Hebrews 8:13
In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.
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(13) In that he saith . . .—Rather, In saying “new” He hath made the first old: now that which groweth old and is failing for age is nigh unto vanishing away. The very language of the prophet contains a declaration of the speedy dissolution of the former covenant. If “nigh unto vanishing” at the time when Jeremiah wrote, well might it now be believed to have passed away.

Hebrews 8:13. In that he saith, A new covenant — In that he expresses himself in this manner; he hath made the first old — He hath manifested it to be old, or he hath shown that it is disannulled and out of date. Now that which decayeth, &c. — That which is antiquated, and of no further use; is ready to vanish away — As the Mosaic dispensation did soon after, when the temple was destroyed. “The Sinai covenant, before it was abrogated by Christ, was become old, or useless, in three respects; 1st, By its curse condemning every transgressor to death without mercy, it was designed to show the necessity of seeking justification from the mercy of God. But that necessity being more directly declared in the gospel, there was no reason for continuing the former covenant, after the second covenant was fully and universally published. 2d, The covenant of the law was introduced to prefigure the good things to come under the covenant of the gospel. But when these good things were actually bestowed, there was no longer any use for the typical services of the law. 3d, The Jewish doctors, by teaching that pardon was to be obtained only by the Levitical sacrifices, and the Judaizing Christians, by affirming that under the gospel itself men are pardoned only through the efficacy of these sacrifices, both the one and the other had corrupted the law; on which account, it was fit to lay it aside as a thing whose tendency now was to nourish superstition.” — Macknight.

8:7-13 The superior excellence of the priesthood of Christ, above that of Aaron, is shown from that covenant of grace, of which Christ was Mediator. The law not only made all subject to it, liable to be condemned for the guilt of sin, but also was unable to remove that guilt, and clear the conscience from the sense and terror of it. Whereas, by the blood of Christ, a full remission of sins was provided, so that God would remember them no more. God once wrote his laws to his people, now he will write his laws in them; he will give them understanding to know and to believe his laws; he will give them memories to retain them; he will give them hearts to love them, courage to profess them, and power to put them in practice. This is the foundation of the covenant; and when this is laid, duty will be done wisely, sincerely, readily, easily, resolutely, constantly, and with comfort. A plentiful outpouring of the Spirit of God will make the ministration of the gospel so effectual, that there shall be a mighty increase and spreading of Christian knowledge in persons of all sorts. Oh that this promise might be fulfilled in our days, that the hand of God may be with his ministers so that great numbers may believe, and be turned to the Lord! The pardon of sin will always be found to accompany the true knowledge of God. Notice the freeness of this pardon; its fulness; its fixedness. This pardoning mercy is connected with all other spiritual mercies: unpardoned sin hinders mercy, and pulls down judgments; but the pardon of sin prevents judgment, and opens a wide door to all spiritual blessings. Let us search whether we are taught by the Holy Spirit to know Christ, so as uprightly to love, fear, trust, and obey him. All worldly vanities, outward privileges, or mere notions of religion, will soon vanish away, and leave those who trust in them miserable for ever.In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old - That is, the use of the word "new" implies that the one which it was to supersede was "old." New and old stand in contradistinction from each other. Thus, we speak of a new and old house, a new and old garment, etc. The object of the apostle is to show that by the very fact of the arrangement for a new dispensation differing so much from the old, it was implied of necessity that that was to be superseded, and would vanish away. This was one of the leading points at which he arrived.

Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away - This is a general truth which would be undisputed, and which Paul applies to the case under consideration. An old house, or garment; an ancient tree; an aged man, all have indications that they are soon to disappear. They cannot be expected to remain long. The very fact of their growing old is an indication that they will soon be gone. So Paul says it was with the dispensation that was represented as old. It had symptoms of decay. It had lost the vigour which it had when it was fresh and new; it had every mark of an antiquated and a declining system; and it had been expressly declared that a new and more perfect dispensation was to be given to the world. Paul concluded, therefore, that the Jewish system must soon disappear.


1. The fact that we have a high priest, is suited to impart consolation to the pious mind; Hebrews 8:1-5. He ever lives, and is ever the same. He is a minister of the true sanctuary, and is ever before the mercy-seat. He enters there not once a year only, but has entered there to abide there for ever. We can never approach the throne of mercy without having a high priest there - for he at all times, day and night, appears before God. The merits of his sacrifice are never exhausted, and God is never wearied with hearing his pleadings in behalf of his people. He is the same that he was when he gave himself on the cross. He has the same love and the same compassion which he had then, and that love which led him to make the atonement, will lead him always to regard with tenderness those for whom he died.

2. It is a privilege to live under the blessings of the Christian system; Hebrews 8:6. We have a better covenant than the old one was - one less expensive and less burdensome, and one that is established upon better promises. Now the sacrifice is made, and we do not have to renew it every day. It was made once for all, and need never be repeated. Having now a high priest in heaven who has made the sacrifice, we may approach him in any part of the earth, and at all times, and feel that our offering will be acceptable to him. If there is any blessing for which we ought to be thankful, it is for the Christian religion; for we have only to look at any portion of the pagan world, or even to the condition of the people of God under the comparatively dark and obscure Jewish dispensation, to see abundant reasons for thanksgiving for what we enjoy.

3. Let us often contemplate the mercies of the new dispensation with which we are favored - the favors of that religion whose smiles and sunshine we are permitted to enjoy; Hebrews 8:10-12. It contains all that we want, and is exactly adapted to our condition. It has that for which every man should be thankful; and has not one thing which should lead a man to reject it. It furnishes all the security which we could desire for our salvation; lays upon us no oppressive burdens or charges; and accomplishes all which we ought to desire in our souls. Let us contemplate a moment the arrangements of that "covenant," and see how suited it is to make man blessed and happy.

First, It writes the laws of God on the mind and the heart; Hebrews 8:10. It not only reveals them, but it secures their observance. It has made arrangements for disposing people to keep the laws a thing which has not been introduced into any other system. Legislators may enact good laws, but they cannot induce others to obey them; parents may utter good precepts, but they cannot engrave them on the hearts of their children; and sages may express sound maxims and just precepts in morals, but there is no security that they will be regarded. So in all the pagan world - there is no power to inscribe good maxims and rules of living on the heart. They may be written; recorded on tablets; hung up in temples; but still people will not regard them. They will still give indulgence to evil passions, and lead wicked lives. But it is not so with the arrangement which God has made in the plan of salvation. One of the very first provisions of that plan is, that the laws shall be inscribed on the heart, and that there shall be a disposition to obey. Such a systcm is what man wants, and such a system he can nowhere else find.

Secondly, This new arrangement "reveals to us" a God such as we need; Hebrews 8:10. It contains the promise that he will be "our God." He will be to his people all that can be "desired in God;" all that man could wish. He is just such a God as the human mind, when it is pure, most loves; has all the attributes which it could be desired there should be in his character; has done all that we could desire a God to do; and is ready to do all that we could wish a God to perform. "Man wants a God;" a God in whom he can put confidence, and on whom he can rely. The ancient Greek philosopher wanted a God - and he would then have made a beautiful and efficient system of morals; the pagan want a God - to dwell in their empty temples, and in their corrupt hearts; the Atheist wants a God to make him calm, contented, and happy in this life - for he has no God now, and man everywhere, wretched, sinful, suffering, dying, wants a God. Such a God is revealed in the Bible - one whose character we may contemplate with ever-increasing admiration; one who has all the attributes which we can desire; one who will minister to us all the consolation which we need in this world; and one who will be to us the same God forever and ever.

Thirdly, The new covenant contemplates the diffusion of "knowledge;" Hebrews 8:11. This too was what man needed, for everywhere else he has been ignorant of God and of the way of salvation. The whole pagan world is sunk in ignorance, and indeed all people, except as they are enlightened by the gospel, are in profound darkness on the great questions which most nearly pertain to their welfare. But it is not so with the new arrangement which God has made with his people. It is a fact that they know the Lord, and a dispensation which would produce that is just what man needed. There are two things hinted at in Hebrews 8:11, which are worthy of more than a passing notice, illustrating the excellency of the Christian religion. The first is, that in the new dispensation "all would know the Lord." The matter of fact is, that the obscurest and most unlettered Christian often has a knowledge of God which sages never had, and which is never obtained except by the teachings of the Spirit of God. However this may be accounted for, the fact cannot be denied.

There is a clear and elevating view of God; a knowledge of him which exerts a practical influence on the heart, and which transforms the soul; and a correctness of apprehension in regard to what truth is, possessed by the humble Christian, though a peasant, which philosophy never imparted to its votaries. Many a sage would be instructed in the truths of religion if he would sit down and converse with the comparatively unlearned Christian, who has no book but his Bible. The other thing hinted at here is, that all would know the Lord "from the least to the greatest." Children and youth, as well as age and experience, would have an acquaintance with God. This promise is remarkably verified under the new dispensation. One of the most striking things of the system is, the attention which it pays to the young; one of its most wonderful effects is the knowledge which it is the means of imparting to those in early life. Many a child in the Sunday School has a knowledge of God which Grecian sages never had; many a youth in the Church has a more consistent acquaintance with God's real plan of governing and saving people, than all the teachings which philosophy could ever furnish.

Fourthly, The new dispensation contemplates the pardon of sin, and is, therefore, suited to the condition of man; Hebrews 8:12. It is what man needs. The knowledge of some way of pardon is what human nature has been sighing for for ages; which has been sought in every system of religion, and by every bloody offering; but which has never been found elsewhere. The philosopher had no assurance that God would pardon, and indeed one of the chief aims of the philosopher has been to convince himself that he had no need of pardon. The pagan have had no assurance that their offerings have availed to put away the divine anger, and to obtain forgiveness. "The only assurance anywhere furnished that sin may be forgiven, is in the Bible." This is the great uniqueness of the system recorded there, and this it is which renders it so valuable above all the other systems. It furnishes the assurance that sins may be pardoned, and shows how it may be done. This is what we must have, or perish. And why, since Christianity reveals a way of forgiveness - a way honorable to God and not degrading to man - why should any man reject it? Why should not the guilty embrace a system which proclaims pardon to the guilty, and which assures all that, if they will embrace him who is the "Mediator of the new covenant," "God will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and will remember their iniquities no more."

13. he—God.

made … old—"hath (at the time of speaking the prophecy) antiquated the first covenant." From the time of God's mention of a NEW covenant (since God's words are all realities) the first covenant might be regarded as ever dwindling away, until its complete abolition on the actual introduction of the Gospel. Both covenants cannot exist side by side. Mark how verbal inspiration is proved in Paul's argument turning wholly on the one word "NEW" (covenant), occurring but once in the Old Testament.

that which decayeth—Greek, "that which is being antiquated," namely, at the time when Jeremiah spake. For in Paul's time, according to his view, the new had absolutely set aside the old covenant. The Greek for (Kaine) New (Testament) implies that it is of a different kind and supersedes the old: not merely recent (Greek, "nea"). Compare Ho 3:4, 5.

In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old: the inference from what was before said, Hebrews 8:8, (in the Lord’s saying this by the prophet Jeremiah, that he would make a new covenant, for form and manner of administration later and better, even the last and best he will make, and in which he will have penitent, believing sinners to acquiesce), is this: That the Mosaical one, though first in respect of the gospel, hath lost its power, strength, and vigour, its binding force; and so, by God’s instituting another, is abrogated, as useless, needless, and imperfect.

Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away; this Mosaical one, thus grown old, weak, and decrepit, and by the institution of the new gospel covenant abrogated, may continue for a while, but in no force; and so gradually moulder and decay by little and little, till it at last vanish and totally cease. It was near to it upon finishing of the ministry of the gospel High Priest on earth, when by his death he fulfilled the truth of this typical one, and so virtually nulled it; and, as to its binding force, vanished, when the gospel was published throughout the world, Romans 10:16-18; compare 2 Corinthians 5:17; as is owned by the apostolical synod, Acts 15:1-41. It was high time for these Hebrews to cease from that vanishing Mosaical one, and effectually to close with the gospel priesthood and covenant, which must remain and continue for ever; see Daniel 9:24,26,27; which if they did not, must end in the total destruction of them, their temple and city, which came to pass not many years after the apostle wrote this Epistle.

In that he saith a new covenant,.... In the above prophecy, Hebrews 8:8

he hath made the first old; this naturally follows from hence; if the second is new, the first must be old; which is called so, not on account of its date and duration; for the covenant of grace itself is older than this mode of administration of it, and the manifestation of that to the patriarchs was before this covenant, and so was the covenant of works before it; but on the account of its faultiness and deficiency, its weakness, and unprofitableness, and especially its being antiquated, and made to give way to another.

Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away; the apostle argues from the first covenant, being old, to its being near to dissolution, or a disappearance; and the dissolution or disappearance of this covenant was gradual; it began when the Chaldeans seized the land of Canaan; and the ark, an eminent type of Christ, being wanting in the second temple, gave a hint of its waxing old; and both the civil and ecclesiastical government of the Jews were in great confusion under the second temple, at least towards the close of it; and even before the times of Christ, John the Baptist came, and proclaimed the near approach of the Messiah, and his kingdom: this covenant was of right abolished at the time of Christ's death; upon his ascension the Spirit was given, and the Gospel published among all nations, by which it more and more disappeared; and in fact it quite vanished away, when the city and temple of Jerusalem were destroyed, which was in a little time after the writing of this epistle; so that the apostle, with great propriety, says, it is "ready to vanish away".

{8} In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

(8) The conclusion: Therefore by the later and the new, the first and old is taken away, for it could not be called new, if it did not differ from the old. Again, that same is at length taken away, which is subject to corruption, and therefore imperfect.

Hebrews 8:13. The author derives the result from the Scripture testimony, Hebrews 8:8-12.

ἐν τῷ λέγειν καινήν] in that He (sc. God) saith: a new (covenant). Comp. ἐν τῷ λέγεσθαι, Hebrews 3:15, and ἐν τῷ ὑποτάξαι, Hebrews 2:8.

πεπαλαίωκεν τὴν πρώτην] He hath made the first old (contrary to linguistic usage, Ebrard: “relatively older”), i.e. has declared it to be out of date, outworn, and no longer serviceable.

παλαιοῦν] a word belonging to a later period of the Greek language, elsewhere ordinarily used in the intransitive sense: “to grow old,” and generally in the middle voice (as a little below, and Hebrews 1:11); is found likewise in the transitive sense, “to make old,” in Lamentations 3:4; Job 9:5. To abolish or render obsolete the word itself does not signify; but rendering obsolete is the natural consequence of pronouncing out of date or outworn. The author accordingly does not directly express notion of abrogation by πεπαλαίωκεν in this place,—a sense, moreover, which, on account of the following παλαιούμενον, would here be inappropriate,—but leaves the reader to divine it.

τὸ δὲ παλαιούμενον καὶ γηράσκον ἐγγὺς ἀφανισμοῦ] but that which is growing ancient and is becoming infirm with years, is near to disappearing or perishing.

γηράσκειν] ordinarily said of human beings (to become enfeebled with age, senescere); then, however, also of things, comp. e.g. Xenoph. Ages. Hebrews 11:14 : ἡ μὲν τοῦ σώματος ἰσχὺς γηράσκει, ἡ δὲ τῆς ψυχῆς ῥώμηἀγήρατός ἐστιν.

The author says sparingly: near to disappearing (comp. κατάρας ἐγγύς, Hebrews 6:8), in that he takes his standpoint at the time of the divine promises just quoted. But if God in the time of Jeremiah already designated the Old Covenant as that which is nigh unto ruin, it was therein necessarily declared by implication, that now, after so long a time is passed and the New Covenant has already been in reality brought in, the Old Covenant, as to its essence (if not yet as to its external manifestation), must have been already entirely abrogated, must have entirely lost its force and validity.

Hebrews 8:13. ἐν τῷ λέγειν Καινήν. “In saying ‘New,’ He hath antiquated the first; and that which is antiquated and growing old is near extinction [lit. disappearance].” That is to say, by speaking in the passage quoted, Hebrews 8:8, of a new covenant, God brands the former as old. Thus even in Jeremiah’s time the Mosaic covenant was disparaged. The fact that a new was required showed that it was insufficient. It was condemned as antiquated. And that which is antiquated and aged has not much longer to live. πεπαλαίωκεν, the active is found in LXX, Job 9:5; Job 32:15, etc.; the mid is common, in Plato and elsewhere in the sense of “growing old”. ἐγγὺς ἀφανισμοῦ, cf. ἐγγὺς κατάρας, Hebrews 6:8. ἀφανισμός, is suggestive of utter destruction, abolition; thus in Polyb. Hebrews 8:11; Hebrews 8:5 it is joined with ἀπώλεια. Cf. Diod. Sic. ver. 8:32, ἀποκτείνουσιν, ἢ κατακαίουσιν, ἤ τισιν ἄλλαις τιμωρίαις ἀφανίζουσι.

13. he hath made the first old] The very expression, “a New Covenant,” used in the disparaging connexion in which it stands, superannuates the former covenant, and stamps it as antiquated. The verse is a specimen of the deep sense which it was the constant object of Alexandrian interpreters to deduce from Scripture. The argument is analogous to that of Hebrews 7:11.

Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away] Lit. “Now that which is becoming antiquated and waxing aged, is near obliteration.” The expression “near evanescence “again shows that the Epistle was written before the Fall of Jerusalem, when the decree of dissolution which had been passed upon the Old Covenant was carried into effect. Even the Rabbis, though they made the Law an object of superstitious and extravagant veneration, yet sometimes admitted that it would ultimately cease to be—namely, when “the Evil Impulse” (Deuteronomy 31:21) should be overcome.

ready to vanish away] Comp. the expression “near a curse” (Hebrews 6:8), and Dr Kay points out the curious fact that “curse” and “obliteration” (aphanismos here alone in the N. T.) appear in juxtaposition in 2 Kings 22:19 (where our version renders it “desolation”).

Hebrews 8:13. Ἐν) in. The time is hereby denoted, wherein the prophecy was spoken by Jeremiah.—πεπαλαίωκε, He hath made old) For place cannot be found at the same time for both. The employment of the preterite of the verb πεπαλαίωκε implies that it was become old at the time when He spoke by Jeremiah. The New covenant was only once promised in the Old Testament under this very appellation. And yet the apostle urges this appellation very much: of so great importance are the very words of the prophets.—τὸ παλαιούμενον, that which is made old or antiquated) by the declaration of GOD. So also in 2 Corinthians 3:14, Paul calls it the old testament.—καὶ γηράσκον, and that which becomes old) by the revolt of the people. Παλαιὸς and καινὸς are opposed: so also γέρων and νέος; thence διαθήκη νέα, ch. Hebrews 12:24 : for there is a new life, ch. Hebrews 10:20; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 2 Corinthians 5:15.—ἐγγὺς, near) Jeremiah uttered these prophecies in the time of the Babylonish captivity, almost in the last age of the prophets, at a long interval [i.e. of 899 years.—V. g.] after the departure from Egypt, not very long [namely, about 627 years] before the coming of the Messiah, whose propinquity (nearness) was being proved by this very circumstance.

Verse 13. - In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. But that which is becoming old and waxeth aged is nigh unto vanishing away. "He hath made the first old" (πεπαλαίωκε) refers to the time of Jeremiah's prophecy, not of the writing of the Epistle. The very mention of a new covenant had even then antiquated the other. It thenceforth survived only under the category of old as opposed to new; and further marked with the growing decrepitude which is the precursor of dissolution. This further idea is expressed by the present participle παλαιούμενον (elsewhere applied to garments that are wearing out; cf. Psalm 102:27; Hebrews 1:11; Isaiah 1:9; Isaiah 51:6; Luke 12:33), and also by γηράσκον, a figure taken from the advance of old age in men. When the Epistle was written, it would not have been spoken of as "waxing old," but as defunct. The temple, indeed, was still standing, with the old ritual going on; but it had become but as the stately shrine of a lifeless thing. As to the view of the antiquation having begun even in the prophetic age, we observe that the prophets themselves show a consciousness of this, in that their growing tendency is to depreciate rather than exalt the ceremonial Law, and to put mercy above sacrifice. In fact, the Old Testament itself, especially in its later parts, is replete with the principles of the new covenant, anticipated in part, though not to be fully revealed till Christ appeared. And so, when he did appear, the old dispensation had already become obsolete, and the new one prepared for; to be rejected in Israel by those only who, "in the reading of the Old Testament," had "the veil upon their heart."

Hebrews 8:13In that he saith a new covenant (ἐν τῷ λέγειν καινήν)

Lit. "in his saying new."

He hath made the first old (πεπαλαίωκεν τὴν πρώτην)

Παλαιοῦν to make old, only in Hebrews and Luke 12:33. Comp. Hebrews 1:11.

Now that which decayeth and waxeth old (τὸ δὲ παλαιούμενου καὶ γηράσκον)

Rend. but that which is becoming old and waxing aged. Γηράσκειν (only here and John 21:18) adds the idea of infirmity to that of age.

Is ready to vanish away (ἐγγύς ἀφανισμοῦ)

Lit. is nigh unto vanishing. Ἀφανισμός vanishing, N.T.o. Often in lxx. Class. rare and late. The whole statement indicates that the writer regarded the Sinaitic covenant, even in Jeremiah's time, as obsolete, and that Jeremiah himself so regarded it. When God announced a new covenant he proclaimed the insufficiency of the old, and the promise of a new covenant carried with it the promise of the abrogation of the old. The new covenant is so shaped as to avoid the defects of the old one, and some one has remarked that, in one aspect, it is a criticism of the Sinaitic covenant. The following are its provisions: (1) The law will no more be merely external, but a law written in the heart. Comp. 2 Corinthians 3:8. (2) The people will be on intimate and affectionate terms with God, so that the knowledge of God will be general. (3) Sin will be dealt with more radically and effectively.

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