Verse 17. A covenant is firm over dead sacrifices; epi nekoiv. nekroiv being an adjective, it must have a substantive agreeing with it, either expressed or understood. The substantive understood in this place, I think, is qumasi, sacrifices; for which reason I have supplied it in the translation.
Perhaps the word zwoiv, animals, may be equally proper; especially as, in the following clause, diaqemenov is in the gender of the animals appointed for the sacrifice. Our translators have supplied the word anqrwpoiv, men, and have translated epi nekroiv, after men are dead, contrary to the propriety of the phrase.
"It never hath force whilst the appointed liveth; ∆ote zh o diaqemenov.
Supply moscov, or tragov, or taurov? whilst the calf, or goat, or bull, appointed for the sacrifice of ratification, liveth. The apostle having, in verse 15, showed that Christ's death was necessary as o mesithv, the Mediator, that is, the procurer, and ratifier of the new covenant, he in the 16th and 17th verses observes that, since God's covenants with men were all ratified by sacrifice to show that his intercourses with men are founded on the sacrifice of his Son, it was necessary that the new covenant itself should be ratified by his Son's actually dying as a sacrifice.
"The faultiness of the common translation of the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, and 20th verses of this chapter having been already shown in the notes, nothing needs be added here, except to call the reader's attention to the propriety and strength of the apostle's reasoning, as it appears in the translation of these verses which I have given, compared with his reasoning as represented in the common version." 2. It is supposed that in verse 28, the apostle, in speaking about Christ's bearing the sins of many, alludes to the ceremony of the scape goat. This mysterious sacrifice was to be presented to God, Lev. xvi. 7, and the sins of the people were to be confessed over the head of it, Lev. xvi. 21, and after this the goat was dismissed into a land uninhabited, laden, as the institution implied, with the sins of the people; and this the word anenegkein, to bear or carry away, seems to imply. So truly as the goat did metaphorically bear away the sins of the many, so truly did Christ literally bear the punishment due to our sins; and in reference to every believer, has so borne them away that they shall never more rise in judgment against him.
3. In Christ's coming, or appearing the second time, it is very probable, as Dr. Doddridge and others have conjectured, that there is an allusion to the return of the high priest from the inner tabernacle; for, after appearing there in the presence of God, and making atonement for the people in the plain dress of an ordinary priest, Lev. xvi. 23, 24, he came out arrayed in his magnificent robes, to bless the people, who waited for him in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation. "But there will be this difference," says Dr. Macknight, "between the return of Christ to bless his people, and the return of the high priest to bless the congregation. The latter, after coming out of the most holy place, made a new atonement in his pontifical robes for himself and for the people, Lev. xvi. 24, which showed that the former atonement was not real but typical. Whereas Jesus, after having made atonement, ([and presented himself in heaven, before God,]) will not return to the earth for the purpose of making himself a sacrifice the second time; but having procured an eternal redemption for us, by the sacrifice of himself once offered, he will return for the purpose of declaring to them who wait for him that they are accepted, and of bestowing on them the great blessing of eternal life. This reward he, being surrounded with the glory of the Father, Matt. xvi. 27, will give them in the presence of an assembled universe, both as their King and their Priest. This is the great salvation which Christ came to preach, and which was confirmed to the world by them who heard him: chap. ii. 3." Reader, lay this sincerely to heart! 4. The form in which the high priest and the ordinary priests were to bless the people, after burning the incense in the tabernacle, is prescribed, Num. vi. 23-26. Literally translated from the Hebrew it is as follows, and consists of three parts or benedictions:-
1. May Jehovah bless thee, and preserve thee! 2. May Jehovah cause his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee! 3. May Jehovah lift up his faces upon thee, and may he put prosperity unto thee! (See my notes on the place.) We may therefore say that Christ, our High Priest, came to bless each of us, by turning us away from our iniquity. And let no one ever expect to see him at his second coming with joy, unless he have, in this life, been turned away from his iniquity, and obtained remission of all his sins, and that holiness without which none can see God. Reader, the time of his reappearing is, to thee, at hand! Prepare to meet thy God! On the word conscience, which occurs so often in this chapter, and in other parts of this epistle, see the observations at the end of chap. 13.