Bible Study Christian Living Discipleship

Hebrews 11:23-40

This post is long, but I thought I would publish the rest of Hebrews chapter 11, which again gives examples of people of faith, and how God blessed them. Even in death, they received blessings of a better resurrection. Today, we live under the Law of Christ (Galatians 6:2). There are rules of things that we must do, and some we must not do. There are rules shaped by principles. These principles include things that we must do, and some we must not do. Finally, there are examples of actions that God approves of and some that He does not approve. These examples in Hebrews 11 are actions that God approves, and thus, we must also do.

My translation and notes of Hebrews 11:23-40

23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw a beautiful child, and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.

[The Greek word for ‘beautiful’ is (G791) ἀστεῖος asteios. It means beautiful, refined, and graceful. Evidently, his parents believed he was beautiful, refined, and graceful to God. See Acts 7:20. NET Bible has this note: Or “was well-formed before God,” or “was well-pleasing to God” (BDAG 145 s.v. ἀστεῖος suggests the meaning is more like “well-bred” as far as God was concerned; see Exodus 2:2)]

24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,

25 Having preferred to suffer affliction with the people of God instead of enjoying the pleasures of sin for a brief time,

[There are 2 main reasons why people do not put their faith and trust into Jesus Christ. The first is love for sinful pleasures and the other is pride. See Jeremiah 7:22-26, Psalm 10:4, and 1 John 2:16. Moses made the right choice. A difficult choice for most because of his being adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. He gave it all up to serve God. His mistake was to rush into God’s plan instead of waiting (Exodus 2:11-21 and Acts 7:23-29). Abraham made the same mistake regarding Hagar and the resulting birth of Ismael (Genesis 16 and Genesis 21:8-21). Rashness and being overly hasty is a common human error that we must be aware of. See Proverbs 19:2, Psalm 11:6:11, and Ecclesiastes 5:2].

26 Considering being insulted for the sake of Christ to be greater riches than the treasures in Egypt, because he kept focusing on the future reward.

[The Greek word for ‘insult’ is (G3680) ὀνειδισμός oneidismo. It means an act of disparagement that results in disgrace, reproach, reviling, disgrace, insult (BDAG). The Greek word for ‘focusing’ is ἀποβλέπω apoblépō (G578). It means to turn the eyes away from other things and fix them on some one thing; to look at attentively; tropically, to look with steadfast mental gaze (Thayer). Compare Luke 12:20-21. The Lord Jesus was offered everything including the leadership of the world at the time He was being tempted by satan. Jesus kept His eyes on the eternal reward, believed His Father, and resisted (James 4:7 and 1 Peter 5:8-9). A good lesson for all believers].

27 By faith he left Egypt without fearing the king’s wrath, because he was unshakable as if seeing him who is invisible.

[This leaving from Egypt is the Exodus, not his flight after killing the Egyptian (Exodus 2:14-15). Behind the scenes God’s grace is strengthening him. In this temptation, God made a way of escape for Moses (1 Corinthians 10:13)].

28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he who destroyed the firstborn would touch them.

[No one had ever seen anything like this event. The instructions seemed stupid. How could something like this be successful? Yet, Moses and the people of Israel had many inactions with God and saw many miracles against Egypt, so it would be most reasonable that this would happen].

29 By faith they passed through the Red Sea as if on dry land, which when the Egyptians attempted to do drowned.

[I guess one would say the Egyptians had faith too, but it was faith in their arrogance, not God. Talk about being stupid. How could the Egyptians especially Pharaoh think they could capture the people of Israel? It was a guaranteed death. Proverbs 16:18 NET Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall].

30 By faith the walls of Jericho collapsed, after they went around them for seven days.

[Joshua 6:1-20. This is another incident of seemingly stupid instructions to win a battle. Yet, Israel had experienced many deliverances by God, especially in the Passover. It was also a test to see if they would obey. Obedience showed their faith and their love for God (John 14:15)]

31 By faith Rahab, the harlot, was not killed with those who refused to believe, because she had received the spies with peace.

[Joshua 2:1-21 and Joshua 6:25. Her testimony is not given, but her actions showed her faith. See James 2:24-26. ‘Faith with works is dead’ means there is no faith without proofs in living, and it’s the same in physical death where there is no life].

32 What more can I say? There is not enough time for me to speak about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets.

[Gideon—Judges 6:1-40 and Judges 7:1-25. Barak—Judges 4:1-24 and Judges 5:1-31. Samson—Judges 13:1-25, Judges 14:1-20, Judges 15:1-20, and Judges 16:1-31. Jephthah—in Judges 11:1-40 and Judges 12:1-15. David—1 Samuel. Samuel—1 Samuel 1:1-28].

33 Who, through faith, overcame kingdoms, did what was right, received the promises, shut lion’s mouths,

[Overcame kingdoms—David in 2 Samuel 8:15. Mouths of lions—Daniel in Daniel 6:18-23].

34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned back foreign armies.

[Quenching the violence of fire—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in Daniel 3:19-28. Escaping the edge of the sword—Elijah in 1 Kings 19:1 ff and Elisha in 2 Kings 6:31 ff. Hezekiah turning his face to the wall to die 2 Kings 20:1-7. Without God, we can do nothing (John 15:5), but with God (Philippians 2:13), we can do all things (that He has commanded). Compare the non-canonical book of Judith].

35 Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, so they might obtain a better resurrection.

[See Elijah in 1 Kings 17:17-24 and Elisha in 2 Kings 4:8-37. Compare the priest Zechariah in 2 Chronicles 24:20-22. Why a better resurrection for being tortured for the faith and even dying? The Greek word for ‘torture’ is (G5178) τυμπανίζω tumpanizo. It means, according to Robertson, First aorist passive indicative of τυμπανίζω, late verb from τυμπανον (kettledrum, drumstick), to beat the drum, to beat to death (cf. II Macc. 7 about Eleazar and the Mother and the seven sons), once in LXX (1 Samuel 21:13). If they would recant, they would keep their life. They refused. The ‘women’ mentioned here refers to a resurrection of their children, etc. but these would have to die again. So, the same happened to Lazarus in John 11:43-44. The better resurrection would be the resurrection to eternity with the new eternal body (1 John 3:2, 1 Corinthians 15, and 2 Corinthians 5;1) and blessings of heaven (Ephesians 1:3-5, Romans 5:9, etc.].

36 Others experienced derision and whipping, even chains and the dungeon.

[Compare Antiochus Epiphanes in Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 12: 4-5].

37 They were stoned; they were sawed in two, were cruelly tempted, and were slain with the sword. They wandered around in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, afflicted, [and] tormented.

[Stoned—Stephen in Acts 7:59. For others compare 2 Maccabees 6-7. Slain with the sword—1 Samuel 22:18. The idea of being ‘tempted’ could be a promise to receive large sums of money, influence, and sensual desires, if they recant. The promise might be the saving of their family, “we will not kill your wife and children, if you recant your faith.”].

38 (Of whom the world was not worthy), they wandered in deserts and mountains; [they lived] in caves and holes in the earth.

[See 1 Kings 18:4 and 1 Samuel 24:3].

39 These all, having received a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise.

[The word ‘promise’ is singular in Greek. The promise would be Messiah’s coming and setting up His kingdom].

40 God having provided something better for us, in order that they would not be made perfect without us.

[‘Something better for us’ is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. MacDonald (BELIEVER’S BIBLE COMMENTARY) writes: They never did enjoy a perfect conscience as far as sin was concerned; and they will not enjoy the full perfection of the glorified body in heaven until we are all caught up to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The spirits of OT saints are already perfect in the presence of the Lord (Hebrews 12:23), but their bodies will not be raised from among the dead until the Lord returns for His people. Then they will enjoy the perfection of resurrection glory.

To put it another way, the OT believers were not as privileged as we are. Yet think of their thrilling triumphs and tremendous trials! Think of their exploits and their endurance! They lived on the other side of the cross; we live in the full glory of the cross. Yet how do our lives compare with theirs? This is the cogent challenge of Hebrews 11].

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