Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 11

Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans and HebrewsHaldane on Romans and Hebrews

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verse 1

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

The substance. It gives things hoped for and not seen a substance, or reality, in the mind. This can hardly be called a definition of faith, for it is a simple idea and can only be defined by synonymous terms. The word here rendered substance is repeatedly rendered confidence, 2 Corinthians 9:4; 2 Corinthians 11:17, Hebrews 3:14, and in the margin of this passage, and it would seem preferable to render it confidence; here faith is the confidence of things hoped for, the evidence, or rather conviction of things not seen, a more accurate description of faith cannot be given.

Verse 2

For by it the elders obtained a good report.

The elders, or ancients, obtained a good report; they are mentioned with approbation in the Scriptures, and their names handed down to us with honor.

Verse 3

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

It is by faith that we understand that the worlds were made by the word of God. The heathen philosophers did not deny that God was the Creator of the world, but they supposed that creation consisted in reducing the form and order the matter of which all things were made.

The idea of all being made out of nothing appears to have been an idea too vast for their comprehension. But by faith we understand that the things which are seen were not made of matter which had a previous existence. The formation of matter is described in the Scriptures, "In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth," and then we have the account of their being reduced to order. The work of creation is so vast, bearing the impress of its divine author, and is so different from the works of Prayer of Manasseh, that even the heathen are without excuse in not recognizing in it God"s eternal power and Godhead. " The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork;" although there is no voice proceeding from the sun and moon, yet their line is gone to all the earth, and their words to the end of the world, and were it not for the determined enmity of fallen man against God, and that a deceived heart has turned them aside, all who behold the glories of creation would be led by the contemplation of them to their great Original; but they feed on ashes; a deceived heart hath turned them aside, and prevents them from seeing that, in supposing the earth to have been eternal, or produced by chance, there is a lie in their right hand.

Verse 4

By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.

The next instance of faith adduced by the Apostle is that of Abel. By faith he offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain. We learn from the history of Cain and Abel, that in connexion with the promise that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent, bloody sacrifices were instituted; Abel offered the firstlings of his flock, Cain the fruit of the ground. The letter thereby acknowledged his dependence on God, the former acknowledged his guilt as a sinner and his hope of acceptance through the promised Savior, whose heel was to be bruised in bruising the head of the serpent.

The way of salvation was revealed after the fall; in the emblematical language the seed of the woman bruising the head of the serpent. This may be viewed as the first parable, and its interpretation is given Hebrews 2:14. The bruising of the heel of Christ describes his death, by which he destroyed the power of Satan. The sting of death is sin. It could not injure an innocent person, but Christ took part in flesh and blood with his people, and by His death removed the sting of death, transforming it into a state of transition from pain and hurt and suffering and vanity, to an exceeding, even an eternal weight of glory. Through death, Christ, the head of the family, entered into this glory, and it behoves all his people to follow his steps, to have fellowship with him, the glorious head, in the troubles and trials of life and at last to be conformed to his death, that they may have fellowship with him in the victory which they all share. In connexion with the obscure revelation of the plan of salvation, in the curse pronounced upon the serpent, bloody sacrifices were appointed, and thus, as in other ordinances, the truth of the great atonement was embodied. But Cain didn"t regarded the Divine appointment, confessing indeed his obligations to the Divine bounty but making no account of his sinfulness, and disregarding the intimation that without shedding of blood there was no remission and no satisfaction to justice. The history of Cain and Abel exactly corresponds with the parable of the Pharisee and Publican. The former was exemplary in many respects. He acknowledged his obligations to God, but forgot that he was a sinner and needed mercy. This occupied all the thoughts of the publican, and he looked for it through the propitiation. There is but one name given under heaven whereby a sinner can be saved, and previously to his appearing, sacrifices, which can never take away sin, were offered on God's altar. Abel's offering was by faith in the Savior, who was described as the seed of the woman, and his faith was manifested by offering the appointed sacrifices.

He thus obtained witness that he was righteous. —God is angry with the wicked every day; but he testified his acceptance of Abel's gifts. We are not told in what manner, not improbably by fire coming down and consuming his offering. Our Lord speaks of righteous Abel. He was, like all God's people, righteous by faith, and, although dead, he yet speaketh, teaching us that there is but one way in which sinful man can come to God, and that the blood of Jesus cleanseth from all sin all who believe in Him as their substitute who has satisfied Divine Justice,

Verse 5

By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him; for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

The Apostle's next example was Enoch. He was the seventh from Adam, and was translated without tasting death. This privilege he shared with Elijah; Enoch was translated before the law, Elijah under the law. This was not only a most honorable testimony to those distinguished servants of God, but an intimation that when Christ shall come to judgment, his people who are alive and remain shall not die but be changed and caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Hence the translation of Enoch and Elijah is termed a mystery, 1 Corinthians 15:51, of which what shall take place on the great day is the explanation, or hidden meaning.

Our translation says, Enoch walked with God. The Apostle, quoting from the Septuagint, has it, he pleased God; the expressions are nearly synonymous. "How can two walk together except they be agreed?" God, in his Word, bears this testimony to Enoch, that he pleased God, which implied his being reconciled to God by Jesus Christ; for, like all other men, he had been shapen in iniquity, and in sin did his mother conceive him, and while in the flesh he could not please God, he was washed and sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of God.

Verse 6

But without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he Isaiah, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

But without faith it is impossible to please God; for, in order to please God, we must believe that He Isaiah, and that He is the rewarder of those that diligently seek Him.

It is evident that in coming to God we must necessarily believe his existence, and without the conviction that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him we can have no motive to serve Him.

This illustrates both parts of the definition given. Hebrews 11:1. No man hath seen God at any time, but by faith we have a conviction of His existence. We believe that He Isaiah, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him, is the confidence of things hoped for. It satisfies us that we shall not seek His face in vain, that He will hear our prayers, and send us an answer in peace.

It is true that men are inexcusable in not perceiving the Creator's eternal power and Godhead by His works; but such is the utter blindness and depravity of fallen Prayer of Manasseh, that not only have they not discovered the true God by the works of creation, but when God had revealed himself in the seed of the woman, the incarnate Savior, they completely lost the knowledge of God, and changed the image of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible Prayer of Manasseh, and to birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things.

In the passage before us the Apostle not only speaks of our belief in a God, but in the living and true God, whom no man knows but as He is revealed in His Son Jesus Christ. Hence it follows that the character of the man who believes that God Isaiah, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him, must be confined to the believer in Christ who knows that God is a Spirit, and that they who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Verse 7

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

The next example given by the Apostle is that of Noah, who was warned of God of things not seen as yet. He was informed of the impending flood120 years before it took place; and, although there was as yet no appearance of the catastrophe, by that faith which is the conviction of things not seen, he was moved with fear, which led him willingly to embrace the way of escape made known to him. He prepared an ark for the preservation of his house. This could not be done in a corner, nor, we may be assured, was the object he had in view concealed. In the obedience yielded by Noah, and in the indifference of those who witnessed the preparation which he was making, we have an illustration of the opposite effects of faith and unbelief. Actuated by a spirit of obedience, Noah was busily employed in preparing the Ark; while, under the influence of indifference, the inhabitants of the world were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage.

Thus he condemned the world; such of them as were in his neighbourhood, or to whom the report extended, treated the notion of a flood with contempt. Such a thing had never before occurred.

It is even doubtful whether there was any rain previously to the flood. We read, , "For the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth ... but there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground." It is probable this continued till the flood, and here we find the explanation of Genesis 9:12-16, "And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: and I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth."

Had there been rain previously the rainbow would have appeared; but, as this was not the case, it seems most reasonable to suppose that the ground had been watered by the mist, and, consequently, that the rainbow was not seen till the rain began to descend. The windows of heaven had been opened and the earth deluged, which would naturally create apprehension when rain began to fall, but then the bow was to appear as a pledge that the earth should no more be overwhelmed.

Thus we see how Noah became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. Noah was a sinner, and therefore exposed to wrath as well as others. He did not escape by his innocence but by his faith. Our Lord frequently said, "Thy faith hath saved thee," and thus did Noah's faith save him; hence he is said to have become heir of the righteousness which is by faith. He is termed a preacher of righteousness, calling his fellow-men to repentance, warning them of what was about to take place which had been communicated to him. But they made light of it, and so perished in their unbelief. God's long-suffering waited an hundred and twenty years, during the whole, or a part, of which Noah was not only engaged in preaching, but in preparing the Ark; thus, at once, addressing by what they saw and heard, and thus are men addressed by the preaching of the Gospel and the appointed ordinances in which this doctrine is embodied.

The Apostle describes Baptism, which now saves believers, as the antitype of Noah's preservation in the Ark; not, indeed, the putting away of the filth of the flesh, which is all that water can do, but the answer of a good conscience toward God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Baptism is the profession of our faith that Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried and rose again according to the Scriptures, and in virtue of our unity with Christ our glorious head, His resurrection is our resurrection, and His justification is our justification. As Noah was preserved from the flood by faith, so are believers preserved from the wrath to come through faith in Him who bore their sins in his own body on the tree, thereby cancelling their guilt.

Verse 8

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

We have already observed that immediately after the fall God had revealed himself in Christ the seed of the woman; in other words, the Son of man. To Him, or to God, as revealed in Him, men were taught to look for victory over their adversary the devil; and those who ceased to view God as there revealed very soon lost the knowledge of God altogether, and bowed down to stocks and stones. Noah alone in that generation had retained the knowledge of God. Genesis 7:1. He viewed God not merely as a subject of contemplation, but as his God and Savior; and experienced, as all believers do, His power to save.

Before the days of Abraham, God, as we have seen, had revealed Himself in the seed of the woman. Cain, in consequence of the murder of his brother, had been driven out from the presence of the Lord, and another seed had been given to Eve, named Seth. Among his posterity the knowledge of the true God seems to have been maintained; and they appear to have lived in a state of separation from the posterity of Cain, who, it is probable, soon fell into idolatry. At length the separation was broken by the sons or worshippers of God contracting marriages with Cain"s posterity, called the daughters of men, which seems to have produced general ungodliness, and was the immediate cause of the Flood. The same controversy has been carried on in every age. God afterwards separated the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; but they learned the way of the heathen, and corrupted themselves. After the ascension of Christ, God said to His people, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing," &c.; but they disregarded the admonition, and mingled with the nations, satisfied with the name of Christians, while few possessed the spirit of Christ. Thus we see that in every age the great controversy between God and His people has been their proneness to mingle themselves with those who know not God.

Abraham is the father of believers, and his life is their pattern and example. Hence the Apostle dwells more upon his history than he had done upon the preceding examples which he had adduced.

He for a time served other gods. This does not imply that he was an idolater, bowing down to stocks and stones. When Jacob and Laban entered into a friendly league, Laban swore by the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father; and Jacob sware by the fear of his father Isaac. Both seem to have sworn by the living and true God; but Jacob sware by Him who had revealed Himself to his grandfather and his father as their God, and who had appeared to him at Bethel, and assured him of his protection, and into whose hands he had committed himself.

Abraham was called to go out into a place which he was afterwards to receive for an inheritance, and by faith he obeyed, although he knew not whither he went.

Verse 9

By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise.

By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, in which he had no inheritance, but dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise.

Verse 10

For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God

This was not grievous to him, for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Here we are taught that Abraham's faith looked beyond this earth. This is more expressly stated, ver16, where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are said to desire a better country, even an heavenly, of which they saw only a shadow in the land of promise. The same language is employed, chap, where we read of the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and Jerusalem that is above. Galatians 4:26.

Verse 11

Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.

Sarah is the next example of faith. She received strength to conceive seed when past age, and strength was communicated to her through faith.

The Lord had promised to Abraham that Sarah should have a Song of Solomon, and be a mother of nations, ; and the promise was fulfilled to her through faith. The Lord, with two attendant angels, appeared to Abraham as he sat in his tent. With the greatest hospitality he prepared food for them, and stood by them under the tree while they did eat. Genesis 18:18. On the Lord"s inquiring for Sarah his wife, Abraham replied she was in the tent. The Lord then assured him that she should have a son. Sarah, although unseen, heard the promise, and laughed within herself at the supposition of her being a mother at such advanced an age. The Lord inquired why Sarah had laughed, and asked if anything was too hard for the Lord. She denied having laughed, which was an equivocation; she had not laughed aloud, but she was conscious of having laughed, and the Lord's reproof removed her unbelief. She had heard the question, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" and that faith through which she received strength to conceive seed sprang up in her mind. The scene here described reminds us of Nathanael. When Jesus said, "Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee," conviction flashed into his mind, and he said, "Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel." Thus it seems to have been with Sarah. She was in the tent; no human eye was upon her; but her incredulous smile had not escaped the eye of Him who seeth in secret; and thus it appears that faith, by which she judged Him faithful who had promised, was produced in her mind.

Verse 12

—Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the shy in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable

And thus there sprang from an individual, and him as good as dead, being naturally incapable of procreating children, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand by the sea shore innumerable.

Verse 13

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

These all.—The Apostle does not here refer to Abel, Enoch, and Noah; for Enoch did not die; and, not being mindful of that country from which they came out, is not applicable to Abel and Noah, but to Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob, who all died in faith, holding fast the beginning of their confidence steadfast to the end. They died in faith, not having received the promises; but they saw them afar off, were fully persuaded that they should be accomplished, embraced them as their portion, the joy and rejoicing of their heart, and confessed themselves strangers and pilgrims on the earth. This illustrates what had been previously said, that Abraham looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God; and that they desire a better country, that Isaiah, an heavenly. Had a portion in this world been what they desired, the stronger the desire the more would their souls have cleaved to the dust; but they did not mind earthly things; they looked beyond this vain and perishing world to the better and heavenly country, the city of which they had become citizens by faith. Thus were their hearts purified by faith; they sought the things that were above; they felt that here they had no continuing city, that they were strangers and pilgrims on earth. Faith brought the glories of the better country to their view, and this dimmed the lustre of all earthly splendor, and worldly pursuits and enjoyments.

The promises include no only that of Christ, but of the land which He was to inhabit. But all that was earthly and temporal in the promises derived its value in their eyes from its connexion with the promise of Him who delivers His people from this present evil world.

Verse 14

V:14—For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.

For they that say such things, viz, that they are strangers and pilgrims on earth, declare plainly that they seek a country; they do not reckon themselves at home. Thus the Psalmist says, "I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were." Psalm 49:13

Verse 15

V:15—And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.

The patriarchs are here represented as having forgotten the country from whence they came out. Thus the Church, the Lamb's wife, is exhorted to forget her own people, and her father's house, Psalm 45:10; to set her affections on things above, not on things on the earth. Had the patriarchs been mindful of the country whence they came out, they might have had an opportunity of returning. We repeatedly read of famines in the land of Canaan in the days of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Sometimes they went down to Egypt on such occasions, but they never thought of returning to the land of Chaldea. When Abraham commanded his head servant to go to his kindred, and take a wife for his son Isaac, the servant inquired whether, in case the woman was not willing to leave her country, he should bring Isaac back to the land of his fathers. Abraham prohibited his doing Song of Solomon, at the same time expressing his confidence that God would incline the heart of the woman to accompany him; but, having no particular promise on this subject, he made the servant swear that he would not on any account carry Isaac back. The promise of Abraham being the father of Christ was connected with the patriarch's dwelling in the land of Canaan, which was a pledge of the fulfilment of the promise, and was called Immanuel"s Land. But, while they lived in the land, they were not to mix with the inhabitants.

Verse 16

But now they desire a better country, that Isaiah, an heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city.

It is apparent from their history that they desired a better country, even an heavenly, and God had prepared for them a city. Here we are expressly taught that the attention of the patriarchs was directed to a better, even a heavenly country, and that God had provided for them a city, which is elsewhere described as having foundations, whose builder and maker is God. This is illustrated by our Lord putting to silence the Sadducees, who denied that there was a resurrection, by quoting God"s declaration to Moses, in which He describes Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He would have been ashamed of describing Himself as standing to them in this relation had He bestowed on them nothing better than this world can afford. An earthly king would be ashamed of any of his near relations being placed in a low or subordinate situation. And the King of kings would have been ashamed of permitting him whom he acknowledges as His friend, and whom He had promised to bless, to be put off with the perishing enjoyments of this present life. God is unchangeable, the same yesterday, today, and for ever; and the relation between Him and those to whom He described Himself as standing in the relation of a God must be eternal, not confined to the brief period of our present life.

Verse 17

By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only-begotten Song of Solomon,

Abraham was not permitted to accomplish his intention to offer up his son Isaac; but the trial was the same. Never was any one subjected to so great a trial, Isaac was his beloved Song of Solomon, the only child of Sarah his wife, who, after being long barren, was made a joyful mother. For Ishmael had been sent away from his father's house, and Isaac remained the hope of his aged father. The promises, for the sake of which Abraham had passed his life in a foreign land, were expressly limited to Isaac, and therefore his death appeared to nullify them all; so that paternal affection, and the hope of being the father of the Savior of the world, concurred in leading Abraham to shrink from obedience to so revolting a commandment.

Verse 18

Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called.

Of whom it was said, In Isaac shall thy seed he called.—God had promised that in Abraham"s seed all the families of the earth should be blessed, and He had said as expressly that this should be fulfilled in the line of Isaac. Must not, then, the death of Isaac preclude the fulfilment of the promises? No; Abraham was persuaded that the promises should all be fulfilled. He knew that He was faithful who had promised, and therefore on this subject there could not be any doubt.

Verse 19

Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

We have seen that the commandment to offer Isaac was express; he was not only to be slain, but reduced to ashes; and there was but one way in which the express commandment and the positive promise could be reconciled, viz, by God raising him from the dead; but, considering his almighty power, what was incredible in this? Acts 26:8. Here we see Abraham's faith. He had never seen a person raised from the dead; he had never seen the ashes of a body, which had been consumed and dissipated in smoke, reorganized and reanimated; but, when he reflected on the power of the Creator, who spoke, and it was done; who commanded, and all things stood fast; who called into existence and harmony all the various parts of this fair creation; all difficulty was at an end. He knew not how Isaac's bones had grown in the womb of Sarah. Ecclesiastes 11:5. Yet so it had been, and he was convinced that with God nothing was impossible; and he was no less fully convinced of the Divine faithfulness. He knew that it was impossible for God to lie, that He was faithful. We may make promises, and something may occur which may prevent our fulfilling them. We may, although our inclination be the same, have lost the power of doing what we intended and said; but with God there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. He sees the end from the beginning. All is under His absolute control; and, in the faith of this, Abraham hesitated not to make the required sacrifice.

The commandment to offer Isaac is called a temptation or a trial. James 1:13. His faith was triumphant; and he experienced that, in keeping God's commandment, there was an exceeding great reward. This was the greatest trial of the patriarch"s faith, and he did not lose his reward. It had been promised that all the families of the earth should be blessed in his seed; and his obedience to the commandment to offer his Song of Solomon, in whom his seed was to be called, was the means of making known to him how the promise was to be fulfilled, namely, by the death and resurrection of Christ. There is a remarkable correspondence in the circumstances of Abraham's offering up Isaac, and the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Abraham was required to offer up his son. He obeyed, and proceeded to the land of Moriah. Moriah was the name of the mountain on which the temple was built. It was adjacent to Calvary, and it may be that Calvary was the scene of this transaction. On the third day Abraham saw the place afar off, so that during three days Isaac was under sentence of death, the exact period of our Lord's being free among the dead. Again, Abraham leaving his servants, laid the wood for the burnt-offering upon Isaac, as the cross was laid upon Jesus. Again, Isaac must have submitted without resistance. We know not his age; but Abraham was far advanced, and probably incapable of struggling with a youth who had been able to walk so far, and afterwards to carry the wood for the burnt- offering. These circumstances coincide with what took place at the death of Jesus; and the Apostle appears to put it beyond a doubt that the whole of the transaction was figurative, from our being taught that Abraham received his son from the dead in a parable. Hence it appears that, in Abraham giving up his Song of Solomon, and voluntarily offering him up as a burnt sacrifice, is represented the love of God in not sparing His Song of Solomon, but giving Him up for all His redeemed. The narrative is indeed, as the Apostle had previously said of the law, not an image, but a shadow of the death of Jesus; but there seems no doubt that, in this parable, Abraham obtained a more distinct view of the manner in which all the families of the earth were to be blessed in his seed; and it has been supposed with great probability that the Lord especially refers to this transaction when He says, "Abraham saw my day afar off, and was glad;" and probably this transaction was the means not only of comforting and instructing Abraham, but also many of his children in their generations.

Verse 20

By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come,

Isaac blessed Jacob concerning things to come. —The Apostle does not speak of the deceit which Jacob practiced in order to obtain the blessing. He simply refers to the blessing which each of them received. The blessing of Abraham, viz, of being the father of Christ, was given to Jacob contrary to Isaac's intention; but it was given him according to the Divine purpose, of which Isaac was afterwards fully aware, and said, "I have blessed him, and he shall be blessed." Nothing is said of the impropriety of Jacob's conduct in deceiving his father. He acted under the direction of his mother, to whom it had been revealed before the birth of the children that the elder should serve the younger, Genesis 25:23, by which the Apostle illustrates the doctrine of election, Romans 9:11-12. At the same time, Jacob seems to have suffered much during his lifetime. He says to Pharaoh, "The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage," Genesis 47:9; and he thus describes the twenty years he served Laban, "This twenty years have I been with thee; thy ewes and thy she goats have not cast their young, and the rams of thy flock have I not eaten. That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of it; of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night. Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes. Thus have I been twenty years in thy house; I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle; and thou hast changed my wages ten times," Genesis 31:38-41. ( Psalm 99:8.) Into these things, however, the Apostle does not enter; he simply states that Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come, and that he did so by faith, and he did so according to the description given of faith, chap11:21.

Verse 21

By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.

By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph, appointing them to be heads of tribes, thus giving the birthright to Joseph, 1 Chronicles 5:1, and proving his faith in the promises of God—staff, Genesis 47:31; this was connected with the oath he required of Joseph that he should be buried in the land of Canaan, which proved his faith in the promises made to his fathers.

Verse 22

By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel: and gave commandment concerning his bones.

Joseph, the next example, when dying, expressed his confidence in the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt that they might obtain the inheritance which God had promised them, and gave commandment concerning his bones, , Exodus 13:19. Joseph's conduct, in regard to his bones, was not only a proof of his own faith, but was calculated to confirm the faith of his brethren that God would deliver them. This might be disregarded in prosperity, but remembered when oppressed.

Verse 23

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child: and they were not afraid of the king"s commandment.

The next example is the faith of the parents of Moses. The king had commanded all the male children of the Israelites to be cast into the river. At this period Moses was born, and, being very remarkable for his beauty, his parents, undismayed by the king"s commandment, concealed him three months. Their doing so is ascribed by the Apostle to faith. Whether this faith rested on a Divine communication by a dream to his father, as the Jewish historian, Josephus, relates, or on their confidence in the power of the God of Israel, we are not informed. It is not improbable that the latter was the case; the child was so very remarkable for beauty that his parents concluded that God would preserve him, and they therefore braved Pharaoh's tyrannical edict. Indeed, the Apostle appears to intimate that such was the case, when he says he was hid three months, because they saw he was a proper child.

Verse 24

By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh"s daughter.

The next example of faith is Moses, himself one of the most remarkable personages of whom we read in Scripture. He is placed by our Lord at the head of the prophets, when He speaks of Moses and the prophets, Luke 16:29. Moses was the lawgiver of Israel, and a remarkable type of Christ, uniting in his own person the offices of prophet, priest, and king. When Aaron and Miriam alleged that they were prophets as well as Moses, they were sharply rebuked, and reminded of his superiority, Numbers 12:6-8. What the Apostle relates respecting him demonstrates his faith. He had been wonderfully preserved and adopted as her son by Pharaoh"s daughter. He was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds; but when he was grown up, he renounced all the advantages which he possessed.

Verse 25

Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.

And chose rather to share the afflictions of God's chosen people than to enjoy for a season the pleasures of sin.

Verse 26

V:26—Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.

God had promised that Abraham should be the progenitor of the Savior of the world, and had given him the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness of the faith which Abraham had exercised in the promise, and it was also the token of the covenant. We do not read of Moses having been circumcised, but there can be no doubt that, in obedience to the commandment, he had been circumcised on the eighth day. Hence he bore in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus, the token of the covenant with Abraham. No doubt this was a reproach in the opinion of the Egyptians. In the state in which Israel then was it was a mark of degradation and slavery; but Moses preferred the reproach of Christ to all the treasures of Egypt, which were at his command, but which he was aware must be forfeited by his casting in his lot with Israel But he had respect to the recompense of the reward of enjoying the blessing of Abraham and sharing with him in the glories of the resurrection, which were included in the promise of being his God. Matthew 22:32. Whether Moses had received an intimation that God by his means would deliver Israel, we are not informed. But, either he had received such an intimation, or had formed the design of attempting it, and had confidence in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that he would prove successful. Stephen tells us that he supposed his brethren would have understood that God by his hand would deliver them. Acts 7:25. Had the Lord accomplished his desire, had he with all the advantage of his station succeeded in delivering Israel, his success might have been ascribed to his personal rank and influence; but he was stripped of all his glory, reduced to the situation of a shepherd; and when he received his commission, pleaded his unfitness to engage in the service, and only undertook it by the express commandment of God. We see the same thing in Gideon's victory over the Midianites. He had collected a numerous army, though far inferior to the enemy; but it was diminished to a third of its number by a proclamation, that as many as chose might withdraw. Still it was too numerous. It was further reduced to300 men, and then obtained a decisive victory over the enemy, when their own strength was gone, Deuteronomy 32:36; and they were strong only in the Lord and in the power of his might.

Verse 27

By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.

By faith he forsook Egypt...—This refers to the first deliverance of Israel. Moses, after slaying the Egyptian, feared the wrath of the king, and fled out of Egypt; but after he had, by the direction of God, wrought all the miracles, he had no apprehension. The king commanded him to see has face no more. "And Moses said, Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more," Exodus 10:29; previously informing him that "All these thy servants shall come down unto me, and bow down themselves unto me, saying, Get thee out, and all the people that follow thee: and after that I will go out. And he went out from Pharaoh in a great anger." This was the effect of faith,—he disregarded the displeasure of Pharaoh, having his eyes directed to the invisible God.

Verse 28

Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.

The Lord had intimated his intention to slay the firstborn of Egypt, and commanded that the blood of the paschal lamb should be sprinkled on the doorposts, and that He would pass over and not inflict the plague on those whose houses were thus distinguished, and through faith in the Divine intimation Moses kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood; at once giving credit to the judgment to be inflicted on the Egyptians, and to the prescribed means of preservation of the Israelites.

Verse 29

By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land; which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.

When Israel came to the Red Sea Moses was commanded to stretch out his rod over the sea, which was divided, so that the Israelites passed over as on dry land, which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned. Here the whole of Israel are represented as believing. They followed their leader. The miracles wrought on the Egyptians must have given them confidence in God and in Moses, and under the influence of this confidence they entered the sea, which was indeed the only way in which they could escape the pursuit of the Egyptians. The Apostle tells us they were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 1 Corinthians 10:2. By following him while the waters stood on their right hand and their left, the cloud having removed and gone behind them, they proved their confidence in him, and consequently in God, under whose guidance and direction they had come out of Egypt, just as it is said of believers, that by Him (Christ) they believe in God. 1 Peter 1:21

Verse 30

By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.

Israel received a lesson in Jericho how Canaan was to be conquered, not by their own sword, but by the power of God. But their faith was not abiding. When they had passed safely over then believed they God"s words, but soon forgot His works. Psalm 106:13. Thus, also, our Lord speaks of some who for a while believe, Luke 8"13; and the Apostle teaches us that we are partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, Hebrews 3:14; and our Lord tells us, He that endureth to the end shall be saved, Matthew 24:13; by which we learn that temporary impressions may be made upon the mind, producing appearances which it may be impossible to distinguish from saving faith, except by their continuance or non-continuance.

Verse 31

By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.

The next example is that of Rahab. She told the spies that she knew that the Lord had given them the land; she had heard of His drying up the sea, and declared her faith in the God of Israel as God in heaven above and in the earth beneath; and, under this conviction, she received the spies and concealed them, and did not perish with the unbelieving Canaanites; who, although so greatly alarmed by all they had heard of the Israelites, that they fainted because of them, Joshua 2:24, still madly persisted in resisting them, and brought on themselves swift destruction.

Verse 32

And what shall I more say, for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthah; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets.

Although the Apostle had adduced a sufficient number of examples, he had not exhausted the subject, but here names several others whose faith was conspicuous: Gideon, who by faith triumphed over the Midianites, Judges 7 :; Barak, who overcame the army of Jabin, Judges 4:6. Samson, whose faith appears not only from his mighty actions, but from acknowledging the Lord as the author of his success, and calling upon him when ready to perish with thirst, Judges 15:18; Jephthah, whose faith was manifest by his message to the King of the Ammonites, stating that God had given to Israel all the lands to which the Ammonites laid claim, and at the same time appealing to God for the justice of his claim. Judges 11:12-27. It is unnecessary to particularize instances of the faith of David, of Samuel, and of the prophets.

Verse 33

Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.

David through faith subdued all the neighboring kingdoms. Samuel was a most righteous judge. The prophets enforced men's obligations to act justly; obtained promises, as Phinehas obtained the promise of an everlasting priesthood; whilst Daniel stopped the mouths of lions.

Verse 34

Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.

Quenched the violence of fire, like the three who were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace; escaped the edge of the sword; out of weakness were made strong; waxed valiant in fight; turned to flight the armies of the aliens.

Verse 35

Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection.

Women received;—as the woman of Zarephath, 1 Kings 17:21; and the Shunammite, 2 Kings 4:34; others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection—a resurrection to a better and more glorious life.

Verse 36

And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment

Others had trial of cruel mockings, as, Jeremiah 20:7, bonds and imprisonments.

Verse 37

They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented.

Stoned, as Zechariah, ; Matthew 23:37; were sawn asunder (such, it is said, was the fate of Isaiah by Manasseh); tempted; tried in various ways, especially by sufferings; were slain with the sword; they wandered, as Elijah, destitute, &c.

Verse 38

(Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and in caves of the earth.

Thus did David, and Elijah, and others, of whom the world was not worthy.

Verse 39

And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise.

Those whom the Apostle had mentioned, and many others, having received a good report through faith, received not the promise. The promise here is the promise of the resurrection and the enjoyment of the better country, . The hope of the resurrection was general in Israel, and the Sadducees were remarkable for denying it. The Apostle describes himself as having hope,—"And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust," Acts 24:15; and again,—"And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto oar fathers: unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?" 26:6-8. This is the promise which supported the minds of all in Israel who truly possessed the fear of God, and the worthies mentioned by the Apostle had not received. The Apostle says,—"These all died in faith." This is not to be understood of all who had been mentioned; for instance, all Israel who came out of Egypt, of whom it is said,—"They are a very froward generation, children in whom there is no faith." Deuteronomy 32:20. The fall in the wilderness of the generation which came out of Egypt is held out as a warning, 1 Corinthians 10:11-12. But many to whom the Apostle referred were partakers of precious faith, and looked for eternal life beyond the grave.

Verse 40

God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

God having provided some better thing for us...—With the exception of Enoch and Elijah, all the family of Adam have returned to the dust. One generation has passed away, and another come to occupy the earth. The people of God have entered into rest, although their bodies have mouldered in the dust. But, while the soul remains in a state of separation from the body, they are not made perfect, they are in a state of transition, they are present with the Lord; but their body, so fearfully and wonderfully made, is reduced to its first elements, and appears to be turned to destruction. Christ is the first-born from the dead; the Holy One of God saw no corruption. He did, indeed, taste of death, and has become the first-fruits of them that sleep. They came into the world in successive generations, but they shall all be made perfect in one. John 17:23. When the Lord shall descend with a shout, with the voice of an archangel and the trump of God, the dead in Christ shall arise. There will be no priority of those who lived in the early ages of the world. They are all members of Christ, of His flesh and of His bones, and His body cannot be mutilated. Believers are members of Christ's body, of His flesh and of His bones. Each individual believer, therefore, is necessary to the perfection of the whole; so that, while some remain in the grave the body of Christ is incomplete. This passage seems to be a conclusive argument against the notion of first and second resurrection. The first resurrection is figurative, as John the Baptist was figuratively Elijah. The body of Christ is compared to the human body. Every member, the smallest and, apparently, the most insignificant, is essential to the perfection of the natural body, and not less to the mystical body of Christ; which, like the other, is one body composed of many members. 1 Corinthians 12:10.

Bibliographical Information
Haldane, Robert. "Commentary on Hebrews 11". "Haldane's Exposition on the Epistle to the Romans and Hebrews". 1835.