WE DO HAVE SUCH A HIGH PRIEST, WHO SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT
HAND OF THE THRONE OF THE MAJESTY IN HEAVEN: Once again the wording alludes
to Psa 110:1. Jesus is where he is (cp Eph 1:20) because of who he is -- both
Son (cp Heb 4:14) and high priest (cp Psa 110:4).
THE MAJESTY IN HEAVEN: A circumlocution for "God" (cp
Heb 1:3) -- suggesting a Jewish reluctance to use the name of God
AND WHO SERVES IN THE SANCTUARY, THE TRUE TABERNACLE SET UP
BY THE LORD, NOT BY MAN: The same point is made in v 5, where the Levitical
priests are said to have been concerned with only a copy or shadow of "heavenly"
realities. The author takes his idea from the OT where Moses is instructed about
building the tabernacle and its furniture by being shown patterns or models. (In
addition to Exo 25:40, which the author quotes in v 5, see Exo 25:9; 26:30;
27:8.) What took place in that ritual of the historical tabernacle, but only
through pictures and symbols, now actually takes place in the sacrificial work
of Christ. The work of our high priest, therefore, concerns not pictures or
symbols, but ultimate reality -- the reality of God himself. God's plan is a
historical progression from promise to fulfillment. The final and definitive
character of the fulfillment is underlined by the fact that our high priest sits
at the right hand of God, now fulfilling his ministry of intercession (Heb
SANCTUARY: "Hagion" -- which can mean "holy THINGS",
"holy PEOPLE", or "holy PLACE" -- the last is intended here, since this is the
contextual meaning in Heb 9; 10. The sanctuary, or the Most Holy Place, in
Tabernacle and Temple, was the place of God's dwelling, or presence among Israel
(Exo 25:8,22). Cp Rev 13:6: "his dwelling place and those who live in
TRUE: That is, "real" in contrast to "typical" or
"shadowy": cp v 5; Heb 9:24.
TABERNACLE: The word "tent" ("skene") is used in
Hebrews far more than in any other NT book. It almost always refers to the
tabernacle, the predecessor of the permanent temple (see Heb 8:5; Heb 9; 13:10),
and invariably is shown to be inferior to the reality it foreshadowed.
Ultimately in points forward to the body of believers, wherever they might be
SET UP BY THE LORD: Poss an allusion to the LXX of Num
24:6, where -- figuratively -- the tents of Israel (cp Num 24:5) are said to
have been pitched by the LORD.
As will be seen, Christ himself is the true tabernacle (Col
2:9; 3:21; John 1:14) -- greater than the (literal) temple (Mat 12:6; John
2:19). Believers come into Christ, and thus become a part of the true
"tabernacle" or "temple" of God (Heb 3:6n; Isa 8:14; 28:16).
EVERY HIGH PRIEST IS APPOINTED TO OFFER BOTH GIFTS AND
SACRIFICES, AND SO IT WAS NECESSARY FOR THIS ONE ALSO TO HAVE SOMETHING TO
OFFER: Cp Heb 5:1. The author has already indicated what that "something" is
("himself" in Heb 7:27), he also here anticipates what he will argue in Heb 9;
GIFTS AND SACRIFICES: This expression (cp Lev 21:6),
which occurs also in Heb 5:1; 9:9, is unique to this epistle in the NT. The
phrase is a general reference to a variety of sacrifices offered by the priests.
"Gifts" = offerings of praise, thanksgiving, and dedication. NOT animal
sacrifices. "Sacrifices" = BLOOD-sacrifices, in contrast to "gifts".
THIS ONE: Or "this man" (AV). "Receives sinners" (Luk
15:2). "Never man spoke like..." (Joh 7:46). "No fault in..." (Luk 23:4,14,41).
"Has something to offer" (Heb 8:3). "Thru this man... forgiveness" (Act 13:38).
"Is worthy of more honor than Moses" (Heb 3:3). "Sat down" (Heb 10:12).
"Continues forever" (Heb 7:24). "Was Son of God" (Mar 15:39).
TO HAVE SOMETHING TO OFFER: (1) The HiPr entered the
most holy once every year, with blood, to sprinkle on the mercy seat (Heb 9:7;
Lev 16:14,15). This is typical of Christ: Heb 9:12; 10:19; 12:24; Eph 2:13; 1Pe
1:2; Rev 1:5. (2) Also, Christ enters heaven as an intercessor, with our prayers
(Heb 4:16; 13:15). (3) And thru Christ, we offer praise and good works to God:
Heb 13:16; Rom 6:3; 12:1.
IF HE WERE ON EARTH, HE WOULD NOT BE A PRIEST, FOR THERE
ARE ALREADY MEN WHO OFFER THE GIFTS PRESCRIBED BY THE LAW: But the
priesthood of Jesus is categorically superior to that of earthly priests: his
distinctive offering is not made according to the requirements of the Law of
Moses. His work of atonement is of ultimate meaning and hence "heavenly" in
contrast to the "earthly" work of the Levitical priesthood. This is forcefully
conveyed in the following verses.
THEY SERVE AT A SANCTUARY THAT IS A COPY AND SHADOW OF WHAT
IS IN HEAVEN: The inferiority of the work of the Levitical priesthood is now
stressed by noting that it concerns but a pattern or reflection of the heavenly
realities. Their work only prefigured the definitive atoning work of Jesus,
which alone is of ultimate significance.
COPY: Gr "hupodeigmati" = representation, delineation,
pattern, outline, figure, copy. Sw Heb 4:11; 9;23.
SHADOW: Gr "skia" = shade. That is, not the substance
with an independent existence, but dependent for its existence upon the
substantial -- which it only patterns. Sw Heb 10:1; Col 2:17.
THIS IS WHY MOSES WAS WARNED WHEN HE WAS ABOUT TO BUILD THE
TABERNACLE: "SEE TO IT THAT YOU MAKE EVERYTHING ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN
SHOWN YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN": Cit Exo 25:40. The tabernacle (and it successor, the
temple) with its sacrificial ritual (commanded through Moses) was not itself the
ultimate reality, but only a "shadow" of it. The contrasting of the earthly and
temporal with the heavenly and ultimate occurs again in Heb 9:23; 10:1. Paul can
use very similar language, as in Col 2:17, where, speaking of certain items of
the Mosaic legislation such as dietary and Sabbath rules, he writes: "These are
a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in
BUT THE MINISTRY JESUS HAS RECEIVED IS AS SUPERIOR TO
THEIRS AS THE COVENANT OF WHICH HE IS MEDIATOR IS SUPERIOR TO THE OLD ONE, AND
IT IS FOUNDED ON BETTER PROMISES: Three comparisons: "Better" ministry;
"better" covenant", and "better" promises!
Thus our high priest is concerned with matters altogether
superior to the old covenant. His priestly work itself, the new covenant
resulting from it, and the promises to which that new covenant points -- in all
of this the old pales in comparison to the greater excellence of the
MINISTRY: Gr "leitourgia", which is common in the LXX,
occurs again in Heb 9:21. The word is generally spiritualized in the NT to refer
to Christian ministry (see 2Co 9:12; Phi 2:17,30), but in Luke 1:23 the original
sense is retained.
MEDIATOR: Gr "mesites"; occurs first in this verse and
reappears in Heb 9:15; 12:24 (cp 1Ti 2:5). The word involves more than the idea
of a "middleman." It connotes the accomplishment of salvation and is close to
the meaning of "guarantee" in the parallel phrase of Heb 7:22, "the guarantee of
a better covenant". See Lesson, Mediatorship of Christ.
FOUNDED: The Greek word underlying founded (or "legally
enacted") is "nomotheteo", which occurs also in Heb 7:11, where it refers to the
Mosaic legislation. The new covenant thus possesses the same authoritative and
binding character in God's will as did the old.
"BETTER PROMISES": This anticipates the content of the
quotation from Jer 31, which follows. It also alludes to such realities as "true
sabbath rest" (Heb 4:3,9), an unshakable kingdom (Heb 12:28), and the heavenly
Jerusalem (Heb 12:22).
Vv 7-13: The promise of a new covenant. The author now cites
an OT passage of major importance in the epistle, Jer 31:31-34. The explicit
reference to the new covenant in this text makes it ideal for his purpose.
Portions of this same passage are quoted again in 10:16–18. The quotation
enables the author to stress the discontinuity between Christianity and the
Mosaic law, while at the same time indicating an underlying continuity in God's
purposes. What the author has been describing so well is now shown to have been
anticipated within the prophetic Scriptures.
FOR IF THERE HAD BEEN NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT FIRST
COVENANT, NO PLACE WOULD HAVE BEEN SOUGHT FOR ANOTHER: And yet the hope of a
new covenant is precisely what we read about in the prophet Jeremiah. Here is
the crux of the whole argument: the old covenant was not, nor ever had it been
considered, final! See also Eze 37:26-28; Isa 59:20,21; Rom 11:26,27.
The argument of v 7 is similar to that of Heb 7:11, ie, if the
old is sufficient, then why is a further reality mentioned in the text of
NOTHING WRONG: The old covenant was indeed "faultless"
as to morality (Rom 7:12); nevertheless, it was powerless: it could not save --
because of the weakness of the flesh (Rom 8:3n).
NO PLACE WOULD HAVE BEEN SOUGHT: That is, there would
have been no need or occasion...
BUT GOD FOUND FAULT WITH THE PEOPLE: The problem,
however, lies not simply in the first covenant (which by its nature was only
preparatory), but more fundamentally in the people themselves -- this will be
evident in the quotation that follows.
This assignment of the real blame to the people rather than to
the first covenant is somewhat reminiscent of Paul's vindication of the law in
V 8b begins the quotation of Jer 31:31-34, which continues
thru v 12.
THE TIME IS COMING, DECLARES THE LORD, WHEN I WILL MAKE A
NEW COVENANT WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH: "The time
is coming" is a typical introduction to a messianic prophecy. God speaks through
the prophet about a future time when a new covenant will be established with his
people. The prophet Jeremiah writes in a time of trouble and disillusionment;
Judah and Jerusalem have fallen to the invading Babylonians and have been
carried off into exile, all this by way of judgment upon the people for their
IT WILL NOT BE LIKE THE COVENANT I MADE WITH THEIR
FOREFATHERS WHEN I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND TO LEAD THEM OUT OF EGYPT, BECAUSE THEY
DID NOT REMAIN FAITHFUL TO MY COVENANT, AND I TURNED AWAY FROM THEM, DECLARES
THE LORD: The root problem, and the reason why the new covenant will be
unlike the old (for the old, see Exo 19:5), is because the people of Israel did
not "continue in" God's covenant. The old covenant was unable to produce
obedience, and hence judgment came upon the nation. But the new covenant will be
able to accomplish what the old could not...
THIS IS THE COVENANT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL
AFTER THAT TIME, DECLARES THE LORD. I WILL PUT MY LAWS IN THEIR MINDS AND WRITE
THEM ON THEIR HEARTS. I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY WILL BE MY PEOPLE: The
new covenant, however, will do something new, and necessary: it will produce
true righteousness, the personal knowledge of the Lord, and effective
forgiveness of sins. Such results are the "better promises" referred to in v 6
-- which are now experienced by the people of God, the ecclesia. This is the
meaning of Jesus Christ and his finished work of atonement, for he is "the
guarantee of a better covenant" (Heb 7:22), "the mediator of a new covenant"
I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS: Cp 2Co 3:3: "You are
a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with
the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human
hearts." Thus even Gentiles may become Jews "inwardly", being "circumcised" in
their hearts (cp Rom 2:28,29).
I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY WILL BE MY PEOPLE: This
is, of course, the foundation of the Abrahamic promises: Gen 17:7,8.
"Although Jeremiah is the only OT writer to refer explicitly
to a NEW covenant in the future, Ezekiel apparently had a similar expectation.
He speaks of an 'eternal covenant' (cp Heb 13:20) which the Lord will establish
and which will involve transformation, knowledge of the Lord, and the
forgiveness of sins (Eze 11:19,20; 16:60-63; 36:26-29; 37:26-28, including the
words 'they will be my people, and I will be their God'). Other prophets foresee
similar circumstances (eg, Isa 54:13; cp reference to the 'covenant of peace' in
54:10; 27:9, quoted in Rom 11:27)" (NIBC).
The idea of the "new covenant" is of course found elsewhere in
the NT. In the words of Jesus at his "passover", the new covenant is referred to
in both Luke 22:20 and 1Co 11:25. Paul refers to it in 2Co 3:6 (cp his explicit
reference to the "old covenant" in 2Co 3:14). A similar contrast between two
covenants is found in Gal 4:24-26. Nowhere, outside of Hebrews, however, do we
encounter the quotation of this passage or the argument based upon it that we
have here (cp also Heb 9:15; 10:16-18; 12:24).
Vv 11,12: Our author capitalizes upon Jeremiah's reference to
the new covenant. A new situation is in view within the Scriptures of the old
covenant itself, a situation that envisages a new kind of living, a new
spiritual possibility, and a new experience of a definitive forgiveness of sins.
Knowledge of the Lord becomes the possession of all, and the cleansing of sin
becomes a reality at the deepest level. It is this that Jeremiah looked for, and
it is this that has come to the readers in Christ (see the application of the
passage to the readers in Heb 10:15–18). But if the latter statement is
true, the implications for the old covenant are startling.
THEY WILL ALL KNOW ME, FROM THE LEAST OF THEM TO THE
GREATEST: God will give Israel special "teachers" (Jer 23:3,4; Isa 30:14-21;
54:13); thus they will be led into the "new covenant" -- along with the Gentile
I WILL FORGIVE THEIR WICKEDNESS AND WILL REMEMBER THEIR
SINS NO MORE: In contrast to the Law, where sins were remembered, year to
year: Heb 10:3.
BY CALLING THIS COVENANT "NEW," HE HAS MADE THE FIRST ONE
OBSOLETE; AND WHAT IS OBSOLETE AND AGING WILL SOON DISAPPEAR: The same God
who brought the old covenant into existence in anticipation of the new has now
brought the fulfillment of the new. But the new, in turn, is so much better than
the old that the old must give way to it. The purpose of the old has been
accomplished, and hence it will soon disappear.
MADE: "Pronounced" (NEB), "rendered" (Diag), declared
only by God's decree... even in Jeremiah's day!
FIRST: Used repeatedly in the argument that follows in
a way that implies it is outmoded (cp Heb 9:1,15,18; 10:9).
OBSOLETE AND AGING: The Law has now grown old, been set
aside, and will shortly (ie, 70 AD) disappear altogether. See Heb 12:26-29 and
Hag 2:6n. Promised in Dan 8:9-12,24; 9:26. "They will all wear out like a
garment; the moths will eat them up" (Isa 50:9).
SOON: This seems to fix the date of the writing of
Hebrews: we are near the destruction of Jerusalem, and hence the temple, in 70
AD, and the writer may be thinking of the prophecy of Jesus about the fall of
Jerusalem (Mark 13:2). If Hebrews were written AFTER the fall of Jerusalem and
the destruction of the temple, the writer could hardly have avoided referring
explicitly to the historical confirmation of his argument.