What does Hebrews 3:8 mean?
ESV: do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness,
NIV: do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness,
CSB: do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,on the day of testing in the wilderness,
NLT: don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness.
KJV: Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
NKJV: Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness,
Verse Commentary:
This verse continues a quotation of Psalm 95. There, God's people are warned not to disobey out of fear or a lack of belief. In Numbers chapters 13 and 14, Israel does just that. After being miraculously rescued from Egypt, Israel sent spies into Canaan, which God had given them to capture. Of the twelve spies sent, only two expressed faith in God. The other ten, along with most of Israel, balked at the idea of fighting the "giants" of Canaan. As a result, God put the nation through a time of discipline and testing. Only a tiny remnant of those alive at that moment of failure would survive to enter the Promised Land.

The Greek of the New Testament uses the terms parapikrasmō and peirasmou when quoting Psalm 95, from the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament. These words mean "provocation" and "trial," respectively. The ESV translates these as "rebellion" and "testing." Both in the Greek and the Hebrew these are references to events and to places. The original Hebrew uses the place-names Meribah and Massah, which literally mean "strife" and "temptation." Meribah and Massah (or Massah and Meribah) was the name given to the place at Kadesh where Israel complained against God and saw water come miraculously from a rock (Numbers 20:2–13). This was the incident which cost Moses his own entry into the Promised Land.
Verse Context:
Hebrews 3:7–14 uses the example of Israel's forty years in the wilderness (Numbers 13—14) as a warning. This is directed at Christians who fail to ''hold fast'' their faith in God during persecution. Israel was saved from Egypt, as believers are saved from eternal death through salvation. Israel was offered the Promised Land, as believers are promised victory through our spiritual inheritance. Israel lost faith and didn't trust God against the ''giants'' of Canaan, as believers can be tempted to lose faith in the face of persecution. The ancient Israelites were not sent back to Egypt, just as God does not revoke the salvation of Christian believers. However, both can expect hardship and a loss of fellowship if they fail to trust in God.
Chapter Summary:
Hebrews chapter 3 uses a reference to Israel's wandering in the desert from the story of the Exodus. In this incident, the nation of Israel came to the border of the Promised Land and then lost confidence in God. Rather than trusting Him, most of the people gave up hope. As a result, only a tiny remnant of the nation was allowed to enter into Canaan. This chapter explains that Jesus Christ is superior to Moses and all of Moses' accomplishments. Christians, therefore, need to encourage each other to fully trust in God, in order to see fulfillment of His promises.
Chapter Context:
In chapters 1 and 2, the author of Hebrews showed that Jesus was not an angel. In fact, Jesus' role as Messiah required Him to be fully human. Starting in chapter 3, the author will explain how Jesus is also superior to various Old Testament characters such as Moses. This will help to set the stage for later references to Christ's superiority. Part of the warning in this chapter extends into chapter 4. Namely, that Christians who doubt God's promises risk missing out on the victories He has in store for us.
Book Summary:
The book of Hebrews is meant to challenge, encourage, and empower Christian believers. According to this letter, Jesus Christ is superior to all other prophets and all other claims to truth. Since God has given us Christ, we ought to listen to what He says and not move backwards. The consequences of ignoring God are dire. Hebrews is important for drawing on many portions of the Old Testament in making a case that Christ is the ultimate and perfect expression of God's plan for mankind. This book presents some tough ideas about the Christian faith, a fact the author makes specific note of.
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