Bible Commentaries

Vincent's Word Studies

Hebrews 11

Verse 1

Faith ( πίστις )

Without the article, indicating that it is treated in its abstract conception, and not merely as Christian faith. It is important that the preliminary definition should be clearly understood, since the following examples illustrate it. The key is furnished by Hebrews 11:27, as seeing him who is invisible. Faith apprehends as a real fact what is not revealed to the senses. It rests on that fact, acts upon it, and is upheld by it in the face of all that seems to contradict it. Faith is a real seeing. See Introduction, p. 363.

Substance ( ὑπόστασις )

See on Hebrews 1:3and see on Hebrews 3:14. On the whole, the Rev. assurance gives the true meaning. The definition has a scholastic and philosophic quality, as might be expected from a pupil of the Alexandrian schools. The meaning substance, real being, given by A.V., Vulg., and many earlier interpreters, suggests the true sense, but is philosophically inaccurate. Substance, as used by these translators, is substantial nature; the real nature of a thing which underlies and supports its outward form or properties. In this sense it is very appropriate in Hebrews 1:3, in describing the nature of the Son as the image or impress of God's essential being: but in this sense it is improperly applied to faith, which is an act of the moral intelligence directed at an object; or a condition which sustains a certain relation to the object. It cannot be said that faith is substantial being. It apprehends reality: it is that to which the unseen objects of hope become real and substantial. Assurance gives the true idea. It is the firm grasp of faith on unseen fact.

Evidence ( ἔλεγχος )

N.T.oQuite often in lxx for יָכַֽח, to reprove, rebuke, punish, blame. See Proverbs 1:23; Wisd. 2:14; John href="/desk/?q=joh+3:20&sr=1">John 3:20. Rend. conviction. Observe that ὑπόστασις and ἔλεγχος are not two distinct and independent conceptions, in which case καὶ would have been added; but they stand in apposition. Ἔλεγχος is really included in ὑπόστασις , but adds to the simple idea of assurance a suggestion of influences operating to produce conviction which carry the force of demonstration. The word often signifies a process of proof or demonstration. So von Soden: “a being convinced. Therefore not a rash, feebly-grounded hypothesis, a dream of hope, the child of a wish.”

Of things ( πραγμάτων )

Πρᾶγμα is, strictly, a thing done; an accomplished fact. It introduces a wider conception than ἐλπιζομένων thingshoped for; embracing not only future realities, but all that does not fall under the cognizance of the senses, whether past, present, or future.

Verse 2

For by it ( ἐν ταύτῃ γὰρ )

Lit. for in this. Rend. therein: in the sphere and exercise of faith: as believers. Comp. 1 Timothy 5:10. For introduces a proof of the preceding statement concerning the nature of faith. Faith has power to see and realize the unseen, for the experience of the fathers proves it.

The elders obtained a good report ( ἐμαρτυρηθήσαν οἱ πρεσβύτεροι )

The elders for the more common the fathers: the saints of the O.T. dispensation, many of whose names are recorded in this chapter. Εμαρτυρηθήσαν , lit. were borne witness to. God bore witness to them in the victory of their faith over all obstacles, and their characters and deeds as men of faith were recorded in Scripture. For this use of ματυρεῖν in the passive, see Acts 6:3; Acts 10:22; Acts 16:12; Romans 3:21; Hebrews 7:8, Hebrews 7:17. Notice that the statement in this verse does not begin the list of examples, which commences with Hebrews 11:4, but is closely attached to the definition in Hebrews 11:1as a comprehensive justification of it.

Verse 3

d Neither does this verse belong to the list of historical instances from Genesis, in which men exercised faith. It is merely the first instance presented in O.T. history of an opportunity for the exercise of faith as the assurance and conviction of things not seen. Like Hebrews 11:2, it is closely connected with the definition. It contains the exposition of the nature of faith, by showing that in its earliest and most general expression - belief in the creation of the visible universe by God - it is a conviction of something not apprehensible by sense.

We understand ( νοοῦμεν )

Νοεῖν signifies to perceive with the νοῦς or reflective intelligence. In Class. of seeing with the eyes, sometimes with ὀφθαλμοῖς expressed; but as early as Homer it is distinguished from the mere physical act of vision, as perception of the mind consequent upon seeing. Thus, τὸν δὲ ἰδὼν ἐνόησε andseeing him he perceived (Il. xi. 599): οὐκ ἴδον οὐδ ' ἐνόησα Ineither saw nor perceived (Od. xiii. 318). In N.T. never of the mere physical act. Here is meant the inward perception and apprehension of the visible creation as the work of God, which follows the sight of the phenomena of nature.

The worlds ( τοὺς αἰῶνας )

Lit. the ages. The world or worlds as the product of successive aeons. See on Hebrews 1:2.

Were framed ( κατηρτίσθαι )

Put together; adjusted; the parts fitted to each other. See on Galatians 6:1; see on Matthew 21:16; see on Luke 6:40. Of the preparing and fixing in heaven of the sun and moon, lxx, 88:37; of building a wall, 2Esdr. 4:12,13, 16. See also Psalm href="/desk/?q=ps+39:6&sr=1">Psalm 39:6. Rend. have been framed. The A.V. gives the impression of one giving his assent to an account of creation; but the perfect tense exhibits the faith of one who is actually contemplating creation itself.

By the word of God ( ῥήματι )

Comp. Psalm href="/desk/?q=ps+33:6&sr=1">Psalm 33:6; Psalm 118:5.

So that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear ( εἰς τὸ μὴ ἐκ φαινομένων τὸ βλεπόμενον γεγονέναι )

For things which are seen, rend. that which is seen. For were not made rend. hath not been made. Ἐις τὸ followed by the infinitive signifies result, not purpose. We perceive that the worlds have been framed by the word of God, so that (this being the case) that which is visible has not arisen out of that which is seen. Μὴ notnegatives the remainder of the clause taken as a whole. In other words, the proposition denied is, that which is seen arose out of visible things. By many early interpreters μὴ was transposed, and construed with φαινομένων alone, signifying “that which is seen has arisen from things which do not appear.” These things were explained as chaos, the invisible creative powers of God, etc.

Verse 4

Abel offered unto God ( Ἄβελ προσήνεγκεν τῷ θεῷ )

For the phrase see Hebrews 9:14.

A more excellent sacrifice ( πλείονα θυσίαν )

Greater in value in God's eyes. For πλείων in this sense, see Hebrews 3:3; Matthew 6:25; Luke 11:31; Luke 12:23. In Paul never in this sense. Others explain a more abundant sacrifice, referring to the material character of the offerings. See Genesis 4:4. But the difference between the offerings of Abel and Cain, considered in themselves, is largely a matter of speculation, and, as Lünemann justly remarks, such an interpretation accentuates unduly a purely external feature.

By which he obtained witness ( δι ἧς ἐμαρτυρήθη )

Lit. was witnessed to, as Hebrews 11:2. The pronoun which may refer either to the sacrifice or to faith. Better the latter, as is apparent from Hebrews 11:2, and probably from Hebrews 11:7, although the relation there is somewhat different.

Righteous ( δίκαιος )

Abel is called righteous by Christ himself. Matthew 23:35. Comp. 1 John 3:12. See on Romans 1:17.

God testifying of his gifts ( μαρτυροῦντος ἐπὶ τοῖς δώροις αὐτοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ )

Defining more specifically the general was witnessed to. God bore witness by his acceptance of the gifts. Ἐπὶ marks the fact on which the witness was based.

Yet speaketh ( ἔτι λαλεῖ )

Comp. Genesis 4:10. Still, although ages have passed since his death. Comp. Hebrews 12:24. Not that his voice still cries to God (so Bleek and others), but that by his faith he still speaks to us in the O.T. Scriptures, though dead. Const. ἔτι yetwith λαλεῖ speakethnot with being dead, in the logical sense, “even being dead,” as Romans 3:7.

Verse 5


Genesis 5:21-24. Comp. 49:14; Wisd. 4:10.

Was translated ( μετετέθη )

The verb used of Enoch's translation, lxx, Genesis href="/desk/?q=ge+5:24&sr=1">Genesis 5:24. In Acts 7:16of the transporting of the remains of Jacob and his sons to Sychem. In Galatians 1:6, of the sudden change in the religious attitude of the Galatians. In Hebrews 7:12, of the change in the priesthood.

That he should not see death ( τοῦ μὴ ἰδεῖν θάνατον )

This may signify the purpose of his translation, but probably refers to the result. He was translated so that he did not see death. Comp. Matthew 21:32; Acts 7:19; Romans 7:3.

Was not found because God had translated him ( οὐχ ηὑρίσκετο διότι μετέθηκεν αὐτὸν ὁ θεός )

Cited from lxx, Genesis 5:24. For had translated rend. translated.

He had this testimony ( μεμαρτύρηται )

Rev properly preserves the force of the perfect tense, “he hath had witness born to him.” The testimony still stands on record.

That he pleased God

Rend. hath pleased. Comp. lxx, Genesis 5:22, Genesis 5:24. Faith was exhibited by Enoch in walking with God (comp. A.V. Genesis 5:22, “walked with God,” and lxx, εὐαρέστησε pleasedGod). Faith creates close personal relation.

Verse 6

To please ( εὐαρεστῆσαι )

The aorist gives the sense of at all, stating the verbal idea without time, as a universal proposition. Comp. Romans 8:8.

Cometh ( προσερχόμενον )

See on Hebrews 4:16. Must ( δεῖ ). An essential obligation. In the nature of the case. That he is ( ὅτι ἔστιν ). Faith in God involves belief in his existence although he is unseen.

Is a rewarder ( μισθαποδότης )

Note the difference of the verb: not simply exists, but comes to pass as; proves to be, habitually, so that he who approaches God has, through faith, the assurance that his seeking God will result in good to himself. Μισθαποδότης rewarderN.T.oComp. μισθαποδοσία recompenseof reward, Hebrews 2:2(note); Hebrews 10:35; Hebrews 11:26.

Of them that diligently seek him ( τοῖς ἐκζητοῦσιν αὐτὸν )

Lit. unto them that seek him out. Comp. Acts 15:17; Hebrews 12:17; 1 Peter 1:10. The verb is used of seeking God, Romans 3:11. God's beneficent will and attitude toward the seeker are not always apparent at the first approach. In such cases there is occasion for faith, in the face of delay, that diligent seeking will find its reward. One is reminded of Jesus' lessons on importunity in seeking God, Luke 11:5-10; Luke 18:1-8.

He hides himself so wondrously

As though there were no God;

He is least seen when all the powers

Of ill are most abroad.

Or he deserts us at the hour

The fight is almost lost,

And seems to leave us to ourselves

Just when we need him most.

It is not so, but so it looks;

And we lose courage then;

And doubts will come if God hath kept

His promises to men.”


Verse 7


Matthew href="/desk/?q=mt+2:12&sr=1">Matthew 2:12; see on Luke 2:26; see on Acts 11:26; and comp. Hebrews 8:5.

Of things not seen as yet ( περὶ τῶν μηδέπω βλεπομένων )

Const. with εὐλαβηθεὶς , and rend. “by faith Noah, being warned, having reverent care concerning things not seen as yet, prepared an ark,” etc. Thus χρηματισθεὶς warnedis taken absolutely. The things not seen were the well-known contents of the revelation to Noah, Genesis 6:13ff., as apprehended by Noah's faith.

Moved with fear ( εὐλαβηθεὶς )

N.T.oOften in Class. and lxx. See on εὐλάβεια godlyfear, Hebrews 5:7. The A.V. gives the impression that Noah acted under the influence of fright. Rev. improves on this a little by rendering godly fear. The true idea is pious care, a reverent circumspection with regard to things enjoined by God, and as yet unseen, yet confidently expected on the strength of God's word.

Prepared ( κατεσκεύασεν )

Built and equipped. See on Hebrews 3:3.

An ark ( κιβωτὸν )

Originally, a wooden chest Also of the ark of the covenant in the temple and tabernacle, as Hebrews 9:4; Revelation 11:19. Of Noah's ark, Matthew 24:38; Luke 17:27; 1 Peter 3:20 Λάρσαξ achest is found in Class. in the same sense. Every classical scholar will recall the charming fragment of Simonides on Danae and her infant son Perseus exposed in an ark:

Ὁτε λάρνακι ἐν δαισαλέᾳ ἄνεσμος

βρέμε πνέων κ. τ. λ.

Also of the ark of Deucalion, the mythic Noah.

By the which ( δι ' ἧς )

By faith: although some refer it to the ark.

He condemned the world ( κατέκρινεν τὸν κόσμον )

His faith was exhibited in building the ark on the mere strength of God's declaration, while as yet there were no signs of the flood. By his faith thus manifested he announced the condemnation of the world to destruction. World is to be taken as in 2 Peter 2:5. It is not used in Hebrews in the ethical sense so common in John and Paul - the world as alien from God. The meaning of the statement is not that Noah condemned the conduct of his contemporaries by the contrast presented by his own faith, after the analogy of Matthew 12:41; Romans 2:27.

And became heir ( καὶ - ἐγένετο κληρονόμος )

This is not an independent clause, but is dependent on δι ' ἧς bywhich. It is connected by καὶ with the preceding clause, and the two clauses are parallel, describing the lot of Noah and his family. Became heir is practically = became partaker of. The literal sense of heir must not be pressed. Certainly not “inherited the righteousness of Abel and Enoch.” But righteousness came to Noah in virtue of his intimate fellowship with God. Of him as of Enoch, it is said that “he walked with God,” Genesis 6:9. Because of this fellowship he was a son of God and an heir of righteousness.

Of the righteousness which is by faith ( τῆς κατὰ πίστις δικαιοσύνης )

In the O.T. Noah is the first to receive the title of δίκαιος righteous Genesis 6:9; comp. Ezekiel 14:14, Ezekiel 14:20; Matthew href="/desk/?q=mt+9:29&sr=1">Matthew 9:29; Titus 1:1, Titus 1:4. Paul has δικαιοσύνη and δίκαιος fromor out of faith ( ἐκ πίστεως ), by faith ( διὰ πίστεως ), founded on faith ( ἐπὶ τῇ πίστει ), and of faith ( πίστεως ), none of which are found either in Hebrews or in the Pastorals. Κατὰ πίστιν signifies according to faith as a standard; but the conception at bottom is not essentially different from Paul's, unless there be imported into his conception the scholastic fiction of imputed righteousness. Paul, in Habakkuk href="/desk/?q=hab+2:4&sr=1">Habakkuk 2:4. See Hebrews 10:38.

Verse 8

d Paul exhibits faith as the element of personal righteousness in Abraham. In these verses (Hebrews 11:8-22) faith, according to the opening definition in this chapter, is that assurance and conviction of unseen things which caused Abraham and the patriarchs to rely confidently upon the future fulfillment of the divine promises.

When he was called to go out - obeyed ( καλούμενος ἐξελθεῖν ὑπήκουσεν )

A.V. is wrong. Ἐξελθεῖν togo out should be construed with ὑπήκουσεν obeyedand καλούμενος beingcalled is to be taken absolutely. Καλούμενος , the present participle, indicates Abraham's immediate obedience to the call: while he was yet being called. Rend. “when he was called obeyed to go out.” The infinitive explains the more general obeyed, by specifying that in which his obedience was shown. For the construction, see Acts 15:10; 1 Thessalonians 1:9; Hebrews 5:5. For the narrative, see Genesis 12:1-6, and comp. Acts 7:2-5.

Whither he went ( ποῦ ἔρχεται )

Note the picturesque continued present tense, “whither he is going,” as of Abraham on his journey.

Verse 9

He sojourned in ( παρῴκησεν εἰς )

The verb lit. to dwell beside or among. Πάροικος , a foreigner dwelling in a state without rights of citizenship. In Class. only in the sense of neighbor. See on Luke 24:18. The verb of rest with the preposition of motion (only here) signifies that he went into the land and dwelt there. Usually with ἐν inbut sometimes with the simple accusative, as Luke 24:18; Genesis 17:8; Exodus 6:4.

Land of promise ( γῆν τῆς ἐπαγγελίας )

Note the article, omitted in A.V., the promise: the land which was designated in the promise of God. See Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:15. The phrase N.T.oThere is no corresponding phrase in O.T.

Strange ( ἀλλοτρίαν )

Another ( ἄλλη ) land than his own. So lxx, Genesis 15:13. Comp. Acts 7:6.

In tabernacles ( ἐν σκηναῖς )

Or tents, as a migratory people, without a permanent home.

The heirs with him ( τῶν συνκληρονόμων )

Joint-heirs or fellow-heirs. olxx, oClass. See Romans 8:17; Ephesians 3:6; 1 Peter 3:7. The three, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are mentioned because they cover the entire period of the sojourn in Canaan. Faith inspired these to endure patiently their unsettled life, since it assured them of a permanent home in the future.

Verse 10

For he looked for a city which hath foundations ( ἐξεδέχετο γὰρ τὴν τοὺς θεμελίους ἔξουσαν πόλιν )

The sense is impaired in A.V. by the omission of the articles, the city, the foundations. Passing over the immediate subject of God's promise to Abraham - his inheritance of the land in which he sojourns - the writer fastens the patriarch's faith upon the heavenly fulfillment of the promise - the perfected community of God, which, he assumes, was contained in the original promise. By the city he means the heavenly Jerusalem, and his statement is that Abraham's faith looked forward to that. The idea of the new or heavenly Jerusalem was familiar to the Jews. See Hebrews 12:22, Hebrews 13:14; Galatians 4:26; Revelation 3:12; Revelation 21:2. The Rabbins regarded it as an actual city. For the foundations comp. Revelation 21:14. In ascribing to the patriarchs an assured faith in heaven as the end and reward of their wanderings, the writer oversteps the limits of history; but evidently imports into the patriarchal faith the contents of a later and more developed faith - that of himself and his readers.

Builder and maker ( τεχνίτης καὶ δημιουργὸς )

Τεχνίτης artificerarchitect. Comp. Acts 19:24(note), Acts 19:28; Revelation 18:22, and lxx, 1 Chronicles 29:5; Song of Solomon 7:1; Wisd. 8:6; 14:2; Sirach 9:17 Δημιουργὸς N.T.ooriginally a workman for the public ( δῆμος ); generally, framer, builder. It is used by Xenophon and Plato of the maker of the world (Xen. Mem. i. 4,9; Plato, Tim. 40 C; Repub. 530 A). It was appropriated by the Neo Platonists as the designation of God. To the Gnostics, the Demiurge was a limited, secondary God, who created the world; since there was no possibility of direct contact between the supreme, incommunicable God and the visible world.

Verse 11


Faith prevailing against natural impossibilities. See Romans 4:19-22. Both Abraham and Sarah doubted at first (Genesis 17:17; Genesis 18:12); but both became persuaded of the truthfulness of the promise.

Herself ( αὐτὴ )

She who at first doubted.

To conceive seed ( εἰς καταβολὴν σπέρματος )

In every other instance in N.T. καταβολή means foundation, and appears in the phrase καταβολὴ κόσμου foundationof the world. Originally it means throwing down; hence, the depositing of the male seed in the womb. The sentence may be explained either, “received strength as regarded the deposition of seed,” to fructify it; or, “received strength for the foundation of a posterity,” σπέρμα being rendered in accordance with Hebrews 2:16; Hebrews 11:18, and καταβολή in the sense of foundation, as everywhere else in N.T.

And was delivered of a child when she was past age ( καὶ παρὰ καιρὸν ἡλικίας )

Was delivered of a child not in the text. Καὶ andthat. Rend. “received strength,” etc., “and that when she was past age.” Παρὰ καιρὸν ἡλικίας , lit. past the season of age. For ἡλικία see on stature, Luke 12:25.

Verse 12

As good as dead ( νενεκρωμένου )

Comp. Romans 4:19. As good as is an addition of A.V. The Greek reads and that a dead man. Comp. νέκρωσιν deadnessapplied to Sarah, Romans 4:19.

Stars - sand

See Genesis 22:17; Genesis 32:12.

By the seashore ( παρὰ τὸ χεῖλος τῆς θαλάσσης )

Lit. by the lip of the sea. The phrase N.T.oVery often in lxx, as Genesis 22:17; Exodus 14:30; lip of a river, Genesis 41:17; Exodus 7:15; of a brook, Deuteronomy 2:36; Deuteronomy 3:12; of Jordan, 2 Kings 2:13. So in Class. The vigor thus supernaturally imparted to Abraham does not appear to have exhausted itself in the generation of Isaac; since, according to Genesis 25:2, Abraham became by Keturah the father of six sons after the death of Sarah.

Verse 13

In faith ( κατὰ πίστιν )

See on Hebrews 11:7.

Not having received ( μὴ κομισάμενοι )

See on Hebrews 10:36. They died according to faith, inasmuch as they did not receive. They died under the regimen of faith, and not of sight. For the phrase κομίζειν τὰς ἐπαγγελίας toreceive the promises, comp. Hebrews 10:36; Hebrews 11:39.

Having seen them afar off ( πόρρωθεν αύτὰς ἰδόντες )

By faith; from afar.

Were persuaded of them and embraced them ( ἀσπασάμενοι )

The A.V. completely destroys the beauty of this verse. It reads were persuaded, following T.R. πεισθέντες , and translates ἀσπασάμενοι embracedwhich is a sort of inferential rendering of the original sense to salute or greet. Rend. “having seen them from afar and greeted them”: as seamen wave their greeting to a country seen far off on the horizon, on which they cannot land. Lünemann appropriately quotes Virgil, Aen. iii. 522:

“Cum proculi obscuros collis humilemque videmus

Italiam. Italiam primus conclamat Achates,

Italiam laeto socii clamore salutant.”

Confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims ( ὁμολογήσαντες ὅτι ξένοι καὶ παρεπίδημοι )

They admitted and accepted the fact with the resignation of faith, and with the assurance of future rest. Comp. Genesis 23:4; Genesis 24:37; Genesis 28:4; Genesis 47:9; Psalm 39:12; Psalm 119:19, Psalm 119:54. For παρεπίδημοι sojournerssee on 1 Peter 1:1. In the anonymous Epistle to Diognetus, an apologetic letter, probably of the second century, and one of the gems of early Christian literature, occur the following words concerning Christians: “They inhabit their own country, but as sojourners: they take part in all things as citizens, and endure all things as aliens: every foreign country is theirs, and every country is foreign.”

Verse 14

Declare plainly ( ἐμφαμίζουσιν )

oP. See on John 14:21. Occasionally in lxx. Rend. “make it manifest.”

They seek a country ( πατρίδα ἐπιζητοῦσιν )

The verb is found in lxx, chiefly in the sense of seeking after God or another deity. See 2 Kings 1:3, 2 Kings 1:6; 2 Kings 3:11; 2 Kings 8:8; 2 Kings 22:18; 2 Chronicles 18:6. Comp. ἐπιζητουμένη πόλις acity sought after (Zion), Isaiah 62:12. Πατρίς is a native country; a fatherland. Only here and in Gospels and Acts. Quite often in lxx.

Verse 15

If they had been mindful ( εἰ ἐμνημόνευον )

In N.T. habitually remember. So invariably in lxx. The meaning here is, that if, in their declaration (Hebrews 11:14) that they were seeking a country, they had called to mind the country from which they came out, they could have returned thither, so that it is evident that they did not mean that country.

To have returned ( ἀνακάμψαι )

Rend. “to return.” Lit. bend their way back again ( ἀνα ).

Verse 16

Now they desire ( νΰν ὀρέγονται )

Νῦν nowis logical: as the case now stands. For ὀρέγονται desiresee on 1 Timothy 3:1.

Is not ashamed ( οὐκ ἐπαισχύνεται )

Because they have commended themselves to God by their faith, so that he acknowledges them as his own. Comp. Hebrews 2:11; Mark 8:28, Mark 8:38; Romans 1:16; 2 Timothy 1:8, 2 Timothy 1:16.

To be called their God ( Θεὸς ἐπικαλεῖσθαι αὐτῶν )

Lit. to be surnamed. Comp. Acts 4:36; Acts 10:5, Acts 10:18, Acts 10:32. God was called the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. See Exodus 3:6.

For he hath prepared for them a city ( ἡτοίμασιν γὰρ αὐτοῖς πόλιν )

Comp. Matthew 25:34; John 14:2; Revelation 21:2. City is significant, as showing that the fulfillment of God's promise lies in introducing them into the perfection of social life. Comp. Revelation 3:12; Revelation 21:2, Revelation 21:10; Revelation 22:19.

Verse 17

When he was tried offered up ( προσενήνοχεν πειραζόμενος )

The full sense of the statement is missed in A.V. The meaning is that while the trial is yet in progress, Abraham hath already offered up his son, before the trial has come to an issue, by the act of his obedient will, through faith in God. Comp. James 2:21.

He that had received ( ὁ ἀναδεξάμενος )

The verb only here and Acts 28:7. It means to accept; to welcome and entertain. So Rev. gladly received.

Accounting ( λογισάμενος )

See on 1 Peter 5:12; see on Romans 4:5; see on Romans 8:18.

From whence ( ὅθεν )

Rend. wherefore: because of his faith in God's power and truthfulness. Ὃθεν , though occasionally in a local sense in N.T., as Matthew 12:44; Luke 11:24; Acts 14:26, is much more common in the logical or causal sense, wherefore, on which account. So in every other instance in Hebrews. In the local sense it would mean from the dead.

Also he received him in a figure ( αὐτὸν καὶ ἐν παρασολῇ ἐκομίσατο )

Καὶ marks the receiving as answering to the faith. As Abraham believed in God's power to restore Isaac, so, because of his faith, he also received him. For ἐκομίσατο receivedsee on Hebrews 10:36. Ἐν παραβολῆ ina parable. Since the sacrifice did not take place as a literal slaughter, there could not be a literal restoration from death. There was a real offering in Abraham's will, but not a real death of Isaac. Isaac's death took place symbolically, in the sacrifice of the ram: correspondingly, the restoration was only a symbolic restoration from the dead. Some expositors, among whom is Westcott, explain thus: Abraham accounted that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead, from which he received him at birth, in that Isaac sprung from one dead ( νενεκρωμένου , Hebrews 11:12). This is extremely labored and artificial.

Verse 20

Blessed ( εὐλόγησεν )

See on John 12:13.

Concerning things to come ( καὶ περὶ μελλόντων )

A.V. Omits καὶ which gives an emphasis to the following words. Isaac pronounced a blessing, and that concerning things to come; things beyond the lifetime of Jacob and Esau. See Genesis 27:29, Genesis 27:39. The blessing was an act of faith. Isaac's confidence in the power of his blessing to convey the good which it promised was “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen,” founded on the promise of Genesis 17:5.

Verse 21

When he died ( ἀποθνήσκων )

Rend. “when dying.” It is quite superfluous to explain this as emphasizing the strength in contrast with the weakness of approaching death; or that, in the birth of Joseph's two sons before Jacob's death, Jacob discerned a monition to adopt them into the direct line of his own sons. The meaning is simply that these events took place in Jacob's last hours.

Blessed each ( ἕκαστον εὐλόγησεν )

See Genesis 48:17-20. Each son received a separate and distinct blessing, although Joseph had expected only one common blessing for both. Jacob's discernment of faith appeared in this, as in the precedence assigned to the younger son.

And worshipped leaning on the top of his staff ( καὶ προσεκύνησεν ἐπὶ τὸ ἄκρον τῆς ῥάβδου αὐτοῦ )

From the lxx of Genesis 47:31. It seems to have been loosely included by our writer among the incidents of Jacob's last hours ( ἀποθνήσκων ), although it belongs to a different part of the narrative. The promise given by Joseph to remove his father's remains to the family sepulchre may have been regarded as preparatory to the blessing, or introduced in order to emphasize the devotional character of the entire proceeding. The words upon the head of his staff are from the lxx; the Hebrew being “Jacob bowed himself upon the head of the bed.” Comp. 1 Kings 1:47. According to its vowel-points the same Hebrew word signifies either staff or bed. The lxx has chosen the former, and renders by ῥάβδος staffAccording to the Hebrew, the meaning is that Jacob, having been sitting during the conversation, lay down when it was finished, probably overcome by weakness, and breathing a prayer as he fell back on his pillow.

Verse 22

When he died ( τελευτῶν )

Comp. Genesis 1:26, lxx. The verb means to finish or close, with life understood. Always in this sense in N.T. See Matthew 2:19; Matthew 9:18; Luke 7:2, etc. Never used by Paul. Rend. “when near his end.”

Made mention of ( περὶ - ἐμνημόνευσεν )

See on Hebrews 11:15. A.V. has remembered in marg. Remembered is appropriate here. Joseph on his death-bed remembered the promise of God to give the land of Canaan to the seed of Abraham (Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:15; Genesis 15:7), and also the prediction to Abraham that his descendants should pass four hundred years in bondage in a strange land, and should afterward be brought out thence, Genesis 15:13, Genesis 15:14.

The departing of the children of Israel ( τῆς ἐξόδου τῶν υἱῶν Ισραὴλ )

Ἔξοδος only here, Luke 9:31(note) and 2 Peter 1:15(note). Ὁι υἱοὶ Ἰσραὴλ is one of several phrases in N.T. denoting the chosen people. There are also house ( οἶκος ) and people ( λαὸς ) of Israel, and Israel of God, and Israel according to the flesh.

And gave commandment ( καὶ ἐνετείλατο )

Καὶ andso; in consequence of his remembering the prophecy of the exodus. The verb indicates a specific injunction ( ἐντολή ). See on 1 Timothy 6:14.

Verse 23

Of his parents ( ὑπὸ τῶν πατέρων αὐτοῦ )

Lit. by his fathers. Comp. Exodus 2:2. Πατέρες fathersaccording to a late Greek usage, is employed like γονεῖς parentsSimilarly the Lat. patres and soceri, including both parents, or father and mother in law.

Proper ( ἀστεῖον )

Only here and Acts 7:20, on which see note. Rend. “comely.”

Commandment ( διάταγμα )

N.T.oRend. “mandate.”

Verse 24

When he was come to years ( μέγας γενόμενος )

Lit. having become great. Comp. lxx, Exodus 2:11. Often in the phrase μικροὶ καὶ μεγάλοι smalland great; young and old. See Acts 26:22; Hebrews 8:11; Revelation 11:8; Revelation 13:16, etc.

Verse 25

To suffer affliction with ( συνκακουχεῖσθαι )

N.T.oolxx, oClass. The verb κακουχεῖν totreat ill, Hebrews 11:37; Hebrews 13:3; lxx, 1 Kings 2:26; 1 Kings 11:39. Rend. “to be evil entreated.”

Than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season ( ἣ πρόσκαιρον ἔχειν ἁμαρτίας ἀπόλαυσιν )

Lit. than to have temporary enjoyment of sin. The emphasis is first on temporary and then on sin. For ἀπόλαυσις enjoymentsee on 1 Timothy 6:17. Πρόσκαιρος fora season, temporary, rare in N.T. olxx. Once in Paul, see 2 Corinthians 4:18.

Verse 26

Esteeming the reproach of Christ ( ἡγησάμενος τὸν ὀνειδισμὸν τοῦ Χριστοῦ )

The participle gives the reason for his choice of affliction instead of sin: since he esteemed. “The reproach of Christ” is the reproach peculiar to Christ; such as he endured. The writer uses it as a current form of expression, coloring the story of Moses with a Christian tinge. Comp. Romans 15:3; Hebrews 13:13; 2 Corinthians 1:5; Colossians 1:24; Philippians 3:14; 1 Peter 4:14. The phrase is applied to Moses as enduring at the hands of the Egyptians and of the rebellious Israelites the reproach which any faithful servant of God will endure, and which was endured in a notable way by Christ.

He had respect unto ( ἀπέβλεπεν εἰς )

N.T.oLit. he looked away (from the treasures of Egypt, etc.) unto the recompense.

Verse 27

He forsook Egypt ( κατέλιπεν Ἄιγυπτον )

After he had killed the Egyptian, Exodus 2:15. Not in the general exodus. The historical order of events is preserved: the flight to Midian, the Passover, the Exodus, the passage of the Red Sea.

The wrath ( τὸν θυμὸν )

Only here in Hebrews. See on John 3:36.

He endured ( ἐκαρτέρησεν )

N.T.oOccasionally in lxx. Often in Class. He was stanch and steadfast.

As seeing him who is invisible ( τὸν ἀόρατον ὡς ὁρῶν )

Since he saw, etc. The emphasis is on invisible, pointing back to the introductory definition of faith. The word is used of God, Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 1:17.

Verse 28

Kept the passover ( πεποίηκεν τὸ πάσχα )

Rend. “hath instituted the passover.” The perfect tense indicates the continued significance of the service down to the time of writing. The phrase ποιεῖν τὸ πάσχα on N.T. only here and Matthew 26:18. The usual N.T. phrase is φαγεῖν τὸ πάσχα toeat the Passover. See Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:12; Luke 22:11. Ποιεῖν τὸ πάσχα unquestionably means to keep or celebrate the Passover, as Matthew 26:18; Exodus 12:48; Numbers 9:2, Numbers 9:4, Numbers 9:6, Numbers 9:10, Numbers 9:13; Deuteronomy 16:1: but the verb is elastic. The corresponding Hebrew verb עָשָֽׂה, among other meanings, signifies to create (Genesis 1:7; Genesis 2:2); to establish (Ecclesiastes 2:5, Ecclesiastes 2:6, Ecclesiastes 2:8); to constitute (1 Kings 12:31, 1 Kings 12:32); to make ready or prepare (Judges 13:15; to prepare as a sacrifice (Psalm 66:15). In all these instances it is rendered in lxx by ποιεῖν . In N.T. we find ποιεῖν ἄριστον or δεῖπνον toprepare a breakfast or dinner. Accordingly ποιεῖν may properly be used here of the instituting of the Passover. Moreover the two following clauses clearly indicate that the writer is referring to the original institution.

The sprinkling of blood ( τὴν πρόσχυσιν τοῦ αἵματος )

Πρόσχυσις affusionN.T.oolxx, oClass. From προσχεῖν topour on. In the post-Exodus legislation the blood which, in the original institution, was sprinkled on the door-posts and lintels (Exodus 12:22), was thrown upon the altar (Deuteronomy 16:6), and προσχεῖν in lxx is used of this act almost without exception. See Exodus 24:6; Exodus 29:16; Leviticus 1:5, Leviticus 1:11; Leviticus 3:2, Leviticus 3:8, Leviticus 3:13, etc.

Lest he that destroyed the first-born should touch them ( ἵνα μὴ ὁ ὀλοθρεύων τὰ πρωρότοκα θίγῃ αὐτῶν )

Rend. “that the destroyer of the first-born should not touch them,” a rendering which brings out more sharply the preventive purpose of the sprinkling of blood. Ὀλοθρεύειν todestroy, N.T.ooClass. Ὁ ὀλοθρεύων is used in the narrative of Exodus 12:23for the destroying angel. The kindred noun ὀλοθρευτής destroyer(olxx, oClass.) occurs in 1 Corinthians 10:10of the plague in Numbers 16:46-50. For θίγῃ shouldtouch, see on Colossians 2:21.

Verse 29

Passed through ( διέβησαν )

Only three times in N.T. See Luke 16:26; Acts 16:9. The simple Βαίνην does not occur in N.T.

The Red Sea ( τὴν Ἐρυθρὰν θάλασσαν )

Called by the Israelites the sea, Exodus 14:2, Exodus 14:9, Exodus 14:16, Exodus 14:21, Exodus 14:28, etc., and, specially, the sea of Suph (sedge, seeds ). In lxx always as here except Judges 11:16, where it is θάλασσα Σὶφ i.e. Suph. By the Greeks the name was at first applied to the whole ocean from the coast of Ethiopia to the island of Taprobana or Ceylon. Afterward, when they learned of the existence of an Indian Ocean, they applied the name merely to the sea below Arabia, and to the Arabian and Persian gulfs.

Which the Egyptians assaying to do ( ἧς πεῖραν λαβόντες οἱ Αιγύπτιοι )

The A.V. has assaying, according to the older English usage. Assay is now chiefly used of the testing of precious metals; but in the sense of try it is found in Piers Ploughman, Gower, Chaucer, Shakespeare. Lit. of which (sea ) the Egyptians having taken trial. The phrase πεῖραν λαμβάνειν totake trial occurs also in lxx, Deuteronomy 28:56. In N.T. only here and Hebrews 11:36.

Were drowned ( κατεπόθησαν )

Lit. were drunk down. See on Matthew 23:24. Comp. lxx, Exodus 15:4, and in N.T. 1 Corinthians 15:54; 2 Corinthians 2:7; 2 Corinthians 5:4.

Verse 30

Compassed about ( κυκλωθέντα )

Comp. Luke 21:20; John 10:24. oP.

Verse 31

The harlot Rahab ( Ῥαὰβ ἡ πόρνη )

See Joshua href="/desk/?q=jos+6:17&sr=1">Joshua 6:17, and comp. James 2:25. Rahab's occupation is stated without mincing, and the lodging of the spies at her house was probably not a matter of accident. Very amusing are the efforts of some earlier expositors to evade the fact of a harlot's faith, by rendering πόρνη landladyPerished not with ( οὐ συναπώλετο )

N.T.oIn lxx see Numbers 16:26; Psalm 25:9; Psalm 27:3.

Them that believed not ( τοῖς ἀπειθήσασιν )

Rend. “them that were disobedient.” Simple disbelief is expressed by ἀπιστεῖν, ἀπιστία :disbelief as it manifests itself in disobedience, by ἀπειθεῖν. Ἁπειθεῖν is ἀπιστεῖν on its active side. See on John 3:36, and comp. Hebrews 3:18; Hebrews 4:6, Hebrews 4:11; Romans 11:30, Romans 11:32, contrasting with Romans 11:20, Romans 11:23. Ἁπειθεῖν here describes the failure to be persuaded that God had given the land to the Israelites, and the consequent refusal to surrender Jericho. Rahab's faith is shown Joshua 2:9-11.

When she had received the spies ( δεξαμένη τοὺς κατασκόπους )

Rend. “having received.” For this sense of friendly reception as a guest see Luke 10:8, Luke 10:10. Κατάσκοπος aspy, N.T.olxx, Genesis 42:9, Genesis 42:11, Genesis 42:14; 1 Samuel 26:4.

With peace ( μετ ' εἰρήνηνς )

The phrase only here and Acts 15:33. Quite often in lxx, as Genesis 15:15; Genesis 26:29; Exodus 18:23; Deuteronomy 20:20; Judges 8:9. In N.T. ἐν εἰρήνῃ inpeace (Acts 16:36; James 2:16): εἰς εἰρήνην intopeace (Mark 5:34; Luke 7:50; Luke 8:48); both these very often in lxx. Rahab received the spies without enmity, and did not allow them to suffer harm from others. An interesting parallel is furnished by Dante, Purg. ii. 99, in the case of the pilot-angel who conveys souls to the shore of Purgatory.

“He, sooth to say, for three months past has taken

Whoever wished to enter, with all peace ” (without interposing any obstacle.)

Verse 32

To tell ( διηγούμενον )

Lit. the time will fail me telling: if I tell. See on Mark 9:9, and comp. Mark 5:16; Luke 8:39; Luke 9:10; Acts 9:27, and διήγησις narrative(A.V. declaration ), Luke 1:1. Gideon, etc. These names of the four judges are not enumerated in chronological order. Samuel is closely connected with David as in the history, but with τε καὶ as introducing the new order of the prophets.

Verse 33

Through faith ( διὰ πίστεως )

This formula is now substituted for the instrumental dative πίστει byfaith. The reason for the change cannot perhaps be accurately formulated, but will be appreciated by one who feels the Greek idioms as better suiting the more general illustrations which follow.

Subdued kingdoms ( κατηγωνίσαντο βασιλείας )

The verb N.T.oolxx, signifies fought down; overcame by struggle, as Barak, Judges 7; Jephthah, Judges 11; David, 2 Samuel 5.

Wrought righteousness ( ἠργάσαντο δικαιοσύνην )

For the phrase comp. Acts href="/desk/?q=ac+10:35&sr=1">Acts 10:35. Referring not merely to their personal virtues, but to the public exercise of these as leaders, as 2 Samuel 8:15; 1 Chronicles 18:14; 1 Samuel 12:4. Faith showed itself in the association of righteousness with power. Comp. Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 54:14; 1 Kings 10:9.

Obtained promises ( ἐπέτυχον ἐπαγγελιῶν )

See on Hebrews 6:15.

Stopped ( ἔφραξαν )

The verb means to fence in; block up. Rare in N.T. See Romans 3:19; 2 Corinthians 11:10, and comp. φραγμός afence, Matthew 21:33; Ephesians 2:14. Occasionally in lxx, as Job 38:8; Proverbs 21:13; Zechariah 14:5. The reference is no doubt to Daniel, Daniel 6:22; comp. 1 Maccabees 2:60.

Verse 34

Quenched the violence of fire ( ἔσβεσαν δύναμιν πυρός )

Rend. “the power of fire.” Reference to the three Hebrews, 1 Maccabees 2:59.

Edge of the sword ( στόματα μαχαίρης )

Lit. mouths of the sword. See on Hebrews href="/desk/?q=heb+4:12&sr=1">Hebrews 4:12. The plural edges indicates frequent assaults.

Out of weakness ( ἀπὸ ἀσθενείας )

Rend. “from weakness.” For the sense of ἀπὸ fromsee Luke 5:15. The meaning is not confined to sickness, as in the case of Hezekiah (Isaiah 38). The main reference is probably to Samson, Judges href="/desk/?q=jud+16:28&sr=1">Judges 16:28ff.

The armies of the aliens ( παρεμβολὰς ἀλλοτρίων )

Omit both the's in translation. For παρεμβολὰς see on Acts 21:34. Very often in lxx. Aliens, foreign foes or invaders.

Verse 35


The recorded raisings from the dead are mostly for women. See 1 Kings 17:17ff.; 2 Kings 4:17ff. Comp. Luke 7:11ff.; Acts 9. The reference here is to the first two.

Raised to life again ( ἐξ ἀναστάσεως )

Rend. “by a resurrection”; and for the force of ἐξ comp. Romans href="/desk/?q=ro+1:4&sr=1">Romans 1:4.

Were tortured ( ἐτυμπανίσθησαν )

N.T.olxx once, 1Samuel href="/desk/?q=1sa+21:13&sr=1">1 Samuel 21:13, describing the feigned madness of David, renders ἐτυμπάνιζεν he scrabbled on the doors of the gate,” meaning that he beat the doors like a madman. Τύμπανον means a drum or a drumstick; hence a cudgel; so Aristoph. Plut. 476, where it is associated with κύφων apillory. Comp. Hebrews href="/desk/?q=heb+10:34&sr=1">Hebrews 10:34. The ( τὴν ) deliverance offered at the price of denying their faith. See 2 Maccabees 6:21-27.

A better resurrection ( κρείττονος ἀναστάσεως )

Better than a resurrection like those granted to the women above mentioned, which gave merely a continuation of life on earth. Comp. 2 Maccabees 7:9,14.

Verse 36

Of cruel mockings ( ἐμπαιγμῶν )

N.T.ooClass. Rare in lxx. Cruel is an insertion of A.V. Rend. “of mockings.” Ἐμπαιγμονὴ mockery(olxx, Class.) is found 2 Peter 3:3(note); and ἐμπαίκτης mockeror scoffer, 2 Peter 3:3; Judges 1:18. Ἑμπαίζειν tomock is quite frequent in the Synoptic Gospels, and occurs also in lxx.

Verse 37

They were stoned ( ἐλιθάσθησαν )

A characteristic Jewish punishment. See 2 Chronicles 24:20; Matthew 23:37; John 10:31; Acts 5:26; Acts 7:59; Acts 14:19. The verb λιθοβολεῖν is also used in Matthew, Luke, and Acts, and once in this epistle, Hebrews 12:20.

Were sawn asunder ( ἐπίσθησαν )

N.T.oAs Isaiah, according to tradition.

Were tempted ( ἐπειράσθησαν )

If the reading is correct, which seems probable, the reference is probably to inducements offered them to abandon their loyalty to God. It has seemed to many out of place, because occurring in the midst of a list of different forms of violent death.

Verse 38

Of whom the world was not ( ὧν οὐκ ἦν ἄξιος ὁ κόσμος )

This clause falls into the series of participles which precedes it; the form of the relative sentence being adopted because of the lack of a proper participial phrase to express the statement. At the same time it prepares the way for the following clause in which the participial construction is resumed. Rend. “they went about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, evil-entreated, men of whom the world was not worthy, wandering in deserts,” etc. By the world ( κόσμος ) is not meant the corrupt world, as in John and Paul (see on Hebrews 11:7), but the world considered as an economy which was unworthy of these, because ruled by sense and not by faith. Their plane of life was higher.

They wandered ( πλανώμενοι )

Lit. wandering or straying, apart from the homes and the intercourse of men.

Caves of the earth ( ὀπαῖς τῆς γῆς )

Ὁπή only here and James 3:11. It means a hole; primarily a place through which one can see ( ὄπωπα ). In lxx the cleft of the rock in which God placed Moses, Exodus 33:22: a window, a latticed opening, Ecclesiastes 12:3eye-socket, Zechariah 14:12: a hole in the wall, Ezekiel 8:7: a hole in a tree, 4Macc. 14:16.

Verse 39

Having obtained a good report ( μαρτυρηθέντες )

Rend. “having had witness born to them.” See on Hebrews 11:2.

Verse 40

Having provided ( προβλεψαμένου )

N.T.oFor us ( περὶ ἡμῶν )

The better thing is for us. It was not for them: they lived in the assurance of a future time better than their own, and in this assurance of faith, did their work and bore their burden in their own time. It is one of the achievements of faith to be cheerfully willing to be only a stage to some better thing which we cannot share.

That they without us should not be made perfect ( ἵνα μὴ χωρὶς ἡμῶν τελειωθῶσιν )

Each successive stage of history gathers up into itself the fruit of preceding stages. This passage teaches the solidarity of humanity in its work as well as in itself. The man of the present requires the work and suffering and achievement of the men of the past to complete him and his work. The future men will, in like manner, require the work and suffering and achievement of the men of today to complete them. The whole creation, in all its successive aeons, moves together toward

“The one far-off, divine event.”

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Bibliographical Information
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Hebrews 11". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.