A Brief Exegesis of Hebrews 10:1-4

A Brief Exegesis of Hebrews 10:1-4

by Kelly McDonald, Jr.

“1 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” (KJV)

Among the more misunderstood passages in the Bible is Hebrews 10:1-4. Some say that these verses declare the entire law of God, including the Ten Commandments, to be a shadow that is no longer relevant. However, a deeper understanding of the Bible will give us a more accurate point of view.

First of all, it is important that we have the correct understanding of the word LAW. The Greek word translated as LAW is NOMOS. It is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word TORAH. The term LAW in the Bible can be specific OR generic; the context matters!

The term Law (as well as Nomos or Torah) is a generic word meaning teaching and instruction. Thus, it can refer to anything in the Bible that is instruction. Moreover, it can refer to specific sections of the Bible that contain teaching and instruction. I have some examples below.

Jesus quoted the Psalms in John 15:25 and called it LAW. “But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law [NOMOS], ‘They hated me without a cause’” (John 15:25). This quote is found in Psalms 35:19, 69:4. Paul used the term law when he quoted from the book of Isaiah. “In the law [NOMOS] it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:21). This is a quote from Isaiah 28:11, 33:19.

To review: The term LAW in the Bible can be generic referring to teaching and instruction. However, it can also be specific. In this usage, it refers to instructions given to specific people for a specific application. Many specific laws refer to the Aaronic priesthood and sacrifices. I have listed a few examples below:

Leviticus 6:9

“Command Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law [TORAH] of the burnt offering: It is the burnt offering, because of the burning upon the altar all night unto the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be burning in it.”

Leviticus 6:14

“And this is the law [TORAH] of the meat offering: the sons of Aaron shall offer it before the LORD, before the altar.”

Leviticus 6:25 

“Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, saying, This is law [TORAH]of the sin offering: In the place where the burnt offering is killed shall the sin offering be killed before the LORD: it is most holy.”

Leviticus 7:37

This is the law [TORAH] of the burnt offering, of the meat offering, and of the sin offering, and of the trespass offering, and of the consecrations, and of the sacrifice of the peace offerings;

These are just a few of many examples we could use. At the end of Leviticus chapter 7, God closes out the preceding chapters by saying “THIS is the LAW of…”, which signifies specific laws for the priesthood applied to specific sacrifices. With this understanding, let us examine the verses in question a second time.

Hebrews 10:1-4

“1 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. 2 For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. 3 But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. 4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” (KJV)

These verses are referring to the specific laws relating to sacrifices. Bulls and goats are specifically mentioned. Notice that the author mentions “…the very image of the things”. The Greek word translated as image is eikon, and it is where we derive the English word icon. In other words, bulls and goats are not even in the image of the perfect sacrifice they represented; they are shadows. Just a few verses later, the writer states: “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). Christ is the image of God; He came bearing the likeness of mankind (Col. 1:15, Phil. 2:7). He is not a shadow – He is the real thing!

Thus, Hebrews 10:1-4 are plainly referring to the specific law of sacrifice. The Ten Commandments are not shadows; to say so is denying eternal truths. Those who say the Ten Commandments are shadows have not thought out the implications of their reasoning. For instance, consider the first commandment. Is worshipping only the True God a shadow? Absolutely NOT! God’s commandments are eternal truths that will never fade away.

As you read the New Testament, be aware that some references to LAW are generic and others are specific. It takes a careful study of the Word of God and discernment from God’s Spirit to know the difference. 2 Tim. 2:15

 

Your Evangelist,

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

About Evangelist Kelly McDonald, Jr.

Child of God, Servant of God, Evangelist, Blogger, and Writer
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