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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Hebrews 9

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

a. The (twofold) tabernacle, with its gorgeous furniture, and its priestly and high priestly ritual, was without worth but as a type, Hebrews 9:1-10.

1. Then verily the first covenant—The word covenant, as the Italics show, is not in the Greek, but is rightly supplied by our translators from the last chapter.

Had—As the tabernacle was first constituted by Moses.

Ordinances—Literally, (Greek,) justifications; that is, arrangements justified by the divine will.

Worldly sanctuary—That is, an earthly, in contrast with the true and heavenly sanctuary of which this was type; namely, the greater and more perfect tabernacle of Hebrews 9:11, the holy place of Hebrews 9:12, and the heaven itself into which Christ is entered of Hebrews 9:24. Indeed, in this last verse both sides of the antithesis are given, namely, the holy places made with hands, and the heaven itself. See note on Hebrews 8:5.


Verse 2

2. A tabernacle—Or tent, yet a different term in the Hebrew from the ordinary word for tent; as if the word became consecrated to this sacred tent. It was the temporary travelling temple during the wilderness age, subsequently replaced by the temple of Solomon at Jerusalem. Note on Matthew 21:12.

The first—There were two apartments to the tabernacle; the front one, curtained by the veil, (instead of a door,) which was called the sanctuary, or the holy place, or the holy. In this apartment our apostle enumerates three furnishings.

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The candlestick—The candelabrum, or chandelier, fully described in Exodus 25:31-40. It consisted of a central shaft, erected on a base, with three arms or branches extending on each of its two sides, thus forming the sacred number seven. On the summit of shaft and of each arm was a lamp, thus giving to the holy place a sevenfold light. Into the lamps every evening was poured pure olive oil to the amount of about two wine glasses full each, and the wicks, made of cotton, were lighted by the priests. In Solomon’s temple the number of chandeliers was increased to ten, but in the Herodian temple the number again was one.

This last chandelier was carried by Titus to Rome after the destruction of Jerusalem; and there is still extant a representation of it in the triumphal “Arch of Titus” in that city. The ordinary reckoning of the three furnishings of the holy place was, the table, the altar of incense, and the candlestick; our apostle postpones the altar to the holy of holies, and reckons the table and bread as two.

The table—Made (Exodus 25:23-30) of the durable shittim wood, or acacia, overlaid with pure gold. It was two cubits long, a cubit broad, and a cubit and a half high, with rings for the insertion of bars for carrying: and with its furniture of dishes, bowls, and spoons, was of pure gold.

Showbread—Hebrews, the bread of faces; that is, the “presence bread,” or bread before the face of the divine Resident between the cherubim. The Greek phrase in full, here, signifies the setting forth of the bread; meaning, not the act but the position of the bread, as set forth, or presented before the present Jehovah. By Luther it was translated schau brode; whence our English showbread, indicating its exhibition or presentation before God. There were twelve loaves, symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel. They were placed in double rows of six, and were renewed every week; those of the previous being eaten by the priests in the holy place, from which it was unlawful to remove them.

Sanctuary—The Greek αγια, sanctuary, or holy place, is the same word as in Hebrews 9:1, (in a different grammatical number,) and as is rendered holiest in Hebrews 9:8.


Verse 3

3. Holiest of all—Or, holy of holies, or most holy. There were thus seven graduated degrees of holiness of the sacred locality: First, the mercy seat between the cherubim; second, the most holy; third, the holy; fourth, the court of the priests; fifth, the court of Israel; sixth, the court of the women; and, seventh, the court of the Gentiles.

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Verse 4

4. Golden censer—A censer (a shortened form of incenser) was a vessel for containing the ritual incense. The Greek word here θυμιατηριον (thumiaterion) may signify any bearer of incense, whether vessel or altar. Delitzsch affirms that the censer proper (though appearing, incorrectly, in our translation) is not mentioned in the Pentateuch, but only the coal pan in which were the embers for burning incense. On the great day of atonement the priest entered the holy of holies, with the coal pan containing coals from the Great Brazen Altar in his left hand, and the censer in the right; and, setting down the former before the ark, he shook the incense over the coals, producing the fragrant vapour. Twice only is the censer in the temple of Solomon called thumiaterion; but in the age of our apostle, by Philo and Josephus the term is applied to the golden altar of incense. There can be no reasonable doubt that such is its meaning here.

For it can hardly be supposed that our apostle would specify so incidental a utensil as the censer, and omit so important an object as the golden altar of incense.

The main reason against the altar is, that it seems to be said to stand in the holy of holies, whereas a glance at our diagram shows that it is a central object in the holy place. But it is equally true that the censer was not in the holiest, being usually kept in the utensil room; a silver one for daily use, and a golden for the great day of atonement, when it was taken by the high priest into the holiest, used, brought back, and returned to the utensil room. But it is not really said, or truly meant, that the thumiaterion was in the holiest. The wherein of Hebrews 9:2 is significantly changed to had in Hebrews 9:4. Now had is the more generic term, and may mean either that the object was in the holiest, or was appropriated to the use of the holiest; and the latter was the fact with the incense altar. There are points that show that, in the mind of a Hebrew, the altar belonged to the holiest. 1. Its position was directly in front of the position of the ark of the covenant. Hence in 1 Kings 6:22, it is called “the altar which was by the oracle;” or, more literally, the altar belonging to the inner apartment, the very phrase by which a Hebrew would say that the inner apartment had the altar. 2. On the day of atonement the altar, as well as the inner shrine of the holiest, was sprinkled with blood.

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The altar of incense was called golden to distinguish it from the great brazen altar of burnt offerings, placed in front of the tabernacle, and afterwards temple, under the open sky. No victim was offered upon the golden altar, but on the great day of atonement the blood of the sin offering was sprinkled upon its four horns. This golden altar was made of the durable acacia, overlaid entire with pure gold, and was one cubit in length and breadth, and two in height. It had a horn projecting upwards from each of its four corners, and a border lining its top to keep things from failing off.

The sacred incense (the English word is from incendio, to burn) was composed of ingredients divinely prescribed in Exodus 30:34. Of this composition all other than the holy use was severely forbidden. Morning and evening, daily, was the incense offered. See note on Luke 1:9. On the great day of atonement the incense was offered, and the blood sprinkled, by the high priest alone.

King Jehovah was at first sole sovereign of Israel, and the tabernacle, as afterwards the temple, was symbolically his house; and his personal abode was, as we shall soon more fully see, in the holiest. To symbolize his presence, in the solemn absence of all idol, image, or visible form, was his bread upon the table, his candlestick, and his fragrant perfumery. And this last, the incense, becomes a beautiful image of devout emotions and prayers, issuing from the censer as from a glowing heart, upward in its movement, and acceptably reaching the divine Receiver.

Ark of the covenant—The sacred ark, or chest, in which was deposited the covenant, or decalogue, and other things soon to be mentioned. Exodus 25:10-16. As the decalogue is sometimes called covenant, and sometimes testimony, so we have the epithets, ark of the covenant, ark of the testimony. It was made of acacia, gold-plated without and within, was two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half broad, and a cubit and a half high. It had borders, rings, and staves, like the table. Its lid, of pure gold, served both as the cover of the ark and the throne of Jehovah, whose glory there attested his presence. As it was here that the high priest approached with his incense and sacrificial blood for mercy, so this lid was called “the mercy-seat.”

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Gold—The most precious of metals, and so symbolizing that our best is to be consecrated to God.

Golden potExodus 16:34. The pot, or urn, containing a memorial specimen of the miraculous manna, was deposited “before the testimony,” that is, by the decalogue in the ark. But by Solomon’s time (1 Kings 8:9) the vessel had disappeared. Our author follows the Septuagint, and applies to the pot the epithet golden, which is not found in our copies of the Hebrew. According to the Gemara tradition, after the ark was taken by the Philistines, (1 Samuel 4:11,) disappeared the pot, the cruse of anointing oil, Aaron’s rod, and the coffer which the Philistines sent as a present to the God of Israel.

Rod that blossomedBlossomed miraculously, to attest Aaron’s right to the priesthood. Numbers 17:10.

Tables of the covenant—The two stone tables of the decalogue.


Verse 5

5. Over it the cherubim—The “cherubim” were symbolical winged figures, presented in different Scriptures with some variation of form. In Ezekiel 1:5-10 they have each four faces; in Revelation (Revelation 4:6-8) they are four figures each with a different face. The four faces represent the highest species of the four kingdoms of the animated creation—man, lion, ox, and eagle. This fact, together with the prevalence of the number four, indicates a symbolism of the creation. There are but two at this ark. But, adopting the theory that the ark with its four sides symbolizes the world, we see how the fourness is still preserved. And, further, adopting the interpretation given by Abarnabel and others, that the words (Exodus 25:19) “of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubim,” mean that the mercy seat and cherubim were all of one piece, then we may see how the cherubim arise as personifications of the cosmos out from the cosmos itself, being, in fact, one with it. The bending of cherubim over the mercy seat is the attitude of reverent study (1 Peter 1:12) and worship, exhibiting nature in her aspect of obedience to her Ruler. The divine law (like the deposited decalogue) is a hidden secret in the system of nature; and it is surmounted with the throne of mercy shadowed with the cherubim’s wings, while over all is the glory, the Shekinah, the divine overruling Presence.

Cannot… speak—For he had already (especially in Hebrews 9:4) lingered among interesting but less relevant details, and must hasten to the main typical point, the parallelism between the Jewish high priest entering the earthly most holy and our high priest entering the heavenly holy.


Verse 6

6. Went—The present tense in the Greek, the priests go into, etc. From the time of the tabernacle, through the times of the temples, down to our apostle’s own day, the daily entrance was actually or virtually continued.

Always—Continuously, daily, and not only yearly.

First tabernacle—The front apartment, which was first to one entering.

Service—The daily performance of caring for the lamps and burning the incense.


Verse 7

7. Second—The most holy.

Once every year—On the great day of atonement, the tenth day of the month Tisri. On that day he really entered more than literally once; but there was but one service, and the whole was but one proper ritual entrance.

Not without blood—The details are given in Leviticus 16:2-19. A bullock was slain for the sins of the high priest, and a goat for the sins of the people.

Errors—A softened term for sins. All sins are errors, and all transgressions which are not presumptuous sins are here included.


Verse 8

8. The Holy Ghost—By whose mind this whole system of symbols was framed.

The way—Of access to, through Christ.

Into the holiest of all— As all agree, not the earthly but the heavenly holiest is here designated.

Not yet made manifest—For, while the first tabernacle maintained its standing as type, the antitype could not coexist with it. Its standing as type ceased when Christ went through the transition from earth to heaven, of which the high priest’s transition from the holy to the holiest was a shadow. For the holy stands for this world; the veil for the visible firmamental heaven; and the holiest for the highest heaven. Thus:—

TYPICAL.

ANTITYPICAL.

1. Jewish high priest.

Our High Priest.

2. Passing.

Ascending.

3. From the holy to the holiest.

From earth to the highest heaven.

4. Through the veil.

Through the firmamental heaven.

5. After offered victims.

After offering of himself.

6. Once a year.

Once for all.

7. For our symbolical justification.

For our real justification.

It was thus by the real that the ideal is banished. By Christ’s death and ascension the antitype comes, and the type vanishes. The true high priest passes through the true tabernacle to the true holiest, and the first tabernacle loses its standing.

The first tabernacle—Does this mean the first or front apartment of the tabernacle, (as in Hebrews 9:2; Hebrews 9:6,) or does it mean the entire earthly tabernacle, including both apartments, as being first in relation to the heavenly as its second? The run of English commentators maintains the second view; the later German, as Lunemann and Delitzsch, followed by Alford, the first. We are obliged to coincide with those who maintain the second view. Lunemann’s view involves what seems to us the absurdity, that Christ’s redemptive entrance into heaven would be forestalled by the continued standing of the front apartment, but not by that of the second. You must abolish the holy in order to his heavenly entrance, but not the holiest. Why so? If the coming in of the antitype requires the cessation of the type, surely the holiest is much more a type of the atonement and the heavenly entrance than the holy. But certainly it is the whole tabernacle which must fade away before the antitypical fulfilment. Delitzsch argues “that it is not likely” that, having just called the front apartment the first tabernacle, he would use the same term in a changed sense. But our writer does, according to Delitzsch’s own interpretation, do just that when he calls the earthly holiest and the heavenly holiest by the same name, in the Greek of Hebrews 9:3; Hebrews 9:8, without any other warning than the context affords. Alford argues that the heavenly would in truth be the first tabernacle. But that would be making the antitype precede the type. Doubtless the heavens are earlier than any earthly structure, but not necessarily as a tabernacle for the redeemed or the Redeemer. “I go to prepare a place for you,” said Christ to the disciples; and it was his earthly death that made the place preparable. Without that death there were no tabernacle for us in heaven. And just now is the time to say, that the terms first tabernacle and second tabernacle, in Hebrews 9:2; Hebrews 9:6-7, cannot mean that there were literally two tabernacles. Such a terminology contradicts the entire usus loquendi of Scripture, which wholly unknows more than one tabernacle. The plain meaning of first tabernacle and second in those three verses is, so much of the tabernacle as is first, or front in order, and second, so much as is rear. This is a familiar Latinism, and Lunemann admits that, as suggested by Valckner, it is a perfectly allowable interpretation. We think it undoubtedly the true one. For, very plainly, while the first and second tabernacle of the previous verses are correlative to each other, the first tabernacle of this verse is antithetical and typical to the more perfect tabernacle of Hebrews 9:11.


Verse 9

9. Which—All agree that this relative refers to first tabernacle, in Hebrews 9:8. And that further demonstrates that the whole one tabernacle was meant: for is it not clear that it was the one whole tabernacle which was a figure, a parable, of the inefficacy of the type without the antitype? Were not the incense and blood as inefficacious, intrinsically, in the holiest as in the holy?

For the time then present—Rather, for the time now insetting; that is, time that is now begun and is in progress. The same phrase is used at Romans 8:38; 1 Corinthians 3:22; 1 Corinthians 7:26; Galatians 1:4; also, 2 Thessalonians 2:2, where see note.

Were offered—The Greek is in the present tense, are offered. The offerings are still made, for the temple at the apostle’s writing is still standing, and the inefficacy of the ritual still exists.

Make… perfect—Render justified and right.

Conscience—The moral consciousness of guilt or innocence.


Verse 10

10. In meats and drinks, and divers washings—It is objected that the gifts and offerings did not consist in these. Nevertheless, it is true that all the sacrifices but the whole burnt offering, including the show-bread, were eaten, or at any rate were usual material of food, and so were meats; and there were various libations which were drinks; and lustrations which were divers washings.


Verse 11

b. Of all this tabernacle and high priestly ritual our self-offering High Priest furnishes the antitype, Hebrews 9:11-14.

11. But—The turning point of the momentous contrast between Jewish ritual (Hebrews 9:1-10) and Christ’s self-offering, Hebrews 9:11-14.

High priest—Who is divine bestower of good things to come; namely, the good things comprehended in the eternal redemption of Hebrews 9:12, which are to come, when he shall appear a second time unto salvation. Hebrews 9:28.

By—More correctly, through, as also the by in next verse.

More perfect tabernacle—Than the worldly or earthly sanctuary of Hebrews 9:1, and the first tabernacle of Hebrews 9:8. This more perfect tabernacle is the earth, the firmamental heaven, and the highest heaven, the heaven itself of Hebrews 9:24. So (Hebrews 4:14) Christ has passed into the heavens. So Theodoret, quoted by Lunemann: “The tabernacle had a typical resemblance to the whole cosmos. For it was divided into two apartments by a veil; one of which was called the holy, and the other the holy of holies. And the holy represented the system in the earth; the holy of holies the dwelling-place in the heavens. The veil filled the office of the firmament.”

Not made with hands—No human workmanship was its type; but a tent which the Lord pitched, Hebrews 8:2.

Not of this building—Rather, not belonging to this lower creation.


Verse 12

12. Neither by—Rather, through, as noted on last verse. The former is through a space, this through an instrumentality. These two meanings of through are fundamentally one, for the action is viewed as passing through the instrument to its effect.

Goats and calves—The goat and bullock sacrificed on the great day of atonement.

But by his own blood—As the blood is the life, so the shedding of blood is the ritual symbol of death. And the blood of Christ is the visual and verbal symbol of his efficaciously offered life.

The holy place—The place antitypical to the earthly holy of holies, into which the typical high priest annually entered, that is, the highest heavens. But, as in Hebrews 9:11 it is said that Christ passed through the more perfect tabernacle, (including, of course, the whole tabernacle, both apartments,) and here it is said he entered the most holy, what could this holy be which is reached after passing through the antitypical tabernacle? And Delitzsch answers that it is something above the highest heavens, that is, the heaven of the angels and glorified saints; namely, it is the placeless innermost essence of the infinite God himself. All of which seems a most useless speculation. To pass through a building does not mean, in any language, to pass straight through its rooms, and then straight through its farthest wall into a space outside and beyond. It would be perfectly natural to say that the Jewish high priest passed through the tabernacle to the mercy seat, which stood against the back wall of the rear apartment. And so our High Priest passed through the heavens into the highest heavens.

Having obtained—By the completed offering of his life. But though the work was done, there still was to be its potential presentation in heaven, and its divine acceptance and eternal ratification.

RedemptionLutrosis, a ransom; for which, in its primary and usual sense, a lutron or ransom price is given. What the ransom price is, is declared by Jesus himself in Matthew 20:28, (where see note,) namely, “his life.” And in the present passage the type of the redemption is the sacrificial victim dying in the stead of the sinful offerer. This redemption is eternal, in the endlessness of the deliverance it finally effects; in its non-repetition, being made once for all; and in contrast with the Jewish high priestly atonement which served but for a single year, and so must be persistently repeated.


Verse 13

13. For—An argument in these two verses for the divine efficiency of the atonement, drawn from three comparative points; thus—1. The blood of animals—the blood of Christ. 2. The purifying of the flesh—the purifying of the conscience. 3. Through animal life—through eternal Spirit. If—Not implying a doubt, but assuming a fundamental certainty as basis of the momentous inference.

Ashes of a heiferNumbers 19:2-6. Under Jewish law a corpse, as a memento of death and sin, was unclean; and its contact rendered a man unclean, excluding him from the congregation of Israel until purified. A red heiferred as the ruddy colour of life—was burned, and its ashes, mixed with water, were reserved as a purifier to be sprinkled on every person who was unclean by the death-touch. The solemn awe of sin and death was impressed by several additional points. The heifer was burned without the camp. All the persons performing the rite were unclean until evening, and not only the unclean man, but the tent in which was the corpse, must be purified by the ashes and water. In all this was impressed upon Israel the divine antithesis of God, purity, and life, on one side, and Satan, sin, and death, on the other.

Purifying of the flesh—Producing a typical purity, and deriving all the power for that from the antitype it represented. Hence, even though it made the conscience quiet, it received not that benefit from the mere material character of the substances used in the rite.


Verse 14

14. Through the eternal Spirit—Lunemann enumerates some eight different interpretations of this unusual phrase. A large majority of commentators understand it to mean either the divine second person of the Trinity in Jesus incarnated, or the third person, the Holy Spirit, indwelling and inspiring him. For this last Stuart assigns the following texts:

Matthew 4:1; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1; Matthew 12:28; Luke 4:18; Matthew 3:16; Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:22; John 1:32-33; John 3:34. This makes, certainly, a genuinely biblical meaning. It assumes that Christ went through the scenes of the atonement in full cooperative accordance with, and under actuation by, the blessed Spirit. Nevertheless, our own view will appear from our threefold parallel given above. And our process brings out a result quite coincident with the view of Delitzsch, (which is treated by Lunemann with almost contempt,) namely, that the eternal personal spirit of Christ himself, his divine nature, stands in antithesis to the perishing life of the animal sacrifice. So, rightly, Delitzsch says: “This eternal spirit answers to the animal soul ( נפשׁ) in the expiatory victims of the Old Testament.” The animal becomes a sacrifice through an animal soul; Jesus makes himself a sacrifice through an eternal spirit. And the phrase is without the definite article in the Greek. Christ is, though rarely, styled a spirit in Scripture, and by Paul alone. 1 Corinthians 15:45; 2 Corinthians 3:17, and onward. Hereby the divine nature of the Son of God is brought in, upbearing and giving divine superiority and merit to his atonement.

Without spot—The usual phrase by which the spotlessness of the victim was expressed in the law; prefiguring the sinlessness of Him who atones for the sins of others.

To God—And not as a few of the Church fathers taught, to Satan; as if he possessed a conceded authority over all held under penalty of sin. We hold that the sacrifice of himself by Jesus was a divine concession paid to the divine governmental justice. It was offered to God, not as a payment or gift to him, but as a presentation manifesting that the concession was truly made by which sin is forgiven and government verified.

Your conscienceYour, carries home the direct appeal to the moral consciousness of those (our Hebrews) addressed.

Conscience—Our moral nature, which feels the claim of moral obligation, the sense of guilt at its violation, and the sense of purity upon forgiveness and sanctification. And how great that feeling when assured at such a cost and from such a source!

From dead works—Suggested by the image above detailed of the moral taint from the death-touch. Dead works are our corrupting dealings and contact with sin and death, sending a death-taint through our soul. And in contrast with this is the living God, whom sin and death would love to kill, but who ever lives, and sends immortal life through soul and body of all who serve him.


Verse 15

15. Mediator—In this testament-covenant the inherited good comes from God, and Christ is the middleman, receiving from God and transmitting it to the heirs, consequently on the condition of his own death.

The new testament… first testament—As bequest, will, or covenant, the results of the death of Christ pervaded both dispensations. Hence there was a first testament and a new testament.

By means of death—His death. The condition of the divine bequest not only acts prospectively, to transmit the inheritance to all future heirs, but retrospectively, upon those under the first testament. So our Hebrews must cheerfully understand that the death of our suffering Jesus not only gives its efficacy to Christianity, but even to ancient Hebraism. Receive the fruition of the promise.


Verses 15-18

c. By the death of our High Priest, the new covenant is a last will and testament, Hebrews 9:15-18.

The Greek word for covenant, διαθηκη, signifies a disposition of things, a dispensation, an arrangement. Hence it includes an arrangement by agreement, that is, a covenant; or an arrangement by bequest or dying will, that is, a testament. Parenthetically, therefore, and very much as a side thought, the analogy of a testament is brought in as illustrating the death of which the ritual bloodshed was the symbol. The idea of testament, or will, was not, indeed, included in the Hebrew word for covenant; nor was a testamentary bequest one of the customs of Israel. Yet our apostle finds in the three facts of an inheritance, namely, a bestower, the death of the bestower, and the condition of the inheritance passing down to the inheritor—all the points necessary to be framed into the conception of a testament. The sense of covenant does, indeed, still remain; but the newly specified elements in the transaction entitle him to figure it a testamentary covenant.


Verse 16

16. For—Assuming this beautiful view of the covenant as a testament, or bequest by will, the death of the testator is required, as by Jesus fulfilled.


Verse 18

18. Whereupon—In accordance with this demand of death for a testament, the emblem of death, namely, blood, is freely shed and abundantly used.


Verse 19

19. For—To show with what tokens of death the first covenant testament was dedicated, our apostle goes back to the memorable scene when Jehovah and Israel first formed their covenant under Moses. Exodus 24:3-8. Fresh from Sinai, Moses, having written the law in a book, reads it to the people, who fully assent to the compact between law and obedience. To ratify this compact or covenant, Moses is here described as taking the usual sprinkling-brush—a sprig of hyssop tipped with red wool—dipping it into the blood of slain animals, and sprinkling it over book and people, and, at a later period, (see note Hebrews 9:21,) over tabernacle and vessels used in the ceremonial ministry. Blood, shed forth or sprinkled, was the emblem of that death which the sinner deserved; of that death which the victim’s death symbolized for him instead of his own death; and which symbolized that death which symbolizes and is made substitute for the death of the world of sinners. As a symbol of the Substitute’s death, the blood represents the offerer’s remission of sin, and so purification, sanctification, and life. And with the sinner’s purification all his ritual surroundings must be purified. As these surroundings are made by sinful man they are tainted with his impurity, and must be purified; and blood is the sole, sovereign, universal, ritual purifier. Blood-besprinkled, they are holy; and so this newly made holy man walks and works amid holy things, a type of the holy beings of a holy heaven.

Had spoken—Had read from the book by him written for the purpose.

According to the law—The authority for all this use of typical blood.

Calves… goatsCalves and goats are not mentioned, but were doubtless used, as appears from other passages of the law. In Exodus 24:5, (the narrative of the dedication,) “it is said that Moses sent young men who offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed sacrifices, which (Hebrews) were peace offerings to Jehovah, even bullocks. Now, although goats are not mentioned here, yet it is quite probable that the burnt offerings on this occasion were goats; for a burnt offering is a holocaust; that is, an offering entirely consumed by fire; while the peace offerings were mostly eaten by the offerers. That goats were used for all kinds of sacrifices, as well as bullocks, is quite evident from a mere inspection of the Levitical law; for example, goats are named as a burnt offering, Leviticus 1:10; Leviticus 4:24; Leviticus 4:28, etc., and elsewhere. It is altogether probable, then, that the holocausts or burnt offerings mentioned in Exodus 24:5, as offered on the occasion of renewing the covenant, were goats; and were, of course, understood by a Jewish reader to be such, inasmuch as the peace offerings only are affirmed to have been bullocks.”—Stuart.

Water, scarlet wool, and hyssop—”That water was used as well as blood in order to sprinkle various things is clearly implied in Leviticus 14:4-7, compared with Leviticus 14:49-52; Numbers 19:18; Psalms 51:7; Ezekiel 36:25. The scarlet wool was connected with a branch of hyssop in order to make a convenient instrument for receiving and sprinkling the blood and water. It is not, indeed, expressly mentioned in Exodus xxiv, but it is, doubtless, implied; for this was the common instrument by which the rite of sprinkling was performed. So in Exodus 12:7, direction is simply given to sprinkle the door posts of the Israelites with blood; and afterwards, in Hebrews 9:22, it is mentioned that this was to be done with a branch of hyssop. So in Leviticus 14:4-7, the scarlet wool and the hyssop are mentioned as employed in the office of sprinkling; and again in Leviticus 14:49-52. The hyssop is also mentioned in Numbers 19:18; Psalms 51:7.”—Stuart.

The book of the law—”That Moses did sprinkle the book with blood no intimation is given in Exodus 24:3-8. Yet nothing can be more probable than that such was the fact. Aaron, and his sons, and their garments, were sprinkled with blood when consecrated to the priest’s office. Exodus 29:19-21. The blood of sacrifices was sprinkled upon the altar, Exodus 29:16; Leviticus 1:5; Leviticus 1:11; Leviticus 3:2; Leviticus 3:13; also before the veil of the sanctuary, Leviticus 4:6; Leviticus 4:17; compare Leviticus 6:27; Leviticus 7:14; Leviticus 8:15; Leviticus 8:19; Leviticus 8:24; Leviticus 8:30; Leviticus 9:12; Leviticus 9:18, and others. Philo (de Vita Mosis, page 675, B.) has a passage which speaks of all the various apparatus of the tabernacle as being anointed with holy oil, and the vestments of the priests being sprinkled with blood. So Josephus, also, speaks of sprinkling the garments of Aaron and his sons with the blood of the slain beasts, and with spring water and holy chrism.”—Stuart.


Verses 19-28

d. As by a profuse typical blood the earthly ritual things are purified, so with a better sacrifice are the heavenly things consecrated, Hebrews 9:19-28.

The profuseness of blood application in the types, 19-22; the correspondences in the antitype, 23-28.


Verse 20

20. Blood of the testament—Or bequest. The blood indicating the death of the testator, and thereby certifying the validity of the testament and the security of the inheritance.

Which—Referring to testament.

Unto you— Rather, in regard to you; in your behalf. This blood-bought bequest is enjoined in our behalf by God the Father Almighty. Compare these quoted words with the language of our Saviour. Luke 22:20.


Verse 21

21. Moreover—At a later period. Stuart says: “The setting up and consecration of the tabernacle with its vessels is related in Exodus xl; yet nothing is there related of sprinkling them with blood, but only of anointing them with holy oil. Exodus 40:9-11. In the like manner, the anointing only of Aaron and his sons is there spoken of as a rite preparatory to entering upon the duties of their office in the tabernacle, Exodus 40:12-15; while nothing is said at all of their being sprinkled with blood. But if we compare Exodus 29:20-21, and Leviticus 8:24; Leviticus 8:30, we shall see it to be certain that Aaron and his sons were sprinkled with blood, as well as anointed with oil. In like manner it is probable that the tabernacle and its furniture were sprinkled with blood, although Moses has not mentioned it in Exodus 40. Josephus says: ‘Both the tabernacle and the vessels pertaining to it (Moses sprinkled and purified) with oil prepared as I have described, and with the blood of bulls and rams that were slain, one of each alternately, every day.’”


Verse 22

22. Almost—Alford thinks that this word does not qualify all things; but it qualifies the whole assertion. We might almost say that all things were blood-purged. And the almost universal law of the Levitical ritual was, no remission of sin without, that is, apart from, blood shedding; referring, beyond question, to the blood shedding of the victim, held by our writer as typical of the shedding of the blood of the Lamb of God.

As the blood is ritually the life, so the shedding of blood is the ritual symbol of death; of that death, how comprehensive soever it may be, which is the complete penalty of sin.


Verse 23

23. Therefore—Inference from the testamentary character of the ritual.

Patterns—Rather, copies; for the heavenly is the pattern, and the earthly is its copy.

These—Blood, sheddings.

Heavenly things—Literally, the heavenlies; same word as in Ephesians 1:3, where see note. The phrase here is unequivocally local, signifying things and places in the highest heavens, as is absolutely shown by in the presence of God, Hebrews 9:24. See notes on 2 Corinthians 12:2; Ephesians 2:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:17.

But it is a question among commentators how the heavenlies could be said to be purified by Christ’s sacrificial death. Alford, following Delitzsch, understands that the highest heavens, though intrinsically perfectly pure, are purified from the divine wrath towards sin, and so rendered approachable by man. But the idea of sanctifying, not from sin but from wrath, seems rather inadmissible.

We may note that Christ says, (John 14:2,) “I go to prepare a place for you.” So that some preparation of “a place,” either in fact or in effect, was to be made subsequently to his ascension. Now, to sanctify a thing, is to set it apart. Note on 1 Thessalonians 5:23. So, ritually, inanimate things and places were sanctified or set apart for special divine uses. And this was, ritually, done by blood. Intrinsically, the place or thing could not be any holier after the rite than before it. It was only relatively, and by a relative setting apart or consecrating, that the thing or place could be holy—holy for a certain occupancy or use. Now space or place, even in the superstellar regions, can have only this relative holiness. A locality can be holy only by holy uses and the holy things it may contain. By the sacrificial death and ascension of Christ he does prepare a place for us, making it relatively holy—relatively a fit place for beings rendered holy by his sacrifice. Conceptually, the heaven of the redeemed, as well as the redeemed themselves, are rendered holy by the efficacy of the atonement. As the high priest was better, and the sanctuary better, so the sacrifices were better.

We have now, in Hebrews 9:24-28, three contrastive parallelisms.

1. Between the sanctuary entered by Christ and that of the human high priest, Hebrews 9:24.

2. Between the singleness of Christ’s sacrifice and the repetition of the Jewish sacrifices, Hebrews 9:25 and Hebrews 9:26.

3. Between Christ’s death and its results, and man’s death and its results. The summary of the whole is this. Christ enters not an earthly sanctuary, but the highest heavens, where is the real presence of God; he does this, not by repetition, but once for all; and as men once die and go to the judgment bar to be judged, so Christ once dies and goes to the judgment throne to judge.


Verse 24

24. For—Reason for the better of last verse.

Made with hands— Humanly built, as in Hebrews 9:11, where see note.

True—Original and real.

Heaven itself—Of which the second apartment, the holiest, was type.

The presence of God—Typified by the glory on the mercy-seat of the ark, between the cherubim.

For us—Just as the earthly sacrifice or victim was for us, the human offerers.


Verse 25

25. The true sacrifice was once for all, as the typical were repeated and often.

Offer himself—This offer is parallel to the entereth of the high priest; it, therefore, does not here mean to sacrifice himself, but to present himself in heaven, as the high priest presented himself in the holy place. Yet in both cases a previous sacrifice takes place.


Verse 26

26. Often have suffered—The One great sacrifice was often typified by the dying victims as successive human sinners sacrificed them. Had there been but one victim his sacrifice must have ever been repeated; he must have died millions of deaths.

Since the foundation of the world—From as early as man began to sin and needed a sacrifice.

But now—As the fact really is.

In the end of the world—In the together-ending of the ages. The Greek word here (as in Matthew 13:39-40; Matthew 13:49; Matthew 24:3; Matthew 28:20) is συντελεια, compounded of two words signifying together and ending:— an epoch where all the threads of events converge to a common terminus. Such an epoch was the first advent; a still greater epoch will be the second advent. To put away, or abolish, sin—Both by justification from the guilt, and sanctification from the power, of sin.

Sacrifice of himself—Rather, by his own sacrifice, not that of a human high priest.


Verse 27

27. With men the law is first death and then judgment; with Christ it is, by parallelism, first sacrifice of himself for sin, and then an advent to a judgment glorious for believers.

Appointed—By God as the established order of things.

The judgment—Without the Greek article.


Verse 28

28. Once—The first point of comparison—that Christ died once as men die once, his death being sacrificial. Second point—between judgment and appear. From different quarters the bodies of men and the person of Christ meet at one terminus. He descends from heaven, they ascend from earth; he to judge, they to be judged. Third point of comparison—between bear the sins and without, or irrespective of, sin. Christ died under the weight of human sins; he returns without connexion with sin.

Unto salvation—It is judgment for all; it is salvation only to those that look for, or await him, with hopeful expectation. As writing to Christians, our author takes into view only the blessed side of the judgment.

On the last two verses we may note:—

1. Of whatever other things men are sceptical, none doubt, however they may try to forget, that they must die. This is appointed by the great Author of nature, who has the right to take the life he gives. And if Edenic man was at first placed above this law, yet by sin he sunk into the level of nature under the appointed penalty of death. See note on Romans 5:12.

2. But as sure as death is appointed unto men, so sure, also, an after judgment. Suffering, discipline, may belong to this life, but the real retributive judgment comes after life has closed. God hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained. Acts 17:31.

3. How long the interval after death until the judgment our apostle expresses no opinion. Conceptually it was a momentous event; and, like God himself, however distant it is yet nigh at hand. It should take place when Christ should appear a second time; and that is not to be until the close of this new dispensation or covenant, which is second to the first, as the eighth chapter fully states.

4. The intermediate disembodied state is one of hopeful expectation of that second coming. Saints, both in the body and out of the body, are agreed in this looking-for of that glorious appearing. Death is not the point on which the Christian heart most deeply rests; paradise is not the goal to which we most earnestly look, but the advent, the glorious resurrection, the judgment, and eternal life.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Hebrews 9:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/hebrews-9.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 12th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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