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Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

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Hebrews 4:13 >

      12. For--Such diligent striving (Heb 4:11) is incumbent on us FOR we have to do with a God whose "word" whereby we shall be judged, is heart-searching, and whose eyes are all-seeing (Heb 4:13). The qualities here attributed to the word of God, and the whole context, show that it is regarded in its JUDICIAL power, whereby it doomed the disobedient Israelites to exclusion from Canaan, and shall exclude unbelieving so-called Christians from the heavenly rest. The written Word of God is not the prominent thought here, though the passage is often quoted as if it were. Still the word of God (the same as that preached, Heb 4:2), used here in the broadest sense, but with special reference to its judicial power, INCLUDES the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit with double edge, one edge for convicting and converting some (Heb 4:2), and the other for condemning and destroying the unbelieving (Heb 4:14). Re 19:15 similarly represents the Word's judicial power as a sharp sword going out of Christ's mouth to smite the nations. The same word which is saving to the faithful (Heb 4:2) is destroying to the disobedient (2Co 2:15, 16). The personal Word, to whom some refer the passage, is not here meant: for He is not the sword, but has the sword. Thus reference to Joshua appropriately follows in Heb 4:8.
      quick--Greek, "living"; having living power, as "the rod of the mouth and the breath of the lips" of "the living God."
      powerful--Greek, "energetic"; not only living, but energetically efficacious.
      sharper--"more cutting."
      two-edged--sharpened at both edge and back. Compare "sword of the Spirit . . . word of God" (Eph 6:17). Its double power seems to be implied by its being "two-edged." "It judges all that is in the heart, for there it passes through, at once punishing [unbelievers] and searching [both believers and unbelievers]" [CHRYSOSTOM]. PHILO similarly speaks of "God passing between the parts of Abraham's sacrifices (Ge 15:17, where, however, it is a 'burning lamp' that passed between the pieces) with His word, which is the cutter of all things: which sword, being sharpened to the utmost keenness, never ceases to divide all sensible things, and even things not perceptible to sense or physically divisible, but perceptible and divisible by the word." Paul's early training, both in the Greek schools of Tarsus and the Hebrew schools at Jerusalem, accounts fully for his acquaintance with Philo's modes of thought, which were sure to be current among learned Jews everywhere, though Philo himself belonged to Alexandria, not Jerusalem. Addressing Jews, he by the Spirit sanctions what was true in their current literature, as he similarly did in addressing Gentiles (Ac 17:28).
      piercing--Greek, "coming through."
      even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit--that is, reaching through even to the separation of the animal soul, the lower part of man's incorporeal nature, the seat of animal desires, which he has in common with the brutes; compare the same Greek, 1Co 2:14, "the natural [animal-souled] man" (Jude 19), from the spirit (the higher part of man, receptive of the Spirit of God, and allying him to heavenly beings).
      and of the joints and marrow--rather, "(reaching even TO) both the joints (so as to divide them) and marrow." Christ "knows what is in man" (Joh 2:25): so His word reaches as far as to the most intimate and accurate knowledge of man's most hidden parts, feelings, and thoughts, dividing, that is, distinguishing what is spiritual from what is carnal and animal in him, the spirit from the soul: so Pr 20:27. As the knife of the Levitical priest reached to dividing parts, closely united as the joints of the limbs, and penetrated to the innermost parts, as the marrows (the Greek is plural); so the word of God divides the closely joined parts of man's immaterial being, soul and spirit, and penetrates to the innermost parts of the spirit. The clause (reaching even to) "both the joints and marrow" is subordinate to the clause, "even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit." (In the oldest manuscripts as in English Version, there is no "both," as there is in the clause "both the joints and . . . which marks the latter to be subordinate). An image (appropriate in addressing Jews) from the literal dividing of joints, and penetrating to, so as to open out, the marrow, by the priest's knife, illustrating the previously mentioned spiritual "dividing of soul from spirit," whereby each (soul as well as spirit) is laid bare and "naked" before God; this view accords with Heb 4:13. Evidently "the dividing of the soul from the spirit" answers to the "joints" which the sword, when it reaches unto, divides asunder, as the "spirit" answers to the innermost "marrow." "Moses forms the soul, Christ the spirit. The soul draws with it the body; the spirit draws with it both soul and body." ALFORD'S interpretation is clumsy, by which he makes the soul itself, and the spirit itself, to be divided, instead of the soul from the spirit: so also he makes not only the joints to be divided asunder, but the marrow also to be divided (?). The Word's dividing and far penetrating power has both a punitive and a healing effect.
      discerner of the thoughts--Greek, "capable of judging the purposes."
      intents--rather, "conceptions" [CRELLIUS]; "ideas" [ALFORD]. AS the Greek for "thoughts" refers to the mind and feelings, so that for "intents," or rather "mental conceptions," refers to the intellect.

JFB.


Questions Related to this Verse

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Hebrews Images and Notes

The Book of Hebrews

Hebrews 1:1-3 - God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by [his] Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of [his] glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

Hebrews 8:6 - But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.

Hebrews 11:1-3 - Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

Hebrews in The New Testament - A Brief Overview

Painting of the Apostle Paul by Rembrandt - 1657
Painting of a Hebrew Scribe

Introduction to The Book of Hebrews

Brief Summary. The Main theme of the book of Hebrews can be found in the opening verses. Jesus Christ is clearly greater than anything that the Old Covenant had produced. Jesus is the great high priest, the eternal mediator between God and man who never stops mediating, and is the perfect fulfillment of all prophecies and types and shadows pointing to the Hebrew Messiah within the Old Covenant. The book of Hebrews unveils Christ as the One who is greater than each of the types and shadows that were pointing to him in the Old Covenant. Moses was the great lawgiver, but Christ was the perfect fulfillment of the law. The high priest in the Old Testament offered sacrifices each year, Jesus the eternal high Priest offered himself once and for all. The promises contained in the Old Covenant were for a season, but the New Testament is  built on better promises that are forever written on men's hearts.

Summary of The Book of Hebrews

Purpose. The main purpose of the epistle is to establish Christianity as being superior to the Law. The writer exalts the superiority of Christ to angels, to Moses and Joshua, and to the Levitical high-priesthood. The book of Hebrews also makes a contrast between the tabernacle and its sacrifices and the sacrifice of Christ. The write strongly warns the Hebrew Christian to remain faithful to the Christian religion and its principles and to separate from Judaism, which had served its purpose and which was about to lose their rituals, sacrifices, and Temple.

Audience. The writer titles his epistle "To the Hebrews" and every chapter and verse of the book is clearly designed to instruct and encourage those who were Hebrew in blood and had become followers of Jesus Christ. It appears that the Temple was still standing at the time this epistle was written because it is often alluded to.

Author. Unknown, evidence points to Paul. There has been much controversy regarding the authorship of the book of Hebrews. Some say that it was written by Barnabas, others say it was Luke, or Apollos. The author of the book does not state his name, but it is definitely Pauline in style. A greater number of scholars have attributed this book to Paul than any other author. The writer refers to "our brother Timothy" (Hebrews 13:23) and "they of Italy" (Hebrews 13:24). It also appears that the writer was imprisoned, from his request for prayers that he might be restored to his readers. Paul was imprisoned several times and this could refer to any of those. The only absolute conclusion is that which Origen expressed: "God only knows who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews."

Date. The book of Hebrews was probably written shortly after AD 60.

Place Written. It says in Hebrews 13:24 "They of Italy salute you" and this phrase indicates that the letter was written from Italy. It is probable that the Epistle was written near his second Roman imprisonment, about 60-62 AD.

Outline of the Book of Hebrews

Christ Greater Than the Prophets and Angels - Chapters 1-2
Christ Greater Than Moses and Joshua - Chapters 3-4
Christ Greater Than the Aaronic Priesthood - Chapters 5-8
Christ's New Covenant Greater Than the Old - Chapters 8-10
Faith in Christ Greater Than the Law - Chapters 11-13

Jesus written in Hebrew
The Name Jesus In Ancient Hebrew Text
"Yeshua" in First Century Hebrew Text. This is how the name "Jesus" would have been written in ancient Hebrew documents. The four letters or consonants from right to left are Yod, Shin, Vav, Ayin (Y, SH, OO, A). Jesus is the Greek name for the Hebrew name Joshua or Y'shua which means "The LORD or Yahweh is Salvation".

Hebrews Maps and Resources

Map of the Roman Empire (14 A.D.) - This map reveals the Roman Empire during the time shortly after the birth of Jesus, in 14 AD at the time of the death of Augustus. The order which prevailed in this extensive empire, the good military roads, and the use of Koine Greek as the general language of culture throughout the area were among the factors which multiplied the rapid spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (Color Map)

Map of Paul's First Missionary Journey (48 A.D.) - This map reveals the areas in Asia Minor where Paul visited in his first missionary journey. Around 48 AD, in the springtime, Paul and his companions Barnabas and Mark were sent on a mission from the church in Antioch. This would be the first of Paul's Missionary Journey's. (Color Map)

Map of Paul's Second Missionary Journey (51 A.D.) - This map reveals the areas in Asia and Greece where Paul visited in his second missionary journey. Paul re-visits a couple cities in Asia, one of which was Lystra where he was stoned and left for dead a few years earlier. He later has a vision that leads him over to Greece and Paul and his companions travel and minister in various cities in Greece (Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens and Corinth. Later Paul returns to Ephesus and finally to Caesarea and Antioch. (Color Map)

Map of Paul's Third Missionary Journey (54 A.D.) - This map reveals the areas in Asia and Greece where Paul visited in his third missionary journey. On Paul's third missionary journey he returned to the cities he had first visited on his first missionary journey. During this time he decided to remain in Ephesus for about 3 years, and this city was the main focus of his activities and an important Christian community (Acts 19). (Color Map)

Map of the New Testament World - This map reveals the "Nations" within the ancient world during the first century A.D., the time of the New Testament. The map includes the areas of Israel, Asia, Greece, and Italy. (Color Map)

Map of New Testament Greece This map reveals the cities within Greece in the ancient world during the first century A.D.,The map includes the principal cities of Greece like: Athens, Corinth, and Thessalonica, and provinces like Macedonia and Achaia. (Color Map)

Map of New Testament Asia - This map shows the cities within Asia Minor during the first century A.D., the time of the New Testament. The map includes the principal cities of Asia including Tarsus, Ephesus, and Colossae, and provinces like Galatia and Pamphilia. (Color Map)