Bible Commentaries

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Hebrews 11


Questions For Hebrews Chapter Eleven

1. Of what is faith the foundation?

2.For what things does it give evidence?

3.Who are meant by the elders here?

4.By what were the words formed?

5.What does our faith have to do with that?

6.Does it say things were made of nothing?

7.On which does faith operate, visible or invisible?

S.Could they be invisible yet be existent?

9.How could Abel have acted by faith?

10.What is antecedet of "it" in4th verse?

11.How can this now speak to us?

12.What happened to Enoch?

13.How could faith bring this about?

14.How necessary is faith for all persons?

15.What class will God reward?

16.How long did Noah"s faith operate ?

17.By what did he condemn the world?

18.Had not God condemned the world already?

19.Noah became heir of what sort of righteousness?

20.How did his leaving home show Abraham"s faith?

21.Connect his faith with "strange country."

22.For what did he look?

23.Was he not then in the land promised?

24.Then where was the one "looked for"?

25.Why was faith required in Sarah"s conception?

26.Compare this with Genesis 18:12.

27.Explain ""him as good as dead" in verse122S.Who are "these" verse13?

29.How could they die in faith?

30.For what did they look forward?

31. What country is referred to in verse15?

32. Did these people believe in a hereafter?

33. Where is the city which God has prepared?

34. Why is Isaac called the only begotten son?

35. What promises meant in verse17?

36.Did Abraham expect to see promises fulfilled?

37.On what belief could he willingly offer Isaac?

38.What figure was enacted in land of Moriah?

39.Where is event of verse20 recorded?

40.Locate the event of verse2!.

41,How did faith cause Moses to be hid?

42.Whose commandment caused this hiding?

43.Then how were they not afraid of it?

44.How did Moses show his faith at maturity?

45.What was his choice?

46.What did he know of the reproach of Christ?

47.When did he "not fear the wrath uf the king" ?

48.Connect faith with the passover.

49.How did faith take them through the Red Sea?

50.Explain faith and the walls of Jericho.

51.How did Rahab escape the destruction?

52.Locate history of first4men in32nd verse.

53.Cite one instance of faith in the next two.

54.Name one kingdom that they subdued.

55.Who stopped the mouths of lions?

56.What about the fire?

57.When did David escapc the morn?

58.Who turned aliens to flight?

59.What women fulfilled verse35?

60.Tell why some refused deliverance.

6!. Would this show belief in resurrection?

62. Were all of these martyrs killed?

63. Name some things besides death some martyrs met.

64.Who was not worthy of them?

65.What promise was not fulfilled before them?

66.For whom was the better thing reserved?

67.Under what law are "us" living?

68.Under what law did "they" live?

69.Does this make the law of Christ better?

70.How does this conclusion agree with Judaizers?

estimate the importance of belief or faith. It is true that we cannot be saved by faith alone, neither can we be saved without it. We cannot be saved by "faith only," but we can be lost by unbelief only. That is because it requires all the items of the plan of salvation to please God, while the omission of one fundamental item is enough to displease Him. This is especially true of such a principle as faith which is the motive power of all our actions as the present chapter will show.

Verse 1

Substance is from a word that means basis or foundation on which something rests. Faith constitutes such a basis for our hope since it is produced by testimony. Even things not seen but desired may be expected and thus hoped for when we have the evidence of their truthfulness.

Verse 2

This blessing is recorded in Genesis 27:1-46, and it pertains to favorable experiences that were to come to his sons in the future. Being a patriarch, Isaac could speak as by a revelation from God, but he would not have done so had it not been for his faith in the declarations of God.

Verse 3

Through faith does not mean that the following things of this verse were accomplished by faith, for God does not have to act on faith. He knows what he can do. It is through faith that we understand about it. Worlds is defined by the lexicon at this place, "The worlds, the universe," and framed is defined, "To fit out, equip, put in order, arrange, adjust." Are seen and do appear are both in the present tense, and made is from a Greek word that means "caused to be." The sentence means that the universe which we see was not made out of anything else that appears to us. But that does not say that God "made something out of nothing." Such a notion is not taught in any scripture that I have read. Just because we cannot see what God made the universe of does not prove that He made it out of nothing. Word is from RHEMA, which Thayer defines at this place, "The word by which some thing is commanded, directed, enjoined." This agrees with Psalm 33:9, which says, "He spake and it was done; he commanded and it stood fast." Also the phrase "and God said" occurs nine times in the first chapter of Genesis.

Verse 4

By faith Abel. Romans 10:17 says faith comes by hearing the word of God. Hence Abel had been told by the Lord what to do or he could not have done it by faith. When he offered an animal by faith, therefore, it was because God had told him to do so. That made it a more excellent (superior) sacrifice than the one Cain offered, for God had not told him to offer the fruit of the ground. Obtained witness means that testimony was borne him that he was a righteous man. Dead yet speaketh. Although Abel is dead physically, yet the record of his righteous performance is preserved down to the present time, and it speaks or testifies to the good deed that was done through his faith in the word of God.

Verse 5

Translated .... not see death. The last phrase explains the first word, and was not found any more on earth because he was taken to Heaven. Had this testimony. It is recorded in Genesis 5:24 that Enoch walked with. God, which means he walked or conducted himself according to the "word of God" which produces faith.

Verse 6

The apostle interrupts his line of special instances to state the general principle of faith. Regardless of whatever apparent good there might be in one's actions, it will not be God unless he has authorized it. Believe that He is means to believe in the existence of God. Further-more, unless a man believes that God will reward a diligent seeker, he will not make any effort to come to Him.

Verse 7

The flood of which Noah was warned was over a century in the future ( Genesis 6:3). yet he prepared an ark according to the Lord"s instructions. That was because he believed what God told him and acted accordingly. To the saving of his house from the flood that destroyed the rest of mankind. Condemned the world. Thayer defines the first word at this place as follows: "By one's good example to render another's wickedness more evident and censurable." Heir of righteousness. The last word is what is done and not inherited, hence the phrase means to inherit the reward that comes to one whose faith leads him to seek a righteous life.

Verse 8

The main point that showed Abraham"s faith was his obedience even when he did not know where he was going. But God promised that it was to be towards a place which he should some day inherit.

Verse 9

Strange means "belonging to another"; Abraham considered himself a sojourner which means a temporary dweller. That is why he lived in tabernacles (or tents) because he regarded himself as well as his immediate descendants as heirs only. He believed the land would sometime be actually possessed by the nations coming from him.

Verse 10

Abraham did not expect to possess personally the land of Canaan, hence he did not provide himself any permanent building for a home. He believed that his descendants would finally get possession of it. As for himself, he chose to be faithful to God while sojourning in the land, then finally enter the city with foundations, which means the permanence of the Eternal City or Heaven.

Verse 11

Being delivered of a child was not the miracle in this case, but it was the ability to conceive one to begin with. Sarah was ninety years old and thus was past the usual age of child-bearing. She also had been barren all her life so that she was not at any time able to conceive by the natural process of reproduction. Hence she would have felt no urge to cooperate with her husband in carrying out their part of God's plan. But on account of her faith in the promise of God she acted and was rewarded with the strength (ability) to conceive.

Verse 12

As good as dead. The second word is not in the original as a separate term. The phrase is used figuratively because all appearances were that way. We know Abraham"s reproductive powers were not gone, for at least thirty-seven years later he married the second time and begat six sons ( Genesis 23:1; Genesis 25:1-34; Genesis 1:1-31; Genesis 2:1-25). There is no evidence that a miracle was performed to enable him to beget these sons. Besides, they were not needed to fulfill the promise made in the beginning. Stars and sand are used to indicate the vast number of his descendants.

Verse 13

These means Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, who never lived to see the fulfilment of the promises. Died in faith means that their faith remained with them as long as they lived. Seen them afar off (by the eyes of faith). Being strangers and pilgrims (temporary dwellers), they did not expect to possess the land personally, but they never doubted that their descendants would according to the promises.

Verse 14

The faith described in the preceding verse implies a belief in some other country than was then visible.

Verse 15

The country from whence they came out (Mesopotamia) was visible and would require no faith to realize it. Moreover, it was still obtainable and had they been mindful of it or cared for it, they could have returned to that place, although in so doing they would have lost their favor with God.

Verse 16

This verse expresses the same hope mentioned of Abraham in verse10. God is pleased to own people who are trusting Him, and as a reward he will admit them into the heavenly city in the "sweet by and by." Such a home will be a better country than the one from which they came, or even than the one in which they were "sojourners."

Verse 17

When he was tried means when his faith was put to a test. Ofiered up Isaac. Abraham did not literally sacrifice his Song of Solomon, but he went as far as the Lord permitted him to go. Not knowing that God would change the order, Abraham was put to as strong a test of his faith as if he had slain his son. His only begotten son is mentioned to emphasize the severity of the test.

Verse 18

Regardless of how many other sons' he might have had, that would not have lessened the severity of the test for the promise was restricted to Isaac.

Verse 19

Abraham never doubted God's ability and faithfulness in fulfilling the promise, even though his only son should die. The reason for that faith is explained in this verse in that he expected God to bring his son back to life. Received him in a figure; this may be regarded in two senses. The performance came so near to actual death for Isaac that the change in God's order was virtually the same to Abraham"s mind as if the son had died. It was in the nature of a case where it is said that one "is snatched from the jaws of death." Another phase is the truth that it all was a figure or type of the restoration of the Son of God from death after having been slain and made an offering at the cross.

Verse 21

Jacob was another patriarch and could speak by the Lord"s instruction. The favorable predictions he made for Joseph"s sons are recorded in Genesis 48:1-22.

Verse 22

When Joseph was taken into Egypt it was said that "the Lord was with him" ( Genesis 39:2), and He continued to be with him all the time. Hence he was able to make the prediction (by faith) that is mentioned here and at Genesis 50:24-25.

Verse 23

It should be understood that it was the parents of Moses who had the faith. They were true servants of God and believed that He would protect their child if they did what they could to help him live. Not afraid means they were not frightened by what the king of Egypt had ordered to be done to the infants.

Verse 24

Come to years corresponds with "full forty years old" in Acts 7:23. At that time he repudiated his relation to the daughter of Pharaoh in order to join himself with the Hebrews. The circumstance of becoming related to Pharaoh"s daughter referred to here is recorded in Exodus 2:5-10.

Verse 25

Pleasures of sin refers to the life he was connected with while a part of the royal family of Egypt. A season would be the comparatively short time in this world, for sinful pleasures will all cease at the iudgment and endless punishment will follow. On the other hand the faithful people of God, though afflicted by the enemy in this life will enjoy endless pleasure in the world to come.

Verse 26

Reproach of Christ. Moses did not yet know the full system of salvation of which Christ is the central figure, but Paul considers any suffering endured in service to God as also being for the sake of Christ. Treasures in Egypt were the luxuries experienced by the royal group of Egyptians. (See comments at verse25.)

Verse 27

Forsook Egypt. This was forty years later than the preceding verse. referring to the time he led the Israelites out of the land. Not fearing the icrath means notwithstanding the wrath of the king. Seeing (by the eye of faith) him who is invisible to mortal eyes.

Verse 28

This event is recorded in Exodus 12:1-51, where the sprinkling of blood was to save them from death. Since such a means could not naturally prevent death, the observance of it was necessarily done through faith as an act of obedience.

Verse 29

There was no natural cause for the Red Sea to open up and stand as walls. hence the Israelites marched down between them because they believed God would hold them up until His people were passed over. Egyptians assaying (trying) to go through the same passage were drowned because God was not with them.

Verse 30

There was no physical force in the marching and shouting of the Israelites to bring down the walls of Jericho. The power of God brought them down, but it would not have been done had they not believed in God who told them (through Joshua) to march around. The power was in God as in other cases, but He would not have used it had the people lacked the faith to obey.

Verse 31

Joshua 6:25 says that Rahab was preserved "because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho." But she hid them because she believed the reports of the favorable things the Lord had done for His people. Acting on that faith she cooperated with the messengers in escaping the wrath of the king of Jericho. As a reward for her faith she was permitted to dwell with the Israelites, and was honored by being permitted to be in the line of ancestors of Christ. (See Joshua 6:25; Matthew 1:5.

Verse 32

What shall I more say. Why go into details further in illustrating the fruits of faith by the lives of ancient worthies? Time would fail me. This is an accommodative expression, meaning that the time that would be used in going on into the same details concerning the following cases individually, would be more than is suitable to an epistle of the length of this one. Paul therefore groups a number of outstanding characters and also groups a list of things they did among them. The remainder of the chapter will be devoted to a description of heroic deeds performed through the incentive of faith. If the reader wishes to get the details of the particular persons named he may see Gideon at Judges 6:11 : Barak at Judges 4:6; Samson at Judges 13:24; Jephthah at Judges 11:1; David at 1 Samuel 16:1; Samuel at 1 Samuel 1:20.

Verse 33

Subdued kingdoms. An instance of it is in 2 Samuel 8:1-18 where David overvame the Philistines; God gave him the victory because of his faithfulness. Wrought righteousness means to do righteous work through the motive of faith. Obtui-net! promises means they obtained the fulfiilment of them because they had the faith to comply with the conditions on which the promises were made. Stopped the mouths of lions. This was done directly by Samson in Judges 14:5-6, and by Daniel indirectly in Daniel 6:1-28. In each case God gave the victory because of the faith of the men.

Verse 34

Quenched the violence of fire occurred when the three companions of Daniel were cast into the fiery furnace ( Daniel 3:1-30). Escaped the edge of the sword. Instances of this are too numerous to mention all, but a notable one is in 1 Samuel 20:1-42. Out of weakness were made strong. An outstanding instance was that of Samson in Judges 16:28-30 where his strength was given back to him because of his returning faith and dependence upon God. Waxed valiant means the servants of God were strong and brave in their contests with the enemies of God. The unassisted strength of man is a failure when faced with the might of worldly hosts, but God rewards his faithful servants with victory when the attack is made. Aliens refers to those of another nation. Gideon routed the Midianites in connection with his war cry, "The sword of the Lord and Gideon" ( Judges 7:20-23).

Verse 35

The phrase raised to life again and the word resurrection are from the Greek word ANASTASIS, and the phrase is a good definition of the word. Two cases of such a favor shown to women are in 1 Kings 17:17-24 and 2 Kings 4:18-37. Were tortured. This was done to force the servants of God to renounce their faith. They were promised relief from the torture if they would turn against the Lord, but they would not accept deliverance on such terms. Their motive for such resistance was that they might obtain a better resurrection. All mankind will be resurrected. but only those who are faithful till death will come forth to a happy life ( Daniel 12:2; John 5:29.)

Verse 36

Not all the persecuted ones were put to death. but they were mistreated in various ways. Jeremiah was placed in prison ( Jeremiah 37:15-21), and afterward was put into the dungeon ( Jeremiah 38:1-6).

Verse 37

Then were stoned. Two instances of this are recorded in 1 Kings 21:1-14 and 2 Chronicles 24:21-22. Torn asunder. This is a correct translation according to Thayer, and he says that an ancient tradition claims that the prophet Isaiah was put to death in that way. This was one manner in which the ancient worthies were tempted or put to a test of their faith. Others were put to death by having their head severed from their body, or by being thrust through the bowels. The reason for their wandering in sheepskins and goatskins is explained by the next phrase, namely, being destitute. Of course the condition of destitution was brought about by the cruelty of their enemies, who afllicted and tormented them in whatever way they could devise.

Verse 38

Of whom the world was not worthy. The world of mankind that- mistreated those faithful servants of God was not fit to have their presence. They wandered in these places to escape their enemies. (See Judges 6:2 and 1 Samuel 13:6.)

Verse 39

Good report signifies they were well spoken of on account of their faith. The passage says they received not the promise which refers to the promise of the seed of Abraham who was to bless the nations of the world. It means they did not live to see the fulfillment of the promise, but their confidence in the promises of God was so strong that they maintained their faith until death.

Verse 40

The better thing is the New Covenant established on "better promises" ( Hebrews 8:6), that was to be brought into the world through Christ. God"s purpose was to provide this institution for us (Christians). Because of such a plan He did not bring the fulfillment of the promise in the lifetime of those worthies. Not be made perfect or complete, denotes that the scheme that was started in their davs could not be completed until the time of its (Christians).

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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Hebrews 11". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 1952.