12 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God;
13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,
15 while it is said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
16 For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses?
17 Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness?
18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey?
19 So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
The writer warns the Hebrews of his day not to make the same error those in Moses’ day made.
beware (v.12) — tense indicates a continuous action
lest there be (v.12) — the Greek construction indicates a suspicion that the departing will occur
evil (v.12) — in active opposition to good — evil that seeks to corrupt others
departing (v.12) = standing off from
The word “departing” deserves special attention. It is aphistemi which is made up of apo “off,” and histemi “to stand,” the compound word meaning “to stand off from.” This was exactly the position of these Hebrews. They were standing aloof from the living God. The idea is not that of departing, but of standing off from. Our word “apostasy” is derived from a form of this Greek word. Apostasy is defined as the act of someone who has previously subscribed to a certain belief, and who now renounces his former professed belief in favor of some other which is diametrically opposed to what he believed before. In other words, his new belief is not merely a new system of faith, but one which at every point negates his former belief. These Jews, should they renounce their professed faith in the New Testament system and go back to the First Testament sacrifices, would be embracing that which if brought in again would negate the New Testament. It was a question of the Levitical sacrifices or the crucified Messiah. In making a profession of Messiah as High Priest and then renouncing that professed faith to return to a dependence upon the sacrifices which God set aside at the Cross, the person would commit the sin called apostasy. — Hebrews in the Greek New Testament, by Kenneth S. Wuest, pages 78-79
living God (v.12) — Jesus Christ — The Jews weren’t about to become atheists — they were about to turn from the Messiah to the law
today (v.13) — has a definite article referring to a specific day, the one mentioned back in verse seven
deceitfulness (v.13) — a trick their sin may play on them
sin (v.13) — has a definite article referring to the sin mentioned in verse 12, the sin of unbelief
are become (v.14) — a past action with continuing results
partakers (v.14) — the readers wree participating together of Christ, participating together in the profession of salvation in Christ
confidence (v.14) — from a word for documents used as evidence of ownership — in this case, faith in Christ — so, faith to the end is evidence of true belief
rebelled (v.16) — when the Israelites refused to trust God and accept the report of Caleb and Joshua but instead did not believe and so did not enter into Canaan, a type of the rest Christ offers
all (v.16) — the entire generation that came out of Egypt committed the sin of apostasy (except Caleb and Joshua)
corpses (v.17) — Numbers 14:29; 1 Corinthians 10:5
did not obey (v.18) = did not allow themselves to be persuaded, obstinate