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The Law According to Hebrews

Levitical, Sinai Covenant, Old Covenant, Sinai Covenant, Hebrews, altar, sacrifices, tithe, New covenant, Deuteronomy

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Christianity today generally teaches that the Mosaic Law includes the first five books of the Bible that Moses is believed to have written or at least compiled.  In the King James Bible there is no mention of a ‘Mosaic Law’ as such, but it does talk of a Law of Moses.  It seems that these are supposed to be equivalent.  Often this is just referred to simply as ‘the Law’.  Indeed the New Testament divides the Hebrew Scriptures into three pieces, the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms or Writings.  In that case the Law refers to those five books of Moses.


Hebrews refers to the Law frequently in chapters 7 through 10.  However, it is much more focused in what it considers the Law.  It’s worthwhile to consider Hebrews perspective and see how that fits in with other Scripture.


Heb 7:11 Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron?” (NASB, See also NIV, Philips, Alford, Emphasized Bible or EGNT). 


According to Hebrews here the Law was based on the Levitical priesthood.  Certainly that agrees with the general understanding of what the Law is.  The Levitical priesthood was central to the functioning of the Law in Ancient Israel.  They were the Appellate judges in Israel (Deu 17:8-10) and they officiated at the temple, which was the dwelling place of God (Deu 18:1-2, 12:5).  However, that priesthood did not exist until almost a year after Israel came out of Egypt.  The firstborn sons of Israel were priests until Aaron was anointed at the beginning of the second year after Israel left Egypt.


Traditional Christianity and Judaism teach that the Law was given at Mt. Sinai.  This is intended to include the Ten Commandments and the covenant made in Exodus 20-24.  However, there is no mention of the Levitical priesthood at that time.  The tribe of Levi is not named at all.  The firstborn were still the priests (Ex 19:22, Ex 13:2).  It wasn’t until about a year later that the Levites were exchanged for the firstborn (Num 3:12).  Numbers begins with Israel's second year after leaving Egypt (Num 1:1).  So, if the Law was based on the Levitical priesthood, the Law must not have existed until the Levitical priesthood was there to administer it!  So Hebrews must consider the Law to be only a later part of Moses writings.  The Sinai covenant, Exodus 20-24, has nothing to do with the Levitical Priesthood.


In accord with this, Hebrews also mentions that “…the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law…” (Heb 7:5abc).  Yet, there is no instruction in the Sinai Covenant agreed in Exodus 24 that the Levites should receive tithes from the other tribes.  This instruction first appears in Numbers 18, which was also likely given after Aaron was anointed as the High Priest.  Numbers apparently begins with Israel’s second year after leaving Egypt (Num 1:1).  Certainly the instruction to receive the tithes didn’t exist or had no force before they were the priests in place of the firstborn.  Again, this ‘law’ to which Hebrews is referring is not the covenant or law agreed in Exodus 24.


Changing the Law

Further down in Hebrews 7 we find that since the priesthood changed there had to be a change of law (vs. 12).  Most translations say a change of ‘the Law’, but in the original Greek the definite article is not included.  It is not saying ‘the Law’ needs to change, but the package arrangement of law must change.  This is in agreement with our Savior who told us that the Law doesn’t change.


Mat 5:18 "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”


So the Law doesn’t change, but there must be a change.  We’ll soon see how this is accomplished.


Continuing on, verse 13 talks of ‘the altar’.  It does include the definite article even in the Greek.  It is talking of the altar of the Levitical Priesthood that stood before the tabernacle/temple.  Like the Levitical Priesthood, for all practical purposes that altar did not exist before Aaron was consecrated.  It was consecrated at the same time that Aaron was (Ex 29:37, Lev 8:11-12).  On the other hand, the covenant at Sinai required an altar of earth or uncut stones (Ex 20:24-25). The patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac & Jacob, obviously didn’t use the altar in front of the tabernacle made of wood and copper that Hebrews is talking about which is assumed by Hebrews perception of the Law. 


Consider the relationship between the Creator and Israel inherent in each of these altars.  Earth or stone altars could have been set up anywhere they traveled.  The Creator indicated He would come to them and bless them. (Ex 20:24).


On the other hand, the Levites serviced only one altar by the tabernacle/temple.   The other tribes had to go there to worship the Creator.  If they did that, they still couldn’t complete the offering themselves.  The Levites had to pass their offering along to the Creator.  In fact, the Levites separated Israel from their God.  These two altars show two fundamentally different relationships between Israel and the Creator.  When Hebrews talks of ‘the Law’ it is focused on the law requiring the existence of the Levitical priesthood and the single temple altar.


Hebrews sees the whole law system as administered by Levi, but changing, because it didn’t accomplish its intended purpose.  “… for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God” (vs. 7:19).  It sees the establishment of Christ as the High Priest.  This supports a way to draw close to the Creator.  The Law as administered by the Levites didn’t accomplish that.  Consider though that Abraham and the patriarchs were close to the Creator.  Consider as well that they weren’t involved in the Levitical system.


So if the Law doesn’t change, and we know Abraham kept the Creator’s Law (Gen 26:5), but he didn’t tithe to Levi or use the altar specified for their service, what is going on?  Verse 22 points us in the right direction.


Heb 7:22by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant.”


The Law is a Covenant

Our Savior provides a better covenant.  So the Law was also a covenant or what Savior offers couldn’t be a 'better' one.  However, Hebrews is certainly not thinking of the Covenant at Sinai since it didn’t have anything to do with the Levitical system, their altar or tithing to them.  As it turns out there is a covenant that does include those things in Deuteronomy.  Indeed, it is Deuteronomy that was referenced earlier in this writing as evidence that the Levitical priests were the Appellate Judges and officiated before the Creator at His dwelling.


Deuteronomy is the record of a covenant Moses confirmed with Israel just before he died and they went into the Promised Land.  It officially established the Levitical system for Israel.  Even though Moses was a son of Levi he worked outside the Levitical system.  Once this Deuteronomy covenant was confirmed authority was turned over to Joshua and Aaron’s son Eleazar who was then the High Priest.  Moses was removed from any place of authority (Deu 32:48-50).


The text of Deuteronomy does not contain all detail of that covenant made in Moab, but “Moses spoke to the children of Israel according to all that the LORD had given him as commandments to them” (Deu 1:3d).  For instance; it expects that the Levites will offer the offerings made by fire to the Creator.  It doesn’t say exactly what those offerings are.  It assumes the existence of Moses other books for that information.  In that case it assumes Leviticus and Numbers.  It also assumes the existence of Genesis and Exodus in order to know who the sons of Levi are.


Hebrews continues, focused on the Levitical system.  Hebrews 7:27 refers to the daily offerings that were offered by the Levitical priests.  Verse 28 talks of the appointment of High priests.  There is no record of daily offerings or designation of a High Priest in the Exodus 20-24 covenant.  If anyone was a high priest of the Sinai covenant it was the Rock that was with them (I Cor 10:4).


The animal sacrifices were enjoined when Moses was on Mt. Sinai getting the replacement tablets (Num 28:6, Lev 7:37-38, Ex 34:32).  This was after the Exodus 20-24 covenant was confirmed.  The sacrifices were not implemented until the Tabernacle was consecrated and Aaron was anointed.


Numbers 28:6 indicates the daily offerings were enjoined on Mt. Sinai.  Moses made at least three major trips up Mt. Sinai.  (He was apparently not on Mt. Sinai when the Sinai covenant was given, but at the base of the mountain. Ex 20:21).  After receiving the replacement tablets Moses came down from being on Mt. Sinai with much instruction for Israel (Ex 34:29-32).  Hebrews reference to daily offerings connects with the daily animal sacrifices and High Priests that were established with the Levitical Priesthood by the covenant of Deuteronomy (Deu 18:1-5), not with the Sinai covenant. 


Christianity and Judaism teach that the Law was given at Sinai.  Typically they are referring to the Sinai covenant.   The Law according to Hebrews does not support that.  However, it doesn’t really disagree with the Law being given at Sinai.  The great bulk of the Law according to Hebrews would have come to Moses in Exodus 34 at the giving of the replacement tablets not Exodus 20-24.  Hebrews doesn’t specifically mention when the Law first came to Israel.  It concerns itself with when it was enacted (Heb 7:11) and the Levites function in it.  Because the entry into the Promised Land was delayed after the spies, so the enactment of the Law was delayed.


Heb 8:4For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law;” 


The Law, according to Hebrews, required a particular priest (a Levite) to offer sacrifices and offerings as part of the daily routine of the tabernacle/temple.(Deu 18:1).  No one from another tribe could be involved.  On the other hand, the law of the Sinai covenant allowed that anyone could build an altar of earth or uncut stones and offer.  However, there was no requirement to do so.  In fact, if Messiah had been of Judah under the Sinai covenant, He could have offered gifts on the altar of earth or stone.


Old and New Covenants

Hebrews continues, beginning to focus on covenants, specifically a New Covenant and an Old Covenant. 


Especially in ancient times a covenant was a very serious thing.  It consisted of multiple parts, typically introductory remarks, the terms and conditions, benefits and/or penalties and plans for ongoing continuance.  The terms and conditions of a covenant is the ‘law’ of that covenant.  Of course that is a major part of a covenant.  If one distinguishes the terms and conditions one has usually identified the covenant under discussion.  So it is not unusual to jump back and forth when referring to a covenant or the law within it. 


A covenant is an agreement.  It is a package deal.  One can’t just do part of the agreement and expect to receive the benefits of the agreement.  It is expected that all parties to the covenant will actively seek to fulfill 100% of their part of the agreement.  A blood covenant, like the covenants of Sinai and Deuteronomy, included an animal sacrifice to seal the agreement.  The understanding was that both parties would rather die like the sacrifice than fail to live up to their part.  Because covenants were very serious matters and fully agreed by both parties, they could not be changed (Gal 3:15).  Of course this supports Messiah’s statement in Matthew 5:18 quoted above.  The terms of a covenant, including the law, don’t change.  That is why Israel needed another covenant when it was apparent they couldn’t live up to the Sinai covenant.


Hebrews refers to the covenant that established the Levitical order as the ‘first’ covenant (Heb 8:7).   One might expect that the Sinai covenant was the first.  Actually, the covenant with Noah is the first.  However, Noah's covenant is not under discussion in Hebrews.  Neither is the Sinai covenant under discussion.  The Old and new Covenant are under discussion.  In this context the old is obviously first.  Based on what we've seen it is easy enough to determine that it is the Deuteronomy covenant rather than the Sinai Covenant that is the 'first covenant' under discussion.


The Greek word for first here is ‘protee’.  It specifically indicates the first in a series and is often translated ‘prior’ (see Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon, prwtos/p???t??).).  So the ‘first’ covenant is the covenant of Deuteronomy.  It fits the context.


Hebrews continues, placing the blame for the abandoning of the 'first' covenant on Israel’s failures to live up to their part.  Specifically they failed to live to His Covenant (Heb 8:9).  Certainly His covenant is the covenant made in Exodus 20-24 at Sinai.  However, is it the Sinai covenant that will not be like the New Covenant?  Consider the wording "not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt.” That covenant was not made after they left Egypt at Sinai, but when the Creator took them by the hand to lead them OUT of Egypt.  They were therefore still in Egypt.  Not even God can lead someone out of Egypt if they are not in Egypt.


So what covenant was made just before they started or came out of Egypt?  There is no record of any covenant made at that time.  They were already out of Egypt a month after they walked out of Ramses (Ex 16:1, Num 33:3).  The Sinai covenant was made about a month after that.


On the other hand, if we consider that their hearts never left Egypt the whole time in the wilderness, it could be said they were in Egypt throughout their journey in the wilderness (Num 11:5, 20, 14:2, 20:5).  That seems to be Joshua’s perspective as he describes all those born in the wilderness ‘as they came out of Egypt’ (Josh 5:5).  However, after the golden calf and throughout most of the time in the wilderness the Creator distanced Himself from Israel.  He dumped them on Moses after the golden calf and separated Himself from them by the tribe of Levi (Ex 32:7-10, Num 1:53).  He was not really leading Israel by the hand.  He was dealing with Moses.  His relationship with Israel was not restored until the covenant of Deuteronomy was confirmed.


Deu 27:9  “Then Moses and the priests, the Levites, spoke to all Israel, saying, "Take heed and listen, O Israel: This day you have become the people of the LORD your God.”


Deu 29:12  "that you may enter into covenant with the LORD your God, and into His oath, which the LORD your God makes with you today,  13 that He may establish you today as a people for Himself, and that He may be God to you, just as He has spoken to you, and just as He has sworn to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”


This covenant made with Deuteronomy in Moab is how our Creator again takes Israel’s hand and leads them out of their Egypt oriented mentality.  About 70 days later they crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land and were separated from their connection to Egypt.


Josh 5:7Then Joshua circumcised their sons whom He raised up in their place; for they were uncircumcised, because they had not been circumcised on the way…9  Then the LORD said to Joshua, "This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you." Therefore the name of the place is called Gilgal to this day.”


Israel proved that it wasn’t in them to live up to the expectation of His Covenant (Deu 5:29, Ex 32:7-10).  Out of respect for the patriarchs and because of Moses plea (Ex 34:9, Deu 9:18) they were given the Deuteronomy covenant that would help keep them within a reasonable level of compliance.  His Covenant/His Law is still of central importance to the Creator.  Unfortunately, as Hebrews acknowledges they still didn’t live according to His covenant.  Ultimately, our Creator left them to their own schemes and moved on (Luke 13:35). 


New Covenant

Hebrews continues with the promise of another covenant in verse 10.  His laws will be written in adherents’ heart.  There is only one other reference to 'His Laws' in Hebrews.  It is found in chapter 10:16 and is a second reference to the original source in Jeremiah 31:33.  All the other references simply refer to ‘the law’.  Is there a difference?


Abraham obeyed ‘My laws’ (Gen 26:5).  Abraham didn’t obey the Law.  He never tithed to the Levitical Priesthood nor did he take his animals to the altar in front of the tabernacle for sacrifice.  He could make an altar of earth or uncut stones and offer by himself.  Abraham was a partly to His Covenant, the Ten Commandments not the covenant of Deuteronomy (I Chron 16:15-18). 


Deu 4:13  "So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone.”


Deu 8:18  "And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”


In Deuteronomy the fathers refer to the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as was seen in 29:12 quoted above.  In similar parallel Hebrew fashion His covenant is directly equated to His Law (Ps 78:10, Hos 8:1).  His Law is not all five books of Moses, but specifically the Ten Commandments, His Covenant.  The terms of His covenant are His Laws.


Hebrews 8:10 is not reestablishing the Law that it earlier called weak and unprofitable (Heb 7:18-19).  It is showing His Covenant to again be the basis for our relationship with Him just as it was with the patriarchs and as He attempted with Israel.  One difference with this new covenant is that His Laws are written in the adherents’ heart.  What does that mean?


Heart Writing

Heb 4:12For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”


Our Judge is no dummy!  He can discern our thoughts and intents.  Hebrews considers that those are things that reside in the heart.  Although He may be able to read our minds it is not absolutely necessary.  In the wilderness He determined what Israel was thinking based on what they did.


Deu 8:2 "And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.”


He watched to see whether or not they would obey.  What He saw would tell Him what was in their heart, whether they would walk the walk or just talk the talk.  Even those who aren’t taught the law can show that at least some is written in their hearts when they conduct themselves according to its precepts.


Rom 2:14for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves,  15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them”.


Having His Law written on the heart will result in a person doing His Law by nature.  Unlike ancient Israel with the Sinai covenant, those who live by the New Covenant will by nature live by His Law.  The prior agreement of Deuteronomy is no longer relevant because it has fallen into disuse (Heb 8:13).  Israel hardly ever really kept it and the Creator simply walked away (Luke 13:35).  The Levitical system was about to disintegrate as of the writing of Hebrews.  With the destruction of the temple it could no longer even pretend to function as agreed. 


More on Hebrews Law

Heb 8:13In that He says, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” 


Likely the temple and the Levitical system was still in place as of the writing of Hebrews. However, it was doomed. The presence of Yahweh was not there (Mat 23:38). He walked away from that arrangement. It simply was not working. That says nothing about the value of any particular regulation of that covenant. The intent of the package was to reduce and hopefully eliminate sin, thus allowing Israel to be an example for Yahweh to the world. It didn’t accomplish that.  


The New Covenant is intent on eliminating sin as well. Since both covenants have the same goal it shouldn’t be a surprise if much enjoined by the Law is also an integral part of the New Covenant as well.  


Old Covenant

Hebrews continues to mention things that help us identify this Old Covenant.  Chapter 9 begins describing some of the accoutrements of the temple/tabernacle.  This tabernacle begins to be described in Exodus 25.  The close proximity to the confirmation of the Sinai covenant (chapter 24) leads most to assume it is part of the Sinai covenant.  However, there is nothing in the Sinai covenant that requires its existence.  It is associated exclusively with the Levitical priesthood, not the priesthood of the firstborn who were responsible for Israel at the time of the Sinai covenant. 


If considered carefully the tabernacle was really a step down for Israel.  Instead of the Creator talking to Moses directly wherever his tent happened to be, Moses must move his tent far outside the camp in order to communicate with the Creator at all (Ex 33:7).  Once the tabernacle is constructed Moses must go there.  The rest of Israel is kept at a distance by the tribe of Levi.  The tabernacle instruction is probably placed where it is because of the tabernacles’ significance in Israel rather than the timing of the tabernacle instruction.


The tablets of the covenant are mentioned in Hebrews 9:4.  These, of course, describe His Covenant.  Does that mean Hebrews is referring continually to His Covenant and not the covenant of Deuteronomy made in Moab?  If Hebrews had called these tablet the tablets of the Old Covenant one might be able to make that case.  However, the tablets were known as the tablets of the covenant.  They were mentioned only in the context of the various furnishings in the tabernacle.  They were called tablets of the covenant because that is how they were known not because Hebrews is trying to identify His Covenant as the Old Covenant.


Hebrews tells us that the Levitical system was still at work as of its writing (Vs. 9:9, 10:11).  They were still doing animal, food and drink sacrifices at the temple complex.  The context indicates it is talking of sin and purification offerings (Heb 9:12-13, Num 19:9).  Hebrews apparently expects them to continue until the time of restoration, Messiah’s return (vs. 10).  None of these offerings are a function of the Sinai covenant.  They started with the Levitical system and were discontinued with the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.


Nevertheless, these offerings were intended to sanctify those that offered them and purify sin (vs.13).  Certainly the sacrifice of Messiah will do that and enable believers to serve the Creator without their former death promoting conduct, namely sin.


So Messiah has mediated a new covenant that can even cover the transgressions of the Deuteronomy, the prior, covenant (VS 15) and enable an eternal inheritance.  As that covenant was enabled by Messiah’s blood so the first covenant was also enabled by blood (vs. 18).  Hebrews continues with an account of the confirmation of this ‘first’ covenant.


‘First’ Covenant Confirmation

Moses "...spoke every precept to all the people according to the law, ..."(Heb 9:19a)  As we saw there was nothing about the Levitical priesthood or tabernacle or regularly required offerings in the Sinai covenant (Ex 20-23).  These are fundamental parts of the Law missing from the instruction in Exodus 20-23.  On the other hand Hebrews 9:19 fits very well with introductory remarks of the Deuteronomy covenant.


Deu 1:3Now it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spoke to the children of Israel according to all that the LORD had given him as commandments to them”… 5 On this side of the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses began to explain this law, saying,”.


Verse 19 in Hebrews also mentions Moses sprinkled a book and the people with calf and goat blood.  The account in Exodus 24 claims that he offered young bulls.  It doesn’t say he sprinkled the book.  Hebrews continuing in verse 21, says Moses sprinkled the tabernacle and all the vessels.  The tabernacle didn’t exist as of Exodus 24 when the Sinai covenant was confirmed.  So their sprinkling is obviously not included in the Exodus account.  These are accounts are of two different covenant confirmations.  The account in Hebrews is describing what happened in Moab with the Deuteronomy confirmation.


Hebrews is mentioning this account of the covenant confirmation because of its connection to the Law (vs. 22).  The Law purified things with sacrifices.  That was not commanded with the Sinai Covenant, but came to be because of Israel’s failure and the resulting Levitical system and required sacrifices.


Jer 7:22 "For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices.  23 But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.’  24 Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.”


Israel was told to obey His voice and keep His covenant just before they agreed to the Sinai covenant (Ex 19:5-6).  Regular animal sacrifices were not a part of that covenant.  On the other hand, the Law, which was administered by the Levitical priesthood, required sacrifices on a daily basis (Heb 10:8).  Unfortunately, those sacrifices did not make a person whole/perfect (Heb 10:1).  If they had made a person 'perfect' then the sacrifices could have been discontinued (vs. 2).


The sacrifices of the Law were intended as reminders of failure (vs 3) in hopes of promoting success.  The Law contains many reminders.  The Levites were there to remind the people of their responsibility.  The tassels on their garments were a reminder to keep the Ten Commandments.  However, none of these things was very effective in eliminating sin, which is what the Creator desires.  


Messiah has eliminated the animal sacrifices as a means of forgiveness.  At first He just walked away from the temple, but ultimately had the temple and the altar destroyed.  The Law that was established to handle transgressions became unworkable.  However, Messiah’s sacrifice is in place and offers sanctification to those who repent, reject their error and hold their faith without wavering (10:22-23).


Law of Moses

The last reference to law in Hebrews 10:28 connects it with Moses.  The Law according to Hebrews is the Law of Moses.  The Hebrews reference is to Deuteronomy 19:15 not any place in the Sinai Covenant.  The Law of Moses is first mentioned directly when Joshua had it written on the stones by Mount Gerizim and Ebal when they went into the Promised Land (Josh 8:30-32).  Moses directed Joshua to write on stones the law that he presented the day he spoke Deuteronomy.


Deu 27:1Now Moses, with the elders of Israel, commanded the people, saying: "Keep all the commandments which I command you today.  2 And it shall be, on the day when you cross over the Jordan to the land which the LORD your God is giving you, that you shall set up for yourselves large stones, and whitewash them with lime.  3 You shall write on them all the words of this law, when you have crossed over, that you may enter the land which the LORD your God is giving you”.


Hebrews sees the Law as firmly rooted in Deuteronomy.   The Law of Moses is the law that Moses presented in Deuteronomy.  References in Hebrews do not connect it with the Law of Sinai in the Sinai Covenant.  Because of tradition and historical teaching we have missed this fact.  Consequently we have misunderstood other Scriptures that refer to the Law.  Hebrews is not alone in its perception.


Gal 3:19What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made;…


Moses gave the Law to the Levites and instructed them to keep it beside the Ark which contained His Covenant.   The Ark contained the summary terms of the Sinai covenant. This new covenant, confirmed 39+ years later in Moab, was added beside that covenant.  It was added to allow Israel to live in spite of their transgression which trashed the Sinai covenant.


On the other hand, the Sinai covenant was made with the expectation that Israel would be priests to Yahweh and a holy nation representing Him (Ex 19:5-6).  It assumed obedience.  It was not added to anything nor given because of disobedience.


I Tim 1:9knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine


The covenant of Deuteronomy was given so that Israel might live and inherit the Promised Land (Deu 4:1, 5:33 etc.).  This was a gift from the Creator after the golden calf when His first thought was to destroy them.  As Moses said, “You have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you (Deu 9:24).”


John 1:17For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” (NASB)


The terms of the Sinai covenant came directly from Yahweh to all the people.  The detail of the judgments was relayed to the people by Moses.  The judgments simply added clarification for things that were not obvious from the simple statements of the Ten Commandments.  On the other hand, all the terms of the Deuteronomy covenant came through Moses.  The additional detail needed to understand and fulfill the covenant of Deuteronomy also came through Moses.


Messiah is restoring the ways of the Creator.  The Old Covenant simply didn’t work, but it did allow Israel to live and inherit the land promised to Abraham.  Now He calls all to repent, cleanse the hands and purify the heart and draw near to the Creator of Heaven and earth.  He wants our success.  Messiah was willing to die to demonstrate the lengths He will go to support us.  What more could He do?


Hebrews clearly sees the Law as the terms and conditions of the Deuteronomy covenant.  This is not in disagreement with other New Testament scripture, but our preconceived ideas blind us to what Joshua understood as the Law of Moses.  Because Christianity is oblivious, they fail to understand that even if the Law is diminished the Creator’s Covenant stands undiminished, but rather validated.  It is the basis on which adherents of the New Covenant will guide their lives.  It is His Law that will be integral to the thoughts, intents and actions of those who wish to grasp the New Covenant.


More background on how Deuteronomy became a separate covenant is explained in our examination of the long term effects of the golden calf.