1 Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary.
2 For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary;
3 and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All,
4 which 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;
5 and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.
6 Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services.
7 But 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;
8 the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing.
9 It 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 —
10 concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.
earthly (v.1) — constructed of earthly matierals
the first (v.2) — the first one a priest entered
second veil (v.3) — Exodus 26:31-37
Since the thumiaterion properly refers to the golden incense altar, how could the author locate it in the Holy of Holies? Quite the contrary, the author does not explicitly say the altar was in the Holy of Holies. When he refers to the incense altar, he changes his language from “wherein was” in verse 2 to “which had” in verse 4. The author’s intent seems to be that while the Holy Place had the candlestick and table within it, the Holy of Holies only had the incense altar related to it. Exodus 30:6 similarly stresses the close relation of the incense altar to the Holy of Holies, even though it was not in it physically: “… thou shalt put it before the veil that is by the ark of the testimony… ” (see also Exodus 40:); The altar was located in the Holy Place so incense could be placed upon fresh coals morning and evening. It was located immediately in front of the Holy of Holies so that its fragrance might enter into the Holy of Holies. Thus, its physical location was in the Holy Place, but its liturgical function was with the Holy of Holies.
Within the Holy of Holies proper was the ark of the covenant and the things stored within it. The golden pot of manna and Aaron’s rod were missing as early as Solomon’s day (1 Kings 8:9). The stone tables of the Law and the ark itself probably vanished during the Babylonian captivity — KJV Commentary, page 1694.
Aaron’s rod that budded (v.4) — that was Moses’ rod when he tended the sheep of Jethro; he had it in use when called to deliver Israel (Exodus 4:2-17); it was a token of God’s power in that respect. It was that by which the rock was smitten from which water flowed. It budded to confirm Aaron’s priesthood (Numbers 17:1-10), and remained thus as a sign of God’s presence and power. — Hebrews, by W.E. Vine, page 291.
The writer next speaks of the cherubim overshadowing the mercy seat. The word “cherubim” is a transliteration of the Hebrew word meaning “living creatures.” Those in Ezekiel have four faces, of a man, a lion, an ox and an eagle, representing respectively intelligence, strength, steadfastness, and rapidity. They represented all that is best in creation by a combination of excellences found in no single animal.
The cherubim associated with the ark were two in number, made of gold, of one piece with the mercy seat, the golden cover of the ark, one at each end of the ark, looking towards one another, and overshadowing the mercy-seat. They are described as the cherubim of glory probably becaue they were closely attached to and attendant upon the place of the manifestation of the divine glory in redemption.
The words “mercy seat” are the translation of hilasterion, used in the LXX to designate the throne of mercy above the ark. This same word is used in Romans 3:25 where it is translated “propitiation.” This Greek word as used in the Bible does not as its English translation, “propitiation,” suggests, mean “something offered to placate or appease anger,” but refers to atonement or reconciliation through covering, and in that way getting rid of the sin which stands between God and sinful man. — Hebrews in the Greek New Testament, by Kenneth S. Wuest, page 152.
the second (v.7) — Leviticus 16:2, 34
for (v.7) = for the sake of, in behalf of
With the tabernacle, the Holy Spirit was showing that the way into the immediate presence of the Lord was not yet known. This remained true until God no longer recognized the first tabernacle (v.8)
The writer states that the Holy Spirit is both the divine Author of the Levitical system of worship and its interpreter. The first tabernacle is the Holy Place. As long as that part of the Levitical institution was still in effect, Israel was to understand that the way into the presence of God had not yet been opened. The division of the tabernacle into the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies showed the limitations of the Levitical system, and kept the people from coming directly to God. The Holy Place barred both priests and people from the Holy of Holies.
When the new order of things was brought into being by the death of Messiah on the Cross, thus fulfilling the typical sacrifices, God rent the inner veil of the temple which separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, making of the two rooms, one. There was, therefore, no more “within the veil.” This was God’s object lesson to the Aaronic priesthood that its ministry was now over, that the temple was to be closed, that a new Priest had arisen after the order of Melchisedec. But, Israel in its apostasy, repaired the veil, kept on offering sacrifices until God in His wrath, sent Rome to destroy the city of Jerusalem and scatter His chosen people to the ends of the Roman empire. — Wuest, page 154.
symbolic for the present time (v.9) = a parable for the time now present
perfect (v.9) = complete, needing nothing to make it as it should be — The ritual of the tabernacle could not clear a person’s conscience, only the Holy Spirit can do that.
washings (v.10) — same word as “baptisms” in 6:2
fleshly (v.10) — human
imposed (v.10) — with the idea of it being painful and burdensome
reformation (v.10) = making straight, bringing to a satisfactory state