Hebrews 11


A definition of faith, 1, 2.

What are its immediate objects, 3.

What are its effects, instanced in Abel, 4

In Enoch, 5, 6.

In Noah, 7.

In Abraham, 8-10.

In Sara, 11.

In their righteous posterity, 12-16

In Abraham's offering of his son Isaac, 17-19.

In Isaac, 20.

In Jacob, 21.

In Joseph, 22.

In Moses, 23-28.

In the Israelites in the wilderness, 29.

In the fall of Jericho, 30.

In Rahab, 31.

In several of the judges, and in David, Samuel, and the

prophets, 32-34.

The glorious effects produced by it in the primitive martyrs,



Verse 1. Faith is the substance of things hoped for] εστιδε

πιστιςελπιζομενωνυποστασις. Faith is the SUBSISTENCE of

things hoped for; πραγματωνελεγχοςουβλεπομενων. The

DEMONSTRATION of things not seen. The word υποστασις, which we

translate substance, signifies subsistence, that which becomes a

foundation for another thing to stand on. And ελεγχος signifies

such a conviction as is produced in the mind by the demonstration

of a problem, after which demonstration no doubt can remain,

because we see from it that the thing is; that it cannot but be;

and that it cannot be otherwise than as it is, and is proved to

be. Such is the faith by which the soul is justified; or rather,

such are the effects of justifying faith: on it subsists the peace

of God which passeth all understanding; and the love of God is

shed abroad in the heart where it lives, by the Holy Ghost. At

the same time the Spirit of God witnesses with their spirits who

have this faith that their sins are blotted out; and this is as

fully manifest to their judgment and conscience as the axioms, "A

whole is greater than any of its parts;" "Equal lines and angles,

being placed on one another, do not exceed each other;" or as the

deduction from prop. 47, book i., Euclid: "The square of the base

of a right-angled triangle is equal to the difference of the

squares of the other two sides." ελεγχος is defined by logicians,

Demonstratio quae fit argumentis certis et rationibus indubitatis,

qua rei certitudo efficitur. "A demonstration of the certainly of

a thing by sure arguments and indubitable reasons." Aristotle

uses it for a mathematical demonstration, and properly defines it

thus: ελεγχοςδεεστιςομηδυςατοςαλλωςεξειςαλλουτωςως

ημειςλεγομεν, " Elenehos, or Demonstration, is that which cannot

be otherwise, but is so as we assert." Rhetor. ad Alexand., cap.

14, περιελεγχου. On this account I have adduced the above

theorem from Euclid.

Things hoped for] Are the peace and approbation of God, and

those blessings by which the soul is prepared for the kingdom of

heaven. A penitent hopes for the pardon of his sins and the

favour of his God; faith in Christ puts him in possession of this

pardon, and thus the thing that was hoped for is enjoyed by faith.

When this is received, a man has the fullest conviction of the

truth and reality of all these blessings though unseen by the eye,

they are felt by the heart; and the man has no more doubt of God's

approbation and his own free pardon, than he has of his being.

In an extended sense the things hoped for are the resurrection

of the body, the new heavens and the new earth, the introduction

of believers into the heavenly country, and the possession of

eternal glory.

The things unseen, as distinguished from the things hoped for,

are, in an extended sense, the creation of the world from nothing,

the destruction of the world by the deluge, the miraculous

conception of Christ, his resurrection from the dead, his

ascension to glory, his mediation at the right hand of God, his

government of the universe, &c., &c., all which we as firmly

believe on the testimony of God's word as if we had seen them.

See Macknight. But this faith has particular respect to the

being, goodness, providence, grace, and mercy of God, as the

subsequent verses sufficiently show.

Verse 2. For by it the elders obtained a good report.] By the

elders are meant ancestors, forefathers, such as the patriarchs

and prophets, several of whom he afterwards particularly names,

and produces some fact from the history of their lives.

It is very remarkable that among the whole there is root one

word concerning poor Adam and his wife, though both Abraham and

Sarah are mentioned. There was no good report concerning them;

not a word of their repentance, faith, or holiness. Alas! alas!

did ever such bright suns set in so thick a cloud? Had there been

any thing praiseworthy in their life after their fall, any act of

faith by which they could have been distinguished, it had surely

come out here; the mention of their second son Abel would have

suggested it. But God has covered the whole of their spiritual

and eternal state with a thick and impenetrable veil. Conjectures

relative to their state would be very precarious; little else than

hope can be exercised in their favour: but as to them the promise

of Jesus was given, so we may believe they found redemption in

that blood which was shed from the foundation of the world.

Adam's rebellion against his Maker was too great and too glaring

to permit his name to be ever after mentioned with honour or


The word εμαρτυρηθησαν, which we translate obtained a good

report, literally signifies, were witnessed of; and thus leads us

naturally to GOD, who by his word, as the succeeding parts of the

chapter show, bore testimony to the faith and holiness of his

servants. The apostle does not mention one of whom an account is

not given in the Old Testament. This, therefore, is God's witness

or testimony concerning them.

Verse 3. Through faith we understand] By worlds, τουςαιωνας,

we are to understand the material fabric of the universe; for αιων

can have no reference here to age or any measurement of time, for

he speaks of the things which are SEEN; not being made out of the

things which do APPEAR; this therefore must refer to the material

creation: and as the word is used in the plural number, it may

comprehend, not only the earth and visible heavens, but the whole

planetary system; the different worlds which, in our system at

least, revolve round the sun. The apostle states that these

things were not made out of a pre-existent matter; for if they

were, that matter, however extended or modified, must appear in

that thing into which it is compounded and modified, consequently

it could not be said that the things which are seen are not made

of the things that appear; and he shows us also, by these words,

that the present mundane fabric was not formed or reformed from

one anterior, as some suppose. According to Moses and the apostle

we believe that God made all things out of nothing.

See the note on "Ge 1:1", &c.

At present we see trees of different kinds are produced from

trees; beasts, birds, and fishes, from others of the same kind;

and man, from man: but we are necessarily led to believe that

there was a first man, who owed not his being to man; first there

were beasts, &c., which did not derive their being from others of

the same kind; and so of all manner of trees, plants, &c. God,

therefore, made all these out of nothing; his word tells us so,

and we credit that word.

Verse 4. By faith Abel offered-a more excellent sacrifice]

πλειοναθυσιαν. More sacrifice; as if he had said: Abel, by

faith, made more than one offering; and hence it is said, God

testified of his GIFTS, τοιςδωροις. The plain state of the case

seems to have been this: Cain and Abel both brought offerings to

the altar of God, probably the altar erected for the family

worship. As Cain was a husbandman, he brought a mincha, or

eucharistic offering, of the fruits of the ground, by which he

acknowledged the being and providence of God. Abel, being a

shepherd or a feeder of cattle, brought, not only the eucharistic

offering, but also of the produce of his flock as a sin-offering

to God, by which he acknowledged his own sinfulness, God's justice

and mercy, as well as his being and providence. Cain, not at all

apprehensive of the demerit of sin, or God's holiness, contented

himself with the mincha, or thank-offering: this God could not,

consistently with his holiness and justice, receive with

complacency; the other, as referring to him who was the Lamb slain

from the foundation of the world, God could receive, and did

particularly testify his approbation. Though the mincha, or

eucharistic offering, was a very proper offering in its place, yet

this was not received, because there was no sin-offering. The

rest of the history is well known.

Now by this faith, thus exercised, in reference to an atonement,

he, Abel, though dead, yet speaketh; i.e. preacheth to mankind

the necessity of an atonement, and that God will accept no

sacrifice unless connected with this.

See this transaction explained at large in my notes on "Ge 4:3", &c.

Verse 5. By faith Enoch was translated] It is said, in

Ge 5:24,

that Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.

Here the apostle explains what God's taking him means, by saying

that he was translated that he should not see death; from

which we learn that he did not die, and that God took him to a

state of blessedness without obliging him to pass through death.

See his history explained at large in the above place, in

Ge 5:22-24.

Verse 6. He that cometh to God] The man who professes that it

is his duty to worship God, must, if he act rationally, do it on

the conviction that there is such a Being infinite, eternal,

unoriginated, and self-existent; the cause of all other being; on

whom all being depends; and by whose energy, bounty, and

providence, all other beings exist, live, and are supplied with

the means of continued existence and life. He must believe, also,

that he rewards them that diligently seek him; that he is not

indifferent about his own worship; that he requires adoration and

religious service from men; and that he blesses, and especially

protects and saves, those who in simplicity and uprightness of

heart seek and serve him. This requires faith, such a faith as is

mentioned above; a faith by which we can please God; and now that

we have an abundant revelation, a faith according to that

revelation; a faith in God through Christ the great sin-offering,

without which a man can no more please him, or be accepted of him,

than Cain was. As the knowledge of the being of God is of

infinite importance in religion, I shall introduce at the end of

this chapter a series of propositions, tending to prove the being

of God, 1st, a priori; and 2dly, a posteriori; omitting the proofs

that are generally produced on those points, for which my readers

may refer to works in general circulation on this subject: and

3dly, I shall lay down some phenomena relative to the heavenly

bodies, which it will be difficult to account for without

acknowledging the infinite skill, power, and continual energy of


Verse 7. By faith Noah] See the whole of this history,

Ge 6:13.

Warned of God] ξρηματισθεις. As we know from the history in

Genesis that God did warn Noah, we see from this the real import

of the verb χρηματιζω, as used in various parts of the New

Testament; it signifies to utter oracles, to give Divine warning.

Moved with fear] ευλαβηθεις. Influenced by religious fear or

reverence towards God. This is mentioned to show that he acted

not from a fear of losing his life, but from the fear of God; and

hence that fear is here properly attributed to faith.

He condemned the world] HE credited God, they did not; he

walked in the way God had commanded, they did not; he repeatedly

admonished them, 1Pe 3:20,

they regarded it not; this aggravated their crimes while it

exalted his faith and righteousness. "His faith and obedience

condemned the world, i.e. the unbelievers, in the same sense in

which every good man's virtues and exhortations condemn such as

will not attend to and imitate them." Dodd.

Became heir of the righteousness] He became entitled to that

justification which is by faith; and his temporal deliverance was

a pledge of the salvation of his soul.

Verse 8. Abraham, when he was called] See on Ge 12:1-4.

Not knowing whither he went.] Therefore his obedience was the

fullest proof of his faith in God, and his faith was an implicit

faith; he obeyed, and went out from his own country, having no

prospect of any good or success but what his implicit faith led

him to expect from God, as the rewarder of them that diligently

seek him. In all the preceding cases, and in all that follow, the

apostle keeps this maxim fully in view.

Verse 9. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise] It is

remarkable that Abraham did not acquire any right in Canaan,

except that of a burying place; nor did he build any house in it;

his faith showed him that it was only a type and pledge of a

better country, and he kept that better country continually in

view: he, with Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs of the same

promise, were contented to dwell in tents, without any fixed


Verse 10. For he looked for a city which hath foundations] He

knew that earth could afford no permanent residence for an

immortal mind, and he looked for that heavenly building of which

God is the architect and owner; in a word, he lost sight of earth,

that he might keep heaven in view. And all who are partakers of

his faith possess the same spirit, walk by the same rule, and mind

the same thing.

Whose builder and maker is God.] The word τεχνιτης signifies

an architect, one who plans, calculates, and constructs a

building. The word δημιουργος signifies the governor of a people;

one who forms them by institutions and laws; the framer of a

political constitution. God is here represented the Maker or

Father of all the heavenly inhabitants, and the planner of their

citizenship in that heavenly country. See Macknight.

Verse 11. Through faith also Sara] Her history, as far as the

event here is concerned, may be seen Ge 17:19, and Ge 21:2.

Sarah at first treated the Divine message with ridicule, judging

it to be absolutely impossible, not knowing then that it was from

God; and this her age and circumstances justified, for, humanly

speaking, such an event was impossible: but, when she knew that it

was God who said this, it does not appear that she doubted any

more, but implicitly believed that what God had promised he was

able to perform.

Verse 12. Him as good as dead] According to nature, long past

the time of the procreation of children. The birth of Isaac, the

circumstances of the father and mother considered, was entirely

supernatural; and the people who proceeded from this birth were a

supernatural people; and were and are most strikingly singular

through every period of their history to the present day.

Verse 13. These all died in faith] That is, Abraham, Sarah,

Isaac, and Jacob, continued to believe, to the end of their lives,

that God would fulfil this promise; but they neither saw the

numerous seed, nor did they get the promised rest in Canaan.

Strangers and pilgrims] Strangers, ξενοι, persons who are out

of their own country, who are in a foreign land: pilgrims,

παρεπιδημοι, sojourners only for a time; not intending to take

up their abode in that place, nor to get naturalized in that


How many use these expressions, professing to be strangers and

pilgrims here below, and yet the whole of their conduct, spirit,

and attachments, show that they are perfectly at home! How little

consideration and weight are in many of our professions, whether

they relate to earth or heaven!

Verse 14. Declare plainly that they seek a country.] A man's

country is that in which he has constitutional rights and

privileges; no stranger or sojourner has any such rights in the

country where he sojourns. These, by declaring that they felt

themselves strangers and sojourners, professed their faith in a

heavenly country and state, and looked beyond the grave for a

place of happiness. No intelligent Jew could suppose that Canaan

was all the rest which God had promised to his people.

Verse 15. If they had been mindful of that country] They

considered their right to the promises of God as dependent on

their utter renunciation of Chaldea; and it was this that induced

Abraham to cause his steward Eliezer to swear that he would not

carry his son Isaac to Chaldea; see Ge 24:5-8. There idolatry

reigned; and God had called them to be the patriarchs and

progenitors of a people among whom the knowledge of the true God,

and the worship required by him, should be established and


Verse 16. But now they desire a better] They all expected

spiritual blessings, and a heavenly inheritance; they sought God

as their portion, and in such a way and on such principles that he

is not ashamed to be called their God; and he shows his affection

for them by preparing for them a city, to wit, heaven, as

themselves would seek no city on earth; which is certainly what

the apostle has here in view. And from this it is evident that

the patriarchs had a proper notion of the immortality of the soul,

and expected a place of residence widely different from Canaan.

Though to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the promises were made in

which Canaan was so particularly included, yet God did not give

them any inheritance in that country, no, not so much as to set a

foot on; Ac 7:5. Therefore, if they had not understood the

promises to belong to spiritual things, far from enduring, as

seeing him who is invisible, they must have considered themselves

deceived and mocked. The apostle therefore, with the highest

propriety, attributes their whole conduct and expectation to


Verse 17. Abraham, when he was tried] See the history of this

whole transaction explained at large in the notes on Ge 22:1-9.

Offered up his only-begotten] Abraham did, in effect, offer up

Isaac; he built an altar, bound his son, laid him upon the altar,

had ready the incense, took the knife, and would immediately have

slain him had he not been prevented by the same authority by which

the sacrifice was enjoined. Isaac is here called his

only-begotten, as be was the only son he had by his legitimate

wife, who was heir to his property, and heir of the promises of

God. The man who proved faithful in such a trial, deserved to

have his faith and obedience recorded throughout the world.

Verse 19. To raise him up, even from the dead] Abraham

staggered not at the promise through unbelief, but was strong in

faith, giving glory to God. The resurrection of the dead must

have been a doctrine of the patriarchs; they expected a heavenly

inheritance, they saw they died as did other men, and they must

have known that they could not enjoy it but in consequence of a

resurrection from the dead.

He received him in a figure.] ενπαραβολη. In my discourse on

parabolical writing at the end of "Mt 13:58, I have shown

(signification_9) that παραβολη sometimes means a daring exploit,

a jeoparding of the life; and have referred to this place.

I think it should be so understood here, as pointing out the very

imminent danger he was in of losing his life. The clause may

therefore be thus translated: "Accounting that God was able to

raise him up from the dead, from whence he had received him, he

being in the most imminent danger of losing his life." It is not,

therefore, the natural deadness of Abraham and Sarah to which the

apostle alludes, but the death to which Isaac on this occasion was

exposed, and which he escaped by the immediate interference of God.

Verse 20. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau] He believed

that God would fulfil his promise to his posterity; and God gave

him to see what would befall them in their future generations.

The apostle does not seem to intimate that one should be an object

of the Divine hatred, and the other of Divine love, in reference

to their eternal states. This is wholly a discovery of later

ages. For an ample consideration of this subject, see the notes

on Gen. 27.

Verse 21. Blessed both the sons of Joseph] That is, Ephraim

and Manasseh. See the account and the notes. Ge 48:5, &c.

Worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff] This subject is

particularly considered in the note, See "Ge 47:31".

It appears, that at the time Joseph visited his father he was

very weak, and generally confined to his couch, having at hand his

staff; either that with which he usually supported his feeble

body, or that which was the ensign of his office, as patriarch or

chief of a very numerous family. The ancient chiefs, in all

countries, had this staff or sceptre continually at hand. See

Homer throughout. It is said, Ge 48:2, that when Joseph came to

see his father Jacob, who was then in his last sickness, Israel

strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed. Still I conceive he

had his staff or sceptre at hand; and while sitting upon the bed,

with his feet on the floor, he supported himself with his staff.

When Joseph sware to him that he should be carried up from Egypt,

he bowed himself on his bed's head, still supporting himself with

his staff, which probably with this last act he laid aside,

gathered up his feet, and reclined wholly on his couch. It was

therefore indifferent to say that he worshipped or bowed himself

on his staff or on his bed's head. But as shachah signifies,

not only to bow, but also to worship, because acts of adoration

were performed by bowing and prostration; and as mittah,

a bed, by the change of the vowel points becomes matteh, a staff,

hence the Septuagint have translated the passage καιπροσεκυνησεν.

ισραηλεπιτοακροντηςραβδουαυτου. And Israel bowed or

worshipped on the head of his staff. This reading the apostle

follows here literatim.

Wretched must that cause be which is obliged to have recourse to

what, at best, is an equivocal expression, to prove and support a

favourite opinion. The Romanists allege this in favour of image

worship. This is too contemptible to require confutation. To

make it speak this language the Rheims version renders the verse

thus: By faith Jacob dying, blessed every one of the sons of

Joseph, and adored the top of his rod. A pretty object of

adoration, indeed, for a dying patriarch! Here the preposition

επι upon, answering to the Hebrew al, is wholly

suppressed, to make it favour the corrupt reading of the Vulgate.

This preposition is found in the Hebrew text, in the Greek version

of the Seventy, the printed Greek text of the New Testament, and

in every MS. yet discovered of this epistle. It is also found in

the Syriac, AEthiopic, Arabic, and Coptic: in which languages the

connection necessarily shows that it is not an idle particle: and

by no mode of construction can the text be brought to support

image worship, any more than it can to support transubstantiation.

Verse 22. Joseph, when he died] τελευτων, When he was dying,

gave commandment concerning his bones. On this subject I refer

the reader to the notes on "Ge 50:25". And I have this to

add to the account I have given of the sarcophagus now in the

British Museum, vulgarly called Alexander's coffin, that it is

more probably the coffin of Joseph himself; and, should the time

ever arrive in which the hieroglyphics on it shall he interpreted,

this conjecture may appear to have had its foundation in truth.

Verse 23. By faith Moses, &c.] See the notes on "Ex 2:2", and

See "Ac 7:20". We know that Moses was bred up at the Egyptian

court, and there was considered to be the son of Pharaoh's

daughter; and probably might have succeeded to the throne of Egypt:

but, finding that God had visited his people, and given them a

promise of spiritual and eternal blessings, he chose rather to

take the lot of this people, i.e. God as his portion for ever,

than to enjoy the pleasures of sin, which, however gratifying to

the animal senses, could only be προσκαιρον, temporary.

After the 23d verse, there is a whole clause added by DE, two

copies of the Itala, and some copies of the Vulgate. The clause

is the following: πιστειμεγαςγενομενοςμωυσηςανειλεντον

αιγυπτιονκατανοωντηνταπεινωσιντωναδελφωναυτου. By faith

Moses, when he was grown up, slew the Egyptian, considering the

oppression of his own brethren. This is a remarkable addition,

and one of the largest in the whole New Testament. It seems to

have been collected from the history of Moses as given in Exodus,

and to have been put originally into the margin of some MS., from

which it afterwards crept into the text.

Verse 26. The reproach of Christ] The Christ or Messiah had

been revealed to Moses; of him he prophesied, De 18:15; and the

reproach which God's people had, in consequence of their decided

opposition to idolatry, may be termed the reproach of Christ, for

they refused to become one people with the Egyptians, because the

promise of the rest was made to them, and in this rest CHRIST and

his salvation were included: but, although it does not appear

these things were known to the Hebrews at large, yet it is evident

that there were sufficient intimations given to Moses concerning

the Great Deliverer, (of whom himself was a type,) that determined

his conduct in the above respect; as he folly understood that he

must renounce his interest in the promises, and in the life

eternal to which they led, if he did not obey the Divine call in

the present instance. Many have been stumbled by the word ο

χριστος, Christ, here; because they cannot see how Moses should

have any knowledge of him. It may be said that it was just as

easy for God Almighty to reveal Christ to Moses, as it was for him

to reveal him to Isaiah, or to the shepherds, or to John Baptist;

or to manifest him in the flesh. After all there is much reason

to believe that, by τουχριστου, here, of Christ or the anointed,

the apostle means the whole body of the Israelitish or Hebrew

people; for, as the word signifies the anointed, and anointing was

a consecration to God, to serve him in some particular office, as

prophet, priest, king, or the like, all the Hebrew people were

considered thus anointed or consecrated; and it is worthy of

remark that χριστος is used in this very sense by the Septuagint,

1Sa 2:35; Ps 105:15; and Hab 3:13; where the word is necessarily

restrained to this meaning.

He had respect unto the recompense] απεβλεπε. He looked

attentively to it; his eyes were constantly directed to it. This

is the import of the original word; and the whole conduct of Moses

was an illustration of it.

Verse 27. He forsook Egypt] He believed that God would fulfil

the promise he had made; and he cheerfully changed an earthly for

a heavenly portion.

Not fearing the wrath of the king] The apostle speaks here of

the departure of Moses with the Israelites, not of his flight to

Midian, Ex 2:14, 15; for he was then in great fear: but when he

went to Pharaoh with God's authority, to demand the dismission of

the Hebrews, he was without fear, and acted in the most noble and

dignified manner; he then feared nothing but God.

As seeing him who is invisible.] He continued to act as one who

had the judge of his heart and conduct always before his eyes. By

calling the Divine Being the invisible, the apostle distinguishes

him from the god's of Egypt, who were visible, corporeal, gross,

and worthless. The Israelites were worshippers of the true God,

and this worship was not tolerated in Egypt. His pure and

spiritual worship could never comport with the adoration of oxen,

goats, monkeys, leeks, and onions.

Verse 28. He kept the passover] God told him that he would

destroy the first-born of the Egyptians, but would spare all those

whose doors were sprinkled with the blood of the paschal lamb.

Moses believed this, kept the passover, and sprinkled the blood.

See the notes on Ex 12. One of the Itala adds here, Fide

praedaverunt AEgyptios exeuntes. "By faith, when they went out,

they spoiled the Egyptians." This is any thing but genuine.

Verse 29. By faith they passed through the Red Sea]

See the notes on "Ex 14:22". The Egyptians thought they could

walk through the sea as well as the Israelites; they tried, and

were drowned; while the former passed in perfect safety. The one

walked by faith, the other by sight; one perished, the other was


Verse 30. The walls of Jericho fell down] This is particularly

explained Jos 6:1, &c. God had promised that the walls of

Jericho should fall down, if they compassed them about seven days.

They believed, did as they were commanded, and the promise was


Verse 31. The harlot Rahab perished not] See this account

Jos 2:1, 9, 11, and Jos 6:23, where it is rendered exceedingly

probable that the word zonah in Hebrew, and πορνη in Greek,

which we translate harlot, should be rendered innkeeper or

tavernkeeper, as there is no proper evidence that the person in

question was such a woman as our translation represents her. As

to her having been a harlot before and converted afterwards, it is

a figment of an idle fancy. She was afterwards married to Salmon,

a Jewish prince; see Mt 1:5. And it is extremely incredible

that, had she been what we represent her, he would have sought for

such an alliance.

Received the spies with peace.] μετειρηνης. The same as

beshalom, giving them a kind welcome, good fare, and

protection. After these words the Slavonic adds: καιετεραοδω

εκβαλουσα, and sent them out another way.

Verse 32. Time would fail me] μεδιηγουμενονοχρονος. A very

usual mode of expression with the best Greek writers, when they

wish to intimate that much important intelligence remains to be

communicated on the subject already in hand, which must be omitted

because of other points which have not yet been handled.

Gedeon] Who by faith in God, with 300 men, destroyed a

countless multitude of Midianites and Amalekites, and delivered

Israel from oppression and slavery. Jud 6., 7., 8.

Barak] Who overthrew Jabin, king of Canaan, and delivered

Israel from servitude. Jud. 4.

Samson] Who was appointed by God to deliver Israel from the

oppressive yoke of the Philistines; and, by extraordinary

assistance, discomfited them on various occasions. Jud. 13.-16.

Jephthae] Who, under the same guidance, defeated the Ammonites,

and delivered Israel. Jud. 11., 12.

David] King of Israel, whose whole life was a life of faith and

dependence on God; but whose character will be best seen in those

books which contain an account of his reign, and the book of

Psalms, to which, and the notes there, the reader must be

referred. It is probable he is referred to here for that act of

faith and courage which he showed in his combat with Goliah. See

1Sam 17.

Samuel] The last of the Israelitish judges, to whom succeeded a

race of kings, of whom Saul and David were the two first, and were

both anointed by this most eminent man. See his history in the

first book of Samuel.

All these are said to have performed their various exploits

through faith. 1. The faith of Gideon consisted in his throwing

down the altar of Baal, and cutting down his grove, in obedience

to the command of God. 2. The faith of Barak consisted in his

believing the revelation made to Deborah, and the command to go

against Jabin's numerous army. 3. Samson's faith consisted in his

obeying the various impulses produced by the Spirit of God in his

own mind. 4. Jephthae's faith consisted particularly in his

believing the promise made to Abraham and his posterity, that they

should possess the land of Canaan; and in his resolutely fighting

against the Ammonites, that they might not deprive the Israelites

of the land between Arnon and Jabbok. It may be observed, here,

that the apostle does not produce these in chronological order;

for Barak lived before Gideon, and Jephthae before Samson, and

Samuel before David. He was not producing facts in their

chronological order, but instances of the power of God exerted in

the behalf of men who had strong confidence in him.

Verse 33. Who through faith subdued kingdoms] As Joshua, who

subdued the seven Canaanitish nations; and David, who subdued the

Moabites, Syrians, Ammonites, and Edomites. 2Sam 8., &c.

Wrought righteousness] Did a great variety of works indicative

of that faith in God without which it is impossible to do any

thing that is good.

Obtained promises] This is supposed to refer to Joshua and

Caleb, who, through their faith in God, obtained the promised

land, while all the rest of the Israelites were excluded; to

Phineas also, who, for his act of zealous faith in slaying Zimri

and Cosbi, got the promise of an everlasting priesthood; and to

David, who, for his faith and obedience, obtained the kingdom of

Israel, and had the promise that from his seed the Messiah should


Stopped the mouths of lions] Daniel, who, though cast into a

den of lions for his fidelity to God, was preserved among them

unhurt, and finally came to great honour.

Verse 34. Quenched the violence of fire] As in the case of the

three faithful Hebrews, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who, for

their steady attachment to God's worship, were cast into a fiery

furnace, in which they were preserved, and from which they escaped

unhurt. Dan. 3.

Escaped the edge of the sword] Moses, who escaped the sword of

Pharaoh, Ex 18:4;

Elijah, that of Jezebel; and David, that of Saul: and many others.

Out of weakness were made strong] Were miraculously restored

from sickness, which seemed to threaten their life; as Hezekiah,

Isa 38:21.

Waxed valiant in fight] Like Gideon, who overthrew the camp of

the Midianites, and Jonathan, that of the Philistines, in such a

way as must have proved that God was with them.

Verse 35. Women received their dead] As did the widow of

Zarephath, 1Ki 17:21,

and the Shunammite, 2Ki 4:34. What other cases under all the

above heads the apostle might have in view, we know not.

Others were tortured] ετυμπανισθησαν. This is a word

concerning the meaning of which the critics are not agreed.

τυμπανον signifies a stick, or baton, which was used in

bastinadoing criminals. And τυμπανιζω signifies to beat

violently, and is thus explained by the best lexicographers.

After considering what others have written on this subject, I am

inclined to think that the bastinado on the soles of the feet is

what is here designed. That this was a most torturing and

dangerous punishment, we learn from the most authentic accounts;

and it is practised among the Turks and other Mohammedans to the

present day. Mr. Antes, of Fulnek, is Yorkshire, twenty years a

resident in Egypt, furnishes the latest account I have met with;

he himself was the unhappy subject of his own description. See at

the end of this chapter, article 4. See "Heb 11:40"

Not accepting deliverance] This looks very like a reference to

the case of the mother and her seven sons, mentioned 2Mac 7:1, &c.

Verse 36. Had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings] We do

not know the cases to which the apostle refers. The mockings here

can never mean such as those of Ishmael against Isaac, or the

youths of Bethel against Elisha. It is more probable that it

refers to public exhibitions of the people of God at idol feasts

and the like; and Samson's case before Dagon, when the Philistines

had put out his eyes, is quite in point. As to scourgings, this

was a common way of punishing minor culprits: and even those who

were to be punished capitally were first scourged. See the case

of our Lord.

Bond's and imprisonment] Joseph was cast into prison; Jeremiah

was cast into a dungeon full of mire, Jer 37:16, and Jer 38:6;

and the Prophet Micaiah was imprisoned by Ahab, 1Ki 22:27.

Verse 37. They were stoned] As Zechariah, the son of Barachiah

or Jehoida, was, between the altar and the temple; see the

account, 2Ch 24:21;

and See the notes on "Mt 23:35". And as Naboth the Jezreelite,

who, on refusing to give up his father's inheritance to a covetous

king, because it had respect to the promise of God, was falsely

accused and stoned to death; 1Ki 21:1-14.

They were sawn asunder] There is a tradition that the Prophet

Isaiah was thus martyred. In Yevamoth, fol. 49, 2, it is thus

written: "Manasseh slew Isaiah; for he commanded that he should be

slain with a wooden saw. They then brought the saw, and cut him

in two; and when the saw reached his mouth, his soul fled forth."

St. Jerome and others mention the same thing; and among the Jews

the tradition is indubitable.

Were tempted] επειρασθησαν. I believe this word has vexed the

critics more than any other in the New Testament. How being

tempted can be ranked among the heavy sufferings of the primitive

martyrs and confessors is not easy to discern, because to be

tempted is the common lot of every godly man. This difficulty has

induced learned men to mend the text by conjecture: Beza proposes

επυρωθησαν, they were branded. Junius, Piscator, and others,

propose επυρασθησαν, they were burnt alive. Gataker thinks

επρησθησαν, a word of the same import, should be preferred.

Tanaquil Faber gives the preference to επηρωθησαν, they were

mutilated-had different parts of their bodies lopped off. Sir

Norton Knatchbull contends for επαρτησαν, they were transfixed,

or pierced through. Alberti thinks the original reading was

εσπειρασθησαν, they were strangled. About as many more

differences have been proposed by learned men, all hearing a very

clear resemblance to the words now found in the Greek text. By

three MSS. the word is entirely omitted; as also by the Syriac,

Arabic of Erpen, the AEthiopic, and by Eusebius and

Theophylact. Of all the conjectures, that of Knatchbull appears

to me to be the most probable: they were transfixed or impaled;

and even the present reading might be construed in this sense.

Were slain with the sword] As in the case of the eighty-five

priests slain by Doeg, see 1Sa 22:18;

and the prophets, of whose slaughter by the sword Elijah complains,

1Ki 19:10.

Probably the word means being beheaded, which was formerly done

with a sword, and not with an axe; and in the east is done by the

sword to the present day.

They wandered about in sheepskins] μηλωταις Sheepskins dressed

with the wool on. This was probably the sort of mantle that

Elijah wore, and which was afterwards used by Elisha; for the

Septuagint, in 2Ki 2:8-13, expressly say: καιελαβενηλιαςτην

μηλωτηναυτου. and Elijah took his SHEEPSKIN (mantle.) καιυψωσε

τηνμηλωτηνηλιουηεπεσενεπανωθεναυτου. And he (Elisha) took

the SHEEPSKIN of Elijah which had fallen from off him. It was

most probably on this account, as Dr. Macknight conjectures, that

Elijah was called a hairy man, 2Ki 1:8; and not on account of

having a preposterously long beard, as those marrers of all the

unities of time, place, circumstances, and common sense, the

painters, represent him. And it is likely that the prophets

themselves wore such garments, and that the false prophets

imitated them in this, in order that they might gain the greater

credit. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets

shall be ashamed every one of his vision-neither shall they wear a

rough garment to deceive, Zec 13:4;

δερριντριχινην, a hairy skin, SEPT., probably the goatskins

mentioned above. In general, this was an upper garment; but, in

the cases to which the apostle alludes, the sheepskin and goatskin

seem to have been the only covering.

Being destitute] υστερουμενοι. In want of all the comforts

and conveniences of life, and often of its necessaries.

Afflicted] In consequence of enduring such privations.

Tormented] κακουχουμενοι. Maltreated, harassed, variously

persecuted by those to whom they brought the message of salvation.

Verse 38. Of whom the world was not worthy] Yet they were

obliged to wander by day in deserts and mountains, driven from the

society of men, and often obliged to hide by night in dens and

caves of the earth, to conceal themselves from the brutal rage of

men. Perhaps he refers here principally to the case of Elijah,

and the hundred prophets hidden in caves by Obadiah, and fed with

bread and water. See 1Ki 18:4. David was often obliged thus to

hide himself from Saul; 1Sa 24:3, &c.

Verse 39. Having obtained a good report (having been witnessed

to; see Heb 11:2)

through faith] It was faith in God which supported all those

eminent men who, in different parts of the world, and in different

ages, were persecuted for righteousness sake.

Received not the promise] They all heard of the promises made

to Abraham of a heavenly rest, and of the promise of the Messiah,

for this was a constant tradition; but they died without having

seen this Anointed of the Lord. Christ was not in any of their

times manifested in the flesh; and of him who was the expectation

of all nations, they heard only by the hearing of the ear. This

must be the promise, without receiving of which the apostle says

they died.

Verse 40. God having provided some better thing for us] This

is the dispensation of the Gospel, with all the privileges and

advantages it confers.

That they without us should not be made perfect.] Believers

before the flood, after the flood, under the law, and since the

law, make but one Church. The Gospel dispensation is the last,

and the Church cannot be considered as complete till the believers

under all dispensations are gathered together. As the Gospel is

the last dispensation, the preceding believers cannot be

consummated even in glory till the Gospel Church arrive in the

heaven of heavens.

There are a great variety of meanings put on this place, but the

above seems the most simple and consistent. See Re 6:11. "White

robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto

them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their

fellow servants also, and their brethren, that should be killed as

they were, should be fulfilled." This time, and its blessings,

are now upon the wing.



He that cometh unto God must believe that he is, and

that he is the rewarder of them who diligently seek him.

I. METAPHYSICIANS and philosophers, in order to prove the

existence of God, have used two modes of argumentation:-

1. A priori, proofs drawn from the necessity that such a being

as God is, must exist: arguments of this kind do not produce any

thing in evidence which is derived from his works.

2. A posteriori, proofs of the being and perfections of God,

drawn from his own works.


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