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Bible Commentaries

Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books

Hebrews 8

Verses 1-6

Jesus’ Work As Our High Priest

Jesus has finished making the only offering necessary and is now seated at the right hand of God in heaven. He is the High Priest in heaven, described here as the sanctuary. He also serves as High Priest in the church, which is the greater part of the true tabernacle. The tabernacle Moses was instructed to build was a shadow of the true tabernacle, or the church ( Heb_8:1-2 ).

Since the duty of a priest is to make offerings, Jesus must have something to offer and a place to offer it. He did not make His offering within the sphere of this earth, as the priests of the material tabernacle did, but within a heavenly sphere. He continues to intercede for us, but does not continue to "offer gifts and sacrifices." He could not make His offering on this earth, as the only priesthood authorized on this earth was the Aaronic priesthood. Only the Levites could offer sacrifices on earth ( Heb_8:3-4 ; Num_18:1-7 ).

The priests under Moses' law and the tabernacle in which they served were only a shadow of the true substance to come. Exo_25:40 , which is quoted by the writer of Hebrews, proves the tabernacle was built according to a pattern. The word translated "pattern" primarily means the impression left by a blow. The tabernacle had to be built according to the pattern so it could be a good shadow of the archetype. Christ's ministry is better than that of the Levitical priests by virtue of the better covenant under which He serves. Jesus is the mediator, or go-between for God and man, for this covenant ( Heb_8:5-6 ; 1Ti_2:5 ).

Verses 7-9

The Need For A New Covenant

If the first covenant had been without fault, there would have been no need for a new one. The fault of the first covenant was that man could not find justification before God under it ( Rom_3:30 ; Gal_2:16 ; Gal_3:11 ).

When fault was found with the first covenant, a new covenant was promised by the grace of God. The old covenant could not change those people who remained stubborn in their disobedience. A quotation from Jer_31:31-34 clearly demonstrates a new covenant was promised. Of course, both covenants come out of the one covenant made with Abraham, as recorded in Gen_12:1-3 . Milligan suggests that the old covenant was a fulfillment of the physical elements of that promise, while the new is a fulfillment of the spiritual elements ( Heb_8:7-8 ).

God determined He would no longer deal with the people who wanted to come to Him through the covenant made at Sinai, or the fleshly fulfillment of the covenant with Abraham. He could not deal with man through that covenant because man continually broke it. In breaking the covenant they rejected Him as Lord. Once they had rejected Him, God was forced to reject them as His people ( Heb_8:9 ).

Verses 10-13

The Better Qualities of the New Covenant

While continuing to refer to the quotation from Jeremiah, the author shows the better qualities of the new covenant. For instance, the law of Moses was written on tables of stone ( Exo_34:1 ; Exo_34:23 ), but this new covenant would be implanted in the mind of man and written on his heart. In 2Co_3:1-18 , the writer explains the advantages of this. No longer will man be just obeying the written letter of the law. Now man will be obeying the spirit of the law which he will know from within himself. Man would no longer need some physical image to worship. Under the new covenant man would have a God, seen through the eye of faith ( Heb_8:10 ; Heb_11:1-6 ).

Under a physical covenant, each member of the kingdom had to be taught to know God. This is not true under the new spiritual covenant. To become a part of Christ's kingdom one must already know God's will and be taught of God ( Isa_54:13 ; Joh_6:44-45 ). Now, one must know God to be a part of the kingdom( Joh_14:1-6 ; Joh_14:15 ; Heb_11:6 ) and everyone is invited ( Mat_11:28-30 ; Rev_22:17 ). Sin could not be removed under the old covenant ( Heb_9:9 ; Heb_10:4 ), but under the new, God cannot remember our sins, as Jesus' blood washes them all away ( Heb_8:11-12 ; Heb_9:9 ; Heb_10:4 ; 1Jn_1:7-9 ; 1Co_6:11 ; Eph_1:7 ; 1Pe_1:18-19 ; Rev_1:5 ).

As history, the Old Testament is still valuable and full of lessons concerning God’s dealings with man ( 1Co_10:12 ), but as a covenant its usefulness to man is past. Jesus took it out of the way as a religious institution ( Col_2:14 ) and, as Milligan would point out, it died as a civil institution at the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Heb_9:1-5

The Earthly Sanctuary Under Moses’ Law

The author of Hebrews tells his readers that the first covenant had rules and regulations for the worship of God that were of Divine origin. Also, the holy dwelling place of that covenant (the sanctuary) was a material one made with hands. "Sanctuary" refers to the tabernacle as a whole. For proof, the writer says there was a tabernacle, which would be the sanctuary. The first room the High Priest would pass through on his way to the Holy of Holies would be the Holy Place, which was the east room of the tabernacle. On its south side stood the lampstand covered with gold ( Exo_25:31-40 ). On the north side was the table of shewbread ( Exo_25:23-30 ). The shewbread was made of fine flour and baked into twelve cakes, representing the twelve tribes ( Lev_24:5-9 ). They were placed in two rows on the table every sabbath and the old loaves were eaten by the priests ( Heb_9:1-2 ).

The first veil covered the doorway, while the second divided the Holy Place and Most Holy ( Exo_26:36-37 ; Exo_26:31-34 ). The Most Holy contained the golden censer ( Lev_16:12 ) and the ark of the covenant ( Exo_25:10-16 ). Inside the ark was a golden pot containing an omerful of manna ( Exo_16:31-34 ), Aaron's rod that had budded ( Num_17:1-11 ), and the two tables of the covenant ( Exo_25:16 ; Deu_10:1-5 ). Only the tables of stone were left in the time of Solomon ( 1Ki_8:9 ). On the ark was a cover which was called the mercy seat ( Heb_9:3-5 ; Num_7:89 ). "The protective wings of the two cherubim provided the place where, symbolically speaking, God dwelled among his people ( Psa_80:1 ; Psa_99:1 )" (Lightfoot, p. 165).

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Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Hebrews 8". "Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/hebrews-8.html. 2014.