HEBREWS 13:10-16:


"We have an altar of which they have no right to eat who serve the tabernacle" does not identify a specific tangible implement or structure upon which a particular sacrifice was burned. Rather, it identifies a specific kind of sacrifice. The priests we re forbidden to eat of one certain type of sin offering, but of all other kinds they must eat. (Lev. 10:16-18) Heb. 13:10,11 notes the definition commanded in Lev. 6:30. "No sin offering whereof any of the blood is brought into the tabernacle of the congr egation to reconcile withal in the holy place, shall be eaten."

The bullock and the goat taken annually for the sin offering (Lev. 16:14,15, Heb. 7:27, 9:7,12,13,23,26) were the only animals which answered to that description. From this can be seen the meaning of Heb. 13:10. "We have an altar..." means "we have a s acrifice..." Here, by a usual metonymy ("use of one word for another that it suggests"-- Webster) the 'altar' is put for the 'sacrifice', as is plain from the added statement, "of which they have no right to eat." That addition defines the sacrifice the H ebrews' author was referring to--the sin offering sacrifice of Jesus. The statement, "we have an altar," that is, a sacrifice, does not define a sacrifice waiting for us to present or make. Rather, it assures believers concerning the sacrifice which Jesus Himself had already made, one unspeakably more excellent than the typical sacrifices in which some of the Hebrews were trusting. The passage affirms that "we have" by faith all the benefits and privileges open to us which the sacrifice of Jesus authorize s to all those who believe into it. "It is well that the heart be strengthened by grace, not by foods." (Heb. 13:9 RSV) By faith we are cleansed from all sin and made acceptable with God.

The blood of two animals was used in the annual typical atonement. The blood of the bullock atoned for the sins of the high priest and his sons, "his house." This atonement reconciled them to "the priest's office," and usually the oldest son became hig h priest upon his father's death. He was thereby qualified to fill the immediate daily responsibilities of the priest.< 1> The blood of the Lord's goat atoned for the sins of the people.--Lev. 16:14,15

Some Bible students think there are two parts to the antitypical sin offering, each of which makes atonement for a separate segment of the human race. Those who hold this view should observe: a) that no atonement for the antitypical high priest was req uired; b) that no reference to atonement for "his house" appears in Lev. 8 or 9; c) that atonement for the "house" or "household" of the high priest is mentioned only in Lev. 16, where such atonement served its purpose, assuring the eligibility of a pries t to succeed immediately into that office upon the death of the high priest; and d) that the New Testament is silent pertaining to that typical atonement "for his house" commanded in Lev. 16, presenting no antitypical lesson based upon it. Every time the Hebrews' writer touched a reference to atonement for the typical high priest, he stopped at "himself" and elaborated that Christ Jesus needed no atonement.

Apparently it was the divine intention that after the atoning sacrifice of Jesus was once typified in the annual Atonement Day service, never again would atonement be pictured as being effected without shed blood being typically presented in his typica l presence for satisfaction.< 2> But that would have been what happened, had Lev. 9 been observed again, for in Lev. 9 no blood was taken into the Most Holy, yet atonement was made for the high priest, his sons, and all of Israe l by the two sin-offering sacrifices defined in, and handled as prescribed in, that chapter. And everyone not iniquitous continued in an atoned relationship with God for about six months.--Lev. 9:7

As noted foregoing, no mention appears in Lev. 8 or 9 about atonement being made "for his house." It is therefore evident that when Moses and Aaron "came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the people" (Lev. 9:23), Aaron's house, his household, that is, his sons, were among those who were blessed and to whom the LORD's glory appeared.

Consider now the following accounts which indicate that the two animals offered for atonement were counted as effecting one typical atonement.

  1. Exod. 30:10 RSV--"Aaron shall make atonement upon its horns once a year; with the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement..." 'Sin offering' is expressed in the singular perhaps in every translation. The plural 'atonements' seen in some translations signifies that many things were touched by the atoning blood.--Lev. 16:16-19
  2. Lev. 16:5,10,21--All the atoned-for sins "of the children of Israel" were placed at one time upon the one which remained of the two goats for a sin offering. The live goat bore their sins away only after the complete sin offering had been slain and th e bloods offered in the Most Holy. This was part of the atonement procedure, and it was accomplished by the high priest when he wore the sacrificial garments. There was not the placing of two allotments of sins upon the head of the live goat, as there pro bably would have been were there any significance of segmented antitypical reconciliation in the offering of a bullock and a goat for a sin offering. Therefore it should be observed that in the type the sins "of the children of Israel" borne away by the s cape goat included the sins of both the high priest and the sons of the high priest. In the antitype it can be nothing but clear that the sins of the church are included in those sins typically labeled "of the children of Israel."
  3. Lev. 16:24--Only after the high priest changed into his garments of glory and of beauty did he offer the burnt offerings, and then he offered both burnt offerings together, apparently without any separating interval.
  4. Lev. 16:25--From this verse it may be understood that the fat of the two animals was burned together. The fat is said to be "the fat of the sin offering," singular, suggesting that the LORD views the sin offering as one offering.
  5. Lev. 16:27--The remainder of both sin offering animals was carried "forth without the camp," and all was burned "in the fire." The text represents the taking out of both and the burning of both as being done together, not individually.

In the antitype there is but one sacrifice and one offering: "but now once for all in the completion of the ages hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." "Who needeth not daily [that is, each day he did it] as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once for all, when he offered up himself."--Heb. 7:27, 9:26

Jesus suffered on Calvary "without the gate." His flesh was there destroyed, consumed. Antitypically, that answered to the burning of the typical two-animal sin offering "without the camp." "The camp" contained the entire Jewish arrangement during Isra el's journey through the wilderness: the tabernacle, the priests, and all the surrounding people. Eventually this was replaced by Jerusalem, which contained the temple, its priests, and the people, outside the wall and gate of which Jesus was crucified. T he epistle encouraged Hebrew believers to become separate from what Paul described in Galatians as "Jerusalem which is now." That religious arrangement was destined for destruction; it was not to be a continuing city or arrangement. The Hebrews should hon or Jesus, own His name, and bear whatever reproaches faith in Christ Jesus might bring upon them. And this the faithful did, in response to the admonition of Heb. 13:13,14. They considered Jerusalem as "the camp" and kept without its spiritually legalisti c arrangements, that they might continue to receive favor and blessing from Christ Jesus. They withdrew from the "worldly sanctuary" (Heb. 9:1), and from the earthly Jerusalem and from the world in general of which it is representative. Believers must lea ve all sacerdotal ritualism to offer spiritual sacrifices at the spiritual altar.--Ezek. 11:18-21, 1 Pet. 2:5

The author of Hebrews must have been well acquainted with Jewish history, and may have had in mind Exod. 33:7 when he wrote Heb. 13:11- 13. From the former passage it is seen that Moses took what was probably his own large tent, "and pitched it withou t the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to pass, that every one which sought the LORD went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp." Those who, in obedience to Moses , went "without the camp," did not go there to offer sacrifice, nor to eat. They went to "seek the LORD." They went to seek his face of favor and have their hearts and prayers for forgiveness accepted. This was similar to a previous arrangement. In prepar ation for the making of the typical covenant, "Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God." (Exod. 19:17) These instances were typical of what the Hebrews to whom the epistle was written should do: come out of the carnal worship of ea rthly Jerusalem and worship God through Christ in the spirit. (2 Cor. 3:17) In fact, the next verse alludes to the temporary nature of the carnal ordinance and its supporters, destined to meet a sudden end. "For here [Greek, ode, meaning, as an adverb, "i n this place," in the carnal world, and in that Jerusalem which represented that world] we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come." (Heb. 13:14) Those who maintained the earthly sanctuary and its service were unworthy of fellowship in "Jerusalem which is above, which is our mother."--Gal. 4:26

What next would that author have those do who had disassociated themselves from "Jerusalem which is now" and who had gone forth "unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach"? The following two verses contain his exhortation: offer sacrifice! But he surely does not suggest a sin-offering sacrifice! This would have been farthest from the mind of the Hebrews' author. Foregoing he had emphasized that Jesus bore, suffered, and offered for "the sins of the people." (Heb. 2:17, 5:3, 7:27, 9:28, 10:12, 13: 12) Note how clearly the writer now describes the sacrifice which he urges believers to offer. "By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name. But to do good and to commu nicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." (Heb. 13:15,16) We are privileged to offer to God praise, thanksgiving, hymns, and this we should do continually. "Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most Hi gh. He who brings thanksgiving as his sacrifice honors Me; to him who orders his way aright I will show the salvation of God!" "I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify Him with thanksgiving. This will please the LORD more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs." (Psa. 50:14,23, 69:30,31 RSV) See also Psa. 107:22, 116:17.

"I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off [Gentiles?], and to him that is near [natural Israelites?], saith the LORD; and I will heal him." "Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto Him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips." (Isa. 57:19, Hos. 14:2) See also Psa. 51:15-19.

But the sacrifice of praise with our lips is not enough. We must also do good and 'communicate' to the needy, for the Greek word used here and in Gal. 6:6 means 'sharing.'--Heb. 13:16

How readest thou? It is probable that additional readings of the foregoing discussion with careful consideration of every Bible passage cited will bring a deeper understanding of the thoughts presented. Only when the viewpoints are fully understood is one in a position to properly evaluate whether or not they be true.


  1. (for page 1) It was the high priest Aaron who was originally appointed to offer incense twice daily (Exod. 30:7,8), but inferior priests did so in later times (Luke 1:9), perhaps even from the second Temple (McClintock & Strong, IV -538-7); and to keep in order continually the lampstand.--Lev. 24:2-5 RSV, Rev. 1:13-20

  2. (for page 2) While a consecutive account of instructions for the ceremony of Lev. 9 is lacking, the events narrated in Lev. 8 were instructed, in Exod. 29. There is no Biblical requirement that the Lev. 9 ritual be observed agai n, nor any intimation in the Bible or in tradition that it ever was. Furthermore, there seems to be no instruction that a successor high priest be anointed just like Aaron was anointed. (Exod. 29:7, Lev. 8:12, 21:10, Psa. 133:2, 1 John 2:27) It is thought that Exod. 40:12-15 was done only one time, the day the tabernacle was set up, "for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations." Exod. 29:21 and Lev. 8:30 define the anointing of both priests and garments. When a qualified priest put on the garments as prescribed, that new high priest may have been deemed "anointed therein, and to be consecrated in them." (Exod. 29:29,30) This may explain how Moses could make Eleazar high priest while still in the top of the mo unt by putting upon him Aaron's holy garments. (Num. 20:27-29) And apparently he must minister in them seven consecutive days. Englishman's Concordance and Wilson's Old Testament Word Studies both indicate use in three places- -Exod. 29:29, 40:15, Num. 18 :8--of a defined subdivision of the feminine noun, word #4888, translated 'anointed' and 'anointing.' This seems to support the thought that status is meant, rather than a verbal action of a ceremony leading to that status. See Lev. 7:35, McClintock & Str ong, I-239-4, VIII-578-2, 570-1, 1 Macc. 10:21. The new high priest must make the annual atonements stipulated in Lev. 16:33, as further instructed in Exod. 30:10, Lev. 23:27-32, Num. 29:7- 11. Those atonements did not require any feature of the ceremony defined in Lev. 9, in which neither anointing or consecration is mentioned.

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