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13 All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth,

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13-16. Summary of the characteristic excellencies of the patriarchs' faith

died in faith—died as believers, waiting for, not actually seeing as yet their good things promised to them. They were true to this principle of faith even unto, and especially in, their dying hour (compare Heb 11:20).

These all—beginning with "Abraham" (Heb 11:8), to whom the promises were made (Ga 3:16), and who is alluded to in the end of Heb 11:13 and in Heb 11:15 [Bengel and Alford]. But the "ALL" can hardly but include Abel, Enoch, and Noah. Now as these did not receive the promise of entering literal Canaan, some other promise made in the first ages, and often repeated, must be that meant, namely, the promise of a coming Redeemer made to Adam, namely, "the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." Thus the promises cannot have been merely temporal, for Abel and Enoch mentioned here received no temporal promise [Archbishop Magee]. This promise of eternal redemption is the inner essence of the promises made to Abraham (Ga 3:16).

not having received—It was this that constituted their "faith." If they had "received" THE THING PROMISED (so "the promises" here mean: the plural is used because of the frequent renewal of the promise to the patriarchs: Heb 11:17 says he did receive the promises, but not the thing promised), it would have been sight, not faith.

seen them afar off—(Joh 8:56). Christ, as the Word, was preached to the Old Testament believers, and so became the seed of life to their souls, as He is to ours.

and were persuaded of them—The oldest manuscripts omit this clause.

embraced them—as though they were not "afar off," but within reach, so as to draw them to themselves and clasp them in their embrace. Trench denies that the Old Testament believers embraced them, for they only saw them afar off: he translates, "saluted them," as the homeward-bound mariner, recognizing from afar the well-known promontories of his native land. Alford translates, "greeted them." Jacob's exclamation, "I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord" (Ge 49:18) is such a greeting of salvation from afar [Delitzsch].

confessed … were strangers—so Abraham to the children of Heth (Ge 23:4); and Jacob to Pharaoh (Ge 47:9; Ps 119:19). Worldly men hold fast the world; believers sit loose to it. Citizens of the world do not confess themselves "strangers on the earth."

pilgrimsGreek, "temporary (literally, 'by the way') sojourners."

on the earth—contrasted with "an heavenly" (Heb 11:16): "our citizenship is in heaven" (Greek: Heb 10:34; Ps 119:54; Php 3:20). "Whosoever professes that he has a Father in heaven, confesses himself a stranger on earth; hence there is in the heart an ardent longing, like that of a child living among strangers, in want and grief, far from his fatherland" [Luther]. "Like ships in seas while in, above the world."