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Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 8

Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentMahan's Commentary

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Verses 1-6

Christ the true tabernacle

Hebrews 8:1-6

In this chapter Paul shows that the Priesthood of Christ, our Lord, is far superior to the priests of Aaron's line in that he ministers in a better place (heaven), has a better sacrifice (his blood), has a better tabernacle (his body), and provides a better covenant with better promises!

Hebrews 8:1-2 . A better place--heaven! This is the sum of what has been said: We have such a High Priest as has been described. He is Christ Jesus, who was born of Mary, crucified in our stead, arose on the third day, and ascended to the heavens where he is seated on the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens.

1. He is sat down (Hebrews 1:3), which shows that his work is done. The Levitical priests always stood.

2. He is on the right hand of the Majesty, which shows that his work is accepted; and he is possessed of honor, glory, authority, and equality. We are seated with him and in him (Ephesians 2:4-7).

3. He intercedes and ministers for us, not in the holy place made with hands (which is but typical), but in the very presence of God (Hebrews 9:24). He is a minister of the true tabernacle, which is his body. (More on this in Hebrews 8:4-5).

Hebrews 8:3 . A better sacrifice his blood! The typical priests of old never came to the tabernacle without the proper sacrifices (Hebrews 9:7; Hebrews 9:22). Their sacrifices could never put away sin; therefore, they were offered over and over as long as the tabernacle stood (Hebrews 10:1-4). If Christ is to appear before the Majesty in the heavens as our great, effectual Priest and mediator, he must have an effectual blood sacrifice. He brought his own body and blood (Hebrews 9:11-12; 1 Corinthians 5:7).

Hebrews 8:4-5 . A better tabernacle--his body! In Hebrews 8:2 Christ is called the ‘true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.’ Hebrews 8:4-5 talk about the tabernacle which man pitched according to God's directions. This tabernacle in the wilderness was typical. God dwelt there, his glory was seen, he granted his presence to the people, the sacrifices were brought, and the people looked to the tabernacle. Now if Christ's human nature were only earthly, he would not even be a priest, for he was not of the tribe of Levi; and if he had died and remained on the earth, his Priesthood would be of no value, for his priesthood was perfected in heaven. It was when he died, arose, and appeared in glory that all other sacrifices and priesthoods ceased (Hebrews 10:7-10). The true tabernacle was his body in which he tabernacled among men. Here the glory of God is seen in the face of Christ Jesus. Through him, God communes with his people; by him, sacrifices of prayer and praise are offered, and to him, believers look for forgiveness and acceptance. His blood is the atonement for sin.

Hebrews 8:6 . A better covenant with better promises! A more excellent ministry. They were many--he one! They died--he lives! Their sacrifices were typical his were effectual! They ministered on earth--he in heaven (Hebrews 10:10-14).

A better covenant. The covenant of the Levitical priesthood was a temporary and typical one; it is now ceased. Its administration reached to the Jews; in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile. Its manifestation was dim and hidden in ceremony and ordinances; Christ is a full and clear revelation of mercy and grace. This covenant was conditional with obedience; the covenant of grace is by grace through faith and unchanging in Christ (Romans 3:24-26).

Better promises. The promises of that old covenant consisted mainly in earthly, temporary blessings such as Canaan--land of peace, plenty, and prosperity. The promises of Christ are eternal forgiveness, eternal glory, and eternal life. When Israel obeyed God and worshipped God according to the pattern given, God blessed them with peace and plenty. When they neglected the tabernacle and served other gods, he dealt with them in wrath and judgment. In Christ, our mediator, we have a better covenant with better promises. He has reconciled us to God. Being the God-man, he lays his hand on both and brings us, who were far off, to God, makes peace through the blood of his cross, and satisfies the justice of God by the sacrifice of himself. He makes us sons of God, indwells us with his Spirit, and makes us priests of God. Our promises and blessings have to do with a spiritual kingdom and life, not an earthly nation and benefits.

Verses 7-13

The new covenant

Hebrews 8:7-13

Hebrews 8:7 . The first covenant spoken of here is the covenant of the Levitical Priesthood, made with Israel and delivered by Moses. It was a typical covenant (Hebrews 7:11; Hebrews 7:18).

1.The people with whom it was made were typical of the true Israel of God.

2.The blessings promised in it were shadows of good things to come.

3.The sacrifices of it were pictures of Christ's sacrifice.

4.The mediators were the priests who were types of Christ, our great High Priest!

This covenant was deficient. It had a weakness in that it was only typical. Its priests were only sinful men; its sacrifices were animal blood; its offerings could not remove sin. If this covenant could have redeemed, there would have been no reason for Christ to come! (Hebrews 10:1-4; Hebrews 10:9.)

Hebrews 8:8 . ‘But finding fault with them’ (both with the covenant which had its weakness and with the people who continued not in it), God said, ‘The days come when I will make a new covenant’ (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

This covenant is called a new covenant not with respect to its origin or its age, for it is the everlasting covenant made with Christ before the foundation of the world (Hebrews 13:20; Revelation 13:8). It is called the new covenant in that it is newly revealed! That which is revealed second was made first. It is called new because it is always new; it will never be old nor give place to another. It is also called new because it gives a new heart, a new nature, and a new spirit!

Hebrews 8:9-12 . ‘This is the new covenant I will make with them after those days,’ after the times of the Old Testament, when the Messiah shall come and the gospel of grace shall be preached.

1. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write them in their hearts.’ By the law of God we can understand several things:

(a) The moral law of God which is summed up in these two, ‘Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself.’

(b) All the commandments of our Lord with respect to repentance, faith, and godliness.

(c) The whole word of God, which the believer loves and cherishes. These are written not on tablets of stone, but on the heart and mind of the believer, so that he thinks on them, and not only thinks on them but loves them. ‘I love thy law, O Lord.’ His commandments are not grievous but precious (Matthew 11:28-30).

2. ‘I will be to them their God and they shall be my people.’ Not as he is the God of all creation or the God of nature and providence, but he is their God as he is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus (John 17:21; 1 John 1:3). ‘They shall be my people,’ not in the sense that all mankind are his people, but as sons of God, whom God loved in a special way and chose in Christ--the family of God (Romans 8:14-17).

3. They ‘all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.’ I believe if we go back to Hebrews 1:1, we can get some light on this. God spoke to the people through the prophets and the priests. If a man wanted to know what the Lord had to say, he inquired of the prophet. If he wanted to offer a sacrifice, he went to the priest. Some would put these restrictions on us today if they could. Every believer is a son; every believer is a student of the word; every believer is a priest to offer sacrifices of prayer and praise; every believer has the Spirit of God dwelling in him. While we have pastors and teachers today that we may grow to maturity through the word, all believers know the Lord, pray to the Lord, and walk with the Lord. ‘Ye are kings and priests unto God! (Hebrews 4:14-16; Hebrews 10:19-22.)

4. ‘I will be merciful to their unrighteousness,’ that is, their sin; for all unrighteousness is sin. The phrase tells us that God will forgive our sins (1 John 1:8-10). God will pardon freely those to whom he is reconciled in Christ. Forgiveness of his children's sins is not only an act of mercy, but an act of justice; for Christ has paid for our sins (1 John 2:1-2).

5. ‘Their sins and iniquities I will remember no more!’ This means all sins and all kinds of sins original, actual, before conversion, and after conversion. He remembers them no more. They are cast into the depths of the sea; they are cast behind his back. You may look for them, but they cannot be found!

Hebrews 8:13 . In the establishing of the New Covenant, the Levitical Covenant is done away. It has served its day but is now disappeared and used no more, as a garment rots and vanishes away (Galatians 5:1-6).

Bibliographical Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on Hebrews 8". Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/hms/hebrews-8.html. 2013.
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