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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Hebrews 9

 

 

Other Authors
Introduction

CHAP. IX.

The rites and bloody sacrifices of the law, far inferior to the dignity and perfection of the blood and sacrifice of Christ.

Anno Domini 63.

TO shew that the Sinaitic covenant was justly laid aside, the apostle judged it necessary to enter into a particular examination of the religious services which it enjoined, and to prove that these were designed, not for cleansing the conscience of the worshippers, but to prefigure the services and blessings of the new or gospel covenant: so that the latter being come, there was no longer occasion for continuing the former, to prefigure them.This chapter, therefore, is an illustration of chap. Hebrews 8:5 where the apostle affirms, that the priests worshipped God in the tabernacle, with the representation and shadow of the heavenly services. And it was proper to explain this matter copiously, because it must have had a great influence, in weaning the Hebrews from the Levitical services, and in reconciling them to the abrogation of a form of worship, which, though of divine appointment, was now become useless, having accomplished its end.

The apostle begins with acknowledging that the covenant made at Sinai, of which the Levitical priests were the ministers, had ordinances of worship appointed by God himself, and a sanctuary made of such materials as this world of ours could furnish out, and the centre of a ritual which contained many institutions comparatively low and carnal, Hebrews 9:1-7. Such was the ritual of Moses; the Holy Spirit, by whom it was prescribed, signifying by the difficulty of entrance into the holy of holies, and the necessity of the incense-cloud, and the atoning blood, that the way into the holiest place, that is, into God's immediate presence, was not yet comparatively made manifest, while the first tabernacle had its continuance, or, in other words, while the Jewish economy lasted, Hebrews 9:8 which, far from being the grand and ultimate scheme, is only a kind of allegorical figure and parable, referringto the glorious displays of the present time; in which, nevertheless, there is hitherto a continuance of the temple service; so that gifts and sacrifices are still offered, which amount not to the real expiation of guilt, but to the averting of some temporal evils which the law denounced on transgressors, Hebrews 9:9. For the Mosaic dispensation reached not to the sublimest means of preparing the soul for another life, but consisted in a variety of ordinances relating to the purification of the flesh, which were to continue in force only till the time of reformation, when things should be put into a better situation by the appearance of the Messiah himself in his church, Hebrews 9:10.—Thus, by the inefficacy of the services performed in the Jewish tabernacles, the Holy Ghost has taught us, that all the rites of atonement, and all the acts of worship which men perform on earth, have no efficacy in the way of merit, to procure for them the pardon of sin, and admission into the presence of God.

Next, in opposition to the ineffectual services performed by the Levitical priests in the holy places on earth, the apostle sets the things whichthey prefigured; namely, the effectual services performed by Christ in the holy places in heaven.—These services he describes as follows: Christ being come into the world, as the High-priest appointed by the oath of God the Father, to procure for us the blessings of pardon and salvation which are to be bestowed through his ministration in the greater tabernacle, Hebrews 9:11.—hath entered into the holy place of that great tabernacle, even into heaven itself, neither by the blood of goats nor of calves, but by his own blood or death; and through the merit of that great sacrifice he hath obtained for every faithful saint an everlasting remission of sin, Hebrews 9:12.—Now, that the shedding of Christ's blood should have this efficacy, is most reasonable. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, did, by the appointment of God, redeem the bodies of the offending Israelites from temporal death, and cleanse them in such a manner as to fit them for the tabernacle-worship, Hebrews 9:13,—how much more reasonable is it, that the shedding of the blood of Christ, who in the whole of his obedience was faultless, and is over all God blessed for ever, (Romans 9:5.), should have merit sufficient to cleanse the conscience of penitent sinners, from the guilt of works which deserve death, and fit them, if faithful, for worshipping God in heaven? Hebrews 9:14.—This passage being a description of Christ's ministry as an High-priest, in the true habitation of God, it may be considered as an illustration of ch. Hebrews 8:2 where Christ is called a minister of the holy places, even of the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man.

The apostle had affirmed, ch. Hebrews 8:6 that Jesus is the Mediator or High-priest of a better covenant or dispensation than the law: but theproof of his assertion he deferred to this place, where it naturally comes in. For, having shewed that the death of Christ has sufficient merit to procure for penitent sinners the pardon of sin, he subjoins; for this reason, that his death is so infinitely meritorious, he is appointed by God the Father the Mediator of the new covenant, that by dying to procure the pardon of sin, persevering believers of all ages and nations, the called seed of Abraham, may obtain the eternal inheritance, Hebrews 9:15.— Accordingly, to shew that the new covenant, in which pardon is promised to penitent sinners, is procured by the death of Christ, the apostle observes, that in every case where God entered into a covenant with men, he made the death of an appointed sacrifice necessary to its ratification; to teach sinners, that all his intercourses with them, are founded on the sacrifice of his Son, Hebrews 9:16.—The death of Christ therefore became absolutely necessary according to the previous appointment of God the Father, for the stability of the covenant between God and offending man, as well as for the satisfaction of the justice of God: (however, there is this infinite difference between the God of unerring truth and frail mortals, that his promise implies the absolute certainty of the fulfilment of it on the conditions stated in the covenant; in which sense Christ was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.) Hence we may observe, that not even the covenant at Sinai wasmade without blood, Hebrews 9:17-20.—and hence, likewise, the tabernacles, when set up, and all the vessels of the ministry, were at first consecrated forthe worship of God, by sprinkling them with the blood of the sacrifices, Hebrews 9:21.—and ever after that, all these things were, by appointment of the law, annually cleansed with the blood of the sacrifices offered on the day of expiation. In short, without the shedding of blood, the law allowed no remission on the day of the annual atonement, Hebrews 9:22.—Wherefore, seeing God determined not to pardon sinners, nor to open heaven to them without the shedding of the blood of his Son, it was necessary for shewing this, that the Mosaic tabernacles, which are the figures of the holy places in the heavens, should be cleansed or opened to the worshippers, by the sacrifices of bulls and goats as emblems of the sacrifice of Christ: but heaven itself was to be cleansed, or opened to believers, by the actual offering of that sacrifice, of which the others were the types, Hebrews 9:23.—And, this was the reason that Christ our great High-priest did not enter into the Jewish tabernacles, but into heaven itself, not with the blood of goats and of calves, but with his own blood, now to appear continually, as our High-priest, before the face of God; and by so doing to make continual intercession in behalf of his faithful people, Hebrews 9:24.—To this purpose, however, it was not necessary, that Christ should offer himself often, as the Jewish High priest every year made atonement for the sins of the people, by entering into the earthly holy places, with the blood of the appointed sacrifices, Hebrews 9:25.—For, in that case, Christ must have suffered often since the foundation of the world. But now, at the conclusion of the Mosiac dispensation, he hath appeared on earth to put an end to the typical sin offerings of the law, by the one sacrifice of himself, Hebrews 9:26.—And, to the obtaining of our pardon, his dying once was sufficient. For, since God hath appointed men to die but once, as the punishment of the sin of the first man, and after death to be judged but once for their own sins, Hebrews 9:27.—so Christ being once offered for sin, that one offering is held by God the Father as a sufficient expiation; and by virtue of that one sacrifice, he will, to them who wait for him, appear a second time, without offering any more sacrifice for sin; and he will thus appear, to acquit and save his faithful people by his own sentence as Judge, Hebrews 9:28.


Verse 2

Hebrews 9:2. For there was a tabernacle, &c.— Concerning the tabernacle and its furniture we refer to the notes on that subject in Exodus.


Verse 3

Hebrews 9:3. The holiest of all; Or, The holy of holies.


Verse 4

Hebrews 9:4. Which had the golden censer, Some have started a difficulty here; "Whence is it that the holy of holies is said to have this golden censer, as part of the things deposited in it, whereas Moses mentions only the ark, the pot of manna, Aaron's rod, the two tables of the law, laid up in or near the ark, the propitiatory, or cover of the ark, and the cherubims?" This difficulty has been increased, in their judgment, from the observation that is made 1 Kings 8:9. There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone which Moses put there in Horeb: compare 2 Chronicles 5:10. But let it be observed, that the apostle is speaking of what was put into the holy of holies by Moses, and not of what was placed there by Solomon in after times: nor is it any objection to what the apostle says, that all those things which Moses put there, were not replaced when Solomon built his temple. His professed design is, to speak of the tabernacle in the wilderness, not of the temple in Jerusalem; and therefore he is concerned only with the furniture of the holy of holies, as it was in the days of Moses. Now it is true, that in the books of Moses, no mention is made of this golden censer, as deposited within the veil, and thence to be taken out on the great day of expiation; yet, supposing it to be put within the veil, within easy reach, so that the priest could take it, without going within the veil to get at it,—this would answer all that the apostle says. It is certain that the high-priest was not allowed to enter into the holy of holies but with a censer, or dish of burning coals from off the altar before the Lord; and he was obliged to put incense upon the fire, that the cloud of the incense might cover the mercy seat, that he die not. Leviticus 16:12-13. He could not therefore enter into the holy of holies without incensing it; and he must have had this golden censer to put the incense on. It lay, therefore, most probably, behind the curtain, and within the high-priest'sreach, without his entering the place to get at it. Now this golden censer, and the other things enumerated were all κοσμικα, utensils, or furniture, suited to the customs and practices of this world. It matters little to inquire, whether all these things were laid up in the ark, or whether they were put in proper places near the ark,—as the Greek which we render wherein, will well express;—by which, or near which, or where;—that is, in the tabernacle. They made up the furniture of the holy of holies, and they were all made of gold, and stone, and wood; just as the goods of this world are;—and this is what the apostle was to shew. See Numbers 17:10.


Verse 5

Hebrews 9:5. And over it the cherubims That these things were shadows, emblems, and patterns of heavenly things, is past a doubt, from what we meet with in this epistle; nor does it appear difficult to understand of what the mercy-seat was an emblem, since St. Paul expressly speaks of Christ under that notion, Romans 3:25. Whom God hath set forth as a propitiatory or mercy-seat. The cherubims must have over-shadowed this mercy-seat, or covered it, since their wings joined together over the middle of it. These cherubims are commonly, and I think with good reason, thought to be sensible representations of angels; and they are called cherubims of glory, not barely upon account of the matter or formation of them, but as they were emblems of that Shechinah, or glorious presence of God, which certainly attended the ark, and the mercy-seat in the tabernacle. See the passages in the margin, and on Ezekiel, ch. 1. The next clause has been thought by some to refer to the cherubim only; but Dr. Heylin seems to have given the just interpretation of it; Concerning all which things we are not at this time to give a more distinct account; ουκ εστι :—"There is no need for us to speak distinctly respecting each of them, either on account of the argument which we are upon; or for your information, who are Hebrews, and well acquainted with them."


Verse 6

Hebrews 9:6. Now when, &c.— The common priests went every day into the outward tabernacle, to light the lamps, to burn the incense, or to put, at the appointed times, the shew-bread upon the table: the doing these, and such like acts, is called accomplishing the service of God. The lamps were to be lighted every evening, and the priest was to burn incense every morning and evening: see Exodus 30:7-8


Verse 7

Hebrews 9:7. But into the second, &c.— ' Αγνοηματων, rendered errors, signifies, sins of error, or ignorance. Respecting the day of expiation, see Leviticus 16.


Verse 8

Hebrews 9:8. The Holy Ghost this signifying, &c.— "The Holy Ghost manifesting, δηλουντος , plainly shewing this: not intimating, but clearly pointing it out,—that the way of the holies (or into the holy of holies,) was not open to all, while the first tabernacle stood." By the first tabernacle, the apostle does not mean that part of the tabernacle which he called the first tabernacle in the second verse; but he means the tabernacle as it was first ordered in the wilderness, long before Solomon built the temple. The Holy Ghost plainly manifested, that the way into the holy of holies was not free or open to all: there was not permission to all to enter into it; since none but the high-priest alone, and he but once a year, was allowed to enter into it. The apostle had observed, that the holy of holies in the tabernacle, like the outward part of it, was all κοσμικος, worldly; that is, furnished only with such things as were suited to this world, and not to make the worshippers perfect as to conscience. The Holy Ghost plainly shewed, that a true internal worship, such as would render every particular person happy for ever, was not the design of the ceremonial law, any farther than that law had reference to the atonement and intercession of Jesus Christ. But in this latter respect it pointed entirely to heavenly things; and therefore the opinion of those who hold that the Mosaic economy, in all its different views, has no respect to a future state, is greatly to be reprobated. The words, the Holy Ghost this signifying, seem to me not to refer to the present verse only, but to the whole which follows, as the spiritual explication of the legal ceremonies referred to in the preceding part of the chapter.


Verse 9

Hebrews 9:9. Which was a figure for the time then present, The word then is not in the original, though our translators have not distinguished it, as usual in such cases, by putting it in a different character. By the present time many eminent commentators understand the present time of the temple service: "What the Holy Ghost pointed out from the construction of the tabernacle, and only the high-priest's entrance into it, holds equally now under the temple at this present time; in which gifts and sacrifices are offered daily." Doddridge, however, and others, give the passage a different turn; understanding it, not as referring merely to the temple, but that the constitution before described, was a figurative representation of the Christian dispensation, which, at the timewhen the apostle wrote, was displayed in all its glory: in which view, we read and translate as follows;—"Which is only a kind of allegorical figure and parable, referring to the glorious displays of the present time; in which, nevertheless, there is hitherto a continuance of the temple service; so that gifts and sacrifices are still offered, which yet, in the nature of things, are not able to make the person who performs the service perfect, with respect to the conscience; as they refer not to the real expiation of guilt, but only to the averting of some temporal evils, which the law denounced on transgressions." This, in a few words, expresses what seems to be of the greatest importance forunderstanding the Mosaic sacrifices; which is, that they were never intended to expiate offencesto such a degree, as to deliver the sinner from the final judgment of God, in another world; but merely to make his peace with the government under which he then was, and to furnish him with a pardon pleadable against any prosecution which might be commenced against him in their courts of justice, or any exclusion from the privilege of drawing near to God, as one externally at peace with him, in the solemnities of his temple worship. Expositors have perplexed themselves greatly with respect to the construction of this and the next verse; which however appears to me exceeding plain. The apostle's reasoning seems to be this: "By what we have mentioned in the foregoing verses, the Holy Ghost plainly denoted what follows, Hebrews 9:8 namely, that the way into the holy of holies was not made manifest while the first tabernacle continued; which is a figure,a visibletype and emblem even to the present time: at which time the same kind of gifts and sacrifices are offered in the temple, as were heretofore offered in the tabernacle: and which neither then nor now are able to make perfect, as to the conscience, him that ministereth only in meats or drinks;— τον λατρευοντα μονον επι βρωμασι ." This is a natural and easy construction of the words, and the 9th and 10th verses must otherwise appear as tautology, the apostle having before said thesame thing; unless we understand him as here speaking of the temple service, which it seems extremely proper for his argument to assert as of the same import and signification with the tabernacle service. Until the time of reformation, means the time of the Messiah, when all things should be set aright. See Acts 3:19 and Acts 11:19.


Verse 11

Hebrews 9:11. But Christ being come, &c.— The apostle here begins to set forth the superiority of our High-priest, by shewing that, in respect to his priestly office, he has no concern with mundane, secular, worldlymatters, but is wholly engaged with future good things for his people. Christ did not pass into the holy of holies, as the Jewish high-priest, nor indeed did he pass through any tabernacle made with hands; but he went into a greater and more perfect tabernacle,—even into heaven itself. The high-priest was wont to pass through the outward part of the temple, in order to get into the holy of holies. Christ went into the true holy of holies through a more excellent and perfect tabernacle, and therefore not of this building. He did not use a golden censer, or any worldly instruments; nor did he enter by means of the blood of goats and calves, but by means of [ δια, ] his own blood; and he entered once for all into the true holy of holies: nor was this done to obtain an annual remission of sins, but aneternal redemption for all his faithful people: nor has he occasion often to repeat or renew what he has done; but, once for all, he has accomplished for ever all that he aimed at in his great work of atonement.


Verse 12

Hebrews 9:12. Neither by the blood of goats, &c.— This and the preceding verse may be connected and paraphrased as follows: "But Christ an High-priest of good things to be afterwards bestowed, being come, through a greater and more perfect tabernacle, which was not, as the Jewish tabernacle, made with hands, or fashioned by men; being come (I say,) to the holy of holies, he entered once thereinto, not indeed with the blood of goats and calves, as the high-priests did,—having attained eternal redemption for all his faithful people,—a redemption, of which all the remissions and all the benefits procured by the ministration of the Aaronical priesthood, were but very imperfect figures."


Verse 13-14

Hebrews 9:13-14. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, The legal impurities debarred the Jews from an attendance upon the public service; but they were freed from these bythe sacrifices, washings, and sprinklings appointed by the Mosaic law, which are called carnal ordinances, Hebrews 9:10 and so became qualified again for the public worship; and of this the apostle speaks under the notion of sanctification, as typical of that internal sanctification which he speaks of in Hebrews 9:14. That this sanctification or purifying is to be considered with respect to the divine service, appears from the 14th verse, which is in immediate connection with the 13th, and wherein he represents the advantage that we have by the blood of Christ; namely, to be qualified and privileged to serve the living God. Many understand the words eternal Spirit, of the Logos, or Divine nature of our Lord; and this seems indeed most agreeable to the nature of the apostle's argument, since he is setting forth the intrinsic worth and excellence of his offering; though it must be owned, that agood sense maybe given of the words, when they are interpreted of the Holy Spirit. Bishop Fell so understands them, and particularlymentions Christ's being conceived, proclaimed, anointed, for working miracles, and at last voluntarily laying down and taking up his life by the Spirit; and in this view many receive the present text as a full testimony to the eternity, and consequently the divinity, of the Holy Spirit. Christ is here said to have offered himself: he was to go through life and death too; he was to do his Father's will upon earth during his most sacred ministry; and when he had done all this, he was to offer up himself free from spot or fault in every respect. If his blood only had been mentioned, it would signify no more than his dying, as was determined of him; but the offering himself implies the whole of his life and death too, in all his undertakings for man, from his infinite condescension in becoming incarnate, to his ascension to heaven. Dead works evidently mean all sins, and, in the full sense of the phrase, all works which do not proceed from the fear and love of God, all of which have in them the nature of sin. The blood of Christ is said to purge or purify from these, as it makes atonement for, or obtains the forgiveness of them; the consequence of which is, that the conscience is hereby freed from the distressing sense of guilt, and a person acquires a freedom in the service of God. But this purification of the conscience necessarilyincludes the sanctification of the heart: for "the Blood of Jesus Christ the Son of God cleanseth from all sin," 1 John 1:7 not only from the guilt, but from the power, and, in the faithful soul, from the indwelling of sin. The merit of that blood derives into the souls of the faithful all the regenerating influences of the HolySpirit of God, that are necessary to prepare and mature them for eternal glory.


Verse 15

Hebrews 9:15.— What follows in this chapter seems to be in a good measure a digression, though a most pertinent and useful one. Having, in what goes before, by comparing the ancient tabernacles and the service thereof with Christ, shewn the weakness of it, he returns to this topic in the beginning of the next chapter; but here, upon having asserted the great virtue of the blood of Christ, he enlarged, in order to shew how necessary the shedding of his blood was, partly upon the account of his office as Mediator, and partly from the nature of God's covenant with men, as appears by what was done under the first covenant. He argues, from the different natures of the things to be purified with sacrifices, that the blood of a more excellent sacrifice was necessary under the second, than under the first; and in the four last verses he has a respect to what he had before said, of Christ dying, and entering into the holy of holies but once; proving this to have been every way sufficient.

And for this cause And by that [blood] he is the Mediator of the new covenant, that death being provided for the redemption, &c. Chapman, Euseb. vol. 2: p. 338. This reading seems unexceptionably just. Dr. Sykes understands it in the same manner, and thus paraphrases the verse: "And besides, through this blood Christ is become the Mediator of the new covenant, and acts as such between God and man; so that as death intervened under the first covenant, in order to ratify that, and to secure the engagement to deliver from or pardon the transgressions which were under it; in like manner, under the second covenant, there was to be an intervention of death, &c." The word Διαθηκη has throughout this epistle been hitherto truly rendered covenant, and so it should have been here. The Hebrew word ברית berith, invariably signifies a covenant, and the apostle plainly had this in his eye. See Hebrews 9:18-20. Besides, a testament has no Mediator belonging to it, as a covenant has; and therefore "the Mediator of a testament" is an improper, perhaps an unintelligible expression. See the next verse. The apostle in the present verse gives this reason why Christ was the Mediator of a new covenant through his blood; namely, because as by the intervention of death assurance was made or given that transgressions under the first covenant should be pardoned; so likewise under the second covenant, by means of death, the faithful should have assurance that their sins should be remitted, and they entitled to an everlasting inheritance. There is a general likeness or similitude in the two great scenes of God's providence and grace. There was death in the first covenant, in order to the establishing of that law which gave the Israelites assurance that their sins of ignorance should be forgiven; and that they should, if they would conform to what was commanded, enjoy a present temporal possession. There was likewise death in the second covenant, to establish that; and to give assurance that those with whom it was made, that is, all the faithful of all nations, ages, and dispensations, should enjoy a future and eternal inheritance. It was expedient that Christ should be made man, or be partaker of flesh and blood, that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death. Ch. Hebrews 2:14. The God-man Christ therefore was Mediator through his blood, that as death intervened for the freeing men from transgressions, and giving them a present enjoyment in the land of Canaan, under the first covenant; in like manner, under the second covenant, they who should enjoy an everlasting inheritance, might, by the intervening of death, receive the pardon of their sins, and life everlasting.


Verse 16

Hebrews 9:16. For where a testament is, &c.— "For where a covenant is engaged in, answerable to that which typified this of which I now speak,—to make it firm and binding, there must be necessarily something done, which implies the death of the covenanting party." Nothing can be more foreign to the apostle's subject than to speak of testaments and testators, as he is made to do in this and the next verse, and then to return again, Hebrews 9:18 to the subject of covenants, upon which he had been treating. But let us consider what was the fact, that we may understand, or at least get some light into, this very difficult portion of scripture. A covenant is proposed by God the Father to mankind by a Mediator, Jesus Christ, his own eternal Son; wherein a promise of an eternal inheritance is made to man, provided he is ready and willing to comply with the conditions laid before him: there had been a covenant made by God to the Jewish nation, which engaged to them a present temporal happiness in the land of Canaan, provided they observed the law given to them. Here then a second covenant is proposed by God, not offering a present, but a future good; not a temporal, but an eternal happiness: it is a covenant offered by God,—a Being omnipotent, immortal, uncontrolable,—to a series of beings weak, frail, infirm, but capable of subsisting after death. Christ, as the eternal Word of God made flesh, assuming human nature and uniting it to his Godhead, is not the party that enters into covenant, but he is the Mediator between the parties covenanting. God the Father is the party on one side, and he offers peace through the blood of his Son: man is ο διαθεμενος, the party with whom the covenant is made; who is through grace to accept and fulfil the conditions, namely, to believe in, love, and obey Christ through the Spirit of God. Christ is the Person who acts between God the Father and offending man, and brings the conditions of our salvation; but offers themto us through the infinite merit of his death and intercession, and with the promise of his Spirit, without whom we could not in the least degree comply with the conditions, or be in the least degree sanctified and prepared for glory.


Verse 17

Hebrews 9:17. For a testament is of force, &c.— For a covenant made where death is, is valid. The verse may be paraphrased thus: "For you know that sacrificial rites have ever attended the most celebrated covenants which God hath made with man; so that I may say, a covenant is confirmed over the dead; so that it does not avail, nor has any force at all, while he, by whom it is confirmed, liveth." It may be proper to remark, that Parkhurst is of opinion that the word Διαθηκη should be rendered, when referring to God's transactions with man, not a covenant, but an institution, or dispensation. The word signifies, says Junius, neither a testament, nor a covenant, nor an agreement; but, as the import of the word simply requires, a disposition or institution of God: and in this view our English word dispensation seems very happily to answer it; and thus the dispensation of faith, and free justification, of which Christ is the Mediator, is called new, in respect of the old or Sinaitical one, of which Moses was the mediator. See his Lexicon on the words Βιβαιος and Διαθηκη. The apostle having, in these verses, spoken of the nature of covenants or dispensations in the general, proceeds in what follows to apply it to the Mosaic and Christian institutions; shewing, that as Moses, the mediator of the covenant between God and the Jewish people, ratified the covenant by the blood of the sacrifices; so the Lord Jesus Christ, the Mediator between God and all mankind, ratified the Christian covenant, by the sacrifice of himself, (Hebrews 9:26.) the great antetype of all the sacrifices slain under the law; himself, as the destined victim, paying the penalty due on man's part for the broken covenant, and, as the great High priest, entering into the presence of God, once for all, with that atoning blood which he had shed for us, Hebrews 9:24.


Verse 18

Hebrews 9:18. Whereupon, neither the first testament, &c.— Whence neither was the first covenant originally transacted, or made without blood.


Verse 19

Hebrews 9:19. For when Moses had spoken every precept, &c.— Moses, in his account of the transaction, Leviticus 16 does not mention all the circumstances spoken of in this verse. St. Paul might very probably have received them from tradition. However, the apostle's account was confirmed by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God. Ceremonies of a similar kind are prescribed, Leviticus 14:4-6; Leviticus 14:49-52 as in cleansing the leper; and it is highly probable, that the sprinkling the blood of the sin-offering might be done in this method. The blood was mixed with water, to preserve it from coagulating; and perhaps to this the mixture of sacramental wine with water, which pretty soon prevailed in the primitive church, might have some intended reference. Owen is of opinion, that the ceremony here referred to, was constantly performed on the day of atonement: it is certain, however, that it is not expressly prescribed in the account given of the ritual of that day.


Verse 20

Hebrews 9:20. Saying, This is the blood of the testament Of the covenant, that is, the blood by which the covenant between God and this people is ratified and confirmed. Our blessed Saviour seems to have had the passage of Moses here referred to in view, when he gave to his disciples the cup in his last supper: This, said he, is my blood, even that of the new testament, which is shed for many, for the remission of sins; Matthew 26:28. The apostle, in the words before us, follows neither the Hebrew nor the LXX but only gives the sense of what he found in the Old Testament, as he does in many other parts of this epistle. It is undeniably plain from hence, (if there wanted further proof,) that he uses the word διαθηκη for a covenant, and not for a testament; not only from the Hebrew word ברית, berith, which he here translates, but from the thing itself, the old law having nothing of the nature of a testament in it. See the Reflections on this chapter, where I treat the subject according to our common translation.


Verse 22

Hebrews 9:22. And almost all things are—purged with blood; Some things by the law were purified or cleansed with water only: Exodus 19:10. Leviticus 16:28 others were purified with the water of separation; Numbers 19:9; Numbers 19:11; Numbers 19:22 other things were cleansed by fire (Numbers 31:22-23.) and by the water of separation jointly; but, generally speaking, all thingswere purified by blood; and therefore the apostle makes use of the word almost. The last clause was a proverbial saying which is to be met with in the Jerusalem Talmud; and it appears from Leviticus 5:11; Leviticus 5:13 that this clause also is to be understood with the exception above given: "In general, without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness;" and this was absolutely the case as it related to a future state. This passage appears to be a certain proof that the sin-offerings were not merely tokens of friendship restored between God and the offender; but that the blood was looked upon as the consideration on which the pardon was granted


Verse 23

Hebrews 9:23. It was therefore necessary The sense stands thus: "It was necessary that these patterns of heavenly things, ch. Hebrews 8:5 should be purified with these sacrifices of calves, and goats, &c. but as the heavenly things themselves are unspeakably more noble and excellent, so if they are to be purified by sacrifices, the sacrifices must be more excellent and noble than those legal sacrifices were. Such a sacrifice is Christ, who, though but once offered, effectually answers this purpose." It seems that the apostle, from speaking thus in the plural number in this verse, takes occasion, in the four last verses, to shew that this one sacrifice of Christ was all that was needful; whereby he in a manner guarded against that ill use which some, notwithstanding his caution, have made of his word. It may perhaps seem strange, that celestial things should be spoken of, as needing to be purified and cleansed; but it as to be considered, that as the sacred dwelling and the vessels were esteemed to be polluted by the Israelites, who in various degrees had access to them; so heaven, if the blood of Christ had not intervened, would have been as it were polluted by the entrance of those who went into it, and had been formerly sinners, had it been possible for them to enter without his sacrifice; butthat would have been absolutely impossible without the vicarious punishment unto death of the eternal Son of God in our human n


Verse 24

Hebrews 9:24. For Christ is not entered into the holy places, &c.— The apostle here pursues his grand point, which was to shew the infinite superiority and preference of the Christian covenant above that of the Jews. The sacrifice of Christ is more valuable than their sacrifices; the place into which Christ entered is much preferable to that into which their high-priesthood entered: the one was made with hands; the other the work of God: the Jewish tabernacle, a copy or pattern only; the Christian, an original: the Jewish tabernacle made like to things shewn in the mount; the Christian tabernacle, to the heavens themselves.


Verse 25

Hebrews 9:25. Nor yet Not, indeed. See Hebrews 9:12. There is an ellipsis in this place, to be supplied from Hebrews 9:23 thus: "Nor indeed was it necessary that he should often offer himself." With blood of others means, the blood of bulls and of goats; and is rendered much more agreeably to the original by Dr. Heylin, with other blood than his own:— εν αιματι αλλοτριω .


Verse 26

Hebrews 9:26. For then must he often have suffered The apostle's design was, to shew the difference between the high-priest's offering once every year, and Christ's offering once for all;—that had frequent oblation been necessary, then Christ must have offered himself often since the foundation of the world. But, instead of frequent oblation, there was no occasion that he should suffer more than once, in order to obtain the end designed; so that here are two points in which the superior advantage of Christ is evident: First, whereas the high-priest took away the sins of the Jews only, and offered sacrifice in order to remove their offences; Christ died for the sins of all mankind. Secondly, whereas the high-priest was obliged to do his office annually, and sacrificed annually calves and goats; Christ did his office fully and completely, by one oblation of himself once offered. It is added, But now once, at the end, or completion of the ages,—he hath appeared, or is manifested. It is not at the end of the world, but at the completion of certain periods of time, appointed for certain purposes by the divine Providence. There was an antediluvian age, a patriarchal age, and an age during which the law of Moses was to continue: there were also four ages described in the prophet Daniel, under distinct periods, by a succession of four kingdoms, during the last of which the Son of man was to appear: each of these was properly an Αιων, or age. Christ therefore came not at the end of the world, for that is not yet ended; but at the end of the ages which God had appointed for certain purposes previous to the coming of the Messiah. See ch. Hebrews 1:2, Hebrews 11:13. It is no great matter whether the word αθετησις be rendered by putting away, or destruction, or laying aside, or rejecting,—to all which this term is applied: here it signifies to annul, or make void. Dr. Heylin renders it to expiat


Verse 27

Hebrews 9:27. And as it is appointed unto men once to die. The apostle had several times asserted, that Christ was made like unto us in all things, except sin; and this consideration he seems to allege in this place, in order to clear up what he says of Christ's only dying once. By dying once, he submits to the condition which they were in for whom he died; namely, for the whole world, but especially for them who perseveringly believe.


Verse 28

Hebrews 9:28. So Christ was once offered The comparison here used is this: "Whereas all men die once, and after this there is to be a judgment for them; so Christ died once, and, having offered himself to bear away sin, he too, as well as all others, shall appear a second time, but without sin, or, bearing away sin, as a Judge and Rewarder of those who have lived in expectation of him." As to the phraseology, the design of the apostle is, to represent what our Saviour did for us; and this he does under the character or image of the scape-goat. The scapegoat was to be presented before God, Leviticus 16:7 and then the sins of the people were to be put upon the head of it; Hebrews 9:21 and the goat was to take and bear upon him all their iniquities into a land uninhabited, Hebrews 9:22. In like manner our Saviour, once offered to God, shall take upon him the sins of the faithful, ( ληψεται, ) and shall bear, or carry them away. See Matthew 26:28. Romans 8:3. Limborch thinks that in the latter part of this verse there is an allusion to the high-priest's coming out to bless the people who were waiting for him in the temple, when the great day of atonement was over; and as he then appeared in his golden garments, whereas before he had officiated in the plain dress of a common priest; and as the trumpet of the jubilee on that year sounded to proclaim the commencement of that happy period, there is not perhaps an image which can enter into the mind of man, more suitable to convey the grand idea which the apostle intended to convey by it, than this would be to a Jew, who well knew the grand solemnity to which it referred. Dr. Heylin renders the last clause of this verse very well, shall appear the second time without sin, [or without an offering for sin, Blackwall,] for the salvation of those who wait for him.

Inferences.—The whole progress of the apostle's argument will lead us to reflect on the reason that we have for thankfulness, whose eyes are directed, not to an earthly sanctuary and its furniture, splendid indeed, yet comparatively dark, mutable, and perishing; but to the holiest of all, the way to which is now clearly manifested. What matter of solid and everlasting joy! that whereas those gifts and sacrifices were incapable of making those perfect who presented them, or attended upon them, and the ordinances of that sanctuary consisted only in meats and drinks, and corporeal purifications and ceremonies; we by faith behold an High-priest of a better and more perfect tabernacle, an High-priest who hath wrought out eternal redemption for all the faithful, and entered once for all into heaven for them! Eternal redemption! who has duly considered its glorious import? To him, and only to him, who has attentively considered it, is the name at the Redeemer sufficiently dear. But O, what short of the possession of it, can teach us the true value! What, but to view that temple of God above, where through his intercession we hope to be made pillars, and from thence, to look down upon that abyss of misery and destruction from which nothing but his Blood was sufficient to ransom us!

Let that blood which is our redemption, be our confidence. We know there was no real efficacy in that of bulls, or of goats, or in the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean. All that these things could do was to purify the flesh, and to restore men to an external communion with God in the Jewish sanctuary. But the blood of Christ can purify the conscience, and restore its peace when troubled, when tortured with a sense of guilt, contracted by dead works, which render us unfit for, and incapable of divine converse. To that Blood therefore let us look: let the death of Christ be remembered, as the great spotless sacrifice by which we draw nigh unto God: and let those virtues and graces which were displayed in it under the influences of that eternal Spirit, which was given unto him without measure, concur with that infinite benevolence which subjected him to it for our sakes, to recommend him to our humblest veneration, and our warmest affections.

What praise then do we owe to that voluntary victim, who made his blood the seal of that better covenant, of which he is the mediator! O, that as all the vessels of the sanctuary, and all the people, were sprinkled with the blood of the sacrifices, on that day when Moses entered for them into solemn covenant with God; so our souls and all our services might be under the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus! By the efficacy of that were the heavenly places sanctified and prepared for all the faithful; by that our way into them is opened; let us daily be looking up to the Lord Jesus Christ, as gone to appear in the presence of God before us, and entered into heaven with his own blood. May his death be as efficacious to subdue the power of sin in our hearts, as it is to expiate guilt. Then, and then only, may we look forward with pleasure to the great solemnities of death and judgment, and expect that faithful Redeemer, who though he is to come no more as a sacrifice for sin, will then appear for the complete salvation of all, who have obediently received him under that character, and waited for him according to his word.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The apostle begins with an account of the tabernacle, where the chief part of the service under the Mosaic dispensation, or first covenant, was performed. It consisted of two parts:

1. The outward, where stood the candlestick of beaten gold, and the table, with the shew-bread laid thereon; and this was called the sanctuary, where the daily service of God was performed. The whole building was figurative of Christ's body; the candlestick pointed him out as the true light who should come into the world, where, without him, spiritual darkness must have been for ever spread abroad; and the table of shew-bread pointed him out as the living Bread that cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world, upon whom his believing people, consecrated to be spiritual priests, feed, and maintain the most endeared communion thereby with each other.

2. The inward, which a second veil separated from the outer part of the tabernacle, and was called the holiest of all, the figure of heaven itself, into which none entered but the high-priest alone once a year on the great day of expiation, with the golden censer full of incense, which typified Christ's intercession in heaven for his faithful people; and there stood the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, which signified him who was to be the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth, wherein were the tables of the law written with the finger of God, and, by the side of it, the golden pot that had manna, which was miraculously preserved from putrefaction, signifying the daily living bread with which Christ feeds his Israel in this howling wilderness; giving them meat to eat which the world knoweth not of. There also was Aaron's rod that budded, from a dry stick producing flowers and fruit, emblematic of him who rose as the rod out of the stem of Jesse, to be by divine appointment our High priest for ever. And over the ark were the cherubims of beaten gold, two winged figures, shadowing the mercy-seat, over which the glorious Shechinah dwelt, and on which the blood was sprinkled on the great day of atonement, intimating to us that Christ, as our propitiatory, interposes between the wrath of a holy God and the transgressors of his law, to save his faithful people from the eternal ruin which must otherwise necessarily ensue. But the consideration of the mystical meaning of these things the apostle waves, of which, says he, we cannot now speak particularly. Let us not therefore too curiously pry into them, nor affect to be wise above that which is written.

2nd, The tabernacle being prepared, we are told what service was performed in it.

1. In the outer part of the tabernacle the ordinary priests every day officiated, burning incense, trimming the lamps, and accomplishing all the service appointed them.

2. Into the second tabernacle, within the veil, went the high priest alone once a year, on one day only, and then not without blood, which he offered as an atonement for himself, and for the errors of the people; intimating hereby that there was no access to God but through the blood of atonement, even the Blood of him whom all the sacrifices represented, and whose intercession alone could be available for salvation.

3rdly, The apostle proceeds to declare the design of the Holy Ghost in these ritual services.

1. He signified hereby, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: under that dark dispensation, the way of access to a throne of grace and of admission into heaven itself through the blood and intercession of the Redeemer, was not so clearly and fully laid open, as should afterwards be under the gospel.

2. The tabernacle was a figure for the time then present, suited to that more obscure dispensation, and the shadow of good things to come, till he who was the substance of them should appear, and then it would become useless.

3. The gifts and sacrifices there offered could not make the worshippers perfect; but though they were available to the purifying of the flesh, and exculpated them from suffering the temporal punishments due to them as offenders against God considered as their political Sovereign, they could not purge the conscience from moral evil, appease the fears of guilt, or secure from eternal punishment, any farther than they led them to Christ, who was in these sacrifices prefigured, that so they might be justified by faith; for these sacrifices could little avail, standing only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, and rites which accompanied them, and may be considered as a burden imposed on them until the time of reformation, when Christ in his gospel should free his spiritual Israel from this heavy yoke.

4. Christ hath appeared and accomplished all that was here prefigured concerning him. But Christ being come an High-priest of good things to come, on purpose to procure all spiritual and eternal blessings for his faithful people, by, or in a greater and more perfect tabernacle above, not made with human hands, that is to say, not of this building, not making any part of this lower creation; neither by the blood of goats and calves, which was all that the Levitical priests could offer, but by a sacrifice infinitely more excellent; he has made the atonement, even by offering his own body on the tree; and with his own blood, of everlasting efficacy, he entered in once into the holy place; even into heaven itself, there for ever to abide and plead the merit of that sacrifice which he had offered, having obtained eternal redemption for all his faithful saints by this one oblation. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, and under the Mosaic economy re-admitted those who were unclean, and excluded from the public worship, to the congregation of Israel; how much more shall the blood of Christ, the efficacy of which is so infinitely greater, who through the eternal Spirit which dwelt in his perfectly pure human nature, offered himself without spot to God, a Lamb meet to bleed on God's altar, how shall not this, I say, much more purge your conscience from dead works, from all your sins, however great and aggravated, the wages of which must have been eternal death, and restore you to serve the living God, in all holy and willing obedience, regarding him now as your reconciled God and Father, through the Son of his love, Christ Jesus? Note; (1.) The excellence and availableness of Christ's sacrifice arises from the dignity of his person; he who offered his human nature upon the cross was very God, and that gave infinite value to the blood which he shed. (2.) Sin must eternally have destroyed all the human race but for this one oblation; nothing else could purge the sinner's conscience; but this is all-sufficient to save to the uttermost, and cleanse us from all sin. (3.) All whose consciences are purged by the Blood of sprinkling, experience also the power of changing grace upon their hearts, and are both inclined and enabled in righteousness and true holiness to serve the living God.

4thly, The gospel dispensation is considered under the nature of a covenant of grace, we receiving all spiritual blessings through this great Mediator between God and man.

And for this cause he is the Mediator of the New Testament, securing for his faithful people every blessing, that by means of death, whereby the covenant was ratified, and the full atonement made, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, the efficacy of his sacrifice reaching back to the beginning, as well as to the end of time, they which are called to faith in him, in whatever age they may have lived, might receive the promise of eternal inheritance, which promise will be infallibly fulfilled to all of them who are faithful unto death. For as among men where a testament is made, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator, before the legacies bequeathed can be claimed, or paid; so was it necessary that Christ should die; for a testament is of force only after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. Where-upon, neither the first testament was dedicated without blood of slain beasts, which typified the death and blood-shedding of the great Redeemer. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, which had been sacrificed, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book and all the people, in token of the ratification of all that was contained in the sacred volume, and of the application of the blessings and benefits contained in the testament to the souls of the faithful; and this was figurative of that blood and water which flowed from the wounded side of the Redeemer, which in its virtue effectually cleanses the consciences of those who believe, from all guilt and defilement. And this Moses bade them particularly to observe, Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you, whereby it is ratified, and his faithfulness engaged to all his saints, for the fulfilment of all the promises therein contained. Moreover he sprinkled likewise with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry, when they were made. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood, wherein the sacrifice and death of Christ were constantly held forth to them as the alone meritorious cause of the sinner's acceptance; and that without the shedding of his blood there is no remission of sins.

[ I have here, as I generally do in my Reflections, followed the common translation, but am still of opinion with Mr. Peirce, Dr. Doddridge, and other eminent commentators, that the word διαθηκη should be rendered covenant, and not testament; as it is, and must be, in every other part of the New Testament where it is used: and the mediator of a testament, as Dr. Doddridge observes, is a very improper expression. This does not at all affect the necessity and infinite merit of Christ's sacrifice; for the covenant was ratified solely by the shedding of the blood of the God-man and could not otherwise have been available in the least degree.]

5thly, From what he had advanced, the apostle argues,

That it was therefore necessary, by divine appointment, that the patterns of things in the heavens, the tabernacle and all the vessels, should be purified with these typical sacrifices and sprinklings of blood; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these, even the offering of Jesus himself, who by his own blood ratified the covenant of grace; and, being through his sacrifice consecrated to his office as the great High-priest, entered into heaven, there to present his blood before the throne, and prepare mansions for the reception of his faithful people. For Christ is not, like the Jewish high-priests, 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, and effectually to ensure to his faithful saints all the blessings which, by his blood-shedding, he hath purchased: nor was his sacrifice incomplete, as yet again to require that he should offer himself often, as the high-priest entereth into the holy place every year with the blood of others, of the animals which were sacrificed: (for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world, and the fall of man;) but now once in the end of the world, at the close of the Jewish economy, and at the beginning of the last and most excellent dispensation, under the gospel, hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, suffering in the human nature, and, by the divine glory of his person, offering such a complete and all-availing sacrifice, as never needed a repetition, the efficacy thereof extending to every persevering believer to the latest ages of time. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, returning is the dust from whence they came, and but once, for after this bodily death is the final judgment, when all must appear at God's bar, and stand or fall to eternity: so Christ was once offered upon the cross to bear the sins of many, and made there a full atonement by his one oblation; and unto them that look for him, in faith and love, expecting his return, shall he appear, not as a suffering but a glorified Saviour, without sin, having taken it all away, and being now manifested to bring his faithful people unto that complete and perfect salvation in glory, which he hath obtained for them. Note; (1.) Die we must, such is the divine decree; highly therefore doth it import us to prepare for this awful change. (2.) Judgment follows close at the heels of death; and as the tree falleth, it must lie for ever. (3.) He that suffered upon a cross, shall shortly appear upon the throne, and a terrible Judge will he be found to those who have not embraced him as a Saviour. (4.) It is the character of his believing people, that they look for the day of his appearing, earnestly expecting his arrival, that they may obtain their perfect consummation both in body and soul in his kingdom of everlasting glory.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/hebrews-9.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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