Hebrews 8


The sum, or chief articles, of what the apostle has spoken,

concerning the eternal priesthood of Christ, 1-5:

The excellency of the new covenant beyond that of the old, 6-9.

The nature and perfection of the new covenant stated from the

predictions of the prophets, 10-12.

By this new covenant the old is abolished, 13.


Verse 1. Of the things which we have spoken this is the sum]

The word κεφαλαιον, which we translate sum, signifies the chief,

the principal, or head; or, as St. Chrysostom explains it,

κεφαλαιοναειτομεγιστονλεγεται, "that which is greatest is

always called kephalaion," i.e. the head, or chief.

Who is set on the right hand of the throne] This is what the

apostle states to be the chief or most important point of all that

he had yet discussed. His sitting down at the right hand of the

throne of God, proves, 1. That he is higher than all the high

priests that ever existed. 2. That the sacrifice which he offered

for the sins of the world was sufficient and effectual, and as

such accepted by God. 3. That he has all power in the heavens and

in the earth, and is able to save and defend to the uttermost all

that come to God through him. 4. That he did not, like the Jewish

high priest, depart out of the holy of holies, after having

offered the atonement; but abides there at the throne of God, as a

continual priest, in the permanent act of offering his crucified

body unto God, in behalf of all the succeeding generations of

mankind. It is no wonder the apostle should call this sitting

down at the right hand of the throne of the Divine Majesty, the

chief or head of all that he had before spoken.

Verse 2. A minister of the sanctuary] τωναγιωνλειτουργος.

A public minister of the holy things or places. The word

λειτουργος, from λειτος, public, and εργον, a work or

office, means a person who officiated for the public, a public

officer; in whom, and his work, all the people had a common right:

hence our word liturgy, the public work of prayer and praise,

designed for the people at large; all having a right to attend it,

and each having an equal interest in it. Properly speaking, the

Jewish priest was the servant of the public; he transacted the

business of the people with God. Jesus Christ is also the same

kind of public officer; both as Priest and Mediator he transacts

the business of the whole human race with God. He performs the

holy things or acts in the true tabernacle, HEAVEN, of which the

Jewish tabernacle was the type. The tabernacle was the place

among the Jews where God, by the symbol of his presence, dwelt.

This could only typify heaven, where God, in his essential glory,

dwells, and is manifest to angels and glorified saints; and hence

heaven is called here the true tabernacle, to distinguish it from

the type.

Which the Lord pitched] The Jewish tabernacle was man's work,

though made by God's direction; the heavens, this true tabernacle,

the work of God alone, and infinitely more glorious than that of

the Jews. The tabernacle was also a type of the human nature of

Christ, Joh 1:14:

And the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, καιεσκηνωσενεν

ημιν and tabernacled among us; for, as the Divine presence dwelt

in the tabernacle, so the fulness of the Godhead, bodily, dwelt in

the man Christ Jesus. And this human body was the peculiar work

of God, as it came not in the way of natural generation.

Verse 3. Every high priest is ordained] καθισταται, Is set

apart, for this especial work.

Gifts and sacrifices] δωρατεκαιθυσιας. Eucharistic

offerings, and sacrifices for sin. By the former, God's

government of the universe, and his benevolence to his creatures

in providing for their support, were acknowledged. By the latter,

the destructive and ruinous nature of sin, and the necessity of an

atonement, were confessed.

Wherefore-of necessity] If Christ be a high priest, and it be

essential to the office of a high priest to offer atoning

sacrifices to God, Jesus must offer such. Now it is manifest

that, as he is the public minister, officiating in the true

tabernacle as high priest, he must make an atonement; and his

being at the right hand of the throne shows that he has offered,

and continues to offer, such an atonement.

Verse 4. For if he were on earth] As the Jewish temple was

standing when this epistle was written, the whole temple service

continued to be performed by the legal priests, descendants of

Aaron, of the tribe of Levi; therefore if Christ had been then on

earth, he could not have performed the office of a priest, being

of the tribe of Judah, to which tribe the office of the priesthood

did not appertain.

There are priests that offer gifts] This is an additional proof

that this epistle was written before the destruction of Jerusalem.

As the word θυσιαι, sacrifices, is not added here as it is in

Heb 8:3, is it any evidence that bloody sacrifices had then ceased

to be offered? Or, are both kinds included in the word δωρα,

gifts? But is δωρον, a gift, ever used to express a bloody

sacrifice? I believe the Septuagint never used it for zebach,

which signifies an animal offered to God in sacrifice.

Verse 5. Who serve] οιτινεςλατρευουσι. Who perform Divine


Unto the example and shadow] υποδειγματικαισκια, WITH the

representation and shadow; this is Dr. Macknight's translation,

and probably the true one.

The whole Levitical service was a representation and shadow of

heavenly things; it appears, therefore, absurd to say that the

priests served UNTO an example or representation of heavenly

things; they served rather unto the substance of those things,

WITH appropriate representations and shadows.

As Moses was admonished] καθωςκεχρηματισταιμωσης. As Moses

was Divinely warned or admonished of God.

According to the pattern] κατατοντυπον. According to the

type, plan, or form. It is very likely that God gave a regular

plan and specification of the tabernacle and all its parts to

Moses; and that from this Divine plan the whole was constructed.

See on "Ex 25:40".

Verse 6. Now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry] His

office of priesthood is more excellent than the Levitical, because

the covenant is better, and established on better promises: the

old covenant referred to earthly things; the new covenant, to

heavenly. The old covenant had promises of secular good; the new

covenant, of spiritual and eternal blessings. As far as

Christianity is preferable to Judaism, as far as Christ is

preferable to Moses, as far as spiritual blessings are preferable

to earthly blessings, and as far as the enjoyment of God

throughout eternity is preferable to the communication of earthly

good during time; so far does the new covenant exceed the old.

Verse 7. If that first had been faultless] This is nearly the

same argument with that in Heb 7:11. The simple meaning is: If

the first covenant had made a provision for and actually conferred

pardon and purity, and given a title to eternal life, then there

could have been no need for a second; but the first covenant did

not give these things, therefore a second was necessary; and the

covenant that gives these things is the Christian covenant.

Verse 8. For finding fault with them] The meaning is

evidently this: God, in order to show that the first covenant was

inefficient, saith to them, the Israelites, Behold, the days come

when I will make a new covenant, &c. He found fault with the

covenant, and addressed the people concerning his purpose of

giving another covenant, that should be such as the necessities of

mankind required. As this place refers to Jer 31:31-34, the

words finding fault with them may refer to the Jewish people, of

whom the Lord complains that they had broken his covenant though

he was a husband to them. See below.

With the house of Israel and with the house of Judah] That is,

with all the descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob. This is

thought to be a promise of the conversion of all the Jews to

Christianity; both of the lost tribes, and of those who are known

to exist in Asiatic and European countries.

Verse 9. Not according to the covenant] The new covenant is of

a widely different nature to that of the old; it was only temporal

and earthly in itself, though it pointed out spiritual and eternal

things. The new covenant is totally different from this, as we

have already seen; and such a covenant, or system of religion, the

Jews should have been prepared to expect, as the Prophet Jeremiah

had, in the above place, so clearly foretold it.

They continued not in my covenant] It should be observed that

the word διαθνκν, which we translate covenant, often means

religion itself; and its various precepts. The old covenant in

general stated, on God's side, I will be your God; on the

Israelites' side, We will be thy people. This covenant they

brake; they served other gods, and neglected the precepts of that

holy religion which God had delivered to them.

And I regarded them not] καγωημελησααυτων. And I

neglected them or despised them; but the words in the Hebrew text

of the prophet are veanochi baalti bam, which we

translate, although I was a husband to them. If our translation

be correct, is it possible to account for this most strange

difference between the apostle and the prophet? Could the Spirit

of God be the author of such a strange, not to say contradictory,

translation of the same words? Let it be observed: 1. That the

apostle quotes from the Septuagint; and in quoting a version

accredited by and commonly used among the Jews, he ought to give

the text as he found it, unless the Spirit of God dictated an

extension of meaning, as is sometimes the case; but in the present

case there seems to be no necessity to alter the meaning. 2. The

Hebrew words will bear a translation much nearer to the Septuagint

and the apostle than our translation intimates. The words might

be literally rendered, And I was Lord over them, or I lorded or

ruled over them; i.e., I chastised them for their transgressions,

and punished them for their iniquities; ημελησα, I took no farther

care of them, and gave them up into the hands of their enemies,

and so they were carried away into captivity. This pretty nearly

reconciles the Hebrew and the Greek, as it shows the act of God in

reference to them is nearly the same when the proper meaning of

the Hebrew and Greek words is considered.

Some suppose that the letter ain in is changed for

cheth, and that the word should be read bachalti, I have

hated or despised them. An ancient and learned Jew, Rab. Parchon,

has these remarkable words on this passage,


and I baatti baam, translate, I hated them; for ain is here

changed and stands for cheth, as it is said, their soul bachalah

bi, translate, hath hated me." None of the Hebrew MSS. collated

by Kennicott and De Rossi give any various reading on this word.

Some of the versions have used as much latitude in their

translations of the Hebrew as the Septuagint. But it is

unnecessary to discuss this subject any farther; the word baal

itself, by the consent of the most learned men, signifies to

disdain or despise, and this is pretty nearly the sense of the

apostle's expression.

Verse 10. This is the covenant] This is the nature of that

glorious system of religion which I shall publish among them after

those days, i.e., in the times of the Gospel.

I will put my laws into their mind] I will influence them with

the principles of law, truth, holiness, &c.; and their

understandings shall he fully enlightened to comprehend them.

And write them in their hearts] All their affections,

passions, and appetites, shall be purified and filled with

holiness and love to God and man; so that they shall willingly

obey, and feel that love is the fulfilling of the law: instead of

being written on tables of stone, they shall be written on the

fleshly tables of their hearts.

I will be to them a God] These are the two grand conditions by

which the parties in this covenant or agreement are bound: 1. I

will be your God. 2. Ye shall be my people. As the object of

religious adoration to any man is that Being from whom he expects

light, direction, defence, support, and happiness: so God,

promising to be their God, promises in effect to give them all

these great and good things. To be God's people implies that they

should give God their whole hearts, serve him with all their light

and strength, and have no other object of worship or dependence

but himself. Any of these conditions broken, the covenant is

rendered null and void, and the other party absolved from his


Verse 11. They shall not teach every man his neighbour] Under

the old covenant, properly speaking, there was no public

instruction; before the erection of synagogues all worship was

confined at first to the tabernacle, afterwards to the temple.

When synagogues were established they were used principally for

the bare reading of the law and the prophets; and scarcely any

such thing as a public ministry for the continual instruction of

the common people was found in the land till the time of John the

Baptist, our Lord, and his apostles. It is true there were

prophets who were a sort of general teachers, but neither was

their ministry extended through all the people; and there were

schools of the prophets and schools of the rabbins, but these were

for the instruction of select persons. Hence it was necessary

that every man should do what he could, under that dispensation,

to instruct his neighbour and brother. But the prophecy here

indicates that there should be, under the Gospel dispensation, a

profusion of Divine light; and this we find to be the case by the

plentiful diffusion of the sacred writings, and by an abundant

Gospel ministry: and these blessings are not confined to temples

or palaces, but are found in every corner of the land; so that,

literally, all the people, from the least to the greatest, know

and acknowledge the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has

sent. Almost every man, at least in this land, has a Bible, and

can read it; and there is not a family that has not the

opportunity of hearing the Gospel preached, explained, and


Some have thought that from the least to the greatest is

intended to signify the order in which God proceeds with a work of

grace; he generally begins with the poor, and through these the

great and the high often hear the Gospel of Christ.

Verse 12. I will be merciful to their unrighteousness] In

order to be their God, as mentioned under the preceding verse, it

is requisite that their iniquity should be pardoned; this is

provided for by the immolation of Jesus Christ as the covenant

sacrifice. By his blood, redemption has been purchased, and all

who with penitent hearts believe on the Lord Jesus receive

remission of sins, and God remembers their iniquities no more

against them so as to punish them on that account. All spiritual

evil against the nature and law of God is represented here under

the following terms:-

1. Unrighteousness, αδικια, injustice or wrong. This is

against God, his neighbour, and himself.

2. Sin, αμαρτια, deviation from the Divine law; MISSING THE

MARK; aiming at happiness but never attaining it, because sought

out of God, and in the breach of his laws.

3. Iniquity, ανομια, lawlessness, not having, knowing, or

acknowledging, a law; having no law written in their hearts, and

restrained by none in the conduct of their lives. All these are

to be removed by God's mercy; and this is to be understood of his

mercy in Christ Jesus.

Verse 13. He hath made the first old.] That is: He has

considered it as antiquated, and as being no longer of any force.

That which decayeth and waxeth old] Here is an allusion to the

ancient laws, which either had perished from the tables on which

they were written through old age, or were fallen into disuse, or

were abrogated.

Is ready to vanish away.] εγγυςαφανισμου. Is about to be

abolished. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, speaking of the laws of

Numa, which had been written on oak boards, says: αςαψανισθηναι

συνεβητωχρονω. "which had perished through old age." And the

word αφανιζειν is used to express the abolition of the law. The

apostle, therefore, intimates that the old covenant was just about

to be abolished; but he expresses himself cautiously and tenderly,

that he might not give unnecessary offence.

WHEN the apostle said, All shall know the Lord, from the least

to the greatest, under the new covenant, he had copious authority

for saying so from the rabbins themselves. In Sohar Chadash, fol.

42, it is said: "In the days of the Messiah knowledge shall be

renewed in the world, and the law shall be made plain among all;

as it is written, Jer 31:33,

All shall know me, from the least to the greatest." We find the

following legend in Midrash Yalcut Simeoni, part 2, fol. 46: "The

holy blessed God shall sit in paradise and explain the law; all

the righteous shall sit before him, and the whole heavenly family

shall stand on their feet; and the holy blessed God shall sit, and

the new law, which be is to give by the Messiah, shall be


In Sohar Genes., fol. 74, col. 291, we find these remarkable

words: "When the days of the Messiah shall approach, even the

little children in this world shall find out the hidden things of

wisdom; and in that time all things shall be revealed to all men."

And in Sohar Levit., fol. 24, col. 95: "There shall be no time

like this till the Messiah comes, and then the knowledge of God

shall be found in every part of the world."

This day are all these sayings fulfilled in our ears: the word

of God is multiplied; many run to and fro, and knowledge is

increased; all the nations of the earth are receiving the book of

God; and men of every clime, and of every degree-Parthians, and

Medes, and Elamites; the dwellers in Mesopotamia, in Judea, in

Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, in Egypt,

in Libya; strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes; Cretes and

Arabians; Americans, Indians, and Chinese-hear, in their own

tongues, the wonderful works of God.

Copyright information for Clarke