New International Version Psalm 95:

7b Today, if only you would hear his voice,
8a “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah

Hebrews 3:

7 So, as the Holy Spirit says:
Today, if you hear his voice,
8do not harden your hearts

15As has just been said:
Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts

Hebrews 4:

7 God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”

What is the significance that Psalm 95 is cited 3 times within the short span of 2 chapters of Hebrews? The Hebrew writer seemed to be fond of writing "today".

  • This is rhetoric. I think it's powerful.
    – Robert
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 21:22

2 Answers 2


Psalm 95 - Hebrew
It might appear the Psalm, which links worship, hardened hearts, and rest is disjointed. Yet as it begins with what can be seen as two calls to gather to worship, it is reasonable to consider if those two calls play a role in repeating the phrase today if you hear His voice do not harden your hearts...:

1 Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! 2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! 3 For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. 4 In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. 5 The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. 6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! 7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.

Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, 9 when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work 10 For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” 11 Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.” (Psalm 95 ESV)

Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day a Massah refers to events in the Exodus. Meribah, כמריבה, or quarrel, was the name given to the place where the people quarreled with Moses about the lack of water (cf. Exodus 17:1-7) and Massah, מסה, or temptation, likewise refers to a place where there was no water (cf. Numbers 20:1-13). In both the LORD provided water from a rock. The first rock was a צוּר and the second was a סֶלַע. "Today," is mentioned once, yet the historical basis of the admonishment is drawn from two different events.1

"Today do not harden your hearts..." begins the second half of the Psalm and divides the two water from rock events from the two calls to worship which begins the Psalm:

A kingship psalm (see v.3 the great king), which after an introductory call to worship (vv. 1-3), focuses on God as creator of Israel (vv. 6-7). Just as human kings were responsible for major building projects, God as king has created the world and Israel...The Psalm can also be understood as having two calls to worship (vv. 1-2, 6), each followed by the impetus for that call, introduced by "ki," for: a similar structure is found in the early Song of the Sea recited by Miriam in Exodus 15.21 "Sing to the LORD, for ("ki") He has triumphed gloriously." This psalm (and those that follow through Ps. 99) is recited during the Friday night service.2

The first call to worship is to sing to the LORD, the rock, צוּר, of our salvation. In other words, the Psalmist connects the first call to the first rock which provided water. The second call may allude to the second rock, let us kneel before the LORD..., but more likely envisions people being in the Promised Land, His pasture. Regardless of the exact location implied in the second, two calls to worship for two different reasons, is followed by a reference to two different water from rock events. In other words, there are two different "todays" from which the admonishment was derived.

As Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler note, the Psalm is one recited on Friday night when the Sabbath, the day of rest, begins. Worship also occurs on Saturday (i.e. Acts 13:14). In that case, the Psalm's use in liturgy leads to more than a general call to worship: it describes the sequence of worship on the Sabbath. First, on Friday night and then during the day. That is, let us enter into His presence when the Sabbath begins and then meet together in the synagogue.

In terms of practical application, a coherence of the Psalm is seen from the liturgical use when observing the Sabbath, a "today" of rest and of worship. Do not harden your hearts when applied specifically to the Sabbath becomes a two-fold admonishment: do not harden your heart when you worship or when you rest. It is a reminder to have a right heart when the weekly routine is interrupted by a day of rest on which one must gather (cf. Leviticus 23:3) to worship. Finally, for the writer of the letter, the two historical hardened heart events may be used to remind the reader not to repeat the mistake.

Psalm 94[95] - Greek
The LXX differs slightly from the Hebrew text:

1 A laudation. Of an Ode, Pertaining to Dauid. O come, let us rejoice in the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to God our savior! 2 Let us anticipate his face with acknowledgement, and with melodies let us make a joyful noise to him, 3 because the Lord is a great God and a great King over all the gods, 4 because in his hand are the ends of the earth and the heights of the mountains are his, 5 because his is the sea and he made it and the dry land his hands formed! 6 O come, let us do obeisance and prostrate ourselves before him, and let us weep before the Lord, who made us 7 Because he is our God and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand!

Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts, as at the embittering, like the day of trial in the wilderness, 9 Where your fathers tried; they put to the proof and saw my works. 10 For forty years I loathed that generation, and said, “Always do they stray in heart, and they did not know my ways. 11 As I swore in my wrath, “If they shall enter into my rest!” (LXX-Psalm 94[95] NETS)

First, it adds an emendation attributing the Psalm to David. Then it replaces the names of the two locations of water from a rock, with the meaning of those names: παραπικρασμός and πειρασμός. These changes tend to obscure the historical basis of the admonishment. The two water from rock events become a single "today" in which "embittering" and "trial" are present. Moreover, both the calls to worship and the admonishment, come from David. Thus the Greek version suggests a single call and admonishment made by the king.

Hebrews #1
The first mention in the letter quotes the entire admonishment:

7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. 10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ 11 As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” (Hebrews 3)

The letter follows the LXX almost verbatim.3How this is introduced is significant. Before citing the Psalm, Moses is brought into the letter (cf. Hebrews 3:1-6). This orients the reader to the original historical events in the admonishment. Now Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later... (Hebrews 3:5) actually predicts the Psalm. That is, the Psalm is one of those things Moses testified that were to be spoken of later (i.e. by David). After this the writer introduces the admonishment as coming from the Holy Spirit, not David.

Where the LXX attributes the entire Psalm to David, the letter uses that "Davidic version" but extracts only the admonishment which is said to be from the Holy Spirit, creating a present tense admonishment from the Holy Spirit: Today if you hear His voice...

Hebrews #2
The second use expounds and makes specific what was implied in the first:

12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” (Hebrews 3)

While the admonishment had an historical basis, the writer makes clear it is to be taken as present day instruction from the Holy Spirit. The letter continues:

16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. (Hebrews 3)

If the reader understands the history underlying the admonishment, then they know this second statement corresponds to the time when Moses exhibited his unbelief:

12 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” 13 These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the LORD, and through them he showed himself holy. (Numbers 20)

The letter implies at the day of the second water from rock event, Moses hardened his heart. Regardless of the reasons for Moses' unbelief, the reader is reminded Moses was one of those of whom the LORD said, They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways...they shall not enter my rest. Therefore, having finally come to share Christ (v. 14), why revert back to Judaism and become an "unbeliever" like Moses, who never entered God's rest?

Hebrews #3
The final statement expounds on the admonishment working "backwards" from rest, the desired ending for the people of God:

1 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,’” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” 5 And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest.” 6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
(Hebrews 4)

Here the letter affirms the Psalm was from David, but the emphasis is on obtaining the rest which was available from the foundation of the world, because God rested on the seventh day. In this way the letter uses what the reader understands about the entire Psalm: it is a call to worship the God who first created and then has been actively involved in rescuing mankind. At the same time, it is a reminder that even though Moses and the people had the Law and specifically, the Sabbath, their unbelief not only provoked God's anger; it prevented them from entering God's rest.

The three-fold use serves to give emphasis by repetition, but it also follows the history of the admonishment. There were two in the past at the rocks in the wilderness and there is one in the present when the Psalm is used in worship. By juxtaposing Moses and David the letter effectively "repeats" the history while making the point Moses failed like the others.

1. Similar to Deuteronomy, And of Levi he said, “Give to Levi your Thummim, and your Urim to your godly one, whom you tested at Massah, with whom you quarreled at the waters of Meribah (33:8).
2. Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, The Jewish Study Bible, Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 1389
3. There is a NT textual variant at 3:9. The TR has the pronoun με twice: οὗ ἐπείρασαν με οἱ πατέρες ὑμῶν ἐδοκιμασάν με, καὶ εἶδον τὰ ἔργα μου. So, "When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years." In terms of the Psalm the meaning is not effected. However, given how the letter introduces the Psalm, Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says..., the referent of "me" is the Holy Spirit. That is, the point of the addition in the TR is to make specific the rebellion in the wilderness was against the Holy Spirit.


Psalm 95:7b-8a is cited 3 times in Hebrews. Why?

The author of Hebrews appears to be quoting the final portion of Psalm 95 in reference to the Exodus and wilderness (Numbers) narratives, but its meaning is directed toward Christian believers. The first point to be made is that Christ is superior to Moses (Heb. 3:1-6). The first set of verses in question is quoted (Heb. 3:7b-8a) where it is then applied:

Hebrews 3:12-14: "Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. 13But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called 'Today,' so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end" (emphasis added).

There were many examples in Exodus and Numbers where those who lived to cross the Red Sea hardened their hearts against God. Their persistent stubbornness was the reason they were banished to the wilderness for 40 years! We are, therefore, to exhort and admonish one another to avoid a much worse fate (eternal darkness) and to reflect on the provisions by God in Exodus 16 and elsewhere:

Exodus 16:4: "Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction."

To follow God, the Israelites had to rely on Him each day for everything. Those who heard and rebelled were the same people who received God’s supplies and later died, unable to enter the Promised Land (Canaan) because of their unfounded distrust and unbelief (Heb. 3:19).

In the next chapter of Hebrews (4), the “rest” that God promised the Jews in the desert (Promised Land) has now become the eternal rest that all the faithfully obedient can expect in God's very Presence. The author clearly states,

Hebrews 4:9-11: "So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. 10For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. 11Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience" (emphasis added).

Our encouragement, and the reason for the repetition of the passages exhorting us not to "harden our hearts", is so the faithful will continually strive to enter that rest (Heb. 4:11) — the great reward for our obedience to God while on earth.

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