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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Hebrews 9

 

 

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Verses 1-14

Hebrews 9:1-14. The two ministries are now contrasted, in order to show that the OT institutions were imperfect, and pointed beyond themselves to that real access to God which we have obtained through Christ.

Hebrews 9:1-5. The first covenant was associated with a system of worship ordained by God Himself, although its sanctuary was "of this world"—i.e. composed of visible and material elements. A Tabernacle was set up which consisted of two parts, divided by a curtain. In the fore-tent, or holy place, were the candlestick and table of shewbread (as described in Exodus 25:23-39); and then, behind an inner curtain, was the holy of holies, containing a golden censer and the Ark of the covenant, which was surmounted by the mercy-seat and overshadowed by figures of cherubim. It is hinted by the writer that these objects had all a symbolic significance on which he could enlarge; but his present concern is with the arrangements of the Tabernacle generally.

Hebrews 9:4. That the Ark contained the tables of the Law, and was covered by mercy-seat and cherubim, is stated in Exodus 25:16 ff. In his enumeration of the other objects preserved in the Ark the writer relies on Jewish tradition. The word given as "censer" ought probably to be translated "altar of incense." in which case an object is assigned to the holy of holies which really belonged to the holy place.

Hebrews 9:6-10. Of the two divisions of the Tabernacle only the first was used for the regular service. The High Priest alone was permitted to enter the holy of holies, and that only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, when he bore into the presence of God the sacrificial blood, which covered his own sins as well as the sins of the people (Hebrews 9:6 f.). The Scripture which lays down these rules was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and was meant to teach, in symbolic fashion, that a way was not yet opened into the immediate presence of God: this is implied in the very existence of a fore-tent, curtained off from the holy of holies (Hebrews 9:8). Indeed the whole worship of the Tabernacle had a symbolic reference to the period which began with the appearance of Christ. It provided for the offering of sacrifices which could not effect an inward purity in the worshippers, sacrifices which stood on the same level with the regulations about food and washing. They aimed only at an external cleansing, and were imposed provisionally, until a higher order should be established.

Hebrews 9:9 f. which is a parable, etc.: this very complicated and difficult sentence can be explained in a variety of ways, according to the view that is taken of its grammatical construction. The general meaning, however, is sufficiently clear. The sacrifices offered in the Tabernacle, and subsequently in the Temple were only meant to bring the worshippers into a condition of ceremonial purity. By means of them men were invested, so to speak, with a conventional garment, the want of which would debar them from approaching the Divine King. Another kind of sacrifice was required before they could obtain that inward cleansing which would fit them not merely for approaching God, but for holding true fellowship with Him.

Hebrews 9:11-14. What the old sacrifices could not effect has been secured through the sacrifice of Christ. Appearing as the High Priest of the new and better covenant which had been promised, He passed through the heavenly tabernacle, made by God Himself, and entered into its inner sanctuary. The blood which gave Him the right of entrance was not that of slaughtered beasts, but His own blood. He entered not for a brief hour that He might consecrate the people for a single year, but once for all, to redeem them for ever (Hebrews 9:12). According to Levitical law (cf. Leviticus 16:14 ff., Numbers 19:2; Numbers 19:17 f.) those who had defiled themselves by contact with a dead body were made ceremonially pure by being sprinkled with the blood of certain animals. If the blood of animals had this power, what of the blood of Christ, the spotless victim, whose sacrifice was His own free act and was offered by Himself as High Priest? This blood has power to cleanse not from the imaginary stain communicated by a dead body, but from the real and deadly stain of sin, so that we can render a living service to the living God.

Hebrews 9:14. through the, or rather, through an eternal spirit: this is one of the most difficult phrases of the epistle, and has been variously explained. Most probably it is meant to emphasize the idea that Christ is at once priest and victim. In the case of the OT sacrifices the victim died, and the priest then offered its blood before God in the sanctuary. But in the case of Christ's sacrifice, although the Victim died He yet survived death, in virtue of the "eternal spirit" which constituted His nature. Thus He was able to enter the heavenly sanctuary to present the offering to God.


Verses 15-21

Hebrews 9:15-21. It is shown, in a brief digression, that the death of Christ was necessary in order that the new covenant should come into force. An "eternal inheritance"—i.e. an enduring fellowship with God—was promised long ago to God's people; and they could not obtain it under the first covenant, which afforded no real deliverance from sin. Before it could be obtained a death had to take place, so that all the sins of the past might be removed and men might start afresh under a new covenant (Hebrews 9:15). Why a death was necessary is explained by the analogy of a will or testament. The Greek word diatheke can mean either a "covenant" or a "will," and the writer avails himself of this double meaning in order to bring out a particular aspect of the death of Christ. For a will to come into effect, the person who made it must die. This was recognised even in the case of the first covenant or "will," which was ratified by the blood of a slain victim, in the solemn manner described in various OT texts (Leviticus 4:4; Numbers 19:6; Numbers 19:17 f.; Exodus 12:12). Everything connected with that first covenant, the Tabernacle and all its furniture, was likewise sprinkled with blood. It may be regarded, indeed, as a fixed principle of the Law that every act which has for its aim the forgiveness of sins must be accompanied with the shedding of blood.


Verses 23-28

Hebrews 9:23-28. The surpassing worth of Christ's sacrifice, as compared with those of the first covenant, is again enforced. To cleanse the Tabernacle, which was the earthly type of the sanctuary in heaven, the sprinkling of blood was necessary; but the heavenly sanctuary itself had to be cleansed with blood more precious. It is conceived as incurring a certain defilement through contact with the sins that are absolved in it. A cleansing is therefore necessary, as in the case of the earthly sanctuary. Christ has entered into the sanctuary in heaven; His ministry was enacted in no merely symbolic temple, but in the temple above, where God dwells in very deed (Hebrews 9:24). Not only so, but His one entrance into that temple sufficed for ever. The earthly High Priest must enter every year into the holy of holies with sacrificial blood, obtained from a slain animal. If Christ were thus required to repeat His offering, His death would not have been a solitary event, but one that had often to be re-enacted, so as to atone for the sin of each successive age. As it is, He died but once; when the world's history was on the point of closing He appeared on earth, and by the offering of Himself made full atonement for all the accumulated sins of mankind (Hebrews 9:25 f.). This finality of Christ's death is illustrated (Hebrews 9:27 f.) by what happens in the case of every human being. A man dies but once, and then awaits the judgment on his deeds. So by the death of Christ His redeeming work was definitely brought to an end. His next appearance on earth will have no reference to the work of atonement, but will have for its sole purpose the reception into eternal life of those whom He has redeemed.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/hebrews-9.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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