Hebrews 11:2
For by it the elders obtained a good report.
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(2) For by it.—Better, For therein the elders had witness borne to them. The connection seems to be this: Faith truly accomplishes all this; for it was in the exercise of such a faith that the elders gained the witness which the Scripture bears (see Hebrews 11:4-5; Hebrews 11:39) to them and to their noble deeds. This verse, then, is added to confirm the first.

Hebrews 11:2. By it the elders — Our forefathers, or the pious of former ages; obtained a good report — Εμαρτυρηθησαν, received testimony, of God’s approbation of them, or were borne witnesses to by God as persons accepted of him. The word is very comprehensive, implying that God gave a testimony, not only of them, but to them, and they received his testimony, as if it had been the things themselves, of which he testified, Hebrews 11:4-5; Hebrews 11:39. Hence they also gave testimony to others, and others testified of them. This chapter is a kind of summary of the Old Testament, in which the apostle comprises the designs, labours, sojournings, expectations, martyrdoms of the ancients. The former of them had a long exercise of their patience; the latter suffered shorter, but sharper trials.11:1-3 Faith always has been the mark of God's servants, from the beginning of the world. Where the principle is planted by the regenerating Spirit of God, it will cause the truth to be received, concerning justification by the sufferings and merits of Christ. And the same things that are the object of our hope, are the object of our faith. It is a firm persuasion and expectation, that God will perform all he has promised to us in Christ. This persuasion gives the soul to enjoy those things now; it gives them a subsistence or reality in the soul, by the first-fruits and foretastes of them. Faith proves to the mind, the reality of things that cannot be seen by the bodily eye. It is a full approval of all God has revealed, as holy, just, and good. This view of faith is explained by many examples of persons in former times, who obtained a good report, or an honourable character in the word of God. Faith was the principle of their holy obedience, remarkable services, and patient sufferings. The Bible gives the most true and exact account of the origin of all things, and we are to believe it, and not to wrest the Scripture account of the creation, because it does not suit with the differing fancies of men. All that we see of the works of creation, were brought into being by the command of God.For by it - That is, by that faith which gives reality to things hoped for, and a certain persuasion to the mind of the existence of those things which are not seen.

The elders - The ancients; the Hebrew patriarchs and fathers.

Obtained a good report - Literally, "were witnessed of;" that is, an honorable testimony was borne to them in consequence of their faith. The idea is, that their acting under the influence of faith, in the circumstances in which they were, was the ground of the honorable testimony which was borne to them in the Old Testament; see this use of the word in Hebrews 7:8, and in Hebrews 7:4 of this chapter. Also Luke 4:22; Acts 15:8. In the cases which the apostle proceeds to enumerate in the subsequent part of the chapter, he mentions those whose piety is particularly commended in the Old Testament, and who showed in trying circumstances that they had unwavering confidence in God.

2. For—So high a description of faith is not undeserved; for … [Alford].

by it—Greek, "in it": in respect to … in the matter of," it, "or, as Greek more emphatically, "this."

the elders—as though still living and giving their powerful testimony to the reasonableness and excellence of faith (Heb 12:1). Not merely the ancients, as though they were people solely of the past; nay, they belong to the one and the same blessed family as ourselves (Heb 11:39, 40). "The elders," whom we all revere so highly. "Paul shows how we ought to seek in all its fulness, under the veil of history, the essential substance of the doctrine sometimes briefly indicated" [Bengel]. "The elders," as "the fathers," is a title of honor given on the ground of their bright faith and practice.

obtained a good report—Greek, "were testified of," namely, favorably (compare Heb 7:8). It is a phrase of Luke, Paul's companion. Not only men, but God, gave testimony to their faith (Heb 11:4, 5, 39). Thus they being testified of themselves have become "witnesses" to all others (Heb 12:1). The earlier elders had their patience exercised for a long period of life: those later, in sharper afflictions. Many things which they hoped for and did not see, subsequently came to pass and were conspicuously seen, the event confirming faith [Bengel].

This is a proof of the first part of faith’s description, that it is the substance of things hoped for; for all the fathers were testified of to have this work of faith in realizing their hopes. presbuteroi were the fathers and ancestors of these Hebrews, run up through their genealogies to Adam, the special instances of whom follow. These received a testimony or witness, truly and fully from God himself, in some signal acceptance of them, eminent appearances and providences to them, with a Scripture record of them, that through this grace of our Lord Jesus Christ they walked with, worshipped, and pleased God, and were saved by him, even as these Christians; and all this by the same grace of faith, Acts 15:17, which wrought kindly in them, and made the invisible things of God to subsist with them. For by it the elders obtained a good report. By whom are meant, not merely old men, or elders in age, but such who lived in ancient times; some before the flood, and to a great age, and others who were in office, civil or ecclesiastical, and were the ancestors and predecessors of the Hebrews; who in general obtained or received a good report from God; that they were the chosen of God, and were justified and accepted with him; that they were the children and friends of God, and should be glorified; and from men, from good men, for their faith and holiness; and from evil men, for their good works: and these also believed the report of the Gospel, and gave a good report of God, and of the good land, and adorned their profession; particularly, Abel received a good report, that he was righteous; and Enoch, that he pleased God, and walked with him; and Noah, that he was a just man, perfect in his generation, and also walked with God; and Abraham, that he was a believer, a friend of God, and one that feared and obeyed him; and Job, that he was a man that feared God, and shunned evil; and Moses, that he was a meek man, and a faithful one; and David, that he was a man after God's own heart, and fulfilled his will; and so others: and they received this report by faith, and as a fruit of it; which shows that faith is no new thing, and that the character of a believer is an old and honourable one. The apostle mentions this, to take off the Hebrews from any esteem of their traditionary elders, who had got a name, not by their faith, but by their traditions; and to engage their imitation of men of antiquity, authority, and wisdom superior to them; and to let them know, unless they had the same faith with their ancestors, it would be a vain thing to boast of descent from them. {2} For by it the {a} elders obtained a good report.

(2) He shows that the fathers ought to be accounted of by this virtue.

(a) That is, those fathers from whom we came: and whose authority and example ought to move us very much.

Hebrews 11:2. Justification of the characteristics mentioned, Hebrews 11:1, as those that are essential to the faith. Just this quality of faith was it by which the Old Testament saints were distinguished, and on that account became objects of the divine satisfaction and the divine favour.

ἐν ταύτῃ] not equivalent to διὰ ταύτης (Luther, Vatablus, Calvin, Schlichting, Jac. Cappellus, Grotius, Bengel, Böhme, and the majority; comp. Hebrews 11:4; Hebrews 11:39), or: ob eam (Wolf and others), or: touching faith, in point of faith (de Wette, Tholuck, Moll); but: in possession of a faith so constituted (Winer, Gramm., 7 Aufl. p. 362, Obs.; Bleek, Bloomfield, Kurtz).

μαρτυρεῖσθαι] to obtain a testimony, and that according to the connection, a good, commendatory testimony, whether by words or deeds. Oecumenius: ἐμαρτυρήθησαν ὑπὸ θεοῦ εὐηρεστηκέναι αὐτῷ.

οἱ πρεσβύτεροι] the ancients (Schulz: the early ancestors), i.e. the forefathers under the Old Covenant; with the accessory idea of venerableness. A like name of honour, as elsewhere (Hebrews 1:1, al.) οἱ πατέρες.2. For by it the elders obtained a good report] Lit., “For therein the elders had witness borne to them.” Their “good report” was won in the sphere of faith. The elders—a technical Jewish term (Zekenîm)—means the ancient fathers of the Church of Israel (Hebrews 1:1).Hebrews 11:2. Ἐν ταύτῃ, in it) in faith, i.e. by faith, in the following verses: κατὰ πίστιν, according to (in) faith; διὰ πίστιν, through faith, Hebrews 11:13; Hebrews 11:33.—γὰρ, for) Paul shows the nature of faith from the examples of men in the times of old. Many things, which they hoped for and did not see, subsequently came to pass and were conspicuously seen, the event confirming faith.—ἐμαρτυρήθησαν, obtained a good report) This word is very full of meaning. GOD not only gave His testimony concerning them, but also partly to them. They RECEIVED THE TESTIMONY, an equivalent to the things themselves; comp. Hebrews 11:4-5; Hebrews 11:39. From this circumstance, they also became witnesses; so that they themselves might testify to others, and that others might testify concerning them; ch. Hebrews 12:1.—οἱ πρεσβύτεροι) the elders, who lived both formerly and for a long time. He does not say, οἱ ἀρχαῖοι, the ancients, but the elders, as it were by personification, inasmuch as they still give their powerful testimony, as if they were present; comp. ch. Hebrews 12:1. This is an excellent summary of the Old Testament, in which the apostle, by a remarkable gradation, comprehends the pursuits of those men of former times—their labours, journeyings, expectations, temptations, martyrdoms; and shows how we ought to seek, in all its fulness, under the veil of history, the substance of doctrine sometimes briefly indicated. Those of them who were earlier, had the exercise of their patience most chiefly during a long period of life; those who were later, in the midst of sharper afflictions.Verse 2. - For in this (i.e. faith, ἐν ταύτῃ) the elders obtained a good report; literally were witnessed of; i.e. it was in respect of their faith, which inspired their deeds, that they were praised. (For a similar use of the preposition ἐν, cf. 1 Corinthians 11:22, ἐπαινέσω ἐν, τούτῳ). Thus is introduced the illustrative review of Old Testament instances, the purpose of which has been explained above. It begins from the beginning, Abel being the first example. But in the Old Testament the account of the creation precedes that first recorded instance; and, therefore, it is in the first place fittingly referred to, the existence of an unseen creative power mentally perceived beyond things visible, being the primary article - the very foundation - of all religious faith (cf. below, ver. 6). 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 11:1 as a comprehensive justification of it.

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