Hebrews 11 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Hebrews 11
Pulpit Commentary
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Verse 1. - Now faith is the substance (so A.V., with marginal readings, "or ground, or, confidence") of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. On the senses in which the word ὑπόστασις (translated "substance") may be used, see under Hebrews 1:2. As to the sense intended here, views differ. There are three possible ones, expressed in the text and margin of the A.V., substance, ground, and confidence. The first is understood by the Fathers generally, the idea being supposed to be that, inasmuch as things not yet experienced, but only hoped for, become real to us by faith, faith is metaphysically their substance, as substantiating them to us. So Theophilus: Οὐσίωσις τῶν μήπω ὄντων ὑπόστασις τῶν μὴ ὑφεστηκότων: and Chrysostom, who illustrates thus: "The resurrection has not yet taken place, but faith substantiates (ὑφίστησιν) it in our souls." So also Dante, following St. Thomas Aquinas, in a striking passage quoted by Delitzsch ('Paradise,' 24:70-75) -

"Le profonde cose
Che mi largiscon qui la lor parvenza
Agli occhi di laggiu son si nascose,
Che l'esser lore ve in sola credenza,
Sovra la qual si fondu Palta spene:
E pero di sustanza prende Fintenza."

"The things profound
That here vouch safe to me their apparition
From all eyes here below are so concealed
That all their being is in faith alone,
Upon the which high hope doth base itself:
And therefore faith assumes the place of substance."
The rendering ground, which involves only the simpler idea of faith being the foundation on which hope is built, has not much support from the use of the word elsewhere, nor does it seem suitable here. For it is not the things hoped for, but rather our hopes of them that are grounded on our faith. The subjective sense, confidence, or assurance, is most in favor with modern commentators, principally as being the most usual one (cf. Hebrews 3:14; 2 Corinthians 9:4; 2 Corinthians 11:17; also Psalm 38:11, Ἡ ὑπόστασις μου παρὰ σοῦ ἔστιν: Ezekiel 19:5, Ἀπώλετο ἡ ὑπόστασις αὐτῆς: Ruth 1:12, Ἔστι μοι ὑπόστασις τοῦ γενεθῆναι με ἀνδρί). One objection to this sense of the word here is that it is usually followed, when so intended, by a genitive of rite person, not of the thing; though Ruth 1:12 is an instance to the contrary. But apart from this consideration, the consensus of the Greek Fathers is a weighty argument for the retention of the rendering of the A.V. Either rendering, be it observed, gives the same essential meaning, though under different mental conceptions. Faith is further said to be the evidence of things not seen; ἔλεγχος meaning, not as some take it, inward conviction of their existence, but in itself a demonstration, serving the purpose of argument to induce conviction. So Dante, in continuation of the passage quoted above -

"E da questa credenza ci conviene
Sillogizar senza avere ultra visa;
E pero intenza d'argomento tiene."

"And from this credence it is fit and right
To syllogize, though other sight be none:
Therefore faith holds the place of argument."
Is this meant as a definition of faith, or only a description of its effect and operation, with especial regard to the subject in hand? Virtually a definition, though not in the strict logical form of one. At any rate, "the constituents and essential characteristics of faith are here laid down" (Delitzsch); i.e. of faith in its most general sense - that of belief in such things, whether past, present, or future, as are not known by experience, and cannot be logically demonstrated. "Licet quidam dicant praedicta apostoli verba non esse fidei definitionem, quia definitio indicat rei quidditatem et essentiam, tamen si quis recte consideret, omnia ex quibus fides potest definiri in praedicta descriptione tanguntur, licet verba non ordinentur sub forma definitionis" (St. Thomas Aquinas, 'Secunda Secundae,' qu. 4, art. 1). Faith, in the general sense indicated, is and has ever been, as the chapter goes on to show, the very root and inspiring principle of all true religion. And be it observed that, if well grounded, it is not irrational; it would rather be irrational to disregard it, or suppose it opposed to reason. Even in ordinary affairs of life, and in science too, men act, and must act, to a great extent on faith; it is essential for success, and certainly for all great achievements - faith in the testimony and authority of others whom we can trust, faith in views and principles not yet verified by our own experience, faith in the expected outcome of right proceeding, faith with respect to a thousand things which we take on trust, and so make ventures, on the ground, not of positive proof, but of more or less assured conviction. Religious faith is the same principle, though exercised in a higher sphere; and it may be as well grounded as any on which irreligious men are acting daily. Various feelings and considerations may conspire to induce it: the very phenomena of the visible universe, which, though themselves objects of sense, speak to the soul of a Divinity beyond them; still more, conscience, recognized as a Divine voice within us, and implying a Power above us to whom we are responsible; then all our strange yearnings after ideals not yet realized, our innate sense that righteousness ought to triumph over iniquity, as in our disordered world it does not yet; - which things are in themselves prophetic; and, in addition to all this, the general human belief in Deity. And when, further, a revelation has been given, its answering to our already felt needs and aspirations, together with the usual considerations on which we give credence to testimony, induces faith in it also, and in the things by it revealed; natural faith is thus confirmed, and faith in other verities is borne in upon the soul; which is further itself confirmed by experience of the effects of entertaining it. In some minds, as is well known, and these of the highest order, such faith may amount to certitude, rendering the "things unseen" more real to them than "the things that do appear." It cannot be said that to accept such faith as evidence is contrary to reason; our not doing so would be to put aside as meaning nothing the deepest, the most spiritual, the most elevating faculties of our mysterious nature, by means of which, no less than by our other faculties, we are constituted so as to apprehend the truth. And we may observe, lastly, that even to those who have not themselves this "fullness of faith," its very existence in others, including so many of the great and good, may surely be rationally accepted as evidence of realities corresponding to it.
For by it the elders obtained a good report.
Verse 2. - For in this (i.e. faith, ἐν ταύτῃ) the elders obtained a good report; literally were witnessed of; i.e. it was in respect of their faith, which inspired their deeds, that they were praised. (For a similar use of the preposition ἐν, cf. 1 Corinthians 11:22, ἐπαινέσω ἐν, τούτῳ). Thus is introduced the illustrative review of Old Testament instances, the purpose of which has been explained above. It begins from the beginning, Abel being the first example. But in the Old Testament the account of the creation precedes that first recorded instance; and, therefore, it is in the first place fittingly referred to, the existence of an unseen creative power mentally perceived beyond things visible, being the primary article - the very foundation - of all religious faith (cf. below, ver. 6).
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.
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.
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.
Verse 4. - By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which (i.e. faith, not sacrifice, "faith" being the ruling idea of the whole passage) he obtained witness (literally, was witnessed of) that he was righteous, God testifying of (literally, witnessing upon, or, in respect to) his gifts: and through it (faith) he being dead yet speaketh. In the traditions preserved in Genesis of the dim and distant antediluvian period, three figures stand out prominently as representing the righteous seed in the midst of growing evil - Abel, Enoch, and Noah. These are, therefore, first adduced with the view of showing that it is in respect of faith that they are thus distinguished in the sacred record. With respect to Abel, it is not necessary to inquire or conjecture whether the bloody character of his offering is to be considered as constituting its superior excellence. The record in Genesis simply represents the two brothers as offering each what he had to offer in accordance with his occupation and pursuits, the only difference being that Abel is said to, have offered his firstlings and the fat thereof, while nothing is said of Cain having brought his first fruits or his best. Then, in the account of the result, we are only told that unto one the LORD had respect, and not to the other, without mention of the reason why. It is usual to find a reason in the nature of Abel's offering as signifying atonement, and to suppose his faith manifested in his recognition of the need of such atonement, signified to him, as has been further supposed, by Divine command. This view of the intention of the narrative is indeed suggested by the description of what his offering was, viewed in the light of subsequent sacrificial theory; but it is not apparent in the narrative taken by itself, or in the reference to it in the passage before us. The acceptableness of the offering is here simply attributed, as of necessity, to the faith of the offerer, without any intimation of how that faith had been evinced. And with this view of the matter agrees the record itself, where it is said that "unto Abel and his offering the LORD had respect;" i.e. to Abel first, and then to his offering - the offering was accepted because Abel was, not Abel on account of his kind of offering. "Crone quod datur Deo ex dantis mente pensatur... Neque enim sacrum eloquimn dicit, Respexit ad munera Abel et ad Cain mqnera non respexit, sed prius air quid respexit ad Abel, ac deinde subjunxit, 'et ad munera ejus.' Idcirco non Abel ex muneribus, sed ex Abel munera oblata placuerunt" (St. Gregory, quoted by Delitzsch). "And he being dead," etc., refers plainly to Genesis 4:10, "The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground." The same voice of innocent blood, which appealed at the beginning of human history to the God of righteousness, cries still through all the ages; it sounds in our own cars now, telling us that faith prevails on high, and that "right dear in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints." Cf. Hebrews 12:24 for an allusion again to the cry of the blood of Abel. The word αλεῖν is there also used, supporting the reading λαλεῖ, rather than the λαλεῖται of the Textus Receptus here.
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.
Verse 5. - 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; literally, hath been witnessed of that he had been well-pleasing to God. The allusion is, of course, to the testimony in Genesis (Genesis 5:24), the LXX. being closely followed, which has, Αὐηρέστησεν Ἐνὼχ τῷ Θεῷ καὶ οὐχ ηὑρέσκετο διότι μετέθηκεν ἀυτον Ὁ Θεός, whereas the literal translation of our Hebrew text is, "Enoch walked with God; and he was not, because God took him."
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.
Verse 6. - 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. The purpose of this verse, in connection with the conclusion of the last, is to show that the Scripture record does imply faith in Enoch, though there is no mention of it there by name: it is of necessity involved in the phrase, εὐηρέστεσε τῷ Θεῷ. The expression in the Hebrew, "walked with God" (be it observed), involves it equally; so that the argument is not affected by the quotation being kern the LXX.
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.
Verse 7. - By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear (εὐλαβηθεὶς), prepared an ark to the saving of his house; through which (i.e. faith) he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith (κατὰ πίστιν). The "things not seen as yet" were the divinely predicted events of the Deluge. The word εὐλαβηθεὶς (translated as above in the A.V.) is taken by many commentators as implying godly fear, a sentiment of piety, with reference to the previous χρηματισθεὶς, since the noun εὐλαβεία seems to have this special sense in Hebrews 12:28, μετὰ αἰδοῦς καὶ εὐλαβείας (see what was said under ver. 7, where the word occurred); so too the adjective, εὐλαβὴς, Luke 2:25; Acts 2:5; Acts 8:2. Hence the emendation, "moved with godly fear," in the recent "Revised Version." But, inasmuch as the verb εὐλαβείσθαι has in the New Testament, as elsewhere, only its original import of caution or circumspection, there is no need to suppose here a further meaning (cf. Acts 23:10, the only other passage in the New Testament where the verb occurs). Ebrard, taking only prudent forethought to be expressed, enlarges on the lesson thus conveyed to the effect that he who acts on simple faith, regardless of the world's opinion or of ridicule, is the one who is truly prudent. And we may add that such prudence legitimately comes in as a motive in the religious life. The antecedent of "which" (δἰ ῆς), though the ancients generally understand κιβωτὸν, is taken as above by most moderns; the reason being, not only that faith (see in ver. 4) is the ruling idea of the whole passage, but also that it suits better the expressed results, especially the second, "became heir," etc. For to say that he became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith through the ark, as being the evidence of his faith, or as being the means of his preservation, is less intelligible than to say that through faith he became so. The sense in which Noah "condemned the world" is illustrated by Matthew 12:41, 42, "The men of Nineveh," etc., "The queen of the South," etc. (cf. Romans 2:27). His becoming "heir," etc., rests on the view of the fulfillment of primeval promise being transmitted as an inheritance to the faithful. Noah, as he appears in Genesis, was eminently heir in this sense, as alone in his day appropriating it and as transmitting it to his seed. In like manner Abraham, who is next mentioned, was the prominent heir among the subsequent patriarchs (cf. Romans 4:13). The idea running through the whole Old Testament is that, in the midst of a sinful world, an inheritance of salvation was transmitted through a chosen seed, till the Christ should come as the "Heir of all things," the perfected Head and Representative of all redeemed humanity. The word δικαιοσύνη as that of which Noah was heir, may have been suggested with reference to him by his being the first who is called δίκαιος in Genesis 6:9, and by this being his usual designation (Ezekiel 14:14, 20; Ecclus. 44:17; Wisd. 10:4, 6, Sir. 44:17; cf. 2 Peter 2:5, κήρυξ δικαιοσύνης). The whole phrase, τῆς κατὰ πίστιν δικαιοσύνης, may be taken to imply the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith, which may be supposed to have been familiar to the readers of this Epistle, having been already fully enunciated by St. Paul, and dwelt on by him as especially exemplified in Abraham. St. Paul, indeed, does not use this exact phrase, but δικαιοσύνης πίστεως (Romans 4:11, 13); ἐκ πίστεως (Romans 10:6); ἐπὶ τῆ πίστει (Philippians 3:9); but still the meaning may be the same. The correspondence is an instance of Pauline thought in this Epistle, while the difference of phrase affords a presumption, though by no means in itself conclusive, against Pauline authorship.
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.
Verse 8. - By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed (literally, when called, obeyed to go out, etc.); and he went out, not knowing whither he went. The reference is to the first call of Abraham (Genesis 12:1), his obedience to which is the first instance of the faith which the whole life of the father of the faithful so eminently exemplifies. The fact of the place he was to go to being so far unrevealed (intimated only as "a land that I will show thee") enhances the faith displayed, He followed the Divine voice as it were blindly, not seeing whither it was leading him, knowing only that it was right to follow it. So to those who walk by faith now the future may be unknown or dim.

"Lead thou me on.
... I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me."
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:
Verses 9, 10. - By faith he sojourned in (rather, went to sojourn in) the land of promise, as in a strange country (literally, as one belonging to others; i.e. not his own; "As in an alien land" (Wickliffe); cf. Genesis 23:4, "I am a stranger and sojourner with you"), dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for a city which hath foundations (literally, the foundations) whose Builder and Maker is God. Of course, here, "with Isaac and Jacob" means "as did also Isaac and Jacob." The three successive patriarchs are presented in Scripture as representing the period of nomadic life in the land of promise, not yet possessed; alike supported by faith in the Divine word; and hence they are ever grouped together (cf. Genesis 28:13; Genesis 32:9; Genesis 48:15; 1:24; Exodus 3:6; Deuteronomy 9:5; 1 Kings 18:36, etc.; also Matthew 22:32; Luke 13:28). The meaning of their history to us, and the object of their common hope, are further set forth in vers. 13-17, and will be under them considered. In the mean time an instance of Abraham's faith, peculiar to himself, is adduced.
For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
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.
Verses 11, 12. - By faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed, even when she was past age (ἕτεκεν, as in the Textus Receptus, after καὶ παρὰ καιρὸν ἡλικίας, may be rejected, being, perhaps, an interpolation suggested by καὶ), because she judged him faithful who had promised. 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. The vitality of Abraham's faith is represented as evinced by its surviving and triumphing over a succession of trials, over apparent impossibilities. One such peculiar trial was the long delay of the birth of a legitimate heir through whom the promise of an innumerable seed might be fulfilled, and this till it seemed out of the question in the natural course of things. Yet "he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief... being fully persuaded that what he had promised he was able to perform" (see Romans 4:17-23, which is a fuller statement of the idea of this verse, including the use of the words νενεκρώμενον and νέκρωσις to express effeteness, and ἐδυναμώθη, corresponding to δύναμον ἔλαβε here. This is a further instance of Pauline thought in this Epistle - ideas already enlarged on by St. Paul being taken for granted as understood.) In Romans Abraham's faith in this regard is treated as typifying Christian faith in the resurrection from the dead (ver. 24), as is also, in the chapter before us (ver. 19), his faith displayed on the occasion of the offering of Isaac. For to us also our inability to conceive the mode of accomplishment of what well-grounded faith assures us of is no just cause for staggering. "How are the dead raised up? and with what kind of body do they come?" was asked by the Corinthian doubters. St. Paul directs them, in reply, to faith in "the power of God" (cf. Mark 12:24) to accomplish his purposes and fulfill his promises in ways unknown to us, transcending, though analogous to, the mysterious processes of nature that we see before our eyes. For "with God all things are possible." Sarah is here joined with Abraham, as also "receiving power" by faith, i.e. her own faith, as the structure of ver. 11 seems evidently to imply. But how is this consistent with the account of her in Genesis, where she is nowhere held up as an example of faith; nay, is censured for incredulity (Genesis 18:12-16) with respect to the promise cf. offspring? The answer may be that her temporary unbelief is concluded to have been succeeded by faith, as proved by the result, viz. that she "received power." And, indeed, her laughter recorded in Genesis 18, does not seem intended to imply any permanent "heart of unbelief;" for even Abraham had laughed as she did when the same announcement had been previously made to him (Genesis 17:17), and the "laughter" associated with her memory has quite a different meaning given it when that of temporary incredulity was changed into that of joy on the birth of the promised son, who was consequently called Isaac (equivalent to "laughter"). It is, however, Abraham himself who is put prominently before us as the great example of faith; Sarah is only introduced by his side (with the words καὶ αὐτὴ) as sharing it and cooperating to the result. To him singly the writer returns in ver. 12, Διὸ καὶ ἀφ ἑνὸς, etc.
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.
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.
Verse 13. - These all (i.e. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the nomadic patriarchs, not in-eluding the antediluvian heroes, to whom what is further said does not apply) died in faith (literally, according to faith, κατὰ πίστιν, as in ver. 7), not having received the promises, but having seen and greeted them from afar off (omitting the ill-supported καὶ πεισθέντες of the Textus Receptus), and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. The reference is to the confession of Abraham to the sons of Heth (Genesis 23:4), "I am a stranger and a sojourner with yon," together with Jacob's words to Pharaoh (Genesis 47:9), "The days of the years of my pilgrimage," etc. The import of such confession, intimated in the preceding part of the verse, is now educed.
For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
Verses 14-16. - For they that say such things declare plainly (or, make manifest ) that they seek a country (i.e. a native country, a fatherland, πατρίδα). And truly if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now (i.e. as it is) they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God (see refs. under ver. 9): for he hath prepared for them a city. In consideration of the drift of the whole of this interesting and suggestive passage (vers. 9, 10, 13-17), the question arises whether the patriarchs are represented as actually themselves looking forward to a heavenly inheritance. In their history as given in Genesis, as, indeed, in the Old Testament generally (at any rate, in the earlier books), there is, as is well known, no distinct recognition of the life to come. The promise to Abraham seems to imply only an innumerable seed, its possession as a great nation of the earthly land of promise, and through it some undefined blessing to all the families of the earth. Nor are the patriarchs represented as looking forward to a fulfillment of the promise beyond the limits of the present world. Even so their history is singularly instructive. They lived in hope of things not seen through faith in the Divine promise. The very fact that they were content to die without themselves attaining, if so God's purpose might be accomplished to their seed, invests them with a peculiar grandeur of unselfishness. Their faith was essentially the same principle as that of Christians, even though the final object of Christian hope were hidden from their eyes; while their dwelling in tents as strangers, and the home and city seen afar off, are apt emblems of the present life and the heavenly citizenship of Christians. It may be that this is all that is intended in the Epistle, the history being allegorized, as that of Isaac and Ishmael is in the Epistle to the Galatians. If so, the apparent attribution of a heavenly hope to the patriarchs themselves must be accounted for by a blending of the actual history with its ideal meaning, such as was observed in the chapter about Melchizedek. But it is difficult to understand the expressions used as implying no more than this. Abraham is said to have himself looked for the "city that hath the foundations," of which God is the Builder - a description which cannot but denote the "heavenly Jerusalem," of which the city whose foundations were on the holy hills below is regarded elsewhere as but a type and emblem (cf. Hebrews 12:22; Hebrews 13:14; Galatians 4:26; Revelation 21:14; also infra, Hebrews 8:2, where η}ν ἔπηξεν ὁ Θεὸς is said of the heavenly tabernacle). This interpretation is further supported by our finding in Philo similar views of a heavenly counterpart to Jerusalem as the final object of Israel's hope. Again, the country desired by the patriarchs is, in ver. 16, distinctly called a heavenly one. Nor is the view at all untenable that, notwithstanding the silence of the ancient record on the subject, they did look forward to a life after death with God, seeing in the promised earthly inheritance an emblem and earnest of a heavenly one. Well known is Bishop Warburton's argument that a belief in a future state, which was so ancient and universal, and so prominent especially in the religion of Egypt must almost of necessity have been shared in by the race of Abraham, and hence that the silence about it in the Mosaic record must be due, not to its absence from the creed of Israel, but to the peculiar purpose of the Mosaic dispensation. Worthy of attention also are Dean Stanley's words (Lect. 7. on 'Jewish Church') "Not from want of religion, but (if one might use the expression) from excess of religion, was this void left. The future life was not denied or contradicted, but it was overlooked, set aside, overshadowed, by the consciousness of the living, actual presence of God himself." But though such void there is, however to be accounted for, there are still, even in the Pentateuch (as certainly in the Psalms and prophets), occasional glimpses of the hope of immortality. The mystic tree of life in the midst of the garden, the predicted bruising, of the serpent's head, the mystery of Enoch's departure from the world, and notably (as our Lord himself points out) God still calling himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob after they had been long ago gathered to their fathers, are intimations, even in the Pentateuch, of a belief in man's immortal hopes. And it may be added, with reference to the history immediately before us, that Jacob's application of the idea of his being a" sojourner " - used by Abraham with reference to the abode in Palestine - to the whole course of his life upon the earth, in itself suggests the meaning attached to such language in the Epistle. Hence no violence is done to the meaning of the history rather it may be that its deeper meaning is brought out, if the patriarchs are regarded as entertaining a hope of a heavenly inheritance to themselves, and seeing beyond the earthly types. But even f we suppose such immortal hopes as having been in them at the most but vague and dim, still their faith in and longing for a fulfillment of the promise in any sense was really a longing and reaching after the eternal realities which the first fulfillment typified. Compare the view taken in Hebrews 4. of the meaning of "God's rest." Delitzsch thus enunciates this view of the passage before us: "The promise given to the patriarchs was a Divine assurance of a future rest. That rest was connected, in the first instance, with the future possession of an earthly home; but their desire for that home was at the same time a longing and a seeking after Him who had given the promise of it, whoso presence and blessing alone made it for them an object of desire, and whose presence and blessing, however vouchsafed, makes the place of its manifestation to be indeed a heaven. The shell of their longing might thus be of earth; its kernel was heavenly and Divine, and as such God himself vouchsafed to honor and reward it." From the general mode of life of the patriarchs the review now passes to particular acts of faith, beginning with Abraham's memorable one, the offering of Isaac.
And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
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.
By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
Verses 17-19. - By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up (literally, hath offered up, denoting an accomplished act of which the significance continues) Isaac: and he that had received (rather, accepted, implying his own assent and belief) the promises offered up his only begotten son, he to whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: accounting that God is able to raise up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. The above rendering varies slightly from the A.V. in vers. 18, 19. For, in ver. 18, πρὸς ο{ν is more naturally connected with the immediate antecedent, ὁ ἀναδεξάμενος, than with μονογενῆ: and, in ver. 19, there is no need to supply "him" after ἐγείρειν: the Greek seems obviously to express belief in God's general power to raise from the dead, not his power in that instance only. The offering of Isaac (specially instanced also by St. James, if. 21), stands out as the crowning instance of Abraham's faith. The very son, so king expected, and at length, as it were, supernaturally given, - he in whose single life was bound up all hope of fulfillment of the promise, was to be sacrificed after all, and so seemingly all hope cut off. Yet Abraham is represented as not hesitating for a moment to do in simple faith what seemed God's will, and still not wavering in his hope of a fulfillment somehow. Such faith is here regarded as virtually faith in God's power even to raise the dead. (For a similar view of Abraham's faith as representing "the hope and resurrection of the dead," comp. Romans 4:17, 24.) The expression, "In Isaac shall thy seed be called" (literally, "In Isaac shall be called to thee a seed"), quoted from Genesis 21:12, means, not that the seed should be called after the name of Isaac, but that the seed to be called Abraham's should be in Isaac, i.e. his issue. The concluding phrase, "Whence also he received him in a figure" (literally, "in a parable," ἐν παραβολῇ), has been variously interpreted. Notwithstanding the authority of many modern common-taters, we may certainly reject the view of παραβολῇ carrying here the sense borne by the verb παραβάλλεσθαι, that of venturing or exposing one's self to risk, or that of the adverb παραβόλως, unexpectedly. Even if the noun παραβολή could be shown by any instance to bear such senses, its ordinary use in the New Testament as well as in the LXX. must surely be understood here. It expresses (under the idea of comparison, or setting one thing by the side of another) an illustration, representation, or figure of something. Its use in this sense in the Gospels is familiar to us all; elsewhere in the New Testament it occurs only in this Epistle, Hebrews 9:9, where the "first tabernacle" is spoken of as a παραβολή. Still, the question remains of the exact drift of this expression, ἐν παραβολῇ. It surely is, that, though Isaac did not really die, but only the ram in his stead, yet the transaction represented to Abraham an actual winning of iris son from the dead; he did so win him in the way of an acted parable, which confirmed his faith in God's power to raise the dead as much as if the lad had died. For such use of the preposition ἐν we may compare 1 Corinthians 13:12, βλέπομεν δἰ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, which may mean (notwithstanding the different view of it given doubtfully by the distinguished commentator on the Epistle in the 'Speaker's Commentary'), "We see, not actually, but in the way of an enigmatical representation, as through a mirror." The above seems a mere natural meaning of the phrase, ἐν παραβολῇ, than that of the commentators who interpret it "in such sort as to be a parable or type of something else to crone," viz. of the death and resurrection of Christ. It does not, of course, follow that the transaction was not typical of Christ, or that the writer does net so regard it; we are only considering what his language fit itself implies. Rendered literally, and with retention of the order of the words, the sentence runs: "From whence [i.e. from the dead] him [i.e. Isaac, αὐτόν being slightly emphatic, as is shown by its position in the sentence, equivalent to illum, not eum; and this suitably after the general proposition preceding] he did too in a parable win [ἐκομίσατο, equivalent to sibi acquisivit; cf. ver. 39, οὐκ ἐκομίσαντο τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν]." With regard to what we may call the moral aspect of this peculiar trial of Abraham's faith, a few words may be said, since a difficulty naturally suggests itself on the subject. How, it may be asked, is it consistent with our ideas of Divine righteousness, that even readiness to slay his son should be required of Abraham as a duty? How are we to account for this apparent sanction of the principle of human sacrifices? To the latter question we may reply, in the first place, that the narrative in Genesis, taken as a whole, affords no such sanction, but very much the contrary. All we are told is that the great patriarch, in the course of his religious training, was once divinely led to suppose such a sacrifice to be required of him. The offering of sons was not unusual in the ancient races among where Abraham lived; and, however shocking such a practice might be, and however condemned in later Scripture, it was due, we may say. to the perversion only of a true instinct of humanity - that which suggests the need of some great atonement, and the claim of the Giver of all to our best and dearest, if demanded from us. That Abraham should be even divinely led to suppose for a time that his God required him to express his acknowledgment of this need and this claim by not withholding from him as much as even the heathen were accustomed to offer to their gods, is consistent with God's general way of educating men to a full knowledge of the truth. But the sacrifice was ill the end emphatically forbidden by a voice from heaven; to Abraham thenceforth, and to his seed for ever, it was made dearly known that, though God does require atonement for sin and entire submission to his will, he does not require violence to be done to tender human feeling, or any cruel rites.
Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:
Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
Verse 20. - By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even (or, also) concerning things to come. Here the word καὶ (omitted in the Textus Receptus) gives force to what is meant; words uttered by the patriarchs in the spirit of prophecy being now adduced as further evidence of their faith. To those inspired by this spirit even the distant future is realized as present; and faith is not only a condition of such prophetic visions being granted to them, but is also evinced by their trusting the visions as Divine revelations, and speaking with confidence accordingly. The prophet seems as though able himself to control the future by giving or withholding blessing (cf. Jeremiah 1:10); but it is really that his mind and will are at one with the mind and will of God: a Divine voice speaks within him, and through faith he is receptive of it and gives it utterance. Thus it was that even the future characters, and changing relations to each other, of the yet unborn races of Israel and Edom are represented as having been foreshadowed in the blessings of that dying patriarch.
By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.
Verse 21. - By faith Jacob, when he was a-dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. Here two distinct incidents are referred to, both at the close of Jacob's life. That first mentioned, the blessing of the sons of Joseph (Genesis 48:2), closely resembles the dying act of Isaac already spoken of, and has a similar significance. In both cases, too, human intention is overruled, in that the younger son obtains the higher blessing; and each patriarch accepts alike the Divine intimation to this effect, thus further evincing faith in a power and a will above his own. The latter part of the verse, "and worshipped," etc., is quoted from Genesis 47:31, and refers to a previous instance of the dying Jacob's faith, in his charge to Joseph to bury him with his fathers in the land of promise. The reversal in the text of the historical order of the two instances may be because the one referred to first is cognate with the instance of Isaac's faith which has gone before, the other with that of Joseph's which follows. For the benedictions of Isaac and Jacob, when a-dying, expressed faith in revelations made to them about the several races of their future seed; the deathbed charges of Jacob and Joseph expressed faith in the chosen seed's inheritance of the Promised Land. Though in the verse before us Jacob's charge to Joseph, with a view to this inheritance, is not mentioned, yet the quotation from the account of it in Genesis, "and worshipped," etc., would be sufficient, in this concise summary of instances, to recall it to the mind of readers, and so intimate the writer's meaning. The variation of the LXX., which is here followed as usual, from the Massoretic text, in reading "staff" instead of "bed," is due to the ambiguity of the Hebrew word, which has one meaning or the other according to its pointing. "Bed" seems more likely to have been intended, inasmuch as the bed on which the patriarch lay is twice again mentioned (Genesis 48:2; Genesis 49:33) in the account of the closing scene; and we find also a similar expression used of David in his old age (1 Kings 1:47). Bat the variation is unimportant, the essence of the passage being in the word translated "bowed himself," which in the Hebrew as well as the Greek certainly expresses an act of worship. The only difference is that, according to one rendering, this worship was expressed by his bowing over the staff on which he leant as he sat upon the bed (Genesis 48:2); according to the other, by his turning round to prostrate himself with his head upon the pillow. The view of some of the Fathers, who, adopting the LXX. rendering and supposing the staff to be Joseph's, regard the act as expressing reverence to Joseph himself, in fulfillment of Gem 38:5-11, has little probability in its favor, and is controverted by St. Augustine. But so Chrysostom, and apparently Theodoret. And suitably to this idea, the Vulgate has in Hebrews, "et adoravit fastigium virgae ejus," though in Genesis, "adoravit Israel Deum, conversus ad lectuli caput." Quite untenable, and only worthy of mention because of the use that has been made of it in support of image-worship, is the idea that Joseph's staff was surmounted by some sacred image which Jacob adored.
By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.
Verse 22. - By faith Joseph, when dying, made mention of the departing (Exodus) of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones. The reference is to Genesis 50:24, 25, which, after what has been said above, requires no further comment.
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.
Verse 23. - By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw that he was a proper (ἀστεῖον, the word used of the child in Exodus 2:2, there translated "goodly," and in Acts 7:20, "fair") child; and they were not afraid of the king's commandment. Here the usual following of the LXX. again appears in the hiding being attributed to both parents (this is certainly the meaning of πατέρων, not - as some interpret because of the masculine form - father and grandfather). In the Hebrew it is the mother only that is spoken of as hiding him; whereas in the LXX. the verbs are in the plural, ἰδόντες δὲ, etc., though with no expressed nominative. It is not necessary to understand a special faith in the fulfillment of the promises through the child thus hidden to be implied, though it may be so intended. But the mere fearlessness in obeying the dictates of heart and conscience in the face of danger, and the mere reliance on Providence, thus displayed, expressed faith.
By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter;
Verses 24-26. - By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in (or, of) Egypt; for he had respect unto (literally, looked away to) the recompense of reward. As in the speech of Stephen (Acts 7.), so here, the narrative in Exodus is supplemented from tradition, such as is found also in Philo. Moses' refusal to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, i.e. his renunciation of his position in the court in order to associate himself with his oppressed fellow-countrymen, is not mentioned in the original history, though it is consistent with it, and indeed implied. St. Stephen further regards his taking the part of the Israelite against the Egyptian (Exodus 2:11-13) as a sign that he was already conscious of his mission, and hoped even then to rouse his countrymen to make a struggle for freedom. The reproach he subjected himself to by thus preferring the patriot's to the courtier's life is here called "the reproach of Christ." How so? Chrysostom takes the expression to mean only the same kind of reproach as Christ was afterwards subjected to, in respect of his being scorned, and his Divine mission disbelieved, by those whom he came to save. But, if the expression had been used with respect to Christian's suffering for the faith (as it is below, Hebrews 13:13), it would certainly imply more than this; viz. a participation in Christ's own reproach, not merely a reproach like his. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 1:5, τὰ παθήματα τοῦ Ξριστοῦ, and Colossians 1:24, τῶν θλίψεων τοῦ Ξριστοῦ, where there is the further idea expressed of Christ himself suffering in his members.) And such being the idea which the phrase in itself would at once convey to Christian readers, and especially as the very same is used below (Hebrews 13:13) with reference to Christians, it must surely be somehow involved in this passage. But how so, we ask again, in the case of Moses? To get at the idea of the phrase we must bear in mind the view of the Old and New Testaments being but two parts of one Divine dispensation. The Exodus was thus not only typical of the deliverance through Christ, but also a step towards it, a preparation for it, a link in the divinely ordered chain of events leading up to the great redemption. Hence, in the first place, the reproach endured by Moses in furtherance of the Exodus may be regarded as endured at any rate for the sake of Christ, i.e. in his cause whose coming was the end and purpose of the whole dispensation. And further, inasmuch as Christ is elsewhere spoken of as the Head of the whole mystical body of his people in all ages - all to be gathered together at last in him - he may be regarded, even before his incarnation, as himself reproached in the reproach of his servant Moses. Compare the view, presented in Hebrews 3, of the Son being Lord of the "house" in which Moses was a servant, and the comprehensive sense of "God's house" implied in that passage. Nor should we leave out of consideration the identification, maintained by the Fathers generally (see Bull, 'Def. Fid. Nic.,' I. 1.), of the Angel of the Pentateuch, of him who revealed himself to Moses as I AM from the bush, with the Second Person of the holy Trinity, the Word who became incarnate in Christ. (Cf. John 1:1-15; also John 8:58, read in connection with Exodus 3:14; and 1 Corinthians 10:4, where the spiritual rock that followed the children of Israel in the wilderness is said to have been Christ.) Whatever, however, be the exact import of the expression, "reproach of Christ," in its application to Moses, it is evidently selected here with the view of bringing his example home to the readers of the Epistle, by thus intimating that his faith's trial was essentially the same as theirs.
Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.
By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
Verse 27. - By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. This forsaking of Egypt must, because of the order in which it comes and of Moses alone being mentioned, be his flight related in Exodus 2:15, not the final Exodus. The only seeming difficulty is in the expression, "not fearing the wrath of the king," whereas in the history Moses is represented as flying in fear from the face of Pharaoh, who sought to slay him. But the two views of his attitude of mind are reconcilable. The assertion of his fearlessness applies to his whole course of action from the time when he elected to brave the king in behalf of Israel. In pursuance of this course, it became necessary for him to leave Egypt for a time. In this, as well as in staying, there was danger; for the king might pursue him: he might, perhaps, have secured his own safety by returning to the court and giving up his project; but he persevered at all hazards. And thus the apprehension of immediate danger under which he fled the country with a view to final success, was in no contradiction to his general fearlessness. Further, his being content to leave Egypt at all, and that for so many years, and still never relinquishing his design, was an additional evidence of faith, as is expressed by the word ἐκαρτέρησε, "he endured." The vision through faith of the unseen heavenly King kept alive his hope through those long years of exile: what was any possible wrath even of the terrible Pharaoh to one supported by that continual vision?
Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.
Verses 28, 29. - By faith he kept (literally, hath kept, πεποίηκεν, the perfect being used rather than the historical aorist, as denoting an accomplished act, with continuing effect and significance (cf. προσενήνοχεν, ver. 17). But πεποίηκεν does not mean, as some suppose, "hath instituted," ποιεῖν τὸ Πάσχα being the usual expression for the celebration) the Passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea, as by dry land; which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned. The faith of Moses himself is still mainly intended here, though the conjunction of πίστει with διέβησαν seems to imply faith in the people too. Nor is this inconsistent with the narrative; for, though they are represented as having cried out in their sore fear, and even reproached their leader for bringing them out of Egypt to die in the wilderness, yet on his exhortation, "Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD," they may be supposed to have trusted him, and caught something of the inspiration of his faith. Moses, indeed, stands out as a prominent example (and this is one point in the moral teaching of his history) of the strong faith of one great man, not only availing in behalf of others, but also in some degree infecting a whole community, little disposed at first to make heroic ventures.
By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.
Verse 30. - By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were compassed about seven days (see Joshua 6:1-21). The capture of Jericho may be selected for mention, not only because of its extraordinary character, but also as being the beginning of the campaign in Canaan, the first necessary conquest that opened the way to the rest. The history is not further pursued in detail, this being sufficient to suggest it all. Only, for a special reason, the case of Rahab has attention drawn to it.
By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.
Verse 31.- By faith Rahab the harlot perished not with them that were disobedient, when she had received the spies with peace. Rahab is instanced also by St. James (James 2:25) as having sh
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:
Verses 32-34. - And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of Barak and Samson and Jephthah; and of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the months of lions, quenched the power (δύναμιν) of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight (literally, were made strong in war), turned to flight armies of aliens. The names thus mentioned are meant as prominent specimens of the long array of Israel's heroes to the end of the sacred history, though, for the avoidance of prolixity, the list is not continued beyond the foundation of the kingdom under David and Samuel. Among the judges, Gideon is mentioned first, though he came after Barak, probably as being the most famous hero, as well as more remarkable in the history for faith and heroism. "The day of Midian" is referred to by Isaiah (Isaiah 9:4; Isaiah 10:26) as the memorable triumph of ancient days. Hence (the arrangement of the τες and και of the Textus Receptus being retained) Gideon is first mentioned singly, and is succeeded by two groups - viz. Barak, Samson, and Jephthah, representing the period of the judges generally; then David and Samuel, representing that of the kings and prophets. The deeds enumerated in the following verses need not be appropriated exclusively to particular heroes, but may be rather taken as denoting generally the kind of exploits by which faith was evidenced throughout the history. Some, however, seem to have special references, as the stopping of lions' mouths, and quenching the power of fire, to the incidents recorded in the Book of Daniel. "Escaped the edge of the sword," though peculiarly applicable to Elijah (cf. 1 Kings 19:10, 14, "have slain thy prophets with the sword, and I, even I, only am left," etc.), has, of course, many other applications. Some see in "out of weakness were made strong" a special allusion to Samson's recovery of his strength, but it is better taken in general reference to the frequent instances of the weak things of this world being enabled through faith to confound the strong, and the few to prevail against the many. Numerous expressions to this effect in the Psalms, when the psalmist rises out of the depths of humiliation and weakness into confident reliance on Divine aid, will suggest themselves at once; and the instances of Gideon, Jonathan, David, and others, will occur readily to the mind. In the four concluding clauses of ver. 34, Delitzsch supposes the Maccabean heroes to be specifically alluded to - partly because of the word παρεμβολὴ being used here, as it is also frequently in 1 Maccabees, in the sense of "encamped army," instead of its proper and usual one of "camp" as in Hebrews 13:11, 13 (cf. Acts 21:10; Acts 23:10) This coincidence of usage does add to the probability that the Maccabean history, to which all the expressions are very suitable, was at any rate included in the writer's view. But in the history of Gideon too (Judges 7:2) the LXX. has παρεμβολὴ for the host encamped; καὶ ἔδραμεν πᾶσα ἡ παρεμβολὴ. Allusion to Maccabees is more distinctly evident; in ver. 35, as will be seen. The expression, "obtained promises (ἐπέτυχον ἐπαγγελιῶν)," surely expresses having promises fulfilled to them, not merely having promise made to them. "Promises" being in the plural, and without an article, so as to include all prophetic promises even of a temporal character, such as that to David that he should reign instead of Saul, - there is no need here to reconcile the assertion with that of ver. 39, "received not the promise (οὐκ ἐκομίσαντο τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν);" on which expression, however, see below.
Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
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.
Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:
Verse 35. - Women received their dead raised to life again (literally, from, or, out of resurrection. The A.V. gives the sense in good English; only the force of the repetition of the word "resurrection" at the end of the verse is lost); and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. The first part of this verse evidently refers to 1 Kings 17:22 and 2 Kings 4:36 - the memorable instances in the Old Testament of mothers having had their sons restored to them from death. The latter part is as evidently suggested at least by the narrative of 2 Macc. 7; where it is recorded how, under the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes, seven sons of one mother were tortured and put to death; how one of them, in the midst of his tortures, having deliverance and advancement offered him if he would forsake the Law of his fathers, courageously refused the offer; and how both they and their mother, who encouraged them to persevere, reiterated their hope of a resurrection from the dead. The "better resurrection" means the resurrection to eternal life by them looked for, which was "better" than the temporary restoration to life in this world granted to the sons of the widow of Zarephath and the Shunammite; while the article in the Greek before "deliverance" (τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν) may be due to the thought of that which is recorded to have been offered to those in the writer's immediate view. There is some doubt as to the exact import of the word ἐτυμπανίσθησαν (translated "tortured"). The usual meaning of the Greek word is" to beat," as a drum is beaten, from τύμπανον, a drum or drumstick: and ἀποτυμπανίζειν means "to beat to death." But, inasmuch as the instrument of torture to which Eleazar (whose martyrdom is related in the preceding chapter of 2 Maccabees) was brought is called τὸ τύμπανον (6:19, 28), it has been supposed that the punishment referred to was the stretching of the victims, in the way of a rack, on a sort of wheel called a tympanum, on which they were then beaten to death, as Eleazar was. So Vulgate, distenti sunt. The fact that the seven of 2 Macc. 7. were not so martyred, but by fire and other tortures, is not inconsistent with this view; for our author need not be supposed to confine his view to them, but uses the word suggested by Eleazar's case. Whatever be the exact import of the word, the A.V. ("were tortured") sufficiently gives the generally intended meaning.
And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
Verses 36-38. - And others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 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 (rather, evil-entreated); (of whom the world was not worthy:) wandering in deserts, and mountains, and dens, and the eaves of the earth. In this general review particular cases may again have suggested some of the expressions used. The mention of "mockings" is prominent in the Maccabean history; "bonds and imprisonments" recall Hanani, Micaiah, and Jeremiah; "they were stoned" recalls Zachariah son of Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 24:20; cf. Matthew 23:35; Luke 11:51; also Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34). "They wandered in sheepskins (μηλωταῖς) and in deserts" peculiarly suggests Elijah (his mantle being called μηλωτής in the LXX., 2 Kings 2:13, 14), though the Maccabean heroes also took refuge in "deserts and mountains" (1 Macc. 2.). "Sawn asunder" (denoting a mode of executing martyrs of which there is no instance in the Old Testament or Apocrypha) most probably refers to a well-known tradition about Isaiah, who is said to have so suffered under Manasseh. Alford thus gives the notices found elsewhere of this tradition: "Justin Martyr 'Trypho,' § 120; Tertullian, 'Cont. Guest. Scorpiac.,' 8, and 'De Patient.,' 14; Origen, Ep. ad African.;' Lactantius, 'Inst.,' 4:11; Ps-Epiphanius, 'Vit. Proph.; Augustine, 'De Civ. Dei,' 18:24; Jerome, on Isaiah 57:1." Jerome calls it a "certissima traditio apud Judaeos," and says that this passage in the Epistle was by most referred to the passion of Isaiah. The tameness and apparent inappropriateness of the verb ἐπειράσθησαν ("were tempted") in ver. 36, in the midst of an enumeration of cruel modes of death, has led to a prevalent view that it is a corruption of the original text. Various conjectures have been made, the most tenable being

(1) that it is an interpolation, arising kern the repetition by some copyist of ἐπρίσθησαν, which was afterwards altered to ἐπωιράσθησαν: or

(2) that it is a substitution for some other word through error in transcription, the most likely conjecture as to the word originally written being ἐπρήσθησαν or ἐπυράσθησαν, equivalent to "were burnt." Either form, especially the latter, might easily be changed to ἐπειράσθησαν: and thus death by fire would have been originally included in the enumeration, which was likely to have been the case, especially since it is mentioned prominently in the account of the martyrdom of the seven sons. But, as there is no authority of any manuscript for a different word, this is mere conjecture; though the omission of the word altogether in some few manuscripts and versions, and variations of reading in others, suggest some uncertainty as to the original text. The word ἐπειράσ θησαν if genuine, may possibly have been suggested by alliteration, and by thought of the temptations to apostatize prominent in the account both of Eleazar and of the seven sons.
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;
(Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
Vers, 39, 40. - And these all, having obtained a good report (literally, having been witnessed of, as in ver. 2) through faith, received not the promise: God having provided (or, foreseen) some better thing for (literally, concerning) us, that they without us should not be made perfect. There is no contradiction between the assertion here made, that none of the saints of old "received the promise (ἐκομίσαντο τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν) "and its being said of Abraham (Hebrews 6:15) that he did "obtain the promise (ἐπέτυχε τῆς ἐπαγγελίας)." For though in both passages "the promise," i.e. the great Messianic promise (not "premises," as in ver. 33, supra), is spoken of - or at any rate, in the case of Abraham, ultimately referred to - yet the verbs used are different and have different meanings, He "obtained" or attained to it, in the sense of having it confirmed and assured to him and his seed (see note on Hebrews 6:15); but he did not actually get it so as to reduce it to possession and enter into the enjoyment of it. The realization of all that is meant by the word here used is, indeed, even to Christian believers, still future (for cf. Hebrews 10:36, ἵνα κομίσησθε τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν). Nay, it is future also in its fullness, even to the saints at rest; for in the passage just quoted it is plainly intimated that the entire fulfillment will not be till "he that shall come" comes; i.e. till the second advent. The redeemed whose probation on earth is over are indeed, in one sense, said to be already "perfected" (cf. Hebrews 10:14; Hebrews 12:23); but still the "perfect consummation and bliss both in body and soul" is nowhere in the New Testament contemplated till "the end." In the mean time, even the saints under the heavenly altar still cry, "Lord, how long?" and the Spirit and the bride say, "Come, Lord Jesus." The full idea, then, of ver. 40 may be that, according to the eternal Divine purpose, the promise of redemption should not be fully realized till the number of the elect shall be accomplished, and all the redeemed of all ages since the world began shall be gathered together through Christ in one, and God shall be all in all.

God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
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