Hebrews 8 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Hebrews 8)

Verse 1

[1] Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;

We have such an high priest — Having finished his description of the type in Melchisedec, the apostle begins to treat directly of the excellency of Christ's priesthood, beyond the Levitical.

Who is set down — Having finished his oblation.

At the right hand of the Majesty — Of God.

Verse 2

[2] A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.

A minister — Who represents his own sacrifice, as the high priest did the blood of those sacrifices once a year.

Of the sanctuary — Heaven, typified by the holy of holies.

And of the true tabernacle — Perhaps his human nature, of which the old tabernacle was a type.

Which the Lord hath fixed — Forever.

Not man — As Moses fixed the tabernacle.

Verse 4

[4] For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law:

But if he were on earth — If his priesthood terminated here.

He could not be a priest — At all, consistently with the Jewish institutions.

There being other priests — To whom alone this office is allotted.

Verse 5

[5] Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.

Who serve — The temple, which was not yet destroyed.

After the pattern and shadow of heavenly things — Of spiritual, evangelical worship, and of everlasting glory.

The pattern — Somewhat like the strokes pencilled out upon a piece of fine linen, which exhibit the figures of leaves and flowers, but have not yet received their splendid colours and curious shades.

And shadow — Or shadowy representation, which gives you some dim and imperfect idea of the body, but not the fine features, not the distinguishing air; none of those living graces which adorn the real person. Yet both the pattern and shadow lead our minds to something nobler than themselves: the pattern, to that holiness and glory which complete it; the shadow, to that which occasions it. Exodus 25:40.

Verse 6

[6] But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.

And now he hath obtained a more excellent ministry — His priesthood as much excels theirs, as the promises of the gospel (whereof he is a surety) excels those of the law. These better promises are specified, Hebrews 8:10,11: those in the law were mostly temporal promises.

Verse 7

[7] For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.

For if the first had been faultless — If that dispensation had answered all God's designs and man's wants, if it had not been weak and unprofitable unable to make anything perfect, no place would have been for a second.

Verse 8

[8] For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:

But there is; for finding fault with them - Who were under the old covenant he saith, I make a new covenant with the house of Israel - With all the Israel of God, in all ages and nations. It is new in many respects, though not as to the substance of it: 1. Being ratified by the death of Christ. 2. Freed from those burdensome rites and ceremonies. 3. Containing a more full and clear account of spiritual religion. 4. Attended with larger influences of the Spirit 5. Extended to all men. And, 6. Never to be abolished. Jeremiah 31:31, etc.

Verse 9

[9] Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.

When I took them by the hand — With the care and tenderness of a parent. And just while this was fresh in their memory, they obeyed; but presently after they shook off the yoke.

They continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not — So that covenant was soon broken in pieces.

Verse 10

[10] For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:

This is the covenant I will make after those days — After the Mosaic dispensation is abolished.

I will put my laws in their minds — I will open their eyes, and enlighten their understanding, to see the true, full, spiritual meaning thereof.

And write them on their hearts — So that they shall inwardly experience whatever I have commanded.

And I will be to them a God — Their all-sufficient portion, and exceeding great reward.

And they shall be to me a people — My treasure, my beloved, loving, and obedient children.

Verse 11

[11] And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.

And they who are under this covenant (though in other respects they will have need to teach each other to their lives' end, yet) shall not need to teach every one his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall all know me - All real Christians.

From the least to the greatest — In this order the saving knowledge of God ever did and ever will proceed; not first to the greatest, and then to the least. But "the Lord shall save the tents," the poorest, "of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David," the royal seed, "and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem," the nobles and the rich citizens, "do not magnify themselves," Zechariah 12:7.

Verse 12

[12] For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.

For I will justify them, which is the root of all true knowledge of God. This, therefore, is God's method. First, a sinner is pardoned: then he knows God, as gracious and merciful then God's laws are written on his heart: he is God's, and God is his.

Verse 13

[13] In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

In saying, A new covenant, he hath antiquated the first — Hath shown that it is disannulled, and out of date.

Now that which is antiquated is ready to vanish away — As it did quickly after, when the temple was destroyed.