Text (ASV): "12. For the word of God is
living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword,
and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of
both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts
and intents of the heart. 13. And there is no creature that
is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and
laid open before the eyes of him with whom we have to
These verses are the climax of an urgent
exhortation for Christians, under Christ, not to make the
mistake that Israel had made under Moses, and by
disobedience to the word of God forfeited
the prospect and promise of entering Canaan with its rest
from Egyptian bondage and the rigors of their wilderness
journeying, which was a type of the rest in the heavenly
Canaan for all the faithful children of God -- of which the
weekly Sabbath given to fleshly Israel was also a
Verse 12 deals with the subjective influence of
the word of God with reference to our hearts if we allow it
proper access and operation. Verse 13 describes a
comparable objective function of
the part of God himself with reference to ourselves --
which ought to be a strong motivation for allowing his word
to hold sway in our lives.
1. "The word of God." Here the phrase
obviously refers to the word of God as spoken through
prophets (1:1). Angels (2:2), and his Son (1:2; 2:3), and
not to Christ as the Word incarnate, as in Rev.19:13 (cf.
Jno.1:1,14; 2: Jno.1). But the introductory word "for"
makes its specific application have to do with the "Sabbath
rest for the people of God" (4:4), and particularly as to
whom may or may not enter it, as spoken through Moses (3:5)
and David (4:7) and here through Christ's inspired
spokesman, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews (3:7 -
4:11), and no doubt through others of his spokesmen as well
2. "Living, and active." That is, God's word
is applicable and binding and effectual -- as much so today
under and through Christ as ever in times past -- and in
some respects even more so (see 2:1-4; 10:26-31).
Christ is mediator of a better covenant, with
better promises, than the old covenant with fleshly Israel,
of which Moses was the mediator (8:6). While God gave
fleshly Israel the seventh day, his day of rest from
creation, as a weekly Sabbath, was a "shadow" of something
better yet to come through Christ (Col.2:16; cf. Heb.8:4-5;
The weekly Sabbath is not binding on
Christians -- because the covenant requiring its observance
was abrogated at the death of Christ ("He taketh away the
first, that he may establish the second," 10:9) and weekly
Sabbath observance was not enjoined under the new covenant
mediated by Christ.
As already stated, it was a "shadow" of
something better to come through Christ -- a shadow of the
Sabbath rest that remains for the people
of God (4:6) -- a better rest for the faithful of fleshly
Israel of times past as well as of spiritual Israel of
these last days. It will be entered when we rest from our
works on earth as God rested from his work of creating the
heavens and the earth and its inhabitants (Heb. 4:9-11; cf.
And it is for the ones "obedient"
to the "living, and active" word of God of all earthly
dispensations, but not for the
"disobedient of any dispensation.
3. "Sharper than any two- edged sword" -- the
most penetrating kind. In Eph. 6:17, the word of God is
called "the sword of the Spirit," used in spiritual combat.
The word of God is contemplated here, however, in relation
to its ability to penetrate and expose to introspection the
inward being of each individual.
4. "Piercing even to the dividing of soul and
spirit, of both joints and marrow."
"Soul" and "spirit" are often used
interchangeably for the "inward man" versus the "outward
man" (2 Cor.4:16). But when they are distinguished from
each other, "soul" (psuche) has reference to
physical animation which man has in common with the animal
creation, and "spirit" (pneuma) refers to that
part of man created in the image of God, which makes man
akin to God in a way the animals are not.
"Joints" are mostly where bones are so fitted
and joined together as to facilitate movement in relation
to each other. And "marrow" was used figuratively of the
depth of the soul, as by Euripides in the 5th century B.C.,
in Hippolytus 225, "to
form moderate friendships, and not to the deep marrow of the soul"
(Vincent, Word Studies in the New
So, the above phrase is a figurative
expression for the depths of the inward man, penetrated by
the word of God and its parts laid open as it were, for
introspection -- not that it separates the "soul" from the
"spirit" or the "joints" from the "marrow" -- but that it
penetrates to the "dividing" of all these parts,
5. "Quick to discern the thoughts and intents
of the heart." This further and more literally expresses
and defines the foregoing, except that "quick to discern"
does not seem to do justice to the verbal adjective,
kritikos, in the
Greek text, which means skilled or able in discerning or
judging. (Our English word "critic" comes for it.)
"The word carries on the thought of
From krinein to
which runs into the sense of judge, the usual
meaning in the N. T., judgment involving the sifting out
and analysis of evidence.
In kritikos the
ideas of discrimination and
are blended." (Vincent, Word Studies.) With
proper access to an operation within the human heart, the
word of God lays bare to the individual himself the
character not only of his conduct but also of "the thoughts
and intents of the heart" -- his own heart.
"In addition this (kai), the inward operation
of the word finds its counterpart in the searching,
inevitable inquisition of God himself with whom we have to
do" (Marcus Dodds, in his commentary on "Hebrews" in
Greek Testament). That additional fact is stated in
the next verse, as follows:
6. "13. And there is no creature that is not
manifest in his sight: BUT ALL THINGS ARE NAKED AND LAID
OPEN BEFORE THE EYES OF HIM WITH WHOM WE HAVE TO DO" --
or to whom we have
to give account.
Hence, among all other things, God knows even
our innermost reactions and attitudes toward his WORD, even
if we succeed in keeping them secret from many or all of
our fellow men. And this ought to be a most POWERFUL
motivation for GLADLY allowing it to hold FULL SWAY in our
lives, so as not to forfeit the prospect of the Sabbath
rest promised to all OBEDIENT children of God after our
labors and lives on earth are ended.