Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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HEBREWS - Chapter 11

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Hebrews 11

Supplemental Commentary:

II.  EXHORTATIONS  10, 19 -- 13, 17 (continued)

1.  To Perseverance in Faith  10, 19 -- 11, 40 (continued)

11, 1-40:  Third Motive:  Old Testament Examples.    1.  Faith is here described in some of its effects, and not really defined regarding its own nature.  In the last verse of the preceding chapter, faith was spoken of as essential to salvation; here it is stated that faith is the very foundation (substance) of salvation (things to be hoped for).  Faith also furnishes clear proof (evidence) that what God has testified to exists even though not seen (things that are not seen).  Although the Greek word for "substance" has also the subjective meaning of "assurance," the word for "evidence" never has the subjective meaning of "conviction," which would be necessary for the translation adopted by some that "Faith is the assurance of things to be hoped for, a conviction of things not seen."    2.  Had testimony borne to them: Scripture testifies to their faith.    3.  That the visible world came through creation is known by faith.

4.  Abel's sacrifice was acceptable to God because Abel had faith, which Cain lacked (without faith it is impossible to please God, 6).  Through which: namely, faith.  Though he is dead he yet speaks: see Gen. 4, 10 regarding the voice of Abel's blood crying to heaven for vengeance.

5.  Henoch: see Gen. 5, 21-24.  Henoch's faith is inferred from the fact that he pleased God.  Pleased God is found in the Septuagint; the Hebrew has "walked with God."    6.  Faith in God's existence and in His providence are the two most fundamental acts required for salvation.

7.  Noe: see Gen. 6, 1 -- 9, 29.  Condemned the world: for its unbelief regarding the coming flood.  Was made heir: was given a right to the inheritance which would come through Jesus Christ.  See 39 f below.  Justice which is through faith: and hence not a merely legal justice.

8.  Abraham: see Gen. 12, 1 ff.    10.  City that has the foundations: the heavenly Jerusalem.  See also 12, 22 and 13, 14; Gal. 4, 26; Apoc. 21, 2.  This city is in contrast to the "tents" in which Abraham and his family lived.

11.  Sara: see Gen. 17, 15; 21, 1-3; Rom. 4, 19.  He who had given the promise was faithful: see also 10, 23.  God is faithful to His promises.    12.  See Gen. 22, 17; 32, 12.

13.  Without receiving the promises: without having the Messianic promises realized during their lives.  Minor promises, however, had met their fulfillment.

17.  Offered Isaac: see Gen. 22, 1-18.  The great promises were to be realized through Isaac, yet Abraham was ready to sacrifice him when God requested it.

19.  Received him back as a type: as a type of the Resurrection.  Isaac, who had been given up to death, was restored to Abraham.

20.  Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau: see Gen. 27.    21.  Bowed in worship towards the top of his staff: the Hebrew of Gen. 47, 31 has, "bowed in worship towards the head of his bed."  Jacob had exacted a promise from Joseph to bury him in the Promised Land, convinced in faith that his posterity would possess it as God had promised.  He thanks God, either leaning upon his staff, or prostrating on his bed.  "Bed" and "staff" are spelled with the same Hebrew consonants.    22.  Joseph: see Gen. 50, 24.

23.  See Ex. 2, 2.

26.  Reproach of Christ: Moses suffered disgrace (reproach) because of his belief in divine promises which had their fulfillment in Christ.  The whole Old Testament dispensation was given as a preparation for Christ, and the sufferings endured under that dispensation by God's faithful servants may be looked upon also as having been endured for Christ.  See Pss. 88, 50 f; 68, 9 f; Rom. 15, 3.    27-29.  See Ex. 12, 12 ff.

30 f.  See Jos. 2-6.

33.  Obtained promises: various minor promises and not the great Messianic promise mentioned in 39 below.  Stopped the mouths of lions: see Dan. 6, 22.

34.  Quenched the violence of fire.  see Dan. 3, 17-25; 1 Mach. 2, 59.    35.  See 2 Mach. 7, 29; also 3 Kgs. 17, 23; 4 Kgs. 4, 36.    38.  Caves: see 2 Mach. 6, 11.  The sufferings alluded to in 36-38 are of the Machabean times.

39.  These heroes of the faith did not live to see the Messias, but they have been admitted through their faith into the blessings brought by Him; and they share in them equally with us.  They have been admitted into heaven which was opened by Christ's redemptive work.

Confraternity Bible:

Third Motive: Old Testament Examples  1* Now faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that are not seen; 2* for by it the men of old had testimony borne to them.  3 By faith we understand that the world was fashioned by the word of God; and thus things visible were made out of things invisible.

Abel  4 By faith Abel offered to God a sacrifice more excellent than did Cain, through which he obtained a testimony that he was just, God giving testimony to his gifts; and through his faith, though he is dead, he yet speaks.

Henoch  5 By faith Henoch was taken up lest he should see death; and he was not found, because God took him up.  For before he was taken up he had testimony that he pleased God, 6 and without faith it is impossible to please God.  For he who comes to God must believe that God exists and is a rewarder to those who seek him.

Noe  7 By faith Noe, having been warned concerning things not seen as yet, prepared with pious fear an ark in which to save his household.  Having thus condemned the world, he was made heir of the justice which is through faith.

Abraham  8 By faith he who is called Abraham obeyed by going out into a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.  9 By faith he abode in the Land of Promise as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the co-heirs of the same promise; 10 for he was looking for the city with fixed foundations, of which city the architect and the builder is God.

Sara  11 By faith even Sara herself, who was barren, received power for the conception of a child when she was past the time of life, because she believed that he who had given the promise was faithful.  12 And so there sprang from one man, though he was as good as dead, issue like the stars of heaven in number and innumerable as the sand that is by the seashore.

The Heavenly Country  13 In the way of faith all these died without receiving the promises, but beholding them afar off, and saluting them and acknowledging that they were pilgrims and strangers on earth.  14 For they who say these things show plainly that they seek a country of their own.  15 And indeed if they were thinking of the country from which they went out, they certainly would have had opportunity to return; 16 but as it is they seek after a better, that is, a heavenly country.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

Abraham's Trial  17 By faith Abraham, when he was put to the test, offered Isaac; and he who had received the promises 18 (to whom it had been said, "In Isaac thy seed shall be called") was about to offer up his only-begotten son, 19 reasoning that God has power to raise up even from the dead; whence also he received him back as a type.

Isaac, Jacob, Joseph  20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau even regarding things to come.  21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph and bowed in worship towards the top of his staff.  22 By faith Joseph, when dying, made mention of the departure of the sons of Israel and gave orders concerning his bones.

Amram and Jochabed  23 By faith Moses was hidden by his parents for three months after his birth, because they saw he was a beautiful babe and they did not fear the king's edict.

Moses  24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, denied that he was a son of Pharaoh's daughter; 25 choosing rather to be afflicted with the people of God than to have the enjoyment of sin for a time, 26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of the Egyptians; for he was looking to the reward.  27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he persevered as if seeing him who cannot be seen.  28 By faith he celebrated the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, that he who destroyed the firstborn might not touch them.

The Israelites  29 By faith they passed through the Red Sea, as through dry land; whereas the Egyptians, attempting it, were swallowed up.  30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had gone around them for seven days.

Rahab  31 By faith Rahab the harlot, who had received the spies in peace, did not perish with the unbelievers.

More Heroes of Faith  32 And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, of Barac, of Samson, of Jephthe, of David and of Samuel and the prophets, 33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, wrought justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, recovered strength from weakness, became valiant in battle, put to flight armies of aliens.  35 Women had their dead restored to them by resurrection.  Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might find a better resurrection.  36 Others had experience of mockery and stripes, yes, even of chains and prisons.  37 They were stoned, they were sawed asunder, they were tempted, they were put to death by the sword.  They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, distressed, afflicted--- 38 of whom the world was not worthy---wandering in deserts,  mountains, caves and holes in the earth.

Imperfection of Their State  39 And all these, though they had been approved by the testimony of faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 for God had something better in view for us; so that they should not be perfected without us.


1: The sense is: faith is assurance in the case of things that are hoped for, it is conviction about things that are not seen.

2: Had testimony borne to them: i.e., they gained God's approval.