The place outside the gate was the most impure of the whole camp. The carcasses of the sacrificial animals were burned there (Lev. 4:12). Lepers were also excluded from the camp (Lev. 13:46), and blasphemers and other criminals were executed there (Lev. 24:10–16, 23; 1 Kings 21:13; Acts 7:58). These regulations presupposed that the presence of God was within the camp. Anything that was impure was cast outside, because God was unwilling to see any “unclean” or “indecent” thing in it (Num. 5:3; Deut. 23:14).

Jesus suffered on the cross outside Jerusalem (John 19:17–20). This emphasizes the shame that was cast upon Him (Heb. 12:2). He was officially condemned as one who had “blasphemed the Name” and therefore was repudiated by Israel and executed outside the wall (Mark 14:63, 64; see Lev. 24:11, 16). Jesus was cast outside the camp as a “shameful,” “unclean,” or “indecent” thing (Heb. 12:2). Paul, however, exhorts believers to follow Jesus outside the gate, enduring the shame that He endured (Heb. 12:2; 13:13). This was also the path Moses followed, who chose to bear “the reproach of Christ” instead of the treasures of Egypt (Heb. 11:26).

Paradoxically, Hebrews suggests that God’s presence is now outside the camp. The action of following Jesus outside the camp means not only “bearing His reproach,” or shame, but also going “forth to Him” (Heb. 13:13), just as those Israelites who “sought the Lord” went “outside the camp” in the desert when Moses removed God’s tent from the camp after the golden calf controversy (Exod. 33:7). This account suggests that the rejection of Jesus by unbelievers also implies the rejection of God, as Israel did in the golden calf apostasy (Exodus 32, 33). Thus, the path of suffering and shame is also the path to God and true worship.

Paul invites readers to follow Jesus as “the author and finisher” of their faith (Heb. 12:2), implicitly inviting them also to consider their present sufferings as a momentary discipline that will yield “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:11). They are leaving behind a rebellious city or camp in search of “the city that is to come,” whose architect is God (Heb. 13:14, ESV; 11:10, 16).