object to God as

active speaker; from the indicative to the imperative. To put it another way,

Psalm 95 is an a fortiori argument couched in creation language. In the same

way that the worshipers respond properly (i.e., worshipfully) to the event

of God's first creation, an event in which they were not immediate par-

takers, ought they not also to respond properly to the event of the second

creation, an event that brought them into existence in history as the people

of God?

            It seems, then, that the "today" spoken of in v. 7b is the "today" of the

worshiper. It is he whom God created out of the Exodus. It is ironic that in

making the creation more concrete by appealing to the second creation, the

psalmist is also making it timeless for the sake of all the faithful, i.e., so that

it can be concrete for everyone at any time. But is this not the very heart

of the religious experience, to make past events "timelessly concrete—for

worshipers at any time and in any place to bring the past to bear on their

present spiritual life? "Today" is any day in which disobedience to the God

of creation/re-creation is a live possibility for the worshiper. It is in this

sense that the psalm speaks to all worshipers of Yahweh from generation to

generation. This understanding of our psalm may provide an explanation

for why there is no demonstrative on "generation" (rvd) in v. 10. Although

the LXX has it (th? gene%? e]kei<n^ = xvhh rvdb), its absence in the MT

(whether original or secondary is not an issue) leaves the matter of which

generation ambiguous. It may be a device to make the warning immedi-

ately applicable to its readers, whenever their "today" might be.



                        CREATION AND RE-CREATION                          269

 

            Our psalm ends: "They shall not enter my rest" (ytHvnm). "Rest" could

have several meanings. First, it could be understood as referring to entering

the land. One would then reasonably posit an exilic setting for our psalm.

This is an attractive solution, since it would bring together creation and both

acts of re-creation, the Exodus and the return from Babylon. Another point

of view is to equate rest with the temple, a point that would add support to

Davies' suggestion that the psalm is pre-exilic and tied to the Jerusalem tem-

ple.29 Such an understanding is found in 1 Chr 28:2 (hHvnm tyb); 2 Chr 6:41

(jHvn); Ps 132:8 (jtHvnm); and Isa 66:1 (ytHvnm Mvqm), although, at least for

the Chronicles texts, the concern is for the second temple. A third option

is to see this as a spiritual rest. Von Rad, for example, understands it as "a

gift which Israel will find only by a wholly personal entering into its God."30

Finally, it is tempting to understand "my rest" as God's creation rest

referred to in Gen 2:2. Although the root in Genesis is tbw rather than Hvn,

this interpretation would be in keeping with the theme of the psalm and

would provide a nice closure: it begins and ends with creation. In any

event, irrespective of how we solve this problem, this last interpretation

seems to be how the writer of Hebrews understood Psalm 95. It is to the

issue of the use of Psalm 95 in Hebrews that we now turn.

 

            II. The Interpretation of Psalm 95 in Heb 3:1-4:13

 

            This section of Hebrews is a warning against unbelief. The use of Psalm 95

(LXX 94, hereafter Psalm 95) in 3:7b-11 serves as an example of past

apostasy and the consequences thereof: "They shall never enter my rest"

(3:11; 4:3). The writer accomplishes his task in three ways. First, he pre-

pares his readers in 3:1-6 for his interpretation of Psalm 95 principally by

introducing the typological connection between Israel and the church. Sec-

ond, he quotes the psalm in such a manner that it might have the most

immediate bearing on the new Exodus community (3:7-19). Third, his

understanding of "rest," the goal of the new Exodus community, as God's

creation rest establishes the creation/re-creation connection (4:1-13).

 

1. Heb 3:1-6

            These verses serve as an introduction to the writer's exegesis of Psalm 95,

which begins in v. 7. In these verses, he prepares his readers by (1) making

overt reference to his readers, a move necessary in establishing the admon-

itory posture of the remainder of the pericope, and (2) presenting Jesus as

the new and better Moses, thus establishing the connection between the

 

   29 Davies, "Psalm 95," 187ff.

   30 G. von Rad, "There Still Remains a Rest for the People of God: An Investigation of a

Biblical Conception," in The Problem of the Hexateuch and Other Essays (New York:

McGraw-Hill, 1966) 99.



270                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

original Exodus community and the new Exodus community at "the end

of the ages" (9:26). Both of these are accomplished in part by playing on

the ambiguity of oi#koj throughout these verses.

            In v. 1, the writer for the first time addresses his readers, calling them

"holy brothers, participators in a heavenly calling" (a]delfoi> a!gioi,

klh<sewj e]pourani<ou me<toixoi). By addressing his readers directly, the

writer is preparing them for the stern warning in the next passage. The

term me<toxoi also anticipates 3:14, where the "partakers" are the specific

addressees of the warning.31 The use of oi#koj also serves to bring the church

into the discussion. The word occurs in vv. 2 and 5 referring to Israel and

in v. 3 apparently referring to Moses. In v. 6 it refers to the church.32 Both

devices, the direct mention of the recipients and the climactic use of oi#koj,

provide a nice lead into the warning addressed directly to the church.

            A second purpose the use of oi#koj achieves is in presenting Jesus as a type

of Moses. Diminishing Moses' greatness is not in the writer's purview.33

Rather, the focus is on Christ, who is exalted far above the central mediator

of the old dispensation. Jesus is "found worthy of greater honor" (v. 3). He

is posited as the second and greater Moses: Moses is merely a servant

(qera<pwn), Jesus is the son; Moses is in (e]n) God's house while Jesus is over

(e]pi<) it;34 Moses is the house itself while Jesus is the builder of the house.

The argument centers on the writer's midrashic exegesis of Num 12:7: '' ‘My

servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house" (LXX: e]n o!l& t&? oi@k& mou;

compare with Heb 3:2, 5: e]n o!l&35 t&? oi@k& au]tou?). The irony is evident:

the very fact by which Moses is said to be superior to the grumbling Miriam

 

   31 A full treatment of the complexities involved in interpreting me<toxoi may be found in E.

Nardoni, "Partakers in Christ (Hebrews 3:14)," NTS 37 (1991) 456-72.

   32 Harold W. Attridge comments, "the author . . . evidences the delight of the rhetorician

and midrashist in the subtle and playful use of language" (The Epistle to the Hebrews [Herme-

neia; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1989] 104). It is tempting to posit some typological significance

to this, that the church is.the antitype not only of Israel but of Moses as well, the latter being

further suggested by the idea that the faithful are coheirs with Christ, their "brother" (2:11,

17), who is himself the antitype of Moses. Attridge cautions against such an interpretation that

"unnecessarily presuppose[s] a univocal symbolic meaning for olxocg throughout the peric-

ope" (ibid., 110). It seems to me, however, that this typology, which plays precisely on the

ambiguity of the term is, if anything, a move away from presupposing a univocal symbolic

meaning.

   33 See also, E. Grasser, "Mose and Jesus: zur Auslegung von Hebr 3:1-6," ZNW 75 (1984)

21.

   34 S. Layton argues that Christ "over his house" reflects OT stewardship language ("Christ

over his House and Hebrew tybh-lf rwx," NTS 37 [1991] 473-77).

   35 The oldest mss do not have the adjective in v. 2 and Attridge thinks that this variant is

likely to be original (Hebrews, 104). The Hebrews text was probably made to conform to v. 5

and Nurn 12:7. Mary Rose D'Angelo agrees that the shorter form is original, which raises the

question why the adjective would have been omitted if Num 12:7 is being quoted (Moses in the

Letter to the Hebrews [SBLDS 42; Missoula: Scholars Press, 1979] 73). She concludes that the

Nathan oracle in 1 Chr 17:14 is the basis for Heb 3:2, 5, a point which serves to highlight

Christ's faithfulness as appointed high priest.



                        CREATION AND RE-CREATION              271

 

and Aaron in Numbers 12 is used by the writer of Hebrews to accent his

inferiority to Christ. Whereas Moses, although faithful, was merely in the

house, Christ was over it as its builder.

            By presenting Jesus as the second Moses, the writer is not simply arguing

for Christ's superiority for its own sake. He is preparing his readers for his

exegesis of Psalm 95 by laying the foundation for his understanding of the

church as the new wilderness community.36 As Moses led his people out of

Egypt and through the desert, Jesus now leads his people through their

wilderness. Hughes writes,

   As he [Moses] had spoken the words of God to the people of Israel and had led

   them from the bondage of Egypt to the land of promise, so the Coming One

   would proclaim the words given him by the Father (Jn. 12:49f.) and deliver the

   Israel of God (Gal. 6:16) from a more terrible tyrant than Pharaoh (Heb. 2:14)

   and bring them to an inheritance better than that of Palestine (Heb. 11:13-16;

   13:14).37

 

Presenting Jesus as the second Moses establishes the typological connection

between Israel and the church. This serves two purposes for the writer's

subsequent exegesis of Psalm 95. First, the parallel between the two Exodus

communities makes the application of Psalm 95 immediately relevant. Second-

ly, the contrast between the two mediators yields an implicit a fortiori argu-

ment38 that heightens the motive for heeding the warning: disobedience

had dire consequences then; how much more so now?39

            Apart from the building imagery, the comparison to Moses is already

evident in v. 1. Jesus is the "apostle and high priest whom we confess." Jesus

is both the apostle (sent from God to the people) and the high priest (repre-

sentative of the people to God). This is also the role that Moses played.40

 

   36 F. F. Bruce argues that the urgency of the situation for the new wilderness community

would have been heightened by the fact that it had been about forty years since Christ's death

and resurrection, an event referred to as his "exodus" (th>n e@codon) in Luke 9:31 (The Epistle

to the Hebrews [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964] 65). Both Attridge (Hebrews, 115) and James

Moffatt (Epistle to the Hebrews [ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1924] 45) argue that there is

nothing typological about the figure of forty years. Nevertheless, Bruce's suggestion is plausible

and may very well have increased the readers' sensitivity to the warning.

   37 Philip E. Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,

1977) 135-36.

   38 See O. Michel, Der Brief an die Hebrder (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1960) 100,

and C. Spicq, L’Epitre aux Hebreux (Paris: Gabalda, 1953) 2.71-72.

   39 This a fortiori is first seen in 2:1-3, where Hebrews contrasts Christ to angels.

   40 Bruce, Hebrews, 55. Hughes sees this as combining the functions of Moses and Aaron

(Hebrews, 126-28). Attridge argues that the reference to Christ as apostle and high priest is not

an "implicit typology" of Moses and Aaron (Hebrews, 106). The role of Christ as "apostle"

is common enough elsewhere in Scripture (e.g., Mark 9:37 and other passages where Jesus is

said to be sent by the Father) that Attridge does not think an implicit typology is needed to

explain Christ's apostleship here. The presence of this theme in the NT is a point well made.

Whether or not the typology is needed, however, is not the issue. In this context, where

comparison to Moses is precisely the point, the typology might be too obvious to miss.



272                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

He was "sent" by God in that he received God's message and relayed it to

the people (e.g., in Numbers 12 and the Sinai narrative). He was also the

mediator between God and the Israelites (e.g., his pleading with God in

Numbers 14 and Exodus 32). It is precisely in these two senses that Christ

was faithful. He was an apostle in that he was sent by the Father to be

"made like his brothers" and "make atonement for the sins of the people"

(2:17). He is the high priest not only in offering himself as a sacrifice, but

in his present, postresurrection function as the permanent and heavenly

high priest in heaven "to appear for us in God's presence" as mediator

(8:1-2; 9:24ff.). To follow through with the Exodus imagery of this passage:

Jesus was sent by the Father to lead his people out of sin and guide them

faithfully through their period of wilderness wandering to a heavenly

inheritance.

            With this, the writer has prepared his readers for his subsequent exegesis

of Psalm 95. The timeless warning of Psalm 95 is now applied to the new

and final Exodus community.

 

2. Heb 3:7-19

            In this pericope, Hebrews quotes Ps 95:7b-11 and adds further comment

on the relevance of the psalm for his readers (vv. 12-19). The writer's

handling of the psalm exhibits similarities to pesher exegesis in which a

particular passage is given an eschatological interpretation, "relating to

the sect's own position in history, and rooted in its peculiar attitude to the

biblical text."41 This is precisely what Hebrews does. It is significant that

Hebrews does not quote the psalm as a proof-text to support a preceding

argument, as is the case for his OT quotations in the first two chapters. The

psalm does not provide data to support a theological point. Rather, it is

quoted simply "for the sake of exposition and application."42 This tells us

something about the writer's understanding of the church's situation in

redemptive history. In the same way that the original Exodus community,

which rebelled at Meribah and Massah, was a community wandering

through the wilderness, so too is the church a community of wilderness

wanderers living between Egypt and Canaan with the ever-present possi-

bility of rebellion. It is already assumed on the basis of 3:1-6 that Israel and

the church are in analogous situations.43 What once applied to Israel now

finds its full meaning with respect to the church.

 

   41 Devorah Dimant, "Qumran Sectarian Literature," in Jewish Writings of the Second Temple

Period (CRINT 2/2; ed. Michael E. Stone; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984) 507.

   42 S. Kistemaker, The Psalm Citations in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Amsterdam: Wed. G. Van

Soest N. V., 1961) 85.

   43 Spicq argues that the use of Psalm 95 "presupposes an exact correspondence between the

successive generations of the people of God, and perfect steadfastness in God's conduct toward

them" (L'Epitre, 71, citing 1:1-2 as anticipating this idea). Spicq's point is well taken, but this

is not to say that the typology is completely unexpected, since the point of vv. 1-6 is to present

Jesus as the second Moses and the church as the new Israel.



                        CREATION AND RE-CREATION                          273

 

            The main exegetical concern, however, is the writer's interpretive han-

dling of the psalm. There is little question that he is quoting the LXX

rather than the MT. Yet, this quotation of the psalm is not entirely con-

sistent with the LXX. In wishing to make this psalm more relevant to his

readers, the author says things about Psalm 95 that are not found in Psalm

95. His particular understanding of the psalm for his readers is reflected in

three significant variations from the LXX. The first is the insertion of dio<,

"therefore," in v. 10, which is absent from the LXX. The second is the

prepositional phrase e]n dokimasi<%, "with scrutiny," in v. 9, where the

LXX and MT both have a verb (LXX e]doki<masen "they tried" and MT

ynvnHb "they tried me"). The third variation is tau<t^, "this generation," in

v. 10, where the LXX reads e]kei<n^ "that generation."

            We are given some insight into the writer's theological concerns first by

his insertion of dio< in v. 10. This particle is absent in both the LXX and

MT. Verses 9--10a in the LXX read, "Where your fathers tested, they tried,

and saw my works. I was angry with that generation for forty years."

Similarly, the MT reads, "Where your fathers tested me, they tried me

even though they saw my works. I was angry with that44 generation for forty

years." The point is that both of these texts state that God was angry for

forty years. In other words, God's anger was a characteristic of the wilder-

ness period. The addition of dio< in Hebrews, on the other hand, changes

the meaning significantly. The writer reads the forty-year period as refer-

ring not to the period of God's wrath, but to the period of God's activity

in the desert. "Your fathers tested with scrutiny and saw my works for forty

years. Therefore [dio<] I was angry with this generation." God was not

angry for forty years. Rather anger is what follows the forty-year period in

which they saw God's works.

            Why does Hebrews insert dio<? Why does he remove the notion of God's

anger from the wilderness period, where it certainly seems to belong, and

place it after? One rather obvious answer is that he wants to portray the

wilderness period in a positive light—one that is not characterized by

wrath. But why would he want to do this? Because his purpose for quoting

Psalm 95 is to warn the church, the new wilderness community.

            To elaborate: The syntax of the LXX and MT equates the period of

God's activity with that of God's wrath. After all, the entire forty-year

period of wandering is the punishment for Israel's wanting to return to

Egypt in Numbers 14. Psalm 95 views the wilderness period negatively. But

this negative impression will not do for Hebrews.45 The church's period of

 

    44 There is no demonstrative in the MT. I say "that generation" simply for the purpose of

translation.

   45 Besides the psalms mentioned above (see also n. 24), Hos 2:14ff. is another OT example

of such a positive interpretation of the wilderness period. That Hebrews refers to the heavenly

sanctuary as the tabernacle (8:1-2; 9:1-2, 11) rather than the temple is further evidence of his

positive opinion of the wilderness period.



274                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

wilderness wandering is not one of wrath but of blessing. They are not

subject to God's punishment as was the first wilderness community. They

are rather "partakers of a heavenly calling" (Heb 3:1) or, in the language

of Heb 2:4, they have witnessed "signs, wonders, various miracles, and gifts

of the Holy Spirit." What were the works they saw? Not wrath, but the

coming of the Messiah and the inauguration of the church age. For He-

brews this is clearly not a show of God's anger, but of his blessing—indeed

the very climax of his redemptive plan.46  The new Moses had come and the

new Israel was born, all of which were attested by "signs, wonders, and

miracles." These are the "works" that the new Israel had seen during her

period of wilderness wandering.

            The insertion of dio< serves to make the clear distinction between the

forty-year period of God's activity and the subsequent period of his anger.

Anger is what follows upon disbelief in God's activity, not what characterizes

the period of God's activity. Hence, in applying the psalm to the church,

the writer of Hebrews is telling his readers that their wilderness period is

one of blessing, not wrath or punishment. If they are unfaithful by following

the example of the Israelites, and "testing with scrutiny God's works," this

present age will be followed by God's anger in which they forfeit the prom-

ise of rest.

            That the writer is fully aware of his exegetical technique is made certain

in 3:17. There, regarding Israel's disbelief (not the church's), he asks, "And

with whom was he angry for forty years?" Here the writer follows the syntax

of the LXX, which reads the forty years as a period of God's wrath. This

is the exact opposite of what he did in 3:10. Why would the writer give the

same verse, which for him was Holy Scripture, two different meanings? I

suggest the following theological motivation: in 3:10 he is talking about the

church; in 3:17 he is talking about Israel.

            Let me develop this point more fully. Simply by quoting this psalm,

Hebrews is making a statement regarding the continuity between Israel and

the church: both have a wilderness period. Yet, the negative overtones in

Psalm 95 regarding the wilderness period would not suit the reality of the

church age as one of great blessing. This is why the author inserts dio<

in v. 10. The syntax of 3:17, however, is not intended merely to reflect more

accurately the syntax of the LXX, as if his exegetical conscience suddenly

began to bother him. Rather, he is making explicit in 3:17 what was im-

plied by the insertion of dio< in v. 10: there is a distinction between the two

periods of wilderness wandering. The Israelite wilderness period was one of

wrath: "With whom was he angry for forty years?" (3:17). The church's

wilderness period is one of divine blessing: "They saw my works for forty

 

   46 E. Grasser comments briefly that the purpose of dio< is to emphasize the experience of

God's salvific activity (Heilserfahrung), what he refers to as "vierzig Jahre Wundererweisungen

Gottes" (An die Hebraer [Hebr 1-6] [EKKNT 17/1; Zurich: Benziger and Neukirchen-V1uyn:

Neukirchener, 1990] 176). See also Attridge's comments (Hebrews, 115).



                        CREATION AND RE-CREATION              275

 

years" (3:10). Although Israel may have fallen away shortly after her Exo-

dus, thus characterizing her wilderness wandering as a time of wrath, the

period following the church's Exodus is characterized by "signs, wonders,

various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit." For the writer of Hebrews,

then, there is continuity and discontinuity between the two wilderness

periods. The two are analogous, but not merely so.47 This is in keeping with

the tenor of Hebrews throughout the book: the new supersedes the old.48

            Besides the addition of dio< in v. 10, a second factor that highlights this

emphasis on God's activity is the prepositional phrase e]n dokimasi<% in

v. 9. Attridge suggests that "dokimasi<% has connotations of close and even

skeptical scrutiny," which yields the translation, "Where your fathers

tested with scrutiny and saw my works."49 We should notice that the object

of the testing in Hebrews is not God, as is the case with the MT, but the

works. Here Hebrews agrees with the LXX. But he goes beyond the LXX

by changing the verb e]doki<masen to the prepositional phrase e]n

dokimasi<%. The effect is to draw further attention to the faithlessness of the

Exodus community in view of these works. He does not say with the LXX:

"Your fathers tested, they tried my works." Hebrews reads: "Your fathers

tested with scrutiny my works." He is telling his readers that the age in which

they live, and the blessings of which they partake, are themselves a certain

and true witness to God's ongoing faithfulness in bringing the new Exodus

community to its rest. Skepticism or disbelief regarding these sure signs is

unthinkable.50

 

    47 Hughes argues that there is an "ambivalence of association" regarding the forty-year

period, but the "overall sense of the passage is not altered" (Hebrews, 143). But I would suggest

that the writer is a more careful exegete/theologian than even Hughes gives him credit for.

Hughes may be missing the theological point of the writer's handling of the psalm. I must also

disagree with Attridge's view. Regarding dio< in v. 10 he says, "This is somewhat surprising

in view of the association of forty years with the wrath of God in the following exposition (3:17),

but it is possible that the author conceived of two periods of forty years, one of disobedience

and one of punishment" (Hebrews, 115). Yet this sounds too much like assuming a "univocal

symbolic meaning," which Attridge cautions against elsewhere. Nor is Yeo Khiok-Khng's

suggestion helpful. He says that 3:10 and 17 serve to equate the period of testing with the

period of God's wrath ("The Meaning and Usage of the Theology of ‘Rest’ (katapausij and

sabbatismoj) in Hebrews 3:7-4:13," Asia journal of Theology 5 [1991] 2-33, esp. p. 5). This

solution does not seem to give dio< its due force, as Attridge also remarks (Hebrews, 115).

   48 Although for different purposes, Paul's exegesis of Gen 12:7 in Gal 3:15-29 is analogous

to Hebrews' exegesis of Ps 95:9-10. Since Gen 12:7 refers to Abraham's "seed" (frz, spe<rma)

in the singular, Paul argues in Gal 3:16 that its proper referent is Christ. In Gal 3:29, however,

Paul states plainly, almost matter-of-factly, "you are [plural] Abraham's seed." That Paul sees

Gen 12:7 as having a dual referent is quite consistent with his understanding of the close

identification of Christ and his church elsewhere, e.g., his use of "in Christ."

   49 Hebrews, 115.

   50 Yeo's argument, that the prepositional phrase is "used to keep the place name hmyrmk

[sic] of the MT," is unconvincing, since e]n dokimasi<% corresponds not to hbyrmk in v. 8 but

ynvnHb in v. 9 ("The Meaning and Usage of the Theology of ‘Rest,’" 4). Another solution is

offered by K. J. Thomas, who argues that the phrase in Hebrews refers to God's testing of man



276                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

            A final change that the author of Hebrews uses to actualize the psalm is

the insertion of tau<t^ in v. 10. Reading "this generation" where the LXX

reads e]kei<n^ ("that") further concretizes the psalm—indeed, the whole

Exodus experience—for the readers. By quoting the psalm the way he does,

he is showing his readers that this is the generation with which God is

ultimately concerned.51

            The commentaries are largely divided over the significance this change

has. Spicq, for example, says that it makes the psalm "more urgent for the

present community," a position with which I am in agreement.52 The

opposite opinion is represented by Attridge, for one, who sees this as "a

minor variation from the LXX . . . [which does not] seem to serve any

particular purpose in Hebrews' application of the psalm."53 But we have

already seen with dio< that Hebrews' exegesis of the psalm is careful and

deliberate. Of course, this does not mean that every change is necessarily

theologically significant. There are, for example, two "minor," or perhaps

better "stylistic," variations, namely the more common verb forms ei#don

and ei#pon in Hebrews rather than the Hellenistic forms in the LXX, as

Attridge, too, remarks.54 But tau<t^ does not seem to be minor or stylistic,

but of a completely different order. Hebrews' exegesis of Psalm 95 in general

shows tau<t^ to be a purposeful and deliberate change from the LXX.

            Another argument, this by Yeo, is unconvincing.55 Yeo argues that He-

brews changes the LXX "that generation" to "this generation" because

"that generation" does not occur anywhere else in the NT.56 He argues

further that since the verb prosw<xqisa in v. 10 is past tense, that therefore

"this generation" must refer to the Israelites, who lived in the past, and not

the church. In other words, Yeo cites common NT usage to explain why

Hebrews changes the LXX "that generation" to "this generation," while

at the same time arguing that Hebrews' "this generation" refers to Israel

because the verb is in the past tense. The problem with this argument is

that of all the uses of "this generation" in the NT, not once does it refer to

a past generation, as Yeo says it does here. Furthermore, one need not

 

rather than man's testing of God as the LXX has it. This yields the translation, "where your

fathers, during their testing, tried and saw my works for forty years" ("OT Citations in

Hebrews," NTS 11 [1965] 307). I do not find this solution as helpful as Attridge's, especially

since one would expect the pronoun e]n dokimasi<% au]tw?n.

  51 An insight that cannot be given full consideration here is brought out by Karen H. Jobes

("Rhetorical Achievement in the Hebrews 10 ‘Misquote’ of Psalm 40," Bib 72 [1991] 387-96).

She argues that the change from e]kei<n^ to tau<t^ "achieves phonetic assonance" with e@th in

the previous line (p. 391). Jobes gives several strong examples of such "phonetic manipula-

tion," which "[communicated] the author's intended semantic sense . . . while simultaneously

achieving assonance" (p. 392).

   52 L'Epitre, 74.

   53 Hebrews, 115-16.

   54 Ibid., 115.

   55 "The Meaning and Usage of the Theology of ‘Rest,’" 5.

   56 See also Kistemaker, Psalm Citations, 35-36.



                        CREATION AND RE-CREATION                          277

 

assume that Hebrews has in mind either Israel or the church, as if a choice

were to be made. To argue as I do, that the near demonstrative is used to

actualize the psalm, is not to argue that in v. 10 Israel is no longer in view.

The referent is not either Israel or the church, but both. The author is, after

all, citing Psalm 95 and thereby drawing on an example from the past,

Israel. But his application of the psalm shows that his primary theological

concern is the church. The strength of the warning is precisely in bringing

the two Exodus communities together, to warn the new on the basis of the

old without losing sight of either one. The tense of the verb is not the

determining issue.57

            For Hebrews, the church is the new Israel. They have seen the new

Moses. They have seen God's mighty acts in the new wilderness. This

(tau<t^) is the generation with which God is concerned. What Psalm 95

may have referred to at an earlier time was merely prelude to this new era,

"at the end of the age" and "in the fulness of time." The threefold repe-

tition of sh<meron in 3:13, 15, and 4:7 further accents the present fulfillment

of what was spoken of in Psalm 95. Both tau<t^ and sh<meron specify for

Hebrews what is left ambiguous in Psalm 95. The promise of God's rest is

for today, for this generation. In other words, both terms have a decided

redemptive-historical dimension. "Today" or "this generation" is the

present situation of the believer, a situation in which he wanders in the

wilderness, between slavery and the better, heavenly country awaiting

him.58 Hebrews' appeal is not merely to the individual in his moment of

existential decision (although it is that, too), but to the individual living in

the eschatological age when the new Moses is leading his people through

the wilderness to their final rest. We see then that both Psalm 95 and

Hebrews apply the example of the wilderness rebellion to motivate their

communities to obedience. The difference between the two is that the

writer of Psalm 95 makes the warning "timelessly concrete" by leaving the

identity of the rebellious generation and the "today" ambiguous. The

writer of Hebrews, on the other hand, accomplishes his admonitory purpose

in precisely the opposite fashion—by making the psalm as time specific as

possible.59

 

   57 Thomas is a bit ambiguous in seeing tau<t^ as a reminder of Jesus' words (e.g., Matt

23:36) that strengthens the OT warning, yet "is not intended to designate some other than

the wilderness generation" ("OT Citations," 307).

   58 But this point is not to ignore the strong element of realized eschatology in the epistle,

for example, 12:22, "But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city

of the living God."

    59 It is still a question why Psalm 95 was written in the first place. If Hebrews' use of the

Exodus theme is predominantly eschatological, what is the case for Psalm 95? Commentators

have remarked on the liturgical use of the psalm in the synagogue, which bespeaks a more

existential function. Still, the issue of the Sitz-im-Leben of Psalm 95 is somewhat of a mystery.

That it is cultic does not answer the question. One would still need to ask why Psalm 95 was

written for the cult. A possible answer is that the psalm has an exilic context. In this sense, the

experience of the Exodus community had obvious relevance for the "Exodus community" of



278                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

            The author's understanding of Psalm 95 for the church is reflected first

and foremost in how he quotes it. The words dio<, e]n dokimasi<% and taut^

are variations from the LXX that reflect his theological motivation to make

this psalm more relevant to his readers. This motivation is the same as his

motivation throughout the book: to show that the full significance of the OT

is realized by the church and only proleptically by Israel.

 

3. Heb 4:1-13

            These concluding verses show that Hebrews stands within the tradition

argued above that understands creation as a paradigm for deliverance.

There are three factors that demonstrate this point: the argument from

Gen 2:2 in Heb 4:4, the double meaning of e@rga, and the double meaning

of kataskeua<zw.

            By citing Gen 2:2, Hebrews is arguing that the rest that is the reward to

the faithful new Exodus community is to be understood not as physical

land, but as an eschatological rest, specifically, the rest that God has en-

joyed since the completion of his creative work. Gen 2:2 reads, "God rested

[kate<pausen] from his works." Our psalm ends, "They shall never enter

into my rest [th>n kata<pausi<n mou]." For Hebrews, creation is the consum-

mation of the Exodus. Yet, the manner in which Hebrews brings creation

and Exodus together differs from what we have seen earlier. For the OT

passages I cited above, creation is not the consummation of the Exodus but

a paradigm for the Exodus. In other words, creation is not the goal of the

Exodus as it is here in Hebrews, but the type of the Exodus. This is not

merely a difference—these two perspectives are in fact on opposite ends of

the redemptive-historical spectrum, and the distinctiveness of Hebrews'

application of these themes should not be lost.

            Nevertheless, we still have to deal with the question of why the warning

directed to the new Exodus community is supported by an appeal to crea-

tion imagery. Clearly, an important factor in the author's bringing Gen 2:2

and Ps 95:11 together is the root katapau<w, which appears in both.60 But

this merely explains what allowed him to make the exegetical connection,

not what motivated him to make it. Why call upon Gen 2:2 to "explain"

Ps 95:11 when it appears to introduce a whole new subject into the dis-

cussion, namely, creation? After all, the writer could simply have said that

the church's rest is not earthly but heavenly and be done with it, without

even introducing the subject of God's creation-rest. Or if he really

 

the Exile. This might suggest, although perhaps not a full-blown eschatological perspective,

at least an application of Israel's past deliverance from Egypt to the deliverance from Babylon.

Hence, both the original audience of Psalm 95 and the audience of Hebrews would be second

Exodus communities to whom an Exodus warning had been applied.

    60 It is certainly to the advantage of Hebrews' argument that the LXX uses a form of

xaTattauw in both Gen 2:2 and Psalm 95, thereby perhaps establishing a connection between

the passages, whereas the MT uses tbw and ytHvnm, respectively.



                        CREATION AND RE-CREATION                          279

 

wanted to bring another passage into the discussion, he could easily have

found one that contains katapau<w but pertains directly to the rest of the

faithful rather than to the seventh day of creation. So why introduce this

distant verse into the discussion? It is because Ps 95:11 says, "They shall

never enter my rest," not "they shall never enter their rest." The exegetical

problem the author of Hebrews is trying to explain is why Ps 95:11 refers

to the rest in the land as "my rest," i.e., God's rest, when in fact it is Israel's

rest. It is this exegetical problem in the text that, so to speak, backs him into

a theological corner. For him, the phrase "my rest" demands that he sees

some sort of relationship between deliverance and creation. The church as

the new Exodus community, redeemed, or "created" as it were, has as its

goal the original rest of creation. It is the consummate rest—God's rest.61

No less than God's creation rest can be expected for those who are "par-

takers of the heavenly calling." The faithful share God's creation rest be-

cause they are coheirs with Christ. The physical rest Joshua (4:8)62 gave his

people as well as the rest of Psalm 95 (however this is to be understood) were

merely proleptic of this final rest.63

            Hebrews' use of e@rga and kataskeua<zw make this relationship between

deliverance and creation more explicit. The term e@rga occurs four times in

this passage. The first reference to "my works" is, as we have seen above,

in 3:9 (ta> e@rga mou) and pertains to the blessings of the church age. The

other three references (4:3, 4, and 10) are spawned by the writer's quoting

Gen 2:2 and pertain to the works of God during the six days of creation (tw?n

e@rgwn au]tou?). The result is a wordplay, which is worthy of consideration

in the context of my argument. The e@rga in 3:9 refer to the works of

deliverance. The e@rga of chap. 4 refer to the works of creation. Both crea-

tion and deliverance are God's "works." To take it one step further, in Gen

2:2, God works (creation) and then rests. In Hebrews 3, God also works

(deliverance/second creation), and then, not he, but the faithful rest--in his

rest. This striking parallel bespeaks an integral relationship between cre-

ation and deliverance in the writer's thinking.

            The verb kataskeua<zw is used in Hebrews 3:3 and 4. Attridge comments

that in certain contexts this word refers to God's creative activity. He cites

 

   61 A similar idea is found in 'Abot R. Nat. 12. Regarding Moses' death we read, "Moses, thou

hast had enough of this world, for lo, the world to come awaits thee: for thy place hath been

ready for thee since the six days of Creation" (The Fathers According to Rabbi Nathan [trans.

Judah Goldin; New Haven: Yale University Press, 1955] 65).

   62 The fact that both Joshua and Jesus are the same name in Greek ( ]Ihsou?j) certainly

strengthens the typological connection. See also Attridge, Hebrews, 130, and Moffatt, Hebrews,

52.

   63 The literature on the meaning of rest in antiquity is immense and complex. (Both At-

tridge [Hebrews, 126-28] and Spicq [L'Epftre, 95-104] devote an excursus to the subject.) Of

particular interest are instances where rest is described as a new creation, for example, 4 Ezra

8:52; 2 Apoc. Bar. 78-86; 1 Enoch 45:3-6; T. Levi 18:9; and 4QFlor 17:8 (cf. Attridge, Hebrews,

126, and Spicq, L'Epitre, 95-96). A discussion of this issue would take us far from our topic.

In any event, it is clear that Hebrews is making the connection between rest and creation.



280                 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

 

Wis 9:2 and 13:4 as examples,64 as well as Isa 40:28; 43:7; 45:7 and 9, which

in the MT read xrb.65  This verb is used in Hebrews 3 in two ways. First,

in v. 3, it refers to Jesus' building of the "house" (oi#koj). It is also used in

v. 4 to refer to God's act of creation. In v. 3, Jesus is the builder (o[

kataskeua<saj) of a house. In v. 4, God creates all things (o[ de> pa<nta

kataskeua<saj). The question is, What does it mean for Jesus to be the

"builder of a house"? Heb 3:3 reads, "Jesus has been found worthy of

greater honor than Moses, just as the one who builds the house has greater

honor than the house itself." There seems to be an analogy being made:

Jesus is to Moses as builder is to house. A strict reading of this analogy yields

that Jesus "built" Moses, which does not make much sense. Hence, we

should be cautioned against making too much of this analogy. Nevertheless,

for the analogy to have any force, we must make something of it. I suggest

that Moses is here a metonymy for the people Moses brought out of Egypt

the Exodus community. Several commentators mention this possibility.66

Mary Rose D'Angelo argues on the basis of the Targums, rabbinic litera-

ture, and intertestamental literature that understanding "house'" as "peo-

ple of God" is not without precedent.67 If this is so, both Jesus in v. 3 and

God in v. 4 are engaged in creation activity: God creates everything, and

Jesus, the new Moses, "creates" his people. Creation language is again used

to express deliverance.

 

                                                III. Conclusion

            Psalm 95 is an a fortiori argument couched in creation language to warn

the people against disbelief The portrayal of the Exodus as an act of re-

creation in vv. 6-7a bridges vv. 1-5, which speak of creation, and vv. 7b-11,

which relate the Meribah/Massah incident. The writer of Hebrews applies

the warning of 7b-11 to his community by means of an interpretation of the

passage that brings out the eschatological dimension of his exegesis, thus

making it speak directly to the new Exodus community in its period of

wilderness wandering. The rest for which this new Exodus community

strives is the rest in which God has partaken since the completion of his

creative work. Creation is both the type of re-creation and its consumma-

tion; it is the paradigm for the Exodus community as well as the reward for

those who remain faithful in their wilderness wandering.

 

Harvard University

Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations

Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138

   64 Wisdom is also a clear example of the juxtaposition of creation and deliverance. See Wis

16:24-18:4; 19:6-7; and 19:18-21.

   65 Hebrews, 110.

   66 Attridge cites Moffatt (Hebrews, 42) as well as H. Montefiore (A Commentary on the Epistle

to the Hebrews [New York: Harper; London: Black, 1964] 72) and Teodorico (L'epistola agli

Ebrei [La Sacra Bibbia; Turin: Marietti, 1952] 79) as examples, yet he is quick to dismiss this

possibility. He does not offer a solution to the meaning of the analogy.

   67 Moses, 95-149, esp. pp. 145-49.


This material is cited with gracious permission from:

            Westminster Theological Seminary

            Chestnut Hill

            Philadelphia,  PA   19118

            www.wts.edu

Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at:  thildebrandt@gordon.edu