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THE EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE HEBREWS - Chapter 11 - Verse 13
Verse 13. These all died in faith. That is those who had been just mentioned—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Sarah. It was true of Abel and Noah also, that they died in faith, but they are not included in this declaration, for the "promises" were not particularly entrusted to them; and if the word "these" be made to include them, it must include Enoch also, who did not die at all. The phrase here used, "these all died in faith," does not mean that they died in the exercise or possession of religion, but more strictly that they died not having possessed what was the object of their faith. They had been looking for something future, which they did not obtain during their lifetime, and died believing that it would yet be theirs.
Not having received the promises. That is, not having received the fulfilment of the promises; or the promised blessings. The promises themselves they had received. Comp. Lu 24:49; Ac 1:4,11,16; Ga 3:14
But having seen them afar off. Having seen that they would be fulfilled in future times. Comp. Joh 8:56. It is probable that the apostle here means that they saw the entire fulfilment of all that the promises embraced in the future that is, the bestowment of the land of Canaan, the certainty of a numerous posterity, and of the entrance into the heavenly Canaan —the world of fixed and permanent rest. According to the reasoning of the apostle here, the "promises" to which they trusted included all these things.
And were persuaded of them. Had no doubt of their reality.
And embraced them. This word implies more than our word embrace frequently does; that is, to receive as true. It means, properly, to draw to one's self; and then to embrace, as one does a friend from whom he has been separated. It then means to greet, salute, welcome, and here means a joyful greeting of those promises; or a pressing them to the heart, as we do a friend. It was not a cold and formal reception of them, but a warm and hearty welcome. Such is the nature of true faith when it embraces the promises of salvation. No act of pressing a friend to the bosom is ever more warm and cordial.
And confessed that they were strangers. Thus Abraham said, Ge 23:4, "I am a stranger and a sojourner with you." That is, he regarded himself as a foreigner; as having no home and no possessions there. It was on this ground that he proposed to buy a burial place of the sons of Heth.
And pilgrims. This is the word— parepidhmov—which is used by Abraham, as rendered by the Seventy in Ge 23:4, and which is there translated "sojourner" in the common English version. The word pilgrim means, properly, a wanderer, a traveller, and particularly one who leaves his own country to visit a holy place. This sense does not quite suit the meaning here, or in Ge 23:4. The Hebrew word—
means, properly, one who dwells in a place, and particularly one who is a mere resident without the rights of; a citizen. The Greek word means a by-resident; one who lives by another or among a people not his own. This is the idea here. It is not that they confessed themselves to be wanderers, or that they had left their home to visit a holy place, but that they resided as mere sojourners in a country that was not theirs. What might be their ultimate destination, or their purpose, is not implied in the meaning of the word. They were such as reside awhile among another people, but have no permanent home there.
On the earth. The phrase here used—epi thv ghv—might mean merely on the land of Canaan, but the apostle evidently uses it in a larger sense as denoting the earth in general. There can be no doubt that this accords with the views which the patriarchs had—regarding themselves not only as strangers in the land of Canaan, but feeling that the same thing was true in reference to their whole residence upon the earth—that it was not their permanent home.
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