Bible Commentaries
Hebrews 11

The Bible Study New TestamentBible Study NT

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verse 1


To have faith. See note on James 2:19 about the nature of faith. To be sure. Faith is the foundation on which all our hopes for the future are built. To be certain. Faith makes us able to treat as real those things we cannot see and touch. Hatch says: “So trust in God furnishes to the mind which has it a clear proof that the things to which God has testified exist, though they are not visible to the senses.” [We listen to the news every day, and accept by faith the things that are said, even though we could not verify them by personal experience.]

Verse 2


It was by their faith. “We Christians ought to learn from the past! Look how these men of old won God’s approval! As James said: ‘His faith and his actions worked together; his faith was made perfect through his actions’ (James 2:22).

Verse 3


That the universe was created by God’s word. The only knowledge we can have of this event which was not witnessed by human eyes, is through faith! In fact, even our knowledge of human history is only through faith in the testimony of others. So that. Our visible universe is the effect of the invisible God.

Verse 4


That made Abel. Since he did it by faith, it must have been in response to God’s command. MacKnight says: “By faith, by rightly understanding and believing what was said concerning the seed of the woman’s bruising the head of the serpent.” Note that Abel offered a sin offering, while Cain offered a fellowship offering. Abel still speaks. By his example of faith. [Some connect this with Hebrews 12:24.]

Verse 5


That kept Enoch from dying. Genesis 5:24 Septuagint. Though living in a world of sinners, Enoch pleased God! Enoch’s faith and example verifies the things said in Hebrews 11:1.

Verse 6


No man. “Enoch’s faith brought him to God. But unbelief will drive a man away from God. Unbelief calls God a liar!” For whoever comes. No one can come to God unless he believes: (1) that God exists; (2) that God rewards those who seek him. This also verifies Hebrews 11:1.

Verse 7


That made Noah hear. The Flood was something as yet unknown in all of human history. Some think Genesis 2:5-6 implies that it had never rained, when God warned Noah. He obeyed God. Noah acted on the basis of his faith! He condemned the world. His faith condemned those who would not believe. Compare Matthew 12:41 and note. And received from God. See 1 Peter 3:20-21.

Verse 8


That made Abraham obey. He abandoned his native country and went into an unknown area, when God told him to do this. Without knowing where he was going. This is important, because it was not a glowing description of Canaan which sent him there, but the fact that he believed what God said.

Verse 9


As though he were a foreigner. He lived in tents, rather than building a city. This fact, along with Isaac and Jacob, is cited as proof that he understood God’s promise to involve more than just an earthly promised-land!

Verse 10


Was waiting for the city. Abraham and the Patriarchs understood that their real blessing was their relationship with God, and that their earthly wealth was not very important (although it did come from God). We do not know how much Abraham knew of God’s plans, but the point is: He believed God!!! [Compare 1 Corinthians 2:6-10; Hebrews 11:39-40.]

Verse 11


Able to become a father. Abraham was one hundred years old, and Sarah was ninety. Sarah laughed when she heard the promise [Isaac means laughter]. But both Abraham and Sarah believed God could do what he promised! [Both the TEV and NIV follow the oldest and best Greek text in this verse.]

Verse 12


Though he was practically dead. A man who had reached his age without a son, could not reasonably expect to have one! The birth of Isaac was a supernormal event! From this one man. God kept his promise to Abraham! Compare Genesis 15:5; Genesis 22:17. [Abraham had other children before this, by slave women who were auxiliary wives. But only Isaac was the son of promise.]

Verse 13


It was in faith. The Patriarchs all died as foreigners in Canaan, without seeing their descendants become as many as the stars in the sky. But they died still believing that God would do what he promised to do!!!

Verse 14


Those who say such things. They said they were foreigners and refugees. This proves they did not think Canaan was the complete fulfillment of God’s promise, and that they were still looking for something else.

Verse 15


They did not think back. The fact that they did not return to their country of origin (Chaldea) showed that they had renounced all to follow God! Compare Genesis 24:5-8; Acts 7:5.

Verse 16


The heavenly country. Their faith pointed them to this heavenly country! See Philippians 3:20. And so God is not ashamed. He might have been ashamed, if he failed to fulfill the promise. This proves the earthly Canaan was not the true land of promise! [This is also an example of what Christ said to the Sadducees (Matthew 22:31).]

Verse 17


That made Abraham offer his son. Note: (1) Isaac was the only child of his marriage to Sarah; (2) God’s promise was to come through Isaac; (3) yet Got made him sacrifice Isaac, to test him! [A last-minute substitute was provided by God (Genesis 22:10-14).] His only son. Abraham did have other sons, but Isaac was unique! Compare Genesis 16:15-16; Genesis 25:1-2. See note on John 3:16.

Verse 18


It is through Isaac. This was God’s promise in Genesis 21:12. Isaac was the sole link with the future, when God commanded his sacrifice! But see also Galatians 3:16; Galatians 3:29.

Verse 19


Abraham reckoned. This shows how strong his faith was in what God had promised him!!! Back from death. Even though God provided a last-minute substitute, in Abraham’s mind, Isaac had died and been brought back to life. We see in this a picture of Christ on the cross.

Verse 20


That made Isaac promise. In blessing his two sons, Isaac was inspired by God to predict the future of both them and their descendants. See Romans 9:10-13 and notes.

Verse 21


That made Jacob bless. Again we see the inspiration of God, as Jacob included Joseph’s two sons as heads of tribes. He leaned. That sick old man raised from his bed and stood, leaning on the top of his walking stick and worshipped God! This shows his faith!

Verse 22


That made Joseph. He made them promise to take his body into Canaan after his death. See Genesis 50:24-26; Joshua 24:32. This showed how sure he was that God would keep His promise.

Verse 23


The parents of Moses. Amram and his wife Jochebed. Josephus says: “God appeared to Amram in a dream, and promised him a son, who was to deliver the Israelites from the Egyptian bondage; and that Amram told this dream to his wife, and that they were led by it to hide their son.” See Acts 7:19-22.

Verse 24


That made Moses. He had been taught God’s promises, and he believed them! See Acts 7:23-29.

Verse 25


He preferred. As the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, the wealth and pleasure of the palace was his. The Jewish people were slaves and had nothing. But faith made him choose!

Verse 26


For the Messiah. From the time of Genesis 3:15 onward, the message was: Someone is coming! Certainly no one before the time of the Cross really knew what God was going to do (1 Corinthians 2:6-10), yet they knew a Messiah would come. See Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:22-23.

Verse 27


That made Moses leave Egypt. The Exodus was one of the wonders of all time! There were 603,550 men of fighting age among the Israelites in the Exodus (Numbers 1:45-46). Try to imagine the courage it took to do something like this!!!

Verse 28


The Passover. See Exodus 12:3-30. This was a picture of Christ, who is called “our Passover lamb” (1 Corinthians 5:7).

Verse 29


To cross the Red Sea. [The NIV has “Sea of Reeds” in a footnote.] Perhaps two million Israelites took part in the crossing! It took faith for all involved to do this!!! See Exodus 14:13-22; 1 Corinthians 10:1-2,

Verse 30


The walls of Jericho. Joshua 6:8-21. Archeology has verified that the walls fell outward!

Verse 31


The harlot Rahab. She acted on her belief that God had given Canaan to the Israelites! See Joshua 2:1-22; Matthew 1:3-5 and notes.

Verse 32


Should I go on? The Old Testament is full of such examples of faith in action! Gideon. Judges 6:11. Barak. Judges 4:6. Samson. Judges 13:24. Jephthah. Judges 11:1. David. 1 Samuel 16:1. Samuel. 1 Samuel 1:20. And the prophets such as Elijah, Elisha, Daniel, and the rest.

Verse 33


Through faith. This is the common denominator of all these heroes! Fought whole countries, as did Joshua. Did what was right, as did the Judges of Israel. Shut the mouths of lions, as did Daniel.

Verse 34


Put out fierce fires. Daniel 3:17. Escaped being killed. Exodus 18:4. Weak but became strong. Isaiah 38:5. Defeated the armies. Gideon, Jonathan, etc.

Verse 35


Women received their dead. 1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:18-37. Died under torture. This was especially true of the terrible persecutions of the Jews mentioned in the Books of Maccabees (which were part of the Septuagint). They suffered in hope of eternal life!

Verse 36


Some. This was true of many persecutions recorded in Jewish history. Compare Jeremiah 20:7-18.

Verse 37


They were stoned. Zechariah (2 Chronicles 24:21). Sawn in two. Jewish tradition says this is how Isaiah was killed. See also 1 Samuel 22:18; 1 Kings 19:10. These were all things very familiar to the Jews.

Verse 38


The world. The world shows it isn’t worthy of them, by rejecting them! Compare Acts 22:22. They wandered. 1 Kings 18:4; 1 Samuel 24:3; and many more examples are given in the Books of Maccabees.

Verse 39


What a record! This shows the power of the faith in their lives!!! Yet they did not receive. They did not receive the promised heavenly country in their lifetimes on earth! Nor did they see God’s Messiah! But they lived and died in faith – believing that God would keep His promise!!!

Verse 40


Because. God’s promise has not failed!!! He had something better, which they could not even imagine (1 Corinthians 2:9). His purpose. That they and we might be made complete in the New Jerusalem!!! The whole spiritual family of Abraham, raised from death, will go into that heavenly world in one group at one time, after the Judgment!!! See Luke 16:19-31 and notes. See also Revelation 21:1-4 and notes.

Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Hebrews 11". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.