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Hebrews Chapter 9:6-12

6. Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God

6. His vero sic compositis, in prius tabernaculum semper ingrediuntur sacerdotes qui sacra peragunt:

7. 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:

7. At in secundum semel quotannis solus pontifex, non sine sanguine quem offert pro suis et populi ignorantiis:

8. 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:

8. Hoc declarante Spiritu Sancto, nondum manifestatum esse sanctorum viam, stante adhuc priore tabernaculo;

9. 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;

9. Quae similitudo erat in praesens tempus, quo dona et hostiae offeruntur quae non possunt secundum conscientiam sanctificare cultorem;

10. Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.

10. Solum in cibis et potibus et diversis ablutionibus et sanctifictionibus carnis usque ad tempus correctionis imposita.

11. 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;

11. Christus autem superveniens pontifex futurorum bonorum per majus et perfectius tabernaculum non manufactum, hoc est, non hujus creationis;

12. 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

12. Neque per sanguinem hircorum et vitulorum, sed per proprium sanguinem intravit semel in sancta, aeterna redemptione inventa.


6. Now, when these things were thus ordained, etc. Omitting other things, he undertakes to handle the chief point in dispute: he says that the priests who performed sacred rites were wont to enter the first tabernacle daily, but that the chief priest entered the holy of holies only yearly with the appointed sacrifice. He hence concludes, that while the tabernacle under the Law was standing, the sanctuary was closed up, and that only through that being removed could the way be open for us to the kingdom of God. We see that the very form of the ancient tabernacle reminded the Jews that they were to look for something else. Then foolishly did they act who, by retaining the shadows of the Law, willfully obstructed their own way.

He mentions πρώτην σκηνὴν the first tabernacle, in ver. 2, in a different sense from what it has here, for here it means the first sanctuary, but there the whole tabernacle; for he sets it in opposition to the spiritual sanctuary of Christ, which he presently mentions. He contends that this had fallen for our great benefit, for through its fall a more familiar access to God has been obtained for us.

7. For himself and for the errors of the people, or for his own and the ignorances of the people. As the verb |shagag|, means in Hebrew to err, to mistake, so |shgagah|, derived from it, properly denotes error, or mistake; but yet it is generally taken for any kind of sin; and doubtless we never sin except when deceived by the allurements of Satan. The Apostle does not understand by it mere ignorance, as they say, but, on the contrary, he includes also voluntary sins; but as I have already said, no sin is free from error or ignorance; for however knowingly and willfully any one may sin, yet it must be that he is blinded by his lust, so that he does not judge rightly, or rather he forgets himself and God; for men never deliberately rush headlong into ruin, but being entangled in the deceptions of Satan, they lose the power of judging rightly. 144144     It is said that the high priest entered the holiest place “once every year,” that is, on one day, the day of expiation, every year; but on that day he went in at least three times. See Leviticus 16:12-15; and probably four times, according to the Jewish tradition; and one of the times, as supposed by Stuart, was for the purpose of bringing out the golden censer.
   The word rendered “errors,” literally means “ignorances,” and so some render it “sins of ignorance;” but it is used in the Apocrypha as designating sins in general; and Grotius refers to Tob. 3:3; Judith 5:20; Sirach 23:2, 1 Macc. 13:39. And that it means sins of all kinds is evident from the account given in Leviticus 16 of the atonement made on the annual man, says Estius, “is ignorant; and all sins proceed from error in judgement.” Hence it seems, sins were called ignorances. — Ed.

9. Which was a figure, etc. The word παραθολὴ, used here, signifies, as I think, the same thing with ἀντίτυπος, antitype; for he means that that tabernacle was a second pattern which corresponded with the first. For the portrait of a man ought to be so like the man himself, that when seen, it ought immediately to remind us of him whom it represents. He says further, that it was a figure, or likeness, for the time then present, that is, as long as the external observance was in force; and he says this in order to confine its use and duration to the time of the Law; for it means the same with what he afterwards adds, that all the ceremonies were imposed until the time of reformation; nor is it any objection that he uses the present tense in saying, gifts are offered; for as he had to do with the Jews, he speaks by way of concession, as though he were one of those who sacrificed. Gifts and sacrifices differ, as the first is a general term, and the other is particular.

That could not make him that did the service perfect as pertaining to the conscience; that is, they did not reach the soul so as to confer true holiness. I do not reject the words, make perfect, and yet I prefer the term sanctify, as being more suitable to the context. But that readers may better understand the meaning of the Apostle, let the contrast between the flesh and the conscience be noticed; he denies that worshippers could be spiritually and inwardly cleansed by the sacrifices of the Law. It is added as a reason, that all these rites were of the flesh or carnal. What then does he allow them to be? It is commonly supposed, that they were useful only as means of training to men, conducive to virtue and decorum. But they who thus think do not sufficiently consider the promises which are added. This gloss, therefore, ought to be wholly repudiated. Absurdly and ignorantly too do they interpret the ordinances of the flesh, as being such as cleansed or sanctified only the body; for the Apostle understands by these words that they were earthly symbols, which did not reach the soul; for though they were true testimonies of perfect holiness, yet they by no means contained it in themselves, nor could they convey it to men; for the faithful were by such helps led, as it were, by the hand to Christ, that they might obtain from him what was wanting in the symbols.

Were any one to ask why the Apostle speaks with so little respect and even with contempt of Sacraments divinely instituted, and extenuates their efficacy? This he does, because he separates them from Christ; and we know that when viewed in themselves they are but beggarly elements, as Paul calls them. (Galatians 4:9.)

10. Until the time of reformation, etc. Here he alludes to the prophecy of Jeremiah. (Jeremiah 31:31.) 145145     Although the original text in the book refers to Jer 31:37, which warns of an ultimate rejection of Israel; it would seem that Jer 31:31 is more appropriate in the current context of reformation. — fj. The new covenant succeeded the old as a reformation. He expressly mentions meats and drinks, and other things of minor importance, because by these trifling observances a more certain opinion may be formed how far short was the Law of the perfection of the Gospel. 146146     See Appendix G 2.

11. But Christ being come, etc. He now sets before us the reality of the things under the Law, that it may turn our eyes from them to itself; for he who believes that the things then shadowed forth under the Law have been really found in Christ, will no longer cleave to the shadows, but will embrace the substance and the genuine reality.

But the particulars of the comparison between Christ and the ancient high priest, ought to be carefully noticed. He had said that the high priest alone entered the sanctuary once a year with blood to expiate sins. Christ is in this life the ancient high priests for he alone possesses the dignity and the office of a high priest; but he differs from him in this respect, that he brings with him eternal blessings which secure a perpetuity to his priesthood. Secondly, there is this likeness between the ancient high priest and ours, that both entered the holy of holies through the sanctuary; but they differ in this, that Christ alone entered into heaven through the temple of his own body. That the holy of holies was once every year opened to the high priest to make the appointed expiation — this obscurely prefigured the one true sacrifice of Christ. To enter once then was common to both, but to the earthly it was every year, while it was to the heavenly forever, even to the end of the world. The offering of blood was common to both; but there was a great difference as to the blood; for Christ offered, not the blood of beasts, but his own blood. Expiation was common to both; but that according to the Law, as it was inefficacious, was repeated every year; but the expiation made by Christ is always effectual and is the cause of eternal salvation to us. Thus, there is great importance almost in every word. Some render the words, “But Christ standing by,” or asking; but the meaning of the Apostle is not thus expressed; for he intimates that when the Levitical priests had for the prefixed time performed their office, Christ came in their place, according to what we found in the seventh chapter. 147147     See commentary on Chapter 7 .

Of good things to come, etc. Take these for eternal things; for as μέλλων καιρὸς, time to come, is set in opposition to the present τῷ ἐνεστηκότι; so future blessings are to the present. The meaning is, that we are led by Christ’s priesthood into the celestial kingdom of God, and that we are made partakers of spiritual righteousness and of eternal life, so that it is not right to desire anything better. Christ alone, then, has that by which he can retain and satisfy us in himself. 148148     “Good things (or blessings) to come,” may have a reference to the blessings promised in the Old Testament as the blessings of the kingdom of Christ, included in “the eternal redemption” mentioned in the next verse. — Ed.

By a greater and more perfect tabernacle, etc. Though this passage is variously explained, yet I have no doubt but that he means the body of Christ; for as there was formerly an access for the Levitical high priest to the holy of holies through the sanctuary, so Christ through his own body entered into the glory of heaven; for as he had put on our flesh and in it suffered, he obtained for himself this privilege, that he should appear before God as a Mediator for us. In the first place, the word sanctuary is fitly and suitably applied to the body of Christ, for it is the temple in which the whole majesty of God dwells. He is further said to have made a way for us by his body to ascend into heaven, because in that body he consecrated himself to God, he became in it sanctified to be our true righteousness, he prepared himself in it to offer a sacrifice; in a word, he made himself in it of no reputation, and suffered the death of the cross; therefore, the Father highly exalted him and gave him a name above every name, that every knee should bow to him. (Philippians 2:8-10.) He then entered into heaven through his own body, because on this account it is that he now sits at the Father’s right hand; he for this reason intercedes for us in heaven, because he had put on our flesh, and consecrated it as a temple to God the Father, and in it sanctified himself to obtain for us an eternal righteousness, having made an expiation for our sins. 149149     There is no other view that is satisfactory. The idea that has been by some suggested, that the “better tabernacle” is the visible heaven through which he entered into the heaven of heavens, has no evidence in its support. Some of the Ancients, such as Ambrose, and also Doddridge and Scott consider heaven as intended, as in chapter 8:2, (but “tabernacle” in that passage means the whole structure, especially the holy of holies.) According to this view διὰ is rendered in — “in a greater and more perfect tabernacle.” But Chrysostom, Theophylact, Grotius, Beza, etc., agree with Calvin in regarding Christ’s human nature as signified by the “tabernacle;” and what confirms this exposition is what we find in chapter 10:5, 10, and 20. “Not made with hands,” and “not of this creation,” for no objection; for Christ’s body was supernaturally formed; and the contrast is with the material tabernacle, a human structure, made by men and made of earthly materials. It is, however, better to connect “tabernacle” with the preceding than with the following words, —
   But Christ, having come the high priest of the good things to come by means of a better and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is, not of this creation, has entered once for all into the holiest, not indeed with (or by) the blood of goats and calves but (or by) his own blood, having obtained an eternal redemption.

   “Creation” here means the world; it was not made of worldy materials. See verse 1. — Ed.

It may however seem strange, that he denies the body of Christ to be of this building; for doubtless he proceeded from the seed of Abraham, and was liable to sufferings and to death. To this I reply, that he speaks not here of his material body, or of what belongs to the body as such, but of the spiritual efficacy which emanates from it to us. For as far as Christ’s flesh is quickening, and is a heavenly food to nourish souls, as far as his blood is a spiritual drink and has a cleansing power, we are not to imagine anything earthly or material as being in them. And then we must remember that this is said in allusion to the ancient tabernacle, which was made of wood, brass, skins, silver, and gold, which were all dead things; but the power of God made the flesh of Christ to be a living and spiritual temple.

12. Neither by the blood of goats, etc. All these things tend to show that the things of Christ so far excel the shadows of the Law, that they justly reduce them all to nothing. For what is the value of Christ’s blood, if it be deemed no better than the blood of beasts? What sort of expiation was made by his death, if the purgations according to the Law be still retained? As soon then as Christ came forth with the efficacious influence of his death, all the typical observances must necessarily have ceased.

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