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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Hebrews 11

 

 

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Verse 1

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

Faith - in its widest sense: not restricted to faith in the Gospel. Not a definition of faith in its whole nature, but a description of its characteristics in relation to Paul's exhortation to perseverance (Hebrews 10:39).

Substance ... - it substantiates God's promises, the fulfillment of which we hope for, making them present realities to us. [However, hupostasis (Greek #5287) is translated in Hebrews 3:14, 'confidence.'] So Alford. Thomas Magister, like our version, 'The whole thing is virtually contained in the first principle; now the first commencement of the things hoped for is in us through the assent of faith, which virtually contains all the things hoped for' (cf. note, Hebrews 6:5). Through faith, the future object of Christian hope, in in its beginning, is already substantiated (Hebrews 11:6). Hugo de Victor distinguished faith from hope. By faith we are sure of eternal things that they ARE by hope we are confident that WE SHALL HAVE them. Hope presupposes faith (Romans 8:25).

Evidence , [ elengchos (Greek #1650)] - 'demonstration:' convincing proof to the believer; the soul thereby seeing what the eye cannot see.

Things not seen - the whole invisible spiritual world. 'Eternal life is promised to us, but it is when we are dead; we are told of a blessed resurrection, but meanwhile we moulder in the dust; we are declared to be justified, and sin dwells in us; we hear that we are blessed, meantime we are overwhelmed in miseries; we are promised abundance of all goods, but we still endure hunger and thirst; God declares He will immediately come to our help, but He seems deaf to our cries. What should we do if we had not faith and hope to lean on, and if our mind did not emerge amidst the darkness above the world by the shining of the Word and Spirit of God?' (Calvin.) Faith is an assent unto truths credible upon the testimony of God (not on their intrinsic reasonableness), delivered unto us in the writings of the apostles and prophets. Christ's ascension is the cause; His absence the crown of our faith (Dr. Pearson). Faith believes what it sees not; for if thou seest, there is no faith, the Lord has gone away so as not to be seen: He is hidden, that He may be believed; the yearning desire by faith after Him who is unseen is the preparation of a heavenly mansion for us; when He shall be seen, it shall be given to us as the reward of faith (Augustine). As revelation deals with invisible things exclusively, faith is the faculty needed by us. By faith we venture our eternal interests on the bare Word of God: this is altogether reasonable.


Verse 2

For by it the elders obtained a good report.

For - Faith is all this; for, etc.

By - Greek, 'in this,' as their element.

The elders - not merely [hoi archaioi] the ancients, as though solely of the past; nay, they belong to one and the same blessed family as ourselves (Hebrews 11:39-40). "The elders" whom we all revere so highly for their faith and practice: a title of honour, as 'the fathers.' 'Paul shows how to seek in all its fullness, under the veil of history, the essential substance of the doctrine sometimes briefly indicated' (Bengel).

Obtained a good report - Greek, 'were testified of;' namely, favourably (cf. Hebrews 7:8): a phrase of Luke, Paul's companion. Not only men, but God, gave testimony to their faith (Hebrews 11:4-5; Hebrews 11:39). Thus they, having first received the witness of God, then being testified of themselves, have become "witnesses" to all others (Hebrews 12:1). The earlier elders had their patience exercised for a long life: those later, in sharper afflictions. Many things which they hoped for, and did not see, subsequently were conspicuously seen, the event confirming faith (Bengel).


Verse 3

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

We understand - we perceive with our spiritual intelligence the world's creation by God, though we see neither Him nor the act as described, Genesis 1:1-31. The natural world could not, without revelation, teach us this, though it confirms it when apprehended by faith (Romans 1:20). Adam is passed over here as to faith, being the first who brought sin on us all; though it does not follow that he did not repent and believe the promise.

Worlds - literally, 'ages:' all that exists in time and space, visible and invisible, present and eternal.

Framed , [ kateertisthai (Greek #2675)] - 'fitly formed;' including the creation of the single parts, their harmonious organization, and the continual providence which maintains the whole throughout all ages. As creation is the foundation and a specimen of the whole divine economy, so faith in creation is the foundation and a specimen of all faith (Bengel).

By the word of God - not the personal Word [ logos (Greek #3056), John 1:1] here, but the spoken word [ reema (Greek #4487)], though by the instrumentality of the personal Word (Hebrews 1:2).

Not made ... - Greek, 'so that not [ mee (Greek #3361), the subjective negative, not as one might think] out of things which appear hath that which is seen been made:' not as in all things reproduced from previously-existing and visible materials; for instance, the plant from the seed, the animal from the parent, etc., has the visible world sprung into being from apparent materials. Bengel explains by distinguishing "appear" - i:e., begin to be seen (namely, at creation) from that which is seen as already in existence; 'so that the things seen were not made of things which appear' - i:e., which began to appear to us in the act of creation. We were not spectators of creation: it is by faith we perceive it (Job 38:4).


Verse 4

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

More excellent sacrifice - because in faith. Now faith must have some revelation of God on which it fastens. The revelation was doubtless God's command to sacrifice animals ('the firstlings of the flock') in token of the forfeiture men's life by sin, and as a type of the promised bruiser of the serpent's head (Genesis 3:15), Himself to be bruised as the one sacrifice: this command is implied in God's having made coats skin for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21); for these must have been taken from animals slain in sacrifice, as it was not for food they were slain, animal food not being permitted until after the flood: nor for clothing, as clothes might have been made of the fleeces without the needless cruelty of killing the animal; but a coat of skin put on Adam from a sacrificed animal typified the covering or atonement [ kaapar (Hebrew #3722)] (atone means to cover) resulting from Christ's sacrifice. [ Pleiona (Greek #4119) is well rendered by Wycliffe, 'a much more sacrifice.'] A fuller sacrifice, which partook more largely of the true virtue of sacrifice (Dr. Magee). It was not intrinsic merit in 'the firstling of the flock' above "the fruit of the ground." It was God's appointment that gave it all its excellency; if it had not been so, it would have been presumptuous will-worship (Colossians 2:23), and taking of a life which man had no right over before the flood (Genesis 9:2-4). The sacrifice was probably a holocaust, and the sign of the divine acceptance was its consumption by fire (Genesis 15:17). Hence, 'to accept' a burnt offering is in Hebrew 'to turn it to ashes' (margin, Psalms 20:3). A flame perhaps issued from the shechinah or cherubim, east of Eden ("the presence of the Lord," Genesis 4:16), where the first sacrifices were offered. Cain, in unbelieving self-righteousness, presented merely a thank-offering, not like Abel, feeling his need of the propitiatory sacrifice appointed for sin. God "had respect (first) unto Abel and (then) to his offering" (Genesis 4:4). Faith causes the person to be accepted, then his offering. Even an animal sacrifice, though of God's appointment, would not have been accepted had it not been in faith.

God testifying - by fire.

His gifts - the common term for sacrifices, implying they must be freely given.

By it - by faith exhibited in his sacrifice.

Dead, yet speaketh - His blood crying from the ground to God shows how precious, because of his "faith," he was still in God's sight (Genesis 4:10; Psalms 116:15; Revelation 6:10). So he becomes a witness to us of faith's blessed effects.


Verse 5

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

Faith was the ground of his pleasing God; his pleasing God was the ground of his translation.

Translated (Genesis 5:22; Genesis 5:24) - implying a sudden removal [ metetethee (Greek #3346)] (Galatians 1:6) from mortality, without death, to immortality: such a CHANGE as shall pass over the living at Christ's coming (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

Had (has had) this testimony - namely, of Scripture. [ Memartureetai (Greek #3140) (perfect: 'he has been testified of') implies that this testimony continues still.]

Pleased God. So Septuagint translate for "walked with God," Genesis 5:22; Genesis 5:24.


Verse 6

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

Without , [ chooris (Greek #5565)] - 'apart from faith:' if one be destitute of faith (cf. Romans 14:23).

To please. Translate, as Alford [ euaresteesai (Greek #2100), the aorist], 'It is impossible to please God at all' (Romans 8:8). 'Works done before the grace of Christ are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ; yea, rather, for that they are not done as God hath willed them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin' (Article XIII., 'Book of Common Prayer'). Works not rooted in God are splendid sins (Augustine).

He that cometh to God - as a worshipper (Hebrews 7:19).

Must believe - once for all [ pisteusai (Greek #4100), Greek aorist].

That he is - IS: the self-existing Yahweh (contrasted with all so-called gods, Galatians 4:8), the source of all being, though he sees Him not (Hebrews 11:1), being "invisible" (Hebrews 11:27). So Enoch: this implies that he had not been favoured with visible appearances of God; yet he believed in God's being and moral government, as the Rewarder of His diligent worshippers, in oppositionto antediluvian scepticism. Also Moses was not so favoured before he left Egypt the first time (Hebrews 11:27); still he believed.

And ... is - a different Greek verb from "is" [ ginetai (Greek #1096): proves to be].

Rewarder - awarder of reward. So God proved to be to Enoch. The reward is God Himself diligently 'sought' and "walked with" in partial communion here, fully enjoyed hereafter. Compare Genesis 15:1.

Of them - and them only.

Diligently seek , [ ekzeetousin (Greek #1567)] 'seek out' God. Compare "seek early" (Proverbs 3:17). Not only "ask" and "seek," but "knock," Matthew 7:7 : cf. Matthew 11:12; Luke 13:24, "strive" [agoonizesthee], as in an agony of contest.


Verse 7

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

Warned of God , [ chreematistheis (Greek #5537)] (Hebrews 8:5) - 'admonished of God.' Moved with fear - not slavish fear, but, as in Hebrews 5:7 [eulabetheis], reverential fear: opposed to the world's sneering disbelief of the revelation, and self-deceiving security. Join "by faith" with "prepared an ark" (1 Peter 3:20).

By the which - faith.

Condemned the world - for since he believed and was saved, so might they: their condemnation by God is by his case shown to be just.

Righteousness which is by [ kata (Greek #2596): according to] faith. A Pauline thought. Noah is first called "righteous" in Genesis 6:9. Christ calls Abel so, Matthew 23:35. Compare Ezekiel 14:14; Ezekiel 14:20; 2 Peter 2:5, "a preacher of righteousness." Paul makes faith the principle and ground of his righteousness.

Heir - the privilege of sonship, which flows from faith (Romans 8:17; Galatians 3:29; Galatians 4:7).


Verse 8

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

From the antediluvian saints he passes to the patriarchs of Israel, to whom "the promises" belonged.

Called - by God (Genesis 12:1). So 'Aleph ('). But A Delta, Vulgate [o], read, 'He that is called Abraham,' his name being changed from Abram to Abraham, when God made with him and his seed a covenant, sealed by, circumcision, many years after his call out of Ur. 'Abraham (father of nations, Genesis 17:5; his becoming which was the object of God's bringing him out of Ur) obeyed (the command of God: to be understood), so as to go out,' etc.

Which he should after receive. He had not fully received even this promise when he went out, for it was not explicitly given until he had reached Canaan (Genesis 12:1; Genesis 12:6-7). When the promise was given him the Canaanite was still in the land, and himself a stranger. lt is in the new heaven and new earth that he shall receive his personal inheritance; so believers sojourn on earth as strangers, while the ungodly and Satan lord it here; but at Christ's coming that same earth, the scene of the believer's conflict, shall be the inheritance of Christ and His saints.


Verse 9

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

In , [ eis (Greek #1519) geen (Greek #1093)] - he went into it, and sojourned there.

As in a strange country - not belonging to him, but to others [ allotrian (Greek #245)] (Acts 7:5-6).

Dwelling in tabernacles - tents: as sojourners do: moving from place to place, having no fixed possession. In contrast to the abiding city (Hebrews 11:10).

With. Their dwelling being the same, proves their faith was the same. They all alike were content to wait for their good things hereafter (Luke 16:25). Jacob was fifteen years old at Abraham's death.

Heirs with him of the same promise - Isaac did not inherit it from Abraham, nor Jacob from Isaac, but they all from God directly, as "fellow-heirs." In Hebrews 6:12; Hebrews 6:15; Hebrews 6:17, "the promise" means the thing promised, as in part already attained; but here "the promise" is of something future. See, however, note, Hebrews 6:12.


Verse 10

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

Looked for , [ exedecheto (Greek #1551)] - 'he was expecting;' waiting for with eager expectation (Romans 8:19).

A - Greek, 'the city,' etc. Compare Psalms 122:1-9. Worldly Enoch, son of the murderer Cain, was the first to build his city here: the godly patriarchs waited for their city hereafter (Hebrews 11:16; Hebrews 12:22; Hebrews 13:14).

Foundations - Greek, 'the foundations' which the tents had not, nor even men's present cities have.

Whose builder and maker , [ technitees (Greek #5079), deemiourgos (Greek #1217): 'artificer and architect'] (Ephesians 1:4; Ephesians 1:11). The city is worthy of its Framer and Builder (cf. Hebrews 11:16; Hebrews 8:2). Compare 'found,' note, Hebrews 9:12.


Verse 11

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

Also Sara herself - though the weaker vessel, and at first doubting,

Was delivered of a child. So C. [But A Delta 'Aleph (') f, Vulgate, omit eteken (Greek #5088): then translate, 'and that when she was past age' (Romans 4:19).]

She judged him faithful who had promised - she ceased to doubt, being instructed by the angel that it was no jest, but serious earnest.


Verse 12

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

As good as dead , [ nenekroomenou (Greek #3499)] - 'deadened:' no longer having, as in youth, energetic powers.

Stars ... sand (Genesis 22:17).


Verse 13

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

Characteristic excellences of the patriarch's faith.

These all - beginning with "Abraham" (Hebrews 11:8): to whom the promises were made (Galatians 3:16 : cf. the end of Hebrews 11:13 and Hebrews 11:15) (Alford). But the "ALL" must include Abel, Enoch, and Noah. Now as these did not receive the promise of entering Canaan, some other promise made in the first ages, and repeated, must be meant-namely, the promise of a Redeemer to Adam (Genesis 3:15). Thus the promises cannot have been merely temporal; for Abel and Enoch received no temporal promise (Dr. Magee). This promise of eternal redemption is the essence of the promises to Abraham.

Died in faith - as believers, waiting for, not seeing as yet, their promised good things. They were true to faith even unto, and especially in, their dying hour (cf. Hebrews 11:20).

Not having received - this constituted their "faith." If they had "received" THE THING PROMISED ("the promises" plural: the promise often renewed), it would have been sight, not faith.

Seen them afar off (John 8:56). Christ, as the Word, was preached to the Old Testament believers, and so became the seed of life to their souls, as He is to ours.

And were persuaded of them. 'Aleph (') A Delta f, Vulgate omit.

Embraced them - as though not "afar off," but within reach, so as to clasp them in their embrace. Trench denies that the Old Testament believers embraced them, for they only saw them afar off: he translates 'saluted (greeted) them,' as the homeward bound mariner, recognizing from afar the well-known promontories of his native land. Jacob's, "I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord," Genesis 49:18, is such a greeting of salvation from afar (Delitzsch).

Confessed that they were strangers - so Abraham to the children of Heth, Genesis 23:4; and Jacob to Pharaoh, Genesis 47:9; Psalms 119:19. Believers sit loose to earthly things. Citizens of the world do not confess themselves "strangers on the earth."

Pilgrims , [ parepideemoi (Greek #3927)] - 'temporary (literally, by the way) sojourners.'

On the earth - contrast with "an heavenly" country (Hebrews 11:16; Hebrews 10:34; Psalms 119:54; Philippians 3:20). 'Whosoever professes he has a Father in heaven, confesses himself a stranger on earth; hence, there is in the heart an ardent longing, like that of a child among strangers, in want and grief, far from his fatherland' (Luther); "Like ships in seas, while in, above the world.'


Verse 14

For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.

For - Proof that "faith" (Hebrews 11:13) actuated them.

Declare plainly , [ emfanizousin (Greek #1718)] - make it evident.

Seek , [ epizeetousin (Greek #1934)] - 'seek after:' implying toward what their desires ever tend.

A country , [ patrida (Greek #3968)] - 'a fatherland.' In confessing themselves strangers here, they evidently regard not this as their fatherland, but seek after a better.


Verse 15

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

As Abraham, had he desired to leave his pilgrim life in Canaan, and resume his former fixed habitation in Ur, among the worldly, had ample opportunities to have done so, so spiritually, all believers who came out from the world to become God's people might, if so minded, have easily gone back.


Verse 16

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

Proving that the old fathers did not 'look only for transitory promises' (Article VII, 'Book of Common Prayer').

Now - as the case is.

Is not ashamed - Greek adds, 'of them.' Not merely once did God call Himself their God, but He IS NOW not ashamed to have Himself called so, they being alive with Him where He is. For, by the law, God cannot come into contact with anything dead. None remained dead in Christ's presence (Luke 20:37-38). The Lord of heaven and earth, when asked, What is thy name? said, omitting all His other titles, "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Theodoret). Not only is He not ashamed, but glories in the relation to His people. "Wherefore" does not mean that God's good pleasure is the meritorious, but gracious, consequence of their obedience (which last is the work of His Spirit in them). He first so "called" Himself, then they so called Him.

For - proof of His being "their God;" namely, "He hath prepared (in His eternal counsels, Matthew 20:23; Matthew 25:34, and by the progressive acts of redemption, John 14:2) for them a city," that where He reigns their yearning desires shall not be disappointed (Hebrews 11:14; Hebrews 11:16).

A city. Compare its garniture by God, Revelation 21:10-27.


Verse 17

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

Tried , [ peirazomenos (Greek #3985)] - 'tempted,' as in Genesis 22:1. Put to the proof of his faith. Not that God 'tempts' to sin, but in the sense proves (James 1:13-15).

Offered up , [ proseneenochen (Greek #4374)] - 'hath offered up,' as if the work and its praise were yet enduring (Alford). In intention he did sacrifice Isaac; in actual fact he "offered" him, as far as the presentation to God is concerned.

And - and so.

He that had received , [ anadexamenos (Greek #324)] - 'accepted;' i:e., welcomed by faith: not merely "had the He that had received , [ anadexamenos (Greek #324)] - 'accepted;' i:e., welcomed by faith: not merely "had the promises," as Hebrews 7:6. The difficulty to faith was, that in Isaac's posterity the promises were to be fulfilled. How could this be if Isaac were sacrificed?

Offered up , [ proseferen (Greek #4374)] - 'was offering up:' was in the act of offering.

His only-begotten son (cf. Genesis 22:2). Eusebius ('Praeparatio Evangelica,' 1: 10 and 4: 16) has preserved a fragment of a Greek translation of Sanchoniatho, which mentions a mystical sacrifice of the Phoenicians, wherein a prince in royal robes was the offerer, and his only son the victim: evidently a tradition derived from Abraham's offering, handed down through Esau or Edom, Isaac's son. Isaac was Abraham's "only-begotten son" in respect of Sarah and the promises; he sent away his other sons by other wives (Genesis 25:6). Abraham is a type of the Father not sparing His only-begotten Son to fulfill the divine purpose of love. God allowed no human sacrifices, though He claimed the first-born of Israel as His (cf. 2 Kings 3:27).


Verse 18

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

Of whom - `He (Abraham, not Isaac) TO whom it was said' (Alford). But Hebrews 1:7 uses the same [ pros (Greek #4314)] 'unto' for 'in respect to,' or "of," as the English version. This verse defines "only-begotten son," Hebrews 11:17.

In Isaac shall thy seed be called (Genesis 21:12). The posterity of Isaac alone shall be accounted the seed of Abraham, which is heir of the promises (Romans 9:7).


Verse 19

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

Faith answered the objections which reason brought against God's command to offer Isaac, by suggesting that what God promised He both can and will perform, however impossible it seem (Romans 4:20-21).

Able to raise him - rather, general, 'able to raise from the dead.' Compare Romans 4:17. The quickening of Sarah's dead womb suggested that God can raise even the dead, though no instance had as yet occurred.

He received him in a figure - Greek, 'in a parable.' Alford, 'Received him back, risen from that death which he had undergone under the figure of the ram.' Rather (Gregory of Nyssa), the figure is the representation which the scene gave to Abraham of Christ in His death (typified by Isaac's offering in intention, and the ram's actual substitution, answering to Christ's vicarious death), and in His resurrection (typified by Abraham's receiving him back from the jaws of death: cf. 2 Corinthians 1:9-10); as on the day of atonement the slain goat and the scape-goat together formed one joint rite, representing Christ's death and resurrection. It was then that Abraham saw Christ's day (John 8:56). 'From which state (namely, that of the dead) he received him back in the way of [so en (Greek #1722) is used, Hebrews 4:11] a tupe of the resurrection in Christ.'


Verse 20

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

Jacob is put before Esau, as heir of the chief, namely, the spiritual, blessing.

(Even) concerning things to come , [ kai (Greek #2532)] - as if they were present: not only concerning things actually present.


Verse 21

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

Both the sons - Greek, 'each of the sons' (Genesis 47:29; Genesis 48:8-20; Genesis 48:22). He could not distinguish Joseph's sons by sight, yet he did by faith, transposing his hands intentionally, so as to lay his right hand on the younger, Ephraim, whose posterity was to be greater than that of Manasseh. He also adopted these grandchildren as his own sons, having transferred the primogeniture to Joseph.

And worshipped ... This did not take place in connection with the foregoing, but before it, when Jacob made Joseph swear that he would bury him with his fathers in Canaan, not in Egypt. The assurance that Joseph would do so filled him with pious gratitude to God, which he expressed by raising himself on his bed to an attitude of worship. His faith as Joseph's (Hebrews 11:22), consisted in his so confidently anticipating the fulfillment of God's promise of Canaan to his descendants, as to desire to be buried there as his proper possession.

Leaning upon the top of his staff - Genesis 47:31, Hebrew and English version, 'upon the bed's head.' The Septuagint translate as Paul Jerome reprobates the notion that Jacob worshipped the top of Joseph's staff, having on it an image of Joseph's power - i:e., bowed in recognition of the future sovereignty of his son's tribe: the father bowing to the son! The Hebrew sets it aside: the bed is alluded to afterward (Genesis 48:2; Genesis 49:33). Probably Jacob turned himself in bed so as to have his face toward the pillow, Isaiah 38:2 (there are no bedsteads in the East). Paul, by adopting the Septuagint version, brings out, under the Spirit, an additional fact-namely, that the aged patriarch used his own (not Joseph's) staff to lean on in worshipping on his bed. The staff was the emblem of his pilgrim state on his way to his heavenly city (Hebrews 11:13-14), wherein God had so wonderfully supported him. Genesis 32:10, "With my staff I passed over Jordan, and now I am become," etc. (cf. Exodus 12:11; Mark 6:8.) So (1 Kings 1:47) David 'bowed on his bed,' in adoring thanksgiving for God's favour to his son, before death. Paul omits the chief blessing of Jacob's twelve sons, because 'he plucks only the flowers by his way, and leaves the whole meadow full to his readers' (Delitzsch in Alford).


Verse 22

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

When he died - `when dying.'

The departing - `the exodus' (Genesis 1:24-25). Joseph's eminent position in Egypt did not make him regard it as his home: in faith he looked to God's promise of Canaan, and desired that his bones should rest there: testifying thus:

(1) That he had no doubt of his posterity obtaining it;

(2) That he believed in the resurrection of the body, and its enjoyment of the heavenly Canaan. His wish was fulfilled (Joshua 24:32; Acts 7:16).


Verse 23

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

Parents. So the Septuagint-namely, Amram and Jochebed (Numbers 26:59); but Exodus 2:2 mentions the mother alone. Doubtless Amram sanctioned all she did: secrecy being their object, he did not appear prominent.

A proper child , [ asteion (Greek #791) to (Greek #3588) paidion (Greek #3813)] - 'comely.' Acts 7:20, Greek, 'fair to God.' His parents faith in saving him must have had some divine revelation to rest on, which marked their "exceeding fair" babe as designed for a great work. His beauty was 'the sign' appointed to assure their faith.

The king's commandment - to slay all the males (Exodus 1:22).


Verse 24

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

So far from faith being opposed to Moses, he was an eminent example of it (Bengel).

Refused - in believing self-denial, when he might have succeeded to the throne of Egypt. Thermutis, Pharaoh's daughter, adopted him (Josephus), with the king's consent. Josephus states that, when a child, he threw on the ground the diadem put on him in jest: a presage of his subsequent rejection of Thermutis' adoption. Faith made him to prefer the adoption of the King of kings, unseen, and to choose (Hebrews 11:25-26) things the last which flesh and blood relish. Piazzi Smyth says, 'Rameses Sesostris, reigning at Thebes, condemned his daughter Thuoris to sacrifice herself for his ambition. Her exile at the delta was providentially overruled to Moses' preservation. He was offered the crown if he would acknowledge himself her son. The monuments show what unbounded wealth and power he rejected for conscience' sake. Settos II., a profligate, ascended the throne in Moses' place, and perished in the Red Sea.'


Verse 25

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

Balancing the best of the world with the worst of religion, he 'chose' the latter, with deliberate resolution, not hasty impulse. He was forty years old when the judgment is matured.

For a season. If the world has 'pleasure' [ apolausin (Greek #619): 'enjoyment'] to offer, it is but for a season. If religion bring with it "affliction," it too is but for a season: its 'pleasures are forevermore' (Psalms 16:11).


Verse 26

Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.

The reproach of Christ - which, falling on the Church, Christ regards as His own. Israel typified Christ: Israel's sufferings were Christ's (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:5; Colossians 1:24). As uncircumcision was Egypt's reproach, so circumcision was the badge of Israel's expectation of Christ, which Moses cherished, and which the Gentiles reproached Israel for. Christ's people's reproach will before long be their great glory (Isaiah 25:8).

Had respect unto , [ apeblepen (Greek #578)] - 'turning his eyes from other considerations, he fixed them on the (eternal) recompense' (Hebrews 11:39-40).


Verse 27

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

Not fearing the wrath of the king. But in Exodus 2:14-15, "Moses feared ... and fled from the face of Pharaoh." He was afraid, and fled, when to have stayed would have been to tempt Providence, and to sacrifice his being Israel's future deliverer according to the divine intimations: his great aim (note, Hebrews 11:23). He did not fear the king so as to neglect duty, and not return when God called him. It was in spite of the king's prohibition he left Egypt, not fearing the consequences likely to overtake him if he should be caught. If he had stayed as adopted son of Pharaoh's daughter, his slaughter of the Egyptian would have been connived at: his resolution to take his portion with oppressed Israel, which he could not, had he stayed, was the motive of his flight, and constituted the "faith" of this act. The exodus of Moses with Israel cannot be meant; for it was made, not in defiance, but by the desire, of the king. Besides, the chronological order would be broken, the next particular specified, namely, the Passover, having taken place before the exodus. It is Moses' personal history and faith which are here described. The faith of the people is not introduced until Hebrews 11:29.

Endured - stedfast in faith amidst trials. He fled, not so much from fear of Pharaoh, as from disappointment at not having been able to inspire Israel with those hopes for which he had sacrificed all earthly prospects. This accounts for his strange despondency when commissioned by God to arouse the people (Exodus 3:15; Exodus 4:1; Exodus 4:10-12).

Seeing him who is invisible - as though he had to do only with God, ever before him by faith, though invisible to the bodily eye (Romans 1:20; 1 Timothy 1:17; 1 Timothy 6:16): he feared not the wrath of visible man (Hebrews 11:1; Luke 12:4-5).


Verse 28

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

Kept , [ pepoieeken (Greek #4160)] - 'hath kept;' the Passover being, in Paul's day, still observed. His faith here was in the invisible God's promise that the destroying angel should pass over, and not touch the inmates of the blood-sprinkled houses (Exodus 12:23).

The first-born , [ ta (Greek #3588) proototoka (Greek #4416): neuter] - both of man and beast.


Verse 29

By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned. They - Moses and Israel.

Red sea - named from Edom (meaning red), whose country adjoined it.

Which ... assaying to do , [ hees (Greek #3739) peiran (Greek #3984) labontes (Greek #2983)] - 'of which (Red sea) the Egyptians having made experiment.' Rash presumption mistaken by many for faith: with similar presumption many rush into eternity. The same thing done by the believer and by the unbeliever is not the same thing. What was faith in Israel was presumption in the Egyptians.

Were drowned , [ katepotheesan (Greek #2666)] - 'were swallowed up.' They sank in the sands as much as in the waves. Compare Exodus 15:12, "The earth swallowed them."


Verse 30

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

Trumpets, though one were to sound for ten thousand years, cannot throw down walls; but faith can do all things (Chrysostom).

Seven days - whereas sieges often lasted for years.


Verse 31

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

Rahab showed her "faith" in her confession (Joshua 2:9; Joshua 2:11).

The harlot - her former life adds to the marvel of her repentance, faith, and preservation (Matthew 21:31-32).

Believed not , [ apeitheesasin (Greek #544)] - 'were disobedient;' namely, to God's will, manifested by miracles performed in behalf of Israel (Joshua 2:8-11).

Received - in her house.

With peace - so that they had nothing to fear in her house. Paul, quoting the same examples (Hebrews 11:17; Hebrews 11:31) for faith as James 2:21; James 2:25 (see notes) does for justification by works evidentially, shows that, in maintaining justification by faith alone, he means not dead faith, but "faith" which worketh by "love" (Galatians 5:6).


Verse 32

And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:

The time - suitable for an letter. He accumulates some out of many examples.

Gedeon - put before Barak, not chronologically, but as more celebrated. Samson for the same reason is put before Jephthah. The mention of Jephthah's "faith" makes it unlikely that he actually sacrificed his daughter's life for a rash vow. David, the warrior-king and prophet, forms the transition from warrior-chiefs to the "prophets," of whom "Samuel" is the first.


Verse 33

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

Subdues kingdoms - as David did (2 Samuel 8:1, etc.): also Gedeon subdued Midian, (Judges 7:1-25.)

Wrought righteousness - as Samuel did (1 Samuel 8:9; 1 Samuel 12:3-23; 1 Samuel 15:33; David, 2 Samuel 8:15).

Obtained promises - the prophets (Hebrews 11:32); through them the promises were given (cf. Daniel 9:21) (Bengel). Rather, 'obtained the fulfillment of promises' previously the object of their faith (Joshua 21:45; 1 Kings 8:56). Not "the promises," which are still future (Hebrews 11:13; Hebrews 11:39).

Stopped the mouths of lions (Daniel 6:22-23) - 'because he believed in his God.' Samson (Judges 14:6), David (1 Samuel 17:34-37), Benaiah (2 Samuel 23:20).


Verse 34

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

Quenched the violence of fire (Daniel 3:27) Not merely 'the fire ' but 'the power of the fire;' the last miracles of Quenched the violence of fire (Daniel 3:27). Not merely 'the fire,' but 'the power of the fire;' the last miracles of the Old Testament. So the martyrs of the reformation, though not escaping the fire, were delivered from its power lastingly to hurt them.

Escaped ... sword. So Jephthah (Judges 12:3); and David escaped Saul's sword (1 Samuel 18:11; 1 Samuel 19:10-12); Elijah (1 Kings 19:1, etc.), Elisha (2 Kings 6:14).

Out of weakness were made strong - Samson (Judges 16:28; Judges 15:19), Hezekiah, (Isaiah 37:1-38; Isaiah 38:1-22.) Milton says, 'The martyrs shook the powers of darkness with the irresistible power of weakness.

Valiant in fight - Barak (Judges 4:14-15). The Maccabees, sons of Matthias, Judas, Jonathan, and Simon delivered the Jews from their cruel oppressor, Antiochus of Syria.

Armies , [ parembolas (Greek #3925)] - camps: referring to Judges 7:21. Or else the Maccabees having put to flight Syrian and other foes.


Verse 35

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

Women received their dead raised - the widow of Zarephath. The Shunammite, (2 Kings 4:1-44.) [So C. But 'Aleph (') A Delta f, read gunaikas (Greek #1135) for gunaikes (Greek #1135) - 'they received women of aliens (connect allotrion with gunaikas (Greek #1135)) by raising their dead ( anastaseoos (Greek #386), the verbal noun, thus governing nekrous (Greek #3498)) (1 Kings 17:24).] Through raising the widow's son, Elijah took her into the fellowship of faith, an alien though she was before. Christ, Luke 4:26, especially notices that Elijah was sent to an alien from Israel, a woman of Sarepta. Elijah's faith appeared in that, at God's command, he went to a Gentile city (contrary to Jewish prejudices), and, as the fruit of faith, not only raised her dead son, but received her as a convert into the family of God. [So elabon (Greek #2983), 2 Corinthians 12:16.]

And , [ de (Greek #1161)] - 'but:' in contrast to those raised again to life.

Tortured , [ etumpanistheesan (Greek #5178)] - 'broken on the wheel.' The sufferer was stretched on an instrument like a drumhead, and scourged to death.

Not accepting deliverance - when offered. So the seven brothers (2 Maccabees 7:9; 2 Maccabees 7:11; 2 Maccabees 7:14; 2 Maccabees 7:29; 2 Maccabees 7:36); and Eleazar (2 Maccabees 6:18-21; 2 Maccabees 6:28; 2 Maccabees 6:30), 'Though I might have been delivered from death, I endure these severe pains, being beaten.'

A better resurrection - than the resurrection which their foes could give them by delivering them from death (Daniel 12:2; Luke 20:35; Philippians 3:11). The fourth of the brethren (referring to Daniel 12:2) said to King Antiochus, 'To be put to death by men is to be chosen to look onward for the hopes which are of God, to be raised up again by Him; but for thee there is no resurrection to life.' The writer of 2 Maccabees expressly disclaims inspiration; so that Paul's allusion to it cannot sanction the Apocrypha as inspired. In quoting Daniel, he quotes a book claiming inspiration, and so tacitly sanctions that claim.


Verse 36

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

Others - of a different class: confessors for the truth [ heteroi (Greek #2087); but in Hebrews 11:35, alloi (Greek #243)].

Trial - testing their faith.

Imprisonment - as Hanani (2 Chronicles 16:10), imprisoned by Asa. Micaiah, the son of Imlah, by Ahab (1 Kings 22:26-27).


Verse 37

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

Stoned - as Zechariah, son of Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 24:20-22; Matthew 23:35).

Sawn asunder - as Isaiah was said to have been by Manasseh; but see 'Introduction to Isaiah.'

Tempted - by their foes, in the midst of tortures, to renounce their faith: the most bitter aggravation. Or, by those of their own household, as Job was (Estius); or by the fiery darts of Satan, as Jesus in his last trials (Glassius). Probably it included all three; in every possible way, by friends, foes, human and Satanic agents, by caresses and afflictions, words and deeds, to forsake God, but in vain, through the power of faith.

Sword , [ en (Greek #1722) fonoo (Greek #5408) machairees (Greek #3162) apethanon (Greek #599)] - 'they died in the murder of the sword.' In Hebrews 11:34, the contrary: "they escaped the edge of the sword." Both are marvelous effects of faith. It accomplishes great things, and suffers great things, without counting it suffering (Chrysostom). Urijah was so slain by Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 26:23); and the prophets in Israel.

In sheep-skins - as Elijah (1 Kings 19:10; 1 Kings 19:13, Septuagint): white, as the "goat-skins" were black (cf. Zechariah 13:4).

Tormented , [ kakouchoumenoi (Greek #2558)] - 'in evil state.'


Verse 38

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

Of whom the world was not worthy - So far from their being unworthy of living in the world, as their exile in desert, etc., might imply. The world, in shutting them out, shut out from itself a source of blessing; such as Joseph proved to Potiphar and Jacob to Laban (Genesis 30:27; Genesis 39:5). In condemning them, the world condemned itself.

Caves , [ opais (Greek #3692)] - 'chinks.' Palestine, from its hilly character, abounds in fissures and caves, affording shelter to the persecuted, as the 50 men hid by Obadiah and Elijah (1 Kings 18:4; 1 Kings 18:13; 1 Kings 19:8; 1 Kings 19:13); Mattathias and his sons (1 Maccabees 2:28-29); Judas Maccabeus (2 Maccabees 5:27).


Verse 39

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

Having obtained a good report - `borne witness of.' Though they were so, yet they "received not the promise" - i:e., the consummation of "salvation" promised at Christ's coming again (Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 9:28): 'the eternal inheritance.' Abraham obtained the thing promised (Hebrews 6:15) in part-namely, blessedness in soul after death by faith in Christ about to come. 'It is probable that some accumulation of blessedness was added to holy souls when Christ came and fulfilled all things: as at His burial many rose from the dead, who doubtless ascended to heaven with Him' (Flacius in Bengel) (note, Ephesians 4:8). The perfecting of believers in title and as to conscience took place, once for all, at Christ's death, through His being made thereby perfect as Saviour. Their perfecting in soul ever since has taken place at their death. The final perfecting will not take place until Christ's coming.


Verse 40

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

Provided - with divine forethought from eternity (cf. Genesis 22:8; Genesis 22:14).

Some better thing for us (Hebrews 7:19) - than they had here. They had not in this world, 'apart from us' [ chooris (Greek #5565) heemoon (Greek #2257), "without us" - i:e., they had to wait for us], the revelation of the promised salvation actually accomplished, as we now have it in Christ: their souls probably attained an increase of heavenly bliss on the death and ascension of Christ: they shall not attain the full glory in body and soul (the regeneration of the creature) until the full number of the elect (including us with them) is completed (1 Thessalonians 4:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:17): all together, no one preceding the other. Chrysostom, etc., restricted Hebrews 11:39-40 to this last truth. 'You, Hebrews, may more easily exercise patience than Old Testament believers: they had much longer to wait, and are still waiting, until the elect are all gathered in: you have not to wait for them' (Estius). I think his object is to warn Hebrew Christians against relapsing into Judaism. Though the Old Testament worthies attained such eminence by faith, they are not above us in privileges, but the reverse. It is not we who are perfected with them, but they with us. They waited for His coming: we enjoy Him, having come (Hebrews 1:1; Hebrews 2:3). Christ's death, the means of perfecting what the Jewish law could not, was reserved for our time. Compare Hebrews 12:2, 'perfecter (Greek) of our faith,' and Hebrews 11:23, end: however, see note there. Hebrews 9:12 : the blood of Christ, brought into the heavenly holy place by Him, first opened an entrance into heaven (cf. John 3:13). Still the fathers were in blessedness by faith in the Saviour to come at death (Hebrews 6:15; Luke 16:22).

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Hebrews 11:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/hebrews-11.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, July 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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