Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;
Heb 8:1-13. Christ, the High Priest in the True Sanctuary, Superseding the Levitical Priesthood; the New Renders Obsolete the Old Covenant.
1. the sum—rather, "the principal point"; for the participle is present, not past, which would be required if the meaning were "the sum." "The chief point in (or, 'in the case'; so the Greek, Heb 9:10, 15, 17) the things which we are speaking," literally, "which are being spoken."
such—so transcendently pre-eminent, namely in this respect, that "He is set on the right hand of," &c. Infinitely above all other priests in this one grand respect, He exercises His priesthood IN HEAVEN, not in the earthly "holiest place" (Heb 10:12). The Levitical high priests, even when they entered the Holiest Place once a year, only STOOD for a brief space before the symbol of God's throne; but Jesus SITS on the throne of the Divine Majesty in the heaven itself, and this for ever (Heb 10:11, 12).
A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.
2. minister—The Greek term implies priestly ministry in the temple.
the sanctuary—Greek, "the holy places"; the Holy of Holies. Here the heavenly sanctuary is meant.
the true—the archetypal and antitypical, as contrasted with the typical and symbolical (Heb 9:24). Greek "alethinos" (used here) is opposed to that which does not fulfil its idea, as for instance, a type; "alethes," to that which is untrue and unreal, as a lie. The measure of alethes is reality; that of alethinos, ideality. In alethes the idea corresponds to the thing; in alethinos, the thing to the idea [Kalmis in Alford].
tabernacle—(Heb 9:11). His body. Through His glorified body as the tabernacle, Christ passes into the heavenly "Holy of Holies," the immediate immaterial presence of God, where He intercedes for us. This tabernacle in which God dwells, is where God in Christ meets us who are "members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones." This tabernacle answers to the heavenly Jerusalem, where God's visible presence is to be manifested to His perfected saints and angels, who are united in Christ the Head; in contradistinction to His personal invisible presence in the Holy of Holies unapproachable save to Christ. Joh 1:14, "Word … dwelt among us," Greek, "tabernacled."
pitched—Greek, "fixed" firmly.
not man—as Moses (Heb 8:5).
For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer.
3. For—assigning his reason for calling him "minister of the sanctuary" (Heb 8:2).
somewhat—He does not offer again His once for all completed sacrifice. But as the high priest did not enter the Holy Place without blood, so Christ has entered the heavenly Holy Place with His own blood. That "blood of sprinkling" is in heaven. And is thence made effectual to sprinkle believers as the end of their election (1Pe 1:2). The term "consecrate" as a priest, is literally, to fill the hand, implying that an offering is given into the hands of the priest, which it is his duty to present to God. If a man be a priest, he must have some gift in his hands to offer. Therefore, Christ, as a priest, has His blood as His oblation to offer before God.
For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:
4. Implying that Christ's priestly office is exercised in heaven, not in earth; in the power of His resurrection life, not of His earthly life.
For—The oldest manuscripts read, "accordingly then."
if, &c.—"if He were on earth, He would not even (so the Greek) be a priest" (compare Heb 7:13, 14); therefore, certainly, He could not exercise the high priestly function in the earthly Holy of Holies.
seeing that, &c.—"since there are" already, and exist now (the temple service not yet being set aside, as it was on the destruction of Jerusalem), "those (the oldest manuscripts omit 'priests') who offer the (appointed) gifts according to (the) law." Therefore, His sacerdotal "ministry" must be "in the heavens," not on earth (Heb 8:1). "If His priesthood terminated on the earth, He would not even be a priest at all" [Bengel]. I conceive that the denial here of Christ's priesthood on earth does not extend to the sacrifice on the cross which He offered as a priest on earth; but applies only to the crowning work of His priesthood, the bringing of the blood into the Holy of Holies, which He could not have done in the earthly Holy of Holies, as not being an Aaronic priest. The place (the heavenly Holy of Holies) was as essential to the atonement being made as the oblation (the blood). The body was burnt without the gate; but the sanctification was effected by the presentation of the blood within the sanctuary by the high priest. If on earth, He would not be a priest in the sense of the law of Moses ("according to the law" is emphatic).
Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.
5. Who—namely, the priests.
serve unto the example—not "after the example," as Bengel explains. But as in Heb 13:10, "serve the tabernacle," that is, do it service: so "serve (the tabernacle which is but) the outline and shadow." The Greek for "example" is here taken for the sketch, copy, or suggestive representation of the heavenly sanctuary, which is the antitypical reality and primary archetype. "The mount" answers to heaven, Heb 12:22.
admonished—The Greek especially applies to divine responses and commands.
to make—"perfectly": so the Greek.
See—Take heed, accurately observing the pattern, that so thou mayest make, &c.
the pattern—an accurate representation, presented in vision to Moses, of the heavenly real sanctuary. Thus the earthly tabernacle was copy of a copy; but the latter accurately representing the grand archetypical original in heaven (Ex 25:40).
But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.
6. now—not time; but "as it is."
more excellent ministry—than any earthly ministry.
by how much—in proportion as.
mediator—coming between us and God, to carry into effect God's covenant with us. "The messenger (angel) of the covenant."
which—Greek, "one which" [Alford]: inasmuch as being one which.
established—Greek, "enacted as a law." So Ro 3:27, "law of faith"; and Ro 8:2; 9:31, apply "law" to the Gospel covenant. It is implied hereby, the Gospel is founded on the law, in the spirit and essence of the latter.
better promises—enumerated Heb 8:10, 11. The Old Testament promises were mainly of earthly, the New Testament promises, of heavenly blessings: the exact fulfilment of the earthly promises was a pledge of the fulfilment of the heavenly. "Like a physician who prescribes a certain diet to a patient, and then when the patient is beginning to recover, changes the diet, permitting what he had before forbidden; or as a teacher gives his pupil an elementary lesson at first; preparatory to leading him to a higher stage": so Rabbi Albo in his Ikkarim. Compare Jer 7:21, 22, which shows that God's original design in the old covenant ritual system was, that it should be pedagogical, as a schoolmaster leading and preparing men for Christ.
For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.
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.
For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
8. finding fault with them—the people of the old covenant, who were not made "faultless" by it (Heb 8:7); and whose disregard of God's covenant made Him to "regard them not" (Heb 8:9). The law is not in itself blamed, but the people who had not observed it.
he saith—(Jer 31:31-34; compare Eze 11:19; 36:25-27). At Rama, the headquarters of Nebuzar-adan, whither the captives of Jerusalem had been led, Jeremiah uttered this prophecy of Israel's restoration under another David, whereby Rachel, wailing for her lost children, shall be comforted; literally in part fulfilled at the restoration under Zerubbabel, and more fully to be hereafter at Israel's return to their own land; spiritually fulfilled in the Gospel covenant, whereby God forgives absolutely His people's sins, and writes His law by His Spirit on the hearts of believers, the true Israel. "This prophecy forms the third part of the third trilogy of the three great trilogies into which Jeremiah's prophecies may be divided: Jeremiah 21-25, against the shepherds of the people; Jeremiah 26-29, against the false prophets; Jeremiah 30 and 31, the book of restoration" [Delitzsch in Alford].
Behold, the days come—the frequent formula introducing a Messianic prophecy.
make—Greek, "perfect"; "consummate." A suitable expression as to the new covenant, which perfected what the old could not (compare end of Heb 8:9, with end of Heb 8:10).
Israel … Judah—Therefore, the ten tribes, as well as Judah, share in the new covenant. As both shared the exile, so both shall share the literal and spiritual restoration.
Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.
9. Not according to, &c.—very different from, and far superior to, the old covenant, which only "worked wrath" (Ro 4:15) through man's "not regarding" it. The new covenant enables us to obey by the Spirit's inward impulse producing love because of the forgiveness of our sins.
made with—rather as Greek, "made to": the Israelites being only recipients, not coagents [Alford] with God.
I took them by the hand—as a father takes his child by the hand to support and guide his steps. "There are three periods: (1) that of the promise; (2) that of the pedagogical instruction; (3) that of fulfilment" [Bengel]. The second, that of the pedagogical pupilage, began at the exodus from Egypt.
I regarded them not—English Version, Jer 31:32, translates, "Although I was an husband unto them." Paul's translation here is supported by the Septuagint, Syriac, and Gesenius, and accords with the kindred Arabic. The Hebrews regarded not God, so God, in righteous retribution, regarded them not. On "continued not in my covenant," Schelling observes: The law was in fact the mere ideal of a religious constitution: in practice, the Jews were throughout, before the captivity, more or less polytheists, except in the time of David, and the first years of Solomon (the type of Messiah's reign). Even after the return from Babylon, idolatry was succeeded by what was not much better, formalism and hypocrisy (Mt 12:43). The law was (1) a typical picture, tracing out the features of the glorious Gospel to be revealed; (2) it had a delegated virtue from the Gospel, which ceased, therefore, when the Gospel came.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
10. make with—Greek, "make unto."
Israel—comprising the before disunited (Heb 8:8) ten tribes' kingdom, and that of Judah. They are united in the spiritual Israel, the elect Church, now: they shall be so in the literal restored kingdom of Israel to come.
I will put—literally, "(I) giving." This is the first of the "better promises" (Heb 8:6).
mind—their intelligent faculty.
in, &c.—rather, " ON their hearts." Not on tables of stone as the law (2Co 3:3).
and I will be to them a God, &c.—fulfilled first in the outward kingdom of God. Next, in the inward Gospel kingdom. Thirdly, in the kingdom at once outward and inward, the spiritual being manifested outwardly (Re 21:3). Compare a similar progression as to the priesthood (1) Ex 19:6; (2) 1Pe 2:5; (3) Isa 61:6; Re 1:6. This progressive advance of the significance of the Old Testament institutions, &c., says Tholuck, shows the transparency and prophetic character which runs throughout the whole.
And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
11. Second of the "better promises" (Heb 8:6).
they shall not—"they shall not have to teach" [Alford].
his neighbour—So Vulgate reads; but the oldest manuscripts have "his (fellow) citizen."
brother—a closer and more endearing relation than fellow citizen.
from the least to the greatest—Greek, "from the little one to the great one." Zec 12:8, "He that is feeble among them shall be as David." Under the old covenant, the priest's lips were to keep knowledge, and at his mouth the people were to seek the law: under the new covenant, the Holy Spirit teaches every believer. Not that the mutual teaching of brethren is excluded while the covenant is being promulgated; but when once the Holy Spirit shall have fully taught all the remission of their sins and inward sanctification, then there shall be no further' need of man teaching his fellow man. Compare 1Th 4:9; 5:1, an earnest of that perfect state to come. On the way to that perfect state every man should teach his neighbor. "The teaching is not hard and forced, because grace renders all teachable; for it is not the ministry of the letter, but of the spirit (2Co 3:6). The believer's firmness does not depend on the authority of human teachers. God Himself teaches" [Bengel]. The New Testament is shorter than the Old Testament, because, instead of the details of an outward letter law, it gives the all-embracing principles of the spiritual law written on the conscience, leading one to spontaneous instinctive obedience in outward details. None save the Lord can teach effectually, "know the Lord."
For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
12. For, &c.—the third of "the better promises" (Heb 8:6). The forgiveness of sins is, and will be, the root of this new state of inward grace and knowledge of the Lord. Sin being abolished, sinners obtain grace.
I will be merciful—Greek, "propitious"; the Hebrew, "salach," is always used of God only in relation to men.
and their iniquities—not found in Vulgate, Syriac, Coptic, and one oldest Greek manuscript; but most oldest manuscripts have the words (compare Heb 10:17).
remember no more—Contrast the law, Heb 10:3.
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.
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.