What does Hebrews 9:18 mean?
ESV: Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood.
NIV: This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood.
NASB: Therefore even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood.
CSB: That is why even the first covenant was inaugurated with blood.
NLT: That is why even the first covenant was put into effect with the blood of an animal.
KJV: Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood.
Verse Commentary:
This passage of Scripture explains how the physical aspects of the old covenant were meant as symbols of the new covenant. The limitations of the temple, priests, and sacrifices were all intended to point towards God's ultimate, final plan. As told by God in His Word, this new covenant would be eternal and perfect, rather than temporary and limited. Leading up to this verse, the writer of Hebrews pointed out that the blood of animals could only accomplish limited atonement for sin. That did not make animal sacrifices worthless, but it did mean that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who was fully human, can achieve what prior shedding of blood could not.

Verses 18 through 20 remind the readers of how the very beginning of the old covenant involved bloodshed. These verses refer to incidents described in Exodus chapter 24, where Moses sprinkles sacrificial blood in order to "inaugurate" the covenant between God and Israel (Exodus 24:6–8).
Verse Context:
Hebrews 9:11–28 continues to explain how the new covenant in Jesus Christ is superior to the old covenant. This passage focuses on two main advantages of this arrangement: that Christ serves in a better temple, and that Christ offers a superior sacrifice. The physical temple, and its implements, were meant to be symbols of Christ's ''true'' place of service in heaven. Unlike limited sacrifices of animals, Jesus' single death was able to completely save us from sin.
Chapter Summary:
Hebrews chapter 9 explains how the old covenant included various physical locations and physical rituals. These, according to the writer of Hebrews, were always intended as symbols. Their details, and the drawbacks which they suffered from, were meant to point towards the ''true'' means of our redemption, which is Christ. Unlike animal sacrifices, which must be repeated, and which cannot change man on the inside, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is a once for all, permanent, and completely effective solution to sin. The fact that Christ died for sin only once also means that His next arrival, in the future, will not be as a sacrifice, but as the final fulfillment of God's plan.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 9 continues the writer's explanation of the superiority of Christ. In chapter 8, this focused on the idea that God had promised a new covenant, even as the old covenant was still in effect. This not only means that the new covenant must be different, but that the old covenant must be flawed. Here in chapter 9, the writer focuses on the fact that the old covenant featured aspects which were meant only as symbols of the ''true'' high priesthood of Christ. Since Christ's sacrifice is more powerful, and performed in a better place, it is more effective in securing our salvation than the sacrifices of animals. Chapter 10 will continue this discussion by wrapping up these various ideas about the superiority of the new covenant.
Book Summary:
The book of Hebrews is meant to challenge, encourage, and empower Christian believers. According to this letter, Jesus Christ is superior to all other prophets and all other claims to truth. Since God has given us Christ, we ought to listen to what He says and not move backwards. The consequences of ignoring God are dire. Hebrews is important for drawing on many portions of the Old Testament in making a case that Christ is the ultimate and perfect expression of God's plan for mankind. This book presents some tough ideas about the Christian faith, a fact the author makes specific note of.
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