Hebrews 11:3
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.
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(3) Through faith.—Rather, By faith, as in the following verses. The first place is not given to “the elders,” for the writer’s object is to set forth the achievements of faith. With these, he would say, the Scripture record is filled. Even where there is no mention of this principle we must trace it in the lives of God’s servants; even where there is no history of men, there is a necessity for the exercise of faith by ourselves, and the first words of Scripture teach this lesson.

That the worlds were framed.—Literally, that the ages have been prepared. The remarkable expression which was used in Hebrews 1:2 is here repeated. The complete preparation of all that the successive periods of time contain is the idea which the words present. The narrative of the first chapter of Genesis ascribes the whole creation of “the heaven and the earth” to God; and associates with “a word of God” every stage in the preparation and furnishing of the earth. (See Note on Hebrews 1:2.) This is the first lesson of that record. But it does not stand alone, as is taught more plainly still by the next clause.

So that things which are seen.—A slight alteration in the Greek is necessary here—“the thing seen” (or “what is seen”) being the true reading. A more important point is a change in the aspect of the whole clause, which the Greek seems to require. As the English words stand, they point out the significance of the statement of Scripture respecting the creative act: we believe the writer intended rather to state the divine purpose in relation to that first creation and all subsequent acts that are included in the “preparing of the ages.” “In order that what is seen should not have come into being out of things which appear.” This is probably the true meaning of the clause. In the narrative of the first chapter of Genesis God would have us learn a lesson for the whole course of human history and development. As the visible universe did not take its being out of what was apparent, so what from time to time is seen does not arise of itself out of what is manifest to man’s natural perceptions. Not only is the eternity of matter denied, but from the beginning a warning has been given against a materialistic philosophy. The first page of Scripture is designed to teach the constant presence and work of the Creator. This lesson we learn and apply by faith; and the result of its application is seen in many points of the history which follows. In that history the operation of faith is twofold. The writer’s most obvious design is to call attention to the faith possessed by “the elders,” and its wonderful triumphs; but it is in many cases by the same faith that we interpret the Scripture record so as to discover this to have been their guiding principle. But seldom does the Old Testament directly speak of faith, and hence the importance of this verse (which some have thought incongruous, since it retards the exhibition of the elders’ faith) as throwing light on our interpretation of the teaching of God’s word.

Hebrews 11:3. Through faith we understand that the worlds — Although the expression, τους αιωνας, generally signifies the ages, yet here the subsequent clause determines its signification to the material fabric of the world, comprehending the sun, moon, and stars, &c., (called by Moses the heaven and the earth, Genesis 1:1,) by whose duration and revolutions time, consisting of days, months, years, and ages, is measured; were framed Formed, fashioned, and finished, as the word κατηρτισθαι implies, properly signifying to place the parts of any body or machine in their right order, Ephesians 4:12. It, however, also signifies to make, or produce, as Hebrews 10:5, where it is applied to the body made for Christ. And that it here signifies, not merely the orderly disposition of the parts of the universe, but their production, is plain from the following clause. By the word of God — The sole command of God, without any instrument or preceding matter. The word ρημα, here used, properly signifies a word spoken, or a command. It is nowhere used in Scripture to denote the Son of God. His proper title is ο λογος, the Word. That the worlds were made by the word, order, or command of God, is one of the unseen things which cannot be known but by divine revelation. The apostle, therefore, doubtless refers to the Mosaic account of the creation, Genesis 1:3, &c., where Moses informs us, God said, let there be light, and there was light, &c. As the creation is the fountain and specimen of the whole divine economy, so faith in the Creator is the foundation and specimen of all faith; so that the things which are seen — The earth and heavens, with all that they contain; were not made of things which do appear — Or, of things appearing, or which did appear, as φαινομενων may be properly rendered; that is, they were not made of any pre-existing matter, but of matter which God created and formed into the things which we see; and having formed them, he placed them in the beautiful order which they now hold, and impressed on them the motions proper to each, which they have retained ever since. “This account of the origin of things, given by revelation, is very different from the cosmogony of the heathen philosophers, who generally held that the matter of which the worlds were composed was uncreated and eternal; consequently, being independent of God, and not obedient to his will, they supposed it to be the occasion of all the evil that is in the world. But revelation, which teaches us that the things which are seen were not made of matter which did appear before they were made, but of matter which God had brought into existence; by thus establishing the sovereignty of God over matter, hath enlarged our ideas of his power, and strengthened our faith in his promises concerning the felicity of good men in the life to come. For the creation of the new heavens and the new earth, and the glories of the city of the living God, do not, in order to their formation, require more power than the creation of the present universe; and therefore, if we believe that the worlds were formed by the word of God from nothing, every other exercise of faith will be easy to us.

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.Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed - The first instance of the strength of faith which the apostle refers to is that by which we give credence to the declarations in the Scriptures about the work of creation; Genesis 1:1. This is selected first, evidently because it is the first thing that occurs in the Bible, or is the first thing there narrated in relation to which there is the exercise of faith. He points to no particular instance in which this faith was exercised - for none is especially mentioned - but refers to it as an illustration of the nature of faith which every one might observe in himself. The "faith" here exercised is confidence in the truth of the divine declarations in regard to the creation. The meaning is, that our knowledge on this subject is a mere matter of faith in the divine testimony. It is not that we could "reason" this out, and demonstrate that the worlds were thus made; it is not that profane history goes back to that period and informs us of it; it is simply that God has told us so in his word. The "strength" of the faith in this case is measured:

(1) by the fact that it is mere faith - that there is nothing else on which to rely in the case, and,

(2) by the greatness of the truth believed.

After all the acts of faith which have ever been exercised in this world, perhaps there is none which is really more strong, or which requires higher confidence in God, than the declaration that this vast universe has been brought into existence by a word!

We understand - We attain to the apprehension of; we receive and comprehend the idea. Our knowledge of this fact is derived only from faith, and not from our own reasoning.

That the worlds - In Genesis 1:1, it is "the heaven and the earth." The phrase which the apostle uses denotes a plurality of worlds, and is proof that he supposed there were other worlds besides our earth. How far his knowledge extended on this point, we have no means of ascertaining, but there is no reason to doubt that he regarded the stars as "worlds" in some respects like our own. On the meaning of the Greek word used here, see the notes on Hebrews 1:2. The plural form is used there also, and in both cases, it seems to me, not without design.

Were framed - It is observable that the apostle does not here use the word "make or create." That which he does use - καταρτίζω katartizō - means to put in order, to arrange, to complete, and may be applied to that which before had an existence, and which is to be put in order, or re-fitted; Matthew 4:24; Mark 1:19; Matthew 21:6; Hebrews 10:5. The meaning here is, that they "were set in order" by the Word of God. This implies the act of creation, but the specific idea is that of "arranging" them in the beautiful order in which they are now. Doddridge renders it "adjusted." Kuinoel, however, supposes that the word is used here in the sense of "form, or make." It has probably about the meaning which we attach to the phrase "fitting up anything," as, for example, a dwelling, and includes all the previous arrangements, though the thing which is particularly denoted is not the making, but the arrangemenent. So in the work here referred to. "We arrive at the conviction that the universe was prepared or arranged in the present manner by the Word of God."

By the word of God - This does not mean here, by the "Logos," or the second person of the Trinity, for Paul does not use that term here or elsewhere. The word which he employs is ῥῆμα rēma - "rema" - meaning properly a word spoken, and in this place "command;" compare Genesis 1:3, Genesis 1:6,Genesis 1:9, Genesis 1:11, Genesis 1:14, Genesis 1:20; Psalm 33:6. "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth." In regard to the agency of the Son of God in the work of the creation, see the notes on Hebrews 1:2; compare the notes on John 1:3.

So that things which are seen - The point of the remark here is, that the visible creation was not moulded out of pre-existing materials, but was made out of nothing. In reference to the grammatical construction of the passage, see Stuart, Commentary in loc. The doctrine taught is, that matter was not eternal; that the materials of the universe, as well as the arrangement, were formed by God, and that all this was done by a simple command. The "argument" here, so far as it is adapted to the purpose of the apostle, seems to be, that there was nothing which "appeared," or which was to be "seen," that could lay the foundation of a belief that God made the worlds; and in like manner our faith now is not to be based on what; "appears," by which we could infer or reason out what would be, but that we must exercise strong confidence in Him who had power to create the universe out of nothing. If this vast universe has been called into existence by the mere word of God, there is nothing which we may not believe he has ample power to perform.

3. we understand—We perceive with our spiritual intelligence the fact of the world's creation by God, though we see neither Him nor the act of creation as described in Ge 1:1-31. The natural world could not, without revelation, teach us this truth, though it confirms the truth when apprehended by faith (Ro 1:20). Adam is passed over in silence here as to his faith, perhaps as being the first who fell and 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—"fitly formed and consolidated"; including the creation of the single parts and the harmonious organization of the whole, 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 here, the personal word (Greek, "logos," Joh 1:1) but the spoken word (Greek, "rhema"); though by the instrumentality of the personal word (Heb 1:2).

not made, &c.—Translate as Greek, "so that not out of things which appear hath that which is seen been made"; not as in the case of all things which we see reproduced from previously existing and visible materials, as, for instance, the plant from the seed, the animal from the parent, &c., has the visible world sprung into being from apparent materials. So also it is implied in the first clause of the verse that the invisible spiritual worlds were framed not from previously existing materials. Bengel explains it by distinguishing "appear," that is, begin to be seen (namely, at creation), from that which is seen as already in existence, not merely beginning to be seen; so that the things seen were not made of the things which appear," that is, which begin to be seen by us in the act of creation. We were not spectators of creation; it is by faith we perceive it.

This proves the second part of faith’s description, Hebrews 11:1, that it is the evidence of things not seen; for by it only we understand the creation, which no eye saw. It is the same Divine faith as described before, but as evidencing invisible truths, it communicates a marvellous light to the understanding, and leaves real impressions of it from the word of God, whereby it arriveth unto a most certain knowledge of what is above the power of natural reason to convey, and gives a divine assent to it, such its as is real, clear, sure, and fruitful, different from that of the Gentiles, Romans 1:19-23.

The worlds; touv aiwnav the word noteth sometimes ages, Luke 16:8; the garb and corrupt habit of men who live in them, Ephesians 2:2; eternity: but there, as Hebrews 1:2, it is a word of aggregation, signifying all kinds of creatures, with their several places, times, and periods; things celestial, terrestrial, and subterrestrial; angels, men, and all sorts of creatures, together with all the states and conditions in which they were made.

Were framed by the word of God; heaven, earth, and seas, with all their hosts of creatures, the visible creation and the invisible world, were put into being and existence, placed in their proper order, disposed and fitted to their end, by the mighty word of God: Trinity in Unity the Creator, his powerful fiat, without any pain, or trouble, or assisting causes, instantly effected this miraculous, glorious work; He spake, and it was done, Genesis 1:3,6,9,11,14, &c.; Psalm 33:6,9.

So that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear; the visible world, and all visible in it, were made all of nothing; this reason could never digest. All was produced of that formless, void, dark chaos which was invisible, Genesis 1:2; which void, formless, dark mass itself, was made of no pre-existent stuff, matter or atoms, but of nothing; which differenceth the operative power of God from that of all other agents. See Genesis 1:1 Psalm 89:11,12 Psa 148:5,6, &c.; Isaiah 42:5 45:12,18.

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God,.... The celestial world, with its inhabitants, the angels; the starry and ethereal worlds, with all that is in them, the sun, moon, stars, and fowls of the air; the terrestrial world, with all upon it, men, beasts, &c. and the watery world, the sea, and all that is therein: perhaps some respect may be had to the distinction of worlds among the Jews; See Gill on Hebrews 1:2, though the apostle can scarce be thought to have any regard to their extravagant notions of vast numbers of worlds being created: they often speak of three hundred and ten worlds, in all which, they say, there are heavens, earth, stars, planets, &c. (f); and sometimes of eighteen thousand (g); but these notions are rightly charged by Philo (h) with ignorance and folly. However, as many worlds as there are, they are made "by the Word of God"; by Christ, the essential Word of God, to whom the creation of all things is ascribed in John 1:1. And this agrees with the sentiments of the Jews, who ascribe the creation of all things to the Word of God, as do the Targumists (i), and Philo the Jew (k). And these are "framed" by the Word, in a very beautiful and convenient order; the heavens before the earth; things less perfect, before those that were more so in the visible world, or terraqueous globe; and things for men, before men, for whom they were; and it is by divine revelation and faith that men form right notions of the creation, and of the author of it, and particularly of the origin of it, as follows:

so that things which are seen: as the heaven, earth, and sea, and in which the invisible things of God, the perfections of his nature, are discerned:

were not made of things which do appear; they were not made from pre-existent matter, but out of nothing, out of which the rude and undigested chaos was formed; and from that invisible mass, covered with darkness, were all visible things brought into a beautiful order; and all from secret and hidden ideas in the divine minds; and this also is the faith of the Jews, that the creation of all things is "out of nothing" (l). There seems to be an allusion to the word used for creation, which signifies to make appear a thing unseen; and is rendered in the Septuagint version by Numbers 16:30 and Isaiah 40:26 to show, or make appear; and thus God created, or made to appear, the heavens and earth, which before were not in being, and unseen, Genesis 1:1 and created to make, as in Genesis 2:3 that is, made them to appear, that he might put them into the form and order they now are.

(f) Misn. Oketzim, c. 3. sect. 12. Targum Jon. in Exodus 28.30. Kettoreth Hassamim in Targum Jon. in Gen. fol. 4. 4. Lex. Cabel. p. 60, 61. (g) T. Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 3. 2. Yalkut, par. 2. fol. 50. 4. (h) De Opificio, p. 39. (i) Targum Oak. in Deuteronomy 33.27. & Ben Uzziel in Isaiah 48.13. (k) De Opificio, p. 4. & Leg. Alleg. l. 1. p. 44. (l) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 1. 1. Kettoreth Hassamim in Targ. Jon in Gen. fol. 5. 1, 2.

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

(3) He shows the property of faith, by setting before us most cautious examples of those who from the beginning of the world excelled in the Church.

(b) So that the world which we see, was not made from any matter that appeared or was before, but from nothing.

Hebrews 11:3. The author is on the point of proving out the truth of Hebrews 11:2, in a series of historic instances from the Holy Scriptures of the O. T., when the thought forces itself upon him that the very first section of that sacred book of Scripture relates a fact of which the reality can only be recognised by means of faith. He first of all, therefore, calls attention to this fact, before proceeding, in Hebrews 11:4, to the designed enumeration of those historic examples. Certainly not very aptly, since Hebrews 11:3 cannot, as Hebrews 11:4 ff., serve in proof of the assertion, Hebrews 11:2, but, on the contrary, introduces into the examination something heterogeneous in relation to Hebrews 11:4 ff. For Hebrews 11:3 shows only the necessity for πίστις on our part in regard to a fact belonging to the past and recorded in Scripture; Hebrews 11:4 ff. there are placed before our eyes as models historic persons in whom the virtue of πίστις, so constituted as the author demands it of his readers, was livingly present. This judgment, that Hebrews 11:3 forms a heterogeneous insertion, is pronounced, indeed, by Delitzsch, to whom Kluge and Moll have acceded, an “unfair one.” But the counter observation of Delitzsch: “the author had already at Hebrews 11:2, in connection with οἱ πρεσβύτεροι, and particularly in connection with ἐμαρτυρήθησαν, the O. T. Scripture before his mind; so that the statement, although sounding thus personal, is equivalent to the proposition that the O. T. Scripture concedes no recognition to any mode of life which lies not within the province of faith,” labours under the defect of logical deliquescence; it is a mere rationalizing of the words of Hebrews 11:2, simply and clearly preposed as the theme for that which follows.

πίστει] Dat. instrumentalis: by virtue of faith.

νοοῦμεν] we discern. νοεῖν is the inner perception, accomplished by means of the νοῦς. Comp. Romans 1:20.

κατηρτίσθαι] has been prepared (comp. LXX. Psalm 73:16. Ps. 88:38). More expressive than if πεποιῆσθαι had been written. It represents the having been created at the same time as a having been placed in a completed or perfect condition [Hebrews 13:21].

τοὺς αἰῶνας] the world; see at Hebrews 1:2.

ῥήματι θεοῦ] by the word (or authoritative command) of God. Reference to the repeated: “And God said,” Genesis 1 Comp. 2 Peter 3:5; LXX. Psalm 38:6; Psalm 148:5. Philo, de sacrif. Abel, et Cain. p. 140 D (with Mangey, I. p. 175): Ὁ γὰρ θεὸς λέγων ἅμα ἐποίει, μηδὲν μεταξὺ ἀμφοῖν τιθείς. The supposition of Bleek (comp. also Ewald, p. 123), that the author here too thought of the word of God as a personified property, has nothing in its favour, since the expression is sufficiently explained without it. Nor does the διʼ οὗ καὶ ἐποίησεν τοὺς αἰῶνας, Hebrews 1:2, compel us to adopt this supposition. For above the special mode of mediately effecting the creation of the world there indicated, stands the higher authorship of God, to which the writer here points in general by the expression ῥήματι θεοῦ.

εἰς τὸ μὴ ἐκ φαινομένων τὸ βλεπόμενον γεγονέναι] not: so that, etc. (so still Böhme, Stuart, Bleek, de Wette, Alford, Conybeare, Kurtz, Ewald, M‘Caul, Woerner, and the majority of recent expositors), εἰς τό with the infinitive preserves here, too, its ordinary telic signification, in that it introduces the purpose of God with regard to the ῥήματι καταρτίζειν τοὺς αἰῶνας. The sense is: that in accordance with the decree of God, the fact should he averted, that from φαινόμενα the βλεπόμενον should have sprung; consequently that the human race should from the beginning be directed to the necessity for πίστις.

μή] belongs to the whole object-clause. So rightly Beza, Piscator, Seb. Schmidt, Er. Schmid, Bengel, Storr, Schulz, Huët, Böhme, Stuart, Bleek, Stein, de Wette, Bloomfield, Bisping, Riehm [Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbr. p. 58), Alford, Maier, Kluge, Moll, Kurtz, M‘Caul, and Hofmann; while the Peshito, Vulgate, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Oecumenius, Theophylact, and almost all later expositors, including also Stengel and Ebrard (Delitzsch is undecided), comprehend μή with ἐκ φαινομένων, and then interpret this in the sense of ἐκ μὴ φαινομένων.[106] The latter, in favour of which the supposed parallels which have been adduced prove nothing, is by reason of the position of the words (to say nothing of the fact that οὐ must have been written in place of μή; for neither 2 Corinthians 4:18, as Delitzsch supposes, nor Romans 4:17, as Maier supposes, decides against this rule. See Meyer ad loc.) a grammatical impossibility.

τὸ βλεπόμενον] that which is seen, or the outward, visible world. The singular represents the same as one complex whole, τὸ βλεπόμενον resumes under another form only the foregoing τοὺς αἰῶνας, whereas the emphasis in the negative final clause rests upon the ἐκ φαινομένων, which is on that account preposed.

φαινόμενα] are things which appear in outward manifestation, and are perceived by the senses. The expression indicates the domain of the corporal, the material, and there underlies it the conception that the universe did not spring forth by the power of nature from earthly germs or substances, but was created by the mere word of God’s omnipotence. In this is contained, it is true, the conception of the creating of the world from nothing. [Cf. 2Ma 7:28.] The opinion of Estius, Schlichting, Limborch, Michaelis, Baumgarten, and others, that the author, with a reference to Genesis 1:2 (specially after the translation of the LXX.: ἡ δὲ γῆ ἦν ἀόρατος καὶ ἀκατασκεύαστος), thought of a visible arising of the worlds out of the invisible chaos already existing, has for its presupposition the erroneous transposal of the μὴ ἐκ into ἐκ μή, and fails to maintain itself in presence of the fact that the γεγονέναι ἐκ φαινομένων, as antithesis to the foregoing κατηρτίσθαι ῥήματι θεοῦ, must receive from this latter its nearer defining of signification. Quite untenable is consequently also the opinion of Delitzsch, who, with the assent of Kluge and Kurtz, supplements ἀλλʼ ἐκ νοητῶν as opposition to μὴ ἐκ φαινομένων, and in connection with the μὴ φαινόμενα—or if μή is combined with the verb, in connection with the tacitly assumed opposite of the φαινόμενα—imagines the author to have thought, in harmony with the Philonian doctrine, of the divine ideas, out of which the world is supposed to have sprung, in that they were called forth by means of the divine word from their seclusion within the Godhead into the outer phenomenal reality. See against this also Riehm, Lehrbegr. des Hebräerbr. p. 59, Obs.

[106] Calvin alone forms an exception, who would have ἐκ blended together with φαινομένων into a single word, and finds the sense: “ut non apparentium fierent visa h. e. spectacula,” in such wise that the “doctrina” harmonizing with that of Romans 1:20 should result: “quod in hoc mundo conspicuam haheamus Dei imaginem.”

3. Through faith] In this chapter we find fifteen special instances of the work of faith, besides the summary enumeration in the 32nd and following verses.

we understand] ‘we apprehend with the reason’. See Romans 1:20.

that the worlds were framed] The word for “worlds” means literally ages (Hebrews 1:2), i.e. the world regarded from the standpoint of human history. The “time-world” necessarily presumes the existence of the space-world also. See Hebrews 1:2.

were framed] “have been established” (Hebrews 13:21; Psalm 74:16; LXX.).

by the word of God] Rather, “by the utterance (rhemati) of God,” namely by His fiat, as in Genesis 1; Psalm 33:6; Psalm 33:9; 2 Peter 3:5. There is no question here as to the creation of the world by the Logos, for he purposely alters the word λόγῳ used by the LXX. in Psalms 33 into rhemati.

so that things which are seen …] The true reading and literal translation are “so that not from things which appear hath that which is seen come into being,” a somewhat harsh way of expressing that “the visible world did not derive its existence from anything phenomenal.” In other words, the clause denies the pre-existence of matter. It says that the world was made out of nothing, not out of the primeval chaos. So in 2Ma 7:28 the mother begs her son “to look upon the heaven and earth and all that is therein, and consider that God made them out of things that are not” (ἐξ οὐκ ὄντων). If this view be correct, the writer would seem purposely to avoid Philo’s way of saying that the world was made out of τὰ μὴ ὄντα, “things conceived as non-existent,” by which he meant the “formless matter” (as in Wis 11:17). He says that the world did not originate from anything phenomenal. This verse, so far from being superfluous, or incongruous with what follows, strikes the keynote of faith by shewing that its first object must be a Divine and Infinite Creator. Thus like Moses in Genesis 1 the verse excludes from the region of faith all Atheism, Pantheism, Polytheism, and Dualism.

Hebrews 11:3. Πίστει, by faith) To a certain extent also without faith, Romans 1:20; but much more by faith, which, for example, is put (has scope for exercise), in ch. 1 of Genesis.—νοοῦμεν, we understand) The Elders, of whom mention is on that account previously made in the second verse, also understood it. Adam also, who was created after all the rest, understood what he did not see done, but believed to have been done; but concerning his faith, Moses maintains a very mysterious silence; and the apostle follows Moses, except that, in mentioning these things before the sacrifice of Abel, he virtually recognises the faith of those who were first created. Adam is only brought into view as the root of our misery; keeping out of view the other things which might have been said of him.—κατηρτίσθαι, were framed) καταρτισμὸς, the framing (the putting together), consolidation of the whole world, includes the creation of single parts, and a continual providence throughout all ages, in wonderful harmony.—τοὺς αἰῶνας) the worlds, the ages. A grand plural, in which is intimated the course onward to the goal of the heaven and the earth, and all things which are in them, visible and invisible, and, subsequently, their everlasting condition when their course is terminated; and whatever change may at length take place, accompanying the termination. And as creation is the foundation and exhibition (a specimen) of the whole Divine economy, so faith in creation is the foundation and exhibition (a specimen) of all faith.—ῥήματι, by the word) by the command, by the power, without matter or instrument. This accords with what immediately follows.—εἰς τὸ) so that. Comp. εἰς τὸ, 2 Corinthians 7:3. Οἱ αἰῶνες, the ages, embrace many things which are not seen; and we may be less disposed to wonder at our only understanding by faith, that they were produced by the word of GOD; but that the creation of these things which are seen was thus effected, we best understand by faith alone;—a fact which shows much more the wonderful power of faith. There is an amplification of τὸ κατηρτίσθαι, were framed, by means of this clause.—μὴ ἐκ φαινομένων τὰ βλεπόμενα γεγονέναι) The distinction of the words must be especially noticed. Φαίνομαι, I appear, begin to be seen, with the idea of commencement: βλέπομαι, l am seen, I am before the eyes. Τὰ βλεπόμενα, the things which are seen, exist, and in our days are the light, the sky, the earth, the stars, etc.; but the same things were appearing, or beginning to be seen (φαινόμενα), at the time when they were made ἐξ οὐκ ὄντων, out of things not existing, 2Ma 7:28, and were ordered to come forth: and so indeed it might be said, ἐκ φαινομένων τὰ βλεπόμενα γεγονέναι, namely, as to (in) themselves; that is, that the things which are seen to-day, were appearing (commencing to be seen) at the beginning; they were not from eternity, but began to appear and to be conspicuous at some particular time, whereas they formerly did not exist; comp. ἐκ, from, Romans 6:13. But in respect of us, the apostle, by putting not before it, expresses a different meaning, and declares μὴ ἐκ φαινομένων, κ.τ.λ., that the things which are seen were not made of the things which do appear [of things beginning to be seen, viz. by us, in the act of their creation]. For it was when the world was already produced, that both the first man was created and we are born. We were not spectators of the creation. Let that Question of the Creator, Job 38:4, etc., be considered. By faith, therefore, we perceive the creation; faith has, both backwards and forwards, scope for its exercise (materials on which it may be exercised). Hence it is evident, that the particles, μὴ ἐκ, not from, should be explained in their order; although sometimes οὐ or μὴ, not, with a preposition, is transposed for the sake of softening the expression [imparting ἦθος and courtesy to the language], without in general affecting the sense, as 1 Chronicles 15:13, οὐκ ἐν τῷ πρότερον ὑμᾶς εἶναι, in your not being formerly employed for this service, i.e. before you were employed.

Verse 3. - By faith we perceive that the worlds have been framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen (or, that which is seen) have (or, has) not been made of things which do appear. "By the word of God" has reference to "and God said," of Genesis 1, which chapter enunciates the primary article of all definite religions faith, viz. the existence and operation of God, as the unseen Author of the visible universe. Even without a revelation to declare this, faith's office is to apprehend it from observation of the phenomena themselves; as is intimated in Romans 1:20, where even to the Greek "the invisible things of God from the creation of the world" are said to be "clearly seen, being understood [νοούμενα: cf νοοῦμεν in the passage before us] by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead." The drift of both passages is the same, viz. this, and no more - that faith recognizes an unseen power and Godhead behind, and accounting for, the seen universe. Commentators, who - taking μὴ ἐκ φαινομένων as equivalent to ἐκ μὴ φαινομένων, and hence seeking to explain what is meant by "non-apparent things" - perceive here a reference either to the formless void (Genesis 1:2) out of which the present creation was evolved, or to the Platonic conception of eternal ideas in the Divine mind, read into the text what is not there. Hebrews 11:3Neither does this verse belong to the list of historical instances from Genesis, in which men exercised faith. It is merely the first instance presented in O.T. history of an opportunity for the exercise of faith as the assurance and conviction of things not seen. Like Hebrews 11:2, it is closely connected with the definition. It contains the exposition of the nature of faith, by showing that in its earliest and most general expression - belief in the creation of the visible universe by God - it is a conviction of something not apprehensible by sense.

We understand (νοοῦμεν)

Νοεῖν signifies to perceive with the νοῦς or reflective intelligence. In Class. of seeing with the eyes, sometimes with ὀφθαλμοῖς expressed; but as early as Homer it is distinguished from the mere physical act of vision, as perception of the mind consequent upon seeing. Thus, τὸν δὲ ἰδὼν ἐνόησε and seeing him he perceived (Il. xi. 599): οὐκ ἴδον οὐδ' ἐνόησα I neither saw nor perceived (Od. xiii. 318). In N.T. never of the mere physical act. Here is meant the inward perception and apprehension of the visible creation as the work of God, which follows the sight of the phenomena of nature.

The worlds (τοὺς αἰῶνας)

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

Were framed (κατηρτίσθαι)

Put together; adjusted; the parts fitted to each other. See on Galatians 6:1; see on Matthew 21:16; see on Luke 6:40. Of the preparing and fixing in heaven of the sun and moon, lxx, Psalm 73:16; Psalm 88:37; of building a wall, 2 Esdr. 4:12, 13, 16. See also Psalm 39:6. Rend. have been framed. The A.V. gives the impression of one giving his assent to an account of creation; but the perfect tense exhibits the faith of one who is actually contemplating creation itself.

By the word of God (ῥήματι)

Comp. Genesis 1; Psalm 33:6; Psalm 118:5.

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

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

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