Socrates found himself sitting between two young fellows who were quite jealous of each other. One was a musician; the other was an athlete. When the athlete made a disparaging remark about the study of philosophy, the musician said to Socrates in contempt, “What do you expect? He has spent his whole life practicing choke holds, eating and sleeping.”
When a Greek wrestler applied a “choke hold,” twisting the neck of his opponent until he was helpless, the word was trachelizo (trah kay LIDS oh). It was also used to describe how an animal’s neck would be exposed when it was about to be skinned or sacrificed. Similarly, a defeated captive would have the sword held to his neck in public, forcing him to bear the full brunt of his dishonor.
Out of this vivid background came the word translated “laid bare” in Hebrews 4:13. “Nothing is all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” With our soul and spirit penetrated by the double-edged sword of God’s word (vs. 12), we are exposed and helpless before the Judge.
It is not surprising, then, to find Philo using this same word to describe the mythical Sisyphus, who was beset and “prostrated” by terrors. He lay helplessly collapsed on the ground, totally exposed and vulnerable. His doom was certain.
Without Jesus as our high priest, we are all likewise doomed. With necks twisted and exposed, we will lie prostrate and defenseless on Judgment Day. But with Jesus, we need not fear. We can approach the throne with confidence (vss. 14-16), knowing we will receive mercy and grace.