For when God announced to Abraham, that he should have a son by
Sarah (Gen. xviii. 10,) she seems to have been in a state of unbelief,
Gen. xviii. 12. But although it is true that Sarah laughed on that
occasion, and it must be admitted that this was occasioned partly by
her incredulity, as Gen. xviii. 13 15 shows; yet the same thing is
affirmed of Abraham, Gen. xvii. 17. The truth is, the first annunciation
that a child would spring from them, occasioned, both in his and Sarah's
mind, a feeling of incongruity, of impossibility that the course of nature
should be so reversed. Subsequent consideration brought both to a full
belief in the reality of the promised future blessing. The history of this
is not expressly given in Genesis, with respect to Sarah, but it is implied.
Ktu avrfj ZctjS/xz, Sarah herself also. Km avn), in this case, refers
particularly to the fact that Sarah was barren, Gen. xvi. 1, and
that she was far advanced in old age, Gen. xviii. 11. The meaning is,
COMMENTARY ON HEB. XI. 12, 13. 487
that faith gave even to Sarah, unpromising as her condition was in
respect to offspring, the power of conception, i. e. by faith she obtained
this blessing. Elg KdTafioXijv <nrlpfj.arog, words tortured to the disgust
of every delicate reader, by some of the critics. Even Wahl says,
" she received strength eiQ TO ^l^ff^at ffireppa fcara/^/BXT/jueVoj/ (i. e. by
Abraham,) efc TT\V pirpav." Did this need any supernatural strength?
I construe the phrase very differently. Kara/GoXr; means, foundation,
commencement, beginning. Now, what is the foundation, or commence-
ment, ffTTtppaTOQ, of offspring or progeny ? Conception. The true idea
of the phrase, then, appears to be fully given by the version above. In
this view of the phrase, I observe, Dr. Schulz concurs, rendering fivvapiv
elg Ka.Taj3o\ijv ffTrlpnarog, by das Vermogen zur Empfangniss, the power
Kcu 7rapa Kaipbv . . . iTrayyctXa/zcvov, and this beyond the usual time
f Itfe '> inasmuch as she regarded Him as faithful, who had thus pro-
mised. Kcu ?rapa Kaipbv, see Gen. xviii. 11. 'Evret KHTTOV, K. T. \. which
shews that the apostle considered it as quite certain that Sarah, like her
husband, did come to full confidence in the Divine promise.
Ver. 12. Ato KCU a^>' ivbg, . . . TrX^ft, wherefore, even from one
who was dead too, as to these things, there sprung [a seed] like the
stars of heaven for multitude. Ato, on account of which faith, viz. of
Sarah, or, perhaps, of Abraham and Sarah. Keu a</>' tvbg, even from a
single individual, is a designed antithesis to the multitude who are after-
wards mentioned. Consequently it heightens the description. Kai ravra
vevtJcpwjLteVov means incapable (according to the ordinary laws of nature)
of procreation ; KCU ve^e/cpw/uVou, i. e. not only one individual,
but one dead also. See the same description, in Rom. iv. 19. Tavra is
governed by Kara understood. Kawg ra aorjoa, K. r. X. that is, a very
great number; compare Gen. xv. 5; xxii. 17.
Km &g >/ cippog dvctp/Sy^roe, and like the sand upon the shore
of the sea, which cannot be numbered, i. e. an exceedingly great multi-
tude. XtlXtfe SaX(W7?e, literally, lip of the sea t which means the shore.
So the word is used by profane Greek writers also ; as labium is by the
Latin ones. So the Hebrew H3'^ ? Gen. xxii. 17, which compare.
Ver. 13. Kara iricmv eVayyeXt'ae, these all died in faith, not
having received the blessings promised. OVTOI iravrec; who ? Abraham,
Isaac, Jacob, and Sarah, mentioned in ver. 8 12 ; forovrot cannot well
be here extended to all who are mentioned in the preceding part of the
chapter, because the " promised blessings" were those which were assured
488 COMMENTARY ON HEB. XI. 14, 15, 16.
to the Hebrew patriarchs. 'ETrayyeX/as, not promises, (for these they
had received,) but blessings promised, according to the idiom of this
epistle. What were these blessings, heavenly or earthly ? The sequel
will answer this question.
'AXXa TrojopwS'ev ...... yijg, but seeing them afar off, and joyfully
anticipating them, they openly professed themselves to be strangers
and sojourners on the earth. The application of this whole verse to the
expectation of the future possession of Canaan, and of a numerous pro-
geny, would be admissible, were it not for the sequel, (ver. 14 16,)
which plainly forbids such an application. In addition to the faith of
Abraham, and other patriarchs, in the promises of God, which had
respect to temporal blessings, I understand the apostle as here asserting
that those ancient worthies also exercised confidence in God's word,
respecting the blessings of the invisible world ; i. e. theirs was vTrotrracrtQ
eXTri^o/itVu)*' ...... ov fiXeTrouevwr. Those things which are invisible to
the corporeal eye, they saw with the eye of faith, and seeing, hailed them
with joy, (affiraaantvoL,) welcomed them, greeted them, or anticipated
them with gladness, as we joyfully greet or anticipate the approach of
a beloved friend, or of some distinguished favour. And, looking
forward to them as their chief source of happiness, they openly declared
themselves to be only strangers and sojourners in the present world.
That y%, by itself, might refer to the land of Canaan, is plain enough ;
but that it does so refer here, is rendered quite improbable by the sequel.
The idea is plainly more general. Hape-n-i^nuos means, a temporary resi-
dent among any people, i. e. a sojourner.
Ver. 14. Ot yap rotavra ...... iTn^nTovffi, now they, who thus pro-
fess, show that they are yet seeking for a country. Tavra \lyovres,
viz. saying or professing that they were strangers and sojourners in the
earth. Ilarp^a, a fixed or permanent place of residence, i. q. troXiv
fjirowav, ch. xiii. 14, or iroXiv SejjeXiovg f.'xpvaa.v in ver. 10, above.
That this Trarpie was not of an earthly nature, the writer proceeds to show.
Ver. 15. Kcu el fjtev iKdrrjg ...... ayacajut//cu, for had they cherished
the memory of that [country] from which they came, they had oppor-
tunity of returning [thither.] That is, if their native country on earth
(Trarptc) had been an object of affectionate desire, they might have
easily returned thither, and dwelt there. But this they did not ; for,
Ver. 16. Nvv e opeyovrai ...... eVovpavtou, but now, they were
desirous of a better, [country,] that is, of a heavenly one, NVJ/, i. e.
while- they were strangers and sojourners, during the time then present
COMMENTARY ON HEB. XI. 17, 18. 489
The explanation of the writer, in respect to the country which the
patriarchs sought, is so plain, that nothing can add to its perspicuity.
A/o OVK i-rra.iaxyvf.Ta.1 iroKiv, wherefore God is not ashamed of
them, [nor] to be called their God ; for he hath prepared a city for
them. Ato, because, viz. because of the faith which they reposed in the
promises of God respecting future happiness, or in regard to a TroXtv
tTrovpaviov or /ieVov<rav. To be their God means, to be their protector,
rcwarder, benefactor; compare Rom. Hi. 29. Rev. xxi. 3. 7. Exod. iii. 6.
Zech. viii. 8. Gen. xv. 1. 'Hrotjucure yap avrolg TTO\IV, i. e. he will
reward them, for he has in fact prepared a TroXcv, sc. iirovpaviov, for
them. By ellipsis OVK iiraiffxyvETai is omitted before Geoc 7riKaXe7<r$cu
Ver. 17. HiffTEt Trpocrevfivoyev , . . 7rtpadjuevoe, by faith, Abraham
when tried, made an offering of Isaac. HooffEv^vo^t, made an offering
of; for the act, on the part of Abraham, was essentially done when he
had fully resolved to do it, and was proceeding to the complete execution
of it, Gen, xxii. 1 10. ITetpa^ojutvoc (like the Hebrew Ht^) means,
either to put to trial, or to tempt, i. e. solicit to sin. Which of these
senses the word must bear, in any particular passage, must depend on
the character of the agent who occasions the trial or temptation, and the
objects which he has in view. Beyond all question, HD3 in Gen. xxii. 1,
and 7Ttpaoyuj/oe in our verse, are to be understood in the sense of trial ;
for God is the agent, and " he tempts no man," i. e. solicits none to sin,
James i. 13.
Kcu TOV povoytvrj .... ava^ap,Evog, yea, he who had received the
promises made an offering of his only Son. Gen. xxii. 2. This clause is
designed to augment the force of the description of Abraham's case. It
was not simply that Abraham, in circumstances common to others, i. e.
surrounded by several children, and without any special promises, made
the offering in question; but it was Abraham, to whom God had
reptatedly made promises of a numerous progeny; and it was Abraham's
only son, i. e. only son of promise, who was the offering which he stood
ready to make.
Ver. 18. npoe ov . . . mreppa, unto whom it had been said, After
Isaac shall thy seed be named. The Hebrew, in Gen. xxi. 12, is
#!J. ^ N*]j^ pn^3 ? which means, thy seed shall be named after
Isaac, i. e. thy seed, viz. the seed which is promised to thee, must
descend only from Isaac. Neither Ishmael, nor the sons of Abraham by
Keturah, could be progenitors of thc-promiscd offspring, and give name
490 COMMENTARY ON HEB. XI. 19.
to them. The Septuagint and apostle have rendered the Hebrew prepo-
sition 2, in pH^j by iv, which there means, according to, with refe-
rence to, after. This is a third circumstance added, in order to augment
the impression of the reader respecting the faith of Abraham. This
patriarch, to whom promises had been made, not only offered up his only
son, born of Sarah his beloved wife, but his only son, on whom all the
promises of God respecting his future progeny were suspended.
Ver. 19. Aoyiffapevog, on Kal . . . 9soe, counting that God was able
to raise him even from the dead ; i. e. he believed, that, in case Isaac
should be actually slain and consumed as a burnt-offering, God could
and would raise him up from the dead, so that^the promise made to him
would be fulfilled. This was, indeed, a signal example of the strength
of faith, and it deserves the commendation which the apostle bestows
There are not wanting, however, critics of the present time, who
attribute this whole transaction of Abraham to his superstition, or his
heathenish views of sacrifice, or to a dream which he erroneously con-
sidered as a divine admonition. And in regard to the interposition from
heaven, which prevented his resolution from being executed, they aver,
that the accidental discovery of a ram caught by the horns in a thicket,
was interpreted, by the superstitious patriarch, as a Divine admonition to
refrain from proceeding with his design. How different all this is, from
the views of the author who wrote Gen. xxii., of Paul in Rom. iv., and
of the writer of our epistle, need not be insisted on to any one, who does
not make his own conceptions about the subject of religion and miracles
the standard by which the sacred writers are to be tried.
"O$ev CLVTOV .... eKOfj.iffa.To, whence, comparatively, he obtained hi?n,
or whence, as it ivere, he obtained him. It would occupy much room
even to glance at the variety of interpretations which have been put on
this somewhat difficult phrase. Instead of this, I will simply state the
one which appears to me altogether the most probable and satisfactory.
Paul, speaking of the procreation of Isaac, in Rom. iv., mentions Abra-
ham as then vereKpwjjievov, and the vf/cpwo-tv rrjs ju/;rpa of Sarah. In
ver. 12 above, the same apostle speaks of Abraham as vevf/tpw/^Vov ; and
his description of Sarah, in ver. 11, implies the same thing. Now, as
Isaac sprang from Abraham and Sarah, both Kara ravra vcrcKpw/uVoi,
what is more natural than to suppose, that in our verse this fact is
adverted to ? The sentiment seems to be this : " Abraham believed that
God could raise Isaac from the dead, because he had, as it were, obtained
COMMENTARY ON HEB. XI. 20, 21. 491
him from the dead, i. e. he was born of those who (*ara raDra
ijffav.} Then the whole presents one consistent and apposite sentiment.
Abraham believed God could raise his son from the dead. Why ? He
had good reason to conclude so, for God had already done what was
equivalent to this, or like this ; he had done this, kv 7rapa/3oXjj, in a
comparative manner, i. e. in a manner that would compare with rising
from the dead, when he brought about his birth from those who were
dead as to the power of procreation. IIapa/3oXj) means, comparison,
similitude ; iv 7rapnf3o\y, comparatively, in like manner, with similitude,
as it were. Thus all is easy, natural, and consistent. How forced the
other methods of construction are, which have been employed here,
the reader may determine for himself by consulting them.
It may be made a question, whether eKopVaro refers here to Abraham's
having obtained Isaac from the altar of burnt-offering, where he was as
it were dead ; or whether the word refers to Abraham's having originally
obtained him, viz. at his birth. It may be applied to either ; but the
latter application is far more significant, and accords altogether with
the context. The hints for this explanation I owe to Dr. Schulz, in his
Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews.
Ver. 20. ILVm Trepl /ueXXovrw*' .... 'Ho-av, by faith Isaac blessed
Jacob and Esau, in respect to the future. TLepl fjLtXXovrwv ei/Xoyi/o-e,
literally, blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to future things. The
sentiment is, " pronounced a blessing upon Jacob and Esau, in regard
to their future condition ;" which accords with the facts as related in
Gen. xxvii. 26 40. It was faith in the promises of God, which enabled
the dying patriarch to do this.
Ver. 21. IL'orei 'lacw/3 .... Ev\6yr]ffE, by faith Jacob, when about to
die, blessed each of Joseph's sons. See Gen. xlviii. 15, 16. ' ' AiroSviiffKwv
here, like the present participle in Hebrew, has the meaning of the Latin
future in rus. It was not in the act of dying, that Jacob blessed the
sons of Joseph, as Gen. xlviii. 8 22 shows ; but it was when on his
death-bed, that both they and the twelve sons of Jacob were blessed by
him : see Gen. xlvii. 31 ; xlviii. 2 ; xlix. 33,
Kcu TrpoffEKvvrjorev .... CLVTOV, and bowed himself upon the top of his
staff. This last action did not accompany the blessing of the sons of
Joseph ; at least it is not related in connexion with it, but as preceding
it. See Gen. xlvii. 31 ; compare xlviii. 1. 15, 16. I regard it, there-
fore, as a separate transaction. IIpon-eK-v^ere (Hebrew inntt^) designates,
as it would seem, the act of worship or reverence, paid to God, and
492 COMMENTARY ON HEB. XI. 21.
occasioned by the grateful emotions of the dying patriarch, on account
of the promise which his son Joseph had just made, to bury him with
his fathers. That the Hebrew, TLHt^ and the corresponding Greek,
irpoaeKvvqire, are sometimes employed simply and merely to designate
an act of religious worship, is plain from 2 Kings v. 18. Gen. xxii. 5.
1 Sam. i. 3. That rnrinttfn generally means worship or reverence, by
bowing down toward the earth, ov even to the earth, is sufficiently plain ;
but that, in some cases, it also designates worship simply as a religious
act, without necessarily implying a particular position of body, is suffi-
ciently plain from 1 Kings i. 47, where it is said of David, in extreme
old age, and confined to his bed, n^DH"^ "^DH 'H.ntih, he wor-
shipped upon his bed', a phrase constructed exactly like that in Gen.
xlvii. 31 ; in both of which cases, Gesenius says, the act of worship is
signified without bowing down. This is indeed clear from the nature of
the position, and the infirmities of Jacob and David. If the reader
wants evidence of a similar meaning of Trpofftcvrlw, he may consult John
jv. 2024; ch. xii. 20. Acts viii. 27; ch. xxiv. 11, &c.
The only question of difficulty that remains is, whether the present
vowel-pointing of the Hebrew, nfc3DJ"T t#N~) 7)? y upon the head of the
bed, is probably more correct than the Septuagint mode of reading the
Hebrew, viz. H^DJl ttfNI b% 9 upon the top of his staff. I have no
hesitation in preferring the latter punctuation ; for what is n&Dil ttM")
the head of a bed, in the Oriental country, when the bed itself is
nothing more than a piece of soft carpeting thrown down upon the
floor ? And what can be the meaning of Jacob's bowing himself upon
the head of the bed? For, (1.) there is no evidence that Jacob was
upon the bed, when Joseph paid him the visit recorded in Gen. xlvii.
28 31. It was after this, that Jacob was taken sick, ch. xlviii. 1,
and sat up on his bed, when Joseph came to visit him, ver. 2. (2.) An
infirm person, lying upon a bed, if he assumed a position such as to
bow himself, would sit on the middle of the bed, and not upon the
head of it. (3.) In all the Scriptures, the head of a bed is not once
mentioned ; and for a good reason, as the Oriental bed had, strictly
speaking, no head. For these reasons, I must regard Jacob as leaning
upon the top of his staff for support, when he conversed with his
son Joseph ; than which nothing can be more natural, for a person
of his very advanced years. In this position he was when Joseph sware
to him, that he would comply with the request which he had made
in respect to his burial. This was so grateful to his feelings, that he
COMMENTARY ON HEB. XI. 22, 23. . 493
spontaneously offered up his thanks to God for such a favour ; q. d.
he worshipped upon the top of his staff, i. e. leaning upon the top
of his staff, he offered homage or thanks to God ; just as David " wor-
shipped upon his bed," i. e. did homage, or paid reverence to God,
while on his bed, 1 Kings, i. 47.
That the present vowel-points of the Hebrew do not, in every case,
give the most probable sense of the original, will not appear strange to
any one who reflects, that they were introduced after the fifth century
of our present era. All enlightened critics, of the present day, disclaim
the idea that they are authoritative.
The apostle says, that by faith Jacob worshipped. I understand
this of that confidence in God which he entertained, and which led him
to trust, that all which Joseph had promised him, would be accom-
Ver. 22. ILVret 'Iwo-^0 .... evtmXaro, by faith, Joseph, at the
close of life, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel,
[from Egypt,] and gave commandment respecting his own bones. See
Gen. 1. 24 26 ; Josh. xxiv. 32. TeXfvrwv, see on aTroSvfiffKwv, in ver.
21. 'E^ere/Xaro, i. e. he commanded that his bones should be carried
up, out of Egypt, to the land of Canaan, when the Israelites removed
thither. It was by faith in the promises of God, that Joseph spoke
thus confidently respecting the future exodus of the Israelites, and gave
directions respecting his bones, which could be executed only in case
this exodus took place.
Ver. 23. H/orei Mwv<r*/e .... avrov, by faith Moses, after his birth,
was concealed for three months by his parents. See Exod. ii. 2.
What is attributed by our author to the parents of Moses, is there
said to have been done by his mother. But doubtless it was with her
husband's knowledge and concurrence ; and even if it were not, there
are many cases in Scripture, where what is done by one of any class
or company of men, is attributed generally to the class or company ;
e. g. one evangelist says, that the thieves on the cross reviled Jesus ;
but another informs us that one of them did this. That xartpac applies
to both father and mother is well known, it being equivalent to our
Aton el^ov . . . (3a<ri\u)Q, because they saw that he was a goodly
child, and did not fear the king's commandment. 'Aoreiov, Hebrew,
H*)ZO> goodly, fair, beautiful. Aiaray/ua rov /3a<rtXewc, viz. the com-
mand of Pharaoh to destroy all the male children, Exod. i. 16 22.
494 COMMENTARY ON HEB. XI. 24, 25, 26, 27.
It was faith, or confidence in Divine protection, which led them to per-
form such a hazardous duty.
Ver. 24. Tllerm Mwvo% . . . ^ojoaw, by faith Moses, when arrived
at mature age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter.
Me'yae ytvojjievos means, become full grown, become adult, having
attained the stature of a man. 'Hpyrjcraro, refused, fyc. : no express
act of this kind is related in the sacred history ; but the whole account
of Moses* conduct shows that he had, at this period, fully resolved upon
leaving the court of Pharaoh, and embarking in the cause of the
Ver. 25. MaXXov IXd/uroe . . . a7rdXav<nr, choosing rather to suf-
fer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of
sin for a season. Aa rov Geou, i. e. the Israelites, to whom this
name is often given, npoo-mipov ayimpriae aTroXavtrtv, viz. the pleasures
of living at the court of Pharaoh in princely magnificence.
Ver. 26. Meiova TrXovrov . . . Xptoroi), counting reproach, like that
which Christ suffered, as greater riches than all the treasures of
Egypt. That ovEiditrpw rov Xpiorov has the meaning here assigned to
it, seems quite evident, if we consider, that the comparison between the
reproach which Christ himself suffered, and the treasures of Egypt,
would be inapposite here. The simple sentiment is, " Moses renounced
pleasure and wealth, and endured suffering and reproach, because he
believed in the promises which God had made of future good, and that
he would deliver his people from the bondage of Egypt. So Christ,
" though rich, for our sakes became poor," in order to redeem us from
a bondage worse than that of Egypt. That Moses, then, counted
reproach like that which Christ suffered, as preferable to the plea-
sure and wealth which he might have enjoyed at the Egyptian court, is
plainly the meaning of the writer. Compare TraSriuara Xptorov, suffer-
ings like those of Christ, in 2 Cor. i. 5. Such a use of the genitive
case is by no means unfrequent.
'ATre'/SXcTTf -yap elg rfjy [uffSairotioffiav, because he had respect to the
retribution. 'A7r/3Xc7T means, to look away from present things, and
to have respect to, or look forward to, future ones. The retribution
of the invisible world is doubtless meant, here, by juto-SaTrocWW.
Compare ver. 13 16, and ver. 27. By faith in the proffered happi-
ness of a future state, Moses was led to the acts of self-denial here
Ver. 27. Htorei KarlXiirev ...... paffiXlwc, by faith he left Egypt,
COMMENTARY ON HEB. XI. 28, 29. 495
not fearing the indignation of the king. It has been disputed, whether
it was the first or second time that Moses left Egypt, to which the writer
here adverts. The first is related in Exod. ii., and was when he fled to
Jethro in Midian. But as he fled, in this care, to save his life, which
Pharaoh sought to destroy, Exod. ii. 14, 15, this cannot be the leaving
Egypt to which the apostle refers; although Chrysostom, Theodoret,
Theophylact, CEcumenius, and some of the modern critics, have under-
stood it to be so. It must be the occurrences related in Exod. x. xiv.,
to which our author refers. Tov Svpov TOV fiacrtXeue, see Exod.
x. 28, 29.
Toy yap doparov ae opwv tKapTeprjcre, for he persevered, as one who sees
Him that is invisible. 'E/caprfjOT/o-e, perduravit, fortiter vel patienter
duravit, if it relate to perseverance in a time of trial and suffering, as
here. It does not of itself indicate endurance of suffering, but holding
out, persevering, in any state or condition, keeping up good courage and
fortitude perseveringly or constantly. 'Aoparov, i.e. Him whom " no
eye hath seen," viz. the invisible God ; an appellation frequently given
to the Deity; e.g. 1 Tim. i. 17 : compare Rom. i. 20. Col. i. 15, 16.
In other words, a regard to that world which is seen only by the eye of
faith, led Moses to quit Egypt in defiance of Pharaoh's injunctions.
Ver. 28. Uicrrei TreTroirjKe avTwv, by faith he observed the pass-
over, and the sprinkling of the blood, so that He who destroyed the first-
born might not touch them. UeTroinKe TO Traaya, Hebrew HD3 /lityjf
which the LXX. translate Troielv TO Trac^a. This means, (as we say,) to
keep or celebrate the passover. The Hebrew HD3 comes from HDD, to
p r (ss over, to pass by. The Greek form iraa^a comes from the Aramsean
Hebrew word, KHD9 ? which was the Jewish method of pronouncing
HDS in later times, and to which the Greek word exactly corresponds.
The account of the event to which the word Traced relates, may be seen
in Exod. ch. xii. ; for the etymology, see ver. 11. 13. 'O oXoSpevuv TO.
n-pWTOTOKa, see Exod. xii. 12. M# Siyy O.VT&V, Exod. xii. 13; avrwv, in
the genitive, is governed by $iyy, as verbs of sense (touch) govern the
All this was done by faith, i. e. because Moses fully believed that