Hebrews 11:13
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13) These all died in faith.—We must not change the order of the original. Seven verses up to this point have begun with the emphatic words “by faith.” There is a change here, but not in the emphasis of this thought. We should not expect to read “By faith these died;” what is said is, “In accordance with faith all these died;” faith had been the support and guide of their life, and their death was in accordance with the same principle. That is, they (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah) did not die in possession of what had been promised (Hebrews 11:39), but saw at a distance the blessings of which God had spoken (Hebrews 11:1).

And were persuaded of them.—These words do not belong to the true text; and the word “embraced” should be rendered “greeted,” or “saluted.” We read, therefore: “Not having received the promises, but having seen and greeted them from far” (Genesis 49:18), “and having confessed that they were strangers and sojourners upon the earth” (Genesis 47:9; Genesis 23:4). (Comp. 1Chronicles 29:15; Psalm 39:12; Psalm 119:19; Psalm 119:54; also 1Peter 1:1; 1Peter 2:11. The verses which follow are a comment on this. For the last words, “on the earth.” see Hebrews 11:16.

Hebrews

THE ATTACHMENTS AND DETACHMENTS OF FAITH

Hebrews 11:13 {R.V.}

THE great roll-call of heroes of faith in this grand chapter goes upon the supposition that the living spirit of religion was the same in Old and in New Testament times. In both it was faith which knit men to God. It has often been alleged that that great word faith has a different signification in this Epistle from that which it has in the other New Testament writings. The allegation is largely true; in so far as the things Believed are concerned they are extremely different; but it is not true in so far as the person trusted, or in so far as the act of trusting are concerned. These are identical. It was no mere temporal and earthly promise on which the faith of these patriarchs was builded. They looked indeed for the land, but in looking for the land, they looked ‘for the city which hath foundations’; and their future hopes had the same dim haze of ignorance, and the same questions unresolved about perspective and relative distances which our future hopes have; and their faith, whatever were its contents, was fundamentally the same out of a soul casting itself upon God, which is the essence of our faith in the Divine Son in whom God is made manifest So with surface difference there is a deep-lying absolute oneness in the faith of the Old Testament and ours, in essential nature, in the Object which they grasp, and in their practical effects upon life.

Therefore, these words of my text, describing what faith did for the world’s grey forefathers, have a more immediate bearing upon us than at first sight may appear, and may suggest for us some thoughts about the proper, practical issues of Christian faith in our daily lives.

I. I take two or three of the points which come most plainly out from the words before us, and ask you to notice, in the first place, how faith fills eye and heart with the future.

You will have observed that I have read my text somewhat differently from the form which it assumes in our Authorised Version. Observe that the words ‘And were persuaded of them,’ in our Old Version are a gloss, - no part of the original text. Observe, further, that the adverb ‘afar off’ is intended to apply to both the clauses: ‘Having seen them,’ and ‘embraced them.’ And that, consequently, ‘embraced’ must necessarily be an inadequate representation of the writer’s idea; for you cannot embrace a thing that is ‘afar off’; and to ‘embrace the promises’ was the very thing that these men did not do. The meaning of the word is here not embraced, but saluted or greeted; and the figure that lies in it is a very beautiful one. As some traveller topping the water-shed may see far off the white porch of his home, and wave a greeting to it, though it be distant, while his heart goes out over all the intervening, weary leagues; or as some homeward-bound crew catch, away yonder on the horizon, the tremulous low line that is home, and welcome it with a shout of joy, though many a billow dash and break between them and it, these men looked across the weary waste, and saw far away; and as they saw their hearts went out towards the things that were promised, because they ‘judged Him faithful that had promised.’ And that is the attitude and the act which all true faith in God ought to operate in us.

So, then, here are two things to think about for a moment. One, Faith’s vision; the other, Faith’s greeting.

People say, ‘Seeing is believing.’ I should be disposed to turn the aphorism right round, and to say, ‘Believing is seeing.’ For there is a clearer insight, and a more immediate, direct contact with the thing beheld, and a deeper certitude in the vision of faith than in the poor, purblind sight of sense, all full of illusions, and which has no real possession in it of the things which it beholds. The sight that faith gives is solid, substantial, clear, certain. If I might so say, the true exercise of faith is to stereoscope the dim ghostlike realities of the future, and to make them stand out solid in relief there before us. And he who, clasping the hand, and if I might so say, looking through the eyes, of God, sees the future, in humble acceptance of His great words of promise, in some measure as God sees it - has a source of knowledge, clear, immediate, certain, which sense with its lies and imperfections, is altogether inadequate even to symbolise. The vision of Faith is far deeper, far more real, far more correspondent to the realities, and far more satisfying to the eye that gazes, than is any of the sight of sense. Do not you be deceived or seduced by talk that assumes to be profound and philosophical, into believing that when you venture your all upon God’s word, and doing so say, ‘I know, and behold mine inheritance,’ you are saying more than calm reason and common-sense teaches us. We have the thing, and we see it, if we believe Him that in His word shows it to us,

Well, then, still further, there is suggested that this vision of faith, with all its blessed clearness and certitude and sufficiency, is not a direct perception of the things promised, but only a sight of them in the promise. And does that make it less blessed? Does the astronomer, who sits in his chamber, and when he would most carefully observe the heavens, looks downwards on to the mirror of the reflecting telescope that he uses, feel that he sees the starry lights less clearly and less really than when he gazes up into the abyss itself and sees them there? Is not the reflection a better and a more accurate source of knowledge for him than even the direct observation of the sky would be? And so, if we look down into the promise, we shall see, gleaming and glittering there, the starry points which are the true images adapted to our present sense and power of reception of the great invisible lights above. God be thanked that faith looks to the promises and not to the realities, else it were no more faith, and would lose some of its blessedness.

And then, still further, let me remind you that this vision of faith varies in the measure of our faith. It is not always the same. Refraction brings up sometimes, above the surface of the sea, a spectral likeness of the opposite shore, and men stand now and then upon our southern coasts, and for an hour or two, in some conditions of the atmosphere, they see the low sandhills of the French or the Belgian coast, as if they were at arm’s length. So faith, refracting the rays of light that strike from the Throne of God, brings up the image, and when it is strong the image is clear, and when it flags the image ‘fades away into the light of common day’; and where there glowed the fair outlines of the far-off land, there is nothing but a weary wash of waters and a solitary stretch of sea.

My brother! do you see to it that this vision of faith is cultivated by you. It is hard to do. The pressure of the present is terribly strong; the chains of sense that hold us are very adamantine and thick; but still it is possible for us to cultivate the faculty of beholding, and to train the eye to look into that telescope that pries into distant worlds, and brings eternal glories near. No pair of eyes can look the one at a thing near, and the other at a thing afar off; at least if they do the man squints. And no soul can look so as to behold the unseen glories if its eye be turned to all these vanities here. Do- you choose whether you shall, like John Bunyan’s man with the muckrake, have your eyes fixed upon the straws and filth at your feet, or whether you will look upwards and see the crown that is glittering there just above your head, and ready to drop upon it. ‘These all in faith saw the promises.’

Yes! And when they saw them they greeted them. Their hands and their hearts went out, and a glad shout came to their lips as they beheld the fair vision of all the wonder that should be. And so faith has in it, in proportion to its depth and reality, this going out of the soul towards the things discerned. They draw us when we see them,

One of our seventeenth-century prose writers says: - ‘Were the happiness of the next world as closely apprehended as felicities of this, it were a martyrdom to live.’ It is true. If we see, we cannot choose but love. Our vision will break into desire, and to behold is to yearn after. Oh, Christian men and women! do we know anything of that going out of the soul, in a calm transport of deliberate preference to the things that are unseen and eternal. It is a sharp test of the reality of our Christian profession; do not shrink from applying it to yourselves.

II. And now in the next place, we see here how faith produces a sense of detachment from the present, ‘They confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.’

The writer is, no doubt, referring to the words of Abraham when he stood up before the Hittites, and asked for a bit of ground to lay his Sarah in - ‘I am a stranger and a sojourner with you’; and also to Jacob’s words to Pharaoh, ‘The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years.’ These utterances revealed the spirit in which they looked upon the settled order in the midst of which they dwelt, They felt that they were not of it, but belonged to another.

Now there are two different kinds of consciousness that we are strangers and sojourners here. There is one that merely comes from the consideration of the natural transiency of all earthly things, and the shortness of human life. There is another that comes from the consciousness that we belong to another kingdom and another order. A ‘stranger’ is a man who, in a given constitution of things, in some country with a settled government, owes allegiance to another king, and belongs to another polity. A ‘pilgrim’ or a ‘sojourner’ is a man who is only in the place where he now is for a little while. So the one of the two words expresses the idea of belonging to another state of things, and the other expresses the idea of transiency in the present condition.

But the true Christian consciousness of being ‘a stranger and a sojourner’ comes, not from any thought that life is fleeting and ebbing away, but from the better and more blessed operation of the faith which reveals the things promised, and knits me so closely to them that I cannot but feel separated from the things that are round about me. Men who live in mountainous countries, be-it Switzerland, or the Highlands, or anywhere else, when they come down into the plains, pine and fade away sometimes, with the intensity of the ‘Heimweh,’ the homesickness which seizes them. And we, if we are Christians, and belong to the other order of things, shall feel that this is not our native soil, nor here the home in which we would dwell Abraham could not go to live in Sodom, though Lot went; and he and his son and grandson kept themselves outside of the organisation of the society in the midst of which they dwelt, because they were so sure that they belonged to another. Or, as the context puts it, they ‘dwelt in tents because they looked for the City.’ It is only sad, disheartening, cutting the nerve of much activity, destroying the intensity of much joy, drawing over life the pall of a deep sadness for a man to say, ‘Seventy years are a hand- breadth. I am a stranger and a sojourner.’ But it is an ally of all noble, intense, happy living that a man should say, ‘My home is with God. I am a stranger and a sojourner here.’ The one conviction is perfectly consistent with even desperate absorption in present things. ‘Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die,’ is quite as legitimate a conclusion from the consciousness of human frailty, as, ‘Let us live for heaven, for to-morrow we die.’ It all depends upon what is the source and occasion of this consciousness, whether it shall make us bitter, and shall make us cling to the perishable thing all the more because it is going so soon, or whether it shall lift us up above all these transient treasures or sorrows and fill our hearts with the glad conviction, ‘I am a citizen of no mean city, and therefore here I am but a stranger.’

My brother! does your faith lessen the bonds that bind you to earth? Does it detach you from the things that are seen and temporal, or is your life ordered upon the same maxims and devoted to the pursuit of the same objects, and gladdened by the same transitory and partial successes, and embittered by the same fleeting and light afflictions which rule and sway the lives that are rooted only in earth as the tempest sways the grass on the sandhills? If so, what business have we to call ourselves Christians? If so, how can we say that we live by faith when we are so blind, and so incapable of seeing afar off, that the smallest trifle beside us blots out from our vision, as a fourpenny piece held up against your eyeball might do the sun itself in the heavens there. True faith detaches a man from this present, If your faith does not do that, look into it and see where the falsity of it is. III. And, lastly, my text brings out the thought of how this same faith triumphs in the article of death. ‘These all died in faith.’

That is a very grand thought as applied to those old patriarchs, that just because all their lives long God had done nothing for them of what He had promised, therefore they died believing that He was going to do it. All their disappointments fed their faith. Because the words on which they had been leaning all their lives had not come to a fulfilment, therefore they must be true. That is a strange paradox, and yet it is the one which filled these men’s hearts with peace, and which made the dying Jacob break in upon his prophetic swan-song, at the close, with the verse which stands in no relation to what goes before it, or what comes after it. ‘I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord.’ ‘These all died in faith’ just because they had not ‘received the promises.’

So, dear brethren, for us the end of life may have a faith nurtured by disappointments, made more sure of everything because it has nothing; certain that He calls into existence another world to redress the balance of the old, because here there has been so much of bitterness and weariness and woe. And our end like theirs may be an end beatified by a clear vision of the things that ‘no man hath seen, nor can see’; and into the darkness there may come for us, as there came of old to another, an open heaven and a beam of God’s glory smiting us on the face and changing it into the face of an angel And so there may come for us all in that article and act of death, a tranquil and cheerful abandonment of the life which has been futile and frail, except when thought of as the vestibule of heaven. Some men cling to the vanishing skirts of this earthly life, and say, ‘I will not let thee go.’ And others are able to say, ‘Lord, I have waited for Thy salvation.’ ‘Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace.’

‘These all died in faith’; and the sorrows and disappointments of the past made the very background on which the bow of promise spanned the sky, beneath which they passed into the Promised Land. ‘These all died in faith’; with a vision gleaming upon the inward sense which made the solitude of death bliss, and with a calm willingness ‘to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better.’

Choose whether you will live by sense and die in sorrow, or whether you will live by the faith of the Son of God, and die to enter ‘the City which hath foundations,’ which He has built for them that love Him, and which even now, ‘in seasons of calm weather,’ we can see shining on the hill top far away.Hebrews 11:13. These all — Namely, Abraham and Sarah, with their children, Isaac and Jacob; died in faith — Believing that God would fulfil his promises; but not having received the promises — That is, the things promised, for which the word promises is here put by a usual metonymy. For the promises being made to Abraham personally, and to his immediate descendants, the apostle could not say of them that they died, not having received the promises; but he might justly say, they died not having received the things promised. For they neither received the possession of Canaan before their death, nor the actual exhibition of Christ in the flesh, with the privileges granted to the church in consequence thereof, which the apostle had so fully set forth in the four preceding chapters. This was that better thing provided for us under the New Testament, that they without us should not be made perfect. But having seen them afar off — At a great distance of time; as sailors, says Chrysostom, who after a long voyage, descry at a great distance, with much joy, their intended port. This makes it further evident that the things promised, and not the promises themselves, are intended; for the promises were not afar off, but present with them. They saw the things promised in that they had the idea of them in their minds, understanding in general the mind of God in his promises. And were persuaded of them — Namely, that such things as they had an idea of were promised, and that the promises would be fulfilled in due time; and embraced them — With the most cordial affection and greatest ardour of mind. The original word denotes the affectionate salutations and embracings of friends after a long separation. We then embrace the promises, and promised blessings, when our hearts cleave to them with confidence, love, complacency, and delight, the never-failing fruit of faith in them. This, and not a mere naked barren assent to divine revelation, was the faith whereby the elders obtained a good report. And confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth — That their interest, hopes, and enjoyments were not in this world, but in another which they expected. In other words, These heavenly-minded men, knowing well that a better country than any on earth was promised to them under the figure of Canaan, considered their abode in Canaan and on the earth as a pilgrimage at a distance from their native country; and to show what their expectations were, they always spake of themselves as strangers and pilgrims. See the passages referred to in the margin.11:8-19 We are often called to leave worldly connexions, interests, and comforts. If heirs of Abraham's faith, we shall obey and go forth, though not knowing what may befall us; and we shall be found in the way of duty, looking for the performance of God's promises. The trial of Abraham's faith was, that he simply and fully obeyed the call of God. Sarah received the promise as the promise of God; being convinced of that, she truly judged that he both could and would perform it. Many, who have a part in the promises, do not soon receive the things promised. Faith can lay hold of blessings at a great distance; can make them present; can love them and rejoice in them, though strangers; as saints, whose home is heaven; as pilgrims, travelling toward their home. By faith, they overcome the terrors of death, and bid a cheerful farewell to this world, and to all the comforts and crosses of it. And those once truly and savingly called out of a sinful state, have no mind to return into it. All true believers desire the heavenly inheritance; and the stronger faith is, the more fervent those desires will be. Notwithstanding their meanness by nature, their vileness by sin, and the poverty of their outward condition, God is not ashamed to be called the God of all true believers; such is his mercy, such is his love to them. Let them never be ashamed of being called his people, nor of any of those who are truly so, how much soever despised in the world. Above all, let them take care that they are not a shame and reproach to their God. The greatest trial and act of faith upon record is, Abraham's offering up Isaac, Ge 22:2. There, every word shows a trial. It is our duty to reason down our doubts and fears, by looking, as Abraham did, to the Almighty power of God. The best way to enjoy our comforts is, to give them up to God; he will then again give them as shall be the best for us. Let us look how far our faith has caused the like obedience, when we have been called to lesser acts of self-denial, or to make smaller sacrifices to our duty. Have we given up what was called for, fully believing that the Lord would make up all our losses, and even bless us by the most afflicting dispensations?These all died in faith - That is, those who had been just mentioned - Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Sarah. It was true of Abel and Noah also that they died in faith, but they are not included in "this" declaration, for the "promises" were not particularly entrusted to them, and if the word "these" be made to include them it must include Enoch also, who did not die at all. The phrase used here, "these all died in faith," does not mean that they died in the exercise or possession of religion, but more strictly that they died not having possessed what was the object of their faith. They had been looking for something future, which they did not obtain during their lifetime, and died believing that it would yet be theirs.

Not having received the promises - That is, not having received the "fulfillment" of the promises; or "the promised blessings." The promises themselves they "had" received; compare Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4; Acts 2:39; Galatians 3:14, and Hebrews 11:33, Hebrews 11:39. In all these places the word "promise" is used by metonymy "for the thing promised."

But having seen them afar off - Having seen that they would be fulfilled in future times; compare John 8:56. It is probable that the apostle here means that they saw "the entire fulfillment" of all that the promises embraced in the future - that is, the bestowment of the land of Canaan, the certainty of a numerous posterity, and of the entrance into the heavenly Canaan - the world of fixed and permanent rest. According to the reasoning of the apostle here the "promises" to which they trusted included all these things.And were persuaded of them - Had no doubt of their reality.

And embraced them - This word implies more than our word "embrace" frequently does; that is, "to receive as true." It means properly "to draw to oneself;" and then to embrace as one does a friend from whom he has been separated. It then means to greet, salute, welcome, and here means a joyful greeting of those promises; or a pressing them to the heart as we do a friend. It was not a cold and formal reception of them, but a warm and hearty welcome. Such is the nature of true faith when it embraces the promises of salvation. No act of pressing a friend to the bosom is ever more warm and cordial.

And confessed that they were strangers - Thus, Abraham said Genesis 23:4, "I am a stranger and a sojourner with you." That is, he regarded himself as a foreigner; as having no home and no possessions there. It was on this ground that he proposed to buy a burial-place of the sons of Heth.

And pilgrims - This is the word - παρεπίδημος parepidēmos - which is used by Abraham, as rendered by the Septuagint in Genesis 23:4, and which is translated "sojourner" there in the common English version. The word "pilgrim" means properly "a wanderer, a traveler," and particularly one who leaves his own country to visit a holy place. This sense does not quite suit the meaning here, or in Genesis 23:4. The Hebrew word - תּושׁב towshaab - means properly one who "dwells in a place," and particularly one who is a "mere" resident without the rights of a citizen. The Greek word means a "by-resident;" one who lives by another; or among a people not his own. This is the idea here. It is not that they confessed themselves to be wanderers; or that they had left their home to visit a holy place, but that they "resided" as mere sojourners in a, country that was not theirs. What might be their ultimate destination, or their purpose, is not implied in the meaning of the word. They were such as reside awhile among another people, but have no permanent home there.

On the earth - The phrase used here - ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς epi tēs gēs - might mean merely on the land of Canaan, but the apostle evidently uses it in a larger sense as denoting the earth in general. There can be no doubt that this accords with the views which the patriarchs had - regarding themselves not only as strangers in the land of Canaan, but feeling that the same thing was true in reference to their whole residence upon the earth - that it was not their permanent home.

13-16. Summary of the characteristic excellencies of the patriarchs' faith

died in faith—died as believers, waiting for, not actually seeing as yet their good things promised to them. They were true to this principle of faith even unto, and especially in, their dying hour (compare Heb 11:20).

These all—beginning with "Abraham" (Heb 11:8), to whom the promises were made (Ga 3:16), and who is alluded to in the end of Heb 11:13 and in Heb 11:15 [Bengel and Alford]. But the "ALL" can hardly but include Abel, Enoch, and Noah. Now as these did not receive the promise of entering literal Canaan, some other promise made in the first ages, and often repeated, must be that meant, namely, the promise of a coming Redeemer made to Adam, namely, "the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." Thus the promises cannot have been merely temporal, for Abel and Enoch mentioned here received no temporal promise [Archbishop Magee]. This promise of eternal redemption is the inner essence of the promises made to Abraham (Ga 3:16).

not having received—It was this that constituted their "faith." If they had "received" THE THING PROMISED (so "the promises" here mean: the plural is used because of the frequent renewal of the promise to the patriarchs: Heb 11:17 says he did receive the promises, but not the thing promised), it would have been sight, not faith.

seen them afar off—(Joh 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—The oldest manuscripts omit this clause.

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

confessed … were strangers—so Abraham to the children of Heth (Ge 23:4); and Jacob to Pharaoh (Ge 47:9; Ps 119:19). Worldly men hold fast the world; believers sit loose to it. Citizens of the world do not confess themselves "strangers on the earth."

pilgrims—Greek, "temporary (literally, 'by the way') sojourners."

on the earth—contrasted with "an heavenly" (Heb 11:16): "our citizenship is in heaven" (Greek: Heb 10:34; Ps 119:54; Php 3:20). "Whosoever professes that 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 living among strangers, in want and grief, far from his fatherland" [Luther]. "Like ships in seas while in, above the world."

These all died in faith; all these, Abragam, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob, &c., who were heirs of the same promises, and who had opportunity to return to the same country from which they came forth, as Hebrews 11:15: they did not only live according to faith, walking with, worshipping of, and waiting on God, testifying against sin, but finished their course by dying according to faith; by faith, as the instrumental efficient of it; in faith, as the regulating cause of it; according to faith, as in the state of believing. Faith was immortal in them as their souls, making their death a covenant dissolution, Luke 2:29, a voluntary, hopeful, blessed death, as 2 Corinthians 5:8 1 Thessalonians 4:13.

Not having received the promises; not receiving actually, and in sense, the things promised, which were a numerous offspring, the literal Canaan, the Messiah in the flesh, and a glorious resurrection; but departed triumphing, and in the faith of all, and that they would be made good to theirs; and this they discovered by the blessings they left on each other, as Isaac on Jacob, and Jacob on the patriarchs.

But having seen them afar off; but faith brought all these promises into their view, though so far off; so did Abraham see by it the Messiah, John 8:56. They all had a real, clear, and strong prospect of them, the inheritance temporal in its time to come, and the heavenly rest beyond the grave, seeing the resurrection, heaven, and glory, by faith, when they died, Genesis 49:18.

And were persuaded of them, and embraced them; by a powerful impression of faith on their souls, of the truth, goodness, and certainty of the things promised, on their minds, with a mighty apprehension of and assent to them in their wills, to the choosing of and closing with them in their affections; cleaving to them in love, desire, and delight, as surely to be accomplished; having their souls thankfully receiving them, graciously returning to God for them, with the greatest satisfaction embracing them, as are welcome friends or relations long absent from us; hugging Christ, saluting heaven, and embracing glory in the promises by faith, when dying.

And confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth; in word and deed; while they lived they published it to the world, as Abraham, Genesis 23:4, and Jacob, Genesis 47:9; keeping themselves free from all entanglements of this earth, as became those who are strangers, having no possession of, nor intimacy with, this earth; incorporating with no other people, but as pilgrims wandered from place to place, took up and pitched their tents when and where God would have them, unpeopled as to this world, and desiring to be peopled with the Lord, Psalm 39:12 105:12,13; compare 2 Corinthians 5:6,8. They were all of the same mind, loose from and above this world, and longing to remove to their own country and be with God. These all died in faith,.... Not all the seed of Abraham, but all the believers in the preceding verses, excepting Enoch, particularly the three patriarchs, with Sarah; these died a corporeal death, which is common to all, to the righteous, and to the wicked; and yet saints die not as other men; they die in faith, having the grace itself, which being once implanted, can never be lost; and sometimes in the exercise of it, as these believers did: they died in the faith of their posterity inheriting the land of Canaan, and in the faith of the promised Messiah, and in the believing views of the heavenly glory; and so to die is comfortable to themselves, and a confirmation of the truth of religion to others, and is very precious, desirable, and gainful. It may be rendered, "according to faith"; they died according to the life of faith they lived, and the doctrine of faith they professed, being the Lord's both living and dying.

Not having received the promises; the things promised, the land of Canaan, the Messiah, and the blessings of the Gospel dispensation; they had the promises of these things, and though they were not fulfilled in their days, they believed they would be fulfilled, and died in the faith of them:

having seen them afar off; the things themselves in the promise; as Abraham saw the going forth of his posterity out of Egypt, after they had been afflicted four hundred years, and saw the day of Christ at a greater distance still, Genesis 15:13.

And were persuaded of them, and embraced them; they had a full assurance of faith, that what was promised would be fulfilled; and they took a kind of possession of them before hand, as Abraham did of the land of Canaan, by sojourning in it; as did also Isaac and Jacob; and all of them by faith embraced the Messiah, and dealt with, and laid hold upon his blood, righteousness, sacrifice, and grace, by which they were saved, as New Testament saints are.

And confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth; for they sojourned in the land of Canaan, as in a strange land, as the saints do in this world; see Hebrews 11:9. And they were pilgrims, travelling through this world to the heavenly country, and they confessed themselves to be such, Genesis 47:9 nor are believers ashamed to own and confess their mean estate in this world; for it is only with respect to earth, and earthly things, that they are strangers and pilgrims, and only while they are on earth; and it is therefore but for a little time that they are so, ere long they will be at home, and know as they are known.

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

(g) In faith, which they had while they lived, and followed, them even to their grave.

(h) This is the figure metonymy, for the things promised.

(i) For the patriarchs were given to profess their religion by building an altar and calling on the name of the Lord when they received the promises.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Hebrews 11:13. Κατὰ πίστιν] is ordinarily (by Bleek, too, in the larger commentary) conjoined exclusively with ἀπέθανον. According to this, the dying conformably to faith, in distinction from the faith already manifested during life, would become the main idea of the verse, and the participial clauses would be made to contain the proof for the κατὰ πίστιν ἀποθανεῖν. The sense would be: “they died in faith (not in sight), since they had not received the promises, but only saw them from afar,” etc. (Bleek). Against this apprehension of the words, however, decides the subjective negation μή before λαβόντες, instead of which (particularly in the case of the opposition following with ἀλλά, see Kühner, II. 408) the objective negation οὐ must have been placed. We have therefore, with Schulz, Winer (Gramm., 7 Aufl. p. 376), Moll, Bleek, Vorles. p. 434, Kurtz, Ewald, to refer κατὰ πίστιν to ἀπέθανον in close comprehension of the latter with the participles. The sense is: In accordance with faith these all died without having received the promises, but as those who, etc.; i.e., it was conformable to the nature of faith that they, without having attained to the possession of the promised blessings themselves, beheld them only from afar and greeted them, and witnessed the confession that they are strangers and pilgrims upon earth.

οὗτοι πάντες] is referred by Oecumenius, Theophylact, Primasius, Ribera, Justinian, Drusius, and Bloomfield to all the before-mentioned persons, from Abel onwards, with the single exception of Enoch. Nevertheless, as is evident from the contents of the following verse, only those among them can have been thought of to whom promises were given, thus Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob. Comp. specially Hebrews 11:15.

μὴ λαβόντες] see at Hebrews 6:15.

τὰς ἐπαγγελίας] in the objective sense, as τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν, Hebrews 9:15.

πόῤῥωθεν] belongs equally to ἀσπασάμενοι as to ἰδόντες.

ἀσπάζεσθαι] joyfully greet or welcome, as the traveller the longed-for journey’s end. Comp. Virg. Aen. iii. 522 sqq.:

Quum procul obscuros colles humilemque videmus

Italiam.… Italiam laeto socii clamore salutant.

καὶ ὁμολογήσαντες, ὅτι ξένοι καὶ παρεπίδημοί εἰσιν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς] Reference to the utterances of the patriarchs in the Book of Genesis, particularly Genesis 23:4, where Abraham says to the children of Heth: πάροικος καὶ παρεπίδημος ἐγώ εἰμι μεθʼ ὑμῶν, and Genesis 47:9, where Jacob, in addressing Pharaoh, describes his own life in general as a pilgrimage: αἱ ἡμέραι τῶν ἐτῶν τῆς ζωῆς μου, ἃς παροικῶ, ἑκατὸν τριάκοντα ἔτη. Comp. LXX. Psalm 39:13; Psalm 118:19; 1 Peter 2:11; Philo, de Agricult. p. 196 E (with Mangey, I. p. 310): παροικεῖν οὐ κατοικεῖν ἤλθομεν· τῷ γὰρ ὄντι πᾶσα μὲν ψυχὴ σοφοῦ πατρίδα μὲν οὐρανόν, ξένην δὲ γῆν ἔλαχεν; De Confus. Ling. p. 331 C (I. p. 416): Διὰ τοῦτο οἱ κατὰ Μωϋσῆν σοφοὶ πάντες εἰσάγονται παροικοῦντες· αὑ γὰρ τούτων ψυχαὶ στέλλονται μὲν ἀποικίαν δή ποτε τὴν ἐξ οὐρανοῦ.

Hebrews 11:13-16. General observations with regard to the fore-mentioned patriarchs.Hebrews 11:13. Not only in life was the faith of the patriarchs manifested, it stood the test of death, κατὰ πίστιν ἀπέθανον οὗτοι πάντες, in keeping with their faith (see Winer, p. 502) these all (that is Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Jacob) died, and the strength of their faith was seen in this that although they had not received the fulfilment of the promises (Hebrews 11:39 and Hebrews 10:36) they yet had faith enough to see and hail them from afar. As Moses endured because he saw the Invisible (Hebrews 11:27) so the patriarchs were not daunted by death because they saw the day of Christ (John 8:56), that is to say, they were so firmly persuaded that God’s promise would be fulfilled that it could be said that they saw the fulfilment. They hailed them from afar, as those on board ship descry friends on shore and wave a recognition. [Wetstein cites from Appian, De Bell. Civ., ver. 46, p. 110 where it is said that the soldiers τὸν Καίσαρα πόῤῥωθεν ὡς αὐτοκράτορα ἠσπάσαντο.] “Such an ἀσπασμός we have in the mouth of the dying Jacob (Genesis 49:18): For Thy salvation have I waited, Jehovah” (Delitzsch). This they might have done had they merely believed that the promises would be fulfilled to their descendants, but that their faith extended also to their own enjoyment of God’s promise was testified by their confessing that so far as regards the land (τῆς γῆς) of Canaan they were pilgrims and foreigners. This confession was made no doubt by their whole conduct, but as the aorist indicates it was made verbally by Abraham on the occasion of Sarah’s death (Genesis 23:4), πάροικος καὶ παρεπίδημος ἐγώ εἰμι μεθʼ ὑμῶν, cf. Genesis 47:9, etc. The article before γῆς, together with the sense of the passage, shows that the land of promise, Canaan, was meant. ἐπὶ γῆς in the same connection is used for “the earth,” cf. 1 Chronicles 29:15. Philo (De Agricult., p. 196) refines upon the same idea, παροικεῖν οὐ κατοικεῖν ἤλθομεν· τῷ γὰρ ὄντι πᾶσα μὲν ψυχὴ σοφοῦ πατρίδα μὲν οὐρανὸν, ξένην δὲ γῆν ἔλαχεν. Cf. De Conf. Ling., p. 331. But such a confession implies that those who make it (οἱ γὰρ τοιαῦτα λέγοντες) have not yet found but are in search of a fatherland, πατρίδα ἐπιζητοῦσιν. [Cf. Romans 11:7, ὃ ἐπιζητεῖ Ἰσραὴλ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐπέτυχεν. Frequent in N.T., to seek, search for. “The ἐπὶ is that of direction, as the ἐκ in ἐκζητεῖν (Hebrews 11:6) is that of explanation” (Vaughan).] The acknowledgment, cheerful or sad, that such and such a land is not the home-country makes it manifest (ἐμφανίζουσιν, John 14:21, Acts 23:15) that they think of and have in view and are making for a land which they can call their own. [“Si hic peregrinantur, alibi patria est ac fixa sedes” (Calvin).] And that this home-country of their desire is not that from which Abraham and the patriarchs were really derived (Mesopotamia) and which they had abandoned, (ἀφʼ ἧς ἐξέβησαν) is also evident, because had they cherished fond memories of it they would have had opportunity (εἶχον ἂν καιρὸν, cf. Acts 24:25; 1Ma 15:34. The imperfects indicate that this was continuous) to return (ἀνακάμψαι, Matthew 2:12; Luke 10:6; Acts 18:21; frequent in LXX). νῦν δὲ, “but as the case actually stands” (Hebrews 8:6, Hebrews 9:26; 1 Corinthians 15:20, etc.) putting aside this idea that it might be their old home they were seeking, κρείττονος ὀρέγονται, τοῦτʼ ἔστιν ἐπουρανίου, it is a better, that is, a heavenly they aspire after. That which in point of fact provoked in the patriarchs the sense of exile was that their hearts were set on a better country and firmer settlement than could be found anywhere, but in heaven. And because they thus proved that they were giving to God credit for meaning by His promises more than the letter indicated, because they measured His promises by the spirit of the promises rather than by the thing promised, He is not ashamed of them, not ashamed to be called their God; and the proof that He is not ashamed of them is, that He prepared for them a city. The patriarchs showed that they understood that in giving these promises God became their God; therefore God was not ashamed of them, and this showed itself especially in His naming Himself “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (Exodus 3:15). Cf. with this verse, Hebrews 8:10 and Matthew 22:31-32. And that He was truly their God He showed by preparing for them a city which should justify the expectations which they had based upon His power and goodness.13. in faith] Lit. “according to faith.”

not having received the promises] They received the promises in one sense, as promises (Hebrews 11:17), but had not yet entered upon their fruition (comp. Hebrews 11:39 and Hebrews 9:15).

and were persuaded of them] These words are not found in all the best mss.

and embraced them] Rather, “saluting them” (Genesis 49:18). “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56).

confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims] Genesis 23:4; Genesis 47:9; 1 Chronicles 29:15; Psalm 39:12, &c.Hebrews 11:13. Κατὰ πίστιν, according to or in faith) He does not say here, πίστει, by faith, for κατὰ πίστιν, in faith, accords better with the word, ἀπέθανον, they died. Comp. κατὰ, Matthew 1:20.—ἀπέθανον, died) Faith becomes very strong at the hour of death; Hebrews 11:20, etc.: and at that period hope with respect to things invisible and future is most resplendent.—οὗτοι, these) The pronoun is to be referred to the persons who are mentioned from Hebrews 11:8, being those who obtained more distinct promises.—τὰς ἐπαγγελίας, the promises i.e. the things which had been promised, Hebrews 11:39 : good, nay, heavenly things, Hebrews 11:13, at the end.—ἰδόντες καὶ ἀσπασάμενοι, having seen and embraced them) This expression makes an Oxymoron with πόρρωθεν, afar off, in which Paul delights; for Eustathius explains ἀσπάζεσθαι, to clasp or draw a person to one’s self by grasping his hand, and to embrace him; and this is the custom of friends when they meet. The faith of the ancients is thus exquisitely described; and the passage seems plainly to refer to John 8:56, Abraham saw Christ’s day, and was glad.—ὁμολογήσαντες, having confessed) willingly. The confession of being strangers arises from their embracing heavenly things.—ξένοι καὶ παρεπίδημοι) Genesis 23:4, πάροικος καὶ παρεπίδημος ἐγώ εἰμι: ibid. Genesis 47:9, αἱ ἡμέραι ἅς παροικῶἃς ἡμέρας παρῴκησαν: παρὰ in παρεπίδημοι, diminishes the signification. Worldly men hold fast the world; believers scarcely cling to it in any part, either in deed, or at least with their heart.—ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, upon the earth) An antithesis to ἐπουρανίου, heavenly, Hebrews 11:16.Verse 13. - These all (i.e. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the nomadic patriarchs, not in-eluding the antediluvian heroes, to whom what is further said does not apply) died in faith (literally, according to faith, κατὰ πίστιν, as in ver. 7), not having received the promises, but having seen and greeted them from afar off (omitting the ill-supported καὶ πεισθέντες of the Textus Receptus), and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. The reference is to the confession of Abraham to the sons of Heth (Genesis 23:4), "I am a stranger and a sojourner with yon," together with Jacob's words to Pharaoh (Genesis 47:9), "The days of the years of my pilgrimage," etc. The import of such confession, intimated in the preceding part of the verse, is now educed. 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 to receive 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 embraced, which 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. Lnemann 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 sojourners, see 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."

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