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18. Whereupon neither the first, etc. It hence appears that the fact is what is mainly urged, and that it is not a question about the word, though the Apostle turned to his own purpose a word presented to his attention in that language in which he wrote, as though one, while speaking of God’s covenant, which is often called in Greek μαρτυρία, a testimony, were to recommend it among other things under that title. And doubtless that is a testimony, μαρτυρία, to which angels from heaven has borne witness, and of which there have been so many illustrious witnesses on earth, even all the holy Prophets, Apostles, and a vast number of martyrs, and of which at last the Son of God himself became a surety. No one in such a discourse would deem any such thing as unreasonable. And yet the Hebrew word, תעודה will admit of no such meaning as a covenant; but as nothing is advanced but what is consistent with the thing itself, no scrupulous regard is to be paid to the meaning of a word.
The Apostle then says, that the old testament or covenant was dedicated with blood. He hence concludes, that men were even then reminded, that it could not be valid and efficacious except death intervened. For though the blood of beasts was then shed, yet, he denies that it availed to confine an everlasting covenant. That this may appear more clearly, we must notice the custom of sprinkling which he quotes from Moses. He first teaches us that the covenant was dedicated or consecrated, not that it had in itself anything profane; but as there is nothing so holy that men by their uncleanness will not defile, except God prevents it by making a renewal of all things, therefore the dedication was made on account of men, who alone wanted it.
He afterwards adds, that the tabernacle and all the vessels, and also the very book of the law, were sprinkled; by which rite the people were then taught, that God could not be sought or looked to for salvation, nor rightly worshipped, except faith in every case looked to an
intervening blood. For the majesty of God is justly to be dreaded by us, and the way to his presence is nothing to us but a dangerous labyrinth, until we know that he is pacified towards us through the blood of Christ, and that this blood affords to us a free access. All kinds of worship are then faulty and impure until Christ cleanses them by the sprinkling of his blood.
It is worthy of notice that the Apostle mentions here several things which are not particularly by Moses in Exodus 24:3-8, where the account is given; and yet what is there stated sufficiently warrants the particulars mentioned here. The blood of “goats” is not mentioned, and yet burnt offerings are said to have been offered, and goats were so offered; see
Leviticus 1:10. Moses says nothing of “scarlet wool and hyssop;” but he mentions “sprinkling,” and this was commonly done thereby; see Leviticus 14:51. “Blood” only is mentioned by Moses; but we find that when sprinkled, “water” was often connected with it. See
Leviticus 14:52; Numbers 19:18 The main difficulty is respecting “the book” being sprinkled, which is not stated by Moses. But as the altar was sprinkled, there was the same reason for sprinkling the book, though that is not expressly mentioned. However, it is evident that this was the general opinion among the Jews, for
otherwise the Apostle would not have mentioned it in an Epistle especially addressed to them.
Then the “tabernacle,” it was not expressly mentioned that it was sprinkled with blood when consecrated; and this was some time after the covenant was made. The setting up of the tabernacle is mentioned in Exodus 40:17-33. In the previous verses, 9 and 10, there is a direction given to anoint the tabernacle, and all its vessels, and also to hallow them and to anoint the alter, and to sanctify it. The hallowing or sanctifying was no doubt done by sprinkling them with blood. See as a proof of this Exodus 29:21. We hence perceive how well acquainted the writer must have been with the Jewish rituals. — Ed.
For the tabernacle was a sort of visible image of God; and as the vessels for ministering were destined for his service, so they were symbols of true worship. But since none of these were for salvation to the people, we hence reasonably conclude, that where Christ does not appear with his blood, we have nothing to do with God. So doctrine itself, however unchangeable may be the will of God, cannot be efficacious for our benefit, unless it be dedicated by blood, as is plainly set forth in this verse.
I know that others give a different interpretation; for they consider the tabernacle to be the body of the Church, and vessels the faithful, whose ministry God employs; but what I have stated is much more appropriate. For whenever God was to be called upon, they turned themselves to the sanctuary; and it was a common way of speaking to say that they stood before the Lord when they appeared in the temple.