View Hebrews 11 in the note window.
1: The definition of faith given in this verse, and
exemplified in the various instances following,
undoubtedly includes justifying faith, but not directly as
justifying. For faith justifies only as it refers to, and
depends on, Christ. But here is no mention of him as the
object of faith; and in several of the instances that follow,
no notice is taken of him or his salvation, but only of
temporal blessings obtained by faith. And yet they may
all be considered as evidences of the power of justifying
faith in Christ, and of its extensive exercise in a course of
steady obedience amidst difficulties and dangers of
every kind. Now faith is the subsistence of things hoped
for, the evidence or conviction of things not seen
- Things hoped for are not so extensive as things not seen.
The former are only things future and joyful to us ; the
latter are either future, past, or present, and those
either good or evil, whether to us or others. The
subsistence of things hoped for - Giving a kind of present
subsistence to the good things which God has promised:
the divine supernatural evidence exhibited to, the
conviction hereby produced in, a believer of things not
seen, whether past, future, or spiritual; particularly of
God and the things of God.
2: By it the elders - Our forefathers. This chapter is a kind of
summary of the Old Testament, in which the apostle comprises
the designs, labours, sojournings, expectations, temptations,
martyrdoms of the ancients. The former of them had a long
exercise of their patience; the latter suffered shorter but
sharper trials. Obtained a good testimony - A most
comprehensive word. God gave a testimony, not only of them
but to them: and they received his testimony as if it had been
the things themselves of which he testified, (Heb 11:4,5,39).
Hence they also gave testimony to others, and others testified
3: By faith we understand that the worlds - Heaven
and earth and all things in them, visible and invisible.
Where made - Formed, fashioned, and finished. By the
word - The sole command of God, without any instrument
or preceding matter. And as creation is the foundation
and specimen of the whole divine economy, so faith in the
creation is the foundation and specimen of all faith. So
that things which are seen - As the sun, earth, stars.
Were made of things which do not appear - Out of the
dark, unapparent chaos, (Ge 1:2). And this very chaos
was created by the divine power; for before it was thus
created it had no existence in nature.
4: By faith - In the future Redeemer. Abel offered
a more excellent sacrifice - The firstlings of his flock,
implying both a confession of what his own sins deserved,
and a desire of sharing in the great atonement. Than Cain
- Whose offering testified no such faith, but a bare
acknowledgment of God the Creator. By which faith he
obtained both righteousness and a testimony of it:
God testifying - Visibly that his gifts were accepted;
probably by sending fire from heaven to consume his
sacrifice, a token that justice seized on the sacrifice
instead of the sinner who offered it. And by it - By this
faith. Being dead, he yet speaketh - That a sinner is
accepted only through faith in the great sacrifice.
5: Enoch was not any longer found among men, though perhaps
they sought for him as they did for Elijah, (2Ki 2:17).
He had this testimony - From God in his own conscience.
6: But without faith - Even some divine faith in God, it is
impossible to please him. For he that cometh to God - in prayer,
or another act of worship, must believe that he is.
7: Noah being warned of things not seen as yet
- Of the future deluge. Moved with fear, prepared an
ark, by which open testimony he condemned the world
- Who neither believed nor feared.
8: (Ge 12:1,4,5)
9: By faith he sojourned in the land of promise
- The promise was made before, (Ge 12:7).
Dwelling in tents - As a sojourner With Isaac and Jacob - Who by
the same manner of living showed the same faith Jacob was born
fifteen years before the death of Abraham. The joint heirs of
the same promise - Having all the same interest therein. Isaac did
not receive this inheritance from Abraham, nor Jacob from Isaac,
but all of them from God.(Ge 17:8)
10: He looked for a city which hath foundations
- Whereas a tent has none. Whose builder and former is God
- Of which God is the sole contriver, former, and finisher.
11: Sarah also herself - Though at first she laughed at the
promise, (Ge 18:12).(Ge 21:2).
12: As it were dead - Till his strength was supernaturally
restored, which continued for many years after.
13: All these -
- Mentioned (Heb 11:7-11).
Died in faith - In death faith acts most vigorously. Not having
received the promises - The promised blessings. Embraced - As one
does a dear friend when he meets him.
14: They who speak thus show plainly that they seek their own
country - That they keep in view, and long for, their native home.
15: If they had been mindful of - Their earthly country,
Ur of the Chaldeans, they might have easily returned.
16: But they desire a better country, that is, an
heavenly - This is a full convincing proof that the patriarchs
had a revelation and a promise of eternal glory in heaven.
Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God:
seeing he hath prepared for them a city - Worthy of God to give.
17: By faith Abraham - When God made that glorious trial
of him. Offered up Isaac - The will being accepted as if he
had actually done it. Yea, he that had received the promises
- Particularly that grand promise, "In Isaac shall thy seed be
called." Offered up - This very son; the only one he had by Sarah.(Ge 22:1),&c.
18: In Isaac shall thy seed be called - From him shall the
blessed seed spring.(Ge 21:12).
19: Accounting that God was able even to raise
him from the dead - Though there had not been any
instance of this in the world. From whence also - To
speak in a figurative way. He did receive him -
Afterwards, snatched from the jaws of death.
20: Blessed -(Ge 27:27,39); prophetically foretold the particular
blessings they should partake of. Jacob and Esau - Preferring
the elder before the younger.
21: Jacob when dying - That is, when near death.
Bowing down on the top of his staff - As he sat on the
side of his bed.(Ge 48:16,47:31)
22: Concerning his bones - To be carried into the land of promise.
23: They saw - Doubtless with a divine presage of things to come.
24: Refused to be called - Any longer.
26: The reproach of Christ - That which he bore for
believing in the Messiah to come, and acting accordingly.
For he looked off - From all those perishing treasures,
and beyond all those temporal hardships Unto the
recompence of reward - Not to an inheritance in Canaan;
he had no warrant from God to look for this, nor did he
ever attain it; but what his believing ancestors looked
for, - a future state of happiness in heaven.
27: By faith he left Egypt - Taking all the Israelites
with him. Not then fearing the wrath of the king - As he
did many years before, (Ex 2:14).(Ex 14:15), &c.
28: The pouring out of the blood - Of the paschal
lamb, which was sprinkled on the door - posts, lest the
destroying angel should touch the Israelites.(Ex 12:12-18).
29: They - Moses, Aaron, and the Israelites.
Passed the Red Sea - It washed the borders of Edom,
which signifies red. Thus far the examples are cited
from Genesis and Exodus; those that follow are from
the former and the latter Prophets.
30: By the faith of Joshua.
31: Rahab - Though formerly one not of the fairest character.
32: After Samuel, the prophets are properly
mentioned. David also was a prophet; but he was a king
too. The prophets - Elijah, Elisha, &c., including likewise
the believers who lived with them.
33-34: David, in particular, subdued kingdoms.
Samuel (not excluding the rest) wrought righteousness.
The prophets, in general, obtained promises, both for
themselves, and to deliver to others. Prophets also
stopped the mouths of lions, as Daniel; and quenched
the violence of fire, as Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abednego. To these examples, whence the nature of faith
clearly appears, those more ancient ones are subjoined,
(by a transposition, and in an inverted order,) which receive
light from these. Jephthah escaped the edge of the sword;
Samson out of weakness was made strong; Barak became
valiant in fight; Gideon put to flight armies of the aliens.
Faith animates to the most heroic enterprises, both civil and
military. Faith overcomes all impediments effects the greatest
things; attains to the very best; and inverts, by its miraculous
power the very course of nature.(2Sa 8:1,1Sa 8:9,13:3,Da 6:22,3:27,Jdg 12:3,15:19,16:28,4:14,7:21).
35: Women - Naturally weak. Received their dead - Children.
Others were tortured - From those who acted great things the
apostle rises higher, to those who showed the power of faith by
suffering. Not accepting deliverance - On sinful terms.
That they might obtain a better resurrection - An higher reward,
seeing the greater their sufferings the greater would be their
glory.(1Ki 17:22,2Ki 4:35)
36: And others - The apostle seems here to pass on to recent
37: They were sawn asunder - As, according to the
tradition of the Jews, Isaiah was by Manasseh. Were
tempted - Torments and death are mentioned alternately.
Every way; by threatenings, reproaches, tortures, the
variety of which cannot be expressed; and again by
promises and allurements.
38: Of whom the world was not worthy - It did not deserve
so great a blessing. They wandered - Being driven out from men.
39: And all these - Though they obtained a good testimony,(Heb 11:2), yet did not receive the great promise, the
40: God having provided some better thing for us - Namely,
everlasting glory. That they might not be perfected without
us - That is, that we might all be perfected together in heaven.