1 Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary. 2 For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; 3 and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All,
Chapter 8 shows the discontinuity between the Old and New Covenants. Chapter 9 reveals that there is some continuity between the two, represented in the types of the tabernacle. However, there is clear superiority in that which Christ ministers. The main argument of Hebrews 9 is to show the superiority of the sacrifice of Christ for our sins.
Having presented Christ as our High Priest who ministers in the new tabernacle, which is heaven itself (He 8:1–5), Hebrews now shows the work of the Aaronic priest in the ancient tabernacle (He 9:1–5). In that tabernacle the veil shut people out. There is a contrast in this chapter between materiality of the old tabernacle and the reality of our heavenly tabernacle. The New Covenant has superior features to the old economy.
The first five verses show the objects in the tabernacle, whereas verses 6–10 describe regulations of religious life.
These words resume Hebrews 8:5. The “then” refers to the time when the Old Covenant was in force.
even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly [mundane] sanctuary [entire tabernacle].
All rituals and objects of the earthly sanctuary had typological value under the Mosaic Covenant. The Old Testament uses 50 chapters to describe this typological picture of Christ.
For a tabernacle was prepared:
The reference here is to the construction of the original tent-like structure called the tabernacle.
the first part,
This is the outer court of the tabernacle or the Holy Place.
in which was the lampstand,
The “lampstand,” which was crafted of gold, had three branches on each side and one in the middle (Ex 25:31, 33). The priests were to burn oil in this lamp perpetually (Lev 24:2–3). Christ is the light of the world.
the table, and the showbread [rows of loaves of bread on the table],
“Showbread” refers to loaves arranged in two rows on a table on each Sabbath (Le 24:6, 29). The “table” and “showbread” form a hendiadys indicating that both should be viewed together.
which is called the sanctuary;
The reference is to the entire earthly tabernacle symbolism.
and behind the second veil,
The tabernacle complex had three curtains. The “second veil” separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. The high priest was allowed beyond the “second veil” into the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:2).
the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All,
The Holy of Holies was the place of God’s presence.
All believers have free access to God’s presence because of our High Priest in heaven.
Old Testament worship excluded all from the immediate presence of God save the high priest once a year. Christians have direct access to God because we have forever been declared righteous before God in Christ (Ro 5:2).