Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
A definition of faith, Heb 11:1, Heb 11:2. What are its immediate objects, Heb 11:3. What are its effects, instanced in Abel, Heb 11:4. In Enoch, Heb 11:5, Heb 11:6. In Noah, Heb 11:7. In Abraham, Heb 11:8-10. In Sara, Heb 11:11. In their righteous posterity, Heb 11:12-16 In Abraham's offering of his son Isaac, Heb 11:17-19. In Isaac, Heb 11:20. In Jacob, Heb 11:21. In Joseph, Heb 11:22. In Moses, Heb 11:23-28. In the Israelites in the wilderness, Heb 11:29. In the fall of Jericho, Heb 11:30. In Rahab, Heb 11:31. In several of the judges, and in David, Samuel, and the prophets, Heb 11:32-34. The glorious effects produced by it in the primitive martyrs, Heb 11:35-40.
Faith is the substance of things hoped for - Εστι δε πιστις ελπιζομενων ὑποστασις· Faith is the Subsistence of things hoped for; πραγματων ελεγχος ου βλεπομενων· The Demonstration of things not seen. The word ὑποστασις, 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: Ελεγχος δε εστις ὁ μη δυνατος αλλως εχειν, αλλ' οὑτως ὡς ἡμεις λεγομεν, "Elenchos, or Demonstration, is that which cannot be otherwise, but is so as we assert." Rhetor. ad Alexand., cap. 14, περι ελεγχου. 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 favor 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, etc., etc., 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.
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 favor: 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 honor or respect.
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.
Through faith we understand - By worlds, τους αιωνας, 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 Gen 1:1, etc.
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, etc., which did not derive their being from others of the same kind; and so of all manner of trees, plants, etc. God, therefore, made all these out of nothing; his word tells us so, and we credit that word.
By faith Abel offered - a more excellent sacrifice - Πλειονα θυσιαν· 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, τοις δωροις. 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 Gen 4:3, etc.
By faith Enoch was translated - It is said, in Gen 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 Gen 5:22-24.
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 God.
By faith Noah - See the whole of this history, Gen 6:13.
Warned of God - Χρηματισθεις. 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, Pe1 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.
Abraham, when he was called - See on Gen 12:1-4 (note).
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.
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 habitation.
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.
Through faith also Sara - Her history, as far as the event here is concerned, may be seen Gen 17:19, and Gen 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.
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.
These all died in faith - That is, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob, continued to believe, to the end of their lives, that God would fulfill 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 country.
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!
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.
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 Gen 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 preserved.
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; Act 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 faith.
Abraham, when he was tried - See the history of this whole transaction explained at large in the notes on Gen 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.
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 - Εν παραβολῃ· In my discourse on parabolical writing at the end of Matthew 13, 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.
By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau - He believed that God would fulfill 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 Genesis 27 (note).
Blessed both the sons of Joseph - That is, Ephraim and Manasseh. See the account and the notes. Gen 48:5, etc.
Worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff - This subject is particularly considered in the note, See Gen 47:31 (note).
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 scepter continually at hand. See Homer throughout. It is said, Gen 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 scepter 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 שחה shachah signifies, not only to bow, but also to worship, because acts of adoration were performed by bowing and prostration; and as מטה mittah, a bed, by the change of the vowel points becomes matteh, a staff, hence the Septuagint have translated the passage Και προσεκυνησεν Ισραηλ επι το ακρον της ῥαβδου αυτου· 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 favor 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 על al, is wholly suppressed, to make it favor 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, Ethiopic, 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.
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 Gen 50:25 (note). 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.
By faith Moses, etc. - See the notes on Exo 2:2, and Act 7:20 (note). 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: Πιστει μεγας γενομενος Μωΰσης ανειλεν τον Αιγυπτιον, κατανοων την ταπεινωσιν των αδελφων αὑτου. 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.
The reproach of Christ - The Christ or Messiah had been revealed to Moses; of him he prophesied, Deu 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 ὁ 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 του Χριστου, 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, Sa1 2:35; Psa 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.
He forsook Egypt - He believed that God would fulfill 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, Exo 2:14, Exo 2:15; 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.
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 Exodus 12 (note). 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.
By faith they passed through the Red Sea - See the notes on Exo 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 saved.
The walls of Jericho fell down - This is particularly explained Jos 6:1, etc. 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 fulfilled.
The harlot Rahab perished not - See this account Jos 2:1, Jos 2:9, Jos 2:11, and Jos 6:23, where it is rendered exceedingly probable that the word זונה 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 Mat 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 - Μετ' ειρηνης· The same as בשלום beshalom, giving them a kind welcome, good fare, and protection. After these words the Slavonic adds: Και ἑτερᾳ ὁδῳ εκβαλουσα, and sent them out another way.
Time would fail me - Με διηγουμενον ὁ χρονος. 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. Judges 6, 7, 8.
Barak - Who overthrew Jabin, king of Canaan, and delivered Israel from servitude. Judges 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. Judges 13-16.
Jephthae - Who, under the same guidance, defeated the Ammonites, and delivered Israel. Judges 11, Jdg 12:1-15.
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 1 Samuel 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.
Who through faith subdued kingdoms - As Joshua, who subdued the seven Canaanitish nations; and David, who subdued the Moabites, Syrians, Ammonites, and Edomites. 2 Samuel 8, etc.
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 spring.
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 honor.
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, Exo 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.
Women received their dead - As did the widow of Zarephath, Kg1 17:21, and the Shunammite, Kg2 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 (note).
Not accepting deliverance - This looks very like a reference to the case of the mother and her seven sons, mentioned 2 Maccabees 7:1, etc.
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, Kg1 22:27.
They were stoned - As Zechariah, the son of Barachiah or Jehoida, was, between the altar and the temple; see the account, Ch2 24:21; and See the notes on Mat 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; Kg1 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 επαρθησαν, 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 bearing 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 Ethiopic, 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 Sa1 22:18; and the prophets, of whose slaughter by the sword Elijah complains, Kg1 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 Kg2 2:8-13, expressly say: Και ελαβεν Ἡλιας την μηλωτην αὑτου· and Elijah took his Sheepskin (mantle.) Και ὑψωσε την μηλωτην Ἡλιου, ἡ επεσεν επανωθεν αὑτου· 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, Kg2 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, Zac 13:4; δερῥιν τριχινην, 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 - Ὑστερουμενοι· 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.
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 Kg1 18:4. David was often obliged thus to hide himself from Saul; Sa1 24:3, etc.
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.
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 Rev 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.