Hebrews 9:1-10 – The Earthly Tabernacle

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Study Type - Adult Lesson

Fellowship - Acorns to Oaks

Series - Hebrews 2018-19

Book - Hebrews

Hebrews 9:1-10, tabernacle

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Last time we looked at the perfect and everlasting covenant between God and mankind that is sealed by the blood of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. In Hebrews 8, the writer contrasted this perfect new covenant with the preceding flawed covenants which called upon mankind to keep our part of the bargain, and thus failed. We saw that the new covenant was executed and fulfilled wholly by Jesus, with our part being simply to believe His Gospel and call upon Him for salvation.

Hebrews 9:1-10 – The Earthly Tabernacle

The Hebrews writer now continues by contrasting the earthly tabernacle and its associated rituals with the perfect, eternal sanctuary built by God, of which the earthly tabernacle was only a model.

1Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary. 2For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; 3and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, 4which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; 5and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.
6Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. 7But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance; 8the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. 9It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience— 10concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.
[Hebrews 9:1-10 – NKJV]

Volumes have been written over the millennia about the symbolism of the tabernacle and the temple, and the specific directives God gave to Moses regarding the construction of the tabernacle and the rituals to be performed for its sanctification and for the cleansing of the nation’s sins. There is no need for us to rehash those details, except as the Hebrews writer refers to them in the text of the letter.

It is intriguing that the Hebrews writer begins this passage with a description of the tabernacle of meeting, albeit only a brief summary. After all, he was writing this letter to Jewish Christians. They should have been very familiar with the instructions for the construction of the tabernacle given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 25-26). Not that most Hebrews had first-hand experience of the temple interior. Apart from the Levites who ministered daily inside the tabernacle (and later the temple), most of the ordinary Jews would never have personally seen the Sanctuary, much less the Most Holy Place. Nevertheless, every Jew should have been intimately familiar with the details of their construction. Why?
One of the ordinances given by God through Moses in the Book of the Law (Torah תּוֹרָה‬) was that it was to be read in its entirety before all the people once every seven years, during the sabbath year at the time of the appointed Feast of Tabernacles.
9So Moses wrote this law and delivered it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. 10And Moses commanded them, saying: “At the end of every seven years, at the appointed time in the year of release, at the Feast of Tabernacles, 11when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. 12Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the LORD your God and carefully observe all the words of this law, 13and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land which you cross the Jordan to possess.” [Deuteronomy 31:9-13 – NKJV]
Aside – The “year of release” mentioned in this passage refers to the directive of God that Hebrew slaves were to be released in the seventh year after serving their masters for six years.
“If your brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you.[Deuteronomy 15:12 – NKJV]
The Law also made provision for a Hebrew slave to voluntarily remain under his master even after the seventh year, and thus remain a servant of the master indefinitely.
16And if it happens that he says to you, ‘I will not go away from you,’ because he loves you and your house, since he prospers with you, 17then you shall take an awl and thrust it through his ear to the door, and he shall be your servant forever. Also to your female servant you shall do likewise. [Deuteronomy 15:16-17 – NKJV]
When Paul, Jude, James, and Peter speak of being “a bondservant” in the greetings at the beginnings of their epistles, they are referring to this tradition of voluntary servitude by a slave who has been released, but chooses to remain with his master. What a marvelous picture that paints of the redeemed believer’s relationship with our LORD Jesus! We serve Him voluntarily, not because He compels us, but because we love Him. Indeed the Greek word – δοῦλος doulos – translated “bondservant” in many English translations of these greetings is used to refer to slaves. In fact, some English translations (e.g. the NLT) render the word as “slave.” Paul also describes Jesus Himself using this same word…
3Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
5Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant [δοῦλος doulos], and coming in the likeness of men. [Philippians 2:3-7 – NKJV]
Since the Hebrews writer found it necessary to give his readers a brief refresher regarding the construction of the tabernacle, it seems that the tradition of reading the entire Law before the people during the Feast of Tabernacles in the year of release had fallen away by the time of Paul’s ministry. We also find evidence that this lapse had happened before in Israel’s history from the account of the reign of King Josiah.
3Now it came to pass, in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, that the king sent Shaphan the scribe, the son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, to the house of the LORD, saying: 4“Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may count the money which has been brought into the house of the LORD, which the doorkeepers have gathered from the people. 5And let them deliver it into the hand of those doing the work, who are the overseers in the house of the LORD; let them give it to those who are in the house of the LORD doing the work, to repair the damages of the house— 6to carpenters and builders and masons—and to buy timber and hewn stone to repair the house. 7However there need be no accounting made with them of the money delivered into their hand, because they deal faithfully.”
8Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the LORD.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. 9So Shaphan the scribe went to the king, bringing the king word, saying, “Your servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of those who do the work, who oversee the house of the LORD.” 10Then Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king.
11Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, that he tore his clothes. 12Then the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Achbor the son of Michaiah, Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah a servant of the king, saying, 13“Go, inquire of the LORD for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the LORD that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.” [2 Kings 22:3-13 – NKJV]
Clearly, by the time of King Josiah – who reigned in Judah a short time before that southern kingdom was carried into captivity in Babylon – the nation had strayed so far away from the ordinances of God that neither the king nor the Levites, nor even the high priest were even aware of the Law’s basic tenets such as the directive that the Law be read aloud in its entirety before the whole nation once every seven years. Furthermore, the Law also directed every king to make for himself a copy of the Law so that he would become intimately familiar with the Law by copying it himself.
18“Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. 19And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, 20that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel. [Deuteronomy 17:18-20 – NKJV]

Small wonder, then, that King Josiah was in fear and tore his clothes as an indication of repentance and mourning upon hearing the Law read out for the first time in who knows how long, and realizing that he and his people had utterly failed to obey the Law’s directives. This cautionary tale has a practical application for Christians today. James encourages us…

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. [James 4:8a – NKJV]

How do we draw closer to God? Of course, we commune with God through prayer, and by the ordinance of the LORD’s supper. God also whispers to us by the still, small voice of His Spirit. But God reveals Himself to us most strongly and clearly by His Word. Every Christian must practice a deep devotion to the continual study of God’s Word day-by-day.

16All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. [2 Timothy 3:16-17 – NKJV]
Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You. [Psalm 119:11 – NKJV]
So bearing in mind that rather long-winded introduction, perhaps we should turn our attention back to our study of the epistle to the Hebrews, eh.

1Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary. 2For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; 3and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, 4which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; 5and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.[Hebrews 9:1-5 – NKJV]
In one of our previous studies in the book of Hebrews, we spoke of the symbolism surrounding the layout of the tabernacle of meeting that God directed Moses to build, which later became the model for the temple of Solomon. In particular, we saw how the veil which stood between the sanctuary and the Most Holy Place was symbolic of the barrier which has stood between God and man due to our sin. Ultimately, we saw that the veil symbolized death – that great gulf between the eternal God and mortal man brought about by mankind’s fall in the garden of Eden. Praise God, though! We also saw that Jesus has defeated sin and death on the cross – His victory being symbolized by the tearing of the temple veil in the hour that Jesus died.
In that same study, we looked at the ark of the Mosaic covenant described here by the Hebrews writer, upon which was the lid called the “mercy seat” with its two golden cherubim. We saw that when the ark was placed into the Most Holy Place, the glory of God descended upon the ark. Recall that we were careful to note that there was nothing magical or mystical about the ark itself, which is only a symbol of God’s dwelling with man. The power of the ark, and the holiness of the inner sanctuary lay not in the trappings of the tabernacle nor in the specific details of the construction of the ark and its mercy seat cover, but rather in the will of God to dwell in His glory upon the mercy seat – that glory being so magnificent that it needed to be concealed behind the veil lest those who looked upon it die. Just as the veil was symbolic of mankind’s separation from God that was done away with by Jesus through His death on the cross, so the descent of God’s glory onto the mercy seat was a foreshadowing of God’s coming to Earth in the flesh of Jesus – Immanuel, God with us – as foretold by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14).
Aside – At the risk of straying down a rabbit trail, let’s pause briefly to examine the Hebrews writer’s description of the contents of the ark.
Of course, the ark itself was simply a box. In fact, the modern English word “ark” is used almost exclusively in the context of the Bible. It is a Middle English word which comes from the Old English word arc, derived from the Latin word arca – meaning chest.
Interestingly, we find two Hebrew words that are translated into English as “ark.” The first – תֵּבָה têbâh, tay-baw’ – is found 28 times in the Old Testament – all but two of which are found in Genesis in reference to the ark of Noah.

13And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch. [Genesis 6:13-14 – NKJV]

The same Hebrew word  is used to describe the little boat that Moses’ mother placed him into and hid among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. Recall that Pharaoh had commanded all the midwives in Egypt to kill all the Hebrew newborn baby boys.
1And a man of the house of Levi went and took as wife a daughter of Levi. 2So the woman conceived and bore a son. And when she saw that he was a beautiful child, she hid him three months. 3But when she could no longer hide him, she took an ark of bulrushes for him, daubed it with asphalt and pitch, put the child in it, and laid it in the reeds by the river’s bank. 4And his sister stood afar off, to know what would be done to him.
5Then the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river. And her maidens walked along the riverside; and when she saw the ark among the reeds, she sent her maid to get it. 6And when she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby wept. So she had compassion on him, and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.”
7Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for you?”
8And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the maiden went and called the child’s mother. 9Then Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. 10And the child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. So she called his name Moses, [drawn out] saying, “Because I drew him out of the water.” [Exodus 2:1-10 – NKJV]
Of the English language translations I had available, all but the NLT translate the Hebrew – תֵּבָה têbâh, tay-baw’ – as “ark.” The NLT translates the word as “boat” in Genesis. Conversely, when the same Hebrew word is used in Exodus to describe Moses’ little boat, only the KJV and NKJV translate it as “ark” while the other English translations render it as “basket.”
The second Hebrew word found in the Old Testament which is usually translated into English as “ark” is אָרוֹן ʼârôwn, aw-rone’. This word, which also means box, chest, or coffin is found 202 times in the Old Testament – all but one of which referring to the Ark of the Covenant, with the single exception being the last verse in Genesis. All of the English translations I looked at render אָרוֹן ʼârôwn, aw-rone’ as “coffin” in this verse.
So Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin [אָרוֹן ʼârôwn] in Egypt. [Genesis 50:26 – NKJV]
The first use of אָרוֹן ʼârôwn, aw-rone’ in reference to the Ark of the Covenant is found in Exodus when God directed Moses to build it.
10“And they shall make an ark of acacia wood; two and a half cubits shall be its length, a cubit and a half its width, and a cubit and a half its height. 11And you shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and out you shall overlay it, and shall make on it a molding of gold all around. 12You shall cast four rings of gold for it, and put them in its four corners; two rings shall be on one side, and two rings on the other side. 13And you shall make poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. 14You shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, that the ark may be carried by them. 15The poles shall be in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. 16And you shall put into the ark the Testimony which I will give you.
17“You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold; two and a half cubits shall be its length and a cubit and a half its width. 18And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the two ends of the mercy seat. 19Make one cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim at the two ends of it of one piece with the mercy seat. 20And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and they shall face one another; the faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy seat. 21You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you. 22And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel. [Exodus 25:10-22 – NKJV]
The last historical record of the Ark of the Covenant is found during the reign of Josiah shortly before Judah was carried captive to Babylon.
1Now Josiah kept a Passover to the LORD in Jerusalem, and they slaughtered the Passover lambs on the fourteenth day of the first month. 2And he set the priests in their duties and encouraged them for the service of the house of the LORD. 3Then he said to the Levites who taught all Israel, who were holy to the LORD: “Put the holy ark in the house which Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, built. It shall no longer be a burden on your shoulders. Now serve the LORD your God and His people Israel. [2 Chronicles 35:1-3 – NKJV]
One reference to the Ark is found in Psalms.
Arise, O LORD, to Your resting place,
You and the ark of Your strength. [Psalm 132:8 – NKJV]
The final reference to the Ark in the Old Testament is in the prophecy of Jeremiah. In it, the prophet predicts that the religious significance of the Ark would be removed, as indeed it was with the coming of the LORD Jesus in the flesh of a man.
“Then it shall come to pass, when you are multiplied and increased in the land in those days,” says the LORD, “that they will say no more, ‘The ark of the covenant of the LORD.’ It shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit it, nor shall it be made anymore. [Jeremiah 3:16 -NKJV]
The Greek word we find translated into English as “ark” in the New Testament is κιβωτός kibōtós, kib-o-tos’. It means (unsurprisingly) a box, and is found six times in the New Testament – four in reference to Noah’s ark, and two in reference to the Ark of the Covenant. It is amusing to note that the NLT translates this word as “boat” when it refers to Noah’s ark and as “ark” in the other two instances, although it is the same Greek word in all six places. The other English translations render the word as “ark” in all six instances.
In both Matthew and Luke, Jesus refers to Noah’s ark, clearly indicating that He considers the story of the great flood, and the survival of Noah and his family as literal, historical facts. Speaking of the coming of the end of the age, Jesus said…
36“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. 37But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. [Matthew 24:36-39 – NKJV]
The first instance in which κιβωτός kibōtós, kib-o-tos’ is used in reference to the Ark of the Covenant is found here in the passage we are currently studying in Hebrews. The final reference to the Ark of the Covenant is in Revelation.
15Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” 16And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17saying:
“We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty,
The One who is and who was and who is to come,
Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.
18The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come,
And the time of the dead, that they should be judged,
And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints,
And those who fear Your name, small and great,
And should destroy those who destroy the earth.”
19Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail. [Revelation 11:15-19 – NKJV]
This passage makes crystal clear that the location of the true Ark of God’s Covenant is in the temple of God in Heaven. Whether or not the earthly model of this true Ark that was constructed at God’s direction by the Hebrew nation under the leadership of Moses in the Sinai desert has survived somewhere on earth until today is irrelevant. The true Ark is and always has been in the presence of God in his Heavenly temple. Sorry, Indiana Jones.

Regarding the contents of the Ark, recall that in Numbers 16, the people led by Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and On had rebelled against the leadership of Moses and Aaron. God caused the earth to open up and swallow these four rebels along with 250 of their followers, and then to close over them. After that, God sent a plague against all the people, killing another 14,700. God then called for a further demonstration of His selection of Moses as the leader of the nation, his brother Aaron as high priest, and the tribe of Levi as the ministers of the tabernacle.

1And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 2“Speak to the children of Israel, and get from them a rod from each father’s house, all their leaders according to their fathers’ houses—twelve rods. Write each man’s name on his rod. 3And you shall write Aaron’s name on the rod of Levi. For there shall be one rod for the head of each father’s house. 4Then you shall place them in the tabernacle of meeting before the Testimony, where I meet with you. 5And it shall be that the rod of the man whom I choose will blossom; thus I will rid Myself of the complaints of the children of Israel, which they make against you.”
6So Moses spoke to the children of Israel, and each of their leaders gave him a rod apiece, for each leader according to their fathers’ houses, twelve rods; and the rod of Aaron was among their rods. 7And Moses placed the rods before the LORD in the tabernacle of witness.
8Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds. 9Then Moses brought out all the rods from before the LORD to all the children of Israel; and they looked, and each man took his rod.
10And the LORD said to Moses, “Bring Aaron’s rod back before the Testimony, to be kept as a sign against the rebels, that you may put their complaints away from Me, lest they die.” 11Thus did Moses; just as the LORD had commanded him, so he did.[Numbers 17:1-11 – NKJV]
Manna was the food that the LORD provided for the people to eat during their forty-year wandering in the wilderness after He brought them out of bondage in Egypt.
31And the house of Israel called its name Manna. [Hebrew מָן  man – What is it?] And it was like white coriander seed, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.
32Then Moses said, “This is the thing which the LORD has commanded: ‘Fill an omer with it, to be kept for your generations, that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.'” 33And Moses said to Aaron, “Take a pot and put an omer of manna in it, and lay it up before the LORD, to be kept for your generations.” 34As the LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept. 35And the children of Israel ate manna forty years, until they came to an inhabited land; they ate manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan. [Exodus 16:31-35 – NKJV]
Moses built the ark of the covenant at God’s command to hold the tablets of the Law. Moses had cast down and broken the first two tablets that God had given him, when he came down from Mt. Sinai to find the people worshiping the golden calf. Afterward, God commanded Moses to hew out two replacement tablets upon which God wrote the ten commandments again. The replacement tablets were then placed into the ark. Hence the ark was called the ark of the testimony, or the ark of the covenant, because it contained these replacement tablets. Forty years later, as the people were about to cross over the Jordan into the promised land, Moses described to them God’s inscription of these replacement tablets, and Moses’ placing them into the ark.
1“At that time the LORD said to me, ‘Hew for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and come up to Me on the mountain and make yourself an ark of wood. 2And I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke; and you shall put them in the ark.’
3“So I made an ark of acacia wood, hewed two tablets of stone like the first, and went up the mountain, having the two tablets in my hand.4And He wrote on the tablets according to the first writing, the Ten Commandments, which the LORD had spoken to you in the mountain from the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly; and the LORD gave them to me. 5Then I turned and came down from the mountain, and put the tablets in the ark which I had made; and there they are, just as the LORD commanded me.”[Deuteronomy 10:1-5 – NKJV]
By the time the ark of the covenant was placed into the temple of Solomon though, only the tablets of the law remained inside.
Nothing was in the ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.[1 Kings 8:9 – NKJV]

6Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. 7But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance; 8the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. 9It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience— 10concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.[Hebrews 9:6-10 – NKJV]
The Hebrews writer reminds us in these verses that the Levitical priests did not enter into the Most Holy Place behind the veil as part of their day-by-day ministries in the tabernacle, and later the temple. They did perform various duties in the outer sanctuary, such as tending the lamps of the golden lampstand, offering incense on the altar of incense, and replacing the showbread weekly. But only the appointed high priest ever entered into the Most Holy place, either to cover the ark of the covenant in preparation for movement of the tabernacle, or to make atonement for the sins of himself and the people on the appointed yearly day of atonement –  כִּיפּוּר יוֹם  Yom Kippur.
Recall that Aaron’s sons – Nadab and Abihu – had perished because they had taken it upon themselves to make an offering by fire before the LORD (presumedly in the Most Holy Place) in a manner not prescribed. The LORD then gave more explicit directions for the service of the high priest in the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16).
1Now the LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered profane fire before the LORD, and died; 2and the LORD said to Moses: “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat.
3“Thus Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with the blood of a young bull as a sin offering, and of a ram as a burnt offering.[Leviticus 16:1-3 – NKJV]
29This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you. 30For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the LORD. [Leviticus 16:29-30 – NKJV]

As the Hebrews writer points out, when the high priest entered into the Most Holy Place to make atonement for himself and the people, he was required to bring the blood of a young bull as a sin offering. Most of the sacrifices and offerings ordained by God in His law revolve around the shedding of the blood of animals, and the use of their blood in ceremonial cleansing. Since the Word of God places such emphasis on blood – in particular the sacrificial shedding of blood in the context of substitutionary atonement for sin – it might be appropriate to examine the topic of blood in some detail.

The Hebrew word for blood – דָּם dam – occurs over three hundred fifty times in the Old Testament. Its Greek counterpart in the New Testament  αἷμα haima  is found nearly a hundred times. The Hebrew word – דָּם dam – is also very closely related to the word  אָדַם ‘adam – meaning “dyed red” (not to be confused with the proper name Adam meaning “man” or “mankind”). Most often, these words refer to literal blood, as in the statutes found in the Law for the cleansing of the altar, the priests, the people, and the various furnishings of the tabernacle by the sprinkling of the blood of the animal sacrifices on them. In other instances, the words are used figuratively – often in condemnation of the murderous shedding of blood. Wine is also sometimes referred to figuratively as blood, most famously when Jesus instituted the ordinance of holy communion at the last supper.
23Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many. 25Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” [Mark 14:23-25 – NKJV]
Unsurprisingly, the first mention of blood in the Bible is in the context of murder – immediately after Adam’s son Cain killed his brother Abel out of prideful envy.
9Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?”
He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
10And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. [Genesis 4:9-10 – NKJV]
Of course, mankind’s murderous shedding of innocent blood that began with Cain killing his brother in a fit of jealousy has continued unceasingly ever since. This sinful shedding of each other’s life blood perhaps explains why we find such an emphasis on the topic of blood in the Bible. One of the most troubling aspects of child rearing for parents is dealing with quarrels among our children. We – being God’s children – surely deeply grieve God’s Spirit by “mankind’s boundless inhumanity to man.”
God’s condemnation of the shedding of innocent blood, and His emphasis on the nature of blood being the very essence of life itself, predates the giving of the Law through Moses by thousands of years, having been spoken directly by God to Noah and his family immediately following the great flood.
3Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. 4But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man.
6“Whoever sheds man’s blood,
By man his blood shall be shed;
For in the image of God
He made man. [Genesis 9:3-6 – NKJV]
Jesus reminds us of His condemnation of the shedding of innocent blood in His pronouncement of woes upon the religious leaders during the final week of His ministry before His crucifixion.
29“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’
31“Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.32Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt.33Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? 34Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.[Matthew 22:29-36 – NKJV]
How ironic that this forceful, direct condemnation was also prophetic. Even as Jesus proclaimed these leaders would crucify some of the messengers He sent to them, He already knew that He Himself would be crucified at their bidding before the week was out. Nevertheless, the shedding of Jesus’ innocent blood was necessary, for the atonement of the sins of all mankind. The Hebrews writer will have more to say on that at the end of Chapter 9.
The first mention of innocent blood as a substitutionary atonement is found in the story of the first Passover on the night before God led His people out of bondage in Egypt by the hand of Moses.
1Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, 2“This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. 3Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying: ‘On the tenth of this month every man shall take for himself a lamb, according to the house of his father, a lamb for a household. 4And if the household is too small for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take it according to the number of the persons; according to each man’s need you shall make your count for the lamb. 5Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats. 6Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. 7And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it. 8Then they shall eat the flesh on that night; roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. 9Do not eat it raw, nor boiled at all with water, but roasted in fire—its head with its legs and its entrails. 10You shall let none of it remain until morning, and what remains of it until morning you shall burn with fire. 11And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste. It is the LORD‘s Passover.
12“For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. 13Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.
14“So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.[Exodus 12:1-14 – NKJV]
The books of the Law contain many ordinances calling for the blood of animal sacrifices to be used in various cleansing rituals. We need not go into the details of those Laws. As the Hebrews writer reminds us here in Hebrews 9, all of these various ordinances, and even the blood of the Passover lamb are mere symbols, pointing the coming of Jesus the Messiah – the anointed One whose own blood sacrifice on the cross would fulfill what the animal sacrifices could not, namely the complete and permanent atonement for sin.
The Greek word we find translated “reformation”  at the end of Hebrews 9:10 is διόρθωσις diorthōsis. It refers to the straightening and restoration of something that has become distorted or bent such as a broken bone. It is a wonderful picture of the mighty work done by Jesus on the cross in restoring His perfect creation to the initial pristine state in which He made it, prior to its being twisted and distorted by the sin of mankind. Of course the main aspect of this reformation is Jesus’ defeat of death itself which first entered into creation when Man fell in the Garden.

Looking Ahead

Next time, we will look at the Hebrew’s writers contrast of the heavenly sanctuary that is not of this creation and was made without hands with the earthly tabernacle we have just studied, which was only a model of the perfect and everlasting heavenly sanctuary.

1 thought on “Hebrews 9:1-10 – The Earthly Tabernacle”

  1. Updated 11/2/2018 to include an examination of the Ark of the Covenant itself, and the Hebrew and Greek origins of the English word “ark”


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