The writer of Hebrews presents the truth of the superiority of Jesus’ ministry to that of the ministry of the Levitical priests. His ministry is far superior because the covenant that establishes it is far superior to that of the Mosaic covenant.  The Mosaic covenant was based on the successful fulfilling of the requirements. The New Covenant is based upon the unconditional promises of God.  The conditional Mosaic Covenant failed because the people failed to hold up their end of the contract. It’s interesting that this was foretold in the Law as well as the prophets. Jeremiah was the one who explained the failure as the nation was taken away as slaves to Babylon. He prophesied concerning a New Covenant that was to come and the author of Hebrews quotes from Jeremiah chapter 31. Hebrews 8:8-9 says, “For he finds fault with them when he says: ‘Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.’”

In the Greek of the Septuagint from which the author of Hebrews draws his quote, Jeremiah makes one thing perfectly clear: it will be a new covenant of a “different” kind. It won’t be like the old one. That difference is in the fact of its unconditional nature. Guzik explains this well. He writes, “There are two ancient Greek words that describe the concept of ‘new.’ Neos described newness in regard to time. Something may be a copy of something old; but if it is recently made, it can be called neos. The ancient Greek word kainos (the word used here) described something that is not only new in reference to time, but is truly new in its quality. It isn’t simply a new reproduction of something old.”[1] The Old Covenant exhortation was an external law of do’s and don’ts, none of which sinful man could keep. The “you will not lie” and the “you will not steal” and all the other commands are “you will or you will not!” In the New Covenant God says, “I will…”

Raymond Brown says God’s promises of the New Covenant are the basis of our eternal security because they are founded on God’s “I wills” not on ours. He writes, “The ‘I wills’ of God rob uncertain, doubting man of his timidity, reticence and fear. God says, ‘I will make this covenant’, ‘I will engrave my laws in their hearts’, ‘I will be their God’, ‘I will manifest myself to them all’, ‘I will make myself known to the least as well as the greatest’, ‘I will be merciful’, ‘I will forget their sins.’ All the tentativeness and hesitancy of the earlier days have gone. Man can now be sure…”[2]

[1] David Guzik, Hebrews, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible (Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik, 2013), Heb 8:8–12.

[2] Raymond Brown, The Message of Hebrews: Christ above All, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 151.