RPM, Volume 19, Number 2, January 8 to January 14, 2017

Barnes' New Testament Notes
Notes on the New Testament Explanatory and Practical

Part 88

By Albert Barnes




In the close of the previous chapter the apostle had incidentally made mention of faith, Heb 10:38,39, and said that the just should live by faith. The object of the whole argument in this epistle was to keep those to whom it was addressed from apostatizing, from the Christian religion, and especially from relapsing again into Judaism. They were in the midst of trials, and were evidently suffering some form of persecution, the tendency of which was to expose them to the danger of relapsing. The indispensable means of securing them from apostasy was faith; and with a view to show its efficacy in this respect, the apostle goes into an extended account of its nature and effects, occupying this entire chapter. As the persons whom he addressed had been Hebrews, and as the Old Testament contained an account of numerous instances of persons in substantially the same circumstances in which they were, the reference is made, to the illustrious examples of the efficacy of faith in the Jewish history. The object is to show that faith, or confidence in the Divine promises, has been in all ages the means of perseverance in the true religion, and consequently of salvation. In this chapter, therefore, the apostle first describes or defines the nature of faith, (Heb 11:1,) and then illustrates its efficacy and power by reference to numerous instances, Heb 11:2-40. In these illustrations he refers to the steady belief which we have that God made the worlds, and then to the examples of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and Rahab in particular, and then to numerous other examples without mentioning their names. The object is to show that there is power in faith to keep tile mind and heart in the midst of trials, and that, having these examples before them, those whom he addressed should continue to adhere steadfastly to the profession of the true religion.

Verse 1. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for. On the general nature of faith, See Barnes "Mr 16:10".

The margin here is, "ground, or confidence." There is scarcely any verse of the New Testament more important than this, for it states what is the nature of all true faith, and is the only definition of it which is attempted in the Scriptures. Eternal life depends on the existence and exercise of faith, (Mr 16:16,) and hence the importance of an accurate understanding of its nature. The word rendered substance —upostasiv—occurs in the New Testament only in the following places. In 2 Co 9:4; 11:17; Heb 3:14, where it is rendered confident and confidence; and in Heb 1:3, where it is rendered person, and in the passage before us. Comp. See Barnes "Heb 1:3.

Prof. Stuart renders it here confidence; Chrysostom, "Faith gives reality or substance to things hoped for." The word properly means that which is placed under, (Germ. Unterstellen;) then ground, basis, foundation, support. Then it means, also. reality, substance, existence, in contradistinction from that which is unreal, imaginary, or deceptive, (tauschung.) Passow. It seems to me, therefore, that the word here has reference to something which imparts reality in the view of the mind to those things which are not seen, and which serves to distinguish them from those things which are unreal and illusive. It is that which enables us to feel and act as if they were real, or which causes them to exert an influence over us as if we saw them. Faith does this on all other subjects as well as religion. A belief that there is such a place as London or Calcutta, leads us to act as if this were so, if we have occasion to go to either; a belief that money may be made in a certain undertaking, leads men to act as if this were so: a belief in the veracity of another leads us to act as if this were so. As long as the faith continues, whether it be well-founded or not, it gives all the force of reality to that which is believed. We feel and act just as if it were so, or as if we saw the object before our eyes. This, I think, is the clear meaning here. We do not see the things of eternity. We do not see God, or heaven, or the angels, or the redeemed in glory, or the crowns of victory, or the harps of praise; but we have faith in them, and this leads us to act as if we saw them. And this is, undoubtedly, the fact in regard to all who live by faith, and who are fairly under its influence.

Of things hoped for. In heaven. Faith gives them reality in the view of the mind. The Christian hopes to be admitted into heaven; to be raised up in the last day from the slumbers of the tomb; to be made perfectly free from sin; to be everlastingly happy. Under the influence of faith he allows these things to control his mind as if they were a most affecting reality.

The evidence of things not seen. Of the existence of God; of heaven; of angels; of the glories of the world prepared for the redeemed. The word rendered evidence elegcov occurs in the New Testament only in this place and in 2 Ti 3:16, where it is rendered reproof. It means, properly, proof, or means of proving, to wit, evidence; then proof which convinces another of error or guilt; then vindication or defence; then summary or contents. See Pussow. The idea of evidence which goes to demonstrate the thing under consideration, or which is adapted to produce conviction in the mind, seems to be the elementary idea in the word. So when a proposition is demonstrated; when a man is arraigned, and evidence is furnished of his guilt, or when he establishes his innocence; or when one by argument refutes his adversaries, the idea of convincing argument enters into the use of the word in each case. This, I think, is clearly the meaning of the word here. "Faith in the Divine declarations answers all the purposes of a convincing argument, or is itself a convincing argument to the mind, of the real existence of those things which are not seen." But is it a good argument? Is it rational to rely on such a means of being convinced? Is mere faith a consideration which should ever convince a rational mind? The infidel says no; and we know there may be a faith which is no argument of the truth of what is believed. But when a man who has never seen it believes that there is such a place as London, his belief in the numerous testimonies respecting it which he has heard and read is, to his mind, a good and rational proof of its existence, and he would act on that belief without hesitation. When a son credits the declaration or the promise of a father who has never deceived him, and acts as though that declaration and promise were true, his faith is to him a ground of conviction and of action, and he will act as if these things were so. In like manner the Christian believes what God says. He has never seen heaven; he has never seen an angel; he has never seen the Redeemer; he has never seen a body raised from the grave; but he has evidence which is satisfactory to his mind that God has spoken on these subjects, and his very nature prompts him to confide in the declarations of his Creator. Those declarations are, to his mind, more convincing proof than anything else would be. They are more conclusive evidence than would be the deductions on his own reason; far better and more rational than all the reasonings and declarations of the infidel to the contrary. He feels and acts, therefore, as if these things were so—for his faith in the declarations of God has convinced him that they are so. The object of the apostle, in this chapter, is not to illustrate the nature of what is called saving faith, but to show the power of unwavering confidence in God in sustaining the soul, especially in times of trial; and particularly in leading us to act, in view of promises and of things not seen, as if they were so. "Saving faith" is the same kind of confidence directed to the Messiah—the Lord Jesus—as the Saviour of the soul.

{1} "substance" "ground" {a} "things" Rom 8:24,25


Verse 2. For by it. That is, by that faith which gives reality to things hoped for, and a certain persuasion to the mind of the existence of those things which are not seen.

The elders. The ancients; the Hebrew patriarchs and fathers.

Obtained a good report. Literally, "were witnessed of;" that is, an honourable testimony was borne to them in consequence of their faith. The idea is, that their acting under the influence of faith, in the circumstances in which they were, was the ground of the honourable testimony which was borne to them in the Old Testament. See this use of the word in Heb 7:8, and Heb 11:4 of this chapter. Also Lu 4:22; Ac 15:8. In the cases which the apostle proceeds to enumerate in the subsequent part of the chapter, he mentions those whose piety is particularly commended in the Old Testament, and who showed, in trying circumstances, that they had unwavering confidence in God.

{b} "understand" Ge 1:1; Ps 33:6


Verse 3. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed. The first instance of the strength of faith, which the apostle refers to, is that by which we give credence to the declarations of the Scriptures about the work of creation, Ge 1:3, This is selected first, evidently, because it is the first thing that occurs in the Bible, or is the first thing there narrated in relation to which there is the exercise of faith. He points to no particular instance in which this faith was exercise—for none is especially mentioned—but refers to it as an illustration of the nature of faith which every one might observe in himself. The faith here exercised is confidence in the truth of the Divine declarations in regard to the creation. The meaning is, that our knowledge on this subject is a mere matter of faith in the Divine testimony. It is not that we could reason this out, and demonstrate that the worlds were thus made; it is not that profane history goes back to that period and informs us of it; it is simply that God has told us so in his word. The strength of the faith, in this case, is measured

(1.) by the fact that it is mere faith—that there is nothing else on which to rely in the case, and

(2.) by the greatness of the truth believed. After all the acts of faith which have ever been exercised in this world, perhaps there is none which is really more strong, or which requires higher confidence in God, than the declaration that this vast universe has been brought into existence by a word!

We understand. We attain to the apprehension of; we receive and comprehend the idea. Our knowledge of this fact is derived only from faith, and not from our own reasoning.

That the worlds. In Ge 1:1, it is "the heaven and the earth." The phrase which the apostle uses denotes a plurality of worlds, and is proof that he supposed there were other worlds besides our earth. How far his knowledge extended on this point we have no means of ascertaining; but there is no reason to doubt that he regarded the stars as "worlds," in some respects, like our own. On the meaning of the Greek word used here, See Barnes "Heb 1:2".

The plural form is used there also, and in both cases, it seems to me, not without design.

Were framed. It is observable that the apostle does not here use the word make or create. That which he does use —katartizw—means, to put in order, to arrange, to complete, and may be applied to that which before had an existence, and which is to be put in order or re-fitted, Mt 4:24; Mr 1:19; Mt 21:16; Heb 10:5.

The meaning here is, that they were set in order by the word of God. This implies the act of creation, but the specific idea is that of arranging them in the beautiful order in which they are now. Doddridge renders it "adjusted." Kuinoel, however, supposes that the word is used here in the sense of form or make. It has probably about the meaning which we attach to the phrase "fitting up anything"—as, for example, a dwelling—and includes all the previous arrangements, though the thing which is particularly denoted is not the making, but the arrangement. So in the work here referred to. "We arrive at the conviction that the universe was fitted up or arranged, in the present manner, by the word of God."

By the word of God. This does not mean here, by the Logos, or the second Person of the Trinity, for Paul does not use that term here or elsewhere. The word which he employs is rhma—rema—meaning, properly, a word spoken, and in this place command. Comp. Ge 1:3,6,9,11,14,20; Ps 33:6; -"By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth." In regard to the agency of the Son of God in the work of the creation, see See Barnes "Heb 1:2; comp. See Barnes "Joh 1:3".

So that things which are seen. The point of the remark here is, that the visible creation was not moulded out of pre-existing materials, but was made out of nothing. In reference to the grammatical construction of the passage, see Stuart, Comm. in loc. The doctrine taught is, that matter was not eternal; that the materials of the universe, as well as the arrangements, were formed by God, and that all this was done by a simple command. The argument here, so far as it is adapted to the purpose of the apostle, seems to be, that there was nothing which appeared, or which was to be seen, that could lay the foundation of a belief that God made the worlds; and, in like manner, our faith now is not to be based on what "appears," by which we could infer or reason out what would be, but that we must exercise strong confidence in Him who had power to create the universe out of nothing. If this vast universe has been called into existence by the mere word of God, there is nothing which we may not believe he has ample power to perform.

{b} "understand" Ge 1:1; Ps 33:6


Verse 4. By faith Abel offered. See Ge 4:4,5. In the account in Genesis of the offering made by Abel, there is no mention of faith —as is true also indeed of most of the instances referred to by the apostle. The account in Genesis is, simply, that Abel "brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering." Men have speculated much as to the reason why the offering of Abel was accepted, and that of Cain rejected; but such speculation rests on no certain basis, and the solution of the apostle should be regarded as decisive and satisfactory, that in the one case there was faith, in the other not. It could not have been because an offering of the fruits of the ground was not pleasing to God, for such an offering was commanded under the Jewish law, and was not in itself improper. Both the brothers selected that which was to them most obvious; which they had reared with their own hands; which they regarded as most valuable. Cain had cultivated the earth, and he naturally brought what had grown under his care; Abel kept a flock, and he as naturally brought what he had raised: and had the temper of mind in both been the same, there is no reason to doubt that the offering of each would have been accepted. To this conclusion we are led by the nature of the case, and the apostle advances substantially the same sentiment—for he says that the particular state of mind on which the whole turned was, that the one had faith and the other not. How the apostle himself was informed of the fact, that it was faith which made the difference, he has not informed us. The belief that he was inspired will, however, relieve the subject of this difficulty—for, according to such a belief, all his statements here, whether recorded in the Old Testament or not, are founded in truth. It is equally impossible to tell with certainty what was the nature of the faith of Abel. It has been commonly asserted that it was faith in Christ—-looking forward to his coming, and depending on his sacrifice when offering that which was to be a type of him. But of this there is no positive evidence, though, from Heb 12:24, it seems to be not improbable. Sacrifice, as a type of the Redeemer's great offering, was instituted early in the history of the world. There can be no reason assigned for the offering of blood as an atonement for sin, except that it had originally a reference to the great atonement which was to be made by blood; and as the salvation of man depended on this entirely, it is probable that that would be one of the truths which would be first communicated to man after the fall. The bloody offering of Abel is the first of the kind which is definitely mentioned in the Scriptures, (though it is not improbable that such sacrifices were offered by Adam, comp. Ge 3:21,) and consequently Abel may be regarded as the recorded head of the whole typical system, of which Christ was the antitype and the fulfilment. See Barnes "Heb 12:24".

A more excellent sacrifice. pleiona yusian -as rendered by Tindal, "more plenteous sacrifice;" or as Wickliffe renders it, more literally, "a much more sacrifice;" that is, a more full or complete sacrifice; a better sacrifice. The meaning is, that it had in it much more to render it acceptable to God. In the estimate of its value, the views of him who offered it would be more to be regarded than the nature of the offering itself

By which. By which sacrifice so offered. The way in which he obtained the testimony of Divine approbation was by the sacrifice offered in this manner. It was not merely by faith; it was by the offering of a sacrifice in connexion with, and under the influence of faith.

He obtained witness that he was righteous. That is, from God. His offering, made in faith, was the means of his obtaining the Divine testimonial that he was a righteous man. See Barnes "Heb 11:2".

This is implied in what is said in Ge 4:4: "And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering;" that is, he regarded it as the offering of a righteous man.

God testifying of his gifts. In what way this was done is not mentioned either here or in Genesis. Commentators have usually supposed that it was by fire descending from heaven to consume the sacrifice. But there is no evidence of this, for there is no intimation of it in the Bible. It is true that this frequently occurred when an offering was made to God, (see Ge 15:17; Le 9:24; Jud 6:21; 1 Ki 18:38; ) but the sacred writers give us no hint that this happened in the case of the sacrifice made by Abel; and since it is expressly mentioned in other cases and not here, the presumption rather is that no such miracle occurred on the occasion. So remarkable a fact—the first one in all history if it were so—could hardly have failed to be noticed by the sacred writer. It seems to me, therefore, that there was some method by which God "testified" his approbation of the offering of Abel which is unknown to us, but in regard to what it was conjecture is vain.

And by it he, being dead, yet speaketh. Marg. Is yet spoken of. This difference of translation arises from a difference of reading in the MSS. That from which the translation in the text is derived, is lalei—he speaketh. That from which the rendering in the margin is derived, is laleitai is spoken of; that is, is praised or commended. The latter is the common reading in the Greek text, and is found in Walton, Wetstein, Matthaei, Tittman, and Mill; the former is adopted by Griesbach, Koppe, Knapp, Grotius, Hammond, Storr, Rosenmuller, Prof. Stuart, Bloomfield, and Hahn, and is found in the Syriac and Coptic, and is that which is favoured by most of the Fathers. See Wetstein. The authority of Mss. is in favour of the reading laleitai—is spoken of. It is impossible, in this variety of opinion, to determine which is the true reading, and this is one of the cases where the original text must probably be for ever undecided. Happily, no important doctrine or duty is depending on it. Either of the modes of reading will give a good sense. The apostle is saying that it is by faith that the "elders have obtained a good report," (Heb 11:2;) he had said, (Heb 11:4,) that it was by faith that Abel obtained the testimony of God in his favour; and if the reading "is spoken of" be adopted, the apostle means that, in consequence of that offering thus made, Abel continued even to his time to receive an honourable mention. This act was commended still; and the "good report," of which it had been the occasion, had been transmitted from age to age. A sentiment thus of great beauty and value may be derived from the passage —that true piety is the occasion of transmitting a good report, or an honourable reputation, even down to the latest generation. It is that which will embalm the memory in the grateful recollection of mankind; that on which they will reflect with pleasure, and which they will love to transmit to future ages. But, after all, it seems to me to be probable that the true sentiment in this passage is that which is expressed in the common version, "he yet speaketh." The reasons are briefly these:

(1.) The authority of Mss., versions, editions, and critics, is so nearly equal, that it is impossible from this source to determine the true reading; and we must, therefore, form our judgment from the connexion.

(2.) The apostle had twice in this verse expressed substantially the idea that he was honourably testified of by his faith, and it is hardly probable that he would again repeat it so soon.

(3.) There seems to be an allusion here to the language used respecting Abel, (Ge 4:10,) "The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground;"—or utters a distinct voice—and the apostle seems to design to represent Abel as still speaking.

(4.) In Heb 12:24, he represents both Abel and Christ as still speaking—as if Abel continued to utter a voice of admonition. The reference there is to the fact that he continued to proclaim from age to age, even to the time of the apostle, the great truth that salvation was only by blood. He had proclaimed it at first by his faith when he offered the sacrifice of the lamb; he continued to speak from generation to generation, and to show that it was one of the earliest principles of religion that there could be redemption from sin in no other way.

(5.) The expression "yet speaketh" accords better with the connexion. The other interpretation is cold compared with this, and less fits the case before us. Of the faith of Noah, Abraham, and Moses, it might be said with equal propriety that it is still commended or celebrated as well as that of Abel, but the apostle evidently means to say that there was a voice in that of Abel which was peculiar; there was something in his life and character which continued to speak from age to age. His sacrifice, his faith, his death, his blood, all continued to lift up the voice, and to proclaim the excellence and value of confidence in God, and to admonish the world how to live.

(6.) This accords with usage in classic writers, where it is common to say of the dead that they continue to speak. Comp. Virg. AEn. vi. 618

Et magna testafur voce per umbras:
Discite justitiam moniti, et non tetonere Divos.

If this be the true meaning, then the sense is, that there is an influence from the piety of Abel which continues to admonish all coming ages of the value of religion, and especially of the great doctrine of the necessity of an atonement by blood. His faith and his sacrifice proclaimed from age to age that this was one of the first great truths made known to fallen man; and on this he continues to address the world as if he were still living. Thus all who are pious continue to exert an influence in favour of religion long after the soul is removed to heaven, and the body consigned to the grave. This is true in the following respects,

(1.) They speak by their example. The example of a pious father, mother, neighbour, will be remembered. It will often have an effect after their death in influencing those over whom it had little control while living.

(2.) They continue to speak by their precepts. The precepts of a father may be remembered, with profit, when he is in his grave, though they were heard with indifference when he lived; the counsels of a minister may be recollected with benefit, though they were heard with scorn.

(3.) They continued to speak from the fact that the good are remembered with increasing respect and honour as long as they are remembered at all. The character of Abel, Noah, and Abraham, is brighter now than it was when they lived, and will continue to grow brighter to the end of time. "The name of the wicked will rot," and the influence which they had when living will grow feebler and feebler, till it wholly dies away. Howard will be remembered, and will proclaim from age to age the excellence of a life of benevolence; the character of Nero, Caligula, and Richard III., has long since ceased to exert any influence whatever in favour of evil, but rather shows the world, by contrast, the excellence of virtue; and the same will yet be true of Paine, and Voltaire, and Byron, and Gibbon, and Hume. The time will come when they shall cease to exert any influence in favour of infidelity and sin; and when the world shall be so satisfied of the error of their sentiments, and the abuse of their talents, and the corruption of their hearts, that their names, by contrast, will be made to promote the cause of piety and virtue. If a man wishes to exert any permanent influence after he is dead, he should be a good man. The strength of the faith of Abel, here commended, will be seen by a reference to a few circumstances.

(1.) It was manifested shortly after the apostasy, and not long after the fearful sentence had been pronounced in view of the sin of man. The serpent had been cursed; the earth had been cursed; woe had been denounced on the mother of mankind; and the father of the apostate race, and all his posterity, doomed to toil and death. The thunder of this curse had scarcely died away; man had been ejected from Paradise, and sent out to enter on his career of woes, and the earth was trembling under the malediction, and yet Abel maintained his confidence in God.

(2.) There was then little truth revealed, and only the slightest intimation of mercy. The promise in Ge 3:5, that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent, is so enigmatical and obscure, that it is not easy even now to see its exact meaning —-and it cannot be supposed that Abel could have had a full understanding of what was denoted by it. Yet this appears to have been all the truth respecting the salvation of man then revealed, and on this Abel maintained his faith steadfast in God.

(3.) Abel had an elder brother, undoubtedly an infidel, a scoffer, a mocker of religion. He was evidently endowed with a talent for sarcasm, (Ge 4:9;) and there is no reason to doubt, that, like other infidels and scoffers, he would be disposed to use that talent when occasion offered, to hold up religion to contempt. The power with which he used this, and the talent with which he did this, may be seen illustrated, probably with melancholy fidelity, in Lord Byron's, "Cain." No man ever lived who could more forcibly express the feelings that passed through the mind of Cain—for there is too much reason to think that his extraordinary talents were employed, on this occasion, to give vent to the feelings of his own heart, in the sentiments put into the mouth of Cain. Yet, notwithstanding the infidelity of his elder brother, Abel adhered to God and his cause. Whatever influence that infidel brother might have sought to use over him—and there can be no reason to doubt that such an influence would be attempted—yet he never swelled, but maintained with steadfastness his belief in religion, and his faith in God.

{a} "Abel offered" Ge 4:4,5 {1} "yet speaketh" "is yet spoken of"


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 Ge 12:20; Ps 31:13; Jer 15:15.

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.

{a} "Enoch was translated" Ge 5:22,24


Verse 6. But without faith it is impossible to please him. Without confidence in God—in his fidelity, his truth, his wisdom, his promises. And this is as true in other things as ill religion. It is impossible for a child to please his father unless he has confidence in him. It is impossible for a wife to please her husband, or a husband a wife, unless they have confidence in each other. If there is distrust and jealousy on either part, there is discord and misery. We cannot be pleased with a professed friend unless he has such confidence in us as to believe our declarations and promises, The same thing is true of God. He cannot be pleased with the man who has no confidence in him; who doubts the truth of his declarations and promises; who does not believe that his ways are right, or that he is qualified for universal empire. The requirement of faith or confidence in God is not arbitrary; it is just what we require of our children, and partners in life, and friends, as the indispensable condition of our being pleased with them.

For he that cometh to God. In any way—as a worshipper. This is alike required in public worship, in the family, and in secret devotion.

Must believe that he is. That God exists. This is the first thing required in worship. Evidently we cannot come to him in an acceptable manner if we doubt his existence. We do not see him, but we must believe that he is; we cannot form in our mind a correct image of God, but this should not prevent a conviction that there is such a Being. But the declaration here implies more than that there should be a general persuasion of the truth that there is a God. It is necessary that we have this belief in lively exercise in the act of drawing near to him, and that we should realize that we are actually in the presence of the all-seeing JEHOVAH.

And that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. This is equally necessary as the belief that he exists. If we could not believe that God would hear and answer our prayers, there could be no encouragement to call upon him. It is not meant here that the desire of the reward is to be the motive for seeking God—for the apostle makes no affirmation on that point; but that it is impossible to make an acceptable approach to him unless we have this belief.

{a} "him" Ps 105:21,22


Verse 7. By faith Noah. It is less difficult to see that Noah must have been influenced by faith than that Abel and Enoch were. Everything which Noah did, in reference to the threatened deluge, was done in virtue of simple faith or belief of what God said. It was not because he could show from the course of events that things were tending to such a catastrophe; or because such an event had occurred before, rendering it probable that it would be likely to occur again; or because this was the common belief of men, and it was easy to fall into this himself. It was simply because God had informed him of it, and he put unwavering reliance on the truth of the Divine declaration.

Being warned of God. Ge 6:13. The Greek word here used means divinely admonished. Comp. Ge 8:5.

Of things not seen as yet. Of the flood which was yet future. The meaning is, that there were no visible signs of it; there was nothing which could be a basis of calculation that it would occur. This admonition was given an hundred and twenty years before the deluge, and of course long before there could have been any natural indications that it would occur.

Moved with fear. Marg. Being wary. The Greek word eulabhyeiv —-occurs only here and in Ac 23:10: "The chief captain fearing lest Paul," etc. The noun occurs in Heb 5:7: "And was heard in that he feared," See Barnes "Heb 5:7) and See Barnes "Heb 12:28"

"With reverence and godly fear." The verb properly means, to act with caution, to be circumspect, and then to fear, to be afraid. So far as the word is concerned, it might mean here that Noah was influenced by the dread of what was coming, or it may mean that he was influenced by proper caution and reverence for God. The latter meaning agrees better with the scope of the remarks of Paul, and is probably the true sense. His reverence and respect for God induced him to act under the belief that what he had said was true, and that the calamity which he had predicted would certainly come upon the world.

Prepared an ark to the saving of his house. In order that his family might be saved, Ge 6:14-22. The salvation here referred to was preservation from the flood.

By the which. By which faith.

He condemned the world. That is, the wicked world around him. The meaning is, that by his confidence in God, and his preparation for the flood, he showed the wisdom of his own course and the folly of theirs. We have the same phrase now in common use, where one who sets a good example is said to "condemn others." He shows the guilt and folly of their lives by the contrast between his conduct and theirs. The wickedness of the sinner is condemned not only by preaching, and by the admonitions and threatenings of the law of God, but by the conduct of every good man. The language of such a life is as plain a rebuke of the sinner as the most fearful denunciations of Divine wrath.

And became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. The phrase, "heir of righteousness," here means, properly, that he acquired, gained, or became possessed of that righteousness. It does not refer so much to the mode by which it was done, as if it were by inheritance, as to the fact that he obtained it. The word heir is used in this general sense in Ro 4:13,14; Tit 3:7; Heb 1:2; 6:17.

Noah was not the heir to that righteousness by inheriting it from his ancestors, but in virtue of it he was regarded as among the heirs or sons of God, and as being a possessor of that righteousness which is connected with faith. The phrase "righteousness which is by faith" refers to the fact that he was regarded and treated as a righteous man. See Barnes "Ro 1:17".

It is observable here, that it is not said that Noah had specific faith in Christ, or that his being made heir of the righteousness of faith depended on that, but it was in connexion with his believing what God said respecting the deluge. It was faith or confidence in God which was the ground of his justification, in accordance with the general doctrine of the Scriptures that it is only by faith that man can be saved, though the specific mode of faith was not that which is required now under the gospel. In the early ages of the world, when few truths were revealed, a cordial belief of any of those truths showed that there was real confidence in God, or that the principle of faith was in the heart; in the fuller revelation which we enjoy, we are not only to believe those truths, but specifically to believe in Him who has made the great atonement for sin, and by whose merits all have been saved who have entered heaven. The same faith or confidence in God which led Noah to believe what God said about the deluge would have led him to believe what he has said about the Redeemer; and the same confidence in God which led him to commit himself to his safe keeping in an ark on the world of waters, would have led him to commit his soul to the safe keeping of the Redeemer, the true Ark of safety. As the principle of faith, therefore, existed in the heart of Noah, it was proper that he should become, with others, an "heir of the righteousness by faith."

In regard to the circumstances which show the strength of his faith, we may make the following remarks.

(1.) It pertained to a very distant future event. It looked forward to that which was to happen after a lapse of an hundred and twenty years. This was known to Noah, (Ge 6:3;) and, at this long period before it occurred, he was to begin to build an ark to save himself and family—to act as though this would be undoubtedly true. This is a much longer period than man now is required to exercise faith before that is realized which is the object of belief. Rare is it that three-score years intervene between the time when a man first believes in God and when he enters into heaven; much more frequently it is but a few months or days; not an instance now occurs in which the period is lengthened out to an hundred and twenty years.

(2.) There was no outward evidence that what Noah believed would occur. There were no appearances in nature which indicated that there would be such a flood of waters after more than a century had passed away. There were no breakings up of the fountains of the deep; no marks of the far-distant storm gathering on the sky, which could be the basis of the calculation. The word of God was the only ground of evidence; the only thing to which he could refer gainsayers and revilers. It is so now. There are no visible signs of the coming of the Saviour to judge the world. Yet the true believer feels and acts as if it were so—resting on the sure word of God.

(3.) The course of things was much against the truth of what Noah believed. No such event had ever occurred. There is no evidence that there had ever been a storm of rain half sufficient to drown the world; or that there had ever been the breaking up of the deep, or that there had ever been a partial deluge. For sixteen hundred years the course of nature had been uniform, and all the force of this uniformity would be felt and urged when it should be alleged that this was to be disturbed, and to give place to an entire new order of events. Comp. 2 Pe 3:4. The same thing is now felt in regard to the objects of the Christian faith. The course of events is uniform. The laws of nature are regular and steady. The dead do not leave their graves. Seasons succeed each other in regular succession; men are born, live, and die, as in former times; fire does not wrap the earth in flames; the elements do not melt with fervent heat; seed-time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter follow each other, and "all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." How many probabilities are there now, therefore, as there were in the time of Noah, against that which is the object of faith!

(4.) It is not improbable that when Noah proclaimed the approaching destruction of the world by a deluge, the possibility of such an event was strongly denied by the philosophers of that age. The fact that such an event could have occurred has been denied by infidel philosophers in our own times, and attempts have been gravely made to show that the earth did not contain water enough to cover its surface to the height mentioned in the Scriptures, and that no condensation of the vapour in the atmosphere could produce such an effect. It is not improbable that some such arguments may have been used in the time of Noah, and it is morally certain that he could not meet those arguments by any philosophy of his own. There is no reason to think that he was endowed with such a knowledge of chemistry as to be able to show that such a thing was possible, or that he had such an acquaintance with the structure of the earth as to demonstrate that it contained within itself the elements of its own destruction. All that he could oppose to such speculations was the simple declaration of God; and the same thing is also true now in regard to the cavils and philosophical arguments of infidelity. Objections drawn from philosophy are often made against the doctrine of the resurrection of the body; the destruction of the earth by the agency of fire; and even the existence of the soul after death. These difficulties may be obviated partly by science; but the proof that these events will occur does not depend on science. It is a matter of simple faith; and all that we can in fact oppose to these objections is the declaration of God. The result showed that Noah was not a fool or a fanatic in trusting to the word of God against the philosophy of his age; and the result will show the same of the Christian in his confiding in the truth of the Divine declarations against the philosophy of his age.

(6.) It is beyond all question that Noah would be subjected to much ridicule and scorn, he would be regarded as a dreamer; a fanatic; an alarmist; a wild projector. The purpose of making preparation for such an event as the flood to occur after the lapse of an hundred and twenty years, and when there were no indications of it, and all appearances were against it, would be regarded as in the highest degree wild and visionary. The design of building a vessel which would outride the storm, and which would live in such an open sea, and which would contain all sorts of animals with the food for them for an indefinite period, could not but have been regarded as eminently ridiculous. When the ark was preparing, nothing could have been a more happy subject for scoffing and jibes. In such an age, therefore, and in such circumstances, we may suppose that all the means possible would have been resorted to, to pour contempt on such an undertaking. They who had wit, would find here an ample subject for its exercise; if ballads were made then, no more fertile theme for a profane song could be desired than this; and in the haunts of revelry, intemperance, and pollution, nothing would furnish a finer topic to give point to a jest, than the credulity and folly of the old man who was building the ark. It would require strong faith to contend thus with the wit, the sarcasm, the contempt, the raillery, and the low jesting, as well as with the wisdom and philosophy of a whole world. Yet it is a fair illustration of what occurs often now, and of the strength of that faith in the Christian heart which meets meekly and calmly the scoffs and jeers of a wicked generation.

(6.) All this would be heightened by delay. The time was distant. What now completes four generations would have passed away before the event predicted would occur, Youth grew up to manhood, and manhood passed on to old age, and still there were no signs of the coming storm. That was no feeble faith which could hold on in this manner for an hundred and twenty years, believing unwaveringly that all which God had said would be accomplished. But it is an illustration of faith in the Christian church now. The church maintains the same confidence in God from age to age—and, regardless of all the reproaches of scoffers, and all the arguments of philosophy, still adheres to the truths which God has revealed. So with individual Christians. They look for the promise. They are expecting heaven. They doubt not that the time will come when they will be received to glory; when their bodies will be raised up glorified and immortal, and when sin and sorrow will be no more. In the conflicts and trials of life, the time of their deliverance may seem to be long delayed. The world may reproach them, and Satan may tempt them to doubt whether all their hope of heaven is not delusion. But their faith fails not; and though hope seems delayed, and the heart is sick, yet they keep the eye on heaven. So it is in regard to the final triumphs of the gospel. The Christian looks forward to the time when the earth shall be full of the knowledge of God, as the waters cover the sea. Yet that time may seem to be long delayed. Wickedness triumphs. A large part of the earth is still filled with the habitations of cruelty. The progress of the gospel is slow. The church comes up reluctantly to the work. The enemies of the cause exult and rejoice, and ask, with scoffing triumph, Where is the evidence that the nations will be converted to God? They suggest difficulties; they refer to the numbers, and to the opposition of the enemies of the true religion; to the might of kingdoms, and to the power of fixed opinion, and to the hold which idolatry has on mankind; and they sneeringly inquire. At what period will the world be converted to Christ? Yet, in the face of all difficulties, and arguments, and sneers, faith confides in the promise of the Father to the Son, that the "heathen shall be given to him for an inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession," Ps 2:8. The faith of the true Christian is as strong in the fulfilment of this promise, as that of Noah was in the assurance that the guilty world would be destroyed by a flood of waters.

{b} "Noah" Ge 6:14-22 {1} "moved with fear" "being wary" {+} "house" "household"


Verse 8. By faith Abraham. There is no difficulty in determining that Abraham was influenced by faith in God. The case is even stronger than that of Noah, for it is expressly declared, Ge 15:6, "And he believed, in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness." Comp. See Barnes "Ro 4:1, and following. In the illustrations of the power of faith in this chapter, the apostle appeals to two instances m which it was exhibited by Abraham, "the father of the faithful." Each of these required confidence in God of extraordinary strength, and each of them demanded a special and honourable mention. The first was that when he left his own country to go to a distant land of strangers, (Heb 11:8-10;) the other when he showed his readiness to sacrifice his own son in obedience to the will of God, Heb 11:17-19.

When he was called. Ge 12:1: "Now the Lord had said unto Abraham, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee."

Into a Place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed. To Palestine, or the land of Canaan, though that was not indicated at the time.

And he went out not knowing whither he went. Ge 12:4. Abraham at that time took with him Sarai, and Lot the son of his brother, and "the souls that they had gotten in Haran." Terah, the father of Abraham, started on the journey with them, but died in Haran, Ge 11:31,32. The original call was made to Abraham, Ge 12:1; Ac 7:2,3; but he appears to have induced his father and his nephew to accompany him. At this time he had no children, (Ge 11:30,) though it seems probable that Lot had, Ge 12:6. Some, however, understand the expression in Ge 12:6, "and the souls they had gotten in Haran," as referring to the servants or domestics that they had in various ways procured, and to the fact that Abraham and Lot gradually drew around them a train of dependents and followers who were disposed to unite with them, and accompany them wherever they went. The Chaldee Paraphrast understands it of the proselytes which Abraham had made there—"All the souls which he had subdued under the law." When it is said that Abraham "went out not knowing whither he went," it must be understood as meaning that he was ignorant to what country he would in fact be led. If it be supposed that he had some general intimatian of the nature of that country, and of the direction in which it was situate, yet it must be remembered that the knowledge of geography was then exceedingly imperfect; that this was a distant country; that it lay beyond a pathless desert, and that probably no traveller had ever come from that land to apprize him what it was. All this serves to show what was the strength of the faith of Abraham.

{a} "when he was called" Ge 12:1,4


Verse 9. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country. The land of Canaan that had been promised to him and his posterity. He resided there as if he were a stranger and sojourner. He had no possessions there which he did not procure by honest purchase; he owned no land in fee-simple, except the small piece which he bought for a burial-place. See Ge 23:7-20. In all respects he lived there as if he had no peculiar right in the soil; as if he never expected to own it; as if he were in a country wholly owned by others. He exercised no privileges which might not have been exercised by any foreigner, and which was not regarded as a right of common—that of feeding his cattle in any unoccupied part of the land; and he would have had no power of ejecting any other persons, excepting that which any one might have enjoyed by the pre-occupancy of the pasture grounds. To all intents and purposes he was a stranger. Yet he seems to have lived in the confident and quiet expectation that that land would, at some period, come into the possession of his posterity. It was a strong instance of faith that he should cherish this belief for so long a time, when he was a stranger there—when he gained no right in the soil, except in the small piece that was purchased as a burial-place for his wife—and when he saw old age coming on, and still the whole land in the possession of others.

Dwelling in tabernacles. In tents, the common mode of living in countries where the principal occupation is that of keeping flocks and herds. His dwelling thus in moveable tents looked little like its being his permanent possession.

With Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise. That is, the same thing occurred in regard to them which had to Abraham. They also lived in tents. They acquired no fixed property, and no title to the land, except to the small portion purchased as a burial-place. Yet they were heirs of the same promise as Abraham, that the land would be theirs. Though it was still owned by others, and filled with its native inhabitants, yet they adhered to the belief that it would come into the possession of their families. In their movable habitations— in their migrations from place to place—they seem never to have doubted that the fixed habitation of their posterity was to be there, and: that all that had been promised would be certainly fulfilled.

{a} "dwelling" Ge 13:3,18; 18:1,9


Verse 10. For he looked for a city which hath foundations. It has been doubted to what the apostle here refers. Grotius and some others suppose that he refers to Jerusalem, as a permanent dwelling for his posterity in contradistinction from the unsettled mode of life which Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob led. But there is no evidence that Abraham looked forward to the building of such a city, for no promise was made to him of this kind; and this interpretation falls evidently below the whole drift of the passage. Comp. Heb 11:12; 11:14-16; 12:22; 13:14.

Phrases like that of "the city of God," "a city with foundations," "the new Jerusalem," and "the heavenly Jerusalem" in the time of the apostle, appear to have acquired a kind of technical signification. They referred to the area—of which Jerusalem, the seat of the worship of God, seems to have been regarded as the emblem. Thus in Heb 12:22, the apostle speaks of the "heavenly Jerusalem," and in Heb 13:14, he says, "here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come." In Re 21:2, John says that he "saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven," and proceeds in that chapter and the following to give a most beautiful description of it. Even so early as the time of Abraham, it would seem that the future blessedness of the righteous was foretold under the image of a splendid City reared on permanent foundations. It is remarkable that Moses does not mention this as an object of the faith of Abraham, and it is impossible to ascertain the degree of distinctness which this had in is view. It is probable that the apostle, in speaking of his faith in this particular, did not rely on any distinct record, or even any tradition, but spoke of his piety in the language which, he would use to characterize religion of any age, or in any individual, he was accustomed, in common with others of his time, to contemplate the future blessedness of the righteous under the image of a beautiful city; a place where the worship of God would be celebrated for ever—a city of which Jerusalem was the most striking representation to the mind of a Jew. It was natural for him to speak of strong piety in this manner wherever it existed, and especially in such a case as that of Abraham, who left his own habitation to wander in a distant land. This fact showed that he regarded himself as a stranger and sojourner; and yet he had a strong expectation of a fixed habitation, and a permanent inheritance. He must, therefore, have looked on to the permanent abodes of the righteous; the heavenly city;—and though he had an undoubted confidence that the promised land would be given to his posterity, yet, as he did not possess it himself, he must have looked for his own permanent abode to the fixed residence of the just in heaven


Verse 11. Through faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed. The word "herself" here—auth—implies that there was something remarkable in the fact that she should manifest this faith. Perhaps there may be reference here to the incredulity with which she at first received the announcement that she should have a child, Ge 18:11,13. Even her strong incredulity was overcome; and though everything seemed to render what was announced impossible, and though she was so much disposed to laugh at the very suggestion at first, yet her unbelief was overcome, and she ultimately credited the Divine promise. The apostle does not state the authority for his assertion that the strength of Sarah was derived from her faith, nor when particularly it was exercised. The argument seems to be, that here was a case where all human probabilities were against what was predicted, and where, therefore, there must have been simple trust in God. Nothing else but faith could have led her to believe that in her old age she would have borne a son.

When she was past age. She was at this time more than ninety years of age, Ge 17:17. Comp. Ge 18:11.

Because she judged him faithful who had promised. She had no other ground of confidence or expectation. All human probability was against the supposition that, at her time of life, she would be a mother.

{a} "Sarah" Ge 21:1,2 {b} "faithful" Heb 10:23


Verse 12. Therefore sprang there even of one. From a single individual. What is observed here by the apostle as worthy of remark is, that the whole Jewish people sprang from one man, and that, as the reward of his strong faith, he was made the father and founder of a nation.

And him as good as dead. So far as the subject under discussion is concerned. To human appearance there was no more probability that he would have a son at that period of life than that the dead would have.

So many as the stars in the sky, etc. An innumerable multitude. This was agreeable to the promise, Ge 15:5; 22:17. The phrases here used are often employed to denote a vast multitude, as nothing appears more numerous than the stars of heaven, or than the sands that lie on the shores of the ocean. The strength of faith in this case was, that there was simple confidence in God in the fulfilment of a promise where all human probabilities were against it. This is, therefore, an illustration of the nature of faith. It does not depend on human reasoning, on analogy, on philosophical probabilities, on the foreseen operation of natural laws; but on the mere assurance of God—no matter what may be the difficulties to human view, or the improbabilities against it.

{c} "so many" Ge 17:17; Ro 4:17


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

Heb 11:33,39. In all these places the word promise is used by metonymy for the thing promised.

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.

{1} "in faith" "according to" {*} "promises" "the promised blessings" {d} "confessed" 1 Ch 29:15; 1 Pe 2:11


Verse 14. For they that say such things, etc. That speak of themselves as having come into' a land of strangers; and that negotiate for a small piece of land, not to cultivate, but to bury their dead. So we should think of any strange people coming among us now—who lived in tents; who frequently changed their residence; who became the purchasers of no land except to bury their dead, and who never spake of becoming permanent residents. We should think that they were in search of some place as their home, and that they had not yet found it. Such people were the Hebrew patriarchs. They lived and acted just as if they had not yet found a permanent habitation, but were travelling in search of one.


Verse 15. And truly if they had been mindful of that country, etc, If they had remembered it with sufficient interest and affection to have made them desirous to return.

They might have had opportunity to have returned. The journey was not so long or perilous that they could not have retraced their steps, it would have been no more difficult or dangerous for them to do that than it was to make the journey at first. This shows that their remaining as strangers and sojourners in the land of Canaan was voluntary. They preferred it, with all its inconveniences and hardships, to return to their native land. The same thing is true of all the people of God now. If they choose to return to the world, and to engage again in all its vain pursuits, there is nothing to hinder them. There are "opportunities" enough. There are abundant inducements held out. There are numerous gay and worldly friends who would regard it as a matter of joy and triumph to have them return to vanity and folly again. They would welcome them to their society; rejoice to have them participate in their pleasures; and be willing that they should share in the honours and the wealth of the world. And they might do it. There are multitudes of Christians who could grace, as they once did, the ball-room; who could charm the social party by song and wit; who could rise to the highest posts of office, or compete successfully with others in the race for the acquisition of fame. They have seen and tasted enough of the vain pursuits of the world, to satisfy them with their vanity; they are convinced of the sinfulness of making these things the great objects of living; their affections are now fixed on higher and nobler objects, and they choose not to return to those pursuits again, but to live as strangers and sojourners on the earth—for there is nothing more voluntary than religion.


Verse 16. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly. That is, at the time referred to when they confessed that they were strangers and sojourners, they showed that they sought a better country than the one which they had left. They lived as if they had no expectation of a permanent residence on earth, and were looking to another world. The argument of the apostle here appears to be based on what is apparent from the whole history, that they had a confident belief that the land of Canaan would be given to "their posterity; but as for themselves they had no expectation of permanently dwelling there, but looked to a home in the heavenly country. Hence they formed no plans for conquest; they laid claim to no title in the soil; they made no purchases of farms for cultivation; they lived and died without owning any land, except enough to bury their dead. All this appears as if they looked for a final home in a "better country, even an heavenly."

Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God. Since they had such an elevated aim, he was willing to speak of himself as their God and Friend. They acted as became his friends, and he was not ashamed of the relation which he sustained to them. The language to which the apostle evidently refers here is that which is found in Ex 3:6, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." We are not to suppose that God is ever ashamed of anything that he does. The meaning here is, that they had acted in such a manner that it was fit that he should show towards them the character of a Benefactor, Protector, and Friend.

For he hath prepared for them a city. Such as they had expected—a heavenly residence, Heb 11:10. There is evidently here a reference to heaven, represented as a city—the New Jerusalem—prepared for his people by God himself. Comp. See Barnes "Mt 25:34".

Thus they obtained what they had looked for by faith. The wandering and unsettled patriarchs to whom the promise was made, and who showed all their lives that they regarded themselves as strangers and pilgrims, were admitted to the home of permanent rest; and their posterity was ultimately admitted to the possession of the promised land. Nothing could more certainly demonstrate that the patriarchs believed in a future state than this passage. They did not expect a permanent home on earth. They made no efforts to enter into the possession of the promised land themselves. They quietly and calmly waited for the time when God would give it to their posterity; and, in the meantime, for themselves they looked forward to their permanent home in the heavens. Even in this early period of the world, therefore, there was the confident expectation of the future state. Comp. See Barnes "Mt 22:31".

We may remark, that the life of the patriarchs was, in all essential respects, such as we should lead. They looked forward to heaven; they sought no permanent possessions here; they regarded themselves as strangers and pilgrims on the earth. So should we be. In our more fixed and settled habits of life; in our quiet homes; in our residence in the land in which we were born, and in the society of old and tried friends, we should yet regard ourselves as "strangers and sojourners." We have here no fixed abode. The houses in which we dwell will soon be occupied by others; the paths in which we go will soon be trod by the feet of others; the fields which we cultivate will soon be ploughed and sown and reaped by others. Others will read the books which we read; sit down at the tables where we sit; lie on the beds where we repose; occupy the chambers where we shall die, and from whence we shall be removed to our graves. If we have any permanent home, it is in heaven; and that we have the faithful lives of the patriarchs teach us, and the unerring word of God everywhere assures us.

{a} "their God" Ex 3:6,15 {b} "city" Heb 11:10


Verse 17. By faith Abraham. The apostle had stated one strong instance of the faith of Abraham, and he now refers to one still more remarkable—the strongest illustration of faith, undoubtedly, which has ever been evinced in our world.

When he was tried. The word here used is rendered tempted in Mt 4:1,3; 16:1; 19:3; 22:18,35, and in twenty-two other places in the New Testament; prove, in Joh 6:6; hath gone about, in Ac 24:6; examine, 2 Co 13:6; and tried, in Re 2:2,10; 3:10.

It does not mean here, as it often does, to place inducements before one to lead him to do wrong, but to subject his faith to a trial in order to test its genuineness and strength. The meaning here is, that Abraham was placed in circumstances which showed what was the real strength of his confidence in God.

Offered up Isaac. That is, he showed that he was ready and willing to make the sacrifice, and would have done it if he had not been restrained by the voice of the angel, Ge 22:11,12. So far as the intention of Abraham was concerned, the deed was done, for he had made every preparation for the offering, and was actually about to take the life of his son.

And he that had received the promises offered up his only-begotten son. The promises particularly of a numerous posterity. The fulfilment of those promises depended on him whom he was now about to offer as a sacrifice. If Abraham had been surrounded with children, or if no special promise of a numerous posterity had been made to him, this act would not have been so remarkable. It would, in any case, have been a strong act of faith; it was peculiarly strong in his case, from the circumstances that he had an only son, and that the fulfilment of the promise depended on his life.

{c} "tried" Ge 22:1; Jas 2:21


Verse 18. Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called. Ge 21:12. A numerous posterity had been promised to him. It was there said expressly that this promise was not to be fulfilled through the son of Abraham by the bond-woman Hagar, but through Isaac. Of course, it was implied that Isaac was to reach manhood; and yet, notwithstanding this, and notwithstanding Abraham fully believed it, he prepared deliberately, in obedience to the Divine command, to put him to death. The phrase, "thy seed be called," means, that his posterity was to be named after Isaac, or was to descend only from him. The word "called," in the Scriptures, is often equivalent to the verb to be. See Isa 56:7. To name or call a thing, was the same as to say that it was, or that it existed. It does not mean here that his spiritual children were to be called or selected from among the posterity of Isaac, but that the posterity promised to Abraham would descend neither from Ishmael nor the sons of Keturah, but in the line of Isaac. This is a strong circumstance insisted on by the apostle, to show the strength of Abraham's faith. It was shown not only by his willingness to offer up the child of his old age—his only son by his beloved wife, but by his readiness, at the command of God, to sacrifice even him on whom the fulfilment of the promises depended.

{1} "Of whom" "To" {d} "That in Isaac" Ge 21:12


Verse 19. Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead. And that he would do it; for so Abraham evidently believed, and this idea is plainly implied in the whole narrative. There was no other way in which the promise could be fulfilled; and Abraham reasoned justly in the case. He had received the promise of a numerous posterity, he had been told expressly that it was to be through this favourite child, he was now commanded to put him to death as a sacrifice, and he prepared to do it. To fulfil these promises, therefore, there was no other way possible but for him to be raised up from the dead, and Abraham fully believed that it would be done. The child had been given to him at first in a supernatural manner, and he was prepared, therefore, to believe that he would be restored to him again by miracle. He did not doubt that he who had given him to him at first, in a manner so contrary to all human probability, could restore him again in a method as extraordinary, He therefore, anticipated that he would raise him up immediately from the dead. That this was the expectation of Abraham is apparent from the narrative in Ge 22:6: "And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder, and worship, and come again to you;" in the plural-

-"and we will return;" that is, I and Isaac will return, for no other persons went with them, Ge 22:6. As Abraham went with the full expectation of sacrificing Isaac, and as he expected Isaac to return with him, it follows that he believed that God would raise him up immediately from the dead.

From whence also he received him in a figure. There has been great difference of opinion as to the sense of this passage, but it seems to me to be plain. The obvious interpretation is, that he then received him by his being raised up from the altar as if from the dead. He was to Abraham dead. He had given him up. He had prepared to offer him as a sacrifice. He lay there before him as one who was dead. From that altar he was raised up by direct Divine interposition, as if he was raised from the grave, and this was to Abraham a figure or a representation of the resurrection. Other interpretations may be seen in Stuart, in loc. The following circumstances will illustrate the strength of Abraham's faith in this remarkable transaction.

(1.) The strong persuasion on his mind that God had commanded this. In a case of this nature—where such a sacrifice was required—how natural would it have been for a more feeble faith to have doubted whether the command came from God! It might have been suggested to such a mind that this must be a delusion, or a temptation of Satan; that God could not require such a thing; and that whatever might be the appearance of a Divine command in the cases there must be some deception about it. Yet Abraham does not appear to have reasoned about it at all, or to have allowed the strong feelings of a father to come in to modify his conviction that God had commanded him to give up his son. What an example is this to us! And how ready should we be to yield up a son—an only son—when God comes himself and removes him from us.

(2.) The strength of his faith was seen in the fact that, in obedience to the simple command of God, all the strong feelings of a father were overcome. On the one hand, there were his warm affections for an only son; and on the other, there was the simple command of God. They came in collisions but Abraham did not hesitate a moment. The strong paternal feeling was sacrificed at once. What an example this, too, for us! When the command of God and our own attachments come into collision, we should not hesitate a moment. God is to be obeyed. His command and arrangements are to be yielded to, though most tender ties are rent asunder, and though the heart bleeds.

(3.) The strength of his faith was seen in the fact that, in obedience to the command of God, he resolved to do what in the eyes of the world would be regarded as a most awful crime. There is no crime of a higher grade than the murder of a son by the hand of a father. So it is now estimated by the world, and so it would have been in the time of Abraham. All the laws of God and of society appeared to be against the act which Abraham was about to commit, and he went forth not ignorant of the estimate which the world would put on this deed if it were known. How natural, in such circumstances, would it have been to argue, that God could not possibly give such a command; that it was against all the laws of heaven and earth; that there was required in this what God and man alike must and would pronounce to be wrong and abominable! Yet Abraham did not hesitate. The command of God in the case was, to his mind, a sufficient proof that this was right; and it should teach us that whatever our Maker commands us should be done—no matter what may be the estimate affixed to it by human laws, and no matter how it may be regarded by the world.

(4.) The strength of his faith was seen in the fact, that there was a positive promise of God to himself which would seem to be frustrated by what he was about to do. God had expressly promised to him a numerous posterity, and had said that it was to be through this son. How could this be if he was put to death as a sacrifice? And how could God command such a thing when his promise was thus positive? Yet Abraham did not hesitate. It was not for him to reconcile these things; it was his to obey. He did not doubt that somehow all that God had said would prove to be true; and as he saw but one way in which it could be done—by his being immediately restored to life—he concluded that that was to be the way. So when God utters his will to us, it is ours simply to obey. It is not to inquire in what way his commands or revealed truth can be reconciled with other things. He will himself take care of that. It is ours at once to yield to what he commands, and to believe that somehow all that he has required and said will be consistent with everything else which he has uttered.

(5.) The strength of the faith of Abraham was seen in his belief that God would raise his son from the dead. Of that he had no doubt. But what evidence had he of that? It had not been promised. No case of the kind had ever occurred; and the subject was attended with all the difficulties which attend it now. But Abraham believed it; for, first, there was no other way in which the promise of God could be fulfilled; and, second, such a thing would be no more remarkable than what had already occurred. It was as easy for God to raise him from the dead as it was to give him at first, contrary to all the probabilities of the case—-and he did not, therefore, doubt that it would be so. Is it less easy for us to believe the doctrine of the resurrection than it was for Abraham? Is the subject attended with more difficulties now than it was then? The faith of Abraham, in this remarkable instance, shows


Verse 20. By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. See Ge 27:26-40. The meaning is, that he pronounced a blessing on them in respect to their future condition. This was by faith in God, who had communicated it to him, and in full confidence that he would accomplish all that was here predicted. The act of faith here was simply that which believes that all that God says is true. There were no human probabilities at the time when these prophetic announcements were made, which could have been the basis of his calculation; but all that he said must have rested merely on the belief that God had revealed it to him. A blessing was pronounced on each, of a very different nature, but Isaac had no doubt that both would be fulfilled.

{a} "Isaac blessed" Ge 27:27-40


Verse 21. By faith Jacob, when he was a dying. Ge 47:31 Ge 48:1-20. That is, when he was about to die. He saw his death near when he pronounced this blessing on Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph.

And worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. This is an exact quotation from the Septuagint in Ge 47:31. The English version of that place is, "and Israel bowed himself upon the bed's head," which is a proper translation, in the main, of the word

mittch. That word, however, with different points—

mattch, means, a branch, a bough, a rod, a staff, and the translators of the Septuagint have so rendered it. The Masoretic points are of no authority, and either translation, therefore, would be proper. The word rendered "head" in Ge 47:31— "bed's head"—

rosh, means, properly, head, but may there mean the top of anything, and there is no impropriety in applying it to the head or top of a staff. The word rendered in Ge 47:31, bowed

—implies, properly, the idea of worshipping. It is bowing, or prostration for the purpose of worship or homage. Though the Septuagint and the apostle here have, therefore, given a somewhat different version from that commonly given of the Hebrew, and sustained by the Masoretic pointing, yet it cannot be demonstrated that the version is unauthorized, or that it is not a fair translation of the Hebrew. It has also the probabilities of the case in its favour. Jacob was tenderly affected in view of the goodness of God, and of the assurance that he would be conveyed from Egypt when he died, and buried in the land of his fathers. Deeply impressed with this, nothing was more natural than that the old man should lean reverently forward, and incline his head upon the top of his staff, and adore the covenant faithfulness of his God. Such an image is much more natural and probable than that he should "bow upon his bed's head"—a phrase which at best is not very intelligible. If this be the true account, then the apostle does not refer here to what was done when he "blessed the sons of Joseph," but to an act expressive of strong faith in God which had occurred just before. The meaning then is, "By faith when about to die he blessed the sons of Joseph; and by faith also, he reverently bowed before God in the belief that when he died his remains would be conveyed to the promised land, and expressed his gratitude in an act of worship, leaning reverently on the top of his staff." The order in which these things are mentioned is of no consequence, and thus the whole difficulty in the case vanishes. Both the acts here referred to were expressive of strong confidence in God.

{b} "both" Ge 48:5-20 {c} "leaning" Ge 47:31


Verse 22. By faith Joseph, when he died. When about to die. See Ge 50:24,25.

Made mention of the departing of the children of Israel. Marg. "remembered." The meaning is, that he called this to their mind; he spake of it.

And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die; and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob." This prediction of Joseph could have rested only on faith in the promise of God. There were no events then occurring which would be likely to lead to this, and nothing which could be a basis of calculation that it would be so, except what God had spoken. The faith of Joseph, then, was simple confidence in God; and its strength was seen in his firm conviction that what had been promised would be fulfilled, even when there were no appearances that, to human view, justified it.

And gave commandment concerning his bones. Ge 50:25,26. And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel; saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence." He had such a firm belief that they would possess the land of promise, that he exacted an oath of them that they would remove his remains with them, that he might be buried in the land of his fathers. He could not have exacted this oath, nor could they have taken it, unless both he and they had a sure confidence that what God had spoken would be performed.

{a} "Joseph" Ge 50:24,25 {d} "made mention" "remembered"


Verse 23. By faith Moses, when he was born. That is, by the faith of his parents. The faith of Moses himself is commended in the following verses. The statement of the apostle here is that his parents were led to preserve his life by their confidence in God. They believed that he was destined to some great purpose, and that he would be spared, notwithstanding all the probabilities against it, and all the difficulties in the case.

Was hid three months of his parents. By his parents. In Ex 2:2, it is said that it was done by his mother. The truth doubtless was, that the mother was the agent in doing it—since the concealment, probably, could be better effected by one than where two were employed—but that the father also concurred in it is morally certain. The concealment was at first, probably in their own house. The command seems to have been (Ex 1:22,) that the child should be cast into the river as soon as born. This child was concealed in the hope that some way might be found out by which his life might be spared.

Because they saw he was a proper child. A fair, or beautiful child— asteion. The word properly means, pertaining to a city, (from astu, a city;) then urbane, polished, elegant; then fair, beautiful. In Ac 7:20, it is said that he was "fair to God," (Marg.;) that is, exceedingly fair, or very handsome. His extraordinary beauty seems to have been the reason which particularly influenced his parents to attempt to preserve him. It is not impossible that they supposed that his uncommon beauty indicated that he was destined to some important service in life, and that they were on that account the more anxious to save him.

And they were not afraid of the king's commandment. Requiring that all male children should be given up to be thrown into the Nile. That is, they were not so alarmed, or did not so dread the king, as to be induced to comply with the command. The strength of the faith of the parents of Moses appears,

(1.) because the command of Pharaoh to destroy all the male children was positive, but they had so much confidence in God as to disregard it.

(2.) Because there was a strong improbability that their child could be saved. They themselves found it impossible to conceal him longer than three months; and when it was discovered, there was every probability that the law would be enforced, and that the child would be put to death. Perhaps there was reason also to apprehend that the parents would be punished for disregarding the authority of the king.

(3.) Because they probably believed that their child was destined to some important work. They thus committed him to God instead of complying with the command of an earthly monarch; and, against strong probabilities in the case, they believed that it was possible that in some way he might be preserved alive. The remarkable result showed that their faith was not unfounded.

{b} "hid three months" Ex 2:2 {*) "of" "by" {c} "king's commandment" Ex 1:16,22.


Verse 24. By faith Moses. He had confidence in God when he called him to be the leader of his people. He believed that he was able to deliver them; and he so trusted in him that he was willing, at his command, to forego the splendid prospects which opened before him in Egypt.

When he was come to years. Gr. "being great;" that is, when he was grown up to manhood. He was at that time forty years of age. See Barnes "Ac 7:23".

He took this step, therefore, in the full maturity of his judgment, and when there was no danger of being influenced by the ardent passions of youth.

Refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter. When saved from the ark in which he was placed on the Nile, he was brought up for the daughter of Pharaoh, Ex 2:9. He seems to have been adopted by her, and trained up as her own son. What prospects this opened before him is not certainly known. There is no probability that he would be the heir to the crown of Egypt, as is often affirmed, for there is no proof that the crown descended in the line of daughters; nor, if it did, is there any probability that it would descend on an adopted son of a daughter. But his situation could not but be regarded as highly honourable, and as attended with great advantages. It gave him the opportunity of receiving the best education which the times and country afforded—an opportunity of which he seems to have availed himself to the utmost. See Barnes "Ac 7:22".

It would doubtless be connected with important offices in the state. It furnished the opportunity of a life of ease and pleasure—such as they commonly delight in who reside at courts. And it doubtless opened before him the prospect of wealth, for there is no improbability in supposing that he would be the heir of the daughter of a rich monarch. Yet all this, it is said, he "refused." There is indeed no express mention made of his formally and openly refusing it, but his leaving the court, and identifying himself with his oppressed countrymen was, in fact, a refusal of these high honours, and of these brilliant prospects. It is not impossible that, when he became acquainted with his real history, there was some open and decided refusal, on his part, to be regarded as the son of the daughter of this heathen monarch.

{d} "Moses" Ex 2:10,11


Verse 25. Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God. With those whom God had chosen to be his people—the Israelites, They were then oppressed and downtrodden; but they were the descendants of Abraham, and were those whom God had designed to be his peculiar people. Moses saw that if he cast in his lot with them, he must expect trials. They were poor, and crushed, and despised—a nation of slaves. If he identified himself with them, his condition would be like theirs—one of great trial; if he sought to elevate and deliver them, such an undertaking could not but be one of great peril and hardship. Trial and danger, want and care, would follow from any course which he could adopt, and he knew that an effort to rescue them from bondage must be attended with the sacrifice of all the comforts and honour which he enjoyed at court. Yet he "chose" this. He on the whole preferred it. He left the court, not because he was driven away; not because there was nothing there to gratify ambition; or to be a stimulus to avarice; and not on account of harsh treatment—for there is no intimation that he was not treated with all the respect and honour due to his station, his talents, and his learning, but because he deliberately preferred to share the trials and sorrows of the friends of God. So every one who becomes a friend of God, and casts in his lot with his people, though he may anticipate that it will be attended with persecution, with poverty, and with scorn, prefers this to all the pleasures of a life of gaiety and sin, and to the most brilliant prospects of wealth and fame which this world can offer.

Than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. We are not to suppose that Moses, even at the court of Pharaoh, was leading a life of vicious indulgence. The idea is, that sins were practised there such as those in which pleasure is sought; and that if he had remained there it must have been because he loved the pleasures of a sinful court and a sinful life, rather than the favour of God. We may learn from this,

(1.) that there is a degree of pleasure in sin. It does not deserve to be called happiness and the apostle does not call it so. It is "pleasure," excitement, hilarity, merriment, amusement. Happiness is more solid and enduring than "pleasure;" and solid happiness is not found in the ways of sin. But it cannot be denied that there is a degree of pleasure which maybe found in amusement; in the excitement of the ballroom; in feasting and revelry; in sensual enjoyments. All which wealth and splendour, music and dancing, sensual gratifications, and the more refined pursuits in the circles of fashion can furnish, may be found in a life of irreligion; and if disappointment, and envy, and sickness, and mortified pride, and bereavements do not occur, the children of vanity and sin can find no inconsiderable enjoyment in these things. They say they do; and there is no reason to doubt the truth of their own testimony in the case. They call it a "life of pleasure;" and it is not proper to withhold from it the appellation which they choose to give it. It is not the most pure or elevated kind of enjoyment, but it would be unjust to deny that there is any enjoyment in such a course.

(2.) It is only "for a season." It will all soon pass away. Had Moses lived at the court of Pharaoh all his days, it would have been only for a little "season." These pleasures soon vanish, for

(a.) life itself is short at best; and if a career of "pleasure" is pursued through the whole of the ordinary period allotted to man, it is very brief

(b.) Those who live for pleasure often abridge their own lives. Indulgence brings disease in its train, and the votaries of sensuality usually die young. The art has never been yet discovered of combining intemperance and sensuality with length of days. If a man wishes a reasonable prospect of long life, he must be temperate and virtuous. Indulgence in vice wears out the nervous and muscular system, and destroys the powers of life—just as a machine without balance-wheel or governor would soon tear itself to pieces.

(c.) Calamity, disappointment, envy, and rivalship, mar such a life of pleasure—and he who enters on it, from causes which he cannot control, finds it very short. And,

(d.) compared with eternity, oh how brief is the longest life spent in the ways of sin. Soon it must be over—and then the unpardoned sinner enters on an immortal career where pleasure is for ever unknown!

(3.) In view of all the "pleasures" which sin can furnish, and in view of the most brilliant prospects which this world can hold out, religion enables man to pursue a different path. They who become the friends of God are willing to give up all those fair and glittering anticipations, and to submit to whatever trials may be incident to a life of self-denying piety. Religion, with all its privations and sacrifices, is preferred, nor there ever is occasion to regret the choice. Moses deliberately made that choice: nor in all the trials which succeeded it—in all the cares incident to his great office in conducting the children of Israel to the promised land—in all their ingratitude and rebellion—is there the least evidence that he ever once wished himself back again that he might enjoy "the pleasures of sin" in Egypt.

{e} "choosing" Ps 84:10


Verse 26. Esteeming the reproach of Christ. Marg. "For;" that is, on account of Christ. This means either that he was willing to bear the reproaches incident to his belief that the Messiah would come, and that he gave up his fair prospects in Egypt with that expectation; or that he endured such reproaches as Christ suffered; or the apostle uses the expression as a sort of technical phrase, well understood in his time, to denote sufferings endured in the cause of religion. Christians at that time would naturally describe all sufferings on account of religion as endured in the cause of Christ; and Paul, therefore, may have used this phrase to denote sufferings in the cause of religion—meaning that Moses suffered what, when the apostle wrote, would be called "the reproaches of Christ." It is not easy, or perhaps possible, to determine which of these interpretations is the correct one. The most respectable names may be adduced in favour of each, and every reader must be left to adopt his own view of that which is correct. The original will admit of either of them. The general idea is, that he would be reproached for the course which he pursued. He could not expect to leave the splendours of a court, and undertake what he did, without subjecting himself to trials. He would be blamed by the Egyptians for his interference in freeing their "slaves," and in bringing so many calamities upon their country, and he would be exposed to ridicule for his folly in leaving his brilliant prospects at court to become identified with an oppressed and despised people. It is rare that men are zealous in doing good without exposing themselves both to blame and to ridicule.

Greater riches. Worth more; of greater value. Reproach itself is not desirable; but reproach, when a man receives it in an effort to do good to others, is worth more to him than gold, 1 Pe 4:13,14. The scars which an old soldier has received in the defence of his country are more valued by him than his pension; and the reproach which a good man receives in endeavouring to save others is a subject of greater joy to him than would be all the wealth which could be gained in a life of sin.

Than the treasures in Egypt. It is implied here, that Moses had a prospect of inheriting large treasures in Egypt, and that he voluntarily gave them up to be the means of delivering his nation from bondage. Egypt abounded in wealth; and the adopted son of the daughter of the king would naturally be heir to a great estate.

For he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. The "recompence of the reward" here referred to must mean the blessedness of heaven—for he had no earthly reward to look to. He had no prospect of pleasure, or wealth, or honour, in his undertaking. If he had sought these, so far as human sagacity could foresee, he would have remained at the court of Pharaoh. The declaration here proves that it is right to have respect to the rewards of heaven in serving God. It does not prove that this was the only or the main motive which induced Moses to abandon his prospects at court; nor does it prove that this should be our main or only motive in leading a life of piety. If it were, our religion would be mere selfishness. But it is right that we should desire the rewards and joys of heaven, and that we should allow the prospect of those rewards and joys to influence us as a motive to do our duty to God, and to sustain us in our trials. Comp. Php 3:8-11,13,14.

{1} "of" "For" {a} "Christ" Heb 13:13 {b} "recompense" Heb 10:35


Verse 27. By faith he forsook Egypt. Some have understood this of the first time in which Moses forsook Egypt, when he fled into Midian, as recorded in Ex 2; the majority of expositors have supposed that it refers to the time when he left Egypt to conduct the Israelites to the promised land. That the latter is the time referred to is evident from the fact that it is said that he did "not fear the wrath of the king." When Moses first fled to the land of Midian it is expressly said that he went because he did fear the anger of Pharaoh for his having killed an Egyptian, Ex 2:14,15. He was at that time in fear of his life; but when he left Egypt at the head of the Hebrew people, he had no such apprehensions. God conducted him out with "an high hand;" and throughout all the events connected with that remarkable deliverance, he manifested no dread of Pharaoh, and had no apprehension from what he could do. He went forth, indeed, at the head of his people when all the power of the king was excited to destroy them, but he went confiding in God; and this is the faith referred to here.

For he endured. He persevered, amidst all the trials and difficulties connected with his leading forth the people from bondage.

As seeing him who is invisible. As if he saw God. He had no more doubt that God had called him to this work, and that he would sustain him, than if he saw him with his bodily eyes. This is a most accurate account of the nature of faith. Comp. See Barnes "Heb 11:1".

{c} "wrath of king" Ex 10:28,29 {d} "him" 1 Ti 1:17


Verse 28. Through faith he kept the passover. Gr., "he made pepoihke —the passover," which means more, it seems to me, than that he merely kept or celebrated it. It implies that he instituted this rite, and made the arrangements for its observance. There is reference to the special agency, and the special faith which he had in its institution. The faith in the case was confidence that this would be the means of preserving the firstborn of the Israelites, when the angel should destroy the firstborn of the Egyptians, and also that it would be celebrated as a perpetual memorial of this great deliverance. On the Passover, See Barnes "Mt 26:2".

And the sprinkling of blood. The blood of the paschal lamb on the lintels and door-posts of the houses, Ex 12:22.

Lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them. "The firstborn of the Egyptians, Ex 12:23. The apostle has thus enumerated some of the things which illustrated the faith of Moses. The strength of his faith may be seen by a reference to some of the circumstances which characterized it.

(1.) It was such confidence in God as to lead him to forsake the most flattering prospects of worldly enjoyment. I see no evidence, indeed, that he was the heir to the throne; but he was evidently heir to great wealth; he was encompassed with all the means of worldly pleasure; he had every opportunity for a life of literary and scientific pursuits; he was eligible to high and important trusts; he had a rank and station which would be regarded as one of the most honoured and enviable on earth. None of those who are mentioned before in this chapter were required to make just such sacrifices as this. Neither Abel, nor Noah, nor Enoch, was called to forsake such brilliant worldly prospects; and though Abraham was called to a higher act of faith when commanded to give up his beloved son, yet there were some circumstances of trial in the case of Moses, illustrating the nature of faith, which did not exist in the case of Abraham. Moses, in the maturity of life, and with everything around him that is usually regarded by men as objects of ambition, was ready to forego it all. So, wherever true faith exists, there is a readiness to abandon the hope of gain, and brilliant prospects of distinction, and fascinating pleasures, in obedience to the command of God.

(2.) Moses entered on an undertaking wholly beyond the power of man to accomplish, and against every human probability of success. It was no less than that of restoring to freedom two millions of downtrodden, oppressed, and dispirited slaves, and conducting aged and feeble men, tender females, helpless children, with numerous flocks and herds, across barren wastes to a distant land. He undertook this against the power of probably the most mighty monarch of his time; from the midst of a warlike nation; and when the whole nation would be kindled into rage at the loss of so many slaves, and when he might expect that all the power of their wrath would descend on him and his undisciplined and feeble hosts. He did this when he had no wealth that he could employ to furnish provisions or the means of defence; no armies at his command to encircle his people on their march; and even no influence among the people himself, and with every probability that they would disregard him. Comp. Ex 3:11; 4:1. He did this when the whole Hebrew people were to be aroused to willingness to enter on the great undertaking; when there was every probability that they would meet with formidable enemies in the way, and when there was nothing human whatever on which the mind could fix as a basis of calculation of success. If there ever was any undertaking commenced opposed to every human probability of success, it was that of delivering the Hebrew people, and conducting them to the promised land. To human view it was quite as hopeless and impracticable as it would be now for a stranger from Africa, claiming to be a native prince there, and to have a commission from God, to liberate the two and a half millions of slaves in this country, and conduct them to the land of their fathers. In all the difficulties and discouragements of the undertaking of Moses, therefore, his only hope of success must have arisen from his confidence in God.

(3.) It was an undertaking where there were many certain trials before him. The people whom he sought to deliver were poor and oppressed. An attempt to rescue them would bring down the wrath of the mighty monarch under whom they were. They were a people unaccustomed to self-government, and, as the result proved, prone to ingratitude and rebellion. The journey before him lay through a dreary waste, where there was every prospect that there would be a want of food and water, and where he might expect to meet with formidable enemies. In all these things his only hope must have been in God. It was he only who could deliver them from the grasp of the tyrant; who could conduct them through the wilderness; who could provide for their wants in the desert; and who could defend a vast multitude of women and children from the enemies which they would be likely to encounter.

(4.) There was nothing in this to gratify ambition, or to promise an earthly reward. All these prospects he gave up when he left the court of Pharaoh. To be the leader of a company of emancipated slaves through a pathless desert to a distant land, had nothing in itself that could gratify the ambition of one who had been bred at the most magnificent court on earth, and who had enjoyed every advantage which the age afforded to qualify him to fill any exalted office. The result showed that Moses never designed to be himself the king of the people whom he led forth, and that he had no intention of aggrandizing his own family in the case.

{e} "passover" Ex 12:21


Verse 29. By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land. Ex 14:22,29. That is, it was only by confidence in God that they were able to do this. It was not by power which they had to remove the waters, and to make a passage for themselves; and it was not by the operation of any natural causes. It is not to be supposed that all who passed through the Red Sea had saving faith. The assertion of the apostle is, that the passage was made in virtue of strong confidence in God, that if it had not been for this confidence the passage could not have been made at all. Of this no one can entertain a doubt who reads the history of that remarkable transaction.

Which the Egyptians assaying to do, were drowned. Ex 14:27,28. Evidently referred to here as showing the effects of not having faith in God, and of what must inevitably have befallen the Israelites if they had had no faith. The destruction of the Egyptians by the return of the waters, in accordance with natural laws, showed that the Israelites would have been destroyed in the passage, if a Divine energy had not been employed to prevent it. On the passage through the Red Sea, see Robinson's Biblical Researches, vol..i., pp. 81—86.

{a} "passed through" Ex 14:22,29 {*} "assaying" "attempting"


Verse 30. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, etc. Jos 6:12-20. That is, it was not by any natural causes, or by any means that were in themselves adapted to secure such a result. It was not because they fell of themselves; nor because they were assailed by the hosts of the Israelites; nor was it because there was any natural tendency in the blowing of horns to cause them to fall. None of these things were true; and it was only by confidence in God that means so little adapted to such a purpose could have been employed at all; and it was only by continued faith in him that they could have been persevered in day by day, when no impression whatever was made. The strength of the faith evinced on this occasion appears from such circumstances as these: that there was no natural tendency in the means used to produce the effect; that there was great apparent improbability that the effect would follow that they might be exposed to much ridicule from those within the city for attempting to demolish their strong walls in this manner, and from the fact that the city was encircled day after day without producing any result. This may teach us the propriety and necessity of faith in similar circumstances. Ministers of the gospel often preach where there seems to be as little prospect of beating down the opposition in the human heart by the message which they deliver, as there was of demolishing the walls of Jericho by the blowing of rams' horns, They blow the gospel trumpet from week to week and month to month, and there seems to be no tendency in the strong citadel of the heart to yield. Perhaps the only apparent result is to excite ridicule and scorn. Yet let them not despair. Let them blow on. Let them still lift up their voice with faith in God, and in due time the walls of the citadel will totter and fall. God has power over the human heart, as he had over Jericho; and in our darkest day of discouragement, let us remember that we are never in circumstances indicating less probability of success, from any apparent tendency in the means used to accomplish the result, than those were who encompassed this heathen city. With similar confidence in God we may hope for similar success.

{b} "Jericho" Jos 6:12-20


Verse 31. By faith the harlot Rahab. She resided in Jericho, Jos 2:1. When Joshua crossed the Jordan, he sent two men as spies to her house, and she saved them by concealment from the enemies that would have destroyed their lives. For this act of hospitality and kindness, they assured her of safety when the city should be destroyed, and directed her to give an indication of her place of abode to the invading Israelites, that her house might be spared, Jos 2:18,19. In the destruction of the city, she was accordingly preserved, Jos 6. The apostle seems to have selected this case as illustrating the nature of faith, partly because it occurred at Jericho, of which he had just made mention, and partly to show that strong faith had been exercised not only by the patriarchs, and by those who were confessed to be great and good, but by those in humble life, and whose earlier conduct had been far from the ways of virtue. Calvin. Much perplexity has been felt in reference to this case, and many attempts have been made to remove the difficulty. The main difficulty has been that a woman of this character should be enumerated among those who were eminent for piety; and many expositors have endeavoured to show that the word rendered harlot does not necessarily denote a woman of abandoned character, but may be used to denote a hostess. This definition is given by Schleusner, who says that the word may mean one who prepares and sells food, and who receives strangers to entertain them. Others have supposed that the word means an idolatress, because those devoted to idolatry were frequently of abandoned character. But there are no clear instances in which the Greek word and the corresponding Hebrew word—

—is used in this sense. The usual and the fair meaning of the word is that which is given in our translation, and there is no good reason why that signification should not be retained here. It is not implied by the use of the word here, however, that Rahab was an harlot at the time to which the apostle refers; but the meaning is, that this had been her character, so that it was proper to designate her by this appellation.

In regard to this case, therefore, and in explanation of the difficulties which have been felt in reference to it, we may remark,

(1.) that the obvious meaning of this word here and of the corresponding place in Jos 2:4 is, that she had been a woman of abandoned character, and that she was known as such. That she might have been also a hostess, or one who kept a house of entertainment for strangers, is at the same time by no means improbable, since it not unfrequently happened, in ancient as well as modern times, that females of this character kept such houses. It might have been the fact that her house was known merely as a house of entertainment that led the spies who went to Jericho to seek a lodging there. It would be natural that strangers coming into a place should act in this respect as all other travellers did, and should apply for entertainment at what was known as a public house.

(2.) There is no improbability in supposing that her course of life had been changed either before their arrival, or in consequence of it. They were doubtless wise and holy men. Men would not be selected for an enterprise like this in whom the leader of the Hebrew army could not put entire confidence. It is not unfair, then, to suppose that they were men of eminent piety as well as sagacity. Nor is there any improbability in supposing that they would acquaint this female with the history of their people, with their remarkable deliverance from Egypt, and with the design for which they were about to invade the land of Canaan. There is evidence that some such representations made a deep impression on her mind, and led to a change in her views and feelings, for she not only received them with the usual proofs of hospitality, but jeoparded her own life in their defence, when she might easily have betrayed them. This fact showed that she had a firm belief that they were what they professed to be—-the people of God—and that she was willing to identify her interests with theirs.

(3.) This case—supposing that she had been a woman of bad character, but now was truly converted—does not stand alone. Other females of a similar character have been converted, and have subsequently led lives of piety; and though the number is not comparatively great, yet the truth of God has shown its power in renewing and sanctifying some at least of this, the most abandoned and degraded class of human beings. "Publicans and harlots," said the Saviour, "go into the kingdom of God," Mt 21:31. Rahab seems to have been one of them; and her case shows that such instances of depravity are not hopeless. This record, therefore, is one of encouragement for the most abandoned sinners; and one too which shows that strangers, even in a public house, may do good to those who have wandered far from God and virtue, and that we should never despair of saving the most abandoned of our race.

(4.) There is no need of supposing that the apostle in commending this woman approved of all that she did. That she was not perfect is true. That she did some things which cannot be vindicated is true also—and who does not? But admitting all that may be said about any imperfection in her character, (comp. Jos 2:4,) it was still true that she had strong faith—and that is all that the apostle commends. We are under no more necessity of vindicating all that she did, than we are all that David or Peter did—or all that is now done by those who have the highest claims to virtue.

(5.) She had strong faith. It was only a strong belief that Jehovah was the true God, and that the children of Israel were his people, which would have led her to screen these strangers at the peril of her own life; and when the city was encompassed, and the wails fell and the tumult of battle raged, she showed her steady confidence in their fidelity, and in God, by using the simple means on which she was told the safety of herself and her family depended, Jos 6:22,23.

With them that believed not. The inhabitants of the idolatrous city of Jericho. The margin is, "were disobedient." The more correct rendering, however, is, as in the text, believed not. They evinced no such faith as Rahab had, and they were therefore destroyed.

Received the spies with peace. With friendliness and kindness, Jos 2:1, seq.

{c} "Rahab" Jos 6:23


Verse 32. And what shall I more say? "There are numerous other instances, showing the strength of faith, which there is not time to mention."

For the time would fail me to tell. To recount all that they did; all the illustrations of the strength and power of faith evinced in their lives.

Of Gedeon. The history of Gideon is detailed at length in Jud 6, 7, and there can be no doubt that in his wars he was sustained and animated by strong confidence in God.

And of Barak. Jud 4. Barak, at the command of Deborah the prophetess, who summoned him to war in the name of the Lord, encountered and overthrew the hosts of Sisera. His yielding to her summons, and his valour in battle against the enemies of the Lord, showed that he was animated by faith.

And of Samson. See the history of Samson in Jud 14-16.

It is not by any means necessary to suppose that, in making mention of Samson, the apostle approved of all that he did. All that he commends is his faith, and though he was a very imperfect man, and there were many things in his life which neither sound morality nor religion can approve, yet it was still true that he evinced, on some occasions, remarkable confidence in God, by relying on the strength which he gave him. This was particularly true in the instance where he made a great slaughter of the enemies of the Lord and of his country. See Jud 15:14; 16:28.

And of Jephthae. The story of Jephtha is recorded in Jud 11. The mention of his name among those who were distinguished for faith, has given occasion to much perplexity among expositors. That a man of so harsh and severe a character, a man who sacrificed his own daughter in consequence of a rash vow, should be numbered among those who were eminent for piety as if he were one distinguished for piety also, has seemed to be wholly inconsistent and improper. The same remark, however, may be made respecting Jephtha which has been made of Samson and others. The apostle does not commend all which they did. He does not deny that they were very imperfect men, nor that they did many things which can not be approved or vindicated. He commends only one thing—their faith; and in these instances he particularly alludes doubtless to their remarkable valour and success in delivering their country from their foes, and from the foes of God. In this, it is implied, that they regarded themselves as called to this work by the Lord, and as engaged in his service; and that they went forth to battle depending on his protection, and nerved by confidence in him as the God of their country. Their views of God himself might be very erroneous; their notions of religion—as was the case with Jephtha—very imperfect and obscure; many things in their lives might be wholly inconsistent with what we should now regard as demanded by religion, and still it might be true that, in their efforts to deliver their country, they relied on the aid of God, and were animated to put forth extraordinary efforts, and were favoured with extraordinary success from their confidence in him. In thee case of Jephtha, all that is necessary to suppose in order to see the force of the illustration of the apostle is, that he had strong confidence in God—the God of his nation—and that, under the influence of this, he made extraordinary efforts in repelling his foes. And this is not unnatural, or improbable, even on the supposition that he was not a pious man. How many a Greek, and Roman, and Goth, and Mohammedan, has been animated to extraordinary courage in battle by confidence in the gods which they worshipped! That Jephtha had this no one can doubt. See Jud 11:29-32. Even in the great and improper sacrifice of his only daughter; which the obvious interpretation of the record respecting him, in Jud 11:39, leads us to suppose he made, he did it as an offering to the Lord; and under these mistaken views of duty he showed, by the greatest sacrifice which a man could make—that of an only child —that he was disposed to do what he believed was required by religion.

A full examination of the case of Jephtha, and of the question whether he really sacrificed his daughter, may be found in Warburton's Divine Legation of Moses, Book ix. Notes; in Bush's Notes on Judges xi.; and in the Biblical Repository for January, 1843. It is not necessary to go into the much-litigated inquiry here whether he really put his daughter to death—for, whether he did or not, it is equally true that he evinced strong confidence in God. If he did do it in obedience, as he supposed, to duty and to the Divine command, no higher instance of faith in God, as having a right to dispose of all that he had, could be furnished; if he did not, his eminent valour and success in battle show that he relied for strength and victory on the arm of Jehovah. The single reason why the piety of Jephtha has ever been called in question, has been the fact that he sacrificed his own daughter. If he did not do that, no one will doubt his claims to an honoured rank among those who have evinced faith in God.

Of David also. Commended justly as an eminent example of a man who had faith in God, though it cannot be supposed that all that he did was approved.

And Samuel. In early youth distinguished for his piety, and manifesting it through his life. See 1 Sam.

And of the prophets. They were men who had strong confidence in the truth of what God directed them to foretell, and who were ever ready, depending on him, to make known the most unwelcome truths to their fellow-men, even at the peril of their lives.

{*} "Gedeon" "Gideon" {b} "Gideon" Jud 6, 7

{c} "Barak" Jud 4:6 {d} "Samson" Jud 15, 16

{e} "Jepthae" Jud 11:32 {+} "Jepthae" "Jepthah" {f} "David" 1 Sa 17:45 {g} "Samuel" 1 Sa 7:9


Verse 33. Who through faith subdued kingdoms. That is, those specified in the previous verses, and others like them. The meaning is, that some of them subdued kingdoms, others obtained promises, etc. Thus, Joshua subdued the nations of Canaan; Gideon this Midianites; Jephtha the Ammonites; David the Philistines, Amalekites, Jebusites, Edomites, etc.

Wrought righteousness. Carried the laws of justice into execution, particularly on guilty nations. They executed the great purposes of God in punishing the wicked, and in cutting off his foes.

Obtained promises. Or obtained promised blessings, (Bloomfield, Stuart;) that is, they obtained, as a result of their faith, promises of blessings on their posterity in future times.

Stopped the mouths of lions. As Samson, Jud 14:6; David, 1 Sa 17:34, seq.; and particularly Daniel, Da 6:7, seq. To be able to subdue and render harmless the king of the forest—the animal most dreaded in early times—was regarded as an eminent achievement.

{a} "promises" Ga 3:16 {b} "lions" Da 6:22


Verse 34. Quenched the violence of fire. As Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did, Da 3:15-26.

Escaped the edge of the sword. As Elijah did when he fled from Ahab, 1 Ki 19:3; as Elisha did when he was delivered from the king of Syria, 2 Ki 6:16; and as David did when he fled from Saul.

Out of weakness were made strong. Enabled to perform exploits beyond their natural strength, or raised up from a state of bodily infirmity, and invigorated for conflict. Such a case as that of Samson may be referred to, Jud 15:16; 16:26-30; or as that of Hezekiah, 2 Ki 20, who was restored from dangerous sickness by the immediate interposition of God.

See Barnes "Isa 38".

Waxed valiant in fight. Became valiant. Like Joshua, Barak, David, etc. The books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings, supply instances of this in abundance.

Turned to flight the armies of the aliens. The foreigners—as the invading Philistines, Ammonites, Moabites, Assyrians, etc.

{c} "fire" Da 3:25 {d} "edge of the sword" 1 Ki 19:3; 2 Ki 6:16 {*} "aliens" "of other nations"


Verse 35. Women received their dead raised to life again. As in the case of the woman of Zarephath, whose child was restored to life by Elijah, 1 Ki 17:19-22; and of the son of the Shunammite woman, whose child was restored to life by Elisha, 2 Ki 4:18-37.

And others were tortured. The word which is here used tumpanizw to tympanize, refers to a form of severe torture which was sometimes practised. It is derived from tumpanon—tympanum —a drum, tabret, timbrel; and the instrument was probably so called from resembling the drum or the timbrel. This instrument consisted in the East of a thin wooden rim covered over with skin, as a tambourine is with us. See it described in the See Barnes "Isa 5:12".

The engine of torture here referred to probably resembled the drum in form, on which the body of a criminal was bent so as to give greater severity to the wounds which were inflicted by scourging. The lash would cut deeper when the body was so extended, and the open gashes exposed to the air would increase the torture. See 2 Mac. 6:19-29. The punishment here referred to seems to have consisted of two things—the stretching upon the instrument, and the scourging. See Robinson's Lex., and Stuart, in loc. Bloomfield, however, supposes that the mode of the torture can be best learned from the original meaning of the word tumpanon —tympanum—as meaning

(1.) a beating-stick, and

(2.) a beating-post, which was in the form of a T, thus suggesting the posture of the sufferer. This beating, says he, was sometimes administered with sticks or rods; and sometimes with leather thongs inclosing pieces of lead. The former account, however, better agrees with the usual meaning of the word.

Not accepting deliverance. When it was offered them; that is, on condition that they would renounce their opinions, or do what was required of them. This is the very nature of the spirit of martyrdom.

That they might obtain a better resurrection. That is, when they were subjected to this kind of torture they were looked upon as certainly dead. To have accepted deliverance than, would have been a kind of restoration to life or a species of resurrection. But they refused this, and looked forward to a more honourable and glorious restoration to life; a resurrection, therefore, which would be better than this. It would be in itself more noble and honourable, and would be permanent, and therefore better. No particular instance of this kind is mentioned in the Old Testament; but, amidst the multitude of cases of persecution to which good men were subjected, there is no improbability in supposing that this may have occurred. The case of Eleazer, recorded in 2 Mac. 6, so strongly resembles what the apostle says here, that it is very possible he may have had it in his eye. The passage before us proves that the doctrine of the resurrection was understood and believed before the coming of the Saviour, and that it was one of the doctrines which sustained and animated those who were called to suffer on account of their religion. In the prospect of death under the infliction of torture on account of religion, or under the pain produced by disease, nothing will better enable us to bear up under the suffering than the expectation that the body will be restored to immortal rigour, and raised to a mode of life where it will be no longer susceptible of pain. To be raised up to that life is a "better resurrection" than to be saved from death when persecuted, or to be raised up from a bed of pain.

{e} "received" 1 Ki 17:22 {f} "deliverance" Ac 4:19


Verse 36. And others had trial of cruel mockings. Referring to the scorn and derision which the ancient victims of persecution experienced. This has been often experienced by martyrs, and doubtless it was the case with those who suffered on account of their religion before the advent of the Saviour as well as afterwards. Some instances of this kind are mentioned in the Old Testament, (2 Ki 2:23; 1 Ki 22:24;) and it was frequent in the time of the Maccabees.

And scourging. Whipping. This was a common mode of punishment, and was usually inflicted before a martyr was put to death. See Barnes "Mt 10:17, See Barnes "Mt 27:26".

For instances of this, see Jer 20:2; 2 Mac. 7:1; 5:17.

Of bonds. Chains, Ge 39:20.

And imprisonment. See 1 Ki 22:27; Jer 20:2.

{g} "bonds" Ge 39:20 {h} "imprisonment" Jer 20:2


Verse 37. They were stoned. A common method of punishment among the Jews. See Barnes "Mt 21:35,44.

Thus Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada the priest, was stoned. See 2 Ch 24:21; comp. 1 Ki 21:1-14. It is not improbable that this was often resorted to in times of popular tumult, as in the case of Stephen, Ac 7:59; comp. Joh 10:31; Ac 14:5. In the time of the terrible persecutions under Antiochus Epiphanes, and under Manasseh, such instances also probably occurred.

They were sawn asunder. It 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 practised. 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. See 1 Sa 31:10, and Morier's Second Journey to Persia, p. 96.

Were tempted. On this expression, which has given much perplexity to critics, see the Notes of Prof. Stuart, Bloomfield, and Kuinoel. There is a great variety of reading in the Mss. and editions of the New Testament, and many have regarded it as an interpolation. The difficulty which has been felt in reference to it has been, that it is a much milder word than those just used, and that it is hardly probable that the apostle would enumerate this among those which he had just specified, as if to be tempted deserved to be mentioned among sufferings of so severe a nature. But it seems to me, there need be no real difficulty in the case. The apostle here, among other sufferings which they were called to endure, may have referred to the temptations which were presented to the martyrs, when about to die, to abandon their religion and live. It is very possible to conceive that this might have been among the highest aggravations of their sufferings. We know that in latter times it was a common practice to offer life to those who were doomed to a horrid death, on condition that they would throw incense on the altars of a heathen god, and we may easily suppose that a temptation of that kind, artfully presented in the midst of keen tortures, would greatly aggravate their sufferings. Or suppose when a father was about to be put to death for his religion, his wife and children were placed before him, and should plead with him to save his life by abandoning his religion, we can easily imagine that no pain of the rack would cause so keen torture to the soul as their cries and tears would. Amidst the sorrows of martyrs, therefore, it was not improper to say that they were tempted, and to place this among their most aggravated woes. For instances of this nature, see 2 Mac. 6:21, 22; 7:17, 24.

Were slain with the sword. As in the case of the eighty-five priests slain by Doeg, (1 Sa 22:18;) and the prophets, of whose slaughter by the sword Elijah complains, 1 Ki 19:10.

They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins. Driven away from their homes, and compelled to clothe themselves in this rude and uncomfortable manner. A dress of this kind, or a dress made of hair, was not uncommon with the prophets, and seems indeed to have been regarded as an appropriate badge of their office. See 2 Ki 1:8; Zec 13:4.

Being destitute, afflicted, tormented. The word tormented here means tortured. The apostle expresses here in general what in the previous verses he had specified in detail. {i} "stoned" Ac 7:59


Verse 38. Of whom the world was not worthy. The world was so wicked that it had no claim that such holy men should live in it. These poor, despised, and persecuted men, living as outcasts and wanderers, were of a character far elevated above the world. This is a most beautiful expression. It is at once a statement of their eminent holiness, and of the wickedness of the rest of mankind.

They wandered in deserts, etc. On the Scripture meaning of the word desert or wilderness, See Barnes "Mt 3:1".

This is a description of persons driven away from their homes, and wandering about from place to place to procure a scanty subsistence. Comp. 1 Mac. 1:53; 2 Mac. 5:27; 6:7. The instances mentioned in the Books of Maccabees are so much in point, that there is no impropriety in supposing that Paul referred to some such cases, if not these very cases. As there is no doubt about their historic truth, there was no impropriety in referring to them, though they are not mentioned in the canonical books of Scripture. One of those cases may be referred to as strikingly illustrating what is here said. "But Judas Maccabeus, with nine others, or thereabout, withdrew himself into the wilderness, and lived in the mountains after the manner of beasts, with his company, who fed on herbs continually, lest they should be partakers of the pollution," 2 Mac. 5:27.


Verse 39. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith. They were all commended and approved on account of their confidence in God. See Barnes "Heb 11:2".

Received not the promise. That is, did not receive the fulfilment of the promise; or did not receive all that was promised. They all still looked forward to some future blessings. See Barnes "Heb 11:13".

{*} "report" "an honourable testimony"


Verse 40. God having provided some better thing for us. Marg., foreseen. That is, "God having provided, or determined on giving some better thing than any of them realized, and, which we are now permitted to enjoy." That is, God gave them promises; but they were not allowed to see their fulfilment. We are permitted now to see what they referred to, and in part, at least, to witness their completion; and though the promise was made to them, the fulfilment more particularly pertains to us.

That they without us should not be made perfect. That is, complete. The whole system of revelation was not complete at once, or in one generation. It required successive ages to make the system complete, so that it might be said that it was finished, or perfect. Our existence, therefore, and the developments in our times, were as necessary to the perfection of the system as the promise made to the patriarchs. And as the system would not have been complete if the blessings had been simply conferred on us without the previous arrangements, and the long scheme of introductory measures, so it would not have been complete if the promises had been merely given to them without the corresponding fulfilment in our times. They are like the two parts of a tally. The fathers had one part in the promises, and we the other in the fulfilment, and neither would have been complete without the other. The "better things," then, referred to here as possessed by Christians, are the privilege of seeing those promises fulfilled in the Messiah; the blessings resulting from his atonement; the more expanded views which they have under the gospel; the brighter hopes of heaven itself, and the clearer apprehension of what heaven will be, which they are permitted to enjoy. This, therefore, accords entirely with the argument which the apostle is pursuing—which is, to show that the Christians whom he addressed should not apostatize from their religion. The argument is, that in numerous instances, as specified, the saints of ancient times, even under fiery trials, were sustained by faith in God, and that, too, when they had not seen the fulfilment of the promises, and when they had much more obscure views than we are permitted to enjoy. If they, under the influence of the mere promise of future blessings, were enabled thus to persevere, how much more reason is there for us to persevere, who have been permitted, by the coming of the Messiah, to witness the perfection of the system!

There is no part of the New Testament of more value than this chapter; none which deserves to be more patiently studied, or which may be more frequently applied to the circumstances of Christians. These invaluable records are adapted to sustain us in times of trial, temptation, and persecution; to show us what faith has done in days that are past, and what it may do still in similar circumstances. Nothing can better show the value and the power of faith, or of true religion, than the records in this chapter. It has done what nothing else could do. It has enabled men to endure what nothing else would enable them to bear; and it has shown its power in inducing them to give up, at the command of God, what the human heart holds most dear. And among the lessons which we may derive from the study of this portion of divine truth, let us learn from the example of Abel to continue to offer to God the sacrifice of true piety which he requires, though we may be taunted or opposed by our nearest kindred; from that of Enoch to walk with God, though surrounded by a wicked world, and to look to the blessed translation to heaven which awaits all the righteous; from that of Noah to comply with all the directions of God, and to make all needful preparations for the future events which he has predicted, in which we are to be interested—as death, judgment, and eternity—though the events may seem to be remote, and though there may be no visible indications of their coming, and though the world may deride our faith and our fears; from that of Abraham to leave country, and home, and kindred, if God calls us to, and to go just where he commands, through deserts and wilds, and among strange men; and like him, also, to be ready to give up the dearest objects of our earthly affection, even when attended with all that can try or torture our feelings of affection— feeling that God, who gave, has a right to require their removal in his own way; and that, however much we may fix our hopes on a dear child, he can fulfil all his purposes and promises to us though such a child should be removed by death; from that of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to regard ourselves as strangers and pilgrims on earth, having here no permanent home, and seeking a better country; from that of Moses to be willing to leave all the pomp and splendour of the world, all our brilliant prospects and hopes, and to welcome poverty, reproach, and suffering, that we may identify ourselves with the people of God; by the remembrance of the host of worthies who met danger, and encountered mighty foes, and vanquished them, let us learn to go forth in our spiritual conflicts against the enemies of our souls and of the church, assured of victory; and from the example of those who were driven from the abodes of men, and exposed to the storms of persecution, let us learn to bear every trial, and to be ready, at any moment, to lay down our lives in the cause of truth and of God. Of all those holy men who made these sacrifices, which of them ever regretted it, when he came calmly to look over his life, and to review it on the borders of the eternal world? None. Not one of them ever expressed regret that he had given up the world; or that he had obeyed the Lord too early, too faithfully, or too long. Not Abraham, who left his country and kindred; not Moses, who abandoned his brilliant prospects in Egypt; not Noah, who subjected himself to ridicule and scorn for an hundred and twenty years; and not one of those who were exposed to lions, to fire, to the edge of the sword, or who were driven away from society as outcasts, to wander in pathless deserts, or to take up their abodes in caverns, ever regretted the course which they had chosen. And who of them all now regrets it? Who, of these worthies, now looks from heaven and feels that he suffered one privation too much, or that he has not had an ample recompense for all the ills he experienced in the cause of religion? So we shall feel when from the bed of death we look over the present life, and look out on eternity. Whatever our religion may have cost us, we shall not feel that we began to serve God too early, or served him too faithfully. Whatever pleasure, gain, or splendid prospects we gave up in order to become Christians, we shall feel that it was the way of wisdom, and shall rejoice that we were able to do it. Whatever sacrifices, trials, persecution, and pain, we may meet with, we shall feel that there has been more than a compensation in the consolations of religion, and in the hope of heaven, and that by every sacrifice we have been the gainers. When we reach heaven, we shall see that we have not endured one pain too much, and that through whatever trials we may have passed, the result is worth all which it has cost. Strengthened, then, in our trials by the remembrance of what faith has done in times that are past; recalling the example of those who through faith and patience have inherited the promises, let us go cheerfully on our way. Soon the journey of trials will be ended, and soon what are now objects of faith will become objects of fruition; and in their enjoyment, how trifling and brief will seem all the sorrows of our pilgrimage below!

{1} "having provided" "foreseen" {a} "without us should not be made perfect" Re 6:11




THE apostle, having illustrated the nature and power of faith in the previous chapter, proceeds in this to exhort those to whom he wrote to apply tile same principles to their own case, and to urge them to manifest the same steady confidence in God and perseverance in their holy walk. For this purpose he adverts to the following arguments or considerations:—

I. He represents the ancient worthies who had so faithfully persevered, and so gloriously triumphed, as witnesses of their strife in the Christian race, and as cheering them on to victory, Heb 12:1.

II. He appeals to the example of the Saviour, Heb 12:2-4. This was a more illustrious instance than any of those which had been adverted to, and is not referred to with theirs, but is adduced as deserving a separate and a special specification. The circumstances in his case which are all encouragement to perseverance in the Christian conflict are these.

(1.) He endured the cross, and is now exalted to the right hand of God.

(2.) He bore the contradiction of sinners against himself, as those were called to do to whom Paul wrote.

(3.) He went beyond them in his trials and temptations, beyond anything which they could have reason to apprehend —for he had "resisted unto blood, striving against sin."

III. He encourages them by showing that their trials would result in their own good, and particularly that the hand of a Father was in them, Heb 12:6-13. Particularly he urges

(1.) that God addressed those who suffered as his sons, and called on them not to receive with improper feeling the chastening of the Lord, Heb 12:5;

(2.) that it was a general principle that the Lord chastened those whom he loved—and the fact that we received chastening was to be regarded as evidence that we are under his paternal care, and that he has not forsaken us, Heb 12:6-8;

(3.) that they had been subject to the correction of earthly fathers, and had learned to be submissive, and that there was much higher reason for submitting to God, Heb 12:9,10;

(4.) and that however painful chastisement might be at present, yet it would ultimately produce important benefits, Heb 12:11. By these considerations he encourages them to bear their trials with patience, and to assume new courage in their efforts to live a Christian life, Heb 12:12,13.


V. He exhorts them to perseverance and fidelity, by the fact that if they should become remiss, and renounce their confidence in God, it would be impossible to retrieve what was lost, Heb 12:14-17. In illustrating this, he appeals to the case of Esau. For a trifling consideration, when in distress, he parted with an invaluable blessing. When it was gone it was impossible to recover it. No consideration could induce a change, though he sought it earnestly with tears. So it would be with Christians, if, under the power of temptation, they should renounce their religion, and go back to their former state.

V. He urges them to perseverance by the nature of the dispensation under which they were, as compared with the one under which they had formerly been—the Jewish, Heb 12:18-29. Under the former everything was fitted to alarm and terrify the soul, Heb 12:18-29. The new dispensation was of a different character. It was adapted to encourage and to win the heart. The real Mount Zion —the city of the living God—the New Jerusalem—the company of the angels—the church of the firstborn—the Judge of all—the great Mediator—to which they had come under the new dispensation, all these were fitted to encourage the fainting heart, and to win the affections Of the soul, Heb 12:22-24. Yet, in proportion to the sacredness and tenderness of these considerations, and to the light and privileges which they now enjoyed, would be their guilt if they should renounce their religion—for under this dispensation, as under the old, God was a consuming fire, Heb 12:25-29.

Verse 1. Wherefore. In view of what has been said in the previous chapter.

Seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses. The apostle represents those to whom he had referred in the previous chapter as looking on to witness the efforts which Christians make, and the manner in which they live. There is allusion here, doubtless, to the ancient games. A great multitude of spectators usually occupied the circular seats in the amphitheatre, from which they could easily behold the combatants. See Barnes "1 Co 9:24, seq. In like manner the apostle represents Christians as encompassed with the multitude of worthies to whom he had referred in the previous chapter. It cannot be fairly inferred from this that he means to say that all those ancient worthies were actually looking at the conduct of Christians, and saw their conflicts. It is a figurative representation, such as is common, and means that we ought to act as if they were in sight, and cheered us on. How far the spirits of the just who are departed from this world are permitted to behold what is done on earth—if at all—is not revealed in the Scriptures. The phrase "a cloud of witnesses," means many witnesses, or a number so great that they seem to be a cloud. The comparison of a multitude of persons to a cloud is common in the classic writers. See Homer's Il. iv. 274, xxiii. 133; Statius, i. 340, and other instances adduced in Wetstein, in loc. Comp. See Barnes "1 Th 4:17".

Let us lay aside every weight. The word rendered weight —ogkon— means that which is crooked or hooked, and thence anything that is attached or suspended by a hook—that is, by its whole weight, and hence means weight. See Passow. It does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. The word is often used in the classic writers in the sense of swelling, tumour, pride. Its usual meaning is that of weight or burden; and there is allusion here, doubtless, to the runners in the games, who were careful not to encumber themselves with anything that was heavy. Hence their clothes were so made as not to impede their running, and hence they were careful in their training not to overburden themselves with food, and in every way to remove what would be an impediment or hindrance. As applied to the racers, it does not mean that they began to run with anything like a burden, and then threw it away—as persons sometimes aid their jumping by taking a stone in their hands to acquire increased momentum—but that they were careful not to allow anything that would be a weight or an encumbrance. As applied to Christians, it means that they should remove all which would obstruct their progress in the Christian course. Thus it is fair to apply it to whatever would be an impediment in our efforts to win the crown of life. It is not the same thing in all persons. In one it may be pride; in another, vanity; in another, worldliness; in another, a violent and almost ungovernable temper; in another, a corrupt imagination; in another, a heavy, leaden, insensible heart; in another, some improper and unholy attachment. Whatever it may be, we are exhorted to lay it aside; and this general direction may be applied to anything which prevents our making the highest possible attainment in the divine life. Some persons would make much more progress if they would throw away many of their personal ornaments; some if they would disencumber themselves of the heavy weight of gold which they are endeavouring to carry with them. So some very light objects, in themselves considered, become material encumbrances. Even a feather or a ring—such may be the fondness for these toys—may become such a weight that they will never make much progress towards the prize.

And the sin which doth so easily beset us. The word which is here rendered "easily beset" —euperistaton—euperistaton—does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. It properly means, "standing well around;" and hence denotes that which is near, or at hand, or readily occurring. So Chrysostom explains it. Passow defines it as meaning, "easy to encircle." Tindal renders it, "the sin that hangeth on us." Theodoret and others explain the word as if derived from peristasiv —peristasis—a word which sometimes means affliction, peril—and hence regard it as denoting that which is full of peril, or the sin which so easily subjects one to calamity. Bloom, field supposes, in accordance with the opinion of Grotius, Crellius, Kypke, Kuinoel, and others, that it means "the sin which especially winds around us and hinders our course," with allusion to the long Oriental garments. According to this, the meaning would be, that as a runner would be careful not to encumber himself with a garment which would be apt to wind around his legs in running, and hinder him, so it should be with the Christian, who especially ought to lay aside everything which resembles this that is, all sin which must impede his course. The former of these interpretations however, is most commonly adopted, and best agrees with the established sense of the word. It will then mean that we are to lay aside every encumbrance, particularly or especially—for so the word Kai," and," should be rendered here—the sins to which we are most exposed. Such sins are appropriately called "easily-besetting sins." They are those to which we are particularly liable. They are such sins as the following:

(1.) Those to which we are particularly exposed by our natural temperament or disposition. In some this is pride, in others indolence, or gaiety, or levity, or avarice, or ambition, or sensuality.

(2.) Those in which we freely indulged before we became Christians. They will be likely to return with power, and we are far more likely, from the laws of association, to fall into them than into any other. Thus a man who has been intemperate is in special danger from that quarter; a man who has been an infidel is in special danger of scepticism; one who has been avaricious, proud, gay, or ambitious, is in special danger, even after conversion, of again committing these sins.

(3.) Sins to which we are exposed by our profession, by our relations to others, or by our situation in life. They whose condition will entitle them to associate with what are regarded as the more elevated classes of society, are in special danger of indulging in the methods of living and of amusement that are common among them; they who are prospered in the world are in danger of losing the simplicity and spirituality of their religion; they who hold a civil office are in danger of becoming mere politicians, and of losing the very form and substance of piety.

(4.) Sins to which we are exposed from some peculiar weakness in our character. On some points we may be in no danger. We may be constitutionally so firm as not to be especially liable to certain forms of sin. But; every man has one or more weak points, in his character; and it is there that he is particularly exposed. A bow may be in the main very strong. All along its length there may be no danger of its giving way—save at one place where it has been made too thin, or where the material was defective—and if it ever breaks, it will of course be at that point. That is the point, therefore, which needs to be guarded and strengthened. So in reference to character. There is always some weak point which needs especially to be guarded, and our principal danger is there. Self-knowledge, so necessary in leading a holy life, consists much in searching out those weak points of character where we are most exposed; and our progress in the Christian course will be determined much by the fidelity with which we guard and strengthen them.

And let us run with patience the race that is set before us. The word rendered "patience" rather means in this place perseverance. We are to run the race without allowing ourselves to be hindered by any obstructions, and without giving out or fainting in the way. Encouraged by the example of the multitudes who have run the same race before us, and who are now looking out upon us from heaven where they dwell, we are to persevere as they did to the end.

{1} "lay aside" 2 Co 7:1


Verse 2.Looking unto Jesus, As a farther inducement to do this the apostle exhorts us to look to the Saviour. We are to look to his holy life; to his patience and perseverance in trials; to what he endured in order to obtain the crown, and to his final success and triumph.

The author and finisher of our faith. The word "our" is not in the original here, and obscures the sense. The meaning is, he is the first and the last as an example of faith, or of confidence in God—occupying in this, as in all other things, the preeminence, and being the most complete model that can be placed before us. The apostle had not enumerated him among those who had been distinguished for their faith, but he now refers to him as above them all; as a case that deserved to stand by itself. It is probable that there is a continuance here of the allusion to the Grecian games which the apostle had commenced in the previous verse. The word "author" archgon— (marg, beginner)— means, properly, the source, or cause of anything; or one who makes a beginning. It is rendered in Ac 3:16, Ac 5:31, prince; in Heb 2:10, captain; and in the place before us,author. It does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. The phrase, "the beginner of faith," or the leader on of faith, would express the idea. He is at the head of all those who have furnished an example of confidence in God, for he was himself the most illustrious instance of it. The expression, then, does not mean properly that he produces faith in us, or that we believe because he causes us to believe —whatever may be the truth about that—but that he stands at the head as the most eminent example that can be referred to on the subject of faith. We are exhorted to look to him, as if at the Grecian games there was one who stood before the racer who had previously carried away every palm of victory; who had always been triumphant, and with whom there was no one who could be compared. The word finisher— teleiwthn—corresponds in meaning with the word author. It means that he is the completer as well as the beginner; the last as well as the first. As there has been no one hitherto who could be compared with him, so there will be no one hereafter. Comp. Re 1:8,11 "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the first and the last." The word does not mean that he was the "finisher" of faith, in the sense that he makes our faith complete, or perfects it—whatever may be true about that—but that he occupies this elevated position of being beyond comparison above all others. Alike in the commencement and the close, in the beginning of faith and in its ending, he stands pre-eminent. To this illustrious model we should look—as a racer would on one who had been always so successful that he surpassed all competitors and rivals. If this be the meaning, then it is not properly explained, as it is commonly, (see Bloomfield and Stuart, in loc.,) by saying that the word here is synonymous with rewarder, and refers to the brabeuthv—brabeutes-or the distributor of the prize. Comp. See Barnes "Col 3:15".

There is no instance where the word is used in this sense in the New Testament, (comp. Passow,) nor would such an interpretation present so beautiful and appropriate a thought as the one suggested above.

Who for the joy that was set before him. That is, who in view of all the honour which he would have at the right hand of God, and the happiness which he would experience from the consciousness that he had redeemed a world, was willing to bear the sorrows connected with the atonement.

Endured the cross. Endured patiently the ignominy and pain connected with the suffering of death on the cross.

Despising the shame. Disregarding the ignominy of such a mode of death. It is difficult for us now to realize the force of the expression, "enduring the shame of the cross," as it was understood in the time of the Saviour and the apostles. The views of the world have changed, and it is now difficult to divest the "cross" of the associations of honour and glory which the word suggests, so as to appreciate the ideas which encompassed it then. There is a degree of dishonour which we attach to the guillotine, but the ignominy of a death on the cross was greater than that; there is disgrace attached to the block, but the ignominy of the cross was greater than that; there is a much deeper infamy attached to the gallows, but the ignominy of the cross was greater than that. And that word—the cross—which when now proclaimed in the ears of the refined, the intelligent, and even the gay, excites an idea of honour in the ears of the people of Athens, of Corinth, and of Rome, excited deeper disgust than the word gallows does with us, for it was regarded as the appropriate punishment of the most infamous of mankind. We can now scarcely appreciate these feelings, and of course the declaration that Jesus "endured the cross, despising the shame," does not make the impression on our minds in regard to the nature of his sufferings, and the value of his example, which it should do. When we now think of the "cross," it is not of the multitude of slaves, and robbers, and thieves, and rebels, who have died on it, but of the one great victim whose death has ennobled even this instrument of torture, and encircled it with a halo of glory. We have been accustomed to read of it as an imperial standard in war in the days of Constantine, and as the banner under which armies have marched to conquest; it is intermingled with the sweetest poetry; it is a sacred thing in the most magnificent cathedrals; it adorns the altar, and is even an object of adoration; it is in the most elegant engravings; it is worn by beauty and piety as an ornament near the heart; it is associated with all that is pure in love, great in self-sacrifice, and holy in religion. To see the true force of the expression here, therefore, it is necessary to divest ourselves of these ideas of glory which encircle the "cross," and to place ourselves in the times and lands in which, when the most infamous of mankind were stretched upon it, it was regarded for such men as an appropriate mode of punishment. That infamy Jesus was willing to bear; and the strength of his confidence in God, his love for man, and the depth of his humiliation, was shown in the readiness and firmness with which he went forward to such a death.

And is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Exalted to the highest place of dignity and honour in the universe. See Barnes "Mr 6:19" See Barnes "Eph 1:20, seq. The sentiment here is, "Imitate the example of the great Author of our religion. He, in view of the honour and joy before him, endured the most severe sufferings to which the human frame can be subjected, and the form of death which is regarded as the most shameful. So, amidst all the severe trials to which you are exposed on account of religion, patiently endure all—for the glorious rewards, the happiness and the triumph of heaven, are before you."

{1} "author" "beginner" {a} "joy" Lu 24:26


Verse 3. For consider him. Attentively reflect on his example, that you may be able to bear your trials in a proper manner.

That endured such contradiction of sinners. Such opposition. The reference is to the Jews of the time of the Saviour, who opposed his plans, perverted his sayings, and ridiculed his claims. Yet, regardless of their opposition, he persevered in the course which he had marked out, and went patiently forward in the execution of his plans. The idea is, that we are to pursue the path of duty, and follow the dictates of conscience, let the world say what they will about it. In doing this, we cannot find a better example than the Saviour. No opposition of sinners ever turned him from the way which he regarded as right; no ridicule ever caused him to abandon any of his plans; no argument, or expression of scorn, ever caused him for a moment to deviate from his course.

Lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. The meaning is, that there is great danger of being disheartened and wearied out by the opposition which you meet with. But with the bright example of one who was never disheartened, and who never became weary in doing the will of God, you may persevere. The best means of leading a faithful Christian life, amidst the opposition which we may encounter, is to keep the eye steadily fixed on the Saviour.

{*} "of sinners" "From sinners"


Verse 4. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. The general sense of this passage is, "You have not yet been called, in your Christian struggles, to the highest kind of sufferings and sacrifices. Great as your trials may seem to have been, yet your faith has not yet been put to the severest test. And since this is so, you ought not to yield in the conflict with evil, but manfully resist it." In the language here used, there is undoubtedly a continuance of the allusion to the agonistic games—the strugglings and wrestlings for mastery there. In those games, the boxers were accustomed to arm themselves for the fight with the caestus. This, at first, consisted of strong leathern thongs wound around the hands, and extending only to the wrist, to give greater solidity to the fist. Afterwards these were made to extend to the elbow, and then to the shoulder; and, finally, they sowed pieces of lead or iron in them, that they might strike a heavier and more destructive blow. The consequence was, that those who were engaged in the fight were often covered with blood, and that resistance "unto blood" showed a determined courage, and a purpose not to yield. But though the language here may be taken from this custom, the fact to which the apostle alludes, it seems to me, is the struggling of the Saviour in the garden of Gethsemane, when his conflict was so severe, that great drops of blood fell down to the ground. See Barnes "Mt 26:42, seq. It is, indeed, commonly understood to mean that they had not yet been called to shed their blood as martyrs in the cause of religion. See Stuart, Bloomfield, Doddridge, Clarke, Whitby, Kuinoel, etc. Indeed, I find in none of the commentators what seems to me to be the true sense of this passage, and what gives an exquisite beauty to it, the allusion to the sufferings of the Saviour in the garden. The reasons which lead me to believe that there is such an allusion are briefly these.

(1.) The connexion. The apostle is appealing to the example of the Saviour, and urging Christians to persevere amidst their trials by looking to him. Nothing would be more natural, in this connexion, than to refer to that dark night when, in the severest conflict with temptation which he ever encountered, he so signally showed his own firmness of purpose, and the effects of resistance on his own bleeding body, and his signal victory, in the garden of Gethsemane.

(2.) The expression, "striving against sin," seems to demand the same interpretation. On the common interpretation, the allusion would be merely to their resisting persecution; but here the allusion is to some struggle in their minds against committing sin. The apostle exhorts them to strive manfully and perseveringly against sin in every form, and especially against the sin of apostasy. To encourage them, he refers them to the highest instance on record where there was a "striving against sin"—the struggle of the Redeemer in the garden with the great enemy, who there made his most violent assault, and where the resistance of the Redeemer was so great as to force the blood through his pores. What was the exact form of the temptation there, we are not informed. It may have been to induce him to abandon his work even then, and to yield, in view of the severe sufferings of his approaching death on the cross. If there ever was a point where temptation would be powerful, it would be there. When a man is about to be put to death, how strong is the inducement to abandon his purpose, his plans, or his principles, if he may save his life! How many, of feeble virtue, have yielded just there! If to this consideration we add the thought that the Redeemer was engaged in a work never before undertaken; that he designed to make an atonement never before made; that he was about to endure sorrows never before endured; and that on the decision of that moment depended the ascendency of sin or holiness on the earth, the triumph or the fall of Satan's kingdom, the success or the defeat of all the plans of the great adversary of God and man; and that, on such an occasion as this, the tempter would use all his power to crush the lonely and unprotected Man of sorrows in the garden of Gethsemane, it is easy to imagine what may have been the terror of that fearful conflict, and what virtue it would require in him to resist the concentrated energy of Satan's might, to induce him even then to abandon his work. The apostle says of those to whom he wrote, that they had not yet reached that point. Comp. See Barnes "Heb 5:7".

(3.) This view furnishes a proper climax to the argument of the apostle for perseverance. It presents the Redeemer before the mind as the great Example; directs the mind to him in various scenes of his life—as looking to the joy before him—disregarding the ignominy of his sufferings— enduring the opposition of sinners—and then in the garden as engaged in a conflict with his great foe, and so resisting sin that, rather than yield, he endured that fearful mental struggle which was attended with such remarkable consequences. This is the highest consideration which could be presented to the mind of a believer to keep him from yielding in the conflict with evil; and if we could keep him in the eye, resisting even unto blood, rather than yield in the least degree, it would do more than all other things to restrain us from sin. How different his case from ours? How readily we yield to sin! We offer a faint and feeble resistance, and then surrender. We think it will be unknown; or that others do it; or that we may repent of it; or that we have no power to resist it; or that it is of little consequence, and our resolution gives way. Not so the Redeemer. Rather than yield in any form to sin, he measured strength with the great adversary when alone with him in the darkness of the night, and gloriously triumphed! And so would we always triumph if we had the same settled purpose to resist sin in every form, even unto blood.


Verse 5. And ye have forgotten the exhortation. This exhortation is found in Pr 3:11,12. The object of the apostle in introducing it here is, to show that afflictions were designed, on the part of God, to produce some happy effects in the lives of his people, and that they ought, therefore, to bear them patiently. In the previous verses, he directs them to the example of the Saviour. In this verse and the following, for the same object, he directs their attention to the design of trials, showing that they are necessary to our welfare, and that they are, in fact, proof of the paternal care of God. This verse might be rendered as a question, "And have ye forgotten?" etc. This mode of rendering it will agree somewhat better with the design of the apostle.

Which speaketh unto you. Which may be regarded as addressed to you; or which invokes a principle as applicable to you as to others. He does not mean that when Solomon used the words he had reference to them particularly, but that he Used them with reference to the children of God, and they might therefore be applied to them. In this way we may regard the language of the Scriptures as addressed to us.

As unto children. As if he were addressing children. The language is such as a father uses.

My son. It is possible that in these words Solomon may have intended to address a son literally, giving him paternal counsel; or he may have spoken as the head of the Jewish people, designing to address all the pious, to whom he sustained, as it were, the relation of a father. Or it is possible, also, that it may be regarded as the language of God himself addressing his children. Whichever supposition is adopted, the sense is substantially the same.

Despise not thou the chastening of the Lord. Literally, "Do not regard it as a small matter, or as a trivial thing"—oligwrei. The Greek word here used does not elsewhere occur in the New Testament. The word here rendered chastening paideia—and also in Heb 12:6-8, and Heb 12:9, "corrected"— paideutav—does not refer to affliction in general, but that kind of affliction which is designed to correct us for our faults, or which is of the nature of discipline. The verb properly relates to the training up of a child—including instruction, counsel, discipline, and correction, (see this use of the verb in Ac 7:22; 2 Ti 2:25; Tit 2:12, ) and then especially discipline, or correction for faults —to correct, chastise, chasten, 1 Co 11:32; 2 Co 6:9; Re 3:19.

This is the meaning here; and the idea is, not that God will afflict his people in general, but that if they wander away he will correct them for their faults. He will bring calamity upon them as a punishment for their offences, and in order to bring them back to himself, he will not suffer them to wander away unrebuked and unchecked, but will mercifully reclaim them, though by great sufferings. Afflictions have many objects, or produce many happy effects. That referred to here is, that they are means of reclaiming the wandering and erring children of God, and are proofs of his paternal care and love. Comp. 2 Sa 7:14; 12:13,14; Ps 89:31-34; Pr 3:11,12. Afflictions, which are always sent by God, should not be regarded as small matters, for these reasons:

(1.) The fact that they are sent by God. Whatever he does is of importance, and is worthy the profound attention of men.

(2.) They are sent for some important purpose, and they should be regarded, therefore, with attentive concern. Men despise them when

(1.) they treat them with affected or real unconcern;

(2.) when they fail to receive them as Divine admonitions, and regard them as without any intelligent design; and

(3.) when they receive them with expressions of contempt, and speak of them and of the government of God with scorn. It should be a matter of deep concern, when we are afflicted in any manner, not to treat the matter lightly, but to derive from our trials all the lessons which they are adapted to produce on the mind.

Nor faint, etc. Bear up patiently under them. This is the second duty. We are first to study their character and design; and, secondly, to bear up under them, however severe they may be, and however long they may be continued. "Avoid the extremes of proud insensibility and entire dejection." Doddridge.

{a} "exhortation" Pr 3:11,12 {*} "of him" "by him"


Verse 6. For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth. This is also a quotation from Prov. 3. It means that it is a universal rule that God sends trials on those whom he truly loves. It does not, of course, mean that he sends chastisement which is not deserved; or that he sends it for the mere purpose of inflicting pain. That cannot be. But it means that, by his chastisements, he shows that he has a paternal care for us. He does not treat us with neglect and unconcern, as a father often does his illegitimate child. The very fact that he corrects us shows that he has towards us a father's feelings, and exercises towards us a paternal care. If he did not, he would let us go on without any attention, and leave us to pursue a course of sin that would involve us in ruin. To restrain and govern a child; to correct him when he errs, shows that there is a parental solicitude for him, and that he is not an outcast. And as there is in the life of every child of God something that deserves correction, it happens that it is universally true that "whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth."

And scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. Whom he receives or acknowledges as his child. This is not quoted literally from the Hebrew, but from the Septuagint. The Hebrew is, "even as a father the son in whom he delighteth." The general sense of the passage is retained, as is often the case in the quotations from the Old Testament. The meaning is the same as in the former part of the verse, that every one who becomes a child of God is treated by him with that watchful care which shows that he sustains towards him the paternal relation.

{b} "whom" Rev 3:19


Verse 7. If ye endure chastening. That is, if you undergo, or are called to experience correction. It does not mean here, "if you endure it patiently, or if you bear up under it," but if you are chastised or corrected by God." The affirmation does not relate to the manner of bearing it, but to the fact that we are disciplined.

God dealeth with you as with sons. He does not cast you off, and regard you as if you were in no way related to him.

For what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? That is, he evinces towards his son the care which shows that he sustains the relation of a father. If he deserves correction, he corrects him; and he aims, by all proper means, to exhibit the appropriate care and character of a father. And as we receive such attention from an earthly parent, we ought to expect to receive similar notice from our Father in heaven.

{c} "son" Pr 13:24


Verse 8. But if ye be without chastisement. If you never meet with anything that is adapted to correct your faults, to subdue your temper, to chide your wanderings, it would prove that you were in the condition of illegitimate children—cast off and disregarded by their father.

Whereof all are partakers. All who are the true children of God.

Then are ye bastards, and not sons. The reference here is to the neglect with which such children are treated, and to the general want of care and discipline over them:—

"Lost in the world's wide range; enjoined no aim, Prescribed no duty. and assigned no name." Savage.

In the English law, a bastard is termed nullius filiua,. Illegitimate children are usually abandoned by their father. The care of them is left to the mother, and the father endeavours to avoid all responsibility, and usually to be concealed and unknown. His own child he does not wish to recognize; he neither provides for him, nor instructs him, nor governs him, nor disciplines him. A father who is worthy of the name, will do all these things. So Paul says it is with Christians. God has not cast them off. In every way he evinces towards them the character of a father. And if it should be that they passed along through life without any occurrence that would indicate the paternal care and attention designed to correct their faults, it would show that they never had been his children, but were cast off and wholly disregarded. This is a beautiful argument; and we should receive every affliction as full proof that we are not forgotten by the High and Holy One who condescends to sustain the character, and to evince towards us, in our wanderings, the watchful care of a Father.


Verse 9. Furthermore. As an additional consideration to induce us to receive chastisement with submission. The argument in this verse is derived from the difference in the spirit and design with which we are corrected by God and by an earthly parent. In God everything is without any intermingling of passion or any improper feeling. In an earthly parent there is often much that is the result of hasty emotion, of an irascible temper, perhaps of the mere love of power. There is much that is inflicted without due reflection, and that produces only pain in the bosom of the parent himself in the recollection. Yet, with all this imperfection of parental government, we were patient and unmurmuring. How much more should we submit to one whose paternal discipline is caused by no excited feeling; by no love of power; by no want of reflection, and which never furnishes occasion for regret!

Fathers of our flesh. Earthly fathers; those from whom we have derived our being here. They are contrasted here with God who is called "the Father of spirits," not because the father does not sustain the paternal relation to the soul as well as the body, but to designate the nature of the dominion over us. The dominion of God is that which pertains to a spiritual kingdom, having more direct reference to the discipline of the soul, and being designed to prepare us for the spiritual world; that of the earthly father pertains primarily to our condition here, and the discipline is designed to subdue our unruly passions, to teach us to restrain our appetites, to inculcate maxims of health and prosperity, and to prevent those things which would impede our happiness in the present world. See, however, many curious instances of the manner in which these phrases were used by the Jewish writers, collected by Wetstein.

We gave them reverence. We submitted to them; honoured them; loved them. Painful at the time as correction may have been, yet when we have fully understood the design of it, we have loved them the more. The effect of such discipline, properly administered, is to produce real veneration for a parent—for he who, in a timely and appropriate manner restrains his child is the only one who will secure ultimate reverence and respect.

Shall we not much rather be in subjection. Since God's government is so much more perfect; since he has so much better right to control us; and since his administration is free from all the defects which attend parental discipline on earth, there is a much higher reason for bowing with submission and reverence to him. The Father of spirits. Thus in Nu 16:22, God is called the God of the spirits of all flesh." So also Nu 27:16; comp. Job 33:4. The idea seems to be, that as the soul is the most important part of man, this name is given to God by way of eminence, or he is eminently and supremely our Father. It was his to create the immortal part, and to that spirit which is never to die he sustains the relation of Father. The earthly father is parent to the man as mortal; God is the Father of man as immortal. God is himself a Spirit. Angels and human souls, therefore, may be represented as peculiarly his offspring. It is the highest designation which could be given to God to say that he is at the head of the universe of mind; not implying that he is not also at the head of the material universe, but designing to bring into view this high characteristic of the Almighty, that all created minds throughout the universe sustain to him the relation of children. To this Great Being we should, therefore, more cheerfully subject ourselves than to an earthly parent.

And live. Meaning that his fatherly chastisements are adapted to secure our spiritual life. He corrects us that he may promote our final happiness, and his inflictions are the means of saving us from eternal death.

{a} "Father of Spirits" Nu 16:22; 27:16


Verse 10. For they verily for a few days. That is, with reference to a few days, (prov;) or it was a chastisement that had reference mainly to this short life. The apostle seems to bring in this circumstance to contrast the dealings of earthly parents with those of God. One of the circumstances is, that the corrections of earthly parents had a muck less important object than those of God. They related to this life—a life so brief that it may be said to continue but a "few days." Yet, in order to secure the benefit to be derived for so short a period from fatherly correction, we submitted without murmuring. Much more cheerfully ought we to submit to that discipline from the hand of our heavenly Father which is designed to extend its benefits through eternity. This seems to me to afford a better sense than that adopted by Professor Stuart and others, that it means, "during our childhood or minority;" or than that proposed by Doddridge, that it refers both to our earthly parents and to our heavenly Father.

After their own pleasure. Marg. "as seemed good, or meet, to them." Meaning that it was sometimes done arbitrarily, or from caprice, or under the influence of passion. This is an additional reason why we should submit to God, We submitted to our earthly parents, though their correction was sometimes passionate, and was designed to gratify their own pleasure, rather than to promote our good. There is much of this kind of punishment in families; but there is none of it under the administration of God.

But he for our profit. Never from passion, from caprice, from the love of power or superiority, but always for our good. The exact benefit which he designs to produce we may not be able always to understand; but we may be assured that no other cause influences him than a desire to promote our real welfare; and as he can never be mistaken in regard to the proper means to secure that, we may be assured that our trials are always adapted to that end.

That we might be partakers of his holiness. Become so holy that it may be said that we are partakers of the very holiness of God. Comp. 2 Pe 1:4. This is the elevated object at which God aims by our trials. It is not that he delights to produce pain; not that he envies us, and would rob us of our little comforts; not that he needs what We prize to increase his own enjoyment, and therefore rudely takes it away; and not that he acts from caprice—now conferring a blessing, and then withdrawing it without any reason: it is, that he may make us more pure and holy, and thus promote our own best interest. To be holy as God is holy; to be so holy that it may be said that we "are partakers of his holiness," is a richer blessing than health, and property, and friends, without it; and when by the exchange of the one we acquire the other, we have secured infinitely more than we have lost. To obtain the greater good, we should be willing to part with the less; to secure the everlasting friendship and favour of God, we should be willing, if necessary, to surrender the last farthing of our property; the last friend that is left us; the last feeble and fluttering pulsation of life in our veins.

{1} "after their own pleasure" "as seemed good or meet to them"


Verse 11. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous. It does not impart pleasure, nor is this its design. All chastisement is intended to produce pain, and the Christian is as sensitive to pain as others. His religion does not blunt his sensibilities, and make him a stoic, but it rather increases his susceptibility to suffering. The Lord Jesus, probably, felt pain, reproach, and contempt, more keenly than any other human being ever did; and the Christian feels the loss of a child, or bodily suffering, as keenly as any one. But while religion does not render him insensible to suffering, it does two things—

(1.) it enables him to bear the pain without murmuring, and

(2.) it turns the affliction into a blessing on his soul.

Nevertheless afterward. In future life. The effect is seen in a pure life, and in a more entire devotedness to God. We are not to look for the proper fruits of affliction while we are suffering, but afterwards.

It yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness. It is a tree that bears good fruit and we do not expect the fruit to form and ripen at once. It may be long maturing, but it will be rich and mellow when it is ripe. It frequently requires a long time before all the results of affliction appear—as it requires months to form and ripen fruit. Like fruit it may appear at first sour, crabbed, and unpalatable; but it will be at last like the ruddy peach or the golden orange. When those fruits are ripened they are

(1.) fruits "of righteousness." They make us more holy, more dead to sin and the world, and more alive to God. And they are

(2.) "peaceable." They produce peace, calmness, submission in the soul. They make the heart more tranquil in its confidence in God, and more disposed to promote the religion of peace. The apostle speaks of this as if it were a universal truth in regard to Christians who are afflicted. And it is so, There is no Christian who is not ultimately benefited by trials, and who is not able at some period subsequently to say, "It was good for me that I was afflicted. Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I kept thy word." When a Christian comes to die, he does not feel that he has had one trial too many, or one which he did not deserve. He can then look back and see the effect of some early trial, so severe that he once thought he could hardly endure it, spreading a hallowed influence over his future years, and scattering its golden fruit all along the pathway of life. I have never known a Christian who was not benefited by afflictions; I have seen none who was not able to say that his trials produced some happy effect on his religious character, and on his real happiness in life. If this be so, then no matter how severe our trials, we should submit to them without a murmur. The more severe they are, the more we shall yet be blessed—on earth or in heaven.

{b} "fruit" Isa 32:17; Jas 3:18


Verse 12. Wherefore. In view of the facts which have been now stated —that afflictions are sent from God, and are evidences of his paternal watchfulness.

Lift up the hands which hang down. As if from weariness and exhaustion. Renew your courage; make a new effort to bear them. The hands fall by the side when we are exhausted with toil, or worn down by disease. See Barnes "Isa 35:3, from which place this exhortation is taken.

And the feeble knees. The knees also become enfeebled by long effort, and tremble as if their strength were gone. Courage and resolution may do much, however, to make them firm, and it is to this that the apostle exhorts those to whom he wrote. They were to make every effort to bear up under their trials. The hope of victory will do much to strengthen one almost exhausted in battle; the desire to reach home invigorates the frame of the weary traveller. So it is with the Christian. In persecution and sickness and bereavement, he may be ready to sink under his burdens. The hands fall, and the knees tremble, and the heart sinks within us. But confidence in God, and the hope of heaven, and the assurance that all this is for our good, will reinvigorate the enfeebled frame, and enable us to bear what we once supposed would crush us to the dust. A courageous mind braces a feeble body, and hope makes it fresh for new conflicts.

{a} "hands" Isa 35:3


Verse 13. And make straight paths for your feet. Marg., even. The word here used means, properly, straight, in the sense of upright, erect, Ac 14:10; but it is here used in the sense of straight horizontally, that is, level, plain, smooth. The meaning is, that they were to remove all obstacles out of the way, so that they need not stumble and fall. There is probably an allusion here to Pr 4:25-27, "Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left; remove thy foot from evil." The idea is, that by every proper means they were to make the way to heaven as plain and easy as possible. They were to allow no obstructions in the path over which the lame and feeble might fall.

Lest that which is lame be turned out of the way. A lame man needs a smooth path to walk in. The idea is here, that everything which would prevent those in the church who were in any danger of falling—the feeble, the unestablished, the weak—from walking in the path to heaven, or which might be an occasion to, them of falling, should be removed. Or it may mean, that in a road that was not level, those who were lame would be in danger of spraining, distorting, or wrenching a lame limb; and the counsel is, that whatever would have a tendency to this should be removed. Divested of the figure, the passage means, that everything should be removed which would hinder any one from walking in the path to life.

But let it rather be healed. As in the case of lameness, pains should be taken to heal it rather than to suffer it to be increased by careless exposure to a new sprain or fracture, so it should be in our religious and moral character. Whatever is defective we should endeavour to restore to Soundness, rather than to suffer the defect to be increased. Whatever is feeble in our faith or hope; whatever evil tendency there is in our hearts, we should endeavour to strengthen and amend, lest it should become worse, and we should entirely fall.

{1} "straight" "even" {b} "paths" Pr 4:26,27 {c} "Let it" Ga 6:1


Verse 14. Follow peace with all men. Do not give indulgence to those passions which lead to litigations, strifes, wars. See Barnes "Ro 14:19".

The connexion here requires us to understand this mainly of persecutors. The apostle is referring to the trials which those whom he addressed were experiencing. Those trials seem to have arisen mainly from persecution, and he exhorts them to manifest a spirit of kindness towards all, even though they were engaged in persecuting them. This is the temper of the gospel. We are to make war with sin, but not with men; with bad passions and corrupt desires, but not with our fellow-worms.

And holiness. Instead of yielding to contending passions and to a spirit of war; instead of seeking revenge on your persecutors and foes, make it rather your aim to be holy, Let that be the object of your pursuit; the great purpose of your life. Men might in such cases counsel them to seek revenge; the spirit of religion would counsel them to strive to be holy. In such times they were in great danger of giving indulgence to evil passions, and hence the special propriety of the exhortation to endeavour to be holy.

Without which no man shall see the Lord. That is, shall see him in peace; or shall so see him as to dwell with him. All will see him in the day of judgment; but to "see" one is often used in the sense of being with one, dwelling with one, enjoying one. See Barnes "Mt 5:8".

The principle here stated is one which is never departed from, Re 21:27; Isa 35:8; 52:1; 60:21; Joe 3:17; Mt 13:41; 1 Co 6:9,10.

No one has ever been admitted to heaven in his sins; nor is it desirable that any one ever should be. Desirable as it is that lost men should be happy, yet it is benevolence which excludes the profane, the impious, and the unbelieving from heaven—just as it is benevolence to a family to exclude profligates and seducers, and as it is benevolence to a community to confine thieves and robbers in prison. This great principle in the Divine administration will always be adhered to; and hence they who are expecting to be saved without holiness or religion are destined to certain disappointment. Heaven and earth will pass away, but God will not admit one unrepenting and unpardoned sinner to heaven. It was the importance and the certainty of this principle which made the apostle insist on it here with so much earnestness. Amidst all their trials, when exposed to persecution, and when everything might tempt them to the indulgence of feelings which were the opposite of holiness, they were to make it their great object to be like God. For this they were to seek, to strive, to labour, to pray. This with us, in all our trials, should also be the great aim of life. How deeply affecting, then, is the inquiry, whether we have that holiness which is indispensable to salvation! Let us not deceive ourselves. We may have many things else—many things which are in themselves desirable, but without this one thing we shall never see the Lord in peace. We may have wealth, genius, learning, beauty, accomplishments, houses, lands, books, friends—but without religion they will be all in vain. Never can we see God in peace without a holy heart; never call we be admitted into heaven without that religion which will identify us with the angels around the throne!

{d} "peace" Ps 34:14 {e} "without which" Mt 5:8; Eph 5:5


Verse 15. Looking diligently. This phrase implies close attention. It is implied that there are reasons why we should take special care. Those reasons are found in the propensities of our hearts to evil; in the temptations of the world; in the allurements to apostasy presented by the great adversary of our souls.

Lest any man fail. As every man is in danger, it is his personal duty to see to it that his salvation be secure.

Fail of the grace of God. Marg. fall from. The Greek is, "lest any one be wanting or lacking"—usterwn. There is no intimation in the words used here that they already had grace, and might fall way—whatever might be true about that—but that there was danger that they might be found at last to be deficient in that religion which was necessary to save them. Whether this was to be by losing the religion which they now had, or by the fact that they never had any—however near they may have come to it—the apostle does not here intimate, and this passage should not be used in the discussion of the question about falling from grace. It is a proper exhortation to be addressed to any man in the church, or out of it, to inquire diligently whether there is not reason to apprehend that when he comes to appear before God he will be found to be wholly destitute of religion.

Lest any root of bitterness springing up. Any bitter root. There is, doubtless, an allusion here to De 29:18: "Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood." The allusion there is to those who were idolaters, and who instead of bearing the fruits of righteousness, and promoting the piety and happiness of the nation, would bear the fruits of idolatry, and spread abroad irreligion and sin. The allusion, in both cases, is to a bitter plant springing up among those that were cultivated for ornament or use, or to a tree bearing bitter and poisonous fruit, among those that produced good fruit. The reference of the apostle is to some person who should produce a similar effect in the church—to one who should inculcate false doctrines; or who should apostatize; or who should lead an unholy life, and thus be the means of corrupting and destroying others. They were to be at especial pains that no such person should start up from among themselves, or be tolerated by them.

Trouble you. By his doctrines and example.

And thereby many be defiled. Led away from the faith, and corrupted. One wicked man, and especially one hypocrite in the church, may be the means of destroying many others.

{f} "diligently" 2 Pe 1:10 {2} "fail" "fall from" {g} "root" De 29:18


Verse 16. Lest there be any fornicator. The sin here referred to is one of those which would spread corruption in the church, and against which they ought to be especially on their guard. Allusion is made to Esau as an example, who, himself a corrupt and profane man, for a trifle threw away the highest honour which as a son he could have. Many have regarded the word here used as referring to idolatry, or defection from the true religion to a false one—as the word is often used in the Old Testament—but it is more natural to understand it literally. The crime here mentioned was one which abounded everywhere in ancient times, as it does now, and it was important to guard the church against it. See Barnes "Ac 15:20" See Barnes "1 Co 6:18".

Or profane person. The word profane here refers to one who, by word or conduct, treats religion with contempt, or has no reverence for that which is sacred. This may be shown by words; by the manner; by a sneer; by neglect of religion; or by openly renouncing the privileges which might be connected with our salvation. The allusion here is to one who should openly cast off all the hopes of religion for indulgence in temporary pleasure, as Esau gave up his birthright for a trifling gratification. In a similar manner the young, for temporary gratification, neglect or despise all the privileges and hopes resulting from their being born in the bosom of the church; from being baptized and consecrated to God; and from being trained up in the lap of piety.

As Esau. It is clearly implied here that Esau sustained the character of a fornicator and a profane person, The former appellation is probably given to him to denote his licentiousness, shown by his marrying many wives, and particularly foreigners, or the daughters of Canaan. See Ge 36:2; comp. Ge 26:34,35. The Jewish writers abundantly declare that that was his character. See Wetstein, in loc. In proof that the latter appellation—that of a profane person—belonged to him, see Ge 25:29-34. It is true that it is rather by inference, than by direct assertion, that it is known that he sustained this character. The birthright, in his circumstances, was a high honour. The promise respecting the inheritance of the land of Canaan, the coming of the Messiah, and the preservation of the true religion, had been given to Abraham and Isaac, and was to be transmitted by them. As the eldest son, all the honour connected with this, and which is now associated with the name Jacob, would have properly appertained to Esau. But he undervalued it. He lived a licentious life. He followed his corrupt propensities, and gave the reins to indulgence. In a time of temporary distress, also, he showed how little he really valued all this by bartering it away for a single meal of victuals. Rather than bear the evils of hunger for a short period, and evidently in a manner implying a great undervaluing of the honour which he held as the firstborn son in a pious line, he agreed to surrender all the privileges connected with his birth. It was this which made the appellation appropriate to him; and this will make the appellation appropriate in any similar instance.

Who for one morsel of meat. The word meat here is used, as it is commonly in the Scriptures, in its primitive sense in English to denote, food, Ge 25:34. The phrase here, "morsel of meat," would be better rendered by "a single meal."

Sold his birthright. The birthright seems to have implied the first place or rank in the family; the privilege of offering sacrifice and conducting worship in the absence or death of the father; a double share of the inheritance; and in this instance the honour of being in the line of the patriarchs, and transmitting the promises made to Abraham and Isaac. What Esau parted with we can easily understand by reflecting on the honours which have clustered around the name of Jacob.

{a} "fornicator" 1 Co 6:13,18 {b} "for one morsel" Ge 25:33


Verse 17. For ye know how that afterward, etc. When he came to his father, and earnestly besought him to reverse the sentence which he had pronounced. See Ge 27:34-40. The "blessing" here referred to was not that of the birthright, which he knew he could not regain, but that pronounced by the father Isaac on him whom he regarded as his first born son. This Jacob obtained by fraud, when Isaac really meant to bestow it on Esau. Isaac appears to have been ignorant wholly of the bargain which Jacob and Esau had made in regard to the birthright, and Jacob and his mother contrived in this way to have that confirmed which Jacob had obtained of Esau by contract. The sanction of the father, it seems, was necessary, before it could be made sure; and Rebecca and Jacob understood that the dying blessing of the aged patriarch would establish it all. It was obtained by dishonesty on the part of Jacob, but so far as Esau was concerned it was an act of righteous retribution for the little regard he had shown for the honour of his birth.

For he found no place of repentance. Marg. "Way to change his mind." That is, no place for repentance in the mind of Isaac, or no way to change his mind. It does not mean that Esau earnestly sought to repent and could not, but that when once the blessing had passed the lips of his father he found it impossible to change it. Isaac firmly declared that he had pronounced the blessing, and though it had been obtained by fraud, yet, as it was of the nature of a Divine prediction it could not now be changed. He had not indeed intended that it should be thus. He had pronounced a blessing on another which had been designed for him. But still the benediction had been given. The prophetic words had been pronounced. By Divine direction the truth had been spoken, and how could it be changed? It was impossible now to reverse the Divine purposes in the case, and hence the "blessing" must stand as it had been spoken. Isaac did, however, all that could be done. He gave a benediction to his son Esau, though of far inferior value to that which he had pronounced on the fraudulent Jacob, Ge 27:39,40.

Though he sought it carefully with tears. Ge 27:34. He sought to change the purpose of his father, but could not do it. The meaning and bearing of this passage, as used by the apostle, may be easily understood.

(1.) The decision of God, on the human character and destiny, will soon be pronounced. That decision will be according to truth, and cannot be changed.

(2.) If we should despise our privileges, as Esau did his birthright, and renounce our religion, it would be impossible to recover what we had lost. There would be no possibility of changing the Divine decision in the case, for it would be determined for ever. This passage, therefore, should not be alleged to show that a sinner cannot repent, or that he cannot find "place for repentance," or assistance to enable him to repent, or that tears and sorrow for sin would be of no avail, for it teaches none of these things; but it should be used to keep us from disregarding our privileges, from turning away from the true religion, from slighting the favours of the gospel, and from neglecting religion till death comes; because when God has once pronounced a sentence excluding us from his favour, no tears, or pleading, or effort of our own can change him. The sentence which he pronounces on the scoffer, the impenitent, the hypocrite, and the apostate, is one that will abide for ever without change. This passage, therefore, is in accordance with the doctrine more than once stated before in this epistle, that if a Christian should really apostatize, it would be impossible that he should be saved. See Barnes "Heb 6:1, seq.

{c} "he would have" Ge 27:34-38 {1} "place" "way to change his mind" {*} "carefully" "earnestly"


Verse 18. For ye are not come. To enforce the considerations already urged, the apostle introduces this sublime comparison between the old and new dispensations, Heb 12:18-24. The object, in accordance with the principal scope of the epistle, is to guard them against apostasy. To do this, he shows that under the new dispensation there was much more to bind them to fidelity, and to make apostasy dangerous, than there was under the old. The main point of the comparison is, that under the Jewish dispensation everything was adapted to awe the mind, and to restrain by the exhibition of grandeur and of power; but that under the Christian dispensation, while there was as much that was sublime, there was much more that was adapted to win and hold the affections. There were revelations of higher truths. There were more affecting motives to lead to obedience. There was that of which the former was but the type and emblem. There was the clear revelation of the glories of heaven, and of the blessed society there, all adapted to prompt to the earnest desire that they might be our own. The considerations presented in this passage, constitute the climax of the argument so beautifully pursued through this epistle, showing that the Christian system was far superior, in every respect, to the Jewish. In presenting this closing argument, the apostle first refers to some of the circumstances attending the former dispensation, which were designed to keep the people of God from apostasy, and then the considerations of superior weight existing under the Christian economy.

The mount that might be touched. Mount Sinai. The meaning here is, that that mountain was palpable, material, touchable—in contradistinction from the Mount Zion to which the church had now come, which is above the reach of the external senses, Heb 12:22. The apostle does not mean that it was permitted to the Israelites to touch Mount Sinai—for this was strictly forbidden, Ex 19:12; but he evidently alludes to that prohibition, and means to say that a command forbidding them to "touch" the mountain, implied that it was a material or palpable object. The sense of the passage is, that every circumstance that occurred there was fitted to fill the soul with terror. Everything accompanying the giving of the law, the setting of bounds around the mountain which they might not pass, and the darkness and tempest on the mountain itself, was adapted to overawe the soul. The phrase, "the touchable mountain"—if such a phrase is proper —would express the meaning of the apostle here. The "Mount Zion" to which the church now has come, is of a different character. It is not thus visible and palpable. It is not enveloped in smoke and flame, and the thunders of the Almighty do not roll and re-echo among its lofty peaks as at Horeb; yet it presents stronger motives to perseverance in the service of God.

And that burned with fire. Ex 19:18. Comp. De 4:11; 33:2.

Nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest. See Ex 19:16.

{*} "voice" "sound" {a} "which voice" Ex 20:18,19


Verse 19. And the voice of a trumpet. Ex 19:19. The sound of the trumpet amidst the tempest was fitted to increase the terror of the scene.

And the voice of words. Spoken by God, Ex 19:19. It is easy to conceive what must have been the awe produced by a voice uttered from the midst of the tempest so distinct as to be heard by the hundreds of thousands of Israel, when the speaker was invisible.

Which voice they that heard, etc. Ex 20:18,19. It was so fearful and overpowering, that the people earnestly prayed that if they must be addressed it might be by the familiar voice of Moses, and not by the awful voice of the Deity.

{*} "voice" "sound" {a} "voice" Ex 20:18,19


Verse 20. For they could not endure that which was commanded. They could not sustain the awe produced by the fact that God uttered his commands himself. The meaning is not that the commands themselves were intolerable, but that the manner in which they were communicated inspired a terror which they could not bear. They feared that they should die. Ex 20:19

And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned. Ex 19:13. The prohibition was, that neither beast nor man should touch it on pain of death. The punishment was to be either by stoning, or being "shot through."

Or thrust through with a dart. Ex 19:13. "Or shot through." This phrase, however, though it is found in the common editions of the New Testament, is wanting in all the more valuable manuscripts; in all the ancient versions; and it occurs in none of the Greek ecclesiastical writers, with one exception. It is omitted now by almost all editors of the New Testament. It is beyond all doubt an addition of later times, taken from the Septuagint of Ex 19:13. Its omission does not injure the sense.

{b} "And if" Ex 19:13,16


Verse 21. And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, etc. This is not recorded in the account of the giving of the law in Exodus, and it has been made a question on what authority the apostle made this declaration respecting Moses. In De 9:19, Moses indeed says of himself, after he had come down from the mountain, and had broken the two tables of stone that were in his hand, that he was greatly afraid of the anger of the Lord on account of the sin of the people. "I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure wherewith the Lord was wroth against you to destroy you;" and it has been supposed by many that this is the passage to which the apostle here alludes. But it is very evident that was spoken in a different occasion from the one which is referred to in the passage before us. That was after the law was promulgated, and Moses had descended from the mount; and it was not said in view of the terrors of the scene when the law was given, but of the apprehension of the wrath of God against the people for their sin in making the golden calf. I know not how to explain this, except by the supposition that the apostle here refers to some tradition that the scene produced this effect on his mind. In itself, it is not improbable that Moses thus trembled with alarm, (comp. Ex 19:16,) nor that the remembrance of it should have been handed down among the numerous traditions which the Jews transmitted from age to age. There must have been many things that occurred in their journey through the wilderness which are not recorded in the Books of Moses. Many of them would be preserved naturally in the memory of the people, and transmitted to their posterity; and though those truths might become intermingled with much that was fabulous, yet it is not irrational to suppose that an inspired writer may have adduced pertinent and true examples from these traditions of what actually occurred. It was one method of preserving the truth, thus to select such instances of what actually took place from the mass of traditions, which were destined to perish, as would be useful in future times. The circumstance here mentioned was greatly fitted to increase the impression of the sublimity and fearfulness of the scene. Moses was accustomed to commune with God. He had met him at the "bush," and had been addressed by him face to face; and yet so awful were the scenes at Horeb, that even he could not bear it with composure. What may we, then, suppose to have been the alarm of the body of the people, when the mind of the great leader himself was thus overpowered!

{+} "quake" "tremble"


Verse 22. But ye are come unto mount Sion. You who are Christians; all who are under the new dispensation. The design is to contrast the Christian dispensation with the Jewish, and to show that its excellences and soul; advantages were far superior to the religion of their fathers. It had more to win the affections; more to elevate the more to inspire with hope. It had less that was terrific and alarming; it appealed less to the fears and more to the hopes of mankind; but still apostasy from this religion could not be less terrible in its consequences than apostasy from the religion of Moses. In the passage before us, the apostle evidently contrasts Sinai with Mount Zion;and means to say that there was more about the latter that was adapted to win the heart, and to preserve allegiance, than there was about the former. Mount Zion literally denoted the southern hill in Jerusalem, on which a part of the city was built. That part of the city was made by David and his successors the residence of the court, and soon the name Zion was given familiarly to the whole city. Jerusalem was the centre of religion in the land; the place where the temple stood, and where the worship of God was celebrated, and where God dwelt by a visible symbol, and it became the type and emblem of the holy abode where He dwells in heaven. It cannot be literally meant here that they had come to the Mount Sion in Jerusalem, for that was as true of the whole Jewish people as of those whom the apostle addressed; but it must mean that they had come to the Mount Zion of which the holy city was an emblem; to the glorious mount which is revealed as the dwelling-place of God, of angels, of saints. That is, they had "come" to this by the revelations and hopes of the gospel. They were not, indeed, literally in heaven, nor was that glorious city literally on earth; but the dispensation to which they had been brought was that which conducted them directly up to the city of the living God, and to the holy mount where he dwelt above. The view was not confined to an earthly mountain enveloped in smoke and flame, but opened at once on the holy place where God abides. By the phrase, "ye are come," the apostle means that this was the characteristic of the new dispensation, that it conducted them there, and that they were already, in fact, inhabitants of that glorious city. They were citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, (comp. See Barnes "Php 3:20,) and were entitled to its privileges.

And unto the city of the living God. The city where the living God dwells—the heavenly Jerusalem. Comp. See Barnes "Heb 11:10".

God dwelt by a visible symbol in the temple at Jerusalem—and to that his people came under the old dispensation. In a more literal and glorious sense his abode is in heaven, and to that his people have now come.

The heavenly Jerusalem. Heaven is not unfrequently represented as a magnificent city, where God and angels dwell; and the Christian revelation discloses this to Christians as certainly their final home. They should regard themselves already as dwellers in that city, and live and act as if they saw its splendour, and partook of its joy. In regard to this representation of heaven as a city where God dwells, the following places may be consulted: Heb 11:10,14-16; 12:28; 13:14; Ga 4:26; Re 3:12; Re 21:2,10-27.

It is true that Christians have not yet seen that city by the bodily eye, but they look to it with the eye of faith. It is revealed to them; they are permitted by anticipation to contemplate its glories, and to feel that it is to be their eternal home. They are permitted to live and act as if they saw the glorious God whose dwelling is there, and were already surrounded by the angels and the redeemed. The apostle does not represent them as if they were expecting that it would be visibly set up on the earth, but as being now actually dwellers in that city, and bound to live and act as if they were amidst its splendours.

And to an innumerable company of angels. The Greek here is, "to myriads [or ten thousands] of angels in an assembly or joyful convocation." The phrase, "tens of thousands," is often used to denote a great and indefinite number. The word rendered "general assembly," (Heb 12:23)— panhguriv—refers, properly, to "an assembly or convocation of the whole people in order to celebrate any public festival or solemnity, as the public games or sacrifices." Rob. Lex. It occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, and refers here to the angels viewed as assembled around the throne of God, and celebrating his praises. It should be regarded as connected with the word angels, referring to their convocation in heaven, and not to the church of the first-born. This construction is demanded by the Greek. Our common translation renders it as if it were to be united with the church— "to the general assembly and church of the firstborn;" but the Greek will not admit of this construction. The interpretation which unites it with the angels is adopted now by almost all critics, and in almost all the editions of the New Testament. On the convocation of angels, See Barnes "Job 1:6".

The writer intends, doubtless, to contrast that joyful assemblage of the angels in heaven with those who appeared in the giving of the law on Mount Sinai. God is always represented as surrounded by hosts of angels in heaven. See De 33:2; 1 Ki 22:19; Da 7:10; Ps 68:17; comp. See Barnes "Heb 12:1" see also Re 5:2; Mt 26:53; Lu 2:13.

The meaning is, that under the Christian dispensation Christians, in their feelings and worship, become united to this vast host of holy angelic beings. It is, of course, not meant that they are visible, but they are seen by the eye of faith. The argument here is, that as, in virtue of the Christian revelation, we become associated with those pure and happy spirits, we should not apostatize from such a religion, for we should regard it as honourable and glorious to be identified with them.

{a} "city" Re 3:2 {b} "angels" Ps 68:17


Verse 23. To the general assembly. See Barnes "Heb 12:22.

And church of the firstborn. That is, you are united with the church of the firstborn. They who were firstborn among, the Hebrews enjoyed peculiar privileges, and especially pre-eminence of rank. See Barnes "Col 1:15".

The reference here is, evidently, to those saints who had been distinguished for their piety, and who may be supposed to be exalted to peculiar honours in heaven—such as the patriarchs, prophets, martyrs. The meaning is, that by becoming Christians we have become, in fact, identified with that happy and honoured church, and that this is a powerful motive to induce us to persevere. It is a consideration which should make us adhere to our religion amidst all temptations and persecutions, that we are identified with the most eminently holy men who have lived, and that we are to share their honours and their joys. The Christian is united in feeling, in honour, and in destiny, with the excel. lent of all the earth and of all times, lie should feel it, therefore, an honour to be a Christian; he should yield to no temptation which would induce him to part from so goodly a fellowship.

Which are written in heaven. Marg. enrolled. The word here was employed by the Greeks to denote that one was enrolled as a citizen, or entitled to the privileges of citizenship. Here it means. that the names of the persons referred to were registered or enrolled among the inhabitants of the heavenly world. See Barnes "Lu 10:20".

And to God the Judge of all. God, who will pronounce the final sentence on all mankind. The object of the reference here to God as Judge does not appear to be to contrast the condition of Christians with that of the Jews, as is the case in some of the circumstances alluded to, but to bring impressively before their minds the fact that they sustained a peculiarly near relation to him from whom all were to receive their final allotment. As the destiny of all depended on him, they should be careful not to provoke his wrath. The design of the apostle seems to be to give a rapid glance of what there was in heaven, as disclosed by the eye of faith to the Christian, which should operate as a motive to induce him to persevere in his Christian course. The thought that seems to have struck his mind in regard to God was, that he would do right to all. They had, therefore, everything to fear if they revolted from him; they had everything to hope if they bore their trials with patience, and persevered to the end.

And to the spirits of just men made perfect. Not only to the more eminent saints—the "church of the firstborn"—but to all who were made perfect in heaven. They were not only united with the imperfect Christians on earth, but with those who have become completely delivered from sin, and admitted to the world of glory. This is a consideration which ought to influence the minds of all believers. They are even now united with all the redeemed in heaven. They should so live as not to be separated from them in the final day. Most Christians have among the redeemed already not a few of their most tenderly beloved friends. A father may be there; a mother, a sister, a smiling babe. It should be a powerful motive with us so to live as to be prepared to be reunited with them in heaven.


Verse 24. And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant. This was the crowning excellence of the new dispensation, in contradistinction from the old. They had been made acquainted with the true Messiah; they were united to him by faith; they had been sprinkled with his blood. See Barnes "Heb 7:22, and See Barnes "Heb 8:6".

The highest consideration which can be urged to induce any one to persevere in a life of piety is the fact that the, Son of God has come into the world and died to save sinners. Comp. See Barnes "Heb 12:2, seq. of this chapter.

And to the blood of sprinkling. The blood which Jesus shed, and which is sprinkled upon us to ratify the covenant. See Barnes "Heb 9:18, seq.

That speaketh better things than that of Abel. Or, "than Abel; "the words "that of" being supplied by the translators. In the original there is no reference to the blood of Abel shed by Cain, as our translators seem to have supposed; but the allusion is to the faith of Abel, or to the testimony which he bore to a great and vital truth of religion. The meaning here is, that the blood of Jesus speaks better things than Abel did; that is, that the blood of Jesus is the reality of which the offering of Abel was a type. Abel proclaimed by the sacrifice which he made the great truth, that salvation could be only by a bloody offering—but he did this only in a typical and obscure manner; Jesus proclaimed it in a more distinct and better manner by the reality. The object here is to compare the Redeemer with Abel, not in the sense that the blood shed in either case calls for vengeance, but that salvation by blood is more clearly revealed in the Christian plan than in the ancient history; and hence illustrating, in accordance with the design of this epistle, the superior excellency of the Christian scheme over all which had preceded it. There were other points of resemblance between Abel and the Redeemer, but on them the apostle does not insist. Abel was a martyr, and so was Christ; Abel was cruelly murdered, and so was Christ; there was aggravated guilt in the murder of Abel by his brother, and so there was in that of Jesus by his brethren—his own countrymen; the blood of Abel called for vengeance, and was followed by a fearful penalty on Cain, and so was the death of the Redeemer on his murderers—for they said, "his blood be on us and on our children," and are yet suffering under the fearful malediction then invoked;—but the point of contrast here is, that the blood of Jesus makes a more full, distinct, and clear proclamation of the truth, that salvation is by blood, than the offering made by Abel did. The apostle alludes here to what he had said in Heb 11:4. See Barnes "Heb 11:4".

Such is the contrast between the former and the latter dispensations; and such the motives to perseverance presented by both. In the former, the Jewish, all was imperfect, terrific, and alarming. In the latter, everything was comparatively mild, winning, alluring, animating. Terror was not the principal element; but heaven was opened to the eye of faith, and the Christian was permitted to survey the Mount Zion—the New Jerusalem—the angels—the redeemed—the blessed God— the glorious Mediator—and to feel that that blessed abode was to be his home. To that happy world he was tending; and with all these pure and glorious beings he was identified. Having stated and urged this argument, the apostle, in the remainder of the chapter, warns those whom he addressed in a most solemn manner against a renunciation of their Christian faith.

{g} "mediator" Heb 8:6 {2} "covenant" "testament" {h} "blood" Ex 24:8 {i} "of Abel" Ge 4:10


Verse 25. See that ye refuse not. That you do not reject or disregard.

Him that speaketh. That is, in the gospel. Do not turn away from him who has addressed you in the new dispensation, and called you to obey and serve him. The meaning is, that God had addressed them in the gospel as really as he had done the Hebrews on Mount Sinai, and that there was as much to be dreaded in disregarding his voice now as there was then. He does not speak, indeed, amidst lightnings, and thunders, and clouds, but he speaks by every message of mercy; by every invitation; by every tender appeal He spake by his Son, (He 1:2;) he speaks by the Holy Spirit, and by all his calls and warnings in the gospel.

For if they escaped not. If they who heard God under the old dispensation, who refused to obey him, were cut off. See Barnes "Heb 10:28".

Who refused him that spake on earth. That is, Moses. The contrast here is between Moses and the Son of God, the head of the Jewish and the head of the Christian dispensation. Moses was a mere man, and spake as such, though in the name of God. The Son of God was from above, and spake as an inhabitant from heaven.

Much more, etc. See Barnes "Heb 2:2, See Barnes "Heb 2:3" See Barnes "Heb 9:28".

{*} "spake" "uttered the divine oracles"


Verse 26. Whose voice then shook the earth. When he spake at Mount Sinai. The meaning is, that the mountain and the region around quaked, Ex 19:18. The "voice" here referred to is that of God speaking from the holy mount.

But now hath he promised, saying. The words here quoted are taken from Hag 2:6, where they refer to the changes which would take place under the Messiah. The meaning is, that there would be great revolutions in his coming, as if the universe were shaken to its centre. The apostle evidently applies this passage, as it is done in Haggai, to the first advent of the Redeemer.

I shake not the earth only. This is not quoted literally from the Hebrew, but the sense is retained. In Haggai it is, "Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; and I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come." The apostle lays emphasis on the fact that not only the earth was to be shaken, but also heaven. The shaking of the earth here evidently refers to the commotions among the nations that would prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah.

But also heaven. This may refer either (1) to the extraordinary phenomena in the heavens at the birth, the death, and the ascension of Christ; or

(2) to the revolutions in morals and religion which would be caused by the introduction of the gospel, as if everything were to be changed—expressed by "a shaking of the heavens and the earth;" or

(3) it may be more literally taken as denoting that there was a remarkable agitation in the heavens—in the bosoms of its inhabitants—arising from a fact so wonderful as that the Son of God should descend to earth, suffer, and die. I see no reason to doubt that the latter idea may have been included here; and the meaning of the whole then is, that while the giving of the law at Mount Sinai, fearful and solemn as it was, was an event that merely shook the earth in the vicinity of the holy Mount, the introduction of the gospel agitated the universe. Great changes upon the earth were to precede it; one revolution was to succeed another preparatory to it, and the whole universe would be moved at an event so extraordinary. The meaning is, that the introduction of the gospel was a much more solemn and momentous thing than the giving of the law—and that therefore it was much more fearful and dangerous to apostatize from it.

{a} "saying" Hag 2:6


Verse 27. And this word, Yet once more. That is, this reference to a great agitation or commotion in some future time. This is designed as an explanation of the prophecy in Haggai; and the idea is, that there would be such agitations that everything which was not fixed on a permanent and immovable basis would be thrown down as in an earthquake. Everything which was temporary in human institutions; everything which was wrong in customs and morals; and everything in the ancient system of religion which was merely of a preparatory and typical character, would be removed. What was of permanent value would be retained, and a kingdom would be established which nothing could move. The effect of the gospel would be to overturn everything which was of a temporary character in the previous system, and everything in morals which was not founded on a solid basis, and to set up, in the place of it, principles which no revolution and no time could change. The coming of the Saviour, and the influence of his religion on mankind, had this effect in such respects as the following.

(1.) All that was of a sound and permanent nature in the Jewish economy was retained; all that was typical and temporary was removed. The whole mass of sacrifices and ceremonies, that were designed to prefigure the Messiah, of course then ceased; all that was of permanent value in the law of God, and in the principles of religion, was incorporated in the new system and perpetuated.

(2.) The same is true in regard to morals. There was much truth on the earth before the time of the Saviour; but it was intermingled with much that was false. The effect of his coming has been to distinguish what is true and what is false; to give permanency to the one, and to cause the other to vanish.

(3.) The same is true of religion. There are some views of religion which men have by nature which are correct; there are many which are false. The Christian religion gives permanence and stability to the one, and causes the other to disappear. And in general it may be remarked, that the effect of Christianity is to give stability to all that is founded on truth, and to drive error from the world. Christ came that he might destroy all the systems of error—that is, all that could be shaken on earth, and to confirm all that is true. The result of all will be, that he will preside over a permanent kingdom, and that his people will inherit "a kingdom which cannot be moved," Heb 12:28.

The removing of those things that are shaken. Marg., more correctly, "may be.". The meaning is, that those principles of religion and morals which were not founded on truth, would be removed by his coming.

As of things that are made. Much perplexity has been felt by expositors in regard to this phrase, but the meaning seems to be plain. The apostle is contrasting the things which are fixed and stable with those which are temporary in their nature, or which are settled on no firm foundation. The former he speaks of as if they were uncreated and eternal principles of truth and righteousness. The latter he speaks of as if they were created and therefore liable, like all things which are "made," to decay, to change, to dissolution,

That those things which cannot be shaken may remain. The eternal principles of truth, and law, and righteousness. These would enter into the new kingdom which was to be set up, and of course that kingdom would be permanent. These are not changed or modified by time, circumstances, human opinions, or laws. They remain the same from age to age, in every land, and in all worlds. They have been permanent in all the fluctuations of opinion; in all the varied forms of government on earth; in all the revolutions of states and empires. To bring out these is the result of the events of Divine Providence, and the object of the coming of the Redeemer; and on these principles that great kingdom is to be reared which is to endure for ever and ever.

{1} "are shaken" "may be"


Verse 28. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved. We who are Christians. We pertain to a kingdom that is permanent and unchanging. The meaning is, that the kingdom of the Redeemer is never to pass away. It is not, like the Jewish dispensation, to give place to another, nor is there any power that can destroy it. See Barnes "Mt 16:18".

It has now endured for eighteen hundred years, amidst all the revolutions on earth, and in spite of all the attempts which have been made to destroy it; and it is now as vigorous and stable as it ever was. The past has shown that there is no power of earth or hell that can destroy it, and that in the midst of all revolutions this kingdom still survives. Its great principles and laws will endure on earth till the end of time, and will be made permanent in heaven. This is the only kingdom in which we can be certain that there will be no revolution; the only empire which is destined never to fall.

Let us have grace whereby we may serve God. Marg. "let us hold fast." The Greek is, literally, let us have grace; the meaning is, "let us hold fast the grace or favour which we have received in being admitted to the privileges of that kingdom." The object of the apostle is to keep them in the reverent fear and service of God. The argument which he presents is, that this kingdom is permanent. There is no danger of its being overthrown. It is to continue on earth to the end of time; it is to be established in heaven for ever. If it were temporary, changeable, liable to be overthrown at any moment, there would be much less encouragement to perseverance. But in a kingdom like this there is every encouragement, for there is the assurance

(1.) that all our interests there are safe;

(2.) that all our exertions will be crowned with ultimate success;

(3.) that the efforts which we make to do good will have a permanent influence on mankind, and will bless future ages; and

(4.) that the reward is certain. A man subject to a government about whose continuance there would be the utmost uncertainty, would have little encouragement to labour with a view to any permanent interest. In a government where nothing is settled, where all policy is changing, and where there are constantly vacillating plans, there is no inducement to enter on any enterprize demanding time and risk. But where the policy is settled; where the principles and the laws are firm; where there is evidence of permanency, there is the highest encouragement. The highest possible encouragement of this kind is in the permanent and established kingdom of God. All other governments may be revolutionized—this never will be; all others may have a changeful policy—this has none; all others will be overthrown —this never will.

With reverence and godly fear. With true veneration for God, and with pious devotedness.

{1} "have grace" "hold fast"


Verse 29. For our God is a consuming fire. This is a further reason why we should serve God with profound reverence and unwavering fidelity. The quotation is made from De 4:24: "For the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God." The object of the apostle here seems to be, to show that there was the same reason for fearing the displeasure of God under the new dispensation which there was under the old. It was the same God who was served. There had been no change in his attributes, or in the principles of his government. He was.no more the friend of sin now than he was then; and the same perfections of his nature which would then lead him to punish transgression would also lead him to do it now. His anger was really as terrible, and as much to be dreaded, as it was at Mount Sinai; and the destruction which he would inflict on his foes would be as terrible now as it was then. The fearfulness with which he would come forth to destroy the wicked might be compared to a fire that consumed all before it. See Barnes "Mr 9:44-46".

The image here is a most fearful one, and is in accordance with all the representations of God in the Bible, and with all that we see in the Divine dealings with wicked men, that punishment, as inflicted by him, is awful and overwhelming. So it was on the old world; on the cities of the plain; on the hosts of Sennacherib; and on Jerusalem;—and so it has been in the calamities of pestilence, war, flood, and famine, with which God has visited guilty men. By all these tender and solemn considerations, therefore, the apostle urges the friends of God to perseverance and fidelity in his service. His goodness and mercy; the gift of a Saviour to redeem us; the revelation of a glorious world; the assurance that all may soon be united in fellowship with the angels and the redeemed; the certainty that the kingdom of the Saviour is established on a permanent basis, and the apprehension of the dreadful wrath of God against the guilty, all should lead us to persevere in the duties of our Christian calling, and to avoid those things which would jeopard the eternal interests of our souls.

{a} "our God" De 4:24



THE closing chapter of this epistle is made up almost entirely of exhortations to the performance of various practical duties. The exhortations relate to the following points:—brotherly love, Heb 13:1; hospitality, Heb 13:2; sympathy with those in bonds, Heb 13:3; fidelity in the marriage relation, Heb 13:4; contentment, Heb 13:5,6; submission to those in authority, Heb 13:7,8; stability in the doctrines of religion, Heb 13:9-15; benevolence, Heb 13:16; obedience to those entrusted with office, Heb 13:17; and special prayer for him who wrote this epistle, Heb 13:18,19. The epistle then closes with a beautiful and impressive benediction, Heb 13:20,21; with an entreaty that they would receive with favour what had been written, Heb 13:22; with the grateful announcement that Timothy, in whom they doubtless felt a great interest, was set at liberty, Heb 13:23; and with a salutation to all the saints, Heb 13:24,25.

Verse 1. Let brotherly love continue.Implying that it now existed among them. The apostle had no occasion to reprove them for the want of it, as he had in regard to some to whom he wrote, but he aims merely to impress on them the importance of this virtue, and to caution them against the danger of allowing it ever to be interrupted. See Barnes "Joh 13:34".

{b} "continue" 1 Pe 1:22


Verse 2. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers. On the duty of hospitality, see a full explanation in See Barnes "Ro 12:13".

For thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Without knowing that they were angels. As Abraham (Ge 18:2, seq.) and Lot did, Ge 19. The motive here urged for doing it is, that by entertaining the stranger we may perhaps be honoured with the presence of those whose society will be to us an honour and a blessing. It is not well for us to miss the opportunity of the presence, the conversation, and the prayers of the good. The influence of such guests in a family is worth more than it costs to entertain them. If there is danger that we may sometimes receive those of an opposite character, yet it is not wise, on account of such possible danger, to lose the opportunity of entertaining those whose presence would be a blessing. Many a parent owes the conversion of a child to the influence of a pious stranger in his family; and the hope that this may occur, or that our own souls may be blessed, should make us ready, at all proper times, to welcome the feet of the stranger to our doors. Many a man, if he had been accosted as Abraham was at the door of his tent by strangers, would have turned them rudely away; many a one in the situation of Lot would have sent the unknown guests rudely from his door; but who can estimate what would have been the results of such a course on the destiny of those good men and their families? For a great number of instances in which the heathen were supposed to have entertained the gods, though unknown to them, see Wetstein, in loc.

{c} "some" Ge 18:3; 14:2; 1 Jo 4:7,20


Verse 3. Remember them that are in bonds. All who are bound; whether prisoners of war; captives in dungeons; those detained in custody for trial; those who are imprisoned for righteousness' sake; or those held in slavery. The word used here will include all instances where bonds, shackles, chains were ever used. Perhaps there is an immediate allusion to their fellow-Christians who were suffering imprisonment on account of their religion, of whom there were doubtless many at that time; but the principle will apply to every case of those who are imprisoned or oppressed. The word remember implies more than that we are merely to think of them. Comp. Ex 20:8; Ec 12:1. It means that we are to remember them with appropriate sympathy; or as we should wish others to remember us if we were in their circumstances. That is, we are

(1.) to feel deep compassion for them;

(2.) we are to remember them in our prayers;

(3.) we are to remember them, as far as practicable, with aid for their relief. Christianity teaches us to sympathize with all the oppressed, the suffering, and the sad; and there are more of this class than we commonly suppose, and they have stronger claims on our sympathy than we commonly realize. In this land there are not far from ten thousand confined in prison: the father separated from his children; the husband from his wife; the brother from his sister; and all cut off from the living world. Their fare is coarse, and their couches hard, and the ties which bound them to the living world are rudely snapped asunder. Many of them are in solitary dungeons; all of them are sad and melancholy men. True, they are there for crime; but they are men—they are our brothers. They have still the feelings of our common humanity, and many of them feel their separation from wife and children and home as keenly as we would. That God who has mercifully made our lot different from theirs has commanded us to sympathize with them—and we should sympathize all the more when we remember that but for his restraining grace we should have been in the same condition. There are in this land of "liberty," also, nearly three millions who are held in the hard bondage of slavery. There is the father, the mother, the child, the brother, the sister. They are held as property; liable to be sold; having no right to the avails of their own labour; exposed to the danger of having the tenderest ties sundered at the will of their master; shut out from the privilege of reading the word of God; fed on coarse fare; living in wretched hovels; and often subjected to the painful inflictions of the lash at the caprice of a passionate driver. Wives and daughters are made the victims of degrading sensuality, without the power of resistance or redress; the security of home is unknown; and they are dependent on the will of another man whether they shall or shall not worship their Creator. We should remember them, and sympathize with them as if they were our fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, or sons and daughters. Though of different colour, yet the same blood flows in their veins as in ours, (Ac 17:26;) they are bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh. By nature they have the same right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," which we and our children have; and to deprive them of that right is as unjust as it would be to deprive us and ours of it. They have a claim on our sympathy, for they are our brethren. They need it, for they are poor and helpless. They should have it, for the same God who has kept us from that hard lot has commanded us to remember them. That kind remembrance of them should be shown in every practicable way. By prayer; by plans contemplating their freedom; by efforts to send them the gospel; by diffusing abroad the principles of liberty and of the rights of man; by using our influence to arouse the public mind in their behalf, we should endeavour to relieve those who are in bonds, and to hasten the time when "the oppressed shall go free." On this subject See Barnes "Is 48:6.

As bound with them. There is great force and beauty in this expression. Religion teaches us to identify ourselves with all who are oppressed, and to feel what they suffer as if we endured it ourselves. Infidelity and atheism are cold and distant. They stand aloof from the oppressed and the sad. But Christianity unites all hearts in one; binds us to all the race, and reveals to us, in the case of each one oppressed and injured, a brother.

And them which suffer adversity. The word here used refers, properly, to those who are maltreated, or who are injured by others. It does not properly refer to those who merely experience calamity.

As being yourselves also in the body. As being yourselves exposed to persecution and suffering, and liable to be injured. That is, do to them as you would wish them to do to you if you were the sufferer. When we see an oppressed and injured man, we should remember that it is possible that we may be in the same circumstances, and that then we shall need and desire the sympathy of others.

{a} "in bonds" Mt 25:36


Verse 4. Marriage is honourable in all. The object here is to state that honour is to be shown to the marriage relation. It is not to be undervalued by the pretence of the superior purity of a state of celibacy, as if marriage were improper for any class of men, or any condition of life; and it should not be dishonoured by any violation of the marriage contract. The course of things has shown that there was abundant reason for the apostle to assert, with emphasis, that "marriage was an honourable condition of life." There has been a constant effort made to show that celibacy was a more holy state; that there was something in marriage that rendered it dishourable for those who were in the ministry, and for those of either sex who would be eminently pure. This sentiment has been the cause of more abomination in the world than any other single opinion claiming to have a religious sanction. It is one of the supports on which the Papal system rests, and has been one of the principal upholders of all the corruptions in monasteries and nunneries. The apostle asserts, without any restriction or qualification, that marriage is honourable in all; and this proves that it is lawful for the ministers of religion to marry, and that the whole doctrine of the superior purity of a state of celibacy is false. See this subject examined See Barnes "1Co 7".

And the bed undefiled. Fidelity to the marriage vow.

But whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. All licentiousness of life, and all violations of the marriage covenant, will be severely punished by God. See Barnes "1 Co 6:9".

The sins here referred to prevailed everywhere, and hence there was the more propriety for the frequent and solemn injunctions to avoid them which we find in the Scriptures.

{b} "marriage is honourable" Pr 5:15-23 {c} "whoremongers" 1 Co 6:9; Re 22:15


Verse 5. Let your conversation. Your conduct—for so the word conversation is used in the Scriptures. See Barnes "Php 1:27".

Be without covetousness. See Barnes "Eph 5:3" See Barnes "Col 3:5".

And be to content with such things as ye have. See Barnes "Php 4:11,12" See Barnes "Mt 6:25, seq. The particular reason here given for contentment is, that God has promised never to leave his people. Compare with this the beautiful argument of the Saviour in Mt 6:25, seq.

For he hath said That is, God has said.

I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. See De 31:6; Jos 1:5; 1 Ch 28:20. Substantially the same expression is found in each of those places, and all of them contain the principle on which the apostle here relies, that God will not forsake his people.

{*} "conversation" "conduct" {d} "content" Mt 6:25,34 {e} "hath said" Ge 28:15


Verse 6. So that we may boldly say. Without any hesitation or doubt. In all times of perplexity and threatening want; in all times when we scarcely know whence the supplies for our necessities are to come, we may put our trust in God, and be assured that he will not leave us to suffer. In the facts which occur under the providential dealings, there is a ground for confidence on this subject which is not always exercised even by good men. It remains yet to be shown that they who exercise simple trust in God for the supply of their wants are ever forsaken. Comp. Ps 37:25.

The Lord is my helper. Substantially this sentiment is found in Ps 27:1; Ps 118:6. The apostle does not adduce it as a quotation, but as language which a true Christian may employ. The sentiment is beautiful, and full of consolation. What can we fear if we have the assurance that the Lord is on our side, and that he will help us? Man can do no more to us than he permits, and of course no more than will be for our own good; and, under whatever trials we may be placed, we need be under no painful apprehensions, for God will be our Protector and our Friend.

{f} "boldly say" Ps 27:1


Verse 7. Remember them which have the rule over you. Marg., "are the guides." The word here used means, properly, leaders, guides, directors. It is often applied to military commanders. Here it means teachers—appointed to lead or guide them to eternal life. It does not refer to them so much as rulers or governors, as teachers or guides. In Heb 13:17, however, it is used in the former sense. The duty here enjoined is that of remembering them; that is, remembering their counsel, their instructions, their example.

Who have spoken to you the word of God. Preachers; either apostles or others. Respect is to be shown to the ministerial office by whomsoever it is borne.

Whose faith follow. That is, imitate. See Barnes "Heb 6:12".

Considering the end of their conversation. Of their conduct; of their manner of life. The word here rendered the end—ekbasiv —occurs only here and in 1 Co 10:13, where it is rendered "a way of escape." It properly means, a going out, an egress, and is hence spoken of as a going out from life, or as an exit from the world— death. This is probably the meaning here. It does not mean, as our translation would seem to imply, that Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and for ever, was the aim or end for which they lived—for the Greek will not bear that construction; but it means that they were attentively to contemplate the end or the issue of the conduct of those holy teachers—the close or going out of all that they did; to wit, in a peaceful death. Their faith sustained them. They were enabled to persevere in a Christian course, and did not faint or fail. There is allusion, doubtless, to those who had been their religious instructors, and who had died in the faith of the gospel, either by persecution, or by an ordinary death; and the apostle points to them as examples of that to which he would exhort those whom he addressed—of perseverance in the faith until death. Thus explained, this verse does not refer to the duty of Christians towards living teachers, but toward those who are dead. Their duty towards living teachers is enforced in Heb 13:17. The sentiment here is, that the proper remembrance of those now deceased, who were once our spiritual instructors and guides, should be allowed to have an important influence in inducing us to lead a holy life. We should remember them with affection and gratitude; we should recall the truths which they taught, and the exhortations which they addressed to us; we should cherish, with kind affection, the memory of all that they did for our welfare, and we should not forget the effect of the truths which they taught in sustaining their own souls when they died.

{1} "them which" "are the guides" {a} "faith follow" Heb 6:12 {*} "follow" "whose faith imitate"


Verse 8. Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, etc. As this stands in our common translation it conveys an idea which is not in the original. It would seem to mean that Jesus Christ, the unchangeable Saviour, was the end or aim of the conduct of those referred to, or that they lived to imitate and glorify him. But this is by no means the meaning in the original. There it stands as an absolute proposition, that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever;" that is, that he is unchangeable. The evident design of this independent proposition here is, to encourage them to persevere by showing that their Saviour was always the same; that he who had sustained his people in former times was the same still, and would be the same for ever. The argument here, therefore, for perseverance is founded on the immutability of the Redeemer. If he were fickle, vacillating, changing in his character and plans; if to-day he aids his people, and to-morrow will forsake them; if at one time he loves the virtuous, and at another equally loves the vicious; if he formed a plan yesterday which he has abandoned today; or if he is ever to be a different being from what he is now, there would be no encouragement to effort. Who would know what to depend on? Who would know what to expect tomorrow? For who could have any certainty that he could ever please a capricious or a vacillating being? Who could know how to shape his conduct if the principles of the Divine administration were not always the same? At the same time, also, that this passage furnishes the strongest argument for fidelity and perseverance, it is an irrefragable proof of the divinity of the Saviour. It asserts immutability—sameness in the past, the present, and to all eternity —but of whom can this be affirmed but God? It would not be possible to conceive of a declaration which would more strongly assert immutability than this.

{b} "same" Re 1:4


Verse 9. Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. That is, they should have settled and fixed points of belief, and not yield to every new opinion which was started. The apostle does not exhort them to adhere to an opinion merely because they had before held it, or because it was an old opinion, nor does he forbid their following the leadings of truth, though they might be required to abandon what they had before held; but he cautions them against that vacillating spirit, and that easy credulity, which would lead them to yield to any novelty, and to embrace an opinion because it was new or strange. Probably the principal reference here is to the Judaizing teachers, and to their various doctrines about their ceremonial observances and traditions. But the exhortation is applicable to Christians at all times. A religious opinion, once embraced on what was regarded a good evidence, or in which we have been trained, should not be abandoned for slight causes. Truth, indeed, should always be followed, but it should be only after careful inquiry.

For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace. This is the proper foundation of adherence to the truth. The heart should be established with the love of God, with pure religion, and then we shall love the truth, and leave it in the right manner. If it is the head merely which is convinced, the consequence is bigotry, pride, narrow-mindedness. If the belief of the truth has its seat in the heart; it will be accompanied with charity, kindness, good-will to all men. In such a belief of the truth it is a good thing to have the heart established. It will produce

(1.) firmness and stability of character;

(2.) charity and kindness to others;

(3.) consolation and support in trials and temptations. When a man is thrown into trials and temptations, he ought to have some settled principles on which he can rely; some fixed points of belief that will sustain his soul.

Not with meters. The meaning is, that it is better to have the heart established with grace, or with the principles of pure religion, than with the most accurate knowledge of the rules of distinguishing the clean from the unclean among the various articles of food. Many such rules were found in the law of Moses, and many more had been added by the refinements of Jewish rulers and by tradition. To distinguish and remember all these required no small amount of knowledge, and the Jewish teachers, doubtless, prided themselves much on it. Paul says that it would be much better to have the principles of grace in the heart than all this knowledge; to have the mind settled on the great truths of religion than to be able to make the most accurate and learned distinctions in this matter. The same remark may be made about a great many other points besides the Jewish distinctions respecting meats. The principle is, that it is better to have the heart established in the grace of God, than to have the most accurate knowledge of the distinctions which are made on useless or unimportant subjects of religion. This observation would extend to many of the shibboleths of party; to many of the metaphysical distinctions in a hair-splitting theology; to many of the points of controversy which divide the Christian world.

Which have not profited, etc, Which have been of no real benefit to their souls. See Barnes "1 Co 8:8".

{c} "be not carried" Re 1:4


Verse 10. We have an altar. We who are Christians. The Jews had an altar on which their sacrifices were offered which was regarded as sacred, and of the benefit of which no others might partake. The design of the apostle is to show that the same thing substantially, so far as privilege and sanctifying influence were concerned, was enjoyed by Christians. The "altar" to which he here refers is evidently the cross on which the great sacrifice was made.

Whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. A part of the meat offered in sacrifice among the Jews became the property of the priests and Levites, and they had, by the law, a right to this, as a part of their support. See Le 6:25,26; Nu 18:9,10.

But the apostle says that there is a higher and more valuable sacrifice of which they have no right to partake while they remain in the service of the "tabernacle" or temple; that is, while they remain Jews. The participation in the great Christian sacrifice appertained only to those who were the friends of the Redeemer; sad however much they might value themselves on the privilege of partaking of the sacrifices offered under the Jewish law, that of partaking of the great sacrifice made by the Son of God was much greater.

Which serve the tabernacle. See Barnes "Heb 9:2,3".

The Jewish priests and Levites.


Verse 11. For the bodies of those beasts, etc. The word here rendered "for"—gar—would be here more properly rendered "moreover." Stuart. The apostle is not urging a reason for what he had said in the previous verse, but is suggesting anew consideration to excite those whom he addressed to fidelity and perseverance. In the previous verse the consideration was, that Christians are permitted to partake of the benefits of a higher and more perfect sacrifice than the Jews were, and therefore should not relapse into that religion. In this verse the consideration is, that the bodies of the beasts that were burned were taken without the camp, and that in like manner the Lord Jesus suffered without the gate of Jerusalem, and that we should be willing to go out with him to that sacrifice, whatever reproach or shame it might be attended with.

Whose blood is brought into the sanctuary, etc. See Barnes "Heb 9:7,12".

Are burned without the camp. Le 4:12,21; 16:27.

The "camp" here refers to the time when the Israelites were in the wilderness, and lived in encampments. The same custom was observed after the temple was built, by conveying the body of the animal slain for a sin-offering, on the great day of atonement, beyond the walls of Jerusalem to be consumed there. "Whatever," says Grotius, "was not lawful to be done in the camp, afterwards was not lawful to be done in the city."

{a} "without the camp" Le 16:27


Verse 12. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood. That there might be a conformity between his death for sin and the sacrifices which typified it. It is implied here that it was voluntary on the part of Jesus that he suffered out of the city; that is, it was so ordered by Providence that it should be so. This was secured by his being put to death as the result of a judicial trial, and not by popular tumult. See Notes on Isa 53:8. If he had been killed in a tumult, it is possible that it might have been done as in other cases, (comp. the case of Zacharias, son of Barachias, Mt 23:35,) even at the altar is he was subjected, however, to a judicial process, his death was effected with more deliberation, and in the usual form. Hence he was conducted out of the city, because no criminal was executed within the walls of Jerusalem.

Without the gate. Without the gate of Jerusalem, Joh 19:17,18. The place where he was put to death was called Golgotha, the place of a skull, and hence the Latin word which we commonly use in speaking of it, Calvary, Lu 23:33; comp. See Barnes "Mt 27:33".

Calvary, as it is now shown, is within the walls of Jerusalem; but there is no reason to believe that is the place where the Lord Jesus was crucified, for that was outside of the walls of the city. The precise direction from the city is not designated by the sacred writers, nor are there any historical records, or traditional marks, by which it can now be known where the exact place was. All that we know on the subject from the New Testament is, that the name was Golgotha; that the place of the crucifixion and sepulchre were near each other; that they were without the gate, and nigh to the city, and that they were in a frequented spot, Joh 19:20. "This would favour the conclusion that the place was probably upon a great road leading from one of the gates; and such a spot would only be found upon the western or northern sides of the city, on the roads leading towards Joppa or Damascus." See the question about the place of the crucifixion examined at length in Robinson's Bibli. Research., vol. ii., pp. 69—80, and Bibliotheca Sacra, No. 1.

{*} "sanctify" "make expiation for" {b} "without the gate" Joh 19:17,18


Verse 13.Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp. As if we were going forth with him when he was led away to be crucified. He was put to death as a malefactor. He was the object of contempt and scorn. He was held up to derision, and was taunted and reviled on his way to the place of death, and even on the cross. To be identified with him there, to follow him, to sympathize with him, to be regarded as his friend, would have subjected one to similar shame and reproach. The meaning here is, that we should be willing to regard ourselves as identified with the Lord Jesus, and to bear the same shame and reproaches which he did. When he was led away, amidst scoffing and reviling, to be put to death, would we, if we had been there, been willing to be regarded as his followers, and to have gone out with him as Iris avowed disciples and friends? Alas, how many are there who profess to love him when religion subjects them to no reproach, who would have shrunk from following him to Calvary!

Bearing his reproach. Sympathizing with him; or bearing such reproach as he did. See 1 Pe 4:13. Comp. See Barnes "Heb 12:2; See Barnes "Php 3:10" See Barnes "Col 1:24".

{c} "bearing his reproach" Ac 5:41


Verse 14. For here we have no continuing city, etc. We do not regard this as our final home, or our fixed abode, and we should be willing to bear reproaches during the little time that we are to remain here. Comp. See Barnes "Heb 11:10, seq. If, therefore, in consequence of our professed attachment to the Saviour, we should be driven away from our habitations, and compelled to wander, we should be willing to submit to it, for our permanent home is not here, but in heaven. The object of the writer seems to be to comfort the Hebrew Christians on the supposition that they would be driven by persecution from the city of Jerusalem, and doomed to wander as exiles. He tells them that their Lord was led from that city to be put to death, and they should be willing to go forth also; that their permanent home was not Jerusalem, but heaven; and they should be willing, in view of that blessed abode, to be exiled from the city where they dwelt, and made wanderers in the earth.

{d} "here" Mic 2:10


Verse 15. By him therefore. The Jews approached God by the blood of the sacrifice, and by the ministry of their high priest. The exhortation of the apostle here is founded on the general course of argument in the epistle. "In view of all the considerations presented respecting the Christian High Priest—his dignity, purity, and love, his sacrifice and his intercession—let us persevere in offering through him praise to God." That is, let us persevere in adherence to our religion.

The sacrifice of praise. For all the mercies of redemption. The Jews, says Rosenmuller, (Alte u. neue Morgenland, in loc.,) had a species of offerings which they called peace—offerings, or friendship-offerings. They were designed not to produce peace or friendship with God, but to preserve it. Burnt-offerings, sin-offerings, and trespass-offerings, were all on account of transgression, and were designed to remove transgression. But in their peace-offerings, the offerer was regarded as one who stood in the relation of a friend with God, and the oblation was a sign of thankful acknowledgment for favours received; or they were connected with vows in order that further blessings might be obtained; or they were brought voluntarily as a means to continue themselves in the friendship and favour of God, Le 7:11,12. Comp. Jenning's Jew. Ant. i. 335.

That is, the fruit of our lips. The phrase, "fruit of the lips," is a Hebraism, meaning what the lips produce; that is, words. Comp. Pr 18:20; Hos 14:2.

Giving thanks to his name. To God; the name of one being often put for the person himself. Praise now is one of the great duties of the redeemed. It Will be their employment for ever.

{e} "him" Eph 5:29 {f} Hos 14:2 {1} "giving thanks to his name" "make expiation for"


Verse 16. But to do good, and to communicate, forget not. To communicate or impart to others; that is, to share with them what we have. The Greek word means, having in common with others. The meaning is, that they were to show liberality to those who were in want, and were to take special pains not to forget this duty. We are prone to think constantly of our own interests, and there is great danger of forgetting the duty which we owe to the poor and the needy. On the duty here enjoined, See Barnes "Ga 6:10".

For with such sacrifices God is well pleased. He is pleased with the sacrifices of prayer and of praise; with the offerings of a broken and a contrite heart; but he is especially pleased with the religion which leads us to do good to others. This was eminently the religion of his Son, the Lord Jesus; and to this all true religion prompts. The word "sacrifices" here is not taken in a strict sense, as denoting that which is offered as an expiation for sin, or in the sense that we are, by doing good, to attempt to make atonement for our transgressions, but in the general sense of an offering made to God. God is pleased with this, (1.) because it shows in us a right state of heart;

(2.) because it accords with his own nature. He does good continually, and he is pleased with all who evince the same spirit.

{g} "communicate" Ro 12:13

{h} "such sacrifices" Php 4:18


Verse 17. Obey them that have the rule over you. Marg., guide. See Notes on ver. 7. The reference here is to their religious teachers, and not to civil rulers. They were to show them proper respect, and to submit to their authority in the church, so far as it was administered in accordance with the precepts of the Saviour. The obligation to obedience does not, of course, extend to anything which is wrong in itself, or which would be a violation of conscience. The doctrine is, that subordination is necessary to the welfare of the church, and that there ought to be a disposition to yield all proper obedience to those who are set over us in the Lord. Comp. See Barnes "1 Th 5:12, See Barnes "1 Th 5:13".

And submit yourselves. That is, to all which they enjoin that is lawful and right. There are, in relation to a society,

(1,) those things which God has positively commanded—which are always to be obeyed.

(2.) Many things which have been agreed on by the society as needful for its welfare—and these are to be submitted to unless they violate the rights of conscience; and

(3.) many things which are, in themselves, a matter of no express Divine command, and of no formal enactment by the community. They are matters of convenience; things that tend to the order and harmony of the community, and of the propriety of these, "rulers" in the church and elsewhere should be allowed to judge, and we should submit to them patiently. Hence, in the church, we are to submit to all the proper regulations for conducting public worship; for the promotion of religion; and for the administration of discipline.

For they watch for your souls. They have no selfish aim in this. They do not seek "to lord it over God's heritage." It is for your own good that they do this, and you should, therefore, submit to these arrangements. And this shows, also, the true principle on which authority should be exercised in a church. It should be in such a way as to promote the salvation of the people; and all the arrangements should be with that end. The measures adopted, therefore, and the obedience enjoined, should not be arbitrary, oppressive, or severe, but should be such as will really promote salvation.

As they that must give account. To God. The ministers of religion must give account to God for their fidelity, for all that they teach, and for every measure which they adopt, they must soon be called into judgment. There is, therefore, the best security that, under the influence of this solemn truth, they will pursue only that course which will be for your good.

That they may do it with joy, and not with grief. mh stenazontev -not sighing, or groaning; as they would who had been unsuccessful. The meaning is, that they should so obey, that when their teachers came to give up their account, they need not do it with sorrow over their perverseness and disobedience.

For this is unprofitable for you. That is, their giving up their account in that manner—as unsuccessful in their efforts to save you—would not be of advantage to you, but would be highly injurious. This is a strong mode of expressing the idea that it must be attended with imminent peril to their souls to have their religious teachers go and give an account against them. As they would wish, therefore, to avoid that, they should render to them all proper honour and obedience.

{c} "good conscience" Ac 24:16 {*} "honestly" "desirous of behaving ourselves well"


Verse 18. Pray for us. This is a request which the apostle often makes in his own behalf and in behalf of his fellow-labourers in the gospel. See 1 Th 5:25. See Barnes "Eph 6:18,19".

For we trust we have a good conscience, etc. See Barnes "Ac 24:16".

The apostle here appeals to the uprightness of his Christian life as a reason why he might claim their sympathy, he was conscious of an aim to do good; he sought the welfare of the church; and having this aim he felt that he might appeal to the sympathy of all Christians in his behalf. It is only when we aim to do right, and to maintain a good conscience, that we can with propriety ask the prayers of others, or claim their sympathy. And if we are "willing in all things to live honestly," we may expect the sympathy, the prayers, and the affections of all good men.

{c} "good conscience" Ac 24:16 {*} "honestly" "desirous of behaving ourselves well"


Verse 19. That I may be restored to you the sooner. It is here clearly implied that the writer was deterred from visiting them by some adverse circumstances over which he had no control. This might be either by imprisonment, or sickness, or the want of a convenient opportunity of reaching them. The probability is, judging particularly from the statement in Heb 13:23, that he was then a prisoner, and that his detention was on that account. See Intro. & 4, (6.) The language here is such as Paul would use on the supposition that he was then a prisoner at Rome—and this is a slight circumstance going to show the probability that the epistle was composed by him.


Verse 20. Now the God of peace. God who is the Author, or the Source of peace. See Barnes "1 Th 5:23".

The word peace in the New Testament is used to denote every kind of blessing or happiness. It is opposed to all that would disturb or trouble the mind, and may refer, therefore, to reconciliation with God; to a quiet conscience; to the evidence of pardoned sin; to health and prosperity; and to the hope of heaven. See Barnes "Joh 14:27".

That brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus. See Barnes "Ac 2:32"

See Barnes "1 Co 15:15".

It is only by the fact of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus that we have peace, for it is only by him that we have the prospect of an admission into heaven.

That great shepherd of the sheep. See Barnes "Joh 10:1,14".

The idea here is, that it is through the tender care of that great Shepherd that true happiness is bestowed on the people of God.

Through the blood of the everlasting covenant. The blood shed to ratify the everlasting covenant that God makes with his people. See Barnes "Heb 9:14, Heb 9:15-23. This phrase, in the original, is not connected, as it is in our translation, with his being raised from the dead; nor should it be so rendered, for what can be the sense of "raising Christ from the dead by the blood of the covenant?" In the Greek it is, "The God of peace, who brought again from the dead the shepherd of the sheep, great by the blood of the everlasting covenant, our Lord Jesus," etc. The meaning is, that he was made or constituted the great Shepherd of the sheep—the great Lord and Ruler of his people, by that blood. That which makes him so eminently distinguished; that by which he was made superior to all others who ever ruled over the people of God, was the fact that he offered the blood by which the eternal covenant was ratified. It is called everlasting or eternal, because

(1.) it was formed in the councils of eternity, or has been an eternal plan in the Divine Mind; and

(2.) because it is to continue for ever. Through such a covenant God can bestow permanent and solid "peace" on his people, for it lays the foundation of the assurance of eternal happiness.

{d} "God of peace" 1 Th 5:23 {e} "that brought" 1 Pe 1:21 {+} "again" "brought back" {f} "shepherd" Eze 34:23 {g} "sheep" Zec 9:11 {2} "everlasting covenant" "testament"


Verse 21. Make you perfect. The apostle here does not affirm that they were then perfect, or that they would be in this life. The word here used—katartizw-means, to make fully ready, to put in full order; to make complete. The meaning here is, that Paul prayed that God would fully endow them with whatever grace was necessary to do his will and to keep his commandments. See the word explained See Barnes "Heb 11:3".

It is an appropriate prayer to be offered at all times, and by all who love the church, that God would make all his people perfectly qualified to do all his will.

Working in you. Marg. Doing. The idea here is, that the only hope that they would do the will of God was, that he would, by his own agency, cause them to do what was well-pleasing in his sight: Comp. See Barnes "Php 2:12".

It is not from any expectation that man would do it himself

Through Jesus Christ. The idea is, that God does not directly and by his own immediate agency convert and sanctify the heart, but it is through the gospel of Christ, and all good influences on the soul must be expected through the Saviour.

To whom be glory for ever and ever. That is, to Christ; for so the connexion evidently demands. It is not uncommon for the apostle Paul to introduce doxologies in this way in the midst of a letter. See Barnes "Ro 9:4".

It was common among the Jews, as it is now in the writings and conversation of the Mohammedans, when the name of God was mentioned, to accompany it with an expression of praise.


Verse 22. Suffer the word of exhortation. Referring to the arguments and counsels in this whole epistle—which is, in fact, a practical exhortation to perseverance in adhering to the Christian religion amidst all the temptations which existed to apostasy.

For I have written a letter unto you in few words. This does not mean that this epistle is short compared with the others that the author had written, for most of the epistles of Paul are shorter than this. But it means, that it was brief compared with the importance and difficulty of the subjects of which he had treated. The topics introduced would have allowed a much more extended discussion, but in handing them he had made use of as few words as possible. No one can deny this who considers the sententious manner of this epistle. As an illustration of this, perhaps we may remark, that it is easy to expand the thoughts of this epistle into ample volumes of exposition, and that in fact it is difficult to give an explanation of it without a commentary that shall greatly surpass in extent the text. None can doubt, also, that the author of this epistle could have himself greatly expanded the thoughts and the illustrations if he had chosen. It is with reference to such considerations, probably, that he says that the epistle was brief.


Verse 23. Know ye not that our brother Timothy is set at liberty. Or, is sent away. So it is rendered by Prof. Stuart, and others. On the meaning of this, and its importance in determining who was the author of the epistle, see the Intro. & 2, (5,) 4, and Prof. Stuart's Intro. & 19. This is a strong circumstance showing that Paul was the author of the epistle, for from the first acquaintance of Timothy with Paul he is represented as his constant companion, and spoken of as a brother. See Barnes "2 Co 1:1"

See Barnes "Php 1:1" See Barnes "Col 1:1" See Barnes "Phm 1:1".

There is no other one of the apostles who would so naturally have used this term respecting Timothy; and this kind mention is made of him here because he was so dear to the heart of the writer, and because he felt that they to whom he wrote would also feel an interest in his circumstances. As to the meaning of the word rendered "set at liberty"—apolelumenon—there has been much difference of opinion, whether it means "set at liberty from confinement," or "sent away on some message to some other place." That the latter is the meaning of the expression appears probable from these considerations.

(1.) The connexion seems to demand it. The writer speaks of him as if he were now away, and as if he hoped that he might soon return. "With whom, if he come shortly, I will see you." This is language which would be used rather of one who had been sent on some embassy, than of one who was just released from prison. At all events, he was at this time away, and there was some expectation that he might soon return. But on the supposition that the expression relates to release from imprisonment, there would be an entire incongruity in the language. It is not, as we should then suppose, "our brother Timothy is now released from prison, and therefore I will come soon with him and see you;" but, "our brother Timothy is now sent away, and if he return soon, I will come with him to you."

(2.) In Php 2:19,23, Paul, then a prisoner at Rome, speaks of the hope which he entertained that he would be able to send Timothy to them, as soon as he should know how it would go with him. He designed to retain him until that point was settled, as his presence with him would be important until then, and then to send him to give consolation to the Philippians, and to look into the condition of the church. Now the passage before us agrees well with the supposition that that event had occurred: that Paul had ascertained with sufficient clearness that he would be released, so that he might be permitted yet to visit the Hebrew Christians; that he had sent Timothy to Philippi, and was waiting for his return; that as soon as he should return he would be prepared to visit them; and that in the mean time, while Timothy was absent, he wrote to them this epistle.

(3.) The supposition agrees well with the meaning of the word here used—apoluw. It denotes, properly, to let loose from; to loosen; to unbind; to release, to let go free; to put away, or divorce; to dismiss simply, or let go, or send away. See Mt 14:15,22,23; 15:32, 39; Lu 9:12, et al. Comp. Rob. Lex. and Stuart's Intro. % 19. The meaning, then, I take to be this, that Timothy was then sent away on some important embassage; that the apostle expected his speedy return; and that then he trusted that he would be able, with him, to visit those to whom this epistle was written.


Verse 24. Salute all them. See Notes on Ro 16:3, seq. It was customary for the apostle Paul to close his epistles with an affectionate salutation.

That have the rule over you. See Barnes "Heb 13:7,17".

None are mentioned by name, as is usual in the epistles of Paul. The cause of this omission is unknown.

And all the saints. The common name given to Christians in the Scriptures. See Barnes "Ro 1:7".

They of Italy salute you. The saints or Christians in Italy. Showing that the writer of the epistle was then in Italy. He was probably in Rome. See Intro. %. 2.

{*} "rule over you" "salute all your guides"


Verse 25. Grace be with you all.

See Barnes "Ro 16:20".

The subscription at the close of the epistle, "written to the Hebrews from Italy by Timothy," like the other subscriptions, is of no authority. See Notes at the end of I Cor. It is demonstrably erroneous here, for it is expressly said by the author of the epistle that, at the time he wrote it, Timothy was absent, Heb 13:23. In regard to the time and place of writing it, see the Intro. $. 4.

At the close of this exposition, it is not improper to refer the reader to the remarks on its design at the end of the Introduction, 6. Having passed through the exposition, we may see more clearly the importance of the views there presented. There is no book of the New Testament more important than this, and of course none whose want would be more perceptible in the canon of the Scriptures. Every reader of the Old Testament needs such a guide as this epistle, written by some one who had an intimate acquaintance from childhood with the Jewish system; who had all the advantages of the most able and faithful instruction, and who was under the influence of inspiration, to make us acquainted with the true nature of those institutions. Nothing was more important than to settle the principles in regard to the nature of the Jewish economy; to show what was typical, and how those institutions were the means of introducing a far more perfect system—the system of the Christian religion. If we have right feelings, we shall have sincere gratitude to God that he caused the Christian religion to be prefigured by a system in itself so magnificent and grand as that of the Jewish, and higher gratitude for that sublime system of religion of which the Jewish, with all its splendour, was only the shadow. There was much that was beautiful, cheering, and sublime in the Jewish system. There was much that was grand and awful in the giving of the law, and much that was imposing in its ceremonies. In its palmy and pure days, it was incomparably the purest and noblest system of religion then on earth. It taught the nature of the one true God; inculcated a pure system of morals; preserved the record of the truth on the earth, and held up constantly before man the hope of a better system still in days to come. But it was expensive, burdensome, precise in its prescriptions, and wearisome in its ceremonies, Ac 15:10. It was adapted to one people—a people who occupied a small territory, and who could conveniently assemble at the central place of their worship three times in a year. It was not a system adapted to the whole world; nor was it designed for the whole world. When the Saviour came, therefore, to introduce whom was the design of the Jewish economy, it ceased as a matter of course. The Jewish altars were soon thrown down; the temple was rased to the ground, and the city of their solemnities was destroyed. The religion of the Hebrews passed away to be revived no more in its splendour and power, and it has never lived since, except as an empty form. This epistle teaches us why it passed away, and why it can never be restored. It is the true key with which to unlock the Old Testament; and with these views we may remark, in conclusion, that he who would understand the Bible thoroughly should make himself familiar with this epistle; that the canon of Scripture would be incomplete without it; and that to one who wishes to understand the Revelation which God has given, there is no portion of the volume whose loss would be a more irreparable calamity than that of the epistle to the Hebrews.

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