New American Standard Bible
For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives.
King James Bible
For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.
Darby Bible Translation
For a testament is of force when men are dead, since it is in no way of force while the testator is alive.)
World English Bible
For a will is in force where there has been death, for it is never in force while he who made it lives.
Young's Literal Translation
for a covenant over dead victims is stedfast, since it is no force at all when the covenant-victim liveth,
Hebrews 9:17 Parallel
CommentaryBarnes' Notes on the Bible
For a testament - Such an arrangement as God enters into with man; see the remarks on Hebrews 9:16.
Is of force - Is ratified, or confirmed - in the same way as a deed or compact is confirmed by affixing a seal.
After men are dead - ἐπὶ νεκροῖς epi nekrois. "Over the dead." That is, in accordance with the view given above, after the animal is dead; or over the body of the animal slain for sacrifice, and to confirm the covenant. "For a covenant is completed or confirmed over dead sacrifices, seeing it is never of force as long as the victim set apart for its ratification is still living." ms. notes of Dr. JohnP. Wilson. To this interpretation it is objected, that "νεκροῖς nekrois - "nekrois" - means only "dead men;" but human beings surely were not sacrificed by the Jews, as a mediating sacrifice in order to confirm a covenant." Prof. Stuart in loc. In regard to this objection, and to the proper meaning of the passage, we may remark:
(1) that the word "men" is not in the Greek, nor is it necessarily implied, unless it be in the use of the Greek word rendered "dead." The proper translation is, "upon, or over the dead." The use of the word "men" here by our translators would seem to limit it to the making of a will.
(2) it is to be presumed, unless there is positive proof to the contrary, that the Greeks and Hebrews used the word "dead" as it is used by other people, and that it "might" refer to deceased animals, or vegetables, as well as to human beings. A sacrifice that had been offered was dead; a tree that had fallen was dead; an animal that had been torn by other wild animals was dead. It is "possible" that a people might have one word to refer to "dead men," and another to "dead animals," and another to "dead vegetables:" but what is the evidence that the Hebrews or the Greeks had such words?
(3) what is the meaning of this very word - νεκρός nekros - "nekros" - in Hebrews 6:1; Hebrews 9:14, of this very Epistle when it is applied to works - "dead works" - if it never refers to anything but people? compare James 2:17, James 2:20, James 2:26; Ephesians 2:1, Ephesians 2:5; Revelation 3:1. In Ecclesiastes 9:4, it is applied to a dead lion. I suppose, therefore, that the Greek phrase here will admit of the interpretation which the "exigency of the place" seems to demand, and that the idea is, that a covenant with God was ratified over the animals slain in sacrifice, and was not considered as confirmed until the sacrifice was killed.
Otherwise - Since - ἐπεί epei. That is, unless this takes place it will be of no force.
It is of no strength - It is not "strong" - ἰσχύει ischuei - it is not confirmed or ratified. "While the testator liveth." Or while the animal selected to confirm the covenant is alive. It can be confirmed only by its being slain. A full examination of the meaning of this passage Hebrews 9:16-17 may be found in an article in the Biblical Repository, vol. 20, pp. 51-71, and in Prof. Stuart's reply to that article. Bib. Repos. 20, pp. 356-381.
"For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"--HEB. IX. 13, 14. No Christian doctrine is more commonly misunderstood than that of the sacrifice of Christ. This misunderstanding arises from ignorance as to the meaning of sacrifices in the ancient world. …
J. H. Beibitz—Gloria Crucis
Between the Two Appearings
"My Little Children, These Things Write I unto You, that Ye Sin Not. And if any Man Sin, we have an Advocate with the Father,",
For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it.
Therefore even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood.
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