15/01/17 Hebrews 11:27-40 “By faith they obtained a good testimony”

Continuing on with the faith of Moses and many, many others …..


Hebrews 11:27By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.


forsook – left behind; departed from. It is uncertain whether this means his flight into Midian or the exodus of the Hebrews. “not fearing the wrath of the king” isn’t likely to describe his flight to Midian, though, as Moses clearly ran for his life, fearing what Pharaoh might do to him. Therefore, even though this is mentioned before the Passover, it still probably refers to the leading of Israel out of Egypt after the Passover. On the other hand, it doesn’t indicate that Moses left Egypt in the exodus because of fear of Pharaoh, so “not fearing the wrath of the king” may then refer to Moses killing an Egyptian in spite of what Pharaoh might do to him.


endured – to be steadfast. Moses was steadfast in the face of opposition; he saw (through eyes of faith – 2 Corinthians 5:7) the character of the One who promised. God, though invisible, was nevertheless more real to Moses than the physical evidence of Pharaoh, the most powerful man (in political terms) on the earth at that time. And Pharaoh was defeated by Moses’ faith in the invisible God

1 Corinthians 15:58Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.


Hebrews 11:28Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.


Passoverpascha (the paschal sacrifice)   kept – celebrated

Scientists will tell us lots of things that they expect we’ll believe just because they’re scientists – such as evolution, the origin of the universe – and they’ll be certain to tell us that blood on the door posts cannot do anything for those inside! There is no obvious nor logical reason why blood on the doors could make all the difference. And yet, when God said to put the blood of the lamb on the doors in a certain way, including the sacrifice, cooking and eating of the lamb, Moses did as God commanded. All Hebrews who carried out the requirements properly could be assured of protection from the “death of the first born” plague that would sweep Egypt at midnight.


Exodus 12:7, 23, 297 And they shall take of the blood, and strike [it] on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.

23 For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite [you].

29 And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that [was] in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle.


Hebrews 11:29By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry [land]: which the Egyptians assaying (attempting) to do were drowned (swallowed up).


“By faith” – reminding us in all these people that by faith they acted upon the promises of the God whose character they trusted completely. They went through the Red Sea, even though it must have been terrifying.

However, not as terrifying as it must have been for the Egyptians who all perished!

Exodus 14:14The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.

Science had nothing to do with this; one nation lives while the other dies, yet both in the same circumstances! One nation by faith lives; the other without faith dies!


Hebrews 11:30By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.


How can walls just fall over, especially such massive walls as those around Jericho, by just walking around the city for seven days, then shouting? But by faith they did as God commanded, and without science the walls fell down. Not by science but by faith! An amazing circumstance when so many sieges of cities could drag on for months or even years. With a good water spring and much food stored, Jericho should have been able to hold out for years.


There were actually two walls, both quite thick and almost impossible to beat down. Enclosed “rooms” were built in between the walls and often filled with soil or crushed rock. Rahab may have lived in a room built between the two walls. Joshua 2:15 says “her house [was] upon the town wall, and she dwelt upon the wall.”


Hebrews 11:31By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.


Why should Rahab trust strangers who came into her house when they weren’t of her people at all? Somehow she must have known that the God of the Hebrews was Someone special and therefore somehow she had to have trusted in His character enough to believe that He would fight for His people against their enemies. How did she know? Certainly not by any logic, that’s for certain. And her faith in protecting the Hebrew spies and her desire to be with the Hebrews was answered when God backed up His promises by giving her what she had trusted Him for. She was to become one of Jesus’ ancestors by doing so.


Hebrews 11:32And 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:


And what about all these other heroes of the faith? Gideon? Barak? Samson? Jephthah? David? Samuel? (In fact, all the prophets.) Every one of these acted upon their belief in a God in whose character they trusted; every one demonstrated the reality of their belief in God and His promises by acting by faith upon their beliefs. Not one just sat back and said, “I believe” but did nothing else. All acted by faith, thus demonstrating their trust in God’s character through their obedience.


Hebrews 11:33Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,


That is, all the ones mentioned in Vs 33 would have overcome kingdoms, wrought (= a work of labour) righteousness, obtained promises, but Daniel is the one who comes to mind in the stopping of lions mouths, although Samson (Judges 14:5-6), David (1 Samuel 17:36-37) and Benaiah (2 Samuel 23:20) also fought battles with lions.


Hebrews 11:34Quenched 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.


Quenched the violence (strength; power) of fireShadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

escaped the edge of the sword – many Old Testament heroes feature in this.

out of weakness were made strong – Samson, Hezekiah and others.

waxed valiant (became strong and mighty) – Jonathan, David

turned to flight the armies of the aliens – Joshua and Israel taking Canaan. Also note Jehoshaphat, Moses.


All these also were such because of their faith; they acted upon their belief in the character of God who would deliver whomever and whatever He desired and promised to deliver.

Daniel 3:17-1817 If it be [so], our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver [us] out of thine hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.


Hebrews 11:35Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:


received dead raised to life again – see 1 Kings 17:17-24 & 2 Kings 4:17-37; also Luke 7:11-15.


were torturedtympanizo (to beat the drum or timbrel; to torture with the tympanum, an instrument of punishment) from a derivative of 5180 (meaning a drum, "tympanum"). The tympanum seems to have been a wheel shaped instrument of torture, over which criminals were stretched as though they were skins and then horribly beaten with clubs or thongs (leading to a literal translation of "to break upon the wheel" or being beaten to death with clubs). (Thayers)

Note, for example, the persecution of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20:2; 37:15-16; 38:6) and Ahab’s treatment of Micaiah (1 Kings 22:27), plus many others who were persecuted or martyred for their faith (Eg the prophets).


Even Paul experienced severe trials and finally execution.

2 Timothy 3:11-1211 Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of [them] all the Lord delivered me. 12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

2 Corinthians 1:7-87 And our hope of you [is] stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so [shall ye be] also of the consolation. 8 For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:

2 Corinthians 4:8-118 [We are] troubled on every side, yet not distressed; [we are] perplexed, but not in despair; 9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; 10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. 11 For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.


And for what purpose? If we do not have any hope of a future (better) resurrection, then we have made ourselves the most miserable of all men.

1 Corinthians 15:16-2016 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith [is] vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, [and] become the firstfruits of them that slept.


But Christ is surely risen from the dead and we have this hope: our current situation in our weak bodies looks grim, but it’s not of us but of God. Here’s where “by faith” kicks in: if we have absolute trust in the character of God who makes these promises, then logically we can do nothing else but believe in those promises, and our lives should put into action that which we believe. Otherwise our faith is dead, having no works!

2 Corinthians 4:7But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.


better resurrection – could include a comparison with the “dead raised to life” in the first part of the verse.


Hebrews 11:36And others had trial of [cruel] mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:


scourgingsmastix (scourgings; whipping) derived from massaomai (to chew, consume, eat, devour) and translated as “gnaw” in Zephaniah 3:3. A whipping that literally chewed the flesh off your body. 40 strokes was considered the maximum allowable, even considered a death penalty (Deuteronomy 25:3; 2 Corinthians 11:24).

It takes faith to endure such trials, from mockings and scourgings, to what appears to be the greater trials of ongoing bonds and imprisonment.


Matthew 10:16-1916 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. 17 But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; 18 And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. 19 But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.

John 19:1Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged [him].


Hebrews 11:37They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;


The litany of trials and persecutions goes on; these are the rejected of the normal society of the world, outcasts, exiled from normal life. God’s people attract a special hatred from the enemy (and all who are his servants). It is only through the enemy requiring God’s permission to attack Christians that we are not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-11 above). But these people with such faith fear Him who alone can condemn man to everlasting torment in hell.

Matthew 10:28And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.


The Hebrews considered cutting a person in two with a saw (“sawn asunder”) a type of punishment; tradition says that the prophet Isaiah was sawn in two.

BarnesIt is commonly supposed that Isaiah was put to death in this manner. For the evidence of this, see introduction to Isaiah, 2. It is known that this mode of punishment, though not common, did exist in ancient times. Among the Romans, the laws of the twelve tables affixed this as the punishment of certain crimes, but this mode of execution was very rare, since Aulius Gellius says that in his time no one remembered to have seen it practiced. It appears, however, from Suetonius that the emperor Caligula often condemned persons of rank to be sawn through the middle. Calmet, writing above a hundred years ago, says, "I am assured that the punishment of the saw is still in use among the Switzers, and that they put it in practice not many years ago upon one of their countrymen, guilty of a great crime, in the plain of Grenelles, near Paris. They put him into a kind of coffin, and sawed him lengthwise, beginning at the head, as a piece of wood is sawn; "Pict. Bib." It was not an unusual mode of punishment to cut a person asunder, and to suspend the different parts of the body to walls and towers, as a warning to the living;


tempted – to inflict evils upon one in order to prove his character and the steadfastness of his faith. Eg. burning people alive may have been used to persuade some to recant (deny) their faith in God’s word.

slain with the sword – died a violent death by murder.

destitute – lacking basic needs.

afflicted – to press (as grapes); press hard upon; to trouble, afflict, distress.


Hebrews 11:38(Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and [in] mountains, and [in] dens and caves of the earth.


dens­ – den or cave.

caves – through which one can see; an opening; an aperture; of fissures in the earth; of caves in rocks or mountains; holes (in hills or the ground)


The world considered such people not worthy of existence in their society (although it can also be read that the world itself was not good enough for such people of faith). Like lepers they were forced (or encouraged) to live away from world habitation (towns, cities), wandering as strangers and foreigners in a land that rejected their citizenship. They wandered the places that most people avoided, many hiding from their persecutors, others avoiding the world itself. The one motivation for all with such behaviour was their sure and certain faith in God who had promised.


Hebrews 11:39And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:


We now come back to where we started: the obtaining of a good report (an honourable or good testimony) by the works of their faith.

Hebrews 11:2For by it the elders obtained a good report.

This is something of a judgment on their obedience to God’s word, that their faith would be the evidence of their trust in God. Faith is that without which we cannot please God; thus their faith was adjudged as being pleasing to God. Yet, they did not receive the promise!


This world, though, is just the first stage of our eternal lives. Death is the great leveller of all mankind. All must die; all must face judgment; all must depend upon what they have done in this life to gain entrance to the next stage, whether to life, or to condemnation.

John 5:28-2928 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.


Access to that promise was not in this world, but after this world was finished. Victory for the Christian only comes through death (unless raptured).

1 Corinthians 15:54So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.


And these all – all the people of faith in this chapter. All these people obtained a good testimony by faith yet at death still awaited their coming promise.

Hebrews 3:14For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;

Hebrews 4:9; 119 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.

11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

Hebrews 10:35-3635 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. 36 For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.


Hebrews 11:40God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.


That “better thing” is the salvation of our souls, for which the prophets searched diligently (and because they believed that God existed and that He rewarded those who diligently sought Him, they were indeed rewarded for their faith).

1 Peter 1:9-109 Receiving the end of your faith, [even] the salvation of [your] souls. 10 Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace [that should come] unto you:


made perfect – to make perfect; complete (add what is yet wanting in order to render a thing full); to carry through completely, to accomplish, finish, bring to an end; bring to a close or fulfilment of the prophecies of the scriptures.

This has some similarity with pleroma (fullness – that which is (has been) filled; a ship inasmuch as it is filled (i.e. manned) with sailors, rowers, and soldiers) That is, the full manifest (full complement) of those on board before the ship can sail.

Romans 11:25For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness (pleroma) of the Gentiles be come in.


Those who have already gone on to their promise will not be complete without the total of all those who are on that list of the elect (by the foreknowledge of God, of course – 1 Peter 1:2), that list of names in the Lamb’s Book of Life written out from the foundation of the world (Revelation 17:8). Also note that great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) – those who are probably the ones who have gone ahead of us and are now awaiting our completion of the race (battle; fight).

Faith without works is dead. Faith is the hard evidence (by our actions and behaviour) of our belief in God whom we trust totally. If we believe in God and His word, our response must be to act upon it. If we do not act upon it, our faith, being without works, is dead. Thus, faith (as described) is never a gift of God but instead our active response to the faithfulness of God and His word.


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