The author of Hebrews, whoever he was, understood the Old Testament and its sacrificial system very well and the extent to which is was fulfilled by Jesus. From the beginning of the book up to and including Chapter 13, the last chapter, the writer has insisted on the superiority of Jesus over all the religious rituals and practices of old. He makes this point once again in Hebrews 13:10. He writes, “We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat.” He is referring to the sacrifices that the priests and Levites could not eat from. Brooks explains this well. He writes, “In order to grasp the argument here, it is necessary to scroll back to those Old Testament days for a moment. When sacrifices were offered upon the altars, there was a distinction God made between those where the priests were allowed to eat of the sacrificial offerings, and those where they were not. In particular, the latter was the case with the sin offering of Leviticus 4 and with the sacrifices of the annual Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16. Of these it was a case of ‘from which those who serve the tent [the Levitical priests] have no right to eat’. So what happened to these sacrifices, if they were not to be eaten?”[1]

Verse 11 answers Brook’s question. It says, “For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp.” Only their blood was taken into the Holy of Holies and sprinkled upon the mercy seat. This ritual was to picture the coming sacrifice that would be the ultimate sacrifice for all sin. The blood of bulls and goats served only to “cover” up sin until the ultimate deliverer would come. Once the blood was applied, the body was removed from the holy places and burned outside the camp. It gave the world a picture of sin’s remedy that would come ultimately in Jesus.

Verse 12 goes on the make this connection. It says, “So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.” Gromacki concludes, “Christ sanctified His people with His own blood (10:10). He positionally set them apart from the dominion of sin unto Himself. He ‘suffered without the gate’ in that He died on Golgotha, a hill outside the city walls of Jerusalem. The Jewish leaders and the Roman officials rejected Him; therefore, they took Him out of the city and crucified Him.”[2] Back in Genesis 22, Abraham took his only son Isaac up to the mountain to offer him as a sacrifice. But God intervened and provided the lamb caught in the thicket as the sacrifice. In that passage the place was named “God will provide” because Abraham concluded that God himself will provide the sacrifice. John the Baptist pointed out that provision when he said of Jesus, “behold, the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.” Jesus was taken up to the same mountain, outside the city walls, and offered as the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the world.

[1] Richard Brooks, The Name High over All: A Commentary on Hebrews, Welwyn Commentary Series (Welwyn Garden City, UK: EP, 2016), 439–440.

[2] Robert Gromacki, Stand Bold in Grace: An Exposition of Hebrews, The Gromacki Expository Series (The Woodlands, TX: Kress Christian Publications, 2002), 220.