Hebrews 9:3

3 Behind the second curtain, the tabernacle was called "the holy of holies."

Hebrews 9:3 Meaning and Commentary

Hebrews 9:3

And after the second vail
Were there more vails than one? the Scripture speaks but of one, ( Exodus 26:31 ) there was indeed an hanging for the door of the tent, but that is not called a vail; nor was there more than one vail in the tabernacle, nor in the temple of Solomon; but in the second temple, under which the apostle lived, there were two vails, which divided between the holy place, and the holy of holies; and the innermost of these the apostle means: and so the Jewish writers F18 constantly affirm, that there were two vails between the said places, and that two new ones were made every year {s}. So on the day of atonement, when the high priest went into the most holy place, with the incense, it is said F20, that

``he walked in the temple till he came between (twkwrph ytv) , "the two vails", which divide between the holy, and holy of holies, and there was the space of a cubit between them.''

The reason of these two vails may be seen in the account Maimonides gives of this matter F21:

``in the first temple there was a wall which divided between the holy, and holy of holies, the thickness of a cubit; but when they built the second temple, it was doubted by them, whether the thickness of the wall was of the measure of the holy place, or of the measure of the holy of holies; wherefore they made the holy of holies twenty cubits complete, and the holy place forty cubits complete, and they left the space of a cubit between the holy, and the holy of holies; and they did not build a wall in the second temple, but they made (twkwrp ytv) , "two vails", one on the side of the holy of holies, and the other on the side of the holy place, and between them a cubit answerable to the thickness of the wall, which was in the first temple; but in the first temple there was but one vail only, as it is said, ( Exodus 26:33 ) and the vail shall divide unto you''

And to this account other Jewish writers F23 agree; and the space between the two vails is called by them (Nyoqrj) F24, (taraxiv) , from the trouble and perplexity this affair gave them. This vail, or vails, might represent the sin of man, which separates between God and men, excludes from heaven; but is removed by the death of Christ, when the vail was rent in twain; so that now there is an open way to heaven; Christ has entered into it by his own blood; and saints have boldness to enter there by faith and hope now, and shall hereafter personally enter into it: or else this vail may signify the ceremonial law, which separated between Jew and Gentile, and is abolished by the death of Christ: or rather it was typical of the flesh, or human nature of Christ, called the vail of his flesh, ( Hebrews 10:20 ) (See Gill on Hebrews 10:20). Now within this second vail was

the tabernacle,
or that part of it, the second part,

which is called the holiest of all;
which was either typical of Christ, who is called the most Holy, ( Daniel 9:24 ) he being so in both natures, divine and human; or of heaven, for the holy places, made with hands, were figures of heaven, ( Hebrews 9:24 ) for its holiness, it being the habitation of the holy God, holy angels, and spirits of just men made perfect; and for its invisibility, and the unseen things which faith and hope, which enter within the vail, are the evidence of; and for the things that are in it, typified by the following ones.


F18 T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 54. 1. & Cetubot, fol. 106. 1. Vid. Philo de Vita Mosis, l. 3. p. 667.
F19 Misn. Shekalim, c. 8. sect. 5. Maimon. Cele Hamikdash, c. 7. sect. 16.
F20 Misna Yoma, c. 5. sect. 1. Vid. Bereshit Rabba, sect. 10. fol. 8. 3.
F21 Hilchot Beth Habbechira, c. 4. sect. 2.
F23 Gloss. & Tosephot in T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 51. 2. & Bartenora in Misn. Yoma, c. 5. sect. 1. & in Middot, c. 4. sect. 7.
F24 Misn. Middot ib. & T. Bab. Yoma ib. & Gloss. in T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 106. 1.

Hebrews 9:3 In-Context

1 Now the first [covenant] also had regulations for ministry and an earthly sanctuary.
2 For a tabernacle was set up; and in the first room, which is called "the holy place," were the lampstand, the table, and the presentation loaves.
3 Behind the second curtain, the tabernacle was called "the holy of holies."
4 It contained the gold altar of incense and the ark of the covenant, covered with gold on all sides, in which there was a gold jar containing the manna, Aaron's rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant.
5 The cherubim of glory were above it overshadowing the mercy seat. It is not possible to speak about these things in detail right now.