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Bible Commentaries

Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans and Hebrews

Hebrews 8

Verse 1

Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.

The Apostle had proposed to leave the elements, or first principles, of Christian doctrine, (chap6:,) which we have interpreted of the types and figures of the Mosaic law. That such was his meaning is evident from the course he actually pursues; in the first place proving the security of the heirs of promise, from the oath by which the blessing was secured to Abraham and his seed; then proceeding to unveil the mysteries of the priesthood of Melchisedec, and to show its accomplishment in the everlasting priesthood of Christ, together with the benefits derived from him by those to whom he stands in the relation of their High Priest. He now sums up what he had previously taught, by giving a comprehensive view of the superiority of the new covenant over the covenant of Sinai.

The sum of what he had said of the priesthood of Christ was that believers have an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of God, according to the promise in the110th Psalm, which he had so fully illustrated.

Verse 2

A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man.

He was a minister of the holy places, ???? ???????, in distinction to the tabernacle, or royal tent, in which the God of Israel represented himself as dwelling among his chosen people, first in the wilderness, and then in the land of Canaan.

The true tabernacle may either be understood of heaven, or of the body which was prepared for the incarnation of Christ, which was essential to his unity with his people, chap, and being qualified to act as their high priest, chap5:1. The tabernacle was the habitation of the God of Israel, and we find Jesus, when the Jews desired a sign, saying, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up, but he spake of the temple of his body," John 2:18-21, or, perhaps, it rather means heaven itself, in distinction from the worldly sanctuary. He afterwards teaches that Christ is not entered: " For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us," chap9:24.

Verse 3

For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer.

As every high priest is ordained to offer gifts, free will offerings, and propitiatory sacrifices, it is therefore necessary that this High Priest have somewhat to offer.

Verse 4

For if he were on earth he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law.

For if he were on earth he could not he a priest, seeing an order of priests were already constituted who offered gifts and sacrifices according to the law.

Verse 5

Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith Hebrews, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount.

The services of these priests were an example and shadow of heavenly things, which was intimated to Moses by the charge given him to make all things according to the pattern showed him in the mount. Some suppose that we are here taught that not only minute directions were given to Moses respecting the tabernacle and the services of the Levitical priesthood, but that he received an explanation of the mystery or parable which he was employed to communicate to Israel, and this interpretation receives countenance from what the Lord said on the occasion of the difference which arose between Moses and Aaron and Miriam: " Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not Song of Solomon, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?" . Now it may be alleged that if Moses only beheld a pattern of the tabernacle and the vessels of the ministry of Aaron and his sons, the Lord only made his will known to him in a vision. From the language employed, however, that he was to make all things according to the pattern showed to him in the mount, it would appear that he did not see the reality, but simply a pattern, namely, the tabernacle complete in all its parts, and the priests performing their various services, which was "an example and shadow of heavenly things." This interpretation appears to be confirmed by what the Lord said to his servant when he besought the Lord to show him his glory:

"And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen." . Had it been given to Moses to behold the true tabernacle, and our great High Priest ministering therein, he would have seen God's face, or, in other words, the glory of the Lord in the unveiled face of Jesus Christ; 2 Corinthians 3:18; according to our Lord's words, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father," John 14:9. Hence we conclude that a vision of the tabernacle and its services was given to Moses in the Mount, and that, as in the case of David, all this the Lord made him, understand in writing by His hand upon him, even all the works of this pattern. 1 Chronicles 28:19.

If it be asked, how Moses was admonished of God that what was enjoined was an example and shadow of heavenly things, by being charged to make all things according to the pattern showed to him in the Mount? it is replied, that the care enjoined not to deviate in any particular from the pattern shown to him evidently implied that it was an emblem of heavenly things, for how otherwise would God have enjoined such minute attention to services which, considered in themselves, were unworthy of his notice?

Verse 6

But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.

The Apostle had shown that it behoved our great High Priest to have somewhat to offer, since the very object of the priestly office is to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins, ch. He also argues that this offering could not be made upon earth, because priests were already appointed exclusively to offer gifts according to the law, whose services are an example and shadow of heavenly things, as had been plainly intimated to Moses. He therefore concludes that our great High Priest hath obtained a more excellent ministry, being the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. He thus introduced what he intended to say of the new covenant, the difference between which and the Sinai covenant is the grand object of the Epistle.

Jesus is here described as the mediator of a better covenant. We are taught that the first covenant was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator, Galatians 3:19, referring to Moses, who stood between God and the people Israel, went up to the mount with God, and received the instructions which he was pleased to deliver. But the Apostle is here speaking of the priesthood of Christ, and although Moses was the mediator of the Sinai covenant, yet when he was removed the high priest acted as mediator, for he presented the gifts and sacrifices which were enjoined, burned incense, and blessed them, and inquired of God upon any emergency which arose; but Jesus had obtained a more excellent ministry, being the mediator of a better covenant, established upon better promises.

The better promises of the new covenant are salvation from sin and eternal life. The promises of the Sinai covenant were all earthly, such as long life in the land of Canaan, plentiful harvests, victory over their enemies, and national prosperity. This may be ascertained by consulting Leviticus 26 :, Deuteronomy 28 :, and therefore that covenant was ratified with the blood of bulls and goats which can never take away sin, and only sanctifies to the purifying of the flesh. The new covenant, as has been already stated, is established upon better promises and was ratified with the blood of Christ, which cleanseth the children of the covenant from all sin. They shall all be presented faultless before the presence of God's glory with exceeding joy.

Verse 7

For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.

Had the first covenant been faultless there would have been no place for a second. It has been already observed, ch, that God does nothing in vain. In his dealings with mankind there are no works of supererogation.

Verse 8

For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.

In God's dispensations towards Israel we perceive the highest wisdom. The misunderstanding of it has been indeed the great means of corrupting the religion of Jesus. The folly and wickedness of man perverts and abuses the goodness of God. "All the words of his mouth are in righteousness, there is nothing perverse or froward in them." Proverbs 8:8. The Sinai covenant was very glorious, and this was signified by the glory of Moses' countenance, but this glory not enduring, imported the vanishing away of the glory of the first covenant, when it had answered the purpose of introducing the second. The first covenant fully attained its Divine end, namely that of introducing the second covenant; but it was never intended to give eternal life, and therefore, considered in itself, it was not faultless nor adequate to the exigencies of fallen man. Hence the Lord, finding fault, says to the Israelites, "Behold the days come when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah." [When the Lord promised to make a new covenant, he was not finding fault with Israel. Jeremiah 31:31. The Apostle had said, if the first covenant had been faultless, then no place should have been found for the second. The promise of a new covenant was virtually finding fault with the old, declaring its insufficiency.] The first covenant was made with Israel after the flesh, the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the new covenant is made with those that are Christ's, who are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:29. God adopted Israel after the flesh to be his peculiar people, in virtue of their being the seed of Abraham, and consequently related to Christ; but it was a carnal relation; hence Israel were blessed with all carnal blessings in earthly places, namely, the land flowing with milk and honey. But the true Israel, in virtue of their spiritual relation to Christ, are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 1:3.

Verse 9

Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; became they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.

Here we have a characteristic of the new and better covenant. It is first described negatively. It was not to be according to the covenant that God made with their fathers, [Although the believing Gentiles were not descended from Israel after the flesh, yet they are here spoken of as their children. We And the Apostle using the same language, 1 Corinthians 10:1.] when He took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. [The redemption of Israel was temporal, from the bondage of Egypt, as were all their temptations in the wilderness.]

Before forty days had elapsed since they trembled under the voice of God, they broke the covenant by bowing to the golden calf; and their whole history was a continued course of rebellion. Hence the judgments executed on them, and their present state of dispersion among all nations. They refused to hearken to their covenant God, who had distinguished them above all other nations; and therefore they largely experienced the curses denounced against disobedience, until they were cast out of their inheritance.

Verse 10

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.

Here the covenant is described positively. God engages to put His laws into their minds, and write them upon their hearts. The law delivered to Israel was written on tables of stone, plainly showing them, their duty, saying, "This is the way; walk ye in it;" but it gave no strength, no disposition to obey, and Isaiah, therefore, described by the Apostle as the letter, or writing, which killeth. The children of the new covenant, on the other hand, are described as the epistle of Christ, written with the Spirit of God in fleshly tables of the heart. They are exhorted to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in them to will and to do of His good pleasure.

They are chosen unto obedience through sanctification of the Spirit and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:2. They are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God had before ordained that they should walk in them. "Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that Isaiah, to bring Christ down from above) or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that Isaiah, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that Isaiah, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." Romans 10:5-9. The children of the old covenant were under the law, and were a stiff-necked people; but the children of the new covenant were under grace, and therefore sin shall not have dominion over them. They are the temple of the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in them, which they have of God. "The law," says the Apostle, "was given by Moses; but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." John 1:17.

And I will be to them a God...—By the Sinai covenant God proclaimed Himself the God of Israel, and required their obedience; but they broke the covenant, by making the golden calf; and although the tables were renewed, still they were rebellious, and brought upon themselves many severe judgments; and not only Song of Solomon, but their rejection was foretold "Ye are not my people, and I will not be your God," Hosea 1:9; and again, "The Lord God shall slay thee, and call his servants by another name." But, amidst all their rebellions, there was a remnant according to the election of grace; and "as the new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not, for a blessing is in it; so the Lord did for his servants" sakes, that he might not destroy them all" Isaiah 65:8. But when they filled up the measure of their iniquities, by not only killing the Lord Jesus, but rejecting the evidence of His resurrection and ascension, in the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, wrath came upon them to the uttermost. The Lord, according to His threatening, slew them, and called His servants by another name. Acts 11:26.

By the new covenant God is the God of His people, in a higher sense than He was to Israel after the flesh. The privileges which the children of both covenants enjoyed were in virtue of their relation to Christ. The one was a carnal relation; of them, according to the flesh, Christ came, and, in consequence, they were blessed with all carnal blessings in earthly places.

They were redeemed from Egyptian bondage; they were fed with manna, preserved in the wilderness, put in possession of a land flowing with milk and honey. Thus were they blessed with all carnal blessings in earthly places. The children of the new covenant are spiritually related to Christ, and are consequently blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places. Their redemption is spiritual; their citizenship is in heaven; their inheritance is incorruptible, undefiled, and fadeth not away.

Verse 11

And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.

This is another part of the blessing bestowed on the children of the new covenant. They all know the Lord, from the least to the greatest. This knowledge is not communicated by every man teaching his neighbour. "It is written in the prophets," says our Lord, "They shall be all taught of God. Every Prayer of Manasseh, therefore, that hath heard and hath learned of the Father cometh to me." John 6:45. And in exact correspondence with this, the Apostle John says, in writing to believers, "I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth;" and again, "These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him." 1 John 2:21; 1 John 2:26-27. It is unnecessary to add, the expression, "They shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, Know the Lord," does not mean that believers are not to teach and admonish one another, which is so frequently enjoined by the apostles; the passage means that the knowledge of the Lord, which all the children of the new covenant possess, is not derived from human instruction, but from the Spirit of Christ taking of the things of Christ, and showing them unto us. All the children of the new covenant have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is of God, that they might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 1 Corinthians 2:12.

God commanded Moses to make a covenant with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which He made with them in Horeb. Deuteronomy 29:1. In this covenant He not only warned them against disobedience by denouncing the awful consequences which would follow, but informed Israel that when all these things, the blessing and the curse, had come upon them, they should be brought into the land which their fathers possessed, and that He would circumcise their hearts, and the hearts of their seed, to love the Lord their God. Deuteronomy 30:1; Deuteronomy 30:6. Part of this chapter is quoted by the Apostle, who describes it as the language of the righteousness which is of faith, in contrast with the righteousness which is of the law. Romans 10:5; Romans 10:9. It is here the Apostle uses greater plainness of speech than Moses, who taught with a vail upon his face; but still he tells us that in the words quoted from Moses there is the language of the righteousness of faith, obscurely communicated by the Jewish lawgiver, but clearly taught under a more glorious dispensation. The account of the new covenant is taken by our Apostle from Jeremiah; but the same truth had been more darkly intimated by Moses, before Israel entered Canaan.

Verse 12

For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.

The sacrifices offered by the law only brought sin to remembrance. Hebrews 10:3. They could not remove it; but the prophet, as quoted by the Apostle, foretells that, under the new covenant, God would be merciful to the unrighteousness of His people, and no longer remember their sin. This refers to the perfection of the atonement of the Son of God. The sins of His people are for ever buried in their Savior's grave, and when they are sought for they shall not be found. Jeremiah 120; Colossians 2:14. Thus is fulfilled the prediction that our great High Priest should finish transgression, make an end of sin, make reconciliation for iniquity, and bring in everlasting righteousness. His salvation shall be for ever, and His righteousness shall not be abolished. Isaiah 51:6. Such is the superiority of the new dispensation, to which the old was merely preparatory. Moses and the apostles of Christ spoke the same things, only Moses taught in parables, representing spiritual and heavenly things under the vail of things which were carnal and earthly. The first covenant was made with the posterity of Abraham, in the line of Isaac and Jacob; the second with those that are Christ's, who are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Verse 13

In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

We have had occasion to notice how much instruction the Apostles deduce from words and statements in the Scriptures which we should be very apt to overlook. For instance, from Psalm 95:11; and from the account of Melchisedec, chap7:1-3. Here we find another instance of the same thing.

God had promised a new covenant, and from this the Apostle draws the palpable conclusion of the abolition of the first, or old covenant. Should it be asked, Is it worthy the character of the unchangeable God to establish a temporary dispensation? Does He not know the end from the beginning? Certainly He does. But in the establishment and abolition of the Sinai covenant, there was no change of purpose. The Mosaic economy was intended as an introduction of the new covenant; and, instead of its establishment and abolition being derogatory to the wisdom of God, like every other part of the Divine providence it is a striking manifestation of His manifold Wisdom of Solomon, and affords the most satisfactory evidence of the truth of revelation.

Had the Scriptures consisted only of one part, it would naturally have been committed to one class; and it might have been alleged that it had been tampered with, and the recorded events been made to suit the predictions which went before. But this cavil is completely cut off.

By choosing the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as His peculiar people, of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, and committing to them the living oracles which testify of Christ, and afterwards rejecting them on account of their unbelief; taking the kingdom of heaven from them, and giving it to those who, by faith, were spiritually united to Christ; to whom the New Testament was committed; every possibility of collusion was prevented, and an unimpeachable proof given that the prophecies which went before were not the word of Prayer of Manasseh, but that holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost; and not only Song of Solomon, but all the burdensome rites of Jewish worship, and, indeed, the whole history of that singular people, had their fulfilment in the kingdom of God.

In promising a new covenant, the first was made old; for when anything is said to be new in comparison of another thing, that must be old in comparison of it; and it is self-evident that what decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

We have seen that a new and better covenant was made known to Israel by Moses, a covenant of which the token was not circumcision of the flesh, but of the heart, which is explained by Jeremiah, of writing His law in their hearts, and being to them a God in a higher sense than He was to Israel. Jeremiah 31:33.

The same thing was made known by the prediction that the Lord would raise up to them a prophet like unto Moses, to whom they must hearken, on pain of condign punishment. Deut. xviii18, 19. Now we are taught that "there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face." Deuteronomy 34:10. This was fulfilled in the manifestation of the Son of God. Acts 3:22-23. Thus we find the abrogation of the Mosaic economy clearly and repeatedly made known to Israel. Indeed, how could it be otherwise, when the blood with which the Sinai covenant was ratified was that of bulls and goats, which can only sanctify to the purifying of the flesh? Now, as all flesh is grass, and all human glory like the flower of grass, so all the splendour of the Jewish worship, being carnal and earthly, necessarily gave place to that kingdom which cannot be moved, and, like its great Author, is the same yesterday, today, and for ever.

The everlasting doors have been thrown open for the entrance of the King of Glory. He has for ever sat down at the right hand of the majesty of the throne in the heavens, and is engaged in preparing mansions for all his blood- bought sheep, whom He is successively receiving into everlasting habitations; and when the mystery of God shall be finished, they shall all be made perfect in one, and, enriched with the spoils of death and the grave, shall surround His exalted throne through the revolving ages of eternity, reigning with Him in the new heavens and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.

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Bibliographical Information
Haldane, Robert. "Commentary on Hebrews 8". "Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans and Hebrews". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hal/hebrews-8.html. 1835.