More Than Just Numbers: Deuteronomic Influence In Hebrews 3:7-4:11 -- By: David L. Allen

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 58:1 (NA 2007)
Article: More Than Just Numbers: Deuteronomic Influence In Hebrews 3:7-4:11
Author: David L. Allen

More Than Just Numbers: Deuteronomic Influence In Hebrews 3:7-4:11

David Allen


That Hebrews 3:7-4:11 alludes to the events of Numbers 14 has become an apparently established and almost universal datum of scholarship. This paper, however, argues that Hebrews’ rhetoric in the pericope and its exegesis of Psalm 95 is better explained by appealing to a Deuteronomic perspective, rather than that of Numbers. The bipartite structure of the psalm itself evinces a quasi-Deuteronomic choice that echoes the decision which Hebrews lays before its audience, and it utilises language that is quintessentially Deuteronomic. Four key words in 3:7-19 are subsequently discussed and it is demonstrated that their context and provenance is not Numbers 14, but rather the particular milieu of Deuteronomy. Whilst the contribution of Numbers 14 to the pericope is not to be dismissed, Hebrews’ use of the psalm appears to be more orientated towards a Deuteronomic perspective.

1. Introduction

The association between Hebrews 3:7-19 and the narrative of Israel’s wilderness disobedience in Numbers 14 has become a commonplace of scholarship.1 YHWH’s oath, sworn in response to Israel’s rebellion at

Kadesh Barnea, that the wilderness generation would not enter the land (Num. 14:28-35), is generally regarded (with some validity) as the backdrop and parallel to Hebrews’ impassioned warning about the dangers of apostasy from the new covenant (Heb. 3:16-4:2). Appeal is generally made to the lexical affinity between the oath in Numbers 14:30 (εἰ ὑμεῖς εἰσελεύσεσθε εἰς τὴν γῆν) and that of Psalm 95:11/Hebrews 3:11 (εἰ εἰσελεύσονται εἰς τὴν κατάπαυσίν μου).2 Likewise, Hebrews 3:17 (τὰ κῶλα ἔπεσεν ἐν τῇ ἐρὴμῳ) appears to be an allusion to Numbers 14:29 or 32 (τὰ κῶλα ὑμῶν πεσεῖται...

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