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Is the statement, "warned them on earth" (v25) an allusion to the judgement pronounced by Noah, or by Moses and Yahweh at Sinai?

See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “YET ONCE MORE I WILL SHAKE NOT ONLY THE EARTH, BUT ALSO THE HEAVEN.” This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:25–29, NASB)

I had assumed that a warning on earth, would be that that comes via Noah, but I think some might believe it to be Moses? Can anyone clarify?

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  • I am working on the assumption that there may be evidence either from the text itself, or perhaps from the early church fathers that would help us provide an objective answer to this question. However I am aware that, if there is no concrete evidence, the answer may then be objective. I am not sure of the evidence at this point.
    – Jay
    Oct 27, 2015 at 0:39

4 Answers 4

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Is Hebrews 12:25 an allusion to the Judgement pronounced by Noah, or by Moses/YHWH at Sinai?

"See to it that you do not refuse him who is speaking." (Hebrews 12:25, ESV)

It's not Noah because Noah is mentioned once in Hebrews, in the chapter prior, but he's singled out amidst a group of people (Abel, Enoch, Abram, Sarah) for having faith in things that never came to fruition in their lifetimes, not for talking to people that aren't listening, which is what Hebrews 12:25 is about.

But Moses is mentioned throughout Hebrews -11 times to be exact. And Moses is known for speaking to people that aren't listening. Not at Sinai because they listened there (Exodus 19:8, 20:19, 24:3), but before Sinai -in Egypt, where they would later escape from slavery, and in the desert out of Egypt, after their escape.

The Israelites were tired and brazen from the slavery in Egypt and their faith was weak. YHWH speaks to Moses about leading the people out of Egypt (Exodus 3-15).

"And Moses answered and said, 'But behold, they will not believe me nor hearken unto my voice." (Exodus 4:1, KJV)

So Moses tells the Israelites that YHWH will lead them out of Egypt.

"And Moses spake so unto the children of Israel but they hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit and for cruel bondage." (Exodus 6:9, KJV)

Even after he led them out of the slavery of Egypt, they lacked faith in Moses.

"And they said unto Moses, because their were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?" (Exodus 14:11, KJV)

And still, later...

"Notwithstanding, they hearkened not unto Moses..." (Exodus 16:20, KJV)

It's also true that the Israelites failed to listen to all of the prophets sent by YHWH but this verse is about one specific person. The reference to "who warned them on earth" is a comparison of Moses being a physical being with far less power than the spiritual being of YHWH.

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  • This is really helpful. Upon reflection, "the earth will shake yet once more" reference also seems to match more with Noah (God opening the earth and swallowing some of the israelites)!
    – Jay
    Feb 24, 2017 at 5:12
  • I can see why it sounds like what happened with the floods. Haggai 2:6 has the same expression. Thank you for saying 'thank you.' Feb 24, 2017 at 16:40
  • @GigiSanchez See also Exodus 19.18 "And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly."
    – Robert
    Aug 2, 2021 at 18:09
  • Also Moses 12:21 just before it, during the old covenant talk (as metaphor of mount hebron in 18 thru 21
    – Al Brown
    Aug 2, 2021 at 21:10
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Hebrews 12:25 is not an allusion to anything. The text is strict forward but we can do a little more elaboration to ease its understanding. Let's start from vv24

24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See to it that you (Jewish Christians) do not refuse him (Jesus) who speaks. If they (Israelites under the Mosaic law) did not escape when they refused him (God, speak thru His prophets) who warned them on earth, how much less will we (Jewish Christians), if we turn away from him (God speak thru Jesus) who warns us from heaven? (NIV)

In verse 24, what is the difference of the blood of Abel vs Jesus? The blood of Abel was his accusation, justice (Gen 4:10-12). The blood of Jesus is salvation, forgiveness.

The book of Hebrews was written to the Jewish Christians at the time Christians were openly persecuted during Nero the Caesar. Some Jewish Christians' faith were shaken and tried to escape the persecution by returning to Judaism. The author of Hebrews warned them, "the blood of Jesus already speak. Their ancestors who refused the Lord's warning through His prophets, couldn't escape from their judgement. If they returned to Judaism, they met the same fate of their ancestors. Even worst is, now they refused Jesus from Heaven, would the judgement be better than their ancestors?"

Verse 26 "Shaking earth and heaven" is an allusion of God's presence, appear many time in the scripture e.g. Exo 19:18; Judge 5:5; 2 Sam 22:8; Job 9:6; Psalm 18:7, 29:8, 60:2, 68:8, 77:18, 97:4, 104:32, 114:7; Isa 2:19, 2:21, 5:25, 13:13, 23:11...........

Verse 27&28 affirmed only the Kingdom of Jesus (a kingdom that cannot be shaken vv28) will stay. All others (created things) will be removed (vv27).

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  • Very helpful answer especially with the historical context and cross references, thank you! May 31, 2023 at 18:50
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The reason we know the voice being discussed is the Burning Bush of God, not Noah, is that Hebrews 12:18-29 is about us:

a). Coming to the New Covenant, as opposed to b). Not going to the Old Covenant.

Expressed in metaphor as:

a). Coming to a spiritual Mount Zion, as opposed to b). Not going to an actual Mount Hebron. (Mount Hebron is also called Mount Sinai.)

Technically, in Hebrews 12:25, “him who speaks” is the Blood of Christ and the New Covenant message, and “him who warned them on earth” is the Burning Bush and the Old Covenant message, and “him who warns us from heaven” is Christ/God with of course the New Covenant message, as Christ has ascended to the throne at that point.

From NIV, emphasis mine:

The Mountain of Fear and the Mountain of Joy

18 You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; 19 to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.”[aside: God said this to the Israelites about Hebron] 21 The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. 25 See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”

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Surely the answer is in the context. It is simply necessary to follow through the argument.

From the beginning of ch12, the writer is urging them to lay aside the burden of sin, which hamers them in their "race" to their destination, and accept the discipline which God gives.

"For" they have come to Mount Zion, not Mount Sinai. Sinai was the terrifying fire and sound which accompanied the warnings of judgement if they disobeyed the law being given (vv18-19). Instead they have come to Zion, whicch is not terrifying and offers mercy and forgiveness.

Which brings us to v25. Therefore "do not refuse him who is speaking". It is God who is speaking "now" to the first readers of this letter, through this same epistle and through the rest of the apostles. The next words are then continuing the Sinai/Zion contrast. "His voice then shook the earth" would be a reference back to v19; "A voice whose words made the hearers entreat that no further messages be spoken to them". In that case, "he warned them on earth" would refer to the warnings of judgement contained in the law, and "they did not escape" would refer to the penalties of the law (and, in the long term, to the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians, which was the judgement of that first covenant).

Whereas, from v26, the "shaking of the earth" concept is turned into a promise. It brings us to Mount Zion, the "kingdom which cannot be shaken".

"Sinai" would be the right answer.

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