7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.
The author’s intent in quoting Jeremiah 31:31–34 was to show that even during the period in which the Mosaic law operated, it was not a permanent arrangement. God served notice that the Mosaic Covenant was temporary and would be replaced by a new covenant (He 8:13).
The New Covenant was not new to the readers of Hebrews but to Jeremiah’s generation hundreds of years before the writing of the New Testament (6th century BC). Even the Old Testament predicted a change in the Mosaic law while the law was still in existence (He 7:12).
7 For if that first covenant had been faultless [without defect],
The “if” in the Greek is contrary to the fact (second class condition). This means that the argument here is not true. The Mosaic law was not without defect.
The “first covenant” is the Mosaic Covenant. Some Jewish readers of Hebrews thought that the first covenant was still valid and a permanent covenant. They deemed that they were still under its provisions.
then no place would have been sought for a second.
Some covenants were unilateral on God’s part; the onus to fulfill them was on Him. Other covenants such the Mosaic was conditional, making that covenant dependent upon obedience. The Old was inadequate to do its job. The New Covenant (the second covenant) was new only in relation to the Old Covenant at Sinai (Mosaic Covenant).
Christ fulfilled the salvation-from-sin aspect of the New Covenant.
The background for the quotation from Jeremiah in the following verses was to show the superiority of Christ’s priesthood. In the old economy, the high point of the Jewish high priest was to sacrifice on the Day of Atonement. This action was prescribed by the Mosaic law (Lev 16). This is the context against which Hebrews 8 and 9 stand. Jesus offered a better covenant founded on better promises and mediated by a better sacrifice.
Our Lord operated not in an earthly tabernacle but in another place and under a new covenant (He 8:1-5). He ministers in a new tabernacle in Heaven.
The basis for Jesus’ high priestly work rests on His death. The character of His death was once-for-all (He 7:27; 9:12, 25-26; 10:12) and is the basis for His present ministry (He 8:3-5). His priestly offering was made once at Calvary. It is also the basis for His present ministry in Heaven. He offers no sacrifice there because He did it once on earth.