Hebrews 8:7
For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(7) For the second.—Rather, for a second. This verse connects itself with the words, “a better covenant” in Hebrews 8:6. The form of expression used clearly points to the intended inference—that covenant was faulty, and a place was sought for a second; this makes plain the connection with Hebrews 8:8. The failure of the first covenant was manifest (Hebrews 7:11; Hebrews 7:18) to God, who, whilst the first still existed, “sought” and found place for a second.

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.For if that first covenant had been faultless - see the note on Hebrews 7:11. It is implied here that God had said that that covenant was not perfect or faultless. The meaning is not that that first covenant made under Moses had any real faults - or inculcated what was wrong, but that it did not contain the ample provision for the pardon of sin and the salvation of the soul which was desirable. It was merely "preparatory" to the gospel.

Then should no place have been sought for the second - There could not have been - inasmuch as in that case it would have been impossible to have bettered it, and any change would have been only for the worse.

7. Same reasoning as in Heb 7:11.

faultless—perfect in all its parts, so as not to be found fault with as wanting anything which ought to be there: answering all the purposes of a law. The law in its morality was blameless (Greek, "amomos"); but in saving us it was defective, and so not faultless (Greek, "amemptos").

should no place have been sought—as it has to be now; and as it is sought in the prophecy (Heb 8:8-11). The old covenant would have anticipated all man's wants, so as to give no occasion for seeking something more perfectly adequate. Compare on the phrase "place … sought," Heb 12:17.

This proves the gospel covenant better than the Mosaical, for if it had not, there would have been no second.

For if that first covenant had been faultless: that first covenant, of which Moses was the mediator, as to the administration of it, (as to the matter of it, it was the same from Adam throughout all ages), was faulty; not because God made it, though it was a less perfect good than what succeeded it; it was able to save those who would rightly use it, and come unto Christ by it, Galatians 3:24; but accidentally, by reason of the priests’ faults, and people’s sinfulness, it became wholly ineffectual to them for saving them; therefore the blame and fault of it is charged on them, Hebrews 8:8.

Then should no place have been sought for the second: the question here is vehemently assertive; if that covenant in its Mosaical administration had reached effectually its end, brought all that were under it to Christ, to be saved by him, no place nor room was there, that then being so perfect, for another to succeed it, God would have rested there; but his excellent wisdom and counsel determined to put in being the second, and to set it in the place of the first, that was faulty, and which was to be abrogated by it, Galatians 3:21. For if that first covenant had been faultless,.... Not the covenant of works; that was made in paradise, this on Mount Sinai; that was made with Adam and his posterity, this with the Jews only; that had no mediator, this had one, Moses; that was not dedicated with blood, this was; that had no forgiveness of sin in it, this had; under that saints are not, but they were under this; to be under that was no privilege, but to be under this it was, as to the Israelites, who on this account were preferable to all other nations: nor is the pure covenant of grace as administered under the Gospel, meant; for though that was first made, yet is the second in administration; that includes the elect of God among the Gentiles, this only the Jews; that is made only with them, and is made known to them whom God calls by his grace in time, this was made with good and bad; that was of pure grace, this required works in order to life and the enjoyment of its blessings; that is an everlasting covenant, this is done away; and the one is manifestly distinguished from the other in this chapter: but the covenant here designed is the covenant of grace, as administered under the legal dispensation, and which was a typical one; the people with whom it was made were typical of the true Israel of God; the blessings promised in it were shadows of good things to come; the works it required were typical of Christ's obedience to the law, in the room and stead of his people, by which he fulfilled it; the sacrifices on which it was established were types of the sacrifice and death of Christ; the mediator of it. Moses, was a type of Christ, the Mediator of the new covenant; and it was confirmed by the blood of beasts, which was typical of the blood of Christ: this covenant was not "faultless", but was faulty or blameworthy; not that there was anything sinful and criminal in it, but it was deficient; there was a weakness in it; its sacrifices could not make men perfect, nor take away sin; there wanted a larger supply of the grace of the Spirit to write the law of God upon the heart, and to enable men to keep it; there was not in it so full a revelation of the mind and will of God, and of his love and grace, as has since been made; nor did it exhibit a free and full pardon for all sins, unclogged of every condition; the persons that were under it were faulty; hence it follows, that God found fault with them, they could not answer the requirements and end of it: had it been faultless,

then should no place have been sought for the second; the covenant of grace unveiled in the Gospel dispensation, called the better testament, the better covenant, and the new covenant; in order to, introduce which, the first was removed, that this might succeed it; just as because there was no perfection by the Levitical priesthood, it became necessary that another priest should arise, of another order.

{7} For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.

(7) He proves by the testimony of Jeremiah that there is a second Testament or covenant, and therefore that the first was not perfect.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Hebrews 8:7. Justification of the κρείττονος and κρείττοσιν, Hebrews 8:6.

εἰ ἦν] if it were (Hebrews 7:11, Hebrews 8:4).

ἡ πρώτη ἐκείνη] sc. διαθήκη. On the superlative, quite in keeping with the linguistic usage of the Greek, see Winer, Gramm., 7 Aufl. p. 229, Obs. 1.

ἄμεμπτος] faultless (Php 2:15; Php 3:6), satisfactory, sufficient. Theodoret: τὸ ἄμεμπτος ἀντὶ τοῦ τελεία τέθεικε.

οὐκ ἂν δευτέρας ἐζητεῖτο τόπος] place would not have been sought (sc. by God, in the O. T., or in the passage of Scripture immediately adduced) for a second (covenant); i.e. it would not have been expressed by God Himself, that a second covenant is to come in beside the first, and replace it. In this general sense ἐζητεῖτο τόπος is to be taken, and the form of expression in the apodosis to be explained from a mingling of a twofold mode of contemplation (οὐκ ἂν δευτέρα ἐζητεῖτο καὶ δευτέρας αὐκ ἦν ἂν τόπος: a second would not be sought by God, nor would there be any place for a second). No emphasis rests upon τόπος; on which account it is over-refining, when Bleek finds in ἐζητεῖτο τόπος the reference that to the New Covenant, according to Hebrews 8:10, the place was assigned in the hearts of men, while the Old was written upon tables of stone.

Hebrews 8:7-13. Evidence from Scripture that the New Covenant rests upon better promises than the Old, and consequently is a better covenant than that. God Himself has, by the fact of His having promised a new covenant, pronounced the former one to be growing obsolete.Hebrews 8:7-13. A justification of the establishment of a better covenant, on the grounds (1) that the first covenant was not faultless; (2) that Jeremiah had predicted the introduction of a new covenant (a) not like the old, but (b) based upon better promises; and (3) that even in Jeremiah’s days the first covenant was antiquated by the very title “new” ascribed to that which was then promised.7. if that first covenant had been faultless] Whereas it was as he has said “weak” and “unprofitable” and “earthly” (Hebrews 7:18). The difference between the writer’s treatment of the relation between Christianity and Judaism and St Paul’s mode of dealing with the same subject consists in this:—to St Paul the contrast between the Law and the Gospel was that between the Letter and the Spirit, between bondage and freedom, between Works and Faith, between Command and Promise, between threatening and mercy. All these polemical elements disappear almost entirely from the Epistle to the Hebrews, which regards the two dispensations as furnishing a contrast between Type and Reality. This was the more possible to Apollos because he regards Judaism not so much in the light of a Law as in the light of a Priesthood and a system of worship. Like those who had been initiated into the ancient mysteries the Christian convert from Judaism could say ἔφυγον κακὸν εὗρον ἄμεινον—“I fled the bad, I found the better;” not that Judaism was in any sense intrinsically and inherently “bad” (Romans 7:12), but that it became so when it was preferred to something so much more divine.

7–13. Threefold superiority of the New to the Old Covenant, as prophesied by Jeremiah; being a proof that the “promises” of the New Covenant are “better”Hebrews 8:7. Ἡ πρώτη, the first) A Metonymy; for blame (finding fault) does not fall upon a divine institution, but upon a real and personal object. Αὐτοῖς, with them, is said Hebrews 8:8; from which it is plain, that not only the New Testament itself was faultless, but also its people.—ἐκείνη, that) The pronoun adapted to a past event.—ἐζητεῖτο, should have been sought) A suitable expression: that first covenant would have anticipated all.Verse 7. - For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for a second. "For" introduces this sentence as a reason for what has been already said; i.e. for a better covenant having been spoken cf. The expression might be objected to by Hebrew readers as implying imperfection in the original Divine covenant. "Nay," says the writer, "it was imperfect, it was not faultless; for prophecy itself declares this." Should it be further objected that in the prophecy it is not the old covenant itself that is found fault with, but the people for not observing it, the answer would be that the remedy for their non-observance being the substitution of a new one that would answer its purpose better, some imperfection in the old one is implied. This is indeed the very point of this verse. If it be asked, further, how faultiness in the old covenant is compatible with the view of its Divine origin, the answer is abundantly supplied in St. Paul's Epistles. His position constantly is that the Mosaic Law, though in itself "holy, just, and true," and adequate to its purpose, was still imperfect as a means of justification. It was but a temporary dispensation, with a purpose of its own, intervening between the original promise to Abraham and the fulfillment of that promise in Christ. Thus it is no derogation to itself or to its Author to charge it with "weakness and unprofitableness" for a purpose it was never meant to answer. The statement that a better covenant was enacted upon better promises is justified by the very existence of that second covenant. "If that first covenant had been faultless, there would no place have been sought for a second." The argument is like that in Hebrews 7:11 (see note). Notice the imperfect tense ἐξητείτο, lit. would have been being sought. A search would not have been going on. This implies a sense of dissatisfaction while the old covenant was still in force, and a looking about for something better. This hint is now expanded. It is to be shown that the Levitical system answered to a covenant which was recognized as imperfect and transitory by an O.T. prophet, since he spoke of a divine purpose to establish a new covenant.
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