Hebrews 11:37
They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;
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(37) They were stoned.—As Zechariah (2Chronicles 24:20-22), and—according to a Jewish tradition mentioned by Tertullian and others—Jeremiah. (See Matthew 23:35; Matthew 23:37.)

They were sawn asunder.—An ancient tradition, mentioned both by Jewish and by early Christian writers, relates that Isaiah was thus put to death by order of Manasseh. The following words, “they were tempted,” are very remarkable in such a position; and many conjectures have been hazarded on the supposition that a mistake of transcription has occurred. If the text is correct, the writer is speaking of the promises and allurements by which the persecutors sought to overcome the constancy of God’s servants.

Slain with the sword.—See 1Kings 19:1; 1Kings 19:10; Jeremiah 26:23.

They wandered about.—Rather, they went about, as outcasts; compelled to live the life of wanderers and exiles.

Tormented.—Rather, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and the holes of the earth. Once more the Maccabæan persecutions seem to be chiefly in view. (See 1 Maccabees 2:28-29; 2 Maccabees 5:27; 2 Maccabees 6:11. Comp. also 1Samuel 22:1; 1Kings 18:4.)

Hebrews 11:37-38. They were stoned — As Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, 2 Chronicles 24:21. See also Matthew 23:31; they were sawn asunder — As, according to the tradition of the Jews, Isaiah was by Manasseh; were tempted — With offers of deliverance; but remaining steadfast, were then slain with the sword — As also were the eighty-five priests slain by Doeg, 1 Samuel 22:18; and the prophets, of whose slaughter by the sword Elijah complains, 1 Kings 19:10. Or, as επειρασθησαν may be rendered, they were tried, and that in every possible way; by threatenings, reproaches, tortures, the variety of which cannot be expressed: and again by promises and allurements. They wandered about in sheepskins and goat-skins — Their outward condition was poor, mean, and contemptible; their clothing being no better than the unwrought skins of sheep and goats. Nothing is here intimated of their choosing mean clothing, as a testimony of mortification, but they were compelled by necessity to use such as they could find or obtain. Thus have the saints of God, in sundry seasons, been reduced to the utmost extremities of poverty and want. But there is such a satisfaction in the exercise of faith and obedience, and such internal consolation attending a state of suffering for the sake of truth and godliness, as quite overbalance all the outward evils that can be undergone for the profession of them: and there is a future state of eternal rewards and punishments, which will set all things right, to the glory of divine justice, and the everlasting honour of the sufferers. Being destitute — That is, as Dr. Owen interprets it, of friends, and of all means of relief from them; afflicted — Various ways; the former word declares what was absent, what they had not as to outward supplies and comforts; this declares what was present with them, the various evils and positive sufferings inflicted on them; tormented Κακουχουμενοι, malè habiti, or malè vexati, badly treated; that is, in their wandering condition they met with bad treatment continually, all sorts of persons taking occasion to vex and press them with various evils. Of whom — Of whose society, example, prayers, instructions; the world was not worthy — It did not deserve so great a blessing. The world thinks them not worthy of it, to live in it, or at least to enjoy any name or place among the men of it; but whatever they think, we know that this testimony of the apostle is true, and the world will one day confess it to be so. The design of the apostle is to obviate an objection, that these persons were justly cast out, as not worthy of the society of mankind, and this he does by a contrary assertion, that the world was not worthy of them; not worthy to have converse with them, or of those mercies and blessings which accompany this sort of persons, where they have a quiet habitation. They wandered in deserts, &c. — Being driven from cities, towns, and villages, and all inhabited places, partly by law, and partly by force, these servants of the living God were compelled to wander in such as were solitary, wild, and desert, and to take up with dens and caves for their shelter. And instances of the same kind have been multiplied in the pagan and antichristian persecutions of the churches of the New Testament; but that no countenance is here given to an hermetical life, voluntarily chosen, much less to the horrible abuse of it under the papacy, is too evident to need being here insisted on.

11:32-38 After all our searches into the Scriptures, there is more to be learned from them. We should be pleased to think, how great the number of believers was under the Old Testament, and how strong their faith, though the objects of it were not then so fully made known as now. And we should lament that now, in gospel times, when the rule of faith is more clear and perfect, the number of believers should be so small, and their faith so weak. It is the excellence of the grace of faith, that, while it helps men to do great things, like Gideon, it keeps from high and great thoughts of themselves. Faith, like Barak's, has recourse unto God in all dangers and difficulties, and then makes grateful returns to God for all mercies and deliverances. By faith, the servants of God shall overcome even the roaring lion that goeth about seeking whom he may devour. The believer's faith endures to the end, and, in dying, gives him victory over death and all his deadly enemies, like Samson. The grace of God often fixes upon very undeserving and ill-deserving persons, to do great things for them and by them. But the grace of faith, wherever it is, will put men upon acknowledging God in all their ways, as Jephthah. It will make men bold and courageous in a good cause. Few ever met with greater trials, few ever showed more lively faith, than David, and he has left a testimony as to the trials and acts of faith, in the book of Psalms, which has been, and ever will be, of great value to the people of God. Those are likely to grow up to be distinguished for faith, who begin betimes, like Samuel, to exercise it. And faith will enable a man to serve God and his generation, in whatever way he may be employed. The interests and powers of kings and kingdoms, are often opposed to God and his people; but God can easily subdue all that set themselves against him. It is a greater honour and happiness to work righteousness than to work miracles. By faith we have comfort of the promises; and by faith we are prepared to wait for the promises, and in due time to receive them. And though we do not hope to have our dead relatives or friends restored to life in this world, yet faith will support under the loss of them, and direct to the hope of a better resurrection. Shall we be most amazed at the wickedness of human nature, that it is capable of such awful cruelties to fellow-creatures, or at the excellence of Divine grace, that is able to bear up the faithful under such cruelties, and to carry them safely through all? What a difference between God's judgement of a saint, and man's judgment! The world is not worthy of those scorned, persecuted saints, whom their persecutors reckon unworthy to live. They are not worthy of their company, example, counsel, or other benefits. For they know not what a saint is, nor the worth of a saint, nor how to use him; they hate, and drive such away, as they do the offer of Christ and his grace.They were stoned - A common method of punishment among the Jews; see the notes on Matthew 21:35, Matthew 21:44. Thus, Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada the priest, was stoned; see 2 Chronicles 24:21; compare 1 Kings 21:1-14. It is not improbable that this was often resorted to in times of popular tumult, as in the case of Stephen; Acts 7:59; compare John 10:31; Acts 14:5. In the time of the terrible persecutions under Antiochus Epiphanes, and under Manasseh, such instances also probably occurred.

They were sawn asunder - It is commonly supposed that Isaiah was put to death in this manner. For the evidence of this, see introduction to Isaiah, 2. It is known that this mode of punishment, though not common, did exist in ancient times. Among the Romans, the laws of the twelve tables affixed this as the punishment of certain crimes, but this mode of execution was very rare, since Aulius Gellius says that in his time no one remembered to have seen it practiced. It appears, however, from Suetonius that the emperor Caligula often condemned persons of rank to be sawn through the middle. Calmet, writing above a hundred years ago, says, "I am assured that the punishment of the saw is still in use among the Switzers, and that they put it in practice not many years ago upon one of their countrymen, guilty of a great crime, in the plain of Grenelles, near Paris. They put him into a kind of coffin, and sawed him lengthwise, beginning at the head, as a piece of wood is sawn; "Pict. Bib." It was not an unusual mode of punishment to cut a person asunder, and to suspend the different parts of the body to walls and towers, as a warning to the living; see 1 Samuel 31:10, and Morier's Second Journey to Persia, p. 96.

Were tempted - On this expression, which has given much perplexity in critics, see the notes of Prof. Stuart, Bloomfield, and Kuinoel. There is a great variety of reading in the mss. and editions of the New Testament, and many have regarded it as an interpolation. The difficulty which has been felt in reference to it has been, that it is a much milder word than those just used, and that it is hardly probable that the apostle would enumerate this among those which he had just specified, as if to be tempted deserved to be mentioned among sufferings of so severe a nature. But it seems to me there need be no real difficulty in the case. The apostle here, among other sufferings which they were called to endure, may have referred to the temptations which were presented to the martyrs when about to die to abandon their religion and live. It is very possible to conceive that this might have been among the highest aggravations of their sufferings. We know that in later times it was a common practice to offer life to those who were doomed to a horrid death on condition that they would throw incense on the altars of a pagan god, and we may easily suppose that a temptation of that kind, artfully presented in the midst of keen tortures, would greatly aggravate their sufferings. Or suppose when a father was about to be put to death for his religion, his wife and children were placed before him and should plead with him to save his life by abandoning his religion, we can easily imagine that no pain of the rack would cause so keen torture to the soul as their cries and tears would. Amidst the sorrows of martyrs, therefore, it was not improper to say that they were tempted, and to place this among their most aggravated woes. For instances of this nature. see 2 Macc. 6:21, 22; 7:17, 24.

Were slain with the sword - As in the case of the eighty-five priests slain by Doeg 1 Samuel 22:18; and the prophets. of whose slaughter by the sword Elijah complains; 1 Kings 19:10.

They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins - Driven away from their homes, and compelled to clothe themselves in this rude and uncomfortable manner. A dress of this kind, or a dress made of hair, was not uncommon with the prophets, and seems indeed to have been regarded as an appropriate badge of their office; see 2 Kings 1:8; Zechariah 13:4.

Being destitute, afflicted, tormented - The word "tormented" here means tortured. The apostle expresses here in general what in the previous verses he had specified in detail.

37. stoned—as Zechariah, son of Jehoiada (2Ch 24:20-22; Mt 23:35).

sawn asunder—as Isaiah was said to have been by Manasseh; but see my [2591]Introduction to Isaiah.

tempted—by their foes, in the midst of their tortures, to renounce their faith; the most bitter aggravation of them. Or else, by those of their own household, as Job was [Estius]; or by the fiery darts of Satan, as Jesus was in His last trials [Glassius]. Probably it included all three; they were tempted in every possible way, by friends and foes, by human and satanic agents, by caresses and afflictions, by words and deeds, to forsake God, but in vain, through the power of faith.

sword—literally, "they died in the murder of the sword." In Heb 11:34 the contrary is given as an effect of faith, "they escaped the edge of the sword." Both alike are marvellous effects of faith. In both accomplishes great things and suffers great things, without counting it suffering [Chrysostom]. Urijah was so slain by Jehoiakim (Jer 26:23); and the prophets in Israel (1Ki 19:10).

in sheepskins—as Elijah (1Ki 19:13, Septuagint). They were white; as the "goat-skins" were black (compare Zec 13:4).

tormented—Greek, "in evil state."

They were stoned; by the same faith were several of the prophets and believing worthies of old carried through cruel deaths, the just punishment of malefactors, but the wicked tortures of these innocent saints, some being stoned to death, as Zechariah the son of Jehoiada, 2 Chronicles 24:21, and others, Matthew 21:35 23:37 Luke 13:34.

The were sawn asunder; as Isaiah was, which is a known tradition among the Hebrews, a punishment common among the bordering nations of them, 2 Samuel 12:31 Amos 1:3, and exercised on these innocents, to which Christ himself alludeth, Matthew 24:51.

Were tempted: whether epeirasyhsan should not be epurasyhsan, is much doubted, temptation being no manner of death; and the Spirit had instanced in it before, Hebrews 11:35. It may therefore be a slip of the transcriber, and that burning was the cruel death that should fill this place among the rest, a common punishment with them, Jeremiah 29:22 /Apc /APC 2Ma 7:5. Or, it may note a death with several trials of racks and torments gradually inflicted, with a design to tempt them by their pains to renounce their religion.

Were slain with the sword; others were killed by the sword, either by beheading, or cutting in pieces, Mark 6:16,17; a kind of death foretold to be attending the martyrs of Jesus Christ, Revelation 20:4. All these sorts of death were most unjustly and cruelly inflicted on them by their persecutors, and as patiently received and cheerfully undergone by them.

They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins: as faith carried these believers through variety of deaths, so it managed others comfortably under their banishments and lingering sufferings, which were in proportion as cruel as death itself; they circuited up and down to preserve themselves from their destroyers, either voluntarily returning themselves into desolate places to keep a good conscience, or were unjustly and violently banished and forced away from their own habitations, to live as vagabonds, clothed only with goatskins and sheepskins, the common apparel of the prophets, as of Elijah, 2 Kings 1:8 Zechariah 13:4, which they wore as they came from the beasts’ backs, without dressing. Being destitute, afflicted, tormented; wandering in this forlorn state, stripped of money and necessaries of life, and not supplied by others in their poverty, 1 Kings 17:4, grievously pressed within, pained without, and afflicted beyond what can be sensed by any but in the like states, and evilly entreated by all; many miseries attending them by their pursuers, hardship in travels, and all sorts of evils, which multiplied their griefs: through all this faith carried them comfortably, and kept God with them.

They were stoned,.... As Naboth, by the order of Ahab, 1 Kings 21:13, Zachariah in the court of the Lord's house; 2 Chronicles 24:21 and the character of Jerusalem is, that she stoned the prophets that were sent unto her, Matthew 23:37.

They were sawn asunder; to which there seems to be an allusion in Matthew 24:51. There is no instance of any good men being so used in Scripture: perhaps reference is had to some that suffered thus in the time of Antiochus. The Jews have a tradition, that the Prophet Isaiah was sawn asunder in the times of Manasseh, and by his order; which some think the apostle refers unto; though it seems to be all fictitious, and ill put together. The tradition is in both Talmuds: in the one, the account is this: (z) that

"Manasseh sought to kill Isaiah, and he fled from him, and fled to a cedar, and the cedar swallowed him up, all but the fringe of his garment; they came and told him (Manasseh), he said unto them, go and saw the cedar, "and they sawed the cedar", and blood was seen to come out.''

And in the other (a) thus,

"says R. Simeon ben Azzai, I found a book of genealogies in Jerusalem, and in it was written that Manasseh slew Isaiah.''

And after relating the occasion of it, being some passages in Isaiah Manasseh was displeased with and objected to; and the prophet not thinking it worth his while to return an answer, or attempt to reconcile them with other passages, objected, knowing that the king would use him contemptuously; he is made to say,

"I will swallow (or put myself into) a cedar, they brought the cedar, "and sawed it asunder", and when it (the saw) came to his mouth, he expired.''

Another Jewish writer (b) out of the Midrash, reports it thus;

"Manasseh sought to slay him, and Isaiah fled, and the Lord remembered him, and he was swallowed up in the middle of a tree; but there remained without the tree the fringe of his garment; and then Manasseh ordered the tree to be cut down, and Isaiah died.''

And it is become a generally received opinion of the ancient Christian writers, that Isaiah was sawn asunder; as of Justin Martyr (c), Origen (d), Tertullian (e), Lactantius (f), Athanasius (g), Hilary (h), Cyril of Jerusalem (i), Gregory Nyssene (k), Jerom (l), Isidorus Pelusiota (m), Gregentius (n), Procopius Gazaeus (o), and others; but more persons seem to be designed:

were tempted; either by God, as Abraham, and Job; or by the devil, as all the saints are; or rather by cruel tyrants, to deny the faith, and renounce the worship of God, as Eleazar, and the seven brethren with their mother; at least some of them were, 2 Maccabees 6,7. Some think the true reading is "were burned"; as one of the seven brethren were in the Apocrytha,

"Now when he was thus maimed in all his members, he commanded him being yet alive to be brought to the fire, and to be fried in the pan: and as the vapour of the pan was for a good space dispersed, they exhorted one another with the mother to die manfully, saying thus,'' (2 Maccabees 7:5)

and as Zedekiah and Ahab were roasted in the fire, by the king of Babylon, Jeremiah 29:22 though they were lying prophets, and cannot be referred to here; see Daniel 11:33. This clause is wanting in the Syriac version:

were slain with the sword; as the priests at Nob, by the order of Saul; 1 Samuel 22:18. The prophets of the Lord by Jezebel, 1 Kings 18:22 and many in the times of the Maccabees; Daniel 11:33 and in the Apocrypha:


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

(x) In vile and rough clothing, so were the saints brought to extreme poverty, and constrained to live like beasts in the wilderness.

Hebrews 11:37. Ἐλιθάσθησαν] They were stoned. To be referred to Zechariah, son of Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 24:20-22; comp. Matthew 23:35; Luke 11:51), and probably also to Jeremiah, of whom at least later tradition reports death by stoning. Comp. Tertull. Scorpiac. 8; Hieronym. adv. Jovinian. 2:37; Pseudo-Epiphan. (Opp. ii. p. 239), al. Less suitably do Oecumenius, Theophylact, Jac. Cappellus, Grotius, and others think also of Naboth, 1 Kings 21

ἐπρίσθησαν] were sawn asunder. Death by sawing asunder (comp. 2 Samuel 12:31; 1 Chronicles 20:3) was, according to early tradition, that suffered by Isaiah at the hands of Manasseh, king of Judah. See Ascens. Jes. vat. v. 11–14; Justin Martyr, Dial. c. Tryph. 120; Tertull. de Patient. 14, Scorpiac. 8; Origen, Epist. ad African.; Lactant. Institt. iv. 11, al.; Tr. Jevamoth, f. 49. 2; Sanhedrin, f. 103. 2.

ἐπειράσθησαν] were tempted. This general statement has about it something strange and inconvenient, inasmuch as it occurs in the midst of the mention of different kinds of violent death. Some, therefore, have been in favour of entirely deleting ἐπειράσθησαν (Erasmus, Calvin, Beza, Marloratus, Grotius, Hammond, Whitby, Calmet, Storr, Valckenaer, Schulz, Böhme, Kuinoel, Klee, Delitzsch, Maier, al.), in doing which, however, we are not justified by external evidence;[111] while others have thought that ἘΠΕΙΡΆΣΘΗΣΑΝ is a corruption, in itself early, of the original text, which latter must be restored by conjecture. It has been conjectured by Beza, edd. 3, 4, 5, that we have to read ἘΠΥΡΏΘΗΣΑΝ; Gataker, Miscell. 44, Colomesius, Observ. 5, Moll, and Hofmann: ἐπρήσθησαν; Fr. Junius, Parall. lib. 3., and Piscator: ἐπυράσθησαν; Sykes and Ebrard: ἘΠΥΡΊΣΘΗΣΑΝ, they were burned.[112] Further, Luther (transl.), Beza, edd. 1 and 2, Knatchbull, Fischer, Proluss. de vitiis Lexic. N. T. p. 538; Ewald, p. 171, read ἐπάρθησαν (?), from ΠΕΊΡΩ, they were pierced, transfixed; Wakefield, Silv. crit. 2:62: ἐπειράθησαν, from ΠΕΡΆΩ (?), they were spitted, impaled; Tanaq. Faber, Epp. crit., Hebrews 2:14, and J. M. Gesner in Carpzov: ἐπηρώθησαν, they were mutilated; Alberti: ἐσπειράσθησαν or ἘΣΠΕΙΡΆΘΗΣΑΝ, from ΣΠΕῖΡΑ (?), they were broken on the wheel; Steph. le Moyne in Gronov. Ant. Gr. vii. p. 301: ἐπράθησαν, they were sold. Others yet other conjectures; see Wetstein, Griesbach, and Scholz ad loc. Bleek, too, assumes an error in the text, in that he holds a word which signifies “to be consumed, to perish by fire,” as ἐπρήσθησαν, which is found with Cyrill. Hieros., and in Codd. 110, 111 for ἘΠΡΊΣΘΗΣΑΝ, or ἘΠΥΡΊΣΘΗΣΑΝ, or even one of the forms more commonly employed for the expressing of this idea,

ἘΝΕΠΡΉΣΘΗΣΑΝ and ἘΝΕΠΥΡΊΣΘΗΣΑΝ,—to be the original reading, and then supposes the author perhaps to have thought once more of martyrs under the tyranny of Antiochus Epiphanes, 2Ma 6:11; 2Ma 7:4 f.; Daniel 11:33, al. Comp. also Philo, ad Flacc. p. 990 A (with Mangey, II. p. 542): κατελύθησάν τινες (sc. Alexandrine Jews, by Flaccus) καὶ ζῶντες οἱ μὲν ἐνεπρήσθησαν οἱ δὲ διὰ μέσης κατεσύρησαν ἀγορᾶς, ἕως ὅλα τὰ σώματα αὐτῶν ἐδαπανήθη. Similarly Reiche, Commentar. Crit. p. 111 sqq., who leaves open the choice between ἐπρήσθησαν and ἘΠΥΡΏΘΗΣΑΝ.

If ἘΠΕΙΡΆΣΘΗΣΑΝ is genuine, it must have been added by the author for the sake of the paronomasia with ἘΠΡΊΣΘΗΣΑΝ, and be referred to the enticements and temptations to escape a violent death by means of apostasy (comp. e.g. 2Ma 7:24).

ἐν φόνῳ μαχαίρας ἀπέθανον] died by slaughter of the sword. Comp. 1 Kings 19:10 : τοὺς προφήτας σου ἀπέκτειναν ἐν ῥομφαίᾳ; Jeremiah 26:23 : ΚΑῚ ἘΠΆΤΑΞΕΝ ΑὐΤῸΝ ἘΝ ΜΑΧΑΊΡᾼ (namely, the prophet Urijah). For the expression ἘΝ ΦΌΝῼ ΜΑΧΑΊΡΑς, comp. LXX. Exodus 17:13; Numbers 21:24; Deuteronomy 13:15; Deuteronomy 20:13.

ΠΕΡΙῆΛΘΟΝΤῆς Γῆς, Hebrews 11:38, now further emphasizes the fact that the whole life of the last-named class of the heroes of faith was one of want and distress.

περιῆλθον ἐν μηλωταῖς, ἐν αἰγείοις δέρμασιν] refers specially to single prophets. Comp. Zechariah 13:4, also Clemens Romanus, ad Corinth. 17: μιμηταὶ γενώμεθα κἀκείνων, οἵτινες ἐν δέρμασιν αἰγείοις καὶ μηλωταῖς περιεπάτησαν, κηρύσσοντες τὴς ἔλευσιν τοῦ Χριστοῦ· λέγομεν δὲ Ἠλίαν καὶ Ἐλισσαῖον, ἔτι δὲ καὶ Ἰεζεκιὴλ τοὺς προφήτας

περιῆλθον] they went hither and thither, without being in possession of a fixed dwelling-place. Theophylact: τὸ δὲ περιῆλθον τὸ διώκεσθαι αὐτοὺς δηλοῖ καὶ ἀστατεῖν.

ἐν] in, i.e. clothed with.

ἐν μηλωταῖς, ἐν αἰγείοις δέρμασιν] in sheep-skins, in goat fells. The latter, as designation of a yet rougher clothing, is an ascent from the former, and on that account placed last. μηλωτή, the hide of smaller cattle in general, and specially of sheep. A ΜΗΛΩΤΉ is mentioned as the garment of Elijah, which, on his being caught up to heaven, he left behind to Elisha, 1 Kings 19:13; 1 Kings 19:19; 2 Kings 8:13-14.

ὙΣΤΕΡΟΎΜΕΝΟΙ, ΘΛΙΒΌΜΕΝΟΙ, ΚΑΚΟΥΧΟΎΜΕΝΟΙ] in want (sc. of that which is necessary for the sustenance of life), affliction, evil-treatment (comp. Hebrews 11:25).

[111] It is wanting only in some cursives, in the Peshito,—whose daughter, the Arabian version in Erpen., also omits it,—in the Aethiopic version, which also omits ἐπρίσθησαν, with Origen (once, as compared with four times), Euseb. and Theophyl.

[112] Reuss, too, regards ἐπυρίσθησαν [as does Conybeare ἐπυράσθησαν] as the most likely conjecture, but regards it, likewise, as possible: “que le ἐπειράσθησαν dans le texte vulgaire ne fût qu’une conjecture très-superflue, destinée à remplacer le mot ἐπρίσθησαν (ils furent sciés), parce que l’Ancien Testament ne fournit pas d’exemple de ce dernier supplice.”

37. they were stoned] Zechariah (2 Chronicles 24:20-21). Jewish tradition said that Jeremiah was stoned. See Matthew 23:35-37; Luke 11:51.

were sawn asunder] This was the traditional mode of Isaiah’s martyrdom. Hamburger Talm. Wörterb. s. v. Jesaia. Comp. Matthew 24:51. The punishment was well-known in ancient days (2 Samuel 12:31).

were tempted] This would not seem an anticlimax to a pious reader, for the intense violence of temptation, and the horrible dread lest the weakness of human nature should succumb to it, was one of the most awful forms of trial which persecutors could inflict (see Acts 26:11), especially if the tempted person yielded to the temptation, as in 1 Kings 13:7; 1 Kings 13:19-26. There is no variation in the mss. but some have conjectured eprçsthçsan “they were burned” for epeirasthçsan. In a recent outbreak at Alexandria some Jews had been burnt alive (Philo in Flacc. 20) and burnings are mentioned in 2Ma 6:11. The reason for the position of the word, as a sort of climax, perhaps lies in the strong effort to tempt the last and youngest of the seven brother-martyrs to apostatise in 2 Maccabees 7.

were slain with the sword] “They have slain thy prophets with the sword” (1 Kings 19:10). Jehoiakim “slew Urijah with the sword” (Jeremiah 26:23). The Jews suffered themselves to be massacred on the Sabbath in the war against Antiochus (1Ma 2:38; 2Ma 5:26).

Hebrews 11:37. Ἐπρίσθησαν) The Jews have an unquestioned tradition, that Isaiah was sawn asunder, by command of Manasseh, with a wooden saw; whence the most of our Christian writers apply the phrase, were sawn asunder, which is used in the Epistle to the Hebrews concerning the sufferings of the saints, to the suffering of Isaiah; Jerome, lib. 15, comm. on Isaiah. If the story told of Isaiah be fabulous, as Tostatus and others think, it really happened to other persons.—ἐπειράσθησαν, they were tempted) The passage has four parts: the first is various, of mockings, etc.; the second various, they were stoned, they were sawn asunder; the third simple, they were tempted; the fourth simple, they were slain by the sword. The third corresponds to the first (πεῖραν, ἐπειράσθησαν, trial or temptation, they were tempted), the fourth to the second, and the murders are alternately mixed with tortures: they were tempted, in every way (the same word occurs, Hebrews 11:17, ch. Hebrews 2:18), with threatenings, reproaches, tortures, of which the variety and novelty exceeds our vocabulary; again, with caresses (1 Thessalonians 3:3, note), which are often not less harassing (disturbing to faith), and by promises and benefits; comp. once more 2Ma 6:21-22; 2Ma 7:24.—ἐν φόνῳ μαχαίρας ἀπέθανον, they were slain with the sword) לפי הרב, which the LXX. not in one place alone translate, ἐν φόνῳ μαχαίρας. The sword is the last of the punishments mentioned by Paul, Romans 8:35, note.—ἐν μηλωταῖς, in sheeps’ skins) as Elijah, LXX., 1 Kings 19:13. Nevertheless, false prophets imitated Elijah in his external dress; Zechariah 13:4.

Hebrews 11:37They were stoned (ἐλιθάσθησαν)

A characteristic Jewish punishment. See 2 Chronicles 24:20; Matthew 23:37; John 10:31; Acts 5:26; Acts 7:59; Acts 14:19. The verb λιθοβολεῖν is also used in Matthew, Luke, and Acts, and once in this epistle, Hebrews 12:20.

Were sawn asunder (ἐπίσθησαν)

N.T.o. As Isaiah, according to tradition.

Were tempted (ἐπειράσθησαν)

If the reading is correct, which seems probable, the reference is probably to inducements offered them to abandon their loyalty to God. It has seemed to many out of place, because occurring in the midst of a list of different forms of violent death.

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