HEROES OF FAITH
Hebrews 11:2-5,7-40
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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: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness,
obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 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. Women
received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not
accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And
others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds
and imprisonment: 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; (Of whom the world was not worthy:)
they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the
earth.


Time and space prohibit the rehearsal of all that was accomplished by and
through faith throughout the centuries. It would, in essence, be a rewriting of
the Bible – for whatever event, whatever action, whatever feat that was
accomplished by those heroes of faith was done by and through faith.
Whether it is the strength to do feat, or the strength to withstand persecution
and death, it is accomplished by faith.


 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 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 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]  …  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 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]  …  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, …


 Being destitute]  …  In want of all the comforts and conveniences of life, and
often of its necessaries.


 Afflicted]  In consequence of enduring such privations.


 Tormented]  …  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.


        Adam Clarke’s Commentary


And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the
promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us
should not be made perfect.  (KJV)


Think of all of the heroes of the Old Testament – Abel, Enoch, Noah,
Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Samuel, Deborah, Samson, Jephthah,
David, Solomon and all of the prophets – none of them received the Promise,
yet we have. The Promise is Jesus and His sacrifice for the sins of the world.


(Romans 4:9-25) Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or
upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to
Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in
circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in
uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the
righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he
might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised;
that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of
circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk
in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet
uncircumcised. For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was
not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the
righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made
void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath:
for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it
might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to
that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham;
who is the father of us all, (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many
nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead,
and calleth those things which be not as though they were. Who against hope
believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according
to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith,
he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred
years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb:  He staggered not at the
promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;
And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to
perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was
not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to
whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord
from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for
our justification.  (KJV)


(Galatians 3:1-20) O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye
should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been
evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you,
Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are
ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the
flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. He
therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you,
doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Even as
Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.  Know
ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of
Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen
through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall
all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful
Abraham. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for
it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are
written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the
law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the
law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ
hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it
is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of
Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might
receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Brethren, I speak after the
manner of men; Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no
man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the
promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to
thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was
confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty
years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.
For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it
to Abraham by promise. Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added
because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise
was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a
mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.  (KJV)