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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Hebrews 8

 

 

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Verse 1

II. OUR ASCENDED HIGH PRIEST: INTRODUCING THE TRUE REALITY IN PLACE OF SHADOWS AND SUBSTITUTING FOR AN OLD AND INFERIOR, A NEW AND SUPERIOR, DISPENSATION, Hebrews 8:1-13.

Hebrews 8:1-6 portray the real and divine High Priest as having gloriously ascended to the upper tabernacle—the true and heavenly; Hebrews 8:7-13 portray the glory of the consequent new covenant, by him inaugurated, in comparison with the old.

1. The sum—The main point, the outcome of the above view of the eternal priesthood, is this.

Such a high priest—The strength of our argument lies in the greatness and glory of our high priest in his exalted session in the heavens.

Set—Took seat. The earthly high priest reverently stood, and stood but for a moment, in presence of God in the holy of holies. But this, our high priest, sits a divine priest in the heavens.


Verse 2

2. A minister—A performer of sacred rites.

The sanctuary—Literally, the holy places, namely, in the tabernacle or temple.

The true tabernacle—The genuine, real tabernacle, of which the earthly tabernacle is but a shadow, a copy after a pattern in the skies, Hebrews 8:5.

Pitched—A tabernacle is simply a tent; and the Greek word for pitched is fastened together; designating the fastening of the different parts so as to form or construct the tent. Our word, to pitch, rather refers to fixing or pitching upon the spot and placing the tent there. Hence the Greek term describes, more beautifully than does the English, the formation or building by divine power of the heavenly tabernacle.

Not man—Who built, indeed, the earthly, but not the heavenly, tabernacle.

[image]


Verse 3

3. For—To show the true reality, nay, the sole reality, of Christ’s high priesthood, of which the earthly high priesthood is a shadow. That completeness consisted in the fact that he had a divine somewhat… to offer, a point slightly opened here, and completely developed at Hebrews 9:26; Hebrews 10:5-17.


Verse 4

4. For—It is as yet an unexplained somewhat; for so entirely is this high priest out of the order of earthly high priests, that, if he were on earth, (were being here emphatic,) he would not be a priest at all. Our writer seems about to explain this somewhat, but the current of his thought is veered (after the Pauline style, note on Ephesians 3:1; Ephesians 3:14) by a view opening upon him of Christ’s elevation to the mediatorship of the new covenant, and he defers considering the somewhat… to offer to Hebrews 10:5-17.

Priests… law—The priesthood on earth are a regular line, offering gifts, and by regular law. And in this line, and with these gifts, and according to this law, Christ would be no priest. For he was not descended from Levi; he never performed any sacrifices, and the law forbade him to be a priest. Yet the Being who on earth gazed upon the offerers of sacrifice, unadmitted to perform the rite, was sole original of all—was both sole priest and victim.


Verse 5

5. And, curiously enough, this whole order of priests and tabernacle are but a copy on earth of this true priest, who is no priest on earth, but really sole, real, original priest, whether on earth or in the heavens.

Unto— For. The earthly and the heavenly tabernacle correspond to each other. Moses was shown the pattern… in the mount. Exodus 25:9; Exodus 25:40; Acts 7:44. Not that the eye of Moses was so enlarged in its scope of vision as to see the vast, original heavens. But such a pattern was exhibited as enabled the mind of Moses to construct a material frame to symbolize its nature.

That the sanctuary below was but a small model of the glorious sanctuary in the heavens is the doctrine of this and the following chapters, as of other scriptures. So even the earthly Jerusalem was type of a heavenly Jerusalem above. See note on Galatians 4:26. While below are the earthly sanctuary, ritual, and priesthood, above are the true tabernacle, the heavenly things, and the high priest on the right hand of God. See our note on Hebrews 9:1.


Verse 6

6. But—In contrast to his being on earth not a priest, he has in heaven a divine ministry, therefore a more excellent. Not that he performs a sacrifice in heaven; but presents himself in heaven as the historical sacrifice once offered, whose merit forever avails in behalf of those for whom its efficacy has been pledged. And from that high standpoint he has power as mediator, or middle being, to change the dispensation and bring in a better covenant. And here our Hebrews may see to what a height the very sufferings of the despised Messiah exalt him; and from what a transcendent height the better covenant is brought in.

Established—Literally, legislated, constituted by law.

Better promises—Because clearer, fuller of heaven, and more truly based upon a past atonement than the promises of Hebrews 6:12, where see note.

And now the new covenant will be portrayed as superior, first, in its greater holiness, (7-10,) and, second, in its ultimate universal diffusion of divine knowledge and mercy, 11-13.


Verse 7

7. That first covenant, however the Hebrews may honour and cling to it, was by its own Old Testament prophetic confession a defective one. No place, or room, would have been recognised for a second, if the first had been faultless.


Verse 8

8. For—To quote the proof.

Finding fault with themThem, like their, in Hebrews 8:9, refers to the people under the first covenant as morally faulty under it, and needing a new. He (God, whose the words are) saith. In Jeremiah 31:31-34. Delitzsch thus describes the sad crisis in which these predictions were, originally, by the prophet uttered: “After the sack of Jerusalem, Jeremiah, with the other captives, was brought in chains to Rama, where Nebuzaradan had his headquarters. Then took place, at God’s special command, his prophecies of the future entire restoration of Israel, of another David, of Rachel’s wailing over her children at Rama, and their future return; of the new covenant, resting on absolute and veritable forgiveness of sins, which Jehovah would make with his people; these prophecies forming the third part of the three great triologies into which the prophecies of Jeremiah may be divided: chap. 21-25, the book against the shepherds of the people; chap. 26-29, the book of Jeremiah’s conflict against the false prophets; chap. 30, 31, the book of restoration.”

Behold, the days come—We have here presented, in the words of the prophet, a picture of the glories of the Messianic age. The future lies in mass before the prophet; but he discerns only the radiant points of the Christian ages, the darker back grounds being invisible to his view. This luminous picture is presented before Israel in a dark hour of her history to cheer her hope for a nobler future. Israel and… Judah, the two kingdoms, once one under David and Solomon, now divided. The former was carried into captivity first of the two.


Verse 9

9. Not… covenant… fathers—Positively, as last verse, it was to be a new covenant; negatively, it was not to be the old one continued and amended: it was to be a substitution, not an improvement merely. The old covenant was to cease existence, and a new one take its place. And, lest the words might seem to signify some minor change, a full specification of the old covenant is given. It was that covenant made when God led Israel out of… Egypt, namely, the Mosaic covenant. A change no less than an abolition of the Mosaic and an establishment of a new Messianic covenant, was to take place.

Because—Important reason given: the failure of Israel (not of God) to keep the covenant. They continued not, then I regarded them not.


Verse 10

10. With the house of Israel—The new covenant was truly made by Christ with (or rather to, as the Greek word signifies) the literal house of Israel, as the Hebrew readers of this epistle knew, and had accepted it. Yet only a remnant for the time, and until this time, accepted, and were by it saved. The Gentiles accepted, and are gathered in within the limits of this house of Israel; and it is within the limits of this covenant that the literal Israel shall be gathered into the fold of Christ. Here St. Paul’s statement in Romans 11:1-32 should be most deliberately read. It will then be seen that Israel’s restoration is not a national return to Palestine, but a universal, yet individual, restoration to the covenant under Christ.

After those days—The days or period of the Mosaic covenant, covering several centuries. The student of prophecy should here carefully note the comprehensive use of the word days, to signify great periods and dispensations of time. So in the words, Hebrews 8:8. And it should be also noted, that these days of centuries positively contradict the notion that Christ’s second advent was expected by the inspired writers to take place in the apostolic age. On the contrary, these centurial days measured out a new probational dispensation—a new aeon, or age. In that age are we; and the complete fulfilment of Jeremiah’s prophecy is yet in prospect before the second advent; that is, the second advent is not pre-but post-millennial.

Write them in their hearts—They shall no more be recorded on the insensate stone, to be observed with a mechanical obedience. There shall be a quickened conscience, a clearer knowledge, and a bounding readiness of heart to obey the holy law.

To them a God—With no false god intervening.


Verse 11

11. The universality of this abounding piety comes last and latest—the consummation of the glories of this Messianic dispensation. Holy instruction shall not be given by slow, individual effort; but in masses the light of truth shall be universal as the light of day.

Know the Lord—That is, know Jehovah to be the true God, against all idols and against all atheism; for idolatry and atheism will disappear.

All—Nothing less than all Jews and all Gentiles.

Least… greatest—Without distinction of rank, caste, colour, or nationality.


Verse 12

12. Merciful—In consequence of the existing spirit of permanent obedience, and of penitence for unrighteousness or short comings. There will be a level of piety unknown to the olden time, by which God’s mercies will be an ever-flowing stream. Their sins of the former time will be no more a reason for penalty.


Verse 13

13. And now comes the clear conclusion for the Hebrew readers of this epistle. The very terms of the prophecy describe the abolition of obsolete Judaism, and assure them that to apostatize from Christ is to relapse into a vanished dispensation. A new covenant pronounces the former to be old and obsolete.

Decayeth—As, plainly, Judaism is doing.

Vanish away—As Judaism slowly but surely must. The Jews still exist as a separate people, living in the cold moonlight of essential deism. The warm beams of the sun will, in its own day, rise upon them, inspiring them with a new life and flooding them with the latter-day glory.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Hebrews 8:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/hebrews-8.html. 1874-1909.

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