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11. By Faith

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2For by it the elders obtained a good report. 3Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. 4By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. 5By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. 6But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. 7By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. 8By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 11Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. 12Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable. 13These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. 15And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. 16But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. 17By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. 20By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. 21By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. 22By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones. 23By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment. 24By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; 25Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; 26Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. 27By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. 28Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them. 29By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned. 30By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days. 31By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace. 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: 33Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 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. 35Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 36And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 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; 38(Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: 40God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.

35. Women received, etc. He had already mentioned instances in which God had remunerated the faith of his servants, he now refers to examples of a different kind, — that saints, reduced to extreme miseries, struggled by faith so as to persevere invincible even to death. These instances at the first view widely differ: some triumphed gloriously over vanquished enemies, were preserved by the Lord through various miracles, and were rescued by means new and unusual from the midst of death; while others were shamefully treated, were despised by almost the whole world, were consumed by want, were so hated by all as to be compelled to hide themselves in the coverts of wild beasts, and lastly, were drawn forth to endure savage and cruel tortures: and these last seemed wholly destitute of God’s aid, when he thus exposed them to the pride and the cruelty of the ungodly. They seem then to have been very differently treated from the former ones; and yet faith ruled in both, and was alike powerful in both; nay, in the latter its power shone forth in a much clearer light. For the victory of faith appears more splendid in the contempt of death than if life were extended to the fifth generation. It is a more glorious evidence of faith, and worthy of higher praise, when reproaches, want, and extreme troubles are borne with resignation and firmness, than when recovery from sickness is miraculously obtained, or any other benefit from God.

The sum of the whole is, that the fortitude of the saints, which has shone forth in all ages, was the work of faith; for our weakness is such that we are not capable of overcoming evils, except faith sustains us. But we hence learn, that all who really trust in God are endued with power sufficient to resist Satan in whatever way he may assail them, and especially that patience in enduring evils shall never be wanting to us, if faith be possessed; and that, therefore, we are proved guilty of unbelief when we faint under persecutions and the cross. For the nature of faith is the same now as in the days of the holy fathers whom the Apostle mentions. If, then, we imitate their faith, we shall never basely break down through sloth or listlessness.

Others were tortured, etc. As to this verb, ἐτυμπανίσθησαν, I have followed Erasmus, though others render it “imprisoned.” But the simple meaning is, as I think, that they were stretched on a rack, as the skin of a drum, which is distended. 237237     The τύμπανον was, according to Schleusner, a machine on which the body was stretched; and then cudgels or rods, and whips were used. This appears from the account given in 2 Macc. 6: 19, 30. It is said that Eleasar, rather than transgress the Law, went of his own accord “to the torment” — ἐπὶ τὸ τύμπανον, and in the 30th verse mention is made of stripes or strokes — πληγαῖς, and of being lashed or whipped — μαστιγούμενος. This was to be tympanized or tortured. — Ed By saying that they were tempted, he seems to have spoken what was superfluous; and I doubt not but that the likeness of the words, ἐπρίσθησαν and ἐπειρὰσθησαν, was the reason that the word was added by some unskillful transcriber, and thus crept into the text, as also Erasmus has conjectured. 238238     This conjecture not countenanced by any MSS. that are considered to have much weight. What has led to this conjecture has evidently been a misunderstanding as to the import of the word in this connection. Being a word of general import, it has been viewed as inappropriate here among words of specified meaning: it refers to the temptation or trial to which those who were condemned for their religion were commonly exposed — the offer of life and of favors and recantation: that seems to have been the special temptation here intended. — Ed. By sheepskins and goatskins I do not think that tents made of skins are meant, but the mean and rough clothing of the saints which they put on when wandering in deserts.

Now though they say that Jeremiah was stoned, that Isaiah was sawn asunder, and though sacred history relates that Elijah, Elisha, and other Prophets, wandered on mountains and in caves; yet I doubt not but he here points out those persecutions which Antiochus carried on against God’s people, and those which afterwards followed.

Not accepting deliverance, etc. Most fitly does he speak here; for they must have purchased a short lease of life by denying God; but this would have been a price extremely shameful. That they might then live forever in heaven, they rejected a life on earth, which would have cost them, as we have said, so much as the denial of God, and also the repudiation of their own calling. But we hear what Christ says, that if we seek to save our lives in this world, we shall lose them for ever. If, therefore, the real love of a future resurrection dwells in our hearts, it will easily lead us to the contempt of death. And doubtless we ought to live only so as to live to God: as soon as we are not permitted to live to God, we ought willingly and not reluctantly to meet death. Moreover, by this verse the Apostle confirms what he had said, that the saints overcome all sufferings by faith; for except their minds had been sustained by the hope of a blessed resurrection, they must have immediately failed. 239239     The verse concludes with these words “that they might obtain a better resurrection,” — better than what? Better than the resurrection referred to at the beginning of the verse, when it is said that “women received their dead raised to life again;” or better than the life promised by persecutors to those doomed to die, in case they renounced their religion. The former is the view taken by Scott and Stuart, and the latter by Doddridge: but as deliverance and no deliverance are facts in contrast, the first is the most obvious meaning.—Ed.

We may hence also derive a needful encouragement, by which we may fortify ourselves in adversities. For we ought not to refuse the Lord’s favor of being connected with so many holy men, whom we know to have been exercised and tried by many sufferings. Here indeed are recorded, not the sufferings of a few individuals, but the common persecutions of the Church, and those not for one or two years, but such as continued sometimes from grandfathers even to their grandchildren. No wonder, then, if it should please God to prove our faith at this day by similar trials; nor ought we to think that we are forsaken by him, who, we know, cared for the holy fathers who suffered the same before us. 240240     The conclusion of the 37th verse is, “being destitute, afflicted, tormented:” this is said of those who “wandered about in sheep skins and goat skins.” They were destitute, they had been oppressed or persecuted and unjustly dealt with. Wrong treatment and oppression or persecution drove them from there homes and destitution followed. This is the way in which things are often stated in Scripture; the effect or the present state first, and then the cause or what led to it. The words are rendered “destitute, afflicted, maltreated,” by Macknight, — and “suffering want, afflicted, injuriously treated,” by Stuart. The second word often means oppression or persecution. The third word is found only here and chapter 13:2 where it is rendered “suffer adversity.” It is found in the Sept., in 1 Kings 2:26, twice and 11:39. It is used by Aqula in Exodus 22:22, and in Job 37:23. Its meaning properly is, to be ill or wrongfully treated. — Ed.


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