by Christine Egbert
Understanding The Book of Hebrews
by Christine Egbert
Galatians and Hebrews, by far, contain the most-often cited verses, which antinomians like to quote in sound-bites to try to prove that YHVH’s Torah is no longer in effect. According to them, the law was either nailed to the cross, fulfilled then done away with, or replaced in the new covenant with new commandments. Exactly what those new commandments are vary according to denomination.
Most denominations separate God’s Law, His Torah, which more accurately means instruction, into commandments they classify as moral or ceremonial, then they toss out the ceremonial. Some even claim that in the New Covenant there are only two commandments: love God and love your fellow man. I find this strange because according to biblical hermeneutics (the science for interpretation) Scripture alone must define Scripture, and both loving God and loving our fellow man, according to Scripture, are accomplished through keeping God’s commandments (John 14:15 / 2nd John 1:5-6).
Others maintain that non-Jewish New Covenant believers need only to observe the four instructions laid out in Acts 15:20: 1. Abstain from pollution of idols; 2. Abstain from fornication; 3. Abstain from (eating) things strangled; 4. Abstain from (eating) blood. This reasoning omits all of God’s other instructions including murder, theft, lying, and failing to pay tithes, just to name a few. Then, like Israel did during the time of the Judges, there are those who do what is right in their own eyes, making up their own commandments: Thou shall not drink alcohol! Thou shall not dance! Women shall not wear makeup! Well, you get the idea.
Hebrews 2:5 is the key to understanding the context of this book. Here it is from the Tree of Life Version: “For it is not to angels that God has subjected the olam ha-ba (world to come)—about which we speak. The author of the book of Hebrews is speaking about the High Priesthood in the olam ha-ba, the world to come. Verse 8 says, “But for now we do not yet see all things subjected to Him (Yeshua, the High Priest of the world to come). And in chapter 8:4-5 it says, “For if indeed He were on earth, He would not even be a priest, there being those priests offering gifts according to the Torah, who serve the pattern of and shadow of heavenly things…” We also know that the New (Renewed) Covenant won’t be fully in force until certain prophecies have been fulfilled. In keeping with the hermeneutical “Law of First Mention”, the New Covenant can only be correctly understood in light of Jeremiah 31:31-34.
“Behold, the days come, says Jehovah, that I will cut a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not according to the covenant that I cut with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt (which covenant of Mine they broke, although I was a husband to them, says Jehovah). But this shall be the covenant that I will cut with the house of Israel: After those days, declares Jehovah, I will put My Law in their inward parts, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall no longer each man teach his neighbor, and each man his brother, saying, Know Jehovah. For they shall all know Me, from the least of them even to the greatest of them, declares Jehovah. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sins no more.” It is clear from this prophecy, that the New Covenant, though in process, is not yet fully in force. Now let us begin…
In this article, we will examine what the author of Hebrews actually taught in chapters 7-9. Does the book of Hebrews teach the Torah was nullified? Or does it simply contrast the temporal Levitical priesthood (with its long line of mortal High Priests) with Yeshua’s sinless and eternal High Priesthood? Let’s take a look and find out.
Hebrews 7:1 opens with a Priest of the Most High God named Melchizedek, the King of Salem (King of Peace), meeting Abraham as he returns from war. Melchizedek blesses Abraham, then in verse 2 we learn that Abraham payed tithes to Melchizedek. Verse 3 tells us that Melchizedek was “without father, without mother, without genealogy, nor beginning of days,” nor did this king have an end of life, scripture says, but was made “like the Son of God” and he remains a priest forever.
The F.B. Myer Bible Commentary says this in regarding Hebrews 7:1-10: “The one thing for us to notice is that Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, thus confessing him (Melchizedek) to be the greater. Levi was, so to speak, included in (Abraham) his grandfather’s act, so that the Hebrew priesthood which sprang from Levi was confessedly inferior to Melchizedek’s. If, then, Melchizedek is a type of Christ, we are taught that Christ’s priesthood is eternally superior to all other priesthoods.”
Heb 7:1 For this “Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God,” the one meeting Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, “and blessing him;” (2) to whom also Abraham divided a tenth from all, first being interpreted king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace, (3) without father, without mother, without genealogy, nor beginning of days, nor having end of life, but having been made like the Son of God, he remains a priest in perpetuity. (4) Now behold how great this one was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils, (5) and indeed those of the sons of Levi receiving the priesthood have a command to tithe the people according to Law, that is, from their brothers, though coming forth out of Abraham’s loins, (6) but he not counting his genealogy from them has tithed Abraham and has blessed the one having the promises. (7) But without contradiction, the lesser is blessed by the better.”
In verses 8-10, the writer of Hebrews goes on to make the point that although Levi was yet in the loins of his father, through Abraham Levi also paid tithes to Melchizedek. Then, in verses 11 and 12, we get to the main topic of Hebrews chapter 7 and 8. Let’s read it from the LITV:
Heb 7:11 Truly, then, if perfection was through the Levitical priestly office (for the people had been given Law under it), why yet was there need for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek and not to be called according to the order of Aaron? (12) For the priestly office having been changed, of necessity a change of law also occurs.
The word translated (even in the LITV) as “changed” in the verse above is “metatithēmi” (Strong’s G3346). The very first definition Strong lists for this particular word is “to transfer”. But wait! I’m not done. The word “change” found further on in this verse is Strong’s 3331. It’s primary definition is “transposition, that is, transferral.” The JUB and ABP versions of the Bible read, “being transposed for the priesthood, from necessity, also of law, a transposition takes place.” And from the JUB, “For the priesthood being transposed, there is made of necessity a translation also of the law.” Or as I would state it, “For the PRIESTHOOD BEING TRANSFERRED, there is made of necessity a TRANSFERAL also of the law.”
Now that makes sense! The High Priesthood was transferred to Yeshua (after the order of Melchizedek), and, therefore, those laws regarding the High Priesthood were also transferred to the Melchizedek Priesthood. And this was NOT a spur of the moment change in God’s plan. It was established from the foundation of the world, when the Lamb of God was slain (Rev 13:8). In verse 18 and 19, the writer of Hebrews says, “…an annulment of the preceding command (not all of the Torah) comes about because of its weakness and unprofitableness. (19) For the law (of the Levitical priesthood) perfected nothing, but the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.”
Verses 20 & 21 explain that Yeshua, unlike the Levitical priests, was made a priest through an oath: “YHVH has sworn and will not repent, You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. (Heb 7:17; Psalms 110:4). Next the writer of Hebrews explains how Yeshua’s eternal (never ending) Priesthood provides surety of a better covenant. Hebrews 7:22-28 says, “By so much Yeshua has become surety of a better covenant. And there truly are many priests, prevented from continuing because of death, but He (Yeshua) has the priesthood not to be passed on, because of His remaining to the age. And from this He is able to save to the end completely the ones drawing near to God through Him, forever living to intercede on their behalf. For such a High Priest was fitting for us: holy, harmless, undefiled, and separated from sinners, and having become higher than the heavens, who has no need, as do the high priests, to offer sacrifices day by day, first for His own sins, then for those of the people. For He did this once for all, offering up Himself. For the Law makes men high priests who have infirmity, but the word of the oath-taking after the Law appoints the Son to the age, having been perfected.” So you see, this renewed covenant is better because Yeshua, its High Priest, is sinless and lives forever to intercede on our behalf.
Hebrews Chapter Eight
The focus of chapter 8 is still Yeshua as the High Priest of the new covenant (in Heaven). Hebrews 8:1-2 “Now the point of what we are saying is this: we have such a High Priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, minister of the Holy of Holies, and of the true tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man. (Psalms 110:1 YHVH says to Adon: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”)
Heb 8:3-8 “For every high priest is set in place to offer both gifts and sacrifices, from which it is necessary for this One also to have something which He may offer. (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, (5) who serve according to the example and shadow of heavenly things, as God admonished Moses when Moses was about to make the tabernacle, for he said, ‘See that you make all things according to the pattern shown to you on the mount.’ (6) But now He (Yeshua) has obtained a more excellent ministry, as He is the Mediator of a better covenant…” Now pay attention! The writer of Hebrews is about to explain exactly what the problem with the first covenant was.
Hebrews 8:7 “For if that first was faultless, place would not have been sought for a second. (8) For finding fault with THEM, he says, ‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says YHVH, ‘when I will make a new (kainos) covenant…”
Please note that the writer of Hebrews did NOT use the Greek word “néos” (Strong’s 3501) which means “new on the scene”, for that would have been incorrect. Instead, he used “kainos”, which means new in quality, in other words renewed.
Bible Hub says this about néos: “néos suggests something “new in time” something which never before existed. In contrast, according to Bible Hub, “its near-synonym (2537 /kainós) means “new in quality.”
So why did the author of Hebrews choose “kainos” rather than “néos”? Because the author was quoting directly from Jeremiah 31:31, where the Hebrew word translated as new is “chadash”, which the Bible Hub defines as “to renew, to repair.” With this fact established, I will in the future write “Renewed Covenant”, for the covenant is with the very same people group and the very same commandments.
Now let’s continue.
Hebrews 8:8 “For finding fault with THEM (WHO? The PEOPLE), he says, Behold, the days are coming, saith YHVH, when I will make a renewed covenant with (who?) the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, (9) not according to the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day of My taking hold of their hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, because they did not continue in My covenant (this is the Fault YHVH found with THEM) and I regarded THEM not, says YHVH. (10) Because this is the covenant which I will covenant with the house of Israel after those days, says YHVH. I will put my laws (same laws) into their mind, and write them in their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
RECAP: In the first covenant God had a problem with the people failing to keep His commandments. So in the renewed covenant God writes His Torah in their (the House of Judah & House of Israel’s) minds and hearts. And He made Yeshua the High Priest forever in the Heavenly Temple.
Heb 8:11 “And they shall no more teach each one their neighbor, and each one his brother, saying, Know the Lord; because all shall know Me, from the least of them to their great ones. [It is clear that this phase of the renewed covenant has yet to be reached.] (12) For I will be merciful to their unrighteousnesses, and I will not at all remember their sins and their lawless deeds. (13) In the saying, renewed (kainos, not ne’os), He made the first obsolete, and those things being made made obsolete (the Levitical High Priesthood) are about to disappear.”
Hebrews Chapter Nine
Hebrews 9: 1-5 explains ordinances in the original covenant concerning items found in the Holy of Holies in the earthly tabernacle. Then in verse 6 he goes on to say (ERV): “Everything in the tent was made ready in the way I have explained. Then the priests went into the first room every day to do their worship duties. (7) But only the high priest could go into the second room, and he went in only once a year. Also, he could never enter that room without taking blood with him. He offered that blood to God for himself and for the sins the people committed without knowing they were sinning. [The renewed covenant is better because Yeshua died for intentional sin.]
Hebrews 9:12 says, “Christ entered the Most Holy Place only once, for all time. He entered the Most Holy Place by using his own blood, not the blood of goats or young bulls. (Psalms 40:6 ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, my ears have you opened: burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. (7) Then said I, Lo, I come. In the volume of the book it is written of Me (Yeshua), (8) I delight to do Your will, O my God, yea, Your law is within my heart.) Let’s continue.
Heb 9:14 says: “So surely the blood sacrifice of Christ can do much more. Christ offered himself through the eternal Spirit as a perfect sacrifice to God. His blood makes us completely clean from the evil we have done. It will give us clear consciences so that we can worship the living God. (15) So Christ brings a renewed (kainos) agreement from God to his people. He brings this agreement so that those who are chosen by God can have the blessings God promised, blessings that last forever. This can happen only because Christ died to free people from sins committed against the commands of the first agreement. (Notice the writer did NOT say Christ died to free them from the TORAH, but to free them from the sins they committed against God’s commands.)
Let us pick up in Hebrews 9:22 “The law says that everything must be made clean by blood. Sins cannot be forgiven without a blood sacrifice. (23) These things are copies of the real things that are in heaven. ” Verse 26 says, “If MESSIAH had offered himself many times, he would have needed to suffer many times since the time the world was made. But He came to offer himself only once (the lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world).
So let’s review what we’ve learned: 1. The New Covenant is not new, but a renewed Covenant made once again with the House of Israel and the House of Judah. This renewed version was needed because THEY (the PEOPLE) had violated the first. So, now, in the renewed covenant, God writes His Torah on heats and minds instead of tablets of stone. 2. The entire Torah was not done away with! A transfer–much like a codicil to a will, which modifies a particular aspect of the will–was made, while leaving the rest in effect. This transfer regarded the Levitical High Priesthood and the Yom Kippur sacrifice. But make no mistake, from the foundation of the world, the Father planned that His Son, Yeshua, would in the fullness of time become our sinless and eternal High Priest in the Heavenly Temple. He shed His own blood (as the Lamb of God), once for all, to atone for the sins committed by His in-covenant people.
Galatians 3:19 asks: “Why the Law then? It was for the sake of transgressions, until the Seed should come, to whom it had been promised, being ordained through angels in a mediator’s hand.” Christians have been taught that Paul declared that the Torah was given because of transgression, until the Seed, Yeshua, should come, and then the Torah would be done away with. But that is NOT what Paul said.
Paul, who Peter said was “often misunderstood” did not declare the Torah done away with. He said that the Levitical Priesthood, which replaced the first born son’s role, was given to manage Israel’s sin until Yeshua (the Lamb of God) became our Yom Kippur atonement and eternal High Priest in the heavenly Temple.
It was the Levitical priesthood that was instituted because of Israel’s transgression in worshiping the golden calf.
Numbers 3: 42 “And Moses numbered, as YHVH commanded him, all the first-born among the sons of Israel…(43) of those numbered of them were twenty two thousand, two hundred and seventy three. (44) And YHVH spoke to Moses, saying, (45) TAKE THE LEVITES INSTEAD of all the first-born among the sons of Israel...and the Levites shall be Mine.” And Num 8:18 “And I take the Levites instead of every first-born among the sons of Israel. (19) And I have given the Levites given to Aaron and to his sons from the midst of the sons of Israel to serve in the service of the sons of Israel in the tabernacle of the congregation, and to atone for the sons of Israel…”
Genesis 26:5 says, “…Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws (Torah).” Torah existed BEFORE Israel sinned in worshiping the golden calf. Torah, therefore, CANNOT be “added because of transgression.” Yeshua became our eternal Melchizedek High Priest who serves not in the earthly Temple but in the heavenly. Levitical priests from the line of Zadok will serve Adonai in the future earthly temple. Ezekiel’s vision of the millennial Temple declares it!
Ezekiel 40:46 The chamber that faces toward the north is for the kohanim who keep charge of the altar. These are the sons of Zadok, those from the sons of Levi who come near to Adonai to minister to Him.”
The problem was never with YHVH’s Torah. God’s Torah is Holy, Just, and Good (Rom 7:12). As the Psalmist, King David, declared: “His commandments, all His judgments, are sure. They stand fast (how long?) forever and ever!” (Psalms 111: 7-8)