Messiah has appeared within time and space to Israel as the transcendent High Priest of a more perfect Sanctuary (the heavenly original Mishkan) and of the good things having already come that are yet to be fully arrived.
There are numerous doctrinal ideas and spiritual principals alluded to in this chapter that apply to all believers regardless of ethnicity. However, it is important to continue to remember that the recipients of this work are first century Jewish believers and not Gentile believers. Therefore, words and phrases like “covenant, called, elect, eternal land” etc. are ethno-religious phrases that have a certain meaning to Torah observant Jews and in particular first century Jews.
For both the ancient and modern Gentile reader there are fewer obstacles in the way of understanding the eternal atonement of Yeshua because for the most part the Gentile audience does not understand the temporal (present age) sacrificial system of Torah as a primary, even intrinsic part of cultural religious practice (of course this is now also true of rabbinical Judaism to some extent). The first century C.E. Messiah following Jew on the other hand is wrestling with how the then functional temple cult converges with a belief that Yeshua is the singular ultimate sacrifice Who fulfills and is the goal of all the sacrificial requirements of Torah, to the point of revealing the heavenly Tent of Meeting (Mishkan) and the origin of the redemptive work of God.
To view this text only through the revisionist lens of universal application is to misunderstand it. With this in mind we must be intentional in seeking to understand how the Jewish recipients of this work in the first century C.E. are viewing this teaching and what it might have meant for them by way of application (halakhah).
The Book to the Hebrews 9:1-10:18 explains that the new covenant is of eternal effect and is better than the former covenant of the Mosaic Torah because Yeshua the Great High Priest offers His eternal Spirit infused blood before the face of God in the original Holy of holies of the heavenly realm, thus, He atones once for all who will receive Him and need not offer sacrifices for Himself and others daily because He remains without sin, having died to secure the covenant and having been raised to life everlasting in order to apply it to all who believe. Therefore, Yeshua gives access to the heavenly Holy of holies to all who believe.
NB: The section of the Talmud Bavliy called Seder Kodashiym (Order of Holies) addresses the many aspects of the Mosaic sacrificial system and the daily Temple practices of the first century C.E. as a reflection of Mishnaic Law.
As is the case with all Scripture (scrolls of the original texts), there are no chapter breaks or verse markers (or punctuation for that matter) in the scroll of the Book to the Hebrews. It’s important to see the text of this chapter as a continuation of the previous chapter, the last verses of chapter 8 being:
12 For I will be merciful, forgiving toward their unrighteousness, iniquity, perversion, And their sins [missing the mark set by God’s holiness], and their iniquities, perversions I will no longer bring to mind, perpetually.” [Jeremiah 31:31-34 LXX] 13 When He said, “new covenant,” He has indicated that the first is old, decaying. Now whatever is decaying and growing old is about to disappear, be destroyed.
BOOK TO THE HEBREWS Chapter 9:1-14 (Author’s translation)
1Now truly, indeed, the first covenant had regulations, judgements, righteousness for divine service and the earthly sanctuary, [a holy place in the land]. 2 For the first tent of meeting was prepared, built, ordained in which was the menorah[H] and, the table, and the exposed bread, bread before the face; this is called the Holy Place. 3 And after the second curtain there was a habitation which is called the Holy of holies alt. The Hebrew text reads, “and from the house to behind the second parochet (curtain) of the mishkan, is called holy of the holies [umibeiyt laparochet hasheiniyt mishkan hanikra kodesh hakadoshiym]. 4 having a golden censer of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden pot holding the mãn[H] [What is it?], Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tablets of the covenant; 5 and over it the cherubiym of glory overshadowing the mercy seat, atoning cover; but about these things we can’t now speak in intricate detail. 6 Now when these things are (present tense) prepared, built, ordained the priests are (present tense) continually entering the first section of the sanctuary, performing the divine service, 7 but into the second [behind the parochet into the holy of holies], only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood which he offers for his soul and for the errors of the people committed in ignorance. 8 The Holy Spirit in this is showing, that the way into the holiest place of all was not yet revealed, appeared, manifest while the first sanctuary was still standing [referring to the Mishkan (Tent of meeting) constructed by Moses in the desert.], 9 which is a figure, parable, symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are (presently) offered which cannot perfect, make whole the moral condition, conscience, heart, core being, inner person of those serving, worshipping, 10 since they are only food, drink, and various washings/immersions, and carnal, flesh, bodily regulations, judgements, ordinances imposed, laid out until a time of reforming.11 But when Messiah appeared as a high priest of the good things having come, He entered through the greater and more perfect, full, excellent Sanctuary, not made by human hands, because it is not of this creation; 12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through the blood of His own soul, He entered the holiest place once for all time, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who have become defiled, unclean, sanctify as a means of purifying, cleansing the carnal form, flesh, body, 14 how much more will the blood of the Messiah, Who through the eternal Spirit offered, presented, sacrificed His soul without blemish, mark, spot to God; purge, cleanse, purify your conscience, moral consciousness, heart, core being, inner person from dead, necrotic works, deeds, doing, in order to serve the living God?
HEBREWS 9:1-14 (line upon line)
1Now truly, indeed, (men[G], b’emet[H]) the first (protos[G], harishonah[H]) covenant (habriyt[H]) had regulations, judgements, righteousness (dikaiōma[G], hayu diyneiy[H]) for divine service (avodah[H], latreia[G]) and the earthly sanctuary, [a holy place in the land] (kosmikos hagion[G], umikdash ba’aretz[H]). 2 For the first (protos[G]) tent of meeting (skēnē[G], Mishkan[H]) was prepared, built, ordained (kataskeuazō[G]) in which was the menorah[H] (luchnia[G]) and, the table (trapeza[G], shulkhan[H]), and the exposed bread, bread before the face (prothesis artos[G], lechem hapaniym[H] alt. uma’arechet halechem[H]); this is called the Holy Place (hagion[G], kodesh[H]). 3 And after (meta[G]) the second (deuteros[G]) curtain (katapetasma[G]) there was a habitation (skēnē[G]) which is called the Holy of holies (hagion hagion[G]) alt. The Hebrew text reads, “and from the house to behind the second parochet (curtain) of the mishkan, is called holy of the holies [umibeiyt laparochet hasheiniyt mishkan hanikra kodesh hakadoshiym].
1Now truly, indeed, the first covenant had regulations, judgements, righteousness for divine service and the earthly sanctuary, [a holy place in the land].
Having already been told that the earthly sanctuary was a copy of the original heavenly Sanctuary, it is now pointed out that the covenant connected to that same earthly replica had certain regulations that were carefully followed out of holy awe for the God Who commanded them through Moses His servant. We are also told that the purpose of these regulations was to direct Israel, through her priests, in “Divine service”.
2 For the first tent of meeting was prepared, built, ordained in which was the menorah[H] and, the table, and the exposed bread, bread before the face; this is called the Holy Place.
By way of pretext, both the Mishkan (Tent of Meeting) and the Mikdash/Heiykhal (Temple) consisted of an outer court (which is not mentioned in this passage), a holy place, and the Holy of holies (Exodus 25-31, 35-40).
Mishkan (Tent of meeting) being related to both shakhen (neighbour) and Sh'khinah (Talmudic Hebrew describing the manifest feminine presence of God [related to Hak’vod HaShem, the manifest Glory of God)]).
Mikdash (Temple) is used in Exodus 25:8 to describe the Mishkan and is therefore synonymous with both the Mishkan and the later temples. Etymologically it is a composite word made up of “mi” (from) and “kadash” (sanctify), thus, from God comes the means of sanctification through blood atonement which makes reconciliation to and permanent dwelling (right relationship) with God possible.
Heiykhal (Temple) is the most commonly used noun for the temple and can mean, “temple, palace, hall, sanctuary” etc. It is thought to be derived from the root yakol meaning, “to prevail, overcome, endure, have strength”. Thus, we overcome in God (the meaning of the ethnic noun Israel).
The Holy Place:
The articles described here were all situated in the holy place of the Tent of Meeting and were still in use in the holy place of the second temple at the time of the writing of this Book to the Hebrews (though at the time of the second temple they were replicas of the original articles).
Menorah – (7 branched golden lampstand) The Menorah is described in detail in Exodus 25:31-40. It stood on the south side of the holy place (Exodus 40:24), and was kept burning day and night. The Talmud Bavliy Menachot 28b, a tractate of Seder Kadoshiym states that the menorah stood 18 handbreadths/palm widths (three common cubits) high, or approximately 1.62 metres (5.3 ft).
Menorah is probably derived from the words nir (flame, light), nahar (stream, river), nahara (light, daylight), thus, the composite form minhara meaning “Place of light river” becomes menorah.
The symbolism of the menorah is almost uncontainable, and considering the God it points to, not surprisingly so. Being a complex unity of seven connected branches, seven flames fed by pure olive oil and kept perpetually lit, the menorah (place of light river) is a representation of the manifest light presence of God, Hak’vod HaShem (Biblical Hebrew) or Shekhinah (Talmudic Hebrew).
The oil used to fuel it is representative of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). Therefore, it is a symbol of the sevenfold attributes of God (Isaiah 6:1-5) and is also connected to the seven days of creation through the all existing light from which creation begins (Genesis 1). There are many other figurative meanings that are too prolific to note here.
Shulkhan – (Table) The Table of the exposed bread stood on the north side of the holy place (Exodus 40:22) [approx. 0.8m H x 1m W x 0.5m D]. Shulkhan is from the root shalakh meaning “send, extend, direct, spread out” and with regard to shulkhan by implication, means to spread out a meal.
The symbolism of the table is also rich. The essential meaning relating to its firm construction of Acacia wood is connected to the shoot of human offspring. Acacia wood is hardy and grows in the Sinai desert among other places. The gold covering symbolizing royalty, and ultimately deity. Thus, the table on which the bread before the face is placed can represent the King Messiah Yeshua, the root out of dry ground (Isa. 53:2) crowned in glory as Divine King (John 1:1; 10:30-33; 20:28, Rev. 1:8, Matt. 28:20; John 2:24-25; Phil. 2:6-11; 3:21). Messiah carries on His shoulders the hope and redemption of the twelve tribes of Israel, which are ever before the face of God.
Lechem Hapaniym – (The Bread before the Face) The recipe and presentation of the showbread and its use is detailed in Leviticus 24:5-9. Two rows of six unleavened loaves (matzot) were placed side by side representing the twelve tribes of Israel. These loaves were to be eaten by the high priest Aaron and his sons. The loaves were made from ingredients offered to God by the tribes of Israel and were to sit exposed on the north side of the holy place and before the curtain of entry to the holy of holies. The loaves were placed at the beginning of each Shabbat. The incense censer was used to sprinkle incense on top of the bread before the face. The same incense was burned on the incense altar (Lev. 24:7; Num. 7:14).
3 And after the second curtain there was a habitation which is called the Holy of holies alt. The Hebrew text reads, “and from the house to behind the second parochet (curtain) of the mishkan, is called holy of the holies [umibeiyt laparochet hasheiniyt mishkan hanikra kodesh hakadoshiym].
The writer makes a clear distinction here between the holy place (v.2) and the holy of holies where the ark of the covenant once resided (v.3).
The “second curtain” may refer to the Tent of Meeting having an entry curtain (first) and the second curtain parochet to the holy of holies. Alternatively, it may refer to the dual curtains before the holy of holies during the second temple period as attested to by the Mishnah and Talmud (Mishnah Shekaliym, c. 8. sect. 5. Maimonides on Hamikdash, c. 7. sect. 16: Talmud Bavliy Yoma, fol. 54. 1. & Ketubot, fol. 106. 1. Vid. Philo de Vita Mosis, l. 3. p. 667.)
“he walked in the temple till he came between sh’neiy haparochot (the two vails), which divide between the holy, and holy of holies, and there was the space of a cubit between them.” - Mishnah Yoma, c. 5. sect. 1.
4 having a golden (chruseos[G], hazahav[H]) censer of incense (thumiastērion[G], mizbach[H]) and the ark (kibōtos[G], aron[H]) of the covenant (ho diathēkē[G], habriyt[H]) covered on all sides with gold (chruseos[G], zahav[H]), in which was a golden (chrusion[G], zahav[H]) pot (stamnos[G]) holding the mãn[H] [What is it?] (manna[G], haman[H]), Aaron’s (Aharon[H], mountainous, light bringer) rod (rhabdos[G], mateih[H]) which budded (blastanō[G], parach[H]), and the tablets (plax[G], veluchot[H]) of the covenant (ho diathēkē[G], habriyt[H]); 5 and over (huperanō[G]) it the cherubiym (cheroubim[G], cheruveiy[H] guardian, mighty-approacher, blessing bringer) of glory (doxa[G], hakavod[H]) overshadowing (kataskiazō[G]) the mercy seat, atoning cover (hilastērion[G], hakaporet[H]); but about these things we can’t now speak in intricate detail (kata meros[G]).
4 having a golden censer of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden pot holding the mãn[H] [What is it?], Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tablets of the covenant;
The items mentioned here all relate to the holy of holies, and all but the censer reside within the holy of holies.
“Golden Censer of incense” The word “altar” is not in the Greek (oldest) text. There is good reason for this, the writer is about to thematically connect the offering of the incense on Yom Kippur when the incense is taken beyond the parochet (curtain) and into the holy of holies, to the fragrant path of Yeshua’s entry into the Holiest place in the heavenlies.
Therefore, because the writer is describing items that have their place inside the holy of holies (the incense altar being outside the holy of holies in the holy place) he thus speaks of the censer that carries the incense from the incense altar into the holy of holies once a year and for that reason does not name the incense altar itself. Once again the gold of the incense censer denotes royalty and glory.
While the Torah does not stipulate that this censer be golden (Lev. 16:12-14), the first century Jewish historian Josephus does (Antiquities. l. 3. c. 8. sect. 3.) and the Mishnah (Yoma, c. 4. sect. 4.) tells us that there were various censers used by the priests in the daily service, but the one being described here was unique and was used by the high priest on Yom Kippur (the day of atonement). The high priest used a silver censer on other occasions, but on the Yom Kippur (the day of atonement) he used this specific golden one, and with it he entered into the holy of holies. Revelation 8:3 affirms that the heavenly censer replicated in the earthly temple service is in fact golden.
“The Ark of the covenant” The ark is so named because it contains the two tablets of the covenant [ten commandments] (Exodus 16:33-34; 25:10-16; Num. 10:33; 17:8-10). It was housed inside the holy of holies (Exodus 40:21).
NB: Exodus 25 says “It is to be 21⁄2 cubits in length, 1 1⁄2 in breadth, and 1 1⁄2 in height (approximately 131×79×79 cm or 52×31×31 in).” A relatively small rectangular box.
The ark was symbolic of the throne and manifest presence of God and is therefore the holiest of the articles of the service within the Tent of Meeting/Temple. The Mishkan was erected to house the ark and not the other way around. The ark was the first article constructed after God instructed Moses to build the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 25:8-10). The manifest glory of God dwelt between the cherubiym atop the mercy seat in the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, the cloud being the daylight expression of the fire’s effect and the fire being more visible at night (Exodus 40:34-38; Psalm 80:1).
The ark was known by several names:
a. Numbers 10:33 calls it Aron Habriyt (Ark of the covenant) due to the tablets of the covenant residing within as a warning against sin.
b. Exodus 25:22 calls it Aron Edut (Ark of the testimony), edut being from the root ed (witness). In other words, the ark of the testimony of the witness.
c. 1 Samuel 3:3 calls it Aron Elohiym (Ark of God), denoting God as Judge and the contents of the Ark as an indictment against sin.
d. 1 Kings 2:26 calls it Aron Adonay YHVH (Ark of the Lord YHVH Mercy), denoting its symbolic representation of God’s Kingship and His mercy.
e. 2 Chronicles 35:3 calls it Aron HaKodesh (The Holy Ark), denoting God’s holiness and invoking awe. It is this name that our rabbis adopted in reference to the ark that houses the Torah situated behind a parochet (curtain) at the front or centre of the modern synagogue beneath the nir tamid (perpetual flame/light) which symbolises the ancient menorah.
f. Psalms 132:8 calls it Aron uzachei (Ark of Your Strength), denoting the redemptive immutable strength of God. Our rabbis made this phrase part of the Torah service. As we return the Torah to the ark we say, “When the ark rested Moshe would say ‘Return O Lord to the host of Israel’s families. Arise O Lord to Your resting place, you and Aron uzachei the ark of Your strength…’”
When the Mishkan was erected in the desert the Aron Habriyt ark of the covenant was housed in the holy of holies which was beyond the parochet (curtain) of entry seen from the holy place. It is worth noting that following the inauguration of Solomon’s temple the ark of the covenant is not heard of again in Scripture. Numerous Jewish commentators and sources affirm this (Talmud Bavliy Menachot, fol. 27. 2. & Yoma, fol. 21. 2. Menasseh ben Israel Koncil. in Gen. qu. 41. Kimkhi in Hagg. i. 8.).
The location of the ark of the covenant is unknown, and there is little agreement among Jewish commentators on who took it, when, and where it now resides. some say, it was carried away by Nebuchadnezzar into Babylon, as one of the beautiful vessels of the house of the Lord, 2 Chronicles 36:10 (Talmud Bavliy Yoma, fol. 53. 2. Seder Olam Rabba, c. 25. T. Hieros. Shekalim, fol. 49. 3.) others, that Jeremiah the prophet took it and hid it in a cave on Mount Nebo (Joseph ben Gorion, l. 1. c. 17. 2 Maccabees. ii. 4, 5. ). The most common supposition is that it was hidden by King Josiah in some unknown deep place, which king Solomon had built for that purpose underground, knowing, that the temple would be destroyed (T. Hieros. Sota, fol. 22. 3. T. Bab. Ceritot, fol. 5. 2. Maimon. Beth Habbechira, c. 4. sect. 1.); numerous Jewish commentators claim that it was hidden under the pavement of a room in the temple, called "the wood room" (Mishnah Shekaliym, c. 6. sect. 1, 2. T. Hieros. Shekaliym, fol. 49. 3. Talmud Bavliy Yoma, fol. 54. 1.).
Many have proposed theories on where the ark now resides. From Jerusalem beneath the temple mount, or under mount Nebo, to Rome, Egypt, Scotland, Ethiopia and the list goes on. Many continue to search it out and develop new theories, allowing their lives to be enveloped by the need to discover it, and it may well be discovered or will at least be recreated for use in the third temple, regardless, as Messiah followers we must have a different focus, not earthbound but heavenly.
In Messiah Yeshua we have come to understand that the ark of the covenant being an earthly replica of its heavenly counterpart, is no longer necessary. Therefore, foolishly chasing after the hidden location of the ark on earth is not only a waste of time but has also become a practice of idolatry among many, both Jewish and Christian.
As followers of Messiah and readers of the inspired Scriptures we know where the true, original ark of the covenant resides:
“Then the Temple of God in heaven was opened, and the Ark of His Covenant appeared in His Temple. And there were flashes of lightning and rumblings and clashes of thunder and an earthquake and heavy hail.” -Revelation 11:19 TLV
In fact, at the time of Yeshua’s earthly ministry and therefore, prior to the destruction of the second temple during the time of the writing of the Book to the Hebrews, the holy of holies was empty. Ha-even (the foundation stone) exposed at the centre of floor of the holy of holies. Therefore, the blood sprinkled yearly by the high priests of Israel on Yom Kippur, was being sprinkled on “The Stone that the builders rejected” (Yeshua the King Messiah).
The ark of the covenant, like the table of the bread before the face, was made of acacia wood signifying Messiah’s humanity and was covered inside and out with gold representing His sinless nature, eternal deity and Kingship.
It is worth noting that just as the ark of the covenant was on earth (Exodus 16:33-34; 25:10-16), so too was Yeshua “the root from dry ground” (Isa. 53:2), and just as the ark of the covenant is now depicted in the heavens (Rev. 11:19), so too Yeshua is seated in the right hand of the Father God in the heavens.
The contents of the Ark of the covenant:
Some suggest a contradiction between Hebrews 9:4 and 1 Kings 8:9, but this is nonsense. Hebrews 9:4 records the original contents of the ark, while 1 Kings 8:9 records the contents of the ark at the time of Solomon’s temple, meaning that by that time the staff of Aaron had been removed, possibly during the time that the ark spent outside of Israel’s possession (1 Samuel 4 – 2 Samuel 7).
“The golden pot containing manna” The manna contained in the pot was miraculous in the sense that it was a portion of the manna that if left for a day would be maggot ridden (except on the Shabbat) [Exodus 16:19-20, 22]. Therefore, this portion of manna which God commanded to be put inside the ark (Ex. 16:33) as a remembrance of His provision of food for the wandering Israelites, was like the manna that deteriorated, but not the same. This is just one of many figures pointing to the nature of Yeshua, Who said of Himself, “I am the manna from the heavens” (John 6:41-51).
The Hebrew man (Exodus 16:15) transliterated into English as manna, is a contracted form of the phrase “Mah zeh?” (What is it)? This is because when the Israelites first saw it they were dumbfounded as to its nature and exclaimed “What is it?” For approximately a thousand years we Jews asked this question, and when the King Messiah Yeshua entered time and space born of a virgin, and came of age to teach, He spoke to us a teaching that effectively said, “You’ve been asking the wrong question, instead of asking ‘Mah zeh?’ (What is it)? you should be asking ‘Miy Hu’? (Who is He)?” Manna is also known by three other names: “lechem min-hashamayim (bread from the heavens)” (Ex. 16:4), “lechem abiyriym (bread of mighty ones/angels)” (Psalms. 78:25), and as described by the complaining Israelites “balechem hakelokel (bread that is light, swift, a trifle)” (Num. 21:5).
The Manna prefigured Messiah in many ways:
Rav Shaul (Paul) called it “spiritual food” (1 Cor. 10:3) because of its supernatural origin (Ex. 16:4). The whiteness of the manna denotes the purity of Messiah (Ex. 16:31; 1 Peter 1:19). The manna was placed inside the ark (Ex. 16:33) as a symbol of Messiah’s tomb and His coming before the throne of God on our behalf (Heb. 9:23-24). Messiah through His messenger announces that He has “hidden manna” to give to those who overcome in the community of first century Pergamum (Rev. 2:17) etc.
“The rod of Aaron that had budded” The historical record of the budding of Aaron’s staff is found in Numbers 16-17. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram gathered 250 leaders from the twelve tribes in order to challenge the leadership of Moses and Aaron. God caused the ground to open up and swallow Korah and all who stood with him in rebellion against Moses and Aaron (leaders appointed by God) [Num. 16:32]. The 250 leaders who rebelled against Moses and Aaron were destroyed by God with fire/lightening from the heavens (Num. 16:35). The following day the people of Israel accused Moses of killing his fellow Israelites. God provided further proof of Aaron’s right to be high priest when He instructed Moses to gather a representative from each tribe to bring an almond rod with the his name engraved on the rod representing his tribe, Aaron’s name being engraved on the rod for the tribe of Leviy (Num. 17:3). The rod of the man God had chosen as high priest would blossom. All twelve rods were placed in the Mishkan before the “testimony” (ark of the covenant), the next morning Aaron’s rod had not only budded, it had blossomed and yielded almonds (Num. 17:8). Aaron’s rod was placed in the ark as a warning against rebellion and as evidence that God alone appoints the true high priests of Israel.
The budding, blossoming, and fruiting of the rod of Aaron was a figure for the resurrection of the King Messiah and Great High Priest Yeshua.
“The tablets of the covenant” These were the second set of two tablets of the covenant engraved by God on stone that Moses had hewn (Exodus 34:1). The first set had been hewn by God and engraved by His finger (Exodus 24:12), but had been broken by Moses upon his witnessing Israel’s idolatrous worship of the golden calf (Exodus 32:19). The second set of tablets were placed into the ark as a witness, a testimony (Deut. 10:2). When Moses had finished writing the Torah (not just the tablets but the 5 books of Moses) it was placed beside the ark as a witness (an indictment) against the rebellious children of Israel (Deut. 31:25-27).
Talmudic scholars claim that the book/scroll of the Torah (the five books of Moses) was placed inside the ark (Baba Batra 14), but the Targum Yonatan states that it was placed in a box and kept at the right side of the ark. The Targum is consistent with Scripture, the Talmudic claim is not.
The tablets too are figurative. Messiah the Living Word sent by God was broken for us. Like the second set of tablets Messiah is of the earth by his human lineage according to the line of David, and is seeded of the Holy Spirit as God with us, just as the tablets hewn from the earth were made a unity by the written word of the finger of God.
Messiah was made under the Torah (Gal. 4:4). The Torah was within His inner being (heart) and He fulfilled the letter of the Torah concerning what was written about Him (Ps. 40:8; Heb. 10:7-9). He did not come to destroy the Torah but to fully fill it (Matt. 5:17). He bore the curse of the Torah by being made a curse for us (Gal. 3:13).
“For Messiah is the goal of the Torah for righteousness to everyone who believes, trusts.” -Romans 10:4 (Author’s translation)
5 and over it the cherubiym of glory overshadowing the mercy seat, atoning cover; but about these things we can’t now speak in intricate detail.
NB: Of the four cherubiym of Solomon’s Temple, two are fashioned into the lid of the ark of the covenant as guardians of the mercy seat and two are made to stand as guardians of the Inner Sanctuary [Holy of holies] (Exodus 25:18-22; 37:7-9; 1 Kings 6:23-28; 1 Chronicles 3:10-14).
The Hebrew word cherub has no known root, however etymologists link its meaning to an Assyrian word used to name similar creatures, and theorize that the ancient Hebrew root probably had similar meaning. The best guess at its meaning is: mighty-approacher, or blessing bringer. Unlike certain other messengers of HaShem who sometimes appear in humanoid form, the cherubiym are always winged and have an appearance that mirrors specific animals, such as eagles and lions.
It was between the two cherubiym atop the ark that the manifest glory of God appeared (Exodus 25:17-22; Lev. 16:2; Num. 7:89; Psalm 80:1).
Several ancient Jewish commentators say that the two cherubiym atop the ark reflect the two cherubiym placed by God in the garden of Eden (Gen. 3:24) [Targum Yonatan &. Hieros. in Gen. iii. 24.).
“the atoning cover” Kaporet (Num. 7:89) This was a slab of solid gold that fit precisely over the top of the ark (box). It was on this cover that the blood of the Yom Kippur sacrifice was sprinkled each year by the high priest (Lev. 16:14-15).
“but about these things we can’t now speak in intricate detail.” The intricate details are not needed in order for the writer to properly convey the teaching of the Holy Spirit on the subject of Yeshua’s superiority to the earthly things. What’s more, the first century Jewish audience, at very least the devote among them, already knew the details concerning the temple service and the great significance of each article used in the practice of the priesthood.
6 Now when these things are (present tense) prepared, built, ordained (kataskeuazō[G]) the priests (ho hiereus[G], hakoheniym[H]) are (present tense) continually (diapantos[G]) entering the first section of the (protos[G]) sanctuary (skēnē[G], mishkan[H]), performing the divine service (avodah[H], latreia[G]), 7 but into the second (deuteros[G]) [behind the parochet into the holy of holies], only the high priest (archiereus[G], kohen hagadol[H]) enters once a year, not without taking blood (aima[G], dam[H]) which he offers (prospherō[G]) for his soul (nafsho[H]) and for the errors (agnoēma[G]) of the people (ho laos[G], ha’am[H]) committed in ignorance.
6 Now when these things are (present tense) prepared, built, ordained the priests are (present tense) continually entering the first section of the sanctuary, performing the divine service,
The items mentioned in verse 2 already indicate the service associated with them. The duties of the kohaniym included keeping the menorah lit continually (Ex. 27:20-22; Lev. 24:1-4), placing fresh loaves before the face on the table of showbread (Lev. 24:5-9) and burning incense on the incense altar (Ex. 30:7-9), which is something Zechariah the father of Yochanan (John the Immerser) performed during his period of priestly service (Luke 1:9-11). These acts of priestly service “are” being performed at the time of the writing of this work. Therefore, the work was written prior to the destruction of the temple in 70 C.E.
The writer makes a point of distinguishing the holy place (first section of the sanctuary/temple). He is combining the figures of Mishkan (tent of meeting) and Mikdash/Heiykhal (temple), and is making a clear distinction between the holy place and the holy of holies, both of which are part of the tent/temple.
7 but into the second [behind the parochet into the holy of holies], only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood which he offers for his soul and for the errors of the people committed in ignorance.
The holy of holies is now referred to and the need for the Levitical high priest to offer the blood of animals, in particular, with regard to Yom Kippur (tenth day of the seventh [shabbat] month Tishrei), a bull and subsequently a goat (the goat for HaShem), thus offering blood for both himself and his household and then for the people of Israel (Lev. 16). This blood, like all atonement, covers sin repented of, therefore, committed in ignorance. Covering is not affected for the wilfully unrepentant.
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” -Leviticus 17:11 NASB
The writer confirms the ineffective service of the Levitical priesthood pertaining to its inability to provide eternal atonement, given that the high priest of the Levitical priesthood himself needs to be regularly atoned for.
8 The Holy Spirit (Hagios Pneuma[G], Ruach Hakodesh[H]) in this is showing (dēloō[G]), that the way (hodos[G], haderekh[H]) into the holiest place of all (ho hagion[G], el-hakodesh kol[H]) was not yet revealed, appeared, manifest (phaneroō[G]) while the first (protos[G]) sanctuary (skēnē[G], mishkan[H]) was still standing [referring to the then standing second Temple approx.. 60 C.E.], 9 which is a figure, parable, symbol (parabolē[G], mashal[H]) for the present time (lazman[H]). Accordingly both gifts (dōron[G], minatot[H]) and sacrifices (thusia[H], uzvachiym[H]) are (presently) offered which cannot perfect, make whole (teleioō[G], lehashliym[H]) the moral consciousness, conscience, heart, core being, inner person (suneidēsis[G], levav[H]) of those serving, worshipping (latreuō[G], haoveid[H]),
8 The Holy Spirit in this is showing, that the way into the holiest place of all was not yet revealed, appeared, manifest while the first sanctuary was still standing [referring to the Mishkan (Tent of meeting) constructed by Moses in the desert.],
The Holy Spirit is linked to the spoken and written word of God as the wind of God’s voice, or the wind of His davar[H] (logos[G]), essence, word (Yeshua). The writer of the Book to the Hebrews refers to the Holy Spirit in a similar way in 3:7.
“The holiest place of all” does not refer to the earthly holy of holies but alludes to the heavenly holy of holies yet to be manifest, as qualified by what follows (the Greek text does not repeat hagion [the Greek way of saying holy of holies] but reads ho hagion “the Holiest”, and the literal translation of the Hebrew reads “the holiest place of all”). In short the Holy Spirit is showing through the symbolism of the earthly Tent of Meeting/Temple system, that the holiest place of all in the heavens is yet to be fully manifest on earth, yet to be understood properly in relation to Messiah’s sacrificial death and the sprinkling of His blood on the heavenly mercy seat as an eternal atonement for all who receive Him, continually first for the Jew and also for the nations.
The Holy Spirit is showing that while the Tent of Meeting was standing (and by inference the second temple) the way to the holiest place in the heavens had not yet been revealed but was symbolised in the earthly replica. The writer is building up to and explanation of the fullness of the revelation of Yeshua’s redemptive work in entering into the heavenly holiest (holy of holies). Something the writer has already alluded to (Heb. 4:14).
This is also an allusion to the fact that it was only ever the high priest who could enter the earthly holy of holies and then once a year, but in Yeshua God would manifest the means by which all who believe are able to enter beyond the parochet (veil), not of the earthly holy of holies but that of the heavens, that holiest place that will come down with the new Jerusalem (a city which has no temple because God Himself and the Lamb are its temple [Rev. 21:22]).
The way to the holiest place in the heavens has been revealed in Yeshua to those who believe by faith through grace, but the fullness of this revelation will come at the end of the age
9 which is a figure, parable, symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are (presently) offered which cannot perfect, make whole the moral condition, conscience, heart, core being, inner person of those serving, worshipping,
“which is a figure, parable, symbol for the present time” The temple (extension of the Mishkan) is (in approx. 60 C.E.) a present parable teaching the deeper truth of the original Mishkan in the heavens and the service of the King Messiah as the Great High Priest in redeeming all who will believe and giving them access to God in right relationship.
It is again emphasised that the then functioning temple cult and its offerings and sacrifices were not able to purge and purify the inner person, in particular those priests (including the Levitical high priest, albeit at that time an apostate appointee) who were performing the rites.
10 since they are only food (brōma[G], habasar[H]), drink (poma[G], hama’acholot[H]), and various washings/immersions (baptismos[G], hateviylot[H]), and carnal, flesh, bodily (sarx[G]) regulations, judgements, ordinances (dikaiōma[G]) imposed, laid out (epikeimai[G]) until a time (kairos[G], ad-et[H]) of reforming (diorthōsis[G], hatikon[H]).11 But when Messiah (Christos[G], Mashiyach[H]) appeared as a high priest (archiereus[G], kohen gadol[H]) of the good things (agathos[G], latovah ha’atiydot[H]) having come, He entered through the greater (meizōn[G], bigdulah[H]) and more perfect, full, excellent (teleios[G], hameulleh[H]) Sanctuary (skene[G], hamishkan[H]), not made by human hands (cheiropoiētos[G], b’yad adam[H]), because it is not of this creation (ktisis[G], meihabriyah hazot[H]);
10 since they are only food, drink, and various washings/immersions, and carnal, flesh, bodily regulations, judgements, ordinances imposed, laid out until a time of reforming.
The food and drink offered in various rites was just that, temporal fuel offered as part of a system that was passing away. With regard to immersions, washings etc. see my commentary on Hebrews 6:2.
“bodily regulations, judgements, ordinances imposed, laid out until a time of reforming.” The writer explains according to the Holy Spirit, that all these regulations concerning the flesh, that is the decaying body of human beings and its outward ritual cleansing, are all symbols pointing to a time of reformation. That time having come in Messiah Yeshua and yet to be fully revealed in the world to come. The new covenant is the reforming of the first covenant. Notice “reform” and not “disregard”. The first covenant is to be regarded as a parable teaching the new covenant which is the original and transcendent perfection of that which the first covenant points to.
11 But when Messiah appeared as a high priest of the good things having come, He entered through the greater and more perfect, full, excellent Sanctuary, not made by human hands, because it is not of this creation;
The writer has spoken extensively of the practicalities of the Mosaic covenant and sacrificial system and has exposed its inability to affect a purging of the soul. It is likely that his Jewish brothers and sisters, the recipients of this work, were still allowing the temple cult to occupy the larger portion of their faith focus, something that, if left unaddressed could lead to their turning away from true faith in the King Messiah Yeshua. Therefore, the writer shifts focus to Yeshua the Great High Priest of the original, transcendent, and eternal Sanctuary of God.
Now Messiah is come and the way into the holiest place (heavenly holy of holies) is manifest, revealed (v.8). The Mishkan of the desert was at the time of this revelation, no longer functioning while the temple was functioning but soon to be destroyed.
Messiah has appeared within time and space to Israel as the transcendent High Priest of a more perfect Sanctuary (the heavenly original Mishkan) and of the good things having already come that are yet to be fully arrived. He has opened to Israel and the nations the way to right relationship in God’s intimate person, an opportunity to dwell in Him eternally. This He did by sprinkling His everlasting blood upon the heavenly mercy seat of the heavenly Sanctuary, which is neither made by human hands nor subject to this creation, but exists perpetually within the all existing God of Israel YHVH.
“48 However, the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands; as the prophet says:
49 ‘Heaven is My throne,
And the earth is the footstool of My feet;
What kind of house will you build for Me?’ says the Lord,
‘Or what place is there for My rest?
50 Was it not My hand that made all these things?’” -Acts 7:48-50 (Isaiah 66:1,2) NASB [Ref. Acts 17:24]
12 and not through the blood (aima[G], bedam[H]) of goats (tragos[G], se’iyriym[H]) and calves (moschos[G], va’agaliym[H]), but through the blood of His own soul (aima[G], bedam-nafsho[H]), He entered the holiest place (ho hagion[G], el-hakodesh[H]) once for all time, having obtained (heuriskō[G]) eternal redemption (geulat olam[H]). 13 For if the blood (aima[G], im-dam[H]) of goats (tragos[G], se’iyriym[H]) and bulls (tauros[G], hapariym[H]), and the ashes (spodos[G], eifer[H]) of a heifer (damalis[G], haparah[H]) sprinkled (rhantizō[G]) on those who have become defiled, unclean (koinoō[G], al-hatmei’iym[H]), sanctify (hagiazō[G], yekadoshiym[H]) as a means of purifying, cleansing (katharotēs[G], letaheir[H]) the carnal form, flesh, body (sarx[G], besa’ar[H]),
12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through the blood of His own soul, He entered the holiest place once for all time, having obtained eternal redemption.
As has already been explained “both gifts and sacrifices are (presently) offered which cannot perfect, make whole the moral condition, conscience, heart, core being, inner person of those serving, worshipping,” (v.9).
In particular the reference to “the blood of goats and calves” regards Yom Kippur (Lev. 16), when the Levitical high priest would enter behind the parochet into the holy of holies.
Therefore, Yeshua offered the blood of His own soul. Yeshua’s blood (life) being that substance which is a convergence of deity and sinless human physiology. Put simply, His blood, like the covenant it inaugurated, is everlasting, and as a result its atonement is of eternal effect.
The writer uses ho hagion[G] “the holiest place” for good reason. While he is likening the heavenly place Messiah entered to the earthly replica, he is none the less distinguishing the heavenly holy of holies as the “holiest”, so as not to confuse the two. Messiah did not enter the earthly holy of holies, he need not, the earthly holy of holies (first century C.E.) did not contain the ark or the mercy seat. Therefore, Yeshua entered the heavenly holy of holies, the original, the holiest place, and made atonement upon the heavenly mercy seat which is upon the heavenly ark in the heavenly Mishkan. Thus, as I have stated, the redemption He obtained for all who would receive Him is of eternal effect.
The Targum Yonatan points us toward the redemptive work of God in Yeshua, saying:
“Jacob said, when he saw Gideon the son of Joash, and Samson the son of Manoah, who should be redeemers; ‘not for the redemption of Gideon am I waiting, nor for the redemption of Samson am I looking, for their redemption is a temporal redemption; but for thy redemption am I waiting and looking, O Lord, because thy redemption is an everlasting redemption.’'' -Targum Yonatan Ben Uzziel (2nd Century C.E.) Genesis 49:18
13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who have become defiled, unclean, sanctify as a means of purifying, cleansing the carnal form, flesh, body,
Once again the reference to “the blood of goats and bulls” regards Yom Kippur (Lev. 16), when the Levitical high priest would enter behind the parochet into the holy of holies. Only this time the use of the word “bull” specifically refers to the Levitical high priest’s need to sacrifice a bull for himself and his family, something Yeshua being sinless did not need to do.
“and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who have become defiled” The ashes of the heifer were used as a ritual cleansing of those who had become ceremonially unclean through contact with a dead body (Num. 19). As this verse rightly acknowledges, the sacrificial practices and the sprinkling of the water made from heifer ashes were not more than ritual cleansing of the physical body. None of these practices affected purity of the entire being.
14 how much more will the blood (aima[G], hadam[H]) of the Messiah (Christos[G], ha-Mashiyach[H]) Who through the eternal (aiōnios[G], olam[H]) Spirit (pneuma[G], beruach[H]) offered, presented, sacrificed (prospherō[G], hikriyv[H]) His soul (nafsho[H]) without blemish, mark, spot (amōmos[G], bivliy-mum[H]) to God (Theos[G], l’Elohiym[H]); purge, cleanse, purify (katharizō[G], yetaheir[H]) your conscience, moral consciousness, heart, core being, inner person (suneidēsis[G], et libchem[H]) from dead, necrotic (nekros[G], mavet[H]) works, deeds, doing (ergon[G], asiym[H]) in order to serve (latreuō[G], la’avod[H]) the living God (zaō Theos[G], et Elohiym chayiym[H])? 15 And through this (dia touto[G], zot[H]) He is the mediator, reconciler, go between, messenger advocate (mesitēs[G], malakh meiliytz[H]) of a new covenant (kainos diathēkē[G], labriyt hachadashah[H]), so that, by means of His death (Thanatos[G], umoto[H]) we are (nimtza[H]) found redeemed, atoned, purged (apolutrōsis[G], lechaparat[H]) of the violations (parabasis[G], haposhiym tachat[H]) that were committed under the first covenant (protos diathēkē[G], habriyt harishonah[H]), those who have been called (kaleō[G]) may receive (lambanō[G]) the promise (epaggelia[G], et-havtachat[H]) of the eternal (aiōnios[G], olam[H]) inheritance (klēronomia[G], nachalat[H]). [alt. Hebrew text translates as, “that the elect might receive the promised eternal land.”]
14 how much more will the blood of the Messiah, Who through the eternal Spirit offered, presented, sacrificed His soul without blemish, mark, spot to God, purge, cleanse, purify your conscience, moral consciousness, heart, core being, inner person from dead, necrotic works, deeds, doing in order to serve the living God?
“How much more” is a kal vachomer (lenient and strict/lesser and greater) rabbinical form of teaching common to Talmudic literature and practiced for many centuries prior to the codification of the Talmud. This type of argument is similar but not the same as fortiori (a Latin word meaning “from the stronger”). Essentially the writer is saying, “if the temporary blood of the copy is able to ritually cleanse the body, how much more so the eternal blood of the Creator in Whom the original exists and from Whom the temporary signpost pointing to the original was gifted”.
“without blemish” Sacrificial animals were required to be without blemish. In the case of Messiah this refers to His sinless life (Heb. 4:15).
“the blood of the Messiah” As previously stated, Yeshua’s blood (life) being that substance which is a convergence of deity and sinless human physiology. Put simply, His blood, like the covenant it inaugurated, is everlasting, and as a result its atonement is of eternal effect.
Therefore, He alone is able to purge us of “necrotic works/deeds”. We note the stark contrast between the delusional life of necrotic deeds and the authentic eternal life in Messiah. The wording is poignant. To live according to the sinful nature is like a man living with necrotizing fasciitis, a form of bacteria resistant to human medicine. Yeshua comes to that same man and offers to cleanse his entire being inside and out, and as a result the cause and the symptoms of the infection are removed entirely. What the human doctors (a poor replica of healing) cannot do, the Creator of humanity has already done.
Copyright 2021 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.