6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.
7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.
8 Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah —
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 did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord.
In chapter 7, the new covenant is seen to be better because it has a better priesthood. In chapter 8, the priesthood is seen to be better because it is part of a better covenant.
Since Christ is a priest in the heavenly temple, He has an office more exalted than that of the earthly priests; and this because the covenant under which He holds the office of priest excels the covenant enacted by Moses, in the blessing it ensures. — Vine, page 289.
This new covenant is clearly a reaffirmation of the unconditional covenant made with Abraham, which the law, coming in centuries later, could not annul. During all the present years of wandering Israel and Judah are under the curse of that broken law. But in the regeneration, when they shall be gathered back to their own land and restored to the favor the Lord, this covenant of grace will be made with them.
It is most important to realize that nowhere are we told of a covenant made with the Church. In Romans 9:4 we learn that “the covenants” pertained to Israel. They were the chosen people with whom the Sinaitic covenant was made. According to the terms of that covenant they have forfeited all claim upon God’s favor. But He cannot deny Himself. He can never go back upon the covenant made with Abraham, but the terms of which He promised blessing unconditionally to Abraham’s seed. These promises He reiterates in the new covenant. — Ironside, page 99.
established (v.6) = lit. “enacted as a law”
The promise connected with the old covenant was conditional upon the fulfillment of its terms by the people. It offered life to those who kept the Law. The promise of life could not be fulfilled because they continued not in God’s covenant. The promises of the better covenant are absolute.He assumes Himself the entire responsibility of fulfilling its terms. Because Christ is the Mediator of this covenant, He will unfailingly carry out its conditions. — Vine, page 289.
faultless (v.7) = free from defect
Verses 8-12 are a quote from Jeremiah 31:31-34.
them (v.8) — Those (all) in Israel who failed under the first covenant.
There is a subtle delicacy of language in the insensible shifting of language from the covenant to the people. The covenant itself could hardly be said to be faultless, seeing that if failed to bind Israel to their God; but the true cause of failure lay in the character of the people, not in the law, which was holy, righteous, and good. The old covenant was faulty because it did not provide for enabling the people to live up to the terms or conditions of it. It was faulty inasmuch as it did not sufficiently provide against their faultiness.
It is important to note that the New Testament is not Christianity. The Book of Hebrews is not an argument the purpose of which is to prove that Christianity is superior to Judaism as seen in its founder, Christ. The First Testament was a covenant made with Israel. The New Testament is also a covenant made with Israel. God makes no covenants with the Gentiles. Israel is the chosen channel through which He brings salvation to the human race. The First Testament consisted of a system of sacrifices, symbolic in their import. The New Testament is a Sacrifice, the Lord Jesus at the Cross, actual in its character, and efficacious in its merits. The First Testament began at Genesis 3:21, and ended at the Cross. The New Testament began at the Cross and is an everlasting one (Hebrews 13:20). Christianity refers to the Mystical Body of Christ of which He is the Head. This Body is composed of all who are saved from [the salvation of Paul] to the Rapture. The New Testament made Christianity possible. The saints of the Church Age are saved through the blood of the sacrifice which was offered under the New Testament. That is the relationship between the New Testament and Christianity. — Wuest, page 144.
days are coming (v.18) = at some future period
make (v.8) = conclude, consummate
house of Israel and … the house of Judah (v.8) — all 12 tribes
covenant (v.9) = lit. “to place between two” — an arrangement between two parties
they did not continue (v.9) — in spite of their pledge (Exodus 19:5-8; Deuteronomy 5:27; 7:9-11)
continue (v.9) = persevere, hold fast, abide by
disregarded (v.9) = not to care for — God’s care became righteous anger at Israel’s sins.
The words “covenant” or “testament” refer in this epistle to one thing, the act of God providing for the salvation of the believing sinner through the blood atonement offered on Calvary’s Cross by the Lord Jesus. It is a covenant in the sense that it is an agreement on God’s part that He will give salvation to the sinner who will receive it by faith in the High Priest He has appointed. It is a last will or testament in the sense that God bequeaths salvation to the sinner who will receive it on the terms of the will, faith in the blood of Jesus. God, the divine Testator, dies to make the will effective. The words “covenant” and “testament” are used of one thing in this book, viewed from two angles.
The words “lead them by the hand,” speak of the fact that the First Testament was given to a people in its minority. Israel was treated as a minor. God put it under laws and regulations. If Israel behaved itself, it was rewarded, and if it misbehaved, it was punished. Israel was taught by object lessons as one would teach a child, for instance, the tabernacle, priesthood, offering, the gorgeous vestments of the high priest. — Wuest, page 145.
The Law appears to be the mere ideal of a religious constitution, as it has never existed in fact: in practice, the Jews were almost throughout polytheists. The substance of their national feeling was formed by heathendom: the accidents only, by revelation. From the queen of heaven down to the abominations of the Phoenicians, and even Cybele, the Jews passed through every grade of paganism. In fact, there is no period of the history of Israel before the captivity, in which more or less idolatry was not united with the worship of Jehovah, except the time of David and the first years of Solomon, during which the influence of Samuel still continued to be felt. And when by the captivity idol-worship was completely eradicated from the people, as far at least as regards that part of it which returned, it is well-known that a hypocritical letter-worship got the mastery over them, which was morally very little better. — Wuest, page 146.