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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament
Hebrews 9

 

 

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Introduction

Verse 1

Hebrews 9:1. This verse concedes the excellency of the old economy. It had ordinances of divine worship. The writer speaks in the past tense, because he looks back to the original institution and the first tabernacle, partly also because from the vantage ground of the new covenant the old teems obsolete—and its holy place of this world. As the writer is commending the first covenant, ‘of this world’ can hardly be only depreciatory. The word used, when not used ethically, describes the world in its order and beauty; and this is part of the thought: of this world indeed, and yet costly and beautiful. Compare a similar word in 1 Timothy 3:2, ‘orderly’ . . . The words at the beginning of the verse—‘The first covenant then indeed’—are concessive and resumptive, taking up the thought in chap. Hebrews 8:7; Hebrews 8:13.


Verse 2

Hebrews 9:2. The writer first notes the beauty of the holy place, and then (Hebrews 9:6) the holy ordinances of the service. For a tabernacle was prepared with two apartments, the first wherein were the candlestick (the golden candelabrum, with its upright shaft and six branches, three on each side, crowned with seven lamps: Solomon’s temple had ten of those lamps; Herod’s, again, but one), and the table (of acacia and overlaid with gold) and the shewbread (the loaves as set forth and presented before God), which part of the tabernacle is called the holy place.


Verse 3-4

Hebrews 9:3. And after (generally of time, here of place, behind) the second veil, the same tabernacle, which is called the holy of holies (the holiest of all); having (belonging to it, not necessarily ‘in it’) a golden censer or an altar of incense. The word means either; and interpretations differ. Incense was taken by the high priest into the holy of holies from the very first, Leviticus 16:12-13, but a golden censer is not named in the Law, and only in the ritual of the second temple. On the other hand, if we take the other meaning, ‘the altar of incense,’ that stood not in the holy of holies, but without the veil; though it was regarded as belonging to the inner sanctuary (1 Kings 6:22), and was sprinkled with the blood on the Day of Atonement.

And the ark of the covenant (so called because it contained the two tables of the Law) overlaid on all sides (without and within, Exodus 25:11, and with a golden rim or border, Exodus 37:2) with gold, wherein was a golden pot having the manna and Aaron’s rod that budded. All these were in the holy of holies in the time of Moses. The first temple also possessed the ark (though not the manna or Aaron’s rod, 1 Kings 8:9). In the second temple the ark was wanting.

And the tables of the covenant, the stones on which the ten commandments were written by the finger of God: mentioned last, because the writer is enumerating the things that were most costly and beautiful.


Verse 5

Hebrews 9:5. And up over it (the ark) cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy-seat. These ‘cherubim’ were connected with the Shekinah, the visible glory of God. They were two in number, one at each end of the mercy-seat, and were beaten out of the same mass with it. A wing of each stretched over the mercy-seat till both met in the middle; their faces were opposite each other, and they looked downwards on the mercy-seat between them (Exodus 25:18-20). The mercy-seat was the lid or cover of the ark. On this the Divine glory rested as on a throne. It was by sprinkling the blood on and before this covering that the atonement for the nation was completed (Leviticus 16:14-15): and it was there that God manifested His presence and revealed His will (Exodus 25:22), and showed his favour (Psalms 80:1). The glory above, the tables of the covenant, called also of testimony below, and the place of propitiation between, with all the vessels of the service, had each its lessons, but the writer cannot now discuss them.

Of which one cannot now speak severally—in detail. Everything was made under Divine direction (Exodus 25:8-9), everything had significance. Some are explained elsewhere. But the writer hastens on to the ordinances of worship, and above all to the superiority of the great atoning work of the new economy.


Verse 6

Hebrews 9:6. Meanwhile he notes the weakness of the old covenant and its fitness for this world only (Hebrews 9:9-10). And now all these things—the apartments and their contents—having been thus prepared or arranged, into the first tabernacle the priests go in continually, accomplishing (performing) the services. The ordinary priests are entering continually, i.e without limits prescribed by law, twice at least every day (Exodus 30:7), to do the appointed service, sprinkling the blood of the sin-offering before the veil, dressing the lamps, burning incense on the golden altar, and once a-week changing the shewbread.

Hebrews 9:7. But into the second tabernacle, the holy of holies, the high priest alone once in the year. Into this second part none of the priests were allowed to enter or even to look; but the high priest alone, and he only on one day—the tenth day of the seventh month (Leviticus 16:29). On that day he entered within the veil at least three times—first with the censer of burning coals and the incense, that the cloud might cover the mercy-seat and intercept the Divine glory (Leviticus 16:12-13); then with the blood of the bullock, which he sprinkled seven times before the mercy-seat (Hebrews 9:14); and then with the blood of the goat, which also he sprinkled on and before the mercy-seat (Hebrews 9:15), so that not without blood which he offereth for himself and for the errors of the people. It was his business to make atonement for sin, and this could not be done without blood. Nor was it enough that the blood should be shed at the door of the tabernacle; the high priest had to carry with him a portion of it within the veil, and there offer it by sprinkling it on and before the mercy-seat. And this atonement was made for himself and his house, i.e the priests generally, and then for the sins of the people (Leviticus 16:6; Leviticus 16:14). Within the holy place the blood was sprinkled once upwards; seven times backwards before and on the mercy seat. The horns of the altar were anointed with the blood of the two sacrifices, and the same mingled blood was sprinkled seven times before it, and then the remainder of the blood was poured out at the foot of the altar of burnt-offering. This offering of the blood is said to have cleansed the people once a year from all their sins (chap. Hebrews 6:16-20). Here the statement of the Law is restricted to sins of ignorance—‘errors,’ a term describing offences committed in no defiance of the Law, or with only a partial knowledge of their turpitude. They are thus marked off from those capital offences and presumptuous sins for which no provisions of mercy was made; in which, therefore, the sinner died without mercy (Numbers 15:27-31; sec also Hebrews 10:28).


Verse 8

Hebrews 9:8. The Holy Ghost this signifying, i.e by the arrangement which excluded all from the sanctuary except the high priest, who entered only on one day in the year—that the way into the holiest—heaven itself, the true antitype, not the holy of holies—hath not yet been made manifest, while as (an archaism, like when as [and the modern form whereas], stating time during which, with a slight intimation that the thing stated is the reason of the result) the first tabernacle, i.e the holy place separated from the holy of holies, is still standing—these present tenses all call attention to the continuance of the Jewish worship and to the need of its ceasing. That is, while there is a distinction of tabernacle and tabernacle with a veil between them, and a hidden glory, there is no freedom of access. Let the veil be removed, and then the two tabernacles will become one; and so the first will be done away . . . To refer the ‘first tabernacle’ to the old covenant neither suits the usage of the context nor the description given elsewhere of the ‘heavenly things’ which are prior to the first tabernacle.


Verse 9

Hebrews 9:9. The which tabernacle is a figure (literally a parable, an arrangement with a lesson) for, i.e in reference to (or lasting till) the time [now] present, or [then] present, for neither is expressed. Either makes good sense. The former, ‘now present,’ better suits the writer’s purpose; the latter, ‘then present,’ has found most favour with the commentators. The arrangement might have taught those who first witnessed it (then present) that the gifts and sacrifices which are still being offered (present tense) could not meet the needs of the human conscience or give free access to God. The arrangement teaches us (‘now’ present) the same lessons imposed, as it is till the fulness of the time when all is to be rightly arranged and with better results. And according to which parable (or tabernacle, i.e a holy place with the holy of holies veiled and inaccessible—either meaning gives the same lessons, and the Greek admits either) were offered gifts and sacrifices which could not give peace to the conscience or satisfy God’s justice.


Verse 10

Hebrews 9:10. And the reason is plain, being only with meats, and drinks, and divers washings (or baptisms, a reference to the legal and traditional conditions of eating and drinking, comp. 1 Corinthians 8, and Colossians 2:16-23, and to the various baptisms commanded by the law both for people and priests).

Carnal ordinances. They may have been performed in a right spirit. They may have been accompanied by some spiritual blessing. But they were mainly material, not spiritual. They purified the flesh and not the spirit. They failed to meet the demands of the awakened conscience and to bring back that blessed fellowship with God which sin destroys. Burdensome in themselves (so the word ‘imposed’ means, comp. Acts 15:10-28), they were also inadequate for spiritual purposes. They were imposed on men to prepare them for better things, and for a better time, when all is to be put right in the conscience, in the life, and with God.

Such is the earthly sanctuary and its ordinances. The contrast, the time of reformation—not ‘a time,’ as if there were several, not quite ‘the time;’ the Greek simply marks the quality of the time itself—‘until what is to prove God’s set time, when all is to be made straight’—is described in the following verses.


Verse 11

Hebrews 9:11. Here begins the true antithesis to the preceding verses, though Hebrews 9:6 marks a contrast of another kind. That old economy was earthly, glorious indeed, but (Hebrews 9:6) ineffectual. The new economy has to do with another tabernacle not of this creation, with other blood, with a far completer redemption, and with the purification of the conscience and of the life (Hebrews 9:11-14). So it introduces a new covenant and a heavenly sanctuary (Hebrews 9:15-20), with complete forgiveness (Hebrews 9:26); and the only thing that remains is Christ’s reappearance to complete salvation (Hebrews 9:27-28).

But Christ having come (having appeared, a word used to describe the appearance of any one in history or on some important stage of life, Matthew 3:1; Luke 12:51), a high priest of the good things to come (not things that belong to the future state chiefly, but in conformity with the Jewish mode of speaking of them while they were yet future, the things that belong to the new covenant, extending indeed into the heavens and the distant future, but beginning here and now), by a greater and a more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation (see under Hebrews 9:12).


Verse 12

Hebrews 9:12. Nor yet by the blood of goats (put first because most characteristic of the Day of Atonement, Leviticus 16:5, etc.—the two goats which made one sacrifice) and calves (called in Hebrews 9:13 bulls; both were males, one of the first year and the other of the second), but by his own blood (the same expression as in Acts 20:28, so chap. Hebrews 13:12) he entered in once for all, etc., i.e by services of a greater and more perfect tabernacle—neither of human workmanship nor of created materials. Some regard ‘by’ or ‘through’ in Hebrews 9:11 as local; but the use of the same preposition in Hebrews 9:12 in the instrumental sense is against this view. Those who regard it as local interpret differently: ‘Through Christ’s body’ (the true temple) is the common Patristic interpretation. Through the Church; or the world, the outer temple of the Creator; through the lower regions of the heavens; through the worshipping place of blessed spirits (Delitzsch), have all their advocates. Some who understand through as ‘by means of,’ render by means of Christ’s human nature—the outer dwelling-place of God. But the interpretation given above is simpler and more natural. We know that Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands (Hebrews 9:24), but into heaven; and so it is not by the services of an earthly tabernacle, but by the services of a tabernacle far grander and more perfect He presents His offering and seeks forgiveness.—And haying obtained (an emphatic form of expression implying energetic effort) eternal redemption for us. All here is in contrast, and the results not least. The Jewish high priest gained a pardon for the sins of the year, such a pardon as cancelled all ceremonial sin, fleshly defilements, and retained or regained for his worshippers their place in the theocracy; but Christ, by the one sacrifice of Himself, has obtained for us an everlasting deliverance from the guilt of sin, ending in a complete deliverance from the power of it, and that at the price of Himself or of His blood. He gave Himself for us, and He gave His blood, dying in our stead that we might live. Both expressions are scriptural (Titus 2:14; Ephesians 1:7). The word here translated redemption (deliverance by payment of the price, by giving ‘satisfaction,’ Numbers 35:31-32) is the shorter form ( λύτρωσις); the longer form ( άπολύτρωσις) is used in Hebrews 9:15, and again in a lower sense in chap. Hebrews 11:15. Both forms are found in St. Paul’s Epistles. Redemption is obtained for us when Christ enters into the holy place, as redemption is made ours when His blood is applied to our consciences; both truths are consistent with the other teaching that atonement—expiation—was made when He died for our sins.


Verse 13

Hebrews 9:13. For if . . . and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling them that have been defiled, sanctifieth unto (i.e so as to secure; the full expression implies result, not purpose) the purity of the flesh. This case of the ‘ashes of the heifer’ is one of the most suggestive symbols of the Law, and is well worth examination (see Numbers 19). The heifer without spot, slain by the priest without the camp, its blood sprinkled in the direction of the tabernacle, the animal itself burnt with solemn rites, its ashes laid up in a clean place to be used with water in cleansing those who had been defiled by contact with a dead body, itself a symbol and a result of sin—all are instructive, and all was done to secure an outward purity only.


Verse 14

Hebrews 9:14. How much more shall the blood of Christ . . . cleanse your conscience from that impurity which shows the inward man to be as a dead corpse, producing only such works as have no pulse, no power or feeling of true and higher life. The context gives to ‘dead works’ in this passage a slightly different meaning from that in chap. Hebrews 6:1. And the purpose of this process is to secure not the common service of the Jewish worshipper—the service of an outward life; but the inward spiritual service of the living God—of God not as veiled and in symbols, but of God in His reality and holiness. Such is the work of Him who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot (1 Peter 1:19) unto God. ‘Through the eternal Spirit’ has been variously explained. Through the Holy Spirit—say some—which was given to Him ‘without measure,’ or by which He was quickened and raised from the dead, and so entered into the holy place. Others, however, regard the expression as describing all in Christ that was not human—His higher nature, His Divine personality. This view is favoured by the double fact that it is the writer’s purpose to describe the intrinsic excellence of His offering, and that elsewhere ‘the Spirit’ is used in this sense when applied to our Lord. As to His flesh—His human nature—He was son of David; as to the Spirit, what in Him was not human nature, He was the Son of God (Romans 1:3-4; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 Timothy 3:16). The victims of the Law gave up an animal life all unconsciously. Christ gave Himself, His own will and heart consenting—not the man only, but all that was Divine in Him: His higher nature which, before time, acquiesced in the purpose of the Father, and that same nature now a conscious agent in effecting it.


Verse 15

Hebrews 9:15. And for this cause (for the reason that His blood is thus efficacious, Hebrews 9:14, or because He has performed this great work, Hebrews 9:11-14) he is mediator of a new (emphatic) covenant, in order that, death having taken place (viz. His own) for redemption from (or expiration of) the transgressions under the first covenant, they that have been called (‘partakers of a heavenly calling,’ chap. Hebrews 3:1) may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. The first covenant left its transgressions unforgiven. It waited for the offering that had efficacy. The death of Christ, therefore, has a double work. It is offered once for all, and extends its efficacy forward to the end of time and backward to the entrance of the Law. It is the procuring cause of forgiveness for all dispensations (see Romans 3:24-26). The emphasis of the last words is on ‘may receive the promise,’ i.e be put in possession of what was promised—the eternal inheritance, the blessing of the Gospel-, ‘the good things to come,’ including the eternal life, which is the completion of them all.... As the writer is speaking of the Old Covenant, those ‘who are called’ refers properly to the Jews, but the principle applies to the Gentiles also, and to all economies.


Verse 16

Hebrews 9:16. And it is a covenant—with all the requisite validity. For where a covenant is, there must also be (brought in—or, there is necessarily implied) the death of the covenanting victim.


Verse 17

Hebrews 9:17. For a covenant is of force over the dead (or on the condition that some persons (or things) have died), since it has no avail at all while the covenanting victim liveth.


Verse 18

Hebrews 9:18. Whence neither hath the first covenant been inaugurated (or ratified) without blood. Those verses are specially difficult. The logic of the passage seems to require the rendering now given. It does not follow that because a testator must die before his will can take effect, therefore the first covenant was inaugurated with blood. αιαθήϰη, moreover, is everywhere else in Scripture ‘covenant,’ as it is in the immediate context, and it seems better to keep to that meaning throughout: all the more as the notion of a will, though familiar to Western civilisation, was not familiar in countries where each child’s portion was settled by law. There are difficulties, however, on the other side. ‘Covenanting [victim]’ is not a known meaning of the word here used. It means generally a covenanting person or a testator. ‘Over the dead’ is commonly used also only of dead men. Both difficulties are lessened, however, by the peculiar facts of the case. All solemn covenants under the Law were made valid by the death of a victim which represented the covenanting persons, and pledged them on peril of their lives to faithfulness; and so ‘the covenanting victim’ is spoken of under the same name as the covenanting person—the one representing the other. If the rendering ‘testament’ is preferred, and ‘testator,’ it is best to regard Hebrews 9:16-17 as an illustrative argument, a parallel case, suggested partly by the mention of an inheritance and partly by the double meaning of the Greek word (covenant or testament), which is applied to any arrangement or distribution by will, or in any other way.


Verse 19

Hebrews 9:19. For (a proof of the assertion in Hebrews 9:18) when every commandment had been spoken by Moses according to the law (as the law directed, without any variation from it) unto all the people, he took the blood of the calves and the goats (these last are not expressed in Exodus 24:6-8, but are implied in Exodus 5:5) with water and scarlet wool and hyssop (those details are not named in Exodus 24:6-8, but each is given elsewhere. Either God commanded Moses to do these things, as they were done later, or the writer is giving in brief a summary of the whole law as at first instituted), and sprinkled both the book itself (which probably lay on the altar) and all the people.


Verse 20

Hebrews 9:20. The design of this sprinkling is now explained—Saying, This is the blood of the covenant which God (the Hebrew is Jehovah, and the Greek ‘the Lord;’ probably God is used to preserve the O. T. character of the quotation; the N. T. covenant, the Supper especially, is connected with ‘the Lord’) commanded to you-ward.


Verse 21

Hebrews 9:21. Moreover, the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry (the service) he sprinkled in like manner with blood (probably later: it was certainly done every year, Leviticus 16:16-20. Josephus, however, gives the same fact as occurring at the inauguration of the covenant, and in very similar words, Antiq. iii. 8, 6).

Hebrews 9:22. And according to the law almost all things (some were purified with water, Exodus 19:10, etc.; others with water and the ashes of the heifer, Numbers 31:22-24; but things which were specially appropriated to the worship of God) are cleansed with (in) blood; and apart from shedding of blood—the word here brings up the language of the Lord’s Supper, ‘Shed for you’ (Luke 22:20)

there is no remission (forgiveness). The ‘almost’ of the first clause applies also to the second (see Leviticus 5:11-13). The need on blood and the significance of it may be seen in Leviticus 17:11.


Verse 23

Hebrews 9:23. The patterns; rather, the representations, the heavenly things themselves being the original ‘patterns shown to Moses in the mount’ (Hebrews 8:5), whence the earthly copies were taken: but the heavenly things themselves (heaven and the things therein, see Hebrews 9:24) by better sacrifices than these. How the heavenly things need purifying has been much discussed. The simplest explanation is that the heavenly things received purification through the blood of Christ, in the same sense as the tabernacle received purification through the blood that was offered in it. The tabernacle had no impurity of its own. It needed purifying because of the uncleanness of the people, and because of the uncleanness which the entrance of the people without atonement would have introduced. Forgiveness without atonement would have sullied the holiness of God. By the blood of Christ God is just while justifying the ungodly. The place that was unapproachable by reason of our sin, is made free to the guiltiest: but for this purpose there were needed sacrifices better far than those that Aaron offered.


Verse 24

Hebrews 9:24. ‘The heavenly things:’ for not into a holy place made with hands did Christ enter, like in pattern (answering to the original, ‘the typical form’) to the true, now to show (to manifest) himself before (the face of) God for us; His passover our offering, and by virtue of ‘the Eternal Spirit—His own Divine nature’ with all the power of an endless life.


Verse 25-26

Hebrews 9:25. And as Christ has not entered into the holy place made with hands, neither has he entered into heaven that he should offer himself often (the reference is not to His dying, but to His presenting Himself and His blood. The dying is named later, Hebrews 9:26), just as the high priest entereth into the holy place year by year with blood of others (i.e ‘not his own,’ as the Syr. renders it); else must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world. As His blood was His own, and as His death was essential to the offering of Himself, and necessary in order that He might have something to offer (Hebrews 8:3), He must in that case have often suffered. The contrary, however, is the fact.

But now, the case is that once for all at the end (the completion) of the ages which have elapsed since sin entered, antediluvian, patriarchal, Mosaic, hath he been manifested, i.e in our flesh (1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 1:20), for the putting away of sin in its guilt and power by the sacrifice of himself.


Verse 27-28

Hebrews 9:27-28. And there can be no second dying, and so no second offering of Himself unto God. Such an arrangement would be against all analogy and all experience. Since man as such can die but once, so must it be with the Christ also: for in all things He is made like unto His brethren. And as it is the judgment which awaits all men beyond the grave, so there is no second self-offering of Christ between the First Advent and the Second. As human life with all its works comes to an end in death, and only judgment remains; so the atonement of Christ is complete, and nothing remains but for Him to return—and judge. But no; the writer does not care to end so. He shall appear to them that wait for Him, unto complete salvation.

All here is still in contrast. When the high priest returned from the Holy of Holies after having made atonement there, he made a second atonement in his priestly robes for himself and his people (Leviticus 16:24), ‘for the sins of his most holy things.’ When Christ appears coming forth from His holy place, He will appear without sin, and therefore without a sin-offering, and completing the blessedness of those He has redeemed!

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/hebrews-9.html. 1879-90.

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