The NT Use of the OT in Hebrews 2:12-13: Psalm 22:22 and Isaiah 8:17-18 in Hebrews 2:12-13
by Josiah Way
For the early Christians, the OT served as the essential building block for understanding their newfound faith. The writer of Hebrews opens his epistle with a near-continuous string of OT references, each verse displaying keys to Jesus’ messianic identity: Psalm 22 and Isaiah 8 in Hebrews 2:12-13 are no exception. I will demonstrate this using Beale’s nine-step approach.[i]
I. Identify the use of the OT in Hebrews 2:10-18
Hebrews 2:10-18 contains three direct OT quotations: (1) Psalm 22:22 in Hebrews 2:12; (2) Isaiah 8:17 in Hebrews 2:13a; and (3) Isaiah 8:18 in Hebrews 2:13b. Even though separated by the author, Hebrews 2:13 will be treated as one unit, unless discussed otherwise. Additionally, though not the focus of this analysis, Hebrews 2:16 includes an illusion to Isaiah 41:8-9, that will assist in understanding the overall NT and OT contexts.
II. Analyze the Broad NT Context of Hebrews 2:10-18
The eternal, divine Son, the suffering Savior, making perfect God’s redemptive plan, through his humanity, is the focal point of Heb 2:10-18.[ii] The author engages his congregation most likely due to some defect in their commitment to fully living up to their Christian calling, with a fear of them drifting away.[iii] The immediate Heb 2 context follows the author’s establishment of Christ as the Messiah, higher than the angels, and serves as the transition point from declaring God’s supremacy to his necessary humiliation.[iv] Jesus is presented as the founder of man’s salvation brought about through his suffering and death (2:10, 14), sharing in our humanity as brothers (2:11), so he can fulfill his priestly role as the propitiation for sin (2:17).
III. Analyze the OT Context of Psalm 22 and Isaiah 8
Both Ps 22 and Is 8 fit well with the NT context, suggests Bruce, because each describes God as hiding his face,[v] yet now with Christ’s redemptive work, God has exposed himself as the faithful redeemer of whom both David and Isaiah spoke. First, in Ps 22 David turns from questioning God’s absence—‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Ps 22:1)—to offering thanksgiving to God for answering his call for deliverance, making him alone wholly worthy of worship.[vi] In this context, it is suffering that would be in the minds of the audience, however with the assurance of rescue from it. Second, in Is 8:17-18, which falls between two important messianic passages, the prophet proclaims that the people of Israel must fear God and walk with the Lord, not in the way of rebellious people, in order to avoid the impending destruction. With devastation from Assyria imminent, Isaiah chooses to be the sign to the rebellious generation, making the choice to trust in the Lord.[vii] There is an overarching theme in Is 8, also inferred from the offspring of Abraham in Heb 2:16 (Is 41:8-9), of the growing importance of faithfulness from the children of God, even in the face of a rebellious generation.[viii]
IV. Survey of the Use of Psalm 22 and Isaiah 8 in Other Jewish and NT Sources
The uses of Ps 22 and Is 8 in Jewish sources are relatively few, yet represent powerful selections of NT Scripture, lending to the conclusion that it was the early Christians who saw these as messianic, referring to Christ and his relationship to God and humanity.[ix] Ps 22 is found in three notable Jewish and NT locations: (1) In the DSS, though the exact verse is not found, the units contained in the Nahal Hever offer a precise LXX match, and at 1QHa, the context carries similar themes found in Ps 22;[x] (2) In the Talmud, still without direct quotation, the immediate context at b. Meg 15b includes reference to Ps 22:1, 20-21, Esther calling for God’s rescue;[xi] and (3) The passion narrative at the cross, where Köstenberger suggests Jesus may have recited Ps 22 in its entirety, he relates it directly to himself.[xii] Mt 27:46 and Mk 15:34 both attribute Jesus citing Ps 22:1, forsaken by God, while Lk 23:34 and Jn 19:24 convey Ps 22:18, dividing his clothes. Is 8, likewise, finds four source parallels: (1) The DSS, at 1QIsaa, a near match of the MT and LXX, emphasizes trusting in the Lord;[xiii] (2) The Targum Isaiah exaggerates the text while also transforming it into a prayer that the people repent and be spared from exile;[xiv] (3) Lk 2:34, 20:17-18, and 1 Pt 2:8 draw on Is 8:14-15, depicting God setting a stone upon which Israel will stumble, which is important in terms of Is 8:18, as OT prophets were considered to be signs and portents for Israel from the Lord;[xv] and (4) 1 Pt 3:14, a near citation of Is 8:12, reminds the hearer to endure and not fear,[xvi] a similar concluding exhortation the author of Hebrews delivers.
V. Comparison of the OT Text Form with the NT Text Reference
In Heb 2:12, there is a near exact match between the MT and LXX, yet the writer replaces the future indicative form of tell/describe [diēgeomai] with tell/proclaim [apangellō].[xvii] In doing so, the focus of the text moves from man praising God to Jesus himself proudly proclaiming solidarity with his position as brother.[xviii] Creating a perfect parallel between the situations which both Isaiah and Jesus found themselves,[xix] Heb 2:13b finds agreement with the LXX in Is 8:18, and differs only slightly from the MT by using the common name of YHWH [yhwh] in place of God [ho theos].[xx] Even though 2:13a could be a citation from David’s hymn recorded in 2 Sam 22, and thus would follow the author’s pattern of quoting the Psalms,[xxi] being connected in 13b by “kai palin,” better suggests its relationship to the themes in Isaiah. It is only slightly altered from the LXX in word order, moving “esomai” forward, and by adding an emphatic “ego.”[xxii]
VI. Analyze Hebrew’s Textual Use of Psalm 22:22 and Isaiah 8:17-18
Relying on the LXX as his primary text, both for citation and meaning,[xxiii] the author of Hebrews substitutes David and Isaiah’s voices for Jesus’ in order to present his messianic message.[xxiv]
Hebrews 2:12: “I will tell your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
Psalm 22:22: “I will tell your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”
In Heb 2:12, the variance in meaning from tell/describe [“sing your praise”] to tell/proclaim [“praise you”], is too distinct to be unintentional, and may have been chosen to better present Jesus’ ultimate mission: proclaiming redemption for his brothers, his faithful believers, through his humanity.[xxv] The addition of singing praise further supports the theme of ultimate victory.
Hebrews 2:13a: “I will put my trust in him.”
Isaiah 8:17: “I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.”
Hebrews 2:13b: “Behold, I and the children God has given me.”
Isaiah 8:18: “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.”
As part of the larger judgment oracle, Is 8 questions whether God’s people will seek to trust in the Lord or worldly influences.[xxvi] deSilva proposes v.13 being split by “And again” demonstrates the author’s desire to make two distinct points: (1) As the future perfect denotes, it is not Jesus declaring trust in God, but the hearer who is to see himself as the object of Jesus’ declared trust; and (2) Believers should feel both an honor and comfort due to their standing as God’s children, united with Christ.[xxvii] Thus, the author’s use of Is 8, further confirms messianic fulfillment that through Jesus’ earthly ministry, sharing in our humanity, salvation came.[xxviii]
VII. Analyze the interpretive (hermeneutical) use of the OT
The predominant hermeneutical principle within the NT context of Heb 2:10-18 is that Jesus, higher than the angels, equally divine with the Father, accomplished in his humanity something that only he as the divine high priest could. Speaking the prayers of trust and closeness of David and Isaiah, Jesus confirms it is his humanity as the suffering Son that became the perfect means for God’s reconciling of his children.[xxix] The NT passage further establishes Jesus as the one, though similar in humanity [brothers], sharing flesh and blood, suffered as the propitiation for sins. God demonstrates loving victory out of suffering and solidarity with his children,[xxx] with Heb 2:12-13 verifying his trust in the Father, as both earthly and divine Son. Indeed, God had not forsaken his brothers and sisters, but demonstrated his mercy and faithfulness to his remnant people, by suffering the ultimate punishment in their place. Hagner confirms, as the only one who can make salvation possible, Jesus makes holy those he calls his brothers, defeating the devil, as the final atonement for sin,[xxxi] as the one redeemer who both David and Isaiah foresaw.
VIII. Analyze the Theological Use of Psalm 22:22 and Isaiah 8:17-18 in Hebrews 2:12-13
The main three theological reasons for the author’s use of Ps 22 and Is 8 in Heb 2:12-13 are Christology, eschatology, and soteriology. Bauckham summarizes well the continuity between these by noting that the focus of the first two chapters of Hebrews is Jesus’ divinity, not his humanity: It is a testament to his divinity that in his sovereignty, the eternal God could take on human suffering in order to atone for the sins of mankind, affirming his lordship for all time, as the truly divine high priest.[xxxii] The confirmation of being brother, midst the congregation, and among his children, in Heb 2:12-13, showcases Jesus’ humility, that he deserves our trust and obedience because of his human suffering. The use of two transitional verses within their OT contexts highlights Christ’s ultimate position. While he cried out in suffering, he also proclaimed triumph after exaltation.[xxxiii] Accepting Chester’s conclusions on high Christology in the early church, we see that the use of Ps 22 and Is 8 fit perfectly with the Jewish, and thus Jewish Christian, understanding of Jesus as worthy of worship as both God and intercessor.[xxxiv] It is through his humanity that Christ can be understood as redeemer.[xxxv]
IX. Analyze the Rhetorical Use of Psalm 22:22 and Isaiah 8:17-18 in Hebrews 2:12-13
The author of Hebrews is no doubt a trained orator, comfortable in Greek rhetorical skills, well versed in the LXX as his primary OT text, and able to both highlight and downplay the OT references as he feels best serves his Christological view.[xxxvi] While Gelardini identifies Hebrews as a petichta-type synagogue homily, following standard rabbinic exegetic methods, [xxxvii] Lane adds that Heb 2:10-18, specifically, is a homiletical madras developed upon the three OT quotations, ending the main introductory section.[xxxviii] In addition, Übelacker states that this portion of the writer’s overall structure is similar to that of ancient rhetoric with 2:10-16 closing the narratio, and 2:17-18 offering the propositio, thus serving as the foundation for the remainder of the epistle’s argument.[xxxix] Specifically, in Heb 2:12-13, the writer attributes the OT quotations of Ps 22:22 and Is 8:17-18 to Jesus himself in a classic chiastic structure, acting as the Son’s response to God’s words in the first chapter, displaying solidarity between both Son and Father.[xl] The use of word and phrase pairs for emphatic rhetorical effect, is one of the author’s stylistic traits, with each one offering a unique contribution, allowing each verse then to provide a distinct impact to his rhetorical argument.[xli] In the case of Heb 2:13, he links his two Is 8 texts with “And again.” Thus, the author’s skilled use of Ps 22 and Is 8 evoke familiarity with David and Isaiah’s feelings of abandonment, yet still placing faith, trust, and thanksgiving in the Lord, anticipating his rescue.
Building on the audience’s understanding of Ps 22 and Is 8, the author presents his Christological argument that Jesus in his humanity became the proud deliverer from sin and separation from God, on behalf of God’s children, whom he calls brothers, because he trusts in the Father. Applying this understanding today, Ps 22:22 and Is 8:17-18’s use in Heb 2:10-18 serve a strong witness in nouthetic counseling: Through Jesus’ human position, we have been fully reconciled to God. As brother, tempted yet without sin, dying as propitiation for sin, we can find comfort in knowing our suffering is temporary. Feelings of rejection, loneliness, and abandonment can be overcome by placing faith and trust in Christ. As we question the struggles we face in this life, we can praise the author of Hebrews for proving that there is comfort to be found in Jesus’ humanity as the rescuer and Savior whom both David and Isaiah envisioned and trusted.
APPENDIX – CATEGORICAL SUMMARY OF PS 22:22 & IS 8:17-18 IN HEB 2:12-13
Hermeneutical Use: The author understands David’s text as prophetic, giving it Christ’s voice, proclaiming his shared humanity. The psalm’s transitional verse of thanksgiving draws parallels with Jesus’ earthly experience. This psalm’s first half emphasizes feelings of God forsaking man, but v.22 reminds of the unity Jesus shared with the people he came to save.
Theological Use: Psalm 22:22 highlights the sufferings of Christ with the perfect salvation that came through his humanity. That Christ took on humanity as “brother,” enduring suffering in order to rescue his people (congregation), demonstrates God’s faithfulness that he has not forsaken them.
Christological Use: Confirms Jesus is both Son of the Father as well as brother to God’s people. The author views Christology is soteriological, that the righteousness of God required a perfect sacrifice. The “one source” of v.11 is the proud “brother” of v.12. Moreover, the use of the psalm[s] in the early church, within the scope of worship, demonstrates a high Christological view.
Rhetorical Use: By giving the psalmist’s voice to Jesus, answering the conversation with the Father from 1:5-13, he becomes a witness to the truths the author is providing in his rhetorical argument. As the living witness, evoking the audience’s familiarity with the imagery of the entire psalm, he infers that those who hear Jesus’ proclamation of God’s name are part of Jesus’ family as brothers.
Hermeneutical Use: The author understood Isaiah to be messianic, containing clear prophecy regarding Jesus as Savior. In verse 13, Jesus confirms his trust in the Father along with his familial relationship with God’s people in human form, just as Isaiah foresaw rescue for those trusting in the Lord.
Theological Use: The author’s use connects relationally his people with himself through the Son. Isaiah’s righteous remnant is prepared by God himself, and demonstrates Jesus’ trust and solidarity with his children. Jesus’ humanity is designed to be deliverance through trust and sacrifice.
Christological Use: Supports the Son’s position among God’s children; his suffering as a man offers context for Christ’s trusting in the Father. Jesus’ relationship with his brothers, as his children from God, shows God will deliver his people, and is not ashamed to be close to those who seek him.
Rhetorical Use: The author’s argument, chiastic in structure with v.12, extends David’s thankfulness to his deliverer into the imagery of Isaiah’s call for faithfulness and rescue from imminent invasion. By splitting the verse, the author emphasizes that where in Isaiah God appears to be hiding; he is fully available for Christians who trust, enjoying the honor and comfort of being God’s children.
Allen, David L. Hebrews. The New American Commentary. Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2010.
Attridge, Harold W. The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1989.
________. “God in Hebrews.” In The Epistle to the Hebrews and Christian Theology, edited by Richard Bauckham, et al. Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans, 2000.
Bauckham, Richard. Jesus and the God if Israel: God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament Christology of Diving Identity. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009.
Beale, G. K. Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012.
Carson, D. A. “1 Peter.” In Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, edited by G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007.
Chester, Andrew. “High Christology – Whence, When and Why?” in Early Christianity. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck GmbH & Co KG, 2011.
Cockerill, Gareth Lee. The Epistle to the Hebrews. The New International Commentary on the Old and New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2012.
deSilva, David A. Perseverance in Gratitude: A Social-Rhetorical Commentary on the Epistle “to the Hebrews.” Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000.
Docherty, Susan E. The Use of the Old Testament in Hebrews: A Case Study in Early Jewish Bible Interpretation. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2009.
Ellingworth, Paul. The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans, 1993.
Gelardini, Gabriella. “Hebrews, Homiletics, and Liturgical Scripture Interpretation.” In Reading the Epistle to Hebrews: A Resource for Students, edited by Eric Mason and Kevin McCruden. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2011.
Guthrie, George H. “Hebrews.” In Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, edited by G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007.
________. “Old Testament in Hebrews.” In Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments, edited by Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997.
Hagner, Donald A. Encountering the Book of Hebrews: An Exposition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002.
Hurtado, L. W. “Christology.” In Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments, edited by Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997.
Jobes, Karen H. Letters to the Church: A Survey of Hebrews and the General Epistles. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1989.
Köstenberger, Andreas J. “John.” In Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, edited by G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007.
Lane, William L. “Hebrews.” In Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments, edited by Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997.
________. Hebrews 1-8. World Biblical Commentary. Dallas, TX: Word Books, 1991.
McKnight, Edgar V., and Christopher Lee Church. Hebrews-James. Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishers, 2004.
Pau, David W. and Eckhard J. Schnabel. “Luke.” In Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, edited by G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007.
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[i] G. K. Beale, Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012), 42-43
[ii] Gareth Lee Cockerill, The Epistle to the Hebrews, The New International Commentary on the Old and New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2012), 124.
[iii] David A. deSilva, Perseverance in Gratitude: a Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Epistle “to the Hebrews” (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000), 83.
[iv] George H. Guthrie, “Hebrews,” In Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, eds. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 947.
[v] Susan E. Docherty, The Use of the Old Testament in Hebrews: A Case Study in Early Jewish Bible Interpretation (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2009), 27.
[vi] Guthrie, “Hebrews,” 948.
[vii] Ibid., 950.
[viii] Edgar V. McKnight and Christopher Lee Church, Hebrews-James (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishers, 2004), 73.
[ix] Donald A. Hagner, Encountering the Book of Hebrews: An Exposition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), 58.
[x] Guthrie, “Hebrews,” 948.
[xii] Andreas J. Köstenberger, “John,” In Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, eds. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 501.
[xiii] Guthrie, “Hebrews,” 950.
[xv] David W. Pau and Eckhard J. Schnabel, “Luke,” In Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, eds. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 273.
[xvi] D. A. Carson, “1 Peter,” In Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, eds. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 1028-1029.
[xvii] Guthrie, “Hebrews,” 948-949.
[xviii] Harold W. Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1989), 90.
[xix] William L. Lane, Hebrews 1-8, World Biblical Commentary (Dallas, TX: Word Books, 1991), 59-60.
[xx] Guthrie, “Hebrews,” 950-951.
[xxi] Lane, Hebrews 1-8, 59.
[xxii] Guthrie, “Hebrews,” 950.
[xxiii] Paul Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans, 1993), 37.
[xxiv] Karen H. Jobes, Letters to the Church: A Survey of Hebrews and the General Epistles (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1989), 69.
[xxv] Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 90.
[xxvi] Guthrie, “Hebrews,” 950.
[xxvii] deSilva, Perseverance in Gratitude, 116-117.
[xxviii] David L. Allen, Hebrews, NAC (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2010), 217, 219.
[xxix] Cockerill, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 136.
[xxx] W. L. Lane, “Hebrews,” In Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments, eds. Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), Logos Digital Edition.
[xxxi] Hagner, Encountering the Book of Hebrews, 57-58, 60.
[xxxii] Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God if Israel: God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament Christology of Diving Identity (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009), 244.
[xxxiii] Cockerill, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 143.
[xxxiv] Andrew Chester, “High Christology – Whence, When and Why?” in Early Christianity (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck GmbH & Co KG, 2011), 30-31.
[xxxv] L. W. Hurtado, “Christology,” In Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments, eds. Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), Logos Digital Edition.
[xxxvi] Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 40.
[xxxvii] Gabriella Gelardini, “Hebrews, Homiletics, and Liturgical Scripture Interpretation,” In Reading the Epistle to Hebrews: A Resource for Students, eds. Eric Mason and Kevin McCruden (Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2011), 135-136.
[xxxviii] Lane, Hebrews 1-8, 53.
[xxxix] Cockerill, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 76–77.
[xl] Harold W. Attridge, “God in Hebrews,” In The Epistle to the Hebrews and Christian Theology, ed. Richard Bauckham (Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans, 2000), 104.
[xli] Cockerill, The Epistle to the Hebrews, 355–356.