Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Heb 11:1-40. Definition of the Faith Just Spoken of (Heb 10:39): Examples from the Old Covenant for Our Perseverance in Faith.
1. Description of the great things which faith (in its widest sense: not here restricted to faith in the Gospel sense) does for us. Not a full definition of faith in its whole nature, but a description of its great characteristics in relation to the subject of Paul's exhortation here, namely, to perseverance.
substance, &c.—It substantiates promises of God which we hope for, as future in fulfilment, making them present realities to us. However, the Greek is translated in Heb 3:14, "confidence"; and it also here may mean "sure confidence." So Alford translates. Thomas Magister supports English Version, "The whole thing that follows is virtually contained in the first principle; now the first commencement of the things hoped for is in us through the assent of faith, which virtually contains all the things hoped for." Compare Note, see on Heb 6:5, "tasted … powers of the world to come." Through faith, the future object of Christian hope, in its beginning, is already present. True faith infers the reality of the objects believed in and honed for (Heb 11:6). Hugo de St. Victor distinguished faith from hope. By faith alone we are sure of eternal things that they ARE: but by hope we are confident that WE SHALL HAVE them. All hope presupposes faith (Ro 8:25).
evidence—"demonstration": convincing proof to the believer: the soul thereby seeing what the eye cannot see.
things not seen—the whole invisible and spiritual world: not things future and things pleasant, as the "things hoped for," but also the past and present, and those the reverse of pleasant. "Eternal life is promised to us, but it is when we are dead: we are told of a blessed resurrection, but meanwhile we moulder in the dust; we are declared to be justified, and sin dwells in us; we hear that we are blessed, meantime we are overwhelmed in endless miseries: we are promised abundance of all goods, but we still endure hunger and thirst; God declares He will immediately come to our help, but He seems deaf to our cries. What should we do if we had not faith and hope to lean on, and if our mind did not emerge amidst the darkness above the world by the shining of the Word and Spirit of God?" [Calvin]. Faith is an assent unto truths credible upon the testimony of God (not on the reasonableness of the thing revealed, though by this we may judge as to whether it be what it professes, a genuine revelation), delivered unto us in the writings of the apostles and prophets. Thus Christ's ascension is the cause, and His absence the crown, of our faith: because He ascended, we the more believe, and because we believe in Him who hath ascended, our faith is the more accepted [Bishop Pearson]. Faith believes what it sees not; for if thou seest there is no faith; the Lord has gone away so as not to be seen: He is hidden that He may be believed; the yearning desire by faith after Him who is unseen is the preparation of a heavenly mansion for us; when He shall be seen it shall be given to us as the reward of faith [Augustine]. As Revelation deals with spiritual and invisible things exclusively, faith is the faculty needed by us, since it is the evidence of things not seen. By faith we venture our eternal interests on the bare word of God, and this is altogether reasonable.
For by it the elders obtained a good report.
2. For—So high a description of faith is not undeserved; for … [Alford].
by it—Greek, "in it": in respect to … in the matter of," it, "or, as Greek more emphatically, "this."
the elders—as though still living and giving their powerful testimony to the reasonableness and excellence of faith (Heb 12:1). Not merely the ancients, as though they were people solely of the past; nay, they belong to the one and the same blessed family as ourselves (Heb 11:39, 40). "The elders," whom we all revere so highly. "Paul shows how we ought to seek in all its fulness, under the veil of history, the essential substance of the doctrine sometimes briefly indicated" [Bengel]. "The elders," as "the fathers," is a title of honor given on the ground of their bright faith and practice.
obtained a good report—Greek, "were testified of," namely, favorably (compare Heb 7:8). It is a phrase of Luke, Paul's companion. Not only men, but God, gave testimony to their faith (Heb 11:4, 5, 39). Thus they being testified of themselves have become "witnesses" to all others (Heb 12:1). The earlier elders had their patience exercised for a long period of life: those later, in sharper afflictions. Many things which they hoped for and did not see, subsequently came to pass and were conspicuously seen, the event confirming faith [Bengel].
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.
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.
By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
4. more excellent sacrifice—because offered in faith. Now faith must have some revelation of God on which it fastens. The revelation in this case was doubtless God's command to sacrifice animals ("the firstlings of the flock") in token of the forfeiture of men's life by sin, and as a type of the promised bruiser of the serpent's head (Ge 3:15), the one coming sacrifice: this command is implied in God's having made coats of skin for Adam and Eve (Ge 3:21): for these skins must have been taken from animals slain in sacrifice: inasmuch as it was not for food they were slain, animal food not being permitted till after the flood; nor for mere clothing, as, were it so, clothes might have been made of the fleeces without the needless cruelty of killing the animal; but a coat of skin put on Adam from a sacrificed animal typified the covering or atonement (the Hebrew for atone means to cover) resulting from Christ's sacrifice. The Greek is more literally rendered [Kennicott] by Wycliffe, "a much more sacrifice"; and by Queen Elizabeth's version "a greater sacrifice." A fuller, more ample sacrifice, that which partook more largely and essentially of the true nature and virtue of sacrifice [Archbishop Magee]. It was not any intrinsic merit in "the firstling of the flock" above "the fruit of the ground." It was God's appointment that gave it all its excellency as a sacrifice; if it had not been so, it would have been a presumptuous act of will-worship (Col 2:23), and taking of a life which man had no right over before the flood (Ge 9:1-6). The sacrifice seems to have been a holocaust, and the sign of the divine acceptance of it was probably the consumption of it by fire from heaven (Ge 15:17). Hence, "to accept" a burnt sacrifice is in Hebrew "to turn it to ashes" (Ps 20:3, Margin). A flame seems to have issued from the Shekinah, or flaming cherubim, east of Eden ("the presence of the Lord," Ge 4:16), where the first sacrifices were offered. Cain, in unbelieving self-righteousness, presented merely a thank offering, not like Abel feeling his need of the propitiatory sacrifice appointed on account of sin. God "had respect (first) unto Abel, and (then) to his offering" (Ge 4:4). Faith causes the believer's person to be accepted, and then his offering. Even an animal sacrifice, though of God's appointment, would not have been accepted, had it not been offered in faith.
he obtained witness—God by fire attesting His acceptance of him as "righteous by faith."
his gifts—the common term for sacrifices, implying that they must be freely given.
by it—by faith exhibited in his animal sacrifice.
dead, yet speaketh—His blood crying front the ground to God, shows how precious, because of his "faith," he was still in God's sight, even when dead. So he becomes a witness to us of the blessed effects of faith.
By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
5. Faith was the ground of his pleasing God; and his pleasing God was the ground of his translation.
translated—(Ge 5:22, 24). Implying a sudden removal (the same Greek as in Ga 1:6) from mortality without death to immortality: such a CHANGE as shall pass over the living at Christ's coming (1Co 15:51, 52).
had this testimony—namely of Scripture; the Greek perfect implies that this testimony continues still: "he has been testified of."
pleased God—The Scripture testimony virtually expresses that he pleased God, namely, "Enoch walked with God." The Septuagint translates the Hebrew for "walked with God," Ge 6:9, pleased God.
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
6. without—Greek, "apart from faith": if one be destitute of faith (compare Ro 14:23).
to please—Translate, as Alford does, the Greek aorist, "It is impossible to please God at all" (Ro 8:8). Natural amiabilities and "works done before the grace of Christ are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ; yea, rather, for that they are not done as God hath willed them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin" [Article XIII, Book of Common Prayer]. Works not rooted in God are splendid sins [Augustine].
he that cometh to God—as a worshipper (Heb 7:19).
must believe—once for all: Greek aorist tense.
that God is—is the true self-existing Jehovah (as contrasted with all so-called gods, not gods, Ga 4:8), the source of all being, though he sees Him not (Heb 11:1) as being "invisible" (Heb 11:27). So Enoch; this passage implies that he had not been favored with visible appearances of God, yet he believed in God's being, and in God's moral government, as the Rewarder of His diligent worshippers, in opposition to antediluvian skepticism. Also Moses was not so favored before he left Egypt the first time (Heb 11:27); still he believed.
and … is—a different Greek verb from the former "is." Translate, "is eventually"; proves to be; literally, "becomes."
rewarder—renderer of reward [Alford]. So God proved to be to Enoch. The reward is God Himself diligently "sought" and "walked with" in partial communion here, and to be fully enjoyed hereafter. Compare Ge 15:1, "I am thy exceeding great reward."
of them—and them only.
diligently seek—Greek, "seek out" God. Compare "seek early," Pr 8:17. Not only "ask" and "seek," but "knock," Mt 7:7; compare Heb 11:12; Lu 13:24, "Strive" as in an agony of contest.
By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
7. warned of God—The same Greek, Heb 8:5, "admonished of God."
moved with fear—not mere slavish fear, but as in Heb 5:7; see on Heb 5:7; Greek, "reverential fear": opposed to the world's sneering disbelief of the revelation, and self-deceiving security. Join "by faith" with "prepared an ark" (1Pe 3:20).
by the which—faith.
condemned the world—For since he believed and was saved, so might they have believed and been saved, so that their condemnation by God is by his case shown to be just.
righteousness which is by faith—Greek, "according to faith." A Pauline thought. Noah is first called "righteous" in Ge 6:9. Christ calls Abel so, Mt 23:35. Compare as to Noah's righteousness, Eze 14:14, 20; 2Pe 2:5, "a preacher of righteousness." Paul here makes faith the principle and ground of his righteousness.
heir—the consequence of sonship which flows from faith.
By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
8. From the antediluvian saints he passes to the patriarchs of Israel, to whom "the promises" belonged.
called—by God (Ge 12:1). The oldest manuscripts and Vulgate read, "He that was called Abraham," his name being changed from Abram to Abraham, on the occasion of God's making with him and his seed a covenant sealed by circumcision, many years after his call out of Ur. "By faith, he who was (afterwards) called Abraham (father of nations, Ge 17:5, in order to become which was the design of God's bringing him out of Ur) obeyed (the command of God: to be understood in this reading), so as to go out," &c.
which he should after receive—He had not fully received even this promise when he went out, for it was not explicitly given him till he had reached Canaan (Ge 12:1, 6, 7). When the promise of the land was given him the Canaanite was still in the land, and himself a stranger; it is in the new heaven and new earth that he shall receive his personal inheritance promised him; so believers sojourn on earth as strangers, while the ungodly and Satan lord it over the earth; but at Christ's coming that same earth which was the scene of the believer's conflict shall be the inheritance of Christ and His saints.
By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
9. sojourned—as a "stranger and pilgrim."
in—Greek, "into," that is, he went into it and sojourned there.
as in a strange country—a country not belonging to him, but to others (so the Greek), Ac 7:5, 6.
dwelling in tabernacles—tents: as strangers and sojourners do: moving from place to place, as having no fixed possession of their own. In contrast to the abiding "city" (Heb 11:10).
with—Their kind of dwelling being the same is a proof that their faith was the same. They all alike were content to wait for their good things hereafter (Lu 16:25). Jacob was fifteen years old at the death of Abraham.
heirs with him of the same promise—Isaac did not inherit it from Abraham, nor Jacob from Isaac, but they all inherited it from God directly as "fellow heirs." In Heb 6:12, 15, 17, "the promise" means the thing promised as a thing in part already attained; but in this chapter "the promise" is of something still future. However, see on Heb 6:12.
For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
10. looked for—Greek, "he was expecting"; waiting for with eager expectation (Ro 8:19).
a city—Greek, "the city," already alluded to. Worldly Enoch, son of the murderer Cain, was the first to build his city here: the godly patriarchs waited for their city hereafter (Heb 11:16; 12:22; 13:14).
foundations—Greek, "the foundations" which the tents had not, nor even men's present cities have.
whose builder and maker—Greek, "designer [Eph 1:4, 11] and master-builder," or executor of the design. The city is worthy of its Framer and Builder (compare Heb 11:16; Heb 8:2). Compare Note, see on Heb 9:12, on "found."
Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.
11. also Sara herself—though being the weaker vessel, and though at first she doubted.
was delivered of a child—omitted in the oldest manuscripts: then translate, "and that when she was past age" (Ro 4:19).
she judged him faithful who had promised—after she had ceased to doubt, being instructed by the angel that it was no jest, but a matter in serious earnest.
Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.
12. as good as dead—literally, "deadened"; no longer having, as in youth, energetic vital powers.
stars … sand—(Ge 22:17).
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.
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."
For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
14. For—proof that "faith" (Heb 11:13) was their actuating principle.
declare plainly—make it plainly evident.
seek—Greek, "seek after"; implying the direction towards which their desires ever tend.
a country—rather as Greek, "a fatherland." In confessing themselves strangers here, they evidently imply that they regard not this as their home or fatherland, but seek after another and a better.
And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
15. As Abraham, had he desired to leave his pilgrim life in Canaan, and resume his former fixed habitation in Ur, among the carnal and worldly, had in his long life ample opportunities to have done so; and so spiritually, as to all believers who came out from the world to become God's people, they might, if they had been so minded, have easily gone back.
But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
16. Proving the truth that the old fathers did not, as some assert, "look only for transitory promises" [Article VII, Book of Common Prayer].
now—as the case is.
is not ashamed—Greek, "Is not ashamed of them." Not merely once did God call himself their God, but He is NOW not ashamed to have Himself called so, they being alive and abiding with Him where He is. For, by the law, God cannot come into contact with anything dead. None remained dead in Christ's presence (Lu 20:37, 38). He who is Lord and Maker of heaven and earth, and all things therein, when asked, What is Thy name? said, omitting all His other titles, "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" [Theodoret]. Not only is He not ashamed, but glories in the name and relation to His people. The "wherefore" does not mean that God's good pleasure is the meritorious, but the gracious, consequence of their obedience (that obedience being the result of His Spirit's work in them in the first instance). He first so "called" Himself, then they so called Him.
for—proof of His being "their God," namely, "He hath prepared (in His eternal counsels, Mt 20:23; 25:34, and by the progressive acts of redemption, Joh 14:2) for them a city," the city in which He Himself reigns, so that their yearning desires shall not be disappointed (Heb 11:14, 16).
a city—on its garniture by God (compare Re 21:10-27).
By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
17. offered up—literally, "hath offered up," as if the work and its praise were yet enduring [Alford]. As far as His intention was concerned, he did sacrifice Isaac; and in actual fact "he offered him," as far as the presentation of him on the altar as an offering to God is concerned.
tried—Greek, "tempted," as in Ge 22:1. Put to the proof of his faith. Not that God "tempts" to sin, but God "tempts" in the sense of proving or trying (Jas 1:13-15).
he that had received—rather as Greek, "accepted," that is, welcomed and embraced by faith, not merely "had the promises," as in Heb 7:6. This added to the difficulty in the way of his faith, that it was in Isaac's posterity the promises were to be fulfilled; how then could they be fulfilled if Isaac were sacrificed?
offered up—rather as Greek, "was offering up"; he was in the act of offering.
his only-begotten son—Compare Ge 22:2, "Take now thy son, thine only son." Eusebius [The Preparation of the Gospel, 1.10, and 4.16], has preserved a fragment of a Greek translation of Sanchoniatho, which mentions a mystical sacrifice of the Ph�nicians, wherein a prince in royal robes was the offerer, and his only son was to be the victim: this evidently was a tradition derived from Abraham's offering, and handed down through Esau or Edom, Isaac's son. Isaac was Abraham's "only-begotten son" in respect of Sarah and the promises: he sent away his other sons, by other wives (Ge 25:6). Abraham is a type of the Father not sparing His only-begotten Son to fulfil the divine purpose of love. God nowhere in the Mosaic law allowed human sacrifices, though He claimed the first-born of Israel as His.
Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:
18. Of whom—rather as Greek "He (Abraham, not Isaac) TO whom it was said" [Alford]. Bengel supports English Version. So Heb 1:7 uses the same Greek preposition, "unto," for "in respect to," or "of." This verse gives a definition of the "only-begotten Son" (Heb 11:17).
in Isaac shall thy seed be called—(Ge 21:12). The posterity of Isaac alone shall be accounted as the seed of Abraham, which is the heir of the promises (Ro 9:7).
Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
19. Faith answered the objections which reason brought against God's command to Abraham to offer Isaac, by suggesting that what God had promised He both could and would perform, however impossible the performance might seem (Ro 4:20, 21).
able to raise him—rather, in general, "able to raise from the dead." Compare Ro 4:17, "God who quickeneth the dead." The quickening of Sarah's dead womb suggested the thought of God's power to raise even the dead, though no instance of it had as yet occurred.
he received him—"received him back" [Alford].
in a figure—Greek, "in a parable." Alford explains, "Received him back, risen from that death which he had undergone in, under, the figure of the ram." I prefer with Bishop Pearson, Estius, and Gregory of Nyssa, understanding the figure to be the representation which the whole scene gave to Abraham of Christ in His death (typified by Isaac's offering in intention, and the ram's actual substitution answering to Christ's vicarious death), and in His resurrection (typified by Abraham's receiving him back alive from the jaws of death, compare 2Co 1:9, 10); just as on the day of atonement the slain goat and the scapegoat together formed one joint rite representing Christ's death and resurrection. It was then that Abraham saw Christ's day (Joh 8:56): accounting God was able to raise even from the dead: from which state of the dead he received him back as a type of the resurrection in Christ.
By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
20. Jacob is put before Esau, as heir of the chief, namely, the spiritual blessing.
concerning things to come—Greek, "even concerning things to come": not only concerning things present. Isaac, by faith, assigned to his sons things future, as if they were present.
By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.
21. both the sons—Greek, "each of the sons" (Ge 47:29; 48:8-20). He knew not Joseph's sons, and could not distinguish them by sight, yet he did distinguish them by faith, transposing his hands intentionally, so as to lay his right hand on the younger, Ephraim, whose posterity was to be greater than that of Manasseh: he also adopted these grandchildren as his own sons, after having transferred the right of primogeniture to Joseph (Ge 48:22).
and worshipped—This did not take place in immediate connection with the foregoing, but before it, when Jacob made Joseph swear that he would bury him with his fathers in Canaan, not in Egypt. The assurance that Joseph would do so filled him with pious gratitude to God, which he expressed by raising himself on his bed to an attitude of worship. His faith, as Joseph's (Heb 11:22), consisted in his so confidentially anticipating the fulfilment of God's promise of Canaan to his descendants, as to desire to be buried there as his proper possession.
leaning upon the top of his staff—Ge 47:31, Hebrew and English Version, "upon the bed's head." The Septuagint translates as Paul here. Jerome justly reprobates the notion of modern Rome, that Jacob worshipped the top of Joseph's staff, having on it an image of Joseph's power, to which Jacob bowed in recognition of the future sovereignty of his son's tribe, the father bowing to the son! The Hebrew, as translated in English Version, sets it aside: the bed is alluded to afterwards (Ge 48:2; 49:33), and it is likely that Jacob turned himself in his bed so as to have his face toward the pillow, Isa 38:2 (there were no bedsteads in the East). Paul by adopting the Septuagint version, brings out, under the Spirit, an additional fact, namely, that the aged patriarch used his own (not Joseph's) staff to lean on in worshipping on his bed. The staff, too, was the emblem of his pilgrim state here on his way to his heavenly city (Heb 11:13, 14), wherein God had so wonderfully supported him. Ge 32:10, "With my staff I passed over Jordan, and now I am become," &c. (compare Ex 12:11; Mr 6:8). In 1Ki 1:47, the same thing is said of David's "bowing on his bed," an act of adoring thanksgiving to God for God's favor to his son before death. He omits the more leading blessing of the twelve sons of Jacob; because "he plucks only the flowers which stand by his way, and leaves the whole meadow full to his readers" [Delitzsch in Alford].
By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.
22. when he died—"when dying."
the departing—"the exodus" (Ge 50:24, 25). Joseph's eminent position in Egypt did not make him regard it as his home: in faith he looked to God's promise of Canaan being fulfilled and desired that his bones should rest there: testifying thus: (1) that he had no doubt of his posterity obtaining the promised land: and (2) that he believed in the resurrection of the body, and the enjoyment in it of the heavenly Canaan. His wish was fulfilled (Jos 24:32; Ac 4:16).
By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king's commandment.
23. parents—So the Septuagint has the plural, namely, Amram and Jochebed (Nu 26:59); but in Ex 2:2, the mother alone is mentioned; but doubtless Amram sanctioned all she did, and secrecy. being their object, he did not appear prominent in what was done.
a proper child—Greek, "a comely child." Ac 7:20, "exceeding fair," Greek, "fair to God." The "faith" of his parents in saving the child must have had some divine revelation to rest on (probably at the time of his birth), which marked their "exceeding fair" babe as one whom God designed to do a great work by. His beauty was probably "the sign" appointed by God to assure their faith.
the king's commandment—to slay all the males (Ex 1:22).
By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;
24. So far from faith being opposed to Moses, he was an eminent example of it [Bengel].
refused—in believing self-denial, when he might possibly have succeeded at last to the throne of Egypt. Thermutis, Pharaoh's daughter, according to the tradition which Paul under the Spirit sanctions, adopted him, as Josephus says, with the consent of the king. Josephus states that when a child, he threw on the ground the diadem put on him in jest, a presage of his subsequent formal rejection of Thermutis' adoption of him. Faith made him to prefer the adoption of the King of kings, unseen, and so to choose (Heb 11:25, 26) things, the very last which flesh and blood relish.
Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
25. He balanced the best of the world with the worst of religion, and decidedly chose the latter. "Choosing" implies a deliberate resolution, not a hasty impulse. He was forty years old, a time when the judgment is matured.
for a season—If the world has "pleasure" (Greek, "enjoyment") to offer, it is but "for a season." If religion bring with it "affliction," it too is but for a season; whereas its "pleasures are for evermore."
Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.
26. Esteeming—Inasmuch as he esteemed.
the reproach of Christ—that is, the reproach which falls on the Church, and which Christ regards as His own reproach, He being the Head, and the Church (both of the Old and New Testament) His body. Israel typified Christ; Israel's sufferings were Christ's sufferings (compare 2Co 1:5; Col 1:24). As uncircumcision was Egypt's reproach, so circumcision was the badge of Israel's expectation of Christ, which Moses especially cherished, and which the Gentiles reproached Israel on account of. Christ's people's reproach will ere long be their great glory.
had respect unto, &c.—Greek, "turning his eyes away from other considerations, he fixed them on the (eternal) recompense" (Heb 11:39, 40).
By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
27. not fearing the wrath of the king—But in Ex 2:14 it is said, "Moses feared, and fled from the face of Pharaoh." He was afraid, and fled from the danger where no duty called him to stay (to have stayed without call of duty would have been to tempt Providence, and to sacrifice his hope of being Israel's future deliverer according to the divine intimations; his great aim, see on Heb 11:23). He did not fear the king so as to neglect his duty and not return when God called him. It was in spite of the king's prohibition he left Egypt, not fearing the consequences which were likely to overtake him if he should be caught, after having, in defiance of the king, left Egypt. If he had stayed and resumed his position as adopted son of Pharaoh's daughter, his slaughter of the Egyptian would doubtless have been connived at; but his resolution to take his portion with oppressed Israel, which he could not have done had he stayed, was the motive of his flight, and constituted the "faith" of this act, according to the express statement here. The exodus of Moses with Israel cannot be meant here, for it was made, not in defiance, but by the desire, of the king. Besides, the chronological order would be broken thus, the next particular specified here, namely, the institution of the Passover, having taken place before the exodus. Besides, it is Moses' personal history and faith which are here described. The faith of the people ("THEY passed") is not introduced till Heb 11:29.
endured—steadfast in faith amidst trials. He had fled, not so much from fear of Pharaoh, as from a revulsion of feeling in finding God's people insensible to their high destiny, and from disappointment at not having been able to inspire them with those hopes for which he had sacrificed all his earthly prospects. This accounts for his strange reluctance and despondency when commissioned by God to go and arouse the people (Ex 3:15; 4:1, 10-12).
seeing him … invisible—as though he had not to do with men, but only with God, ever before his eyes by faith, though invisible to the bodily eye (Ro 1:20; 1Ti 1:17; 6:16). Hence he feared not the wrath of visible man; the characteristic of faith (Heb 11:1; Lu 12:4, 5).
Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.
28. kept—Greek, "hath kept," the Passover being, in Paul's day, still observed. His faith here was his belief in the invisible God's promise that the destroying angel should pass over, and not touch the inmates of the blood-sprinkled houses (Ex 12:23). "He acquiesced in the bare word of God where the thing itself was not apparent" [Calvin].
the first-born—Greek neuter; both of man and beast.
By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.
29. they—Moses and Israel.
Red Sea—called so from its red seaweed, or rather from Edom (meaning "red"), whose country adjoined it.
which … assaying to do—Greek, "of which (Red Sea) the Egyptians having made experiment." Rashness and presumption mistaken by many for faith; with similar rash presumption many rush into eternity. The same thing when done by the believer, and when done by the unbeliever, is not the same thing [Bengel]. What was faith in Israel, was presumption in the Egyptians.
were drowned—Greek, "were swallowed up," or "engulfed." They sank in the sands as much as in the waves of the Red Sea. Compare Ex 15:12, "the earth swallowed them."
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.
30. The soundings of trumpets, though one were to sound for ten thousand years, cannot throw down walls, but faith can do all things [Chrysostom].
seven days—whereas sieges often lasted for years.
By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.
31. Rahab showed her "faith" in her confession, Jos 2:9, 11, "I know that Jehovah hath given you the land; Jehovah your God, is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath."
the harlot—Her former life adds to the marvel of her repentance, faith, and preservation (Mt 21:31, 32).
believed not—Greek, "were disobedient," namely, to the will of God manifested by the miracles wrought in behalf of Israel (Jos 2:8-11).
received—in her house (Jos 2:1, 4, 6).
with peace—peaceably; so that they had nothing to fear in her house. Thus Paul, quoting the same examples (Heb 11:17, 31) for the power of faith, as James (Jas 2:21, 25; see on Jas 2:21; Jas 2:25) does for justification by works evidentially, shows that in maintaining justification by faith alone, he means not a dead faith, but "faith which worketh by love" (Ga 5:6).
And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:
32. the time—suitable for the length of an Epistle. He accumulates collectively some out of many examples of faith.
Gideon—put before Barak, not chronologically, but as being more celebrated. Just as Samson for the same reason is put before Jephthæ. The mention of Jephthæ as an example of "faith," makes it unlikely he sacrificed the life of his daughter for a rash vow. David, the warrior king and prophet, forms the transition from warrior chiefs to the "prophets," of whom "Samuel" is mentioned as the first.
Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
33. subdued kingdoms—as David did (2Sa 8:1, &c.); so also Gideon subdued Midian (Jud 7:1-25).
wrought righteousness—as Samuel did (1Sa 8:9; 12:3-23; 15:33); and David (2Sa 8:15).
obtained promises—as "the prophets" (Heb 11:32) did; for through them the promises were given (compare Da 9:21) [Bengel]. Rather, "obtained the fulfilment of promises," which had been previously the object of their faith (Jos 21:45; 1Ki 8:56). Indeed, Gideon, Barak, &c., also obtained the things which God promised. Not "the promises," which are still future (Heb 11:13, 39).
stopped the mouths of lions—Note the words, "because he believed in his God." Also Samson (Jud 14:6), David (1Sa 17:34-37), Benaiah (2Sa 23:20).
Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
34. Quenched the violence of fire—(Da 3:27). Not merely "quenched the fire," but "quenched the power (so the Greek) of the fire." Da 3:19-30 and 6:12-23 record the last miracles of the Old Testament. So the martyrs of the Reformation, though not escaping the fire, were delivered from its having power really or lastingly to hurt them.
escaped … sword—So Jephthah (Jud 12:3); and so David escaped Saul's sword (1Sa 18:11; 19:10, 12); Elijah (1Ki 19:1, &c.; 2Ki 6:14).
out of weakness … made strong—Samson (Jud 16:28; 15:19). Hezekiah (Isa 37:1-38:22). Milton says of the martyrs, "They shook the powers of darkness with the irresistible power of weakness."
valiant in fight—Barak (Jud 4:14, 15). And the Maccabees, the sons of Matthias, Judas, Jonathan, and Simon, who delivered the Jews from their cruel oppressor, Antiochus of Syria.
armies—literally, "camps" referring to Jud 7:21. But the reference may be to the Maccabees having put to flight the Syrians and other foes.
Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:
35. Women received their dead raised—as the widow of Zarephath (1Ki 17:17-24). The Shunammite (2Ki 4:17-35). The two oldest manuscripts read. "They received women of aliens by raising their dead." 1Ki 17:24 shows that the raising of the widow's son by Elijah led her to the faith, so that he thus took her into fellowship, an alien though she was. Christ, in Lu 4:26, makes especial mention of the fact that Elijah was sent to an alien from Israel, a woman of Sarepta. Thus Paul may quote this as an instance of Elijah's faith, that at God's command he went to a Gentile city of Sidonia (contrary to Jewish prejudices), and there, as the fruit of faith, not only raised her dead son, but received her as a convert into the family of God, as Vulgate reads. Still, English Version may be the right reading.
and—Greek, "but"; in contrast to those raised again to life.
tortured—"broken on the wheel." Eleazar (2 Maccabees 6:18, end; 2 Maccabees 19:20,30). The sufferer was stretched on an instrument like a drumhead and scourged to death.
not accepting deliverance—when offered to them. So the seven brothers, 2 Maccabees 7:9, 11, 14, 29, 36; and Eleazar, 2 Maccabees 6:21, 28, 30, "Though I might have been delivered from death, I endure these severe pains, being beaten."
a better resurrection—than that of the women's children "raised to life again"; or, than the resurrection which their foes could give them by delivering them from death (Da 12:2; Lu 20:35; Php 3:11). The fourth of the brethren (referring to Da 12:2) said to King Antiochus, "To be put to death by men, is to be chosen to look onward for the hopes which are of God, to be raised up again by Him; but for thee there is no resurrection to life." The writer of Second Maccabees expressly disclaims inspiration, which prevents our mistaking Paul's allusion here to it as if it sanctioned the Apocrypha as inspired. In quoting Daniel, he quotes a book claiming inspiration, and so tacitly sanctions that claim.
And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
36. others—of a different class of confessors for the truth (the Greek is different from that for "others," Heb 11:35, alloi, heteroi).
trial—testing their faith.
imprisonment—as Hanani (2Ch 16:10), imprisoned by Asa. Micaiah, the son of Imlah, by Ahab (1Ki 22:26, 27).
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;
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 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."
(Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
38. Of whom the world was not worthy—So far from their being unworthy of living in the world, as their exile in deserts, &c., might seem to imply, "the world was not worthy of them." The world, in shutting them out, shut out from itself a source of blessing; such as Joseph proved to Potiphar (Ge 39:5), and Jacob to Laban (Ge 30:27). In condemning them, the world condemned itself.
caves—literally, "chinks." Palestine, from its hilly character, abounds in fissures and caves, affording shelter to the persecuted, as the fifty hid by Obadiah (1Ki 18:4, 13) and Elijah (1Ki 19:8, 13); and Mattathias and his sons (1 Maccabees 2:28, 29); and Judas Maccabeus (2 Maccabees 5:27).
And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
39. having obtained a good report—Greek, "being borne witness of." Though they were so, yet "they received not the promise," that is, the final completion of "salvation" promised at Christ's coming again (Heb 9:28); "the eternal inheritance" (Heb 9:15). Abraham did obtain the very thing promised (Heb 6:15) in part, namely, blessedness in soul after death, by virtue of faith in Christ about to come. The full blessedness of body and soul shall not be till the full number of the elect shall be accomplished, and all together, no one preceding the other, shall enter on the full glory and bliss. Moreover, in another point of view, "It is probable that some accumulation of blessedness was added to holy souls, when Christ came and fulfilled all things even as at His burial many rose from the dead, who doubtless ascended to heaven with Him" [Flacius in Bengel]. (Compare Note, see on Eph 4:8). The perfecting of believers in title, and in respect to conscience, took place once for all, at the death of Christ, by virtue of His being made by death perfect as Saviour. Their perfecting in soul at, and ever after Christ's death, took place, and takes place at their death. But the universal and final perfecting will not take place till Christ's coming.
God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
40. provided—with divine forethought from eternity (compare Ge 22:8, 14).
some better thing for us—(Heb 7:19); than they had here. They had not in this world, "apart from us" (so the Greek is for "without us," that is, they had to wait for us for), the clear revelation of the promised salvation actually accomplished, as we now have it in Christ; in their state, beyond the grave their souls also seem to have attained an increase of heavenly bliss on the death and ascension of Christ; and they shall not attain the full and final glory in body and soul (the regeneration of the creature), until the full number of the elect (including us with them) is completed. The Fathers, Chrysostom, &c., restricted the meaning of Heb 11:39, 40 to this last truth, and I incline to this view. "The connection is, You, Hebrews, may far more easily exercise patience than Old Testament believers; for they had much longer to wait, and are still waiting until the elect are all gathered in; you, on the contrary, have not to wait for them" [Estius]. I think his object in these verses (Heb 11:39, 40) is to warn Hebrew Christians against their tendency to relapse into Judaism. "Though the Old Testament worthies attained such eminence by faith, they are not above us in privileges, but the reverse." It is not we who are perfected with them, but rather they with us. They waited for His coming; we enjoy Him as having come (Heb 1:1; 2:3). Christ's death, the means of perfecting what the Jewish law could not perfect, was reserved for our time. Compare Heb 12:2, "perfecter (Greek) of our faith." Now that Christ is come, they in soul share our blessedness, being "the spirits of the just made perfect" (Heb 12:23); so Alford; however, see on Heb 12:23. Heb 9:12 shows that the blood of Christ, brought into the heavenly holy place by Him, first opened an entrance into heaven (compare Joh 3:13). Still, the fathers were in blessedness by faith in the Saviour to come, at death (Heb 6:15; Lu 16:22).