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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 9 - Verse 17

Verse 17. For a testament. Such an arrangement as God enters into with man. See the remarks on Heb 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. epi nekroiv. "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." MSS. Notes of Dr. J. P. Wilson. To this interpretation it is objected, that "nekroivnekrois—means only dead men; but men 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 men. 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—nekrov nekros-, in Heb 6:1; 9:14, of this very epistle, when it is applied to works—"dead works"—if it never refer to anything but men? Comp. Jas 2:17,20,26; Eph 2:1,5; Re 3:1.

In Ec 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 ill sacrifice, and was not considered as confirmed until the sacrifice was killed.

Otherwise. Since—epei. That is, unless this takes place it will be of no force.

It is of no strength. It is not strongiscuei—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 (Heb 9:16,17) may be found in an article in the Biblical Repository, vol. xx. pp. 51—71, and in Prof. Stuart's reply to that article. Bib. Repos. xx. pp. 356—381.

{*} "testament" "covenant" {+} "testator" "He that made it"

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