Chapter 11

11.1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

11.1 Heroes of faith. These converts to Judaism had continued to celebrate some of the ancient rituals and continued to attend the temple and synagogue. This had been allowed by the Jewish authorities thus far. Now they were in danger of being excommunicated by the leaders of the synagogue because of their conversion to Christianity. The writer of Hebrews now presents the great heroes of Judaism to prove his clinching argument. The author calls up the most venerated names of their glorious past. These immortal greats were not great because they attended the synagogue, offered sacrifices, attended festivals or kept Jewish traditions. Their greatness was founded in trusting in God and remaining steadfast. It was faith in God that united them in this hall of fame. So the call is to keep their faith strong and not waiver under the duress of the present circumstances. This chapter begins the great parade of witnesses of faith.

11.2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.

11.2 Elders. Presbuteros; elderly, a senior, Sanhedrist. The author establishes that it demands perseverance, and a lifetime of commitment to be a witness. The author will begin to call his witnesses to the stand to support his position.

11.3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

11.3 Faith. Pistis: persuasion, conviction, constancy, are the characteristics the author wants to present. The witnesses of this chapter are manifesting these characteristics. These witnesses have endured their trials and come through faithful and the appeal is for these wavering saints to also overcome the present distress and questions. To do this requires believing in things not seen by mortal man.

11.4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.

11.4. Abel and Cain. Abel offered a more excellent (pleion) sacrifice than Cain. One reason is possibly because it was of blood. However, grain offerings were later a part of the system of sacrifices under the Mosaic Law. It is more probable Cain’s was not of faith and therefore the author places it here in the context of faith. This is again a warning to these wavering saints to keep their faith in Christ.

11.5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

11.5 Enoch. This event is one of the least understood moments of the Old Testament. It shows the power of faith goes beyond anything this world has seen or understood. That is the purpose behind this segment of Hebrews. 

11.6-7 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

11.6-7 Without faith. The essentiality of faith is again stressed. Without faith we cannot please God. Sometimes faith asks us to do things we do not understand. Noah is the prototype of this. Noah had never seen rain nor a flood. These New Testament saints are being shown repeated examples to convince them of the need to keep living by their new faith. 

11.8-16 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. 15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

11.8-16 Abraham and Sarah. The author now passes from the antediluvian saints to the patriarchs. Abraham was called to go where he had not even fully received the promise. The final promise was not given until he reached the Promised Land. At the time the promise was given the Canaanite was still in the land. This is an encouragement to these wavering saints to continue to believe in what they had embraced. Abraham sojourned (paroikeo) as in a strange country. Paroikeo, the Greek word used here, means to sojourn in another’s land, not ones own. The emphasis in verse 13 is on “these all died in the faith without having received the promises”. The call is to have faith, keep believing, even when you do not see the end result. The patriarchs were not mindful to turn back. This is the appeal being made, do not turn back. There is a better country for those who keep believing.

11.17-22 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. 20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. 21 By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.

11.17-22 Abraham. Abraham was tempted, or put to the proof of his faith. The sacrifice of Isaac is here offered as encouragement to those facing difficult decisions, sometimes in their own families. The underlying example here is that Abraham’s obedience was prompt, persistent, and perfect. The author presents Isaac, Jacob and Joseph as men of faith. Each one faced life’s hardships and kept the faith without wavering. Joseph demonstrated his faith in the future by requesting his bones be carried back to the land of their promise.

11.23-29 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment. 24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; 25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. 27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. 28 Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them. 29 By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.

11.23-29 Moses. The most esteemed, revered person in Judaism is now presented as a champion of Faith. From his birth to the Exodus, Moses demonstrated faith in every circumstance. The author is amassing evidence to encourage faith in these wavering saints. 

11.30-40 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days. 31 By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace. 32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: 33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions. 34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: 40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

11.30-40 The roll call. The author now sums up his argument by presenting his final witnesses. Jericho, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, and even David their greatest hero, are all presented to testify on the absolute importance of hanging on. It was through faith they subdued kingdoms and did exploits. Every trial, victory, and miracle was a triumph of faith. All of these witnesses obtained a good report (martureo: to be a witness), through faith. They are not complete or perfect without us continuing this lineage of faith. In fact, without those of the new covenant, even the mightiest champion of faith from the Old Testament could not be made perfect.