Vincent's Word Studies
Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary.
Ordinances of divine service (δικαιώματα λατρείας)
For δικαίωμα ordinance, see on Romans 5:16. For λατρεία service, see on Luke 1:74; see on Revelation 22:3; see on Philippians 3:3; see on 2 Timothy 1:3. The meaning is ordinances directed to or adapted for divine service.
A worldly sanctuary (τὸ ἅγιον κοσμικόν)
The A.V. misses the force of the article. Rend. and its sanctuary a sanctuary of this world. Τὸ ἅγιον in the sense of sanctuary only here. Elsewhere the plural τὰ ἅγια. of this world in contrast with the heavenly sanctuary to be mentioned later.
For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary.
Was made (κατεσκευάσθη)
See on Hebrews 3:3.
The first tabernacle, that is, the first division of the tabernacle. He speaks of the two divisions as two tabernacles.
The table and the shewbread (ἡ τράπεξα καὶ ἡ πρόθεσις τῶν ἀρτῶν)
See Exodus 25:23-30; Exodus 35:13; 2 Chronicles 2:4; 2 Chronicles 13:11. The table and the loaves are treated as one item. Lit. the table and the setting forth of the loaves, that is, the table with its loaves set forth. See on Mark 2:26; see on Acts 11:23.
Which is called the sanctuary (ἥτις - ἅγια)
Since it was thus furnished. See on Hebrews 8:2.
And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all;
After the second veil (μετὰ τὸ δεύτερον καταπέτασμα)
According to Exodus 26:31-37 there were two veils, the one before the door of the tent and the other before the sanctuary. After passing the first veil and entering the tent, the worshipper would see before him the second veil behind which was the holy of holies. The writer calls this also a tabernacle, Hebrews 9:2.
Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;
The golden censer (χρυσοῦν θυμιατήριον)
The noun N.T.o. It may mean either censer or altar of incense. In lxx the altar of incense is called θυσιαστήριον θυμιάματος Exodus 30:1, Exodus 30:27; Leviticus 4:7 : comp. Luke 1:11. Θυμιατήριον is used of a censer, 2 Chronicles 26:19; Ezekiel 8:11; 4 Macc. 7:11. These are the only instances of the word in lxx: accordingly, never in lxx of the altar of incense. Josephus uses it for both. The golden censer is not mentioned in O.T. as a part of the furniture of the holy of holies. The facts of the case then are as follows: (a) according to Exodus 31 the incense-altar was in the holy place, not in the holy of holies; (b) Philo and Josephus use θυμιατήριον for the altar of incense; (c) there is no mention in O.T. of a censer set apart for the day of atonement; (d) the high priest was to enter with incense, so that the ark might be veiled by the smoke (Leviticus 16:12). Hence the censer could not have been kept in the holy of holies; (e) the writer clearly speaks of an abiding-place of the θυμιατήριονin a particular division of the tabernacle. There is evidently a discrepancy, probably owing to the fact that the writer drew his information from the O.T. by which he might have been led into error. Thus Exodus 26:35, there are mentioned in the holy place without the veil only the candlestick and the table, and not the incense-altar. Again, when the standing-place of the incense altar was mentioned, the expressions were open to misconstruction: see Exodus 30:6; Exodus 40:5. On the day of atonement, the incense-altar, like the most holy place, was sprinkled with blood. This might have given rise to the impression that it was in the holy of holies.
With gold (χρυσίῳ)
Properly, wrought gold.
Wherein (ἐν ᾗ)
But according to Exodus 16:34; Numbers 17:10, neither the pot of manna nor Aaron's rod was in the ark, but "before the testimony"; while in Exodus 25:16, Moses was commanded to put only the tables of the law into the ark; and in 1 Kings 8:9 it is said of the ark in the temple, "there was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone." The writer follows the rabbinical tradition that the pot of manna and the rod were inside of the ark.
Golden pot (στάμος χρυσῆ)
Σταμος, N.T.o, a few times in lxx, rare in Class. Golden is an addition of the lxx. Comp. Exodus 16:33.
And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.
Cherubim of glory (χερουβεὶν δόξης)
Setting forth or exhibiting the divine glory. The word signifies living creatures, and they are described as ζῶα. Hence usually with the neuter article τὰ. See Isaiah 6:2, Isaiah 6:3; Ezekiel 1:5-10; Ezekiel 10:5-20, and comp. Revelation 4:6-8. Nothing could be more infelicitous than the A.V. rendering of ζῶα beasts.
Shadowing the mercy-seat (κατασκιάζοντα τὸ ἱλαστήριον)
Κατασκιάζειν, N.T.o, olxx, occasionally in Class. Throwing their shadow down upon the mercy-seat. For, ἱλασρήριον, see on Romans 3:25. Used in lxx to translate כַּפֹרֶט, the place of covering sin, the throne of mercy above the ark.
Particularly (κατὰ μέρος)
In detail; his main point being the twofold division of the tabernacle. The phrase N.T.o. Note the completeness of the list of articles of furniture in the tabernacle, even to the inclusion of things which had no connection with worship; also the emphasis on the costliness of the articles - gold. The writer will say all that can be said for this transitory, shadowy tabernacle; but all that he can say about the costliness of the apparatus only emphasizes the inferior and unspiritual character of the worship. The vessels are superior to the service.
Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God.
The inferiority of the ancient system was proved by the old tabernacle itself: by its division into two parts, both of which were inaccessible to the people.
Always (διὰ παντὸς)
Rend. continually. The phrase is usually found in connection with matters involving relations to God - worship, sacrifice, etc. See Matthew 18:10; Luke 24:53; Acts 2:25; Acts 10:2; 2 Thessalonians 3:16; Hebrews 13:5.
But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people:
Lit. ignorances. See on Hebrews 5:2.
The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:
The Holy Ghost
Speaking through the appliances and forms of worship. The intimation is that God intended to emphasize, in the old economy itself, the fact of his inaccessibility, in order to create the desire for full access and to prepare the way for this.
The way into the holiest of all (τὴν τῶν ἁγίων ὁδὸν)
While as the first tabernacle was yet standing (ἔτι τῆς πρώτης σκηνῆς ἐχούσης στάσιν)
By the first tabernacle is meant the first division. The point is that the division of the tabernacle showed the limitations of the Levitical system, and kept the people from coming directly to God. Of this limitation the holy place, just outside the second veil, was specially significant; for the holy place barred priests and people alike from the holy of holies. The priests could not pass out of it into the holy of holies; the people could not pass through it to that sanctuary, since they were not allowed in the holy place. The priests in the holy place stood between the people and God as revealed in the shrine. Εξούσης στάσιν, lit. had standing. The phrase N.T.o. Στάσις everywhere in N.T. except here, is used in its secondary sense of faction, sedition, insurrection. Here in its original sense. Note that the sense is not physical and local as the A.V. implies, but remained a recognized institution.
Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;
The first division of the tabernacle. The double relative directs attention to the emphasis which belongs to the first tabernacle. The way into the holiest was not yet manifest while the first tabernacle continued to be a recognized institution, seeing that the first tabernacle was a parable, etc.
A figure (παραβολὴ)
For the time then present (εικς τὸν καιρὸν τὸν ἐνεστηκότα)
Rend. now present, as contrasted with the "time of reformation," Hebrews 9:10. See on these last days, Hebrews 1:2. Ἐις for; with reference to; applying to. Καιρὸς season is used instead of αἰὼν age, because "the time" is conceived by the writer as a critical point, - a turning-point, at which the old system is to take its departure. For ἐνεστηκότα present, see on Galatians 1:4, and comp. Romans 8:38; 1 Corinthians 3:22.
In which (καθ' ἥν)
The A.V. wrongly assumes a reference to the tabernacle; whereas the reference is to the parable. Rend. according to which.
Were offered - could not (προσφέρονται μὴ δυνάμεναι)
Rend. "are offered" or "are being offered"; and for "could not," "cannot."
Make him that did the service perfect (τελειῶσαι τὸν λατρεύοντα)
Rend. as Rev. "make the worshipper perfect." See Hebrews 7:11.
As pertaining to the conscience (κατὰ συνείδησιν)
Having shown that the division of the tabernacle proved the imperfection of the worship, the writer will now show that the Levitical ritual did not accomplish the true end of religion. The radical defect of the Levitical system was its inability to deal with the conscience, and thus bring about the "perfection" which is the ideal of true religion. That ideal contemplated the cleansing and renewal of the inner man; not merely the removal of ceremonial uncleanness, or the formal expiation of sins. Comp. Matthew 23:25, Matthew 23:26. For συνείδησις conscience, see on 1 Peter 3:16.
Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.
The impotence of the gifts and sacrifices lay in the fact that they were only symbolic ordinances.
Which stood in (ἐπὶ)
The passage should be read thus: "according to which are offered gifts and sacrifices which cannot perfect the worshipper as touching the conscience, being mere ordinances of the flesh on the ground of (ἐπὶ resting upon) meats," etc.
Meats and drinks and divers washings (βρώμασιν καὶ πόμασιν καὶ διαφόροις βαπτισμοῖς)
Βρώμασιν, clean and unclean meats. πόμασιν drinks, concerning which the Levitical law laid down no prescriptions except as to abstinence in the case of a Nazarite vow, and of the priests when they were about to officiate. See Numbers 6:3; Leviticus 10:9. For βαπτισμοῖς washings see on Hebrews 6:2.
And carnal ordinances (δικαιώματα σαρκὸς)
Omit and. The phrase is a general description of meats, etc. Lit. ordinances of the flesh.
Some interpreters find in this the suggestion of a burden, which these ceremonial observances assuredly were. Comp. Acts 15:10. This, however, is not probable.
Until the time of reformation (μέχρι καιροῦ διορθώσεως)
Διόρθωσις N.T.o , olxx, occasionally in Class. Διόρθωμα correction, amendment, Acts 24:2. Διόρθωσις lit. making straight: used by medical writers of straightening a distorted limb. The verb διορθοῦν (not in N.T.) in lxx of mending one's ways, Jeremiah 7:3, Jeremiah 7:5; Wisd. 9:18. Of setting up or establishing, Isaiah 16:5; Isaiah 42:7. "The time of reformation" is the Christian age, when God made with his people a better covenant. It was inaugurated by the death of Christ. See on Hebrews 1:2. The gifts and offerings were only provisional, to tide the people over to the better time.
But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;
The time of reformation introduces a higher sanctuary, a better offering, a more radical salvation.
Having come (παραγενόμενος)
Having appeared in the world. Only here in Hebrews, and only once in Paul. 1 Corinthians 16:3. Most frequent in Luke and Acts.
Of good things to come (τῶν γενομένων ἀγαθῶν)
According to this reading the A.V. is wrong. It should be "of the good things realized," or that have come to pass. The A.V. follows the reading μελλόντων about to be. So Tischendorf and Rev. T. Weiss with Westcott and Hort read γενομένων. Blessings not merely prophetic or objects of hope, but actually attained; free approach to God, the better covenant, personal communion with God, the purging of the conscience.
Through a greater and more perfect tabernacle (διὰ)
The preposition is instrumental. Comp. Hebrews 9:12. Const. with ἀρχιερεὺς high priest, and as qualifying it. "A high priest with a greater and more perfect tabernacle." It has been shown that the new high priest must have a sanctuary and an offering (Hebrews 8:2-8). Accordingly, as the Levitical priests were attached to (were priests with) an inferior tabernacle, so Christ appears with a greater and more perfect tabernacle. For this use of διὰ see Romans 2:27; Romans 14:20; 2 Corinthians 2:4; 2 Corinthians 3:11. Note the article with tabernacle, his greater, etc.
That is to say not of this building (τοῦτ' ἔστιν οὐ ταύτης τῆς κτίσεως)
Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
By the blood of goats and calves (δι' αἵματος τράγων καὶ μόσχων)
Διὰ with, as Hebrews 9:11. Μόσχος originally a tender shoot or sprout: then offspring generally. Everywhere in the Bible calf or bullock, and always masculine.
His own blood
The distinction is not between the different bloods, but between the victims. The difference of blood is unimportant. Regarded merely as blood, Christ's offering is not superior to the Levitical sacrifice. If Christianity gives us only the shedding of blood, even Christ's blood, it does not give us a real or an efficient atonement. Whatever significance may attach to the blood is derived from something else. See on Hebrews 9:14.
Rend. once for all.
Having obtained eternal redemption (αἰωνίαν λύτρωσιν εὑράμενος)
Having found and won by his act of entrance into the heavenly sanctuary. This is better than to explain "entered the sanctuary after having obtained redemption by his life, death, and resurrection"; for the work of redemption is crowned and completed by Christ's ascension to glory and his ministry in heaven (see Romans 6). Even in the old sanctuary the rite of the Day of Atonement was not complete until the blood had been offered in the sanctuary. Eternal, see or Hebrews 6:2. Not mere duration is contemplated, but quality; a redemption answering in its quality to that age when all the conditions of time shall be no more: a redemption not ritual, but profoundly ethical and spiritual. Λύτρωσιν redemption, only here, Luke 1:68; Luke 2:38. See on might redeem, Titus 2:4.
For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:
Ashes of a heifer (σποδός δαμάλεως)
Σποδός ashes, only here, Matthew 11:21; Luke 10:13, in both instances in the phrase sackcloth and ashes. Often in lxx. Δαμάλις heifer, N.T.o. The two examples selected cover the entire legal provision for removing uncleanness, whether contracted by sin or by contact with death. "The blood of bulls and goats" refers to the sin-offerings, perhaps especially to the annual atonement (Leviticus 16); "the ashes of a heifer" to the occasional sacrifice of the red heifer (Numbers 19) for purification from uncleanness contracted by contact with the dead. The Levitical law required two remedies: the Christian economy furnishes one for all phases of defilement.
Sprinkling the unclean (ῥαντίζουσα τοὺς κεκοινωμένους)
For sprinkling see on 1 Peter 1:2. The verb only in Hebrews, except Mark 7:4. For the unclean rend. them that have been defiled. The literal rendering of the participle brings out better the incidental or occasional character of the defilement.
How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Through the eternal spirit (διὰ πνεύματος αἰωνίου)
For the rend. an. Διὰ through equals by virtue of. Not the Holy Spirit, who is never so designated, but Christ's own human spirit: the higher element of Christ's being in his human life, which was charged with the eternal principle of the divine life. Comp. Romans 1:4; 1 Corinthians 15:45; 1 Peter 3:18; Hebrews 7:16. This is the key to the doctrine of Christ's sacrifice. The significance and value of his atonement lie in the personal quality and motive of Christ himself which are back of the sacrificial act. The offering was the offering of Christ's deepest self - his inmost personality. Therein consists the attraction of the cross, not to the shedding of blood, but to Christ himself. This is Christ's own declaration, John 12:32. "I will draw all men unto me." Therein consists its potency for men: not in Christ's satisfaction of justice by suffering a legal penalty, but in that the cross is the supreme expression of a divine spirit of love, truth, mercy, brotherhood, faith, ministry, unselfishness, holiness, - a spirit which goes out to men with divine intensity of purpose and yearning to draw them into its own sphere, and to make them partakers of its own eternal quality. This was a fact before the foundation of the world, is a fact today, and will be a fact so long as any life remains unreconciled to God. Atonement is eternal in virtue of the eternal spirit of Christ through which he offered himself to God.
Offered himself without spot (ἑαυτὸν προσήνεγκεν ἄμωμον)
The two other elements which give superior validity to Christ's sacrifice. It was voluntary, a self-offering, unlike that of brute beasts who had no volition and no sense of the reason why they were offered. It was spotless. He was a perfectly righteous, sinless being, perfectly and voluntarily obedient to the Father's will, even unto the suffering of death. The legal victims were only physically unblemished according to ceremonial standards. Ἄμωμος in lxx, technically, of victims, Exodus 29:1; Leviticus 1:3, Leviticus 1:10, etc.
Purge your conscience (καθαριεῖ τὴν συνείδησιν ἡμῶν)
For your rend. our. The superior nature of Christ's sacrifice appears in its deeper effect. While the Levitical sacrifice accomplished only formal, ritual expiation, leaving the inner man unaffected, while it wrought externally and dealt with specific sins the effect of Christ's sacrifice goes to the center of the moral and spiritual life, and cleanses the very fountainhead of being, thus doing its work where only an eternal spirit can do it. Καθαρίζειν to purge is not a classical word. In Class. καθαιρεῖν (also in lxx): but καθαρίζειν appears in inscriptions in a ritual sense, and with ἀπὸ from, as here, thus showing that the word was not confined to biblical and ecclesiastical Greek.
From dead works (ἀπὸ νεκρῶν ἔργων)
The effect of Christ's sacrifice upon the conscience transmits itself to the works, and fills them with the living energy of the eternal spirit. It changes the character of works by purging them of the element of death. This element belongs not only to works which are acknowledged as sinful and are committed by sinful men, but to works which go under the name of religious, yet are performed in a merely legal spirit. None the less, because it is preeminently the religion of faith, does Christianity apply the severest and most radical of tests to works. Professor Bruce truthfully says that "the severest test of Christ's power to redeem is his ability to loose the bonds springing out of a legal religion, by which many are bound who have escaped the dominion of gross, sinful habits."
And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
The efficacy of Christ's sacrifice is bound up with a covenant. His priesthood involves a new and a better covenant. See Hebrews 8:6-13. That covenant involves his death.
For this cause (διὰ τοῦτο)
Indicating the close relation between the cleansing power of Christ's blood and the new covenant.
Mediator of the new testament (διαθήκης καινῆς μεσίτης)
By means of death (θανάτου γενομένου)
Rend. a death having taken place.
For the redemption of the transgressions (εἰς ἀπολύτρωσιν τῶν παραβάσεων)
The phrase redemption of transgressions (that is, from transgressions) only here. Ἀπολύτρωσις in N.T. mostly absolutely: the redemption, or your redemption, or simply redemption. Twice with genitive of that which is redeemed, Romans 8:23; Ephesians 1:14. Only once in lxx, Daniel 4:32. For παράβασις transgression, see on Romans 2:23.
Under the first testament (ἐπὶ)
On the basis of: estimated according to the standard of the provisions of the first covenant, and to be atoned for in the way which it prescribed. By this expression he emphasizes the insufficiency of every other atoning provision, selecting the system which represented the most elaborate and complete atonement for sin prior to Christ. The intimation is in the same direction with that of the phrase through an eternal spirit - that the ideal redemption must be eternal.
They which are called (οἱ κεκλημένοι)
Without regard to nationality. The scope of the new covenant was wider than that of the old. Comp. Acts 2:39. In Hebrews 3:1, the readers are addressed as "partakers of a heavenly calling," which corresponds with "eternal inheritance" here. Those who obtain this inheritance are designated as "called." See Ephesians 1:18; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:24; 1 Peter 3:9.
Of eternal inheritance (τῆς αἰωνίου κληρονομίας)
Rend. "the eternal inheritance": something recognized as a fact. For κληρονομία inheritance, see on 1 Peter 1:4, and comp. Ephesians 1:14. The whole statement implies that the provisions of the Levitical system were inadequate to procure and insure full salvation.
For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.
For where a testament is (ὅπου γὰρ διαθήκη)
"The English Version has involved this passage in hopeless obscurity by introducing the idea of a testament and a testator." This statement of Rendall (Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 159) is none too strong. That interpretation, however, is maintained by a very strong array of modern expositors. It is based upon κληρονομία inheritance; it being claimed that this word changes the whole current of thought. Hence it is said that the new covenant established by Christ is here represented as a testamentary disposition on his part, which could become operative in putting the heirs in possession of the inheritance only through the death of Christ. See Additional Note at the end of this chapter.
There must also of necessity be the death of the testator (θάνατου ἀνάγκη φέρεσθαι τοῦ διαθεμένου)
Rend. it is necessary that the death of the institutor (of the covenant) should be borne. With the rendering testament, φέρεσθαι is well-nigh inexplicable. If covenant the meaning is not difficult. If he had meant to say it is necessary that the institutor die, he might better have used γένεσθαι: "it is necessary that the death of the institutor take place"; but he meant to say that it was necessary that the institutor die representatively; that death should be borne for him by an animal victim. If we render testament, it follows that the death of the testator himself is referred to, for which θάνατου φέρεσθαι is a very unusual and awkward expression.
Additional Note on Hebrews 9:16
Against the rendering testament for διαθήκη, and in favor of retaining covenant, are the following considerations:
(a) The abruptness of the change, and its interruption of the line of reasoning. It is introduced into the middle of a continuous argument, in which the new covenant is compared and contrasted with the Mosaic covenant (8:6-10:18).
(b) The turning-point, both of the analogy and of the contrast, is that both covenants were inaugurated and ratified by death: not ordinary, natural death, but sacrificial, violent death, accompanied with bloodshedding as an essential feature. Such a death is plainly indicated in Hebrews 9:15. If διαθήκη signifies testament, θάνατον death in Hebrews 9:16 must mean natural death without bloodshed.
(c) The figure of a testament would not appeal to Hebrews in connection with an inheritance. On the contrary, the idea of the κληρονομία was always associated in the Hebrew mind with the inheritance of Canaan, and that inheritance with the idea of a covenant. See Deuteronomy 4:20-23; 1 Chronicles 16:15-18; Psalm 105:8-11.
(d) In lxx, from which our writer habitually quotes, διαθήκη has universally the meaning of covenant. It occurs about 350 times, mostly representing בְּרִית, covenant. In the Apocryphal books it has the same sense, except in Sir. 38:33, where it signifies disposition or arrangement. Διατιθέσθαι to dispose or arrange represents כָּרַֽת, to cut off, hew, divide. The phrase כָּרַֽת בְּרִֽת, to cut (i.e., make) a covenant, is very common. The verb marks a disposing by the divine will, to which man becomes a party by assent; while συντιθέσθαι indicates an arrangement between two equal parties. There is not a trace of the meaning testament in the Greek O.T. In the classics διαθήκη is usually testament. Philo uses the word in the sense of covenant, but also shows how it acquired that of testament (De Mutatione Nominum, 6 ff.). The Vulgate has testamentum, even where the sense of covenant is indisputable. See Exodus 30:26; Numbers 14:44; 2 Kings 6:15; Jeremiah 3:16; Malachi 3:1; Luke 1:72, Acts 3:25; Acts 7:8. Also in N.T. quotations from the O.T., where, in its translation of the O.T., it uses foedus. See Jeremiah 31:31, cit. Hebrews 8:8. For διατιθέσθαι of making a covenant, see Hebrews 8:10; Acts 3:25; Hebrews 10:16.
(e) The ratification of a covenant by the sacrifice of a victim is attested by Genesis 15:10; Psalm 1:5; Jeremiah 34:18. This is suggested also by the phrase כָּרַֽת בְּרִֽת, to cut a covenant, which finds abundant analogy in both Greek and Latin. Thus we have ὅρκια τάμνειν to cut oaths, that is, to sacrifice a victim in attestation (Hom. Il. ii. 124; Od. xxiv. 483: Hdt. vii. 132). Similarly, σπονδὰς let us cut (make) a league (Eurip. Hel. 1235): φίλια τέμνεσθαι to cement friendship by sacrificing a victim; lit. to cut friendship (Eurip. Suppl. 375). In Latin, foedus ferire to strike a league foedus ictum a ratified league, ratified by a blow (ictus).
(f) If testament is the correct translation in Hebrews 9:16, Hebrews 9:17, the writer is fairly chargeable with a rhetorical blunder; for Hebrews 9:18 ff. is plainly intended as a historical illustration of the propositions in Hebrews 9:16, Hebrews 9:17, and the illustration turns on a point entirely different from the matter illustrated. The writer is made to say, "A will is of no force until after the testator's death; therefore the first covenant was ratified with the blood of victims.
For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.
For a testament is of force after men are dead (διαθήκη γὰρ ἐπὶ νεκροῖς βεβαία)
Rend. "for a covenant is of force (or sure) over (or upon) dead (victims)." Comp. Soph. Elect. 237; Eurip. Ion. 228; Aesch. Eumen. 316; Hdt. iv. 162. See also Leviticus 21:5.
Otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth (ἐπεὶ μὴ τότε ἰσχύει ὅτε ζῇ ὁ διαθέμενος)
Rend. "since it hath not then force when the institutor is alive": until he has been representatively slain.
Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood.
Rend. wherefore, or for which reason: on the general principle that a covenant must be ratified by death.
Neither the first testament was dedicated without blood (οὐδὲ ἡ πρώτη χωρὶς αἵματος ἐνκεκαίνισται)
Rend. "neither hath the first (covenant) been inaugurated without blood." There is surely no excuse for inserting testament here, as A.V., since the allusion is clearly to the ratification of a covenant with blood. But further, as this and the verses immediately following are intended to furnish a historical illustration of the statements in Hebrews 9:16, Hebrews 9:17, we seem forced either to render covenant in those verses, or to assume that the transaction here related was the ratification of a will and testament, or to find our writer guilty of using an illustration which turns on a point entirely different from the matter which he is illustrating. Thus: a testament is of force after men are dead. It has no force so long as the testator is alive. Wherefore, the first covenant was ratified by slaying victims and sprinkling their blood. For the incident see Exodus 24:8. Ἐνκαινίζειν only here and Hebrews 10:20. lxx, to renew, 1 Samuel 11:14; 2 Chronicles 15:8; Psalm 51:10 : to dedicate, 1 Kings 8:63; 1 Macc. 4:36. Comp. τὰ ἐνκαίνια the feast of dedication, John 10:22. Rend. οὐδὲ neither, as A.V., and not not even, in which case the meaning would be, "not even the first covenant, although its ministries did not perfect the worshipper as touching the conscience," a thought which would be foreign to the point, which is merely the analogy in the matter of death.
For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people,
The statement of Hebrews 9:18 historically confirmed by the story of the establishment of the law-covenant, Exodus 24.
Of calves and goats (τῶν μόσχων καὶ τῶν τράγων)
Not mentioned in the O.T. account. The goat was always for a sin-offering, and the sacrifices on this occasion were oxen, and are described as burnt offerings and sacrifices of peace, Exodus 24:5. In the original covenant with Abraham a she-goat and a heifer are specially mentioned, Genesis 15:9.
Water, scarlet wool, hyssop - sprinkled the book (ὕδατος, ἐρίου κοκκίνου, ὑσσώπου αὐτό τε τὸ βιβλίον ἐράντισεν)
None of these are mentioned in the O.T. account, which the writer appears to have filled up from the details of subsequent usage. Comp. the additions in Hebrews 9:5, Hebrews 9:10. It will also be observed that the sacrifices on the occasion of establishing the law covenant were not made according to the Mosaic ritual. They were offered, not by the priests, but by the young men, Exodus 24:5. For κόκκινος scarlet, see on Matthew 27:6. Ὕσσωπος hyssop appears in Exodus 12:22; Leviticus 14:4, Leviticus 14:6, Leviticus 14:49; Numbers 19:6, Numbers 19:18; Psalm 51:9; John 19:29. Mostly in connection with lustral ceremonies. The vexed question of the precise botanical character of the plant has never been decisively settled.
Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you.
Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry.
And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.
The historical facts are summed up, emphasizing one point - cleansing by blood.
Almost all things (σχεδον - πάντα)
The A.V. is wrong. Σξεδὸν almost or nearly is prefixed to the entire clause, and applies to both its members. Rend. "and I may almost say, it is in blood," etc. Almost provides for such exceptions as Exodus 19:10; Exodus 32:30-32; Exodus 5:11-13; Leviticus 15:5; Leviticus 16:26-28; Leviticus 22:6; Numbers 16:46-48; Numbers 31:23, Numbers 31:24; Psalm 51:1-17; Psalm 32:1, Psalm 32:2.
And without shedding of blood is no remission (καὶ χωρὶς αἱματεκχυσίας οὐ γίνεται ἄφεσις)
This sentence also is covered by "I may almost say." It does not state that without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins, which "would be in conflict with the history and literature of the Old Testament." See exceptions above. Ἁιματεκχυσία shedding of blood, N.T.o , olxx, oClass. Οὐ γίνεται ἄφεσις, lit. remission does not take place or ensue. For ἄφεσις see on James 5:15; most frequent in Luke and Acts. In Hebrews only here and Hebrews 10:18. Commonly with a genitive, in the phrase remission of sins: but sometimes absolutely as here, Mark 3:29; Luke 4:18.
It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
The heavenly sanctuary required a better purification than the Levitical.
The patterns of things in the heavens
The earthly tabernacle and its furniture. See on Hebrews 8:5.
With these (τούτοις)
Things specified in Hebrews 9:19.
With better sacrifices (κρείττοσι θυσίαις)
How can it be said that the heavenly things needed cleansing? It is not easy to answer. Various explanations have been proposed, which the student will find collected in Alford's note on this passage. The expression is rhetorical and figurative, and appears to be founded on that feature of the Levitical ritual according to which the high priest was required, on the Great Day of Atonement, to make an atonement for the sanctuary, "because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel." He was to do this also for the tabernacle of the congregation, and for the great altar. See Leviticus 16:16 ff. The rite implied that even the holy of holies had contracted defilement from the people's sin. Similarly, the atoning blood of Christ is conceived as purifying the things of the heavenly sanctuary which had been defiled by the sins of men. "If the heavenly city of God, with its Holy Place, is, conformably with the promise, destined for the covenant-people, that they may there attain to perfect fellowship with God, then their guilt has defiled these holy things as well as the earthly, and they must be purified in the same way as the typical law appointed for the latter, only not by the blood of an imperfect, but of a perfect sacrifice" (Delitzsch).
For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
Under the old covenant, the bloodshedding was symbolical: the death of the institutor was by proxy. In the ratification of the new covenant, Christ himself was the covenant-victim, and a real cleansing power attaches to his blood as the offering of his eternal spirit.
The holy places made with hands (χειροποίητα ἅγια)
For holy places rend. a holy place, the plural being used of the sanctuary. Christ is not entered into a hand-made sanctuary.
Now to appear (νῦν ἐμφανισθῆναι)
Now, not only in contrast with the time of the old, typical economy, but also implying a continually-present manifestation, for us, now, as at his first entrance into the heavenly sanctuary. Ἐμφανισθῆναι, rend. to be manifested. Better than to appear, because it exhibits the manifestation of Christ as something brought about as the result of a new and better economy, and distinctly contemplated in the institution of that economy. Christ is made openly manifest before the face of God. The Levitical priest was compelled to shroud the ark and the shekinah with incense-smoke, that he might not look upon God face to face.
Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
Nor yet that (οὐ δ' ἵνα)
Supply did he enter. "Nor yet did he enter that he might offer," etc.
He should offer himself often (πολλάκις προσφέρῃ ἑαυτόν)
His offering did not need repetition like the Levitical sacrifices. Offer himself refers rather to Christ's entrance into the heavenly sanctuary and presentation of himself before God, than to his offering on the cross. See on Hebrews 9:14. The sacrifice on the cross is described by παθεῖν suffer, Hebrews 9:26, and is introduced as a distinct thought. The point is that, being once in the heavenly sanctuary, Christ was not compelled to renew often his presentation of himself there, since, in that case, it would be necessary for him to suffer often. Each separate offering would necessitate a corresponding suffering.
For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Since the foundation of the world (ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου)
For, from the foundation of the world, sin required atonement by sacrifice; and, therefore, if Christ had been a victim like others, which must be offered repeatedly, he would have had to suffer repeatedly from the foundation of the world. If his sacrifice, like the animal atonements, had availed for a time only, he would have been obliged to repeat his offering whenever that time expired; and, since his atonement was designed to be universal, it would have been necessary for him to appear repeatedly upon earth, and to die repeatedly from the foundation of the world. Comp. 1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8.
In the end of the world (ἐπὶ συντελείᾳ τῶν αἰώνων)
In N.T συντέλεια consummation, always with αἰὼν age. With the plural αἰώσων only here. Everywhere else συντέλεια αἰῶνος. The A.V. gives a wrong impression as of the end of this visible world. The true sense is the consummation of the ages: that is to say, Christ appeared when the former ages had reached their moral consummation under the old Levitical economy. Comp. Hebrews 1:2.
To put away sin (εἰς ἀθίτησιν τῆς ἁμαρτίας)
Lit. for the putting away of sin. For ἀθέτησις see on Hebrews 7:18. Note the singular number, sin. The sacrifice of Christ dealt with sin as a principle: the Levitical sacrifices with individual transgressions.
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:
That there is no place for a repeated offering of Christ is further shown by reference to the lot of men in general. The very idea is absurd; for men die once, and judgment follows. Christ was man, and Christ died. He will not come to earth to live and die again. Christ died, but judgment did not follow in his case. On the contrary, he became judge of all.
It is appointed (ἀπόκειται)
So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
Emphasizing him, as the figure to which the old economy pointed.
Was once offered (ἅπαξ προσενεχθεὶς)
Lit. having been offered once for all. Note the passive in contrast with offer himself, Hebrews 9:25. He was appointed to die as truly as we. Comp. Luke 24:26; Matthew 26:53, Matthew 26:54; Psalm 40:7, Psalm 40:8.
To bear (ἀνενεγκεῖν)
Not in the sense of bearing a sin offering up to the cross; for ἁμαρτία never means a sin-offering; nor in the sense of putting away; but signifying to take upon himself and bear as a burden.
Unto them that look for him (τοῖς αὐτὸν ἀπεκδεχομένοις)
Rend. await him. For the verb, see on Philippians 3:20. This second coming with salvation is only for those who await him in faith.
Shall he appear (ὀφθήσεται)
The usual verb for the appearance of Christ after his resurrection.
The second time (ἐκ δευτέρου)
A phrase quite common in N.T., but not in Paul. The idea is, beginning from the second: the second in a series taken as the point of departure. As among men judgment follows as the second thing after death, so, when Christ shall appear for the second time, he will appear as the sinless Savior.
Unto salvation (εἰς σωτηρίαν)
Not as a sinner to be judged, but as the Savior of mankind. It is not said that he will appear as judge, but only that he will not share the judgment which befalls all men after death. Still the phrase may imply that he will award salvation, as judge, to such as have believed on him.