New American Standard Bible
For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it.
King James Bible
For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.
Darby Bible Translation
(For where there is a testament, the death of the testator must needs come in.
World English Bible
For where a last will and testament is, there must of necessity be the death of him who made it.
Young's Literal Translation
for where a covenant is, the death of the covenant-victim to come in is necessary,
Hebrews 9:16 Parallel
CommentaryBarnes' Notes on the Bible
For where a testament is - This is the same word - διαθήκη diathēkē - which in Hebrews 8:6, is rendered "covenant." For the general signification of the word, see note on that verse. There is so much depending, however, on the meaning of the word, not only in the interpretation of this passage, but also of other parts of the Bible, that it may be proper to explain it here more at length. The word - διαθήκη diathēkē - occurs in the New Testament thirty-three times. It is translated "covenant" in the common version, in Luke 1:72; Acts 3:25; Acts 7:8; Romans 9:4; Romans 11:27; Galatians 3:15, Galatians 3:17; Galatians 4:24; Ephesians 2:12; Hebrews 8:6, Hebrews 8:9, "twice," Hebrews 8:10; Hebrews 9:4, "twice," Hebrews 10:16; Hebrews 12:24; Hebrews 13:20. In the remaining places it is rendered "testament;" Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25; 2 Corinthians 3:6, 2 Corinthians 3:14; Hebrews 7:22; Hebrews 9:15-17, Hebrews 9:20; Revelation 11:19. In four of those instances (Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20, and 1 Corinthians 11:25), it is used with reference to the institution or celebration of the Lord's Supper. In the Septuagint it occurs not far from 300 times, in considerably more than 200 times of which it is the translation of the Hebrew word בּרית beriyt.
In one instance Zechariah 11:14 it is the translation of the word "brotherhood;" once Deuteronomy 9:5, of דּבר daabaar - "word;" once Jeremiah 11:2, of "words of the covenant;" once Leviticus 26:11), of "tabernacle;" once Exodus 31:7, of "testimony;" it occurs once Ezekiel 20:37, where the reading of the Greek and Hebrew text is doubtful; and it occurs three times 1 Samuel 11:2; 1 Samuel 20:8; 1 Kings 8:9, where there is no corresponding word in the Hebrew text. From this use of the word by the authors of the Septuagint, it is evident that they regarded it as the proper translation of the Hebrew - בּרית beriyt, and as conveying the same sense which that word does. It cannot be reasonably doubted that the writers of the New Testament were led to the use of the word, in part, at least, by the fact that they found it occurring so frequently in the version in common use, but it cannot be doubted also that they regarded it as fairly conveying the sense of the word בּרית beriyt. On no principle can it be supposed that inspired and honest people would use a word in referring to transactions in the Old Testament which did not "fairly" convey the idea which the writers of the Old Testament meant to express. The use being thus regarded as settled, there are some "facts" in reference to it which are of great importance in interpreting the New Testament, and in understanding the nature of the "covenant" which God makes with man. These facts are the following:
(1) The word διαθήκη diathēkē - "diatheke" - is not what properly denotes "compact, agreement," or "covenant." That word is συνθήκη sunthēkē - "syntheke" or in other forms σύνθεσις sunthesis and συνθεσίας sunthesias; or if the word "diatheke" is used in that signification it is only remotely, and as a secondary meaning; see "Passow;" compare the Septuagint in Isaiah 28:15; Isaiah 30:1; Daniel 11:6, and Wisdom Daniel 1:16; 1 Macc. 10:26; 2 Macc. 13:25; 14:26. It is not the word which a "Greek" would have employed to denote a "compact" or "covenant." He would have employed it to denote a "disposition, ordering," or "arrangement" of things, whether of religious rites, civil customs, or property; or if used with reference to a compact, it would have been with the idea of an "arrangement," or "ordering" of matters, not with the primary notion of an agreement with another.
(2) the word properly expressive of a "covenant" or "compact" - συνθήκη sunthēkē - is "never" used in the New Testament. In all the allusions to the transactions between God and man, this word never occurs. From some cause, the writers and speakers in the New Testament seem to have supposed that the word would leave an impression which they did not wish to leave. Though it might have been supposed that in speaking of the various transactions between God and man they would have selected this word, yet with entire uniformity they have avoided it. No one of them - though the word διαθήκη diathēkē - "diatheke" - has been used by no less than six of them - has been betrayed in a single instance into the use of the word συνθήκη sunthēkē - "syntheke," or has differed from the other writers in the language employed. This cannot be supposed to be the result of concert or collusion, but it must have been founded on some reason which operated equally on all their minds.
(3) in like manner, and with like remarkable uniformity, the word συνθήκη sunthēkē - syntheke - is "never" used in the Septuagint with reference to any arrangement or "covenant" between God and man. Once indeed in the Apocrypha, and but once, it is used in that sense. In the three only other instances in which it occurs in the Septuagint, it is with reference to compacts between man and man; Isaiah 28:15; Isaiah 30:1; Daniel 11:6. This remarkable fact that the authors of that version never use the word to denote any transaction between God and man, shows that there must have been some reason for it which acted on their minds with entire uniformity.
(4) it is no less remarkable that neither in the Septuagint nor the New Testament is the word διαθήκη diathēkē - "diatheke" - "ever" used in the sense of "will" or "testament," unless it be in the case before us. This is conceded on all hands, and is expressly admitted by Prof. Stuart; (Com. on Heb. p. 439), though he defends this use of the word in this passage. - A very important inquiry presents itself here, which has never received a solution generally regarded as satisfactory. It is, why the word διαθήκη diathēkē - "diatheke" - was selected by the writers of the New Testament to express the nature of the transaction between God and man in the plan of salvation. It might be said indeed that they found this word uniformly used in the Septuagint, and that they employed it as expressing the idea which they wished to convey, with sufficient accuracy. But this is only removing the difficulty one step further back.
Why did the Septuagint adopt this word? Why did they not rather use the common and appropriate Greek word to express the notion of a covenant? A suggestion on this subject has already been made in the notes on Hebrews 8:6; compare Bib. Repository vol. xx. p. 55. Another reason may, however, be suggested for this remarkable fact which is liable to no objection. It is, that in the apprehension of the authors of the Septuagint, and of the writers of the New Testament, the word διαθήκη diathēkē - "diatheke" - in its original and proper signification "fairly" conveyed the sense of the Hebrew word בּרית beriyt, and that the word συνθήκη sunthēkē - or "compact, agreement," would "not" express that; and "that they never meant to be understood as conveying the idea either that God entered into a compact or covenant with man, or that he made a will." They meant to represent; him as making "an arrangement, a disposition, an ordering" of things, by which his service might be kept up among his people, and by which people might be saved; but they were equally remote from representing him as making a "compact," or a "will." In support of this there may be alleged.
(1) the remarkable uniformity in which the word διαθήκη diathēkē - "diatheke" - is used, showing that there was some "settled principle" from which they never departed; and,
(2) it is used mainly as the meaning of the word itself. Prof. Stuart has, undoubtedly, given the accurate original sense of the word. "The real, genuine, and original meaning of διαθήκη diathēkē (diatheke) is, "arrangement, disposition," or "disposal" of a thing." P. 440. The word from which it is derived - διατίθημι diatithēmi - means to place apart or asunder; and then to set, arrange, dispose in a certain order. "Passow." From this original signification is derived the use which the word has with singular uniformity in the Scriptures. It denotes the "arrangment, disposition," or "ordering" of things which God made in relation to mankind, by which he designed to keep up his worship on earth, and to save the soul. It means neither covenant nor will; neither compact nor legacy; neither agreement nor testament. It is an "arrangement" of an entirely different order from either of them, and the sacred writers with an uniformity which could have been secured only by the presiding influence of the One Eternal Spirit, have avoided the suggestion that God made with man either a "compact" or a "will."
We have no word which precisely expresses this idea, and hence, our conceptions are constantly floating between a "compact" and a "will," and the views which we have are as unsettled as they are. unscriptural. The simple idea is, that God has made an "arrangement" by which his worship may be celebrated and souls saved. Under the Jewish economy this arrangement assumed one form; under the Christian another. In neither was it a compact or covenant between two parties in such a sense that one party would be at liberty to reject the terms proposed; in neither was it a testament or will, as if God had left a legacy to man, but in both there were some things in regard to the arrangement such as are found in a covenant or compact. One of those things - equally appropriate to a compact between man and man and to this arrangement, the apostle refers to here - that it implied in all cases the death of the victim.
If these remarks are well-founded, they should be allowed materially to shape our views in the interpretation of the Bible. Whole treatises of divinity have been written on a mistaken view of the meaning of this word - understood as meaning "covenant." Volumes of angry controversy have been published on the nature of the "covenant" with Adam, and on its influence on his posterity. The only literal "covenant" which can he supposed in the plan of redemption is that between the Father and the Son - though even the existence of such a covenant is rather the result of devout and learned imagining than of any distinct statement in the volume of inspiration. The simple statement there is, that God has made an arrangement for salvation, the execution of which he has entrusted to his Son, and has proposed it to man to be accepted as the only arrangement by which man can be saved, and which he is not at liberty to disregard.
There has been much difference of opinion in reference to the meaning of the passage here, and to the design of the illustration introduced. If the word used - διαθήκη diathēkē - means "testament," in the sense of a "will," then the sense of that passage is that "a will is of force only when he who made it dies, for it relates to a disposition of his property after his death." The force of the remark of the apostle then would be, that the fact that the Lord Jesus made or expressed his "will" to mankind, implied that he would die to confirm it; or that since in the ordinary mode of making a will, it was of force only when he who made it was dead, therefore it was necessary that the Redeemer should die, in order to confirm and ratify what he made. But the objections to this, which appears to have been the view of our translators, seem to me to be insuperable. They are these:
(1) the word διαθήκη diathēkē - "diatheke" - is not used in this sense in the New Testament elsewhere; see the remarks above.
(2) the Lord Jesus made no such will. He had no property, and the commandments and instructions which he gave to his disciples were not of the nature of a will or testament.
"For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"--HEB. IX. 13, 14. No Christian doctrine is more commonly misunderstood than that of the sacrifice of Christ. This misunderstanding arises from ignorance as to the meaning of sacrifices in the ancient world. …
J. H. Beibitz—Gloria Crucis
Between the Two Appearings
"My Little Children, These Things Write I unto You, that Ye Sin Not. And if any Man Sin, we have an Advocate with the Father,",
For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives.
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