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HERBREWS CHAPTER 11
Hebrews 11:1-40 The nature of faith, and its acceptableness with God, set forth in the examples of many excellent persons of old time.
Now faith: the Holy Spirit proceeds in this chapter to strengthen the counsel he had given these Hebrews to continue stedfast in the faith of Christ, to the end that they may receive their reward, the salvation of their souls, Hebrews 10:39; 1 Peter 1:9; and so beginneth with a description of that faith, and proves it to be effectual to this end, by instances out of all ages of the world before them, wherein the Old Testament believers had found it to be so. The description of it is laid down, Hebrews 11:1; the proof of it in both parts, Hebrews 1:2,Hebrews 1:3; and the illustration of its power by examples, Hebrews 11:4-40. The particle δε shows this is inferred as a discovery of that faith, which is saving or purchasing the soul; which that none of these Hebrews may be mistaken in, he describeth from its effect, and not from its form and essence. Faith is here a Divine fruit of the Spirit, given and wrought by it in his elect, and is justifying and purchasing the soul to glory, John 12:38; Romans 5:1; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Ephesians 1:19,Ephesians 1:20; Ephesians 2:8.
Is the substance of things hoped for: υποστασις, in 2 Corinthians 9:4, notes confidence of boasting; Hebrews 1:3, personal subsistence; and Hebrews 3:14, confidence of faith. Here it is a real, present, confident assent of the soul of a believer to the promise of God, (which is the basis or foundation of it), by which the spiritual good things to come, and which fall not under sense, yet with a most vehement and intense desire urged for, are made to have a mental, intellectual existence and subsistence in the soul which exerciseth it, Romans 8:18,Romans 8:26; John 3:36.
The evidence of things not seen: ελεγκοι is a demonstrative discovery of that which falleth not under sense, such as is scientifical, and puts matters out of question to a man; and therefore is styled by logicians a demonstration: here it notes faith to be that spiritual space which by God’s revelation demonstrates or makes evident all things not seen by sense, or natural reason, without it, as matters of spiritual truth, good and evil in their several kinds, both past, present, and to come, John 17:6,John 17:8; Ephesians 1:17,Ephesians 1:18.
This is a proof of the first part of faith’s description, that it is the substance of things hoped for; for all the fathers were testified of to have this work of faith in realizing their hopes. πρεσβυτεροι were the fathers and ancestors of these Hebrews, run up through their genealogies to Adam, the special instances of whom follow. These received a testimony or witness, truly and fully from God himself, in some signal acceptance of them, eminent appearances and providences to them, with a Scripture record of them, that through this grace of our Lord Jesus Christ they walked with, worshipped, and pleased God, and were saved by him, even as these Christians; and all this by the same grace of faith, Acts 15:17, which wrought kindly in them, and made the invisible things of God to subsist with them.
This proves the second part of faith’s description, Hebrews 11:1, that it is the evidence of things not seen; for by it only we understand the creation, which no eye saw. It is the same Divine faith as described before, but as evidencing invisible truths, it communicates a marvellous light to the understanding, and leaves real impressions of it from the word of God, whereby it arriveth unto a most certain knowledge of what is above the power of natural reason to convey, and gives a divine assent to it, such its as is real, clear, sure, and fruitful, different from that of the Gentiles, Romans 1:19-23.
The worlds; touv aiwnav the word noteth sometimes ages, Luke 16:8; the garb and corrupt habit of men who live in them, Ephesians 2:2; eternity: but there, as Hebrews 1:2, it is a word of aggregation, signifying all kinds of creatures, with their several places, times, and periods; things celestial, terrestrial, and subterrestrial; angels, men, and all sorts of creatures, together with all the states and conditions in which they were made.
Were framed by the word of God; heaven, earth, and seas, with all their hosts of creatures, the visible creation and the invisible world, were put into being and existence, placed in their proper order, disposed and fitted to their end, by the mighty word of God: Trinity in Unity the Creator, his powerful fiat, without any pain, or trouble, or assisting causes, instantly effected this miraculous, glorious work; He spake, and it was done, Genesis 1:3,Genesis 1:6,Genesis 1:9,Genesis 1:11,Genesis 1:14, &c.; Psalms 33:6,Psalms 33:9.
So that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear; the visible world, and all visible in it, were made all of nothing; this reason could never digest. All was produced of that formless, void, dark chaos which was invisible, Genesis 1:2; which void, formless, dark mass itself, was made of no pre-existent stuff, matter or atoms, but of nothing; which differenceth the operative power of God from that of all other agents. See Genesis 1:1; Psalms 89:11,Psalms 89:12; Psalms 148:5,Psalms 148:6, &c.; Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 45:12,Isaiah 45:18.
The Spirit beginneth here to illustrate his description of faith, by induction of instances throughout the former ages of the church to the time of these Hebrews; and he begins with believers in the old world before the flood. Faith is the same Divine grace as described before, only here to be considered as fully receiving of God’s will in Christ as to sacrificing work, and remitting such affections and operations to God in it as were agreeable thereunto.
By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain: Abel, the younger son of Adam, an eminent believer, whose faith orders him and his worship, the first martyr for religion in the world, Luke 11:51, who sealed the truth of God with his blood; he, in the end of days, that is, the sabbath, Genesis 4:3,Genesis 4:4, brought a bloody sacrifice of the fattest and best of the flock, and offered up to the Divine Majesty, the true and living God, his Creator and Redeemer, to atone him for his sin; having a regard to, and faith in, the great sacrifice of the Seed of the woman, for him in fulness of time to be offered up, and of which his was but a type. This sacrifice was fuller of what God required in offerings, than Cain his elder brother’s, not, it may be, for external price, but internal worth. Cain offered the fruits of the ground, such as God afterwards required in the ceremonial law, but he was not sensible of the guilt and filth of sin, and of its demerits, nor desirous to remove it in the due way and order appointed, as appears by his murdering of his brother after: Abel’s sacrifice was better, more excellent, because more fully agreeable to God’s will for purging and pardoning sin, full of self-denial and abasement for sin, and faith in Christ’s sacrifice.
By which he obtained witness that he was righteous; by which sacrifice of faith he had testimony that he acknowledged himself a sinner, that had need of the blood of Christ to sprinkle him; yet he was righteous by the righteousness of faith, Romans 3:22,Romans 3:25,Romans 3:26, which is upon Abel, as all other believers, Philippians 3:9. And this testified to his soul, by God’s Spirit, that he was justified and sanctified, and so eminently righteous; and it was mainfested to others, Christ himself, God-man, witnessing of it, Matthew 23:35.
God testifying of his gifts; God himself witnessed from heaven to the truth of his state, by accepting of his person and sacrifice, and giving a visible sign of it, so as Cain could observe it, and be displeased at the difference God made between him and his brother, Genesis 4:4,Genesis 4:5,Genesis 4:7; likely it was by sending fire from heaven, and consuming Abel’s sacrifice, as he did others afterwards, Leviticus 9:24; Judges 6:19,Judges 6:21; 1 Kings 18:38; 2 Chronicles 7:1; and by it testified him to be righteous.
And by it he being dead yet speaketh; by his faith, though murdered out of this world, and his place here knows him no more, and with a design that he should never speak nor be spoken of more, yet he now speaketh, i.e. liveth, Matthew 22:32, and testifieth to God that he is true, and the only true God to make souls happy. He, in his example, and his record in Scripture, bespeaketh all that read his story to imitate him in his faith and worshipping of God, and his patient martyrdom for God and his gospel worship through Christ. And by his blood he crieth for justice against his murderer, as Genesis 4:10; see Hebrews 12:24; and its joined with the rest of the martyrs of Jesus, impleads God’s righteous vengeance to be executed on their bloody persecutors, Luke 11:51; Revelation 6:10,Revelation 6:11. By reason of his faith he is spoken of throughout all generations, recorded among the excellent sons of God, and renowned in the church to this day. Such a force hath faith to eternize the persons of believers in acceptance with God through Christ, their wrongs, injuries, and blood on God’s remembrance, and their names in heaven and the church below.
By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death: by the Divine faith before described, that which reacheth home to God by Christ, Enoch, the seventh patriarch in a descent from Adam of the church’s line, Genesis 5:21, all eminent prophet and Boanerges, denouncing judgment against the ungodly ones of his time, so as to awaken them to repentance, Jude 1:14,Jude 1:15, was taken by God, Genesis 5:24. The apostle keeps to the Septuagint translation of the text. He was miraculously changed in his body from a mortal to an immortal state, and this without any separation of his soul from it. God, out of an extraordiary grace and favour to him, dispensed with the common sentence passed on the human seed in Adam, as he did many ages after this to Elijah. He died not: all the rest of the fathers of the church, Genesis 5:5,Genesis 5:8,Genesis 5:27, the longest liver of them, died.
And was not found; he was not, Genesis 5:24, neither among men, nor in their sepulchres, as others were, but had changed his habitation and society. If any went to seek him, as others did Elijah he was far out of their finding, 2 Kings 2:17.
Because God had translated him; for God had taken him to himself in heaven, the place of his residence, and in the very act changed his body into a spiritual, powerful, glorious, and incorruptible one; as all ours, who are true believers, shall be at last, 1 Corinthians 15:51; 1 Thessalonians 4:15; and so made fit for the place to which he was taken, made like an angel in person, and to be with those spirits in company; now did he fully see and enjoy him whom by faith he walked with beneath.
For before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God; in the time of his life, and walking with God in this sinful world, all the time of his witnessing for God in it, God witnessed by his work on his soul to himself, by his ministry and life to the world, and by the prophet Moses’s record of it to all generations to come in the church once and again, Genesis 5:22,Genesis 5:24, that in his walking with God he pleased him. He was not only justified, graciously accepted, and beloved of him, but he did that which was pleasing to God, putting out in thought, word, and deed all the power of grace to act for God; preserving constant converse and communion with him; and had no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but reproved them. By this he pleased God, and God testified to all the world he did so, by a miraculous translation of him from the world to himself. God cares not for, nor will take to him, such who please him not.
The Spirit here proveth that Enoch pleased God by faith, though it was not expressly written in his text by Moses, because of the impossibility of pleasing God without faith.
But without faith it is impossible to please him; but without faith upon God in Christ, whom Enoch pleased, it is absolutely impossible to do any thing acceptable to God, so as to be justified by him; for infidelity, or want of faith, makes God a liar, 1 John 5:10, Christ a vanity, John 5:40, and God’s will a deceit, which peremptorily saith, there is no pleasing of him but by faith in Christ, John 14:6. The effect cannot exist without its cause, as is proved in the next words.
For he that cometh to God: for whoever he be, every particular soul, that cometh off from sin to God, so as to be under his conduct and influence; makes out by spiritual motions of his mind, will, affections, and members, in thoughts, desires, resolutions, and operations, to enjoy God, so as to be accepted with, justified by, and blessed of him; and at present makes his access to him with liberty and boldness in prayer, or any other duty, through Christ.
Must believe that he is; he must really, fully, and supernaturally receive all that which God revealeth in his word is pleasing to him, especially concerning himself; as, that he is the primitive, perfect Being, and the Cause of all; that he is three in relations and one in essence, most excellent in all his attributes, infinitely wise, powerful, just, good, and eternal, &c., the supreme Creator and Governor of, and Lawgiver to, all.
And that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and that he will recompense all men according to their works, but will eminently and freely give himself to be the reward of his, and whatever he can be to or do for them for their good, Genesis 15:1; but to those only, who with an intent heart and spirit pursue him by faith, love, and longing after him as their supremest good, Isaiah 45:22; Romans 2:6,Romans 2:12; Revelation 22:12.
By faith Noah, being warned of God; by the same Divine faith Noah, the last example of it in the old world, and the father of the new world, being warned by an immediate revelation from God, Genesis 6:13,Genesis 6:21, largely rehearsed by Moses: so that God’s word is the ground or foundation of Divine faith in all ages of the world.
Of things not seen as yet; of things not yet seen, but only by faith in God’s revelation: which things were the perishing of the world by a deluge of waters above one hundred years after; and that himself and family, with some creatures, should be saved from that deluge, to repeople the world, and to replenish the air and earth; none of which things did fall under Noah’s sense then.
Moved with fear; eulabhyeiv imports in it a right reception of God’s revelation, which made him afraid, and careful not to offend God; and a godly carriage to him who had revealed the imminent danger of the sinful world, and his own deliverance from it: see Hebrews 5:7.
Prepared an ark to the saving of his house; hereon he obeyeth God’s precept, and prepared and perfected the vessel, both for matter and form, according to God’s word; so as to be ready against the time of the deluge, for the preservation of himself and family by it, Genesis 6:14-16,Genesis 6:22; compare 1 Peter 3:20. By virtue of this ark, that water which drowned the world saved them. So that flood was a full type of the water of baptism: his ark, of Christ our ark; his family, of Christ’s small family in comparison of the world; their salvation from water, of the eternal salvation of these from the deluge of fire, 2 Peter 3:6,2 Peter 3:7,2 Peter 3:11,2 Peter 3:14. The same Divine faith in Noah and in Christians, maketh them to obey God’s precept, retire to aunt enter God’s ark, and so enjoy his salvation.
By the which he condemned the world; by this faith discovered in his work about the ark, he testified against the sinful world of mankind for their unbelief and disobedience, who for one hundred and twenty years together, being by Noah’s preaching and building the ark called to repentance, 2 Peter 2:5, and to prevent the judgment God threatened on them; and so condemned them virtually by his word and doctrine, judicially by declaring God’s sentence on them: see Matthew 12:41,Matthew 12:42; John 12:48.
And became heir of the righteousness which is by faith; by this faith he received the promise of righteousness, which made him an heir of it, and of that eternal life and salvation for which it fitted him, as well as to which it entitled him; and by it he sent out all the fruits of righteousness that are to the praise and glory of God, Romans 5:1; John 1:12.
Here begin instances of this Divine faith after the flood from Abraham to Moses’s time, Hebrews 11:8-22. The first is the father of believers, so entitled by God, eminent in the exercise of this grace, of whose ancestry, and their descent from him, these Hebrews did greatly glory. He had an express discovery of the will of God unto him, that he should leave the idolatrous place where he lived, Genesis 11:31; Genesis 12:1-3; compare Joshua 24:2; Acts 7:2,Acts 7:3; and with his family should travel to a land which God would show him, and which he would give him as an inheritance for him and his, which was the land of Canaan, as described, Genesis 13:14-17; Genesis 25:18,Genesis 25:19,Genesis 25:21. This command of God, strengthened by a promise, he obeyed, Genesis 12:4; Acts 7:4; through faith, really, freely, and fully resigning up himself and his to God’s disposal.
And he went out not knowing whither he went; he went forth with his father Terah from his country, kindred, and friends, in Ur of the Chaldees, to Charran, and there they dwelt till Terah died, Genesis 11:31; Acts 7:4. After which, he pursued God’s orders in his motion from place to place, though he knew neither the way, nor the place in which and whither he was to move, resting himself on God’s word and guidance, and relying wholly on his provision for him, and protection of him in all his ways.
By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country; by the same Divine faith he passed from tent to tent, moving it from place to place, as God ordered; so as he rather sojourned than dwelt in any. His journal is legible in Moses’s history, moving from Charran to Shechem, from thence to Beth-el, and then more southward, and thence to Egypt; see Genesis 12:1-20; so that he sojourned in Canaan, and the adjoining countries, which God had covenanted to give for an inheritance to him and his seed, Genesis 15:18-21; yet by faith he would stay God’s time for it, but lived in it as a stranger, not having in possession one foot of ground, but what he bought for a burying place, Genesis 25:9,Genesis 25:10; Acts 7:5.
Dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: here he, with his son Isaac, and grandson, and their seed, coheirs with him of Canaan, built no houses, but lived in tents, which they might pitch or remove at God’s pleasure, and as he called them, as who were strangers to this country, and to the inhabitants of it, with whom they were to have no spiritual society, as travelling to a better; being in this world, but neither citizens nor inhabitants of it, but as denizens of a more excellent one, Genesis 26:3; Genesis 28:13,Genesis 28:14.
The reason of this contented pilgrimage was the excellent end of it, the place and state to which it brought him; he did really discern by the Spirit’s work in him, and promise to him, his title to it, and vehemently did desire and long for, and yet patiently waited for, a better place and state than this earthly; and was daily making his approaches to it, Romans 8:19; 2 Corinthians 5:1,2 Corinthians 5:2,2 Corinthians 5:8,2 Corinthians 5:9.
For he looked for a city which hath foundations: πολις notes both a place made up and constituted of buildings and houses, such was the earthly Jerusalem; and a state, polity, or community. Here it must be understood spiritually, for such a place and state as is not to be shadowed out by any in this world; it being for nature, mansions, society, condition, such as no earthly can decipher, or set out. This city is heaven itself, often so styled in this Epistle, as Hebrews 11:16; Hebrews 12:22; Hebrews 13:14; Revelation 3:12. It is not movable, as a tent fastened by stakes and cords; nor as creature buildings, perishable. Histories tell us of the rise and fall of the best earthly cities; this city is built on the Rock of ages, as well as by him, whose immutability, almightiness, and eternity hath laid and settled its foundations, the basis and ground work, firm and incorruptible, 1 Peter 1:4.
Whose builder and maker is God; the happy fabric, with persons and state, endures for ever, because of its Raiser and Founder. The great Architect, that cast the plot and model of it in his own mind, and the publicly declared Operator and Raiser of it, who laid the foundations, reared the mansions, and finished the whole, is no less person than the infinitely wise, almighty, and eternal God. It all became him alone, and doth as far exceed other cities as God doth men. No human art or power was fit or capable for such a work, but only God.
Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed; by the same Divine faith in Abraham and Sarah was brought forth the child of promise. For though the instance be expressly in Sarah, yet it is inclusive of Abraham also, who was eminent for his faith in this thing, acquiring an eminent title by it, even of the Father of believers, as the apostle declareth, Romans 4:17-22, and therefore jointly to be considered with Sarah. She, who first through unbelief laughed at the promise, yet being reproved by Christ, the Angel of the covenant, for it, believed on the repetition of it, Genesis 18:9-16, and gave testimony of it by her waiting for the promised mercy. As barren as she was, yet faith made her fruitful; when it was impossible of herself to expect it for nature or years, yet received she power and strength from God, by believing, to conceive seed, that is, laying the foundation of it, conceiving in her dead womb, and bearing a son.
And was delivered of a child when she was past age; she was not only naturally barren, but of ninety years of age at this time, when the most fruitful were past such work; yet was she delivered of a son, and became the mother of Isaac by faith, as he was the son of promise, Genesis 15:4; Genesis 18:11; compare Romans 4:17-19.
Because she judged him faithful who had promised; she gave glory to God by a firm and hearty closure with his promise, accounting God faithful to his word, and able to perform it, and so rested on it, and waited for him, as Abraham did, Romans 4:18,Romans 4:20,Romans 4:21. The promise which he made was: That they in their old age should have a son, Genesis 12:2; made in general, Genesis 13:15,Genesis 13:16 in particular, Genesis 15:4,Genesis 15:5; to both, Genesis 17:15-17; Genesis 18:10,Genesis 18:14; Genesis 21:1-3,Genesis 21:12.
Because of this faith of Abraham and Sarah, and the fruit of it in conceiving and bringing forth Isaac, was laid the foundation of a numerous seed by God’s promise; from Abraham, a hundred, and Sarah, ninety years old, and barren, and both dead as to procreation, Romans 4:19, there were begotten a vast and unbounded seed, as the stars in the firmament, or the sand on the sea shore; and amongst them the teeming blessing, the one eminent Seed of Abraham, the Messiah, in whom all nations were to be blessed. Within four hundred years from the birth of Isaac, this seed increased to above six hundred thousand fighting men, besides women and children, and after increased to a stupendous greatness, according to the promise, Genesis 13:16; Genesis 15:5; Exodus 12:47; 1 Chronicles 21:5,1 Chronicles 21:6.
These all died in faith; all these, Abragam, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob, &c., who were heirs of the same promises, and who had opportunity to return to the same country from which they came forth, as Hebrews 11:15; they did not only live according to faith, walking with, worshipping of, and waiting on God, testifying against sin, but finished their course by dying according to faith; by faith, as the instrumental efficient of it; in faith, as the regulating cause of it; according to faith, as in the state of believing. Faith was immortal in them as their souls, making their death a covenant dissolution, Luke 2:29, a voluntary, hopeful, blessed death, as 2 Corinthians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:13.
Not having received the promises; not receiving actually, and in sense, the things promised, which were a numerous offspring, the literal Canaan, the Messiah in the flesh, and a glorious resurrection; but departed triumphing, and in the faith of all, and that they would be made good to theirs; and this they discovered by the blessings they left on each other, as Isaac on Jacob, and Jacob on the patriarchs.
But having seen them afar off; but faith brought all these promises into their view, though so far off; so did Abraham see by it the Messiah, John 8:56. They all had a real, clear, and strong prospect of them, the inheritance temporal in its time to come, and the heavenly rest beyond the grave, seeing the resurrection, heaven, and glory, by faith, when they died, Genesis 49:18.
And were persuaded of them, and embraced them; by a powerful impression of faith on their souls, of the truth, goodness, and certainty of the things promised, on their minds, with a mighty apprehension of and assent to them in their wills, to the choosing of and closing with them in their affections; cleaving to them in love, desire, and delight, as surely to be accomplished; having their souls thankfully receiving them, graciously returning to God for them, with the greatest satisfaction embracing them, as are welcome friends or relations long absent from us; hugging Christ, saluting heaven, and embracing glory in the promises by faith, when dying.
And confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth; in word and deed; while they lived they published it to the world, as Abraham, Genesis 23:4, and Jacob, Genesis 47:9; keeping themselves free from all entanglements of this earth, as became those who are strangers, having no possession of, nor intimacy with, this earth; incorporating with no other people, but as pilgrims wandered from place to place, took up and pitched their tents when and where God would have them, unpeopled as to this world, and desiring to be peopled with the Lord, Psalms 39:12; Psalms 105:12,Psalms 105:13; compare 2 Corinthians 5:6,2 Corinthians 5:8. They were all of the same mind, loose from and above this world, and longing to remove to their own country and be with God.
The reason of faith’s effect in their dying, is the bringing in view a better life, state, and place than any earthly one. For these believers, by word and life professing themselves to be strangers and pilgrims on this earth, and seeing God’s promises, and embracing them,
declare and show plainly to all who see them, or converse with them,
that they seek a country, and a place of rest, which they were not possessed of. For no person is a stranger or pilgrim in his own country; but these inquired the way, and walked in it, which led them to a better than any this earth afforded them: and so the apostle brings us back to that which he had declared before, Hebrews 11:10, and immediately prevents the suggestion, that this country should be their former country, and clears it to be a better.
Though they were strangers in Canaan, yet they might seek an earthly country, even Ur of the Chaldees, from whence they came forth, and which was their native country, and so might be dearer to them than any other; but it was not that, but a better country, they were mindful of, which they viewed by faith; whereas the other they might have seen with their eyes. If that had been all they desired, they wanted neither means nor opportunity of returning to it, but they remained fixed in obedience to the heavenly call; and when Jacob returned to it for a wife, yet he left it again when God summoned him, as appears, Genesis 29:1-31:55. They did willingly leave it, and kept from it, and never looked back there, but looked for a better.
But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: having deserted this world, as strangers in it, they sought, desired, and hoped for with the greatest earnestness and fervency, a city in the country of heaven, Hebrews 11:10, in comparison with which they contemned and despised all others; a country where there is perfection of life, and fulness of glory: it excelleth all others as far as heaven doth earth, 2 Timothy 4:18; 1 Peter 1:4. The state, society, enjoyments, and place, they longed for, were all heavenly, Philippians 3:20,Philippians 3:21; nothing lower than this world would satisfy them.
Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: faith having carried them thus estranged from this world to the grave, endearing to them the promises, and engaging of them for heaven only, therefore God did not disdain them, he did not think it any disrepute to him to own them his, but esteemed it an honour and reputation to him, took np his joy and delight in them: see him owning them when dead, Exodus 3:6,Exodus 3:15; Matthew 22:31,Matthew 22:32; surnaming himself by them, and adopting them as his own, as Jacob did Joseph’s sons, Genesis 48:5,Genesis 48:6; so that though they are dead as to their bodies, yet they are alive as to their souls, and are owned by God in his name and title, and are assured, as to their dust, of a resurrection; for he will do it, giving them that rest that they never had in their pilgrimage.
For he hath prepared for them a city; that heavenly state and place which they sought for, Hebrews 11:10, which infinitely transcended Cannan, and the Jerusalem in it, of which they were denizens while here, Ephesians 2:19; Philippians 3:20; the pleasant, peaceful, rich, and glorious metropolis of the living God, Hebrews 12:22; Hebrews 13:14; which shall make abundant amends for all their sorrows, sufferings, and restless wanderings on earth, where they shall enjoy pleasures, riches, honours, and rest for evermore, 1 Peter 1:4.
By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac; by the same excellent faith Abraham alone, and by himself considered, being tried by God, in a rare way, to give proof of the truth of his faith in and love to him above all, was to take his only son, his darling, and to offer him for a whole burnt offering on Mount Moriah, to himself, Genesis 22:2. Which command of God was not unjust, he having absolute sovereignty and dominion over all persons and their lives, having power to kill, and to make alive, Deuteronomy 32:39. This son of his he offered up as God commanded; for in his heart he had fully parted with him to God, and proceeded so far in execution, as, if God had not dispensed with it, it had been actually done, he would have killed him and burnt him to ashes on the altar, Genesis 22:3,Genesis 22:6-13.
And he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son: this mighty faith enabled him to do this, though he was his only begotten son by promise, and in the church’s line, concerning whom he had received so many promises, and in whom only they were to be fulfilled, as that a numerous seed should descend from him, who should inherit Canaan, and through whom Christ was to descend into the world, in whom himself and all nations were to be blessed. Yet faith silenceth reason and natural affection, assureth him God could fulfil his promises by him though he should offer him, as he raised him from a dead body and womb at first, and gave him to him: so he obeyeth God’s word, and offereth him.
This did greaten Abraham’s trial, that unto him it was promised by God himself: That in this only begotten son Isaac, the eminently blessed and blessing Seed, with all his mystical body, should be called; that is, put in being, propagated and made known as by name in Isaac, Galatians 4:28. This God revealed to Abraham, Genesis 17:19,Genesis 17:21, and hereby was his faith put to it to reconcile contradictions, as to believe this special promise, and yet execute this special command to sacrifice Isaac, yet to believe in him his seed should be called.
Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead: faith put this into Abraham’s thoughts in his reasonings about this trial between the temptation and God’s power, and influenced him to conclude and determine under it. That since God could raise him from the dead to perform his promises, he would sacrifice him to obey God’s command. This faith grew from what God had done, in giving him Isaac from his own dead body, and Sarah’s dead womb, Romans 4:17-22. God’s almighty power to raise from the dead answered all the difficulties in the trial. If God command it, who can raise from the dead, this can be no murder; for he can either prevent or recover. Promises should not fail, though Isaac was sacrificed; for God would raise him up and accomplish them. As to arguments from natural affection: Shall a child be dearer to me than a God, who quickens me, and can raise him from the dead? Since God can do this, what difficulties can he not overcome? Hence is this principle so often revealed and repeated to be a sure prop to a Christian’s faith throughout the gospel.
From whence also he received him in a figure: his generation was a kind of resurrection from the dead, and so was his restitution to Abraham, for in Abraham’s account he was dead, his hand being lifted up to kill him, when the angel stops the execution, Genesis 22:11,Genesis 22:12. From the altar he carrieth him back as a trophy and reward of the victory of his faith, in such a manner as one risen from the dead, and an eminent signal of his victory over this temptation. Abraham had a figure of the resurrection in his son, and an earnest of a far more glorious resurrection in Christ.
Isaac is the next example instanced in of the same Divine faith, described, Hebrews 11:1; only here exercised on the special revelation of God to him concerning his seed. By this faith he did not only wish and pray blessings, but prophetically applied them to his two sons, to Jacob and Israel his seed the covenant blessings, and to Esau and the Edomites his seed the temporary blessings, God designed them, Genesis 27:27,Genesis 27:39. Both these were things to come, and to be communicated to their seeds hundreds of years after. As the things to come that concerned Jacob, which were not seen, but hoped for from God’s revelation of them, were, plenty, dominion over brethren, blessings above the power of a curse, even the spiritual and covenanted ones of Abraham and Isaac with him, Genesis 27:28,Genesis 27:29. The things to come concerning Esau and his seed, were only earthly, temporal blessings, escape out of servitude in time, common good things at the highest, Genesis 27:39,Genesis 27:40. By faith Isaac foresaw all these future events, foretold them, and applied their several portions to them from the mouth of God, and they were to a tittle fulfilled, 2 Samuel 8:11, and 2 Kings 8:20, as to the Edomites; as in the whole Old Testament unto Jacob, and to his seed literal and spiritual.
By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph: Jacob did not degenerate from his progenitors, but by the same excellent faith (being heir to the birthright and blessing, by God’s appointment, and his father’s confirmation, as Genesis 28:1,Genesis 28:3,Genesis 28:4) doth, as a grandfather and a prophet, near expiring, weak in body, but strong in faith, bless Joseph, and each of his sons, Genesis 48:15-20, preferring Ephraim the younger before Manasseh the elder, by laying his right hand on his head, and his left on the other’s; and so adopts them to be his children, gives them the blessing of the covenant, as to their persons, and the inheritance of two tribes amongst his sons, as belonging to Joseph, as his birthright, Genesis 49:22-26. These by faith he foretold, and applied particularly to each of them from God himself through prayer.
And worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff: another effect of his faith, is his worshipping God, having bequeathed his body to the burial in a firm expectation of the promised inheritance, as the history clears, Genesis 47:29-31; Genesis 48:21,Genesis 48:22. For having sent for Joseph, he raiseth up himself on the pillow at the bed’s head, and for his support used his staff, leaning on the head of it, when in faith he declares his will to his son Joseph, and binds him by an oath to bury him in Machpelah in Canaan, with Abraham and Isaac, heirs of the same promise, as an earnest and handsel of the twelve tribes’ possessing it; which Joseph having solemnly sworn to him, Jacob bowed himself and worshipped, lifting up his heart to God in thankfulness for his continual providence in the gradual accomplishment of his promise to the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This he did
by faith, adoring his sovereign Lord and Saviour by his humbly bowing before him. There was no need of faith to bow to Joseph, who was inferior to Jacob, and blessed by him.
By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel: Joseph, the first son of Jacob by Rachel, whom God preferred before his brethren, envied and sold by them, but advanced by him to be lord of Egypt, and a saviour to them, heir of the birthright, and of his father’s grace, a patriarch and prophet like him; drawing near to the end of his pilgrimage on earth, and dying, he made mention, and brought to the mind of the Israelites his children, brethren, and nephews, and, likely, with a charge to convey it down to their posterity, as it might be remembered by them, that this he did with willingness find choice, looking for a better place and state than any in Egypt, and that his death should not obstruct the issues of providence to them for good; for God lived, and would surely visit them in their posterity, Israel living when he sent Moses to them, and would make them go up gloriously out of Egypt, and bring them into the Land of Promise, and give it to them for their inheritance. This testimony he gives them of it by faith, Genesis 1:24; and God fulfilled it one hundred and sixty years after his death, as he had sworn to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
And gave commandment concerning his bones: by faith likewise he charged them about carrying his embalmed body with them and burying it in Canaan, and obliged the Israelites to it by an oath, Genesis 1:25, making it an earnest and signal to them of the promise and oath of God for their deliverance, that as he desired his bones might be buried in Canaan, being heir together with Jacob of the same promised inheritance, it might be a visible token of, and encouragement in, the appointed time, to their return. And this Israel fullfilled, Exodus 13:19, carrying them away with them, and afterwards burying them in Shechem, the lot of Ephraim, Joshua 24:32.
By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents: the parents of Moses were as eminent in this faith as their progenitors; for by it Amram and Jochebed, both of them of the tribe of Levi, Exodus 6:20, (πατερων) here put by a metaphrase for γονεις, and though in the history ascribed to the mother only, yet it was by the father’s direction, as Exodus 2:2; compare Acts 7:20), hid Moses, born under the bloody edict of a tyrant for drowning all the Hebrew males in the Nile. He was born three years after Aaron, and sixty-five after Joseph’s death. They kept him three months from the destroyers, and they adventured the penalties threatened by the edict, Exodus 2:2,Exodus 2:3; faith overcoming their fears and difficulties about it, and, in all probabililly, ordered their fitting the ark, and disposal of it for his preservation, with the other acts attending it.
Because they saw he was a proper child: the reason of faith’s work was their seeing of him to be αστειον, fair, beautiful, proper; and this not in himself only, but, as Stephen interprets it, αστειον τω θεω, fair to God, Acts 7:20. Some glorious aspect was by God put upon him as a signal of some great person, and of great use in God’s design to his church; some extraordinary stamp of God on his countenance, which faith could discern there, and so influence them to conceal and preserve him.
And they were not afraid of the king’s commandment; faith made them fearless; for they were not afraid that the king’s edict should frustrate God’s purpose concerning the child, or keep him from its service to the church, wherein God would employ him, and of which he had given them a signal in that lustre cast on his person; and therefore they used means to preserve him, even when they exposed him, and which had a suitable success, Exodus 2:3-10.
Moses himself was as eminent a believer as his parents, and a mighty instance of Divine faith. He who was so named and saved by the enemies of the church, and adopted as a son to a notorious one of them, yet being great in age and stature, full forty, Exodus 3:11; Acts 7:23, past the folly of childhood and rashness of youth, upon manly deliberation and a rational exercise of faith, notwithstanding he was by birth a poor Israelite, and saved from perisihing by a princess, the daughter of a potent king; nourished through her indulgence by his own mother, adopted as her own son, educated by her in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, preferred, owned, and honoured as her son, and might have been in a fair way to have succeeded to the kingdom; yet, not out of any disingenuity, or base ingratitude to his eminent preserver, but out of a Divine faith, he layeth down all his titles and honours, and renounceth his relation, for the enjoyment of a better title with, and a greater good in, God; and this he manifested by word and deed in his after transactions, Hebrews 11:25.
Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God: the same faith influenced his will, the cause of his former renunciation; for being in the present fruition of all court favours, and under the offers of all worldly delights by Egypt, and of all worldly discontents by God, faith determined his choice, made him a fellow sufferer in all the oppressions, afflictions, persecutions of his natural brethren the people of God, the most privileged society in the world for hope, as the most exercised by trials for God’s sake: he knew there would be eternal rest and glory into which they would issue him, besides glorious effects they would have on his soul while he was enduring them; and that they were but passing, and would quickly have an end, Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17,2 Corinthians 4:18.
Then to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season: the same faith made him to reject the enticing pleasures of sin, which could not be avoided by his continuance in Pharaoh’s court, either in dissembling himself to be no Israelite, professing himself to be an Egyptian, taking part with them in their cruel carriage to his brethren, living after their vicious course in all manner of voluptuousness; and the pleasures which he was to enjoy were sinful, transitory, and momentaneous, neither satisfying nor enduring, and must be attended with a sting in the end of them, even eternal anguish and torment, whereas his afflictions would end in eternal joys and pleasures, Mark 9:43,Mark 9:44,Mark 9:47; Luke 16:25.
Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: faith influenced and determined his former choice from the most excellent ground of it, the representation of these by the Divine inspired truth to him; it made him weigh and deliberate about the matters proposed, and then to judge, and positively determine about them: That the reproachful suffering of all sorts of afflictions, poverty, distresses, tortures, most ignominiously inflicted on them by their enemies for their faith in Christ, and expectation of him according to God’s promise, and who was now the Angel of the covenant that protected them, as well as their ancestor Jacob, Genesis 48:15,Genesis 48:16; these Moses chose to suffer patiently, out of faith in and love to Christ; these, with what excellent things were to follow by virtue of God’s promise, he preferred as a better and richer estate, and infinitely more desirable, than all the treasures of honours and riches, which either Egypt or its king could oblige him with, the whole of them founded in the dust, disposed by flesh, fading in enjoyment, and ending in vanity. What are these treasures, compared to those laid up in store by Christ for his in heaven?
For he had respect unto the recompence of the reward: these were the things Moses had in his eye, the end of Christ’s reproach, and Egypt’s glory; this made him turn his eye and heart away from Egypt, and intently to look on the excellent issue of his reproachful sufferings for Christ, even Christ rendering to him his unexpressibly glorious and eternal reward for it, 2 Corinthians 4:17,2 Corinthians 4:18. This God had promised to, Christ had purchased for, such, who were by faith bearing his reproach, and qualified for the enjoying of it, Romans 8:17,Romans 8:18; 2 Timothy 2:12; 1 Peter 4:13,1 Peter 4:14.
By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: by the same excellent faith, after his demand from Pharaoh of liberty for Israel to leave Egypt, and he had brought on him and his people the ten plagues God threatened them with, then he brake the bands of captivity, and took up Israel, and left Egypt subdued, wasted by plagues, and a place to be abhorred; triumphing over it, he forsakes it as a conqueror, and carrieth away the spoils of it. The wrath and rage of Pharaoh at him and his work for Israel, did not appal him; he was not afraid of his threatening to kill him, Exodus 10:28,Exodus 10:29; yet he defied him, even when his rage made him to pursue him and Israel with his host to destroy them.
For he endured, as seeing him who is invisible; ekarterhse, he was of a bold, undaunted spirit, so as nothing was too hard for him, either to suffer or do: magnanimity expelled his fear, so as he would stand or march according to God’s order, faith presenting to his view at all times the great Angel of the covenant, God the Son, the Redeemer of him and Israel, the only Potentate, the invisible King of kings, and Lord of lords, 1 Timothy 6:14-16; with him, and for him, against Pharaoh, leading, covering, and guarding him and Israel in all the way, and fulfilling his promise of delivering of his church from Egypt; this makes him to march undauntedly with God’s host.
Through faith he kept the Passover, and the sprinkling of blood: this Divine faith influenced him in all his work about God’s ordinances, receiving the law about them from God’s mouth, and obeying it. By it he made the Passover, i.e. as God’s instrument, he instituted it, and put it into being, Exodus 12:21; he celebrated and solemnly managed in each particular, and finished it, reaching the end of it according to God’s law in that behalf, 1 Corinthians 5:7. Here he saw Christ, and testified of him, the true paschal Lamb of God; by whom God’s wrath passed over the children of Israel, when it rested upon the Egyptians, Exodus 12:21, &c.
By faith he took a bunch of hyssop, and dipped it in the blood of the paschal lamb, and struck the lintel and two side posts of the doors with the blood, Exodus 12:22. He used it as a signal of God’s sparing Israel, and passing over their houses by his angel, Hebrews 12:23; and he saw in it the true blood of sprinkling, of Christ our Passover, which saveth souls from the destroyer, John 5:46, and brings them out of the Egypt of this world into the heavenly Canaan.
Lest he that destroyed the first-born should touch them: the end of both these was, that the destroying angel, who slew the first-born of the Egyptians, might not touch an Israelite, Exodus 12:29,Exodus 12:30. Under all this, faith evidenced to Moses God’s faithfulness in his promise, it ordered all his duty, and it realized to their hope in that time of danger, that God would save them, who were under that blood, working the assurance of it.
By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: the same faith enabled Moses eminently, and those other believers, as Aaron, Caleb, Joshua, &c.; for all Israel believed not, 1 Corinthians 10:5, yet for the faithful’s sake were they kept from drowning, after Moses had, at God’s command, (when the Israelites were ready to be fallen on by the Egyptians), lifted up his rod, and stretched his hand over the Red Sea, when God immediately, by an east wind, divided it, made the waters to stand up on each side like walls of crystal, and the bottom of it to be dry; then entered Moses and lsrael into the empty and dry space, and walked through it on dry ground, and not a soul of Israel miscarried, but might see astonishing power and mercy in it, Exodus 14:22.
Which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned: in the mean time the Egyptians, with their king, pursuing Israel for their ruin, find their own; for presumptuously adventuring to pursue them through this miraculous space, guided by sense, and not by faith, and thinking to pass as safe as Israel, when they had no word for it, God troubles them by his angels in their motion, makes them drive heavily; and having brought them into his pit in the midst of the channel, the crystal walls dissolve, and the waters, returning to their fluid nature, quickly overwhelmed and swallowed up all that host, so as not one of these unbelieving, presumptuous, persecuting wretches escaped. God’s great work in this, as to Israel, had a double meaning; literal, their salvation from the Egyptians; mystical, their baptismal initiation into the covenant of God by Moses: though all of them had not faith unfeigned, yet they professed faith in God; and the doctrine Moses brought from him, was accounted sufficient to attain both, 1 Corinthians 10:2.
This Divine faith, exercised by Joshua and Israel after their entrance into the Land of Promise, (who did, on God’s word and command, compass the impregnable walls of Jericho once every day for six days together, and on the seventh day seven times, sounding with trumpets of rams’ horns, and at last giving a shout), brought down these walls flat to the ground by the almiglity power of God, to whom they were as nothing, Joshua 6:20. Faith in all this realized God’s promise to them, reached forth their love to him, and obedience in all particulars required by him, glorifying God, as the great Captain of their hosts, as he revealed himself, Joshua 5:13-15; committing the work and event to him, who, by the breath of faith, doth crumble down these walls before them.
By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not; by the same gospel faith Rahab, who, as the Jews read the word, Joshua 2:1, זונה; was an hostess, and kept a house of entertainment, and so came to lodge the spies; or, as the Septuagint read it, and the Holy Ghost confirms it here, and James 2:25, was a public harlot, who gat her livelihood by the prostitution of her body, as well as the sale of meat and drink: so notorious a sinner as she, and a Canaanite too, was preserved from the destruction that was inflicted by the Israelites on the unbelieving and disobedient inhabitants of Jericho, being, after her exclusion out of the camp, in order to a legal purifying, admitted into God’s church, and honoured by him to be a mother in Israel, from whom the Messiah should descend, Joshua 6:23,Joshua 6:25.
When she had received the spies with peace: the full proof of her being a believer, was her entertaining of the spies sent from Joshua to Jericho, preserving them when sought for, and dismissing them, advising them what they were to do in order to their safety, Joshua 2:3,Joshua 2:10, to the end. The ground of all this, was her faith in God’s promise of giving Canaan to Israel, confirmed by the great works she heard God had done for them, and her own expectation of good only in the portion of God’s people, to whom she desired to be united, which was afterwards accomplished. Neither doth Paul and James contradict each other concerning her faith and works, James 2:25; for she was empted from destruction by the same faith by which she was justified; and her faith was justified to be sound and true, by her carriage to the spies, for it was a full demonstration of her faith in God.
And what shall I more say? Here the Spirit puts a period to the induction by an expostulation, as if he had said: Why do I speak of so many examples of faith? the Old Testament is full of them; but here is proof enough, I will say no more.
For the time would fail me to tell, &c.; for time of life and writing would be sooner gone, than a full account can be given of all the notable effects of faith by all these worthies who might be named; yet he would give some general hints of persons, and of the works of faith, which he judgeth sufficient, and so nameth promiscuously, and not in order of time wherein they existed. He nameth four judges, one king, and one prophet, and extraordinary prophets in a bulk, whose histories you have; of
Gideon, Judges 6:11, &c., Barak, Judges 4:5, &c., Samson, Judges 13:1-16:31, Jephthah, Judges 11:1-12:15, David’s history and Samuel’s in the First and Second Books of Samuel, and the First of Chronicles; the excellent exploits of whose faith are, as their names, enumerated promiscuously; some of them agreeing to particular persons, others to them all.
These, by the same gospel faith, subdued kingdoms, defeating the mighty enemies of the church; and eminently amongst them, David, who conquered Edom, Moab, Ammon, and the Syrian kingdoms, and extended his conquests to the Euphrates. This he and they did in obedience to God’s call, in dependence on God’s promise both of conduct and victory. All was done by God’s arm at the instance of faith and prayer, Psalms 18:29-42; Psalms 20:5,Psalms 20:9.
Wrought righteousness; they were all of them eminently righteous in their persons, and in their administration of justice to others: the utmost of their abilities were laid out in it, as became righteous judges, as to all matters of God and men, Judges 6:1-40; 1 Samuel 7:15,1 Samuel 7:17; 1 Samuel 12:2,1 Samuel 12:6.
Obtained promises; a real and actual possession of all those good things which God secured to them by promise; especially as to Gideon and Barak, victory and success over the Canaanites and Midianites, Judges 4:1-24; Judges 6:1-40; Samson, victory over the Philistines; David, victory over the church’s enemies. All which they first obtained in the promise, and then in the execution. Faith secured all, giving a real enjoyment of all the good made theirs in the promise, and then in the event; and will give the fulness of all good in general promises made to the church and them in the end.
Stopped the mouths of lions: Daniel, an eminent prophet of God, believed in him, and for his testimony to him was cast into the den of lions to be devoured, where God stops the mouths of them on his faith and prayer, and opens them to destroy their adversaries, Daniel 6:22. By the power and strength of God, both Samson and David slew those lions which would have preyed both on them and others, Judges 14:6; 1 Samuel 17:34-36. Faith obtained this success for them.
Quenched the violence of fire: by the same faith others of the prophets, Hebrews 11:32, eminently acquainted with God, and partakers of his secret, who defying idolatry, and the threatenings of a tyrant, became confessors of the true God and his worship, and were adjudged to the fiery furnace, Daniel 3:19,Daniel 3:23, and by faith were secured from being consumed by those flames, which in an instant destroyed those which threw them in, Hebrews 11:22-28. How did this fetch down the Son of God himself to accompany them, and to suspend the consuming power of the fire, so as it did not singe either their persons or garments, or to leave any scent of it upon them! And how did Moses’s and Aaron’s prayers extinguish the fire at Kibroth-hattaavah, and at Taberah! Numbers 11:1,Numbers 11:3; Numbers 16:22-45.
Escaped the edge of the sword: by faith these worthies, forementioned, Hebrews 11:32, were delivered, when others fell by the devouring sword, and all those instruments of war which were destructive to others. Their enemies fell by their swords in those many battles wherein they were engaged, fulfilling at that time God’s will, and trusting on his promise. And how many of the prophets hath God delivered from the swords of those who would have killed them!
Out of weakness were made strong; by faith many of those who had really natural infirmities, both of body and mind, had their tremblings and faintings of spirit, and were, in respect of their enemies, weak, few in number, short of them, as to force, power, and policy, yet by faith in God were made bold as lions, and had wonderful success against numerous and potent enemies, Judges 4:8; Judges 6:15,Judges 6:16; Judges 7:5,Judges 7:7,Judges 7:10; Judges 11:29; Judges 15:11,Judges 15:19; 1 Samuel 7:9,1 Samuel 7:10, &c.
Waxed valiant in fight; faith made those who were called to the war by God, mighty for that service, 2 Samuel 22:30-38, so as no perils could daunt them, no service was too hard for them. How victorious in the most desperate attempts, as to sense, did faith make them! Psalms 27:1,Psalms 27:3.
Turned to flight the armies of the aliens; they overthrew the camps of adversaries. παρεμβολη notes a single castle or tower, Acts 21:34, or a whole camp or place where an army is pitched, Hebrews 13:11,Hebrews 13:13; in the plural, many such tents where soldiers lie; and is metonymically read armies. Το κλινειν, actively taken, is to make to lie down, or to throw down, as applied to tents and camps; to put to flight, as applied to armies; all which were those of the idolatrous enemies of the church, strangers to their country, and more to their God, as the army and camp of Midian, Judges 7:13-23, which were overturned, routed, and destroyed by them.
Women received their dead raised to life again: through this Divine faith, both the prophets Elijah and Elisha did raise and restore, the one to the window of Sarepta, 1 Kings 17:22,1 Kings 17:23, the other to the Shunammite, 2 Kings 4:35,2 Kings 4:36, their sons from the dead; and these women and mothers did by faith receive them from the prophets alive again, who by faith and prayer procured this mercy from the quickening Lord, for them. In the general resurrection all shall be raised by the power of God, and the effect of faith therein is only receptive; we shall enjoy life again, and receive others from the dead also.
And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; others also, besides the prophets forementioned, Hebrews 11:32, ετυμπανισθεσαν, were tympanized; what manner of torturing death this was, is not so certain, whether by excoriation, and making drum-heads of their skins, or extending them on the rack, as the skin or parchment is on the drum head, and then with clubs, or other instruments, beating them to death; of which sort of sufferers seems Eleazer to be under Antiochus Epiphanes, 2Ma 6:19,30, for his not turning heathen, when urged to it by that torture; and though his deliverance from torture and death were offered to him by his tormentors on compliance with them, and renouncing his religion, yet he refused it, as others did, 2Ma 7:24, resolving to endure the utmost extremity rather than turn idolater, and disobey God.
That they might obtain a better resurrection: that which influenced them to suffer, was their faith in God’s promise of obtaining thereby a resurrection to an incomparable better life than they could have enjoyed on earth; for though they might have been spared from death now threatened them, which was a kind of resurrection, yet was it not to be compared with the resurrection to eternal life, glory, bliss, and pleasure, to be enjoyed by them with God in heaven. See what influenced them, 2 Corinthians 4:17,2 Corinthians 4:18.
And others had trial of cruel mockings; the same gospel faith enabled others than those mentioned before, prophets and saints, as Micaiah, 1 Kings 22:24, Elisha, 2 Kings 2:23; Isaiah 8:18; Amos 7:10, readily, cheerfully, and patiently to accept and receive the experience and trials of mocking, from the insulting, cruel enemies of God and his church, both national and aliens; being exposed and made a laughing-stock by reproaches, sarcasms, and nick-names, to aggravate their afflictions; and these inflicted on them by words and external signs, trials which, to an ingenuous spirit, bears harder than external torments, and which they more deeply sense and resent; yet faith makes them to receive all humbly, and carrieth them above them, as Psalms 31:20; Psalms 52:1-5; Psalms 120:3,Psalms 120:4; Psalms 140:3.
And scourgings; they felt the scourges and whips of their enemies smart on them, such as were excessively shameful and painful, being inflicted on the vilest persons, as slaves; such as was the matter of these scourges, such their smartings, whether of thongs, cords, or wires, Jeremiah 20:2; Jeremiah 37:15. This torment was commonly inflicted on them, not in Antiochus’s time only, and those before, but commonly in Christ’s and the apostles’ days, 2 Corinthians 6:5; 2 Corinthians 11:23.
Yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they cheerfully and patiently submitted to the cruel treating of their persecutors, who put them in the stocks, places of little ease, dungeons, loading them with iron shackles and fetters, which the wickedness of man had invented to torment them with; stern and cruel usage by their gaolers, restraining society from them, and of comfortable relief, feeding them with the bread and water of affliction, 2 Chronicles 18:26; Acts 16:24.
They were stoned; by the same faith were several of the prophets and believing worthies of old carried through cruel deaths, the just punishment of malefactors, but the wicked tortures of these innocent saints, some being stoned to death, as Zechariah the son of Jehoiada, 2 Chronicles 24:21, and others, Matthew 21:35; Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34.
The were sawn asunder; as Isaiah was, which is a known tradition among the Hebrews, a punishment common among the bordering nations of them, 2 Samuel 12:31; Amos 1:3, and exercised on these innocents, to which Christ himself alludeth, Matthew 24:51.
Were tempted: whether επειρασθησαν should not be επυρασθησαν, is much doubted, temptation being no manner of death; and the Spirit had instanced in it before, Hebrews 11:35. It may therefore be a slip of the transcriber, and that burning was the cruel death that should fill this place among the rest, a common punishment with them, Jeremiah 29:22; 2Ma 7:5. Or, it may note a death with several trials of racks and torments gradually inflicted, with a design to tempt them by their pains to renounce their religion.
Were slain with the sword; others were killed by the sword, either by beheading, or cutting in pieces, Mark 6:16,Mark 6:17; a kind of death foretold to be attending the martyrs of Jesus Christ, Revelation 20:4. All these sorts of death were most unjustly and cruelly inflicted on them by their persecutors, and as patiently received and cheerfully undergone by them.
They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins: as faith carried these believers through variety of deaths, so it managed others comfortably under their banishments and lingering sufferings, which were in proportion as cruel as death itself; they circuited up and down to preserve themselves from their destroyers, either voluntarily returning themselves into desolate places to keep a good conscience, or were unjustly and violently banished and forced away from their own habitations, to live as vagabonds, clothed only with goatskins and sheepskins, the common apparel of the prophets, as of Elijah, 2 Kings 1:8; Zechariah 13:4, which they wore as they came from the beasts’ backs, without dressing. Being destitute, afflicted, tormented; wandering in this forlorn state, stripped of money and necessaries of life, and not supplied by others in their poverty, 1 Kings 17:4, grievously pressed within, pained without, and afflicted beyond what can be sensed by any but in the like states, and evilly entreated by all; many miseries attending them by their pursuers, hardship in travels, and all sorts of evils, which multiplied their griefs: through all this faith carried them comfortably, and kept God with them.
Of whom the world was not worthy: the Spirit intermixeth an account of what these persons were who were so treated, lest the reader or hearer of these things might be mistaken of them, judging them to be some heinous malefactors, who were thus hurried in and destroyed by the world. Would you know what manner of persons they were? Be it known to you in the judgment of God, the best judge of their persons and states, they were such as the world did not deserve they should live among them, but were unworthy of their society, and the blessings which did attend it; and were it not for their sakes, God would quickly put an end to the sinful world, and burn it up. Such were these as did more for the preservation of the world, when thus brutishly treated by it, than it would or could do for itself.
They wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth: yet were they wandering over the desolate parts of this earth, being forced from all society with men, to the retirements of wild beasts in deserts, and climbing up mountains and rocks from their persecutors, lodging themselves in the natural or artificial dens and caves of the earth, the only receptacles for these worthies, faith giving them the best company, God and his comforts, there: see 1 Samuel 22:1,1 Samuel 22:4; 1 Kings 17:3; 1 Kings 18:13; 1Ma 1:53; 2:28-30.
The apostle returns in this verse to the proposition laid down in the second verse, which he had been proving by all these examples, and with it shuts up the history of them.
And these all; all these elders, mentioned from Hebrews 11:2 to this verse.
Having obtained a good report through faith: μαρτυρηθεντες, strictly, is having been martyred, or made martyrs; specially witnessing to the death for Christ, have a testimony given them, by way of eminency, by God himself in his Scripture record, that through faith they pleased him in their glorious achievements and sufferings, and were God’s faithful witnesses to the world, glorifying him in it; though reproached and ruined by the world, yet they were too good to live in it, and were fit to live with him in heaven, as Hebrews 11:2,Hebrews 11:5,Hebrews 11:16,Hebrews 11:35.
Received not the promise; yet these worthies, as Abraham and his believing seed, did not possess the land of Canaan, though they had the promise of it in their time, Hebrews 11:13; others did obtain the grace and good things promised for their time, Hebrews 11:33, but none of these had fulfilled to them in their day the manifestation of the Messiah in the flesh; though they saw his day and coming by faith, and did rejoice in it, yet none saw him so come as Simeon did, Luke 2:26,Luke 2:29; though, as to the eternal benefits by Christ, they did as actually receive them, as those since his perfecting the work of redemption have received them, even eternal blessedness and glory by him, Acts 15:11.
God having provided some better thing for us: the causes of their not receiving the promise, are summed up in this verse; the efficient of it is God’s providence unto believers before and after the incarnation of the Messiah. God having from eternity foreknowledge of those who would believe in God the Son incarnate, Romans 8:29, predestinated them to be called to the faith in him, and provided better for New Testament believers than for the Old ones, that what they had of Christ in types and veils, these should have in truth; what they had in promise, these should have in sight and possession; what they had in hope, as to his first coming, these should have it past, and as an earnest of his second coming; what they had by measure of his Spirit and grace, these should have in fulness, Luke 10:23,Luke 10:24; John 1:14,John 1:16; John 7:39; 2 Corinthians 3:8; Ephesians 3:8-11; Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:12.
That they without us should not be made perfect; the final cause of this gracious providence was, that the former aud later believers might be completed together; they shall not reach that perfect state of grace and glory by a re-union of their bodies and souls until the general resurrection, when they shall not prevent us, nor we them; but as soon as the trumpet alarms the dead to rise, in the same moment, and twinkling of an eye, shall the living be changed, and all be caught up together in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall be ever with the Lord, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. The ground of which perfection of all believers in all ages being in the last time, is from his choosing them all to be but one body of Christ, and him their Head; so as one member cannot be perfected but in the perfection of the whole, Matthew 8:11; Ephesians 4:4. In which perfection of it, God is resolved to be all in all; not in one, or in some, but when Christ hath subdued all his enemies, and gathered all his members, then shall his body and kingdom be perfected, and God be all in all, 1 Corinthians 15:28.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Hebrews 11". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent