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Psalm 95 is 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 the world (vv. 4-5) and 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."1It ends with a rebuke not to have harden hearts as the Israelites had in the Exodus.

The writer of Hebrews uses the rebuke in Psalm 95 three times to begin Chapter 4:

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.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God[b] would not have spoken of another day later on. 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. (ESV)
[b] Hebrews 4:8 Greek he

The ESV translator note highlights a difficulty in verse 8: if Joshua had given them rest he [Joshua] would not have have spoken of another day does not make sense since God speaks. Therefore, the ESV translates ἐλάλει, he spoke, as God, not Joshua.

However, "Joshua" is Ἰησοῦς, which is understood as Jesus everywhere else in the letter and a literal translation is possible:

For if Jesus had brought them into rest, he would not have spoken afterwards about another day. (Darby)
εἰ γὰρ αὐτοὺς Ἰησοῦς κατέπαυσεν οὐκ ἂν περὶ ἄλλης ἐλάλει μετὰ ταῦτα ἡμέρας

By using Ἰησοῦς (Jesus/Joshua) and ἐλάλει (he would have spoken), the writer has constructed a text which literally means it was Jesus who led them and Jesus who spoke. Moreover, if the writer intended Ἰησοῦς to be understood as Joshua, they could have used Αυση, his name before Moses changed it, or by clarifying and using "the son of Nun:"

These are the names of the men who Moyses sent to spy out the land. And Moses named Hause son of Naue, Iesous. (LXX-Numbers 13:16)
ταῦτα τὰ ὀνόματα τῶν ἀνδρῶν, οὓς ἀπέστειλεν Μωυσῆς κατασκέψασθαι τὴν γῆν. καὶ ἐπωνόμασεν Μωυσῆς τὸν Αυση υἱὸν Ναυη ᾿Ιησοῦν

Does the writer of Hebrews use Psalm 95 as a way to show they believe Jesus was present and spoke during the Exodus?


1. Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, The Jewish Study Bible, Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 1389

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  • Perceptive question. Appreciated and up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 11 at 17:05
  • +1 Yet another possible proof for the pre-existence of Jesus. I'm sure this is going to bring in some very sophisticated answers.
    – Rajesh
    Jan 11 at 18:54
  • In short, I believe you may be correct.
    – Dottard
    Jan 26 at 11:41

2 Answers 2

1

It is true that English versions of Heb 4:8 are divided about how to render the Greek name Ἰησοῦς.

  • The majority of versions give "Joshua" referring to Israel's human leader after Moses who started the conquest of Canaan.
  • However, the following versions give "Jesus": KJV, AKJV, Darby, Webster, Geneva Bible (1560), Bishops Bible (1568), Smith's literal, DRB, Catholic PDV, etc.

Because the forms of "Jesus" and "Joshua" are identical in the Greek, Ἰησοῦς, the question as to the intended referent (Jesus or Joshua) in Heb 4:8 devolves to the closely related question. Note the Greek:

εἰ γὰρ αὐτοὺς Ἰησοῦς κατέπαυσεν, οὐκ ἂν περὶ ἄλλης ἐλάλει μετὰ ταῦτα ἡμέρας

This is literally (BLB):

For if Joshua/Jesus had given rest to them, He would not have spoken after this about another day.

[The "He" is not explicit but implied by the verb.] Yet, most versions translate thus (ESV):

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on.

Note that by translating Ἰησοῦς as "Joshua" requires that the implied pronoun must be rendered "God" to avoid the problem of Joshua saying something in Ps 95:7-11 which was written at least 500 years later!

While it is obvious that the implied pronoun "He" refers to whoever is speaking in Ps 95, that must also require that its antecedent be "Jesus" or possibly "God". The antecedent, if it is "God" is only found way back in V4, but only in a quotation and may not be permissible. The previous mention of "God" is in Heb 3:12.

CONCLUSION

Therefore, the simplest grammatical solution to all this is translate Ἰησοῦς as "Jesus" and then the implied referent "He" in Heb 4:8 becomes "Jesus" also, an allusion to Ps 9:7-11.

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The Problem with [Hebrews 4:3-5] is misunderstanding the term “My-Serenity” מְנֽוּחָתִֽי Menuchati (from Tehillim 95:11) which referenced Ha-Menuchah הַמְּנוּחָה “The Serenity” (not Ha-Shabbat) promised to Yisrael in [Deuteronomy 12:9] “For you have not yet come to [the Serenity] or to the inheritance, which YHVH your God, is giving you.” (כִּ֥י לֹֽא־בָאתֶ֖ם עַד־עָ֑תָּה אֶל־הַמְּנוּחָה֙ וְאֶל־הַנַּֽחֲלָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לָֽךְ) - Was this promised Serenity related simply to an eternal Shabbat? No. | Read the next verse when Elohim describes “The Serenity” for His people in [Deuteronomy 12:10] “And you shall cross the Yarden and settle in the land YHVH your God is giving you as an inheritance, and He will give you [solitude] from all your enemies surrounding you, and you will dwell securely.” (וַֽעֲבַרְתֶּם֘ אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּן֒ וִֽישַׁבְתֶּ֣ם בָּאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֖ם מַנְחִ֣יל אֶתְכֶ֑ם וְהֵנִ֨יחַ לָכֶ֧ם מִכָּל־אֹֽיְבֵיכֶ֛ם מִסָּבִ֖יב וִֽישַׁבְתֶּם־בֶּֽטַח) - This “solitude” הֵנִיחַ “from all your enemies” is not simply a 7th day sacrifice of labor, which the NT author of Hebrews desired for his Shabbat analogy. Instead of Shabbat from sales & production, “My-Serenity” מְנֽוּחָתִֽי Menuchati (from Tehillim 95:11) refers to Safety from enemies for the עם מרעיתו Am Marito “people of His flock”.

Regarding the person of Joshua Ἰησοῦς from [Hebrews 4:8] this refers to Yehoshua from [Yehoshua 11:23, 22:4] who helped fulfill [Deuteronomy 12:9-10] for YHVH. - “For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day.”

Joshua gives his own testimony of providing Yisrael the promised “Serenity” from YHVH in [Yehoshua 11:23] - And Yehoshua took the whole land, according to all that YHVH had spoken to Moshe; and Yehoshua gave it for an inheritance to Yisrael according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land [Calmed] from war. (וַיִּקַּ֨ח יְהוֹשֻׁ֜עַ אֶת־כָּל־הָאָ֗רֶץ כְּ֠כֹ֠ל אֲשֶׁ֨ר דִּבֶּ֣ר יְהֹוָה֘ אֶל־מֹשֶׁה֒ וַיִּתְּנָהּ֩ יְהוֹשֻׁ֨עַ לְנַֽחֲלָ֧ה לְיִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל כְּמַחְלְקֹתָ֖ם לְשִׁבְטֵיהֶ֑ם וְהָאָ֥רֶץ שָֽׁקְטָ֖ה מִמִּלְחָמָֽה) - Again we see a word שָֽׁקְטָה “Shaqtah” meaning “Calmed” from war (not Shabbat from selling & trading). - Joshua testifies to this fact in [Yehoshua 22:4] “And now YHVH your God has given [Serenity] to your brothers” (וְעַתָּ֗ה הֵנִיחַ יְהֹוָה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶם לַֽאֲחֵיכֶ֔ם)

The NT author of [Hebrews 4:8-9] wants Ivrit terms like הֵנִיחַ “Heniach” or Ha-Menuchah הַמְּנוּחָה “The Serenity” (peace from war) to somehow reference Shabbat (sacrifice of production) so unfortunately the NT author of [Hebrews 4:10] misappropriated [Tehillim 95, Devarim 12, Yehoshua 11, Yehoshua 22] to generate a different narrative not associated with Shabbat in Torah.

2
  • 1) Hebrews 4:3 quotes the LXX (Psalm 94:11) verbatim, ὡς ὤμοσα ἐν τῇ ὀργῇ μου εἰ εἰσελεύσονται εἰς τὴν κατάπαυσίν μου. So the writer is simply following the understanding of the Jewish translators of Psalms. 2) Deuteronomy 12:9 speaks to rest, (noun) YHVH will give. Hebrews 4:8 speaks to Ἰησοῦς (Jesus/Joshua) giving rest (verb). If your comparison is correct and the letter is looking at Deuteronomy, then wouldn't it equate Ἰησοῦς (Jesus/Joshua) with YHVH? Jan 12 at 8:17
  • Are you correctly comparing what the writer of Hebrews says about rest, the Psalm, and what is found in Deuteronomy 12? Deuteronomy speaks of serenity (your translation) which will be present when the people settle in the land and have a singular place to worship. Having obtained that, there would still remains a different type of rest, what the letter calls a σαββατισμὸς (hapax legomenon). Parallel to the Psalm, which begins with two calls to worship, the writer sees two types of rest, not one place as in Deuteronomy, which also never happened with Joshua BTW. Jan 12 at 18:42

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