Hebrews 9:5: Who Stopped an Inspired Pen, and Why?

In Hebrews 9:1-5, the author lists several of the items that were found in the tabernacle, the place where people of the Old Testament worshipped. A couple of chapters prior, he reflected on the striking similarity between an obscure king named Melchizedek (who appears in only a handful of verses in Genesis 14) and the King of kings, Jesus Christ. I imagine the first readers of the letter to the Hebrews would have read that tabernacle list with bated breath, waiting for a masterful discussion of how the tabernacle foreshadowed what we now have in the church. However, the Hebrews author concludes his list with the somewhat disappointing statement, “Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.” I can almost imagine the first readers asking, “Why not?”

It’s not a bad question to ask and probably one that every Bible student should ask. Personally, I refuse to believe that the Holy Spirit would be limited by 1) the human author he was inspiring’s time schedule, or 2) the amount of parchment the human author had available. I’m a firm believer in the fact that what is there in the Word is there for a purpose, and what isn’t, well, isn’t. So the question is, why would God list those tabernacle items and then purposefully not discuss them?

Where the Bible ends, opinion begins. I cannot pretend to know the mind of God outside of what the Spirit has revealed in His Word (1 Corinthians 2:13-16). However, the Hebrews author’s treatment of Melchizedek as well as his description of the Old Testament as containing types and shadows (Hebrews 10:1; cf. 1 Peter 3:21, and in particular the NKJV’s transliteration, “antitype”) lead me to believe three things. One, I believe that the reason that the author did not continue his discussion of the tabernacle is because God intended for us to do the study and make the comparisons ourselves. Two, I believe that there are more comparisons to be made between the Old Testament and the New than the ones revealed in His word. Three, while I know that God intends for New Testament audiences to be students of the Old Testament (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:1-11), I believe He intended part of that study to involve finding those additional points of comparison between the Old and the New.

I hope these words encourage you to begin to reflect on the relationship between the books of the Bible or to continue to do so if it is already your habit. I promise that you will find this study incredibly rewarding and faith building!
-Patrick Swayne  
patrick@tftw.org
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