Add parallel Print Page Options

Chapter 9

The Worship of the First Covenant.[a] Now [even] the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly sanctuary. For a tabernacle was constructed, the outer one,[b] in which were the lampstand, the table, and the bread of offering; this is called the Holy Place.(A) [c]Behind the second veil was the tabernacle called the Holy of Holies,(B) in which were the gold altar of incense[d] and the ark of the covenant entirely covered with gold. In it were the gold jar containing the manna, the staff of Aaron that had sprouted, and the tablets of the covenant.(C) [e]Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the place of expiation. Now is not the time to speak of these in detail.(D)

With these arrangements for worship, the priests, in performing their service,[f] go into the outer tabernacle repeatedly,(E) but the high priest alone goes into the inner one once a year, not without blood[g] that he offers for himself and for the sins of the people.(F)

Read full chapter


  1. 9:1–10 The regulations for worship under the old covenant permitted all the priests to enter the Holy Place (Hb 2:6), but only the high priest to enter the Holy of Holies and then only once a year (Hb 9:3–5, 7). The description of the sanctuary and its furnishings is taken essentially from Ex 25–26. This exclusion of the people from the Holy of Holies signified that they were not allowed to stand in God’s presence (Hb 9:8) because their offerings and sacrifices, which were merely symbols of their need of spiritual renewal (Hb 9:10), could not obtain forgiveness of sins (Hb 9:9).
  2. 9:2 The outer one: the author speaks of the outer tabernacle (Hb 9:6) and the inner one (Hb 9:7) rather than of one Mosaic tabernacle divided into two parts or sections.
  3. 9:3 The second veil: what is meant is the veil that divided the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. It is here called the second, because there was another veil at the entrance to the Holy Place, or “outer tabernacle” (Ex 26:36).
  4. 9:4 The gold altar of incense: Ex 30:6 locates this altar in the Holy Place, i.e., the first tabernacle, rather than in the Holy of Holies. Neither is there any Old Testament support for the assertion that the jar of manna and the staff of Aaron were in the ark of the covenant. For the tablets of the covenant, see Ex 25:16.
  5. 9:5 The place of expiation: the gold “mercy seat” (Greek hilastērion, as in Rom 3:25), where the blood of the sacrificial animals was sprinkled on the Day of Atonement (Lv 16:14–15). This rite achieved “expiation” or atonement for the sins of the preceding year.
  6. 9:6 In performing their service: the priestly services that had to be performed regularly in the Holy Place or outer tabernacle included burning incense on the incense altar twice each day (Ex 30:7), replacing the loaves on the table of the bread of offering once each week (Lv 24:8), and constantly caring for the lamps on the lampstand (Ex 27:21).
  7. 9:7 Not without blood: blood was essential to Old Testament sacrifice because it was believed that life was located in the blood. Hence blood was especially sacred, and its outpouring functioned as a meaningful symbol of cleansing from sin and reconciliation with God. Unlike Hebrews, the Old Testament never says that the blood is “offered.” The author is perhaps retrojecting into his description of Mosaic ritual a concept that belongs to the New Testament antitype, as Paul does when he speaks of the Israelites’ passage through the sea as a “baptism” (1 Cor 10:2).