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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 11 - Verse 5
Verse 5. By faith Enoch was translated. The account of Enoch is found in Ge 5:21-24. It is very brief, and is this, that "Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him." There is no particular mention of his faith; and the apostle attributes this to him, as in the case of Abel, either because it was involved in the very nature of piety, or because the fact was communicated to him by direct revelation. In the account in Genesis, there is nothing inconsistent with the belief that Enoch was characterized by eminent faith, but it is rather implied in the expression, "he walked with God." Comp. 2 Co 5:7. It may also be implied in what is said by the apostle Jude, (Jude 1:14,15,) that "he prophesied, saying, Behold the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints," etc. From this it would appear that he was a preacher; that he predicted the coming of the Lord to judgment, and that he lived in the firm belief of what was to occur in future times. Moses does not say expressly that Enoch was translated. He says "he was not, for God took him." The expression "he was not," means he was no more among men; or he was removed from the earth. This language would be applicable to any method by which he was removed, whether by dying, or by being translated. A similar expression respecting Romulus occurs in Livy, (i. 16,) Nec deinde in tetris Romulus fuit. The translation of the Septuagint on this part of the verse in Genesis is, ouc eurisketo—"was not found;" that is, he disappeared. The authority for what the apostle says here that he "was translated," is found in the other phrase in Genesis, "God took him." The reasons which led to the statement that he was translated without seeing death, or that show that this is a fair conclusion from the words in Genesis, are such as these.
(1.) There is no mention made of his death, and in this respect the account of Enoch stands by itself. It is, except in this case, the uniform custom of Moses to mention the age and the death of the individuals whose biography he records, and in many cases this is about all that is said of them. But in regard to Enoch there is this remarkable exception, that no record is made of his death-showing that there was something unusual in the manner of his removal from the world.
(2.) The Hebrew word used by Moses, found in such a connexion, is one which would rather suggest the idea that he had been taken, in some extraordinary manner from the world. That word—
—means, to take—with the idea of taking to one's self. Thus, Ge 8:20, "Noah took of all beasts, and offered a burnt-offering." Thus it is often used in the sense of taking a wife —that is, to one's self, (Ge 4:19; 6:2; 12:19; 19:14; ) and then it is used in the sense of taking away, Ge 14:12; 27:35; Job 1:21
The word, therefore, would naturally suggest the idea that he had been taken by God to himself, or had been removed in an extraordinary manner from the earth. This is confirmed by the fact that the word is not used anywhere in the Scriptures to denote a removal by death, and that in the only other instance in which it (
is used in relation to a removal from this world, it occurs in the statement respecting the translation of Elijah. "And the sons of the prophets that were at Bethel, came forth to Elisha, and said to him, Knowest thou that the Lord will take away (
HEBREW) thy master from thy head to-day?" 2 Ki 2:3,6; comp. Heb 11:11. This transaction, where there could be no doubt about the manner of the removal, shows in what sense the word is used in Genesis.
(3.) It was so understood by the translators of the Septuagint. The apostle has used the same word in this place which is employed by the Seventy in Ge 5:24—metatiyhmi. This word means to transpose, to put in another place; and then to transport, transfer, translate, Ac 7:16; Heb 7:12. It properly expresses the removal to another place, and is the very word which would be used on the supposition that one was taken to heaven without dying.
(4.) This interpretation of the passage in Genesis by Paul is in accordance with the uniform interpretation of the Jews. In the Targum of Onkelos it is evidently supposed that Enoch was translated without dying. In that Targum the passage in Gen. v. 24 is rendered, "And Enoch walked in the fear of the Lord, and was not, for the Lord did not put him to death"— "
So also in Ecclesiasticus or the Son of Sirach, v: (xlix. 14,) "But upon the earth was no man created like Enoch; for he was taken from the earth." These opinions of the Jews and of the early translators, are of value only as showing that the interpretation which Paul has put upon Ge 5:24 is the natural interpretation. It is such as occurs to separate writers, without collusion, and this shows that this is the meaning most naturally suggested by the passage.
That he should not see death. That is, that he should not experience death, or be made personally acquainted with it. The word taste often occurs in the same sense. Heb 2:9, "That he should taste death for every man," Comp Mt 16:28; Mr 9:1; Lu 9:27.
And was not found. Ge 5:24: "And he was not." That is, he was not in the land of the living. Paul retains the word used in the Septuagint.
He had this testimony, that he pleased God. Implied in the declaration in Ge 5:22, that he "walked with God." This denotes a state of friendship between God and him, and of course implies that his conduct was pleasing to God. The apostle appeals here to the sense of the account in Genesis, but does not retain the very words. The meaning here is not that the testimony respecting Enoch was actually given before his translation, but that the testimony relates to his having pleased God before he was removed. Stuart. In regard to this instructive fragment of history, and to the reasons why Enoch was thus removed, we may make the following remarks.
(1.) The age in which he lived was undoubtedly one of great wickedness. Enoch is selected as the only one of that generation signalized by eminent piety, and he appears to have spent his life in publicly reproving a sinful generation, and in warning them of the approaching judgment, Jude 1:14,16. The wickedness which ultimately led to the universal deluge seems already to have commenced in the earth, and Enoch, like Noah, his great-grandson, was raised up as a preacher of righteousness to reprove a sinful generation.
(2.) It is not improbable that the great truths of religion in that age were extensively denied; and probably, among other things, the future state, the resurrection, the belief that man would exist in another world, and that it was maintained that death was the end of being—was an eternal sleep. If so, nothing could be better adapted to correct the prevailing evils than the removal of an eminent man, without dying, from the world. His departure would thus confirm the instructions of his life; and his removal, like the death of saints often now, would serve to make an impression which his living instructions would not.
(3.) His removal is, in itself, a very important and instructive fact in history. It has occurred in no other instance except that of Elijah; nor has any other living man been translated to heaven except the Lord Jesus. That fact was instructive in a great many respects.
(a.) It showed that there was a future state —another world.
(b.) It showed that the body might exist in that future state—though doubtless so changed as to adapt it to the condition of things there.
(c.) It prepared the world to credit the account of the ascension of the Redeemer. If Enoch and Elijah were removed thus without dying, there was no intrinsic improbability that the Lord Jesus would be removed after having died and risen again.
(d.) It furnishes a demonstration of the doctrine that the saints will exist hereafter, which meets all the arguments of the sceptic and the infidel. One single fact overturns all the mere speculations of philosophy, and renders nugatory all the objections of the sceptic. The infidel argues against the truth of the resurrection, and of the future state, from the difficulties attending the doctrine. A single case of one who has been raised up from the dead, or who has been removed to heaven, annihilates all such arguments—for how can supposed difficulties destroy a well authenticated fact?
(e,) It is an encouragement to piety. It shows that God regards his friends; that their fidelity and holy living please him; and that in the midst of eminent wickedness and a scoffing world, it is possible so to live as to please God. The conduct of this holy man, therefore, is an encouragement to us to do our duty, though we stand alone; and to defend the truth, though all who live with us upon the earth deny and deride it.
(4.) The removal of Enoch shows that the same thing would be possible in the case of every saint. God could do it in other cases, as well as in his, with equal ease. That his friends, therefore, are suffered to remain on the earth—that they linger on in enfeebled health, or are crushed by calamity, or are stricken: down by the pestilence as others are, is not because God could not remove them, as Enoch was, without dying, but because there is some important reason why they should remain, and linger, and suffer, and die. Among those reasons may be such as the following:
(a.) The regular operation of the laws of nature, as now constituted, require it. Vegetables die; the inhabitants of the deep die; the fowls that fly in the air, and the beasts that roam over hills and plains die; and man, by his sins, is brought under the operation of this great universal law. It would be possible, indeed, for God to save his people from this law, but it would require the interposition of continued miracles; and it is better to have the laws of nature regularly operating, than to have them constantly set aside by Divine interposition.
(b.) The power of religion is now better illustrated in the way in which the saints are actually removed from the earth, than it would be if they were all translated. Its power is now seen in its enabling us to overcome the dread of death, and in its supporting us in the pains and sorrows of the departing hour. It is a good thing to discipline the soul so that it will not fear to die; it shows how superior religion is to all the forms of philosophy, that it enables the believer to look calmly forward to his own certain approaching death. It is an important matter to keep this up from age to age, and to show to each generation that religion can overcome the natural apprehension of the most fearful calamity which befalls a creature—death; and can make man calm in the prospect of lying beneath the clods of the valley, cold, dark, alone, to moulder back to his native dust.
(c.) The death of the Christian does good. It preaches to the living. The calm resignation, the peace, the triumph of the dying believer, is a constant admonition to a thoughtless and wicked world. The deathbed of the Christian proclaims the mercy of God from generation to generation, and there is not a dying saint who may not, and who probably does not do great good in the closing hours of his earthly being.
(d.) It may be added, that the present arrangement falls in with the general laws of religion, that we are to be influenced by faith, not by sight. If all Christians were removed like Enoch, it would be an argument for the truth of religion addressed constantly to the senses. But this is not the way in which the evidence of the truth of religion is proposed to man. It is submitted to his understanding, his conscience, his heart; and in this there is of design a broad distinction between religion and other things. Men act, in other matters, under the influence of the senses; it is designed that in religion they shall act under the influence of higher and nobler considerations, and that they shall be influenced not solely by a reference to what is passing before their eyes, but to the things which are not seen.
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