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Hebrews 8:4-5 ESV

4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. 5 They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, 'See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.' [My emphasis]

Gifts are mentioned with sacrifices in Hebrews e.g.

  • 5:1 "gifts and sacrifices for sins".
  • 8:3 "gifts and sacrifices".
  • 9:9 "gifts and sacrifices".

But in Hebrews 8:4 "gifts" are mentioned by themselves i.e. not with "sacrifices". Why might that change take place?

If "gifts" are a part of "a copy and shadow of the heavenly things", what are the heavenly things that they represent here on earth?

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The operative word in Heb 8:4 is δῶρον (= "gift" or, "offering") which occurs just 19 times in the NT. It is used in two distinct senses:

  1. voluntary gifts generally, eg, Matt 2:11, Eph 2:8, Rev 11:10 (ie, only three times)
  2. Sacrificial gift or offering in a religious sense (16 times) which occur in two ways:
  • "gifts/offerings" alone, as per Matt 5:23, 24, 8:4, 15:5, 23:19, Mark 7:11, Luke 21:14, Heb 8:4, 11:4
  • "gifts and sacrifices", as per Heb 5:1, 8:3, 9:9.

Thus, in Hebrews, the author uses δῶρον five times: twice alone and thrice with "sacrifices". Further, the instance in Heb 8:4 immediately follows that in the previous verse, implying that "gifts" is shorthand for "gifts and sacrifices".

Lastly, Heb 11:4 refers to Abel's "gift" by which is obviously meant his "sacrifice" of the lamb from the flock (see Gen 4). Thus, "gift" in the ritualistic and cultic sense appears to be used as a close synonym for "sacrifice".

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