Hebrews 9, is located in the midst of a discussion of the differences between the priesthood of Melchizedek and of Aaron. In this chapter, the author draws a theologically rich analogy between the sacrificial system of the Old Testament and the priestly sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In order to understand the point of the comparison, we must first understand both sides.
The first paragraph of Hebrews 9 briefly introduces the tabernacle, the central place of worship for Israel. Moses describes it in great detail in Exodus 25-40. In Exodus 25:8, God states the purpose, “Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.”
Curtains enclosed a courtyard around the tabernacle. Any Israelite could enter the courtyard. The objects for worship in the courtyard were the altar used for sacrifices and the bronze wash basin.
The tabernacle itself was located on the other side of the bronze wash basin, and only priests were allowed to enter it. The tabernacle was divided into two sections, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. The Holy Place contained the candlestick, a table of bread, and the altar of incense.
The Most Holy Place, where the ark of the covenant was kept, was separated from the Holy Place by a curtain. Only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place only on the Day of Atonement, and only after he made a sacrifice for himself, followed by a second sacrifice for the nation. Then he was required to bring the blood of the sacrifice with him as he entered the Most Holy Place.
The important questions worth noting about the tabernacle are: 1) who has access to which parts, and 2) how is each part separated from the others.