Bible Commentary in 8 Volumes
Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews
Notes on Chapter 9.
Verse 1. The first covenant had also ordinances— Our translators have introduced the word covenant, as if diaqhkh had been, if not originally in the text, yet in the apostle’s mind. Several MSS., but not of good note, as well as printed editions, with the Coptic version, have skhnh tabernacle; but this is omitted by ABDE, several others, both the Syriac, AEthiopic, Armenian, Vulgate, some copies of the Itala, and several of the Greek fathers; it is in all probability a spurious reading, the whole context showing that covenant is that to which the apostle refers, as that was the subject in the preceding chapter, and this is a continuation of the same discourse.
Ordinances— dikaiwmata? Rites and ceremonies.
A worldly sanctuary.— 'agion kosmikon. It is supposed that the term worldly, here, is opposed to the term heavenly, chap. 8:5; and that the whole should be referred to the carnality or secular nature of the tabernacle service. But I think there is nothing plainer than that the apostle is speaking here in praise of this sublimely emblematic service, and hence he proceeds to enumerate the various things contained in the first tabernacle, which added vastly to its splendor and importance; such as the table of the show-bread, the golden candlestick, the golden censer, the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, in which was the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the two tables which God had written with his own finger: hence I am led to believe that kosmikov is here taken in its proper, natural meaning, and signifies adorned, embellished, splendid; and hence kosmov, the world: Tota hujus universi machina, coelum et terram complectens et quicquid utroque contineter, kosmov dicitur, quod nihil ea est mundius, pulchrius, et ornatius. “The whole machine of this universe, comprehending the heavens and the earth, and whatsoever is contained in both, is called kosmov, because nothing is more beautiful, more fair, and more elegant.” So Pliny, Hist. Nat., l. ii. c. 5: Nam quem kosmon Graeci nomine ornamenti appellaverunt, eum nos a perfecta absolutaque elegantia, MUNDUM. “That which the Greeks call kosmov, ornament, we, (the Latins,) from its perfect and absolute elegance call mundum, world.” See on “Genesis 2:1”.
The Jews believe that the tabernacle was an epitome of the world; and it is remarkable, when speaking of their city, that they express this sentiment by the same Greek word, in Hebrew letters, which the apostle uses here: so in Bereshith Rabba, s. 19, fol. 19: awh µç wlç wqymzwq lk col kozmikon (kosmikon) shelo sham hu. “All his world is placed there.” Philo says much to the same purpose.
If my exposition be not admitted, the next most likely is, that God has a worldly tabernacle as well as a heavenly one; that he as truly dwelt in the Jewish tabernacle as he did in the heaven of heavens; the one being his worldly house, the other his heavenly house.
Verse 2. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein— The sense is here very obscure, and the construction involved: leaving out all punctuation, which is the case with all the very ancient MSS., the verse stands thus: skhnh gar kateskeuasqh h prwth en h h te lucnia, k. t. l. which I suppose an indifferent person, who understood the language, would without hesitation render, For, there was the first tabernacle constructed, in which were the candlestick, etc. And this tabernacle or dwelling may be called the first dwelling place which God had among men, to distinguish it from the second dwelling place, the temple built by Solomon; for tabernacle here is to be considered in its general sense, as implying a dwelling.
To have a proper understanding of what the apostle relates here, we should endeavor to take a concise view of the tabernacle erected by Moses in the wilderness. This tabernacle was the epitome of the Jewish temple; or rather, according to this as a model was the Jewish temple built. It comprised, 1. The court where the people might enter. 2. In this was contained the altar of burnt-offerings, on which were offered the sacrifices in general, besides offerings of bread, wine, and other things. 3. At the bottom or lower end of this court was the tent of the covenant; the two principal parts of the tabernacle were, the holy place and the holy of holies. In the temple built by Solomon there was a court for the Levites, different from that of the people; and, at the entrance of the holy place, a vestibule. But in the tabernacle built by Moses these parts were not found, nor does the apostle mention them here.
In the holy place, as the apostle observes, there were,
1. In each branch of the golden candlestick was a lamp; these were lighted every evening, and extinguished every morning. They were intended to give light by night. 2. The altar of incense was of gold; and a priest, chosen by lot each week, offered incense every morning and evening in a golden censer, which he probably left on the altar after the completion of the offering. 3. The table of the show-bread was covered with plates of gold; and on this, every Sabbath, they placed twelve loaves in two piles, six in each, which continued there all the week till the next Sabbath, when they were removed, and fresh loaves put in their place. The whole of this may be seen in all its details in the book of Exodus, from chap. 35 to 40. See Calmet also.
Which is called the sanctuary.— Δhtiv legetai agia? This is called holy. This clause may apply to any of the nouns in this verse, in the nominative case, which are all of the feminine gender; and the adjective agia, holy, may be considered here as the nominative singular feminine, agreeing with htiv. Several editions accent the words in reference to this construction. The word skhnh, tabernacle, may be the proper antecedent; and then we may read agia, instead of agia: but these niceties belong chiefly to grammarians,
Verse 3. And after the second veil— The first veil, of which the apostle has not yet spoken, was at the entrance of the holy place, and separated the temple from the court, and prevented the people, and even the Levites, from seeing what was in the holy place.
The second veil, of which the apostle speaks here, separated the holy place from the holy of holies.
The tabernacle, which is called the Holiest of all— That is, that part of the tabernacle which is called the holy of holies.
Verse 4. Which had the golden censer— It is evident that the apostle speaks here of the tabernacle built by Moses, and of the state and contents of that tabernacle as they were during the lifetime of Moses. For, as Calmet remarks, in the temple which was afterwards built there were many things added which were not in the tabernacle, and several things left out. The ark of the covenant and the two tables of the law were never found after the return from the Babylonish captivity. We have no proof that, even in the time of Solomon, the golden pot of manna, or the rod of Aaron, was either in or near the ark. In Solomon’s temple the holy place was separated from the holy of holies by a solid wall, instead of a veil, and by strong wooden doors, 1 Kings 6:31-33. In the same temple there was a large vestibule before the holy place; and round about this and the holy of holies there were many chambers in three stories, 1 Kings 6:5, 6. But there was nothing of all this in the Mosaic tabernacle; therefore, says Calmet, we need not trouble ourselves to reconcile the various scriptures which mention this subject; some of which refer to the tabernacle, others to Solomon’s temple, and others to the temple built by Zorobabel; which places were very different from each other.
The apostle says that the golden censer was in the holy of holies; but this is nowhere mentioned by Moses. But he tells us that the high priest went in, once every year, with the golden censer to burn incense; and Calmet thinks this censer was left there all the year, and that its place was supplied by a new one, brought in by the priest the year following. Others think it was left just within the veil, so that the priest, by putting his hand under the curtain, could take it out, and prepare it for his next entrance into the holiest.
The ark of the covenant— This was a sort of chest overlaid with plates of gold, in which the two tables of the law, Aaron’s rod, the pot of manna, etc., were deposited. Its top, or lid, was the propitiatory or mercy-seat.
Verse 5. And over it the cherubims of glory— Cherubim is the plural of cherub, and it is absurd to add our plural termination (s) to the plural termination of the Hebrew. The glory here signifies the shechinah or symbol of the Divine presence.
Shadowing the mercy-seat— One at each end of the ark, with their faces turned toward each other, but looking down on the cover or propitiatory, ilasthrion, here called the mercy-seat.
Of which we cannot now speak particularly.— The apostle did not judge any farther account of these to be necessary; and I may be excused from considering them particularly here, having said so much on each in the places where they occur in the Pentateuch. What these point out or signify is thus explained by St. Cyril: Christus licet unus sit, multifariam tamen a nobis intelligitur: Ipse est Tabernaculum propter carnis tegumenturn: Ipse est Mensa, quia noster cibus est et vita: Ipse est Arca habens legem Dei reconditam, quia est Verbum Patris: Ipse est Candelabrum, quia est lux spiritualis: Ipse est Altare incensi, quia est odor suavitatis in sanctificationem: Ipse est Altare holocausti, quia est hostia pro totius mundi vita in cruce oblata. “Although Christ be but one, yet he is understood by us under a variety of forms. He is the Tabernacle, on account of the human body in which he dwelt. He is the Table, because he is our Bread of life. He is the Ark which has the law of God enclosed within, because he is the Word of the Father. He is the Candlestick, because he is our spiritual light. He is the Altar of incense, because he is the sweet-smelling odour of sanctification. He is the Altar of burnt-offering, because he is the victim, by death on the cross, for the sins of the whole world.” This father has said, in a few words, what others have employed whole volumes on, by refining, spiritualizing, and allegorizing.
Verse 6. When these thing were thus ordained— When the tabernacle was made, and its furniture placed in it, according to the Divine direction.
The priests went always into the first Tabernacle— That is, into the first part of the tabernacle, or holy place, into which he went every day twice, accomplishing the services, tav latreiav epitelountev, which included his burning the incense at the morning and evening sacrifice, dressing the lamps, removing the old show-bread and laying on the new, and sprinkling the blood of the sin-offerings before the veil Leviticus 4:6: and for these works he must have constant access to the place.
Verse 7. But into the second— That is, the holy of holies, or second part of the tabernacle, the high priest alone, once every year, that is, on one day in the year only, which was the day on which the general atonement was made. The high priest could enter into this place only on one day in the year; but on that day he might enter several times. See Lev. 16.
Not without blood— The day prescribed by the law for this great solemnity was the tenth of the month Tisri, in which the high priest brought in the incense or perfumes, which he placed on the golden censer; he brought also the blood of the bullock; and sprinkled some portion of it seven times before the ark, and the veil which separated the holy place from the holy of holies. See Leviticus 16:14. He then came out, and, taking some of the blood of the goat which had been sacrificed, he sprinkled it between the veil and the ark of the covenant, Leviticus 16:15.
Which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people— Δuper twn tou laou agnohmatwn? For transgressions of which they were not conscious: there were so many niceties in the ritual worship of the Jews, and so many ways in which they might offend against the law and incur guilt, that it was found necessary to institute sacrifices to atone for these sins of ignorance. And as the high priest was also clothed with infirmity, he required to have an interest in the same sacrifice, on the same account. This was a national sacrifice; and by it the people understood that they were absolved from all the errors of the past year, and that they now had a renewed right of access to the mercy-seat.
Verse 8. The Holy Ghost this signifying— These services were divinely appointed, and by each of them the Holy Spirit of God is supposed to speak.
The way into the holiest— That full access to God was not the common privilege of the people, while the Mosaic economy subsisted. That the apostle means that it is only by Christ that any man and every man can approach God, is evident from chap. 10:19-22, and it is about this, and not about the tabernacle of this world, that he is here discoursing.
I have already observed that the apostle appears to use the word skhnh, or tabernacle, in the general sense of a dwelling place; and therefore applies it to the temple, which was reputed the house or dwelling place of God, as well as the ancient tabernacle. Therefore, what he speaks here concerning the first tabernacle, may be understood as applying with propriety to the then Jewish temple, as well as to the ancient tabernacle, which, even with all their sacrifices and ceremonies, could not make the way of holiness plain, nor the way to God’s favor possible.
Verse 9. Which— Tabernacle and its services, was a figure, parabolh, a dark enigmatical representation, for the time then present — for that age and dispensation, and for all those who lived under it.
In which, kaq/ on, during which, time or dispensation were offered both gifts and sacrifices-eucharistic offerings and victims for sin, that could not make him that did the service, whether the priest who made the offering, or the person who brought it in the behalf of his soul, perfect as pertaining to the conscience — could not take away guilt from the mind, nor purify the conscience from dead works. The whole was a figure, or dark representation, of a spiritual and more glorious system: and although a sinner, who made these offerings and sacrifices according to the law, might be considered as having done his duty, and thus he would be exempted from many ecclesiastical and legal disabilities and punishments; yet his conscience would ever tell him that the guilt of sin was still remaining, and that it was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take it away. Thus even he that did the service best continued to be imperfect — had a guilty conscience, and an unholy heart.
The words kaq/ on, in which, referred in the above paraphrase to ton kairon, the time, are read kaq/ hn by ABD, and several others, one copy of the Slavonic, the Vulgate, and some of the fathers, and thus refer to thn skhnhn, the tabernacle; and this is the reading which our translators appear to have followed. Griesbach places it in his margin, as a very probable reading; but I prefer the other.
Verse 10. In meats and drinks, and divers washings— He had already mentioned eucharistic and sacrificial offerings, and nothing properly remained but the different kinds of clean and unclean animals which were used, or forbidden to be used, as articles of food; together with the different kinds or drinks, washings, baptismoiv, baptisms, immersions, sprinklings and washings of the body and the clothes, and carnal ordinances, or things which had respect merely to the body, and could have no moral influence upon the soul, unless considered in reference to that of which they were the similitudes, or figures.
Carnal ordinances— dikaiwmata sarkov? Rites and ceremonies pertaining merely to the body. The word carnal is not used here, nor scarcely in any part of the New Testament, in that catachrestical or degrading sense in which many preachers and professors of Christianity take the liberty to use it.
Imposed on them until the time of reformation.— These rites and ceremonies were enacted, by Divine authority, as proper representations of the Gospel system, which should reform and rectify all things.
The time of reformation, kairov diorqwsewv, the time of rectifying, signifies the Gospel dispensation, under which every thing is set straight; every thing referred to its proper purpose and end; the ceremonial law fulfilled and abrogated; the moral law exhibited and more strictly enjoined; (see our Lord’s sermon upon the mount;) and the spiritual nature of God’s worship taught, and grace promised to purify the heart: so that, through the power of the eternal Spirit, all that was wrong in the soul is rectified; the affections, passions, and appetites purified; the understanding enlightened; the judgment corrected; the will refined; in a word, all things made new.
Verse 11. But Christ being come a high priest of good things— I think this and the succeeding verses not happily translated: indeed, the division of them has led to a wrong translation; therefore they must be taken together, thus: But the Christ, the high priest of those good things (or services) which were to come, through a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is, not of the same workmanship, entered once for all into the sanctuary; having obtained eternal redemption for us, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, ver. 13. For if the blood of GOATS, and bulls, and calves, and a heifer’s ashes, sprinkled on the unclean, sanctifieth to the cleansing of the flesh, (ver. 14,) how much more shall the blood of Christ, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God, cleanse your consciences from dead works, in order to worship (or that ye may worship) the living God?
In the above translation I have added, in ver. 13, tragwn, of goats, on the authority of ABDE, three others, the Syriac, the Arabic of Erpen, Coptic, Vulgate, two copies of the Itala, and Theodoret. And I have rendered eiv to latreuein, (ver. 14,) IN ORDER to worship, or THAT YE MAY worship; for this is the meaning of these particles eiv to in many parts of the New Testament. I shall now make a few observations on some of the principal expressions.
High priest of good things— Or services, to come, twn mellontwn agaqwn. He is the High Priest of Christianity; he officiates in the behalf of all mankind; for by him are all the prayers, praises, and services of mankind offered to God; and he ever appears in the presence of God for us.
A greater and more perfect tabernacle— This appears to mean our Lord’s human nature. That, in which dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, was fitly typified by the tabernacle and temple, in both of which the majesty of God dwelt.
Not made with hands— Though our Lord’s body was a perfect human body, yet it did not come in the way of natural generation; his miraculous conception will sufficiently justify the expressions used here by the apostle.
Verse 12. But by his own blood— Here the redemption of man is attributed to the blood of Christ; and this blood is stated to be shed in a sacrificial way, precisely as the blood of bulls, goats and calves was shed under the law.
Once— Once for all, efapax, in opposition to the annual entering of the high priest into the holiest, with the blood of the annual victim.
The holy place— Or sanctuary, ta agia, signifies heaven, into which Jesus entered with his own blood, as the high priest entered into the holy of holies with the blood of the victims which he had sacrificed.
Eternal redemption— aiwnian lutrwsin? A redemption price which should stand good for ever, when once offered; and an endless redemption from sin, in reference to the pardon of which, and reconciliation to God, there needs no other sacrifice: it is eternal in its merit and efficacy.
Verse 13. Sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh— Answers the end proposed by the law; namely, to remove legal disabilities and punishments, having the body and its interests particularly in view, though adumbrating or typifying the soul and its concerns.
Verse 14. Who through the eternal Spirit— This expression is understood two ways: 1. Of the Holy Ghost himself. As Christ’s miraculous conception was by the Holy Spirit, and he wrought all his miracles by the Spirit of God, so his death or final offering was made through or by the eternal Spirit; and by that Spirit he was raised from the dead, 1 Peter 3:18. Indeed, through the whole of his life be was justified by the Spirit; and we find that in this great work of human redemption, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were continually employed: therefore the words may be understood of the Holy Spirit properly. 2. Of the eternal Logos or Deity which dwelt in the man Christ Jesus, through the energy of which the offering of his humanity became an infinitely meritorious victim; therefore the Deity of Christ is here intended. But we cannot well consider one of these distinct from the other; and hence probably arose the various readings in the MSS. and versions on this article. Instead of dia pneumatov aiwniou, by the ETERNAL Spirit, dia pneumatov Δagiou, by the HOLY Spirit, is the reading of D*, and more than twenty others of good note, besides the Coptic, Slavonic, Vulgate, two copies of the Itala, Cyril, Athanasius sometimes, Damascenus, Chrysostom, and some others. But the common reading is supported by ABD**, and others, besides the Syriac, all the Arabic, Armenian, AEthiopic, Athanasius generally, Theodoret, Theophylact, and Ambrosius. This, therefore, is the reading that should he preferred, as it is probable that the Holy Ghost, not the Logos, is what the apostle had more immediately in view. But still we must say, that the Holy Spirit, with the eternal Logos, and the almighty Father, equally concurred in offering up the sacrifice of the human nature of Christ, in order to make atonement for the sin of the world.
Purge your conscience— kaqariei thn suneidhsin? Purify your conscience. The term purify should be everywhere, both in the translation of the Scriptures, and in preaching the Gospel, preferred to the word purge, which, at present, is scarcely ever used in the sense in which our translators have employed it.
Dead works— Sin in general, or acts to which the penalty of death is annexed by the law. See the phrase explained, “Hebrews 6:1”.
Verse 15. And for this cause— Some translate dia touto, on account of this (blood.) Perhaps it means no more than a mere inference, such as therefore, or wherefore.
He is the Mediator of the new testament— There was no proper reason why our translators should render diaqhkh by testament here, when in almost every other case they render it covenant, which is its proper ecclesiastical meaning, as answering to the Hebrew hyrb berith, which see largely explained, Genesis 15:10, and in other places of the Pentateuch.
Very few persons are satisfied with the translation of the following verses to the 20th, particularly the 16th and 17th; at all events the word covenant must be retained. He — Jesus Christ, is Mediator; the mesithv, or mediator, was the person who witnessed the contract made between the two contracting parties, slew the victim, and sprinkled each with its blood.
Of the new testament— The new contract betwixt God and the whole human race, by Christ Jesus the Mediator, distinguished here from the old covenant between God and the Israelites, in which Moses was the mediator.
500 That by means of death— His own death upon the cross.
For the redemption of the transgressions— To make atonement for the transgressions which were committed under the old covenant, which the blood of bulls and calves could not do; so the death of Jesus had respect to all the time antecedent to it, as well as to all the time afterward till the conclusion of the world.
They which are called— The GENTILES, might receive the promise — might, by being brought into a covenant with God, have an equal right with the Jews, not merely to an inheritance such as the promised land, but to an eternal inheritance, and consequently infinitely superior to that of the Jews, inasmuch as the new covenant is superior in every point of view to the old.
How frequently the Gentiles are termed oi klhtoi and oi keklhmenoi, the called, all St. Paul’s writings show. And they were thus termed because they were called and elected in the place of the Jews, the ancient called and elect, who were now divorced and reprobated because of their disobedience.
Verse 16. For where a testament is— A learned and judicious friend furnishes me with the following translation of this and the 17th verse:—
“For where there is a covenant, it is necessary that the death of the appointed victim should be exhibited, because a covenant is confirmed over dead victims, since it is not at all valid while the appointed victim is alive.”
He observes, “There is no word signifying testator, or men, in the original. diaqemenov is not a substantive, but a participle, or a participial adjective, derived from the same root as diathkh, and must have a substantive understood. I therefore render it the disposed or appointed victim, alluding to the manner of disposing or setting apart the pieces of the victim, when they were going to ratify a covenant; and you know well the old custom of ratifying a covenant, to which the apostle alludes. I refer to your own notes on Genesis 6:18, and Genesis 15:10. — J. C.”
Mr. Wakefield has translated the passage nearly in the same way.
“For where a covenant is, there must be necessarily introduced the death of that which establisheth the covenant; because a covenant is confirmed over dead things, and is of no force at all whilst that which establisheth the covenant is alive.” This is undoubtedly the meaning of this passage; and we should endeavor to forget that testament and testator were ever introduced, as they totally change the apostle’s meaning. See the observations at the end of this chapter.
Verse 18. Whereupon— Δoqen. Wherefore, as a victim was required for the ratification of every covenant, the first covenant made between God and the Hebrews, by the mediation of Moses, was not dedicated, egkekainistai, renewed or solemnized, without blood — without the death of a victim, and the aspersion of its blood.
Verse 19. When Moses had spoken every precept— The place to which the apostle alludes is Exodus 24:4-8, where the reader is requested to consult the notes.
And sprinkled both the book— The sprinkling of the book is not mentioned in the place to which the apostle refers, (see above,) nor did it in fact take place. The words auto te to biblion, and the book itself, should be referred to labwn, having taken, and not to errantise, he sprinkled; the verse should therefore be read thus: For after every commandment of the law had been recited by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of the calves, and of the goats, with water and scarlet wool, and the book itself, and sprinkled all the people. The rite was performed thus: Having received the blood of the calves and goats into basins, and mingled it with water to prevent it from coagulating, he then took a bunch of hyssop, and having bound it together with thread made of scarlet wool, he dipped this in the basin, and sprinkled the blood and water upon the people who were nearest to him, and who might be considered on this occasion the representatives of all the rest; for it is impossible that he should have had blood enough to have sprinkled the whole of the congregation.
Some think that the blood was actually sprinkled upon the book itself, which contained the written covenant, to signify that the covenant itself was ratified by the blood.
Verse 20. This is the blood of the testament— (covenant.) Our Lord refers to the conduct of Moses here, and partly quotes his words in the institution of the eucharist: This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins, Matthew 26:28. And by thus using the words and applying them, he shows that his sacrificial blood was intended by the blood shed and sprinkled on this occasion, and that by it alone the remission of sins is obtained.
Verse 21. He sprinkled-with blood-all the vessels of the ministry.— To intimate that every thing used by sinful man is polluted, and that nothing can be acceptable in the sight of a holy God that has not in effect the sprinkling of the atoning blood.
Verse 22. And almost all things are-purged with blood— The apostle says almost, because in some cases certain vessels were purified by water, some by fire, Numbers 31:23, and some with the ashes of the red heifer, Numbers 19:2-10, but it was always understood that every thing was at first consecrated by the blood of the victim.
And without shedding of blood is no remission.— The apostle shows fully here what is one of his great objects in the whole of this epistle, viz. that there is no salvation but through the sacrificial death of Christ, and to prefigure this the law itself would not grant any remission of sin without the blood of a victim. This is a maxim even among the Jews themselves, hrpk ya µdb ala ein capparah ella bedam, “There is no expiation but by blood.” Yoma, fol. 5, 1; Menachoth, fol. 93, 2. Every sinner has forfeited his life by his transgressions, and the law of God requires his death; the blood of the victim, which is its life, is shed as a substitute for the life of the sinner. By these victims the sacrifice of Christ was typified. He gave his life for the life of the world; human life for human life, but a life infinitely dignified by its union with God.
Verse 23. The patterns of things in the heavens— That is: The tabernacle and all its utensils, services, etc., must be purified by these, viz.: The blood of calves and goats, and the sprinkling of the blood and water with the bunch of hyssop bound about with scarlet wool. These are called patterns, upodeigmata, exemplars, earthly things, which were the representatives of heavenly things. And there is no doubt that every thing in the tabernacle, its parts, divisions, utensils, ministry, etc., as appointed by God, were representations of celestial matters; but how far and in what way we cannot now see.
Purification implies, not only cleansing from defilement, but also dedication or consecration. All the utensils employed in the tabernacle service were thus purified though incapable of any moral pollution.
But the heavenly things themselves— Some think this means heaven itself, which, by receiving the sacrificed body of Christ, which appears in the presence of God for us, may be said to be purified, i.e., set apart for the reception of the souls of those who have found redemption in his blood. 2. Others think the body of Christ is intended, which is the tabernacle in which his Divinity dwelt; and that this might be said to be purified by its own sacrifice, as he is said, John 17:19, to sanctify himself; that is, to consecrate himself unto God as a sin-offering for the redemption of man. 3. Others suppose the Church is intended, which he is to present to the Father without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. 4. As the entrance to the holy of holies must be made by the sprinkling of the blood of the sacrifice, and as that holy of holies represented heaven, the apostle’s meaning seems to be that there was and could be no entrance to the holiest but through his blood; and therefore, when by a more perfect tabernacle, ver. 11, 12, he passed into the heavens, not with the blood of bulls and goats, but by his own blood, he thus purified or laid open the entrance to the holiest, by a more valuable sacrifice than those required to open the entrance of the holy of holies. It was necessary, therefore, for God had appointed it so, that the tabernacle and its parts, etc., which were patterns of things in the heavens, should be consecrated and entered with such sacrifices as have already been mentioned; but the heaven of heavens into which Jesus entered, and whither he will bring all his faithful followers, must be propitiated, consecrated, and entered, by the infinitely better sacrifice of his own body and blood. That this is the meaning appears from the following verse.
Verse 24. Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands— He is not gone into the holy of holies of the tabernacle or temple, as the Jewish high priest does once in the year with the blood of the victim, to sprinkle it before the mercy-seat there; but into heaven itself, which he has thus opened to all believers, having made the propitiatory offering by which both he and those whom he represents are entitled to enter and enjoy eternal blessedness. And hence we may consider that Christ, appearing in his crucified body before the throne, is a real offering of himself to the Divine justice in behalf of man; and that there he continues in the constant act of being offered, so that every penitent and believer, coming unto God through him, find him their ever ready and available sacrifice, officiating as the High Priest of mankind in the presence of God.
Verse 25. Nor yet that he should offer himself often— The sacrifice of Christ is not like that of the Jewish high priest; his must be offered every year, Christ has offered himself once for all: and this sacrificial act has ever the same efficacy, his crucified body being still a powerful and infinitely meritorious sacrifice before the throne.
Verse 26. For then must he often have suffered— In the counsel of God, Christ was considered the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, Revelation 13:8, so that all believers before his advent were equally interested in his sacrificial death with those who have lived since his coming. Humanly speaking, the virtue of the annual atonement could not last long, and must be repeated; Christ’s sacrifice is ever the same; his life’s blood is still considered as in the act of being continually poured out. See Revelation 5:6.
The end of the world— The conclusion of the Jewish dispensation, the Christian dispensation being that which shall continue till the end of time.
To put away sin— eiv aqethsin amartiav? To abolish the sin-offerings;
i.e. to put an end to the Mosaic economy by his one offering of himself. It is certain that, after Christ had offered himself, the typical sin-offerings of the law ceased; and this was expressly foretold by the Prophet Daniel, Daniel 9:24. Some think that the expression should be applied to the putting away the guilt, power, and being of sin from the souls of believers.
Verse 27. As it is appointed— apokeitai? It is laid before them by the Divine decree: Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return. Unto men generally, during the course of the present world, not all men as some falsely quote; for Enoch and Elijah have not died, and those that shall be alive at the day of judgment shall not die, but be changed.
But after this the judgment— They shall die but once, and be judged but once, therefore there is no metempsychosis, no transmigration from body to body; judgment succeeds to dying; and as they shall be judged but once, they can die but once.
Verse 28. So Christ was once offered— He shall die no more; he has borne away the sins of many, and what he has done once shall stand good for ever. Yet he will appear a second time without sin, cwriv amartiav, without a sin-offering; THAT he has already made.
Unto salvation.— To deliver the bodies of believers from the empire of death, to reunite them to their purified souls, and bring both into his eternal glory. This is salvation, and the very highest of which the human being is capable. Amen! Even so, come Lord Jesus! Hallelujah!
1. IN the preceding notes I have given my reasons for dissenting from our translation of the 15th, 16th, and 17th verses. Many learned men are of the same opinion; but I have not met with one who appears to have treated the whole in a more satisfactory manner than Dr. Macknight, and for the edification of my readers I shall here subjoin the substance of what he has written on this point.
“Verse 15. Mediator of the new covenant. See Hebrews 8:7. The word diaqhkh, here translated covenant, answers to the Hebrew word berith, which all the translators of the Jewish Scriptures have understood to signify a covenant. The same signification our translators have affixed to the word diaqhkh, as often as it occurs in the writings of the evangelists and apostles, except in the history of the institution of the supper, and in 2 Corinthians 3:6: and Hebrews 7:22, and in the passage under consideration; in which places, copying the Vulgate version, they have rendered diaqhkh by the word testament. Beza, following the Syriac Version, translates diaqhkh everywhere by the words foedas, pactum, except in the 16th, 17th, and 20th verses of this chapter, where likewise following the Syriac version, he has testamentum. Now if kainh diaqhkh, the new testament, in the passages above mentioned, means the Gospel covenant, as all interpreters acknowledge, palaia diaqhkh, the old testament, 2 Corinthians 3:14, and prwth diaqhkh, the first testament, Hebrews 9:15, must certainly be the Sinaitic covenant or law of Moses, as is evident also from Hebrews 9:20. On this supposition it may be asked, 1. In what sense the Sinaitic covenant or law of Moses, which required perfect obedience to all its precepts under penalty of death, and allowed no mercy to any sinner, however penitent, can be called a testament, which is a deed conferring something valuable on a person who may accept or refuse it, as he thinks fit? Besides, the transaction at Sinai, in which God promised to continue the Israelites in Canaan, on condition they refrained from the wicked practices of the Canaanites, and observed his statutes, Lev. 18, can in no sense be called a testament. 2. If the law of Moses be a testament, and if, to render that testament valid, the death of the testator be necessary, as the English translators have taught us, ver. 16, I ask who it was that made the testament of the law? Was it God or Moses? And did either of them die to render it valid? 3. I observe that even the Gospel covenant is improperly called a testament, because, notwithstanding all its blessings were procured by the death of Christ, and are most freely bestowed, it lost any validity which, as a testament, it is thought to have received by the death of Christ, when he revived again on the third day. 4. The things affirmed in the common translation of ver. 15, concerning the new testament, namely, that it has a Mediator; that that Mediator is the Testator himself; that there were transgressions of a former testament, for the redemption of which the Mediator of the new testament died; and, ver. 19, that the first testament was made by sprinkling the people in whose favor it was made with blood; are all things quite foreign to a testament. For was it ever known in any nation that a testament needed a mediator? Or that the testator was the mediator of his own testament? Or that it was necessary the testator of a new testament should die to redeem the transgressions of a former testament? Or that any testament was ever made by sprinkling the legatees with blood? These things however were usual in covenants. They had mediators who assisted at the making of them, and were sureties for the performance of them. They were commonly ratified by sacrifices, the blood of which was sprinkled on the parties; withal, if any former covenant was infringed by the parties, satisfaction was given at the making of a second covenant. 5. By calling Christ the Mediator of the new testament our thoughts are turned away entirely from the view which the Scriptures give us of his death as a sacrifice for sin; whereas, if he is called the Mediator of the new covenant, which is the true translation of diaqhkhv kainhv mesithv, that appellation directly suggests to us that the new covenant was procured and ratified by his death as a sacrifice for sin. Accordingly Jesus, on account of his being made a priest by the oath of God, is said to be the Priest or Mediator of a better covenant than that of which the Levitical priests were the mediators. I acknowledge that in classical Greek diaqhkh, commonly signifies a testament. Yet, since the Seventy have uniformly translated the Hebrew word berith, which properly signifies a covenant, by the word diaqhkh, in writing Greek the Jews naturally used diaqhkh for sonqhkh as our translators have acknowledged by their version of Hebrews 10:16. To conclude: Seeing in the verses under consideration diaqhkh may be translated a covenant; and seeing, when so translated, these verses make a better sense, and agree better with the scope of the apostle’s reasoning than if it were translated a testament; we can be at no loss to know which translation of diaqhkh in these verses ought to be preferred. Nevertheless, the absurdity of a phraseology to which readers have been long accustomed, without attending distinctly to its meaning, does not soon appear.
“He is the Mediator. Here it is remarkable that Jesus is not called diaqemenov, the Testator, but mesithv, the Mediator, of the new covenant; first, because he procured the new covenant for mankind, in which the pardon of sin is promised; for, as the apostle tells us, his death, as a sacrifice for sin, is the consideration on account of which the pardon of the transgressions of the first covenant is granted. Secondly, because the new covenant having been ratified as well as procured by the death of Christ, he is fitly called the Mediator of that covenant in the same sense that God’s oath is called, Hebrews 6:17, the mediator, or confirmor, of his promise. Thirdly, Jesus, who died to procure the new covenant, being appointed by God the high priest thereof, to dispense his blessings, he is on that account also called, Hebrews 8:6, the mediator of that better covenant.
Verse 16. For where a covenant ([is made bq sacrifice,]) there is a necessity that the death of the appointed sacrifice be produced. This elliptical expression must be completed, if, as is probable, the apostle had now in his eye the covenant which God made with Noah and Abraham. His covenant is recorded, Genesis 8:20, where we are told, that on coming out of the ark Noah offered a burnt-offering of every clean beast and fowl. And the Lord smelled a sweet savor. And the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground, neither will I again smite any more every living thing as I have done. This promise or declaration God called his covenant with men, and with every living creature. Genesis 9:9, 10. In like manner God made a covenant with Abraham by sacrifice, Genesis 15:9, 18, and with the Israelites at Sinai, Exodus 24:8. See also Psalm 50:5. By making his covenants with men in this manner, God taught them that his intercourses with them were all founded on an expiation afterwards to be made for their sins by the sacrifice of the seed of the woman, the bruising of whose heel, or death, was foretold at the fall. On the authority of these examples, the practice of making covenants by sacrifice prevailed among the Jews; Jeremiah 34:18; Zechariah 9:11; and even among the heathens; for they had the knowledge of these examples by tradition. Stabant et caesa jungebant foedera porca; Virgil, AEneid, viii. 611. Hence the phrases, foedus ferire and percutere, to strike or kill the covenant.
“There is a necessity that the death tou diaqemenou, of the appointed. Here we may supply either the word qumatov, sacrifice, or zwou, animal, which might be either a calf, a goat, a bull, or any other animal which the parties making the covenant chose. diaqemenou is the participle of the second aorist of the middle voice of the verb diatiqhmi, constituo, I appoint. Wherefore its primary and literal signification is, of the appointed. Our translators have given the word this sense, Luke 22:29; kagw diatiqemai umin, kaqwv dietiqeto moi o pathr mou, basileian. And I appoint to you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed to me a kingdom.
“Be brought in; qanaton anagkh feresqai tou diaqemenou, Elsner, vol. ii., p. 381, has shown that the word feresqai is sometimes used in a forensic sense for what is produced, or proved, or made apparent in a court of judicature. Wherefore the apostle’s meaning is, that it is necessary the death of the appointed sacrifice be brought in, or produced, at the making of the covenant. In the margin of our Bibles this clause is rightly translated, be brought in. See Acts 25:7, where ferontev is used in the forensic sense.
Verse 17. A covenant is firm over dead sacrifices; epi nekoiv. nekroiv being an adjective, it must have a substantive agreeing with it, either expressed or understood. The substantive understood in this place, I think, is qumasi, sacrifices; for which reason I have supplied it in the translation. Perhaps the word zwoiv, animals, may be equally proper; especially as, in the following clause, diaqemenov is in the gender of the animals appointed for the sacrifice. Our translators have supplied the word anqrwpoiv, men, and have translated epi nekroiv, after men are dead, contrary to the propriety of the phrase.
“It never hath force whilst the appointed liveth; Δote zh o diaqemenov. Supply moscov, or tragov, or taurov? whilst the calf, or goat, or bull, appointed for the sacrifice of ratification, liveth. The apostle having, in verse 15, showed that Christ’s death was necessary as o mesithv, the Mediator, that is, the procurer, and ratifier of the new covenant, he in the 16th and 17th verses observes that, since God’s covenants with men were all ratified by sacrifice to show that his intercourses with men are founded on the sacrifice of his Son, it was necessary that the new covenant itself should be ratified by his Son’s actually dying as a sacrifice.
“The faultiness of the common translation of the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, and 20th verses of this chapter having been already shown in the notes, nothing needs be added here, except to call the reader’s attention to the propriety and strength of the apostle’s reasoning, as it appears in the translation of these verses which I have given, compared with his reasoning as represented in the common version.”
We may therefore say that Christ, our High Priest, came to bless each of us, by turning us away from our iniquity. And let no one ever expect to see him at his second coming with joy, unless he have, in this life, been turned away from his iniquity, and obtained remission of all his sins, and that holiness without which none can see God. Reader, the time of his reappearing is, to thee, at hand! Prepare to meet thy God!
On the word conscience, which occurs so often in this chapter, and in other parts of this epistle, see the observations at the end of chap. 13.